How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

How A ‘Farm Bust’ Could Help Renew American Agriculture

Current farming methodologies aren’t just bad for land, community, and ecology—they’re increasingly bad for business. Something’s gotta give.

 

By Gracy Olmstead  February 13, 2017

The Wall Street Journal is predicting a farm bust on the horizon, as America’s role in the global grain market shrinks, and the price for corn continues to drop. Reporters Jesse Newman and Patrick McGroarty write

The Farm Belt is hurtling toward a milestone: Soon there will be fewer than two million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase.

This number definitely reflects a growing decline in farming. But what the Wall Street Journal doesn’t note is that the nation’s largest farms are only growing more powerful and large. We have fewer farms, yes, but largely because we have a greater share of larger, industrialized farms.

The WSJ interviewed a specific type of farmer for this article: the commodity crop farmer. Yes, they represent the greatest portion of farms in the American heartland. But many are also beginning to realize that government subsidies and cushy crop insurance premiums can’t save them forever: when their supply is abundantly overstepping demand, eventually reality is going to hit. And if this WSJ piece is any indication, reality is indeed about to strike.

How America’s Heartland Farms Are Hurting

As you read through the Wall Street Journal’s article, a general outline of the farmers interviewed falls into place: 50-plus years of age, farming more than 1,000 acres, dotted across America’s flyover country in states like Iowa and Kansas. They’re all struggling to make ends meet:

Across the heartland, a multiyear slump in prices for corn, wheat and other farm commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide is pushing many farmers further into debt. Some are shutting down, raising concerns that the next few years could bring the biggest wave of farm closures since the 1980s.

The U.S. share of the global grain market is less than half what it was in the 1970s. American farmers’ incomes will drop 9% in 2017, the Agriculture Department estimates, extending the steepest slide since the Great Depression into a fourth year.

Many of these farmers need a second career in order to keep their businesses afloat.

‘No one just grain farms anymore,’ said Deb Stout, whose sons Mason and Spencer farm the family’s 2,000 acres in Sterling, Kan., 120 miles east of Ransom. Spencer also works as a mechanic, and Mason is a substitute mailman. ‘Having a side job seems like the only way to make it work,’ she said.

The History Of American Agriculture’s Decline

How did we get to this point? The WSJ gives a mini history lesson midway through their article:

From the early 1800s until the Great Depression, the number of U.S. farms grew steadily as pioneers spread west of the Mississippi River. Families typically raised a mix of crops and livestock on a few hundred acres of land at most. After World War II, high-horsepower tractors and combines enabled farmers to cover more ground. Two decades ago, genetically engineered seeds helped farmers grow more.

Farms grew bigger and more specialized. Large-scale operations now account for half of U.S. agricultural production. Most farms, even some of the biggest, are still run by families. As farm sizes jumped, their numbers fell, from six million in 1945 to just over two million in 2015, nearing a threshold last seen in the mid-1800s. Total acres farmed in the U.S. have dropped 24% to 912 million acres.

This short account of the jump from subsistence-style farming to today’s industrialized farming could easily fill thousands of pages (and indeed has—from John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to Wendell Berry’s novels).

Today’s Farms Still Follow an ‘Industrial Paradigm’

The Industrial Revolution shaped and transformed farming in seismic ways. As I wrote for Comment Magazine last year, “farming in the new, industrialized era began to favor quantity and specialization—because new machines worked most efficiently when farmers chose to harvest large, homogenous acreages instead of the small, diversified crops of the past. Farmers sought bigger and bigger swaths of land, seeing in them the promise of greater funds in the bank.”

American farms are still stuck in this “industrial paradigm,” says sustainable farmer Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farms. “Just like the agrarian economy gave way to the industrial, and the industrial to the information, and now the information is giving way to the regenerative economy, agriculture is changing. Because farmers tend to be conservative, agriculture is the slowest of all economic sectors to embrace the new economy.”

When Salatin’s father bought their family-operated farm in Swoope, Virginia, the land was severely eroded, and soil health was poor. “When my dad, in the early 1960s, asked agricultural advisors to tell him how to make a living on this farm, they all encouraged him to abuse the land more aggressively,” remembers Salatin. “He eschewed that counsel and did the opposite of everything they said. Today, we are healthy and profitable. Every person must decide whose advice to follow.”

Incentivizing Farmers to Destroy Neighbors’ Businesses

The WSJ piece goes on, “For some, the slump is an opportunity. Farmers with low debts and enough scale to profit from last year’s record harvests could be in a position to rent or buy up land from struggling neighbors.” In other words, large (most likely government-subsidized) farms can use this opportunity to buy out their smaller counterparts. Sounds like a great thing for the economy long-term, doesn’t it?

One chilly afternoon in October, Mr. Scheufler steered his combine across the first field he bought. The machine’s giant claw spun through rows of golden soybeans. A hawk circled the combine’s wake, hunting for exposed field mice. He recalled farmers whose land he has taken over: Ted Hartwick ’s, the Matthews’, the Profits’, his father’s.

Yes, building a large and profitable business is usually seen as an integral part of free market economics. We don’t want to prevent successful farms from getting larger. But it’s crucial to ask a few questions here: first, are these farms growing via their own merits—or via the support of the federal government? (Often, the answer is the latter.) Is their business model truly sustainable (and therefore, “successful” long term)?

Too often, the growth of a commodity farm means taking diversity, sustainability, and community, and turning these goods into homogeneity, depreciation, and solitude. This may not be Scheufler’s story. But it is, increasingly, the story of America’s heartland.  As another interviewee tells the WSJ,

There were 28 students in Mr. Scott’s graduating class at Ransom’s high school nearly four decades ago. Most were farmers’ children. This year there are nine students in the school’s senior class. ‘Farms got bigger to be more efficient, but it’s caused these towns to die a slow death,’ Mr. Scott said.

It’s not just farm towns that are ill-served by the way agriculture currently works. Land erosion, water contamination, and soil pollution are just a few of the ecological consequences of bad farming practices. “The current debacle has been coming for a long time,” says Salatin. And, he adds, “It will not end quickly. Rectifying our decades of abuse will not be easy. Healing will be disturbing.”

Farmers Aren’t Encouraged to Diversify Their Operations

Part of the problem here is that farmers, rather than diversifying their farms to protect against commodity price drops, have been encouraged (largely by subsidies, sometimes by the market) to always produce more of the same.

“Rather than studying how nature works, the informational component of the agriculture sector tends to throw out historic templates and remake life in a mechanical hubris of fatter, faster, bigger, cheaper,” says Salatin.

Many farmers who’ve expanded their enterprises have continued to grow the same exact crops on all that land. Now, writes Newman and McGroarty, “Corn and wheat output has never been higher, and never has so much grain been bunkered away.” So when the price of corn, soybeans, and wheat drops—as it is now—farmers don’t have another crop to fall back on.

In the short term, diversifying your farm operation can be more expensive, time-consuming, and physically demanding. But it also creates job security. Long-term, it protects both your farm and soil health.

When we focus on producing a few commodity crops, any country can beat us at our own game. We produce a glut of grain that global markets are no longer buying. Meanwhile, Americans living in the heartland of Iowa buy their tomatoes and peppers from South America. It seems strange, doesn’t it?

How Can Farmers Adopt to a Changing Market?

“I am concerned about the trend of making farms bigger and bigger, and more impersonal,” Maury Johnson, owner of Blue River Hybrids, told me in an email.  “American consumers have more interest in how their food is grown and produced, and the impact our conventional food system has on the environment. I personally am troubled when I drive by the feed-yards and confinement buildings, and have found it difficult to eat the products coming from those environments.”

Promoting a different farming model could prove salutary for farmers. But it requires a drastically different way of thinking, and many are deeply (albeit understandably) opposed to it.

Interestingly, though, a younger generation is increasingly embracing new farming trends, seeking to build smaller, diversified, and local farming operations. As Philanthropy Daily reported last week, “All around the United States, young men and women are joining the ‘new food economy’ of small farmers and food producers. Since 2006, local food marketing channels have seen substantial growth: Farmers’ markets have grown by 180%, reaching 8,200 nationwide. 7.8% of farms in the U.S. are marketing locally, and local food sales have reached $6.1 billion.”

What Might Rebuilding a Local Food Economy Look Like?

These younger farmers, however, are struggling against the orthodoxies of their elders in the agricultural community. As author and farmer Forrest Pritchard noted in an email,  “it’s no accident that the youngest farmer cited in this article is 56; the U.S. average age for a farmer is 58 and rising.”

He adds, “It defies explanation that our nation’s food security receives such low priority in our culture. The aging of our American farmers reveals a crisis of neglect—a neglect of training young farmers, a neglect of overhauling our education system to promote alternatives to commodity-dependent agriculture, and a neglect of investing appropriate research and development for alternative types of agricultural models.”

Eduardo Andino’s article in Philanthropy Daily considers a promising shift in farming support, however. He profiles a farm loan business founded by Silicon Valley businessmen. These businessmen decided to leave the world of international business to go local. Their story, which directly addresses the plight of American’s grain farmers, is worth quoting at length:

… Sam and Scott are interested in helping Maine rebuild a local food infrastructure: By giving farmers loans to build grain mills, slaughter houses, distribution plants, and more.

Scott, who some years ago formed a social investing strategies division at TIAA-CREF’s investment department, says that infrastructure is key. ‘100 years ago, you would’ve had local financial institutions that understood how local farming worked,’ and who could help build up local processors and distributors. Today, however, everything has gravitated up to the level of big ads and ‘big food.’

… Based on their international experience, Scott and Sam have concluded that the best thing they can do for agriculture worldwide is to go local. Scott describes his desire to transition ‘from a very top down high level job to a very bottom up job’ as being partially motivated by seeing the work of Rockefeller impact investing in Africa. While observing their work on a sustainable agriculture program in Africa, Scott realized ‘the best thing anyone could do for agriculture all over the world, from poor peasant farmers in Bangladesh to anywhere else, is to fix American agriculture.’

To Survive, American Farms Need To Change

Farming in America is undergoing a series of shifts—hopefully for the better. But the challenges today’s farmers face should not be taken lightly. Salatin urges his fellow farmers to consider making some changes in the way they do business—not just for their bottom line, but for the sake of the next generation, and the long-term wellbeing of the land.

“I know change is difficult for everyone, but I think conventional farmers have to take a hard look at breaking out of the conventional farming scene,” Johnson says. “I understand there’s limitations … but the future does not look good for medium to small conventional farmers, and help will likely not be coming from the government and its farm programs.”

“The regenerative economy is now knocking on the door of agriculture, but nobody is listening,” Salatin says. “The soil does not enjoy being mechanized and industrialized. The agricultural orthodoxy has not asked how ecology works. … Now, nature is batting last. And all the cleverness in Wall Street ultimately can’t prevail against nature’s balance sheet.”

Gracy Olmstead is associate managing editor at The Federalist and the Thursday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women. Her writings can also be found at The American Conservative, The Week, Christianity Today, Acculturated, The University Bookman, and Catholic Rural Life.

Donald J. Trump, To Tell The Truth?

John Hanno     February 10, 2017

 

Donald J. Trump “To Tell The Truth?”

 

“To Tell The Truth,” is an American television game show dating back to 1956. One real contestant and two imposters, identified only as number 1, number 2 and number 3, are introduced to a panel of four celebrities, who then try to guess who’s the real person with an unusual occupation or experience. The two imposters are allowed to lie but the real contestant has to answer panelists questions truthfully. After questioning, each celebrity picks who they think has told the truth and is the real person. After they write their number on a card, host Bill Collyer asks:  Will The Real——Please Stand Up?

My question from America is: Will The Real Donald J. Trump Please Stand Up? He’s been portraying some incarnation of Donald John Trumps for decades, but now under much more scrutiny since he announced he was running for president. As least two of the three or four imposters, have been lying at an unprecedented rate throughout the primary campaign and general election. According to the Toronto Star, Trump lied about 275 times during one 31 day period. Almost 90% of his rabid supporters will believe anything each of the Donald’s has said, and the late deciding voters who reluctantly pulled for Trump believed all of his past conduct and current outrageous actions and statements, would be moderated as soon as he became president, that it was just campaign stuff. Most of the world has seen and heard the video of Trump bragging about sexually abusing women but his daughter said that’s not the real Donald J. Trump she knows and admires. Well, he’s been president for 3 weeks and if anything, things have gotten even more confusing. It would take days to go through all of King Donald’s transformations but I’ll try.

He and the Republi-cons said they would repeal and replace Obamacare on day one, but once they actually started unpackaging the law, and the ACA policy-holders and other protestors started beating down their office doors, they discovered the job is much more difficult than their 6 years of rhetoric implied. They switched to repeal and maybe replace two or three years in the future but that didn’t work either. The latest slogan is now “not actually repeal but repair.”

The Donald said he would drain the conflict riddled and corrupt Washington swamp inhabited by wall street banksters and corporate lobbyists. He railed against Hillary’s close ties and paid speeches to wall street interests, even though she was the resident U.S. Senator for New York’s wall street district. Instead, he shocked many of the Trump voters who may still be able to decipher a bold face lie from reality, by hiring the slimiest cold blooded reptiles from Goldman Sachs and K-Street to run his cabinet. It’s too bad Bernie Madoff wasn’t available. Maybe Trump can pardon him and hire him somewhere down the road.

He said he would establish a blind trust to divorce himself from his businesses, and made a big production at a news conference with stacks of business documents that journalists couldn’t inspect, apparently because they were fake. He repeatedly said he would eventually turn over his tax returns but now says he won’t, unlike every president before him, because “America doesn’t really care about it.” But millions of folks signed onto various petitions demanding he provide those tax returns; and polls showed the same inclination.

Responding to his obvious and unprecedented conflicts of business interests, Trump now claims that instead of an actual blind trust, he will turn his businesses over to his two sons, and wants Americans to believe this undefined and speculative Chinese Wall will be honored by someone who lies daily and retweets fake news stories and crazy conspiracies. It didn’t help to allay critics fears when The Donald named son-in-law Jared Kushner a Senior White House advisor. And it’s not just Trump himself ridiculing Nordstrom’s for canceling Ivanka’s business contracts, but we also have top White House advisor Kelleyanne Conway praising Ivanka’s clothing line and telling everyone to run out to the stores and “buy her great stuff” during an impromptu commercial on Fox News; regardless of the fact that sales of her products dropped 26% in January alone and 35% last year. Trump’s son then said that all Nordstrom customers should cut up their credit cards in retaliation. Welcome to the White House /Trump Inc.

Trump repeated throughout the campaign, and berated Jeb Bush for his brothers Middle Eastern invasion, that the war in Iraq was a monumental mistake, but Trump’s bellicose ranting against Iran and Muslims can’t help but spark memories of the Bush Administrations preconceived plans to invade Iraq and their rush to war before the U.N inspectors could finish their job. Trump’s statement that we should, and may in the future, take oil from Iraq and other countries in the Middle East, and the statement from Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn that they’re putting Iran on notice and also this cabals alignment with the far right settlement expansion faction in Israel, makes you think that another democratic Middle East nation building campaign is on the front burner. Thankfully, the Trump administration, after many months of criticizing the Obama Administration, informed Israel that these settlements, just at President Obama and Secretary Kerry claimed, are after all, not conducive to a two state solution and a lasting peace. But does Trump honestly believe in Palestinian autonomy?

Trump railed against China throughout the campaign and promised to reverse decades of U.S. policy, which ruled out independence and diplomatic recognition for the island of Taiwan. Trump said that it “was open for negotiation” but after a sharp rebuke from China, has now reversed course and has committed to honor that “one China” policy.

Trump’s policy statements (actually impulsive tweets) related to his ill advised and unnecessary travel ban showed how totally unprepared this cast of pretenders is in actually leading a nation and establishing effective policy. They’re rushing headlong, without much forethought, attempting to somehow follow through on at least one of the outrageous promises they made during the campaign. Some of those tweets:

“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

And after polls showed most American were not in favor of Trumps ban, he tweeted: “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”

And finally, after the 9th Circuit gave Trump’s Muslim ban a Constitutional beat down, he responded: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

A more likely scenario might have been that Trump follows through on his insane promise to tear up the Iran Nuclear deal, wherein a few weeks later, intelligence sources discover the Ayatollahs are back to spinning centrifuges. He and Pence repeatedly shouted that they would “TEAR UP THE IRAN DEAL.” But apparently there’s at least one adult in his administration, probably General Mattis, who finally got through to Trump, because they just announced they would fully honor that agreement.

I have another much more likely and realistic scenario for America’s tenuous safety and security; I “Just cannot believe a (U.S. President) would put our country in such peril,” because when Dakota Assess and Keystone XL (now renamed “Trump’s Oil Express”) start leaking oil into the wells, lakes, rivers and aquifers of 20 or 25 million Americans drinking water, and onto the fertile farms of Middle America, “If something happens, blame Trump and his administration. Oil pouring in. Bad!”

Trump was pretty clear about his views on scientific research, climate change and global warming during the campaign. And his own investments in fossil fuel showed his true environmental allegiance. But his daughter Ivanka, being a mother of his two grandchildren, and her brother, who also has children, probably have a more realistic view of the need to protect the only earth we have for future generations. Can The Donald honestly ignore the overwhelming evidence? Has America ever had a president that was so hostile and incurious about science and real facts? He ridicules environmentalists, including our original earth protectors (Native Americans), when he claims climate change and global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to steal our jobs. Can he forsake his grandchildren and our grandchildren’s future for 40 pieces of gold from the fossil fuel industry?

Trump disregards the millions of true American patriots in every state, who demand that he protect America’s air, water and land, when he blatantly granted his approval for the halted Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines and then quickly ordered the Army Corp to disregard President Obama’s order for a full Environmental Impact Statement and that the Corp reevaluate the proposed route and consequences to ours and the Standing Rock Nation’s environment. Trump lied when he said he hasn’t received any complaints about the pipelines because the White House complaint line conveniently refuses to accept any calls from concerned citizens.

This “so-called President’s” assault on America’s health and safety is in stark contrast to the 39th President of the United States. 92-year-old President Jimmy Carter recently leased 10 acres of farmland outside Plains, Georgia for the construction of a 1.3-megawatt (MW) solar array. Developed by SolAmerica, the project will deliver more than 55 million kilowatt hours of clean energy to Plains, which is more than half the town’s annual needs.

The Donald and his administration, urged on by the Republican congress, has spent the last three weeks passing executive orders undermining his predecessor and rewarding campaign contributors and connected benefactors. The King’s TV edicts were a grand reality show production.

