Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Scott Pruitt is the Face of America's Biggest Problem



"The puzzle here is not how Scott Pruitt could attempt to get away with these things; it is why America's days are filled with dealing with "public servants" like Pruitt — and, of course, Donald Trump, for that matter. They are cheaters, self-dealers, corner-cutters, and liars for personal or professional gain. Why does our political system fail so badly to screen them out? Why, in short, does the swamp spread so relentlessly?

The answer, of course, is that the Pruitts, the Trumps (and the Tom Prices and on and on) are people who serve interests far more powerful and nefarious than they are. Big money has taken over the political system, and hired people like Pruitt to run it on their behalf.

In 2010, the Supreme Court, in its ineffable wisdom, declared that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections — that their contributions were free speech and thus beyond limitation. What could possibly go wrong?

Even now, all is not lost. The rich may have the money but the people still have the votes. Yet time is short. November is our best hope to reclaim our democracy from the likes of Pruitt and Trump." 

This was written by Jeffrey Sachs and published by CNN.  Jeffrey Sachs runs Columbia University's Earth Institute among other things. 

Plain and simple how big money is ruining this country via lackeys like Pruitt.  The takeaway: People need to vote for things they care about, including clean air and clean water. Celebrate this great country by voting.  

Full article pasted here: 

The federal government's top ethics official has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to take "appropriate actions to address any violations" rising from the behavior of the agency's administrator, Scott Pruitt.

These include a $50 a night room rental agreement with a lobbyist whose husband's firm lobbies the EPA, salary raises Pruitt gave to favored aides and other employees, frequent taxpayer-funded trips back home to Oklahoma — with security entourage -- and reports in The New York Times that Pruitt took punitive action against agency staff after they raised concerns about his actions.

The puzzle here is not how Scott Pruitt could attempt to get away with these things; it is why America's days are filled with dealing with "public servants" like Pruitt — and, of course, Donald Trump, for that matter. They are cheaters, self-dealers, corner-cutters, and liars for personal or professional gain. Why does our political system fail so badly to screen them out? Why, in short, does the swamp spread so relentlessly?

The answer, of course, is that the Pruitts, the Trumps (and the Tom Prices and on and on) are people who serve interests far more powerful and nefarious than they are. Big money has taken over the political system, and hired people like Pruitt to run it on their behalf.

And the big money will triumph as long as the young, the poor, and working class do not register and vote in far greater numbers. That is why our democracy depends so urgently on voters — in the upcoming elections and again in 2020 -- beating back the billionaires who manipulate our politics for their own gain.

The current state of our politics would be risible if the stakes were not so terrifyingly high. Pruitt has made a career of trying to gut any and all environmental protection. Trump is an unprincipled hothead real estate developer and reality TV persona who lost all access to serious capital long ago and so has largely relied on foreign money to keep afloat, as even his sons have reportedly affirmed.

Yet Pruitt is now in charge of dismantling every barrier between us and environmental ruin, and Trump has the nuclear codes that could end life on the planet.

They both work for larger financial interests. Our country today, and indeed much of the world, is run by and for billionaires actively manipulating the political process. They have the means, power, influence and muscle to get their way.

Trump was elected with the backing of several, including Sheldon Adelson, Carl Icahn, Robert Mercer, John Paulson, T. Boone Pickens and Peter Thiel. And Trump has delivered for them, most importantly by signing into law last December a budget-busting $1.5 trillion tax cut that largely benefits the rich.

Scott Pruitt was backed for his post as EPA administrator by the titans of Big Oil, including billionaires David Koch and Charles Koch, and Pruitt's backer for years, Harold Hamm, chief executive of Continental Resources, an Oklahoma oil and gas company. In return, Pruitt has been systematically attempting to gut every regulatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions and leading the effort to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement (making the United Stats the only country out of 193 to declare the intention to withdraw).

As another sure sign of who has the real sway in this country, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chose to meet at last 10 billionaires on his recent whirlwind US trip: Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mike Bloomberg, Stephen Schwarzman, Oprah Winfrey, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Peter Thiel, among others. If you don't have a net worth of at least a couple billion dollars, you shouldn't be surprised that you weren't on the crown prince's dance card.

