An American Scoreboard: trump v. Obama / Biden !

An American Scoreboard: trump v. Obama / Biden !

John Hanno, tarbabys.com        October 17, 2020

I’m glad to say the great American trump experiment in Kleptocracy / Putinesque Autocracy  is almost over. It’s not hard to believe many of us saw this coming; we just thought it would happen much sooner. The last 4 years seem like 4 decades. I and others wrote even before trump took office, that he would destroy the Grand Old Party. “Mission accomplished”!

A few voices within the old party tried to speak up at times but were drowned out by trump cult sycophant’s in congress and by far right media.

Some in the old GOP, the never trumpers, the true Republicans, the true conservatives, never waivered; they refused to bend and only spoke louder when the deprivation and calamities grew. Thank you to the Lincoln Project and others for remembering to honor the Constitution and our Democratic principles. Are there enough remnants left to rebuild a viable conservative party?

Now we’re beginning to hear the suddenly woke, trump cult party members in congress, express their indignation; sorry, much too late.

The coming bloodbath on November 3rd will reward these cowards in congress, and especially in the Senate, with a monumental ass-wuppin. Thank-you suburban women and women of color.

I always take the time at Thanksgiving to look back on the previous year and express gratitude for the things I’m truly grateful for. I’ll do that again in November after the 2020 election, because I believe the list will be much greater and more rewarding.

But I thought it would be helpful to post my Thanksgiving musings from 2016, 4 years ago and just after a highly qualified Hillary was cheated out of her rightful presidency by Vlad Putin, republi-con state operatives bent on voter suppression, mistakes in the DOJ, and a narcissistic, self serving reality show con man and liar extraordinaire.

We can only dream of how the last 4 years would have turned out if Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been in the White House. We know the covid crisis would have been much less economically consequential and deadly.

The choice on November 3rd should be very simple; 4 more years of trumpism, AKA widespread death and destruction, or a return to normalcy and to the battered legacy of the Barack Obama and Joe Biden style of competent, honest and ethical leadership.

8 years of an Obama-Biden 'bromance,' in photos | National Politics | gazettetimes.com

The last 4 years of trump cult MAGA “accomplishments” are an embarrassment to our nation and our Democratic history. The only legislation of any consequence is the one single bill passed to give the super-rich, corporations and the powerful and connected even more than they need or deserve. And of course all the destructive executive orders trump “sharpied” for the benefits of his rich donors.

No level of horror or criminality was left unturned. Our Constitution, our Democratic institutions, our alliances, our environment, our national treasures, our civil peace and harmony, and America’s reputation around the world, suffered daily bashings and Tweet-storms. And thanks to Moscow Mitch and barr, our courts and the Department of Justice will have to be reconstituted.

For those few still undecided (really ?) about who to vote for, please read my 2016 post, the 2020 Democratic Platform of how Joe, Kamala and the Democratic Congress plan to govern and “build back better;” and also read the Republican platform (oh yea, they were too embarrassed to publish it because none of it is favored by the American voters).

John Hanno, tarbabys.com

Thanksgiving 2016

November 24, 2016, John Hanno

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On Thanksgiving 2008, exactly eight years ago, I had an article published in a Chicago newspaper, where I described all the things I was thankful for. Although the war in Iraq was finally winding down, ours and most of the worlds economies were imploding, thanks to the risky and criminal financial schemes of the world’s banking giants. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and markets were in free fall. America had just chosen Democrat Senator Barack Obama to be it’s next president and savior; and I truly believed he and Michelle understood why I was thankful for the 35 things listed in my article.

I was thankful the eight years of the Bush Administration were almost over and we didn’t elect John McCain because the world could not have survived another Republican term like that. I was thankful the world was welcoming President Obama with open arms and a deep sigh of relief because it showed they believed America could still lead us from despair. I was thankful Barack Obama realized we all had to work together to solve the enormous problems because being divided was what got us into the mess in the first place. I appreciated the important things; family, friends and community because we had to depend on each other. I was thankful and hopeful that 60 years from then, people would be glad they were born in 2009, because it was the beginning of another period of great hope and change, and not because they were sorry to have been born into another great depression.

Some of that hope was quickly dashed when the Republican leaders in Congress, led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, met on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, to hatch a plan to obstruct the President on everything he tried to do, just to make him a one term president. They didn’t care about the consequences to Americans reeling from an economy driven off a cliff by, too big to fail banks and neocon ideologue’s in the Bush Administration.

Every time the President held out a hand, the Republicans slapped it away. They refused to allow him to succeed at anything. Compromise to them meant total capitulation. But what they really accomplished was to make America even more polarized, and it showed during this election. Donald Trump took advantage of and widened that divide to Grand Canyon proportions.

As the votes continue to be counted, Hillary has received more than 2 million more votes than Donald Trump. The 64.5 million folks who voted for Hillary, the media and pollsters, most Republicans and even the Trump campaign, still can’t believe she lost. Computer experts have found evidence that the results in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin may have been manipulated or hacked; possibly by the Russians, who favored Trump. And if these shenanigans with electronic ballots are proved valid, Hillary’s supporters might yet be vindicated. The Jill Stein campaign has collected millions of dollars from concerned Americans, who like me, can’t believe America is still not able to guarantee a free and fair national election.

The OpenSecrets.org Center for Responsive Politics reports that the cost of this 2 year long election is approaching 7 billion dollars, thanks to Citizens United and dark money. Couple that with Republican legislatures throughout the country passing bills aimed at voter suppression, gerrymandering, a reality candidate who believes lying and deception are invaluable traits, debates where discussing critical issues are put on the back burners, a media more concerned with profits than truth in journalism, campaign hacking by the Russians, and the latest peril of Russian propaganda spreading fake news stories, is it a wonder that 53% of America’s eligible voters didn’t bother to vote.

Some of the 62.5 million folks who voted for Mr. Trump believe he will govern much different than he campaigned; that all the nativist, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti immigrant and violent dialog and conduct was just chalked up as campaign talk. But half of those who voted for Trump, who Hillary named the “Deplorables,” are in sympathy with the alt right tea party and obstructionist McConnell. They want to burn down the government. They want to “Make America Great Again,” which really means they want to take America back to the dark ages, when America was primarily male controlled,  white and Christian, before workers rights and women’s rights and civil rights for our black and brown brothers and sisters. Before regulations on banks and corporations and protections for workers and the environment.

But so far, based on the people he’s chosen for his cabinet, it’s clear he will govern exactly like he campaigned. He told his supporters that he knows, and would choose, the best and the brightest people for his cabinet. Then he turns around and picks rich, alt right ideologues; Rudolf Giuliani, who most people think has gone off the deep end, Steve Bannon, alt right white supremacist sympathizer, Mike Flynn for National Security Advisor, who has endorsed the use of torture and other war crimes that violate the Geneva Convention and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, who worked hard to gut the Voting Rights act and suppress minority voting. Fellow Republicans denied Sessions a federal judgeship because of his racist track record. Trump also nominated Koch Brothers aligned Billionaire charter school and voucher advocate and $9.5 million Trump campaign contributor Betsy DeVos, as his Secretary of Education, someone who American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten describes as “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.” Weingarten said, “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.” This coming on top of the 31 mostly red states that have already cut funding to public schools.

During the election, Mr. Trump told his supporters he would not touch Social Security or Medicare, two of the most successful government programs in our history. But the Republican House of Representatives, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has the privatizing of those programs at the top of their to do list.

Trump repeatedly told supporters that he would repeal Obama-care (Affordable Care Act) on his first day in office but he’s already backpedaling on that promise. He might have discovered that the popular parts of the ACA, which he also favors, the preexisting conditions part and the ability to keep children on their parents policy thru age 26, must be paid for, by mandating that everyone sign up or pay a penalty. It’s mind-boggling to me that many of the folks who signed up for Obama-care, some who never before had medical insurance, voted for Trump. Thanks to Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, more than 60% of Kentuckians, most of them poor, had signed up for subsidized Obama-care. But they not only elected a new Republican governor who favors ending the ACA, but more than 70% of them voted for Mr. Trump in this election. And with Kentucky’s 2 Republican Senators and full cadre or Republican Congress persons, I’m sure the Republican Congress, who already tried to repeal the ACA more than 60 times, will finally succeed without President Obama to veto them. I believe some of the poorest of the poor, those left behind by the new economy, jumped on the Trump train because they were desperate for any type of change.

Mr. Trump said many times during the election, that if elected, he would build a wall on the border with Mexico and make them pay for it, ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., send 11 million illegal immigrants back to Mexico, cancel the nuclear peace treaty with Iran, cancel all of President Obama’s executive orders, bring all the jobs back from China, keep others from off shoring, bring back the coal industry, drop out of the Paris agreement, exit the TPP, renegotiate NAFTA and the China PNTR agreement, end the carried interest exemption, drain the Washington swamp of lobbyists, throw crooked Hillary in jail, destroy ISIS because he knows more than the generals, cut taxes for individuals and corporations, rebuild the depleted military and a whole list of other things. And that’s just in the first 100 days. I hope those who voted for him don’t hold their breaths waiting for most things on this list. It should soon be obvious that Donald Trump was feeding his supporters a monumental line of bull dung. And how these poor souls will react, when they wake up from their Kool-aid induced stupor, is anyone’s guess.

I suspect Mr. Trump will quickly reveal himself as a traditional billionaire zealot who champions, and will again try to implement, the neocons discredited trickle down economics. He despises paying any taxes even though the rich and corporations benefit from them more than anyone, so he will again place cutting taxes above all else, even though it will surely blow up the deficit. He will fall in line with fossil fuel interests and join with his Republican Congress to gut environmental regulations, and to support drill baby drill and heavy investment in pipeline infrastructure; and of course at the same time, they will dial back investments and subsidies for alternative energies. He will fully support charter schools and school vouchers because he simply hates free public education. He will go along with the Republican Congress to attack middle class entitlement and social safety net programs, while at the same time passing out favors to crony capitalists, fossil fuel companies and the prison and military industrial complexes. He will hire a long list of other billionaires, who like himself, have little regard for 99% of the rest of America.

There are some things the Democrats would be willing to work with Mr. Trump on, like an infrastructure bill, modifying trade agreements to make them fairer for America and the American worker and real tax reform that includes ending the carried interest tax dodge. But if the Republican juggernaut resumes efforts to steamroll America’s middle class, the poor and the environment, the Democrats will have to use every tool, including the Republican’s favorite filibuster, to minimize the damages.

America is starkly divided; there’s a pitched battle for America’s Democratic ethos:

Between those who believe a rising tide lifts all boats and that all of us should share in the profits and benefits of a free society and economy….. and those who believe in a plutocratic, corporatist, limited government with lax regulations, low or limited taxes to support our commons and consequently, diminished worker and middle class rights.

Between those who believe our diversity makes for a stronger America and a better future …..and those who long for a lily white, male dominated, Christian past.

Between those who embrace science, innovation and a green future based on sustainable alternative energy….. and those steeped and mired in fossil fuel’s dirty and unsustainable past.

In spite of the Republican’s unrelenting obstruction, the Obama Administration still accomplished a lot, primarily during the first 2 years, when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. I think history will regard him as one of our best presidents.

