THE HISTORIC PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH

On the 100th day of the Trump presidency, the people will gather all across the country to make their voices heard.  In Washington, D.C., they will arrive on buses and trains, with thousands expected to converge on the Mall.  They will start at the Capitol building, move on to surround the gates of the White House, and end near the Washington Monument.

They will send the message, peacefully but loud-and-clear, that the see-no-problem attitude over the greenhouse gases spewing into our atmosphere and making our earth less habitable by the day will no longer be tolerated.

In Los Angeles, I will join thousands more for a march on the Tesoro oil refinery.   Among the speakers will be Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who edited and wrote the powerful introduction to my book, “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which is being published this week.

Tesoro is already the largest fossil fuel polluter in California, and now wants to double its storage tank refining capacity by an unprecedented 3.4 million more barrels.  The corporation also plans to switch to high benzene crude oil, endangering the health and safety of residents in the surrounding communities of Wilmington, Carson, and West Long Beach.

Tesoro’s proposed new terminal in Vancouver,Washington would mean bringing in 360,000 barrels a day of Bakken and Tar Sands crude oil by rail, after which it would be shipped to L.A. and other refineries on the West Coast.  This is fracked, highly explosive oil whose extraction spews high quantities of greenhouse gases and then releases toxics into the air, water and land.  Tesoro also intends to connect two other pipelines in North Dakota to the Dakota Access pipeline that endangers the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux.

The nationwide march occurs the same week that Trump has signed two new executive orders.  One could open up large parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans to new oil and gas drilling, overriding Obama’s decision to limit fossil fuel development and combat climate change by NOT including new drilling leases off the California and Alaskan coasts.

The other order requires the Department of Interior to embark on reviewing every national monument that’s been created in the past two decades (under the Antiquities Act), including Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument designated by Obama last December to protect Native American sacred lands and cultural sites from drilling and looting.

A people’s stand has never been more urgent.  A week ago, thousands in 600 cities around the world came together to March for Science – and soon will come an immigrants march and an LGBT pride march in Washington.  Step forward, everyone, and let’s make our voices heard in opposition to the worst assault on our environment and our civil rights in American history.

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EARTH DAY 2017: THE NEW EPA AND THE LOOMING CLIMATE APOCALYPSE

Closing in on half-a-century since the first Earth Day and the beginning of the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s all come down to this: the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is being provided a “24/7 security detail.”

This line item in the new agency budget was revealed by the Washington Post on the same day that Pruitt told a group of Pennsylvania coal miners that a new age of environmental deregulation was at hand.  Oversight of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act passed by Congress during the EPA’s first years would soon devolve to the states and in favor of more job creation in the fossil fuel industry.

His own agency’s budget would be slashed by nearly one-third, resulting in layoffs of thousands of employees and termination of dozens of longstanding programs including lead toxicity, pesticide safety, and environmental justice.  At the same time, Pruitt said in an interview on Fox & Friends, the Paris climate agreement signed by almost 200 nations late in 2015 is “something we need to exit in my opinion.  It’s a bad deal for America.”

And a far worse deal for the climate emergency our earth is facing.  I’d first learned about Pruitt while doing research in Oklahoma for my forthcoming book, Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  He was the protégé of Harold Hamm, a self-made fracking billionaire who’d been Pruitt’s main financial supporter during his two terms as Oklahoma Attorney General.  Hamm, invited to speak at last summer’s Republican Convention, became Donald Trump’s chief energy adviser during the presidential campaign.

I’d largely completed the book a month before the 2016 presidential election, including a detailed investigation into Hamm and his cronies.  But I never imagined that he, Pruitt, and a host of others profiled would soon assume the pinnacle of power.  Suddenly, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson – who participated in the corporation’s cover-up of its own scary scientific evidence about climate change and its ongoing funding of deniers – ascended to run the State Department, in charge of America’s international climate negotiations.  Suddenly, the oil-and-gas billionaire Koch brothers found their installed U.S. Congressman from Kansas at the helm of the CIA.

It was like a perfect storm.  As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., came to write in the introduction to Horsemen, “With the central goal of preserving their fossil fuel profits, they guided an inexperienced president on a course that rapidly collapsed the foundations of America’s moral authority and idealism, and fundamentally altered the relationship between America and the world – including our reputation as a global force for good.”

