Keep an Eye on the News, Summer 2018

The news is coming fast and furious right now, probably because of the coming midterms and there are so many interesting stories that I will not be able to write in depth about each one of them while they are still relevant. So here are a few things you might want to keep an eye on.

21contractors-01-jumbo

Immigration:

We still have to watch what will happen to those children we have stolen, the ones we now don’t have enough information to give back to their parents. Will we find a way to reunite these families. These children have disappeared into the foster care system or into centers run by charitable organizations who have been taking care of immigrant children for some time now. There is also a private business called MVM which is being paid $750/day for each child in their program.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/intelligence-contractor-makes-millions-flying-immigrant-kids-to-shelters

https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2016/09/15/nearly-500-immigrant-children-call-fort-bliss-home-temporarily/

We also have to keep an eye on Congress in the matter of immigration. Trump is very angry at Democrats and is saying some pretty terrible things about them, such as calling them child traffickers because they will not vote for the hardline Goodlatte immigration bill favored by Trump and the extremists on the right-wing in the House – The Freedom Caucus. Goodlatte version 1 failed to pass the US House vote – today, 6/19/2018. Is there a bill that can pass and what will it mandate at our southern border?

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/393460-hardline-immigration-bill-fails-in-the-house/

Leaving Our Allies

leaving un human rights Getty images

Human Rights Council of UN – We left the Council.

“After more than a year of complaints and warnings — some subtle and others a little less so — the Trump administration has announced that the United States is withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced the decision in a joint statement Tuesday.”

“’I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from human rights commitments,” Haley told the media. “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.’”

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621435225/u-s-announces-its-withdrawal-from-u-n-s-human-rights-council

Are you feeling the isolation yet?

China and Plastics

plastic waste big nyt.com

China will no longer collect the world’s plastics.

“An estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced by 2030 as a result of China’s recent ban on the import of most plastic waste, according to new research.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/21/china-ban-plastic-waste-recycling/721879002/

Climate Change and Immigration:

draught in Honduras, etc big

Apparently climate change is making matters worse in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which may be a partial explanation for the tensions and gang activities in those nations and in the number of immigrants we are seeing. The Northern Triangle, the dry corridor, consisting of these three nations, has been experiencing long draughts and then long periods of torrential rains which has caused crops to fail and raised prices on food and made choices scarcer.

“One factor causing migrants to risk everything—even potentially losing their children—to travel through the heat of summer in the dangerous desert and towards the barbed wire fences and tent cities springing up just south of the United States border: climate change.

Many of the migrants being detained here now hail from what’s referred variously as the Dry Corridor or the Northern Triangle, which consists of the three countries immediately south of Mexico: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/climate-change-sparked-the-border-migration-crisis

Reorganizing Government

Mick Mulvaney nyt big

There is plan afoot to combine some government departments to help make government smaller, supposedly. Mick Mulvaney would like to combine the Departments of Education and Labor. (Do we see how this might lead to an emphasis on vocational training, over a more college bound approach to education, in order to remake the goals students will tend to pursue after leaving high school.) This reorganization includes changes in our social safety net. Read all about it.

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/393479-white-house-releases-sweeping-proposal-to-reorganize-government/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/congress/white-house-to-propose-merging-education-labor/2018/06/21/8f5e8e54-7561-11e8-bda1-18e53a448a14_story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/politics/trump-welfare-department-reorganization.html

Will An Authoritarian Leader Be Unseated

Muharrem Ince big Turkey

Erdogan is the leader of Turkey and, if you have been paying attention, he has grown more and more authoritarian in his approach to governing Turkey. There was a coup, which many think Erdogan may have engineered. When Erdogan ended the coup he got to do some pretty brutal purging.

On June 24ththere is an election in Turkey. Mr. Ince is running against Erdogan and he is attracting crowds, surprisingly. The world is kind of waiting with some hope that Ince can unseat Erdogan on June 24th. That’s pretty close to now. Keep an ear bent.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/opinion/ince-erdogan-turkey-election.html

 

In Other News

Behind all the trending news of the week, the news that is so interesting and full of implications about the Trump White House (Hope Hicks is leaving, Jared has no security clearance, Trump v Congress and the NRA on guns, shades of the DACA summit) news which we love to speculate about – and behind the news today of the tariffs on steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) –  there is plenty of other news about subjects I have been following that gets little coverage on television. Some great articles have been written recently on these topics.

