Friday, February 24, 2017

Did The Chaos President Just Axe CEQ? Is it goodbye to all that? ... by gimleteye

In just one month in office, President Trump has up-ended almost every metric of presidential performance. Bizarre behavior his critics warned about before the election is now dragging the 24/7 news cycle in his wake. Adults in the Trump Administration have scattered across the globe to reinforce a sense of normalcy in the behavior of the world's superpower.

For observers, it has become a difficult task to sift through the wreckage. In the process, lots of important stuff is being missed.

Yesterday, the White House took a big step towards drastically reducing and possibly eliminating the WH Council On Environmental Quality. According to an email circulated anonymously, all staff had been summarily dismissed. Here is the text:
This morning, the White House told the staff at the Council on Environmental Policy (CEQ) to pack their bags and move out.

CEQ was established in 1969 during the Nixon Administration and has served as the White House agency that coordinates environmental activity across federal agencies for nearly 50 years. Among other responsibilities, it ensures that federal agencies implement and manage a robust environmental impact assessment review as part of their program efforts, referees disagreements between agencies and writes the President’s annual report on the environment.

That may be coming to an end.

No transition team was assigned to CEQ and the CEQ staff were not asked to meet with any members of the transition team leadership.

No nominee to head the CEQ has been named.

The CEQ website was taken down after the inauguration and has not been replaced.

And now the central office is being closed. (It’s not clear where folks are supposed to go, although agency staff are scattered across several rowhouses near the White House and conceivably everyone could be accommodated in one of them.)

Eventually, no matter how much a leader obfuscates, what he or she really wants becomes clear by what they do. The Trump Administration has decided to dramatically reduce the importance of this agency. This is a small part of the larger effort to gut environmental regulation and oversight.

Ask your Representative about that at your next town hall.

The apparent shuttering of CEQ was scarcely noticed in the chaos of Trump's news day, but make no mistake: it is a watershed event for federal authority.

It has long been a Republican Party goal to eviscerate and otherwise hobble environmental rules and regulations that act as a drag on private profit. For example, although the US EPA commands scarcely one percent of discretionary spending in the federal budget, the elimination of the EPA has been a tent pole of the GOP platform for years. Trump has promised to slash the EPA budget and to revisit commitments to our national parks and public lands, pumping up support from traditional GOP stalwarts: fossil fuel producers, mineral extraction, Big Ag, and logging companies.

There is a reason that polluters like the Koch Brothers, who run the nation's largest private industrial conglomerate, turn up as lynchpins of campaign fundraising: they make more money -- billions, more -- if legislatures at the local, state and federal levels do their bidding.

CEQ, within the White House, acts as a traffic cop between the competing roles and interests of federal agencies charged with protecting our air, water, and public health. It provides a needed forum for the nation's non-profit environmental groups to express their priorities and goals to the White House.

Make no mistake: the relationship between environmentalists and federal environmental agencies, like the US DOI, EPA, US Army Corps of Engineers has often been adversarial. CEQ is often pushed and pulled by the political wing of the White House. But erasing the ability of the executive branch to mediate important environmental issues of national importance is part and parcel of the Trump Big Idea to get rid of environmental protection at the federal level altogether. That, in Trump's view, should be a problem of the states.

It doesn't matter to Trump that air pollution travels from one state to another without regulation, or, that federal laws ought to be consistent in protecting the nation's waters. In Trumpworld, the environment is all noise, all the time. Among the polluters who drive the GOP agenda, like the Koch Brothers, the applause is roaring.

For the nation, the knee-capping of CEQ is a dismal plot point in a malignant presidency.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

WLRN: Mediocre local programming for a major U.S. city ... by gimleteye

(In the early 1990's I was instrumental in building public support for the expansion of WLRN into the Florida Keys. After moving to Miami in 1992, I also worked with WLRN local access television and hosted an environmental education series called 'Fragile Earth'. I came away from both experiences chastened about the lack of transparency in WRLN management and programming.)

In a letter to the editor of the The Miami Herald yesterday, Richard Brodsky of Coral Gables wrote, "The problem is that WLRN-FM is, at best, a mediocre broadcaster. Yes, it buys programming from NPR and other programming sources, and through its affiliation with the Miami Herald, there is local news and public affairs coverage. But we can go on the Internet to listen to hundreds of NPR program outlets that provide the same national programming, if not more."

