Bears Ears

Bears Ears.  You’ve all heard of it by now, right?  The Bears Ears are a pair of mesas located in San Juan County in southeastern Utah. They are were protected as part of and the namesake of the Bears Ears National Monument, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service.

Bears Ears-1On December 4th, 2017, Donald Trump signed Proclamation 9558, an executive order to shrink the Bears Ears National Monument—home to ancient cliff dwellings, Native American cultural sites, and iconic wildlife—by 85 percent.  And the proclamation does not stop with Bears Ears, but also includes a number of other national monuments including the Moki Steps, Native American ceremonial sites, tools and projectile points, remains of single-family dwellings, granaries, kivas, towers, large villages, rock shelters, caves, and a prehistoric road system, as well as petroglyphs, pictographs, and recent rock art left by the Ute, Navajo, and Paiute peoples.  It also identifies other types of historic objects, such as remnants of Native American sheep-herding and farming operations and early engineering by pioneers and settlers, including smoothed sections of rock, dugways, historic cabins, corrals, trails, and inscriptions carved into rock, and the Hole-in-the-Rock and Outlaw Trails.

Why would he do that?  Because he wants to open that land to destructive coal mining, as well as oil and gas drilling.  It’s all about money, folks.  Destroy the land to put greenbacks in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry barons.

The lands of southeastern Utah have been home to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. It’s a majestic region of sandstone canyons, desert mesas, forested highlands, and red rock formations. One area in particular, named for twin buttes that resemble the ears of a bear, contains ancient cliff dwellings, rock art, and more than 100,000 other archaeological, cultural, and spiritual sites. They attest to varied and diverse American civilizations that existed long before the first Europeans arrived.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives presidents the authority to designate national monuments. It does not empower them to slice up monuments designated by others.  A lawsuit has been filed by a conservation group, Earthjustice.  The suit claims that because the president’s authority to create national monuments is delegated by Congress under the Antiquities Act, monument proclamations carry the force of law and cannot be reversed by later presidents. Therefore, Trump lacks the authority to gut a national monument that belongs to all Americans.  Earthjustice represents a coalition of conservation groups in the suit: The Wilderness Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Now, you might expect that Utah lawmakers would be incensed over this assault on their state, yes?  Well, think again.  Mitt Romney applauds Trump’s decision and in an interview on Monday said that he thinks the Antiquities Act, the federal law that grants presidential authority to designate such monuments, needs significant revisions, voicing support of a new law to require any large monuments over a certain acreage to first be approved by state legislatures.

Mike Noel, Idiot Extraordinaire

But here is the one that galls me the most, and literally had me growling as I researched for this post.  Mike Noel is a member of the Utah House of Representatives.  Mr. Noel liked Trump’s proclamation so much that he has written a proposal to rename the 631-mile-long Utah National Parks Highway.  And just what would Mr. Noel wish to name the highway?  The “Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway”. Noel said Trump wasn’t getting enough credit for his efforts. Passing this proposal, Noel said, was a chance to give it to him. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Then he went on to say …

“I think he’s done a tremendous amount, and I think with seven more years we can turn this country around.  I think it’s a small price to pay to name a highway after him when he does in fact protect public lands.”

If we have another seven years of Trump, I can guarantee that I will either be a) residing in another country, b) in prison for murder, or c) dead.

The aforementioned lawsuit by Earthjustice is not the only one; in fact there are currently five lawsuits on the dockets:

