Thursday Reads: The Latest on Harvey’s Aftermath

toi Arkema Plant, Crosby, TX

Good Afternoon!!

If you watched Rachel Maddow the past two nights, you know about the flooded chemical plant in Crosby, Texas that was expected to explode. Well it happened this morning.

The Washington Post: Chemicals ignite at flooded plant in Texas as Harvey’s devastation lingers.

CROSBY, Tex. — The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included reports of “pops” and “chemical reactions” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

Authorities warned of the danger posed by the plant in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of Houston. The French company operating the plant said explosions were possible, and William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called the potential for a chemical plume “incredibly dangerous.”

Still, officials offered differing accounts regarding what occurred at the Crosby plant, which makes organic peroxides for use in items such as counter tops and pipes. The plant’s operators, which had earlier Thursday reported explosions, later said they believe at least one valve “popped” there, though they noted it was impossible to know for sure since all employees had left the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it dispatched personnel to the scene and did not immediately detect issues regarding toxic material.

Let’s hope that the EPA can still be trusted under Trump. According to Rachel’s report, Texas Governor Abbott made it illegal for people to know when and where toxic materials are being stored in the state. In case you missed it, here’s a bit of the report from last night. We covered the West, Texas explosion quite a bit here at Sky Dancing Blog.

From CNN:

A pair of blasts at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby sent plumes of smoke into the sky Thursday morning, and the company warned more blasts could follow.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement. “Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

The twin blasts Thursday morning happened after organic peroxides overheated. The chemicals need to be kept cool, but after the plant lost power Sunday, the temperature rose, officials said.

That led to containers popping, including one container that caught fire — sending black smoke 30 to 40 feet into the air.

The thick black smoke “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

Fifteen Harris County sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized, but the smoke they inhaled was not believed to be toxic, the department said. By midmorning Thursday, all of the deputies had been released.

Reporter Matt Dempsy of the Houston Chronicle was on Rachel’s show last night, and his Twitter feed is helpful for following this story. More info in this Twitter thread:

Beaumont, Texas is now without water. HuffPost: Beaumont, Texas, In Crisis After City Loses Water Supply Indefinitely.

BEAUMONT ― Residents of this city in eastern Texas are desperate for clean water after the main municipal water pumps failed due to flooding.

Beaumont, which has a population of over 100,000 people, lost both its main and secondary water supplies on Wednesday. The storm caused the Neches River to overflow, which damaged the city’s water pumps, according to city officials. The city’s secondary water source, which is located at the Loeb wells in Hardin County, is also offline.

City officials said the outage is indefinite, pending inspection of the damaged pumps, which they are unable to do until the water recedes.

Read more details at the CNN link. MSNBC is currently showing a Beaumont hospital being evacuated because of the loss of water supply.

Here are a couple of stories that help explain the flooding in the Houston area.

Jay Casano at International Business Times via the National Memo: How Texas Republicans Rejected The Chance To Plan For Climate Change.

With rising sea levels and increased rainfall, experts agree, climate change made the flooding from Hurricane Harvey far worse than it would have been even a decade ago. The Texas legislature had multiple opportunities to create a “climate adaptation plan” that could have resulted in preparations, but the bills were killed every time. The sponsor of the legislation told International Business Times that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made sure that the climate adaptation bills would not pass.

People begin lining up at a closed Wal-Mart store in Beaumont, TX at around 2:30 Thursday morning after hearing the water supply for the city had failed.

“When I filed that legislation, then-Governor Perry’s legislative staff told me that no legislation that had climate change in it would get out of committee,” former Texas state representative Lon Burnam told IBT. “They came to our office and said to stop filing these bills:  ‘We’ll never let it out of committee.’”

Houston is the heart of the nation’s fossil fuels industry, making the discussion of climate change post-Hurricane Harvey particularly relevant. The Texas state government has been widely criticized for being beholden to oil industry interests. Campaign finance records bear out that claim: Over the last two election cycles, Texas state lawmakers have received more than $11.3 million from the oil and gas industry, including $2.3 million for Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. Former Gov. Perry, now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy, received more than $1.6 million from the oil and gas industry during his very brief 2016 presidential run. As governor of Texas, he received more than $10 million across three elections, including $6 million in the 2010 race.

More at the link.

Bloomberg: Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning.

Houston has been wet since birth. In the 1840s, the German explorer Ferdinand von Roemer described the Brazos River prairie just outside the young town as an “endless swamp” that mired the wheels of his wagons. He reported that some people who’d intended to settle in Texas turned around and left after seeing the “sad picture.” But Houston never let itself be hampered by its hydrology. It spent billions patching together a mess of dams and drainage projects as it grew and grew. It’s the fourth-biggest city in the U.S., boasting one of the world’s largest medical centers, oil refineries, a stupendous livestock show and rodeo, highbrow culture, vibrant economic growth, and speakers of 145 languages. The consolidated metropolitan statistical area surrounding Houston and extending to Galveston is larger than the state of New Jersey.

Downtown Houston from the air.

Harvey is a devastating reminder to Houston that nature will have its due. The Category 4 hurricane that hung around as a stationary tropical storm punished greater Houston with rainfall measured in feet, not inches. No city could have withstood Harvey without serious harm, but Houston made itself more vulnerable than necessary. Paving over the saw-grass prairie reduced the ground’s capacity to absorb rainfall. Flood-control reservoirs were too small. Building codes were inadequate. Roads became rivers, so while hospitals were open, it was almost impossible to reach them by car.

Harvey’s damage was selective. It’s a minor event for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, since most of the economic activity that was interrupted will be made up later. It was a light hit for insurers, because few underwrite flood insurance and the wind damage they do cover was minimal; insurers’ stock prices barely fell. The refining and petrochemical industries lining the busy Houston Ship Channel also got off fairly lightly (this time), because they’ve invested heavily in storm defenses.

The impact on taxpayers is more serious, because Harvey is likely to generate tens of billions of dollars in emergency federal aid and claims on the money-losing National Flood Insurance Program….

Above all, Harvey is a humanitarian disaster. Ordinary Texans were defenseless against rising waters contaminated by sewage and dotted with floating colonies of fire ants. The confirmed death toll, 20 as of Aug. 30, is expected to rise as rescuers discover more bodies. Residents will return to damaged homes vulnerable to the spread of mold. Much of the damage, which could run to $100 billion or more by one estimate, is uninsured. “This will be the worst natural disaster in American history” in financial terms, Joel Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, predicted in an Aug. 29 statement.

Mike Pence is in Texas today to fake empathy toward victims of Hurricane Harvey after Trump was unable to do so yesterday. The White House is busy trying to clean up the mess Trump made when he claimed to have seen the horror “first hand.” The Washington Post: Trump claimed he witnessed Harvey’s devastation ‘first hand.’ The White House basically admits he didn’t.

President Trump clearly and unmistakably exaggerated the “horror and devastation” he witnessed in Texas. The White House’s response? To pretend words don’t mean what they mean.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he had seen this horror and devastation “first hand.”

But reporters quickly took issue with that….

A reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this later Wednesday, and her answer was … something:

He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked exI tensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground. That certainly is a firsthand account.

