Trump’s nonsensical comments to Hannity reveal he has no idea how the national debt works

ThinkProgress

Trump’s nonsensical comments to Hannity reveal he has no idea how the national debt works

Or he’s willfully trying to confuse the public.

Aaron Rupar                 October 12, 2017

https://i0.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/113.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During his latest interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, President Trump went on a confused rant about the economy, at one point falsely suggesting that stock market gains are helping pay down the national debt.

“I’m so proud of the $5.2 trillion dollars of increase in the stock market,” Trump said, referring to the bull market that began as the economy pulled out of the Great Recession during the months after President Obama took office.

“Now, if you look at the stock market, that’s one element, but then we have many other elements. The country — we took it over, it owed $20 trillion, as you know, the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country, so they borrowed more than $10 trillion — and yet, we picked up $5.2 trillion in the stock market, possibly picked up the whole things in terms of the first nine months in terms of value.”

“So, you could say in one sense we are really increasing values, and maybe in a sense we are reducing debt,” Trump added, before Hannity quickly moved on to another topic.

But it just doesn’t work like that. As CNBC details, to see why this doesn’t make sense, consider the relationship (or lack thereof) between the stock market and debt during the Obama administration.

“For evidence that the two metrics have little to no bearing on one another, look no further than the eight years of the Obama presidency: Between 2009 and 2017, the S&P 500 returned 235 percent while the national debt soared,” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie writes.

The national debt is a tough topic for Trump these days. Though candidate Trump repeatedly promised to pay down the national debt before the end of his term, it has actually expanded under his watch. And the tax cuts for corporations and the ultra wealthy he’s currently pushing would only make the debt bigger.

As Reuters explains:

The Republican tax plan unveiled last week calls for as much as $6 trillion in tax cuts that would sharply reduce federal revenues. No commensurate spending cuts have been proposed. So, on their own, the tax cuts being sought by Trump would hugely expand the deficit and add to the debt.

Trump’s comments to Hannity were not the first time he’s revealed deep confusion about how the economy works. While he was pushing Obamacare repeal over the summer, Trump did an interview where he indicated he thinks it’s possible to purchase health insurance for $12 annually. During an interview last week, Trump unexpectedly claimed he wants to eliminate Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt, saying “we’re going to work something out.” But in an indication that the president may not have understood what he was saying, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney quickly walked back Trump’s comments, telling CNN the next morning that “I wouldn’t take it word for word with that.”

White House budget director says Trump promise to eliminate debt was just ‘hyperbole’

Don’t take Trump seriously or literally.

Mulvaney has also walked back Trump’s campaign promises about eliminating the national debt. Asked during a TV interview in April about Trump’s promise to eliminate it by the end of his second term, Mulvaney replied, “It’s fairly safe to assume that was hyperbole.”

A Rising Constitutional Crisis No One Is Talking About

Esquire

A Rising Constitutional Crisis No One Is Talking About

This week in the laboratories of democracy.

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By Charles P. Pierce          October 12, 2017

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)

We are going to do something unusual this week. Instead of skipping around the country in search of a state legislator with a duck on his head, or a state law making the date of Pat Robertson’s first orgasm a statewide holiday, we’re going to stay in this one spot and take stock of a truly dangerous bit of business that’s happening in a number of different states, and of a really long game that at the moment is perilously close to completion.

Last Sunday, Joy Reid hosted a discussion between former Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican and Teresa Tomlinson, the mayor of Columbus, Georgia. (While in the Senate, you may recall, Coburn was reckoned to be relatively normal because he served with Jim Inhofe, who is a failed replicant prototype that howls at the moon.) At issue was the proposed constitutional convention that would be called under Article V of the Constitution, a longtime conservative dreamshot that at the moment is as close to fulfillment as it ever has been. Under Article V, which deals with amending the Constitution, a constitutional convention must be called if two-thirds of the state legislatures called for it. At the moment, 27 state legislatures have done so. That leaves the plan a mere seven states short of the 34 that would meet the Article V threshold. As it happens, there are seven state legislatures with Republican majorities out there that have yet to take up the question. You can see why I’m just a little nervous.

Related Story

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Colbert’s Question About Trump’s “Unraveling” 

The movement has its roots in the drive for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, a.k.a. The Worst Idea In American Politics. In his first term, President Ronald Reagan broached the idea in a televised address, causing constitutional scholars to duck and cover under their desks. By now, this is hardly an extreme position in the Republican Party; John Kasich, everyone’s favorite moderate manqué, has been a fan for years. There was no way that TWIIAP ever was going to be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then by two-thirds of the states. So this was the route its devotees took.

Many of the sharpies pushing the idea reassure the public that a convention thus called would be limited to a specific agenda. (Some even propose that the convention would pass TWIIAP and then everyone would drink up and go home.) There is no way to guarantee that; there’s certainly nothing in Article V that would support that argument, and very little in the history of the last constitutional convention that would do so, either.

The idea of a convention of Article V was one that came up very late in the proceedings. George Mason, the influential delegate from Virginia, rose to argue that the amending power as written left too much of that power to the national government. So he proposed that the several states be allowed to call a convention themselves. Mason’s colleague, James Madison, who hated revisionist constitutional conventions because he then nearly was finished hijacking one, perked right up. He immediately sussed out the difficulties:

“Mr Madison remarked on the vagueness of the terms, “call a Convention for the purpose.” as sufficient reason for reconsidering the article. How was a Convention to be formed? by what rule decide? what the force of its acts?”

All good questions, none of them ever has been answered.

A convention so called could pass TWIIAP lickety-split. That, of course, would be terrible in and of itself. But then the convention really could get down to business. There’s no apparent constitutional bar to a convention’s passing amendments allowing, say, congressional term limits, or requiring congressional supermajorities to pass any tax cut, or making raising the national debt limit dependent on the approval of a certain number of state legislatures. All of these are actual proposals floating around the various campaigns to bring this beast to life. Basically, this is the final masterwork of the conservative long game. These ideas have been around long enough to have become Republican dogma.

