Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Administration's cure for wildfires: open up public lands to logging

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appearing in Steamboat Springs did recognize that warming was occurring and causing drying and longer seassons, but said that he had to manage forests regardless of the cause of global warming.  https://www.skyhinews.com/news/zinke-angry-people-dont-want-to-look-at-the-truth/

However, he also thought managing meant opening up federal forestest to logging and that the way to prevent wildfires was to cut trees . Zinke " blasted environmental groups for blocking or curbing logging operations on public lands.
“The public lands belong to everybody,
not just the special interest groups,” he said,
The Sacramento Bee reported."
:Zinke is one of many science deniers in the Trump cabinet.
The word global warming/climate change is prohibited in the White House
so they have to come up with dumb ideas like this or claim the Carr fire
cannot be foughtbecause of no water. (reservoirs are full).
There is a certain logic: no trees: no wildfires
 For the list of science deniers in the Trump adminstration
(3% of scientists agree with them on global warming),
Federal money has helped pay for cutting trees around areas
of urban/suburban developments to form firebreaks, making those
vulnerable areas of urban interface able to be defended by firefighters
and it has been very effective in saving a subdivision in Silverthorn
and in Grand Lake. Extensive firebreaks have been built
around Winter Park/Fraser. The logging operations have created jobs
around the county, though extensive logging in public lands
is a very different purpose and impact.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wildfires heat up partisan politics and the global warming debate

(This replaces a prior version first published on 8/8/18)
A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News August 14-15, 2018
Here I am sitting in my living room above Fraser, Colorado with my view of Byer’s Peak some 10 miles away across the Fraser River Valley disappearing  in a smoky haze and watching television reports of the devastating record breaking Carr /Mendocino Complex fire in northern California.  Colorado wildfires' smoke plumes blowing my way are fueled by beetle killed  trees the like of which I have never seen in my fifty years of full and part time living in the valley. Does it have anything to do with global warming or climate change?  Yes. There is a relationship, but politics color our opinions and actions and it depends upon whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or a Green. Partisan views get in the way of believing scientific evidence and shaping effective and rational policies. The Trump administration is the leader in denying the science.  A March 2018 Gallup poll found that Democrats take global warming seriously, Republicans are skeptical with 69% of Republicans say global warming is exaggerated.

With a warming globe, whether wildfires are caused by lightening  as two near my home were, or were started by human activity, the problem is the increase in fuel . If you ever tried to get a campfire or a fireplace logs catching fire, you know dry fuel ignites easier, burns hotter, spreads faster.  Global warming temperatures cause early snow melt and ground and foliage to dry out in California .   In Colorado, beetle killed gray ghosts of lodgepole pines occupy much of the mountain landscape and fuel many wildfires.  Per   the US Department of Agriculture,  warming winters have not killed off the beetles  as they once did and dense growth makes it easy for insects to infect the next tree. World meteorologists  agree that rates of wildfires burning forests have not been seen for at least the last 10,000 years. 

In recent years, producers of coal, oil, and gas (fossil fuels) have poured massive amounts of money into GOP candidates and elections. To promote an anti-climate change mantra. the Trump administration not only pulled out of the Paris Climate accord, it has purged any White House reference to global warming/climate change.  August 5, Donald Trump ignorantly tried to claim California wildfires were caused by a environmental policy engineered  water shortage, but reservoirs were full. In addition, the Trump administration has filled policy making bodies with fossil fuel executives who either deny global warming is occurring or contend that fossil fuels are not the cause.  His pro fossil fuel appointees have been taking taking steps  to weaken rules regarding coal powered plant  and future automobile emissions standards.

 Some believe global warming  is  just a natural cycle. No.  It is the speed and extremes that are unnatural. It is a data proven fact that the globe has rapidly  heated up by two degrees since the industrial revolution began 150 years ago and predictions are the earth will heat up two degrees more by the end of this century.  Per NASA, 97% of scientists agree it is"" extremely likely" the warming is caused by emissions by humans. Gases act like a greenhouse roof  and keep heat from released to space ,so the earth warms. Per the Environmental Protection Agency,  the gases released by burning fossil fuels are the "largest source "of these greenhouse  gases (carbon dioxide). There are those who call this "fake science", but  Kate Marvel, writing for the magazine Scientific American’s blog   summed up the scientific community rebuttal to the science deniers ” ....overturning that understanding would take a radical paradigm shift that would call into question much of what we know about physics and chemistry."