How far we’ve come from what the late Barry Commoner, a founder of modern ecology, once said: “Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it.”  Today, we have someone running the EPA who publicly rejects the very idea that climate change is caused by fossil fuel emissions, and who scoffs at warnings from his own agency’s scientists that the widely-used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, should be banned because it poses severe harm to children and farm workers.  Rather, Pruitt wants to ensure “regulatory certainty” for the manufacturer, Dow Chemical, the company that along with Monsanto once brought us Agent Orange.

Over these first hundred days of the Trump administration, four former EPA administrators, including two Republicans, have expressed their dismay over the dismantling.  These include Christie Todd Whitman, who served under George W. Bush, and has said:

“I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.”

Disdain for the past five decades of environmental progress is the hallmark of this new era.  At a recent gathering of the G-7 energy ministers, where everybody except the U.S. is calling for a transition to renewable energy sources, our negotiators even rewrote the joint statement to emphasize that hydrocarbons “including coal and natural gas will remain part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future.”  That should please just-retired Peabody Energy executives Greg Boyce and Fred Palmer, also the subject of a chapter in my book.

The almost unthinkable tragedy for future generations is that their apocalypse is imminently upon us.  As Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., concludes: “If we’re to leave behind a habitable world, the Horsemen need to be reined in, bridled, and broken.”  The nationwide Climate Mobilization on April 29 is the next big step in humanity’s fight to save our civilization and the natural world.

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS AND STATES GO TO WAR WITH TRUMP

A week ago, Trump signed an executive order to forge ahead with the Keystone XL oil pipeline that had been scotched by Obama in 2015.  This is the deal to send tons of dirty tar sands Koched-up oil from Canada across 1,200 miles of the U.S. to Gulf Coast refineries.  Well, it ain’t going to be so easy, Donald.

Already Nebraska citizens are gearing up for battle.  The state’s public utility commission has yet to grant a permit, and landowners all along the proposed route are refusing to let their property be taken.  Should a spill occur, the Ogalalla aquifer underlying the state would face severe contamination problems.

Two major lawsuits have already been filed, one by the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth and the other by the Indigenous Environmental Network and the North Coast Rivers Alliance.  Both actions will be heard in federal court in Montana, rightly saying that the project’s approval is based upon an outdated and biased environmental assessment conducted in 2014 by a company with a conflict of interest, as well as violating treaty laws with Native Americans.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, says: “We continue to meet Trump in the streets, and we look forward to meeting him in the courts to stop his reckless agenda that threatens our clean air and water and the climate.  He was defeated – twice – when he tried implementing a Muslim ban; he was defeated when he tried to take health care away from 24 million Americans, and he will be defeated once again as he tries to force this pipeline on the people who have already seen its rejection.”

This isn’t  the only legal challenge happening.  Trump’s executive order lifting a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land – without any federally required study of the possible environmental impact – has brought a suit by the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, EarthJustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, whose reservation is in close proximity to over 425 million tons of coal at two different mines.

States are joining the fray as well.  California Governor Jerry Brown says he’s prepared to sue if the EPA tries to stop his state from setting stronger fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.  “I fought the Bush administration as California’s attorney general and will continue defending the California law,” Brown told an interviewer.  “Not out of any political position, but in recognition that the world is at risk and that the lives of real people are endangered.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Montana Governor Steve Bullock are also looking at going to court.  “As governor of a state with millions of acres of public land,” says Bullock, “I will not stand idly by if Congress or other outside special interests try to erode the birthright of all Americans.”

And a coalition of states and environmental groups are banding together to prevent the new administration from stalling standards for more energy efficient ceiling fans, portable air conditioners and other products.  Notice has been served to Energy Secretary Rick Perry of a suit coming unless the Obama administration’s plan gets implemented.  As New York Attorney General Eric Schneider said, these are “common-sense” standards that would vastly reduce air pollution including carbon  dioxide, mercury and methane – and would save consumers and businesses close to $24 billion in electric bills.

