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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Trump Boasts About Deregulation. Here Are Some Environmental Ones


Distracted though we are by Donald Trump’s tweets and persona, we can’t ignore his administration’s deregulatory actions. The rules he has reversed at the EPA and at the Department of the Interior should shock the sensibilities of Americans in both parties. Remember, it was Richard Nixon, a Republican, who created the EPA, and it was a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, who championed the preservation of western lands in particular. Trump is not in their tradition.
Last month, three New York Times reporters compiled a list of 100 environmental rules that the Trump administration has either already reversed or is in the process of reversing.
According to the article, 
The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which repealed and replaced the Obama-era emissions rules for power plants and vehicles; weakened protections for more than half the nation's wetlands; and withdrew the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants. At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas and limiting wildlife protections.”

Notice that this excerpt alone has four links to source documents. Click here to read the full online version of that article with links. 
The article goes on to detail the 100 rules which have already been reversed or are in the process of being reversed, with links to additional information.  To give you a taste of how thorough the article is, here are just the first 10 completed reversals under the category of “Air Pollution and Emissions.”

1. Weakened Obama-era fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks.E.P.A. and Transportation Department | Read more »2. Revoked California’s power to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government.E.P.A. | Read more »3. Withdrew the legal justification for an Obama-era rule that limited mercury emissions from coal power plants.E.P.A. | Read more »4. Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules.Executive Order; E.P.A. | Read more »5. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.E.P.A. | Read more »6. Revised and partially repealed an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions on public lands, including intentional venting and flaring from drilling operations.Interior Department | Read more »7. Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters.E.P.A. | Read more »8. Revised a program designed to safeguard communities from increases in pollution from new power plants to make it easier for facilities to avoid emissions regulations.E.P.A. | Read more »9. Amended rules that govern how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities.E.P.A. | Read more »10. Weakened an Obama-era rule meant to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas.E.P.A. | Read more »

 It’s likely that you have heard about only a small number of these policy changes implemented by the Trump administration. And maybe you agree with one or two of them and a half dozen of the other 90 reversals itemized in The Times’ article, but how do you feel about the overall theme of abandoning decades of environmental protections?
If you’re a Trump supporter, we know that nothing will change your mind, even the destruction of the planet which your grandchildren will inherit, but for the rest of us this reinforces the importance of this election.

Postscript: The Brookings Institution has a useful tool for tracking deregulation by the Trump administration: Here's the link:
https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/tracking-deregulation-in-the-trump-era/

Monday, August 24, 2020

‘Citizens United’ Decision Has Transformed the Role of Money in Politics

   Although it's not on the ballot, the fight to "End Citizens United," the Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited political donations by corporations and unions, is growing in importance and in its support among American.
Most people decry the influence of money in politics, which was made worse by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Ten years later, the effect of the decision, which spawned the creation of “super PACs” can now be quantified.
The ruling said that corporations were the same as “citizens” and had the right to unlimited free speech in the form of cash donations for and against political candidates so long as they don’t coordinate with a campaign. While super PACs must disclose their donors, those donors can be what are known as “dark money” groups which do not need to disclose their donors.  
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), political spending by outside groups in local races has grown substantially since the ruling came down. Here’s an excerpt of their analysis. Click here to read it in its entirety.
    “Unburdened by contribution limits, it didn’t take long for super PACs to surpass national party committees as the top outside spending groups… Since 2010, each new election cycle is breaking records with ease, with the bulk of the increase coming from a jump in outside spending….
   “Although super PACs must disclose their donors, they can accept unlimited contributions from dark money nonprofits that are not required to disclose their donors. Therefore a super PAC can simply list the nonprofit as the donor, keeping the identity of the actual sources of funding secret.”
A second Supreme Court decision in 2014, McCutcheon v. FEC, spurred the growth of individual megadonors by removing the limits on how much an individual donor can give during an election cycle.  The result: in 2018, according to CRP, Sheldon & Marian Adelson gave $123 million, Michael Blomberg gave $90 million, and Tom Steyer gave $70 million. With this kind of money injected into local campaigns by non-local influencers -- often running TV ads with distorted facts or outright lies -- it’s no wonder that, according to CRP, 81% of surveyed individuals support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Let’s Be on the Lookout for Dirty Tricks in This Campaign

 “Dirty tricks” have always had their place in politics, and I suspect we’re going to see a lot of them in this presidential campaign. Indeed, I think we have already seen some and don’t realize it.