No, it’s not. That’s a *second*hand account — the very definition of one, in fact.

There’s much more news, especially about the Russia investigation, but you probably heard about that last night. I’ll post a couple of links in the comment thread just in case. What stories are you following today?

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Wednesday Reads: Quick Round-Up and Cartoons

Photo by Laura Sauceda August 27 near Texas City, TX · Click on photo for link.

It has been a hellish few days…but it may be just the beginning, as the true impact of the destruction starts to become more clear.  So here are a few quick links to start you off and then the main reason for the post today…the political cartoons.

A review of tRump tweets this morning:

 

And as you can see, still no empathy:

 

A reminder for you all, from tRump’s visit to Texas yesterday:

Wasn’t that image of tRump hiding behind a defensive fort of vehicles, with a solid wall of building buffered behind him, a perfect reflection of his attitude towards the victims in this disaster? Geez!

 

And lest we forget:

Such an asshole.

Hey, he is one of many though…

Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston To Pass Out Copies Of ‘Your Best Life Now’

HOUSTON, TX—Although Joel Osteen took flak over the weekend for closing up his church to flood victims and all but disappearing during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the megachurch pastor reportedly returned to the city on his luxury yacht “S.S. Blessed” to make amends Tuesday by tossing copies of Your Best Life Now to stranded flood survivors.

Osteen had his on-call yacht captain steer the large vessel through the flooded streets of the city, pulling up to survivors stranded on their roofs and on the roof of their cars as the prosperity gospel preacher smiled, waved, and threw out signed editions of the bestselling positive thinking book.

“Believe and declare you are coming into a shift!” Osteen yelled through a bullhorn, according to reports. “God wants His best for you! Enlarge your vision, develop a healthy self image, and choose to be happy!”

 

Then there is this:

 

 

Some updates on Harvey:

Hurricane Harvey damages petrochemical refineries, releasing thousands of pounds of airborne pollutants | PBS NewsHour

Comedian Points Out The Irony In One Of President Trump’s Latest Hurricane Harvey Tweets

U.S. Coast Guard has saved 4,322 lives in Houston flooding: official

Meanwhile, Texas is not the only place experiencing the effects of climate change, flooding is killing many people all over the world:

Floods and devastation in India, Nepal and Bangladesh – in pictures | Global development | The Guardian

Floods in India, Bangladesh and Nepal kill 1,200 and leave millions homeless | The Independent

And, here in Georgia, a State GOP shithead has threatened to lynch a former colleague:

Talk of ditching Confederate statues could cause Dem. to ‘go missing’ | Political Insider blog

A Georgia Republican lawmaker warned a Democratic former colleague who criticized his support for Civil War monuments on Facebook that she won’t be “met with torches but something a lot more definitive” if she continues to call for the removal of statues in south Georgia.

State Rep. Jason Spencer, a Woodbine Republican, also wrote former state Rep. LaDawn Jones that “people in South Georgia are people of action, not drama” and suggested some who don’t understand that “will go missing in the Okefenokee.”

“Too many necks they are red around here,” he wrote. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ’em.”

Jones, who represented an Atlanta-based district from 2012 to 2016, responded that she saw his remarks as a “threat of physical violence” but said she was confident that future generations will abandon a “we are better than them” mentality.

“Enjoy but know … WINTER IS COMING,” wrote Jones, who is black. “You know it too … otherwise you wouldn’t have found a need to even make this post or those hollow threats of not coming to south GA.”

Spencer said in a text message that his words were not meant as a threat, but instead a “warning to her of how people can behave about this issue.”

“She is from Atlanta – and the rest of Georgia sees this issue very differently,” said Spencer, who was elected in 2010 to represent the southeast Georgia district. “Just trying to keep her safe if she decided to come down and raise hell about the memorial in the back yards of folks who will see this as an unwelcome aggression from the left.”

Do you fucking believe this…well, yes of course.

Spencer also asked that we include a picture he provided of him standing in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument that was unveiled Monday on the Georgia Capitol grounds.

Jones said in an interview that Spencer sat next to her for four years in the Georgia House and that they developed a friendly, if sometimes testy, relationship.

“If it were anybody other than Jason Spencer, then I would be alarmed. But we had a unique relationship in the Georgia Legislature,” said Jones, who served from 2012 to 2016. “If that had come from anybody else, I’d take it as a serious threat.”

Still, she added, she was “concerned” by his reaction.

You can go to the link and see the actual screenshots of the “discussions.”

And yet: KKK hoods and urine-proof sheets spotted in Trump Tower gift shop via Raw Deal.

Let’s end the day’s links on a happy note:

 

 

Cartoons start below:

Bullshit: 08/30/2017 Cartoon by Eric J Garcia

Cartoon by Eric J Garcia - Bullshit

08/30/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

08/29/2017 Cartoon by Nate Beeler

Cartoon by Nate Beeler -

Arpaio pardon: 08/28/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Arpaio pardon

HURRICANE HARVEY: 08/25/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - HURRICANE HARVEY

Untitled: 08/30/2017 Cartoon by Bob Gorrell

Cartoon by Bob Gorrell - Untitled

08/30/2017 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

08/30/2017 Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Cartoon by Gary Varvel -

08/27/2017 Cartoon by MStreeter

Cartoon by MStreeter -

New Frontiers in Right-Wing Propaganda: 08/30/2017 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - New Frontiers in Right-Wing Propaganda

08/29/2017 Cartoon by Matt Wuerker

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker -

Sheriff Joe Rescue: 08/29/2017 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Sheriff Joe Rescue

08/29/2017 Cartoon by Charlie Daniel

Cartoon by Charlie Daniel -

Nick Anderson cartoon: 08/29/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Nick Anderson cartoon: 08/28/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

08/29/2017 Cartoon by J.D. Crowe

Cartoon by J.D. Crowe -

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Texas Strong: 08/29/2017 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Texas Strong

08/29/2017 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

08/29/2017 Cartoon by Kevin Siers

Cartoon by Kevin Siers -

08/29/2017 Cartoon by Joe Heller

Cartoon by Joe Heller -

08/28/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

Hornets nest Donald Trump the unifier: 08/28/2017 Cartoon by David G. Brown

Cartoon by David G. Brown - Hornets nest Donald Trump the unifier

08/28/2017 Cartoon by Tom Stiglich

Cartoon by Tom Stiglich -

Compulsive: 08/28/2017 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Compulsive

Pardoned: 08/27/2017 Cartoon by Ed Hall

Cartoon by Ed Hall - Pardoned

 

Bagley Cartoon: The Road Not Taken – The Salt Lake Tribune

 

Bagley Cartoon: The Road Not Taken

08/30 Mike Luckovich: Pleez hep! | Mike Luckovich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will anyone ever be named Harvey again? #Harvey #floods #hurricane #houston

A post shared by Signe Wilkinson (@signewilk) on

If you can’t see the image on that Instagram:

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

I wanted to share the Cartoonist Instagram page with y’all…

This is an open thread…

 


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I feel like a zombie this morning. I’ve been house-sitting for my brother for the past two weeks, and it has been somewhat disorienting. I’m finally going to go back home sometime this afternoon. I guess my state of mind is a combination of being away from home and following the constant breaking news that never seems to end. I don’t even know where to begin today.

