Monday, December 31, 2018

EPA Bows to Coal Industry, Moves to Weaken Mercury & Air Toxics Standards

More environmental evil from Trump and the GOP:
In its latest attack on clean air protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its new proposal to weaken the Obama-era Mercury & Air Toxics Standards (MATS), putting public health at risk from more than 80 dangerous pollutants, some of which are known to cause brain damage in children. 
"This is an unconscionable rollback to serve the coal industry at the expense of all Americans, especially our children," said John Walke, director of NRDC's Clean Air program. "And it says EPA's just fine with allowing brain poisons mercury and lead and toxic carcinogens to fill our skies." 
The standards were the first national limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants that release toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead and acid gases into the air. Among those, mercury is especially toxic, especially for pregnant women and their babies. 
The stakes are high: Each year, the standards prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, 13,000 asthma attacks and nearly 5,000 heart attacks. In fact, MATS delivers up to $90 billion in health benefits. Nearly everyone supports the standards—including utilities that have already invested $18 billion for pollution-control equipment and are complying with the rules at nearly every coal- and oil-burning power plant in the country. Even Congress is showing bipartisan opposition to a rollback. 
The standards' few opponents include coal and industry executives. In particular, coal tycoon Bob Murray, the head of Murray Energy, has long been pushing for a rollback—going so far as to include it in a wish list to the Trump administration soon after inauguration. Murray has financial ties to the Trump campaign and is a former client of the EPA's acting head Andrew Wheeler.

Killing Butterflies with the Stupid Wall

Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall 
The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump's border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday. "It's going to cut right through here," Center Director Marianna Wright told The Guardian as she indicated where the wall's construction would cut off the center's access to its own land in the Rio Grande Valley at a point 1.2 miles from the border. Wright said the wall threatened to end the center entirely and harm the butterflies and other species like the Texas tortoise, Texas indigo snake and Texas horned lizard that also find refuge on its land.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Trump's Insane, No Good, Ridiculous, Self-Centered, Obnoxious, Partisan, Idiotic Thanksgiving

PALM BEACH, Fla. —President Trump’s Thanksgiving began, as his days often do, with an all-caps tweet: “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!”
Minutes later, he tweeted of potential “bedlam, chaos, injury and death,” a harbinger of what would be a frenetic Thanksgiving morning.
Over the span of a few hours, the president would mix the traditional pablum of Thanksgiving tidings with renouncing the findings of his Central Intelligence Agency, threatening Mexico, criticizing court decisions, attacking Hillary Clinton over her emails, misstating facts about the economy, floating a shutdown of the government — and per usual, jousting with the news media.
Asked what he was most thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day — a question that for commanders in chief usually prompts praise of service members in harm’s way — Trump delivered a singularly Trumpian answer. “I made a tremendous difference in our country,” he said, citing himself.
The whole article is worth a read as a clear window into this insane clown president.

Trump: 'I can't imagine anybody else' other than myself for Time Person of the Year

Trump politicizes Thanksgiving call with troops to attack migrants, judges

The Massive Criminal and Immoral Monstrosity That Is Trump

Digby again:
One of Trump's longstanding desires, going all the way back to the 2016 campaign, was to see his opponent Hillary Clinton imprisoned. His crowds still gleefully chant "Lock her up!" which likely has led Trump to believe that prosecuting Clinton (for something) would be a very popular decision. I've been sure that he was serious about that for some time, largely because he keeps saying it. Contra Leonard Leo, he has actually succeeded in having the DOJ take action.

Recall that under pressure from Trump, Fox News and GOP henchmen in the House, Sessions assigned a Trump-friendly U.S. attorney in Utah to investigate Clinton's alleged Russia connection, a bogus charge on which she'd already been investigated and cleared. None other than the reformed maverick and born-again Trumper, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who will take the gavel as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, has said he is eager to investigate Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday, the New York Times validated my assumptions about Trump's seriousness. The paper reported that former White House counsel Don McGahn had to talk Trump out of ordering the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton and former FBI director James Comey, explaining that it could lead to his impeachment for abuse of power. The Times report isn't specific about when this happened, only saying it was last spring. But that's also when Sessions assigned the imaginary Clinton case to the Utah U.S. attorney's office, so it's likely this was all happening at the same time. (Sessions said at the time that this would obviate the need for a special counsel, for which Fox and the House henchmen had been agitating.)

Today, McGahn and Sessions are gone. FBI director Christopher Wray, Comey's successor, has not been mentioned as one of the senior Trump appointees on the chopping block. But the Times reports that Trump is unhappy with Wray because he's "weak" for failing to go after Clinton, so who knows? The article says Trump frequently brings up the notion of prosecuting Clinton, suggesting he hasn't given up on it.

If that grotesque illustration of Trump's authoritarian instincts wasn't bad enough, I'm afraid Tuesday brought an even worse example. The world has been waiting for our government to offer some kind of official conclusion about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month. It got one in the form of a White House statement written as if it had originally been a series of presidential tweets, replete with exclamation points.

