Donald J. Trump May Be Enshrined in American History as The Tarriest of Political Tarbabys


Donald J. Trump May Be Enshrined in American History as The Tarriest of Political Tarbabys

John Hanno           October 31, 2017

The list of folks who probably wished they never associated with Trump, his campaign, or his administration grows daily. The latest I’m sure, are Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos. Trump’s entire administration and campaign team have had to hire personal legal defense. During the entire 8-year Obama Administration, not one single person was embroiled in scandal or had to hire defense lawyers.

During a news conference on July 22, 2016, Trump said Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and assistant chairman Rick Gates “were doing a fantastic job” and had earlier called Papadopoulos an “oil and gas consultant and an excellent guy.”

These first indictments appear just the beginning. The allegations against Manafort and Gates look iron clad and serious enough to induce their full cooperation in the possible implication and prosecution of others. And Papadopoulos’s guilty plea, in the works since July, ratted out other campaign operatives.

What implores these people to sell their souls to a devil like Trump? Is it the money; most of them are already wealthy beyond reason? Is no amount of wealth enough for them? Or are they attracted to the absolute power of the American presidency?

Trump’s stated goal is to “Make America Great Again” but everything he’s done, every executive order he’s signed has done just the opposite. He and the Republi-cons in congress have tried to make American’s sicker again by attacking the ACA and taking health care away from the 10’s of millions of poor Americans who finally acquired health insurance under Obama.

Its attack on the Consumer Protection Agency and its handouts to Wall Street will make most Americans poorer. They’ve made America’s air and water dirtier and more detrimental to its citizens. It works day and night proposing ways to plunder America’s natural resources and national treasures and turn them over to profit seeking fossil fuel and mining interests.

It’s proposed tax bill, will attempt to make incredibly rich people and corporations even richer. And it will starve the federal governments ability to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. It’s policies will take power and resources away from workers, organized labor, consumers and anyone who supports the Democrats and their progressive agenda to rebuild our middle class.

Its obvious their main goal is to reverse every progressive accomplishment of the Obama Administration. And at the same time, to “Make Trump Inc. Great Again.”

Most of us, including progressive Democrats, critical thinkers, cheated business acquaintances of Trump, folks who bought into the bogus Trump University, women subjected to Trump’s sexual abuse, unrepentant Never Trumpers, and most of the rest of the entire world, saw the tar right from the start. Trump clearly showed us “who he really was”; and the dubious types he admired, praised and brought into his campaign and administration emphasized his flawed morality and character.

The swamp he promised to drain was obviously just another blatant Trump campaign lie. And the conflicts and mingling of his questionable business empire with his Executive Branch responsibilities, which he quite publicly promised to separate, was never perfected.

The Republican’s wholly tainted by Trumpism, are for the most part hanging on for dear life, hoping to rehabilitate their damaged reputations with their mythical tax reform legislation. They’re looking for a brier patch to escape into but the options are limited at this late date. A very few of the Republicans in Congress have managed to extricate themselves from the dirty tarbaby. Sen. John McCain, never a Trump fan, finally stood up and decided to make peace with his conscience before he meets his maker. Sen. Bob Corker, a principled conservative, decided that two 6-year senate terms were enough, and is attempting to clean his moral slate during the balance of his term. Sen. Jeff Flake, another principled conservative and very popular in his caucus, decided one term is all he could stomach when someone like Trump was steering the party into the abyss.

As the chips continue to fall, maybe others in congress will come to Jesus. There’s a good chance the promised monumental tax reform Trump and the Republi-cons promise will be as successful as their 7 year campaign to repeal President Obama and the Democrats efforts to heal our sick health care system.

Many of us, soon after Trump was elected but long before he took office, realized these Republi-cons would get drunk on their newfound power trifecta and couldn’t help but overreach. The insane promises this radical right cabal trumpeted during and since the campaign sealed their legislative fate long before the first vote was cast. The promises were so far removed from reality that even Trump’s bamboozled base supporters are even now beginning to drift back to Earth.

The Putinistic propaganda being spewed from the White House, from spokes-person Sarah Huckabee Sanders and from the ult-right media, rings more incredulous every day. Attempting to shift the focus from Trump’s Russia thing to Hillary’s Russia thing will fail on the facts Mr. Mueller and his team are uncovering by the hour.

Still, I can’t understand, that in spite of Trump’s historically low approval ratings, why are more than 80 percent of Republicans still solidly behind him. What will it take to finally turn his supporters from co-indicted treasonous co-conspirators into the courageous American patriots they pretend to be.

I can’t even imagine the hue and cry from the Republi-cons in congress if an Obama or Clinton Administration were implicated in 1/10th the scandals and conspiracies as Trump World. Articles of Impeachment would have already issued from every Republi-con controlled congressional committee.

When all is said and done, the list of criminal conduct and conspiracy will be impressive and substantial. But Robert Mueller may have a legal tight rope to walk, so that all the work his investigative team undertakes getting to the bottom of Putin’s attack on our Democracy, and the Trump campaign’s collusion, couldn’t be undone by pardons from Trump. Mr. Mueller may have to somehow slow-walk some of the prosecutions until after Trump is impeached, in order to bring all these criminals to justice.

John Hanno

Our National Parks Might Become a Gated Community


The National magazine of the Sierra Club

Our National Parks Might Become a Gated Community

Secretary Zinke’s proposal to increase entry fees could make parks an exclusive playground by kellyvandellen/iStock

By Jason Mark        October 26 2017

The mission of America’s national parks seems pretty clear. Legislation establishing the National Park Service, passed just over a century ago, said the parks and monuments should “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life” of parks and monuments “by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Such places should be widely open to visitors. The Park Service is supposed to ensure that nothing “interfere[s] with free access . . . by the public.”

But somehow the people who now oversee the national parks didn’t get the memo. They’re hoping to jack up entry fees at some of the most iconic parks by such enormous percentages that those places will no doubt become less accessible to many.

TAKE ACTION    $70 to Enter a National Park? Say NO!  

Instead of keeping our parks accessible to all, the Trump administration wants to increase park fees by more than double, while making it easier and cheaper for the fossil fuel industry to drill. Say no way!

Earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a proposal to more than double entry fees at 17 of the most popular parks during the summer months. Vehicle fees will go from $30 to $70. Motorcycle visitors will see their entry fees spike from $25 (and as low as $12 in some parks) to $50. Per-person rates—for those who arrive on bicycle, foot, or horse—will go from $15 a head to $30.

America’s public lands, rightly celebrated as an inspiring example of the country’s democratic aspirations, are at risk of becoming a gated community.

Here are the names of the parks facing skyrocketing fee increases (on the chance that one of the places is beloved by you): Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks.

You might be asking, What’s this all about?

Zinke claims the fee increases are needed to address the Park Service’s reported $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects. “The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” Zinke said in a statement calling for “targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks.”

I have a hard time believing Zinke’s concern about the infrastructure backlog when, at the same time, he and President Trump are proposing a budget that would cut spending on the Park Service by 13 percent and reduce staff by up to 1,200 employees. Zinke’s deferred maintenance anxiety feels a bit disingenuous—enough crocodile tears to match Yosemite Falls.

