Weaker Apart

Hillary Clinton’s campaign had a simple slogan, just like Trump’s campaign.  It was “Stronger Together”  and I’ve turned it to the negative, “Weaker Apart.”    I am referring to actions by the Trump administration to breach or terminate any multinational agreement which it perceives is not in the best interest of the US.   Trump likes to think of himself as this incredibly skilled negotiator who can be get better deals usually on a bilateral basis.

I don’t see a global approach to problems as an option, but rather as a necessity.   We don’t solve nuclear proliferation, climate change or fair trade (Trump’s biggest concern)  on our own.   Unilateral sanctions on countries whom we have disagreements (Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, to name a few)  are generally failures.

I commented before on how confused Trump’s policies were China, seeking their help in pressuring North Korea to denuclearize and simultaneously attacking them as a currency manipulator and promoting unfair trade practices. Secretary of State last visit to China, failed for exactly these reasons – see New York Times article.

Getting tough on Iran with new sanctions is also backfiring.  It has created a sort of odd unity between EU leaders and Iran, that desperately wants to keep the Iran accords alive as this provides constant monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites.   Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif,  in an interview with CNN Fareed Zakaria,  is not following Trump’s game plan of high level meetings to work out a new accord.  He rightly says that the accord took years to reach, and was comprehensive covering uranium enrichment, reprocessing, monitoring and sanction relief.   The International Atomic Energy Agency was given full access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed Iran has been in compliance.   Zarif pointed out there is no sense in sitting down with the US to work out a new agreement, when they are presently in violation of the existing accord.   Having the two leaders meet at this point, would just be a PR “photo shoot.”

Perhaps there is no area that is so clearly a global problem and costly to the US than climate change.   The Paris Accords was,  to most environmentalists, a weak plan as each government could set their own goals to reducing carbon emissions.  But it was an incredible achievement, nevertheless to have each country acknowledge the need for positive action to reduce their carbon emissions.   The proposed rollback of car mileage standards, means more gas will be consumed in each car, and more carbon emissions.   Americans will foot the bill, not only paying more for gasoline but also in health related problems.  This impacts around 25 million asthma suffers.

I have provided a link below on likely battle which will ensue over the EPA rules change on  car emissions.  US car emission standards will be lowered below California’s emission standard, setting off another court challenge.   Republicans, who traditionally support the states in these issues, will suddenly now be on the side of Trump and his business friendly EPA.   See links.

Global warming does not create hot weather, every day of the week.   Instead, it makes extreme weather events more likely.  The hurricanes may not be more frequent with global warming, but they are likely to be more laden with water, and have time to intensity.  In time, storm surge will increase due to rising sea levels.   The result is more flooding,  the really destructive part of hurricanes in terms of human injury and death.

A comment from Christine Whitman, former EPA administrator under George W. Bush.

“There’s not an ideological push here, there’s just, ‘We’re going to do whatever industry wants, and if Obama did anything, it’s bad and we’ll undo it,’” Christine Todd Whitman, the EPA administrator under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the president has thought through what used to be a basic principle of Republicans, and that’s states’ rights.”

Christine Whitman is a lifetime Republican,  who recognizes the need for clean air and water is not a political matter.

The efforts of the Trump administration are not making America Great, it is giving in to polluters, and rejecting the international cooperative effort.

So.  why are we weaker apart?   Increase inflation due to trade wars with China,  increase danger of a nuclear  arms in Iran, as a result of our breaking the Accord,  increase gas costs as we attempt to force Iran to the negotiating table, and sadly, more carbon emissions, which we will pay for with cars that get fewer miles to the gallon.

Not great,  In the long term  just dumb.  Regaining our leadership role in the world might have a change in 2020, with a new leader.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Kerry says Trump’s Iran strategy ‘very dangerous and ill-advised’

Iran Widens an Already Huge Rift Between Europe and U.S.

Trump’s Assault On Auto Pollution Rules Is The Latest Salvo In A War On States’ Rights

Trump Fuel Efficiency Proposal Is Attack on Global Climate and States’ Rights, Critics Say

Christine Todd Whitman

Global Warming and Hurricanes

Note:  I believe I’ve correctly summarized their findings.   The article is primarily on Atlantic hurricanes.   Typhoon Mangkhut was a terrible storm, and the death count (~80) will likely increase as recovery efforts are underway.   Many more people die after a typhoon or hurricane than during one.

How climate change could cause more mega-storms like Super Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence

The Trump Books

I’m still waiting on my copy of  Fear, by Bob Woodward.  I also have bought Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury.   I like Wolff’s book, and I believe he captured well the dynamics within the White House.    But, these two books, are hated by the White House.   Trump finds equally offensive Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, Truth and Lies,  which is  a biographical account of his time as a prosecutor, a defense of his actions taken during the Clinton email investigation and a scathing critique of Trump based on his interactions with the President. One quote from the book:

“It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”

Comey’s book has been criticized because he makes a connection between the traits of mob organizations and the Trump White House.  Understandably, critics were upset, but I don’t feel it was far off the mark.  Two key passages:

“The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

“This President is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

I should add that Comey is a Republican, who worked at FBI Director under the Obama and Trump administrations.  Trump’s recent attacks on Department of Justice, and the FBI,  particularly the recent  comment on the “lingering stench” in these organizations tells me, Comey was right.

There are a lot of recent books out critical of the Trump administration, including:

“Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House” by Omarosa Manigault Newman,  August 2018

The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game by Kessler, April 2018

Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson, August 2018

Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House, by Ryan,  September 2018

The Threat: On how the FBI Protects America in the age of Terror and Trump,  to be published in December 2018.

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia,  by Unger, August 2018

I guess the title I like most, is Rick Wilson’s  – Everything Trump Touches Dies.

I would add, that many people who voted for him, like his brazen, off the cuff, approach. They consider him an “anti-politician.”    There are a lot of books supporting him personally and laying blame on Democrats and the media. More recent publications are:

“Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy” by Judge Jeanine Pirro

 The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography,  by Brody and Lamb, Feb 2018

“Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump” by Jerome Corsi, March 2018

“The Capitalist Comeback: The Trump Boom and the Left’s Plot to Stop It” by Andrew Puzder, April 2018

“The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump” by Gregg Jarrett,  July 2018

The Deep State: How an Army of Bureaucrats Protected Barack Obama and Is Working to Destroy the Trump Agenda,  by Jason Chaffetz,  September 2018.

Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies – With No Apologies,  Sebastian Gorka, October 2018

Trump’s America: The Truth about Our Nation’s Great Comeback, Newt Gringrich,  June 2018

The Briefing by Sean Spicer,  July 2018

There are less political books, focusing more on specific issues,  for instance,  Alan Dershowitz:

 The Case Against Impeaching Trump,  Alan Dershowitz, July 2018

This book has the blessing of Donald Trump.   Given Professor Dershowitz credentials as a long time educator at Harvard Law School, it is probably my next Amazon purchase. In an impeachment process, the legislature overrides the choice of the electorate and diminishes the voting rights of the populace.     Alan Dershowitz is a strong supporter of civil liberties. ‘

OK,  I’ve listed out 9 “Anti-Trump”  books and 9 “Pro-Trump” books,  and I think  Alan Dershowitz book in its own category.   I think his book will have lasting value, particularly if someday,  Republicans decide to impeach a Democrat president.

I don’t claim this list to be all inclusive.  I know Steven Colbert has just  announced a children’s book making fun of Trump’s  visit to the hurricane stricken areas called “My Boat.”   I pretty much dismiss any author which claims to have written the only book, giving Americans the “true facts.”   Every single one of the books, listed above, has a unique perspective and a lot of commentary along with facts.   I would suggest anyone buying any of these books, first check the author’s biography, usually available on Wikipedia.   The biography presented in Amazon are written by the author and always complimentary.  If you see a book had 4 to 5 star rating,  you should know that this is done by counting clicks, and every book listed above has about the same ratings.    It’s really pretty worthless.

All of these books are sold on Amazon.  Most are available in Kindle versions.   Many are advertised as “#1 on the best seller list”  but this is misleading because there are many “best seller” lists and a huge number of  categories.   For example, Omarosa’s book ranks high on a few select categories on Amazon,  but her overall rank is #864.   The best seller rank will tend to decline over time.   Comey’s book has a rank of #1140 and was published in April 2018.    Obviously, television appearances help advance the book.

I hope to update this blog as more books are published.  Anyone can suggest adding to the list, as long as it has been published in 2018.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Confirmation on Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Sorry folks, I’m on the side of Republicans.  I think  all the last minute scrambling to discredit Judge Kavanaugh is dumb.  The assault claim seems to  lack supporting evidence.   The incident occurred 35 years ago.  I believe it is likely that his accuser, Dr. Christine Ford, was sexually assaulted while she was in High School.   She has submitted notes from a therapist,  in a couples counseling session in 2012,  which supported her claim of assault.  The notes do not name Brett Kavanaugh as the attacker.   Now, 35 years later, she may have the wrong student. Nobody else seems to back up her story.

Yale Professor Akhil Amar’s made some excellent points when he was asked to testify in the Senate Committee.  He told the Committee the best way to evaluate a candidate is by their written opinions as a judge and not from emails and other communications.   Opinions must be reviewed by legal scholars who have real understanding of the issues.  Amar considers Kavanaugh to be the best qualified of the 25 judges on the list of candidates.   He told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the confirmation process is badly flawed, and should be fixed.  I agree.   He told Democrats, “be careful what you wish for.”   Rejecting Kavanaugh will likely result in a less qualified candidate.

I am hoping some of the Democrats break free of the politics, and vote for Brett Kavanaugh.   What goes around, comes around, and there will be Democrat nominations to the Supreme Court.   Would Democrats like it if their nominee got the same treatment?

How would I change the system?  Getting rid of partisan politics is hard.   The FBI must conduct a background check.   I would not allow each senator on the committee to ask questions.  I would have one counsel  representing the Republicans and one counsel representing the Democrats  ask their questions of the nominee in an open session.   The questioning would be limited to one day.  They would be able to present questions in written format.  One day with a panel of experts testifying for and against the nominee would be held.   Individual senators would not be able to make speeches.  I found it most disturbing when senators would cut off Kavanaugh as he was answering a question.   I found it very disrespectful.

Stay tuned,

Fave

 

 

 

 

Carla

No I am not talking about the next hurricane. It really wouldn’t make sense because they go in alphabetical order.  I an talking about the avocado named Carla.  Oh gee, that Carla.  And it hasn’t got a thing to do about the movie, “Fish called Wanda”, starring John Cleese (wrote the screenplay), Jaime Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline.   I’ll  add, as a completely unnecessary politically charged aside,  Cleese described Donald Trump in 2016 as, “a narcissist, with no attention span, who doesn’t have clear ideas about anything and makes it all up as he goes along” for the sole purpose of gaining some attention to the topic of avocados.  I suspect this sums up just about everything said about Trump in a slew of books including Woodward’s Fear,  Omarosa’s Unhinged, and Johnston’s It’s worse than you think, none of which I’ve read.

Now, after that bizarre tangent,  I return to the topic,  avocado named Carla.  Big,  light green smooth skin avocado are grown in Florida.  They are sold in the US and around the world.   Carla is one variety.   The avocados grown in California, are Hass varieties,  and are smaller, bumpy  dark green skinned ones.   Rudolf Hass patented this variety and the original tree that produced the Hass variety still stands in La Habra Heights, California.

Now, Carla is a patented variety, and the allegation is another grower is illegally making copies of this variety:

Agroindustria Ocoeña, the Dominican company that holds a U.S. patent for the Carla, is suing a Miami produce distributor, Fresh Directions International, claiming that it is illegally selling Carlas in South Florida from another grower. They aren’t knock-off avocados either, the lawsuit argues. DNA tests show they are virtual Carla clones, which the suit suggests can mean only a grifted graft — somebody pruned and pilfered Carla tree branches to recreate their own orchard.

Growers routinely graft. It means growing one variety to provide the roots and initial trunk of the tree (rootstock) and then taking a cutting from another variety (scion wood) and attaching (grafting) it on to create a nearly identical plant.   It is both a science and art, which has been in practice for at least 4,000 years in China.  See last link.    Avocados can be easily grown from seed, but to obtain consistent trees, with high yields, and disease resistance,  only grafted plants are sold from nurseries, at least in Florida.

The single tree that produced the first Carla avocados was discovered by Carlos Antonio Castillo Pimentel in 1994 in his orchard in the Ocoa River Valley. The Miami Herald article then goes on to say that they don’t know why it is called “Carla”  yet I think if it was pure marketing,  as a tasty Carla is better than a tasty Carlos.  Is this sexist?