Joe Biden, Barack Obama had joint graduation party for girls in family - Business Insider

With the help of the admittedly weak stimulus after the economic crash, they were able to apply a tourniquet to the bleeding economy. In spite of staunch opposition from the Republicans in Congress, they bailed out the auto industry, which has increase production each year since 2009 and reached a new record of 17.5 million last year. I wrote the president a letter in early 2009 advocating for the auto bailout and also saying I thought the three most important issues were Jobs, Jobs and living wage Jobs. But he concentrated on and expended a lot of capital and good will on the Affordable Care Act. I guessed that when he sat down with the corporate executives after the crash, he asked them about creating more jobs at home. I’m sure they told him the number one reason for exporting jobs was the escalating, enormous and unpredictable cost of health care. For auto manufacturing, that means between $2,300 and $2,700 per vehicle.

So the administration did what 5 presidents couldn’t do; they committed to finally providing healthcare for 40 million Americans, which caused more than 20,000 deaths a year simply because folks didn’t have insurance. They also slowed the double digit escalating health care costs. They not only had to tackle the number one cause of America’s long term fiscal problems but needed to level the playing field for companies that must compete with countries with much lower wages and much lower health care costs. It wasn’t pretty but it’s a start. America is finally on the path to universal health care. And on the path to healing and rebuilding the finances of the families where medical costs contributed to 65% of all personal bankruptcies.

As part of the ACA, the Obama Administration also took the banks out of the Federal Student Loan Program and expanded Pell Grants. Since 2010, students now get their loans directly from the federal government instead of from subsidized banks. This will save the Treasury almost $70 billion dollars over 10 years. And $36 billion of that will go into expanding Pell Grants for low income families. They also cracked down on predatory for profit colleges.

With the help of Michele Obama, they passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, giving $4.5 billion for higher nutritional and health standards for school lunches. It doubled the amounts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains in foods served to school children.

They passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

They repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

They helped make same sex marriage, the law of the land.

I believe the Obama Administration has done more for Veterans than any since Truman’s and Eisenhower’s. They increased the budget for the Veterans Administration by 16 percent in 2010 and 10 percent in 2011, passed a new G.I. Bill that provided $78 billion dollars in tuition assistance and gave tax credits to businesses who hire Vets.

And they still created more than 15 million jobs, including the biggest (800,000) growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990’s. Unfortunately many of those are not living wage jobs. They’ve created an average of almost 200,000 jobs for 29 straight months between 2010 and 2016 and the unemployment rate dropped from more than 10% to 4.9%.

Medium household income has gone up $1,140 or 2 %.

The buying power of the average workers weekly paycheck is up 4.2%

Median sales prices of existing single family homes are up 23%

The murder rate is down 5%, despite an increase in 2015.

The number of unauthorized immigrants is also down.

Our national deficit has been cut by three-quarters, from the 2009 bail-out deficit of $1.4 trillion to the $439 billion 2015 deficit.

The stock markets have soared. The S&P 500 was up 220% over 2009. Nasdaq is up more than 320% and the Dow is up almost 200%, rising from about 8,000 after the crash to a new record of more than 19,000 now.

The Federal Reserve also played a big role in digging us out of the financial crisis and deep recession, by keeping interests low, which also helped the housing sector recover.

They passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to regulate the practices that bank engaged in that crashed the economy and caused the Great Recession. Dodd-Frank improved the regulation of eight areas that led to the financial crisis. The “Volcker Rule” banned banks from being involved in hedge funds. The Financial Stability and Oversight Council regulated hedge funds and banks that became too big to fail. Dodd-Frank also directed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to regulate the riskiest derivatives, like the credit default swaps and commodities future that were the primary causes of the collapse.

They also created the Consumer Financial protection Bureau, which has returned billions of dollars back to victimized consumers and improved regulation of credit cards and mortgages.

They also passed the Credit Card Accountability Act in 2009.

And the first bill they passed in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act, which gave women who are paid less that men for the same work the ability to sue their employers after they finally discover the discrimination.

They passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, which increased the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion dollars, so they can expand food inspections, issue direct food recalls and increase safety practices of countries importing products into America.

They Passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. Which mandated that tobacco manufacturers disclose all ingredients and obtain FDA approval for any new tobacco product.

They passed the 2009 Children’s Health Insurance Program (Chip) to cover health care for an additional 4 million children, paid for by a tax on tobacco products.

In 2009, they got the EPA to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant and allowing them to regulate its production.

In 2009, they eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

They engineered Federal Communications approval to transfer $8 billion in subsidies away from landlines and toward broadband Internet for lower-income rural families.

In 2009, they passed the Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion funding for the legal settlement for black and Native American farmers who the government denied loans and natural resource royalties to in the past.

They passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act in 2009, which designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness, created historic trails and protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers.

They invested $90 billion dollars in research for smart electric grids, energy efficiency, electric autos, renewable electric generation, clean coal and bio-fuels.

They issued an executive order in 2009 requiring all federal agencies to reduce their environmental impact. This includes 30% reduction in fleet gasoline use, 26% increase in water efficiency and sustainability requirements for all federal contracts.

They passed in 2011, over staunch objections from fossil fuel pandering Republicans, new fuel efficiency standards that will double fuel economy for cars, and for the first time trucks by 2025. Some auto manufacturers have already surpassed those standards.

Wind and solar power have quadrupled; coal production has dropped 36% and carbon emissions have gone down 12%.

Clean energy production (300 million megawatt hours) from solar, wind and biomass has doubled since (150 million megawatt hours) in 2009.

The Administration engineered an agreement with British Petroleum to set up a $20 billion dollar fund to quickly compensate victims of the Deep-water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after pointing out that it took almost 2 decades for the victims of the Exxon Valdez Alaska oil spill to receive $1.3 billion.

President Obama led global efforts for the International Climate Agreement in Paris in December 2015. Countries agreed to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon trading and to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

He also enacted the Clean Power Plan in 2015. It reduces carbon emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. This is accomplished by reduction goals for the nations power plants. Power plants will create 30% more renewable energy generation by 2030.

They reduced military spending in 2011 by $450 billion dollars.

They stopped the $1 billion per launch Space Shuttle program boondoggle and the even more bloated Bush era Constellation program in 2011.

In 2009 they ended the Lockheed Martin single-seat, twin engine, fighter aircraft program, which cost $358 million dollars for each plane. The plane never flew a single combat mission, even though they already had 187 planes built. Eliminating the program saved $4 billion.

They also created Recovery.gov, an independent board of inspectors general directed to look for fraud and abuse in the stimulus program. It provided transparent information on every contract funded by the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

They ended the war in Iraq and wound down the war in Afghanistan.

They captured and killed Osama bin laden.

They joined with European and Arab governments to topple Moammar Gaddafi and helped unseat Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

After rescinding Bush Administration torture policies, President Obama began rebuilding the world’s opinion toward the U.S, which was severely damaged during the previous Republican administration.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2010. The committee cited “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” He withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011 and reduced the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile by 10%.

The Iran sanctions they helped get passed in 2010, with other countries, led to the Iran Nuclear weapons program agreement.

They helped the South Sudan declare Independence. They appointed envoys to the Sudan, and had U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice negotiate a peaceful split

And I think one of the most important issues, especially in light of the potential conflict of interest issues for the incoming Trump Administration, is that President Obama has served longer than any other president in decades without a scandal. When he came into office, he told the American public that he was demanding that everyone who worked in his administration would be held to a higher standard of ethics and he has faithfully delivered on that promise.

When the President came into office, he said he would be a president for all the American people, even those who didn’t vote for him. He said he made mistakes but got up every day determined to help improve the lives of all Americans. I think he was successful in spite of Republican refusal to compromise on anything. But looking at the list of achievements, we see that he has helped 100’s of millions of folks in countless ways.

Michelle Obama in talks with Biden team on endorsement, campaign involvement: report | Fox News

President Obama’s administration has helped:

The banks and financial institutions who benefited from the bail-out,

The investors and pension funds harmed by the financial crash and then made whole,

The homeowners who lost equity in their homes and then recovered with TARP funds,

The entire auto industry and the millions of new workers in that industry,

The 40 million folks now eligible for Obamacare,

The 10’s of millions of who can’t be denied insurance because of preexisting conditions,

The millions of young folks who can stay on their parents policy through age 26,

The 10’s of millions of folks who won’t have to file bankruptcy because of medical costs,

The 10’s of millions who can now get preventative care at no cost,

The millions of students and their families who now pay reduced student loan interest,

The millions of students and their families who have benefited from more Pell Grants,

The 10’s of millions of children who now have healthier and more nutritious lunches,

Those less likely to be the victims of hate crimes,

The LGBTQ members of the military who can now openly serve their country,

The same sex partners who can now legally get married,

100’s of thousands of men and women of the military and vets who depend on the V.A.,

The 15,000,000 Americans who now have a job,

The 10’s of millions of taxpayers who will have to pay less interest on the deficit,

The millions who profited from the doubling and tripling of the stock markets,

The millions of homeowner families who have benefited from low home mortgage rates,

The 10’s of millions who are protected by Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Act,

The 10’s of millions of women who are now protected by the Lilly Ledbetter Act,

The 10’s of millions of young people who will not start smoking, or will decide to quit,

The 4 million additional children in the expanded CHIPS health program,

The 10’s of millions who will benefit from reduced carbon dioxide emissions,

The millions who will benefit from embryonic stem cell research,

The millions of rural folks who can now use the Internet,

The black and Native American farmers who can now get farm loans and royalties,

The millions who use the 2 million acres of new wilderness and 1,000 miles of rivers,

The millions who benefit from a smart electric grid, energy efficiency and electric autos,

The millions of taxpayers who benefit from a more efficient environmental impact,

The 10’s of millions who will benefit from doubling the fuel economy standards,

The folks in the Gulf who will receive payouts from the Deep Water victims fund,

The billions of people around the world who will benefit from the Paris accord,

The 10’s of millions of American taxpayers who benefit from reduced military spending,

The 100 million folks in Iraq and Afghanistan who can now see the end of the tunnel,

The 100’s of millions around the world who are glad Osama bin laden is in hell,

The 100 million people of Libya and Egypt who have new leadership,

The 10’s of millions of Iranians who are no longer suffering sanctions and,

The 100’s of millions who no longer have to worry about Iran’s nuclear program,

The 100’s of millions who are just a little safer after we reduced our nuclear arsenal,

The many millions in the South Sudan who now have an independent country,

Add to this list the millions of folks helped by the presidents signing of executive orders, including undocumented children and young Latinos, and we can see why President Obama’s approval rating is 57%, the highest it’s been since 2009; and why folks in the U.S. and around the world are sad to see Barack and Michele leave the White House.

What amazes me, when honestly considering this list of accomplishments, is the 43% of American’s who don’t approve of the job the President has done. The alt right, the tea party and virtually every member of the far right media refuse to give the President any credit at all. Anyone who claims this isn’t racism is fooling themselves. And Trump, with his “birther” rants, was the main culprit in this racist campaign to diminish the first black America President.

I think if the Obama Administration would have tried to prosecute some of the evildoers who crashed the economy, had concentrated more on a legitimate jobs program and not just retraining for nonexistent jobs, and had done more about unfair trade agreements and practices or explained their efforts better, they could have dulled Trumps populist message to those who have been left behind in this new economy; and Hillary would have won the electoral college. I realize the administration tried to get a jobs bill, and countless other legislation they thought would help the middle class and the American worker, thru the filibuster happy Republicans in the Senate and past a Republican House unwilling to propose or compromise on any meaningful legislation that would have allowed the President to succeed; but I think the administration could have done a much better job of explaining their goals and the Republicans obstruction, to the voters. The Republicans were adept at framing their obstruction, as handcuffing an out of control socialist spendthrift and as being beneficial to the economy, where in reality, it just exacerbated America’s widening income inequality.