To Trumps credit, he did criticize House Republicans when they voted to gut the office of government ethics and when the irate public swamped the congressional switchboards, the GOP lawmakers quickly backed down.

De Smog reported that “The Republican-led Senate used an obscure procedural tool to end a bipartisan provision meant to fight corruption and overseas oil bribery, a rule opposed by Trump’s new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, when he was head of Exxon Mobil.” A much appreciated reward for fossil fuel, I’m sure.

Trump signed a memorandum instructing the Labor Department to delay implementing an Obama rule requiring financial professionals who are giving advice on retirement, and who charge commissions, to put their client’s interests first. Trump, of the fraudulent Trump University fame, apparently believes these future retirees should have the opportunity to be scammed by banksters who think their own welfare is more important than their fiduciary duty to their clients.

And we know it’s only a mater of time and opportunity before the Republi-con congress starts debating the rewards for the rich and powerful who donated 100’s of millions to their campaigns. These tax breaks will of course, be offset by cuts to the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs that Trump vowed over and over not to touch. But don’t hold your breath on another Trump broken promise to our senior citizens, poor mothers with children and the disabled.

And the regulations despised by the Republi-con’s cronies have already started falling by the wayside. Dodd Frank, and the Consumer Protection Agency that has already returned $12 billion back to cheated consumers might be on borrowed time. As I’ve said before, the Democrats, and recently President Obama during his 8 years, tried their best to use responsible governance to do things for ordinary folks; the King and his court has spent the last three weeks, and will every day they’re in power, use their power to do things to people, that is except for the rich and powerful.

One of the biggest promises Trump made and actually won the election on, was his promise to bring jobs back from Mexico and China. Those jobs in Mexico and other countries south of the border, are probably gone for the foreseeable future. Americans make anywhere from 7 to 10 times as much as those workers and their benefits are almost triple. China is a bit different. American workers make only 4 times as much as Chinese workers but because of escalating wages and environmental problems in China, those jobs are moving to other far east countries like Vietnam, not back to the U.S..

And of course those coal jobs will not come back, and not because of Hillary and the Democrats. The abundance and lower cost of natural gas has crippled the coal industry. Just like wind, solar and other alternative energies will eventually do the same to the oil industry. There are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the U.S. Wind and solar jobs are growing faster that all jobs in the fossil fuel industry combined.

If the King and his court were legitimate, forward thinking leaders, they would continue the progress made by the Obama Administration in creating real living wage jobs in the alternative energy and energy conservation industries, instead of the trickle of permanent jobs in fossil fuel, which is the least labor intensive and most corrosive and unhealthy form of employment. But the corporate titans and their pandering pols will continue to take our living wage jobs, attack organized labor and attempt to pit groups of workers, who should have common goals and aspirations, against each other. And the person Trump hired to run the labor department, Andrew Pudzer, critic of minimum wages and proponent of robots replacing humans, is their ideal man.

But the most troubling problem for the Trump team is the problem that keeps bubbling up every time Trump, who has probably insulted and demeaned every person in every group in America except for his “uneducated” rabid base, refuses to say anything bad about his fellow Despot Vladimir Putin. CNN is now reporting that intelligence officials have now corroborated some of the communications reported in the 35-page dossier compiled by the former British intelligence agent.

More information is also being reported concerning National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s conversations with Russian operatives before the election, concerning sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration, over Russian involvement in the election. Its reported that Flynn lied to V.P Pence and the FBI about Flynn’s involvement. America must demand a thorough independent investigation of Trump and his operatives involvement in the Russian interference. What compromising information is Putin holding over Trump and the Republic-cons?

We can’t count the number of times The Donald said he has the best mind, that he’s the smartest person ever; but you would think someone that smart could figure out how to conduct himself like a real president while serving all of our citizens, not just the rich and powerful. But when he hires folks that want to cripple the government agencies Americans have long depended on for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, they will fight back. One thing progressives have to give Trump credit for is the unification of those opposed to the King’s “Ult” right radical court.

The world keeps waiting for the “Real” President Donald J. Trump to Stand Up,” but all they see is an imposter. John Hanno

 

Misreading the Trump mandate

Matt Bai    January 9, 2017

For those who thought Donald Trump would morph into a more conventional kind of president once the gravity of the job sank in, for those who kept telling themselves he would surround himself with old hands and tilt toward consensus, these can’t be reassuring days.

Instead, Trump tweets about imagined voter fraud, berates federal judges and department stores, thunders at allies on the phone and entrusts national security to an alt-right provocateur. The liberal writer Naomi Klein likened Trump’s first weeks on the job to “standing in front of one of those tennis ball machines — and getting hit in the face over and over again.”

In the first-ever reality TV presidency, every week is sweeps week, and every day is a cliffhanger.

If you’re among those who find all this unsettling, though, I offer some hope. In one very important respect, Trump is behaving entirely like those who came before him. And he’s apparently learned nothing from their mistakes.

On their current trajectory, Trump and his allies in Congress are headed straight for a wall — and it won’t be the big, beautiful one he’s always talking about.

Here’s some reality, for which no alternative facts exist: The last three presidents of the United States before Trump were elected with strong majorities in both houses of Congress. Each one of them found his dominance short-lived and ended up controlling nothing and wallowing in futility.

We’ve never before seen a streak like that in American history. It’s not a coincidence.

In every case, some large segment of voters hoped they were getting systemic reform, rather than more old ideology and rigid partisanship. And in every case, presidents and their parties misinterpreted their mandate, or invented one that didn’t really exist.

Bill Clinton won on the promise of a less dogmatic “third way,” then immediately veered left, taking up fights on social issues and staking his capital on a massive and bureaucratic health care plan. George W. Bush vowed to “change the tone” in Washington — which he did, by making it even more jarring and divisive.

Barack Obama ran on the implicit promise of a generational break, but it took only a few months for his advisers to recast him as the second coming of FDR’s New Deal. He spent the last two-thirds of his presidency looking for ways to govern that didn’t involve passing laws.

On their current trajectory, Trump and his allies in Congress are headed straight for a wall–and it won’t be the big, beautiful one he’s always talking about.

All of them won what amounted to an audition from the voters and then behaved as if they’d been told to rebuild the theater. In response, the voters gave each of them a second term but checked their power with an opposition Congress.

(Trump is considerably older than these presidents were, and considerably less loved in his own party, so I wouldn’t go banking on a second term just yet.)

There’s a certain element of human nature at work here. New presidents win these days because of extreme dissatisfaction in the electorate, and usually with the aid of some extenuating circumstance: Clinton with an assist from a third party, Bush after a much-disputed recount, Obama in response to an economic collapse.

But once you get elected, the tendency is to tell yourself that there was more to it than that — that people were responding not just to your outsider appeal but to the brilliance of your governing ideas too, even if you didn’t necessarily share many of them during the campaign.

Emboldened congressional leaders line up to tell you that you have a political blue sky, that the people have spoken, that they cry out for ideological boldness!

In fact, they’re mostly just crying out. And the last thing they want is more extremist policy, more partisan paralysis and endless feuding.

Which brings us back — like most things these days — to the subject of Trump. You could make a reasonable case, I guess, that Trump is fundamentally a different case. He did tell people exactly what he intended to do, in very concrete terms — build a wall, ban a bunch of Muslim immigrants, withdraw from trade deals and resort to tariffs.

Trump promised an up-in-your-grill, reactionary brand of conservatism, and nothing he’s done in this first month has failed to deliver.

Except that the election night data tells a more complicated (and more familiar) story. Sure, some segment of voters chose Trump because they loved the “Make America Great Again” riff — probably the same proportion of Republican voters who swept him to victory in the primaries. Maybe that was 30 or 35 percent of the electorate.

The voters who really provided Trump’s margin of victory, however, were less enamored. According to exit polls, about two-thirds of voters thought Trump was unqualified to be president, and another two-thirds thought he lacked the temperament for the job. Exit polls are flawed, but they aren’t that flawed.

What this means is that some significant segment of Trump voters were essentially saying: We don’t want crazy and extreme, but we just can’t bear the same old cast and narrative. So we’ll give you a shot.

These are the voters who most wanted to “drain the swamp” of political insiders, who decry the constant pettiness and the influence of big money over two parties stuck in perpetual stasis.

What has Trump given them to this point? A Cabinet plucked from Goldman Sachs and the billionaires’ club. An endless stream of childish rants. A sharply partisan agenda that says, “We won, you lost, get used to it.”

I get what Trump is thinking. You do what works for you until it doesn’t. This is the approach that got him through the primaries none of us thought he’d win and into the White House after all the experts had written him off. We keep saying you can’t get by on such a narrow, divisive appeal, and he does anyway.

He must think it’s just like the ratings for “The Apprentice.” You don’t have to win over everybody with a TV, or even half of them; you just need to have more diehard viewers than “CSI” does.

New presidents win these days because of extreme dissatisfaction in the electorate, and usually with the aid of some extenuating circumstance….But once you get elected, the tendency is to tell yourself that there was more to it than that.

But the math changes when you’re president. You can win a nomination with 30-plus percent of the vote firmly behind you, if the field is crowded enough. You can even win a general election that way, if another chunk of voters is desperate enough to give you a try.

In the White House, though, a 35 percent approval rating is crippling. Opponents dig in. Allies run in the other direction, especially if they never liked you that much to begin with. A president who pleases only his most diehard supporters ends up isolated, his party endangered.

Trump isn’t there yet; he’s near 40 percent in most polls, making him merely the least popular new president in memory. He’s probably got about six months to start acting like a grownup before the skepticism hardens and a lot of wary Trump voters decide he’s not the right guy for the job, after all.

That’s the thing about tennis balls. They tend to bounce back.

 

The Washington Post

Swarming crowds and hostile questions are the new normal at GOP town halls

Republican town halls across the country hit by protests

 

By Kelsey Snell, Paul Schwartzman, Steve Friess and David Weigel, February 10, 2017

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Republicans in deep-red congressional districts spent the week navigating massive crowds and hostile questions at their town hall meetings — an early indication of how progressive opposition movements are mobilizing against the agenda of the GOP and President Trump.

Angry constituents swarmed events held by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Diane Black (Tenn.), Justin Amash (Mich.) and Tom McClintock (Calif.). They filled the rooms that had been reserved for them; in Utah and Tennessee, scores of activists were locked out. Voters pressed members of Congress on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on the still-controversial confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and even on a low-profile vote to disband an election commission created after 2000.

House Republicans had watched footage earlier this week of McClintock’s raucous town hall in northern California and his police-assisted exit — a warning of what might come. And with Congress scheduled for a week-long recess and a raft of additional town halls starting Feb. 18, the warning may have been warranted.

On Thursday, participants were spurred to show up by a variety of forces: large-scale publicity campaigns by major opposition groups such as Planned Parenthood; smaller grass-roots efforts; or their own deep objections to Trump’s presidency so far. Some were Democrats, some were independents and some were Republicans, but most were liberal activists who had opposed Trump all along and were simply looking for new outlets to object to him.

What was less clear was where it would all go. If nothing else, the size and tone of the crowds fed Republicans’ worries and Democrats’ view that the GOP agenda and the president’s tone and missteps have activated voters who may have sat out previous elections.

Angry Utahns pack Chaffetz’s home state town hall

 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) got a frosty reception in his home state on Feb. 9, at a town hall. Angry constituents packed a high school auditorium, grilled the high-ranking congressman with questions and peppered him with boos and chants while protesters amassed outside. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Judy Intrator, 63, a data collector from Utah who voted against Trump, said she attended Chaffetz’s town hall because the president is “stirring up a side of this country that’s being let loose and I’m scared.” One way to register her opposition, she said, is to refuse to say Trump’s name.

Some attendees admitted that they lived outside the districts in which they attended town halls. But their intensity demonstrated just how rapidly some effective organizing tactics, such as those in the “Indivisible” guide prepared by former Hill staffers, had spread to red America. What had been staid or friendly events became scenes of shouting and emotional pleading, all shared online and on local TV news.

“I think what we’ve seen in these last few weeks is that it was sustainable from January into February,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “So the next question is, what does March look like? What does April look like? How do we get through the summer, when it’s easier to stand outside in some other parts of the country that are cold today, and you continue to see this grow?”

At Black’s event in Murfreesboro, members of College Republicans at Middle Tennessee State University struggled to find “Make America Great Again” hats to fill the audience at a town hall on health care and tax reform.

Organizers searched through a sea of at least 200 people, many carrying Planned Parenthood signs, to find friendly faces to help fill the 80 or so seats at the “Ask Your Reps” event featuring Black, the House Budget Committee chairman, and three other local officials. Activists booed and chanted as the group, flanked by armed campus security, handpicked people to help fill the room in hopes of keeping the conversation civil.

Inside the room, audience members rose to ask Black for specific proposals to replace ACA programs that have become a health lifeline for many residents in this mostly rural slice of central Tennessee. Black carefully insisted that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has a plan, but that wasn’t enough to soothe the crowd.

“Answer the question!” some in the audience shouted.

Black demurred on at least one question as the moderator pleaded for respect.

The tense, tightly controlled scene inside the small lecture room was a sharp contrast to the frustrated energy just outside the doors. Chants of “this is what Democracy looks like” and “let us in” erupted after security officers blocked the majority of hopeful attendees from entering the room, citing fire marshal rules. The peaceful protesters huddled around computers and phones to watch the event streaming live on Facebook, occasionally groaning and renewing their chants.

 

 

Newsweek   

Eichenwald: Kellyanne Conway Throws Gutter Ball, Massacres Facts

By Kurt Eichenwald   February 2, 2017

Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, wants the press and the public to stop commenting on her citation of the fictitious “Bowling Green Massacre” to justify the travel ban from seven majority-Muslim countries.

No.

In fact, the most important piece of the Conway statement has been lost amid the ridicule and jaw-dropping disbelief that a White House official believed in a nonexistent mass slaughter and used it to justify an unprecedented policy. Conway’s full comment is one of the starkest revelations to date to explain the childish, dishonest, incompetent and authoritarian behavior of White House officials in communicating with the public, a reality that ultimately puts this administration at risk of self-destruction.

Conway’s full comment, which she uttered on MSNBC’s program Hardball, was this: “I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” As Conway told the show’s host, Chris Matthew, “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Forget for a moment the fictitious “six-month ban.” In just 50 words, Conway revealed the otherworldly, fevered mindset that infested the Trump campaign and is now percolating in the Trump White House. This person, a senior adviser to the president of the United States, is stating that the American news media would not have reported on every element of a mass slaughter by Muslims—from the attack itself to the government’s reaction—out of some bizarre conspiracy to either defend Islamic attackers or to support Barack Obama.

This was no slip of the tongue. Trump thinks the same thing: that the media is conspiring to hide Islamists’ attacks from the world. On Monday, Trump said that the strikes had gotten so bad that “it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.” Then he added, “They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

What world do these people live in? Do they actually believe there are attacks that the media—for some bizarre reason—refuse to report? Or is this once again just stuff they say, without worrying about truth? Are Trump and Conway trying to imply that the reporters—the ones who risk their lives running into the devastation, covering the wars, sometimes being kidnapped or killed—are rooting for the attackers?

This is a deeply unsettling time. The messages being communicated by the president and his team of either the ignorant or the lying are this: The entire American electoral system is rigged, with millions of fraudulent votes being cast for Democrats in a year when Republicans scored victory after victory. Any information reported that doesn’t agree with the opinions from the White House is “fake news.” And there are also big, secret events that the media isn’t reporting because…reasons. Uncomfortable news is false, reality is hidden, voting is rigged. It is hard to imagine a greater assault on the foundations of our democracy than the promulgation of this three-pronged invitation into government-controlled, Soviet-style illusion.

Unfortunately, this is the natural outgrowth of the argument conservatives have been spinning for decades about media bias, and now no conspiracy theory seems too absurd. (Is there bias? On social issues, probably, since so much of the national news comes from reporters who tend to be less religious than those in more conservative parts of the country, and who live in big cities, working and living with segments of society that might not be as prevalent elsewhere. But the media broke the Clinton email story, Whitewater and a host of other scandals in Democratic administrations. Reporters want the lead story, the important one that will have a lasting impact, and will go after either political party to get it.)

What do Trump and Conway read or watch that led them to believe that the American news media ignores responses to attacks? Going back to the Bowling Green example, how exactly would it have helped Obama by pretending he did nothing in response to a massacre? (As for the massacre statement, Conway is now lying that she made a single slip of the tongue in the Hardball interview; in fact, she said the same thing about the imaginary “Bowling Green massacre” before that, in an interview with Cosmopolitan and in another one with TMZ.)

This mindset has evolved over the evolution of Trump from reality-TV star and businessman to president. According to a CNN producer, the network throughout the election struggled to find Trump surrogates who wouldn’t lie and frequently had to drop those who repeatedly said literally anything, factual or not, to defend their positions. One tactic, though, was used relentlessly: whining. Go back and look at all of the Trump team’s statements when confronted by some difficult news regarding their candidate; the go-to response was consistently along the lines of “Why don’t you cover this same thing about Hillary” or “It’s certainly no surprise that the media is ignoring that Hillary did…”

When Trump was caught on tape making his “pussy grabber” comments, these people actually complained that no one was pointing out that Bill Clinton was caught in an affair almost two decades ago. The fact that the recording was new information about a man who was running for president—while the second was the topic of impeachment proceedings, TV news broadcasts and books about a man who can never be president again—did nothing to counter the irrational comparison.

The relentless, childish message from the White House playground has been this: “That’s not fair.” Trump complains about Saturday Night Live, saying its portrayal of him is not fair. (When did fairness become an element of satire?) CNN isn’t fair. The New York Times isn’t fair. The Washington Post isn’t fair. Any publication or TV show that reports demonstrable facts isn’t fair.

The second whine from our kindergarten debaters is, essentially, “Billy did it first.” During the campaign, the nyah-nyah finger-pointing was at Hillary Clinton, and it took some time after the election for Trump and his team to let go of that reflexive argument. Now it’s about Obama. (Ultimately, the self-pity party is a two-part argument: It’s not fair to report this negatively because Obama did it first.)

Take the bogus Bowling Green massacre story, with the underlying wailing about how the evil, evil press didn’t report that Obama banned Muslims from Iraq afterward. The horrifying question: Is Conway just a liar, or is she so uninformed that she doesn’t know everything she said was untrue?

Obama never imposed a ban. Yes, when there was an investigation of a possible plot involving Iraqi nationalists living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the administration adopted stricter rules for issuing visas for people traveling from Iraq. The review process was more comprehensive. People with legitimate visas weren’t stopped in the American airports and shipped back to Iraq; families weren’t torn apart. Yes, the order tapped the brakes on the issuance of visas, meaning the number of Iraqis coming to the United States slowed down, but it never stopped.