 

 

 

 

A crackdown on our First Amendment right to protest: message from Greenpeace

 

Your constitutional right to peaceful assembly is under attack.

https://click.everyaction.com/h/129458/1346680?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZCI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtYzQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWlsTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXNzIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0aW9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ==&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=&emci=c0833250-c418-e711-80c3-000d3a1046d8&emdi=6704177c-6419-e711-80c3-000d3a1046d8&fn=Richard&ln=Russell&em=dickrusl@aol.com&pc=02119&hp=&mp=&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=170403_protect_peaceful_protest_(full_list)(ns)
Stand up for free speech and the right to protest!

https://click.everyaction.com/h/129459/1346681?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZCI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtYzQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWlsTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXNzIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0aW9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ==&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=&emci=c0833250-c418-e711-80c3-000d3a1046d8&emdi=6704177c-6419-e711-80c3-000d3a1046d8&fn=Richard&ln=Russell&em=dickrusl@aol.com&pc=02119&hp=&mp=&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=170403_protect_peaceful_protest_(full_list)(ns)

Every Greenpeace supporter should be alarmed. Huge and growing marches and demonstrations have shown lawmakers that our resistance to Trump’s anti-climate, anti-justice agenda is gaining momentum. And behind the scenes, they are taking action to silence us all.

In 19 states so far, laws have been proposed by conservative legislators that would crack down on peaceful protests1, infringing on our right to free speech, undermining democracy, and putting human lives at risk. Peaceful assembly is protected under the Constitution — and these assaults on our First Amendment rights are nothing but scare tactics. That’s why I’m asking you to sign this petition immediately. Tell your state’s leaders to stand for your constitutional rights.

In North Dakota, where we protested with our allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a new bill would allow drivers to mow down protesters with their cars. If the driver’s actions were “unintentional,” the driver would not be held legally accountable for hitting protesters in the street.2

A bill moving through the Minnesota legislature would let cities charge protesters with the cost of policing the protest. Protesters found liable for “unlawful assembly or public nuisance” could be sued for the cost of police response.3

In North Carolina, a bill would create a new “economic terrorism” felony charge for any protester who caused $1,000 or more in economic damages and who was thought to be attempting to intimidate the government or the public.4

These attempts to silence dissent should be huge red flags for anyone — Democrat or Republican — who values the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. At Greenpeace, peaceful protest is too integral to our mission. We cannot fight for climate action, or clean air and water, or the health of our communities, without organizing, mobilizing, and speaking out as a unified movement. And it’s not just about Greenpeace: it’s about all of us. A healthy democracy, speaking truth to power, and political expression, are values fundamental to our nation’s identity from the start.

So we cannot let governments and corporations silence us. We must stop these unconstitutional measures now, and your state leaders need to hear from you. These bills are a threat to our democracy, a threat to our ability to enact change, and even a threat to human lives.

Please – refuse to be silent. Contact your state leaders today to defend free speech and the right to peaceful protest. Thank you!

For a green and peaceful future,

Rebecca Gerber
RESIST team, Greenpeace USA

P.S. Greenpeace’s power lies in our direct action, in people joining together and resisting. Trump and his corporate enablers would love nothing more than to deal a crippling blow to our entire movement. But we won’t be silenced — and we know you won’t either. Please stand strong with us, as you always have, and fight back. Sign the petition today.

(1) https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/04/02/americans-right-to-protest-is-in-grave-danger-un-warns.html
(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/24/republican-lawmakers-introduce-bills-to-curb-protesting-in-at-least-17-states/
(3) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/minnesota-protesters-bill-liable-policing-costs
(4) https://thinkprogress.org/protester-crackdown-in-north-carolina-would-sanctify-commerce-over-free-speech-fc264c4558d4

Greenpeace never takes a dime from corporations or governments. Everything we do is thanks to the generous support of people like you!

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A REMARKABLE STAND BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

I’ve never seen a major newspaper do something like this.  In today’s Sunday front section, the first of a series –

Our Dishonest President

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.


In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:

1: Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2: His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3: His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.


Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

This is the first in a series.

NOT SO FAST ON TORNADOING OUR CLIMATE RULES, MR. PRESIDENT

So it happened.  No big surprise.  There stood “45,” as many people are now referring to him rather than utter his name, surrounded by fossil fuel execs and coal miners.   This latest executive order directed the EPA to start withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan put in place by President Obama.  “C’mon fellas,” Trump grinned at the miners, “you know what this is?  You know what this says?  You’re going back to work!”

Well, fat chance of that, for starters.   Even coal exec Robert Murray, a big Trump fan, says it’s not likely his industry’s share of the energy market is ever again going to increase.  Over 50 coal companies have gone bankrupt in recent years.  Coal provided more than 50 percent of America’s electricity back in 2008; today our dirtiest fuel contributes around 30 percent.  “I suggested that he temper his expectations,” Murray says he told Trump recently.  “He can’t bring them [the mining jobs] back.”