And while it’s true that some park facilities are badly in need of repair, the whole maintenance issue is a bit of a red herring. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, about $400 million of the backlog should actually be paid for by the concessionaires like Aramark and Xanterra that are making a killing on selling hot dogs at the visitor centers. Nearly half of the Park Service’s list of needs, close to $6 billion, is just for four roads in a handful of parks.

Maybe the proposed entry fee hike is some gesture to show the administration is serious about fiscal probity—you know, help balance the budget by doubling the price for a family wanting to spend a summer vacation in Arches or Yellowstone. That doesn’t pass the sniff test either, not when Zinke is also giving oil and gas companies a nearly 30 percent discount on their shallow water leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

I suppose the plan, with its focus on the summer months, might be a way to reduce what has become the unbearable overcrowding at some parks at peak season, a challenge that park officials acknowledge is making it difficult to leave their stewarded areas “unimpaired.” But if you really want to improve visitor experience, you don’t ratchet up prices to keep people away; instead, you build new and better infrastructure, with more buses in and out of parks being the obvious solution.

There’s something more going on here. Zinke’s whole proposal—the government is going to make it vastly more expensive for you to visit the lands you already own—seems a perfect expression of the Trump administration’s id. In Trump and company’s narrow world view, there are no common goods or shared assets, no civic solidarity. Public lands? What are those? One must pay to play.

Zinke has insisted again and again that he is “absolutely against” the sale of public lands. Yet that’s exactly what he’s doing with this proposed skyrocketing of national park fees. No, I suppose there won’t be any transfer of title. But every summer our common grounds will be rented to the highest bidders. National parks will become more like the exclusive enclaves and private planes the Trump folks love so dearly.

The national parks are supposed to be open-aired temples of democracy. If Trump and Zinke get their way, the affluent will have the places all to themselves.

More stories about: national parks

Jason Mark is the editor of Sierra and the author of Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man.

Scott Pruitt’s Professor Regrets ‘Unleashing’ EPA Chief On ‘Unsuspecting Public’


Scott Pruitt’s Professor Regrets ‘Unleashing’ EPA Chief On ‘Unsuspecting Public’

The teacher blasts his former law school student in an Op-Ed.

By Alexander C. Kaufman          November 1, 2017

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is nothing if not lawyerly.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, he waged war against Obama-era environmental rules by arguing on technicalities. He billed himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

Since taking over the agency he sued more than a dozen times, he has defended the Trump Administration’s deregulatory campaign in complex legalese, arguing that the issue is not how best to protect the environment and public health, but how to adhere to his narrow interpretation of the EPA’s mandate under the law. He even thanked a Time Magazine reporter for calling him “lawyerly” in an interview last month.

For that, Rex J. Zedalis, who taught Pruitt at the University of Tulsa’s law school in the early 1990s, said he has “tossed and turned” for “countless nights.”

“I confess regret for whatever small role I played in unleashing Administrator Pruitt on the unsuspecting public,” Zedalis wrote in an Op-Ed published Monday in The Santa Fe New Mexican. “Surely I’m at least partially to blame for failing to nurture in him a deep regard for seeing law as an instrument for addressing real facts on the ground, not simply implementing a political ideology, regardless the facts. via Getty Images. Scott Pruitt’s actions since becoming head of the Environmental Protection Agency have chagrined one of his former law professors.

He pointed to Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the sweeping set of Obama-era regulations meant to curb planet-warming emissions from the utility sector. While still at his Oklahoma post, Pruitt persuaded the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the plan last year, so it never went into effect. Since becoming EPA’s chief under President Donald Trump, Pruitt submitted a policy to eliminate the Clean Power Plan without replacing it, a move critics said demonstrated his intention to cripple efforts to curb climate change rather than refine the legal framework through which that action is taken.

“I understand why Obama’s environmental measures seem objectionable to Administrator Pruitt,” Zedalis wrote. “What I fail to comprehend, though, is his utter disregard for tailoring EPA regulatory actions so they address the environment as facts demonstrate we find it, not as we imagine it.”

I confess regret for whatever small role I played in unleashing Administrator Pruitt on the unsuspecting public. Rex J. Zedalis, University of Tulsa College of Law

He said Pruitt’s attempts to unravel climate regulations are rooted in a refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that climate change is dangerous, human-caused and addressable. Ninety-seven percent of peer-reviewed research agrees with the conclusion that factors including the burning fossil fuels are warming the planet with greenhouse gases. And a research review published last November found significant flaws in the methodologies, assumptions or analyses used by the 3 percent of scientists who found otherwise.

“What affords all of us, including Administrator Pruitt, the chance to blithely live regret-free is the fact we never live long enough to witness the full effect of many of our decisions,” Zedalis wrote. “As discomforting as it might be to accept consensus decisions of the scientific community on particular matters, the alternative raises the specter of regression to the Dark Ages’ reliance on the shaman and the soothsayer.”

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Pruitt.

Scott Pruitt just destroyed one of the EPA’s core safeguards, and we may never get it back

Mashable, Science

Scott Pruitt just destroyed one of the EPA’s core safeguards, and we may never get it back

Protesters gather outside a meeting where a climate change report was to be released. AP/REX/Shutterstock

By Andrew Freedman           October 31, 2017

In an unprecedented move, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt just issued a directive that would prohibit individuals from serving on the agency’s independent scientific advisory boards if they also receive research grants from the agency.

The far-reaching directive will boot many mainstream environmental scientists from the congressionally-mandated panels that work to ensure the EPA administrator receives the best available scientific advice. It also opens the door for experts who do not typically obtain EPA grants, specifically industry representatives and state regulators, to be brought in to replace them.

The directive Pruitt signed on Tuesday also sends the message that industry researchers can steer rules to benefit their sectors while somehow being more objective than scientists with federal funding.

SEE ALSO: Earth is seeing an unprecedented surge in carbon dioxide levels, with disturbing implications

That is a radical notion (some would call it flat-out bonkers) that could have serious consequences for the agency even after Pruitt leaves office, since committee members often serve for more than one administration.

The panels influence the agency’s rule making on issues ranging from chemicals regulation to air pollution and climate change, serving as a check on the science the agency relies on for its decisions.

“Those very committees are giving us the bedrock of science to ensure that we’re making informed decisions,” Pruitt said during a signing ceremony at EPA headquarters in Washington.

The three panels include the Science Advisory Board, or SAB, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, or CASAC, and the Board of Scientific Counselors, or BASC. Administrator Pruitt announced new chairs for each of these panels on Tuesday. The new directive may also apply to other agency advisory committees as well.

For the Science Advisory Board, Pruitt selected Michael Honeycutt, who heads the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s toxicology division. He is well known to environmental activists and mainstream researchers for questioning the scientific evidence tying health risks to smog.

At a 2003 hearing on proposed federal air quality rules, Honeycutt said no standards should be implemented that could force people to drive less, or make other changes in their daily lives.