The more shocking comments about the Obama action came from Trump. He claimed in a printed statement that Obama banned visas for refugees for six months. That the president is so ignorant of immigration procedures while simultaneously issuing orders on immigration is stunning. Obama could not have banned visas for refugees because refugees don’t travel on visas. That is about as basic a fact in immigration as there is, and not only did Trump not know it but his staff actually typed it up and sent it out to the press, either with no knowledge that their statement was contrary to law or in an attempt to deceive the public. And they spewed their ignorance or mendacity time and again on television. No wonder CNN has essentially banned Conway from appearing on its programs; viewers gain no benefit by listening to someone vomit up fantasies.

Dealing with the amateurs in the White House press operation is no easier. I have written innumerable articles about Trump; the responses I receive are either none at all, falsehoods or insults. A couple of times, out of frustration at the inability of Trump’s press team to act in a professional—or even adult—manner, I have been forced to call executives I know at the Trump Organization. Twice, with reasonable, fact-based and slogan-free responses, they provided answers to questions that resulted in me dropping or revising the stories. That’s the way it is supposed to work.

It doesn’t work like that with the White House. I recently asked a question based on some documents and received a response from a spokeswoman, Hope Hicks. She ended her email with the words “Your reporting, per usual, is wrong.” But the documents contradicted her answer. In case there were other records, I asked her how and where she obtained her information that were counter to the records. Plus, I told her that I was eager to correct any errors in my articles and that she should let me know what they were. No response ever came.

This method of dealing with the press is long-term suicide. Fighting every skirmish as if it were a nuclear war destroys credibility and the chance that organizations—be they government or business—get to waive reporters off of a story that is, in fact, incorrect. Reporters don’t tend to contact press officials to get a statement about what they plan to print no matter what; often, we are asking for facts that might tell us where the article might be off base. But persuading reporters to consider that guidance requires a long-term buildup of credibility. That means that the press people or senior officials acknowledge the bad news, even as they try to spin it. The officials have to accept they might lose some battles in the process of establishing their credibility, but they will gain an asset that might prove invaluable in the future.

A great example: Sean Spicer has expended almost all of the credibility he ever had in just two weeks as White House press secretary. He slammed reporters for calling the travel ban a ban just because Spicer and Trump had both called it a ban. The right way to defend Trump’s failure to mention Jews in the annual presidential statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day would have been just to acknowledge the slipup and apologize. (Trump had been in office for only eight days at the time; an error amid the tumult of taking over the White House would have been unsurprising.)

Instead, Spicer made everything worse by defending the indefensible, lying that the statement had been “widely praised” and saying Trump deserved credit because he “went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust.” And with that, Spicer pulled a hat-trick: He lost more credibility, doubled down on the original error that emboldened Holocaust deniers, and—in praising Trump for bothering to issue the annual statement—communicated that the president didn’t really consider the slaughter of 6 million people all that important. In other words, by defending something small, Spicer made the error of press officer incompetence that has damaged plenty of other institutions in the past.

Probably the best example I saw in my career was with the investment company First Boston, a once-venerable outfit that no longer exists—and there is little doubt that the self-inflicted destruction of its credibility played a role. At one point, the company was led by an executive who constantly led reporters astray with false tales. His chief public relations executive was a marketing official who never understood that there was a difference between talking up the company and speaking to the press. Reporter after reporter was waived off of true stories, and they assumed that a company of First Boston’s caliber wouldn’t be foolish enough to lie (which is not the same as spinning ugly facts to put them in a less harsh light).

Then came the day when rumors hit the market that First Boston was on the verge of collapse because of a lousy investment deal. The stock plummeted as article after article appeared reporting the rumors. (I didn’t.) I received a desperate phone call from the public relations office asking what was happening, and why articles about rumors were being published. The answer was simple: First Boston had lied so many times—sometimes to the detriment of reporters’ reputations—that no one was going to listen to it. I told the official that, from the best I could tell, the rumors were not true, but there was no way I was going to print that: There was no one at First Boston I would trust to confirm my belief.

There was another business just like First Boston when it came to deceiving the press: the Trump Organization. Donald Trump lied to the press with the alacrity of a dog running for dinner. Early in my career, when I caught Trump in a gargantuan falsehood, I told my editor about it, thinking this was a story. But my editor shot it down—it wasn’t news, he told me, that Donald Trump was a liar.

Which brings us to President Trump and the Trump White House. Officials there have been burning through their credibility as if it was soaked in gasoline. Just because Trump spins falsehoods does not mean that his staff has to back them up. But there is no one in the White House with the wisdom, experience or maturity to recognize that someday they will need credibility in the midst of some crisis. By then, just as with First Boston, it will be too late. No one will care what the Trump team has to say, because no one will believe a word of it.

 

 

Jimmy Carter brings massive solar array to his hometown

Situated on 10 acres, the 1.3-megawatt project will provide more than half of the power needs of Plains, Georgia.

Michael d’Estries     February 7, 2017

Building on a clean energy legacy that includes installing the first thermal solar panels on the roof of the White House, former President Jimmy Carter is bringing the renewable energy revolution to his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

The 92-year-old, who served as the 39th president from 1977 to 1981, recently leased 10 acres of farmland outside Plains for the construction of a 1.3-megawatt (MW) solar array. Developed by SolAmerica, the installation is projected to generate over 55 million kilowatt hours of clean energy in Plains — more than half the town’s annual needs.

“Rosalynn and I are very pleased to be part of SolAmerica’s exciting solar project in Plains,” Carter said in a statement. “Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change. I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”

Back in June 1979, President Carter made history by installing 32 panels on the roof of the White House to heat water. In a speech that day, Carter signaled that it would only be a matter of time before such technology would compete for a piece of America’s energy portfolio.

“In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”

While Carter’s panels never did make it to the dawn of the 21st century, having been removed 14 years earlier by the Reagan administration, President Obama did make good on a promise to reinstate a 6.3-kilowatt solar array on the White House roof in 2014.

 

Time

Legal Scholars: Why Congress Should Impeach Donald Trump

James C. Nelson, John Bonifaz  February 6, 2017

Nelson is a retired Justice of the Montana Supreme Court and a member of the Legal Advisory Committee for Free Speech For People. Bonifaz is the co-founder and president of Free Speech For People.

It has been widely acknowledged that, upon swearing the Oath of Office, President Donald Trump would be in direct violation of the foreign-emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Never heard of the foreign-emoluments clause? You’re not alone. It’s tucked away in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution. It’s clause number 8. It states, in pertinent part: “… no person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”

This clause was included in the Articles of Confederation and, later, in the Constitution itself. It was borne out of the Framers’ obsession with preventing in the newly minted United States the sort of corruption that dominated 17th and 18th century foreign politics and governments — characterized by gift-giving, back-scratching, foreign interference in other countries and transactions that might not lead to corruption but, nonetheless, could give the appearance of impropriety.

Where Trump runs afoul of the foreign-emoluments clause is that, first and foremost, he is a businessman with significant financial interests and governmental entanglements all over the globe. Indeed, as Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe stated at the Brookings Institution, “Never in American history has a [President] presented more conflict of interest questions and foreign entanglements than Donald Trump.” Moreover, Trump’s businesses dealings are veiled in complicated corporate technicalities and lack transparency.

The Trump Organization does or has done business in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Panama, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, St. Martin, St. Vincent, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Uruguay. And, while serving as President, Trump, through his interest in the Trump Organization, will continue to receive monetary and other benefits from these foreign powers and their agents.

Examples of existing business arrangements that constitute violations of the foreign-emoluments clause include: China’s state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest tenant in Trump Tower, and the state-owned Bank of China is a major lender to Trump. Trump’s business partner in Trump Tower Century City in Manila, Philippines is Century Properties, which is run by Jose Antonio, who was just named special envoy to the United States by the president of the Philippines. Further, many Trump Organization projects abroad require foreign government permits and approvals, which amount to substantial financial benefits that also constitute foreign emoluments.

Presidents and public officers often utilize blind trusts so as not to violate the foreign-emoluments clause. A truly blind trust involves an arrangement wherein the public officer has no control whatsoever over the assets placed in the trust — that means no communications with, from or about the trust, and no knowledge of the specific assets held for his benefit in the trust. In the case of Trump’s ownership in the Trump Organization, this could be achieved only by a complete liquidation of the assets, with the proceeds to be invested by an independent Trustee, without Trump’s involvement or knowledge. Trump’s decision to continue the business of the Trump Organization, continue to maintain his substantial ownership of the organization and turn the management of it over to his children, is woefully inadequate in addressing the emoluments clause.

Worse, taking the position that the foreign-emoluments clause doesn’t even apply to him, Trump has stated that: “I can be President of the United States and run my business 100 percent, sign checks on my business.” And: “The law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

To address this unprecedented corruption of the Oval Office and this threat to our Constitution and our democracy, we believe Congress must move forward now with an impeachment investigation of President Trump. More than 575,000 people from across the country have already called for this, joining a new campaign launched moments after President Trump took the Oath of Office. The President’s possible conflicts of interest have become increasingly apparent.

In the meantime, instead of starting to “make America great again,” the 45th President should read the Constitution and “make the President honest again.”

After all, he swore to uphold the Constitution.

 

The National Memo

Why Deutsche Bank Remains Trump’s Biggest Conflict Of Interest

Jesse Eisinger   February 10, 2017

 

Reprinted from Pro Publica.

If you measure President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest by the amount of money at stake, or the variety of dicey interactions with government regulators, one dwarfs any other: his relationship with Deutsche Bank.

In recent weeks, Deutsche Bank has scrambled to reach agreements with American regulators over a host of alleged misdeeds. But because the president has not sold his company, the bank remains a central arena for potential conflicts between his family’s business interests and the actions of officials in his administration.

“Deutsche poses the biggest conflict that we know about in terms of dollar amounts and the scale of legal exposures,” says Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor and author of Too Big To Fail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations. In trying to clear up its outstanding regulatory troubles, the bank “may have tried to do its best to avoid the appearance of impropriety but it may be impossible for them to do so.”

Deutsche is Trump’s major creditor, having lent billions to the president since the late 1990s even as other American banks abandoned Trump, who frequently bankrupted his businesses. While the president hasn’t released his tax returns, he has made public some information about his debts. According to these incomplete disclosures and reports, the Trump Organization has roughly $300 million in loans outstanding from the bank. Trump continues to own the business, although he has turned over day-to-day management to his sons.

At the same time that it is Trump’s biggest known creditor, Deutsche is in frequent contact with multiple federal regulators. While the bank agreed last week to pay $630 million to settle charges by New York state’s top financial regulator as well as the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority that it had aided Russian money-laundering, it’s still undergoing a related federal investigation into those activities, which it is also trying to settle. That will be an early big test of the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Justice Department also has an ongoing probe of foreign exchange manipulation by several banks, including Deutsche Bank.

Even if the bank clears up the ongoing federal cases, it will remain weighed down by past transgressions. During the housing bubble, Deutsche Bank misled buyers about the quality of its mortgage securities and omitted important information. In 2015, its London subsidiary pleaded guilty in connection with the multi-bank conspiracy to manipulate global interest rates and paid $775 million in criminal penalties.

Deutsche will soon have an astonishing six independent monitors monitoring its conduct — the most ever for one company, according to Garrett. Drawn from the ranks of consultancies and law firms, these overseers make sure Deutsche complies with previous state and federal settlements and regulations relating to its foreign exchange manipulations, global interest rate fraud, sales of dodgy mortgage securities, derivatives trading, and sanctions evasion.

 

Indeed, the independent monitor of Deutsche’s derivatives reporting, Paul Atkins from Patomak Partners, has his own conflict of interest. Atkins served on Trump’s transition team and played a role in appointing federal financial regulators. He is now monitoring whether Trump’s business partner complies with the terms of a settlement with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on derivatives reporting.

A Patomak spokeswoman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has regulators sitting in Deutsche’s offices, as it does with every big bank, keeping a watchful eye on the firm’s safety and soundness. Last year, the Fed failed Deutsche Bank during its annual stress test, finding that it had insufficient capital and could not withstand another financial crisis. And the Securities and Exchange Commission and the CFTC regulate its investment banking and trading activities.

A Deutsche Bank spokeswoman declined to comment. The White House did not return an email seeking comment.

The Trump Organization’s wide-ranging business dealings could raise quandaries for an array of government agencies, from the Department of Labor, which regulates the company’s employment practices, to the General Services Administration, which leases Trump his hotel in Washington, D.C. “Just about everything that every branch, every type of enforcement, every action from every agency could touch on Trump’s conflicts. There is no end to the corruption and ethics concerns,” Garrett says.

But the potential conflicts may be most acute at the Justice Department. Whether the Justice Department walks away from an investigation or takes a hard line against Deutsche Bank, its every move will be scrutinized as either too tough or too weak.

With new management, Deutsche Bank has embarked on an effort to rebuild its reputation. Deutsche CEO John Cyran has conducted an apology tour for the bank’s multiple and serial misdeeds. The money-laundering settlement isn’t Deutsche’s only recent move to close out government probes. In January, it agreed to pay $95 million to end a tax fraud investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. And in December, it became one of the last of the global banks to resolve civil charges over the creation and sale of misleading mortgages investments, agreeing to pay a penalty of $3.1 billion.

In these agreements, Deutsche capitalized on the Obama Department of Justice’s eagerness to settle, according to defense attorneys who don’t represent the bank but are familiar with the cases. Outgoing administrations desire to wrap investigations up so departing prosecutors may shine their resumes on the way out the door.

The Obama administration had an added incentive to reach settlements because it worried the Trump administration Justice Department might seek smaller penalties or otherwise go soft on corporations. That helps explain why Deutsche Bank’s mortgage securities settlement, which included $4.1 billion in credit for consumer aid in addition to the penalty, was far below the $14 billion figure reported in the fall as Justice’s opening bid. While most observers expected that figure to come down sharply, Deutsche’s terms were still widely considered favorable.

Even so, Deutsche’s share price remains depressed as investors worry about the bank’s future payouts and ongoing fragility. The bank faces class action suits alleging efforts to manipulate interest rates and the currency markets.

Given the government’s responsibilities, Trump’s regulators face a fraught and sensitive task of proving their independence and fair-mindedness when it comes to Deutsche Bank. Prior White Houses have taken great care to avoid interfering in Justice Department investigations and prosecutions. Despite his early support for Trump’s campaign and their personal friendship, Sessions has said he will not recuse himself from any Justice Department probe into the president, the Trump family or any of his political advisors.

The relationship Deutsche Bank has with the president cuts two ways, defense lawyers and former prosecutors say. It might be advantageous to be in business with a president who appears to regard the office as an opportunity for brand enhancement and enrichment. The bank might hope for leniency from the president’s regulators because of its business ties to him.

There are signs that Deutsche’s new management is not eager to continue serving as Trump’s financier. Trump sued the bank in 2008 to avoid paying a loan for a Trump hotel in Chicago. The parties settled, but lawsuits have a way of fraying friendships. A former top executive at Deutsche Bank says the current top management does not like the real estate developer. “They don’t want to do business with him anymore,” he says.

Given the tension, Deutsche may worry about the mercurial president. The bank’s concern is that the Trump administration could use its regulatory powers to secure better business terms. Nationalist strains course through his inner circle. A top Trump economic advisor recently accused Germany of currency manipulation. Trump, some observers fear, may seek to boost American financial institutions over foreign ones like Deutsche.

In recent months, Deutsche has also sought to renegotiate its loans with Trump, according to a Bloomberg report, in an effort to reduce its exposure to the president. The bank hoped to eliminate the president’s personal guarantee on loans. But such a move would not eliminate the conflict of interest, since the president’s company, which Trump still owns, would remain on the hook to pay back the loans.

 

 

The Huffington Post  THE BLOG

The Dakota Access Pipeline Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

Mark Paul,  February 6, 20117,  Postdoctoral Association at The Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. Mark holds a Ph.D. in economics from UMass Amherst

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This should come as no surprise, as Trump continues to fill his administration with climate deniers, ranging from the negligent choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary to Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who stated last year that “scientists continue to disagree” on humans role in climate change may very well take the “Protection” out of the EPA, despite a majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—wanting the EPA’s power to be maintained or strengthened.

As environmental economists, my colleague Anders Fremstad and I were concerned. We crunched the numbers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The verdict? Annual emissions associated with the oil pumped through the pipeline will impose a $4.6 billion burden on current and future generations.

First and foremost, the debate about DAPL should be about tribal rights and the right to clean water. Under the Obama administration, that seemed to carry some clout. Caving to pressure from protesters and an unprecedented gathering of more than a hundred tribes, Obama did indeed halt the DAPL, if only for a time. Under Trump and his crony capitalism mentality, the fight over the pipeline appears to be about corporate profits over tribal rights. Following Trump’s Executive Order to advance the pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the final easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to complete the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to take legal action against the decision.

While the pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the Missouri River closer to Bismarck, authorities decided there was too much risk associated with locating the pipeline near the capital’s drinking water. They decided instead to follow the same rationale used by Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, elucidated in an infamous memo stating “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” That same logic holds for the low wage counties and towns in the United States. The link between environmental quality and economic inequality is clear—corporations pollute on the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable; in other words, those with the least resources to stand up for their right to a clean and safe environment.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, which ordered federal agencies to identify and rectify “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.” Despite this landmark victory, pollution patterns and health disparities associated with exposure to environmental hazards by race, ethnicity, and income remain prevalent. Researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) released a report identifying the toxic 100 top corporate air and water polluters across the country, finding the ‘logic’ of dumping on the poor and racial and ethnic minorities persists.

We do not accept this logic, and nor should any branch of the U.S government. As the Federal Water and Pollution Control Act makes clear, water quality should “protect the public health.” Period. Clean water and clean air should not be something Americans need to purchase, rather they should be rights guaranteed to all. The Water Protectors know that and are fighting to ensure their right to clean water, a right already enshrined in law, is protected.

The Numbers

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a bad deal for America, and should be resisted. Our findings indicate that the burden of pollution associated with oil passing through the pipeline amounts to $4.6 billion a year—a number none of us should accept. This was arrived at using conservative estimates, and numbers provided by Energy Transfer Partners and the EPA.

According to Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline will transport 570,000 barrels of Bakken oil a day once the project is fully operational. It turns out, a barrel of oil is not a barrel of oil. Oil from the Bakken oil fields, which is where the pipeline originates is substantially dirtier than average—containing almost a quarter more CO2 per barrel. (A full breakdown of the numbers is available here.)