The party enlisted national sugar daddies like the Kochs, and regional ones like Art Pope in North Carolina. The radio and TV auxiliaries are led by Mark Levin, who wrote a whole book about the changes he wanted made, all of which would return the country to half-past the Articles of Confederation. They’ve suppressed the vote and gamed the maps. They have spent decades fashioning the state legislatures they need and now is the moment to strike. Looked at it from a distance, and ignoring the fact that the policy proposals are unworkable where they are not actually insane, it really is quite a political act of artistic creation.

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teresatomlinson.com

(Here in the Commonwealth, God save it, the conservatives pushing the notion of a convention have “reached out” to their left by suggesting that some alterations in the Second Amendment might be possible. Yes, and the Sacred Cod is going to drop down into the well of the Massachusetts House and dance The Hustle.)

Last weekend, chased up a tree by Mayor Tomlinson, Coburn gave the whole game away. He began by saying that he was calling for “an amendments convention as long as you specifically state what areas you want to talk about.” This is, of course, nonsense. Here’s Article V in its entirety:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

You see anything in there that would require that a convention “specifically state what areas you want to talk about?” Neither do I. Coburn went on, though, blustering and fuming at the two women who kept pressing him for what he’s really up to here:

“We have three areas. We think there ought to be fiscal responsibility on the federal government’s part….We believe there ought to be term limits on our elected officials. (Ed. Note: Bingo!) The advantage of incumbency is unbelievable…And finally, we believe the scope and jurisdiction of the federal government ought to be what the Founders intended, which is a limited role, but very specific and very powerful, and what is not specifically set out for the federal government, left to the states.”

In other words, Coburn wants to enshrine in the Constitution itself every Republican national platform for the past 40 years. You will note that two of the three “areas” are pretty damn vague. How many amendments to the Constitution do you think it would take to roll back the federal government to a size that would satisfy Tom Coburn? Twelve? Twenty-seven? Eleventy-infinity? The mind boggles.

(Watch him as Mayor Tomlinson tells us about all the hidden jokers in this deck. Coburn looks like he’s going to float out of the studio in a burst of pure rage.)

But we’re talking about this today because all those state legislators with ducks on their heads who pass the laws making Pat Robertson’s first orgasm a statewide holiday, the people whom we’ve been mocking out the windows of the shebeen’s luxurious tour bus every Thursday for going on seven years now, these are the people who will be the delegates to this convention. Maybe you want to trade George Mason for the guy with the duck on his head, or James Madison and Alexander Hamilton for Mark Levin and Tom Coburn, but I don’t.

And we conclude right where we began, and as is our custom, in the great state of Oklahoma, where Blog Official Boot Scooter Friedman of the Plains was represented in the Senate for many years by both Coburn and Jim Inhofe and therefore has had enough trouble so we’ll leave him be this week.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it…while you still can.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page.

Dear North Korea, it’s President Trump

Yahoo News

Dear North Korea, it’s President Trump

Matt Bai’s Political World     October 12, 2017

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/v_gx7UpLWbSVp.yy_hJTJw--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3c9NjQwO3E9NzU7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/eabdb512e189205177f9c4531533653ePhoto illustration: Yahoo News; photos AP [3], Getty Images.

FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
Washington, D.C.

To the Honorable Kim Jong Un

Dear Leader:

I hope you’ll treat this letter as personal and confidential, from one large-handed leader to another. I got the idea to write it from my generals, who were telling me all about this big showdown over Cuban missiles back in the 1960s, which apparently really happened.

I figured, hey, if John Kennedy can negotiate over missiles directly with a dictator — and he was a very low-quality person, let me tell you — then so can Trump.

You can’t leave diplomacy to a loser like Tillerson, believe me. But I’m trying not to think about him right now.

It’s very important that you and I talk, very important. Because like I said during one of those debates we had during the campaign, which were a total waste of time, although people said I won them all and frankly that I was the greatest debater ever, and that’s a direct quote from somebody somewhere, but anyway, what I said during a debate was, “I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

I can’t say it any clearer than that.

First off, let me just point out that our great peoples have a long history together, and all of Korea is frankly very special to us — very, very special. I mean, you gave us the TV show “M*A*S*H,” which had a tremendous run.

Also, without the Korean people, we wouldn’t have all those unbelievable grocery stores in Manhattan. Seriously, I have so much love for the people, so much love. I told my guys at ICE, leave the Koreans alone, because a lot of actual Americans depend on them for kimchi. Great respect, believe me.

You and I have plenty in common, we really do. I know they said that calling you “Little Rocket Man” was a terrible insult, but you can’t believe anything you read in the failing New York Times or lying CNN or the rest of the fake news media. These are the same people who said that I could never win the primaries, and that Hillary was going to be the president, and that Puerto Rico was part of the United States.

The truth is that “Rocket Man” is a very popular song here in America — very much loved, believe me. It’s about a guy who goes into space and finds out that Mars isn’t a very good place to raise a kid, because it’s cold as hell, and there’s no one there to raise them if you did. Which frankly makes no sense, even in English, but it was the ’70s.

The point is, we’re a lot alike. For one thing, we both value family, am I right? I saw you just promoted your sister to a powerful job in the Politburo — very touching, very beautiful. I’m getting ready to turn the White House over to Ivanka in 2020, even though my poll numbers are just unbelievable, better than any president in history, let me tell you.