“Programs that require lifestyle changes are unacceptable to the public,” he said, according to The New York Times.

melissa block @NPRmelissablock Spotted on my walk this morning

Pruitt said the EPA will release more names of committee members later this week, although a list leaked to the press shows representatives of the American Chemistry Council, and the oil companies Phillips 66, Southern Company, Total, and Exxon as possible additions.

In justifying the changes, which will allow the EPA to add scientists who hold views outside the scientific mainstream, Pruitt cited the need for scientific independence.

“When we have members of those committees that have received tens of millions of dollars in grants at the same time that they’re advising this agency, that is not good and that’s not right,” Pruitt said, without mentioning that the EPA is the largest source of grants for studying particular environmental health issues, and that advisory board members have to comply with agency conflict of interest policies in order to be able to serve.

“They are no longer going to be receiving grants from this agency,” Pruitt said regarding advisory board members. “They will have to choose, either the grant, or service, but not both.”

Hijacking science

Many scientists and activists see the directive, and legislation resembling it that passed the House last year but went nowhere in the Senate, as a way to purge the panels of expert researchers who Pruitt and his allies don’t agree with.

Pruitt has denied the fact that greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming, and has worked to roll back numerous EPA regulations enacted under the Obama administration. Many of these rollbacks have since been blocked in the courts. Administrator Scott Pruitt.  Image: MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Pruitt is unlike any of his predecessors at the agency since its creation in 1970. He rarely consults agency staff before making decisions, holds most of his meetings with industry groups, and is infamous for cutting the agency’s budget while spending millions to beef up his personal security detail.

Rush Holt, who heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), came out strongly against the advisory board changes.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science denounces the EPA administrator’s decision to disallow qualified scientific experts from providing evidence-based information as members of its science adviser boards,” Holt, the chief executive officer of the AAAS and a former congressman, said.

“This EPA decision is motivated by politics, not the desire for quality scientific information. Federal agencies should recognize and enable input of scientific and technical information that represents the best available evidence,” Holt, a physicist by training, added in the statement.

“The government must ensure that its science advisers possess the requisite scientific, medical and technical expertise to inform agency policies. At the same time, the government must facilitate transparency and protect against conflict of interest. Federal agencies from NIH [National Institutes of Health] to EPA have policies on scientific integrity and financial conflict of interest, allowing agencies to balance transparency and access to expertise.”

According to Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons, Pruitt’s directive shows that he mistakenly thinks scientists personally profit from research grants, and that he is mainly looking out for the oil, gas, and chemicals industries.

“These changes fundamentally upend the role that science should play in policy at the EPA and suggest a profound misunderstanding of how scientific grants are awarded and how science is conducted,” Coons said in a statement.

“To suggest that academic scientists personally profit from grants they receive to conduct research while representatives of regulated industries do not benefit from how regulations are implemented is extremely disingenuous.”

Chris McEntee, executive director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest organization of Earth scientists, disagreed with the EPA’s move as well.

“Science has one agenda: to advance the body of scientific knowledge. The principles and practices that protect the integrity of science are well defined through the scientific method and the peer-review process,” she said in a statement.

“EPA’s decisions have real implications for the health and well-being of Americans and in some cases people worldwide. By curtailing the input of some of the most respected minds in science, Pruitt’s decision robs the agency, and by extension Americans, of a critically important resource.”

The AAAS’ Holt even questioned whether the EPA can continue to fulfill its basic mission given this and other changes pushed through under Pruitt’s leadership.

“Given its desire to limit expert perspectives and the role of scientific information, we question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said.

Interestingly, this change could come back to haunt Pruitt and his successors if it makes agency rules harder to defend in court. By potentially skewing the science justifying EPA’s regulations, it could make it easier for opponents to halt or overturn them.

WATCH: These edible wrappers could help keep plastic out of the ocean

Manafort Is Mueller’s Opening Salvo


Manafort Is Mueller’s Opening Salvo

The first round of indictments in the Russia investigation are just that: the first.;0,0&resize=768:*Getty

By Charles P. Pierce             October 30, 2017  

Ten months. It took Richard Nixon four years to get himself tangled up with serious felonies. It took Ronald Reagan five years to sign off on arming the Contras in contravention of federal law. Hell, it was almost three years—and two special prosecutors—into Bill Clinton’s term before anybody was indicted with the remotest connection to whatever the Whitewater affair really was all about.

Ten months is all it took for the president*’s former campaign manager, a guy who ran the president*’s campaign for almost twice as long as evil genius Steve Bannon did, and his principal aide, who was still hanging around the White House as recently as last June, to get hauled into FBI headquarters early Monday morning to begin what may be several years worth of similar perp walks. Ten months. This is impressive. From The New York Times:

“The charges against Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, were not immediately clear but represent a significant escalation in a special counsel investigation that has cast a shadow over the president’s first year in office. Also charged was Mr. Manafort’s former business associate Rick Gates, who was also told to surrender on Monday, the person said.Mr. Manafort walked into the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington at about 8:15 a.m. with his lawyer. Mr. Gates is a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and business-people in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show. Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.”;center,top&resize=768:*Getty

Later reporting on Monday morning confirmed that at least some of the charges against Manafort concern tax fraud, which could mean almost anything up to and including sweetheart deals involving Russian oligarchs. This is what makes the indictment of Gates every bit as intriguing as the indictment of Manafort. As the NYT reported in June:

“As investigators examine Mr. Manafort’s financial and political dealings at home and abroad, they are likely to run into Mr. Gates wherever they look. During the pair’s heady days in Ukraine, it was Mr. Gates who flew to Moscow for meetings with associates of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch. His name appears on documents linked to shell companies that Mr. Manafort’s firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and business-people in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show.”

These indictments are possibly the least important part of what happened on Monday morning, although one of the 12 counts—“conspiracy against the United States”—sounds pretty damn serious. (In what manner did Manafort allegedly “conspire against the United States” and with whom? Legal beagles will have to explain if one can conspire against the United States simply by laundering money for one’s own pecuniary gain, or whether said alleged laundering has to have a specific purpose other than that. Here’s the statute. It looks like money laundering and/or tax fraud would fit under the “or any agency thereof” specification. Sounds worse than it is, maybe, but it still sounds very bad. And who might the other conspirators be?);center,top&resize=768:*Getty

What is most important, of course, is that the snowball has started to roll downhill. For a while on Monday, whomever in the White House is charged with the task of hiding the presidential* telephone had done a fairly good job. The president*’s Twitter account was rigged for silent running. Republican congress-critters also were maintaining a discreet distance in the immediate aftermath of the news. (Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin popped up on Three Dolts On A Divan to say “dossier,” “Hillary,” and “uranium” a few times, but his heart didn’t seem to be in it.)

At the very least, it would seem to me, Republican congressional leaders ought to be forced to take a position as to what they would do if the president* fired Robert Mueller now that the first shoe has dropped. This should be an easy one, of course, but there is that tax bill to pass, and all that money to shove upwards to the donors, so obligations to the Constitution can wait.

The snowball has started to roll downhill.

More significant is the fact that Mueller is apparently investigating every damn thing he can get his hands on. The role of the Bank of Cyprus in all of this has taken on a critical importance and it’s important to remember that Wilbur Ross, the current Secretary of Commerce, used to be on the board of that bank before he joined Camp Runamuck. This damn thing could go everywhere.

