The really big Trump scandal (almost) everyone is missing

<snip> from:   http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/The-really-big-Trump-scandal-almost-everyone-is-missing-.html

…Consider these developments in the last few days:

The Trump administration is working on a budget that would gut environmental enforcement in this country — slashing $2 billion and 3,000 jobs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For example, an EPA program that seeks to reduce algae blooms and pollution that threatens the Great Lakes — yes, the same region where voters gave Trump his Electoral College victory — would be reduced from $300 million to just $10 million.

— Team Trump also wants to cut a whopping $500 million or so from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) program that sends satellites aloft to monitor extreme weather and the effects of climate change. The former head of the agency told the Washington Post, “Cutting NOAA’s satellite budget will compromise NOAA’s mission of keeping Americans safe from extreme weather and providing forecasts that allow businesses and citizens to make smart plans.” But given the president’s hostility to global warming science, that was probably the idea.

— In the same vein, Big Auto asked the Trump administration for help in rolling back tough rules on curbing tailpipe emissions and converting to electric cars that would have reduced America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about one-third. The Trump administration asked industry, in so many words, how fast would you like us to get that out to you?

— Those rules won’t get as much attention as Trump’s looming order on a new travel ban — ignoring findings from his own Homeland Security Department that visitors from the affected countries aren’t committing terrorist acts — or his immigration crackdown. While Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) continues to operate on steroids in major American cities, the administration is weighing a new policy that would separate migrant children from their mothers at border crossings. “That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, said.

That type of thing also used to be major news — but not in a time when we are so easily distracted by President Trump’s roving thumbs. But the reality is that — for all the media coverage of a White House implosion — the Trump administration really is “a fine-tuned machine” when it comes to serving its corporate benefactors and gutting any pretense of regulatory oversight. I did, however, add the word “(almost)” to the headline of this piece because the New York Times is out tonight with a really good overview of all the favors that the new president’s crew has performed for Big Business, even as they poison the air and the water that Trump’s blue-collar voters ingest.

The newspaper chronicled more than 90 rules affecting the public’s health or safety or protecting consumers that have been rolled back, eliminated or gutted in just the first six weeks of the Trump administration. It’s a startling change — one that the Times called the “leading edge” of top Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s scheme for “the destruction of the administrative state.”

I guess you could say that screwing over the little guy to benefit billionaire campaign donors and corporations isn’t exactly brand new — but it’s never been done this fast, this blatantly, and with this little compassion. I don’t know if Trump’s policies are “High Crimes and Misdemeanors,” but I do consider them a crime against human decency. And even if Trump were to be miraculously impeached over Russia or gets 25th Amendment-ed to a farm upstate, do you think that a President Mike Pence would care a flying fig about the purity of your tap water?

Sometimes I think about the launch of the Trump administration in terms of Ronald Reagan and his famous 1984 re-election ad, “Morning in America.” But morning in Donald Trump’s America is a place where the Houston sunrise struggles to break through the smog, where coal plants are up early dumping toxic goo into your streams, and Latin American families hide behind closed curtains, fearing a knock on their door. And the worst part is that the sun isn’t even over the treetops yet.

The Five Most Pro-Animal House Democrats

http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/the-five-most-pro-animal-house-democrats

Fighting the good fight.

Don beyer commerce secretary penny pritzker kxnosdhfv4ul.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The animal movement, for too long, has relied on individual tactics. Many activists spend their time encouraging individuals to adopt a vegan diet. A much smaller number carry out acts of terror against animal exploiters. Far from being diametrically opposed, these groups often share an understandable—but self-defeating—pessimism about collective, political engagement. The truth is we can’t afford to leave the electoral arena to animal abusers. Below are the five most animal-friendly Democrats in the House of Representatives, who we should support and push to do better.