The CO2 content of the oil matters tremendously. After all, it’s the leading GHG contributing to global warming—the largest test we have collectively faced as a species. To think about this in economic terms, we need to take a few more steps. While Energy Transfer Partners hired its own economics firm to provide an economic impact study of the pipeline, they left out crucial information. Substantial negative externalities from burning the fossil fuels transported by the pipeline are not priced into the analysis. While the private profits of the pipeline certainly look good, we are concerned about the greater social costs associated with the pipeline, in particular pollution.

To calculate the cost, we need to think about the cost of CO2 emissions. The EPA. and other federal agencies use the social cost of carbon (SCC) to estimate the climate benefits and costs of rulemaking. The EPA’s estimate of the SCC for 2015 is $36 (in 2007 dollars). The SCC is an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small (one metric ton) increase in CO2 emissions in a given year (i.e., the damage caused by an additional ton of carbon dioxide emissions). Applying the SCC to the oil transferred via the pipeline provides the estimated $4.6 billion (2016 dollars) in annual burden from pollution associated with the pipeline. But won’t that simply be a burden on future generations? No.

The case for climate policy is frequently made on the grounds of “intragenerational equity”; intragenerational equity is also critical. The immediate net benefits for people living in polluted communities must be taken into consideration. Co-pollutants and co-benefits are necessary to take into account, as the marginal abatement benefits will vary across carbon emissions sources due to the presence of co-pollutants, such as particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, NOx, and air toxins released during the burning of fossil fuels. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has calculated that premature deaths attributed to co-pollutant emissions from fossil fuel combustion impose a cost of $120 billion a year in the United States, while Taylor and Boyce find that the co-pollutants result in the deaths of thousands per year.

OK, how about the jobs? Trump after all has vowed to bring back jobs—“a lot of jobs.” Not so fast. According to Energy Transfer Partners’ own estimates, the Dakota Access Pipeline will employ just 40-50 permanent workers along the entire route. Surely those jobs matter for the folks that get them. They’ll likely be well-paying jobs with benefits—the types of jobs the economy needs. But with 7.5 million Americans currently unemployed, and millions more underemployed, this won’t make a dent. The pollution associated with the pipeline and the risk of contaminated drinking water, on the other hand, will. Putting Americans back to work through the fossil fuel industry simply doesn’t make sense. According to research by Professor Robert Pollin at the Political Economy Research Institute, investing in a green-energy economy provides three times more jobs than if the money were invested in the fossil fuel economy. Want jobs? How about a green New Deal?

The financial crisis and ensuing banking bailouts ensured private profits while socializing losses. Trump is bringing the same logic to the table, socializing costs associated with pollution—and not counting them—while privatizing profits from the pipelines. Sure, there will be some tax revenue associated with the pipeline, an estimated $56 million annually in state and local divided between four states, but that pales in comparison to the $4.6 billion in annual burden. The economics don’t add up, but let us be clear—the economics shouldn’t necessarily come first. People should have a right to clean water and respect of their ancestral lands.

This article was originally published at Dollars & Sense

 

Donald Trump’s universe of alternative facts

By Gregory Krieg, CNN

February 8, 2017

President Donald Trump’s travel ban had been in effect for less than 24 hours when, 10 days ago, he offered a smiling review from the Oval Office.

“You see it at the airports,” Trump said, “you see it all over.”

Indeed, millions of Americans with access to television and internet, and the thousands protesters at international arrivals terminals around the country, were bearing witness to the effects of his executive order.

But what they saw was something much different from what Trump described in his off-the-cuff remarks. The airports were gripped by chaos. Visa holders, including legal permanent residents, were being denied entry into the US, turned back or detained by Customs clerks, as families and lawyers argued for their release. The legal fight over the order — now temporarily stayed — seems destined for the Supreme Court.

A detained traveler reacts as being cleared through at the Dulles International Airport in Sterling, Va., on Saturday, January 28, 2017.

More than two weeks into his presidency, Trump and top White House aides seem to be operating in an alternate universe — where the world media is ignoring global terror as a means of advancing shadowy political interests and opponents of the President’s sweeping travel ban are either traitors or mercenaries.

Even the most widely available statistics, when they contradict the administration’s narrative, are cast as subjective or false measures. On Tuesday, Trump claimed — falsely — that the US murder rate is at its highest in “45-47 years.”

“(Trump) said the press doesn’t tell you that, doesn’t like to report that — the press doesn’t like to tell it like it is,” said CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. “In fact, the murder rate is not at a 45 year high. It has ticked up slightly in the last couple years, that’s cause for concern, but the murder rate is much lower than it was, for example, in the 70s, 80s or 90s.”

Bad news is ‘fake news’

In a tweet on Monday, Trump offered his worldview in stark terms.

“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election,” he said. “Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.”

Putting aside that pre-election national polling turned out to be an accurate preview of the popular vote results, Trump in his tweet is not simply arguing against or spinning a particular survey. Instead, he is openly asserting that any empirically derived suggestion that his policies might be unpopular — or not enjoying broad support — are by definition misleading or false.

Trump runs hot and cold with the polls. In that way, he is not unlike other politicians, who lift up the numbers they like and downplay the figures they don’t. But the new White House has broken from the usual spin cycle by promoting — sometimes repeatedly — a series of jarring, and easily disproved falsehoods.

In the reality described by Trump, a federal judge who ruled to halt the administration’s travel ban would, along with the entire “court system,” be responsible for a potential terrorist attack.

The dynamic in the White House mimics Trump’s personality, one former campaign official told CNN. He is someone who can lose interest quickly and turn to the next issue without much thought.

It’s most apparent on Twitter, where the President will bounce between a variety of often unconnected agenda items and personal grudges.

Over 24 minutes on Friday morning, he mocked Arnold Schwarzenegger; rattled off an attack on the Iranian government; claimed that “the FAKE NEWS media” had lied about the nature of his testy conversation with the Australian prime minister; touted a morning meeting with the country’s “biggest business leaders”; and accused demonstrators of being “professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters.”

The media conspiracy

Speaking on Monday, Trump built on this construction, placing the press in cahoots with the judiciary — another willful enabler of global terrorism.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice,” Trump said during a visit to US Central Command headquarters in Tampa. “All over Europe, it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Trump claims media won’t cover terror attacks.

Those reasons — whatever the President thinks they may be — remained unspoken.

What “you understand” could be anything, though the clear implication was that a monolithic media dedicated to repelling Trump, and thwarting the popular will, had launched a campaign to hide reality and cover-up for terrorists. For fans of the conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones and his Infowars, the fundamental argument was familiar.

Pressed to provide material proof of his claims, the White House released on Monday evening a list of 78 attacks it said “did not receive adequate attention from Western media sources.” Among the incidents listed were the killings in Orlando and San Bernardino, California — two bloody domestic attacks that received wall-to-wall coverage online, on television and in newspapers and magazines for days on end.

CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen — whose reporting is a staple of the network’s terror coverage –did a more comprehensive review. Searching a database called Nexis that collects news reports from a wide range of sources and mediums, he found more than 78,000 mentions in total, in excess of 1,000 per listed attack. (And that number was likely on the low end, as Nexis yields no more than 3,000 hits per search.)

A false narrative

Over the past week, top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway has also muddied the waters in what increasingly appears to be a concerted effort to stoke anxiety over the presence and entrance of refugees into the US.

In an interview that aired last Thursday night on MSNBC, she invoked the role of two Iraqi refugees in masterminding the “Bowling Green Massacre” Her description of the deadly attack — which did not occur — was quickly called out by reporters, fact-checkers and confused viewers. Conway offered an apology of sorts the next day, tweeting that she had misspoken and meant to say “Bowling Green terrorists.”

But by Monday, it had become clear that Conway’s remark was not a one-off mistake. A reporter from Cosmopolitan said the President’s trusted aide had referenced a “Bowling Green massacre” during a telephone interview a week earlier. Speaking to TMZ on the same day, she mentioned “the masterminds behind the Bowling Green attack on our brave soldiers.”

Conway had not cut the story from whole cloth, but her framing was consistently misleading. In the actual case, two refugees living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were arrested in 2011 and eventually convicted on charges they had sought to provide weapons and money from the US to al Qaeda fighters in Iraq. American troops — not civilians — were their targets.

The “Bowling Green” yarn was delivered in the midst of a pitched debate over Trump’s travel ban and suspension of the US refugee program. Days earlier, the White House — acting within their rights — had fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration after she instructed federal attorneys not to defend the executive order in court.

Undermining opponents

In sacking Yates, though, Trump’s White House also sought to present her as disloyal to the government and her employers. The official statement announcing the dismissal said Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice” and accused her of being “weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

The attack fit into a consistent narrative of undermining or seeking to delegitimize political opponents or groups operating outside the administration’s narrative framework.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer kept up the drumbeat on Monday, telling Fox News that nationwide protests against Trump and the travel ban were being organized and subsidized by some unnamed benefactor.

“Protesting has become a profession now,” he said, without proof. “They have every right to do that, don’t get me wrong, but I think that we need to call that what it is: it’s not these organic uprisings that we’ve seen through the past several decades.”

He offered no evidence and there would have been little time for protesters to plot the demonstrations; Trump’s executive order was, according to the President’s own tweet, purposefully delivered as a surprise.

“If the ban were announced with a one week notice,” he wrote, “the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week.”

With a grassroots protest movement dismissed, the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer’s loyalty questioned and the media accused of conspiring to cover up terror attacks, the Trump administration’s reality is on a collision course with a divided nation.

CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.

 

Trump: ‘I Haven’t Even Had One Call From Anybody’ Complaining About DAPL or Keystone XL

Oil Change International

Subscribe to EcoWatch

By Andy Rowell

Early yesterday, work restarted on the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline  (DAPL), less than a day after the Trump Administration granted a final easement to allow the project to go ahead over the disputed land near the Standing Rock reservation.

As work began again, several things have become apparent since Trump took office, if they were not blatantly obvious before.

This is a man who is a bully, who has no regard for the constitution or the rule of law, unless it suits him. This is a man who lives in an isolated bubble of a small clique of advisors who shield him from the reality of what is happening in the real world. This is a man who does not care about climate change or Indigenous rights.

You should watch the footage from ABC of Trump saying: “As you know I approved two pipelines that were stuck in limbo forever. I don’t even think it was controversial. I approved them. I haven’t even had one call from anybody saying that was a terrible thing you did. I haven’t had one call … Then as you know I did the Dakota Pipeline and no one called up to complain.”

Does the President not watch the news? Does he not look online? Can’t he see that the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have become the biggest environmental story in the last year?

Emboldened by Trump’s latest move, on Wednesday, the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, said it had now “received all federal authorizations necessary to proceed expeditiously to complete construction of the pipeline.”

If you think that is the end of the matter, you would be totally wrong. Three things may yet scupper the project, which Energy Transfer Partners says will be finished by June.

Firstly, there are ongoing legal battles. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has vowed to continued fighting the pipeline in the courts, even if it completed.

In response to the granting of the easement, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chair Dave Archambault II said, “The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk. We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration.”

Others vowed to continued the fight too. David Turnbull, campaigns director of Oil Change International released the following statement: “This pipeline has been stopped before and we will work together to stop it again. The brave resistance of the water protectors in North Dakota has sparked a nationwide movement that will stand united today and in the days ahead.”

Moreover, yesterday, the nearby Cheyenne River Sioux tribe filed yet another legal case against the pipeline, trying to halt construction, in part arguing that that the Army Corp of Engineers was wrong to terminate an Environmental Impact Statement which had been ordered by President Obama.

They argue that by cancelling the full environmental impact assessment, the Army Corps may have acted illegally. Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the Tribe argues “The Obama administration correctly found that the Tribe’s treaty rights needed to be acknowledged and protected and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations. Trump’s reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian Tribes and unlawful violation of Treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”

Secondly, the disinvestment case against the pipeline is gathering a pace. On Tuesday, in a significant blow to Energy Transfers, Seattle became the first U.S. city to terminate its relationship with a major bank, Wells Fargo, in protest of it providing a credit facility to the pipeline. The move denies the bank access to $3 billion of funds and is a huge financial and public relations blow to the bank.

On the same day, Davis in California also promised to sever ties with the same bank.

Thirdly, every day groups are mobilizing against DAPL, with events planned across the U.S. The events will culminate in a large-scale “Native Nations” march in Washington DC on March 10, led by the Standing Rock Tribe and Indigenous Environmental Network.

Meanwhile, up to 500 people are still living in bitterly cold conditions at three camps near the pipeline route. Theda New Brest, a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy, said simply: “We are on the edge of a precipice. We have to stand. Mother Earth is life.”

What You Can Do:

Earthjustice is asking people to call Trump, in response to his claims that “no one has complained” about the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.

 

Trump’s Pipeline and America’s Shame

The New Yorker

Trump’s Pipeline and America’s Shame

By Bill McKibben      February 8, 2017

The Trump Administration is breaking with tradition on so many fronts—renting out the family hotel to foreign diplomats, say, or imposing travel restrictions on the adherents of disfavored religions—that it seems noteworthy when it exhibits some continuity with American custom. And so let us focus for a moment, before the President’s next disorienting tweet, on yesterday’s news that construction of the Dakota Access pipeline will be restarted, a development that fits in perfectly with one of this country’s oldest cultural practices, going back to the days of Plymouth Rock: repressing Native Americans.

Just to rehash the story briefly, this pipeline had originally been set to carry its freight of crude oil under the Missouri River, north of Bismarck. But the predominantly white citizens of that town objected, pointing out that a spill could foul their drinking water. So the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, remapped the crossing for just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This piece of blatant environmental racism elicited a remarkable reaction, eventually drawing representatives of more than two hundred Indian nations from around the continent to a great encampment at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, near where the pipeline was set to go. They were joined, last summer and into the fall, by clergy groups, veterans groups, environmental groups—including 350.org, the climate-advocacy organization I co-founded—and private citizens, who felt that this was a chance to begin reversing four centuries of literally and figuratively dumping on Native Americans. And the protesters succeeded. Despite the German shepherds and pepper spray let loose by E.T.P.’s security guards, despite the fire hoses and rubber bullets employed by the various paramilitary police forces that assembled, they kept a nonviolent discipline that eventually persuaded the Obama Administration to agree to further study of the plan.

More remarkably, it was the U.S. Army that took the lead—the same agency that had massacred and harassed Native Americans since its founding. On December 4th, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, announced that the easement required for E.T.P. to dig beneath the Missouri would not be granted. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers would prepare an environmental-impact statement, a lengthy process that effectively put the pipeline on hold. “It’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said at the time. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” So the Corps set about organizing public hearings and taking testimony; until Tuesday afternoon, we were in the middle of that period, with signatures coming in by the hundred thousand. But at three o’clock yesterday, acting on the President’s suggestion that the environmental review be “expedited,” the Army reverted to ancient form, shutting down the public-comment process and issuing the permits that E.T.P. needs to begin digging again. Suddenly there was not “more work to do.” Somehow, in the eighteen days since Donald Trump had taken office, Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, had obtained “sufficient information” to grant the approval.

One feels for the Army brass. Had they continued to act responsibly and in line with their previous commitments, their careers likely would not have progressed. (Speer is apparently no Sally Yates, though those of us worried about the choleric Trump and his proximity to the nuclear-launch codes must hope that someone in the Pentagon is.) In any event, digging is scheduled to begin as early as this afternoon. There should, and will, be substantial protests. The first demonstrations began in major cities today, and the Standing Rock Sioux have asked Americans to descend on Washington, D.C., on March 10th. By that point, the pipeline may be all but finished, but the tribe and its attorneys at the environmental group Earthjustice have vowed to keep fighting it in the courts, even once it is carrying oil.

The bigger battle, however, may be in the tribunal of public opinion. The pipeline is a bad idea on many grounds, none of which is likely to sway Trump. (The fact that the oil it carries has the same carbon footprint as nearly thirty coal-fired power plants would perhaps seem a plus to him.) Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, recently noted that Trump has yet to meet with any Native American leaders since taking office, which is possibly for the best, given the casual racism  that might ensue. But the protests at Standing Rock have reopened the question of how the rest of America, those of us not in the White House, will treat the continent’s original inhabitants. In this standoff, we have confronted our oldest and one of our most shameful stories. That shame will deepen now—which may, once Trump is gone, allow us to move closer to real reconciliation. At any rate, we owe a great debt to the protesters, who have acted with a dignity conspicuously lacking in the Oval Office.

Bill McKibben, a former New Yorker staff writer, is the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College.

Full-Go for North Carolina Wind Farm that GOP Claimed is a Threat

Full-Go for NC Wind Farm That Politicians Claimed Is Threat

By Emery P. Dalesio, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — February 9, 2017

 

North Carolina’s first large-scale wind farm is fully operational despite efforts by some of the state’s most powerful politicians to shut down the $400 million project as a possible national security threat.

Avangrid Renewables said Thursday its 104 wind turbines reaching 50-stories tall are now generating enough electricity for 60,000 homes. Amazon is buying the power produced in rural, northeastern North Carolina to run its Virginia data centers.

Ten North Carolina legislators including state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger previously urged President Donald Trump’s administration to shut down the wind farm because it’s too close to a long-distance surveillance radar installation. The Navy radar in nearby Chesapeake, Virginia, scans hundreds of miles into the Atlantic and Caribbean for ships and planes.

The Pentagon said last month the two operations can coexist. The company said it trimmed the size of the project, positioned turbines differently, and conducted extensive modeling with the military’s scientists to avoid conflicting with the radar array.

Moore appears to have softened his initial criticism of the wind farm after touring the site with other legislators on Jan. 24. A statement dated that day quotes Moore as saying: “It appears the initial concerns raised by the military are being addressed. I agree with the Navy that further research is critical to ensure this project does not create conflicts with our critical military operations on the coast.”

Moore’s spokesman Joseph Kyzer has ignored multiple requests to provide The Associated Press a copy of the statement. The AP acquired it from other sources. Berger’s spokeswomen did not respond to emails Thursday asking whether the Eden Republican’s concern about the wind farm continues.

A 2014 agreement between Avangrid, a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish clean-energy giant Iberdrola S.A., and the Navy said although there is potential for conflict between the wind farm and the radar array, the Pentagon also sought to enhance the country’s renewable energy resources. The agreement specified placement of the project’s wind turbines and an understanding that the company would curtail operations “for a national security or defense purpose.”

In their letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, North Carolina lawmakers claimed that the Pentagon dropped opposition to the wind farm because of the “political correctness” of outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration. Kelly, a retired Marine general, raised concerns about the placement of the wind farm in 2014, while serving as the head of U.S. Southern Command.