Now, just looking at a tree, it would be really tough to know what variety was used as the scion wood.   But the crux of the Miami case against Fresh Directions, will be that DNA testing of the fruit can prove that they are growing the Carla variety.    Of course, the lawyers in Miami had to go into the supermarkets and buy a lot of avocados for testing.   And afterwards I guess you don’t have to preserve the evidence except a small sample, as the Miami Herald article quotes one of them as saying, “We ended up eating a lot of guacamole.”

I think the Carla’s will continued to be sold, whether they are legal or illegal from the perspective of the patent owner.  I think it’s all about collecting royalties, which the courts will decide.  It may be tough to collect if the company is headquartered in the Dominican Republic.  The patent was filed in 2006 and is for 15 years.   For everyone’s benefit, an out of court agreement might be best.

Avocados are super foods.   They make terrific smoothies,  particularly with bananas and mango juice.   See recipe at end.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Is your avocado an illegal clone? Grower sues Miami competitor over trendy hot-seller

M&S launches the giant ‘Carla’ avocado that is FIVE times bigger and weighs 1kg

Hass or Haas Avocados 

Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants

https://food52.com/recipes/22704-green-smoothie-with-avocado

 

Hurricanes. climate change and human health

The old slogan, “If it bleeds it leads” seems to be playing out.  The second one, is “the closer to home the better.”   Tragic losses due to Florence aren’t here yet, but they’re coming.  But the singular focus on Florence kind of makes all the newspapers look about the same.

But, there are the few exceptions, thank God.  You can find them by googling “global warming” and  “hurricanes” and then check News.   Worsening hurricanes is only one horrible affects of global warming.  The more extreme weather events are real, with cyclones in Hawaii and the South Pacific and prolong droughts in Africa. Lives are being lost.

In the prior blog,   I stated the EPA is doing nothing to curb carbon emissions.   Unfortunately, this is a bit of an understatement.   The Trump administration is making things worse- as they  are attempting to eliminate regulations in place, under the Obama administration to reduce our carbon emission.  As reported by the New York Times:

The Trump administration, taking its third major step this year to roll back federal efforts to fight climate change, is preparing to make it significantly easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere.

Methane, which is among the most powerful greenhouse gases, routinely leaks from oil and gas wells, and energy companies have long said that the rules requiring them to test for emissions were costly and burdensome.

The Environmental Protection Agency, perhaps as soon as this week, plans to make public a proposal to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, the Interior Department is also expected in coming days to release its final version of a draft rule, proposed in February, that essentially repeals a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.

The new rules follow two regulatory rollbacks this year that, taken together, represent the foundation of the United States’ effort to rein in global warming. In July, the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

The New York Times article is provided in the links below.   The article does not mention that methane is not only a greenhouse gas contributor, in a big way, but also acts to deplete the ozone layer, allowing for more harmful UV sun rays to pass through the upper atmosphere..   Increases in incidences in skin canker can occur.

Unlike EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, I don’t expect Andrew Wheeler to be making public  appearances following hurricane Florence as he follows in Pruitt’s steps of industry friendly policies.

It is crazy to think of carbon emissions and air pollution as a state issue as  some Republicans want to do.   Global warming awareness needs to shift from a focus on political ideology/affiliation or economics, to  real health issues.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Trump Administration Wants to Make It Easier to Release Methane Into Air

NASA (2005):  Methane’s Impacts on Climate Change May Be Twice Previous Estimates

USA Today: Why hurricanes are doing more damage: It’s not the storms. It’s us.

The last article is at least, asking the right questions.    More expensive homes along the shore is a contributing factor.   The article concludes, as I did, that global warming doesn’t increase the number of hurricanes, but makes them more devastating in terms of rainfall.   There is research showing that they are more likely to intensify when there is warming water.

 

 

 

Florence and Climate Change

Florence appears to be a very powerful hurricane.  South Carolina residents on the coastal areas are taking the evacuation orders seriously.   This is very good.   The best way to survive a hurricane is to leave.

I wrote about the relationship between hurricanes and climate change in a prior blog.   It isn’t cause and effect sort of thing.   Warm water makes hurricanes wetter.   Winds can intensify if the hurricane movement slows over warm weather.  But the relationships become pretty complex.

One group of scientists,  the GFDL (Geophysics Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) has studied the history of hurricanes and relationships using computer modeling.   They are apart of the NOAA, responsible for weather research at the federal level.  Their conclusion is the number of hurricanes in the future is not likely to go up due to global warming.  But they will be stronger and more devastating.  Bad news.  Here is their conclusion:

A review of existing studies, including the ones cited above, lead us to conclude that: it is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.

I’ve seen what a force 5 hurricane can do – totally destroy houses, cars and boats.   And it kills people as tears through an area.   More die from flooding,  electrocution and lack of medical facilities, after the hurricane.  Wet hurricanes, like Maria and Katrina caused drownings.

It was a hot topic after  Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Hurricane Irma destroyed homes on both east and west coasts of South Florida.   Irma was a monster, and I have friends still haggling with insurance companies and trying to rebuild.

The reaction from the former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was unbelievable, when asked about the contribution of global warming after Hurricane Maria.  He shot back saying the question was “insensitive” to the suffering of Puerto Ricans.   The EPA was not involved in  recovery efforts.   The  hurricane season going from June to November  is exactly the right time to bring up the fact that we are doing nothing on climate change, except pretend it doesn’t exist.  I think January to December are all good months to address global warming and hurricanes.

Al Gore referred to the consequences of global warming, 12 years ago as the  “inconvenient truth.”

I honestly feel very sorry for the residents of South Carolina.  I hope they get the hell away from the coastal areas, ASAP.    But, global warming is here, and global warming catastrophes are real and deadly.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Note –  Global warming is no longer part of EPA’s vocabulary.  They are the ones that should be working to curb carbon emissions.  NOAA can only make predictions, not change policy.

NOAA GFDL Website:   Global Warming and Hurricanes

Sun Sentinel:  Now is the right time to talk about climate change

Trump’s “They”

 

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad, when you look at what’s going on there. I think it’s a very sad day for our country,”  Donald Trump’s statement.   He went on to say, “He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Paul Manafort is accused of more than lying.  He is on trial for tax evasion, which is stealing from the federal government.   Millions of Americans each year, obey the law and report their income and assets.   Paul Manafort did not.  He cheated the government for years. He is also charged with bank fraud.  He made fraudulent claims when applying for loans.   A short list of the charges against Manafort is provided at the bottom of the page.