Using the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s 2016 scorecard, there was initially a 37-way tie for most pro-animal House Democrat, which is actually synonymous with most pro-animal representative. All of these politicians received 100-percent ratings from HSLF, while earning extra credit for leadership on animal protection issues. To break this tie, I examined scores going back to 2012. I gave newer representatives the benefit of the doubt, ranking those with shorter, but equally pro-animal records as more compassionate.

Readers may be surprised to see that Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, is not on this list. This probably reflects a flaw in my methodology—and perhaps also that of HSLF. Since Blumenauer has served in the House since 1996, he was hobbled against newer representatives with my approach. Further, Blumenauer voted against final passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014. As the Humane Scorecard from that year notes, “Representatives had many reasons for voting as they did on this large package.”

5. Dina Titus—The representative from Nevada voted for the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which would reduce and eventually replace animal use in chemical testing. Titus also supported the inclusion of animal-cruelty crimes in the National Incident Based Reporting System, saying, “The FBI’s ability to collect data on these crimes not only enhances law enforcement’s ability to monitor and analyze trends, but will also provide evidence-based resources to study the known connection between animal-cruelty crimes and other types of violent crime. This is a significant step forward for animal welfare, our law enforcement agencies, and our communities at large.”

4. Grace Meng—This New York congresswoman voted against the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which pandered to big-game hunters and other anti-animal groups. In a letter to then-Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack, expressing her concern about the treatment of disabled calves, Meng wrote, “As long as downed animals are allowed to be slaughtered for food, companies will have an incentive to pressure workers to engage in rough handling to try to get those animals up and walking so they can pass inspection. Conversely, once companies are no longer allowed to include downer calves in the food supply, they will have an incentive to treat these animals more humanely.”

3. Susan Davis—The Californian signed a group letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee, seeking increased funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and a federal animal fighting law, as well as other pro-animal programs. Announcing her flawless rating from HSLF, Davis said, “How we treat animals reflects on how we treat each other. I appreciate the work the Humane Society does on behalf of animals in the wild and in the home. I enjoy working with them on these critical issues and am proud of my perfect score on their report.”

2. Katherine Clark—The congresswoman from Massachusetts was one of two sponsors of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which would protect human and nonhuman victims of domestic violence. Speaking in favor of the bill, Clark said, “Sadly, domestic violence is something one in every four women will experience at some point in their lives. This isolating experience is made even worse for those who fear for the safety of their pet. Most pet lovers, including me, consider their beloved dog or cat a part of their family. No one should have to make the choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring their pet’s safety.”

1. Don Beyer—Beyer, from Virginia, was one of four sponsors of the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would phase out cosmetic tests on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. Defending the legislation, Beyer said, “It is time for us to end the painful and completely unnecessary process of testing American cosmetics on animals. Safer, more cost-effective, and completely humane alternatives already exist; and the United States is in no danger of losing its competitive role as a leader in the global cosmetics industry. Now, we need to ensure our place as a moral leader.”

Al Gore to campaign for Clinton, hoping to galvanize young voters on climate change

Former vice president Al Gore will start campaigning for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to individuals briefed on the plan, in an effort to mobilize young voters who see climate change as a key issue.

The decision by Gore to plunge into the campaign during the final weeks shows the extent to which Democrats remain concerned that Clinton has yet to connect with many millennials, some of whom are backing third-party candidates this year. The former vice president, a climate activist, will speak about not just Clinton’s plan to address global warming, but also the idea that voting for an independent presidential candidate could deliver the White House to Republicans in the same way that Ralph Nader’s candidacy helped undermine his presidential bid in 2000.

CNN first reported Gore’s plans Monday evening.

More: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/10/04/al-gore-to-campaign-for-clinton-hoping-to-galvanize-young-voters-on-climate-change/?utm_term=.9e3da9fc940d#comments

Never Kill an Albatross

by George Monbiot

In just seven years 30% of Africa’s savannah elephants have been wiped out. The other African subspecies, the forest elephant, has crashed by more than 60%since 2002. Perhaps this month’s resolution to ban domestic sales of elephant tusks will make a difference, but governments have done so little to restrain the international trade that illegal ivory and other wildlife parts are still sold on the surface web, rather than the dark web.