Basically, the president declared that despite the high confidence of his own intelligence community, we can never know for sure if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's murder. Even if he did, it doesn't matter, because he also promised to buy a lot of weapons from the U.S. and that's what really matters. In other words, the world's most powerful superpower can be bought off. (The arms sales Trump endlessly references are only theoretical so far -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says they're still being "negotiated.")

Autocrats and dictators must be very relieved to know that all they have to do is hand over the envelope and the American capo di tutti capi will look the other way when you "take care of business" -- if you know what I mean.

Axios reported last week that Trump had never really cared whether or not the crown prince had ordered this grotesque assassination because "other countries do bad things too." This is consistent with his general amoral attitude toward world affairs. He consistently attacks the leaders of Western democracies for failing to pay proper tribute and makes excuses for tyrants and dictators. As the president wrote in his tweet-style official statement, "the world is a very dangerous place!" Apparently this means we can't even afford to pay lip service to such niceties as international law or common human decency; certainly not when there's money on the table.

Just in case everyone didn't get the message, Trump added that "some say" Khashoggi was an "enemy of the state," echoing his own frequent complaints about the press here at home. (Can you hear me, Jim Acosta?)

The Awful Trump Statement on Saudi Arabia

Digby:
Trump just told the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia that he has a free hand to murder anyone he chooses. Because "America First!" means, all Americans care about is money and if other governments want to go around the world assassinating people we don't give a damn as long as they pay tribute to Donald Trump.

Apparently, he thinks that makes us "safe." I'm sure it's going to work out just swimmingly for all of us to be the most loathed and despised, immoral, super-power in world history.

Here's the embarrassing, immoral, idiotically exclamation point-laden statement:

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

America First!

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction — and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels — so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Oh, by the way, speaking of governments going around the world assassinating their enemies whenever and wherever they choose, this is happening too:

An international firestorm erupted over the possibility that a Russian official could become the new president of global police agency Interpol, as Moscow denounced a demand by U.S. senators that the Trump administration block the candidacy of a Kremlin-backed nominee.

Interpol confirmed Tuesday that Maj. Gen. Alexander Prokopchuk a veteran Russian Interior Ministry official, had been nominated for president, amid allegations that Moscow has used the international police agency to go after political foes.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Chris Coons (D. Del.), issued a joint statement Monday, accusing Russia of routinely abusing Interpol “for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents and journalists.”

Electing Mr. Prokopchuk as president, would be “akin to putting a fox in charge of a henhouse,” the senators said in the statement.

The Kremlin was quick to fire back, charging that the senators’ intervention was tantamount to “a kind of election interference, the election held by this international organization,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Interpol’s former president, Meng Hongwei, resigned in October after Chinese authorities arrested him on charges of alleged corruption.

Interpol’s general assembly will vote for the new president in Dubai on Wednesday. Kim Jong-yang, currently acting president, is also a nominee for the presidential post.

Mr. Prokopchuk has headed Interpol’s National Central Bureau for Russia since 2011 and has also served as the agency’s vice president since 2016.

Kremlin opponents, human rights activists and several Western officials have accused Moscow of exploiting Interpol’s international arrest-warrant system, called red notices, to prevent its opponents from traveling, freeze their bank accounts and try to force their extradition to Russia. 

Pompeo said this morning that the US is endorsing Kim, but you know, whatevs. And anyway, can we really ever know if President Putin is routinely having his critics murdered at home and all over the world? I think not. So he might as well have the apparatus of the international police agency at his fingertips.

This whole thing is sick. Pompeo repeated Trump's claim that it's a "mean, nasty world" out there (it's full of dangerous foreigners!) so there's no point in having any kind of standards, laws, norms or anything else to try to keep the whole thing from blowing up.

Let's just get as much money as we can before the world explodes.  We might all die but we'll be rich and what more can you hope for, amirite?

Friday, November 23, 2018

Michael Cohen Says Trump Repeatedly Used Racist Language Before His Presidency

Not shocking but needs to be documented:
Cohen recalled a discussion at Trump Tower, following the then-candidate’s return from a campaign rally during the 2016 election cycle. Cohen had watched the rally on TV and noticed that the crowd was largely Caucasian. He offered this observation to his boss. “I told Trump that the rally looked vanilla on television. Trump responded, ‘That’s because black people are too stupid to vote for me.’” (The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
This conversation, he noted, was reminiscent of an exchange that the two men had engaged in years earlier, after Nelson Mandela’s death. “[Trump] said to me, ‘Name one country run by a black person that’s not a shithole,’ and then he added, ‘Name one city,’” Cohen recalled, a statement that echoed the president’s alleged comments about African nations earlier this year. (White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied those comments at the time. She added that “no one here is going to pretend like the president is always politically correct—he isn’t.” She subsequently noted that it was “one of the reasons the American people love him.”)
Cohen also recounted a conversation he had with Trump in the late 2000s, while they were traveling to Chicago for a Trump International Hotel board meeting. “We were going from the airport to the hotel, and we drove through what looked like a rougher neighborhood. Trump made a comment to me, saying that only the blacks could live like this.” After the first few seasons of The Apprentice, Cohen recalled how he and Trump were discussing the reality show and past season winners. The conversation wended its way back to the show’s first season, which ended in a head-to-head between two contestants, Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson. “Trump was explaining his back-and-forth about not picking Jackson,” an African-American investment manager who had graduated from Harvard Business School. “He said, ‘There’s no way I can let this black f-g win.’” (Jackson told me that he had heard that the president made such a comment. “

