Saturday, April 29, 2017

Climate Change and Trump: 1359 Days To Go

100 Down 1359 To Go

My friends and yours stood in a bone-chilling downpour at the Federal Building this afternoon in downtown Chicago in affirmation of the importance of accepting climate change as one of the most serious issues we must deal with to save our future generations. 

I was called to work today, so I was unable to get down to the march. I know - poor excuse.

National Geographic, a significantly non-partisan group, issued a series of bullet points last month regarding climate change.

1.     The World Is Getting Warmer: “The heat in 2016 broke the historic rfecord set in 2015, which broke the one from 2014.”  Scientific instrumentation shows a nearly 2-degree increase in warming in this current century.  Current century?  That's 17 hears, People!
The images of the march, in wet and cold weather, prompted one of my co-workers to comment that it’s “cold for April, and that shows you are wrong on the whole climate thing.”  I countered that the graph of long term warming may show bumps and blips; however the long term chart indicates a serious warming which might adversely affect all of us. “Hell, I wish it would be warmer,” was the response.

An opening article in this month’s New Yorker by editor David Remnick takes up the entire section of Talk of the Town, normally a review of happenings and events around New York City and the arts, etc.   It’s worth a serious read.

More than an echo of an earlier and blistering  Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times regarding their concerns about a Trump Presidency, Remnick’s  piece is less a call to danger and a more prescriptive overview of what we all feel and face, and how we might politically push back. 

“On April 29th, Donald Trump will have occupied the Oval Office for a hundred days. For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy. Trump does not afford this. His Presidency has become the demoralizing daily obsession of anyone concerned with global security, the vitality of the natural world, the national health, constitutionalism, civil rights, criminal justice, a free press, science, public education, and the distinction between fact and its opposite. The hundred-day marker is never an entirely reliable indicator of a four-year term, but it’s worth remembering that Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama were among those who came to office at a moment of national crisis and had the discipline, the preparation, and the rigor to set an entirely new course. Impulsive, egocentric, and mendacious, Trump has, in the same span, set fire to the integrity of his office.

According the The National Geographic, we have since the 1960’s increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by nearly 50%.  Imagine, if you will, a perfectly thickening plastic blanket being pulled over our planet, holding in our exhalations at the expense of cooling gases. Like other silly resolutions on plastic bags:  "Please use caution especially around children, material may cause suffocation."

Meanwhile, Trump has flown to Pennsylvania to engage in a self-absorbed reaffirmation of his office, one he finds sadly not as much fun and more difficult than he had ever imagined as a TV reality star.  His warm-up act – Vice President Pence – has started dropping his g’s and describing his “leader” as “drivin’ them nutz” like a face frozen version of Sarah Palin or an understudy of Bruce Rauner. Forget anything more than continued divisiveness from this Administration.  

In the Capitol today, the march for Action Against Climate Change (and Trump) brought thousands of protestors to the main drive into the Capitol Building.  See pictures:

3.     The first studies of global warning were projected as a positive by Swedish physicist Svante Arrhenius because coal burning “would help warm the planet.”  He saw this as a good outcome, but the debate is still on with those who will disagree with its deleterious affects. 

“There is frustration all around. During his first hundred days in office, Trump has not done away with populist rhetoric, but he has acted almost entirely as a plutocrat. His Cabinet and his cast of advisers are stocked with multimillionaires and billionaires. His positions on health care, tax reform, and financial regulation are of greatest appeal to the super-wealthy. How he intends to improve the situation of the middle class remains obscure. A report in Politico described thirty staffers holed up in a conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, attempting a “rebranding” of this first chapter of the Trump Administration. The aides furiously assembled “lists of early successes” on whiteboards.(Remnick)

4.     While we march in Chicago, “Arctic Sea Ice is Shrinking, and glaciers are retreating worldwide.  Seas could rise by three feet by 2100. – or maybe more.” 