An even bigger “ooops” occurred after Trump’s announcement.  The EPA issued a press release which, toward the top, had a most interesting quote: “With this executive order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand.  Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives,  including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible – it’s irrational.  Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime.  With the world watching, President and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt have chosen to shirk our responsibility, disregard clear science, and undo the significant progress our country has made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come.”

Which is all true, of course.  The quote was attributed to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito.  But actually, it came from Democratic Senator Tom Carper and got “mistakenly sent” out and “wrongly attributed” in an internal draft, according to a befuddled EPA spokesman.  So a revised press release went out quoting the “right stuff” from Captain Capito, who said: “Stopping this disastrous plan will preserve America’s coal industry, expand our manufacturing renaissance that is reliant upon affordable energy, and protect American families from unprecedented hikes in their electric bills.”

Excuse my French, but bull—-!!  Makes you wonder, though – did somebody inside EPA make this little mistake on purpose, God bless ’em.   Will we soon learn the identity of the leaker – I mean, the alt-fact correcter, or…..I guess we’ll just have to see whether things go from Trump “burying his head in the sand” to “off with his head!”

Then another “ooops” moment followed.   Trump’s executive order is intended to scuttle the American commitment to substantially reduce carbon emissions that was forged by almost 200 nations, and which Obama’s Clean Power Plan was meant to do.  However, in a letter written on March 22 to the president’s special assistant for international energy and the environment, the Paris agreement is described as “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change.”  And guess who wrote that letter?  Exxon’s manager for environmental policy, Peter Trelenberg, who went on to add: “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015 and again when it came into force in November 2016.”

Whoaaaa!  Exxon is saying that?!  And their just-retired CEO, Rex Tillerson, is Trump’s Secretary of State?  As Bernie Sanders pointed out, “How crazy could it be that the largest oil company in this country understands more [about climate change] than the president of the United States?”  Sanders went on to note in a TV appearance that corporate investments in solar energy are rising steadily, and that General Motors, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Whole Foods have all committed to achieving 100 percent renewable power.

Nor will it be easy for Trump and his EPA lackey Pruitt to dump the existing regulations.  “With regard to rules and standards….that the Obama administration has already put in place under the Clean Air Act, those can’t be undone by an executive order,” according to the Sierra Club’s chief climate counsel, Joanne Spalding.

It turns out that a law passed in 1946 forces our courts to “hold unlawful and set aside any agency action, findings and conclusions” found to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”  No wonder the new administration would just as soon expel the existing science from all its government websites.  (A supervisor of the Department of Energy’s international climate office just told staff not to use phrases like “climate change” or “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in briefings or written communications).  As attorney David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council says in a blog post: “Administrator Pruitt can tear down these regulations only using the same process it took to build them….We will use all the tools at our disposal to protect the current climate safeguards at every step of this process.”

See you in court, Donald and Scott, because there are plenty of other legal precedents for the environmental organization’s to cite.  And on any proposed rule change, by law there must be an opportunity for public comment and public hearings.  This column will keep readers apprised as the litigation marches on.  Time to make our voices heard!

 

THE KOCH-HOLD ON KEYSTONE: GET READY TO RUMBLE!

On a day when the effort by Trump & Company to overturn the Affordable Care Act in Congress fell apart, I suppose they had to have something to cheer about and shove in the faces of those who care about the environment: the Keystone-XL pipeline has been approved by the State Department.

And in case you’re left wondering who really wears the pants in America now, consider this: the Koch brothers, whose combined wealth of $96 billion makes them the richest people on the planet, vowed this week to pump between $300 and $400 million into the next election cycle – but only to those Republicans who voted against the new health care bill.  The others could go begging.  Why?  According to Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group, the proposed change doesn’t do enough to get rid of the Obama-era policies that have resulted in better health coverage for millions more Americans.  Seems that our new president’s attempts at arm-twisting to get the bill passed didn’t carry that kind of weight.

However, when it comes to approval of the plan  for a 1,700-mile pipeline that would propel an estimated 35 million gallons of dirty oil every single day from Canada’s tar sands some 1,700 miles across our country to refineries in Texas, why, even broader shit-eatin’ grins must cross the Koch brothers’ faces.  That’s because they hold close to two million acres in Alberta’s Territory of Tar – more than the combined assets there of rivals ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Conoco.