The “they” refers to Special Counsel Mueller’s team.   The “they” works within the US Department of Justice with many FBI agents.  Lady justice wears a blindfold, because justice is applied equally, regardless of other characteristics such as  race, political views, or wealth.  If convicted, this is a clear demonstration that the Mueller team is not conducting a witch hunt.    Manafort may be found innocent on some of the charges because the charges were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It’s would be a sad day for the country, when people who are ripping off our country are not convicted.  They are ripping off every honest tax payer.     It would be an extremely sad and troubling day, if Trump decides to pardon Manafort.

Catching criminals and convicting them in a fair trial,  makes our country great.   In other countries, you can buy your way our of a conviction.   The “they”  (DOJ and FBI) are doing their jobs.   I would feel just the same, if a Democrat or Republican was on trial.

But, you can bet Trump would be jumping for joy if the person being charged had any connection to Hillary Clinton.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Paul Manafort

Charges:

The “counts” are usually because Manafort is accused of the same violation over multiple years.

Subscribing to false income tax returns
Number of counts: 5
Maximum prison sentence per count: 3 years

In an indictment unveiled in February against Manafort and his former business partner, Rick Gates, the special counsel laid out what it described as a years-long “tax scheme” intended to lower Manafort’s tax bills by hiding his income from U.S. authorities.

Manafort worked for years in the 2000s as a consultant for former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions. The tens of millions of dollars he earned for this work were put in foreign accounts, and Manafort used that money to fund a lavish lifestyle primarily through international wire transfers, Mueller alleges.

Manafort is accused of failing to report this income on his income tax returns, and falsely claiming he had no authority over those foreign accounts.

Failing to file foreign bank account reports
Number of counts: 4
Maximum prison sentence per count: 5 years

From 2011 to 2014, Manafort allegedly failed to file foreign bank account reports, known as FBARs, with the Treasury Department to disclose his control over his overseas accounts.

Bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy
Number of counts: 4 counts of bank fraud; 5 counts of bank fraud conspiracy
Maximum prison sentence per count: 30 years

Trump Policies to the Coal Industry – Part 1

(1) Decline in Coal Production

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used to brag about how much the US was reducing carbon emissions, even while he was denying climate change was a problem and the Paris Climate Change Accords were against the best interests of our country.    One reason for our lower emissions  is the less of our electricity on a percentage basis  comes from dirtiest  fossil fuels- coal.   As shown in the above chart,  US coal shipments from mines were 661 million short tons (mST).   This is the lowest coal shipments since 1983 – wow 35 years!

The above graph shows only coal shipped within the US.  EIA also posted higher total production statistics which includes exports.  For 2017, the preliminary estimate of total production is 774 mST,  a slight improvement over 2016 production of 728 mST.   This slight uptick is probably not going to last as preliminary first quarter production (Jan-Mar 2018) declined by 5.2% over the prior quarter.  The trendline is either flat or down.  See link below for these statistics.

Donald Trump supposedly “digs coal.”  But the electric utilities don’t because it is more expensive.  They have been switching to natural gas during the last 20 years which includes the Bush and Obama administrations.  Particularly hard hit were coal mines on the east cost.     Note: this report was produced by the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor Rick Perry.

There was a short video on one of the cable stations, touting the success of Trump’s policies, as evidence by how many coal filled barges were going down the Mississippi river.   Given  how little coal is transported by river barges, one can see this was pure nonsense.   Just partisan politics dressed up as a news story.

Coal is used primarily to generate electricity.  About 30% of our electricity  comes from coal in 2016.  It was 52% of our electricity  in 1997.   As shown in the graph below,  in the last 66 years, the percentage of electricity generated by coal  has never been this low.

Natural gas began its rise around 1989 with 10% share and never looked back.   Nonhydro renewables, primarily solar and wind have increased since 2005.   Going from 2% to 8% with alternatives  is a 4 fold increase. According to the EIA, wind turbines account for 6% of US electricity generation, leaving only 2% for solar.   I believe the graph below does not include electricity from residential solar panels.

The graph seems to show declining use of hydroelectric power, but this is really the effect of the increase in electrical demand being satisfied by other fuels, as shown below.  If the period from 1975 to 2015 is examined, it shows that hydroelectric supplies between 250 to 350 bKW, with a flat trendline.  For renewable fuels, solar and wind turbines are the big growth areas now and in the future.  Non-renewables account for 84% of the US electricity.  The general trend of increasing renewables can be seen in many countries.  For instance, Germany fossil fuels and nuclear for electricity account for  70%, with coal percentage in decline and natural gas percentage on the increase.

(2) Stream Protection Rule

One of the first actions of newly elected Donald Trump, with the help of Congress was to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which was a detailed clarification of prior rules for the dumping of debris from new mines into streams.  Hundreds of miles of streams and rivers are lost.    Environmentalists at the time did not think the rule went far enough.   Coal mining in four states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) dynamite the top of the mountain (called mountain top removal, or MTR), and the “spoils” or tailings are dumped into river valleys.   The destruction of the environment is pretty terrible, and includes land, water and air pollution.

As correctly pointed out in the VOX article:

Coal mining is a messy business. In parts of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia, mining companies often get at underground coal seams by blowing up the tops of mountains — a process known as mountaintop removal mining. Once that’s done, they’ll dump the debris into the valleys below, which can contaminate streams and waterways with toxic heavy metals.  Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried over 2,000 miles of streams in the region through mountaintop removal mining since the 1990s. And there’s growing evidence that when mining debris and waste gets into water supplies, the toxic metals can have dire health impacts for the people and mostly rural communities living nearby.

And  VOX nailed it when they wrote in Feb 2017:

Scrapping the stream protection rule might help boost the bottom lines of some mining companies at the margins, but it’s unlikely to reverse the long inexorable downward trend of mining jobs in Appalachia.

The quarterly statistics show large declines in 2017Q4 to 2018Q1 in anthracite coal in Pennsylvania (-43%),  and coal production declines in   Tennessee (-63%),  Virginia (-9.4%) and Kentucky (-13%),  really undercutting Trump’s claim that the production declines was a result of “Obama’s war on coal.”