One fellow in the crowd outside the Federal Building wore a Polar Bear outfit.  He seemed sad and somewhat resigned in the deluge of rain.  But as a legitimate Polar Bear, he might have expressed the same feelings as he waved forlornly.  The continued loss of sea ice will spell the loss of seals breeding on ice flats and an ability to survive in the climate for much longer.  The possibility that Trump might concern himself with the bleak futures for Arctic creatures like the Polar Bear or Harp Seal, or the many other hundreds is doubtful.  

“On Inauguration Day, at the Capitol, Trump no longer affected any awe of the task before him or respect for his predecessors. He furiously rebuked the elected officials seated behind him and the international order that they served. Using the language of populist demagogues, from Huey Long to George Wallace to Silvio Berlusconi, the new President implied that he, the Leader, was in perfect communion with the People, and that together they would repair the landscape of “American carnage” and return it to its prelapsarian state of grace. In this union, it seemed, there was no place for the majority of the electorate, which had voted for Hillary Clinton. African-Americans, Muslim Americans, Latinos, immigrants—it was hard to tell if Trump counted them as the People, too. More likely, they remained the objects of anxiety, fear, and disdain that they had been during the campaign. As George W. Bush was leaving the grandstand, according to New York, he was heard to say, That was some weird shit.’(Remnick)

Weather is wreaking havoc.  Climate related disasters have more than tripled since just 1980.

Thirty years ago, when we moved into our small house along the edge of a creek which became eventually another larger creek which ran along the southern edge of towns heading into the city, we were pleased.  Foxes birthed their kits in the hollows of our culverts, the wet weather that trickled along our creek invited many birds – wrens, chickadees and Coopers Hawks .  Once we had a rain that overfilled the banks and brought water streaming just past the footprint of our house. The old guy – now 90+ - who lived kitty corner from us said, “That’s a once in a decade flood, Neighbors.”  That was back in '87.  Since then, the monsoons have occurred more and more frequently.  We’ve have had four this past two months. 

6.     47% of species have vanished (are now extinct) as a result of warming affecting their range in this LAST YEAR!

I am buoyed that my friends and family resist this dark force residing momentarily in the White House:

“Trump forces us to recognize the fragility of precious things. Yet there are signs that Adams and the doomsayers of democratic values will be proved wrong. Hope can be found in the extraordinary crowds at the many women’s marches across the country on the day after the Inauguration; in the recent marches in support of science and a more compassionate, reasonable immigration policy; in the earnest work of the courts that have blocked the “Muslim ban” and of various senators and House members in both parties who, unlike Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, have refused to put cynicism and expedience before integrity; in the exemplary investigative journalism being done by traditional and new media outlets; in the performance of anti-Trump candidates in recent congressional races in Kansas and Georgia.”

7.     Trump and Pence may crow about bringing back coal, but the truth is more natural.  In the future, the people will deny and turn away from coal and fossil fuels, and instead turn to renewables.  The cost of solar and wind will become more and more economical and scientifically worthy – two areas in which neither Trump or Pence have any faith or comprehension.

We are jolted from one crisis to another – North Korea, Syrian blasted under Tomahawk missiles, a fence and no fence, a China enemy and then friend – we are subjects now to whims, many determined in the wee hours of the morning by a sorry child-man wandering alone in the hallways of an historical building, his children hired to help prevent his emotional outbursts from throwing us all into some disaster or, worse, a nuclear Armageddon. 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump - Climate Change? A Chinese Hoax...

Chicago Climate March – April 29th

Imagine your doctor deciding to remove a mass in your abdomen without benefit of an MRI or even an X-Ray.  “I’ll find it,” he says, “and we don’t need all that information anyway.  Just feel around in there.  My kind of medicine has been removing stuff for hundreds of years.” 

Or how about you airline pilot deciding to get you to California by pulling out a magnetic compass mid-flight and heading in a westward direction. 
“Attention, passengers, if you look out the right side of the plane, you’ll see north; and the left will see south.  That’s really all we need to know to get safely where we want, isn’t it?” 

Ignore science, disregard research information, and flout empirical findings at your own peril.  On the national as well as personal level.