“In our opinion, due to the consequences at stake, this wind project should never have been permitted to be built,” the letter said.

In asking that the wind project be permanently scrapped, the Republicans also noted that the company that would be most harmed is foreign owned.

Trump has long expressed opposition to wind turbines, tweeting about them more than 60 times over the years. Trump has battled the construction of an offshore wind project he says mars the view from his golf resort in Scotland. At a campaign rally in August, he criticized both solar panels and wind turbines, which he said pose a lethal threat to wildlife.

But the Navy said it plans to work with its new neighbor.

“While initial studies indicated a potential conflict between the Amazon wind project and the ROTHR, additional data collected since that time determined that the project is not likely to affect the mission,” Navy spokesman Lt. Chika Onyekanne said last month.

Rep. Bob Steinburg, a Republican legislator who supports the wind farm in his district, accompanied Moore during his tour. Steinburg said the earlier opposition letter was part of a concerted effort by some conservative groups to protect the competitive position of fossil-fuel industries that have enriched their backers, including billionaires Charles and David Koch.

“Looking at some of the names on the letter, I know for a fact that with many it’s ideological. These are hard-core, fossil fuel, ‘let’s keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it’ sort of folks,” Steinburg said.

Follow Emery P. Dalesio at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

Associated Press writers Michael Biesecker and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

“Neil Gorsuch, King Donald’s Judicial Tarbaby”

February 2, 2017   John Hanno

 

“Neil Gorsuch, King Donald’s Judicial Tarbaby”

When Justice Antonin Scalia died last February, President Obama could have nominated a certified progressive, someone as far left politically, as Judge Neil Gorsuch is to the far right, to take his place. But he didn’t; he nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge for the U.S. Court for Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit. Judge Garland is a Harvard Law School graduate and a highly respected moderate who was almost unanimously confirmed for the second highest court, the D.C. Circuit.

Again, for the umpteenth time, President Obama held out a compromising hand to the entrenched, do nothing, obstructionist Republi-con congress. As usual, they slapped it away.

Under normal conditions Judge Gorsuch, who’s even more conservative than Justice Scalia, is probably not out of the realm of very conservative Judges and can actually sound reasonable on the surface, if we’re to believe some of these public statements he’s made. Are they rehearsed rhetoric or a true insight into the mans character?

“My personal views, as I hope I have made clear, have nothing to do with the case before me in any case.”

“If I believed that judges and lawyers regularly acted as shills and hacks, I’d hang up the robe. I’d turn in my license.”

“No doubt we have to look hard in the mirror when our professions reflected image in popular culture is no longer Atticus Finch but Saul Goodman.”

But these aren’t normal times. Even before Scalia’s funeral, Republi-cons said they wouldn’t accept anyone the President nominated in an election year. But every year is now a campaign and election year. The constitution doesn’t say the U.S. Senate will advise and consent only in the first 3 years of a presidents term. But these dip-ocrits wouldn’t give Judge Garland a hearing or a vote and most Republi-con Senators refused to even meet with him. Some even said that if Hillary Clinton were elected President in November, they would not allow her choice to be nominated; that they would just as soon leave the court with only eight judges.

It’s been reported that the Koch brothers were worried that, had Judge Garland joined the Supreme Court, the Citizens United case probably would have been overturned. So their marching orders to the Republi-con Senators was to oppose Garland at all costs, so that the rich and powerful could continue to undermine our democracy with boat loads of campaign contributions. Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s ranting that Democrats should play fair and not obstruct Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation, demands a new word for hypocrisy. How about high-pocrisy or so-pocrisy?

Some Democratic Senators who’ve studied Judge Gorsuch’s case work and decisions, believe he’s too far to the right to satisfy the 60 vote standard to be confirmed. They believe he consistently favors corporations and the powerful over individual folks and the powerless. They think someone who can’t be confirmed by 60% of the Senators, based on centuries of U.S. Senate history, should not serve a life term on the most consequential court in America. But even more important, is that Democrats believe the Republi-cons have stolen that seat from President Obama and have permanently damaged the credibility of the United States Senate by refusing to allow a hearing and vote on Judge Garland.

It’s not surprising that only 14% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats approve of the Republi-con controlled 2016 congress.

A recent Gallop poll showed the Supreme Court approval rating fell to 42% immediately after their decision to permit governments to use the power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes and 52% of Americans now disapprove of the Supreme Court. “After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and rejected a second major legal challenge to the 2010 Affordable Care Act last summer, Democrats’ (76%) and Republicans’ (18%) approval ratings of the court were the most polarized Gallup had ever measured. Democrats remain significantly more likely to approve, 60% to 32%, but the party gap in approval ratings has narrowed, from 58 percentage points to 28 points.” Independents’ approval of the court today is 38%.

“Gallup has documented that Americans’ more basic trust in government institutions has eroded in recent years, and the Supreme Court, often the most popular and trusted of the three branches of the federal government, has not been immune.”

These take no prisoners Winuts have proved time and again they aren’t giving an inch to the opposition under any circumstances. Winning means everything to them, no matter the consequences to America’s citizens, our political traditions, our Democracy and even their own credibility and reputation. The only thing they value is power and wealth.

The Supreme Court proclaims it doesn’t want to engage in politics, but it’s time they stood up for the Judicial Branch and for the constitution; the court has become just another extension of the Republi-con, un-American radical agenda since even before 2000. They should speak out about the Republican controlled senate’s treatment of Judge Garland. And one of the first questions Senate Democrats should pose to Judge Gorsuch during his senate confirmation hearings should be: Judge Gorsuch, do you believe the Republican senators treated Judge Garland fairly by refusing to meet with him, hold confirmation hearings or vote on his confirmation? And did the Senate fail to do their constitutionally prescribed duty?

And after the hearings, but before the voting, Judge Gorsuch, if he has the integrity required of an independent Supreme Court Justice, should withdraw his own nomination. Judge Gorsuch could then be nominated for the next opening and the Democrats would no doubt confirm him unanimously. Someone has to begin repairing the court and Senates reputation. Is Judge Gorsuch that person? It sure isn’t King Donald.

The Donald could have attempted to bridge America’s political divide, repair the damage done to the U.S. Senate and to the United States Supreme Court by nominating Judge Garland himself. But he again proved that he’s a mere shadow of the man he replaced as president.  He’s an ideological con man with a radical far right agenda in tune with congressional Republi-cons. King Donald touts the validity of the U.S. Constitution but by instructing Mitch McConnell to invoke the nuclear option to get Gorsuch confirmed at all costs, he’s undermining the other two coequal branches of government. King Donald continues to turn America into an Autocracy.

What the Republi-cons have to remember is that America is quickly changing. Old White folks are dying off to the tune of 10,000 a month. If it wasn’t for voter suppression, FBI Director Comey and Russian interference, this crew would not have been in power for the next century. They may need the filibuster in the very near future because the pendulum is swinging in the direction of justice for all.

So I’ll ask the same questions David Leonhardt asks in “Why Democrats Should Oppose Neil Gorsuch.” What do Democrats do now; should we just pick our fights, the ones we can win? No! No! No! We should oppose any and all Republi-con transgressions that go against American values and norms, human decency and American Democratic principles.

The 100’s of thousands of patriotic Americans, who have protested daily since Trump’s inauguration, want the Democrats to stand up to this radical King’s Court. After 8 years of sensible and drama less governance, Trump’s daily excursions into chaos have folks throughout the country and around the world worried about King Donald’s radical agenda. His poll numbers are tanking so they pushed up the Supreme Court nomination to take America’s mind off the administrations early missteps and true intentions, taking America Back to The Robber Baron Era.  John Hanno

 

P.S. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald has stated as good a case as one can to vote against confirming Gorsuch.

 

Newsweek  Opinion

Eichenwald: Neil Gorsuch Is Supremely Qualified, and Must Not Be Confirmed.

By Kurt Eichenwald February 1, 2017

This is a very hard column to write. I’m about to abandon everything I believed for much of my life about the proper principles for federal governance. Unfortunately, too many of our political leaders did that long ago, which makes this conclusion inevitable: Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, must not be confirmed. Democrats must fight it to the bitter end. The preservation of the final, tattered remains of American constitutional government demands it.

This has nothing to do with Gorsuch as a nominee. On first assessment, there is no doubt he is eminently qualified, perhaps more so than several other sitting justices were at the time of their nomination. He has done it all. His legal education is first-rate, with a law degree from Harvard and a doctorate in jurisprudence from Oxford. He has seen up close how the Supreme Court works, serving as a clerk for Justice Byron White and then Justice Anthony Kennedy. For more than a decade, he has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where he has gained a reputation as someone committed to the rule of law. He is a member of the federal Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules.

There was a time in history when that would have been enough. And if someone with Gorsuch’s pedigree had been nominated by, say, George W. Bush in his first term, I would be supporting Senate confirmation under Article II of the Constitution—not because I agree with him on policy, which to me has usually been irrelevant in selecting a judge, since the high court is not supposed to be filled with the equivalent of lifetime senators. If he is qualified and has a philosophy of jurisprudence that is widely recognized as legitimate—which Gorsuch does—that would be enough.

But no more. Gorsuch, unfortunately, must be sacrificed on the altar of obscene partisanship erected by the Republicans in recent years. Temper tantrums designed to undermine the Constitution for naked political purposes cannot be rewarded. Our government cannot survive the short-term games-playing that has replaced fidelity to the intent of the Founding Fathers’ work in forming this once-great nation.

This goes back to the unconscionable decision of Republicans who refused to consider any nominee put forward by President Barack Obama following the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Obama nominated Merrick Garland, another eminently qualified candidate, who served as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most important court in the nation. But in a decision that will go down as one of the greatest abuses of the Constitution in this nation’s history, the Senate’s Republican majority, under the leadership of their unprincipled majority leader, Mitch McConnell, declared they would not give Garland hearings, would not examine his qualifications and would not take a vote.

Instead, they made up a rule: A nominee for the Supreme Court can be considered for only three-quarters of any president’s term. In the fourth year, confirmations have to wait until after the election. And so the Supreme Court has been hobbled for coming up on one year—and, because the confirmation hearings will inevitably drag on, it will be for months more to come.

The Republican fiat horrified those who care about the Supreme Court as an institution. Sixteen scholars sent a letter to Obama to express their dismay, writing, “The Constitution gives the Senate every right to deny confirmation to a presidential nomination. But denial should come after the Senate deliberates over the nomination, which in contemporary times includes hearings in the Judiciary Committee, and full debate and votes on the Senate floor. Anything less than that, in our view, is a serious and, indeed, unprecedented breach of the Senate’s best practices and noblest traditions for much of our nation’s history.”

A letter to the Senate leadership, signed by 356 legal scholars, said refusing Garland a vote “is contrary to the process the framers envisioned in Article II, and threatens to diminish the integrity of our democratic institutions and the functioning of our constitutional government.”

In another move, 33 law professors issued to Obama and the Senate Republicans an open letter stating, “The Senate’s constitutional duty to ‘advise and consent’—the process that has come to include hearings, committee votes, and floor votes—has no exception for election years. In fact, over the course of American history, there have been 24 instances in which presidents in the last year of a term have nominated individuals for the Supreme Court, and the Senate confirmed 21 of these nominees.”

No matter—the Republicans would not budge. Garland received no hearings, no vote, no consideration whatsoever.

And don’t think this has anything to do with a philosophy about how the court should run. When Obama in 2013 nominated Patricia Ann Millett to be a judge for the all-important circuit court in Washington, D.C., the Republicans pulled another “principle” out of their nether regions: no new judges should be added to that court to…save money. And because the court didn’t have a big enough workload. Seriously. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that nonsense without bursting out laughing at the magnitude of his mendacity.

At the time, there were four seats open on the D.C. circuit court. That Obama was unable to get a single judge confirmed to that court by Senate Republicans—despite having already served his first term and being only into the first year of his second—puts the lie to this idea that the GOP obstruction of judicial nominees was about anything other than undermining the constitutional authority of the president of the United States. Grassley, who will certainly appear in future history books as the political hack who destroyed our judicial branch of government, let the veil slip about his real reasons for trying to keep Obama nominees off the court: politics.

“The court is currently comprised of four active judges appointed by Republican presidents and four active judges appointed by Democrat presidents,” Grassley said in a floor statement on the Millet nomination, using the incorrect name for the Democratic Party in a petty game some conservative bullies find amusing. “There is no reason to upset the current makeup of the court, particularly when the reason for doing so appears to be ideologically driven.”

In other words, in the first year of a president’s term, the senior Republican most responsible for getting judicial nominees to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote said that disrupting a 4-4 balance on the panel second to the Supreme Court was politics. So a first-year nominee can’t be accepted, a fourth-year nominee can’t be accepted, and courts should function with the constant risk of tie votes because a president fulfilling his constitutional duty by nominating judges for courts is “ideologically driven.”

This might explain why Democrats now say the Supreme Court should remain divided in the same way—four justices appointed by Democratic presidents, four by Republicans—for the rest of Trump’s term. “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that President Trump puts up,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. “I promise you.”

Liberal commentators agree. “It would be completely decent, honorable and in keeping with the Senate’s constitutional duty to vote against essentially every judicial nominee Trump names,’’ said the Americans for a Progressive Judiciary, a liberal think tank. “If you truly believe that a particular nominee would wreak havoc on America, why not do everything you can to stop him?”

I’m sure these words of principle enrage conservatives. I’m sure they believe that the Democrats’ allowing the high court to continue in its current hobbled state throughout Trump’s term is un-American and destructive to our country. In fact, these statements have already been roundly condemned on Fox News, with numerous pundits ripping at the Democratic Party (or Democrat Party) for allowing its thirst for partisan advantage to blind it to our constitutional principles. And if you’re a conservative, I hope you seethe at those statements.

Why? Because it exposes your grotesque hypocrisy.

You see, I lied. Feinstein never said anything about the Democrats refusing to confirm any Trump nominee for the next four years—that was actually Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, in statements he made when most of the political world believed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to be president. As for the comment from the Americans for a Progressive Judiciary? I made up the name; as far as I can tell, no such organization exists. Instead, I was quoting the conservative publication The Federalist, which, once again, was writing at a time when almost no one believed Trump would win, to justify engaging in a blanket refusal to ever confirm any Clinton nominee.

Now if you’re a conservative who was angered by those statements when you thought they came from Democrats—and now that you know they were uttered by your partisan brethren, you’re scrambling to justify them—face facts: You are lying and self-deluded.

With the elevation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court (“the worst justice in history”©, as I’ve previously written), whose rulings often contain the same blatant hoop-jumping demonstrated by Grassley in justifying pure partisanship as a matter of constitutional principle, I gave up on the idea of my once-beloved Supreme Court as a deliberative body in which legal interpretations are weighted against constitutional precepts and precedent. Instead, I now accept it is just an apparatus of political parties.

I always know how Alito will rule; his decisions are amusing because I enjoy trying to predict what assertions of nonexistent fact he will employ in his arrogant effort to reach the outcome he desires. None of the other justices—conservative or liberal, past or present—are as flagrant in their use of the court to impose their political beliefs on the rest of us. At the very least, until Alito is gone, the Supreme Court is a partisan joke deserving of no respect, which for me is a horrifying thing that I could never have imagined I would say.

No doubt, Gorsuch would be a better judge than Alito (and so would my dog). Like Garland, he would bring some desperately needed jurisprudential intelligence, fairness and consistency to the court, regardless of what anyone may think of his decisions on a political basis. But none of that matters. There is a country to save.

The Republicans cannot be allowed to reap the rewards of unprincipled obstructionism that sets a precedent that will destroy the last remnant of our country’s constitutional credibility. They cannot wing it—saying that a court doesn’t have enough work to justify the number of judges it is supposed to have, or that a Democrat should not be allowed to have a judicial nominee confirmed in a fourth year or first year or a full term of a presidency—and just make up rules as they go along, undermining everything this country has stood for just to grab some short-term gain. There are no principles anymore; just as with Alito’s decisions, there are desired outcomes and an infinite number of rationalizations to help anti-American conservatives get there.

So what should the Democrats do? Fight. Recognize the nature of the other party. There is no longer reason; there is no longer fidelity to our history or to the founders’ intents; there is no longer compromise. Republicans cannot be allowed to benefit from their efforts to undermine the intent of the framers of our Constitution. (To give you an idea of how bad this could become if Democrats don’t fight, think of this: That conservative commentator writing for The Federalist who was justifying obstructing every Clinton nominee argued that Republicans, as an option, could constitutionally just let the Supreme Court die if it could be done without paying too high a political price. There is no limit to how far the Republicans may go.)

Will the Republicans use the “nuclear option,” which will allow them to override any attempt at a filibuster, making it so that a Supreme Court nominee needs only a majority vote? Let them. If Democratic senators won’t throw everything into stopping this nomination, regardless of the price, then they may as well pack it up and go home, because they have cowered and cringed their way into a government where governance has died, where party is more important than country.

The end game: Force Trump to re-nominate Garland. Filibuster every nominee until he does. I have no illusions that the Senate would accept Garland; the Republicans still have the majority. Then Trump will come in with another nominee, almost certainly Gorsuch. Yes, even under that scenario, the Republicans will gain a seat on the court; they would have anyway, even if they had considered Garland during the Obama administration, because the GOP had the Senate majority then too and would have voted him down. (Before the election, Democrats knew the price of a Trump victory could be that the Republicans would get to name the next Supreme Court justice, and enough of the anti-Clinton types chose to sit out or cast their vote for someone who could not win anyway. They have relinquished the right to object.)

So even though Garland would not have won a Senate confirmation vote, a precedent needs to be established: The Senate’s confirmation responsibilities under the Constitution are not a joke, are not something where absurd rationalizations that pass for smarts on Fox News can be used to circumvent history and precedent. Nominees must be given hearings and votes. And yes, if that means letting the Republicans blow up the filibuster, let them do it.

Then, when a Democratic president is in office, the Democrats control the Senate, and there is no filibuster, show the Republicans a real exercise in raw power: revive Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan to pack the Supreme Court and fill it with the most liberal justices around. If the Republicans insist on turning the judiciary into a political plaything, play the roughest game of hardball they have ever seen.

 

In the New York Times Opinion Pages, Op-Ed Columnist David Leonhardt opines:

Why Democrats Should Oppose Neil Gorsuch

“It’s important to remember just how radical — and, yes, unprecedented — the Senate’s approach to the previous Supreme Court nominee was.

Republican leaders announced last March that they would not consider any nominee. They did so even though Barack Obama still had 10 months left in his term and even though other justices (including Anthony Kennedy) had been confirmed in a president’s final year.