First topic: Unions

The decision in front of the Supreme Court is about something called an agency fee which allows unions to charge fees in lieu of dues to non-members of the union (because  non-members also benefit from the wins unions get on behalf of employees). In this case the unions we are talking about are public employees unions, although there would be implications for all unions.

The opponents of the unions, mostly Conservatives, right-wingers, the Koch brothers, contend that they favor “right to work” laws, laws which get rid of the possibility of charging an agency fee to non-members. Right to work laws hurt unions and, in the long run, employees by robbing the unions of power, of funding, and of leverage. Right to work laws sound like they favor employees but they actually favor employers. This matter was argued in front of the Supreme Court on Monday, 2/26/2018.

An interesting article in The New York Times describes the matter as more heated than one would think. The lawyer presenting the case for the unions is a former colleague and friend of Neil Gorsuch, a member of the same law firm. That suggests some black-robed drama right there as they are believed to be on opposite sides in this case.

The Conservative Supremes accused unions of bringing cities to the brink of bankruptcy to which the unions responded that this is not the point of the case. But evidence of the Freedom Foundation and other right wing groups meddling in the business of the court suggests that the fix is in. If this doesn’t highlight the partisan nature of this Supreme Court then you are clearly blinded by you own political (right wing) bubble.

“Confronted with such briefs and articles, some judges might pull back and think twice about overturning a 40-year-old precedent for reasons so obviously grounded in policy rather than law. But if the effort was to shame the five justices who now hold the upper hand, I think it most likely backfired. The voice that came through to me was one that said: “Oh, yeah? Save your breath. We’ve got the votes and — in case you’ve forgotten — life tenure besides.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/opinion/supreme-court-labor-unions.html

Second Topic: Sinclair Broadcasting – Conservative creep

Sinclair Communications/Broadcasting is still pursuing its merger with Tribune Media even though this puts them over the current limit of  ownership as set by the FCC.

The FCC admits that they are custom-building their policy for Sinclair as we are told in this article from The Daily Beast.

http://thebea.st/2CIv4LZ

But Variety calls out Sinclair’s proposed scam of selling off the media outlets which put it over the FCC limit but signing management agreements with those same outlets so as to maintain control over those markets. If the FCC is forced to stick to existing rules Sinclair has strategies they hope will make their merger happen anyway.

http://variety.com/2018/politics/news/newsmax-sinclair-broadcast-group-fcc-1202713846/

“Newsmax, the conservative news outlet, says Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plans for station sales are a “sham” to gain FCC approval for its proposed   acquisition of Tribune Media.”

Third Topic : Changes at the New York Times

The New York Times has made editorial changes which have created “an op-ed crisis.” NYT was reliably left-leaning and moderate – but after the 2016 election the op-ed section has turned more activist, as have most readers on the left. James Bennet seems to be unhappy with that slant and is trying to introduce “balance”, which means more right wing input, and he is also moving to give new authors coverage, but the new authors he is choosing do not please the traditional NYT reader. The right wing, which has its own 24/7 television channel and plenty of talk radio coverage has been whining about unfair coverage by mainstream media. It is my contention that if the right said anything that could be mistaken for good policy then they would not have to whine and tattle. I am thinking about switching my subscription to the Washington Post.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/02/new-york-times-op-ed-crisis-james-bennet

Fourth Topic: Deportation

ICE and the mayor of Oakland, California are involved in a conflict over deportations because she keeps warning residents about upcoming deportations.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-oakland-mayor-ice-20180228-story.html

150 to be deported in California is a story reported in the UK press.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5444129/ICE-arrests-150-illegal-immigrants-California.html

From Syracuse, NY, another sanctuary city, we have more news about deportation.

http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2018/02/once_tolerated_now_targeted_illegal_immigrants_in_cny_caught_in_crackdown.html

This article asks what happens to family members left behind after deportations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/28/opinion/american-families-immigrants-deportation.html