It’s noteworthy, too, that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – Exxon’s recently-“retired” CEO, recused himself from the supposed review process of the pipeline project that Trump ordered four days after his inauguration.  (The pipeline had been rejected by the Obama administration in 2015 after a massive public outcry).  Today, coinciding with the announcement that his State Department signed and issued a presidential permit to start Keystone’s construction, his former company’s lawyers told the Manhattan Supreme Court that they couldn’t find a year’s worth of emails from an alias account that Tillerson used as CEO.  These emails  were subpoenaed as part of an investigation into whether Exxon intentionally misled the public and their own investors about the impact of climate change.  (Hint:  They did).

Just in case any astute Assange-ist (or even Kremlin?) hackers are interested, the alias used was “Wayne Tracker.”  Wayne is Tillerson’s middle name, and “Tracker” is, well, what big hounds do.  The emails are said to be what our top diplomat used to communicate on “a broad range of business-related topics” with folks in his company.  The investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office only happened to learn about the email chain earlier this month.

If any of those emails track to the Keystone pipeline, that would prove more than a tad embarrassing to Tracker Tillerson.  And well they might, since Exxon was always a big booster of the pipeline project.  Maybe we’ll find out, because Judge Barry Ostrager has demanded sworn statements from staff at Exxon in an attempt to figure out why the Tracker’s emails vanished.  The judge said the documents must be delivered by March 31.

Meantime, the TransCanada pipeline company now happily says it’s going to drop a $15 billion claim for having been rejected, which it had filed under that pesky NAFTA agreement that the new administration wants to scuttle.  (I guess you can have your cake before Trump eats it).   TransCanada also intends to drop a lawsuit claiming that Obama’s action  was unconstitutional.  (Who needs a constitution when things can go better with Koch?)

As for those touted claims about jobs, yes initially there would be a lot of temporary construction workers.  But once Keystone gets built, the State Department previously calculated it would employ – hold your breath! – about thirty-five people.

But in states the pipeline would pass through, like Nebraska where there are huge concerns about water contamination, a legal battle among landowners and environmentalists has been ongoing for six years and isn’t about to go away.  Native American tribes are gearing up opposition again in South Dakota.

Here’s what climate activist Bill McKibben’s 350.org had to say today:  “Every new pipeline, frack well and coal port is being fought and fought hard. You’ve heard of some of these fights, like the Dakota Access pipeline, but there are now hundreds of them across the world. Keystone jumpstarted a whole new phase of the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground….Six years times 800,000 barrels of oil a day equals a lot of carbon emissions saved.”

McKibben will be one of the presenters at a live strategy session on Monday, March 27th at 8:00 PM EST to hear from movement leaders who’ve defeated Keystone once, and are ready to do it again.

Sign up now to join the live strategy session and we’ll send you a link to watch the live stream. During the webinar, you’ll be able to share your thoughts and submit questions.  

The Center for Biological Diversity calls the Keystone decision “a cynical, ugly move that serves no other purpose than to make Trump’s super-rich friends in the oil and gas industry even richer….Keystone will spill — the State Department’s own analysis predicted up to 100 spills and leaks during its lifetime. Since 1986 pipeline accidents have dumped an average of 3 million gallons of toxic oil and other substances into the environment every year, and this pipeline will cross the rivers, streams and wetlands that provide drinking water for millions of people and habitat for thousands of species.”

The Center has established a Trump Resistance Fund  to stop the pipeline, which scientist James Hansen says is “game over” for putting the brakes on climate change if it’s allowed to go forward.

Let’s get ready to join the fight, however best we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POSTINGS FROM THE EDGE: LETTERS FROM THREE ELOQUENT FRIENDS

I welcome responses to what I’m writing in this column, and over the past couple of days have received what I feel are three letters powerful enough to share with my readers.  What strikes me is that they are all basically saying the same thing.  Thoughts for the day:

RICHIE:   I see a new ice age!  The USA is being covered once again by the ice of frozen hearts and minds. There is no longer a way to appeal to people on a human common sense humanitarian level.  The ice is up to the border where people are facing a wall not only external but internal.  No one really gives a shit.

Here in Mexico I can continue to live in a world based on personal relationships.  Granted there are hurdles, but the U.S. is cold and out to be whites only, clean, hypocritically Christian, and upper class, and bottom class. Billionaires only!