(3) Robert Murray,  Murray Coal, the Clean Power Plan and Andrew Wheeler (Scary Stuff)

Robert Murray is the CEO of Murray Coal.   He seems to have the inside track to President Trump on setting energy policies.  His policies seem radical, and only in the best interest of large chemical and mining corporations.   He sent VP Pence an action plan, which included cutting the EPA workforce in half.  This would be around 7,000 employees, back to the number of employees when the agency was first created in 1973.   An extremely important function of the EPA is approval of pesticides used in agriculture.  It would be very scary proposition to revert to pre-Rachel Carson era, when chemical companies could self certify the safety of pesticides.  See link, “How a Coal Baron’s Wish List became President Trump’s To-Do list.”

Robert Murray’s political philosophy seems anchored on the conviction that global warming is non-existent, and the only reason for the decline in coal production is unnecessary government regulation at all levels.  At the very top of the Murray action plan, is the Clean Power Rule,  one of the achievements of the Obama administration, which Murray has claimed is illegal.   The basis for this contention was that the rule was not approved by Congress, and President Obama was overstepping his authority.   In 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulation, pending resolution in the courts.

The EPA under President Obama conducted numerous studies, showing that the primary benefactors of the Plan, were low income or coal miners, who lived close to coal fueled power plants.  Opponents of the Plan claimed that this would raise unemployment in coal mining states and cause power plants to shut down.  There are difference of opinions on the economic impact of the plan.

President Trump is strongly opposed to the Clean Power Plan.  The proposed 2018 budget does not include any funds for enforcement of the Clean Power Plan.   It can not easily be repealed without avoid  court challenges by supporters.    At present,  the acting administrator of the EPA is Andrew Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for the coal industry.  On June 20, 2018, it was revealed that prior to Wheeler’s appointment at EPA, he worked with Robert Murray and other coal companies, seeking repealing of Obama administration policies.

The documents also show the role played by now-EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who then worked as Murray’s lobbyist, in setting up the meeting, where the coal boss presented Perry with a four-page action plan for repealing environmental regulations viewed as burdensome for the coal industry. During his confirmation hearing for the EPA post, Wheeler told senators that he had briefly seen the document and acknowledged taking part in the meeting.

So, Trump has turned over running the EPA to the lobbyist for a coal baron, Robert Murray.  Murray went one step further with his crusade, and wrote 6 executive orders, for Trump to sign.  Pretty audacious!   The political views of Senator Jim Imhofe (R-OK),  Scott Pruitt (former EPA Administrator, former AG of Oklahoma) and Andrew Wheeler are all pretty similar.  In fact, Wheeler was Imhofe’s legislation aide. See link at bottom “Who is Andrew Wheeler (and why you should be afraid of him).”

To be continued in Part 2.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 Links:

EIA:  2017 Coal Shipments

The link below is pretty long, and not easy to find on the new EPA site (thanks Scott Pruitt):

EIA  First Quarter 2018  and full year 2017 Production

EPA 2003:  Environmental Impact Statement, Mountain Top Removal (during Bush administration)

The article really nailed it, as stating that killing the stream production act was unlikely to reverse the decline in the coal industry.  But Trump owed a favor to Robert Murray.

VOX: Why Trump just killed a rule restricting coal companies from dumping waste in streams

How a Coal Baron’s Wish List Became President Trump’s To-Do List

A Coal Executive’s “Action Plan” For Trump Is Made Public

Bob Murray drafted 6 executive orders for Trump’s signature

Who is Andrew Wheeler?

Newsandviews.net post Coal industry subsidies based on a pretext

Trump Policies to Coal Industry – Part 2

The prior posts (Part 1: Trump’s Policies) showed coal production to still be in decline.  Trump’s elimination of the Stream Protection Act, was easy, because it was not a law.  It was unfortunate because so much time had been devoted to finding a solution to the massive dumping of debris containing toxic heavy metals into stream valleys.   The eastern states of Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee will have to manage the ecological destruction on their own.   Trump is making the Clean Power Plan to be unenforceable through cutting the funding.  EPA will work to dismantle the Plan in a legal manner, under the direction of the new administrator, Andrew Wheeler.   EPA studies showed the end of the program would be most detrimental to low income families who live in close proximity to the mines.  Environmental groups will attempt to keep the plan alive, but this is an uphill battle.

I included in Part 1, the cornerstone of Robert Murray, Senator Jim Imhofe,  and Andrew Wheeler’s policies, is that global warming is either non-existent or the effects are exaggerated.  Scott Pruitt was  defiant to scientists, who opined that the severity of Hurricane Maria may have been affected by warmer waters as a result of global warming.   He stated it was disrespectful to the victims to politicize the damage.   Trump visited Puerto Rico,  and infuriated  residents by downplaying the severity of the damage.

Coal as an energy source has been in decline for years due to the abundance of natural gas.  Ordinarily, this should be viewed as beneficial as  coal burning in power plant is the worst way to generate electricity as it causes many environmental problems beyond global warming.  It is estimated by the EPA that 230 miles of streams and rivers have been eliminated by the dumping of debris as a result of mountain top blasting.

Climate Change Denial and the Paris Accords

Trump campaigned that he would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.  Legally, the US will not be out of the accord until 2020.   No other country has pulled our of the agreement nor  supported the US decision to withdraw.  Major oil companies supported the Paris Climate Accords, likely because they could see the benefit of power plants switching to natural gas.

The NYT article, “The Year Global Warming turned Model into Menace” reported on the devastating impacts of global warming.  It was predicted that more extreme weather event would result, including extreme cold and hot periods.   The latest extreme events include heat related deaths in Japan, the shutdown of nuclear reactors in Europe because the river water became too warm, agricultural losses in Sweden and El Salvador and forest fires in California.

Clean Coal Technology

Release of byproducts of coal burning can be reduced, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen  oxide and mercury with appropriate technology.  However, carbon dioxide is still released.  The clean coal technology incorporates carbon capture and storage or carbon sequestration.  See link below.    This increases the cost of coal, and would only be for regulatory compliance, as with the Clean Power Plan.  Unfortunately, this Plan appears to be dead under the Trump administration.

Protecting our electrical grid 

For decades, coal was promoted as  vital for reliable,  low cost energy.    To prevent uneconomical coal powered plants from being shut down, coal executives lobbied the Department of Energy to   subsidize their operation.   Secretary of the DOE submitted a proposal to FERC for subsidies.   It was a very creative proposal,  The coal and nuclear industries would be paid to keep a 90 day supply of fuel available, just in case of hurricanes or other natural disasters.  In January 2018, the FERC rejected this proposal, citing a DOE report, as requested by Rick Perry:

“In fact, the Department of Energy’s own recent ‘grid reliability’ study found the current grid is highly reliable, despite an ever decreasing amount of coal-fired generation.”