  1. Hopi Tribe et al v. Trump et al• Filed: Federal district court in D.C.• Plaintiffs: Five American Indian tribes (Hopi, Navajo, Ute Indian, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni).• Defendants: President Donald Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, acting Bureau of Land Management Director Brian Steed, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke.• Argument: Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president does not have the legal authority to revoke or modify a monument — only to designate one. Additionally, the tribes say the 1.35 million acres set aside by President Barack Obama holds spiritual significance and contains cultural artifacts that deserve protection at the threat of looting, grave-robbing, vandalism and development. • Seeking: Injunctive relief “requiring President Trump to rescind his proclamation, or prohibiting him from enforcing or implementing it in any way.”
  2. Utah Dine Bikeyah et al v. Trump et al • Filed: Federal district court in D.C. • Plaintiffs: A broad coalition representing American Indian tribes, recreation interests and paleontologists (Utah Dine Bikeyah, Patagonia Works, Friends of Cedar Mesa, Archaeology Southwest, Conservation Lands Foundation, Access Fund, Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, National Trust for Historic Preservation). • Defendants: Trump, Zinke, Steed, Perdue, Tooke. • Argument: Reducing the 1.35 million-acre monument would threaten hundreds of historical rock art panels, artifacts, pueblos and kivas. For its part, Patagonia insists the cuts would hurt the company financially by taking away recreation areas that provide “some of the best rock climbing in North America” used by its customers. Development in the area, adds Friends of Cedar Mesa, would mean “direct and immediate harm” to the paleontological hot spots within the monument’s boundaries, and oil and gas drilling would “result in the destruction and degradation” of the ecosystem. • Seeking: An order requiring Trump to restore the original monument and bar his administration from acting on the reconfigured designations.
  3. Natural Resources Defense Council Inc. et al v. Donald J. Trump et al • Filed: Federal district court in D.C. • Plaintiffs: 11 conservation groups (The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance). • Defendants: Trump, Zinke, Steed, Perdue, Tooke. • Argument: Trimming the monument would threaten “irreplaceable” archaeological artifacts and damage paleontology sites. • Seeking: Injunctive relief to block mining and oil and gas drilling on the land.
  4. The Wilderness Society et al v. Donald J. Trump et al • Filed: Federal district court in D.C. • Plaintiffs: 10 environmental groups (The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity). • Defendants: Trump, Zinke, Steed. • Argument: The lawsuit alleges Trump is stripping protection for land that would leave “remarkable fossil, cultural, scenic and geological treasures exposed to immediate and ongoing harm.” That includes the Kaiparowits Plateau, which holds abundant coal deposits and is a paleontological treasure trove. • Seeking: Injunctive relief to stop Trump’s proclamations from taking effect so that no permits are issued for oil and gas leasing or coal and mineral mining.
  5. Grand Staircase Escalante Partners et al v. Trump et al • Filed: Federal district court in D.C. • Plaintiffs: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Conservation Lands Foundation. • Defendants: Trump, Zinke. • Argument: Removing protection from nearly 900,000 acres in the monument would threaten “sensitive resources located there,” including plant and bee species, archaeological artifacts and geological formations. The president’s actions were illegal. • Seeking: An injunction to stop Trump and Zinke from “recognizing, enforcing or otherwise carrying out” the downsized designations.

Trump must be thrilled, for lawsuits have defined most of his adult life!

Note that not one of these lawsuits is asking for money, they are simply asking that Trump, Zinke, et al, leave our land alone.

The land, its beauty, once destroyed can never be replaced.  Coal mining?  The market for coal is ever-shrinking and will never again be a relevant factor, since renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are cleaner and more economical.  Drilling for oil and gas?  Sorry, but I cannot rationalize corporate profits over nature.  It isn’t just a matter of the beauty of the land, nor even the cultural and archeological sites.  But we do not know what wildlife may be affected and in what way.  We do not know what damage may be caused to water tables by the destruction of these lands.  In the grand scheme of things, when we take the time to consider the future of our planet, putting profit over nature is about the stupidest move we could make.  There is more to life than money, as most of us know.


Two notable stories caught my eye yesterday, neither warranting an entire post, but both of some importance, so I decided to combine them into a single post.

Another bad choice in the EPA

Yet again, the fox has been tasked with watching over the henhouse.  The fox, in this case, is Peter Wright, an attorney for Dow Chemical.  The henhouse is otherwise known as the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). Wright would oversee the development of guidelines for the land disposal of hazardous waste and underground storage tanks and respond to accidental chemical releases through the Superfund program. Dow Chemical has dozens of pending Superfund cases.  Wow … does anybody see a conflict of interest here?

The appointment must be confirmed by the senate … we will see if they are finally ready to do their jobs, or if they are still being good little bootlickers.

Another major figure at the EPA who makes decisions on Superfund issues is Albert Kelly, who was banned from the banking industry for life for violating federal banking laws.  Kelly owns stock in Phillips 66, which has potential Superfund liability at 31 sites around the country.

For those who may not be completely clear on what a Superfund site is, allow me to provide a brief explanation.  Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as “Superfund” sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances. The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances released to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund (a trust fund) and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.

When the polluter is known, they are forced to pay for the cleanup, but when it cannot be determined who caused the damage, or the polluter is unable to pay, then the burden falls on the taxpayer, which occurs about 30% of the time.  Until the mid-1990s, the monies came from a tax on the petro-chemical industries, but now it is the burden of the taxpayers.

Dow Chemical is currently responsible to cover the costs of cleanup at no less than 131 Superfund sites, and is currently under obligation to the tune of $152 million.  So now, if the Senate confirms Wright for the position, he will be in charge of ensuring that Dow pays for the cleanup of those sites.  Dow, a company to whom he has owed his loyalty for the past 19 years!

Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Wright’s nomination is the latest example of the President appointing corporate lawyers or lobbyists to supervise federal offices that directly regulate their former employers.

Is Paul Ryan seeing the light … finally?

Has Paul Ryan finally had enough?  Did Donald Trump finally cross some invisible line with Ryan, perhaps place the straw that broke the camel’s back?  Let us hope.

What was that ‘straw’?  The tariffs on steel and aluminum that Trump announced late last week.  Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said yesterday, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan.  The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

Well, I would certainly argue with the logic as regards the tax ‘reform’ law, which has not had time to ‘boost’ the economy, and is not likely to at any rate.  But whatever gets the sycophants in Congress off their butts and finally doing their job, let us not quibble.  After hearing of Ryan’s statements this morning, Trump declared that he is not “backing down”.

House Ways and Means Chairman, republican Kevin Brady and subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert, also a republican, have also tried to convince Trump that this is the wrong thing at the wrong time.  In addition to worries of what the tariffs will do to the economy, republicans worry that the move will likely cost them seats in November’s mid-term elections.  While I would be happy to see the republicans lose seats in November, I am not happy to see Trump start a trade war where there can be no winners, where we all stand to lose.

It is most unfortunate that Trump is so hellbent on imposing the tariffs, for it is a poor move and one likely to cause economic waves worldwide.  But perhaps the positive note in all of this is that the republicans in Congress, or at least many of them, are not happy … perhaps now they will remove their blinders, pack away their shoe shine kits and put some brakes on Trump, as they should have been doing for the past 13 months.

The Constitution actually gives Congress the authority over taxation and tariffs, but in recent years, Congress has been content to delegate that authority to the president.  Until now, it had not caused problems, but until now, we had leaders with two things the current one lacks:  intellect and a conscience.

Trump responded with his usual aplomb:

“Our country on trade has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world, whether it’s friend or anybody – China, Russia, people we think are wonderful, the European Union. We lost $800 billion a year on trade. Not going to happen.”

“Ripped off by virtually every country in the world”?  Really???  Where are the handlers?  Have they all jumped ship too?

Note to readers:  Yesterday’s eye surgery went well, though I was extremely tired all afternoon.  It will take a couple of days before I am able to see out of that eye again, and I am temporarily back to needing the magnifying glass to read/write, so I will, in all likelihood still be a bit slow for the rest of this week.  Thanks to all for the well-wishes and hugs … always greatly appreciated!

Who Will You Blame Now … ?

So far, in his 13 months in office, Donald Trump has managed to blame everybody but himself for the things that went wrong, while at the same time taking credit for positive things that started long before he even took office.  Eventually, that doesn’t fly any more, and I think we are near that turning point.  I don’t think he will be able to blame President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for some of the mistakes he is making these days.  For instance, …

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, for the shutdown of the Kemper County, Mississippi “clean coal” plant that ran $2.9 billion over budget before it even fired up, and has now been converted to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas? Did not you promise them coal was making a comeback, that coal would be “king” again?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, for the next school shooting? How will you answer those grieving parents when they ask you “WHY?”  Wasn’t it your job to lead the way for stricter regulations on guns that would have made their children safer?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when at the end of 2018, your constituents, those 37% or so who still believe in you, ask you why they are having to pay income taxes far beyond the initial $1.50 pay increase they saw on their weekly pay vouchers? Didn’t you promise them this “tax plan” of yours would put more money in their pockets?  Did you forget to tell them about all the deductions you cut out, so that at the end of the year they would owe even more than in years past, while all your wealthy donors are sitting pretty with their extra hundreds of thousands?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when every country we trade with imposes a tariff on goods they import from the U.S., when the price to the U.S. consumer on everything from food to clothing to household goods increases? Did you really think the EU, Canada, Mexico and the UK, not to mention China, would simply accept the tariffs on the goods they export to us without retaliation?  Will you blame Gary Cohn, who tried to explain to you why the tariffs were a bad idea?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the people who placed their faith, their trust in you, cannot afford to buy a washing machine, a new refrigerator, let alone a new car, for the price of steel has increased by some 35%, raising the price of consumer goods containing steel by some proportional amount? And how will you explain the lies that you, Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross told about the “minimal impact” of the steel tariffs?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the drinking water in West Virginia starts making people ill because you rolled back the regulations that kept coal companies from dumping their waste into the streams?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the rate of kids born with breathing conditions suddenly doubles because of the increased carbon dioxide that makes the air nearly unbreathable near major industrial centers?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when all the lies you have told, the promises you have broken to take care of the ordinary people, catch up with you?

