Climate Change Wisdom from Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has extolled the benefits of a warming planet:

“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as twenty days.”

Last week Pompeo shared his climate knowledge with the Washington Times — not to be confused with the Washington Post — newspaper:

“If waters rise — I was just in the Netherlands, all below sea level, right? Living a wonderful, thriving economic situation.”

Unfortunately what works for Netherlands won’t work for the state of Florida:

“Most of the state—consists of limestone that was laid down over the millions of years Florida sat at the bottom of a shallow sea. The limestone is filled with holes, and the holes are, for the most part, filled with water.”
“You can’t build levees on the coast and stop the water. The water would just come underground.”

(Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker):

No big deal; the climate “always changes,” and so “societies reorganize, we move to different places, we develop technology and innovation.”

Like they’re doing in Guatemala:

“Guatemala is consistently listed among the world’s 10 most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change. Increasingly erratic climate patterns have produced year after year of failed harvests and dwindling work opportunities across the country, forcing more and more people to consider migration in a last-ditch effort to escape skyrocketing levels of food insecurity and poverty.”

(Gena Steffens in the National Geographic)

As we know, Pompeo and his boss are doing everything they can to assist Guatemalan refugees unable to sustain themselves in their home country.

And say good-bye to Louisiana.

Impeachment Primer

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” – Article 2, Section 4
Step one: the House of Representatives by simple majority passes Articles of Impeachment, laying out the alleged offenses of the impeached officeholder. Step two: the trial is held in the Senate. In the case of the president, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides, otherwise the President of the Senate aka the Vice-President. (The Constitution does not specify; inferring it would be the usual presiding officer.) A two-thirds majority is required to convict and remove from office. Conviction by the Senate does not disallow criminal prosecution.

Continue reading “Impeachment Primer”

Nothing to Do with Changing Climate?

A wet spring has forecasters predicting a less-than-normal fire season in New England. Same in Colorado; they’re hoping the heavy winter snowpack will slow wildfires this summer. The outlook for the West Coast, which also had a wet spring and record snowpack, is not so optimistic. The National Interagency Fire Center issued its report which said precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and California resulted a heavy crop of grasses and other vegetation that will likely be dried out by summer, providing fuel for wildfires.

On cue, a week after the report was released, a wildfire in Central Oregon destroyed a home in La Pine and damaged another. Oh, and 145,000 acres are burning right now in eastern Russia.

Although the stable genius is on record that climate change is a hoax, state government authorities, including Colorado, are planning and budgeting for longer and more severe fire seasons as the new normal.
Meanwhile, in Santa Rosa California, where more than 5,000 homes burned in 2017, rebuilding is underway. The certainty of another fire is not stopping property owners from rebuilding their McMansions on the hills of Fountaingrove overlooking the city. (A fire of almost the exact same dimensions burned the area in 1964, before any homes were there.)

Our esteemed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo won’t use the words “climate change,” but he recently did state that melting Arctic ice was a good thing: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade, potentially slashing the time it takes for ships to travel between Asia and the West by 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama Canals.” He also didn’t mention how the changing climate has made subsistence farming near-to-impossible in Guatemala, resulting in the caravans of people headed our way.

Perhaps less devastating, unless you’re a third-generation family farmer or not a fan of high-fructose corn syrup, is the declining maple syrup production, a result of shorter winters.

Maybe you’re not convinced that there is little or no hope for our progeny. Click here for what long-time environmental writers Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben have to say.

How Mar-a-Lago Staves Off Bankruptcy

The Trump Organization multiple times has made use of a time-honored business strategy: bleed the business for personal enrichment and then stiff the investors, contractors, suppliers and any other entity owed money by employing bankruptcy proceedings. Although the Organization has had multiple business failures – Airlines, University, Steaks, to name only a few – bankruptcy seems to be the preferred tactic for dying entertainment businesses. The Plaza Hotel and multiple casino operations have ended in bankruptcy courts.

Your tax dollars at work.

Other hospitality properties manage to appear solvent: the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC (that caused many of us to learn what the “emoluments clause” in the Constitution is) and the Westchester Golf Club (where they are shocked, shocked! at accusations that undocumented employees were forced to work off the clock).

ProPublica recently reported on a paid-by-taxpayers $1,000 charge at the the soon-to-be literally underwater Mar-a-Lago resort, a tiny example of the business strategy keeping the operation metaphorically afloat. $1,000? No big deal; it’s a nearly insignificant amount. But it illustrates the overall symbiosis between government expenditures and the personal enrichment of the current occupant of the White House.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mar-a-Lago in April 2017 for a two-day summit. Later in the evening after the lavish state dinner, a group, including Steve Bannon who says he doesn’t drink and doesn’t remember anything about it, found its way to the resort’s Library Bar – presided over by a portrait on the wall titled “The Visionary.” (You-know-who dressed in tennis whites.) The group dismissed the bartender; the Secret Service guarded the door.

Six days later, Mar-a-Lago presented a bill for $1,006 – $838 for liquor plus 20% gratuity – with no documentation of who was there and what was the nature of the meeting. The State Department declined to pay and forwarded it to the White House, which of course did pay.

Click here for more about how to bill the government.

Why the French Don’t Celebrate Cinquième de Mai

Mexico’s independence day is September 16, not May 5.

In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War (the aftermath of the United States’ decision that they would take Texas, thank you very much) and the Reform (Mexican Civil) War, Mexico’s dire financial resulted the country suspending debt payments to foreign lenders. Britain, Spain and France responded by sending naval forces to Veracruz to demand their money. Britain and Spain negotiated a settlement and left. France executed a different strategy.

French forces conquered Veracruz in 1861 and, with President Juarez and the government in retreat, marched toward Mexico City. Beleaguered and greatly outnumbered, Mexican forces decisively defeated the French at Puebla. Although France came back a year later with quadruple the troops to retake the country, the battle at Puebla instilled pride and patriotism among the Mexican populace.

The French victory was short-lived. With Napoleon III’s attention turned to more imminent threats, like the impending Franco-Prussian War, France withdrew three years later and Benito Juárez established a new government.

Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in California since 1863 and has since become a significant date across the U.S. Here in Portland Cinco de Mayo begins on the 3rd and takes over Waterfront Park downtown for three days of music, dancing, food and general merriment.

Taxpayer First Act (Irony Alert!)

If you are near despair about the divisiveness of our body politic, take cheer in the rare bipartisanship demonstrated by the “Taxpayer First Act.” The 2019 measure, introduced by John Lewis (D-GA), co-sponsored by Mike Kelly (R-PA) and nine other Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats, passed the House unanimously by voice vote and now awaits action by the Senate. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had already introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

"The first IRS reform legislation since 1998 ... would recast IRS as a service-first agency to better serve American taxpayers."

Legislators from both parties are boasting that this Act safeguards innocent taxpayers from abuse by the Internal Revenue Service. And, oh yeah, it also permanently prohibits the IRS from developing a free tax-filing service for taxpayers with low-to-moderate incomes, as some other developed countries do. H&R Block and Intuit (TurboTax) spent $6.6 million last year lobbying for this outcome. Coincidentally, sponsors of the ironically-named bill received campaign contributions from them.

H&R Block and TurboTax, part of the “Free File Alliance,” offer – and lightly promote – free-filing services. They mostly use it as a come-on to leverage clients into fee-for-service products.

The IRS, with taxpayers’ income information already supplied by employers and banks, could easily send out pre-filled forms for taxpayers with simple returns to make corrections or adjustments to and sign and return, and probably at less expense than the current system. But that would be socialism and we can’t have that.