That is the crux of the problem -- mediocrity in local news and public affairs coverage by an entity sitting on an astounding $14 million in unrestricted funds supervised by a board accountable only to itself.

Brodsky adds, "The size of this “net position” raises two important questions: How and why has a nonprofit corporation accumulated this huge treasury? Why is this money not being put to use in expanding and improving the news and public affairs programming?"

Excellent questions that probably will not be answered by Miami-Dade school board members or district school chief Alberto Carvalho for a variety of reasons pointing in one direction: lack of community leadership.

The Sun-Sentinel took a different approach in its recent OPED defending WLRN. It warns that funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting could be at risk, although what CPB ought to have been looking at all along is that pot of gold Friends of WLRN is sitting on.

The Sun-Sentinel also comes to the defense of WLRN local reporting; a perspective with which I disagree. Public radio here falls far short of providing the diverse commentary and points of view that our region deserves. For example, for decades WLRN studiously avoided reporting on quality of life and regional environmental issues until relatively recently. Still, issues like local zoning, urban planning, government roles, and enforcement of pollution laws get very little coverage.

The Sun-Sentinel cautions Carvalho (who "risks outraging citizens who depend on public broadcasting -- especially local radio") dramatically overstates the case. "Does he not understand that trust can be lost overnight?" the Sentinel asks. Honestly, many listeners of WLRN lost that trust a long, long time ago.

Brodsky raises the option of "... a brand-new entity (a trust or other form of nonprofit ownership funded by listener contributions and foundations) ... that could (sic.) buy the station over time from the School Board and operate a first-class radio station (and, if appropriate, a TV station) focused on providing hard-hitting, in-depth local news and public affairs programming to complement NPR and other programming." The Sentinel also notes that other big-city school districts transferred their public radio and TV licenses to community foundations serving the public good.

I'm not sure that school district chief Carvalho wants to go in that direction, although it is certainly worth opening the question to public debate. In the debate over the future of WLRN there is a silver lining, but a more vigorous effort is required to find it than any of the principals care to make.

The Miami Dade County Commission Dominated by a Half Wit, a Poison Pill, a Trump Wannabe Mayor and a very Confused Democrat - Sally Heyman. By Geniusofdespair

There is one vote you can always count on to be wrong, that of County Commissioner Javier Souto. He is the Half wit that makes no sense when he speaks, but speak he does and no one listens. Even the other Commissioners don't listen to him, and the Chair always shuts him down mid-sentence.  Yet, he gets reelected. It is baffling to me. The problem with him is: he is always there to vote. Here is a video of him ranting....

Then we have the poison pill that X-County Commissioner Juan Zapata doomed us with. By announcing he was no longer a candidate until after qualifying was over, he assured the really sneaky Joe Martinez a win. I was so glad we were rid of him but now that he is back we have reverted back to the old evil County Commission. He is like a poison pill that taints the whole process. And we will have 8 years of Martinez because of Juan Zapata.

To top off a dysfunctional County Government we have a not very bright, bully Mayor (Sound familiar on the Federal level?) with a mouthpiece that puppets him along....Michael A. Hernandez: The Mayor's KellyAnne Conway.

Add caption

Because of Democrat Sally Heyman's faux pas (she didn't have to add a resolution to the discussion Friday) and the Mayor, the Camel's nose is not just under the tent because of Friday's vote: THE CAMEL IS IN THE TENT ON IMMIGRATION. New rules including more classes of immigrants who can be picked up have been instituted this week by Republican darling and BFF of Mayor Gimenez, Donald J. Trump. Like, we all knew that was coming.  Gimenez had to know they were coming, the mayor's son is working with Trump as his lobbyist.  Please read my previous blog.

So let's round up all those pesky immigrants -- we are not a sanctuary county thanks to the majority of the county commission (mainly Cubans). The only exceptions to the lethal vote for undocumented immigrants: Xavier Suarez, Jean Monestime and Daniella Levine Cava.