The refusal was a raw power grab. Coupled with Republican hints that no Hillary Clinton nominee would be confirmed either, it was a fundamental changing of the rules: Only a party that controlled both the White House and the Senate would now be able to assume it could fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

The change is terribly damaging for the country’s political system. It impedes the smooth functioning of the court and makes it a much more partisan institution.

Of course, the strategy also worked, and the flip from an Obama justice to a Trump justice will likely be the deciding factor in many of the most important cases in coming years.

So what can Democrats do?

First, they need to make sure that the stolen Supreme Court seat remains at the top of the public’s consciousness. When people hear the name “Neil Gorsuch,” as qualified as he may be, they should associate him with a constitutionally damaging power grab.

Second, Democrats should not weigh this nomination the same way that they’ve weighed previous ones. This one is different. The presumption should be that Gorsuch does not deserve confirmation, because the process that led to his nomination was illegitimate.

Republicans still control the Senate, which means they can confirm Gorsuch if they decide to remove the filibuster during the nominating process. And so Democrats may not have the power to block the nomination.

But the only reason they should vote for Gorsuch is if they decide it’s in their own political interest to do so. They may decide, for example, that any filibuster would be doomed to fail now — but might succeed if another justice leaves the court during Trump’s presidency. Or they may decide that an all-out fight would encourage Kennedy to retire, as the longtime Democrat Ronald Klain has warned. Either way, such tactical considerations are the ones that should guide Democrats.

Finally, the Democratic Party should begin planning its long-term strategy for the court, and that strategy needs to revolve around last year’s events. One option, for example, would be a plan first to deprive a Republican president of one nominee in coming years and second to offer a truce with Republicans.

I understand that all of these options sound aggressive and partisan, and it makes me deeply uncomfortable to make such an argument. But Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by a new one. The only thing worse than the system that the Republicans have created is a system in which one political party volunteers to be bullied.”

In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style

By Adam Liptak  January 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — A year ago, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was midway down a ski slope when his cellphone rang. Justice Antonin Scalia, he was told, had died.

“I immediately lost what breath I had left,” Judge Gorsuch said in a speech two months later. “And I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears.”

President Trump, in nominating Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, has chosen a judge who not only admires the justice he would replace but also in many ways resembles him. He shares Justice Scalia’s legal philosophy, talent for vivid writing and love of the outdoors.

Mr. Trump’s selection of Judge Gorsuch was nonetheless a bit of a surprise, coming from someone who had campaigned as a Washington outsider. Judge Gorsuch has deep roots in the city and the establishment Mr. Trump often criticized.

His mother was a high-level official in the Reagan administration. He spent part of his childhood in Washington and practiced law here for a decade, at a prominent law firm and in the Justice Department. And, like all of the current justices, he is a product of the Ivy League, having attended college at Columbia and law school at Harvard.

(I have a question, who in their right mind would stop skiing halfway down the slope to answer a cell phone, Good Golly?)

“This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

January 29, 2017     John Hanno

                      “This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

King Donald’s Court did it again; they showed they really can’t lead in a responsible manner. The Republi-cons don’t know how to govern because they despise government. This is what happens when you hire people to dismantle cabinet level departments instead of ones experienced in making government succeed. They think government and it’s regulators should just butt out of their patrons risky businesses. Their plan has always been to shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub. For eight years, they berated any attempt by the Obama Administration to bring America back, after Republi-cons steered us into the abyss.

If the President had cured cancer, this crew would have claimed Obama was grandstanding. Someone said that if he walked on water, they would have criticized him for not learning how to swim. They’ve been very adept at throwing sand in the gears of American progress, but now the bomb throwers are having trouble making the rubber from their soaring campaign rhetoric, meet the highly touted road forward. Leaked audio from a Philadelphia retreat this week revealed how flummoxed Republi-con lawmakers appear, attempting to replace the life saving Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act they’ve pledged to repeal for the last 7 years. Donald’s new promise to make that health insurance for 25 or 30 million folks much better and a lot cheaper won’t help their task.

Trying to make good on the promise to build a wall to hold back our southern neighbors, who actually stopped pouring in right after the financial collapse in 2008, was met with the same outrage around the world as was their bungled attempts to keep Muslims from entering the country. There’s been more people in the streets in the first 9 days of the King Donald administration as protested in the entire 8 years of the Obama Administration.

These hypocrites railed against each and every executive order the President signed attempting an end round Republi-con obstruction, calling it flagrant and unconstitutional abuse of power, but now think Trump’s flurry of nonsensical orders are a-okay. The difference here is that President Obama tried to use his executive power to do things for ordinary people, whereas Trump’s team stays up nights figuring out ways to do things to people.

King Donald’s approval numbers are tanking, so the diabolical pretenders are trying to somehow make good on his un-deliverable pledges to take America back to 1929. This latest order, taking shape at the nations airports, is looking more like a holy war than an attempt to make us safe from terrorists.

These folks know so little about what actually goes on in the government, they actually believe that the thousands of folks at homeland security and in our intelligence agencies, our military, our state and local police departments and in state and local governments throughout the nation have been doing very little to keep us safe since 9-11. The Obama Administration in 2011 and before him the Bush Administration have already instituted enhanced vetting of those trying to enter the U.S. They say this vetting takes almost 2 years. Most of America’s terrorist threats have actually come from home grown evildoers.

And even before Barack Obama was elected, the Republi-cons refused to even attempt to craft responsible legislation to raise up America’s sinking middle class. And now all of a sudden, they’ve refashioned themselves as populist proponents of American labor. Any legislation offered by these Republi-cons was hatched and prepared by either the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or by the affected corporate or industry lawyers and lobbyists. Some of ALEC’s latest and most popular efforts involve attacking public workers and unions and proposing right-to-work legislation throughout the country.

Republi-con health care reform will be drafted by the insurance industry and big pharma. Comprehensive energy policy or reform will be written by fossil fuel.  Any Republi-con comprehensive tax reform, as in the past, will be bought and paid for by the rich and corporations. Comprehensive immigration reform was passed 70 to 30 in the Senate during the Bush Administration, but never came up for a vote in the Republican controlled House.

Russian American Journalist and author Masha Gessen, believes this administration will cause her and America a “constant low level dread.” I’m beginning to think more like a “permanent state of high anxiety.”

The desperate folks in the upper Midwest rust belt, who grabbed onto the Trump Tarbaby will soon discover the same thing the little boy realized in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. No matter that Donald’s two trusted advisors Reince Priebus and Kelleyanne Conway faithfully tells him he’s doing so good and looking real fine, America will soon realize that King Donald the Emperor Has No Clothes.     John Hanno

 

P.S.    “Former Bush adviser Eliot A. Cohen says the first week of Trump’s presidency has been a “clarifying moment in American history”: “For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time,” he writes in an op-ed for The Atlantic. “Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it. Rifts are opening up among friends that will not be healed. The conservative movement of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, of William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol, was always heterogeneous, but it more or less hung together. No more. New currents of thought, new alliances, new political configurations will emerge. The biggest split will be between those who draw a line and the power-sick—whose longing to have access to power, or influence it, or indeed to wield it themselves—causes them to fatally compromise their values. For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.”

King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

January 27, 2017    John Hanno  

 

“King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

“King Donald” sat down for a January 25th interview with ABC’s David Muir and doubled down on his belief that if he had simply focused on winning the popular vote, he would have easily won that too. He said he lost the popular vote because the Democrats had cheated in California and New York.

KD said, “I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

Philip Bump’s Washington Post article: “Why did Trump lose the Popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated,” totally debunks King Donald’s “alternative facts.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/politics/wp/2017/01/26/why-did-trump-lose-the-popular-vote-because-he-didnt-care-about-it-and-because-they-cheated/)

We know that the Un-Democratic Republi-cons have been stealing federal and state elections for too many election cycles, going back even before the 2000 presidential election. Voter “Suppression” has been their modus operandi and number one goal. Frightened by America’s changing demographics, and especially since President Obama sailed into office in 2008 with an almost 10 million vote margin, these un-patriotic Republi-cons in red and purple states, have pushed all sorts of legislation to disenfranchise Democratic leaning voters, people of color, women, seniors, students, millennials, ex-felons, folks with common names that appear to be of black or brown ethnicity, all sorts of immigrants, and actually anyone who isn’t white and identifiably Christian. President Obama received 69.5 million votes in 2008, the highest vote total in American history, and won the electoral college 365 to 173. In 2012, he beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes and won the electoral college 332 to 206. But in the meantime, the Republi-cons have been busy gerrymandering and plotting suppression.

During the interview, King Donald again pushed debunked lies about millions of fraudulent Hillary voters. “With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

We know, and pray it will eventually be clearly proven, that the Russians had a firm hand in undermining HC and our most visible Democratic process, free and fair elections. Putin has already kidnapped and imprisoned four Russian intelligence operatives who he believes spilled the beans to the ex MI5 spy who prepared the 30 page dossier, developed to compromise Putin’s choice for president. Hopefully truth will out!

But how can we, in good conscience, criticize other countries elections? We have in the past, sent election monitors throughout the third world, hoping to spread free and fair Democratic voting. But these U.S. Constitution thumping Republi-cons, shame and devalue America’s highest values. You can’t help but blame the Democrats also. After the 2000 election debacle, and especially after they had a mandate in 2009 and control of both the house and senate, they failed to once and forever, insure that every vote is counted.

No matter what happens with the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, both sides should finally put in place laws that will absolutely guarantee that our elections, beyond all doubt, are beacons for democracies everywhere. I hope the minority Democrats will call King Donald’s bluff of a full investigation, and present such legislation, and thoroughly embarrass the GOP if they oppose it. Please stand up for the American voter!

It’s not surprising that King Donald has the lowest approval rating (between 32 to 34%) in recorded history. When you enact ideas and programs that a majority, and sometimes an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t favor, there will and must be push back. Ten times as many folks here and abroad took to the streets protesting KD’s policies, as attended the inauguration. And on top of that, as many as 40% of those attendees were non-Trump supporters. The list of early wreckage is incredibly long:

Returning 25 or 30 million folks, who finally have life saving health care insurance, another 15 or 20 million additional uninsured, and another 125 plus million health care insurance covered policy holders, back to the mercy of insatiable insurance companies without a credible alternative plan, is not a winning proposition. All particular issues of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, except for the mandate, are favored by a large majority of Americans. And the Kings proclamation that all these folks will have much better coverage at lower cost has kneecapped the Republi-cons plans to repeal but not actually replace.

Hiring a shocking list of fossil fuel panderers to run America’s State Department and foreign service and our Environmental Protection Agencies, giving carte blanche to oil, gas and pipeline companies to cover the earth in risky, potentially leaking pipelines and infrastructure, cutting regulations for all air, water and soil polluters, and muzzling the scientists and regulators who swear an oath to protect its citizens, will only marshal 10’s of million’s of concerned and responsible earth protectors. Fully 60% of Americans in a recent Reuters poll want the EPA to be strengthened or maintained.

Rounding up 11 million immigrants, who took advantage of America’s welcome mat for cheap labor, and building a $20 or $30 billion unnecessary wall that’s a boondoggle for those connected to Trump Inc., will energize immigrants new and old and millions more sympathizers.

Attacking women who wish to preserve their right to chose, Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable citizens, will anger those who believe in Constitutional and civil rights for all Americans. King Donald and his court pandered to pro-life proponents by reinstating and expanding the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule,” which prevents foreign NGO’s that get U.S. aid from using any of the money to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” They lose all funding if they don’t comply. The rule originally applied only to the $600 million family planning fund but now also applies to all of the $9.5 billion global health funds. Policy experts think this will cause 6.5 million additional unintended pregnancies. 2.2 million more abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and the death of almost 22,000 pregnant women. What pro-life proponents just can’t understand, is that all women hate abortions, but most want to reserve the right to chose. And the incidence of abortion always goes up under Republican administrations and drops under Democratic administrations. The reason abortions dropped under pro-choice President Clinton, was because the economy during his terms greatly improved and women felt secure enough to take on another mouth to feed. And for the same reasons, no matter the Republican protestations, abortions increase under typical Republican recessions and failing economies.

Mr. Trump tried to place a hiring freeze on Veterans Administration employees. Certainly not because of the budget (Hello $30 billion phony Mexico wall). Could it be that King Donald wants to reward his corporate supporters by privatizing the V.A. News flash to the Donald from Sgt Hanno; do not screw over Vets. They love their public, dedicated V.A. services. And by the way, if you attempt to put your favorite pipeline upstream from Standing Rock Sioux Rez, those Vets and I will be back in force.

What scares folks around the world almost as much as the fact King Donald has the nuclear codes, is that the Trump Inc. family business conflicts of interest around the globe clearly compromises his pledge to protect and serve us all fairly and honorably.

Favoring Vladimir Putin and the Russian fossil fuel oligarchs, over longstanding treaties with NATO and Europe and against America’s best interests should jolt all Americans, and especially true conservative constitutionalists in Trumps own party. By Already contemplating ending sanctions against the Russians, who invaded another country and engaged in a cyber act of war against the U.S., in the very first week of the Trump administration, can’t help but confirm that millions of progressives believe Putin is holding compromising information over King Donald’s head.

King Donald stated that Putin was a much more effective leader than President Obama, even though he served two full terms without a hint of scandal. Donald admires despots, dictators and kleptocrats like Putin without reservation. Putin’s list of violations against his fellow countrymen and women is long and frightening. He has a bad habit of disappearing his opposition. Some believe he’s the richest person in the world, having pillaged Russian natural resources to the tune of $85 billion. King Donald believes that if someone was able to accumulate enormous wealth, they- like Trump himself, must be smart and should be admired. That’s apparently why he’s hired only multi-millionaires and billionaires to turn a blind eye to the pillaging of America’s public and private fortunes.

Russian American journalist Masha Gessen, author of “The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.” Penned this post election article in NYR: “Autocracy. Rules For Survival.” She thinks Hillary should have said something like this for her concession speech:

“Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.”

Masha suffers, and believes most Americans do also, from a “constant low level dread.” Truer words were never said. She’s justifiably worried that the comparisons between King Putin and King Donald can’t be underestimated. King Donald’s strategy is no different than Autocrats of yore. Banish the peace makers (fire career foreign service state department employees, even before the new Secretary of State is confirmed; some of whom served American presidents from both parties going back 4 decades) and defang the opposition (place reporting restrictions on the career employees he can’t banish). Muzzle the truth tellers; King Donald’s unrelenting attack on his media demons. Trump said that the “media are the worst people, the most dishonest humans,”  the “opposition party in many ways.” Putin merely throws them in jail or magically makes them disappear. But American and any true Democracy requires an informed citizenry and a healthy, critical and vocal media. That’s the reason it’s ensconced in our constitution. What a stark contrast to President Obama’s respect for journalism and the critical written word and which was on full display during his final news conference, where he thanked and praised the White House press corp.

We know the Donald hates to read. Believe me, he picked the wrong job for that. He unflinchingly values tweets and retweets, no matter the veracity. He favors fake Fox News over credible print journalists who double and triple check their sources. He hires a top intelligence advisor who promotes conspiracy theories and who’s son does the same and almost got someone killed at a New York pizza restaurant.

KD seriously believes in his banal “alternative facts” theory. He’s lied so much and for so many years, that he believes his own lies are more real than actual facts. He even lies when he doesn’t have to lie. He lies about his own lies. He lies two or three times in the same sentence, on the same subject; which is hard to do. He lies to peoples faces when they call him out on the lie and then makes up a lie to prove his challenged lie. And now he’s almost convinced everyone he’s hired to go all in on this alternative reality. They’ve grabbed onto Tarbaby Lying King Donald and probably won’t let go until and unless he self destructs.

I could go on and on but I have to save some energy for KD’s second week. But while we’re at it, I can’t help but blame the corporate media for this state of affairs. They tried their best to normalize King Donald. They turned a blind eye and ear to his alternative facts. The fact checkers were busy but their efforts somehow escaped accountability through the crazy noise. Cable news presented his Kool-aid gulping apologists alongside credible reporters and journalists and allowed them to somehow balance legitimate credibilities. They allowed billions in free and unfettered airtime because it was highly profitable, and at the same time they put debating and airing scores of vital issues on the back burner. They’re finally shaking off the corporate complaisance and dusting off their integrity. We hope it’s not too late. It’s theirs and our job to push aside all this King Donald nonsense and focus on the important issues the King and his court are trying to obscure. When the social safety net cuts begin and middle America starts to bleed, we must unmask the King.

Washington Post

Why did Trump lose the popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated.

By Philip Bump

January 26, 2017 at 10:38 AM

When it comes to explaining why he lost the popular vote, President Trump has a simple explanation. He lost the popular vote because he wasn’t interested in winning the popular vote, focusing instead on the electoral college — and if he’d focused on the popular vote, he would have won that even more easily, and also he lost the popular vote because his opponents cheated in some of the deepest-blue states in the country.

Done and done.

In his first major interview since moving into the White House, Trump took ABC’s David Muir on a tour of the gilded, expansive recesses of both his new residence and his mind. Thanks to Trump’s tweets on the subject, Muir quickly turned the questioning to the subject of voter fraud, which Trump insists was a huge factor in November’s election and which reality suggests was not.

In his first interview at the White House on Jan. 25, President Trump discussed his past issues with the media, his executive actions this week and debunked claims of voter fraud and inaugural crowd size with ABC’s David Muir. (The Washington Post)

Trump used the subject to reiterate a defense of his popularity.

“I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

It’s true that the need to win the electoral college meant that Trump’s focus during the campaign was different from what it would have been had the contest come down to vote totals. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Trump would have won the popular vote, much less “much easier” than he won the electoral college. (To be fair, if he had won the popular vote by any margin, it would likely have been an easier victory than his skin-of-his-teeth electoral college win, which came down to about 78,000 votes in three states.)

Trump would have needed to do 10 percentage points better in California to close the 2.9-million vote deficit he faced nationally. His argument that he could have made progress to that end if he’d campaigned in the state has only one critical drawback: Hillary Clinton would have campaigned there, too. (Had Clinton campaigned more in the Midwest, many people have pointed out, Muir would have been sitting down with her.)

Trump says he didn’t go to either California or New York at all, which isn’t entirely true. Trump made four stops in New York after that state’s primary, according to the National Journal’s candidate travel tracker, excluding a debate and the announcement of his vice presidential pick. (He visited California only before that state’s primary.) Clinton had campaign events there even less frequently, though she did run ads in California over the last few weeks of the campaign. Trump’s team did campaign in both states, though not at any real scale.

