American Environmental Research Scramble

America has been dead to me since election night. Self preservation prescribed absolute avoidance of U.S. media. Hearing his voice, seeing that orange face, reacting to Trumpish ascension without blind rage, perfectly good reasons to wash hands of the sordid affair. All well and good until ambushed by CBC radio this afternoon. But for missing that last green light, I might have been out of the vehicle when “U.S. scientists are scrambling to archive environmental research in Canada before Trump inauguration” shot resolve to smithereens. Oh crap! I knew Trump appointed climate denier Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, now I had to look into the impetus of a news bomb.

Oh man, if knowledge were power America wouldn’t be facing the likes of Scott Pruitt. Ponder Pruitt’s environmental legacy below, followed by a link to “Meet Scott Pruitt”-

May 2011: As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt sues the EPA, alleging that the federal agency violated its own procedures in rejecting a state plan to reduce regional haze at three coal plants. In May 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Pruitt’s challenge of the EPA’s plan for reducing haze. The EPA’s plan is designed to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and industrial sources to improve visibility at federally managed wilderness areas such as the 59,000-acre Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton.

It would target coal-fired power plants operated by Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. at Red Rock and Muskogee and another operated by American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma at Oologah.

September 2011: Oklahoma joins other states in challenging an EPA regulation of power-plant air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the cross-state air pollution rule, which is scheduled to take effect in May 2017.

July 2013: Pruitt and his counterparts in 11 other states sue the EPA in federal court, alleging violations of the Freedom of Information Act. The states sued after the EPA denied a request for communication records between the federal agency and nonprofit environmental groups. Pruitt claimed that the agency encourages certain types of lawsuits by nonprofit environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club. The EPA then settles the suits by entering consent decrees that contain obligations not found in federal law, Pruitt claimed.

A district judge dismissed the lawsuit in December 2013, siding with the EPA’s claims that the records request was overly broad and vague.

April 2014: Pruitt sent a letter to the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, questioning plans to evaluate how the agency and states have done in regulating hydraulic fracturing.

“I am concerned that this project is politically motivated and ignores the EPA’s three previous failed attempts to link hydraulic fracturing to water contamination,” Pruitt wrote. “The U.S. Department of Energy has investigated hydraulic fracturing’s potential harm to water supplies and found no evidence linking the drilling technique to groundwater contamination.”

August 2014: Pruitt joined 11 other states in a suit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases. Filed in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the suit specifically seeks to throw out a 2011 settlement in a lawsuit brought against the EPA by 12 states, the District of Columbia and three environmental organizations. In the settlement, the EPA agreed to begin regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

July 2015: Pruitt sues the EPA in Tulsa federal court over the agency’s plan to rein in pollution from coal-fired power plants. In a news release, Pruitt described the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as “an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats’ authority over states’ energy economies in order to shutter coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity.” The lawsuit was later dismissed by a judge on jurisdictional grounds.

July 2015: Pruitt files a lawsuit in Tulsa federal court challenging the EPA’s new rules governing pollution controls on waters governed by the Clean Water Act. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. An appeal is pending.

October 2015: Pruitt joins 26 other states in challenging the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rules just after they became effective. The new rules require states to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal. All but two of the state challenges were filed by Republicans. The case is still pending in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

August 2016: Pruitt joined a dozen other states in a lawsuit challenging federal regulations for methane emissions from new equipment at oil and natural gas sites. The rules are part of the Obama administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry more than 40 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

Scott Pruitt is buddies with James Inhofe, fellow Okkie and Republican chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the genius who tossed a snowball on the senate floor as proof God exists, climate change is a hoax, the politician who declared “God is still up there, and He promised to maintain the seasons and that cold and heat would never cease as long as the earth remains.”

Scott Pruitt is why U.S. climate researchers scramble to preserve data before Trump’s buffoons assume positions of power.



David Souter Ponders Democracy

This morning CBC radio aired a sound bite of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter speaking at a 2012 UNH (University of New Hampshire ) open forum. Souter was asked to comment on declining civics education and what effect that has on government. His answer runs almost 8 minutes. For those short on time, patience or inclination skip to 4:00 or read the transcript below.