Fifth Topic: New Study on Segregation (and it is not good news)

A new study shows that segregation and inequality are worse, and makes the argument that these issues will not be solved by privatization. This article includes excellent graphs and charts.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

Sixth Topic: Climate Change

The New York Times adds to its Climate Change series with another article headed by a spectacular video showing permanent changes on the Louisiana Delta caused by rising seas.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/24/us/jean-lafitte-floodwaters.html

Seventh Topic: Conspiracy Theories (How they go mainstream)

https://www.salon.com/2018/03/01/how-right-wing-conspiracy-theories-grow-mainstream-pundits-give-them-power/

 

I could go on but I won’t. Clearly there are stories about the White House and then there are the other news stories that describe the aftereffects of what goes on in the White House and Congress. Keeping an eye on how Conservative policies are working is a must if we someday hope to overturn these policies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Earth Day, 2017

 

Sea Sick

This article was originally posted on 5/21/2015 after an oil pipe leak onto a beach in Santa Barbara, California but I think it is quite appropriate for Earth Day in 2017. This article can also be found in my book, Environmental Diary, The Obama Years with a link at http://notabene718.com/

We sort of view our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes as a giant purification system. We can empty any dirty old thing in there and it will come out clean. But we have been fooling ourselves with this science of wishful thinking. When our population was smaller and the waste we emptied into our water was mainly organic, this faux water science sort of worked. But with 7 billion plus people on the planet even organic wastes are taxing our water systems, fresh and salty.

When we were at the peak of the Industrial Age we put heavy toxic chemicals and more complex organics like oil into our water systems routinely. This was done so slyly that we can conclude that businesses were aware of both the true science of their acts and of the moral quicksand they were standing on, but this was the standard procedure in industry at that time and many sins were hidden under our waters.

I’m sure local government leaders and other government people on up the chain were at least peripherally aware of what businesses were doing but industry was so important to an area’s economic health that secrets were kept. When our factories left us in The Great Industrial Migration, which began in the 80’s and 90’s and is still going on, these same governments suddenly found themselves stuck with the toxic waste left behind in local water systems (and in the earth too, in many cases). In some cases local governments were able to hold a business’ feet to the fire until they mounted some kind of clean up.

I have seen this whole dynamic play out in my own town which has had the honor of being host to Onondaga Lake, the dirtiest lake in America. Between Allied Chemical and Honeywell dumping heavy metals and other toxins into this small and scenic urban lake and the sewage that overflowed the city water treatment plant whenever it rained, our beloved lake practically glowed in the dark. We could no longer fish or swim in it and if you were boating you shared tales of what would happen to you if you fell in.

There are reasons our planet’s surface is three-quarters water. Without a water cycle that repeats predictably life could not exist on our planet. We are 90% water. We only survive a short time without water to drink. Water is life. Water supports marine life which we enjoy eating but which could prove essential to life if we ever do descend into survivalist mode. Primitive man treasured fish because it added variety to their diet and healthy Omega-3’s, which they did not have a name for, but which they instinctively knew to be good for them. Even if you don’t eat seafood, I’m sure derivatives are in many products you do use.

Now we watch in horror as the petroleum industry expects us to believe that the earth’s water system, including the wildlife in it, can absorb oil spill after oil spill and that the negative effects will be purely temporary. But that queasy feeling we get each time a new oil spill sullies another pristine spot is our inner primitive survivalist telling us that we don’t believe a single disclaimer from these planet-trashers.

Honeywell may be able to help clean up my community’s small lake, but the oil companies cannot clean our oceans. There will be a tipping point eventually when the seas, river, lakes, oceans cannot take the toxic onslaught anymore. I hope we don’t wait that long. I applaud efforts to find new energy sources, but we need safeguards for oil drilling and oil delivery that really work and we need them now. (Hint, hint; oil people, stop operating on the cheap.)

Without clean water we will die, rich or poor, we will die.