You’ve probably already heard the latest news: Hurricane Harvey is still raging; Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio; Trump is on his way to Texas; Multiple Russia stories broke yesterday and over the weekend; North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan; Trump threatened North Korea again; and multiple Trump advisers have been dissing him.

The remainder of photos in this post are from the Houston disaster.

Links to recent stories in case you missed them:

Hurricane Harvey

Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck is captured carrying Catherine Pham and her 13-month-old son Aiden to safety, The Associated Press reported.

New Yorker: Hurricane Harvey and Public and Private Disaster in Houston, by Jia Tolentino.

Washington Post: Harvey takes aim at Louisiana as Trump plans to survey stricken Texas.

Forbes: Hurricane Harvey Greatly Complicates The Government Shutdown Calculation.

Politico: How Washington Made Harvey Worse.

Arpaio

HuffPost: Trump Defends Pardoning Joe Arpaio During Hurricane, Saying He Did It For ‘The Ratings.’

ABC News: Already-pardoned Arpaio asks judge to undo conviction.

Trump/Russia

NBC News: Mueller Team Asking if Trump Tried to Hide Purpose of Trump Tower Meeting.

Washington Post: Top Trump Organization executive asked Putin aide for help on business deal.

New York Times: Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected.’

ABC News: Trump signed ‘letter of intent’ for Russian tower during campaign, lawyer says.

North Korea

CNN: Trump says ‘all options on table’ after North Korea launches missile over Japan.

The Guardian: Trump and Abe vow to increase pressure after North Korea fires missile over Japan.

Advisers Dissing Trump

New York Times: Does Trump Represent U.S. Values? ‘The President Speaks for Himself,’ Tillerson Says.

Bustle: What James Mattis Implied About Trump & His Inability To Inspire Is Unprecedented.

Politico: Trump unusually silent after aides challenge him.

More interesting stories

The Guardian: Lurid Trump allegations made by Louise Mensch and co-writer came from hoaxer.

Harris County Sheriff’s Department’s Richard Wagner is seen rescuing Wilford Martinez from his flooded car along Interstate 610, according to The Associated Press.

Explosive allegations about Donald Trump made by online writers with large followings among Trump critics were based on bogus information from a hoaxer who falsely claimed to work in law enforcement.

Claude Taylor tweeted fake details of criminal inquiries into Trump that were invented by a source whose claim to work for the New York attorney general was not checked, according to emails seen by the Guardian. The allegations were endorsed as authentic and retweeted by his co-writer Louise Mensch.

The source’s false tips included an allegation, which has been aggressively circulated by Mensch and Taylor, that Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.

The hoaxer, who fed the information to Taylor by email, said she acted out of frustration over the “dissemination of fake news” by Taylor and Mensch. Their false stories about Trump have included a claim that he was already being replaced as president by Senator Orrin Hatch in a process kept secret from the American public.

“Taylor asked no questions to verify my identity, did no vetting whatsoever, sought no confirmation from a second source – but instead asked leading questions to support his various theories, asking me to verify them,” the source said in an email.

After being approached for comment by the Guardian on Monday, Taylor posted what he described as a “mea culpa” on Twitter. “As a ‘citizen journalist’ I acknowledge my error and do apologize,” he wrote.

Mensch denied using the bogus information and said her allegations about Trump’s model agency came from her own sources. Asked why she had retweeted Taylor’s false posts, Mensch said: “I don’t think anybody can vet anybody else’s sources.”

Read the rest at the Guardian. LOL!

Bloomberg: Trump Punishes Longtime Aide After Angry Phoenix Speech, Sources Say.

Donald Trump was in a bad mood before he emerged for a confrontational speech in Arizona last week.

Marty Malloy on Twitter: “Blessed to be safe and dry with Stewie. Hoping for the same for the people and pets of Houston.”

TV and social media coverage showed that the site of his campaign rally, the Phoenix Convention Center, was less than full. Backstage, waiting in a room with a television monitor, Trump was displeased, one person familiar with the incident said: TV optics and crowd sizes are extremely important to the president.

As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment.

Hahahahahahaha! You may have seen on Twitter that the Trump people may have even advertised on Craigslist for paid actors to come to the rally, and still the space that holds only 5,000 was half-full.

Other sources claimed the ads were fake, but still funny, IMHO.

Sean Illing at Vox: 10 legal experts on why Trump can’t pardon his way out of the Russia investigation.

Last Friday, President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was convicted in July of criminal contempt after ignoring a court order to cease his signature immigration roundups but hadn’t yet been sentenced. Trump ignored the court’s judgment and ended the case without any formal Justice Department review.

To some, Trump’s decision is a sign that he’s preparing — or at least willing — to pardon people associated with the growing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. Robert Bauer, a law professor at New York University and former White House counsel to President Obama, argued in the Washington Post that the pardon may be a “test run for shutting down the Russia investigation.”

I reached out to 10 legal experts and asked them if the Arpaio decision is a signal of how Trump might seek to undercut the Russia investigation. I also asked what it would mean for the investigation if Trump pardoned key players in the scandal like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, or Jared Kushner before any of them could be convicted.

Andrew White is seen below helping a terrified neighbor after pulling her and her dog from her home in the upscale River Oaks neighborhood, Getty reported — White was out with his boat as well.

While it’s impossible to predict what Trump will do, nearly all the experts I spoke to agree on one thing: If Trump does use his pardoning powers to thwart the Russia investigation, it’s very likely to backfire.

If someone like Flynn or Kushner were preemptively pardoned, he wouldn’t be able to plead the Fifth Amendment if he were called to testify against Trump. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination. But if someone has been pardoned, they no longer face the threat of prosecution, and so they can’t use a desire to avoid incriminating themselves as an excuse not to answer a question.

So in addition to potentially obstructing justice, Trump would only leave himself — and his colleagues — more vulnerable if he decided to pardon anyone currently under investigation. Of course, that doesn’t mean he won’t pull the trigger anyway. But he might want to think long and hard about the implications before he does.

Read more at Vox.

Trump biographer Tim O’Brien: Felix Sater Is a Lean, Mean Trump-Russia Machine.

Felix Sater is back, and making it even more difficult for President Donald Trump to write off questions about his ties to Russia.

Among the many characters who have populated Trump’s checkered history in real estate, Sater is the guy with one of the diciest resumes. A career criminal with ties to both organized crime and federal law enforcement, he partnered with Trump for years on a series of high-profile and unsuccessful real estate deals, including the Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

On Monday, the New York Times and the Washington Post disclosed a series of emails involving Sater’s efforts in 2015 and 2016 to help the Trump Organization build a Trump Tower knock-off in Moscow. There’s is a little hitch that makes that noteworthy: Trump was also running for president at the time.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote in an email to Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in 2015. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

According to Bloomberg News, Cohen recently told a congressional committee investigating Trump’s ties to Russia that he debriefed Trump three times about the Moscow deal. But Cohen apparently had a different impression than Sater of the value of the deal, telling congressional investigators that it “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.”