Why do the wealthy hire the likes of Pruitt to do their bidding? The main reason is that only individuals lacking a moral compass will carry out the whims and anti-social policies of the plutocrats who seek to manipulate the political and regulatory systems to their will. Suppose you had to tell mega-lies every day, such as that global warming is untrue and that air pollution is not dangerous to public health. Anyone of talent or honesty would recoil from the job. Only an ambitious toady would accept such an ugly assignment.

David and Charles Koch ($60 billion net worth each, according to Forbes) effectively control the Republican Party. Republican incumbents have the choice to take money from the extended Koch network or to face a primary opponent funded by the Koch network.

The party begs financial largesse from the Koch brothers and parrots the idiocies of climate denial on their behalf -- despite record heatwaves, forest fires, hurricanes and this season's loopy winter weather, which scientists say is linked to an overheated Arctic. Money can't turn back the tides, but it can cause adults who know better to deny them.

The United States is not alone in this big-money corruption but perhaps has become its world leader. Democracy around the world is being undermined not by a working-class backlash or resurgent nationalism but by money, a lot of it. With the world's politics awash in money, several world leaders are currently charged with corruption, most recently France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, and South Africa's Jacob Zuma, with two more recently convicted: Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South Korea's Park Geun-Hye.

In 2010, the Supreme Court, in its ineffable wisdom, declared that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections — that their contributions were free speech and thus beyond limitation. What could possibly go wrong?

Even now, all is not lost. The rich may have the money but the people still have the votes. Yet time is short. November is our best hope to reclaim our democracy from the likes of Pruitt and Trump.//


See the original: https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/09/opinions/pruitt-sums-up-americas-biggest-challenge-sachs/index.html


Friday, December 15, 2017

Apoplectic


Pruitt Don't Give a Damn 

It's very difficult to watch wholesale greed and animosity running this country.  Right into the ground.

It just keeps coming.  The depth of it knows no limits.  I thought I was surprised in the past.  Now I'm just incredulous, and bitter.

The latest is the Republican tax bill stands to seriously damage the solar and wind industry by undermining or eliminating effective incentives. 

It's a fast growing industry that generates millions of jobs and great innovation.  It’s finally upgrading something that hasn't changed in 90 years -- how we make electricity, which is the juice that runs our world.

The tax bill shoved through by grinning thugs will take that away and make steadily more affordable renewable energy unaffordable.

It's almost out of spite at this point.  The fossil fuel industry has 96% of the market share of power plants' fuel yet they still rag like the hypocrites they are about fair markets.

I wonder, did Standard Oil get tax breaks to get the industry going?  Did Ford Motor Co. get support from the government to get that industry going?  Of course they did.

The fossil fuel industry already receives over $564 billion in subsidies annually and untold influence -- the U.S. Secretary of State is the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil -- and they want to kill renewable energy.  Really?

And Pruitt EPA head snake says without a hint of sarcasm but full bore disingenuousness, “I’d let them (renewable energy) stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas.”

They're killing this country.  We used to be a country that could build things, create new industries, jobs, prosperity, and overcome huge challenges.  We used to do great things like send a man to the moon.  Now we are forced to accept the status quo, shoved down our throats.

All because a few companies and a few shareholders want to continue to make billions the rest of the people and the climate be damned.  Greed is not good Gordon Gekko, after all.

The Politicians get paid, egos stroked, coffers stuffed, and we go hurtling toward the end of a once great nation, and an eventually uninhabitable planet. 

Also, the tax bill opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  That’s just dirty.  Kicking you when you're already down.  Remember when we had to fight that?  We just fell back decades.  We know better.  Leave it in the ground.

This is a disaster.  The Trump Republican bomb has gone off and it's a dirty bomb, designed to rot us out slowly.  Money is the only thing that matters. 

The Kochs, Mobil-Exxon, Peabody Coal, and more must be giddy.  This is an oligarch run by sociopaths.  They don't care.  They don't care one wit about this country or the beautiful masses that make it great.

Hell, when the shit hits the fan they can go live in their gated communities and gaudy towers.  That's probably what they're thinking.  I'm hoping for the day they are pulled out of those places and strung up by their ankles.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

An Actual Price of Carbon



We've been talking about the cost of carbon on society for a long time.  Turns out it's $36 a ton, according to scientists and economists.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has already hinted at ignoring that number.  It would be disastrous.  It's vital that the cost is realized.

By the way -- how many tons do humans pump into the air every year?  Forty billion tons.  That's billion with a B.

How much are healthy oceans and ecosystems worth? Priceless.