I’d point out that Ivanka is smarter than Pence, but frankly I think Donald Jr. is smarter than Pence, and I’m pretty sure he still eats crayons when he’s nervous, so that’s not saying very much

And while we’re on the subject of family, let me say I admired the way you took out your brother, having strangers run up and poison him in the airport, which was genius. I made a comment about it, and ever since then, every time I go to hug Jared, he jumps back and shields his face. Hysterical.

Let’s see, what else. Both of us have great hair, right? I see that everyone in your country wants to do their hair just like you, which I applaud. I mean, I look at a guy like Tillerson, who’s 65 years old and still parts his hair in the middle, and I think it’s just sad, frankly. But I’m not bothered by him, I’m really not.

We’re both deeply committed to the mining industry. I’m getting rid of these Obama rules, which are very, very harmful to our economy, and you’re giving people jobs for the rest of their lives in labor camps, which is basically the same thing.

We both know how to handle critics. Although I have to rely on tweets for that, because I don’t have the same kind of latitude you enjoy over there, which is something we need to change, let me tell you.

I can’t tell you how many mornings I wake up and think: Wouldn’t it be nice to throw Bob Corker into a pit of starving dogs, or pin him to an antiaircraft battery?

And don’t even get me started on Tillerson. Everyone told me, “Get Tillerson, you’ve got to get Tillerson for State.” And then he calls me a moron. You know who’s a moron? A guy who gives up 25 million bucks a year so he can come running whenever I ring a bell, that’s who.

Let’s just say that if I were to send Tillerson on a diplomatic mission to Pyongyang, and he were to, say, disappear into one of your work camps, I could see how we might end up in a very long standoff before negotiating his freedom. It could take years, a deal like that. But that’s a hypothetical.

Anyway, we’ve got a great thing going here. This business with me tweeting about blowing up your country, and you coming back with “final doom” and all of that. The ratings are off the charts, right? It’s a hell of a show, it really is.

We’ve got the whole world waiting to hear every twist and turn. It’s playing on all the networks at once, which is really something, let me tell you.

But you do know it’s a show, right? Because words are one thing. Words have no consequences, near as I can tell. You can say anything, incite any kind of rage or reaction, and your people just love you more for it. This is what I’ve learned in politics, believe me.

Nuclear war, though — my generals tell me that would be very, very horrible. Millions and millions of people would disappear, and not like on “The Apprentice.” Our ratings would tank. The show would be terrible.

I’m sure we’re on the same page here, but it can’t hurt to double check. So good luck with the public executions, and please pass along my fire and fury to the entire family!

Sincerely,

Donald J. Trump

P.S. If you really need to sink Guam, as kind of a season finale, I get it. Just maybe give me a heads-up, so I can see about Tillerson’s travel schedule. But I’m not thinking about him right now. I’m really not.

Wine Country fires hit organic farms hard in Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa

SF GATE

Wine Country fires hit organic farms hard in Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa

By Tara Duggan         October 11, 2017

http://ww4.hdnux.com/photos/66/52/42/14330047/3/920x920.jpgPhoto: JOSH EDELSON, AFP/Getty Images

Burned property smolders in Glen Ellen, where several farms have been destroyed. Multiple wind-driven fires continue to ravage the area burning structures and causing widespread evacuations.

Several small vegetable farms in Sonoma County have fallen victim to the North Bay fires, including several that were founded in the past six years by young farmers taking part in the local organic farm movement. While properties are still partly intact, many farmers have lost homes and essential infrastructure, and they said that getting back to the business of providing vegetables to customers will be an uphill battle.

In Glen Ellen, Oak Hill Farm, Flatbed Farm and Bee-Well Farms either burned completely or suffered severe damage, as did Let’s Go Farm and Leisen’s Bridgeway Farms in Santa Rosa.

“Those farms alone each had a huge impact,” said Evan Wiig of the Farmers Guild in Sebastopol, a network of local farms including several of the ones lost in the fire. He said the fire’s influence on local agriculture will be “massive.”

“We lost pretty much everything, but our animals have been able to survive,” said Melissa Lely, 27, of Bee-Well Farms, which she founded in 2015 with her husband, Austin, on 40 acres of leased land. The couple lost their home and at least $50,000 in farm equipment, plants and crops.

They’re amazed that none of their 12 cows, 500 chickens and two goats was lost, even though the low grass all around — and under the chicken coops — burned.

Since Monday, the Lelys have spent every day, from dawn until late at night, taking care of their animals and their neighbors’ farm animals. Since the power is out and water pumps aren’t operating, they are lugging 50-gallon drums of water around the area. The two plan to continue farming after the disaster.

“This is just a bump in the road,” said Melissa Lely.

Other farmers aren’t feeling so optimistic. Janet and Corrie Leisen of Leisen’s Bridgeway Farms in Santa Rosa were on a cruise to Florida when they heard about the fire. The farm had been in the family since 1870, though the couple had only been selling to Bay Area farmers’ markets for the past five years, said Janet Leisen.

They lost hoop houses, olive trees, fig trees, a greenhouse, all of their farmers’ stand supplies, vintage cars and farm vehicles. Leisen estimates that half of their 200 chickens perished. On another 3-acre site where they grow produce, there is no power to water the crops, so they likely will die.

“It looks like we probably are going to shut down,” said Janet Leisen, who added that because she is 62 and her husband is 65, they weren’t making enough from the farm to justify restarting. Both are retired from careers in the dental industry.

Farm manager David Cooper lost his home at Oak Hill Farm, a produce and flower farm, along with several farm buildings and equipment. On Tuesday, the fire reignited in the hills about 500 yards from farm buildings, he said.

By Wednesday, Cooper hadn’t yet been able to go back to the farm and wasn’t sure about the fate of the fields and a 100-year-old barn. Oak Hill Farm owner Anne Teller and her late husband, the conservationist Otto Teller, began farming there more than 50 years ago.