There are any number of mine fields ahead for Trump and the Republicans, including the 25 million dollar Trump University settlement. Neither the plaintiffs nor the courts have signed off on that agreement. Then there’s Trumps upcoming rape trial. Many experts also believe this Trump Administration will explore uncharted new frontiers of governing conflicts of interest. He honestly believes he can run his family business from the White House. And of course, the Republicans always tend to overreach, especially now that they have the White House, the Senate and the House. So strap on your seat belt because it looks like a rough 4 year ride for progressives, the middle class, the working poor, the environment and the economy. Between the cast of characters Trump has assembled for his administration and the temperament and apparent unfitness of the President elect himself, there’s a 50/50 chance this administration may not make it past the 2018 midterm elections intact.

A November 21st article in USA Today by Matt Krantz, highlighted the economic records under Republican and Democratic Presidents. “Recessions are much more common under Republican presidents.” In the last 63 years, since President Eisenhower at the beginning of 1953 until President Obama through 2016, there have been 111 months of recession. 105 of those months of recession have been under Republican presidents, with only 6 months under President Carter. And I think that was because of the oil embargo.

“Every Republican president since Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 has endured a recession in the first term, according to an analysis from Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at stock research firm CFRA.” Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton and Obama had no months of recession. Eisenhower had 28 months, Nixon/Ford had 27 months, Regan had 16, Bush senior had 8 and George W. Bush had 26 months. The average GDP in the last 65 years since President Truman was 3.33%, according to Princeton Professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson. “With a Republican in the White House, the GDP slowed to 2.54% and with a Democrat jumped to 4.35%.

“A variety of other economic indicators, such as per capita GDP, stock market returns, real wages, and the change in the unemployment rate are also more robust under Democrats. Unemployment fell by .8% under the Democrats and rose 1.1%  with the Republicans.” “The U.S. Economy has performed better when the President of the United States is a Democrat rather than a Republican, regardless of how one measures the performance.” “The current economic expansion has been running for 89 months (under President Obama), 4th longest since 1902.”

Some experts believe this disparate performance may just be a matter of timing or bad luck. I think it’s simply about the economic philosophy of the Republican president and his cabinet and not due to random acts. Republican’s number one goal is cutting taxes, especially for folks who don’t need it (millionaires, billionaires and corporations, who like Mr. Trump,  already enjoy a very low or N/A effective tax rate). Number two is cutting programs started during the FDR New Deal era, especially for those who simply can’t afford it (attacking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). And of course continuing the assault against organized labor (attacking teachers, mail-carriers, government workers, collective bargaining and promoting right to work legislation). But these zealots will never understand that these actions severely depress the economy. It’s been proven time and again that when lower and middle class folks have more discretionary income, they freely spend it and the economy flourishes. When rich folks get huge tax cuts and have more money than they know what to do with, they don’t invest it in the economy but engage in risky business practices (the 2008 financial crisis). These folks heading to the White House again are not true conservatives. They can’t wait to get their hands on Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Agency (Overreaching). The richest of the rich always benefit from chaos and financial distress. Like Mr. Trump stated during the campaign, when the economy goes to crap, it’s a great opportunity for him and other billionaires to make a killing. You wonder, by looking at their record, if they actually try to crash the economy on purpose.

But all is not lost. This is after all Thanksgiving and while I don’t have 35 things like I did in 2008, I still have a few things I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for all the courageous and patriotic American’s in the streets, especially the young folks, who are protesting the election of Divider in Chief Donald Trump, as America’s leader, especially after eight years of President Obama, Michele, and Joe and Jill Biden attempting to unite us.

I’m thankful for all the Native American water protectors, our first environmentalists, standing up for the earth at Standing Rock, especially all the young people. And thankful for all the Native American tribes (more than 300) from all over the country and Canada who have gone to stand with them. I’m thankful for all the environmental activists like myself who have donated and spoken up and stood with them. I’m thankful for all the landowners and farmers like myself, from North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois who have stood in the way of the Dakota Access and other risky pipelines. I’m thankful for all the earth protectors who stood up in Canada against the Alberta Tar Sands. I’m thankful for the protectors who stood up in Minnesota and stopped the Sandpiper pipeline project. I’m thankful for all the Native Americans, activists, landowners, farmers and members of Bold Nebraska who stood up and stopped Keystone XL. And I’m thankful for all the Americans and Canadians and people around the world who have donated and wrote letters and signed letters and petitions and said prayers and commented on social media. I am thankful for all the celebrities and concerned media who refuse to ignore the plight of our Native American brothers and sisters. I’m thankful for all the environmental organizations around the country and the world who stand with Standing Rock and stand for the earth. I’m thankful for all the activist leaders who organized demonstrations supporting Standing Rock on November 15th across the country, in almost every state and around the world. I’m thankful for all the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders, with their hand made signs, who were at the Standing Rock protest in downtown Chicago; and for their parents and teachers for showing them the right way to live sustainably. They will be the earth protectors taking over for their elders. And I will be thankful for all of my fellow Veterans who are going to standing Rock the first week in December to stand with Standing Rock, to show that they represent the true patriotic Americans defending their country and our earth.

I’m thankful for all of humanity who shuns greed in order to protect our blessings of clean air, fertile soil, clean precious water and wholesome food.

I’m thankful for those on the front lines, protesting exploitation of our wilderness, our public lands and our National Parks and Monuments.

I’m thankful for all the organic and sustainable farmers like myself, who feed their neighbors without spoiling the earth. And I’m thankful for the organizations like MOSES who promote and teach the next generation of protectors.

And in spite of how hard Mr. Trump, his exploitative cabinet, the fossil fuel pandering Republican controlled Congress and the evil doers in the fossil fuel industry work, to overturn progress made by the Obama Administration, to reverse climate change and global warming, they can’t stop the march to a cleaner more sustainable world. Alternative energy is cheaper than coal, oil and gas, it’s sustainable and 10’s of millions of people around the world are already enjoying it’s benefits. The world is using less coal, more wind, solar and alt energy, emitting less carbon dioxide and growing and farming more sustainably. More than 100 large corporations have pledged to become 100% renewable. Corporations, utilities, countries, states, cities and communities have promoted and invested in renewable energy. Even oil companies and insurance companies have woken up to the new sustainable world order. We are plodding forward. Trump, his fellow billionaires and the big banks who are heavily invested in fossil fuel assets will attempt to extract every ounce before America says, enough is enough. But they’re on the wrong side of preserving humanity.

Like probably 80% of Americans who did not vote for Mr. Trump, I’m worried for America’s children and grandchildren, the poor, our middle class, labor, the environment, our Democracy and half of the rest of the world. And I worry that Trump will try to undo  60 to 75% of what President Obama accomplished. President Obama set the bar high with his performance in repairing the economy after the Republicans drove it into a ditch, by repairing our reputation around the world and by his integrity and concern for all human beings. If the Trump Administration can do half as well, I will be surprised. I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.

By John Hanno, tarbabys.com

Most plastic recycling produces low-value materials – but we’ve found a way to turn a common plastic into high-value molecules

Most plastic recycling produces low-value materials – but we’ve found a way to turn a common plastic into high-value molecules

Susannah Scott                                          

Professor of Chemistry, University of California Santa Barbara

<span class="caption">Bales of plastic waste destined for recycling.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/recycling-pattern-waste-recovery-royalty-free-image/1153505120?adppopup=true" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Koron/Getty Images">Koron/Getty Images</a></span>
Bales of plastic waste destined for recycling. Koron/Get.
If you thought those flimsy disposable plastic grocery bags represented most of our plastic waste problem, think again. The volume of plastic the world throws away every year could rebuild the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall of China – about 3,700 miles long.

 

In the six decades that plastic has been manufactured for commercial uses, more than 8.3 billion metric tons have been produced. Plastics are light, versatile, cheap and nearly indestructible (as long as they don’t get too hot). These properties make them incredibly useful in an enormous range of applications that includes sterile food packaging, energy-efficient transportation, textiles and medical protective gear. But their indestructible nature comes at a cost. Most of them decompose extremely slowly in the environment – on the order of several hundred years – where they are creating a global epidemic of plastic trash. Its consequences for human and ecosystem health are still incompletely known, but are potentially momentous.

I’m a chemist with experience in designing processes for making plastics, and I became interested in using plastic as a large, untapped resource for energy and materials. I wondered if we could turn plastic waste into something more valuable to keep it out of landfills and the natural environment.

A new way to use plastic waste

Plastics are made by stringing together a large number of small, carbon-based molecules in an almost infinite variety of ways to create polymer chains.

To reuse these polymers, recycling facilities could, in principle, melt and reshape them, but plastics’ properties tend to deteriorate. The resulting materials are almost never suitable for their original use, although they can be used to make lower-value stuff like plastic lumber. The result is a very low effective rate of recycling.

A new approach involves breaking the long chains down into small molecules again. The challenge is how to do this in a precise way.

Since the process of making the chains in the first place releases a lot of energy, reversing it requires adding a large amount of energy back in. Generally this means heating up the material to a high temperature – but heating up plastic causes the stuff to turn into a nasty mess. It also wastes a lot of energy, meaning more greenhouse gas emissions.

My team at UC Santa Barbara, working with colleagues at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Cornell, discovered a clean way to turn polyethylene into useful smaller molecules.

Polyethylene is one of the world’s most useful and most used plastic types. It is also one of the largest contributors to plastic waste. It represents a third of the nearly 400 million metric tons of plastic the world makes every year, for purposes ranging from sterile food and medical packaging, waterproof films and coatings, cable and wire insulation, construction materials and water pipes, to wear-resistant hip and knee replacements and even bulletproof vests.

How the new process works

The process we have developed does not require high temperatures, but instead depends on tiny amounts of a catalyst containing a metal that removes a little hydrogen from the polymer chain. The catalyst then uses this hydrogen to cut the bonds that hold the carbon chain together, making smaller pieces.

The key is using the hydrogen as soon as it forms so that the chain-cutting provides the energy for making more hydrogen. This process is repeated many times for each chain, turning the solid polymer into a liquid.

The chopping slows down naturally when the molecules reach a certain size, so it’s easy to prevent the molecules from becoming too small. We’re able to recover the valuable liquid before it turns into less useful gases.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

A majority of the molecules in the recovered liquid are alkylbenzenes, which are useful as solvents and can easily be turned into detergents. The global market for this type of molecule is about US$9 billion annually.

Turning waste plastic into valuable molecules is called upcycling. Although our study represented a small-scale demonstration, a preliminary economic analysis suggests that it could easily be adapted to become a much larger-scale process in the next few years. Keeping plastic out of the environment by reusing it in a way that makes good economic sense is a win-win.

Read more:

Susannah Scott receives funding from the US Department of Energy, Mitsubishi Chemical, and Dow Chemical, for her work in polymer upcycling. She is a coinventor on a US patent application related to this discovery, filed by the University of California.

Our Oceans Have Gotten Much More Stable, Which Sounds Great. It Isn’t.

Our Oceans Have Gotten Much More Stable, Which Sounds Great. It Isn’t.

Caroline Delbert                    October 23, 2020
Photo credit: Diane Keough - Getty Images
Photo credit: Diane Keough – Getty Images. From Popular Mechanics

 

  • The oceans are growing more stable—and stagnant—as a consequence of climate change.
  • Oceans are finely balanced and vulnerable to the most severe climate change effects.
  • When water stops pushing up and down within the entire water column, it’s bad news.

