Monday, August 13, 2018

Moment of truth for Trump’s EPA? No way

            James Hansen was stunningly prescient.

            Thirty years ago, 1988, the NASA scientist testified to Congress that the planet would warm 1.9 degrees by 2017.

            So, how close was he? You judge. NASA figures show global temperatures climbed 1.6 degrees since 1988.

            Yes, that's what one calls truth, as opposed to what Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency is pushing.

            It used to be that the EPA, like NASA, represented scientific authority. Then Trump fashioned it into a house of mirrors.

            Want legitimate information from its finely honed team of evaders and deniers? Watch them wriggle away and hide.

            Last week a federal court ordered the EPA to observe the Obama-era ban on the farm use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The poison had already been banned for household use but remained a staple for many farmers.

            Pesticide maker Dow Chemical lobbied then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration. It got what it wanted.

            The Trump EPA had an opportunity to show evidence for doing what it did, despite the suspected danger to infants that precipitated the ban. Basically the justification is: "We did it because we could," or more likely, "because Dow asked."

            The Trump EPA is not interested in providing evidence to support what it does. It is simply interested in undoing whatever Obama did. Because it's not a presidency, not running the country. It's a competition.

            One of the most important, and least-discussed, legal battles in the country right now is taking place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where plaintiffs have called Team Trump's bluff on the issue of man-caused climate change.

            A group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the evidence former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt used to support his claim that human activity is "not a primary" contributor to global warming.

            Yes, Team Trump. Enlighten us.

            But – surprise: The Trump EPA isn't interested in shedding light on any evidence it might have but on sand-bagging, causing the senior judge on the court to threaten the administration with contempt of court.

            Yes, if the Trump EPA had "the goods" on this matter, this climate change claim made by experts like James Hansen, we could end all discussions post haste and get on to weightier matters like football players' taking a knee.

            But that's not this president's interest. Again, his interest is waging a policy vendetta against all things linked to his predecessor and, of course, ministering to the urges of his corporate supporters.

            It's pertinent to understand that Trump did not populate the EPA to protect the environment but to fit within the worldview of people who took a blood oath against it.

            The leader of that pack would be Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who famously called climate change a hoax and produced a snowball on the floor of the Senate to bolster whatever case he had.

            Trump turned to Inhofe to pick the man to run the EPA, and that man was Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general, who spent most of his time in office in the Okie state suing the EPA.

            When Pruitt had to bail out of the EPA in a raft of scandal, Trump turned to next most (least?) qualified Oklahoman to do the job, former Inhofe chief of staff, former coal lobbyist, Tom Wheeler.

            So, understand, the EPA under Trump isn't interested in protecting the environment. It is interested in protecting business interests friendly to the president.

            It has no science to support its policies. All it has is political science.

            It is up to the voters this fall, and two autumns hence, to repudiate the latter.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cyber-reality and he who cries ‘fake news’

Ah, fake news.

In determining that Russian actors went on a social media disinformation rampage in 2016, analysts cited many markers. One was that bogus pro-Trump, anti-Hillary posts featured "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation" of our language.

Not to throw anyone off the trail, but that could either be Russians or it could be a U.S. president who writes like a third-grader.

Ah, fake news.

OK, give him credit. Trump is skillful enough to have replicated Donald Jr.'s syntax when he composed a letter to Robert Mueller claiming that the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians had to do with adoption.

News bulletin:  Trump just tweeted what we all knew was true all along, the solicitation of campaign dirt from foreigners -- the collusion he said over and over never happened.

OK, so it happened, but it's "totally legal."

So why lie about it?

Now his dodge is that he didn't know about a meeting in his own tower, with his own son, with his son-in-law, with his campaign manager. If it was "totally legal," why does that matter?

Fake news.

Trump feigned ignorance about that hush money over his sexploits. Then more audio magic: a tape from his former attorney betrays the truth.

Cash or check? Good question. Really good. It opens up the possibility that the people (ie. New York state prosecutors) might ultimately get to see Trump's taxes.

Trump likes to claim ownership of "fake news" in bashing the press, but at every turn, suspicions raised by reporters prove to be verifiable.

Yes, reporters have made errors and omissions in reporting all of this, errors to which news organizations dutifully owned up. When has Trump owned up to even one of his outright lies?