Last month the whale shark was classified as endangered. Some are still hunted for their meat and fins, and it seems that the revolting practice of live finning – slicing off the fins, then dumping the shark overboard to die slowly – continues. Most are killed as bycatch, in nets used to catch other species, especially tuna. Some fishing boats use whale sharks as markers (tuna tend to congregate under large objects), and deliberately cast nets around them.

Their decline – whale shark numbers have halved or worse in 75 years – reflects the global loss of ocean life. Since 1996 the fish catch has fallen by a million tonnes a year, as stocks are exhausted. Sieving the seas for what remains, fishing fleets will trigger the collapse of entire ecosystems.

Fishing also accounts for what has happened to the bird with the largest wingspan, the wandering albatross – whose population has fallen by about 30% in 11 years. Again, the tuna fishery is the principal threat, in this case through the use of baited longlines. The albatrosses dive for the bait, get hooked and drown.

albatross corpse rotting away to reveal the rubbish it’s consumed
Pinterest
An albatross corpse rotting away to reveal the rubbish it’s consumed. Photograph: Alamy

Another cause is their junk food diet: the plastic they eat, then feed to their chicks through regurgitation. The photographs taken by Chris Jordan on Midway atoll of the albatross corpses rotting away to reveal the rubbish they contain are a synopsis of our treatment of the living world. However far we travel, our impacts precede us.

A week ago the status of the eastern gorilla, the world’s largest primate, was changed from endangered to critically endangered: it has declined by 70% in 20 years. Its habitat, in central Africa, has been ripped apart by logging, mining and farming, and the gorillas are hunted for meat. All the great apes are now either endangered or critically endangered, in the case of orangutans largely as a result of palm oil production. What does it say about us that we are prepared to drive our closest relatives towards extinction?

The great acceleration towards a bare, grey world is also reflected in this week’s State of Nature report, which shows that over 10% of the remaining species in the UK are now threatened with extinction.

Last week we learned that one-tenth of the world’s wild places, forest and savannahs, and other lands in which human impacts are not obvious, have been lost – de-wilded – in the past 25 years. The trajectory suggests that there could be almost none left by the end of the century.

These should be among the central issues of our age. Yet we treat these losses as sad but peripheral, though we commission them through the things we buy. Elephants, rhinos, lions, polar bears, the great sharks, turtles, condors, whales, rainforests, wetlands, coral reefs: they are all the bycatch of consumerism. We assert both the right to consume – whatever we want, however we want – and the right to forget the consequences.

Flying to Bratislava or Bermuda for a stag weekend, shopping trips to New York, driving our gas guzzlers 300 metres to school, buying jetskis, leaf blowers and patio heaters, furnishing our homes with rare wood, eating tuna, prawns and salmon without a thought as to how they were produced: these ephemeral satisfactions, to judge by the reactions when you question them, occupy a sacred and inviolable space. The wonders of the living world, by contrast, are dispensable.

People who would never dream of killing an albatross or a whale shark are prepared to let others do so on their behalf, so that they may eat whatever fish they fancy. People who could not bring themselves to gut a chicken are happy to commission the disposal of entire ecosystems.

The act of not seeing is sanctioned and normalised, while attempts to explain the consequences are treated as abnormal and impertinent. On the Guardian’s website you can read about the global collapse of tuna populations – then, in a recipe published the following day, learn how to prepare a tuna salad, without a word about the implications.

Such cultural norms, positioning us as consumers first and moral beings either second or not at all, grant the disposal of the living planet its social licence. They allow us to compartmentalise, to be conscious of the issues when there is little that we can do about them, and to forget them at the moment when we have the capacity to act (or to refrain from acting). This is the safe space we establish for consumerism.