And the backlash, while muted as Monday dawned and indictments broke over Washington, is going to be fierce. For example, throughout the endless Clinton snipe hunts of the 1990s, one of the prime movers was the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which was run back then by a fanatic named Robert Bartley. It was the WSJ editorial page that gave us the consequential headline, “Who Is Vincent Foster?” It hounded the unfortunate Clinton White House counsel to the point at which Bartley’s operation earned the distinction of being the first editorial page to be specifically cited as a cause of action in a suicide note, as well as making the WSJ editorial page the source of noxious and fantastical theories about Foster’s suicide that persisted right into last November’s political campaign, when the president* resurrected them because he is a vicious and soulless man.

Anyway, they’re apparently suiting up again. Over the weekend, the WSJ ran an editorial demanding that Mueller resign. It also published an op-ed by a couple of Bush 2 lawyers advising the president* to pardon everyone—a move that likely would set off cranial detonations at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and the birthing of bovines generally throughout the country. Nevertheless, when the WSJ editorial page last drifted into the plak tow, the vast conservative media apparatus was still in its larval stages. God alone knows what will happen now that it’s fully gestated and howling across the landscape. With the Republican congressional leadership so far hiding behind the curtains, there’s nothing to restrain the beast and, sooner or later, the president* is going to find his phone.

Great day in the morning, it’s going to be bloody.

There’s No Resilience Without Good Health


There’s No Resilience Without Good Health

By Karen Lynn Allen, originally pub. by Musings  October 30, 2017

How do you envision yourself at age eighty? Do you want to be active, mobile, and of sound mind and body? Or do you think you’ll be lucky just to be alive?

Good health is not luck. Yes, luck plays a role, as do genetics and the presence or absence of toxic pollution. But the vast majority of Americans have the health that we ourselves create. What kills us, immobilizes us, and makes us dependent on medication is largely within our control.

Indeed, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 80% of heart disease, 80% of strokes, 80% of type II diabetes, and 40% of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes. Researchers at UCSF estimate over half of Alzheimer’s cases are likely preventable. This is good news! It means we have a good chance of steering clear of them. Even better, it is completely possible to reverse a host of the most common debilitating and/or fatal diseases with just a change of personal habits. Without drugs, medical procedures or much money, you can lessen/eliminate chronic pain, reverse diabetes and heart disease, avoid dementia, steer clear of most cancers, improve your digestion, beat depression, and generally increase your happiness and life satisfaction.

I don’t know if you noticed during the plethora of natural disasters this last summer, but people with poor health and/or poor mobility tend not to fare well when fires/floods/hurricanes strike. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion and evacuate people with poor health/mobility before Mother Nature slaps us around. But it cannot escape the attentive that being dependent on electrically-powered medical equipment or drugs that come via a lengthy, fragile supply chain make one extremely vulnerable should the power go out or the drugs not be delivered. Plus, not being mobile may mean you simply can’t escape quickly enough from fires or floods. (The majority of the victims of northern California’s recent fires were senior citizens.) If you anticipate there may be food or energy insecurity in our future, you can bet that medical services will hiccup long before that. Solar panels, orchards, and canned food are all well and good, but good health is absolutely the best investment you can make to prepare for whatever lies ahead. Plus it will make you feel great in the meantime. I mean really great. And if disaster strikes, it will put you in the position of being able to help friends, family and community members instead of being the one who needs help.

My health is good, you may be thinking. Or at least good enough. Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We could examine whether you’re able to walk a couple miles without exhaustion. We could inventory how many medications you’re taking and whether you’d die in short order if you ran out. But let’s look instead at an even better prognosticator of your immediate and long-term health. Let’s look at your waist.

The ratio of waistline to height has been found to be an accurate predictor of current and future health, much better than BMI
(Body Mass Index). Go find a tape measure and measure it right now. If you’re unsure where it is, measure one inch above your navel. If your waist is more than half of your height, you’ve got visceral abdominal fat wrapped around your organs that is slowly (or not so slowly) working to kill you. This is true even if in terms of pounds you are not considered overweight or obese. Unless you’re pregnant, a big belly is bad.

Visceral abdominal fat is much worse than any other fat in your body because this kind of fat functions almost like a gland, secreting hormones, cancer-contributing proteins, and inflammatory biochemicals that will cause you lots of problems. As a result, visceral fat is directly linked to heart disease and type-2 diabetes, and, for women, breast cancer. Because visceral fat influences the production of blood lipids, it’s also directly linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol, lower levels of good cholesterol and insulin resistance. It also increases risk of stroke, dementia, depression, arthritis, sleep disorders and cancers of the colon, liver, pancreas, intestines, uterus, gall bladder and kidneys. Don’t worry about other body fat. This is the fat you want to go after.

The good news is that reducing your abdominal fat will dramatically decrease your chances of the diseases listed above, especially heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, and diabetes. Heart disease is the number one way Americans die. Cancer is number two. Stroke is number five, Alzheimer’s is six, diabetes is seven. One in three US seniors die with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Forty percent of American adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic, most of them unaware of their condition. It is far, far easier to prevent these diseases than to cure them. (Many cannot be cured, only managed.) If you can deal with your belly–deal with it now—you will likely avoid much future suffering, not to mention an early death. You’ll also feel way better now. It’s win-win all around.

But how to get rid of visceral fat that causes a big belly? The human body tends toward homeostasis. It has a set point weight it tries to maintain, and it will fight change to the downside. (Unfortunately, it will let you add fat without much resistance.) It will even send you hormonal signals that tell you you’re hungry when you obviously have plenty of fat to burn. What can you change about your life that will not only improve your energy levels, make your immune system more effective, but also jumpstart you body into losing those visceral fat inches?

As you likely know, the United States spends way more per capita on health care than any other country in the world. Sadly, such ruinous spending doesn’t actually give us good health or long life. The US average lifespan is 31st among nations and dropping. Even worse, our years of healthy life expectancy is 36th among nations. Growing old doesn’t have to entail ill health or disability. The citizens of Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Israel, Iceland, France, Spain, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Austria on average enjoy good health well into their seventies. Most of these countries also report higher levels of general happiness than the US does. They certainly consume a fraction of the anti-depressants, sleeping pills and opiods. And they spend a fraction of the money that Americans do to produce these superior results.

I’m going to suggest three lifestyle changes that will significantly increase your odds of making it to the age of 80 not only alive, but with good mobility, of sound mind, and generally feeling good. All three are within your control; none of the three cost much. Even better, the three together will improve your life right now. They’ll drop your needs for most drugs; they’ll increase your energy and stamina; they’ll help you sleep better and make you look great. But you’re going to have all sorts of arguments why you can’t do them. You may even think you’d rather live with a decade of debilitating illness and then die before you’re old enough to collect social security than do what I’m proposing. Wow, how bad can they be? Read on.

