Donald Trump

Wetlands primer: Don't repeat the same mistakes of 40 years ago

Lost in the crazy Trump show is a startling move by his EPA:

In 1976, 3,000 commercial fishermen and residents signed a petition that pleaded with state officials to do something about the runoff that plagued our estuaries and threatened their ability to make a living fishing. Many of these folks were from Hyde County, and they saw firsthand vast areas of wetlands converted to “superfarms” and other land uses. Trillions of gallons of drainage flowed directly into salty estuaries. This runoff made these essential fish nurseries much less productive for shrimp, oysters, flounder, trout and other commercially and recreationally important marine life.

This regulatory rollback proposed by EPA to eliminate most existing regulatory safeguards for wetlands in our state will extinguish our fishing industry. We know from the past experiences of our fishing forefathers that no wetlands means no seafood.

If there's one thing Republicans are masters at, it's forgetting the past. Or acting like they forget, which is even worse. You can take virtually any environmental movement of the last 50 years, and you'll see a cycle of progress and regress, needed changes gained and then subsequently lost. But when it comes to something as important as wetlands, what's lost cannot be gained back again. They're not just a breeding ground for seafood resources, they're also a critical habitat for stationary and migratory avian species. But preserving wetlands is also good business, because they can greatly mitigate losses from hurricanes and flooding:

Tillis and Burr Must Support Robert Mueller's Investigation

Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation is allegedly wrapping up in short order. For nearly two years, his office has worked tirelessly to answer essential questions pertaining to Russian involvement in the 2016 election. The investigation has already resulted in 8 eight guilty pleas — including President Trump’s campaign chairman, longtime lawyer, National Security advisor, and deputy campaign manager — and 29 other indictments.

Shut down, shut out: Expiring HUD contracts threaten low-income families

As usual, Republican temper tantrums hurt the poor first and hardest:

"Funding these contracts is necessary to keep about 150, 000 deeply poor, mostly seniors and people with disabilities safely and affordably housed," said Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Yentel worries that, with President Trump and Congressional Democrats at an impasse over border wall funding, the government will not reopen anytime soon. And that may force property owners to make business decisions that could adversely impact tenants. "Eventually these owners will have to resort to either significant rent hikes or evictions of these lowest-income renters," Yentel said.

Take a closer look at that map. North Carolina is literally blanketed with already expired or soon to be expired HUD contracts. Each dot represents dozens if not hundreds of folks who may be forced out of their homes because the Republican Party can't or won't keep their spoiled rich brat under control. More details:

The Trump Effect: Israeli settlements in West Bank on steroids

The path to a lasting peace is being bricked over:

In 2017, 3,154 tenders were issued, up from just 42 during Obama's final year in office. In 2018, that number rose to over 3,800, the highest number by far since Peace Now started compiling the data in 2002. This sets the stage for a huge jump in construction in the near future.

"There's definitely a change of atmosphere. There's definitely a change of winds," said Oded Revivi, mayor of Efrat, a major settlement near Jerusalem, and the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlement council. Revivi said that Obama pressured Israel into greatly curtailing settlement activity. Now, he said, Israel is trying to make up for lost time.

There was a lot going on during the Obama administration to bring some sort of agreement to the table over this problem, and we came tantalizingly close in 2014:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Mercury rules on the chopping block

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Andrew Wheeler is about to score a big one for his coal buddies:

Reworking the mercury rule, which the E.P.A. considers the priciest clean-air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry, would represent a victory for the coal industry and in particular for Robert E. Murray, an important former client of Mr. Wheeler’s from his days as a lobbyist. Mr. Murray, the chief executive of Murray Energy Corporation, personally requested the rollback of the mercury rule soon after Mr. Trump took office.

In a statement on Friday, Hal Quinn, president of the National Mining Association, praised the new rule, calling the mercury limits “perhaps the largest regulatory accounting fraud perpetrated on American consumers.”

Mercury is a pretty nasty neurotoxin in its elemental (particulate) form, and it's persistent; you just can't burn coal hot enough to get rid of it. But that danger pales in comparison to what happens when elemental mercury drains into or settles upon a body of water. It bonds with microorganisms and becomes motile; it comes to life in the form of methyl mercury. And when consumed by any larger organism (from fish to people), it can no longer be filtered out, so it bio-accumulates. And it becomes selective in its eating patterns, much preferring the soft neural tissues of a developing fetus. Placental barriers mean next to nothing to this creature, and that's why it's incredibly important that man-made barriers be kept in place:

The anatomy of a demagogue: Mark Meadows loves shutting down the government

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And he loves to speak for others without their consent:

Meadows had already been calling for the president not to go along with an appropriations bill without wall funding. When Trump was on the verge of signing the bill, Meadows was part of the conservative backlash that, according to many accounts, persuaded Trump to instead allow large parts of the government to go dark.

"We are going to back up the president," Meadows told the House. "If he vetoes this bill, we will be there. But, more importantly, the American people will be there. They will be there to support him. Let's build the wall and make sure that we do our job in Congress."

As you can see from the chain of events, Meadows actually "backed down" the President instead of backing him up. But just as he did five years ago, he's positioning himself to both take the credit for the government shutdown, while also avoiding the bulk of any backlash that may result. Meadows is a bully, but he's a particularly nasty version of a bully: The one who instigates fights between others so he can sit back and watch. He also isn't representing the wishes of the American people, because the majority don't want the border wall or the government shutdown:

Culpable in genocide: American involvement in Saudi war crimes

We need to get out of the war business:

American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. The pilot has likely been trained by the United States Air Force.

And at a flight operations room in the capital, Riyadh, Saudi commanders sit near American military officials who provide intelligence and tactical advice, mainly aimed at stopping the Saudis from killing Yemeni civilians.

It's likely readers found the above headline verging on hyperbole. I do not use the term "genocide" as freely as others do when discussing military conflicts, but here's another word that may help you understand why I arrived at that conclusion: "Knowingly." It is often used in war crimes trials to demonstrate the difference between intentional acts of brutality and collateral damage. War criminals *always* claim that latter occurred, and proving it's the former makes all the difference. Case in point:

VA drops the ball on veteran suicide prevention

And Trump's mismanagement is the main reason why:

Suicide prevention efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs fell off sharply in the last two years, even though reducing the high suicide rate among veterans is the agency’s top clinical priority, according to a new report.

With the department’s top management in turmoil, the suicide prevention effort lacked leadership, planning meetings were repeatedly canceled, millions of dollars budgeted for outreach went unspent, and the television and radio ads that had been broadcast thousands of times across the country in previous years went all but silent.

If something like this had happened on Obama's watch, Congressional Republicans would be holding hearings back to back, and Fox News would have endless coverage of the failure. But Trump? Crickets. One of the most important gauges of how effective an executive is performing is the performance of subordinate institutions that fall under his (or her) authority, and by all measures, Trump has failed miserably in that category. But his failure with the VA has been breathtaking, and with fatal consequences:

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