Don't take my word of it.  A recent op-ed by Michael Greenstone and Cass Susstein talks about the importance of keeping that number in the regulations and solutions to climate change. 

Excerpt:

New scientific and economic evidence suggests that climate change probably poses an even greater risk than the $36 figure reflects. 

For example, the West Antarctica ice sheet appears to be retreating faster than we thought, raising the specter of multimeter sea level rise in the next century. 

Recent research also found that climate change will lead to shorter and sicker lives, primarily because of the harmful effect of more extremely hot days on health. Extreme heat is also projected to reduce worker productivity and increase energy consumption, while changes in temperature and precipitation globally are expected to increase food prices and violence. Thus, there is a strong case that if anything, the government’s estimate of the social cost of carbon should be higher than it is.

To be sure, the exact number is uncertain, and the Trump administration will make its own judgment. But a credible assessment must be based on the best science and economics, not politics. And there is no justification for a chilling investigation of civil servants who are just doing their jobs.

Ultimately, the social cost of carbon provides a necessary guidepost in decisions about how to balance costs to our economy today with the coming climate damages. Wishing that we did not face this trade-off will not make it go away.


Read the whole piece here.





Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Surrender Despite the Times




Dear Editor,

What a disappointing article “What Would You Do?” by Tatiana Schlossberg in the New York Times

The takeaway adds to people's sense of helplessness and encourages inaction -- that climate change is so big and "complicated" that even if you choose the most earth-friendly answers, "the climate will keep changing no matter what" and that “there is no way to stop climate change.”

You read that and you may as well wave the newspaper over your head like a white flag of surrender.

I say no surrender despite the times. There is hope. There are many things everyone can and should do to stop climate change.

Citizen

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bonaire Swim

In Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles 


Today I entered the easy shore break on the leeward side of a windswept island in the southern Caribbean sea.  Mask and snorkel is all I needed.

I saw a smallish Hawksbill sea turtle swimming just below.  It swam ever so slowly through the clear water.  It was as if time underwater really moves as different as it feels.

Followed it for quite awhile.  An unusual treat for undersea wildlife, often just a fleeting glimpse.  I admired the colorful shell made of greens and red-browns in an Aztec-like pattern.

As the turtle passed over the undersea cliff edge, his shell and whole body was vibrant against the black-blue of the drop off into the darker depths.

But the flounder, the simple flat fish, I saw on my way back to the beach really stole my imagination.  So delighted to watch it flutter like paper in the wind, a beige white fabric on the beige sand.

When it stopped moving and bits of sand settled back around it, I could barely discern the creature from the Earth.  For a moment, it was one with its surroundings, easily something we've all tried to be at least once in our terrestrial lives.

At the end of a day buzzing with beauty, I've figured it out -- the tremendous draw here of Bonaire.

Everyday, the bright warm sun, the turquoise water, fantastic sights in the meditative, soundless underwater world -- it's like living on the edge of a wonderful dream that you can easily step into and out of.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to be Heard




 Remember this line? 

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 

This is a good read.  It's a very practical and nonpartisan "how to" guide written by former staff of members of congress.  It will tell you how to make sure your member of congress knows where you stand on issues/votes, Republican or Democrat.

If you don't have time to read it, the summary is:
 

Calling the offices of your two Senators and congressperson is the most effective way to be heard -- aside from visiting their offices and telling them in person.  And yes, you can actually call them, you'll probably get a staffer but he/she will take your message/statement.

Try to call them when there is some way they can take action or are about to take action -- "I want you to vote yes on xxx"
 

Members of Congress are not really interested in your opinion of the policies or your logic for why you feel this way -- they just want to know where you stand.

And believe it or not, they care what you think -- Republican or Democrat -- because you are one of their constituents.  You're a voter.  And members of congress are always, consistently, to the "point of obsession", focused on re election.


The telephone numbers of your members of congress are easily found online. 

The Indivisible Guide is here: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sing for the Unsung Hero



The world needs more people like Joe Browder.  He was instrumental in saving acres of the Everglades.  Here he is taking a stroll in his cathedral.  Rest in peace.

A quote from his experience:

“Look at it this way, Louise,” she recalled Mr. Browder telling her. “Would you rather have some influence over deciding where the airport will be located, or would you rather decide where to plant the trees and grass around the parking lots?”

He loved nature no doubt.  Read his obit here.