1) Walk thirty minutes a day. Your lymphatic system is the Rodney Dangerfield of the body. It gets no respect. Most people are unaware it even exists. However, it’s essential to health  because it rids the body of toxins and wastes and transports infection-fighting white blood cells around the body. But this is key: unlike your vascular (blood) system, it has no pump. It requires your body’s movement to operate. There is absolutely no way you can be healthy without some form of moderate daily exercise to get this lymph moving around. It doesn’t have to be walking, however brilliant walking is. Bicycling counts. Yoga and tai chi count. So does gardening. So does sweeping, snow shoveling and hanging the laundry to dry. Do more vigorous exercise if you wish on some days, but every day do at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise without fail.

This may sound simple, but you’d think I was asking people to jump over the moon given the raft of excuses they come up with. If you live in a neighborhood that is dangerous for walking and biking, you live in a neighborhood designed for poor health. Consider moving. (I’m serious. The average American changes residences 11.4 times in his/her lifetime. Next time, make your health a factor in choosing where to live.) Ladies, if you wear shoes that hurt to walk in, get some comfortable ones. Save the high heels for special occasions. (High heels cause an abundance of health problems that will eventually cripple you anyway. Better to be sexy via a slim waist than by permanently damaging your feet, ankles, knees and spine.) If you can’t walk thirty minutes in a row right now, start out at ten and add five minutes each week. You’ll get there. Walking alone will likely not drop all your belly fat, but it will strengthen your bones and leg muscles, prevent varicose veins, improve your lung and oxygen capacity, lift your mood, prevent countless chronic diseases, improve your digestion, and improve your balance and coordination. And it will help you sleep better. It will make a huge impact on how you feel and your general health.

The easiest way to fit thirty minutes of walking or biking into your day is to make it a natural part of how you commute or do errands. This is why the very design of America’s car-based society (that ensures nothing is close by and renders walking and biking dangerous) is terrible for American health.
But here’s some good news: if you are fit in your fifties, you significantly delay infirmity. This is true even if you weren’t particularly fit earlier. You may eventually get the same chronic conditions as those who were unfit in their fifties, but you’ll get them in the final five years of your life instead of the final 10, 15, or 20 years. You will live much better—happier! active! mobile!–the last 20% of your life. And you don’t have to be super fit, just the regular fitness level that comes from walking thirty minutes a day.

Thirty minutes of daily, moderate exercise cuts your chance of Alzheimer’s in half. It is the number one tool to protect your memory and your mind that you have at your disposal. (Here are some others.) You don’t want Alzheimer’s. Your family doesn’t want you to develop Alzheimer’s. Trust me on this.

Sit less than six hours a day. Yes, sitting is the new smoking. Our bodies were built for movement. Is it any surprise that sitting all day in a chair is bad for you? Too much sitting causes your metabolism to slow, your blood circulation to stagnate, less oxygen to be delivered to your brain, and it significantly increase your risk of heart disease, cancer (colon, endometrial, and lung), obesity, type 2 diabetes, muscular infirmity, and depression. It also impedes the functioning of the key enzyme that breaks down fat. Thirty minutes a day of exercise, while imperative for your lymph and circulatory systems, does not counteract the badness of twelve hours of sitting. No matter your age, the combined ill effects of extensive sitting basically double your risk of premature death. If you’re already on your feet all day with your job, you’re probably fine, unless it’s a job that requires you to stand still. (Standing still can give you back aches and varicose veins. We’ll talk about how to solve this in a second.)

If you have a desk job, I strongly encourage you to get a standing desk. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I spent $40 on a stand to put my laptop screen at eye level, another $140 for a keyboard and trackpad separate from my laptop so I can keep my arms perpendicular to my body, and $80 for an anti-fatigue mat that is contoured and keeps my calves activated. (Explanation to follow.) There are also inexpensive standing desk hacks.

It may seem an oxymoron, but you don’t want to just stand at a standing desk. The key to great health with a standing desk or a standing job is to activate the calf muscles. We all know that our heart pumps blood away from the center of our bodies. However, gravity fights the return of that blood from our legs. That’s why calves are sometimes called the second heart. The activation of our calf muscles is what gets that blood back up to our hearts. When we sit, those calf muscles do next to nothing. When we stand motionless, it’s not much better. However, when we stand it’s not so hard to dance, wiggle, lift up our heels, or walk in place, all of which activates those calves. I find an anti-fatigue mat with bumps and contours promotes calf activation as well. If you want to try a walking treadmill desk ($), go for it. There are many studies that show (and I can verify from personal experience) that standing desks improve neurocognitive function, including memory, focus and alertness. I can attest that I’ve never felt sleepy at my standing desk. And it is far, far easier to keep good posture standing than while sitting if you pay attention to ergonomics when creating your standing desk. If you have neck, arm, hand, shoulder, back or carpal tunnel problems, it’s very possible that poor posture and/or poor ergonomics created them and good posture/ergonomics will help them disappear (as will dropping weight and strengthening your muscles.) Better to eliminate the source of pain than to rely on opioids to get you through the day.

In tai chi, there’s a concept called suspended headtop. Think of the top of your head rising up, as if suspended from a string. Relax your shoulders down; don’t stick your chest out military style. Bend your knees slightly and keep your weight towards the balls of your feet. Don’t slump, don’t lock out your knees and put all your weight on your heels. (Rocking back on your heels from time to time is fine.) Your butt muscles should be relaxed, not clenched. Your chest should be relaxed enough that you can breathe deep into your belly. Remember not to stand motionless. Shift your weight from foot to foot, lift up your heels, rise up onto your toes, wiggle, and wobble around. Swing your arms from time to time, even walk in place. Sitting down ten minutes here and there is okay, just remember to get back up. (It’s easy to get caught up in something and, before you know it, ninety minutes have passed and you haven’t moved.) If your job absolutely requires you to sit on your butt eight hours a day, I’m sorry to say you have a job that will lead to your infirmity and early death. Do they pay you enough for that? Truly consider a different job or a different line of work. If you can’t quit immediately, then getting up every 30 minutes to stretch and walk around for a minute will help a whole lot.

Ladies, standing desks require flat shoes. (Socks and bare feet also work.) I recommend Softstar shoes because I love mine so much, not to mention that Softstar is a great small business that is environmentally conscious and treats their workers well. Wearing “barefoot” style shoes such as these will strengthen your feet, improve your balance and can even reverse a host of foot problems. I buy one pair a year and wear them for everything except running on hard pavement, walking over three miles on concrete, and fancy occasions. At work keep formal shoes in a desk drawer for when you need them.

As for other ways to refrain from sitting: walking meetings work well when you’re meeting with just one other person. If you can talk your employer into it, standing meeting tables are proven to increase productivity and reduce meeting times. At the very least, make a concerted effort to make your screen time standing time.Now don’t try to go from sitting twelve hours a day (American average) to six overnight! Try standing for ten minutes an hour and then adding five minutes a week until you can do 45 minutes at a stretch. The hardest thing is travel. Either in a car or airplane, you’ve got forced butt time. (This is part of the reason truck and cab drivers have some of the worst health in the country.) On public transit you can stand; on a train you can get up and walk. Choose those options when you can.

