Freedom of Expression – Jamal Khashoggi

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  First Amendment, 1789. 

Wow our first amendment is a blockbuster as in one sentence.  It  provides religious freedoms, free speech and freedom to assembly, all in one short sentence.

I consider free speech and the right to  assembly (protest in masses) to be at the core of our democracy.    From these rights, hopefully come an informed populace, who can  vote in the leaders they want, and get rid of those they don’t want.

The apparent murder of  Jamal Khashoggi shows just how far Saudi Arabia will go to silence journalists.    Jamal Khashoggi could have stayed in Saudi Arabia, and reported on how wonderful the  decisions made by the new crown prince,  Mohammed bin Salman.  But, Khashoggi couldn’t do that.  Of course, Salman lost, as other journalists will fill the void.

The Crown Prince was concentrating power.  Saudi Arabia was becoming more autocratic under Salman.  Khashoggi wrote commentary for the Washington Post. shortly before he was murdered entitled,  “What the Arab world needs most is free expression.”

A note from Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor.  Washington Post. 

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for The Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for. I will be forever grateful he chose The Post as his final journalistic home one year ago and gave us the chance to work together.

What the Arab world needs most is free expression,  Jamal Khashoggi, October 17, 2018

I was recently online looking at the 2018 “Freedom in the World” report published by Freedom House and came to a grave realization. There is only one country in the Arab world that has been classified as “free.” That nation is Tunisia. Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait come second, with a classification of “partly free.” The rest of the countries in the Arab world are classified as “not free.”

As a result, Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed. They are unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives. A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative. Sadly, this situation is unlikely to change.

The Arab world was ripe with hope during the spring of 2011. Journalists, academics and the general population were brimming with expectations of a bright and free Arab society within their respective countries. They expected to be emancipated from the hegemony of their governments and the consistent interventions and censorship of information. These expectations were quickly shattered; these societies either fell back to the old status quo or faced even harsher conditions than before.

My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentence for supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.

As a result, Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.

There are a few oases that continue to embody the spirit of the Arab Spring. Qatar’s government continues to support international news coverage, in contrast to its neighbors’ efforts to uphold the control of information to support the “old Arab order.” Even in Tunisia and Kuwait, where the press is considered at least “partly free,” the media focuses on domestic issues but not issues faced by the greater Arab world. They are hesitant to provide a platform for journalists from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen. Even Lebanon, the Arab world’s crown jewel when it comes to press freedom, has fallen victim to the polarization and influence of pro-Iran Hezbollah.

The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, the New York Times and The Post took joint ownership of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, which went on to become a platform for voices from around the world.

My publication, The Post, has taken the initiative to translate many of my pieces and publish them in Arabic. For that, I am grateful. Arabs need to read in their own language so they can understand and discuss the various aspects and complications of democracy in the United States and the West. If an Egyptian reads an article exposing the actual cost of a construction project in Washington, then he or she would be able to better understand the implications of similar projects in his or her community.

The Arab world needs a modern version of the old transnational media so citizens can be informed about global events. More important, we need to provide a platform for Arab voices. We suffer from poverty, mismanagement and poor education. Through the creation of an independent international forum, isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face.

I think the media is obsessed with the details of Khashoggi’s death and the ramifications with US-Saudi Arabia relationship.  It would be much better to pay some attention to why the Crown Prince wanted Khashoggi dead.   Basic civil liberties, free expression and assembly becomes the enemy to autocratic leaders. Khashoggi was exposing nearly the entire Arab world to the suppression of news.   Salman joined with  UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, demanding Qatar  shut down Al Jazeera  broadcast network,  because of its open editorial policy.

The Trump administration is unfortunately not helping the situation.   In fact, Trump’s offhand comments on the “disappearance” of Khashoggi,  were horrible –  values are good, but cash counts, and the Saudi’s have a lot of cash to buy military equipment, around 110 billion dollars in contracts.  This was a reference to Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,  not real purchase agreements.  In the world of Trump, we should be mindful of the consequences if we “defriend”  Salman, by way of sanctions.    But our values should never be for sale.

The First Amendment is what gave Jamal Khashoggi, CNN,  Washington Post, and yes Fox News the absolute right to say what they believe.

I would suggest reading the 2018 Freedom of the World Report under the links.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

2018 Freedom of the World Report

Wikipedia:  Al Jazeera    (I really hope one day Al Jazeera America returns, as their news reporting was excellent)

My prior blogs commented on the blockade of Qatar by neighboring Arab countries and the demand to shut down Al Jazeera. Trump seemed to support this, on the basis that Qatar was supporting terrorism, and had a friendly relation with Iran.