As the oceans warm, they become more stable in a way scientists say will worsen climate change. If this sounds counterintuitive, remember that instability of some kinds is essential to how both wind and air circulate around the planet and affect the yearly cycles for agriculture, animal migration, and more.

In The Guardian, researcher John Abraham explains what stability is in this context:

“In oceans, water tends to stratify, with warmer, less dense water sitting atop colder, more dense water. We refer to this as a ‘stable’ configuration. Sometimes the waters are not stable. For example, the upper waters of the ocean can suddenly become heavier. This causes the water to fall from the surface towards the ocean floor. Not only does water move up and down in the ocean, but currents flow around the world horizontally as well. It turns out these water currents have major effects on the entire ocean, as well as the weather.”

So, when the ocean is stable, that means it has settled into identifiable layers like the different colors in a Tequila Sunrise, or like the oil layer in a bottle of salad dressing. The layers have names and are studied in a couple of different ways depending on the scientists involved, whether in three or five layers or something else.

The abyssal zone, for example, is what lies against the deep (but not irregularly deep trenches) ocean floor, which in turn is called the abyssal plain.

Currents and animal populations can circulate effectively within just certain zones, in a way that seems like a miracle until you remember that humans only live in one band that basically touches the Earth’s surface only. Rainforest animals might live their entire lives in the layer above, the canopy, while birds prefer to occupy their own bands of low altitude. And we’ve all seen those days when wind is blowing one layer of clouds at a very different speed and even direction than a layer farther away.

Abraham highlights a new paper he coauthored about the warmer, more stagnant surfaces of the world’s oceans as a result of higher stability. The researchers explain:

“We find that stratification globally has increased by a substantial 5.3 [percent] in recent decades; a rate of 0.90 [percent] per decade. Most of the increase occurred in the upper 200 m of the ocean and resulted largely from temperature changes, although salinity changes play an important role locally.”

That, Abraham says, has a lot of ramifications. The less “fresh” (in the novel sense) water circulates top to bottom, the warmer the top layer grows, which in turn means it’s less nutritious, less able to absorb carbon, and more. And gravest of all, the warmer top layer accelerates its own warming.

“There is hope that we can navigate the challenges resulting from a more stable ocean—but we must start immediately,” Abraham concludes.

End Our National Crisis !

The New York Times

Opinion: End Our National Crisis !

Corruption – Anger – Chaos – Incompetence – Lies – Decay

The Case Against Donald Trump: 

Mr. Trump’s ruinous tenure already has gravely damaged the United States at home and around the world. He has abused the power of his office and denied the legitimacy of his political opponents, shattering the norms that have bound the nation together for generations. He has subsumed the public interest to the profitability of his business and political interests. He has shown a breathtaking disregard for the lives and liberties of Americans. He is a man unworthy of the office he holds.

The editorial board does not lightly indict a duly elected president. During Mr. Trump’s term, we have called out his racism and his xenophobia. We have critiqued his vandalism of the postwar consensus, a system of alliances and relationships around the globe that cost a great many lives to establish and maintain. We have, again and again, deplored his divisive rhetoric and his malicious attacks on fellow Americans. Yet when the Senate  refused to convict the president for obvious abuses of power and obstruction, we counseled his political opponents to focus their outrage on defeating him at the ballot box.

Nov. 3 can be a turning point. This is an election about the country’s future, and what path its citizens wish to choose.

The resilience of American democracy has been sorely tested by Mr. Trump’s first term. Four more years would be worse.

But even as Americans wait to vote in lines that stretch for blocks through their towns and cities, Mr. Trump is engaged in a full-throated assault on the integrity of that essential democratic process. Breaking with all of his modern predecessors, he has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, suggesting that his victory is the only legitimate outcome, and that if he does not win, he is ready to contest the judgment of the American people in the courts or even on the streets.

The enormity and variety of Mr. Trump’s misdeeds can feel overwhelming. Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars. This is the moment when Americans must recover that sense of outrage.

It is the purpose of this special section of the Sunday Review to remind readers why Mr. Trump is unfit to lead the nation. It includes a series of essays focused on the Trump administration’s rampant corruption, celebrations of violence, gross negligence with the public’s health and incompetent statecraft. A selection of iconic images highlights the president’s record on issues like climate, immigration, women’s rights and race.

The urgency of these essays speaks for itself. The repudiation of Mr. Trump is the first step in repairing the damage he has done. But even as we write these words, Mr. Trump is salting the field — and even if he loses, reconstruction will require many years and tears.

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.

He has shown no aptitude for building, but he has managed to do a great deal of damage. He is just the man for knocking things down.

As the world runs out of time to confront climate change, Mr. Trump has denied the need for action, abandoned international cooperation and attacked efforts to limit emissions.

He has mounted a cruel crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration without proposing a sensible policy for determining who should be allowed to come to the United States.

Obsessed with reversing the achievements of his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, he has sought to persuade both Congress and the courts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act without proposing any substitute policy to provide Americans with access to affordable health care. During the first three years of his administration, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 2.3 million — a number that has surely grown again as millions of Americans have lost their jobs this year.

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

He has strained longstanding alliances while embracing dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, whom Mr. Trump treats with a degree of warmth and deference that defies explanation. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a strategic agreement among China’s neighbors intended to pressure China to conform to international standards. In its place, Mr. Trump has conducted a tit-for-tat trade war, imposing billions of dollars in tariffs — taxes that are actually paid by Americans — without extracting significant concessions from China.

Mr. Trump’s inadequacies as a leader have been on particularly painful display during the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of working to save lives, Mr. Trump has treated the pandemic as a public relations problem. He lied about the danger, challenged the expertise of public health officials and resisted the implementation of necessary precautions; he is still trying to force the resumption of economic activity without bringing the virus under control.

As the economy pancaked, he signed an initial round of aid for Americans who lost their jobs. Then the stock market rebounded and, even though millions remained out of work, Mr. Trump lost interest in their plight.

In September, he declared that the virus “affects virtually nobody” the day before the death toll from the disease in the United States topped 200,000.

Nine days later, Mr. Trump fell ill.

The foundations of American civil society were crumbling before Mr. Trump rode down the escalator of Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. But he has intensified the worst tendencies in American politics: Under his leadership, the nation has grown more polarized, more paranoid and meaner.

He has pitted Americans against each other, mastering new broadcast media like Twitter and Facebook to rally his supporters around a virtual bonfire of grievances and to flood the public square with lies, disinformation and propaganda. He is relentless in his denigration of opponents and reluctant to condemn violence by those he regards as allies. At the first presidential debate in September, Mr. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists. He responded by instructing one violent gang, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by.”

He has undermined faith in government as a vehicle for mediating differences and arriving at compromises. He demands absolute loyalty from government officials, without regard to the public interest. He is openly contemptuous of expertise.

And he has mounted an assault on the rule of law, wielding his authority as an instrument to secure his own power and to punish political opponents. In June, his administration tear-gassed and cleared peaceful protesters from a street in front of the White House so Mr. Trump could pose with a book he does not read in front of a church he does not attend.

The full scope of his misconduct may take decades to come to light. But what is already known is sufficiently shocking:

He has resisted lawful oversight by the other branches of the federal government. The administration routinely defies court orders, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly directed administration officials not to testify before Congress or to provide documents, notably including Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

With the help of Attorney General William Barr, he has shielded loyal aides from justice. In May, the Justice Department said it would drop the prosecution of Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn even though Mr. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. In July, Mr. Trump commuted the sentence of another former aide, Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a federal investigation of Mr. Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, rightly condemned the commutation as an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption.”

Last year, Mr. Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of his main political rival, Joe Biden, and then directed administration officials to obstruct a congressional inquiry of his actions. In December 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Mr. Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. But Senate Republicans, excepting Mr. Romney, voted to acquit the president, ignoring Mr. Trump’s corruption to press ahead with the project of filling the benches of the federal judiciary with young, conservative lawyers as a firewall against majority rule.

Now, with other Republican leaders, Mr. Trump is mounting an aggressive campaign to reduce the number of Americans who vote and the number of ballots that are counted.

The president, who has long spread baseless charges of widespread voter fraud, has intensified his rhetorical attacks in recent months, especially on ballots submitted by mail. “The Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED,” he tweeted. The president himself has voted by mail, and there is no evidence to support his claims. But the disinformation campaign serves as a rationale for purging voter rolls, closing polling places, tossing absentee ballots and otherwise impeding Americans from exercising the right to vote.

It is an intolerable assault on the very foundations of the American experiment in government by the people.

Other modern presidents have behaved illegally or made catastrophic decisions. Richard Nixon used the power of the state against his political opponents. Ronald Reagan ignored the spread of AIDS. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying and obstruction of justice. George W. Bush took the nation to war under false pretenses.

Mr. Trump has outstripped decades of presidential wrongdoing in a single term.

Frederick Douglass lamented during another of the nation’s dark hours, the presidency of Andrew Johnson, “We ought to have our government so shaped that even when in the hands of a bad man, we shall be safe.” But that is not the nature of our democracy. The implicit optimism of American democracy is that the health of the Republic rests on the judgment of the electorate and the integrity of those voters choose.

Mr. Trump is a man of no integrity. He has repeatedly violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Now, in this moment of peril, it falls to the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting.

Opinion: The Self-Dealing Administration

This article is part of a special Sunday Review: End Our National Crisis.

 

By Michelle Cottle        October 16, 2020

Devin Oktar Yalkin for The New York Times.

 

For anyone attempting to understand Donald Trump’s presidency — to really grasp its essence — the place to look isn’t the White House or the federal agencies or even the Supreme Court, with its expanded conservative majority. The lurid heart of Trumpist Washington lies within the grand, Romanesque-revival building at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street, Northwest: the Trump International Hotel.

Built at the close of the 19th century, the structure originally served as the city’s main post office, a towering tribute to public service. Under Mr. Trump, it now stands as both a monument to and a tool for advancing the endless spectacle of self-dealing and corruption that has come to define this president, his family and much of his administration.

On any given day, a glut of lobbyists, lawmakers, foreign agents and other favor-seekers come through the Trump International, schmoozing with administration bigwigs — on occasion the president himself — and spending gobs of cash. This ritual not only strokes the president’s ego — What a swank place you have here, sir! — it enriches his family business, ownership of which Mr. Trump has refused to divest himself.

We aren’t talking about a few overpriced martinis or breakfast meetings but, rather, some serious, high-dollar hobnobbing. In the six months ending in March 2017, the government of Saudi Arabia spent at least $270,000 at the hotel. The National Shooting Sports Foundation dropped at least $62,000 there in 2018, according to a Times report last weekend, which also noted that the National Automobile Dealers Association has used it as a base for meetings with policymakers, spending close to $80,000. Groups hosting posh events there range from the Philippine Embassy to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to the FLC Group, a Vietnamese conglomerate. (Those who responded to The Time’s inquiries denied inappropriate motives.)

The appearance of impropriety is not confined to the family’s Washington hotel. From Scotland to New Jersey to Florida and beyond, Trump properties have raked in tens of millions of dollars from those seeking to curry favor with, or at least express their appreciation for, the president.

“An investigation by The Times found over 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Mr. Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration,” the paper reported, concluding that the president has “built a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics.”