Now two of our State Representatives came out vocally against this weeks rules on rounding up more immigrants. Finally they are vocal: Miami Republicans Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Carlos Curbello. Where were they last week when we were at the county commission?

My biggest disappointments on the County Commission: Dennis Moss and Rebeca Sosa.

Congratulations To U of M Professor Gregory W. Bush on His Silver Medal Book Award. By Geniusofdespair

I am very proud of my friend Gregory Bush. This award for his book White Sand/Black Beach is well deserved. Coordinated by the Florida State University Libraries, the Florida Book Awards is the nation’s most comprehensive state book awards program. It was established in 2006.

I am mentioned in the book a lot, and I have my signed copy. Get a copy of Greg's book today. A very good read.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Immigration and Refugees: a look backwards to the end of World War II ... by gimleteye

My father passed away, this date in 2010. A few days ago, I discovered a document that encompasses the central event of his life: a "displaced person" who survived the Holocaust. As a refugee from political and religious persecution, he emigrated to the United States.

My father was barely into his twenties when he was conscripted into a work camp by the Hungarian military in concert with Nazi Germany. His survival was improbable. A statistical anomaly.

After the Nazis surrendered, he walked -- lacking any other transportation and hiding from the Soviet Army along the way -- through mine fields from the Carpathian mountains to Munich, where the US military established headquarters in the immediate aftermath of the war. There, my father's facility with languages in the region was an asset to the US Army.

The aftermath of V-E Day was instant chaos, including the problem how to manage millions of refugees displaced by the war. The German concentration camps were still filled with starving people. They had nowhere to go and no means of transportation.

The reconstruction of my father's life began with helping to repatriate or to resettle to Palestine the survivors; men, women and children.

Readers should take the time to read the Harrison Report, written scarcely six weeks after the end of the war in Europe, to assist the president and Congress untangle a victory that instantly required American leadership to solve the greatest refugee crisis in history. Even if you don't read the report, consider its parallels today.

The Harrison Report provides historical context for our current controversy about immigration and the flood of refugees that is destabilizing Western nations.

Then, it was Jews who had been liberated but remained in concentration camps because their homes had been destroyed and their lives, stolen. They couldn't go home. Even if they wanted, they would be surrounded by neighbors who were complicit in the Holocaust.

Today's crisis involves mainly displaced Muslims from war-torn swaths of the Mideast and Africa, but also a crisis closer to our border with the rest of the Americas.

My father emigrated finally to the United States without only a few dollars in his pocket -- where his American dream began.

Today's failure of leadership in the White House and in Congress dishonors the memory of Americans who sacrificed so much to preserve and protect our democracy including a sheltering hand for those fleeing economic hardships and persecution.

Making America Great Again means protecting the American dream for refugees and immigrants, too.

My father became erudite, accomplished, and loved to complete the Sunday cross-word puzzles the New York Times. He would find today's "debate" about immigration policy to be in a word: deplorable.

As a Jewish refugee who spent years of his early adult  life helping relocate bereft Eastern Europeans to Israel, he would be horrified by Trump's abandonment of decades of efforts toward a two-state solution to the Israel/ Palestine crisis. Moreover, he would have known how the vilification of a person because of his or her religion is anti-American at its core.

The Trump White House views the state of the world -- in particular, Muslim nations torn apart by barbarities -- as near-apocalyptic. But the United States solved an apocalypse the descended on Europe at the end of World War II. Why can't we solve our refugee crises now, instead of this gut-reflex sealing of borders and retreat into darkness and fear?

Trump embraces the notion that walls of iron and concrete and lines of software code can be a bulwark against those who could do us harm, without a shred of evidence or any vision where this unprecedented, anti-democratic spasm leads. With climate change at our doorstep -- that the Trump GOP derides as "fake" and a "hoax" -- there are future refugees in the hundreds of millions to count on.

There has never been a more pressing time and need for international cooperation, adaptation, and leadership. The lessons of history apply even if the conditions have changed. We can do better. We must.

Monday, February 20, 2017

WLRN: time for a change is long overdue ... by gimleteye

The Miami Herald reports on the struggle for control of the city's public radio broadcaster, WLRN, and whether the school board will succeed in breaching the Friends of WLRN firewall that separates the licensee into a separately managed entity.

