Monday, February 20, 2017

Donald Trump and the Irony Curtain

See here for source.
 By Bob Ferris

I always seemed to get puzzled by things.  Perhaps that is because I puzzle over them.  Yeah, that is it.  Today it is this mysterious Ukrainian peace plan that ended up on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s desk.  First we hear in the New York Times that it was placed there in passing by Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.  But then he told the Washington Post that he did not do that.  He said in both pieces that he was aware of the plan and that is to his credit, sort of.

Now Mr. Cohen’s change of story sounds a little like the sadly shifting story of the memo about rolling out the 100,000 National Guard to help on rounding up illegal immigrants (1,2,3).  Both of these stories are clouded by sources giving interviews that at times resemble the answers from a Magic Eight Ball.  Certainly there will be calls of "fake news" but the memo exists and so does the peace plan.  What we are likely dealing with are sources more than sufficiently marinated in the logical byproduct of hay consumption by bovines.   Is this “fake news” or just bad behavior by sources?  I would have to put the check mark next to the latter.

So here we are with this peace plan...Discussed? Negotiated? Presented? Argued? (you pick) a Ukrainian lawmaker named Andrii Artemenko, Russian-born businessman Felix Sater,  and Mr. Cohen (the latter two American citizens) in a hotel room around the time of the Republican National Convention.  (Hmm…a private citizen conducting talks with a foreign official about a contentious issue of national interest.)  This is troubling in and of itself but also because of the change in the Republican platform regarding the Ukraine that happened about the same time and no one wants to claim as their own (1).  This Russian-friendly language just seemed to appear like magic.  

And how did this document end up on this desk?  Well it certainly did not get there because of someone going off-tour in the White House, because there are no tours at present (1,2).  It was not mailed because it would not have gotten there for quite some time given the scrutiny mailed items receive in the post-Anthrax world.  And with modern day security it likely was not dropped at one of the security gates.  Perhaps it was subterfuge like that infamous Candy-gram for Mongo?  (Yes that was sarcastic, but really?)

So here we are once again with this administration: tired, bone-tired, of this.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a President we could trust and admire rather than one who exaggerates constantly (1,2,3,4,5,6, 7) or makes up events (1) and embarrasses us overseas (see above video)?  Wouldn’t it be nice too if the White House Communication’s staff felt obligated to inform the American public rather than actively work to confuse us all by making stuff up, telling outright lies and whining like babies?

We are now protected by what feels like an irony curtain that costs us so much more on so many fronts each day, but affords us little in the way of protection or feeling secure. In fact, it causes us to feel less protected and secure.  It provides us as much real shelter as Mr. Trump's steps shield him from conflicts of interest with his businesses.

Perhaps for this President so often on the fairway (1) we have to express this differently.  So how is this?  With each stroke our President takes at this giant game of world politics our country’s handicap increases because of his obvious whiffs and shots out-of-bounds.  Perhaps it is simply time for this President to pick up his ball and move on to the next hole or leave the course all-together. With an approval rating twenty-one percent below average, it is clear that most of the country would be grateful if the President would simply pack up his clubs.   Maybe he can find happiness in the presidential equivalent of the 19th hole, because he is probably a lot more familiar with that location than he is with the 19th Amendment or any of those other troubling amendments or clauses of the US Constitution.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Times Machines and Fossil Foolishness

By Bob Ferris

There are instances when I wish I had a time machine (Okay, lots of instances). If I did have such a device I would take certain folks to two times in history.  The first stop would probably be some time in the 1950s or early 1960s when fish were abundant and water was fairly clean in most places.

Back in those days I could backpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and be fairly certain I could catch my dinner on a Royal Coachman or Black Gnat and drink safely from lakes and streams.  My lunches on these fishing forays were often beef jerky, pilot biscuits and a square of chocolate washed down with Wyler’s lemonade-flavored stream water sipped from my trusty flat-bottomed Sierra Cub.

My second stop would be the late 1960s when we still had some fish but water quality was tragically compromised which is a nice way of saying we had rivers that were so polluted that they caught on fire.  Randy Newman famously wrote a song about the Cuyahoga River catching fire (see above).  But most rivers anywhere in North American near cities were in similar, if not worse, shape.  Stir in Love Canal, Kesterson Reservoir, Erin Brockovich, Hanford and you start to get a flavor of where we went in a generation when we allowed corporations and others to do what they wanted in the interest of “prosperity.”  Certainly some got rich, but most of us got sick and watched the quality of our lives diminish appreciably.

In the above we have seen the Christmas Past and Christmas Future scenarios.  And right now although we are living in a less than perfect world and our waters are not all swim-able and fish-able, we are at least acting like we learned some lessons in the 1960s.  We took ourselves out of the environmental tailspin we were in by passing the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.  All this legislation was passed by large, bi-partisan majorities.  But with time we seem to have increasingly forgotten these important lessons and stand at the cross-roads once again.

In this picture of President Trump signing the bill allowing coal waste in streams again it is important to look at the man in a hard hat to the left of the picture.  The irony of a man having to breath oxygen out of a bottle at the signing of a bill that promotes coal use should not be lost on us.  It exemplifies the silliness of our path.
With fossil-fuel champion and climate change denier Scott Pruitt just placed in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, ex-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson heading the State Department, President Trump’s signing of the bill to reversing protections for streams near coal mines (see above) and other attacks on natural resources our country is running back to past mistakes rather than leading towards a healthier future.

The idea that coal and oil or industrial growth are going to lead us anywhere positive is pathologically illogical.  Coal is dying because markets are collapsing and folks in areas like China are starting to voice the opinion that they would rather breathe and have clean water than have their country build more coal-fired power plants or increase industry.  Seems like a pretty simple choice that we in this country should be able to comprehend, but we are collectively walking blithely through the intellectual smoke screen created by those making billions from fossil-fuels (1,2,3) to obscure the reality before us.

Ocean Temperature Anomalies.
Can we afford to make this misstep and conduct this same experiment again?  I honestly do not think so.  Our beginning point when that first experiment kicked off was a national population less than half of what we now have.  We also started with mostly clean waterways and a lot of breathable air.  The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was much lower too and our oceans were cooler and less acidic.  All of these factors have changed for the worse, yet we have Congress and the President urging us to trust them and charge forward into the past.  How can this possibly result in anything other than it getting worse faster and more seriously?