“But the reason I said I think it is the most significant problem that we’ve got is that I think some of the aspects of current American government that people on both sides find frustrating are in part a function of the inability of people to understand how government can and should function.

It is a product of civic ignorance.

What I worry about is a remark that Benjamin Franklin made and Susan Leahy quoted Jefferson at the beginning about how “an ignorant people can never remain a free people.”

Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance.

Franklin, in effect, had a comment to which the Jefferson comment is a kind of an answer or a response. You’ve probably heard this but it bears repeating.

Franklin was asked by someone I think on the streets of Philadelphia shortly after the 1787 convention adjourned in what kind of government the constitution would give us if it was adopted. Franklin’s famous answer was “a republic, if you can keep it.” (edited)

You can’t keep it in ignorance. I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some other places.

What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, “Give me total power and I will solve this problem.”

That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised he would solve problems that were not being solved.

If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible.

If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and and we and the government will in effect say, “take the ball and run with it.”

“Do what you have to do.”

That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.

WTF Donald

Earlier this week Donald Trump blithered utter nonsense at a campaign rally in Florida, regurgitating fantasy the following day in Maine. Trump’s outbursts tend to flow within spillways of generalized chest thumping hubris, moronic sound bites selling Trump’s “brand” to America – this jibber-jabber gem was different. The nincompoop’s head, bloated by gases of maniacal impunity from truth or reason, pulled a nut salad from his ass.

Trump vehemently claimed to have seen a video showing $400 million being taken off an American airplane in Iran. Trump suggested the cash was ransom paid by America to release hostages. It wasn’t – the footage in question aired on Fox News showing released Americans stepping off a plane in Geneva. (full story linked below) Trump’s false assertion the video was “leaked” by Iran to “embarrass” America, in particular President Obama caught exchanging money for prisoners, went from simmer to boil.

“I wonder where that money really goes, by the way…. Well, it went either in their pockets, which I actually think more so, or toward terrorism — probably a combination of both,” he said.

Game over, damage done. Trump’s shrewd grasp of constitutional free speech capitalized on free to lie, manipulate and bend truth for personal gain. Yep, America is the greatest nation on Earth – Trump dishes constitutionally condoned propaganda, Fox News eats it for breakfast, catatonic Trump supporters froth at the mouth, conspiracy slithers from Trump’s ambiguous retraction, fact becomes cover-up, coming full circle – placing the onus on truth for daring to debunk nut salad. WTF Donald is tip of the iceberg – WTF Hillary, WTF constitutional right to political free speech lies, WTF people incapable of grasping dangerously stupid politicians exist because dangerously stupid free to speak whatever you damn well please constitutional leniency put them there. WTF America.

Not for a second have I considered my lawful right to free expression compromised in any way. Do I live in the greatest nation on Earth? Reside in a super power bastion of enlightened democracy? Patch together truth based on late night television comedy sketches? Tune into national news networks anticipating the task of exhaustive research to determine truth, or worse, exclude all news other than media geared to my religious/political bias? Does my life require constant affirmation, strife over faith, sexual orientation, civil rights or fear mongering propaganda? None of the above – I live in Canada.

WTF Donald is unimaginable in Canada. WTF Donald thrives in America because the Fairness Doctrine (Federal law implemented in 1949 requiring holders of broadcast licenses to air opposing viewpoints on topical or controversial issues ) was struck down in 1987. The Fairness Doctrine kept broadcasters from monopolizing airwaves with biased opinion.

WTF Donald has little to do with Trump, everything to do with America’s systematic escalation of disregard for truth. WTF created the likes of Trump. Truth be told I harbour a growing fascination over the possibility Donald might prevail. Distasteful as that seems, “President Trump” could be the jolt America needs to WTF lawmakers into reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

The Newsroom

Billed as “political drama”, HBO aired 25 episodes of The Newsroom over 3 seasons. Between June 2012 and December 2014 Jeff Daniels portrayed Will McAvoy, anchor at fictitious ACN (Atlantis Cable News). Creator and principle writer Aaron Sorkin told Newsweek in 2012 –

The Newsroom “is meant to be an idealistic, romantic, swashbuckling, sometimes comedic but very optimistic, upward-looking look at a group of people who are often looked at cynically. The same as with The West Wing, where ordinarily in popular culture our leaders are portrayed either as Machiavellian or dumb; I wanted to do something different and show a highly competent group of people.”