The costs cannot be computed in financial terms. There is no price that can capture the awe aroused by a whale shark, the deep being of an elephant herd, the way in which your heart soars with the albatross as it mounts a column of air, the gorilla’s fathomless gaze. The albatross hangs around our necks with a weight that defies calculation.

We were here: is this how we choose to be remembered? It is true that we existed: you can see it in the pulse of extinction. Are we to use our gift of life to snuff out other life forms? What will you leave behind, except your contribution to thePacific garbage patch?

fishing boat works amid garbage in Manila Bay, the Phillipines
Pinterest
‘What will you leave behind, except your contribution to the Pacific garbage patch?’ – a fishing boat works amid garbage in Manila Bay, the Phillipines. Photograph: Erik de Castro/Reuters

I believe we can do better, that we can position ourselves as just one participant in a world of wonders, blessed and cursed with higher consciousness, but using that capacity to embed ourselves within its limits.

We cannot wait for governments or schools or the media to deliver a new environmental ethics. Join the groups trying to defend the living planet; learn about the consequences of what you do; demand – from friends, from parents, from yourself – a better way of engaging with the world. By living lightly we enrich our lives.

George Monbiot will answer questions on this issue in a live Guardian Q&A on Friday, from 10-11am, BST. Post questions now (below), or join us on the day. He will answer questions on any aspect of the problem, but is particularly interested in opening a discussion on consumerism and its ethics.

These Sloths Need Our Help Immediately!!

Shocking news broke two days ago that the Sloth Sanctuary Costa Rica has allegedly been mishandling, abusing, and otherwise neglecting sloths. Further, the “sanctuary” has been confining sloths in small pens and using them for photo opportunities, rather than rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild.

Click here and sign our petition today demanding the Costa Rican government investigate the allegations made by the Sloth Sanctuary’s former veterinarians. 

Only the Costa Rican government can intervene and assist in the rehabilitation and release of the animals currently confined at the Sloth Sanctuary compound. They must take immediate action to ensure the health and well-being of the ever-increasing number of sloths that are captive there.

Please sign today and demand the Costa Rican government take action!

For the animals,
Carrie LeBlanc, M.A.
Executive Director
CompassionWorks International

623-ft vessel hits object, grounded in Columbia River

http://koin.com/2016/03/21/623-foot-vessel-grounded-in-columbia-river/

Sparna hit submerged object

The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.
The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.

ASTORIA, Ore. (KOIN) – Multiple agencies are monitoring a 623-foot merchant ship that has become grounded in the main shipping channel of the Columbia River.

The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.
The motor vessel Sparna, a 623-foot Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier sits aground in the Columbia River near Cathlamet, Wash., March 21, 2016.

The U.S. Coast Guard says “Sparna” went aground at 12:16 a.m. on Monday in a narrow part of the river near Cathlamet, Wash. It reportedly hit a submerged object.

The vessel took on water in void spaces, but the fuel tanks were not damaged, the Coast Guard said.

“The positive news so far is that responders have not observed any oil in the water,” said Capt. Dan Travers, Coast Guard Captain of the Port for the Columbia River.

The Sparna is fully loaded with grain and was heading west in the Columbia River, towards the ocean, with a river pilot still on-board when it ran into trouble.

The Sparna is weighed down with 218,380 gallons of high sulfur fuel and 39,380 gallons of marine diesel. Two tug boats are on scene to keep the Sparna stabilized, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard, Washington Department of Ecology and Oregon Department of Environmental along with other state and county agencies are on scene monitoring the situation. They say the Coast Guard will need to approve a salvage plan.

The vessel isn’t blocking the navigation channel so it is open to other vessels.

Cathlamet, Wash. is about 1.5 hours from downtown Portland.

December auto sales soar 9% in record year

[It seems some folks aren’t getting the message about climate change…]

by Nattan Bomey and , USA TODAY 7:08 p.m. EST January 5, 2016

Automakers posted a solid 9% sales gain in December, an exclamation point that sealed 2015 as the biggest sales year ever for the industry, they reported Tuesday.