Wikipedia:  Jamal Khashoggi 

 

 

 

Bolsonaro: International cooperative agreements (Part 1)

I will provide both English and Portuguese versions of these two  blogs.    The translations were done by Google and likely contain errors.   I would strongly recommend the two links listed below.

In about 10 days,  Brazilians will go to the poll and elect either Jair Bolsonaro or  Fernando Haddad.   I fear Bolsonaro will follow down the same path of Donald Trump,  as a destroyer of international cooperative agreements.    I fear Brazilians do not fully understand the vital role their country plays in global warming and the absolute necessity for aggressive governmental policies to protect  the Amazon.

Because of Donald Trump’s terrible record on environmental protection, I hope my country can find a new leader in year 2020.   Donald Trump never apologizes for his misguided policies.  He lies constantly, and exaggerates their success.

The US in the last century endured starvation in the 1930’s during an economic depression  and then a horrific world war,  where 60 million people around the world died.   This was my parent’s world.  From the ashes of  war, came a new cooperative international spirit,   which is best exemplified by the creation of the United Nations.   Trump has weaken the UN.  Bolsonaro will follow Trump.

The UN was designed to settle disputes among nations.   One of the greatest achievements of the UN was the ratification of the Iran Nuclear Pact,  which subjected the country of Iran to thorough inspections of its facilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.    The US will soon be in direct violation of this agreement.

The UN Paris Climate Accord was a major breakthrough in international recognition on global warming as a threat to our planet.    Brazil is a vital partner in halting the deforestation of the Amazon.   It shares this responsibility with Peru,  Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Jair Bolsonaro has little interest in building the bonds of cooperation, and working through the UN in this effort.  Per the New York  Times:

In the Amazon, illegal loggers, miners, land-grabbers, as well as large land owners have rallied to his banner. Here, they don’t expect Bolsonaro to enforce the law. On the contrary, the hope is that he fulfils his promise to obliterate nearly all environment and pro-indigenous legislation. He won massive support in rural central western states and all but one Amazonian state.

In August, Bolsonaro raised  concerns internationally when he pledged to join Trump’s US and withdraw Brazil from the Paris agreement. That means the country would no longer be committed to curb its emissions from the deforestation of the Amazon, which is here a bigger source of greenhouse gas than the burning of fossil fuels.

Brazil can of course still insist that the US auto emissions are to blame, or India’s burning of coal.  In the end,  global warming is disastrous for the entire planet, just as World War 2 was.    We are one planet.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

Bolsonaro: Acordos cooperativos internacionais (Parte 1)

This is a translated version of Bolsonaro: International cooperative agreements into Portuguese.  It concerns the upcoming Brazilian elections. It is provided by Google and likely contains errors.

A tradução foi fornecida pelo Google e provavelmente contém erros.

Em cerca de 10 dias, os brasileiros irão à votação e elegerão Jair Bolsonaro ou Fernando Haddad. Temo que Bolsonaro siga o mesmo caminho de Donald Trump, como um destruidor de acordos cooperativos internacionais. Eu temo que os brasileiros não entendam completamente o papel vital que seu país desempenha no aquecimento global e a absoluta necessidade de políticas governamentais agressivas para proteger a Amazônia.

Por causa do terrível histórico de Donald Trump sobre proteção ambiental, espero que meu país possa encontrar um novo líder no ano 2020. Donald Trump nunca pede desculpas por suas políticas equivocadas. Ele mente constantemente e exagera seu sucesso.

Os EUA no século passado sofreram fome na década de 1930 durante uma depressão econômica e depois uma terrível guerra mundial, onde 60 milhões de pessoas morreram no mundo. Este era o mundo dos meus pais. Das cinzas da guerra, surgiu um novo espírito internacional cooperativo, que é melhor exemplificado pela criação das Nações Unidas. Trump enfraqueceu a ONU. Bolsonaro seguirá Trump.

A ONU foi projetada para resolver disputas entre as nações. Uma das maiores conquistas da ONU foi a ratificação do Pacto Nuclear do Irã, que sujeitou o país do Irã a inspeções completas de suas instalações em troca do levantamento das sanções. Os EUA em breve estarão em violação direta deste acordo.

O Acordo do Clima de Paris da ONU foi um grande avanço no reconhecimento internacional sobre o aquecimento global como uma ameaça ao nosso planeta. O Brasil é um parceiro vital para deter o desmatamento da Amazônia. Compartilha essa responsabilidade com o Peru, Colômbia, Venezuela e Equador.