This is only a summary of the issues,  but for those who want to know what  the main sources that influenced me  are

“Noah Deffenbaugh researches the connection between climate and extreme weather as a professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University. He said the longer fire season in California is related to climate change because global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions has increased the average temperature by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We're getting warmer and warmer conditions around the globe but certainly here in California and in the western United States we're getting earlier melting of snowpack," Diffenbaugh told ABC News' Brad Mielke on the "Start Here" podcast. "That means that when those warm conditions happen in the summer and fall all the vegetation is even more dried out and that means that when lightning strikes when a spark from a from a car or a campfire hits the ground that the vegetation is more dried out there's more fuel available."https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/climate-change-make-wildfires-spread-factor/

Observers believe the Green vote in 2016 helped the GOP win by contributing to Democratic party losses in at least three key rust belt states and the recent indictments of Russian’s manipulation of US social media showed they supported the Greens to divert votes from Democrats.  In the August 5 Ohio District 12 Congressional special election, Greens garnered 1% of the vote, enough to harm the Democratic candidates’ margin in a razor thin result. The Greens’ own intentions are inadvertently helping “the other side’.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Did Manafort's participation in the Trump campaign shape Donald Trump's views on foreign policy?

Today the Manafort trial begins. Whether or not he is found guilty of money laundering and tax evasion may not directly lead to Donald Trump. However, Manafort when he joined the campaign in 2016, there was a marked change in Donald Trump's Russian policy, from just a bromance and love of strong men changed to specific policies regarding NATO and and other issues which began to echo Russian foreign policy. For tracking that change, see a prior posting which was also published in the Sky Hi News in October 2017:

"Back in scrutiny is whether Manafort caused the GOP platform to be changed regarding Ukraine and arming the opposition to Russian backed rebels. http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/11/03/investigation-trump-campaigns-russia-collusion-may-focus-ukraine-connection/829702001/

Revelations from  Congressional hearings  into  Russian use of social media to influence the 2016 elections , Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and  associate  Rick  Gates,  and the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos  have been eye opening. Aside from the  implications for  the integrity of future elections  or charges of collusion is whether  the Russian connections  permeating Donald Trump’s campaign and his White House administration shaped Trump’s US foreign policy toward Russia.   The case could be made that Trump  was a willing dupe of Russian influence. The timing of campaign pronouncements that became foreign policy specific coincided with Russian connected staff and volunteers  joining the campaign  in the Spring of 2016.

Before Manafort and  Mike Flynn became key players in Trump’s presidential campaign, Trump was focused on admiration of Putin’s strong man management style. Many were calling this a “bromance”.  Trump has never  uttered one word  of criticism of  President Vladimir Putin. This has been an eyebrow raiser, to say the least.
In  the early months  of 2016,   when  Manafort and company and Mike Flynn came on board the campaign, Trump’s bromance with Putin’s autocratic style  of governing morphed into policy specifics which were similar to  Russia’s policy goals.   Manafort  joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 and was named campaign chair in April, resigning in August because his Russian ties had become more public.  Beginning in March 2016  Trump  on the stump began his anti-NATO crusade.  Putin saw the NATO mutual defense treaty as a barrier to expansion into NATO member countries such as the Baltics and Poland.  Lifting US sanctions against Russia and Putin’s  oligarch friends enacted  in retaliation to Russian takeover of  Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and interference in 2016 elections is believed to be Putin’s  goal.  Flynn resigned as White House adviser  when he was caught fibbing about  conversations with Russians about  sanctions.

Gen. Mike  Flynn , who had appeared  seated near Putin in a Russian Television  (RT) anniversary celebration,  became famous in Trump rallies for his  attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character  with his “lock her up” chant.  There is plenty of evidence that Putin also wanted Clinton to lose and  had blamed her for drumming up anti Putin sentiment in his  prior reelection campaign while she was Secretary of State.

In other policy pronouncements from spring 2016 through inauguration, Trump  supported  foreign policies that dovetailed neatly with Russia's, considering recognizing as legitimate the Russian grab of the Crimea, lifting sanctions against Russia,  calling NATO obsolete as a military defense alliance, demanding members pay more,  and  being fuzzy about whether Russia's ally Assad in Syria must go. None of those policies are in America's or our allies' interests since it weakens US allies’ ability to check Russian land grabs  in the Baltics and Balkans and increased Russian involvement in Syria on behalf of Assad. Later as President , Trump refused to back NATO’s stated purpose  to come to the defense when  NATO  member nations were attacked . He was forced to backtrack that as President. Likewise, his policy evolved  to stronger support of the pro west Ukraine government. Nonetheless, so alarmed was Congress that  President Trump would  lift  sanctions against Russia ,  this summer , 2017, Congress enacted legislation to prevent the lifting of sanctions and increasing them. .Trump signed the bill,  it but he  has ignored and  missed the  implementation deadline."