Bernard McNamee has been nominated to the FERC and there is speculation that the coal bailout plan might be revived.  The opponents of the bailout plan, the first time around, were a strange coalition of the lobbyist organization for oil and gas industry, namely  the American Petroleum Institute,  and environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club.

Conclusion:

Solar energy and wind generated electricity have increased dramatically, however they have a long ways to go to contribute significantly to our energy needs.  Recent trade tariffs against China have resulted in a 30% tariff on solar panels.  The solar industry in the US employs  approximately 250,000 people compared to about 70,000 in the coal industry.  Trade tariffs on imported steel are hurting the oil and gas industry, which is an extensive customer of steel (wells, drilling rigs, production platforms, tankers and storage).

It is indeed fortunate that coal fired plants are being replaced by  plants using natural gas.  The US may reduce its carbon emissions simply through market forces.   Still, Trump has appointed many in government whose don’t really look at the public’s best interests.  If the bailout plan is submitted again, the opponents will be citing the DOE grid study as reasons to reject it.

Stay tuned,

Davew

Links:

Clean Power Plan

Wikipedia:  US withdraws from the Paris Accords

Wikipedia:  Clean Coal Technology

Federal Regulator Rejects Energy Department’s Bid To Prop Up Coal, Nuclear

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/12/557367017/is-this-how-the-trump-administration-might-save-coal

Trump coal bailout plan to have powerful ally if frontrunner for energy agency opening is confirmed
Bernard McNamee is among half a dozen former TPPF officials who hold positions in Trump administration.

“Pipeline dollars to Russia are not acceptable!”

Donald Trump tweeted this around the time of the NATO summit. The tweet was directed against Germany.  He said at the NATO leaders breakfast, “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia, because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia.” Wow!  Angela Merkel  knows well Soviet oppression as she lived in East Germany under Soviet control.  It was also pretty weird given the circumstances.  Most US presidents would try to get solidarity with EU countries at a NATO summit before sitting down with Putin.     Trump went to Russia, where the theme seemed to be that Obama had screwed up relations with that country through a lot of foolish decisions, and now Trump was there to repair the damage.

The US could have a friendly relation with Russia, but not Germany.  Trump has said he is guided by what is in the best interest of the US.  So, why was Trump badgering Angela Merkel for acting in the best interest of her own country?

 

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline is due to be completed next year, to double the supply of natural gas from Russia.   The 1200 km route, under the Baltic sea is nearly the same as the first Nord Stream gas pipeline.   It will make Germany more dependent on Russia for power generation needs.  Trump has repeated attacked Germany as a “captive state of Russia.”

Trump’s speech at the July 2018 NATO Summit meeting was laced with numerous false statements, particularly about NATO budgets and spending,  as documented by politifact.com (see comments/ links below).  The speech was filled with self-serving statements of how much the US is doing to keep the alliance going and how little the other  countries are doing.  I’m certain member states felt let down by Trump.

NATO is an alliance of 29 countries, with the US and Canada the only non-European countries.  NATO began as an alliance between 10  Western European countries and the US and Canada in 1949.   Western Germany became a member in 1955.  There has been a great expansion of NATO in both 1999 and 2004 as Eastern European countries left the Warsaw Pact with Russia and joined NATO.    The Warsaw Pact, formed to counterbalance NATO was disbanded in 1991.

NATO is both a political and military alliance.   The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, sitting on Putin’s doorstep, are keenly aware of potential annexation of their countries, after Crimea was annexed.  Ukraine is not a NATO member, but has close EU ties.

Natural gas production depends on an available market.  Unless there are pipelines or liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants,  the gas fields may not be economical to produce. This is the frustrating reality of natural gas fields.   Obviously,  Russia has no control over German power plants and their future use of fossil fuels,  but will be a large supplier of fuel for their power plants  for decades for the following reasons :  (1) The North Sea gas supply is in decline, because the area has been extensively explored and developed in the past 40 years and   (2) Other fuels are more expensive.

A recent report from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) indicates why Trump doesn’t like Russian gas going to Germany.   For decades, all the natural gas produced in the US was either flared (a common practice with offshore wells) or used for the domestic markets.   The supply of gas wasn’t sufficient to meet the demand, so 3 to 4 trillion cubic feet were imported from Canada.  But we also exported 1 to 3 tcf.   Now gas exports are likely to be higher than imports.   The next 10 years are expected to expected to increase LNG  exports by 14 tcf/yr, while imports decline to 2 to 3 tcf.

 


 

France and Spain are likely the big recipients of LNG coming from the US.   The Asian countries, including Japan and India, will be the recipients of  LNG from Iran-Qatar shared South Pars/ North Dome field.   Total will likely pull out of the joint development of the South Pars field in response to Trump’s re-imposing sanctions on Iran.  There’s speculation that Russia or China will take over Total’s contract.    India’s economy will be hurt as there is insufficient LNG, at least temporarily.    India is likely to burn more coal to generate power, hence generate more greenhouse gases.

The long term forecast by the EIA is contingent on many factors.  LNG requires enormous investments.  Cheniere Energy (LNG) is one of the largest companies in this area, and it has been a bumpy ride for investors.   Cheniere is down about 20% in the last 5 years compared to the S+P performance of up 45%.

The trend of lower gas imports and higher exports began around 2009, and has continued through the 8 years of Obama’s presidency.   But expect Trump to claim credit should the exports exceeds imports during his presidency.

Natural gas as a fuel source generates greenhouse gases.  It is better than coal, but what really helps slow global warming, is increasing alternative non-fossil fuel sources and reducing energy demand.

It’s definitely a mess.  Attacking member countries of NATO, re-imposing sanctions on Iran, and starting a trade war with China, all in the last few months, does not bode well for the global economy.   What goes around, comes around.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

No collusion!

This is purely a semantics problem.  The verb “to collude” is not a standard legal term.   The lawyers understand this,  and know what Mueller is looking at the criminal act of conspiring with foreign entities, obviously Russian agents. So, if one simply substitutes conspiracy for collusion, then yes, we are likely getting close to charges of  conspiracy with those close to Trump’s campaign.