Head over to Bloomberg to read the rest.

One more from Politico: Bolton writes in op-ed he can’t get in to see Trump anymore.

A rescue worker carries two dogs to safety after evacuating their family from floodwaters in Houston, Texas.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton once enjoyed regular access to President Donald Trump, but can no longer get a hearing with him. “I requested a meeting with him and I was turned down,” Bolton told POLITICO, though he declined to offer further details.

Bolton went public with his complaint in an op-ed published Monday in National Review in which he laid out a blueprint to exit the Iran nuclear deal because he couldn’t deliver it to the president himself….

Bolton said in his op-ed that “staff changes” now prevent him from seeing the president. He wrote that although former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon had asked him to draw up a plan to extricate the United States from the Iran deal in late July, that plan never made it to Trump’s desk after Bannon was fired earlier this month.

Given news reports that the president was reluctant to recertify the nuclear agreement — and that the president asked to see additional options — Bolton is raising an eyebrow about why his plan wasn’t considered.

“The idea was I would go see him and, you know, the timing of the certification decision and Reince Priebus’s firing were not far apart,” he said. Priebus’s replacement as White House chief of staff, John Kelly, has limited the number of visitors to the Oval Office.

Again, LOL!

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads

Good Afternoon!

The unfolding drama of the flooding of Houston and surrounding areas takes me back 12 years ago to Katrina when my community was surrounded by a similar hell realm full of water, the stench of death, and mass destruction.  Right now, Houston is relying on skilled first responders, its local government, and neighbors. Soon, it will be a test of our country’s ability to help our own as well as the test of the charity of nations around the world.

What is it going to take for Republican decision makers to understand that some things are too big and too important to be left to the for-profit-motivated private sector of carpet baggers?  When will they realize their constant denial of science and sycophantic support of the fossil fuel industry is driving us to epic catastrophe? 

Twelve years ago I was hunkered down on a pink futon with my two yellow labs–Karma and Honey–and Miles in between the beds of a grad student from Macau and one from Japan. My cell phone could receive but not make calls.  We were watching TV with the families of two other grad students that I had earlier told to get the hell out of dodge while they could still get a hotel room.  One family from Turkey.  The other from Jordan. I know what it’s like to be homeless, scared, broke,  and confused.  A day later, I discovered I had to go some place and that my university had failed to pay me.  I was totally reliant on the goodness of others and much of that goodness came from the people of Texas and Nebraska and the American Tax Payer. There were a few local businesses that helped but the majority of help came from people and the Federal Government.

This is the kind of event that tests our character as a country and we have a soulless narcissist at its helm.  I laugh at the ChristoFascist preachers who blame liberal political views for Gawd’s wrath as seen in these natural disasters.  It seems more likely that their Gawd keeps testing Republican Presidents and finds their governing ways come short of dealing with hell and high water.  The Republican Bushs and now a Trump have faced historic hurricanes. While the Clinton and Obama administrations have tried to rebuild our ability to respond through FEMA and other agencies, it took no time for this latest Republican disaster to seek to gut our ability to help our neighbors in need. It always amazes me that tax cuts for the wealthy come before helping our neighbors in harm’s way.

This destruction is a window into the future of climate change. This is what happens when humanity fails to either meaningfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the damage that is certainly coming.

Now, before the inevitable pedant brigade pounces in, that doesn’t mean Harvey was definitely caused by climate change. Global temperatures have only markedly increased for a few decades, and extreme weather events are rare and random by definition. It will take many more years for enough data to be collected to be able to establish causality.

But what we can say is that climate science predicts with high confidence that increased temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather.

It will make hurricanes that do form stronger. It may also increase the number of hurricanes, though that’s harder to predict with certainty. It’s also besides the point. A storm doesn’t need to qualify as a hurricane to pose many of the same dangers. Simple big storms can still have high winds, tornadoes, and especially flooding, which is the major danger along the Gulf Coast.

I’m calling real estate agents and getting out of here.  I am too old to exist in red state beholden to oil and gas industries where people refuse to see that science is right.   I’m too tired to live in areas where suburban sprawl and concrete provides run off for massive rain creating risks that all too often fall on the heads and homes of people like me. Climate change is likely responsible for the kinds of stalled, training storms like Harvey.  Human destruction of nature’s ways of dealing with water exacerbates it.

Persistent episodes of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere summer have been shown to be associated with the presence of high-amplitude quasi-stationary atmospheric Rossby waves within a particular wavelength range (zonal wavenumber 6–8). The underlying mechanistic relationship involves the phenomenon of quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves with that wavenumber range becoming trapped within an effective mid-latitude atmospheric waveguide. Recent work suggests an increase in recent decades in the occurrence of QRA-favorable conditions and associated extreme weather, possibly linked to amplified Arctic warming and thus a climate change influence. Here, we isolate a specific fingerprint in the zonal mean surface temperature profile that is associated with QRA-favorable conditions. State-of-the-art (“CMIP5”) historical climate model simulations subject to anthropogenic forcing display an increase in the projection of this fingerprint that is mirrored in multiple observational surface temperature datasets. Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability.

The increase in the occurrences of 100, 300 and 500 year events in my backyard is statistically significant.  It also is positively correlated to Climate Change. That’s the science.  Sea level rises have a lot to do with the destruction of the natural barriers to storm surge that are particularly a side product of things that the oil and gas industry do. This is the risk of that business forced onto humanity, nature, and the tax payer.

But Ojeda is watching the Atlantic hurricane season that begins on June 1 with more concern than usual. The retired Coast Guard employee worries that rising sea levels could make the next hurricane more destructive than those he’s lived through.

“That’s really scary to me,” the 70-year-old said.

A study released in May shows that rising sea levels threaten to make storm surges more dangerous, seemingly reinforcing Texas officials’ push for federal funding for a storm-surge barrier, or Ike Dike, to protect Galveston.

“Every storm surge today reaches higher because it starts from a higher level, because sea level is higher,” said study co-author Ben Strauss, a scientist who is vice president for sea level and climate impacts for Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists dedicated to climate change awareness. “A small amount of sea-level rise can lead to an unexpectedly large increase in damages to most kinds of structures.”

Brian Streck, 62, a retired Galveston firefighter, has watched high tides creep into the streets around the house at the edge of West Galveston Bay, where he has lived for 37 years.

He has no patience for climate-change deniers who doubt seas are rising.

“I’ve witnessed it,” Streck said.

High tides once flooded the streets around his home about twice a year; the flooding in the last decade has increased to a dozen times a year.

“I’ve considered selling this place because eventually I’m going to have a lake house,” he said.

Scientific studies have established an acceleration in sea-level rise because of a warming atmosphere. Coal and oil burning and the destruction of tropical forests have increased heat-trapping gases that have warmed the planet by 1.8 degrees since 1880. Earth has been losing 13,500 square miles of ice annually since 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sea levels are generally rising faster along the Texas Gulf Coast and the western Gulf than the average globally, according to a January study by NOAA.