Let me assure you, The Newsroom delivered in spades. Idealistic dodged snares of robotic optimism, romantic let failures be human, swashbuckling struck chords of purpose rather than folly. How Sorkin applied his vision of cynicism, optimism, idealism and humanity, catapulted The Newsroom to relevant social commentary.

Pondering Donald Trump, American politics, propaganda, racial divide, gun violence, blame and fear, turned thoughts to ACN anchor Will McAvoy. Please America, take a moment to hear his words –

Son Of A Syrian Refugee

Would it surprise you to learn the son of a Syrian refugee is one of the most influential people in America? 1949 saw Syrian army officer Adib al-Shishakhli overthrow the government – a 3rd coup in that year alone. 1952, al-Shishakhli dissolves all political parties. Two years later a coup led by army officers ousted al-Shishakhli, returning Syria to a shaky state of civilian government power.

In 1954 Abdulfattah Jandali came to America as a Syrian political refugee. He worked as a taxi driver, and fell in love with an American woman who became pregnant. Her conservative parents forced the couple to part ways, giving the baby up for adoption. His adoptive parents named him Steven – the world knows him as Steve Jobs.

Abdulfattah Jandali looked to America for a better life. America, a nation of immigrants and refugees, a country built on hopes and dreams of countless people seeking freedom. The same nation capable of turning backs on the  faces of these Syrian refugees, because all fear allows them to see is terrorists.


Liberal Conservative

Words “liberal” and “conservative” evoke instant assumptions. These days alarming ferocity pegs each of us as one or the other. Two ideologically opposing words capable of driving the last spike between reason and hysteria. Generalizations used as snide jabs, prefacing everything from politics to crime. Two seemingly innocent words spiraling out of control.

Maintaining some semblance of unspoken civility between opposing camps has gone the way of chivalry. A line has been crossed, nothing will ever be the same. Liberal and conservative eclipsed polite ideological differences, becoming one word answers to questions demanding more. Two little words, catapulted into snide one word reasons to slam our minds shut.

Ponder time saved without encumbrance of independent thought. We’re no longer shackled by demands of investigation or deliberation. Liberal and conservative don’t require burdensome confines of sentence structure, media tells us what they mean. Utter one or the other, suddenly we’re marionettes wobbling painted guffaws and raised eyebrows on wooden heads.

Liberal and conservative make life simple. It doesn’t matter where you reside, all you have to do is oppose the other camp because your wooden head has principles, even though your eyes and ears are closed.


Tipping Point

We tend to think of tipping points as statistical models, hypothetical markers based on researched probabilities. Point of no return milestones resulting in irreversible consequences. Modern tipping points focus on climate, water, population and energy sources. Few of us ponder cultural tipping points – events born of seemingly unrelated events, evolving imperceptibly into critical situations. Once reached, nothing will ever be the same.

Often characterized as dire alterations to our way of life, tipping points languish in the realm of negative hysteria. So much so, dismissing their presence prevents us from seeing them coming. In truth, tipping points make themselves abundantly clear once you recognize the signs.

Irrational hysteria is a dead give-away – tantamount to denial’s stage of grief, actions characterized by defiance, finger pointing and name calling. Indications of disbelief followed by angry bouts of blame or misplaced ridicule are a sure sign something’s about to tip.

I can’t help but think American politics are headed for a tip. Once upon a time America possessed the equivalent of medieval codes of chivalry – polite conduct befitting citizens of a highly civilized society. There used to be rules. At the very least, every attempt was made to present reasonable arguments – to back your agenda with appearances of logic. America used to know where the stood on issues, people were Republican or Democrat. Political parties with ideological differences yet commonality of purpose to preserve a great nation.

Lately immature displays of juvenile ignorance undermine that purpose. Gone are veiled facades of decency, increasingly present are petulant accusations of unsubstantiated nonsense. Wake up America, it’s not amusing, a tipping point is about to blow up in your face.