Playing fair with the American people

A revised and condensed version was published in the Sky Hi News August 7-8, 2018

The other day  my son asked," I know the Democrats  are against Trump, but what are the Democrats for?   I can run off Trump's campaign slogans by heart, but I can't think of one for the Democrats."  My first response," I can't name what the Democratic Party stands for either."  Even worse, I opined, Democrats, are about to blow a blue  wave if they get themselves tied up in this progressive v liberal v socialist stuff . Whatever they do, we do not want to make the same mistake the Trump people are doing,  only appealing to a narrow  base and hope they can frighten, fool voters with false facts, and bully the middle.  The overall message can have a theme, but the the message should be broad, positive and flexible enough to be tailor made and adapted to individual legislative races, since each district has its own particular makeup.

Giving it some thought, I noticed the issues supported by Democrats all have something in common: treating people fairly:  "Playing fair with the American people" could  meet those criteria I set up for myself.  It is not only the underlying foundation of Democrats' thought, but being fair is a better angel of American nature, a positive value  in sports and in life. Democrats should fight for fair and secure elections, promoting  economic policies that improve standards of living and quality of life for many, not a few, fairly complying with the rule of law and being truthful in  communications,   promoting opportunity and respect for others, and a foreign policy that is fair to our own national security interests, not others'.

While the nation is waiting for Mueller to finish his investigation and make his recommendations, this is a good time to formulate a message. Like it or not, the next two years will be determined by the Mueller findings, and if indeed what he finds about Trump himself  is no there there , where will the Democrats be? On the other hand, voters like to compare and make choices, too,  and if they find what the Democrats propose to be worse than what they have with Trump, that may lose elections.. The current Democratic party slogan, "A better deal", is absolutely non inspiring when no one knows what the deal will be or can even repeat it in a few words.. A deal that is nothing but a shopping list  to appeal to certain demographics and special interests is no inspiration.  The Democrats need to have a theme that puts their message in a context that is easy to grasp by the 60% who have been left out in the cold  and harmed by Trumpism.

 What is a given is that  the economy is appearing indeed strong in spite of storm clouds on the horizon of inflation, fall out from trade wars that will ripple across all sectors, and the debt that was increased to feather the nests of  the already rich and powerful. The beneficiaries have been spotty and the middle class is wising up they are not the ones who benefit and find they are paying more for health care and education, eating up  any minor gains in take home pay. For many, the impact of the tariffs is and will be felt from construction, manufacturing, and agriculture..   Resentment is already building  as shown in some key  state polls. Eleven days before the November elections will be the release of the third  economic quarter report and we are not sure what impact that will have. One thing is sure, the benefits of the economic growth have not been distributed fairly.

(Two points added to the Sky Hi News  published version that do not appear in this version published above on the blog;"There is an attack flipside to the slogan, too. For example: It "isn't fair" the President lies about the facts to persuade you he is right. It "isn't fair" he makes our health insurance more expensive and wants to make pre-existing coverage unaffordable. It "isn't fair "he drives us into debt by giving tax breaks to those who do not need it. Donald Trump claiming it isn't fair that media criticizes and fact checks him is the cry of a wannabe dictator, not the cry of someone concerned about fairness."....
"There is a looming danger for Democrats, too, Democrats, are about to blow a blue wave if they get themselves tied up in this progressive v liberal v socialist knots. There is no better way to shoot themselves in the foot and there is no better way for the GOP helped by Russian interference to pull the trigger than to stir the pot of Democratic divisions. Democrats need to emphasize what binds all factions of the party while respecting there are various ways to achieve the same results."

 Here is an example of   stump speech that might work.

The campaign slogan: Playing fair with the American people.: Democrats  will fight for ....

1. Fair and secure elections
        ( free from foreign manipulation; American elections for Americans
         hardened cyber and voting systems
         end political gerrymandering
         make it more convenient  for voter participation
         respect press freedom)
2. Fair economic policy  to improve  standard of living and quality of life for many, not a few
        ( affordable quality  health insurance
         protection of medicare, medicaid and social security benefits
          science based environmental protection policies
         tax policy that directly helps the middle class;
         wage increases
         trade policies that help, not hurt Americans
          relief for student loans
         affordable access to post high school education and  career training )

3. Fairly promote opportunity for all
        (civil and human rights
         humane immigration policy
         respect  women and their choices
         comprehensive immigration policy reform while securing borders)

4. A Foreign policy and national security that is fair to  American interest  but does not enable competitors or antagonists' interests.. It is not fair to Americans to go it alone without support of allies and alliances.
       ( Strengthen alliances
        support our intelligence services
        wise use of defense dollars)

5. Playing fair with the rule of law and being truthful in communications
      (Not fair to claim to be above the law but others must comply,  or obstructing justice, or lying to the public when facts are politically inconvenient)