Joey Smith, 34, discovered Tuesday that the family home where he lived for most of his life had burned to the ground, along with a lot of equipment on Let’s Go Farm in Santa Rosa, which he began running in 2011. Among the losses were a tractor and new solar panels, which were supposed to be a 30-year investment.

“The garden so far survived,” he said, based on photos someone took for him, since he cannot get to the property. The fences have blown down, so his sheep are eating up the produce in his fields.

In addition to the immediate losses, those involved in local agriculture are concerned about jobs for farm and vineyard workers in the area, as well as the long-lasting impact the fire damage will have on farms and vineyards that depend on outside visitors.

“Here in the North Bay, there’s a strong connection between agriculture and tourism,” Wiig said. Farmers and vintners rely on the North Bay being a destination, he said. “If our hills are blackened, how many people are going to want to come spend weekends here, visiting our farmers’ markets and farm stands? It’s going to hurt our economy.”

The Farmers Guild and others are planning fundraising benefits for farmers, and a separate group of volunteers is gleaning produce from local farms and bringing it to restaurants and other professional kitchens to cook meals for those displaced by the fire.

“We’re preparing to help farmers for what will be a very long recovery,” Wiig said.

Tara Duggan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Northern California firestorm ‘literally exploded,’ killing 15 and destroying hundreds of homes

ThinkProgress

Northern California firestorm ‘literally exploded,’ killing 15 and destroying hundreds of homes

More than 200 have been reported missing after fast-moving fires devastate communities north of San Francisco.

Natasha Geiling         October 10, 2017

https://i1.wp.com/thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/ap_17282585391742-1.jpg?resize=1280%2C720px&ssl=1Flames from a massive wildfire burn in Napa, CA. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

High temperatures and fast winds are fueling more than a dozen wildfires across California, forcing more than 20,000 northern California residents to evacuate their homes and communities. At least 15 people have died, and more than 200 have been reported missing, after several fires spread rapidly throughout Monday.

The fires ignited late Sunday night and into Monday morning and have since spread over 50,000 acres across Napa and Sonoma counties, destroying at least 2,000 structures and sending at least 100 to the hospital with injuries ranging from burns to smoke inhalation. The Tubbs Fire — which is currently burning at 27,000 acres — has prompted the evacuation of at least 10 neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa, which has a population of 125,000. Two hospitals have also been evacuated after the fire jumped across Highway 101 between Sunday night and Monday morning.

Aerial photographs show entire neighborhoods of the city completely destroyed by the fire, which as of Tuesday morning was zero percent contained. Smoke from the wildfires caused the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to issue an air quality warning for the region on Monday; as of Tuesday, much of the area north of San Francisco was still experiencing unhealthy air quality.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation, but officials are confident windy conditions combined with an excess of dry grass and underbrush helped the fuel the fires’ rapid growth. According to the National Weather Service, “fire literally exploded and raced along the landscape” aided by fuel at “all time record dry levels.”

September and October tend to be the worst months for California’s fire season, as strong winds can combine with low humidity and dry vegetation to turn a single spark into a major incident. At the beginning of September, fast-moving winds and record-heat sparked the largest wildfire in Los Angeles’ history, burning more than 5,000 acres north of the city. The worst wildfire in California history — the Cedar Fire of 2003 — started in October and burned more than 273,246 acres, destroying 2,820 structures and killing 15. Already, the scope of this weekends’ fires rivals the destruction of the Cedar Fire.

Fast-moving winds and low humidity aren’t rare in California, and neither are October wildfires, but it’s likely climate change made these fires even more destructive. After years of historic, prolonged drought, which studies have linked to climate change, California experienced record-setting rains that fueled the growth of grasses and underbrush — young vegetation that dries easily during the summer and is especially susceptible to ignition. Because warmer atmospheric temperatures can hold more water, experts have suggested that the cycle of drought followed by intense precipitation could be linked to climate change.

Even the state’s characteristic winds — known in the northern part of the state as Diablo Winds and in the southern part of the state as Santa Ana winds — could be getting worse because of climate change. The Santa Ana and Diablo winds occur when high inland pressure pushes air down the sides of mountains (Mt. Diablo in northern California and Mt. Ana in southern California), whipping wind through the canyons and hillsides outside major population centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to a 2015 study lead by researchers at University of California, Los Angles, UC Davis, UC Irvine, and the U.S. Forest Service, a warming climate will likely make these winds both more frequent and stronger, fueling potentially destructive fires.

Across the country, warm, dry conditions have fueled a record-breaking fire season. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group currently lists 179 active wildfire situations throughout much of the Western United States, from Colorado to Washington. The largest active fire in the United States is the Chetco Bar Fire in southern Oregon, which has burned over 191,121 acres and is 97 percent contained. As of October 6, wildfires have burned 8,469,590 acres across the United States — the third largest total acreage burned in the last 10 fire seasons.

According to an analysis by Climate Central, climate change has increased the length of the annual fire season, a reference to the time of year when conditions are ripe for wildfires, by 105 days since 1970. Over the same period of time, the average number of wildfires over 1,000 acres has doubled across the western U.S. Since 2000, at least 13 states have experienced their largest fires on record.

As climate change is fueling longer fire seasons, human activity — both through an intense focus on fire suppression, rather than forest management, and an decreasingly populated rural-urban boundary, are making fires more destructive and deadly. A longer and more active fire season is also stretching the bounds of the Forest Service’s budget, with 2017 fire suppression costs already exceeding $2 billion, making this the most expensive year on record.

Unlike disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, wildfires don’t qualify for federal disaster funding under the Disaster Relief Act; instead, the Forest Service is forced to pay for fire suppression costs in excess of the budgeted amount by borrowing from other Forest Service programs. That means in especially active fire years, the Forest Service is taking money from programs meant to prevent fires and using those funds to fight existing fires — a cycle that critics of the current set-up argue puts the Forest Service at a perpetual disadvantage when it comes to anticipating and preventing forest fires.