The Russians employ a dirty trick in their ongoing use of social media. As I wrote in my page 3 column on Nov. 15, 2018 (link), their strategy in social media is to create division in America. They knew that in Trump they would have an unwitting co-conspirator in that strategy. Click here to view a 3-part video by The New York Times called "Operation Infektion: Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News." (link)  Undoubtedly they have used social media to mobilize antifa-type violence simultaneously with using social media to mobilize the right wingers against them. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some of the looters were actually plants to turn public opinion against the otherwise peaceful protestors. The truth will out — it always does, just not soon enough!


No doubt, you have heard of “deep fakes,” highly believable videos that show a politician saying something they did not say. You can no longer believe what you see and hear. Scary. 

Click here to read "Deepfakes threaten the 2020 election" on thehill.com (link). 


Okay, Enough About Trump’s ‘Flaws.’ Let’s Look at His Policies & Goals

It’s easy to focus on the many personality flaws of President Trump, and his supporters keep telling me to focus instead on his wonderful policies and accomplishments. So here we go.

I was inspired by this email I got from a reader, Larry C.:

I wish you would try to explain just what these people think Trump has been so great in accomplishing, and what are the policies they so agree with. 

Tax cuts for the wealthy that have put the national debt into the stratosphere?

Appointing judges who, with few exceptions, will rule against the working class in favor of monied special interests?

Destroying environmental regulations that benefit only the energy companies. 

Trade policies that have raised prices for all of us while seriously hurting Midwest farmers?

Constantly kowtowing to Putin and other dictators as he works to destroy our NATO relationships?

    It can only be that they like his immigration position, and in that way they identify with Trump’s racism. That’s all there is to it.

What Larry didn’t mention, but is equally important, is Trump’s denial of climate change — not merely denial, but a policy of neglect toward mitigating the effects of climate change, which are becoming more real every day and every year. 

I remember hearing that right after Trump took office, he ordered that the words “climate change” be banned from the Environmental Protection Administration’s website. A search of epa.gov now shows over 20,000 mentions of the term (link)  It remains true, however, that the president pulled the United States out of the Paris Accord on Climate Change and has actually worked to promote fossil fuels which contribute to climate change. Because of the consequences of climate change, this policy will be among the worst legacies on the Trump administration, and the damage from failure to focus on the topic is already apparent in the wildfires and severe weather we are experiencing every year. Had you heard of “derecho” before this year? How about “polar vortex”? I lived on the east coast for 40 years and remember one or two hurricanes and no “super storms.” This is clearly a crisis requiring presidential leadership, not total neglect.

One of my first “Talking Turkey” columns had the headline, “Covid-19 Is Putting Trump’s Disdain for Science to the Test. How’s He Doing?” (link).

I think we know the answer now better than ever.

 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Here's what talk radio is saying about Joe Biden - and people believe it!

 
Rush Limbaugh, Aug. 5: “The contrast in knowledge of events and issues, mental acuity, the contract between Trump and Biden is striking. It’s why they’re keeping Biden in the basement.”

Mark Levin, Aug. 5: “I actually don’t believe Joe Biden is working out of his house. I believe he’s working out of a nursing home or an assisted living home. Because that’s what he needs…. Oy, yoy, yoy, at least get new dentures for God’s sakes.”

Ben Shapiro, Aug. 6: “The big problem for Joe Biden is that he is falling apart. He’s just falling apart.”

Michael Savage, Aug. 5: “He’s not really running for the office. It’s the communist that he picks as his number two who will be running America within 3 months after he is sent to the long, long rest he has worked for all his life. You know, a blanket over his hips, around the clock sweets, around the clock care, the man needs the care right now. I pity the man.”