All animals are equal. Bullshit like Fareed Zakaria has said.
To quote Orwell, Animal Farm, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”  It was the last sentence in the book.
Democrats are over! Time for another party.  How do we start?

JESSIE:  ….Time for Democrats to get down and dirty and street fight the Republicans.  It is not Democrats who have lost touch, it is the people of our country if they think that DT is the answer to their prayers. Look deeper, pray harder, speak with Truth, anything to preserve our democracy for our children and grand children. Under this regime they are likely to be become the slaves of the 1%, uneducated, conditioned, lost souls, forever looking for something that was the beauty , the faith, the love of our country’s creation, called democracy.

 MARK:  This is a defining if not final battle for the soul of America.  Though we get lulled into the illusion that it’s all happening somewhere else, in the world of politics, terrorists and treachery, there are no innocent bystanders.  We are all in it, whether we choose to be or not.  Not just close to home but within us.

This is not politics, there is no new normal.  It is an attack on everything this country stands for, everything I believe in, everything I love.  There are no solutions until we are all ready to fight – yes, for God and country redefined in living color.  That’s our job and our destiny.

No matter how long you think you can sit on the sidelines.

SECRETS AND LIES: WHERE’S TRUMP-O?

You are probably familiar with the children’s book series Where’s Waldo?   It actually dates back to the late 1980s in England, where the original title was Where’s Wally?   Anyway, the key to the books – and later the movies and games – is that despite his relatively easy-to-recognize red-and-white striped shirt and hat and glasses, as the saga progresses Waldo gets harder and harder to find.  A lot of the illustrations depict deceptive red-and-white striped objects, aimed at throwing readers off the track.  The challenge is to find the real Waldo hidden in the group.

And that, of course, is part of the lure and the fun.  Except America just elected Waldo as president.  Look here, look there, the shell game continues.  The Great Deceiver took all the marbles – Trifecta! – and is running the show.  Celebrity Inventor.

First, there are those sometimes Downright Diabolical Distractions.  They started innocently enough, I suppose.  On Day One, Trump gave a speech at that Deep State mecca, the CIA, where he exuberated about the million to 1.5 million happy people who showed up for his inauguration on the National Mall.  “The largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” salubriated Sean Spicer, the incoming Press Secretary, quoting the Donald himself no doubt.

No matter the photos of those sadly empty spaces on the Mall, in contrast to the massive crowd that had shown up for Obama’s debut.  But this oversight soon shifted to Trump tweeting about the millions who allegedly voted illegally in the election – all immigrants, no doubt! – but he’d be “asking for a major investigation” into this (fake-news) voter fraud.

That dropped from public discourse quickly, though it was soon followed by the executive order indefinitely banning refugees of seven Muslim nations from our liberated shores. Around the time the flack got heavy in the courts, Trump grabbed the limelight again by hanging up the phone on the Australian prime minister who happened to mention his country’s pre-existing agreement that we’d take in 1,250 refugees.  Click.  Tough love effused to the base, I guess.

The pattern continued to evolve.  When Michael Flynn quit as national security advisor after talking sanctions with Russia’s Ambassador and lying to Veep Pence about it, Trump tweeted about all the fans who’s just turned out to see him in Florida.

Then came the Sessions scuttlebutt (true news), revealing that he’d fudged at his confirmation hearing to become Attorney General about his own meet-ups with Ambassador Kislyak.  Kiss kiss yak yak yak.  Well, Sessions did then recuse himself from masterminding the still-ongoing probe into that messy Russian meddling.  Actually going against his boss’s (the president) saying he should stay the course.

So the Donald played a now-familiar card.  Two days later, he dispatched his now legendary wee-hours tweets claiming that his predecessor had wiretapped the phones in his Tower.  A flat-out falsity that’s since been denied by the CIA, the FBI, and a host of Republican “supporters.”

Just remember: Trump doesn’t know anybody who has anything to do with the Russkies. In his big news conference last month, he said: “I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia.  I have no loans in Russia.  I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

Well, they certainly have deals with him.  Lucrative ones, too.  As was reported on March 17, “A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.”  They can run but they can’t hide:  Click here: Who are the wealthy Russians investing in Trump luxury buildings?