  • And here’s the big one, Donnie … who will you blame when you finally taunt Kim Jong-un one time too many and he declares war, and none of our old allies come to our aid? Will that, too, be Barack Obama’s fault?  Will it be “Crooked Hillary’s” fault?  Will it be “Lyin’ Ted’s” fault?  Or perhaps you will blame Jeff Sessions for recusing himself?  Or perhaps it will not matter, for there may be nobody left to care.

For an entire year, you blamed everything on your predecessor for your mistakes, while at the same time stealing the credit that rightly belonged to him for a good economy.  For three years now, you have ranted about “Crooked Hillary”, who was in fact far more honest than you ever thought about being.  You have blamed the democrats for your woes, when it was your own party who holds a majority in both chambers of Congress.  The honeymoon is over.  There is nobody left to blame but Donald J. Trump for the ills of our nation.  The man who promised to “Make America Great Again” has failed miserably and now the time has come for him to accept the blame.

Until January 2017, we were mostly respected by our allies.  Now they mock and deride us.  The president of Mexico refuses to come for a visit.  The people of the UK do not want Trump to visit there.  To the best of my knowledge, Putin of Russia and Duterte of the Philippines are the only two leaders with whom Trump shares a camaraderie.  Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  Remember the old adage, “We are judged by the company we keep”?  Think about that one.

John Oliver Takes on the Coal Baron

On Sunday, June 18th 2017, John Oliver did a 24-minute segment on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, on the decline of the coal industry and Donald Trump’s pie-in-the-sky promises to bring it back, to ‘end the [non-existent] war on coal’.  I like John Oliver … he’s humorous, yet tackles the serious issues of the day with a well-informed monologue.  This segment was no exception.

Let’s go back a bit.  As we all recall, one of the issues Trump’s 2016 campaign focused on was jobs for coal miners.  Trump’s contention was that so many coal miners were out of work solely because of the “unnecessary” regulations that had been put in place by President Obama, and that once he, Trump, removed those regulations, the so-called ‘war on coal’ would end and coal would once again boom, coal would once again be king.

coal-1Never mind that many of the regulations in place are to ensure the health and safety of the miners themselves, and never mind that the remainder of the regulations are to protect our environment, the very air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land on which we live.  Who needs regulations, right?  Who needs laws to keep rich coal barons from using their employees as a disposable asset, or from causing devastation to the earth that will take thousands of years to repair, if ever?

Anyway, long story short, one of the targets Mr. Oliver took on that night was Bob Murray, chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corporation.  He is one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the United States, who simply refuses to understand, or to acknowledge that coal mining is a dying industry, in part because the burning of coal is causing a dying planet, and people of good conscience have found other, more efficient ways to provide energy.

bob-murrayAs Mr. Oliver noted before beginning …

“I’m going to need to be careful here, because when we contacted Murray Energy for this piece, they sent us a letter instructing us to ‘cease and desist from any effort to defame, harass, or otherwise injure Mr. Murray or Murray Energy,’ and telling us that ‘failure to do so will result in immediate litigation.’”

And sue he did.  The following Wednesday, Murray sued Oliver for defamation, along with HBO and Time Warner. The lawsuit, filed in West Virginia circuit court, accused Oliver of carrying out a “meticulously planned attempt to assassinate the character and reputation” of Murray and broadcasting false statements about his company to HBO’s 134 million paying subscribers. The complaint alleged one count each of defamation, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and sought financial damages and an injunction barring the rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment.

Now, Murray is a huge supporter of Donald Trump, having donated some $300,000 to Trump’s campaign in 2016, and claiming that Trump once phoned him to tell him he loved him.  Well, they do have some things in common, such as their love of lawsuits.  While Murray cannot hold a candle to Trump’s record of more than 4,000 lawsuits, he has a penchant for suing, especially the media.  Murray has filed over a dozen defamation lawsuits against journalists and newspapers, none of which reached judgment in his favor.  Most, in fact, never made it to trial.

And that is just what happened with Murray’s suit against John Oliver.  The ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of HBO in the case, and last week, Judge Jeffrey Cramer of West Virginia’s second judicial circuit dismissed the case.  Naturally, Murray plans to waste more time and money by appealing the decision.  Spokesman Gary Broadbent blasted the dismissal …

“This decision contains absolutely no legal reasoning, whatsoever, and instead blindly adopts the Defendants’ deeply flawed arguments. This is a flagrant disregard of the law, the facts, and the substantial damages intentionally inflicted by the Defendants. Clearly, this decision is detrimental to our employees, who rely on Mr. Murray and Murray Energy for their continued livelihoods, and to our lenders, customers, and suppliers who depend on our integrity and performance.”