Okay. Let’s talk about waistline reduction again. As you walk, exercise, and stand, you’re going to be strengthening your legs. Adding muscle. This is good! However, since muscle is heavier than fat, even if your abdominal fat is vaporizing, your weight may not drop immediately. That’s okay. Weight is not nearly as important as your waist. If you’re replacing visceral fat with leg muscle, you’re doing amazing things for your health. Don’t even step on a scale. Get a tape measure and focus on your belly.

So we move on to lifestyle change number three. This is the one that people say they’d rather die than do. Oh my gosh. Seriously?

3) Cut out wheat and sugar for six months. (Noooo! I hear you all screaming.) Wheat and
sugar are the king and queen of obesity, inflammation and diabetes. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, they’re almost guaranteed to make you sick, weak and immobile before your time. If you’ve got problems with belly fat, eliminate all wheat, high fructose corn syrup, and desserts from your diet. Also all added sugars. For six months. I must point out this includes bread. Even whole wheat bread. It includes pasta. Beer. It certainly includes doughnuts. Freaking A, it includes most crackers.

Oh. My. God. The world is going to end.

If you want a detailed explanation of the problems with wheat, read Wheat Belly and Grain Brain. Suffice it to say that wheat has been massively hybridized the last fifty years into a form very different than what has been consumed by human beings the previous ten thousand. But I’m not telling you to give up wheat forever. Get your belly gone, and you can reintroduce wheat and see how it affects you, perhaps trying ancient and heirloom strains that haven’t been so manipulated to produce higher yields, pesticide accommodation, perkier baking properties, etc.

There are all sorts of good reasons to clear wheat and sugars from your diet, including the nasty way they spike your blood sugar, make you insulin resistant, age your skin, make you fat, weaken your bones, and diminish your mental acuity. But let’s put those aside for the moment. I propose you totally clear wheat and added sugars from your diet for the next six months because of homeostasis.

Your body doesn’t like change. Your body doesn’t want to lose its belly. Even with your new regimen of walking thirty minutes a day and sitting less than six hours, it will not say, “Sure, no problem, this belly has got to go.” No sirree. It will fight losing those inches. Cutting wheat and sugar from your food supply will jump-start the process. It will reduce your high blood sugar levels that directly lead to visceral abdominal fat, not to mention diabetes, cataracts, arthritis, dementia and heart disease. Dropping wheat and sugar will make those fat cells say, “Whoa, what’s going on?” It will tell your body you mean business.

I can tell you that when I hit 50, I was not obese or overweight, but my weight was creeping up. I was running 5K three times a week, I was walking 30 minutes a day, I ate little in the way of sweets or desserts. Still my weight was creeping. Then I cut out wheat. My body made a marked shift; I dropped ten pounds without otherwise changing my diet. My waist dropped two inches. Yes, dropping wheat is that powerful.

But you have to cut the sugar, too, because it’s also nasty bad for you and can fill in for wheat at the drop of a hat. Yes, cutting out wheat means no more office cupcakes. Yes, it means avoiding the center of the grocery store and every beautiful bakery that wants to lure you in with its luscious scents and its big-eyed whole-grained muffins that can’t possibly be bad for you (can they?) Yes, it means forgoing most fast and prepared foods. (This is a feature, not a bug.) If you don’t cook, you may have to start. Don’t replace wheat with “gluten free” processed corporate crapola products. They’re mostly made from rice starch, tapioca starch or other starch that is largely nutrition-free. You want the food you put in your mouth to both fill you up and actually have nutrition. (Ahem, this means not gorging yourself on potato chips or tortilla chips either, even if they don’t contain wheat.)

Wheat stimulates the appetite. Getting it out of your diet will help you to not be constantly ravenous. Satiate your appetite with good fats—avocados, avocado oil, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds. (Trans fats are so awful for you that I’m assuming you cut them out of your diet years ago?) You need protein, so throw in modest amounts of pasture-raised dairy and meat. (If you’re vegan, you should already well know healthy vegan sources of protein.) And throw in lots and lots of vegetables that will give you the nutrition and micro-nutrients that your body needs and probably hasn’t gotten in years. Go easy on the rice, potatoes and non-wheat grains. Instead of snacking on pretzels and cookies, try carrots, pumpkin seeds or raw cashews. For a quick breakfast, grab a hard-boiled egg rather than a bagel. Trade your lunchtime sandwich for a salad sprinkled with cheese and sunflower seeds. Ever have grated sweet potato sautéed in coconut oil? Delicious!

Oh. My. God. You’re saying no pizza and beer. Ever.

First off, there are some wheat-free beers, and there are ways to make wheat-free pizza. And we’re just talking six months. Wheat and sugar are addictive; both have properties that cause you to crave them. After a month or so the cravings will die down. I walk by bakeries now and I don’t even want a muffin. But that wasn’t true at first. Once you get your waist to a healthy circumference, then, if you really want, you can reintroduce wheat and see how your body reacts.

If you would rather die early than give up bread for six months, so be it. I’ll just suggest the one bite rule. Sometimes, if you’re craving something–if something looks so good, you might die if you don’t have it–one bite will get you far. Perhaps it’s a beautiful cake that everyone is raving about, ice cream that’s magical, or the best biscuit in the history of the universe. Take exactly one bite. Your taste-buds will get most of their gratification (sweetness, texture, flavor.) Same with ice cream. Seriously, one bite gets you 80% of the joy. (Note: this works better for sweet/floury things than salty/oily things.)

This should be obvious, but cut out the soda and the sweet tea. This includes diet soda. (Very nasty for your poor brain, increasing risk of both stroke and dementia.) Hydrate mostly with water from your personal stainless steel water bottle. (Please, oh, please, don’t buy bottled water. It’s bad for you and bad for the planet.) Once you get rid of added sugars, food with natural sugars will start tasting quite sweet to you. Foods with nutrition, like milk, carrots, snap peas. Some fruit is okay, but don’t gorge on it. Get creative with vegetables instead. If your body is really stubborn about homeostasis and that belly fat won’t budge, try switching to zero starch dinners (just protein and vegetables) or even skipping dinner a couple times a week to get over your body’s set point inerti.

Let me also point out the foolishness of smoking and/or destroying your liver by drinking too much. It’s simply bonkers to work hard on improving your health on the one hand while simultaneously monkey hammering it with drink and cigarettes on the other.

Don’t say you don’t have the time. It’s all about priorities. Many people postpone prioritizing their health until their first heart attack or stroke. Or until they’re diagnosed with cancer. Or they need a limb amputated. Then they must focus on nothing but their health for quite a while, with medical interventions that are stressful and unpleasant. How about preventing the heart attack, the stroke, the cancer, the amputation? How about taking action right now so that you can live actively and joyfully from age 60 to age 80? (Possibly even beyond.)

Yes, whatever you do, you might still get unlucky and get clobbered by a texting driver or contract a debilitating disease there was no way to prevent. But why not give yourself the best odds possible? Follow these three steps (that might seem impossible but really aren’t) and you will ignite your immune system and increase your strength and stamina. You’ll fire up your metabolism, reduce your current and future need for medications, get rid of your belly, and save both you and the nation oodles in future health care expense. You will feel energized, creative, and powerful not only when your belly’s gone, but as it’s going. Don’t choose death, disease and suffering due to the siren calls of sugar, wheat and your easy chair. However old you are, whatever shape you’re in, turn your health around. You can do it.