Here’s a few links to lists of oil spills:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills

http://www.itopf.com/knowledge-resources/data-statistics/statistics/

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001451.html#ixzz3amWW16pK/

Of course it is no longer 5/21/2015 and the list of spills is much longer as we get ready for Science March this weekend 4/22/17 and the Climate Change March next weekend 4/29/17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Diary: The Obama Years by N. L. Brisson

While this may not be an auspicious day for a book that talks about earth’s environmental issues, as of today my book is available on Amazon.com- Environmental Diary: The Obama Years by N. L. Brisson.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692807004/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

 

environmental-diary-book-cover

Running Out of Time

outoftime

We do not have time to legislate morality and it is not even appropriate to do so in America. We have issues of life and death to consider like how to reverse climate change on our planet, how to get off our planet if it becomes impossible to survive here. We need to decide what we will do if the air becomes un-breathe-able, if the water becomes undrinkable.

 

We don’t need to go back over things that have already been decided. We don’t need to rethink birth control, or a woman’s right to make decisions about her life and body including being able to have an abortion if she so chooses. Deciding exactly when life begins is irrelevant in these circumstances where the population of earth is well over 7 billion.

 

We need to plan for how we will feed the world’s people. We need to enlist everyone’s help make some tough decisions about our survival as a species.

 

We don’t have time to revisit whether or not the US will become a religious nation. It was already decided by our forefathers. We keep our government and our religion separate because our nation believes in freedom of religion and there are not different ways to parse this.

 

We do not have time for a new civil war over nonsense like whether our government will be large or small, whether it will be all white, all male or all diversified as to gender and race. Diversity is here and we don’t have time to reverse it. That cannot be a priority.

 

We don’t have time to worry about people’s sexual orientation. It doesn’t really matter.

 

We don’t have time for sectarian violence and all the ideological/religious chaos around the world. It is time to pretend that aliens have attacked us and we must unite to repel them. Of course, so far there are not any aliens, but nevertheless the planet is under attack and being destroyed. The reports about what we are doing to the earth are never good these days.

 

We don’t have time for climate deniers and Creationists. If they have their way we will lose the freedom we need to adopt laws that will help us meet the need of humans without destroying the home planet we are unable to leave.

 

We do not have time to fight about whether we should buck up the poor or let them die off if they can’t take care of their own needs. Perhaps someone from those humans at the bottom of the economy may offer valuable ideas that will help us all. We cannot afford the instability that will ensue if we no longer support our poorest citizens. We need to concentrate on human survival on earth. We need to expand our space program drastically so that, if we can’t save the planet, we can send some or all humans to a new planet to insure survival of the species.

 

We do not have time to attack our schools and make war on education. We can’t un-eat that apple from Eden, reverse that original sin. Ignorance will not bring back our innocence. It can’t be considered acceptable that keeping people uneducated will create a more malleable underclass. Who, except modern Republicans, thinks like that?

 

Maybe I’ve gone off the deep end and things are not nearly as dire as they seem to me, but it can’t hurt to try to create a better future through conservation, better organization, cooperation and thinking way outside the box. Perhaps there is so much distraction, escapism, and division all around the world because somewhere, at our core, we recognize that we are living in an age that represents a turning point, a pivot. We will either pivot back to a more primitive, less populated, and simpler life (if this is even possible given the state of our natural resources) or that pivot will deposit us in the future. Right now that primitive thing looks more likely.

 

I think a representative world body with some clout that spent its time brainstorming and collecting ideas, conducting research, and coordinating a space program and even an implementation of that much maligned Agenda 21 are starting to look like a pretty good way to start.

 

This could be our World War III, a cause larger than any one of us that brings us all together.

 