A bit of a drama queen, don’t you think?  I mean, really … the lenders, customers, employees and suppliers will all be injured by the 24-minute clip by John Oliver?  I think not.  I don’t mind Murray wasting his own money on legal fees so much, but I mind the fact that he is wasting our tax dollars and tying up valuable court time.  Oh well … I should have made him Idiot of the Week.

Murray also liked suing the Obama administration and filed more than a half dozen lawsuits against the administration, including several challenging its landmark policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. For him, any attempt to regulate pollution from power plants is a plot not only to destroy coal producers in the United States but also to take control of the nation’s electrical supply.  He apparently missed the memo that renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are not only more efficient and safer, but also cheaper?  Murray is almost delusional in his belief …

“What it is is a political power grab of America’s power grid to change our country in a diabolical, if not evil, way. Thank you, Obama!”

One of the things Oliver highlighted in his segment was the collapse of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, owned by a subsidiary of Murray Energy.  Murray absolved himself and his company of any responsibility, claiming it was the fault of an earthquake.  Prior to the collapse, the mine had received 64 safety violations, and post-investigation, senior mine safety officials ruled that the collapse was not caused by any earthquake, but by safety violations.  Six miners were killed in the collapse.

So why do I tell you all of this?  In part, because John Oliver made some excellent points in his video, about how the lives of coal miners have been affected, about the real reason coal will never become a vibrant industry again, and about the unscrupulous ways of Bob Murray and his ilk.  And in part I chose this story because if you turn on CNN, NBC News, or log onto the New York Times or Washington Post, you likely did not see this story.  Why?  Because it is not about Donald Trump, at least not directly, or any of his family or minions.  Instead, you saw such ridiculously irrelevant headlines involving Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Stormy Daniels, and of course the head Trump.  Sometimes other things happen in the world.

BANNED: The Letter ‘N’

Many of us in the Western world may know little of politics in China, but even so, the following announcement from China’s party-controlled propaganda media outlet on Monday was pretty clear:

“The Communist party of China central committee proposed to remove the expression that the president and vice-president of the People’s Republic of China ‘shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s constitution.”

XiChina’s leader, Xi Jinping, could now serve for life, or at least for as long as he chooses. Or until he is deposed.

When Xi took the reins of power in 2013, he vowed to restore China to its rightful place at the center of world affairs.  As part of that effort, he purged, humiliated and jailed so many powerful foes that China’s best-known political prison, Qincheng prison, is reportedly running out of cells.  In the five years since he took office, he has taken charge of not only the government, but the Chinese Communist Party, the military and the press.

Qincheng prison.pngOn the more positive side, Xi’s policies have begun to lift millions of people out of poverty, reformed state-owned enterprises, protected the environment and built strategic industries. It is predicted that China will eclipse the United States as the world’s largest economy in absolute terms within two decades.

An article in The Guardian earlier this week noted a couple of possible reasons for the move to remove term limits, one of which sounded eerily familiar …

“The obvious explanation is his apparent conviction that he, and only he, can make the ideologically lax, corruption-riddled Communist party – and China – great again.”

The article also suggested, however, that because of Xi’s treatment of his political foes, he fears for his life should he ever lose power.

China world powerWith the U.S. having largely given up its role as a global leader in this era of Trump, China is in position to step in and fill that void.  What does that mean for the world?  Possibly that Xi will take a global leadership role in such things as nuclear proliferation and climate change.  For China, it almost certainly will mean an increase in authoritarianism.  China’s economy has seen growth rate of 6%-7% in recent years, and if this continues, Xi may lead China to global economic dominance.

china-toon-2The Western leaders have been largely silent,  apparently unconcerned over Xi’s move to expand his power, in part because China was already an autocracy, with only one party, the Communist Party.  But another reason is global stability.  Rather the “bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” concept.  President Xi has proven that he is able to lead, has improved the economic status of China and the Chinese people, and is concerned over climate change.  With unrest in other areas, such as the U.S. under Trump, and the UK in the throes of Brexit, and the Middle East in a constant state of flux, the world does not need more chaos.

N-keyOn a more humorous side note, just this week, the letter ‘N’ has been banished from the internet by Chinese censors!  Yes, you heard me … the letter ‘N’.  Why?  Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania China expert, speculated it was “probably out of fear on the part of the government that ‘N’ = ‘n terms in office’, where possibly n > 2”. Make any sense to you?  Other things on the censor’s list are:

– ‘Ten thousand years’ (万岁), which is China’s way of saying: ‘Long live!’ or ‘Viva!’