Karen Lynn Allen is a novelist and blogger who draws on her background in both literature and engineering to write about energy and resilience issues. Her novel, Beaufort 1849, depicts a society that needs to make an energy transition but instead doubles down on its way of life with catastrophic consequences.

New Study Shows Human Glyphosate Levels Have More than Doubled in 23 Years

Organic Authority-Chew News

New Study Shows Human Glyphosate Levels Have More than Doubled in 23 Years

by Emily Monaco          October 30, 2017

A new study has shown that glyphosate levels in humans have more than doubled since 1993; glyphosate-resistant GMO crops were first introduced into the United States in 1994.

The research, which compared glyphosate levels in the urine of 100 people in California, was conducted by the San Diego School of Medicine and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“Prior to the introduction of genetically modified foods, very few people had detectable levels of glyphosate,” says study author Paul Mills, of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine. “Our exposure to these chemicals has increased significantly over the years but most people are unaware that they are consuming them through their diet.”

Researchers found that detectable amounts of the herbicide increased from an average of 0.2 micrograms per liter to .44 micrograms per liter in 2014-2016. The daily limit set by the EPA is 1.75 milligrams per kilogram.

Mills indicated that the next step for researchers would be to examine the general health of individuals who had higher levels of the herbicide in their urine.

“I am concerned,” he tells Radio New Zealand. “This is one of the reasons I put together this study, because there wasn’t such information in the biomedical literature, and I thought we needed it, and we needed to start having some good data to have a conversation around these questions.”

Glyphosate, which is most often sold under the brand name Roundup by Monsanto, is used as an herbicide with genetically modified glyphosate-resistant soy and corn crops. It is also used on non-GMO oats and wheat, which are sprayed to dry them out in preparation for harvest.

Use of glyphosate has increased approximately 500 percent since the early ’90s, according to the study authors.

“Prior to the introduction of genetically modified foods, very few people had detectable levels of glyphosate,” says Mills.

The World Health Organization found that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Last Tuesday, the European Parliament called for use of the herbicide to be phased out over the next five years throughout the European Union. The non-binding resolution should have been voted on Wednesday, but the vote has been postponed for the time being.

Related on Organic Authority
Ben & Jerry’s to Launch Organic Ice Cream After More Traces of Glyphosate Found
France to Phase Out the Controversial Herbicide Glyphosate Over the Next 5 Years
Dicamba May be Even More Dangerous than Glyphosate

Puerto Rico’s Contract With Whitefish Is As Bad As It Looks, Say Experts


Puerto Rico’s Contract With Whitefish Is As Bad As It Looks, Say Experts

Jennifer Bendery, HuffPost      October 29, 2017

WASHINGTON ― Something does not look right with the contract the Puerto Rican government signed last week with Whitefish Energy Holdings to restore the island’s power.

Never mind that the massive $300 million contract went to Whitefish, a two-year-old firm based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Montana hometown that had just two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit the island.

There’s language in the contract ― a full copy is here ― that looks like Whitefish is about to screw over the government and the people of Puerto Rico as they struggle to recover from the devastation of the hurricane. Even Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is concerned with PREPA’s deal. On Sunday, he called for canceling the contract with Whitefish.

For one, the contract, which Whitefish signed with the government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, states that, “In no event shall [government bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements.” That gives Whitefish an incredible amount of discretion and privacy over how it uses $300 million in American taxpayer money.

The contract also “waives any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of the work,” which means the government can’t do much if Whitefish drags out its work restoring electricity to the 3.4 million Americans living on the island. It’s been more than a month since the hurricane destroyed Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and 80 percent of people still have no power ― a particularly precarious reality for hospitals that have been relying on temporary generators to keep people alive.

But what do we know about contracts? Maybe this is standard language for these kinds of agreements. HuffPost reached out to some experts in government contracting to see if this is as bad a deal for Puerto Rico as it sounds. The answer was a resounding yes.

“Outrageous,” said Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore law school.

“The clause that shields the contractor from audit or review is a red flag of overcharging,” said Tiefer. “The contractor works for PREPA, not the other way around. I can’t imagine how any responsible government official could put such an anti-audit clause into a government contract.”

Anthony Varona, a professor and vice dean at American University’s Washington College of Law and an expert in contracts law, said it is “entirely inappropriate” for a private contractor to prevent the government from auditing how taxpayer money was spent.

“The prohibition as written in this agreement is a blatant attempt to blindfold and tie the hands of the government officials responsible for overseeing the contract’s performance,” said Varona. “It strikes me as an open invitation for fraud and abuse.”

There are other concerning details in the contract, like the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor. The company is paying $240 an hour for a general foreman and $227 for a lineman. For some context, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says first-line supervisors of construction sites make about $43 an hour and construction laborers make about $23 an hour.

Whitefish is also paying for expensive food and lodging for its employees. The contract states that each person can spend nearly $80 a day for meals and $332 a day for lodging. Flights for employees are being billed at $1,000 each way.

Steve Schooner, a former high-ranking government contracting official who currently teaches government contracts at George Washington University, said the Whitefish contract gives him great material for his upcoming classes because there’s so many problems with it.

“The contract ― both the process and the content ― rivals, and in some ways exceeds, some of the best final exams I’ve written for my students over the last two decades,” he said.

Requests for comment from PREPA and from Whitefish were not returned.

Not everyone said the contract was stunningly out of the ordinary. Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project On Government Oversight, wrote a blog post about why he thinks the contract is concerning but mostly normal, given bigger problems that happen with many federal contracts.

Still, he told HuffPost that it’s “odd” that the contract gives Whitefish the ability to delay its work without any accountability. He said the company could use that clause to prolong its work so it gets paid the entire $300 million ― and then could push to extend the contract for even more money.

“Damage provisions often are included to incentivize the work’s completion,” he said. “Waiving claims could jeopardize the completion of the work in the agreed on one-year term.”

As fishy as it looks that a tiny company in the Montana hometown of the U.S. interior secretary landed such a big contract, Zinke insists he had nothing to do with it.

Tiefer, for one, said the facts aren’t out yet but it’s clear something “went very wrong” with the way this was awarded.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “Whitefish didn’t make the shortlist because of a world class reputation.”

As globe warms, Trump doubles down on fossil fuels

USA Today

As globe warms, Trump doubles down on fossil fuels

The Editorial Board, USA TODAY      October 29, 2017  

First the Paris climate accord. Now the Clean Power Plan: Our view

(Photo: George Frey, Getty Images)

As if any more evidence were needed that climate change is making extreme heat more likely, take a look at what happened in Southern California last week. On Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, the first-pitch temperature for the opening game of the World Series was a record-shattering 103 degrees. The same day, two other locations hit 108, matching the hottest weather the nation has seen so late in the year.

And how is the Trump administration responding to these flashing-red warning signs of global warming on the West Coast and elsewhere around the world? By systematically dismantling the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives.