Thanks to my favorite Sunday morning show, "Reliable Sources" on CNN.  Set your DVR for this show at 9 a.m. every Sunday.  And subscribe to their nightly email newsletter at http://cnn.it/reliable.  It's amazing how thoroughly this show's staff monitors the world's media.  This is must-see TV, all about how the media works.  I never miss it. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Trump Supporters Overlook His ‘Flaws,’ But Here Are Some They Ignore

   As I have mentioned before, I’ve been blessed with an abundance of calls and emails from Trump supporters, resulting in a better understanding of what drives his base.

I have noted a consistent theme: “Yes, he’s a terribly flawed person, but we like his policies — and, by the way, his opponent is a senile puppet of the communists in the Democrat Party.”

   I covered the communist riff in last week’s column, so let’s delve into his personality flaws. One of the emails I was blessed with contained a link to “A Letter to an Anti-Trump Christian Friend" (link) by Wayne Grudem, a professor of theology and the author of Politics—According to the Bible (link). His 5,500-word letter inspired this week’s column. Opponents of the president will want to read and share that letter as much as his supporters are doing, so click on that link above. It perfectly summarizes the forgiving attitude toward a president whose actions beg forgiveness daily. And who better to forgive our president than a Christian professor of theology?

The main point of Prof. Grudem’s  letter is that Trump’s great policies outweigh the man’s flaws, which he details as follows: He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas…  that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him…. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.” The professor then writes, “These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.”

Almost every page of Professor Grudem’s letter to his friend contains acknowledgement of flaws of the president, but I suggest that there are other flaws he isn’t acknowledging that suggest our president has indeed fallen below what he describes as “a minimal standard of behavior which, if a candidate falls below it, would disqualify [him] from governmental office.”

Here are some other flaws that anyone, supporter or not, would have to acknowledge seeing in Donald Trump:

1.  He’s lazy, coming down from the residence between 11 and noon because of his addiction to watching TV and tweeting. Remember that list of judges he will choose from if given the opportunity to appoint one more Supreme Court Justice? He didn’t do the vetting. He got the list from the Federalist Society. His interviews with appointees to the highest positions, including cabinet secretaries, are very short, limited to whether the person is loyal to him. (Remember, that’s what he asked James Comey to tell him.)  If you Google the phrase "Is Trump lazy," you find articles from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and numerous other publications on the subject, including one from Rolling Stone (link) with the title "Trump Could Be Our Laziest President Ever, According to Leaked Schedules."

2.  He has a short attention span, not willing to read anything longer than a page or two, including the Daily Presidential Briefing, causing him to miss the intelligence report of Russia paying the Taliban to kill our soldiers.  Tony Schwartz, who spent 18 months with Trump as the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal, said that Trump “has the attention span of a 9-year-old with ADHD.”  Find that and other quotes, including by Trump himself, about his short attention span in a September 8, 2016, article in Politico (link) with the catchy title, "Donald Trump's Shortest Attribute Isn't His Fingers: People who know him well are starting to ask: Can he focus enough to run the Oval Office?"

3.  He’s a narcissist. This is super obvious.  Staffers have advised that documents must include a reference to the president to have him keep reading. See my July 2nd column (link) about Trump's diagnosis as a psychopath.  Narcissism is included in the diagnosis of psychopathy. 

4.  He’s self-serving. Having refused to put his business interests in a blind trust, he looks for personal gain in his actions, such as hosting the G7 at his Florida resort and asking our ambassador to the UK to lobby for the British Open to be held at his Scottish golf course. The month he took office, he doubled the $100,000 initiation fee at Mar-a-Lago, and he has golfed at his own clubs just under 300 times so far (link), costing the government tens of millions of dollars. That includes $500,000 in additional golf cart rentals and $500,000 in room rentals at Trump properties by the Secret Service (same link).  


5.  He can’t be counted on to tell the truth, because he is, by anyone’s definition, a habitual liar. The Washington Post Fact Checker staff counted 20,000 false or misleading claims by Trump as of July 9, 2020.  Earlier this year the newspaper published a 381-page book (link) detailing Trump's mistruths. 

6.  He shoots from the hip, without consulting his own advisors, because he doesn’t value advisors or generals or medical experts, or anyone, because he thinks he’s the expert. Good examples of this are when he decided one night to withdraw troops from Syria and when he said kids are “virtually immune” to the Covid-19 virus. In January of this year, Politico published an article (link)  on how Trump's "shoot from the hip diplomacy" is "kneecapping the Pentagon" and "putting the military's reputation at risk."  