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Trump accuses the news media of distorting what happened following his disastrous Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. That was no distortion, Mr. President. That was the magic of video recording. You stood before cameras and said what you said. We heard it.

Back to the real story that underpins this matter and which has had Robert Mueller working overtime.

While Trump has called the Russia matter a "hoax," the clear consensus of the intelligence community is just the opposite. Russians not only hacked the computers of Trump's opponents but nosed their way into state voting systems.

Sens. Claire McCaskill and Jean Shaheen, both Democrats, say that Russians attempted to hack into their Senate computer systems.

Trump's own Department of Homeland Security just launched the National Risk Management Center to fight cyberattacks against critical infrastructure like credit card systems and the electric grid.

And yet, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee last week rejected $250 million to beef up state voting systems from cyberattacks.

Bad decision, said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy: "As we focus on the past, we are missing what is happening and what will happen again."

Clearly Senate Republicans judge that we can't afford such things. And that may be true when we are saving our dimes to pay for that wall – costing $150 million a year -- it appears Mexico won't be buying for us.

And don't forget the need for that $12 million military parade Trump wants.

It's really quite fascinating. Trump assembled a now-defunct Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity, seeking information on every American voter, until states refused to play along. He's just riveted on vote security.

Yet when the whole of the national intelligence community identifies a foreign attack on voter systems, it's fake news, says the man with the tweeter toy.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Direct appeal to the Blow It All Up Gang

Please shut down the government, Mr. President.

Don't make it an idle threat this time.

You say that you must have that wall. Without it you won't permit any government. So go ahead. Let's go with that.

We are inside 100 days from an election that is going to retire many in your legions of Capitol Hill enablers. Go ahead and assist in that venting.

Shut 'er down. We know this will hurt people. It will shutter, again, national parks. It will put federal employees on furlough. We went through this before when Ted Cruz played Teddy Roosevelt and egged Republicans over that hill. Going on six whole years, it is Ted's signature (and only?) deed in office.

The shutdown: It cost the federal government billions of dollars. Fortunately, policy-makers pretty quickly found out that the cause was not worth the hurt.

But go ahead this time, Mr. Trump. Pull the plug.

A lot of your supporters pulled the lever in 2016 with the fantasy notion of blowing it all up by putting a cad and gadabout in office. Whatever ensued, they reasoned -- what the heck? It's just government.

Anyway, democratic government? Who needs it? We need a dictator with lots of hair, and a wall.

True to said impulse, Trump has appointed to Cabinet positions and agencies individuals sworn to blow them up.

On the presidential campaign trail, Rick Perry said he would abolish the Energy Department. OK, he couldn't remember "Energy Department" when he attempted to count to three. Then Trump appointed him to run it. This is like a giraffe hooking up with a squid on Match.com.

We have an Interior Department secretary, Ryan Zinke, who titularly is running that show, but effectively is letting developers and Big Energy run it.

Indicative of Zinke's attitude: A new advisory board created presumably to put the clamps on those who import the heads and hides of African game is stocked with Republican big-game hunters.

We certainly wouldn't want to stunt Donald Jr.'s urges as he stalks four-legged beasts far greater than he.

As for blowing up international alliances and trade agreements, Trump has taken on that mission all by himself.

This week GOP mega-financier Charles Koch said what economist after economist has said, and quite a few Republicans in Congress: Trump's trade war risks triggering a major recession.

To that, Steve Bannon tweeted that such Republican critics "should shut up and get with the program."

That's democracy: Sit up straight and shut up.

Did we say a national election is coming up? The polls do not look good for Republican candidates in the Midwest, aka Trump Country. A slew of national, state and local races have gone to Democrats, even in districts that Trump carried handily.

We've seen Democrat Doug Jones win the Senate seat in Alabama. We've seen underdog Democrat Connor Lamb win a congressional seat in a safe Republican district in Pennsylvania.

At the state level, we've seen 43 Democrats flip Republican seats in statehouses since Trump took office.

Trump has made this governing thing all about him. Well, so is this blowback thing, this blue wave.

You see, "blowing it up" is not proving to be good politics. For Trump to threaten a government shutdown, with a national election so near, shows he is less intent on governing than he is on destroying and undermining the institutions that serve us.

Yes, it will hurt the country; it will hurt people; but it will hurt the Party of Trump more.

Shut it down, Mr. President, and make it more likely that real stewards of democracy will be assigned the task Nov. 6.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.