The office of science advisor for the current occupant of the Whitehouse has not been named.  The actual title is White House Office of Science and Technology Policy or OSTP.  And the previous staff, which helped Obama craft, revise and research over 30 studies of subjects as varied as advanced manufacturing and cyber-security was the most active in our nation’s history (Atkins).

Now? The office remains empty or seriously compromised.

But President Trump promises to name a new leader for the office soon.  Very soon. So fast it’ll make your head spin. Bigly.  

Of course, this may not be good news.  Take for example Michael Pruitt, Trump’s choice to lead the EPA, an office that now disregards once held “science based decisions” in favor of pursuing “economically and technologically achievable standards” (according to Emily Atkin’s article in the New Republic).  “Among other things, the office’s mission statement no longer reads that the office provides the president with ‘accurate, relevant, and timely scientific technical advice.' Now, it just reads “advice.”’

And, the names to fill the office once held by Obama's Science Advisor John P. Holdren, previously professor of environmental policy at Harvard University, are not likely to give you any desire to inhale without concern.

One of Trump’s monetary and influential alt-right backers has been the Mercer family.  They have strongly promoted and endorsed sheep rancher/biochemist Arthur Robinson, a strong climate change denialist, according to Jane Mayer in the May 2017 New Yorker.  Trump has been coy in regards to selecting Robinson despite the influence of his alt-right backers, but Robinson has not been fully eliminated from the list – short or long.  Robison calls himself a Jesus plus-nothing – else Christian and his research includes a factory of freezers with fourteen thousand samples of human urine that careful examination will help illuminate new ways of extending our lives.  He remains skeptical of global warming and contests the Kyoto Accord. He sells a self-designed curriculum for schools (and his home-schooled children) which refutes the possibility of evolution.

Another possible choice for Science Advisor to the President (Trump) is Dr. William Happer.  Happer is an often called-upon expert for Breitbart and a retired Princeton physicist who dabbles in climate policy.  He remains infamous for his analogy that our “demonization” of carbon dioxide is little different than Hitler’s demonization of the Jews.  Attempts to have Dr. Happer flesh out his connection often end in profanities or admonishments   Happer theorizes that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is actually a benefit to our world, encouraging the growth of plants and the greening of our deserts ( a good thing).  “With our without Happer’s help, the Trump administration, like the Republican Party, is already steeped in climate denial; the Mercer family, Trump’s biggest financial backers, recently spent two days at a Heartland Institute Conference, the theme of which was essentially , “more CO2 in the atmosphere is essentially great.”  Like the Koch’s, with whom Happer is associated, he falls in line with their assessment of global warming.  Yes, it is warming, but in a very "mild, and manageable way."

Finally, and most likely, is David Gelernter, an anti-intellectual computer professor at Yale being considered as well.  Gelernter, who was injured by uni-bomber Ted Kaczynski while opening an envelope, is a hard right anti-Obama author who decries the liberal influence in government and education.  Gelernter doubts any credibility in science’s pointing to man-made climate change. He also finds the liberal elite culpable for the loss of family values and the disintegration of patriotism. He expects participation in the Science Advisor's Office as a given.   (

 Meanwhile, according to NASA satellites sea ice has shrunk to its least amount at both poles. 

2016 was the third year in a row that marked global temperature increases and records.

Major storms were recorded for the last year (2016) beyond expectation and a 6% level of increased moisture in our atmosphere contributes to flooding and downpours.

Biologists are documenting multiplying numbers of mammalian species lost as many water levels rise in oceans surrounding smaller islands and land projections.

CO2 passed the 440 ppm level in our atmosphere last fall, and scientists doubt that it can return to anything less.  Have we reached the tipping point?

People’s Climate March
April 29, 2017 at 12:00 PM
Federal Plaza 230 S Dearborn Chicago, IL 60601

See you there.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Rauner & Trump

Rauner & Trump

It shouldn’t be surprising that Governor Bruce Rauner would be launching into campaign mode nearly a year and a half before the actual election.  With the financial backing of “State Solutions,” a Republican Governors fund supported by the Koch brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, and Ken Griffen's Citadel Group – Rauner once again dons the costume of workin’ guy.  The old tan canvas work vest is now a bright plaid lumberjack-like shirt.  He brandishes a roll of duct tape in one ad and peels strips of tape from the lens of the camera in the other.  Duct tape equals “easy fixes.”  The workroom backdrop suggests he’s a guy who can fix things.  So, the Governor thinks, let’s make a commercial.  After all, what else is there to do?