   These flaws strike at the heart of what we expect from a president, and are surely worth weighing except, of course, for the communist threat posed by Biden!

 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Have You Ever Been Conned? (If You’re a Trumper, No Need to Answer)

We have all been conned at one time or another, and it’s a terrible feeling when you realize you’ve been conned.

The fact that Donald Trump still has as many supporters as he does must make him the most successful con artist ever. But no con artist lasts forever. Joseph McCarthy conned Americans into thinking actors, journalists and professors were communists, but eventually he fell. Donald Trump will fall too, and it’s interesting to see that he’s now employing the same technique of communist fear mongering as McCarthy did. As I noted in my Talking Turkey column on April 9th, Trump’s first and greatest mentor was Roy Cohn, who served Senator McCarthy in his 1950s witch hunt.

The original con of Trump is that he’s a successful businessman. As detailed in numerous books, not just Mary Trump’s, he is, in fact, a serial failure, filing numerous bankruptcies. When he conned banks into lending him millions of dollars which they then lost, he conned them into continued support to avoid their own embarrassment. We still have much to learn, thanks to the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump Organization in New York, especially with regards to Deutsche Bank.

A good example of this ongoing con was an email I received this Tuesday morning from Bob D.  It forwarded an urban legend titled “A Man With a Good Heart” Here it is:

The 14th of June, 1946 is the birthday of a boy born in the Jamaica district of Queens, NYC. In 1995, his car has a flat tire. A black man walking by notices it's owner is wearing a suit. So he fixes the flat. "How can I repay you?" asks our birthday boy. "My wife has always wanted some flowers" A few days later, the black man's wife gets a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a note saying, "Thanks for helping me. By the way,....the mortgage on your house is paid off." A USMC Sargent spends 7 months in a Mexican prison for a minor charge. He is beaten. The man from Queens sends him a check for $25,000 "To get you started." A black bus driver saves a suicidal girl from jumping off a bridge. Our Queens man sends him a check for $10,000. A rabbi's critically ill son needs to get from NCY the California for specialty care. No airlines will fly him. The generous man pays for a private flight for the child. This kind man from Queens commits many other "quiet acts of random kindness." A wise man once said "If a man's heart is good,....Nothing else matters. And if a man's heart is bad,....Nothing else matters." Who is this kind man?...???.Trump. Donald J. Trump,....a man with a good heart.

When I replied to Bob D. with a Snopes link about this urban legend, he replied as follows, which says so much about the victims of Trump’s artistry:

Comrade, Who is trying to 'con' who with your propogandist pap?  Your case of TDS (Trump Degenerative Syndrome) is the worst I have seen! Get over it! Trump won, commies lost!”

A con survives in darkness. As it is unraveled by those who see it, those who don’t see it are told that the truth is not the truth, and not to read or watch those news sources that say otherwise. That strategy is abetted by conservative TV and radio talk show hosts who lend credibility to the con over and over.

To do that, these enablers of the con depend on conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump gives as good as he gets. The Netflix documentary “The Confidence Man” is an excellent documentary about Trump's addiction to conspiracy theories, starting with the "birther" theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

When I responded to another discredited line with a Snopes link, the writer replied simply “Snopes=Soros.” That’s not true either, but it allows the propagators of disproven stories to dismiss the single best non-partisan source of fact-checking.


(
George Soros, if you don’t know, is a wealthy backer of Democrats.)

What amazes those of us who see Trump for the con artist he is, is how he has been enabled by Senators and Congressmen who do know that it’s a con, but choose to perpetuate it for their own political gain. This will change when continuing to support Trump more clearly spells re-election defeat and/or when Trump is out of office, hopefully in January.

I know Sen. McConnell and his co-enablers know the truth but choose to ignore it, because clearly every Senator and Congressman does read the Washington Post and the New York Times and does watch CNN and the broadcast networks, because that’s virtually required when you’re an elected official.

From the very beginning, we’ve been waiting for “moderate” Republicans to turn on their “dear leader,” but that’s regrettably still in the future — hopefully, for our nation’s sake, in the near future.