So I’m going to conclude by quoting from a piece I just read at the Alternet news site by Neil Barron, an adviser to global corporations and the federal government on economic issues.  It’s headlined: “The Insidious Effect on the Psyche of Trump’s Torrent of Lies.”  You can read the full article here:

Barron writes:  “Psychological studies find that to conclude that a statement is a lie, our brain must first record the statement for an instant as true. We must accept something to understand it. Only then, can we engage it to process the refutation. However, the imprint of the statement endures, while the refutation fades in our memory. Also lucky for Trump, is that our brains are particularly ill-equipped to deal with lies when they come not singly but in a constant stream.

“These phenomena are alive and well among Republicans. Eighty-six percent of them continue to support Trump despite the media’s repeated debunking of his obvious lies.

Joseph Goebbels wrote, ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it … The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the … consequences of the lie.’ Hitler coined the expression ‘the Big Lie’ in Mein Kampf. He wrote of a lie so ‘colossal’ that no one would believe anyone ‘could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.’

Trump seems to understand this. According to his ex-wife, Ivana, he kept My New Order, a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, near his bed and read it from time to time. Trump himself said in The Art of the Deal, ‘Tell people a lie 3 times, they will believe anything.’ He clearly knows that colossal lies attract colossal press coverage, and that it works for him even when the press refutes them.”

So when are we gonna call his bluff(s)?  Or are we eventually to see a new book, The Art of Dealing With My New Order.

MERCY! WHO IS ROBERT MERCER?

Okay Donald, the cat’s out of the bag.  It wasn’t so bad when, toward the end of last month, the Guardian printed quite a lengthy take on the billionaire behind Breitbart and Bannon, not to mention Brexit and (just to keep the alliteration going) Big Boy Bouffant as well.

Now, however, Jane Mayer – author of the best-seller Dark Money about the Brothers Koch, has a piece in the latest New Yorker that’s sure to raise more American eyebrows.  Robert Mercer is the reclusive hedge-fund guy who’s figured out the algorithms to manipulate enough minds to get someone like Trump elected.

This is chilling stuff, right out of 1984 and Brave New World.   Neither of those literary classics, however, could foresee the digital revolution and how Facebook, Google and now AI (Artificial Intelligence) might be used to put democracy in a death grip.  (Another prophetic book worth reading is C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength).

I’m going to put the links to The Guardian and New Yorker pieces at the end of this column, because anybody who remembers what the land of the free used to look like should read them (and weep).  Here, though, since this is a blog about the environment, I’d like to dwell on a few cogent facts about “Merciless Merry” Mercer.  (Notice I didn’t make a play on the word “mercenary.”)

First off, since the beginning of 2015, Mercer has put more than $30 million into getting right-wing politicos elected.  Half of that money went to a Super-PAC called – check out the plagiarism – Make America Number 1.  Another $2.3 million was chipped in by his wife and daughter.  This is what primarily bankrolled those last months of the Trump campaign.

At the same time – and credit goes to the DeSmog Blog for these numbers -$22 million plus got dispatched by the Mercers into “charitable non-profit” groups that promote denial of climate change and all efforts to slow down greenhouse gas emissions by the fossil fuel companies.

Are we surprised that Trump has called global warming a hoax?  Of course, before the Mercers decided to back him, they were pushing hard for one of the Senate’s top climate-huckster/hoaxers, Ted Cruz.

The Mercers avoid the mainstream media like the plague, although they happily established Breitbart News, the alt-facts organ that propelled Steve Bannon to fame and to become the Machiavelli of the Trump White House.  So anyway, to decipher what the Mercers think about climate change, you need to scrutinize where their family foundation spends its millions.

DeSmog Blog took a look at – perish the thought, but it’s public record – the tax returns of the Mercer Family Foundation since 2005, in order to come up with the $22 million figure for those beneficent gifts to climate science deniers and EPA-detractors.  One of these groups, the Heartland Institute, has been recipient of nearly $5 million from the Mercers since 2008.  Heartland holds its own “international climate change conferences” to bring the Dirty Dozen Denialists and their friends all together for strategic chats.  According to DeSmog Blog, the Institute doesn’t publicly divulge the largesse of their behind-the-scenes buddies, the Mercers.

Another pleased recipient of $1.25 million is the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, run by a failed politician named Art Robinson.  He, too, believes climate change is a hoax while his institute peddles nuclear survival manuals and – believe it or not – has been stockpiling human urine for testing.  Even that doesn’t seem to faze or piss off Mr. Mercer.  Poop!

Enough – check out the links below:

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/42539-focus-trumps-money-man

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage