Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls …

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued yet another ruling that is devastating, to say the least.  The news stories reported that this is a “serious blow to Biden’s climate agenda.”  NO, my friends, this is a serious blow to the lives of every single person around the globe, today and forever.  No, that is not hyperbole … that is FACT.  I am left spluttering … not speechless, but so filled with words that I cannot corral them into a coherent post just yet.  Fortunately, Robert Reich has no such problem …


The beginning of the end of regulation

The radical Supreme Court is giving the big business backers of the GOP exactly what they paid for

Robert Reich

June 30

Today the Supreme Court – again, with the 6 Republican appointees on one side and the 3 Democratic appointees on the other — limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants. This ruling deals a major blow to America’s (and the world’s) efforts to address climate change. Also — as with its decision reversing Roe v. Wade — today’s ruling has far larger implications than the EPA and the environment.

West Virginia v. EPA is the latest battle pitting America’s big businesses (in this case Big Oil) against the needs of average Americans. In this Supreme Court – containing three Trump appointees, two George W. Bush appointees, and one George H.W. Bush appointee – big business is winning big time. The financial backers of the Republican Party are getting exactly what they paid for.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts admitted that “capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day.’” But then came the kicker: “But it is not plausible,” he wrote, “that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.”

Not plausible? Congress enacted the Environmental Protection Act in 1970. As with all laws, Congress left it to an administrative agency – in this case, the EPA – to decide how that Act was to be implemented and applied. That’s what regulations do: They implement and apply laws.

For the Supreme Court to give itself the authority to say whether Congress intended to delegate this much regulatory authority to the EPA is a truly radical act – more radical than any Supreme Court in modern history. If Congress has been unhappy with decades of EPA regulation, Congress surely has had the power to pull that authority back. But it has not.

As Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the dissenters, countered: “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

The implications of the ruling extend to all administrative agencies in the federal government – to the Securities and Exchange Commission implementing the Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934, to the Federal Trade Commission applying the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, to the Department of Labor implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and so on, across the entire range of government – and the entire range of regulations designed to protect consumers, investors, workers, and the environment. (This same Supreme Court has ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not authorized to impose a moratorium on evictions and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was powerless to tell large employers  to have their workers be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.)

In passing laws to protect the public, Congress cannot possibly foresee all ways in which those laws might be implemented and all circumstances in which the public might need the protections such laws accord. Starting today, though, all federal regulations will be under a cloud of uncertainty – and potential litigation.

A final implication of today’s ruling is that the filibuster has to go. If the Supreme Court is going to require that Congress be more active and specific in protecting the environment or anything else, such a goal is implausible when 60 senators are necessary to enact it. Senate Democrats now have it in their power to abolish the filibuster. Today’s case should convince them they must.

Bits ‘N Pieces of Snark

What, I wonder, would it be like to wake up one morning and find nothing to snark about in the news?  What would I do?  What would I write about?  Who would I curse under my breath as I go about my household chores?  Hmmmm … I wonder if that day will ever come … I think not likely in my lifetime.


Obstruction of transition

Remember that sigh of relief we all breathed when finally, Emily Murphy of the General Services Administration (GSA) released the funds for Joe Biden’s transition team to begin its work?  Hold that thought, for it’s not going quite as it should.  News today is that ‘Trump loyalists’ are interfering with the transition.  What a surprise, eh?

It was only this week that the transition team was allowed into the National Security Agency, and they are still being denied access to the Agency for Global Media, parent of Voice of America.  Typically, transition meetings take place between the civil service staff who currently hold the positions within the various agencies, and members of Biden’s team who will oversee or hold those positions.  But this time, Trump’s hand-picked political appointees are sitting in on meetings, often directing what information can or cannot be shared.

One glaring example is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which, under Trump, has been severely gutted and no longer serves much useful purpose.  Trump’s politicos have sat in on every single meeting between EPA staff and Biden’s transition team and have directed what could be said about such things as climate change and scientific research.  Meaning, that the people who fill positions in the EPA in Biden’s administration will likely have to start from the ground up.  It can be done, but it shouldn’t have to be … members of Trump’s administration and Biden’s should ALL be acting in the best interest of this nation, not of one leader or the other.  This is naught but blatant obstructionism on the part of Trump and his lackeys.


The Court says “nope”

The appointment of three Supreme Court Justices by Donald Trump has been weighing heavily on my mind, and probably yours too.  We like to think the Justices are fair men and women, well-versed in the law and who will vote according to the law, rather than their own prejudices, but we weren’t quite sure.  Yesterday, however, the Court did the right thing … apparently unanimously.

In the shortest ruling in the history of the Court, they refused a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state:

SCOTUS-ruling

Most rulings, even on simple things, are 20 pages or longer, so just the brevity of this one speaks volumes.  Trump and his allies have lost all but one of the 50+ lawsuits they have filed attempting to still the voices of We the People.  And, the one they won threw out about 600 votes, not for fraud, but only because the ballots had such minor issues as an address spelled differently than on the registration, etc.  My fear had been that once a case reached the Supreme Court, with the latest addition of the highly unqualified Amy Barrett, the Court might rule against their conscience and in favour of Trump, but as there were apparently no dissenters to yesterday’s opinion, I am once again breathing a sigh of relief.  The courts, our last line of defense in maintaining a government of, by, and for the people, seems to be holding … so far.


Nearing the finish line …

The last two states have finally managed to certify their elections, and the final tally is, just as we expected …

final-tally

The Electoral College will meet next Monday and are predicted to vote as above.  Then, the last step is for Congress to certify the electoral vote and it will be official … no more bullshit from Trump & Co.  Right?  At this juncture, any slate of electors certified by states must be considered valid by Congress and the courts, according to federal law.  It’s a done deal.  Right?

With nearly all congressional republicans continuing their wall of silence, unable or unwilling to accept the fact that Joe Biden won the election and will take the Oath of Office on January 20th, chaos is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future.  In my mind, this nation no longer can be called the United States of America, for there are two distinct nations here … the “Republican Nation” and the “Everyone Else” nation.  Unfortunately, there is no nice, clean geographical line of demarcation such as the Mason-Dixon line back in the 1800s, so we have to live side-by-side with those who do not seem to share our values at all.  This nation is in a sad state, my friends.  I don’t know if Joe and Kamala, or ANY person can bring us together.


Something new

I had never heard of ‘Slate Political Gabfest’ before today.  It is a political podcast hosted by Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz, where they discuss ongoing political issues.  Not got your interest yet?  Take a look at this clip with the three hosts and Stephen Colbert … some interesting discussion and thoughts on the subjects of Trump’s pardons and whether investigations should be opened into what has taken place ‘behind the curtain’ over the past four years.

I typically do not listen to podcasts, because there is no video and no closed captioning, meaning I’m not going to be able to hear well enough to understand what is being said, but each of the Gabfest podcasts also comes with a transcript, so those of us with hearing issues can follow along.  I’d still rather see them in person, see video, but they cover some fascinating topics, and I might just start following this one.

Snarky Snippets, Volume _____?

I’ve got just a couple of small snippets to start out your Sunday …


Many things have been put on hold during this time of pandemic crisis.  Though I may disagree with the way in which they were done (no thinking or planning involved), I can’t argue against the need for these measures such as the shuttering of restaurants and pubs, people working from home or in some cases being laid off from their jobs, the closing of schools.  But, the one thing that should never ever have been put on hold are environmental regulations – the few we have left, that is.  There is no logical justification and it will only lead to further decimation of our environment.

From an article in Friday’s issue of The Guardian

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended its enforcement of environmental laws during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, signaling to companies they will not face any sanction for polluting the air or water of Americans.

In an extraordinary move that has stunned former EPA officials, the Trump administration said it will not expect compliance with the routine monitoring and reporting of pollution and won’t pursue penalties for breaking these rules.

[…]

There is no end date set for this dropping of enforcement.

Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the EPA, said that coronavirus had made it difficult for businesses to protect workers and the public while adhering to clean air and water rules.

According to an article in Reuter’s, this was triggered by a letter sent to Trump by the American Petroleum Institute, using the current pandemic crisis as an excuse to be relieved of regulatory requirements for the foreseeable future.  Here’s the kicker, though … they claim to need to be free of all regulation “in order to ensure steady fuel supplies”.  But … there is currently a market glut because … nobody is going anywhere, a large portion of businesses are shuttered, and therefore we don’t need anywhere near the amount of fuel we needed just a month ago!  Additionally, it is that time of year when households are using neither heat nor air-conditioning in any large quantity.  They could cut the supply in half and still have a surplus!  There is absolutely no justifiable reason that they need relief from environmental regulations, but all they had to do is ask Trump, and Presto Bingo … they got their wish.

Would someone please explain to me just exactly how in hell the coronavirus makes it difficult for businesses to follow the few provisions that remain in the Clean Water and Air Acts???  NO, this is just a sorry excuse by Trump and his cronies, his partners in crime, to further pander to their friends in the fossil fuel and other industries.  The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have been in effect since 1963 and 1972 respectively and cannot simply be dissed because Trump and/or Wheeler say so!  THIS IS UNCONSCIONABLE!

I am not alone in my fury.  Says Cynthia Giles, who was head of EPA enforcement during the Obama administration …

“EPA should never relinquish its right and its obligation to act immediately and decisively when there is threat to public health, no matter what the reason is. I am not aware of any instance when EPA ever relinquished this fundamental authority as it does in this memo. This memo amounts to a nationwide moratorium on enforcing the nation’s environmental laws and is an abdication of EPA’s responsibility to protect the public.”

The sooner we become fully reliant on renewable energy sources and are able to tell the oil companies where to put their oil, the happier and healthier we will all be!  It is simply unconscionable that they are attempting to profit from this crisis!


You know those $1,200 checks that are going out to anybody who filed a tax return in 2018?  Well, it is reported that Donald Trump is insisting his signature be the one on the checks.  What an ego trip!  No, wait, this goes well beyond ego … this is the sign of a truly evil megalomaniac.  Fortunately, I will not have to see a check from him, for a) I was not required to file a tax return in 2018, and b) my daughter’s will be direct-deposited into her account, so I won’t have to face the temptation of wanting to rip that check into a thousand pieces.

My recommendation to those of you who can is if you receive a check with Trump’s signature, transfer it to a charity of your choice, such as a local food pantry or homeless shelter, local hospice or whatever suits your fancy.


Remember that a couple of days ago I mentioned the Trump re-election campaign had issued a “cease and desist” order to networks who were running an ad by a PAC called Priorities USA?  Well, at the time, I couldn’t find an embeddable copy of the ad, but I have one now.  Take a look …


And, for just a bit of humour, J.L. Cauvin of New Jersey is a comedian/satirist and he has done a video that … well, you must see if for yourself!  If you close your eyes, you’d swear it was trumpie.


Alright, friends, that’s all I’ve got for now … be back this afternoon!

Discord & Dissension – Part XI -The Climate

The single most important issue in the 2020 election (apart from unseating Trump, of course) is climate change. We have stepped back 20 years in the last three years under Trump, and quite frankly, time is running out. The earth’s resources are finite and we are using them at an alarming rate. For this, Part XI of our series Discord & Dissension, Jeff discusses where we are, where we need to go, how we can get there, and what happens if we don’t.

On The Fence Voters

While the Republican and Democratic Parties disagree on most things these days, nothing epitomizes the significant divide more than does climate change. And it’s not just those who sit in Congress either. According to a recent Pew Research poll conducted in February of this year, among Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party, 78% said climate change should be a top priority.

However, among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, only 21% felt the same way. To put that in even more stark terms, Democrats view climate as a top priority by nearly three times that of Republicans.

And, it gets even worse when registered voters were asked whether climate change is a problem for the country today. 77% of Democrats/lean Democrat said yes, it was a huge problem, and 17% said it was a moderately big problem—a net of 94%. On the flip side, Republicans/lean Republican answered 13/27% for…

View original post 1,464 more words

Don’t Believe A Single Word …

A few things have crossed my radar in the past day or two involving the disinformation campaign being waged by our federal government that have caused me to growl.

The first …

As the New York Times reported two days ago …

“An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.”

The man, Indur M. Goklany, is a deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies.

“He also instructed department scientists to add that rising carbon dioxide — the main force driving global warming — is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.” Both assertions misrepresent the scientific consensus that, overall, climate change will result in severe disruptions to global agriculture and significant reductions in crop yields.”

Mr. Goklany recieves funding from the Heartland Instiute for his work on “Climate Change Reconsidered” reports, according to internal budget and strategy documents form the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank.  He has written a variety of articles for the Heartland Institute, such as …

  • CARBON DIOXIDE: The good news
  • UNHEALTHY EXAGGERATION: The WHO report on climate change
  • Humanity Unbound: How Fossil Fuels Saved Humanity from Nature and Nature from Humanity

And it is on his advice that our government is making decisions that affect our very lives!


The second

This one isn’t new, but further convinces me we cannot believe a word that comes out of this administration or any of its agencies pertains to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This one is about censorship.

Turns out that in 2017, the ‘Trump administration’ gave the CDC a set of words that are forbidden to be used by the agency.  The words?

  • Vulnerable
  • Entitlement
  • Diversity
  • Transgender
  • Fetus
  • Evidence-based
  • Science-based

You see where this one is going, right?  The CDC is under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a misnomer in the Trump regime if ever I heard one.  And HHS is under Alex Azar who, until signing on with the Trumptanic in 2017, was President of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, one of the Big Pharma that is keeping the price of prescription medications exponentially higher in the U.S. than in most other countries.  Mr. Azar is a strong critic of the Affordable Care Act, is staunchly anti-abortion, has claimed that the coronavirus isn’t a significant threat to the U.S. (159 cases, 11 deaths as of this writing), and is a contributor to the re-election campaign of Mitch McConnell.  That last one should tell you everything you need to know about Mr. Azar.  This man is not for the health of the nation, but for his own profit!

HHS has also removed information that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.

And now, Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director for National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that the agency stopped sharing data on the number of people tested for coronavirus.


And the third …

The administration has formally revised a proposal that would significantly restrict the type of research that can be used to draft environmental and public health regulations.  What this means is that it would let the federal government dismiss or downplay some of the most important environmental research of the past decades.  If said research relies in part on the medical records of specific individuals whose health problems, or death, were attributable to climate change in some way, then unless the providers of the data are willing to make public those health records, complete with names, and other personal data, the government will disregard the research.

What it means is that the EPA can cherry-pick the scientific data they choose to use, disregarding some for … basically whatever reason they choose.  What it means is that … as in my first example, the government can disregard legitimate science and opt, instead, for the opinion of the man who says that carbon emissions are a good thing for the planet and that the research of other organizations are either exaggerated or false.  What it means is that We the People are being lied to about climate change and other environmental concerns by a group of thugs and yes-men that Trump has hand-picked to do his bidding.

Folks, we cannot have censorship of this sort in our federal agencies.  We cannot tolerate federal agencies changing data to cover the truth with lies. We cannot!  This is not yet a dictatorship, though it surely feels like we are on the brink of it.  This is still, at least in theory, a democratic republic and the people have the right to know the facts, the truth.  We earn that right through our participation in government and by our tax contributions, which seem to be being largely wasted on human scum like Alex Azar, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump and many, many more!

Donald Trump used to tell the masses at his rallies that he was going to “drain the swamp”.  DRAIN THE SWAMP???  There are more nasty creatures in the ‘swamp’ that is the Trump administration than in any other previous administration, bar none, and Donald Trump is the worst of the worst.  Everything I’ve read or researched tells me there is not one single cabinet member who has a shred of integrity.  None.  We are flying blind, because we are being told what the fat ‘man’ in the Oval Office wants us to hear and nothing more.  This must stop!!!

Capitalism Run Amok

I have said many times of late that ours is a system of capitalism run amok.  It’s a system driven by greed, by wealthy corporate giants intent on squeezing every last nickel out of the consumers without taking responsibility for their own product.  The republicans act as if ‘socialism’ is a bad word, but frankly democratic socialism makes a heck of a lot more sense that todays extreme capitalism.  It seems that a very astute mind agrees with me.  Take a look at what Robert Reich has to say on the subject.

Corporations are endangering Americans. Trump doesn’t care

From Boeing to Monsanto and beyond: this week has revealed the tip of the iceberg of regulatory neglect

By Robert Reich

Robert ReichWhy didn’t Boeing do it right? Why isn’t Facebook protecting user passwords? Why is Phillip Morris allowed to promote vaping? Why hasn’t Wells Fargo reformed itself? Why hasn’t Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) recalled its Roundup weedkiller?

Answer: corporate greed coupled with inept and corrupt regulators.

These are just a few of the examples in the news these days of corporate harms inflicted on innocent people.

To be sure, some began before the Trump administration. But Trump and his appointees have unambiguously signaled to corporations they can now do as they please.

Boeing wanted to get its 737 Max 8 out quickly because airlines want to pack in more passengers at lower fuel costs (hence the “max”). But neither Boeing nor the airlines shelled out money to adequately train pilots on the new software made necessary by the new design.

Nonetheless, Trump’s FAA certified the plane in March 2017. And after two subsequent deadly crashes, the US was slower to ground them than other countries.

Last week Facebook admitted to storing hundreds of millions of Facebook users’ passwords in plain text that could be searched by more than 20,000 Facebook employees. The admission came just a year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that Facebook shared the personal data of as many as 87 million users with a political data firm.

In reality, Facebook’s business model is based on giving personal data to advertisers so they can tailor their pitches precisely to potential customers. So despite repeated reassurances by Mark Zuckerberg, the firm will continue to do what it wants with personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the power to force Facebook to better guard users’ privacy. But so far Trump’s FTC has done nothing – not even to enforce a 2011 agreement in which Facebook promised to do just that.

Altria (Phillip Morris) was losing ground on its sales of cigarettes, but the firm has recently found a future in vaping. Because inhaling nicotine in any form poses a health hazard, the FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb wanted to curb advertising of vaping products to teenagers.

Gottlieb thought he had Altria’s agreement, but then the firm bought the vaping company Juul. Its stock has already gained 14% this year. What happened to Gottlieb? He’s out at the FDA, after barely a year on the job.

Wells Fargo has publicly apologized for having deceived customers with fake bank accounts, unwarranted fees and unwanted products. Its top executives say they have eliminated the aggressive sales targets that were responsible for the fraud.

But Wells Fargo employees told the New York Times recently that they’re still under heavy pressure to squeeze extra money out of customers. Some have witnessed colleagues bending or breaking internal rules to meet ambitious performance goals.

What has Trump’s Consumer Financial Protection Agency done about this? Nothing. It’s been defanged.

This week, a federal jury awarded $80m in damages to a California man who blamed Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup weedkiller for his cancer, after finding that Roundup was defectively designed, that Monsanto failed to warn of the herbicide’s cancer risk, and that the company acted negligently. It was the second jury in eight months to reach the same conclusion about Roundup.

Roundup contains glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen. Cases from more than 1,000 farmers and other agricultural workers stricken with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are already pending in federal and state courts.

What has Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency done about glyphosate? In December 2017 its office of pesticide programs concluded that glyphosate wasn’t likely to cause cancer – although eight of the 15 experts on whom the agency relied expressed significant concerns about that conclusion, and three more expressed concerns about the data.

These are just tips of a vast iceberg of regulatory neglect, frozen into place by Trump’s appointees, of which at least 187 were lobbyists before they joined the administration.

This is trickle-down economics of a different sort than Trump’s corporate tax cuts. The major beneficiaries of this are the same big corporations, including their top executives and major investors. But these burdens are trickling down as unsafe products, fraudulent services, loss of privacy, even loss of life.

Big money has had an inhibiting effect on regulators in several previous administrations. What’s unique under Trump is the blatancy of it all, and the shameless willingness of Trump appointees to turn a blind eye to corporate wrongdoing.

Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress yell “socialism!” at proposals for better balancing private greed with the common good. Yet unless a better balance is achieved, capitalism as we know it is in deep trouble.