Jair Bolsonaro tem pouco interesse em construir os laços de cooperação e trabalhar com a ONU nesse esforço. De acordo com o Guardian:

Na Amazônia, madeireiros ilegais, mineradores, grileiros e grandes proprietários de terras se uniram à sua bandeira. Aqui, eles não esperam que Bolsonaro cumpra a lei. Pelo contrário, a esperança é que ele cumpra sua promessa de obliterar quase toda a legislação ambiental e pró-indígena. Ele ganhou apoio maciço em estados rurais do centro-oeste e todos menos um estado da Amazônia.

Em agosto, Bolsonaro levantou preocupações internacionalmente quando prometeu ingressar nos Estados Unidos de Trump e retirar o Brasil do acordo de Paris. Isso significa que o país não estaria mais comprometido em conter suas emissões do desmatamento da Amazônia, que é aqui uma fonte maior de gás de efeito estufa do que a queima de combustíveis fósseis.

O Brasil pode, claro, ainda insistir que as emissões de automóveis dos EUA são as culpadas, ou a queima de carvão da Índia. No final, o aquecimento global é desastroso para todo o planeta, assim como a 2ª Guerra Mundial. Nós somos um planeta.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

 

Bolsonaro: Direitos dos povos indígenas (Part 2)

This is a Portuguese translation of the prior post on the Presidential elections in Brazil.   The right wing candidate is Jair Bolsonaro.   The election will be held on October 28, 2018.  The links as provided below provide more information on Bolsonaro.  The translation was done with Google and likely contains errors.

Minha família tem muitos imigrantes. Eu sou o filho de um imigrante. Fico magoado com o ódio e os absurdos exageros na imigração. Trump usa a ajuda externa como se fosse uma arma para coagir outros países a concordar com suas políticas. Ele vê um mundo competitivo e hostil.

Imigrantes são minorias. Eu vejo muito Trump em Bolsonaro, para os povos indígenas da Amazônia. Na verdade, Bolsonaro é pior.  Gardi

As políticas ambientais de Bolsonaro estão ligadas a atitudes racistas em relação às minorias e aos povos indígenas do Brasil. Em um discurso no ano passado, ele disse: “As minorias têm que se curvar à maioria … As minorias devem adaptar-se ou simplesmente desaparecer.”

Expressando uma visão comum aos círculos militares, ele afirmou, sem evidências, que os direitos territoriais indígenas são parte de uma trama ocidental para criar estados amazônicos separatistas apoiados pela ONU.

“Mais cedo ou mais tarde, teremos dezenas de países dentro do Brasil. Não teremos nenhuma interferência nesses países, o primeiro mundo explorará os índios e nada será deixado para nós ”, disse ele no ano passado.

Bolsonaro prometeu abrir terras indígenas para mineração e outras atividades econômicas. Cerca de 13% do território brasileiro é reconhecido como terras indígenas, a maioria delas na Amazônia. Eles são uma barreira importante para proteger a floresta, apenas 2% do desmatamento da floresta tropical ocorreu dentro do território indígena.

Meu conselho é que o brasileiro não deva se afastar radicalmente da cooperação internacional. Levará muito tempo para recuperar nossos títulos internacionais depois que Trump for embora. Fernando Haddad pode não ser perfeito, mas ele é uma escolha muito melhor do que Bolsonaro.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

 

 

 

Bolsonaro: Rights of indigenous people (Part 2)

My family has many immigrants.  I am the son of an immigrant.   I am hurt by the hatred and absurd exaggerations on immigration.   Trump uses foreign aid as if it was a weapon to coerce other countries in agreeing to his policies.   He  sees a competitive and hostile world.

Immigrants are minorities.  I see a lot of Trump in Bolsonaro, to the indigenous people of the Amazon.  Actually Bolsonaro is worse.  Per the Guardian (see link below):

Bolsonaro’s environment policies are tied to racist attitudes toward minorities and Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In a speech last year, he said: “Minorities have to bend down to the majority … The minorities [should] either adapt or simply vanish.”

Expressing a view common to military circles, he has claimed, without evidence, that indigenous land rights are part of a western plot to create separatist Amazonian states supported by the UN.

“Sooner or later, we will have dozens of countries inside [Brazil]. We won’t have any interference in these countries, the first world will exploit the Indians, and nothing will be left for us,” he said last year.

Bolsonaro has promised to open indigenous lands to mining and other economic activities. About 13% of Brazil’s territory is recognised indigenous lands, most of them in the Amazon. They are a major barrier to protect the forest, only 2% of rainforest deforestation has occurred inside indigenous territory.

My advice is that Brazilian should not take this radical move away from international cooperation.  It will take a very long time to recover our international bonds once Trump is gone.    Fernando Haddad may not be perfect but he is a far better choice than Bolsonaro.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

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.