Desert Dwellers and Polar Ice Caps

How do we get desert dwellers to care that the polar ice caps are melting. We can’t even get Republicans who can see what is happening in Norfolk and Miami to pay attention. When you live in a dry, hot part of the world and you are bent on conquest or survival it is difficult to remember that everything is interconnected, even if some of your best oil wells are located near coastlines. How do we get a terrorist caught up in bringing back the 14th century to look over his shoulder and see the tsunami in his future?
Republicans, if they entertain the notion of climate change at all, refuse to accept that it is caused by human activities. We know why they do this; investments and power structures. If we find alternatives to fossil fuels they fear that their bank accounts will dwindle. They cannot accept that the age of fossil fuels, and, in fact, the Industrial Age is ending. They are starving poorer Americans, hoarding all the money on purpose. Of course they enjoy being rich, but you can only buy so many homes and yachts. Their real aim is to recreate 1890’s America when there were no worker’s rights, no unions, no minimum wage requirements, and no regulations on businesses.
You cannot get factories back to America if workers expect to get paid thirty or forty dollars an hour. You have to get them down around two dollars an hour. No wonder the GOP hates the movement for a $15 minimum wage. If you add addiction into the no-minimum-wage mix, we get to the bottom even faster. Furthermore if you think that humans have played no role in climate change then you can claim that, ergo, there is nothing humans can do to stop such changes and you can carry on blithely with your plan for a fossil-fuel-based master/serf economy. Take all the people’s toys away and make them climb that ladder of opportunity all over again – an Industrial Age do-over.
I know there are those who will say that we have to still have factories, we have to still produce things and, of course, we always will, but it does not take hundreds of workers to run a modern factory. The application of robotics is setting people free of work and creating new problems because then we have no alternative productive role to offer them.
Some may decide to be academics, but not everyone can or will choose that route. We really need to work on the roles societies will provide for people who are not needed to do work, or we need to find work they will feel good about doing. The American work ethic works against this. Rich folks get all huffy about people who don’t have a reason to or skill set for work. In America those who work labor for longer hours with shorter vacations than almost any other developed nation. There has to be a better goal for Americans who are not wealthy than working for the Future Taskmasters of America. I have heard people trying to start a back to the farm movement but farming was not as romantic a lifestyle in reality as it is in memory. Just read One Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley.
How do we get rich people – Capitalist “pigs” as we used to call them – on board to prepare Earth for the 9 billion people who will live on it by 2050? Without their help, with their very active opposition, it is a push-pull operation and basically a wash. Progress is in baby steps when we need giant ones. How do we get megalomaniacs intent on power to tune into anything except their own selfish drive for fame, or historical relevance, or whatever when they may just be, at base, mad men. Without China, without Russia, without the Middle East or Africa who is left to work on this truly existential threat – in the sense of a threat to human survival?
Are humans worth fighting to save or should we just let extinction happen to a species that has proven to be a bit too rapacious to coexist peacefully anywhere. And as for the idea that freedom alone should be attractive to people in every nation, I do not think that we are setting a very good example for the ways in which freedom makes life wonderful. In fact sometimes our notion of freedom makes it impossible to impose an organizational global design that might help us meet future needs.
There are no walls in the ocean (well, except by the Netherlands) so one body of water hits every nation with a coast line. Bodies of water within nations such as rivers and lakes will eventually rise also. We don’t need more salt water. The world will need a lot of fresh water for those 9 billion people. Water levels are just one outcome of polar melting. It is easy to foresee fear and anger growing as changes occur to geography and crowded coastal cities. It is easy to foresee tempers on edge and fights breaking out. Unless we are proactive and devise strategies to deal with negative human interactions, apocalyptic scenes may be as common in the near future as natural disasters are becoming in the present.
Getting people, made ever suspicious of conspiracy by those who oppose change, worried about losing freedom or losing comfort, to create any sort of “matrix” of leadership that can ameliorate chaos seems almost impossible to imagine. Our war/peace dynamic may be so hard-wired into us that we will continue to fight our way right through climate change and beyond (if there is a beyond). We surely need some heroes and heroines who disregard the worst in humanity to save the best in humanity if we are to survive the population explosion and simultaneous climate change. If thinking about these things does not convince people that war is an obsolete and primitive construct then I don’t know what will.

However the militants will not stop their crusades for some probably unreachable ideal in order to give space to find a solution to issues of climate crisis. It is the human condition to strive for a cultural equality or religious purity or manifest destiny that will, most likely, never exist. So actually the question becomes one of finding a way to keep the weaponized bickering at bay while also creating a new schema for a crowded planet that is at an environmental tipping point. I am afraid that I doubt that this will ever happen.Here’s Jimmy Kimmel on the subject.

By Nancy Brisson