Some of Mr. Trump’s more egregious self-enrichment projects have failed. Most notably, his plan to host this year’s Group of 7 meeting at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami met with so much political blowback that he quickly abandoned the idea. But at this stage, his clan’s routine self-dealing barely raises an eyebrow.

The president’s campaign contributors, large and small, also do their share to support the first family. This cycle, Trump businesses have received more than $4 million from the president’s campaign-related committees and the Republican Party, according to the latest numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics. This includes $380,000 that the campaign spent on a “donor retreat” at Mar-a Lago. The campaign also has been paying around $37,000 a month for space in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Even Americans who don’t support Mr. Trump are filling his coffers. Each time the president, a family member or certain top administration officials visit a Trump property, taxpayers foot the bill for the security details that must tag along.

On a 2019 trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at a Trump resort located on the far side of the country from where his official meetings were being held. (In addition to whatever taxpayers spent on lodging, the additional ground transportation cost nearly $600,000.)

The Washington Post has estimated that the U.S. government had paid well over $1 million to the president’s company since he took office in costs associated with the Secret Service. This includes at least 530 nights at Mar-a-Lago and 950 nights at the president’s club in Bedminster, N.J.

Taxpayers are also footing part of the bill for business trips by the Trump kids. In January 2017, Eric Trump jetted down to Uruguay to check on one of the Trump Organization’s condo projects, costing Americans around $98,000 in hotel rooms for the Secret Service and embassy staff members. Two trips the following month, one by Eric to the Dominican Republic and one by Eric and Don Jr. to Dubai, ran taxpayers nearly $250,000 for Secret Service expenses such as airfare, lodging and ground transportation.

In May of 2018, China awarded Mr. Trump’s golden child, Ivanka, seven trademarks for her now-defunct lifestyle brand, right around the same time her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going belly up. Ivanka’s office said there was no special treatment involved.

What’s good for the Trump family is, apparently, also good for the family of Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, and their business interests. In May 2017, Mr. Kushner’s sister played up her brother’s position as senior adviser to the president when pitching some of Kushner Companies’ real estate developments to prospective Chinese investors through a federal program that provides fast-track visas to wealthy foreign investors. The project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” she told them. The company denied any impropriety.

Also in 2017, both Citigroup and Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, made large loans to Kushner Companies after White House meetings between Mr. Kushner and top executives from those firms. The involved parties insisted that the loans had nothing to do with Mr. Kushner’s position — that, in fact, his family’s business had not even come up in the discussions. The $184 million loan from Apollo came through in November. The next month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dropped an investigation into Apollo. While there was no indication that the two episodes were related, the timing was a tad unseemly.

Foreign entities know a soft target when they see one. In early 2018, The Washington Post reported that officials in at least four countries — China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — “have privately discussed ways they can manipulate” Mr. Kushner “by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience,” according to U.S. officials familiar with the related intelligence reports.

In politics, as in life, the fish rots from the head. And many members of the administration seem to have embraced the first family’s ethical flexibility. Among the top officials to depart under allegations of self-dealing or other misuse of taxpayer money were the secretary of the interior, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the secretary of health and human services and the secretary of veterans affairs. Impressively, Wilbur Ross remains the commerce secretary, despite reports of multiple sketchy financial dealings.

Forget Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals. Mr. Trump will be remembered for assembling a world-class Team of Grifters.

The Trump campaign world presents its own opportunities for self-enrichment. Before being ousted as campaign manager this summer, Brad Parscale had been facing scrutiny both for the campaign’s profligate spending and for the lavish lifestyle he had adopted since joining Team Trump. Following Mr. Parscale’s demotion, the campaign began an audit of spending during his tenure, according to Business Insider. (The campaign has denied that Mr. Parscale is being targeted by the review.)

Mr. Parscale features prominently in recent allegations that the Trump re-election effort has been violating campaign finance laws. In late July, a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign and a related fund-raising committee of masking $170 million in spending to vendors and Trump family members by funneling the payments through companies run by Mr. Parscale and others formed by the campaign’s lawyers. Among the outlays in question are fat salaries for Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, and Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign has denied any wrongdoing.

But I bet you could have guessed that by now.

With so much grift and graft and self-enrichment swirling about, it’s amusing — and yet horrifying — to recall that Mr. Trump ran in 2016 as a tough, independent outsider who would bring in the “best people” to help him clean up political corruption. Today, as election night looms, the president’s campaign has reportedly booked the Trump International Hotel in D.C. for a victory party. Rooms sold out months ago.

Forget draining the swamp; the president slapped his name on it and began charging admission.

 

Opinion: When Science is Pushed Aside

This article is part of a special Sunday Review: End Our National Crisis.

By Jeneen Interlandi       October 16, 2020

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times.

 

From his first days in office, President Trump has waged a relentless and cynical campaign against the institutions most responsible for turning science into sound policy.

These institutions — the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency — are as essential to democracy as any high court or legislative body. They have set standards that the rest of the world still aspires to, for safe food and medicine, for clean air and water and, until recently, for effective disease control. At their best, they stand as a bulwark against the apathy that can attend such difficult problems and as a beacon for human society’s highest ideals: intelligence, discernment and moral action in the face of grave threats.

In the past four years, however, they have been imperiled like never before by a president who places no value on science. Or data. Or facts. Or truth.

He’s a president who muzzles credible scientists and amplifies charlatans. One who suggested on live television that UV light and bleach injections might cure people of the coronavirus. One who has refused to promote or consistently wear face masks, even as the virus has spread through his inner circle and assaulted his immune system. He’s a president who has lied, again and again, about the severity of threats the country is now facing — be they from climate change or the pandemic — even as reams of evidence make those threats plain.

Mr. Trump’s disdain for science is so terrifying that two of the nation’s oldest scientific publications — Scientific American and the New England Journal of Medicine — have waded into the morass of electoral politics for the first time in their more-than-100-year histories. The Journal implored voters to fire the president come November, while Scientific American went a step further and endorsed Joe Biden. “The evidence and science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science,” the editors there wrote.

That rejection began at the Environmental Protection Agency, where Mr. Trump appointed an administrator whose greatest ambition had been to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. After a string of scandals, Mr. Trump replaced him with a former coal industry lobbyist. The agency has effectively prohibited any study involving human participants and any scientist who receives federal grants from informing its environmental policies. It has deliberately downplayed climate change, going so far as to purge the term from its website. It has also weakened or dismantled scores of environmental protections, including curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, rules meant to keep toxic chemicals in check and protections for national wetlands and wildlife.

The Trump administration has billed each of these rollbacks as a win for the economy — a tired argument that’s easily debunked, in some cases by the government’s own research. The E.P.A.’s own lies have been even more brazen. A spokeswoman recently told The Times that by undoing so many environmental protections the agency was returning to its “core mission,” which is to protect the environment.

The story has been similar at the F.D.A., where officials have repeatedly appeared to bend to the president’s will, for instance by authorizing unproven coronavirus treatments that he champions but that scientists advise against. The first of those authorizations — for the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — was rescinded after the treatment was linked to potentially deadly side effects in Covid-19 patients. The second — for convalescent plasma — triggered a crisis of confidence in the F.D.A., when its commissioner, Dr. Stephen Hahn, grossly overstated the treatment’s potential in public remarks that he was then forced to walk back.

That spectacle has left both scientists and ordinary citizens deeply anxious about the coming coronavirus vaccines. The president has all but promised one before Election Day; scientists insist that such a timeline cannot possibly be met without compromising safety. The F.D.A. recently tried to assure the public that it will come down unequivocally on the side of safety. But in early October Mr. Trump dismissed the agency’s newly tightened vaccine standards as a “political hit job” and indicated that he would somehow overrule officials there.

The most shameful of all Mr. Trump’s meddling has been at the C.D.C., an agency designed to confront exactly the kind of pandemic America is now facing. Political appointees have prevented scientists at the agency from publishing a range of crucial guidelines and edicts meant to shepherd the nation through the pandemic. As a result, decisions across the country about school openings and closings, testing and mask-wearing have been muddy and confused, too often determined by political calculus instead of evidence.

The C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, has repeatedly walked back statements that counter the president’s own sunny assessment of the pandemic. Other scientists at the agency have been muzzled altogether — holding few news conferences and giving almost no talks or interviews in the nine months since the coronavirus first reached American shores. Morale at the agency has reached a low point, with many career civil servants there telling The Times that they might resign if Mr. Trump wins re-election, and others speculating that the C.D.C.’s ability to function at all, in this pandemic or the next, is in serious jeopardy.

The most immediate impacts of these machinations are plain to see. Pollution is up, fines for polluters are down, carbon emissions have risen and are poised to rise further. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and millions of livelihoods destroyed, by a pandemic that could have been contained. The nation’s standing in the wider world, and public trust here at home, have been eroded almost beyond recognition.

The longer-term impacts will be equally dire. Consider a future in which the empirical truths ferreted out by doctors, scientists and engineers no longer have currency because there is no one left to act on them. Real medicine and snake oil are sold on the same shelf, with no good way to tell the two apart. Vaccines are developed, but even the most pro-science families don’t trust them enough to make use of them. We resign ourselves to the lead in our water, the pesticides in our food and the toxins in our baby bottles because we know that no one will resolve these crises in our favor. Lies and shrugs become the official response to any disease that threatens us.

Some of these things are already beginning to happen. Agencies that use science to protect human health have long been plagued by a lack of funding and too much political interference. But a world in which these agencies become fully ornamental would be dangerously different than the world we currently inhabit.

It’s hard to say what chance science or civics have against so foolish and self-serving a commander in chief. But for now, at least, there is still cause for hope. Earlier this month, the F.D.A. updated its criteria for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine, against Mr. Trump’s stated wishes. After a brief standoff, the administration quietly backed off its opposition to the new guidelines, which should make it all but impossible for the president to rush a product through in the next few weeks.

Career civil servants at the C.D.C., the E.P.A. and elsewhere are engaged in similar battles to preserve these institutions and the embers of what they stand for. Anyone who wants to ensure that Americans’ food and medicine nourish rather than poisons them, or who worries about the relentless march of climate change, or who hopes that the next deadly disease outbreak will be prevented from morphing into a global pandemic, should root for those civil servants to succeed — and vote accordingly.

The Radicalizer in Chief

 

This article is part of a special Sunday Review: End Our National Crisis.

Christopher Lee for The New York Times

By Jesse Wegnan                              Oct. 16, 2020      

Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.          

This month, federal and state authorities arrested 13 Michigan men on terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges. Six of the men are alleged to have been plotting to kidnap the state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, with whom they were furious for imposing shutdowns, as most other governors did, in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Ms. Whitmer’s actions most likely saved thousands of lives. The arrested men, along with hundreds of other anti-shutdown protesters who swarmed the State Capitol in Lansing, considered her a tyrant.

As the protests grew in April, President Trump could have supported a governor navigating a tough situation and reminded Americans about the importance of stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, he tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” — a message that has to date received nearly 200,000 likes and almost 39,000 retweets. He tweeted the same of other states with Democratic governors and said the Second Amendment was “under siege.” It was as though Mr. Trump saw himself as another anti-government insurgent.

The message seems to have come through loud and clear. Protesters became bolder, and some marched into the Michigan statehouse brandishing semiautomatic rifles and long guns, forcing a shutdown of the State Legislature. Many political leaders rightly condemned the armed display. Mr. Trump defended the protesters. “These are very good people, but they are angry,” he wrote on Twitter.