– ‘Disagree’ (不同意)

– ‘Xi Zedong’ (习泽东) – a hybrid of the names of Xi and Chairman Mao Zedong

– ‘Shameless’ (不要脸)

– ‘Lifelong’ (终身)

– ‘Personality cult’ (个人崇拜)

– ‘Emigrate (移民)

– ‘Immortality’ (长生不老)

And they also banned Animal Farm and 1984, books by George Orwell.

Orwell books.jpgMuch as he might like to, Donald Trump cannot take a page from Xi’s book and eliminate the 22nd Amendment, which states …

“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.”

To amend the amendment would require an act of Congress … literally … with 2/3 of both the House and the Senate in support of said amendment.  Try to imagine THAT happening any time soon! Now, stop laughing!  And meanwhile, remember if you are corresponding with anybody in China, keep your finger off of that “N” key!

A Few Bits Of Good News On The Environment

Yesterday the high temperature where I live was 76° (F), 24° (C).  Yesterday was 20 February 2018.  It is never 76° in my area in February, nor in March.  The average high temperature for this time of year is 43°. Perhaps by mid-April we see temps in the 70s on occasion, but never, ever in February.  Now, admittedly I enjoyed the warmth of the day — Miss Goose and I went for a nice walk … I only managed 3.2 miles, but she went 5.6, and we both felt good about our accomplishments after a winter of inactivity, but … You don’t believe in global warming or in climate change?  Well, I do.

bumblebee on flowerFor one thing, when nearly all of the world’s climate scientists confirm the same data and draw the same conclusion, I am convinced, for they are the experts, not me, not Donald Trump, Rick Perry or Scott Pruitt.  For another thing, I can see and feel the difference from, say, ten years, or even five years ago.  There are fewer bees about in the springtime, the air is harder to breathe, the humidity levels in summer are much higher and the temperatures throughout the year, on average, much warmer.  The sky never looks as clear (okay, sure, I am half blind, but still …) I can observe these things on my own.

Sadly, we are governed by a bunch of stodgy and stupid men who deny or choose to ignore the evidence produced by scientists, and who do not leave their air-conditioned offices long enough to observe nature.  Rather than consider the work of the scientists, they simply dismiss the scientists and remove the words “climate change” from their new, alternative vocabulary.  Problem solved, right?  WRONG.

I don’t do a regular feature on the environment, but when news crosses my path that I think matters, I try to incorporate it into my work.  Today, there is some good news (and some bad news).  But just for today, let’s look at the good news, for that always makes us feel a little better, and I find hope in some of the steps being taken to defy the administration’s destructive environmental policies, or rather undoing of policies.seperator

One of Michigan’s largest public utilities, Consumers Energy — which provides power for more than 60 percent of the state’s residents — has promised to stop burning coal completely by 2040 in an effort to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The company plans to completely phase out coal and generate 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar.

wind turbinesIn 2016, Consumers Energy closed down 7 of its 12 coal-fired power plants, which reduced its emissions by 38%.  They currently get 24% of their energy from coal and 10% from renewable sources.

“We believe that climate change is real and we can do our part by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and we also believe it doesn’t have to cost more to do it,” Consumers Energy president and CEO Patti Poppe said, adding that coal has become less cost competitive as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall.

Michigan’s other major energy company, DTE Energy, has also pledged to shutter its coal plants by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

According to a recent cost analysis from the financial firm Lazard Ltd., it is currently cheaper to build and operate renewable energy projects than to operate coal and nuclear plants in many parts of the United States.

Despite Trump and Pruitt’s best efforts, many more power plants are steering away from coal and into cleaner, less costly renewable energy sources. seperatorJust the words “oil pipeline” raise the hackles of those of us who care about the environment.  Keystone, Dakota Access.  New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, is saying “hold on just a minute there …” in response to the 120-mile PennEast Pipeline. PennEast is seeking eminent domain over nearly 147 parcels of land in New Jersey and has started proceedings to condemn, or gain legal permission to take control of these areas.  Grewal, acting on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), has filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting information from PennEast regarding site-specific information detailing how environmental impacts would be avoided or minimized.  Thus far, the company has not provided any such information to DEP.

The pipeline would cross some 30 streams, and no information has been provided for how that would be safely done.  Additionally, there has been no study performed to determine whether the properties PennEast wants to condemn would even qualify for permits under the Clean Water Act.  February 1, the New Jersey DEP rejected PennEast’s application for a water quality permit pending provision of the requested information.