I believe there are more criminal  indictments to come.  It is both ill advised, and premature to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

There is more legal  hairsplitting between a “target” of an investigation and a “subject” of one.   Neither one is pretty as follows:

  • A “target” is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.
  • A “subject” of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.

Donald Trump is the subject of the investigation and not the target of one.  He may be getting closer every day to being a target.

The White House continues to slam the news media,  FBI agents and the Department of Justice.   Exactly how far President Trump is willing to go to defend himself, and close family members is still hard to say.   It has been well established that Donald Trump, Jr.,  Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort attended a meeting with Russian agents in the Trump tower on June 9, 2016.

I believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an outstanding decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation.   I believe Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s selection of Robert Mueller to head the Russian investigation was excellent.  I am very impressed with FBI Director,  Christopher Wray (Trump’s nominated director) and hope that he is able to rise above partisan attacks from Congress.

The investigation is getting complicated.   Mueller has assembled what many consider, the most experienced career  attorneys and FBI agents, to complete the investigation.   White collar crimes, take a long time to litigate because there are teams of attorneys available for those charged with crimes.

The news media is doing a good job of getting the facts as they evolve.  I continue to rely on Wikipedia’s summary, which has assembled one of the best summary of the investigation and its results.   One has to distinguish between the real news reporting,  which recently is the  Manafort trial,  and the commentary which surround it.

There is definitely more to come.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Normally,  criminal investigations do not list every lawyer and FBI agent assigned to the case.  However, congressional leaders,  particularly Republicans in the House, have relentlessly subpoenaed thousands of documents in their attack on the Mueller investigation, to help the president and related campaign officials.

Wikipedia link 

 

 

 

A lot of real news is happening, Mr. President

“Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

This is the talk you might hear from some radical or religious cult.   Turn off the TV, don’t read the paper.  These are your enemies.  You have to be very paranoid to think everyone is lying to you.  But this is exactly what  Trump said at a speech in Kansas City to the VFW annual convention on Tuesday.

My advice is to do just the opposite:  Read, see and think.  Compare opinions, ask questions and do your homework.  Don’t stick with anyone.  A lot is happening.  Trump might not like it, but it is happening.   I don’t know exactly which news story he was referring to:   Scott Pruitt horrible record at the EPA or  Ryan Zinke at the Interior,  and their cozying up lobbyists  instead of protecting the environment, the NATO and Helsinki summit messes or the progress in the Mueller investigation.   Take your pick!

Reading means going beyond CNN.  If fact, I like the BBC for more broad coverage.  And news magazines like Time or Newsweek.  You might find our that Trump is furious about comments made by three former intelligence leaders,  John Brennan (CIA),  Michael Hayden (National Security Agency) and James Clapper (National Intelligence Agency).   Each of these three leaders, with long backgrounds in government service, has written a book, the latest one by James Clapper (Facts and Fears).

You might find out about how the White House barred a CNN journalist from the White House Press press briefing,  and the strong criticism from the head of Fox News, Jay Wallace, for this action.   This is very important, as a whole series of commentator deride the “liberal media,”  at the very top, they understand the importance of media access.    As discussed in the link below, something similar happened in the Obama administration with a Treasury Department press conference, and CNN refused to cover it unless Fox News reporter was allowed to attend.

I would plead with people to detach themselves from a rigid group mentality, so they can absorb ideas and political philosophies from both Republicans and Democrats.   Each party claims to be fiscally responsible, but the track record (really up today) shows that our deficits rise, no matter if it is a Republican or Democrat.

I am not a loyalist to any party or platform.   I spent 5 years working at a research center, which taught me the best researchers are great at asking questions, and thoroughly reading everything available on a topic.  Critical thinking is hard work.  You have to compare multiple sources of information and opinions.

I think the greatest people on this planet, are parents who congratulate their children whenever  they ask questions.   When a child extends questioning to both parents, and teachers, I think it’s time for parents to start a college fund.

I hope Americans read newspapers.  I try to read 3 newspapers, one printed and two on the internet.  I can’t compete with the oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, who reads five newspapers every day, beginning with the Omaha World Herald, which his company acquired in 2011.   I got that tidbit of information from Wikipedia, which seems to be doing a terrific job of providing unbiased and well documented information.

My New York Times just arrived.  Headline news:  “Raging fire turns Yosemite into a ghost town.”  Not fake news.  Front page picture on the Times, is Half Dome at Yosemite, barely visible with all the smoke. .    Also, “US and Europe ease trade feud”, outlining a deal (positive to Trump and EU leaders).   Also, news commentary,  “Cash flowing into Treasury starts to ebb,”  and concern about rising deficits (negative for Trump).   Just finished front page item,  “Promising Alzheimer Drug attacks brain changes and symptoms.” Hope it works.

Real news means going to the source.  In Chicago,  reporter Pam Belluck was there at the Alzheimer’s Association International  Conference to listen and explain in non-technical terms how the new Alzheimer’s drug works,  or really how it is intended to work.  Is Biogen going to soar this morning?  An Associated Press photographer,  Noah Berger, shot the photo of the haze over the 38,000 acre fire obscuring the view of Half Dome

Going past the front page, on to international section.   There is a heat wave in Japan, with peak temperatures going to 106 deg F, and 23,000 people have been hospitalized.  Yes, I’m thinking global warming, and how the acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler should be sent their immediately.  Shucks, there is no mention of global warming,  just the grim facts of how miserable conditions are.   Half the 23,000 people are over 65 years old (my group).

It was awful day in Paksong,  Laos, as flooding and the bursting of a dam caused thousands to flee.  This time, climate change was mentioned, by a group called  International Rivers, which has opposed hydroelectric dams due to the unpredictability of extreme weather events.

Trump would rather people be apathetic and focus on golf and just believe how good he’s doing.  No chance with me.  Sorry, but it’s his pep rallies which are loaded with crap.

Listen, read, and think for yourselves.  Please!

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The White House Banned a CNN Reporter and Even Fox News Is Crying Foul

Wikipedia: Michael Hayden

Wikipedia: James Clapper

Wikipedia: John Brennan

 

 

 

The Helsinki Disaster

Trump’s responses to questions at Monday’s joint press conference may seem miles away by now.  But, I’ll repeat a few critical parts and add my comments given in italics. It was a disaster, on many fronts.  Unfortunately,  I don’t think Trump was “off his game”  on this one.  I think we’re going to see more excusing the actions of countries with not respect for human rights (Turkey, the Philippines and Egypt, come to mind)  and attacks on our friends.