Our city and region deserves a cutting edge, vibrant public broadcasting station like those that serve the nation's major population centers; Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Chicago and LA. That's not what we have.

The lack of transparency at Friends of WLRN is symptomatic of a rigid and unyielding old guard in charge of programming and creativity. In important ways, WLRN has not served our community well. Whether moving the station into closer management by the school board would be a net positive, in the case of WLRN, change is long overdue.

Climate - Temperatures Setting Records: Not in a good way. By Geniusofdespair

Met Office of the United Kingodom. January 18, 2017. (2012 is number 9). I see a trend.
From Fake News Leader (According to your president) NEW YORK TIMES
This is a simple chart, so I guess I have to explain it to you. The middle range (I have a red arrow pointing to it) is our normal temperature. The underlined word in red, that is the record high since temperatures have been recorded. For example look at Chicago for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Setting record there, also Denver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, etc.  They print this everyday in the real news New York Times. I watch the chart daily. We are always breaking temperature records.

Worldwide the we have had the warmest years on record in 2014, 2015, 2016. I assume it is just a coincidence since no Republican in the White House believes we have a problem.

Where did I get this information from the real news New York Times (and lots of other sources, see first chart). 

 I wonder if people will believe this chart from ACTUAL READINGS?

The cherry blossoms are ahead of schedule in Washington, D.C. I wonder if anyone will notice? Not likely.

Don't Just Throw Flowers and Papers at the County Commissioners in Anger: Participate For Change. By Geniusofdespair

County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava: Delivering Policy Solutions

My proposal to empanel a Charter Review Task Force was passed this week by the Government Operations Committee. The County Charter is our local constitution. On May 21st, 2017, we will celebrate the Charter's 60th anniversary.


(Like they ever put anyone good on the panel)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Silent Coup D'Etat: From Here On, The Koch Brothers Really Do Run The White House ... by gimleteye

New WH communications director, Mike Dubke
The appointment of Koch Brothers' key operative Mike Dubke to White House communications director yesterday was a silent coup d'etat.

In his campaign, Donald Trump appeared to represent an insurgency against establishment Republicans who had organized under the umbrella of the Koch Brothers. Donald Trump was "not a politician"; he was not the Koch's but an outsider, a billionaire who could represent the interests of the abandoned (white) middle class America.

As Jane Mayer detailed in her outstanding 2016 book, "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind The Radical Right", the Koch Brothers spend hundreds of millions to perfect the science of anonymous giving to their causes and campaigns. They made Mike Dubke very wealthy; the richest White House communications director in history.

Placing a Koch Brothers operative at the center of White House communications proves the GOP presidential primary was a dark money process.

Trump appeared to ride to the White House on an insurgency against establishment Republican values (that doomed Jeb Bush, for example, who spent over $150 million in his failed primary bid). Now that he is in the WH, Trump  -- like Gov. Rick Scott did in Florida --  can't organize an administration without relying on the same apparatus he claimed to run against during the campaign.

The chaos of Trump's first weeks is ending with a triage operation on the communications front. For all intents, it is a silent coup in favor of the Koch's after all.

Trump brings Dubke in from the dark
Open Secrets
by Robert Maguire and Viveca Novak on February 17, 2017

Mike Dubke, who started a dark money group long before they caught on as a strategy, has been named White House communications director.

Mike Dubke, who started a dark money group long before they caught on as tactical political weapons, has been named White House communications director.

Mike Dubke is no stranger to the value of a good communications strategy: He’s provided advice, through his Crossroads Media firm, to House and Senate candidates, the Republican party and some of the biggest conservative outside spending groups.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ANGRY CITIZENS at the Feb. 17th Hearing on Sanctuary Designation, THEY EVEN THROW STUFF. By Geniusofdespair

It is not just me. Finally Citizens get their fill of this crappy County Commission. Hear them voice their displeasure with a vote of the County Commission on supporting the Mayor's  --- NO SANCTUARY HERE IN MIAMI DADE COUNTY.


Read my previous post about this meeting too.