That said, it’s not surprising that Trump did poorly in the two states (despite his assurances on the campaign trail that they would be in play). California and New York have given the Democrat at least 1 million more votes than the Republican in every election since 1992. In California, that figure has been creeping upward, with Barack Obama winning by a 3 million vote margin in 2008 and 2012, and Clinton by 4.3 million this year. In New York, the Democrat has won by at least 1.5 million votes in five of the past seven contests. Trump might have eaten into those margins had he campaigned harder — but Clinton might also have widened her lead in those friendly territories.

Which brings us to part two of Trump’s excuse-making to Muir.

“With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

The wonderful part of this exchange is the directness with which Trump tries to have his cake and eat it, too. He defends his claims that millions of people voted illegally by noting that there are problems with the voter registration system at that scale. That’s a fair defense, with some caveats. But then he immediately re-conflates registration with voting (“there are millions of votes”). That’s a neat trick: You criticize me for saying there are millions of illegal votes when I’m just noting that there are millions of questionable registrations. Just registrations! (And also votes.)

The now-infamous report from Pew Trusts in 2012 does point out that there were millions of outdated registrations at that point because our voting systems do a bad job of weeding out people who have died or moved. (Like Trumps daughter.) Pew’s point was that the systems should be improved, not that fraud results from these problems; in fact, Pew’s researchers explicitly pointed out then and now that there was no rampant fraud. (This, Trump told Muir, was because the researchers wanted a positive response from the anti-Trump media — even way back in 2012, apparently.)

At a news conference on Thursday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to  California and New York as potential epicenters of this nonexistent fraud. “I think there’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” Spicer said about the campaign’s admitting in a legal filing that there was no rampant fraud in the election. “You look at California and New York, I’m not sure that those statements were — we didn’t look at those two states, in particular.”

Our colleague Dave Weigel noted the sheer ridiculousness of this idea from a political standpoint: If you’re going to orchestrate a massive, illegal effort to cast millions of ballots for Hillary Clinton, why on Earth would you do it in two states you knew she was going to win easily anyway? Whether or not the Clinton team thought they’d win Michigan and Pennsylvania, why not stack the deck in those places regardless, since they were always going to be more competitive than the deepest-blue parts of the country?

For a lot of Trump supporters, this overlaps with perceptions of California as a haven of undocumented immigrants, people encouraged by some all-powerful Democratic machine to commit a federal crime by illegally giving their names and contact information to the state government. We looked at the number of newly registered voters who were born outside the country; only 148,000 people fit that description from Latin American countries. There’s no indication at all that any significant number of them were voting illegally.

This has been another 1,000 words or so on Trump’s ongoing insecurity about having lost the popular vote. His arguments for why the popular vote results don’t suggest that he’s unpopular haven’t gotten any more effective, but they have gotten more numerous. It will be simpler moving forward, I suppose, to simply note that Trump continues to claim that he could have and did win the popular vote even though he didn’t and probably wouldn’t have. And to note that what Trump says on this subject, if not others, should not necessarily be taken at face value.

Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Post based in New York City.

Seattle Committee Proposes Unanimous Bill to Pull $3 billion from Dakota Access Pipeline lender Wells Fargo

Justice

Seattle Committee Responds to Standing Rock

On Wednesday, Seattle’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee voted unanimously to forward a bill to pull $3 billion from DAPL lender Wells Fargo to the full City Council. This follows a Tuesday announcement that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers will issue an easement allowing them to begin the last stages of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The bill would terminate the city’s contract with Wells Fargo and require the city to consider social justice issues when granting city contracts for construction and other projects, the Seattle Times reports.

Demonstrators gathered at City Hall on Wednesday in anticipation of the vote, decrying the pipeline’s construction in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and protestors in North Dakota.

“You faced down attack dogs, blizzards, and rubber bullets,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant told crowds Wednesday. “If we do not fight we will not win.”

“Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo,” Sawant continued, as she cast her vote. The proposal will go before the city council next week.

Where activists are trying to get their cities to follow Seattle’s lead.

“For too long, Native American culture and history has been desecrated, dismissed and commoditized,” environmental attorney Robyn Purchia wrote in a Wednesday opinion piece published in the San Francisco Examiner.

“If San Franciscans want to lead the resistance, we must fight backward policies in Washington, D.C., and our own backyard,” she continued. “We must divest from banks and companies that fund pollution and invest in future generations.”

Protestors including a small group of Native youth holding a banner bearing the word “Divest” took the streets of Arcata, California in a Saturday demonstration.

Despite pressure from Boulder, Colorado activists, the city’s Finance Department is urging the City Council not to divest from pipeline funder JP Morgan Chase, Boulder local news site the Daily Camera reports.

The Seattle vote arrives amidst a heated back-and-forth over the fine print of Tuesday’s statement, issued by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer ordered the Army Corps to issue the easement required to complete the oil pipeline, Hoeven asserted.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe responded to Hoeven’s remarks in a Tuesday evening statement. The tribe argued the Corps could not legally proceed to issue the easement without producing an environmental impact statement (EIS) the Corps pledged to issue in December.

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS and issue the easement,” the statement reads. “The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.”

The tribe pledged to fight a suspension or withdrawal of the EIS in court.

The Donald J. Trump Alternative Fact, Anti American Progress Administration

January 25, 2017,  John Hanno

 

“The Donald J. Trump Alternative Fact, Anti American Progress, Administration”

This new Trump “Alternative Fact” Administration, coupled with the 115th Republican controlled, “Roll Back,” United States Congress will no doubt go down in history as the most “Anti American Progress” administration in history. Everything the Obama Administration tried to accomplish in the last eight years will be under assault, including its progress on cleaning up the environment and reversing climate change and global warming, improving our health care system, putting folks back to work and finally improving their wages, supporting public education, making higher education more affordable, providing consumer protection, and of crafting dozens of bills and executive actions to help our disappearing middle class reverse income inequality and to curb the banksters who caused the 2008 financial collapse that took our middle class wealth.

Everyone’s trying to guess what Trump’s idea of a “Great America” really is. Some say he’s not an ideologue, and point to his many conflicted statements over the decades.

He was, throughout his adult life, at loggerheads with workers and unions, but now says he’s the only one who can bring back jobs and raise stagnant middle class wages. But where was he when Republican presidents going back to Regan, and most of the Republican party, were creating incentives and clearing the path for their corporate and manufacturing patrons to close down plants and export living wage American jobs? Were any of these Republi-con Johnnie come latelies standing with unions on the picket lines protesting the closing of 50 or 60 thousand manufacturing plants. I endured 4 plant closings and the only support and sympathy we got was from the democrats or from community activist folks like Barack Obama.

The Trumpster was pro-choice before he wasn’t. He apparently wasn’t religious until he decided to run for president. He was logically in favor of single payer health care; but now, who knows?

He repeated consistently during the campaign (the only thing he was steadfast on), that he would not attempt to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; he said he was the only one of 17 Republicans running for president that firmly stated he would preserve those life saving programs for seniors, the poor and persons with disabilities. But cutting these programs is what they will use to pay for Paul Ryan’s and the Republi-cons tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

He said he would drain the swamp of corporate lobbyists in Washington but then hired 6 ex Goldman Sachs executives and banksters to pull the plug. Good luck with that!

He still claims he’s going to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and build a wall that could cost between, who knows, $15 to $30 billion, to keep them from returning; but there’s been a net loss of immigrants entering from Mexico since the 2008 financial collapse.  Where was Trump and the Republi-cons for the last 60 years, when the American business community (including Trumps construction, real estate and entertainment businesses) held out the welcome mat for the cheap labor that drove down wages and crippled organized labor. The only ones who will benefit from this border wall boondoggle, are the construction companies and suppliers connected at the hip with the Republi-cons and Trump Inc.

Trump said he’s a great environmentalist, as if installing landscaping on golf courses somehow qualifies (watch the movie “You’ve Been Trumped.”) At a breakfast with business executives, he stated: “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”

But one of the first executive orders he signed will attempt to overturn President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL and rerouting of the Dakota Access pipelines. President Obama said the pipelines would hamper U.S. efforts to close the global climate change deal that Trump now wants to withdraw from. Trump said not a word about the environmental impact of those pipelines and the risks to the drinking water of more than 40 million Americans; 17 million downstream of DAPL and more than 25 million who depend on the Ogallala aquifer for drinking water. Trump signed the order but somehow failed to mention the 2 year long protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Native Tribes courageous stand to protect their cultural sites and the reservations drinking water supplies. And Trump and his fossil fuel cabinet and friends don’t want us to remember the dozens of pipeline spills that contaminated folks drinking water just last year. That’s no doubt the reason the Republi-cons have put a muzzle on employees of the EPA talking to the media or to the Democrats in congress.

The AP Reported on January 25th that:

“The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants. Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed the specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts. The Trump administration has also ordered a “temporary suspension” of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.”

“Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” George Orwell

 

Trump’s list of executive orders looks like he’s checking off the pay back list of the Republi-con party contributors.

When elected officials ignore and try to circumvent or repeal 8 years of legislative and institutional research, problem solving and progress, just to pay back their political donors, they’re violating their oath of office and are committing treason. These Republi-cons have denigrated each and every department of the federal government and are poised to cripple as many as possible.

President Trump, his cabinet and the Republican controlled congress must serve all Americans, not just rich folks, corporations, wall street banksters, fossil fuel interests, Vladimir Putin and his Russian oligarchs and Trumps family businesses. They must serve and protect people of all races, ethnicity, religions, sexes, sexual preferences or political affiliation. President Obama took his oath of office seriously. He went out of his way to serve all Americans. Trump has already violated his oath in his first week in office.

President Obama and his administration worked and studied hard to dig up the facts to make informed decisions. There were times his own party didn’t agree with him but he still did what he thought was best for all Americans. Trump refuses to read and study facts; he listens to, embraces and retweets fake news and conspiracy theories; and he spews flat out lies at the drop of a Make America Great Again hat. Trump, who distanced himself from traditional Republi-con dogma during the primaries and election has done a 180 on most issues and forsaken all political courage. His handlers and spokespersons embrace the banal theory of “Alternative Facts.”

“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?” George Orwell, 1984

 

Most Americans don’t have to do the research required for the important deliberations state and federal governments have to undertake. We generally elect and hire experienced and qualified folks to do that for us. Trump has so far hired the most inexperienced and hostile proponents for every one of the cabinet level positions.

But still, we have to make decisions in our own lives. Where we decide to live and in what kind of a home, where and how we chose to earn a living, which schools we or our children attend, how or with whom we invest savings or pensions, what mode of transportation we use and what vehicles to buy. A business owner might decide to expand or hire new employees. There are scores of decisions we have to make every day. If we’re smart and responsible, we make those decisions based on the best facts available at the time; we make decisions based on what’s best for us and our families. Trump makes decisions based on his late night twitter account musings and on theories from the farthest reaches of the newly discovered Ult Right Planet “Your anus”

In a rational manner, when we elect politicians or hire government employees to represent us, we want them to make decisions based on hard proven facts and on what’s best for all citizens, and not what’s best for the folks who provide campaign contributions or favors to these officials. Anything else undermines American Democracy.

An American President and White House that promotes “Alternative facts,” demonizes journalists and media who point out those easily proved lies and also occupies a bizarre alternative universe, can’t help but create bad decisions that undermine our democratic institutions. Trump world is driving people to the libraries and book stores to find a copy of the book “1984.” It was the biggest selling book on Amazon.com last week and the publisher Penguin, placed an order for a 75,000 book reprint. A quote highlighted by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and others is: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command” George Orwell. I would like to offer a few of my own.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell, 1984

 

Elected officials work for the American public. Is there any responsible American who would seriously hire someone for the most important job in the country, paying them $400,000 a year and outstanding benefits, without checking their tax returns? Folks hired at your local hardware store or retailer for minimum wages must undergo background and credit checks; and a majority of those jobs require physiological testing. I’m not sure Donald J. Trump could pass any one of those tests.

For most of the last century, Democrats have tried to use government leadership to do things for people, whereas the Republi-cons have spent most of their efforts on undermining good governance and doing things to people.

Republi-cons take great enjoyment in demonizing the Democrats and progressives for trying to help folks, especially the working poor. President Obama took a lot of flak for being a community activist helping steel workers on our Chicago South East side when the steel companies shut down. They treated him like a criminal for his conscientious public service.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was derided for his efforts to persuade New Yorker’s to cut back on super sized soft drinks and the high fructose corn sweetener they contain because he tried to do something about our obesity and diabetes problems. And they railed against him for his environmental activism.

Michelle Obama’s campaign to get school children to eat better and exercise more was successful in helping to plateau the incidence of obesity and diabetes problems in children but was roundly criticized by Republi-cons as a socialist food Nazi.

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Debbie Stabenow were criticized as grandstanding, for driving seniors in buses to Canada to get cheaper prescription drugs so they could actually fill prescriptions and also afford to eat.

I believe America and the whole world is in for a long Trumpian campaign of having things done to them instead of for them. Nothing is safe, especially our environment.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow just reported a story about the extreme increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma. (http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/as-ok-frackquakes-spiked-trump-epa-pick-fought-the-epa-862159427646). The number of earthquakes went from 63 in 2011 to 644 in 2016. They had 103 earthquakes in just the last week. They recently suffered a record breaking 5.6 earthquake. Over this 5 year period, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt didn’t try to prosecute fracking companies who caused these man-made earthquakes, but instead went after the EPA because the EPA tried to help the folks in that state who were suffering. He also eliminated all funding for Oklahoma’s Environmental Law Office. Trump rewarded Pruitt by nominated this fossil fuel panderer who sued the EPA, instead of the fracking companies who terrorized Oklahoman’s, to run the EPA. Again, these Republi-cons do things to people instead of for them.

Americans are hurting; half of us live on about $16,000 per year. That’s an obscenity, in the wealthiest country in the world, one filled with more and more millionaires and billionaires and such a disparity too broad to sustain a viable growing economy. The folks who voted for Trump enjoy a more generous average annual earnings of  $75,000. Those Trump supporters claimed President Obama wasn’t tough enough, didn’t win enough. I believe they will be disappointed when they discover who really wins in a Trump Administration. These Republi-cons are definitely not compassionate conservatives.

This Trump crowd already made it harder for low income Americans to buy a home. They will reverse President Obama and give the student loans back to the banksters they serve. They will favor charter schools and Christian teachings over free public education.

Any federal income tax cuts proposed by the Republicans will undoubtedly favor rich folks and corporations; and those tax cuts will force the resultant tax burden onto the rest of us in higher discretionary taxes, fees and state taxes.

Any reduction in federal subsidies for health care for low income folks will push that burden off onto states, counties, cities, insurance policy holders and health providers; especially hospitals that provide emergency room and trauma services.

In spite of Trump’s promises, the Republi-cons will continue to attack Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any entitlement programs that doesn’t involve crony capitalists.

 

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.” George Orwell

 

And their bombastic, misguided, go it alone approach to fighting terrorism will, like the catastrophic invasion into Iraq, certainly make things worse. And attempting to, overrule the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress ban on torture, re-institute the foreign black sites and stating that we should have, and might yet in the future, steal oil from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, will also jeopardize our military personal.

 

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power” George Orwell

 

This new administration will explore new frontiers of conflicts of interests. The Obama Administration went 8 years without a hint of scandal. Trumps is already embroiled in multiple scandals and conflicts, including their relationship to the kleptocrat Putin and the Russian oligarchs.

 

 “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” George Orwell

 

If there is any slim thread of hope for us in the next couple of years, it’s that the Democrats picked up 7 members of Congress and 2 Senators, and the new Congress that was sworn in on January 3rd, will be the most racially diverse in history.

Yes, the reality is, Trump does not have any mandate whatsoever. He lost by almost 3 million votes. He’s the biggest presidential “loser” in history.  He has the lowest approval rating (32 to 34 %) in American presidential history. And if it wasn’t for the Russians and FBI director Comey, Hillary would already be healing our divided electorate instead of pitting us against each other like Trump. Almost 10 times as many Trump protestors demonstrated throughout the country and the world on January 21st, as attended his inauguration the day before.

Most representatives of this racial, religious and gender diversity will be Democratic lawmakers, even though the Democrats will be minorities in both the House and Senate. Fourteen new women were elected this month, although the total number (104) of women will stay the same in the new Congress. That’s only 19%, much less than the overall 50% American female population. A record number of 21 women will serve in the Senate.

Four women of color will serve in the Senate, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and just elected Democrats Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate.

A record number of Hispanics will serve in the next Congress, with 38 members in both chambers. Thirty-four Hispanics will serve in the House and four will serve in the Senate.

Seven Hispanic Democrats won election to the House: Nanette Barragán (Calif.), Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Lou Correa (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), the first Dominican-American elected to Congress, Ruben Kihuen (Nev.), Darren Soto (Fla.) and Vicente Gonzalez (Texas).

There will be a record number of black lawmakers, increasing from 46 to 49. A record number (15) of Asian-Americans will be in the next Congress. Hirono, Harris and Duckworth, an incumbent House member, will make up the ranks of Asian-Americans in the Senate. Harris’ father is from Jamaica and her mother is from India.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) was the only Indian American serving in Congress. He’s now joined by Harris and three new House members: Ro Khanna (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.). Jayapal will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) will be the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress.

The number of gay and lesbian members in Congress will stay the same. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the first openly gay or lesbian person to serve in the Senate. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will serve in the house.

Two Muslims, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.), were reelected. The number of Jewish lawmakers will go up from 28 to 30, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and David Kustoff (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was the only Hindu in Congress but was joined by the three new Indian-American House members, who identify as Hindu. This Congress will have three Buddhists: Hirono in the Senate and Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) in the House.

The Congress will still be overwhelmingly white and male compared to the overall American population and the overwhelming majority of lawmakers in Congress identify as Christians. It’s slow progress but the Congress is looking more like America.

The job of the progressives is to speed up that transformation. When all of these old, white, biased, knuckle dragging, climate deniers pass on to their here after, this will be a better country and a better world. In the meantime, vote progressive and stay vigilant

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” George Orwell

 

Washington Post

Trump may be mean, but he’s definitely not green

By Chelsea Henderson April 15, 2016

Chelsea Henderson has worked on environmental policy for conservation organizations and three Republican senators.

Let’s tame at least one legend in Donald Trump’s mind — his self-proclaimed status as an environmental hero.

“I’ve won many environmental awards,” the Republican presidential front-runner said on CNN’s “New Day” on Sept. 24. He made the claim while criticizing Pope Francis’s call for action on climate change in an address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“I’ve gotten so many awards for the environment,” Trump said during a speech in Des Moines on Dec. 11. “I understand the environment; I’ve won many, many awards.”