This is one to watch, and will speak volumes about whether FERC is serving to protect our environment or to lick Donald Trump’s boots, but I am pleased to see the DEP and New Jersey Attorney General taking a stand.seperator

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

Last week, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California took a stand against Trump’s destructive moves.  For 30 years, federal standards governing the efficiency of home appliances and commercial equipment have been updated with bipartisan approval, producing major cuts in energy usage and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Consumers also have saved money on their utility bills by using highly energy-efficient appliances. But in the Trump administration, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, has missed several deadlines for updating appliance efficiency standards and is expected to miss several more in 2018.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ordered the Trump administration to end its hold on rules that would strengthen appliance energy efficiency standards and help consumers save money on their energy bills.  According to Kit Kennedy, a senior director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) …

“The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. Today’s ruling reaffirms that the Trump administration must follow the laws designed to ensure America’s consumers and businesses aren’t forced to pay needlessly higher energy bills.”

Score another one for We The People.seperatorSmall victories, of course, but victories nonetheless.  It is encouraging to see states, energy companies and the courts standing for protections for our planet, not afraid of Trump and his minions.

Judge Curiel vs Trump — Round #2

Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests. As we can see, in our current government where both the executive and legislative branches are dominated by one party, the republican party, judicial independence is more important than ever, for it may well be the only check on the unlimited power grab by republicans.

Trump & Co. have butted heads with the judiciary more than once in the past year.  One of those times is memorable, notable, and is coming back to haunt Trump.

curiel-trumpU.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Paul Curiel has already had one occasion to feel Trump’s wrath.  The first was in 2016 when, as the judge scheduled to preside over the class action lawsuit against Trump University, Curiel denied a request by Trump’s attorneys to postpone he trial until after Trump’s inauguration, set for January 20, 2017. Curiel had already agreed to one postponement at Trump’s request, when he delayed the trial until after the election. The parties ultimately reached a settlement whereby the more than 3,000 parties included in the class action suit agreed to $0.90 on the dollar for the money they had paid the fraudulent Trump University..

During the campaign Trump repeatedly criticized Curiel in campaign speeches and interviews, calling him a “hater of Donald Trump”, saying his rulings have been unfair, and that Curiel “happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that’s fine”, while suggesting that the judge’s ethnicity posed a conflict of interest in light of Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Cato Institute fellow Nat Hentoff wrote at that time that thus far in the case, Curiel had ruled in Trump’s favor far more often than not, including granting his motion to delay the trial until after the 2016 presidential election, and concluded that “Donald Trump has an odd way of showing his appreciation for a trial judge who, as his attorney said, is just ‘doing his job’.”

Then came the case of a young man, Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, who while protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), but was deported in February 2017.  Judge Curiel was scheduled to hear that case, but eventually the charges were dropped.

And now, once again Judge Curiel is likely to come into Trump’s crosshairs, as he is currently hearing a case involving security measures along the U.S.- Mexican border.  The lawsuit was brought by the state of California, some environmental groups and Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona democratic representative to the U.S. Congress..

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  claims it has the authority to bypass the requisite environmental impact studies and begin construction on Trump’s border wall, because 14 miles of existing fencing near San Diego is “no longer optimal for border patrol operations.”

California and the environmentalists claim that the lack of environmental reviews would imperil endangered species including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and the Mexican flannel bush.

The judge is expected to rule on the case next week, but as of this past week, he seemed unconvinced of the urgency claimed by DHS, saying …

“By waiving environmental protections, we are ignoring something that has been very important to Congress for the past 40, 50 years.”

He then asked them to provide additional information supporting their claim, and said he would then make a ruling.

Congress has not yet appropriated funding for Trump’s wall, but this is one way of actually starting the wall without approval of Congress, and of setting the scene for building the wall when and if Congress does agree to appropriate the tens of billions of dollars that would be required.

The plaintiffs in the case say they are not challenging the government’s authority to replace worn fencing, but the magnitude and type of the project being planned is likely to be damaging to the environment.  The current fencing could be replaced at a much lesser cost and in a much more environmentally safe manner than the current plan to replace the fencing with a wall.

Everything points to Judge Curiel being a very fair and impartial judge, and I believe his ruling will be in the best interest of the nation, without allowing Trump’s verbal abuse of him two years ago colour his judgment.  But, I would bet even money that if the judge rules in favour of California and the environmental groups, Trump will swear it was a personal vendetta based on his, Trump’s, earlier disparagement of the good judge.

This case bears watching, for it may well set a precedent for the future of Trump’s dream wall, should it ever be funded.  The wall has already been deemed environmentally unstable. It is opposed by many in the southern bordering states, as it would drastically cut down on the tourism industry. It has been analyzed by experts and deemed to be ineffective, and the costs will certainly outweigh any benefits.  Let us hope that Congress never approves funding for the damnable wall that Trump never intended to build, and promised would not cost the taxpayers a dime.