“Land managers can’t plan for restoration projects, even if they have huge fire benefits, if they don’t know whether the money is going to be there by the time they get around to doing the project,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told ThinkProgress. “An account for a forest in Tennessee could be slashed to fight fires in Wyoming, and then all of the sudden you could have a terrible fire in Tennessee the next year, and you didn’t get the project done, so it ends up burning bigger, brighter, and longer than it would have if you had the projects completed.”

Driven by heat and high winds, wildfires are 10 times worse this year than average.

Climate change means that there is no such thing as a typical “fire season” anymore.  

Since 2015, the Forest Service has spent more than 50 percent of its budget on fighting wildfires — more than a thirty percent increase from 1995, when fire suppression was just 16 percent of the agency’s budget. According to a 2015 report, future fires could consume even more of the Forest Service’s budget, to the point where by 2025, two-thirds of the agency’s budget could be spent on fire programs.

One legislative solution for the Forest Service’s budget woes currently being considered in Congress would allow the agency to draw from a separate pool of federal disaster funds, similar to what other agencies can do through FEMA after a disaster like a tornado or hurricane. That bill, known as the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017, is sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of nine Western senators — five Democrats and four Republicans. In the House, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), has introduced a similar bill for the past three years. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has urged Republicans in Congress to oppose the bill in the past, arguing that it would “result in increased federal spending.”

Fiscal conservatives in Congress have instead proposed a different way to address the rising costs of forest fires: loosen environmental regulations to allow timber companies more leeway to thin forests, thereby lessening the amount of fuel available for wildfires. One bill, introduced this year by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), would do away with the public input and full environmental review process for thinning or logging projects of 10,000 acres or less (currently, only projects 3,000 acres or less are subject to less stringent environmental regulations). It would also allow the Forest Service to forgo required consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service if the agency determined the project was unlikely to harm a federally protected species.

Westerman, who has received more than $142,000 from the timber industry since being elected to Congress in 2014, has argued that the bill would “provide protection to America’s forests by reducing the risks of wildfires through proper management techniques.” Westerman received a master’s degree in forestry from Yale Forestry School in 2001, and is the only licensed forester in Congress.

But environmentalists, conservationists, and Democratic lawmakers argue that the real problem with the growing cost of forest fires isn’t a lack of management techniques, but a lack of funds with which to implement them. Even Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has criticized the current funding structure of the Forest Service, saying in September that without a consistent stream of funding, “we’re asking for disasters.”

“You can have all the tools in the universe, but if you don’t have the resources to implement that, it doesn’t matter,” the National Wildlife Federation’s O’Mara said. “And that’s where we are right now.”

Update, 10/10/17, 4:29 p.m. EST: This story has been updated to reflect new estimates of the number of missing persons, fatalities, and destroyed structures.

California’s Raging Wildfires as You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Time

California’s Raging Wildfires as You’ve Never Seen Them Before

TIME Staff,         October 9, 2017

https://s.yimg.com/lo/api/res/1.2/byDx_x3eKByYLQ89tCts9Q--/YXBwaWQ9eW15O3E9NzU7dz02NDA7c209MQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en-US/homerun/time_72/9edb7c2aa31be9b108510aa8afd42b70Lake Fire | Big Bear June 2015

On the Front Lines of California’s Increasingly Devastating Fires

Video by Jeff Frost | Text by Josh Raab

Forest fires have long been a part of life in California, but not always like this. In recent years, artist Jeff Frost, based near Joshua Tree National Park, has watched as fires raged across the West Coast with increasing frequency and intensity. “Fire is a natural part of nature,” he says, “but what you’ll hear veteran firefighters say over and over, ‘I’ve never seen fire behavior like this.” Fire seasons are also starting earlier and ending later, on average 78 days longer than they were in 1970. On Monday, late in the fire season, Frost was chasing blazes in Sonoma and Napa counties, which have scorched tens of thousands of acres and led to widespread evacuations, including in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Four years ago, Frost, now 39, decided to begin documenting the fires. He put himself through the most intense fire-safety training courses he could find, enrolling in courses sanctioned by the U.S. Forest Service, then equipped his camper with a bed and a generator and headed to the front lines of California’s biggest fires.

Bluecut Fire | Cahone Pass Aug. 2016

Frost’s project, “California on Fire”, will be a feature-length art film combining his wildfire time lapses. The non-narrative film will look at forest fires loosely through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages will follow the life of wildfires, looking at their causes and effects from their ignition to the twisted metal and charred forests they leave behind. Frost is especially interested in exploring the role human involvement plays in these fires, both intentional and unintentional. “Human beings are stewards of the planet,” he says. “It’s just a question of whether we’re good stewards or bad stewards.”

On scene, Frost shoots sequences of hundreds of still photos, which he then combines into time-lapse videos. He previously used this approach at Joshua Tree National Park and at CERN, the research center renowned for building particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider.

For the “California on Fire” project, Frost has shot more than 300,000 images at over 40 forest fires, resulting in over 500 time lapses ranging from 1 to 30 seconds. The blazes he has documented include the Erskine wildfire outside of Bakersfield in June 2016 that destroyed 386 structures and led to two deaths, and the King wildfire near Lake Tahoe in September 2014, which destroyed 80 structures and scorched almost 100,000 acres of land. While he is fascinated by fire, Frost’s obsession is to create an art piece that speaks to a larger reality: The role climate change plays in the fires.

Erskine Fire | Lake Isabella June 2016

“The intent is to show the effect of climate change right now, not just in the future,” he says. “Burning people’s houses down is not abstract.” Over the past three decades, climate change has doubled the area burned by forest fires in the western United States and the fire season has grown significantly longer. A number of climate-related issues are intensifying fires. Drier climates and more available fuel cause fires to start easier, burn longer and move faster. In addition, forest fires lower the number of trees that can absorb the carbon dioxide that causes climate change in the first place.