As Ms. Whitmer said after this month’s arrests: “Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry. As a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions, and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”

Even after the arrests and charges, Mr. Trump has refused to rebuke violent agitators. Instead, he keeps feeding the fire. Speaking on Fox Business on Thursday, he said of Ms. Whitmer: “She wants to be a dictator in Michigan. And the people can’t stand her.”

A president’s words are among his most powerful, and potentially dangerous, tools. They can rally the American public to work together toward a common cause. They can soothe the jangled nerves of a frightened nation, or provide a healing balm at a time of mourning. They can move global financial markets, start wars — and embolden violent individuals.

From the start of his campaign for president in 2015, Mr. Trump has gleefully upturned every expectation Americans had about how their presidents speak. He revels in crude insults, trivial gripes and constant mockery of those who disagree with him.

This is harmful on many levels. “The president isn’t just the chief of the executive branch, but the head of state,” said Ian Bassin, who worked in the White House Counsel’s Office during the Obama administration and now runs the nonprofit group Protect Democracy. “That means part of what the presidency is about is norm-setting. When a president establishes that it’s OK to make fun of people with disabilities, or to be racist, or to lie, or to assault women, you see that replicated in society. That’s not a surprise.”

Mr. Trump doesn’t just mock his enemies. He demonizes and dehumanizes them. His attacks have resulted in his targets — whether a lawmaker like Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a television personality like the former Fox News anchor Megan Kelly, a government scientist like Dr. Anthony Fauci, or a regular American citizen — getting swamped with death threats, and in some cases requiring personal protection.

The violent rhetoric, and its consequences, began almost as soon as Mr. Trump’s campaign for the White House did.

In August 2015, barely two months after Mr. Trump announced his presidential bid by accusing Mexican immigrants of being “rapists,” two Boston men beat a homeless man with a metal pipe and then urinated on him. “Donald Trump was right,” one of the men said, according to the police. “All these illegals need to be deported.”

Mr. Trump tweeted out a condemnation of the attack, calling it “terrible” and saying, “I would never condone violence.” But repeatedly on the campaign trail, he did just that.

At a February 2016 campaign rally, he told his supporters: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”

A few weeks later he said of one protester, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

At another rally, a protester being escorted out by the police was sucker-punched. Mr. Trump called the attack “very, very appropriate” and the kind of action “we need a little bit more of.”

In August 2016, he warned that if Hillary Clinton was elected, she would appoint Supreme Court justices who would rule in favor of gun control laws. “Nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, before adding, “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

This language was dangerous enough coming from a candidate. With Mr. Trump’s ascension to the most powerful job in the country, the stakes got only higher, and his reach broader.

A few months after his inauguration, he told a gathering of police officers that they should rough up the people they arrest. “Please don’t be too nice,” Mr. Trump said, to laughter and cheers.

When a Republican representative from Montana physically assaulted a reporter who had asked a question, Mr. Trump praised the lawmaker. “Any guy that can do a body-slam,” Mr. Trump said, “he’s my guy.”

In May, Mr. Trump responded to protests against police brutality by saying, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” When the shooting did start, he defended one person accused of gunfire: a 17-year-old boy who drove 20 miles to a Wisconsin protest armed with a semiautomatic rifle, which he allegedly used to shoot three people, killing two of them. It was self-defense, Mr. Trump suggested days after the teenager was charged with murder.

At the presidential debate last month, Mr. Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists without equivocation. He would not. Instead, he instructed the violent right-wing group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

Mr. Trump and his defenders regularly claim that he is being misunderstood and say that he has condemned violence and white supremacy more than any president in history. The president is asked to condemn violence so often because violence is so often committed in his name. The Proud Boys, for one, did not take his words as a condemnation. “I think he was saying I appreciate you and appreciate your support,” the group’s founder said after the debate.

Trump supporters are not the only people who commit acts of political violence. But Mr. Trump has been invoked in dozens of acts of violence, threats of violence or allegations of assault, according to a review of five years of criminal cases by ABC News.

The victims of some of the worst attacks have been from the minority groups that Mr. Trump so often targets with his words. In addition to the 2015 attack on the homeless man in Boston, there was the terror campaign involving more than a dozen pipe bombs sent to prominent journalists and critics of Mr. Trump by a Trump supporter. There was the massacre in an El Paso Walmart that left 23 dead; minutes before the attack, the 21-year-old suspect said he was doing it as a response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” And there was the slaughter of 51 people during prayer in two New Zealand mosques by a right-wing zealot who said he saw Mr. Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

In 2017, a federal judge in Kentucky ruled that Mr. Trump could be sued by protesters who had been assaulted at a 2016 rally where he had said, “Get ’em out of here!” That statement was “an order, an instruction, a command,” the judge said, and the protesters’ injuries were “a direct and proximate result” of Mr. Trump’s words. The case was dismissed on appeal, but the judge was right: Mr. Trump’s supporters know that his first response is the truest expression of his beliefs, and Mr. Trump, for all his dissembling, knows exactly what he is saying.

This harm won’t end with Mr. Trump’s presidency. His toxic rhetoric has filtered down to elementary and secondary schools around the country, where children have been repeating the president’s most vile language for the past five years. In hundreds of cases, children have reported being mocked, harassed or attacked for being Hispanic, Black or Muslim, according to a survey by The Washington Post. Many of the incidents have made reference to Mr. Trump’s border wall, including one case last year in which a 13-year-old New Jersey boy told a Mexican-American classmate that “all Mexicans should go back behind the wall.” Soon after, the 13-year-old assaulted the boy and knocked his mother unconscious.

“It’s gotten way worse since Trump got elected,” said Ashanty Bonilla, a Mexican-American high school student who endured so much ridicule from classmates that she changed schools. “They hear it. They think it’s OK. The president says it. … Why can’t they?”

More from the Series: End Our National Crisis

Why They Loved Him !

Farah Stockman      October 16, 2020
This article is part of a special Sunday Review: End Our National Crisis.
Opinion | Why They Loved Him
The president tricked working-class voters. But the problems he railed about are real.         nytimes.com

 

The Foreign Policy That Wasn’t

This article is part of a special Sunday Review: End Our National Crisis.

Rudy Giuliani Is My Father. Please, Everyone, Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Vanity Fair

Rudy Giuliani Is My Father. Please, Everyone, Vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.

Image may contain Human Person Clothing Apparel Bar Counter and Pub
COURTESY OF CAROLINE ROSE GIULIANI.

 

I have a difficult confession—something I usually save for at least the second date. My father is Rudy Giuliani. We are multiverses apart, politically and otherwise. I’ve spent a lifetime forging an identity in the arts separate from my last name, so publicly declaring myself as a “Giuliani” feels counter-intuitive, but I’ve come to realize that none of us can afford to be silent right now. The stakes are too high. I accept that most people will start reading this piece because you saw the headline with my father’s name. But now that you’re here, I’d like to tell you how urgent I think this moment is.

To anyone who feels overwhelmed or apathetic about this election, there is nothing I relate to more than desperation to escape corrosive political discourse. As a child, I saw firsthand the kind of cruel, selfish politics that Donald Trump has now inflicted on our country. It made me want to run as far away from them as possible. But trust me when I tell you: Running away does not solve the problem. We have to stand and fight. The only way to end this nightmare is to vote. There is hope on the horizon, but we’ll only grasp it if we elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Around the age of 12, I would occasionally get into debates with my father, probably before I was emotionally equipped to handle such carnage. It was disheartening to feel how little power I had to change his mind, no matter how logical and above-my-pay-grade my arguments were. He always found a way to justify his party line, whatever it was at the time. Even though he was considered socially moderate for a Republican back in the day, we still often butted heads. When I tried to explain my belief that you don’t get to be considered benevolent on LGBTQ+ rights just because you have gay friends but don’t support gay marriage, I distinctly remember him firing back with an intensity fit for an opposing politician rather than one’s child. To be clear, I’m not sharing this anecdote to complain or criticize. I had an extremely privileged childhood and am grateful for everything I was given, including real-world lessons and complicated experiences like these. The point is to illustrate one of the many reasons I have a fraught relationship with politics, like so many of us do.

Image may contain Rudy Giuliani Tie Accessories Accessory Human Person Suit Coat Clothing Overcoat and Apparel
Rudy Giuliani with Caroline.   BY CARMEN VALDES/GETTY IMAGES.

 

Even when there was an occasional flash of connection in these disagreements with my dad, it felt like nothing changed for the better, so I would retreat again until another issue I couldn’t stay silent on surfaced. Over the years other subjects like racial sensitivity (or lack thereof), sexism, policing, and the social safety net have all risen to this boiling point in me. It felt important to speak my mind, and I’m glad we at least managed to communicate at all. But the chasm was painful nonetheless, and has gotten exponentially more so in Trump’s era of chest-thumping partisan tribalism. I imagine many Americans can relate to the helpless feeling this confrontation cycle created in me, but we are not helpless. I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.

Trump and his enablers have used his presidency to stoke the injustice that already permeated our society, taking it to dramatically new, Bond-villain heights. I am a filmmaker in the LGBTQ+ community who tells stories about mental health, sexuality, and other stigmatized issues, and my goal is to humanize people and foster empathy. So I hope you’ll believe me when I say that another Trump term (a term, itself, that makes me cringe) will irrevocably harm the LGBTQ+ community, among many others. His administration asked the Supreme Court to let businesses fire people for being gay or trans, pushed a regulation to let health care providers refuse services to people who are LGTBQ+, and banned trans people from serving their country in the military.

Women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and people of color are all also under attack by Trump’s inhumane policies—and by his judicial appointments, including, probably, Amy Coney Barrett. Trump’s administration has torn families apart in more ways than I even imagined were possible, from ripping children from their parents at the border to mishandling the coronavirus, which has resulted in over 215,000 in the U.S. dying, many thousands of them without their loved ones near. Faced with preventable deaths during a pandemic that Trump downplayed and ignored, rhetoric that has fed deep-seated, systemic racism, and chaos in the White House, it’s no surprise that so many Americans feel as hopeless and overwhelmed as I did growing up. But if we refuse to face our political reality, we don’t stand a chance of changing it.

In 2016, I realized I needed to speak out in a more substantial way than just debating my dad in private (especially since I wasn’t getting anywhere with that), so I publicly supported Hillary Clinton and began canvassing for congressional candidates. If the unrelenting deluge of devastating news makes you think I’m crazy for having hope, please remember that making us feel powerless is a tactic politicians use to make us think our voices and votes don’t matter. But they do. It’s taken persistence and nerve to find my voice in politics, and I’m using it now to ask you to stand with me in the fight to end Donald Trump’s reign of terror.

If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president’s personal bulldog has taught me anything, it is that corruption starts with “yes-men” and women, the cronies who create an echo chamber of lies and subservience to maintain their proximity to power. We’ve seen this ad-nauseam with Trump and his cadre of high-level sycophants (the ones who weren’t convicted, anyway).

What inspires me most about Vice President Biden is that he is not afraid to surround himself with people who disagree with him. Choosing Senator Harris, who challenged him in the primary, speaks volumes about what an inclusive president he will be. Biden is willing to incorporate the views of progressive-movement leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on issues like universal health care, student debt relief, prison reform, and police reform. And he is capable of reaching across the aisle to find moments of bipartisanship. The very notion of “bipartisanship” may seem painfully ludicrous right now, but we need a path out of impenetrable gridlock and vicious sniping. In Joe Biden, we’ll have a leader who prioritizes common ground and civility over alienation, bullying, and scorched-earth tactics.

Speaking of scorched earth, I know many people feel paralyzed by climate despair. I do too, but something still can and must be done. As climate change begins to encroach on our everyday lives, it is clear that our planet cannot survive four more years of this administration’s environmental assault. This monumental challenge requires scientifically literate leadership and immediate action. Joe Biden has laid out an aggressive series of plans to restore the environmental regulations that Trump gutted on behalf of his corporate polluting friends. Biden has a trans-formational clean-energy policy that he will bring to Congress within his first 100 days in office, and perhaps most crucially, he brings a desire and capability to reunite the major nations of the world in forging a path toward a global green future.

I fully understand that some of you want a nominee who is more progressive. For others the idea of voting for a Democrat of any kind may be a hurdle. Now I have another confession to make. Biden wasn’t my first choice when the primaries started. But I know what is at stake, and Joe Biden will be everyone’s president if elected. If you are planning to cast a symbolic vote or abstain from voting altogether, please reconsider. It is more important than ever to avoid complacency. This election is far from over, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that anything can happen.

We are hanging by a single, slipping finger on a cliff’s edge, and the fall will be fatal. If we remove ourselves from the fight, our country will be in free-fall. Alternatively, we can hang on, elect a compassionate and decent president, and claw our way back onto the ledge. If I, after decades of despair over politics, can engage in our democracy to meet this critical moment, I know you can too.

Miami grapples with how to save treasured bay from rising seas and pollution

Good Morning America

Miami grapples with how to save treasured bay from rising seas and pollution

An unprecedented fish kill in Miami’s Biscayne Bay this summer has brought a new push to address issues caused by sea level rise and pollution.

Sea-level rise in Miami and southeast Florida is not a new problem. The water in the area has risen 5 inches since 1993, and a new $400 million pump system is what is keeping a large part of the city dry.

The Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department is already planning for a worst-case scenario when it comes to sea-level rise.

“If you look from now till 2040 — so 20-year horizon — we’re planning on worst case about 11 inches of sea level rise, which if you live in South Florida that’s a very frightening thing in your coastal community,” Kevin Lynskey, the department’s director, told ABC News.

PHOTO: 'It's not too late' climate segment with Ginger Zee (ABC News)
‘It’s not too late’ climate segment with Ginger Zee (ABC News)

Biscayne Bay is described as a turquoise paradise that laps at the coast of southeast Florida and kisses the barrier island of Miami Beach. It includes a national park and aquatic preserve to protect wildlife in the area.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director of the advocacy group Miami Waterkeeper, called it one of the jewels of the state.

“Biscayne Bay generates billions of dollars annually for our regional economy,” she said.

But the bay is dying.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 12, 2020, file photo, a dead fish floats on the surface of the water in Downtown Miami on Biscayne Bay. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, FILE)
In this Aug. 12, 2020, file photo, a dead fish floats on the surface of the water in Downtown Miami on Biscayne Bay. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, FILE)

Canals are carrying trash, fertilizer runoff and contamination from failing septic tanks into the bay.

Over the summer, all the chemicals running into the bay — combined with record heat levels — starved the oxygen out of the water, killing thousands of fish.

“These suffocation events, and this is something that just happened recently in Biscayne Bay, just in early August … is a well-documented pattern of how water bodies essentially die, all around Florida and all around the world, so there’s a very tight connection between nutrient pollution and bacteria levels and these kinds of fish kills,” Silverstein said.

Louis Aguirre, a reporter from Miami ABC affiliate WPLG, recently produced a special about the challenges facing Biscayne Bay.

“We have over 100,000 septic tanks in Miami-Dade County — still to this day. And we need to transition those septic tanks and connectors to our sewer system, which is also aging, ASAP because those septics are just spewing wastewater into our groundwater. You know Miami-Dade only stays 6 feet above sea level, so whatever goes through our groundwater goes into our bay, and that’s pretty disgusting,” he told ABC News.

In a typical septic system, waste from the house enters the tank, the solid waste settles to the bottom and the water goes to the drain field to be clarified. But when sea levels rise it interferes with that process, and the drain field mixes with groundwater and the septic tank fails.

That means waste from a toilet can go directly into the groundwater.

The Miami Dade Water and Sewer Department tells ABC News they have identified 10,000 tanks today that are not high enough anymore, and in 20 years, that number will reach 50,000.

Lynskey explained they are not just focused on septic, they’re also concerned about the canal systems keeping South Florida from turning back into a swamp. As sea levels rise, the canals pick up more trash, nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer used on farms and lawns and carries it right into Biscayne Bay.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 12, 2020, file photo, trash and dead fish float on the surface of the water in Downtown Miami, on Biscayne Bay. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Aug. 12, 2020, file photo, trash and dead fish float on the surface of the water in Downtown Miami, on Biscayne Bay. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald via AP, FILE)

But there is cause for hope.

Tampa Bay faced a similar challenge in the 1970s when the water was so covered in algae the seagrass died and fish and wildlife was driven out. After decades of effort to prevent polluted water from entering the bay, the seagrass has returned to nearly the same level as 1950, an area the size of Manhattan.

But Miami Waterkeeper said the city needs big changes in its sewage infrastructure to prevent more fish kills and preserve the bay.

“So we urgently need to be doing these investments and taking these opportunities we have to retrofit how our city is built and how it functions to be ready for sea-level rise,” Silverstein told ABC News.

The city of Miami agrees the problem is serious, but Lynskey said local leaders haven’t agreed on a path forward. The department is in the process of raising key infrastructure as high as 20 feet above sea level to reduce risk.

“Nobody’s come up with a magic bullet, we’ve already built billions of dollars of buildings and infrastructure. How do we make those survive? We’re still very much grappling with all that,” Lynskey said.

He said that as the sea level continues to rise tough decisions may have to be made from expensive septic tank replacements to decisions on whether to relocate.

“I think over the next 15 years, people are going to have to make some fundamental decisions on whether we’re going to try to keep every inch of land that humans live on, or are there some properties east of the ridge, where ultimately we retreat from and politically, I don’t think we’re there yet, but behind the scenes you can hear the conversations,” Lynskey told ABC News.

Largest wildfire Colorado has ever seen burning now near Fort Collins

Largest wildfire Colorado has ever seen burning now near Fort Collins

Phil Helsel, NBC News              October 15, 2020

A Colorado wildfire, fueled by high winds, grew by more than 22,000 acres Wednesday to become the largest in state history.

The Cameron Peak Fire burning in the mountains west of Fort Collins had grown to 158,300 acres by Wednesday evening, making it the largest wildfire in state history, according to The Denver Post newspaper, which has compiled wildfire information.

No injuries or deaths have been linked to the record-setting blaze, which is 56 percent contained.

The fire was fueled by high winds that began Tuesday night and into Wednesday, with sustained winds of around 30 mph and gusts of around 60 mph, incident meteorologist Aviva Braun said. While it will be breezy the rest of the week, high gusts are not expected.

“The conditions will remain challenging, just not nearly as serious as they were today,” she said in a community meeting update that was broadcast online.

Some mandatory evacuations have been ordered, and mandatory evacuation zones for the first time extended to the foothills just west of Fort Collins, but the city was not considered at-risk, The Associated Press reported.

Image: (Bethany Baker / Fort Collins Coloradoan via AP)
Image: (Bethany Baker / Fort Collins Coloradoan via AP)

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said that he understands the difficulties of people being forced to leave their homes.

“We hate to do that to you, however, there’s nothing worse than the concern of losing life,” Smith said. “And the way these winds were changing today — the ability of this thing to go any direction — that’s what was tough.”

Smith said some structures were destroyed by fire Wednesday, but officials won’t know what those were for some time because the area remains dangerous with downed power lines and trees. Officials will be working to assess and count the number of lost structures as soon as they are able.

The new size of the fire puts it ahead of the second-largest wildfire in state history, which also broke out this year, the Pine Gulch Fire. That fire burned 139,007 acres and was 100 percent contained in September.

The Pine Gulch Fire, sparked by a lightning strike around 18 miles north of Grand Junction in July, became what was then the largest fire in state history when in August it surpassed the 2002 Hayman Fire, fire officials said.

The Cameron Peak Fire started Aug. 13 in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, according to fire officials. A cause is under investigation.

It has been an explosive wildfire season in the western U.S.

California has seen more than 4.1 million acres burned — with 13 major wildfires across the state still burning Wednesday — and more than 9,000 homes and other structures destroyed, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

Thirty-one people in California have died.

Oregon also experienced a wildfire crisis that forced thousands to flee their homes.

Nine people have died in the fires in that state, more than 4,000 homes have been destroyed, and around 1.2 million acres had burned as of Wednesday, according to the state office of emergency management. Seven active fires were still burning in Oregon.

Trump Funnels Record Subsidies to Farmers Before Election Day

The New York Times

Trump Funnels Record Subsidies to Farmers Before Election Day

Alan Rappeport                             October 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — For the American farmers President Donald Trump counts on for support, the government money is flowing faster than ever.

Federal payments to farmers are projected to hit a record $46 billion this year as the White House funnels money to Trump’s rural base in the South and Midwest before Election Day.

The gush of funds has accelerated in recent weeks as the president looks to help his core supporters who have been hit hard by the double whammy of his combative trade practices and the coronavirus pandemic. According to the American Farm Bureau, debt in the farm sector is projected to increase by 4% to a record $434 billion this year and farm bankruptcies have continued to rise across the country.

Farmers are not the only constituency benefiting from the president’s largesse: He has promised $200 prescription drug cards to millions of seniors, approved $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, which could help his prospects in Florida, and he directed the Agriculture Department to include letters signed by him in millions of food aid boxes that are being distributed to the poor.

But few have gotten more help than the agriculture sector, which this year is expected to receive the largest government contribution to farm income since its previous record in 2005, according to the University of Missouri’s Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. The breadth of the payments means that government support will account for about 40% of total farm income this year. If not for those subsidies, U.S. farm income would be poised to decline in 2020.

“There are both economic and political motivations for these payments,” said Patrick Westhoff, who directs University of Missouri’s agriculture research center.

Last week, the Office of Special Counsel determined that Trump’s Agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, had improperly used his position to push the president’s reelection by promising more help for farmers. At an August event in North Carolina, Perdue violated ethics laws when he promoted Trump’s reelection during remarks about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, saying: “That’s what’s going to continue to happen — four more years — if America gets out and votes for this man, Donald J. Trump.”

cattle near green trees during daytime

Perdue has been ordered to reimburse the government for the costs associated with his attendance at the event. In its response to the Office of Special Counsel, the Agriculture Department said that Perdue did not “encourage attendees to vote for a candidate or party or advocate for a partisan political group.”

More money for farmers will soon be on the way. Congress recently agreed to replenish an Agriculture Department fund that Trump has used to disburse nearly $30 billion to farmers at his discretion with tens of billions of additional dollars. The Trump administration negotiated with Democrats to ensure the money was included in a short-term bill to fund the federal government, with the White House agreeing to more funds for child nutritional assistance in exchange.

Farmers have been clobbered financially during the past two years, as Trump’s trade wars with China and Europe led to tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports, including corn, soybeans, lobsters and peanuts. Then, this year, the pandemic interfered with global supply chains, and restaurant and hotel closures sapped demand. Farmers were forced to dump milk into manure pits and destroy millions of pounds of beans and cabbage.

“Nearly every major sector of the farm economy will have lower cash receipts this year compared to last year, and total cash receipts will be the lowest since 2010,” John Newton, the American Farm Bureau’s chief economist, wrote in a report on the state of the industry last month.

The desire to help struggling farmers is bipartisan, but Democrats and critics of the aid programs have argued that the money has been paid out unevenly by the Trump administration and with the intent of currying favor with a politically important constituency in swing states.

“For the first time in history, a president has repeatedly usurped congressional authority in order to personally dispense tens of billions of dollars in federal farm subsidy payments that would not otherwise have been paid,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that has been tracking the agriculture payments. “This is an authoritarian power grab used to buy political support from voters who are essential to his reelection.”

road between trees during daytime

The president has only reinforced those concerns. At a September campaign rally in Wisconsin, a big farm state, Trump announced that an additional $13 billion in aid would soon be paid out through the Commodity Credit Corp., a pot of money that the Trump administration had used to provide financial help to farmers suffering from retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. products.

“I’m proud to announce that I’m doing even more to support Wisconsin farmers,” Trump said, adding that some of that money would go to dairy, cranberry and ginseng farmers in the state that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Not all farmers received special payouts during the past three years, but the Trump administration has recently moved to ensure that those in critical states do not miss out.

That includes the tobacco industry, which was prohibited from receiving any of the trade assistance because of legal restrictions against subsidizing the sector. In September, the Agriculture Department quietly shifted some of the funds that were allocated to its Commodity Credit Corp. fund — which legally cannot subsidize tobacco — into a separate account that can bankroll the crop. Tobacco farmers will receive up to $100 million in payments, easing some of the financial pain that has as been felt particularly hard in the battleground state of North Carolina.

The administration’s efforts have not erased the economic malaise and frustration among U.S. farmers, who have seen sales fall and bankruptcies rise. The overall payouts have been large, but they have not always gone to the farmers who need them most. Critics, including Democrat and Republican lawmakers, have argued that small farmers have missed out on the bulk of the bailout, while large and some foreign-owned farms have benefited.

red tractor in front of brown wooden house

A Government Accountability Office report in September added to suspicions among Democrats that $14.5 billion of farm aid from 2019 was being allocated with politics in mind. The report found that the bulk of the money went to big farms in the Midwest and southern states, including Perdue’s home state of Georgia.

“I do not believe that this president has been a true friend to farmers,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate’s agriculture committee, who accused Trump of “subverting the law” in the way he had doled out farm aid.

In a statement, Perdue denied that the money was being deployed for political purposes.

“President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel, and fiber America needs to thrive,” he said.

Trump appears to have kept much of his farm support intact. A September poll from DTN/Progressive Farmer/Zogby Analytics found that 53% of rural adults approved of his handling of the job, about 10 percentage points higher than his national approval rating.

It is not clear if that will be enough, however, given some bailout recipients remain unhappy with Trump’s trade policies.

Graham Boyd, the executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, secured subsidies for his crops came after his group and lobbyists from other tobacco growing states demonstrated to the Agriculture Department that farmers were losing hundreds of millions of dollars per year in lost exports to China. North Carolina is America’s largest tobacco growing state and China was its biggest customer, but since 2018 Beijing has not bought U.S. tobacco.

“I think all of agriculture, and tobacco, are frustrated with the ongoing trade dispute,” Boyd said in an interview. “It’s not resolved.”

While the new subsidies will be welcome, Boyd noted that they would only amount to $10,000 to $20,000 per tobacco farmer.

“One hundred percent of these dollars will go to service debt,” he said.

To some small farmers, hearing about the big government subsidies without seeing meaningful payments firsthand only makes matters worse.

Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin farmer who switched from dairy to raising cattle, said that despite the big headline aid numbers it was a myth that the Trump administration had really helped small farms stay afloat. He said that most of it is going to rich landowners and corporate agriculture companies.

“Even though society believes that these programs that help farmers, the money very rarely gets to farmers,” said Greeno, who is also president of the Family Farm Defenders organization. “Rural America is not seeing that money because it’s not getting here.”

Solar energy is now cheaper than coal and gas in most countries, IEA reports

The Week

Solar energy is now cheaper than coal and gas in most countries, IEA reports

Peter Weber, The Week                         October 13, 2020

 

Energy produced by solar panels is now cheaper than that produced by coal- or gas-powered plants in most nations, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday in its annual report on global energy trends. Assuming governments follow through on their detailed energy policies, renewable energy will account for 80 percent of the market for new power generation by 2030, and coal will count for less than 20 percent of the global energy supply by 2040 for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the IEA predicted.

“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement Tuesday. “Based on today’s policy settings, it’s on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.” Hydroelectric power will continue to be the biggest source of renewable energy for a while, but as the cost drops on photovoltaic panels, solar will catch up quickly, the IEA said.

Governments will need to invest heavily in upgraded power grids and energy storage to manage solar, wind, and other energy that isn’t generated at all hours, Bloomberg reports, but the market is playing a big role in shaping energy consumption, too.

“Today, hundreds of billions of dollars of capital are flowing into clean energy,” Bruce Usher, an investor and professor at Columbia Business School, told CBC MoneyWatch. “That bucket for investors is not about policy,” he added. “It’s about where you can get the biggest return.”

Last week, for example, the Florida renewable power producer NextEra Energy at least briefly became the most valuable energy company in the U.S. , its $143.8 billion market value eclipsing ExxonMobil’s by $900 million and Chevron’s by about $2 billion. Exxon brings in way more revenue, $255 billion last year, than NextEra’s $19.2 billion. But NextEra’s profit margins have recently been as high as 50 percent and investors expect solar and wind to trump fossil fuels in the near future.

The Arctic is in a death spiral. How much longer will it exist?

The Guardian

The Arctic is in a death spiral. How much longer will it exist?

Gloria Dickie                       October 13, 2020

At the end of July, 40% of the 4,000-year-old Milne Ice Shelf, located on the north-western edge of Ellesmere Island, calved into the sea. Canada’s last fully intact ice shelf was no more.

On the other side of the island, the most northerly in Canada, the St Patrick’s Bay ice caps completely disappeared.

Two weeks later, scientists concluded that the Greenland Ice Sheet may have already passed the point of no return. Annual snowfall is no longer enough to replenish the snow and ice loss during summer melting of the territory’s 234 glaciers. Last year, the ice sheet lost a record amount of ice, equivalent to 1 million metric tons every minute.

The Arctic is unravelling. And it’s happening faster than anyone could have imagined just a few decades ago. Northern Siberia and the Canadian Arctic are now warming three times faster than the rest of the world. In the past decade, Arctic temperatures have increased by nearly 1C. If greenhouse gas emissions stay on the same trajectory, we can expect the north to have warmed by 4C year-round by the middle of the century.

There is no facet of Arctic life that remains untouched by the immensity of change here, except perhaps the eternal dance between light and darkness. The Arctic as we know it – a vast icy landscape where reindeer roam, polar bears feast, and waters teem with cod and seals – will soon be frozen only in memory.

A new Nature Climate Change study predicts that summer sea ice floating on the surface of the Arctic Ocean could disappear entirely by 2035. Until relatively recently, scientists didn’t think we would reach this point until 2050 at the earliest. Reinforcing this finding, last month Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest extent in the 41-year satellite record.

“The latest models are basically showing that no matter what emissions scenario we follow, we’re going to lose summer [sea] ice cover before the middle of the century,” says Julienne Stroeve, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. “Even if we keep warming to less than 2C, it’s still enough to lose that summer sea ice in some years.”

At outposts in the Canadian Arctic, permafrost is thawing 70 years sooner than predicted. Roads are buckling. Houses are sinking. In Siberia, giant craters pockmark the tundra as temperatures soar, hitting 100F (38C) in the town of Verkhoyansk in July. This spring, one of the fuel tanks at a Russian power plant collapsed and leaked 21,000 metric tons of diesel into nearby waterways, which attributed the cause of the spill to subsiding permafrost.

This thawing permafrost releases two potent greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into the atmosphere and exacerbates planetary warming.

The soaring heat leads to raging wildfires, now common in hotter and drier parts of the Arctic. In recent summers, infernos have torn across the tundra of Sweden, Alaska, and Russia, destroying native vegetation.

This hurts the millions of reindeer and caribou who eat mosses, lichens, and stubbly grasses. Disastrous rain-on-snow events have also increased in frequency, locking the ungulates’ preferred forage foods in ice; between 2013 and 2014, an estimated 61,000 animals died on Russia’s Yamal peninsula due to mass starvation during a rainy winter. Overall, the global population of reindeer and caribou has declined by 56% in the last 20 years.

Such losses have devastated the indigenous people whose culture and livelihoods are interwoven with the plight of the reindeer and caribou. Inuit use all parts of the caribou: sinew for thread, hide for clothing, antlers for tools, and flesh for food. In Europe and Russia, the Sami people herd thousands of reindeer across the tundra. Warmer winters have forced many of them to change how they conduct their livelihoods, for example by providing supplemental feed for their reindeer.

Yet some find opportunities in the crisis. Melting ice has made the region’s abundant mineral deposits and oil and gas reserves more accessible by ship. China is heavily investing in the increasingly ice-free Northern Sea Route over the top of Russia, which promises to cut shipping times between the Far East and Europe by 10 to 15 days.

The Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago could soon yield another shortcut. And in Greenland, vanishing ice is unearthing a wealth of uranium, zinc, gold, iron and rare earth elements. In 2019, Donald Trump claimed he was considering buying Greenland from Denmark. Never before has the Arctic enjoyed such political relevance.

A melting glacier is seen during a summer heat wave on the Svalbard archipelago near Longyearbyen, Norway in July, 2020.
A melting glacier is seen during a summer heat wave on the Svalbard archipelago near Longyearbyen, Norway in July, 2020. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Tourism has boomed, at least until the Covid shutdown, with throngs of wealthy visitors drawn to this exotic frontier in hopes of capturing the perfect selfie under the aurora borealis. Between 2006 and 2016, the impact from winter tourism increased by over 600%. The city of Tromsø, Norway, dubbed the “Paris of the north”, welcomed just 36,000 tourists in the winter of 2008-09. By 2016, that number had soared to 194,000. Underlying such interest, however, is an unspoken sentiment: that this might be the last chance people have to experience the Arctic as it once was.

Stopping climate change in the Arctic requires an enormous reduction in the emission of fossil fuels, and the world has made scant progress despite obvious urgency. Moreover, many greenhouse gases persist in our atmosphere for years. Even if we were to cease all emissions tomorrow, it would take decades for those gases to dissolve and for temperatures to stabilize (though some recent research suggests the span could be shorter). In the interim, more ice, permafrost, and animals would be lost.

“It’s got to be both a reduction in emissions and carbon capture at this point,” explains Stroeve. “We need to take out what we’ve already put in there.”

Other strategies may help mitigate the damage to the ecosystem and its inhabitants. The Yupik village of Newtok in northern Alaska, where thawing permafrost has eroded the ground underfoot, will be relocated by 2023. Conservation groups are pushing for the establishment of several marine conservation areas throughout the High Arctic to protect struggling wildlife. In 2018, 10 parties signed an agreement that would prohibit commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years. And governments must weigh further regulations on new shipping and extractive activities in the region.

The Arctic of the past is already gone. Following our current climate trajectory, it will be impossible to return to the conditions we saw just three decades ago. Yet many experts believe there’s still time to act, to preserve what once was, if the world comes together to prevent further harm and conserve what remains of this unique and fragile ecosystem.