“The western Gulf is experiencing some of the highest rates of relative levels of sea-level rise in the country,” said NOAA oceanographer William Sweet, lead author of the study. “The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub.”

Sea-level rise is making storm surges larger, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.

“Compared to a storm that would have hit, say, 30 years ago, the additional storm surge we are talking about is on the order of … about 7 inches,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

The NOAA study found sea levels rising at more than double the rate estimated during the 20th century, increasing to more than 0.13 inch annually. NOAA made six projections of sea-level rise, from low to extreme, and found the global mean level under the lowest projection could rise 2.3 inches by 2020 and 3.5 inches by 2030. The extreme projection shows a 4.3-inch rise by 2020 and a 9.4-inch rise by 2030.

The rate of sea-level rise even under the lowest projection would increase the chances of severe flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast from storm surges or other causes from once every five years to once every two years by 2030 under the extreme projection, and 2060 under the low prediction.

“We’re not talking much longer than a mortgage cycle,” Sweet said. “I just bought a house, I’ve got a 30-year note. That’s 2047.”

By 2100, sea level is expected to rise between 1.3 feet and 31 feet, the NOAA study predicts; Galveston Island and most of the Texas coast would be swallowed up under the latter scenario.

Scientist Michael Mann keeps doing compelling science and making cogent arguments that are being ignored by policy makers.  He’s the scientist behind the research on the “rain bombs”.  That’s a term with a lot of click bait appeal.  But, how do you get anyone to listen when you discuss things like this?  What happens when a hurricane parks itself over you home or an intense thunderstorm sits over you city and just does nothing but dump rain for days on end in biblical amounts?

So Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human- caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage, and a larger storm surge (as an example of how this works, we have shown that climate change has led to a dramatic increase in storm surge risk in New York City, making devastating events like Superstorm #Sandy more likely (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12610.full).

Finally, the more tenuous but potentially relevant climate factors: part of what has made Harvey such a devastating storm is the way it has stalled right near the coast, continuing to pummel Houston and surrounding regions with a seemingly endless deluge which will likely top out at nearly 4 feet of rainfall over a several days-long period before it is done.

The stalling is due to very weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea, allowing it to spin around and wobble back and forth like a top with no direction. This pattern, in turn, is associated with a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the U.S. right now, with the jet stream pushed well to the north. This pattern of subtropical expansion is predicted in model simulations of human-caused climate change.

More tenuous, but possibly relevant still, is the fact that very persistent, nearly ‘stationary’ summer weather patterns of this sort, where weather anomalies (both high pressure dry hot regions and low-pressure stormy/rainy regions) stay locked in place for many days at a time, appears to be favored by human-caused climate change.

How will the Texas Representatives and Senators respond to the disaster in their own back yards?  Will they fight funding they way they fought it for those impacted by Super Storm Sandy?  Will Kremlin Caligula with his 2 second attention span be able to rise to the occasion of saving lives and help people rebuild and heal? What about threats to shut down the Federal Government over funds for the Wall?

The catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey to southeastern Texas will pose an immediate test for the White House and Congress, pressing policymakers to approve billions of dollars in recovery funds even though they haven’t agreed on much else this year.

White House officials and GOP leaders were already taking stock of the challenge on Sunday, even as the floodwaters in Texas — and the eventual cost of recovery — were still rising. One senior White House official and GOP aides on Capitol Hill said late Sunday they expected to begin discussing an “emergency” package of funding soon to help with relief and rebuilding efforts, even if agreement as to the size of such a package remained premature.

Harvey’s devastation poses President Trump’s first test in emergency assistance, potentially revealing whether he can overcome Congress’s deep divisions over spending and the budget to prioritize aid. It will also test whether Trump can suspend his adversarial governing style and even postpone his own agenda, notably an overhaul of the tax code, to assemble a major — and costly — package that could be directed to law enforcement, emergency relief, schools, infrastructure, hospitals, food banks and several other entities.

The storm comes as Washington was gripped with a budget battle and little time to resolve differences. Many government operations are funded through only the end of September, and Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers don’t approve $1.6 billion in funding to construct parts of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Harvey could upend that budget fight, pressuring politicians to reach a quick resolution. That is because a government shutdown could sideline agencies involved in a rescue and relief effort that officials are predicting will last years.

This battle starts after the battle first responders and volunteers are making to save lives ends.  This is still an ongoing disaster.  There is still very much potential, additional for flooding the next few days. It is still happening now.  Two Reservoirs are being opened that will contribute to flooding.  Resources will undoutedly be running short as well be tempers.

In Houston, reservoirs swollen by rain from Hurricane Harvey were opened early Monday, a move that was expected to flood more homes — but one that the Army Corps of Engineers says is needed to limit the scope of the disaster that’s threatening lives and property in Texas.

“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. He warned residents to stay vigilant as water levels rise.

Around midday Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard to support communities cope with the flooding. Thousands of guard members were already deployed in the effort; the number now stands at roughly 12,000.

Gates to Houston’s reservoirs were opened as emergency crews and residents scramble to deal with the intense rains brought by Harvey, which became a tropical storm after making landfall as a Category 4 storm late Friday.

Houston set a new daily rainfall record Sunday, with 16.07 inches reported at the city’s international airport, the National Weather Service says. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 2 feet of rain (24.44 inches) fell.

Here’s how to help those dealing with Harvey. I can tell you that the American Red Cross did a lot for me after Hurricane Katrina.

Scientific American reminds us that Harvey had some disturbing features that has caused it to be so destructive. Is this our future?  If so, will our policy makers rise to the challenge of disrupting our contribution to climate change and providing adequate federal funding and systems to support our neighbors in need because they failed to act when they could?

I have to admit that my Katrina PTSD is full force between the images on my TV,  its 12th anniversary, and the knowledge that Harvey could still do irrational things like move back in to the Gulf to strengthen.  It’s path and timing is still so uncertain.   Now is the time we need heroes and leadership.  The heroes are on the ground.  We have to wait and see when it comes to the leadership.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Also, please Texas Sky Dancers!  Let us know if we can help!!!  Let us know if you’re okay!! We’re here for you!!!


Sunday Reads: Good Luck

Images from Texas are disturbing…keep in mind that many of the tweets below are a few hours old.

From what I understand, the folks in that picture above have been rescued.

 

 

 

 

Take a few minutes and read some of the responses to this tweet:

 

 

 

 

The latest news:

Live coverage: Hurricane Harvey continues to batter Texas

 

Houston weather coverage: Houston Weather (@abc13weather) | Twitter

 

3,000 guard troops called up as ‘catastrophic’ Harvey causes deadly floods in Texas – The Washington Post

 

But back to more flood images and videos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I realize this is practically all twitter links, and I did leave out the news reports of protest and various “rally” things being held around the US today…please feel free to talk about it in the comments…I only wanted to focus on the devastation going on in Texas.

This is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: A News Dump From Hell As Monster Hurricane Hits

Edgar Degas (French artist, 1834–1917)

Good Morning!!

I’m getting the feeling that Trump realizes his days as “president” are numbered, and he has decided to do as much evil as he possibly can while he’s still in power.