Just five months ago, President Trump broke with nearly 200 other countries in taking the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, a stunning move given that the accord regulated nothing, relying only on peer pressure and transparency to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Nicaragua recently joined the Paris pact, leaving the United States and war-ravaged Syria as the odd nations out.

Now the Trump administration is turning its attention to gutting the Clean Power Plan, the 2015 Obama initiative aimed at curbing greenhouse gases from energy plants. This latest effort to kill the Clean Power Plan demonstrates sheer contempt for laws governing clean air and the benefits of environmental regulation.

Power plants generate about a third of the 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide America pumps into the atmosphere each year. The Clean Power Plan offered a reasonable pathway to reducing these emissions by a third by 2030, giving each state flexibility to reach that goal. The plan was the next best idea to a market-based carbon tax that would be rebated to consumers.

Yes, it would undoubtedly result in less burning of coal, the dirtiest fuel. But coal was already in decline — with or without new environmental regulations — as utilities embraced cleaner-burning natural gas and alternatives such as wind and solar.

U.S. coal mining jobs have fallen to fewer than 77,000, while those in renewable energy have hit 800,000 and keep increasing. Some of the nation’s largest power companies this month shrugged off Trump’s regulatory rollback, arguing that clean energy has proved to be good business and vowing to keep reducing emissions.

The Supreme Court narrowly voted last year to temporarily block implementation of the plan amid challenges that it represented regulatory overreach. An appellate panel can still reach a decision and should do so.

Regardless, the Environmental Protection Agency remains compelled by law to significantly reduce carbon dioxide. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling established the gas as a pollutant and subject to reduction if EPA found it a danger to public health. The EPA made such a finding two years later, courtesy of a mountain of scientific evidence.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal for dismantling the Clean Power Plan mentions drafting a new method for reducing carbon dioxide. We’ll believe that when we see it.

If there’s any good news, it’s that the Clean Power Plan — or some similar action to significantly reduce greenhouse gases gushing from the nation’s electricity sector — is likely to survive this effort at sabotage. But that might take years of bureaucratic and legal wrangling, consuming precious time as the planet grows warmer.

USA TODAY’s editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature. To respond to this editorial, submit a comment to

This one quote shows what angry white guys mean when they talk about government overreach


This one quote shows what angry white guys mean when they talk about government overreach

Updated by David Roberts       October 29, 2017

Before Donald Trump, GOP elites — policymakers, intellectuals, DC operators — were in the grips of a comforting illusion: that their party was united around the principles of limited government and free markets. The family values and national security stuff rounded out the picture, of course, but small-government economics was the core.

That is how the elite — with help from a compliant media — interpreted the Tea Party uprising that followed Obama’s election. Here were patriots devoted to reducing burdensome regulations and defending economic freedom.

Post-Trump, this illusion has become untenable. Trump never paid lip service to conservative economic ideology. He doesn’t even possess the vocabulary, the catechisms that virtually every Republican candidate can recite by heart. He bypassed small-government ideology almost entirely in favor of white resentment. And Republicans, at least a plurality of them, embraced him for it.

“We’ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism — philosophical, economic conservatism,” said conservative intellectual Avik Roy in an interview with Zack Beauchamp. “In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.”

The story of how the language of small government became a handmaiden to ethnonationalism has been told on Vox several times, in excellent pieces by Andrew Prokop, Rich Yeselson, and Lee Drutman, among others. My contribution today is that I found a funny quote.

Rolling coal, just as the Founding Fathers intended

It comes about halfway through a New York Times story from 2016 on “rolling coal.” You’ve probably heard about rolling coal, the practice of modifying a truck’s diesel engine so that it spews thick, toxic black smoke in order to … well, to be obnoxious. There were several trend pieces about it a few years back.

Apparently it is still a thing, to the point that some states, like New Jersey (and possibly Illinois, though not Colorado), are passing laws against it.

Entire dissertations could be written about rolling coal. Even more than Trump’s ascension, it seems to perfectly capture a moment in time, an inarticulate yawp of protest from angry white men. They feel disdained and overlooked and they will blow thick black smoke in your face until you pay attention.

There’s no faux nostalgia involved. Unlike with, say, hunting, there’s no tale of rugged rural self-sufficiency to draw on. This is not some sturdy heartland tradition with which meddlesome elites want to interfere.

Rolling coal is new; it just caught on a few years ago. It does not improve the performance of a truck. It has no practical application or pragmatic purpose of any kind. It is purely aggressive, a raw expression of defiance: I can pollute your air, for no reason, and no one can stop me.

It is what it is. And now lawmakers are cracking down on it.

Which brings us to our quote.

But to diesel owners like Corey Blue of Roanoke, Ill., the very efforts to ban coal rolling represent the worst of government overreach and environmental activism. “Your bill will not stop us!” Mr. Blue wrote to Will Guzzardi, a state representative who has proposed a $5,000 fine on anyone who removes or alters emissions equipment.

“Why don’t you go live in Sweden and get the heck out of our country,” Mr. Blue wrote. “I will continue to roll coal anytime I feel like and fog your stupid eco-cars.”, where one lives if one wants to avoid coal rolling.(Shutterstock)

My apologies to Mr. Blue for using him as a synecdoche here, but … this really captures something.

The core of the ethnonationalist perspective is that a country’s constituent groups and demographics are locked in a zero-sum struggle for resources. Any government intervention that favors one group disfavors the others. Government and other institutions are either with you or against you.

What FOX and talk radio have been teaching the right for decades is that native-born, working- and middle-class whites are locked in a zero-sum struggle with rising Others — minorities, immigrants, gays, coastal elitists, hippie environmentalists, etc. — and that the major institutions of the country have been co-opted and are working on behalf of the Others.

Here’s my favorite Rush Limbaugh quote, from back in 2009:

“We really live, folks, in two worlds. There are two worlds. We live in two universes. One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it. And seldom do these two universes ever overlap. …

The Four Corners of Deceit: government, academia, science, and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.”

That is the right-wing media’s message, delivered with relentless consistency: Government has become an agent of the Others. That’s what ethnonationalists mean when they talk about big government — not that government is exceeding some libertarian theorist’s notion of constitutional limits, but that government is on the wrong side, backing the wrong team.

From an ethnonationalist perspective, government overreach is when government tells people like me what to do. The proper role of government is to defend my rights and privileges against people like them.

After all, even the strictest libertarian acknowledges that the government has a policing role, to protect citizens from direct harm. What could be more direct harm than having unfiltered diesel smoke blown in your face?

But to Corey Blue of Roanoke, Illinois, the government is not protecting anybody — it’s targeting people like him, punishing him on behalf of the liberals, dope smokers, and heathens who prefer “eco-cars.”

Blowing toxic black smoke into the air “anytime I feel like” is his way of showing that it’s still his America, that he can still do what he wants and doesn’t have to follow a bunch of namby-pamby rules imposed by liberal bureaucrats. He and other coal rollers may dress this sentiment up in the language of small government, but what they’re expressing is a long, long way from conservative economic philosophy.