“I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change,” Trump said on Jan. 18, two days before NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2015 was the hottest year on record. “I’ve received many environmental awards.”

In my 18 years working on environmental policy on and off Capitol Hill, I never heard Trump’s green record lauded. So I decided to try to identify the “many, many environmental awards” he says he has won.

I looked first at his record on clean water and air, to which he often points in defending his outdated beliefs on climate change. Trump does not mince words on climate change, which he calls “a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” However, the candidate, who has called for eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, has promised “we are going to work very, very hard on clean air and clean water.” Just what has he done? What would a Trump administration propose to advance the goals of clean air and clean water, aside from gutting the agency that oversees the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act? His campaign website does not note any accomplishments or policy proposals on the matter. An Internet search also turned up empty.

I looked next at his apparent strength: real estate development. Perhaps Trump builds green buildings? A Google search offered no such evidence. In 2012, Trump called green buildings “green because they don’t give you enough energy” and, in the bombastic style of his campaign speeches, referred to an unnamed friend of his, “a great environmental guy,” who expressed regret for moving into a green building. This is despite that the website for Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago touts the building’s sustainability measures.

I searched the database of the U.S. Green Building Council, standard-bearers in designation of sustainable buildings, to find out whether any buildings bearing the Trump name have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. While certification for one unit of Trump’s Chicago condo-hotel is designated as “in progress,” no building with Trump’s name is identified as having completed LEED certification.

Then I turned to clean energy. I found that in Trump’s words, wind turbines are “ruining” our landscapes and “turning out to be a disaster.” In December, he lost a legal battle to stop an offshore wind farm erected in the panorama of a Trump golf course near Aberdeen, Scotland.

My continued search finally yielded a hit, an environmental protection award the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation bestowed on Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in 2007. Four years later, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection cited the course for environmental violations. Not surprising, given that golf courses are not known for being environmentally sound, though builders such as Trump like to site them in locations with sweeping views. The aforementioned golf course in Scotland sits on fragile sand dunes, a site Trump once called “ kind of disgusting.”

Perhaps I was overlooking something, so I contacted Trump’s campaign for confirmation of his green record. Although I received no response, it seems clear that a commitment to the environment of the scale that Trump wants you to imagine wouldn’t leave so little a trace.

Trump’s environmental heroism appears to be a legend in his own mind, a dangerous prospect given the monumental climate challenges facing our nation.

 

 

Washington Post

Donald Trump says he’s an environmentalist; others beg to differ

By Annie Gowen May 14, 2011

Call them Trump’s stumps.

Last spring and summer, workers at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County chopped down more than 400 trees along the Potomac River so their golfers could have a better view of the water.

Eight months later, the fate of the mile-long stretch of shoreline — where migratory birds once nested and bald eagles perched to fish — remains a source of conflict among the Trump Organization, local officials and environmentalists, who are dickering over how to stabilize the riverbank and what to do with the hundreds of stumps left behind.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Mark Haynes, an Arlington energy consultant who sits on the board of the Potomac Conservancy. “They replaced the trees with a huge flagpole with the American flag flying up there. Which struck me as sad. It’s kind of in-your-face now.”

Over the years, Donald Trump — the “Celebrity Apprentice” star, real estate mogul and impossible-to-ignore presidential candidate— has developed 11 luxury golf courses around the world, leaving a trail of happy golfers but angry residents and environmentalists in his wake. He infuriated neighbors in California for trying to plant trees to shield pedestrians from flying golf balls and in Northern Virginia for taking them out.

His fight with five gritty Scots who refused to move from the stone cottages standing in the way of his $1.6 billion golf course in Scotland inspired a film, “You’ve Been Trumped,” that played to sold-out crowds at Toronto’s documentary film festival this month. (Choice scenes: Trump worrying over his hair at a press conference on a windswept bluff and accusing one of the holdouts of living “like a pig.”)

Such dramas will provide plenty of fodder for those seeking to delve into Trump’s past should he decide to run for president in the coming weeks.

“I have a great environmental record,” said Trump, who last month purchased one of Virginia’s best-known wineries at a foreclosure auction for $6.2 million. “I have a record that, in my opinion, everybody would love.”

Well, not everybody. Environmentalists note the tree cutting, the mogul’s affection for flying in private jets and his call for Al Gore to be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize as evidence to the contrary.

“He likes to pretend he’s an environmentalist because of the landscaping on his golf courses, but at the end of the day, it seems he’s the only one that actually believes that,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. “His brand of environmentalism is only for the wealthy and elite.”

‘Like eco-Disney’

About a decade ago, Trump bought a bucolic estate about 45 miles from New York City that was once owned by the disgraced automaker John DeLorean. In 2004, he opened Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster, a place he feels is so lovely that he wants to be buried there (though plans to build a mausoleum on the first tee have been shelved.)

As the Trump Organization has expanded the Bedminster Club from 18 holes to 36, they have often touted their bird sanctuary — which won an environmental award — and network of nature trails as proof of their good stewardship of the property.

“It’s like eco-Disney up there,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, the executive director of the Upper Raritan Watershed Association, a watchdog group. But the 69 million gallons of water needed to maintain the course per year has strained the local aquifer, Ehrenclou said.

And, as in Loudoun, mature trees have quietly disappeared.

On May 6, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection cited Trump National Golf in Bedminster for a string of violations, including cutting trees and brush and disturbing wetlands.

Most of the environmental work on Trump’s golf courses has been overseen by Ed Russo, 65, a Key West retiree who was once the Bedminster planning board chairman.

Russo, whom Trump calls a “highly respected environmentalist,” lived in an old Victorian farmhouse on the 500-acre Bedminster property when DeLorean owned it. During that time, he fell so in love with the land — 500 rolling acres of apple trees, hay fields and paddocks in the middle of New Jersey’s hunt country — that he buried a fire truck and several other used vehicles on it in the admittedly nutty hope it would make the parcel unappetizing to future investors.

“You know you live on a piece of property, you want to protect it,” Russo said. “Golf was something we didn’t want.”

Then, in 2002, Trump came calling, asking Russo to clean up the property he had once helped pollute, and Russo agreed.

Russo, who is every bit as blustery and outspoken as his boss, said that Trump has given him an “open checkbook” and “has supported every crazy environmental initiative I’ve ever advanced. He deserves a big pat on the back.”

Russo’s plans often go against the grain of conventional scientific wisdom and soil conservation practice. In Loudoun, for example, he said that the treeswere actually causing erosion, rather than preventing it.

And on the northeastern coast of Scotland, where Trump is building what he says is going to be “the greatest golf course in the world,” Russo has pushed for stabilizing sand dunes over the objections of Scottish scientists. They’ve called the moving sand dune ecosystem one of the country’s greatest natural treasures, akin to Scotland’s own Amazon rain forest.

Russo calls that “baloney.”

Shoreline dispute

In Loudoun County, officials said they objected to the removal of the American elms, green ashes and black locusts when Trump’s people approached them with their plan last spring, according to Danny Davis, the county administrator’s chief of staff. But there was nothing they could do to prevent it.

Unlike Fairfax County and several other local jurisdictions, Loudoun’s shoreline is not protected by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. On Tuesday, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is set to debate whether to create its own 75-foot buffer that would protect the county’s remaining stretches of shoreline.

In a telephone interview, Trump defended the removal of the trees, saying it was legal and that his organization spent “tens of thousands of dollars” cleaning up the trash and debris along the shoreline after he bought the 800-acre course in 2009.

And he doesn’t shy away from saying the motivating factor was the pretty view for his club’s members, who pay $75,000 to join.

“It was done so that people utilizing the services of the club — of which there are 1,000 members, it’s a very successful club — could have unobstructed views of the river, and because it was an environmental enhancement,” Trump said. “The trees that were taken down were in terrible condition.”

The two sides have talked for months and have yet to agree on a formal erosion control plan for the area. The county would like them to replant some of the trees or at least woody shrubs, but Russo has balked at doing so, saying he prefers to create a hardy grassland habitat for birds.

“At this point we would like to see trees, sure,” Davis said. “But we understand we may not get that in the end.”

 

Washington Post

Trump is not just a risk to the country. He is also a risk to the planet.

By Stephen Stromberg March 21, 2016

Republican front-runner Donald Trump spent an hour with The Post’s editorial board on Monday, and he made at least three points that show why he is not just a risk to the country — but also to the planet.

First was Trump’s astonishing position on free speech. He doubled down on the notion that he would “loosen” U.S. libel laws so that it would be easier to go after journalists and other writers. For example, he would weaken the requirement that aggrieved public figures must show “malice” when suing a journalist who “writes incorrectly.” He attacked stories that are “written badly” and argued that a newspaper that “writes something wrong” and fails to run a retraction should “have a form of a trial.”

He was serially unclear on what he meant by “bad,” “incorrect” and “wrong” — factually wrong? Simply unfair? When I asked him to clarify, he gave an example of television news broadcasts failing to give more details about an altercation at one of his rallies, which is not a matter of inaccuracy but of emphasis. He also kept making clear that he was concerned with all sorts of coverage he disliked. He brought up Post opinion writing to which he objected, calling it “so angry,” which suggests that purely factual issues are not motivating his concerns. After more pressure, he seemed to disclaim the notion that he would crack down on angry columnists, but he ended on this scary bottom line: “I want to make it more fair from the side where I am.”

Trump’s loose talk of loosening freedom of speech protections is not just chilling in this country. The United States is such an exemplar of liberal values, Trump would reset the global standard downward. He would enable dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to say, “I told you so.”

Second was Trump’s embarrassing nonsense on climate change, which he has previously called “bull____” On Monday, he said that “perhaps there’s a minor effect.” But, “if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s, and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things. Now they’re using ‘extreme weather’ I guess more than any other phrase.” See, climate scientists — who have consistently raised concerns about global warming, and called it that, for decades — are constantly changing their story.

“Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?” I asked. In other words, why not pay something now to head off possibly much costlier outcomes later? “I just think we have much bigger risks,” Trump said, warning that the country is in “tremendous peril.”

“Our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons,” he said. “To me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That is climate change. That is a disaster.” There are several ways to interpret some of this language. But what makes it classic Trump is its brazen lack of reason. Forget this issue I do not want to confront. You know what you really need to worry about? The nuclear apocalypse.

Admittedly, Trump’s irresponsibility on climate change is not much different from many other Republicans’. But his justification is nevertheless a masterpiece of Trumpian illogic.

Third was Trump’s approach to foreign affairs and trade. He insisted that, as president, he should be “unpredictable,” arguing that, “sitting at a meeting like this and explaining my views” is unwise because, “if I do become president, I have these views that are down for the other side to look at.” Then he said, “I hate being so open.” This telegraphs insincerity, making it seem as though he just wants to avoid answering the question, which concerned what he would do about China’s moves to take control of the South China Sea. Assuming he means unpredictability to be a real strategy, it is a risky one. It can help in certain negotiations. But, along with Trump’s more isolationist approach to foreign affairs, it can also encourage adversaries to act more aggressively.

Trump was clear about one thing: He might use trade to punish China for its geopolitical advances. “We have power over China and people don’t realize it. We have trade power over China,” he said. “You start making it tougher.” Tempting a trade war with China certainly would make it tougher — on American consumers and the global economy.

Hillary Clinton, the most recent former secretary of state, has said that foreign leaders are telling her that they are worried about Trump. They should be.

 

Washington Post

2015: A year of progress and buffoonery on climate change

 

By Editorial Board January 2, 2016

LAST WINTER, bitter cold on the East Coast prompted Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) to take a snowball onto the Senate floor in mockery of climate scientists. This winter, the weather is so warm that there are not two snowflakes in the Washington area for Mr. Inhofe to scrape together.

Just as last winter’s cold did not disprove global warming, this winter’s warmth does not, in itself, establish that humans are raising Earth’s average temperature. Rather, it is the long-term trend that matters — and that is concerning. The past decade was warmer than the previous one, which was warmer than the one before that, and so on. So far, this decade looks sure to fit into that trend.

We may, too, be getting a taste of what a warming world feels like. According to a 2014 paper, one potential effect is a doubling of the number of strong El Nino years. That’s the phenomenon that has perturbed the jet stream and pushed this winter’s temperatures up. Though the El Niño variation predated human influence, it, among many other natural cycles, probably will not be immune to it. And even if this year’s El Niño cannot be blamed squarely on climate change, it nevertheless feels like a fitting end to a remarkable year in the policy and politics of global warming.

For those following the climate debate, 2015 brought some inspiring highs — and disheartening lows. President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency finalized landmark carbon dioxide regulations that promise to slash greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. This policy played a crucial role in galvanizing the international climate effort, which culminated last month in a huge international climate deal. The Paris agreement will not cut emissions enough to avoid serious risks. But it will get the world a good chunk of the way there, and it represents the beginning of a process in which all major emitters will be expected to step up.

The very same EPA rules also inspired a race among Republicans to embarrass themselves. A standard critique, such as that of Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), was to argue that climate regulations will uselessly harm the economy; that exaggerates the potential costs without acknowledging the unprecedented global agreement the measure helped to produce. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) went further, holding a hearing on climate science with a witness list that was a funhouse-mirror image of the scientific community: short on those who accept mainstream climate science, packed with climate critics.

Mr. Cruz insisted that there has been a “pause” in global warming since 1998, a date critics choose as their starting point because it was another El Niño year marked by very high temperatures. Like Mr. Inhofe and his snowball, Mr. Cruz’s point ignored the long-term nature of the warming trend. It also might be flatly wrong: A June paper in the top-flight journal Science found that the warming “pause” reflected biases in temperature data rather than a significant plateau in real temperature rise.

Alas, this finding also led to a nasty GOP reaction. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (Tex.) subpoenaed email relating to the study, which came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Congressional oversight of federal spending is important. That’s no excuse to conduct fishing expeditions designed to personally discredit scientists and undermine peer-reviewed research with lines from informal emails.

With the events of the past year in mind, the presidential candidates — and American voters — must ask themselves: Do they want to build on 2015’s climate progress, or do they want more of last year’s climate buffoonery?

You’re Right America, Get Over It!

January 17, 2017   John Hanno                               

 

                                 You’re Right America; Get Over It!

Ever since the improbable results of this election, Mr. Trump, his transition team and the Republi-cons in congress, have been telling the 65,844,954 American voters, 2.9 million more than voted for Mr. Trump, to get over it. Well, they really should have taken their own advise over the last eight years!

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Democrats need to “grow up and get past” losing the election.

“You know, what this is about, John (Dickerson), the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Sen. [Chuck] Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”

Coming from Senator McConnell, this hyper-hypocrisy demands a new word from Webster’s. On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, this same Senator led the cabal of congressional Republicans that plotted to do everything they could to make him a one term president; and then engaged in a maniacal campaign over 7 years, to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republi-cons believed if they opposed everything the Obama administration tried to achieve, that they could somehow delegitimize the first black president in our history. Compromising with him and the Democrats, to them meant total capitulation. The President was presented with the monumental task of avoiding another depression when he took office, an undertaking made much more difficult by relentless obstruction. But he stood firm and overcame.

In spite of their unpatriotic schemes, history will be much kinder to President Obama’s legacy than Mitch McConnell and the GOP were. The Republi-cons can lie about this administration’s accomplishments, and try to erase all remnants of his and the Democrats work to repair the damage done by yet another Republican attempt at taking America back to the gilded age, but the Presidential performance bar has been permanently raised. Barack Obama is leaving office with a 60% domestic approval rating; and that alone doesn’t show how much he has rebuilt the reputation of American leadership around the world. Mr. Trump will be sworn into office with a 34% approval rating (32% in latest CBS poll), the lowest of any president since polling began and a full 25 points lower than President Obama’s approval now and 45 points lower than when he took office in 2009. Mr. Trumps unfavorable polling is between 54 and 58%, more than 5 time higher than the Presidents in 2009. It’s apparent that if the election were held today, Mr. Trump would lose by a wide margin. Almost 50% disapprove of his cabinet choices. Is it a wonder that more than 70 Democrats in congress will refuse to attend the inauguration.

Republi-cons can try to cancel all the Presidents executive orders and huff and puff and try to blow down Obamacare, or maybe just get around to changing it’s name, but the 25 to 30 million Americans, who finally have credible health insurance and the peace of mind that entails, will be forever grateful, and won’t now be denied. They’re saying very loudly, stay away from my ACA!

A recent American President who served two full terms of scandal less governance can’t be diminished or erased. This perfect example of an utterly American family, with an Un-American name, will have forever changed our consciousness. Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans are sad to see this family leave the White House and are sincerely proud of their service to the country.

LGBTQ rights will never be the same, same sex marriage and serving openly in the military are etched in law; that won’t change. The President nominated and the Senate confirmed Eric K. Fanning as secretary of the Army, making him the highest-ranking openly gay official ever serving at the Pentagon.

While President Obama and the Democrats kept trying to push America forward, the Repub’s were trying to take it back. When President Obama was trying to give 45 million Americans hope, obstructive Republi-cons spent millions trying to repeal that change more than 60 times.

The Republi-cons will scheme with the fossil fuel lobby and fight like hell to reverse the progress made in fighting global warming and climate change, but the wheels of progress are in motion and speeding up. Sustainable energy is our future; fossil fuel is the past. And their attacks on public lands, National Parks and Monuments, and on America’s air, water and soil will be met with 10’s of millions of fierce earth protectors and a united Native American community.

Aside from the long list of accomplishments of the Obama Administration and the 10’s of millions of folks they positively impacted, and which I listed in an earlier post, America twice elected the first black president in our history; and he and Michelle did everything they could to help elect the first woman in our history.

The picture of that little boy touching the head of a bent over African American President to see if he was just like him can’t be erased. All children now know there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Republi-cons cannot erase the idea that a person of color or a woman can undertake the most difficult job in our country.

Thanks to Michelle, child obesity has reached a plateau; millions of American children are eating healthier and becoming more active. She set the bar higher for future first ladies. They both made the White House forever cool and are wonderful examples of leaders that exude grace, humility and integrity under fire.

This president showed that a man can cry when he has to confront the grief and sadness of the families of the 26 six year old students killed at Sandy Hook. He might not end up on Mt. Rushmore but might end up on a coin and certainly will have his funny name inscribed on buildings all over America. And when the history books are written, the first sentences will say, President Obama accomplished all these things in spite of overwhelming opposition from the entire Republican congress and party.

But it was not just President Obama and the Democrats pushing the cart full of boulders up the hill over the Republican tire spike strips; no, there were 10’s of millions of Americans lending a shoulder and pushing behind them. That won’t change. Those real patriots will not allow his legacies to fade. John Hanno