I have included in the links that the transcript of the entire press conference as provided by National Public Radio.

Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?

TRUMP:  Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.  I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.  But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.

I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.

There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re gonna have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her. And I’m not even saying from the standpoint…we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing and we discussed this also is zero collusion and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.

It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the [Mueller]  probe.

Trump’s answer is pretty clear.   He standing there side by side with Putin, and is saying is he wishes that the Russian interference in our elections in 2016 would be just swept under the rug.  When he holds US partially responsible,  this is pointing the finger to Obama administration policies.  It is as if, the Obama administration just didn’t know how to conduct diplomacy.   Trump is not going into any details on the US foolishness, but were the sanctions imposed by Obama really so foolish?  Russia was propping up the regime in Syria with military support, even after they used chemical weapons on their own people.  Russia has been involved in the assassination of dissidents outside their borders.  Residents of England were likely horrified at Trump’s statement were, as they witnessed the Salisbury poisoning (Sergei and Yulia Skripal).   Trump was obviously, avoided past conflicts, including the takeover of Crimea, support of separatists in Ukraine, and human rights abuses, such as the likely Kremlin ordered murder of Sergei Magnitsky in 2005, when he discovered tax fraud corruption among Russia’s richest citizens on a wide scale.  Dissidents and whistle blowers seem to turn up dead. The hand of the Kremlin at going after enemies of the state is worldwide. (see link)

REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?

TRUMP: Well, I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought, that was a well fought battle. We did a great job. And frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign and every time you hear all of these you know 12 and 14 – stuff that has nothing to do and frankly they admit – these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they’re saying well maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or in one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president. Thank you.

The question is actual about “election intervention.”   Trump steered the question to  collusion, and since he claims he had never personally met Putin before the election, he feels vindicated.  In Putin’s response, he says:  “We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense.”   So Trump and Putin see eye-to-eye on this.   Intervention  =  collusion = nonsense.   In Putin’s reply to extradition, he brings up the idea of swapping Mr. Browder for 12 indicted Russians.  Putin states: “They  [Browder business associates]  sent a huge amount of money – 400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.”   The actual figure is $400,000.   I will cover the actions of Mr. Browder in a separate blog.  Putin is not saying no to extradition, but simply saying that it has to go through proper channels.

The following is the question that has help cause an enormous backlash:

REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.

I really believe that this will probably go on for a while but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.  I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s thirty three thousand e-mails.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Ok? Thank you.

Trump could have answered this in two short sentences: (1) The conclusion of  election interference  by Russia in 2016 by US intelligence is right, and (2) Putin should not try this again.  He didn’t do either.   Even in the wake of the indictments of 12 Russian military officials, he wasn’t about to walk back on his hundreds of tweets stating that Mueller’s investigation was a witch hunt and the FBI under Comey was incompetent.   Mind you, Trump wasn’t asked if  there was  collusion or even involvement of the Trump’s campaign officials in this interference.   He was defending Putin more than the US government.   This “incredible offer”  was considered by the State Department as absurd.  

In one key phase,  Trump later said he misspoke, and meant to say wouldn’t instead of would.   Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC commentator) got it right, when he said the statement was beyond fixing.  To do so, was an insult to the intelligence of Americans.

I count a total of 23 sentences.  I count 19 of these sentences would fall under the category of FBI misconduct  in the areas of deliberately incomplete or improper investigation.  So, he is back on the witch hunt theme.      There’s only one statement (“My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia.”)   Yikes!    Dan Coats is the Director of National Intelligence, and it is his job to provide the president of all national security threats from multiple US agencies.   Of course, Dan Coats immediately issued a statement after the press conference, stating that it was absolutely true that Russia interfered with our election.  

Trump  is demeaning the FBI because in 2015 and 2016, it was under Director Comey’s command.   The missing emails  is a mess It confuses  a subpoena from the Benghazi Committee in 2015, with the FBI’s investigation of the Russian hacked  DNC server in 2016.   The first statement about the server of the Pakistani gentleman is false, and the second one refers to accidental deletions of email that were not at Clinton’s direction.   The Benghazi Committee was just trolling for dirt on Hillary Clinton prior to the election.  All Trump was trying to do, is to attack the integrity of the FBI in years before he was president.

Russia is taking the lead, where the US is shrinking back globally.  It supports the Iran nuclear deal and is party to the Paris Climate Agreement.  It even came to the rescue of the World Health Organization, as US pressured countries not to introduce the breastfeeding resolution.   It is looking for strengthening economic ties with China, as we look to punish them with tariffs.   There is nothing more desirable in Putin’s priorities than restoring their hold on the Eastern European countries.   That’s why Putin brings up the Minsk agreements.

The word change only shows how Trump believes he can easily fool the American people.  Helsinki was a disaster for the US and a victory for Vladimir Putin.  Dialogue with Russia is important, but standing firm with Eastern Europe and NATO is vital.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Transcripts of Press Conference

Trump sides with Putin over US intelligence

Donald Trump’s ‘missing’ server comments get all of the details wrong

Clinton’s 33000 emails – Politifact

(The conclusion was that the deletion was not done at the direction of Clinton.  These were old emails, and to the technician in charge of the server, was a routine cleanup effort and unaware of the subpoena.  When he learned of the subpoena, he describes this as the “Oh shit” moment.

Wikipedia:  Bill Browder 

Wikipedia: Magnisky Act

Secret diplomacy

Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin met in private in Helsinki on Monday for little over two hours.   There are those in the media and in Congress who think they have a right to know what was discussed.   Perhaps the translator took notes?  I find this absurd.   There is an absolute need to keep  sensitive diplomatic discussions private.   Congress leaks information, and they seem immune to prosecution.   Congress wanted all kinds of information after the Iran deal was completed.   I remember one Republican congressman asking John Kerry if he used his cell phone to send text messages.  Republicans  went totally nuts on Benghazi,  and deleted personal emails   They hold closed door sessions to protect confidentiality, then immediately following the interview, publicly  smear the person who testified.   Last victim was Lisa Page.

Private is private.  Democrats need to act like adults in the room.

I am working on a bit longer piece on the Helsinki disaster.   Just thought I’d get this one out first.

Stay tuned,

Dave