US Environmental Protection Agency to be pushed off the cliff, today, if Scott Pruitt is confirmed as secretary by the GOP Senate ... by gimleteye

Scott Pruitt's EPA nomination will be voted on by the Senate today
Trump, in a wild and chaotic press conference yesterday, claimed, "I inherited a mess!" With the likely confirmation of EPA secretary Scott Pruitt today by the GOP majority, Trump will set in motion a mess of historic proportions: unravelling fifty years of federal environmental protections at a moment in history when man-made climate change -- "far from settled", Pruitt believes -- begins to roar.

The GOP leadership is delusional in its practice of throwing heavy blankets over climate change reality. It may claim to be independent of the Trump White House mess, but the one place their collaboration is secure; the elimination of federal environmental law.

For the entire thirty years I have been an environmental activist and writer, the EPA has been mainly a promise, a hope, an aspirational force. Citizens have often had to use the federal courts to get the EPA to do its job, in cases where political pressure from Congress and the White House has inhibited the agency.

That's the case in Florida, with polluted water.Citizens have also had to litigate to define the role of the federal government versus the states on many environmental fronts, including energy. In fact, the entire GOP Congressional delegation, lead by Senator Marco Rubio, has been in constant antagonism with the goals of the EPA; against federal protections for the Everglades and against federal measures to strengthen Florida's historically weak water pollution laws that favor big campaign contributors from commodity producers like Big Sugar.

As Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt has been on the other side, or, the same side as Florida's polluters. He sued EPA fourteen times in federal court to limit the agency's authority, on behalf mostly of the state's most powerful industries tied to fossil fuel production.

In this way, Pruitt represents not only special interests who define "the swamp"; he also represents wealthy billionaires who profit when the climate loses. When the climate loses, we lose big time.

Through the confirmation process, Pruitt's main ally in Congress has been Oklahoma senator James Inhofe. If the ignominy of U.S. legislators who blocked the nation from responding to the existential threat from climate change, Inhofe ranks worst. As the Republican leader of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee throughout the Bush terms, Inhofe not only ridiculed climate change, he also put great pressure on EPA political appointees to inhibit the agency from doing its job.

In recent days, Democrats in the US Senate have desperately tried to persuade Republicans to require Pruitt to disclose thousands of emails he and his staff have hidden, related to his anti-environmental record in Oklahoma. In spite of fierce public pressure, the Republicans appear serenely aimed to confirm the worst EPA chief in the agency's history. Yesterday, it was disclosed that Pruitt's chief of staff closely coordinated "soft ball" questions from Senator Inhofe on water regulations.

Meanwhile the statistics -- that the GOP ignores -- pour in: according to NOAA, an agency under the EPA umbrella -- January temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.58°F above the 20th century average of 53.6°F. This was the second highest for January in the 1880–2017 record, behind 2016 (highest).

The Arctic north has been roiled, all winter, by temperatures 30 - 50 degrees above normal. Glacial ice for this time of year is at the lowest extent ever measured. Although the Rockies snowpack is high this winter, temperature patterns have been freakish. I was in Utah's Wasatch range last week, at 12,000 feet, where the afternoon temperature in February was 53 degree Fharenheit. Unheard of.

Last week in Magnum, Oklahoma -- in the dead of winter -- the daily temperature reached nearly 100 degrees: twice the historical average.

Oklahoma temperature, last week: off the charts but GOP continues to deny climate change

The New York Times reported yesterday, "Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A. Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to “get rid of” it."

I can't begin to explain how extraordinary it is for EPA staff to break from tradition this way: it is a signal that things are desperately wrong in the Trump WH, but also a signal that scientists and professionals are under attack at precisely a point in history where public policies need to focus intently on protecting people and the economy, not rigid orthodoxies that destroy democracy and will destroy jobs. EPA staffers are so alarmed, they secured an independent server site and published the agency website as it existed before Trump, so that citizens will be able to compare the changes after. These are dark days for the nation and for the world.

With climate change, there are no alternative facts. We wasted decades since scientists first defined the problem of the atmosphere over-saturated with greenhouse gases. With Trump and Scott Pruitt, and apparently with the support of US Senator Marco Rubio, that wastefulness will be memorialized for history and all time. Sad!