One might suggest “govern.”

But, after two years of witnessing the wealthy Winnetka hedge-fund manager’s unwillingness and inability to lead, most people in Illinois recognize a man who purchased an office and then remained fixed in his determination to identify scapegoats, berate rather than negotiate, and callously apply pain to the marginalized and disenfranchised to make his political points.

Like the other “business leader” on the national level who declared after only 17 days of trying to steamroll his HealthCare Plan in the Congress, “The best thing, politically speaking, is to let Obamacare explode…”  That’s leadership? And, if it did, who would suffer?

Rauner finds everyone lately coming after him: Lisa Madigan, AFSCME, the Courts, Leader Cullerton, Speaker Madigan, Susana Mendoza.  Similarly, Trump also finds fault in everyone but himself: Speaker Ryan, the Democrats, the Freedom Caucus, fake news, Obama wiretapping, bad Neimann Marcus, etc.  

Ironically, Bruce Rauner never wanted to go on the record speaking for or against Trump during the latter’s run for Presidency.  But his own administration in very many ways mirrors the struggling President’s.  And likewise their near frivolous willingness to embrace pain and discomfort for others as a result of someone else’s not doing what they wanted done.

Because they haven’t the skill or comprehension of governance, the willingness to seek middle ground or feel the weight of the populace’s needs; they revert to the character of candidacy quickly and easily.

Trump flies to places in Kentucky or Florida or North Carolina to “thank his people” and bask in sunny self-absorption.  Rauner and his combative office executives stump about the state affirming the Turnaround Agenda to responsive right-wing audiences, create multiple commercials linking Speaker Madigan to the Illuminati,  and run reconditioned “same-old” folksy campaign ads for 2018.

In Illinois, meanwhile, the “Grand Bargain” for a budget fails again, this time according to people on both sides of the aisle because the Governor delivered the poison pill and pulled back the Republican votes. 

Over two years ago, candidate Bruce Rauner while sitting next to his “Democratic” wife Diana warned, “I’m gonna drive ‘em nuts down there (Springfield). Really, I am.” 

I think it safe to say Rauner did not drive his enemy politicians “nuts,” but he has been able to steer the state’s bond rating down numerous times.  Moody’s has warned that the next downgrade will bring the State of Illinois’ Bond Rating to junk status if there is no budget accord for a third year. 

In addition, many human and social service organizations and companies have had to pull back resources or even shutter services as a result of the state’s inability to pay for assistance for the millions of poor, disadvantages, and mentally ill.

According to millions of Illinois children are now trying to get by without Child Care Assistance Programs. 

Senior citizens have lost over twenty home healthcare institutions, which leaves them all more likely to require institutionalization in place of personal care.

Anti-violence programs that depended on intervention and neighborhood counseling to deter violence and revenge killing in places like Chicago have seen their funds erased during the budget battles. 

An accidental oversight by the Governor’s Office resulted in the loss of funding for domestic violence programs in Illinois.

The State of Illinois now owes more than $12 billion in unpaid bills to providers of services that were promised payments despite two years of no budget.  That is nearly 1/3 of the amount of General Revenue provided before the roll back of the income tax increase. 

The interest on the unpaid balance is also adding up exponentially as the Governor prepares his next collection of commercials identifying everyone else as culpable for where we are.  How much?  Current interest on bill backlog is at nearly $80 million.

What Comptroller Susana Mendoza has characterized as the “worst fiscal crisis” in the State’s history is about to enter another year without a budget. 

Meanwhile, on the national level the markets and his loyal supporters hold every expectation that Trump will deliver on his promises despite his uncanny resemblance in behavior and political petulance to fellow business genius and political failure Bruce Rauner. 

We live in interesting times.