Last night, while the decent people in the country were focused on the devastating hurricane approaching Texas, Trump overwhelmed our concern for our fellow Americans with a Friday news dump from hell.

He signed an order to prevent transgender people from serving in the military and ordered that any medical care being provided to transgender individuals already serving be stopped.

The New York Times: Trump Gives Mattis Wide Discretion Over Transgender Ban.

President Trump signed a long-awaited directive on Friday that precludes transgender individuals from joining the military but gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wide discretion in determining whether those already in the armed forces can continue to serve.

Mr. Mattis’s decisions will be based on several criteria, including military effectiveness and budgetary concerns, a senior White House official said in briefing reporters.

1927 Jane Rogers Interior Scene

Left unclear was how many of the thousands of transgender service personnel estimated to be in the military might keep serving. By putting the onus on Mr. Mattis, the president appeared to open the door to allowing at least some transgender service members to remain in the military.

Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said that Mr. Mattis had received the guidance but did not indicate how he would proceed.

From Twitter:

Soon after that news broke, the White House announced that Trump had pardoned evil racist former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Slate: Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is a Clear and Ugly Message to Hispanic Americans.

On Friday night, minutes before Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Donald Trump issued the first presidential pardon of his administration to Joe Arpaio, the longtime Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff whose record of proudly tough, sometimes brutal, and ultimately illegal policing of Latino immigrants made him among the nation’s most admired and reviled lawmen.

In 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting Latino drivers. He refused. In July, a judge found he had willingly resisted that order, and could serve up to six months in jail for criminal contempt. He had yet to be sentenced, and the pardon ends the possibility that the 85-year-old Arpaio will see jail time.

Herbert Badham (Australian artist, 1899-1961) Breakfast Piece

In a tightly worded two-paragraph statement, Trump praised Arpaio’s “admirable service to our nation.” The statement doesn’t mention his conviction, or the various human rights scandals that plagued his 24-year tenure as the sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, which includes Phoenix. The county spent tens of millions defending Arpaio in court from various charges and settling cases resulting from inhumane jail conditions.

“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wrote on Friday night. “Sheriff Joe Arpaio targeted and terrorized Latino families because of the color of their skin. He was ordered by a federal judge to stop and he refused. He received a fair trial and a justifiable conviction, and there’s nothing the President can do to change that awful legacy and the stain he had left on our community.”

I also highly recommend reading this Slate piece on Trump’s suggestion he would pardon Arpaio by Mark Joseph Stern, written Aug. 15: White Nationalist Rule Is Already Here.

As a number of people have pointed out, Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is also a further attack on the judiciary by a lawless “president.” He went ahead with the pardon without even consulting the Justice Department. Others have noted that this action by Trump sends a message to all his criminal cronies that they can lie to the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller and in return he will pardon them.

The news dump also included the “resignation” of White House Nazi Sebastian Gorka.

CNN: Sebastian Gorka gone from White House.

Sebastian Gorka, an outspoken and combative defender of President Donald Trump’s national security agenda, has left his position as a White House counterterrorism adviser, two administration officials told CNN.

1938 Sandra Bierman (American artist)

The news, which came late Friday evening, was widely expected in the West Wing, which has now seen high-profile departures on successive Fridays for several weeks.
Gorka was one of Trump’s most prominent cheerleaders, frequently hitting the airwaves to defend the President’s policies and public statements.
But his role outside of television hits was unclear. He did not play a major policymaking role, according to administration officials, and was not a member of the National Security Council.

Two White House Nazis down (Bannon and Gorka), two more to go–Stephen Miller and Trump.

It looks like Trump also plans to end Obama’s program to help immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. 

NBC News: Trump Likely to End DACA Immigrant Program.

President Donald Trump appears likely to pull the plug on DACA, the Obama-era program allowing young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here, several government officials said Friday.

Administration officials said Friday that the Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed the program with senior officials Thursday during a meeting at the White House. Sessions has been a consistent opponent of the program.

As many as 1 million immigrants could be affected.

Trump is said to be weighing whether to let DACA gradually expire or end it immediately, but the officials said it is not yet clear which option Trump may choose.

Fuck everyone who voted for this cruel monster and everyone who voted third party.

Hurricane Harvey so far

The LA Times last night: Collapsed roofs and downed trees as Hurricane Harvey brutalizes its way across Texas.

The storm slammed onto shore Friday evening as a powerful Category 4 hurricane and powered its way north of Corpus Christi.

Carl Larsson, Lady Reading Newspaper

Shortly after midnight, the storm made a second landfall along the northeastern shore of Copano Bay and downgraded once again to a Category 3 storm, the National Weather Service reported.

Initial reports suggested the staggering strength of the storm.

At least 10 people were treated for injuries at a local jail in the town of Rockport, about 31 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, after the roof of a senior citizens’ complex collapsed, local media reported.

Part of a local high school also collapsed, and a portion of the exterior of a hotel peeled off in the heavy winds, KXAN reported.

“People are trapped inside at least one collapsed building. We can’t get rescue teams to them right now,” Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth told KIII News.

Emergency officials reported large numbers of downed trees and more than 86,000 people around the state without power.

The Atlantic this morning: ‘The Rainfall Threat Is Only Beginning.

Harvey arrived near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center, the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States in a dozen years. A few hours later, the hurricane made a second landfall near Copano Bay as a Category 3 hurricane. Harvey lost strength as it moved inland over south Texas, and was downgraded to Category 1 early Saturday morning, sustaining winds at 90 miles per hour. The hurricane will likely keep slowing down and become a tropical storm later Saturday, the center said.

But the danger is far from over. Even as it weakens steadily, Harvey’s slow-motion churn is expected to create life-threatening conditions for the next several days as torrential rain continues until Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. Harvey is predicted to dump 15 inches to 30 inches of rain on southern Texas, with some parts getting as much as 40 inches, leading to “catastrophic” flooding. Storm-surge flooding may reach nine to 13 feet above ground along parts of the Texas coast between Port Aransas and Port O’Conner.

“Even though #Harvey has made landfall, the rainfall threat is only beginning,” the National Hurricane Center said in a tweet Friday night.

The flooding could leave neighborhoods underwater for days and, as previous hurricanes have done, surface sewage, coffins, and even alligators seeking safety on higher ground.

Here’s a lovely prayer that Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes posted on Facebook (h/t Delphyne on Twitter).

Laurie Kersey, Woman Reading

Dear Brave Souls, Please join me in strong prayer for the people at the coastline of Texas, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston and all surrounds.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated in the devastation of wind and flood of a hurricane that made landfall earlier tonight, putting out electricity, flooding the land and homes, washing away so much, fouling the water in many places.C

Please especially prayer for the poor who often have little to no resource to evacuate [no car or stores of food to take with.]

Please pray for all pregnant women and those trying to help them who are scared.

Please pray for all the old and frail in hospital and nursing homes and those who care for them with great heart.

Please pray for all children and inocentes

Please pray for all the horses, dogs and cats and other companions of feathers and fur, as well as wild birds and the fourleggeds

Please pray for help to come, shelter to come, clean water to come, food to come as quickly as possible.