The federal cost of fighting forest fires has risen substantially. Fires cost the U.S. Forest Service more than $2 billion in 2015, over half of its annual budget, up from $240 million in 1985 (not adjusted for inflation).

LaTuna Fire | Los Angeles September 2017

While shooting the Rocky fire in Lake County in July 2015, Frost followed a firefighting team into a valley only to find himself completely surrounded by flames until a backup team arrived. “The wind was whipping across the hillside and catching grass on fire. I was sitting in the truck freaking out,” he says. “There were droves of insects running into the truck trying to get away from the fire. We had to wait for two hours before somebody could come in and retrieve us. That fire was a total of 70,000 acres but that day it burned 50,000.” Frost’s point-of-view video below documents his close call.

Rocky Fire | Clear Lake July 2015

After almost four years, Frost has shifted away from the front lines and turned his focus to covering the aftermath. He is shooting scorched landscapes and the remains of cars left behind. Recently, he started picking up pieces of charred aluminum, polishing them and displaying them in art exhibits to bring awareness to the power of forest fires. He expects to complete his time-lapse film in early 2018. A pre-public release will go out to his Patreon followers before he submits the film to Cannes and Sundance.

Jeff Frost is an artist based outside of Los Angeles. Follow him on instagram @frostjeff.

josh raab IS a multimedia editor at time. follow him on instagram @instagraabit.

Miles of Algae Covering Lake Erie

The New York Times

Miles of Algae Covering Lake Erie

By Jugal K. Patel and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas        October 3, 2017

A potentially harmful algae bloom covered more than 700 square miles in the western basin of Lake Erie last week, turning the lake bright green and alarming residents and local officials.

https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/09/27/lake-erie/d2eb2ae637c0922e0c5c546f1ef96b8ae24bdea5/lake-view-Artboard_1.jpgSource: Landsat 8

Scientists say that algae blooms have been a growing problem for Lake Erie since the 2000s, mostly because of the extensive use of fertilizer on the region’s farmland.

The algae blooms contain cyanobacteria, which, under certain conditions, can produce toxins that contaminate drinking water and cause harm to the local ecosystem.

During last week’s bloom, the amount of toxins in the algae remained low at the intake points where towns draw water from the lake, according to officials.

Lake Erie’s algae blooms are driven by a landscape dominated by agriculture.

https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/09/27/lake-erie/d2eb2ae637c0922e0c5c546f1ef96b8ae24bdea5/slide-1-Artboard_3.jpgRain causes nutrients from fertilizers on farmland to run off into rivers.

https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/09/27/lake-erie/d2eb2ae637c0922e0c5c546f1ef96b8ae24bdea5/slide-3-Artboard_3.jpgThe nutrients travel along rivers, eventually reaching Lake Erie.

In the Maumee River, the largest tributary to any of the Great Lakes, green algae was visible last week in an aerial photograph.

According to experts, excess nutrients that are transported by the Maumee River can be a good indicator of how severe an algae bloom in the lake will be.

https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/09/27/lake-erie/d2eb2ae637c0922e0c5c546f1ef96b8ae24bdea5/maumee-1050.jpgSource: Aerial Associates Photography, Inc., Zachary Haslick

Millions of people get drinking water from Lake Erie. Previous blooms have been toxic.

While not all algae blooms are toxic, they can produce a type of toxin called microcystin that can cause serious liver damage under certain conditions. Dangerous levels of the toxin caused Toledo, Ohio, to shut down the drinking water supply of a half million residents for three days in 2014.

In total, almost 3 million people get drinking water from the central basin of Lake Erie. Officials have been testing the intake pipes in the lake where towns draw water and report that the current toxin levels are low.

https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2017/09/27/lake-erie/d2eb2ae637c0922e0c5c546f1ef96b8ae24bdea5/intakes-Artboard_1.jpgSource: NASA MODIS    Note: Only intake points for towns and cities in Ohio are shown.

The blooms are hurting the region’s economy.

Lake Erie attracts millions of visitors for beaches and recreation like fishing, and many businesses stand to lose money during large algae blooms.

David Spangler, vice president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, describes the algae as a musty-smelling, lime-green skin on the lake’s surface that’s so thick you could write your name in it.

“An awful lot of money may go someplace else other than Ohio if we continue having these issues in the lake,” Mr. Spangler said. He noted that in 2015, an algae bloom kept boats out of the lake for six to seven weeks.

The algae blooms are getting larger.

Since the 2000s, algae blooms in Lake Erie have become much more extensive.

According to one study by the Carnegie Institute for Science and Stanford University , most of the increase in the size of the blooms can be attributed to a rise in the amount of dissolved phosphorus flowing into the lake.

 

In the 1980s, researchers started tracking algae blooms in Lake Erie. They were mostly small, but changes in farming practices caused them to spike.

The blooms are expected to grow more harmful as global warming changes rainfall patterns.

According to local experts, storms have become more intense in the region, carrying more nutrients from the farmland into the lake.

Another study from the Carnegie Institution for Science shows that extensive algae blooms will continue to grow throughout the continental United States and around the globe, especially in Southeast Asia.

The mayor of Toledo, Paula Hicks-Hudson, wrote a letter to President Trump on Sept. 26, calling on the federal government to declare Lake Erie impaired, which would allow for the lake’s nutrient loads to be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

“There is something very wrong with our country when our rivers and lakes turn green,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson wrote in her letter. “As I look out my office at a green river, I can tell you one thing: The status quo is not working.”

Correction: Oct. 5, 2017

An article on Wednesday about an algae bloom in Lake Erie misidentified a toxin produced by algae blooms. It is microcystin, not microcystis.