Trump Exhibiting "Bunker Behavior" as Democrats Pick Up Biggest House of Representative Gains Since After Watergate

Everything about his behavior since the midterms suggests that even he has figured this out. It has belatedly dawned on him that (a) he lost the election he thought he won; (b) the Robert Mueller investigation has moved faster than his efforts to thwart it; (c) any of his legislative fantasies, notably the funding of his border wall, are doomed; and (d) and his pouting in Paris elevated his international image as a buffoon to a whole new level of notoriety.
That all this makes Trump panic at some gut level is visible not merely in his widely reported spells of rage and bitterness and in his increasingly empty official schedule. He is also stepping up his already impressive efforts to discredit and destroy those democratic institutions that might prevent him from escaping criminal jeopardy. And so he has returned to ridiculing the very lifeblood of America, the electoral process, by declaring elections that don’t go his way a fraud; he has escalated his assault on a free press by barring a CNN reporter and trying to frame him as a fellow misogynistic bully with a deceptively edited video; and, last but not least, he has appointed an acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who has ridiculed the judicial system, been on the board of a fly-by-night company that practiced Trump University–style consumer frauds, and publicly attacked the Mueller probe in Trump’s own language.
This is bunker behavior. Only a desperate man would try to derail Mueller by installing this transparent reprobate at the Department of Justice. Even more revealing is how Trump has become more and more unhinged since making his Whitaker move. The growing fury, most manifest in his latest anti-Mueller tweetstorm this week, suggests that he already realizes that the ploy has backfired. It seems to be finally sinking in, perhaps under the frantic tutelage of his lawyers, that his fate and the fates of his son and son-in-law, among others in his immediate orbit, are tied to the fates of Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and all the other president’s men whose comprehensive narrative Mueller is bound to tell America no matter what Trump and his stooge at Justice do to try to foil or decapitate him.

The end of Trump (cannot come too soon):
How can we be so certain that Trump’s political days are numbered? First, now we can see more clearly that the blue tide kept rising as many of the closest races, especially for the House, flipped to the Democrats as the final votes were counted. Democrats are now set to gain nearly 40 seats in the House — their biggest gain in decades. Second, we have the smart analysis this past weekend from Democratic pollster Stanley B. Greenberg that the shift away from Trump in 2018 was more profound than many initially believed. In fact, Greenberg makes a strong case that the election was “transformative” with Trump losing support, not only with suburban, college-educated women, but all women. And Democrats gained ground in other areas, too, including working-class men and in rural areas.
The likelihood that Democrats will maintain these gains though the 2020 election is very promising. Unlike many incumbent presidents who have retooled their approach in the face of stinging midterm rebukes, Trump has signaled he’s sticking with his risky behavior. The attack tweets, the latest puerile joke about a congressman’s name and indefensible behaviors, such as believing a foreign power instead of the CIA about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, will continue. Trump will not pass from our politics suddenly from a single dramatic cause, but rather from the accumulation of self-inflicted wounds. It has taken much longer and done more damage than many hoped, but the end of Trump is finally in sight.

Trump of course continues to act like the world's biggest crook and asshole (etc, etc, etc), and it's just hard to imagine a president who so widely loathed as Trump, but he is in fact reviled by over half the country, and for good reason.

I mean, how can anyone so fucking stupid and delusional still be president?
He complained at length that a new Navy ship was using electromagnetic catapults to propel planes off ships. He said steam was better and was incredulous the military would consider otherwise. “Would you go with steam or would you go with electromagnetic? Because steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic, unfortunately, you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly,” he asked. “You have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants that we have here, as well. But we’re doing that very well. I would go, sir, with electromagnetic,” the officer responded.
Trump repeatedly asked military commanders what they were seeing in their regions, a conversation not usually held on a televised broadcast. He asked if those serving in Afghanistan were enjoying themselves. (Later, he demurred when asked by reporters whether he would pull troops out of the country.)
He bragged during part of the conversation about sending troops to the Mexico border, a mission that is controversial and seen by many as a waste of time. He expressed no second-guessing about the constitutionality of signing an order giving soldiers the right to use lethal force at the border, although many in his government harbor such concerns.