All told, automakers sold 17.47 million new vehicles for the year, Autodata reported, besting the previous record set in 2000 by 68,138 vehicles. Low gas prices, cheap credit, low unemployment, soaring consumer confidence and warm weather fueled a rush into showrooms in December.

“The U.S. economy continues to expand, and the most important factors that drive demand for new vehicles are in place, so we expect to see a second consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, in a statement.

Meanwhile…

Porter Ranch Methane Leak Spreads Across LA’s San Fernando Valley

http://ecowatch.com/2016/01/15/porter-ranch-methane-leak-spreads/

It now looks like the catastrophic Porter Ranch gas leak, which has spewed more than 83,000 metric tons of noxious methane for nearly three months, has spread across Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander called on the Southern California Gas Co. to extend residential relocation assistance to residents in Granada Hills, Chatsworth and Northridge who live near the Aliso Canyon gas leak above Porter Ranch. These residents reported symptoms related to the exposure of natural gas such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and respiratory problems.

porterranchgasleakmap
The researchers have developed the Valley’s first comprehensive map of methane exposure. Photo credit: HEET

More: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/01/05/auto-sales-2015/78302038/

 

 

 

Have Denialists Reached Their Carrying Capacity?

by Jim Robertson

Denial seems to be the fallback position for those who don’t understand a particular science and/or have a political motive not to believe said science. Lately we’ve been hearing much about the denial of anthropogenic climate change, but willful ignorance can be employed for everything from evolution to overpopulation.

Generally speaking, denialists want to hold humans harmless of something they’re clearly responsible for, whether it’s having a carbon footprint—or a literal footprint. But no one is innocent of the ultimate crime of being born a human. (An aberration. An abnormality. An irregularity. A meat-eating monkey.)

Some still cling to the denial that tobacco (or meat) can cause cancer. Others just don’t care. Many would probably balk at the analogy that humans are a cancer to the Earth.

Historically, it was deniers of the obvious–gravity, astronomy and evolution (literal flat-Earthers)—who we heard the most from. Today’s deniers still include a few who question the “theory” of gravity, evolution and other realities.

But few have gone so far as to call for a de facto book ban as Laurie Mazur did recently in a Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled, “China drops its ‘one-child’ policy, now let’s ban the ‘population bomb’,” featuring the irrational statement, “Let’s be clear: slowing population growth is not a panacea for the challenges of the 21st century.” I’m sure biologist Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book she attacks in her article, would challenge that statement. Let’s be real: slowing our population growth is the only lasting remedy, assuming we care about the rest of life on Earth at all.

Has Ms. Mazur ever heard of the term carrying capacity? In Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s 1996 book, Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, they write in answer to the naïve notion that there is no overpopulation:

“To understand how fallacious this statement is requires recognizing that overpopulation can be reached very quickly by exponentially growing populations in situations of seeming abundance. There is overpopulation when organisms (people in this case) become so numerous that they degrade the ability of the environment to support their kind of animal in the future. The number of people Earth can support in the long term (without degrading the environment)—given existing socioeconomic systems, consumption patterns, and technological abilities—is called the human carrying capacity of the planet at the time. And carrying capacity can be exceeded without causing immediate effects obvious to the untutored observer. ‘Overshoots’ commonly occur in nature with all kinds of organisms. A population has an ‘outbreak,’ grows far beyond its carrying capacity, consumes its resources (for animals, usually food), and crashes to a size far below the previous carrying capacity.”

Homo sapiens has never been a light-touch or low-impact type of creature. Once you realize that, it’s easier to believe they’re overpopulated and have been actually changing the planet’s climate. Whether or not our species has peopled the Earth to the point of saturation, the denialists have undeniably reached their carrying capacity.

1451324_650954518277931_1616731734_n