Please help those without papers not be afraid to evacuate, to safeguard their lives utterly.

I send love and my tears to bless this prayer… Texas being Mexico long ago, and the land still loved as well as its people who are often farmers and fisherpeople, small business people, many often in the villages surrounding the larger towns listed above, living often in many of the old ways of our ancestors still.

May all be kept safe, may all be fed and watered that is, the human beings and the animals,

may the storm’s 130 mph wind exhaust itself as it walks screeching overland,

may the winds die,

may the flood waters that have reached over 6′ tall at this writing, recede in ways least damaging to all creatures, humans and structures.

And may the foundations and pillars of fundaments be secure,

may the guardian trees whose roots and earth have been soaked with the rains and thereby softened, drive their roots even deeper, and remain standing in these winds.

May all be held close and know that strangers pray every health onto them now, and in coming days…

This we ask in the name of all that is Holy and of Source without source.

And with love beyond love,
dr.e

The good news is that the Russia investigation is progressing.

Vox: Robert Mueller is looking into Michael Flynn’s potential ties to Russian hackers.

At issue is an effort by Peter Smith, a Trump-supporting GOP operative and private equity executive, to track down Hillary Clinton’s infamous 30,000 or so deleted emails during the fall of 2016.

Paul Cezanne, The artist’s father reading his newspaper

The effort, described on the record to Harris by Smith (the 81-year-old man died a week and a half after their interview), entailed outreach to several hacker groups, including at least two that Smith believed to be Russian-tied, to see if they had hacked the emails and could release them.

The emails — which Clinton said she deleted because they were personal and unrelated to her work as secretary of state — never surfaced. And Smith didn’t work for the Trump campaign.

But there is a potential connection to the campaign — through Flynn. Smith repeatedly claimed that he was in contact with Flynn about the effort to find Clinton’s emails, per Harris’s sources…

NBC News: Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in recent days seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort, people directly familiar with the matter told NBC News.

This is the first public indication that Mueller’s investigation is beginning to compel witness testimony before the grand jury — a significant milestone in an inquiry that is examining the conduct of President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, among others.

It is also further indication that Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, could be in serious legal jeopardy.

According to one executive whose firm received a subpoena, Mueller’s team is closely examining the lobbying campaign, which ran between 2012 and 2014. Some of the firms involved in the campaign received subpoenas for documents weeks ago, the executive said, and now the Mueller team is seeking testimony.

That’s all I have for today. What stories are you following? If you are in the path of the hurricane, please stay safe. 


Friday Reads: Living in the Moment

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The one useful thing that having 4th stage inoperable cancer and a 5 month old taught me was to live in the moment.  It’s taken Kremlin Caligula’s  rule of chaos to bring me back to that point again.  Well, that and the constant stress from the weather becoming increasingly volatile here and the increasing vulnerability of the land around me and the roof that’s mostly over my head.

I hold each of my friends and family as comfy pillows in my big ol’ blanket fort of calm.  I stay focused on what I can do right now to feel better.  Some times that’s wine and raspberry cheesecake gelato. Mostly, it’s focusing on all of the great people in my life and the fact there’s no wolf at my door right now.  Plus, I spend a lot of time combing through cabins with views of water and mountains and trying to figure if this is the path I can follow to Blue State Sanity.  We still have each other Sky Dancers and we’ve been through a lot!!!

It’s easy to focus on how miserable you feel when insanity is screaming at you with a contorted, bloated orange face surrounded by zombies in Phoenix, Arizona.  But, the insanity is also in the policy details that sneak out in fine print.  Remember, there are a lot of crazy people that pass as sane removing our neighbor’s ability to live in a civilized society in the beltway and in Red State America.

I’ve got some examples today from the usual Red State Governors and sneaky Republican appointees who hand over vital services and public assets to their patrons then brag about efficiency while people lose everything including their lives.  This cautionary tale comes via The Des Moines Register where dead Iowans can be pinned onto the collars of  two Republican Governors who handed the state’s Medicaid Plan over to profit-seeking death panels.  I borrow this term from the Republicans who think that it’s the government that institutes death panels but in fact, it’s handing key services to for-profit entities that do it.  You can’t turn a profit if you don’t cut things and in most cases, it is essential services and the people who provide them in for-profit land.

After handing over management of the $4 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit companies last year, Iowans have filed hundreds of complaints, including many about losing access to care. Health providers have closed their doors. Iowans with disabilities have filed a federal lawsuit against Reynolds, accusing the state of depriving thousands the right to live safely outside institutions.

Yet the new governor continues to insist privatization is a great thing..

 hopSeveral months ago she was quoted in a news release as saying Iowans with “high risk behavioral health conditions” were faring better under privatized Medicaid.

 Soon after, the Register editorial board reported the private insurers owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System about $300,000 for services provided. We recently reported on a private insurer refusing to cover care for a mentally ill teen. This week Des Moines psychiatrist Jim Gallagher told an editorial writer that the private insurers were reducing payments to workers who supervise individuals in group homes, including a man with a history of pedophilia.

Yet Reynolds does not acknowledge such problems. Worse, she pretends there are none. An August 3 press release from her office referenced a questionable survey indicating Iowa patients’ satisfaction was among the highest in the nation.

 “Medicaid modernization improves access, gives patients more choices and brings accountability to the program,” Reynolds said in her statement.

There is zero accountability for state officials and insurers holding secret meetings about how much more public money to give the companies. And Tom Mouw, who died 27 days before the press release was issued, did not have more access to care or any choices. He had one option: moving from his home to an institution in another state.

After a vehicle accident left him a quadriplegic more than three decades ago, Mouw was unable to feed himself and needed a ventilator to breathe. State-managed Medicaid paid caregivers to provide daily assistance, which allowed the man to remain in his home all these years.

Then private insurers took over Medicaid. Amerigroup deemed Mouw’s longtime caregivers not qualified and refused to pay them. Eventually the inability to find in-home care forced him into a facility in South Dakota. He died six weeks later.

Cyndi Mouw blames her husband’s death on Iowa’s decision to privatize Medicaid. Though she has not reviewed all the medical bills, she is sure her husband’s care was far cheaper at home than in the facility where he spent his final weeks.

Now that he has died, he will not cost Amerigroup anything. And the insurer answers to no one about its actions.

The private companies have repeatedly refused to answer questions about Iowans’ horror stories. Though Cyndi Mouw signed waiver forms allowing Amerigroup to speak with a reporter about her husband’s care, the insurer did not.

Instead, the company’s spokesperson said there are “a lot of people” willing to share positive privatization stories — but then did not produce a single name. This spin tactic was also employed by the Branstad administration, which touted “success stories” without identifying the supposedly happy Iowans.

The Register frequently hears from Iowans who have lost health care, closed medical services businesses or are owed money by the insurers. And now we have heard from the widow of a man who died after the insurer refused to pay his caregivers.