The Death March of Planet Earth

Europe doesn’t want to play with us anymore, and I don’t blame them.

“The European Union will no longer make trade deals with the United States if President Trump follows through on withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, according to a French official whose comments were endorsed by the European Commission.” – ThinkProgress, 06 February 2017

The planet’s second-largest polluter and we are not only refusing to help clean up our own mess, but determinedly making an even bigger mess.

“One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground. No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The US knows what to expect.” – Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, French foreign affairs minister

No word yet of any response from Trump … he probably didn’t understand what they meant, and anyway, he has been too busy worrying about who did or didn’t clap for him at his State of the Union Address to actually consider such trivial things as whether our nation will lose one of our biggest trading allies.

And in other environmental news …

  • The state of Idaho has decided to remove all references to climate science from its science education standards. Way to go, Idaho … keep those kids in the dark and don’t let them know the dirty little secret that we are killing our planet.

  • Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, is still trying to drum up support for his 5-year offshore leasing program that would open up the entire eastern seaboard to offshore drilling. This despite the fact that the governors of 15 of the 16 coastal states are against the plan.  According to Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, the plan “underscores how disorganized and uninterested this administration is in preserving our coastline or stewarding our public lands.”  Yep, pretty much..

  • Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer has proposed a new bill that would restrict wind power development in the state and end the designation of wind power as ‘renewable.’ “Wind energy is not Nebraska Nice. Wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars, and isn’t ‘green’ energy by any definition of the term.” Oh for Pete’s sake!  Wind energy is one of the least polluting sources of energy available.

  • Trump wants to eliminate the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency with a strong record of improving public safety. The goal seems to be to give a boost to the nation’s petrochemical industry as part of its “energy dominance” agenda. The agency is charged with investigating major chemical fires, explosions, leaks, and other accidents. Nothing too important there, right folks?

  • Oil and gas companies are suing municipalities that pass ordinances banning drilling and other types of industrial activity. Say what?  But it’s even worse.  Federal judges are sanctioning the lawyers who represent the small towns trying to protect the environment, imposing financial penalties.  (More about this one at some later date)

And that, my friends, is the latest in environmental news.  You may wish to spend  some time outdoors today, for I don’t know how much longer we will be able to breathe out there if this keeps up!

Mr. President, listen to the Department of Defense and CIA

Many things are broken in the U.S. today, things that were not broken a year ago. Two that stand out as being of the utmost importance are Trump’s failures in the areas of Climate Change and our relationship with Russia. Our friend Keith wrote a post that bears reading, is deserving of serious consideration. And he ends with a question that we all must try to find answers to. Please read Keith’s post … it will give you something on which to ponder as you go through your day. Thank you, Keith!


One of the hardest jobs of any employee is managing up when they have a boss who is not very good at his or her role. Business is littered with stories of high performing individuals who fail miserably as managers. The President is not an exception as he has always been a better salesperson than manager as reported by financial reporters and biographers.

The folks working beneath him are doing their darnedest to keep him between the white lines and on message. Too often, he derails an effort by tweeting or being less than truthful or aware of the issues. Yet, there are two consistent messages that are being ignored by the boss from two important groups, which are making us less safe and secure.

First, the Department of Defense reiterated its recurring message that climate change is a key threat to national security due to destabilization and impact on…

View original post 324 more words

Finally … Some Good Sense!!!

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power struggling in competitive electricity markets.

The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding.

– The Washington Post, 08 January 2018

Paul Bledsoe, a former Energy Department consultant under President Obama, said, “This outright rejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear shows that Commissioners of both parties have little interest in manipulating electricity markets in favor of any fuel source,”

As with most things, there is a caveat.  The commission said that it shared Perry’s stated goal of strengthening the “resilience” of the electricity grid, and as such directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter “holistically.” Holistically, apparently meaning outside mainstream science? Perry’s proposal favored power plants being able to store 90 days fuel supply on site in case of emergency, unlike renewable energy or natural gas plants.

John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project Coalition, said, “The law and common sense prevailed over special interests today. The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy’s proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act. Secretary Perry’s plan would have subsidized coal and nuclear plants with a 90-day fuel supply yet Perry never explained why those plants were inherently more reliable or resilient.”

Although FERC could issue a new order after submissions by regional grid operators, the language in the current order suggested it would stand by the trend toward free competitive electricity markets. For once, common sense protection of the environment won the day.  Let us hope this is only the first of many such moments.