Ohio mayor asks Trump for help combating Lake Erie algae

Washington Post

Ohio mayor asks Trump for help combating Lake Erie algae

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Online/2017-10-07/AP/Images/Lake_Erie_Algae_06912.jpg-91833.jpg?uuid=1157Oqt1EeeamAcUDS7tAgIn this Sept. 20, 2017 photo, a catfish appears on the shoreline in the algae-filled waters at the end of 113th Street in the Point Place section of North Toledo, Ohio. The 2017 algae bloom has stretched along the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, and will be among the largest in recent years. The 2015 bloom was the largest on record, covering an area the size of New York City. (Andy Morrison/The Blade via AP) (Associated Press)

By John Seewer | AP       October 7, 2017

TOLEDO, Ohio — Three years after toxic algae in Lake Erie tainted the drinking water for more than 400,000 people, many are still leery about what’s coming out of their faucets.

Some have taken to stockpiling bottled water in the summer months when algae blooms blanket the western end in the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

Store shelves were emptied of bottled water a week ago when algae pushed into a river that flows through downtown Toledo into the lake, turning the river fluorescent green and sparking rumors that another “do not drink” advisory was looming.

It wasn’t the first time there’s been a run on bottled water even though there have been no water warnings since the first one in 2014.

Toledo’s mayor has asked President Donald Trump for help from the federal government in cleaning up the lake and wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to declare the western end impaired, which would allow for increased pollution regulations.

“There is something very wrong with our country when our rivers and lakes turn green,” Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson wrote in a letter sent to Trump last week. “As I look out my office at a green river, I can tell you one thing: the status quo is not working.”

A message seeking comment on the letter was left with the White House.

Scientists largely blame farm fertilizer runoff and municipal sewage overflows for feeding the algae growth. While there are a number of efforts to tackle the problem, it won’t be solved for years.

This year’s algae bloom has stretched along the shores of Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, and will be among the largest in recent years. The 2015 bloom was the largest on record, covering an area the size of New York City.

The uncertainty some still have about the Toledo’s drinking water, the mayor said in an interview Wednesday, shows there’s a general mistrust about what some hear from government leaders and how easily rumors spread.

She pointed to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and how residents there were told the water was safe for months despite dangerous lead levels.

“We’re going to do what we can to regain their trust,” said Hicks-Hudson, a Democrat who’s up for re-election in November. “That’s all we can do.”

She said she has spent many hours talking with residents and reassuring them the water is safe. “Some will give me a suspicious look,” she said.

The tap water, she said, is tested daily and more often than the state requires. The city also has invested in upgrading its treatment plant and there’s an early warning system in the lake to notify the plant’s operators when toxic algae is increasing.

The city also has created a site that shows the daily tests on raw and treated water. But that’s not enough for some.

Tammie Nixon, of Toledo, said her family hasn’t drunk the city’s water since officials issued a “do not drink” for two days in September 2014. She was pregnant at the time and now also has a 3-month-old.

“Definitely not with the kids,” she said while loading jugs of milk and water into her car at the grocery. “It’s kind of scary. There’s only so much you can filter out.”

Poll Shows Majority Of Americans Want Government To Act On Climate Change, But There’s A Catch

DeSmog

Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science

 

Poll Shows Majority Of Americans Want Government To Act On Climate Change, But There’s A Catch

By Farron Cousins            October 4, 2017

https://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/styles/full_width_blog_image/public/blogimages/flood%20houston.JPG?itok=w9N0i8msImage: Texas Army National Guardsmen assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27, 2017. Army National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West.

New polling data provides some inspiring news about the prospects for climate change action in the United States. According to public policy polling conducted by AP-NORC and the Energy Policy Institute at The University of Chicago, 61% of American citizens believe that climate change is a threat that the federal government should actively work to prevent. The poll also reveals that majorities in both major political parties – Democrats and Republicans – accept the fact that climate change is actually happening and that human activity is making it worse.

This data reinforces previous polling data indicating that a majority of American citizens, regardless of party affiliation, believe that climate change is a serious issue demanding urgent political action.

What sets the new set of data apart from the rest is also the part that makes it slightly less uplifting.

The poll found that 51% of Americans are willing to pay $1 per month to combat the growing threat of climate change, but when you start look at numbers higher than a dollar per month, the willingness of American citizens to foot the bill begins to decline sharply.

Additionally, the poll found a majority of citizens are against fracking, especially when they learn about the negative health effects from the oil and gas drilling process. However, support for fracking rises to nearly 41% when citizens are told that it could save them a few hundred dollars each year on their electric bills.

The new data helps to provide a clearer picture of how American citizens tend to view most non-social issues, and that is through the lens of finance.

When presented with data showing that dirty energy is harmful — but might save them money (in the short term) — they gravitate towards the “saving money” rather “saving lives” side of the climate equation.

But the fact that most people are willing to shell out even one dollar per month is actually a giant leap forward in terms of Americans’ willingness to address the growing threat of climate change, even if they may have to foot part of the bill.

Another interesting point about these polls is that the data was actually collected prior to the devastating string of hurricanes that hit the US — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — that captured the attention of the public and brought the issue of climate change to the forefront, albeit for a brief period of time.

There’s no doubt that the federal government could and should devote a lot more taxpayer money to fight climate change. Instead, Washington is currently choosing to subsidize an industry that is struggling to survive, and is significantly responsible for the climate change that’s hurting us now.

Why Not Fund Climate Action With Polluter Profits?

Ultimately, when it comes to paying for action to combat climate change, American citizens might consider asking their representatives in Washington to hold polluting industry responsible for funding the US response to climate change. After all, the fossil fuel industry bears significant responsibility for our current and future global warming predicament.

A recent report found that subsidies to the fossil fuel industry top $5 trillion a year – money that could instead be spent on infrastructure to protect low-lying cities from flooding in the event of rising waters, for instance. That money could also be used to provide more subsidies to the renewable energy sector which is already growing at a pace that far exceeds that of the fossil fuel sector.

Perhaps if we end the federal life support going to fossil fuel companies — a form of corporate welfare that is far from necessary — we could finally start addressing climate change without having to ask taxpayers to cough up a few extra dollars every month.

Republicans Are Kicking People Off Food Stamps

Newsweek

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Under Trump’s New Budget, If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat: Republicans Are Kicking People Off Food Stamps

By Christianna Silva      October 7, 2017

UPDATE: The budget resolution passed by the House on Thursday will push millions of already struggling people off food stamps, leaving the neediest Americans—children and the elderly among them—without food.

The $4.1-trillion budget will take over $150 billion away from several poverty programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income people keep food on the table, by giving them small amounts of supplemental money to spend on groceries—anywhere from $100 a month to $700 a month for a family of five, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

This budget isn’t the newest problem SNAP has had to face. The number of people on SNAP ebbs and flows with the economy, but only 75 percent of people who are eligible for SNAP actually participate in the program, the website Snap to Health says. And it’s because applying can get really complicated.

Evan Teske, a 26-year-old medical student, needed assistance while he was working for Americorps. After graduating from college in 2014, Americorps assigned him to Focuspoint Family Research Center, which focuses on education from childhood to adulthood. His stipend just wasn’t enough.

“So I had to apply for food stamps,” Teske told Newsweek.

The application process was pretty confusing, he said, but Americorps helped him apply. Then, after about a year and a half, he was taken off.

“I got taken off by the government against my will because every six months I had to update my paperwork so they could see how much they were giving me,” Teske said. “And at one point, when food stamps and a stipend still wasn’t quite enough, I had help from my parents and family members to help me out in a pinch. When I put that down in the updated documents, they didn’t call it an income, but they said it was extra. So they cut me off.”

Teske worked for Americorps for the next six months and then moved to New Mexico for medical school. He said SNAP and food stamps made his life more livable.

Teske was taken off food stamps because his family helped him when he was needing a bit more. If Trump’s budget proposal passes the Senate, as it has already passed the House, many more people will be bumped off SNAP—and a lot of them won’t have the familial safety net that Teske did.

“SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger in the U.S.,”  Ellen Vollinger, the legal director who directs SNAP work at the Food Research and Action Center, told Newsweek. “It’s the one program that’s available all over the country to serve people who need food. It’s the most accessible and available to people.”

But lately, for two big reasons, fewer people have been taking advantage of SNAP. First of all, the economy is doing better, which means fewer people are struggling with poverty and fewer people need the program.

In 2009, about 32 million people received SNAP benefits. The number increased during the great recession to an annual high of 47.6 million in 2013. Then, as the economy began to improve, it was down to 43 million in April 2010. And it’s continue to show. From April 2015 to April 2016, it was all the way down by 1.9 million participants.

“The unemployment rate has often been a pretty good indicator for the need for SNAP. As it comes down, there might be a bit of a lag, but we see SNAP come down,” Vollinger said.

The second reason, however, is that some states are cutting corners by making it more difficult to apply for SNAP so they make more room in their budget.

“A lot of people don’t know that they’re eligible,” Ginger Zielinskie, president and CEO of Benefits Data Trust, a company that connects people with the services they need, told Newsweek. “The first barrier is awareness. … It can be a really complicated application process.”

Moreover, some state laws don’t allow people to stay on SNAP for longer than a few months unless they have jobs, are training for jobs or are doing community service. But in times of economic stress, there aren’t always jobs available for them.

Take, for example, Devon Bracher, who graduated from Vanderbilt with an engineering degree and was living with her two sisters in Portland, Oregon, when she applied to get on SNAP after not being able to find a job.

“Technically, my residency was in Virginia, but all my work experience was in Tennessee,” Bracher told Newsweek. “I didn’t have a job, I was looking for jobs. This was my first year after graduating. That was part of what’s complicated. I wasn’t an Oregon resident, but I didn’t have an official job in Virginia. Virginia told me to apply to Tennessee.”

So Bracher went through the online application for SNAP. But the system had her call a SNAP representative because she wasn’t a Tennessee resident.

“I probably called maybe like five different times and the line was always busy,” Bracher said. Eventually, she just gave up.

“I benefitted a lot from being able to live with family,” Bracher said. “My sisters helped a lot.”

Not everyone has a family like Bracher’s, and if the proposed cuts to SNAP make its way through, the states will be responsible to keep families from starving.

In Alabama, for instance, the number of able-bodied people on SNAP has dropped from around 5,000 to 800. Most of it is because of the regulations states are forced to place on the benefits so that they can make their budget, a trend that’s seen all over the U.S.

Californians have concerns people who need programs like SNAP won’t be able to access them under Trump’s new budget, according to Jared Call from California Food Policy Advocates.

“We try to think of people first, but this particular [budget proposal] … would really seek to shift a substantial share to the states or propose penalties to put states on the hook and that’s just not something that state budgets are prepared to absorb,” he told Newsweek.

“California would go down $1.8 billion to just keep even. So you’re faced with cutting other important services or education or other programs or cutting benefit amounts or cutting eligibility,” Call said. “We want SNAP to go to the people who need it, but this proposal does not work that way. There is no way to cut SNAP without impacting benefit levels or eligibility. Ninety-four percent of these funds go directly to benefits, there’s no fat to cut.”

One in six people in America faces hunger, more than almost any other country in the developed world. If this budget goes through, and important programs like SNAP are axed, that number will be on the rise.

Story was updated to clarify the number of SNAP participants between 2015 and 2016 and the number of able-bodied people on SNAP in Alabama.