I’m particularly interested in this today as a person that has been in more than her share of weather disasters lately.  My private insurer for my home has been a constant source of underfunding, dodging coverage, and increasing deductibles and costs.  Government Grants, the Red Cross and FEMA helped me more than any touchy feely money grabbing corporation after Katrina.  Harvey is headed to Texas and since it’s your basic zombie storm, it’s likely to reform and bother a lot more places.  Louisiana is under a state of emergency.  Dubya screwed up our Katrina response big time. I can’t even imagine what my friends and neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast will face under The Orange Terror and his FEMA Director.

Brock Long knew it was just a matter of time.

“We’ve gone 11 years without a major hurricane land-falling in the U.S.—that’s a one-in-2,000 chance,” said Long, President Donald Trump’s administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in an interview at his office on Monday. “We’re gonna get hit by a major hurricane. I worry that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like.”

The country is about to be reminded. As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Harvey was expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 storm, with top wind speeds of 85 miles an hour and flooding as high as seven feet. The storm will be Long’s first challenge as FEMA director. He was sworn in just two months ago.

Long’s appointment was welcomed by experts on extreme weather, who praised him as neither overtly ideological nor hostile to the mission of the agency he was chosen to lead. Before being appointed to the top job, he was director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, as well as a regional hurricane program manager for FEMA.

“He is a rare Trump appointee who is a well-known professional in the field in which he was appointed,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a Washington research group that promotes market-based solutions to climate change. “Every part of his reputation suggests he’ll take a careful, deliberate, technocratic approach to the job.”

If Hurricane Harvey is as severe as predicted, the toll will certainly test Long and his agency. It could even pose a political risk to the Trump administration, whose first budget proposal sought to cut FEMA’s funding by 11 percent.

There’s more to the devastation of public trust and resources happening.  Let me highlight a few. 

Republicans continue to the party of Religious Extremism. Women die because of this.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an abrupt executive order Friday cutting off all public funding from abortion clinics in South Carolina.

He also directed the South Carolina Medicaid agency to seek permission from the federal government to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.

“There are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women’s health and family planning services without performing abortions,” McMaster said in a press release about the executive order. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

Only three clinics offer elective abortions in South Carolina, including one Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.

The exact language of the new order bans government money from “any physician or professional medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic and operating concurrently with and in the same physical, geographic location or footprint as an abortion clinic.”

Vicky Ringer, the South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, issued a statement on Friday calling McMaster’s order “a political stunt.”

“While he spends taxpayers’ time and money on scoring political points,” Ringer said, “Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on.”

Fed Chair Jane Yellen has issued dire warnings about letting loose the Wall Street Dogs again. People driven by profits only do not make ethical choices.  That is something we very much know as economists.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday expressed openness to easing some financial rules imposed on banks after the 2008 credit crisis, but offered a stern warning to fellow policymakers: Don’t forget what got us here.

“The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer,” said Yellen in a speech at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years,” she said.

The Fed chief’s remarks are implicitly a pitch of how she would lead the central bank if President Donald Trump chose to keep her at the helm of the Fed; the 71-year-old economist’s term as chair ends at the beginning of February.

The likely Trump appointment to replace Yellen is said to have drafted a resignation based on Trump’s remarks over Charlottesville.  Gary Cohn is Jewish.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, has given an interview to the Financial Timesin which he in no uncertain terms criticizes the Trump administration’s response to the violence in Charlottesville at a white nationalist rally, which led to the death of a counterprotester and 19 injuries, after a car crashed into crowds. Trump has drawn criticism — including privately from his own aides — for insufficiently denouncing the white supremacists who organized the rally and suggesting they shared blame with others.

Cohn, who is Jewish, doesn’t call out Trump by name, but it’s crystal-clear what he is saying. A sampling:

  • “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”
  • “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. … As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post … because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
  • “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

While Cohn never says, “The president got it wrong and needs to do better,” he might as well have. Nobody else in the Trump administration offered comments suggesting any kind of equivalence in blame between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. It was Trump who referred to there being blame “on many sides” and then days later “on both sides.” Other members of the administration tried to argue that Trump had offered a more forceful denunciation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis when he had, in fact, not. (He would later do so, only to revert a day later to his former “many sides/both sides” comments.)

When Cohn says, “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” he is clearly talking about Trump’s “many sides/both sides” comments. There is no one else it could be about.

At least three national monuments are one the Endangered List.  Only the mega rich get nice things.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three national monuments established by his immediate predecessors, including two in Utah, a move expected to reshape federal land and water protections and certain to trigger major legal fights.

In a report Zinke submitted to the White House, the secretary recommended reducing the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision.

President Bill Clinton declared the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, while President Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears last year. Cascade-Siskiyou, which now encompasses more than 113,000 acres, was established by Clinton shortly before leaving office and expanded by Obama in January.

The Mega Rich get nice things especially when they’re appointments of Trump and shameless about purloining. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin viewed eclipse from lawn of Fort Knox.  This is the man whose wife has a handbag that could be traded for a new car and calls a Portland Mother “adorably out of touch”.   I used to work for the New Orleans Fed.  We had a system wide rule about trying to hold meetings during the Mardi Gras season.  That’s strictly forbidden.

But a watchdog group and a lawmaker seized on a different issue: Did the millionaire couple fly to Louisville on Monday, on a taxpayer-funded plane, just to see the solar eclipse? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) suggested as much in seeking records of the trip, saying it “seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse.”

It turns out that Mnuchin did view the eclipse while he was in Kentucky: Just outside the path of totality, from the lawn of the nation’s fabled Fort Knox, home to nearly $200 billion in American gold, according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

A post on McConnell’s official Facebook page, attributed to the senator, said Thursday that he and Mnuchin viewed the eclipse from the roof. “The U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and I in front of the main door to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox before we viewed the #solareclipse from the rooftop today,” said the posting, which featured an image of the two men, McConnell holding eclipse glasses.

After media reports about the Facebook post, including in this story, the Treasury Department said in a statement that the viewing was from the lawn.

“The Mint staff had originally suggested that the delegation watch the eclipse from the roof but the Secretary specifically canceled that part of the tour. They watched it briefly from outside before they entered (prior to the actual time of full eclipse),” the statement said.

McConnell’s office has revised its Facebook page to remove the reference to the rooftop and declined to say how the error was made.

Right.  And it looks like CROOKED and BIGOTED former sheriff Joe Arpaio will be pardoned. Has he no decency at all?

Arpaio was found guilty of some really disturbing illegal behavior. People that violate others’ civil rights should not hold positions in law enforcement.

He flouted the Constitution. He disobeyed court orders. And then he bragged about it.

To understand the building outrage, particularly among civil rights groups, over the possibility that President Donald Trump would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one need only return to the July criminal contempt decision against him.

It followed a decade-long case against the sheriff for racial-profiling practices in Arizona, during which Arpaio was ordered to stop targeting Latinos for traffic stops and detention.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

The 85-year-old sheriff who lost his run for a seventh term in 2016 is scheduled to be sentenced October 5. Trump has strongly suggested he would pardon Arpaio before then, and CNN has learned that the White House was preparing the necessary paperwork and talking points to distribute to allies.

My eyes will be on Harvey and the unnatural disaster that sits in the Oval Office today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?