Lazy Saturday Reads: “Impeach the Motherf***er!”

Cartoon by Mike Thompson

Good Afternoon!!

Republicans and some journalists have taken to their fainting couches over a profanity used by a newly sworn-in Congresswoman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). In case you missed it somehow, Tlaib said in a speech that she was going to Congress to “impeach the motherfucker.”

Although she only used one swear word, the NYT headline writer characterized her speech as “profanity laden.” Even Trump weighed in during his rambling word salad in the rose garden yesterday, claiming that Tlaib “dishonored” herself, her family, and disrespected the U.S. by using the same word that Trump allowed Kanye West to use in the oval office.

Here’s The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos’ take:

Impeachment was always going to hang heavily over a divided Washington. But it took little more than 24 hours this week for a freshman House Democrat’s exuberant, expletive-laden impeachment promise to upend the bonhomie of a new Congress and prompt President Trump, by his own telling, to ask the newly elected speaker if Democrats planned to impeach him.

The episode began Thursday night, just hours after the 116th Congress was sworn in, when a camera captured Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan promising profanely to impeach Mr. Trump as she drew cheers from liberal activists at a celebration at a bar near the Capitol. By the time Mr. Trump discussed the matter directly in a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, weeks of speculation about his potential peril had burst into the open.

Republicans, eager to portray Democrats as out to destroy Mr. Trump’s presidency, piled on criticism of Ms. Tlaib — some of it racially tinged. (Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, is one of the first Muslims in Congress. The Christian Broadcasting Network referred to her as a “foul-mouthed Islamic congresswoman.”) Democratic leaders, who view discussion of impeachment as politically dangerous and premature, offered worried words meant to tamp down speculation about their intentions.

Fandos’ concern is duly noted. Now he can fuck off.

Rep. Tlaib responded to the uproar in an op-ed at The Detroit Free Press: Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

President Donald Trump is a direct and serious threat to our country. On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country. His conduct has created a constitutional crisis that we must confront now.

Rashida tlaib

The Framers of the Constitution designed a remedy to address such a constitutional crisis: impeachment. Through the impeachment clause, they sought to ensure that we would have the power, through our elected representatives in Congress, to protect the country by removing a lawless president from the Oval Office.

We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments.

Whether the president was directly involved in a conspiracy with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election remains the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But we do not need to wait on the outcome of that criminal investigation before moving forward now with an inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether the president has committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the state: abuse of power and abuse of the public trust.

Click on the link the read the rest.

Meanwhile, Trump used the F-word liberally during his meeting with Democratic leaders yesterday. The Daily Beast: Trump Referred to Shutdown as ‘Strike’ in Profanity-Laced Meeting With Democratic Leaders.

During Friday’s meeting at the White House over the ongoing shutdown standoff, President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made little substantive progress as Pelosi and Schumer urged Trump to reopen the government by Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

One of these knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast President Trump kicked off the meeting with a rant lasting roughly 15 minutes that included his $5.6 billion demand for a border wall, and threatened that he was willing to keep the government closed for “years” if that’s what it took to get his wall. He also, unprompted, brought up the Democrats who want him impeached, and even blamed Pelosi for new Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying at a party earlier this week that Democrats would impeach the “motherfucker” Trump. (It is unclear why Trump would think Pelosi was responsible for this.)

Trump proceeded to tell the room he was too popular to impeach.

Along with saying the word “fuck” at least three times throughout the meeting, the president bizarrely stated that he did not want to call the partial government shutdown a “shutdown,” according to the source. Instead, he referred to it as a “strike.” (Many of the federal employees affected by the weeks-long shutdown have been working without pay. That is essentially the opposite of a strike.)

During the course of this meeting, the Democrats in the room were visibly shaking their heads in exasperation.

Back in the real world, Americans are suffering from Trump’s latest temper tantrum.

The Washington Post: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences.

Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans would face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy.

The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

trash piles up in dc as the trump shutdown continues.

Thousands of federal programs are affected by the shutdown, but few intersect with the public as much as the tax system and the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the current version of food stamps.

The partial shutdown has cut off new funding to the Treasury Department and the USDA, leaving them largely unstaffed and crippling both departments’ ability to fulfill core functions.

The potential cuts to food stamps and suspension of tax refunds illustrate the compounding consequences of leaving large parts of the federal govern­ment unfunded indefinitely — a ­scenario that became more likely Friday when President Trump said he would leave the government shut down for months or even years unless Democrats gave him money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read more at the WaPo.

The Washington Post: Three dead in national parks as shutdown wears on.

Three days after most of the federal workforce was furloughed on Dec. 21, a 14-year-old girl fell 700 feet to her death at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook, part of the Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona. The following day, Christmas, a man died at Yosemite National Park in California after suffering a head injury in a fall. On Dec. 27, a woman was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The deaths follow a decision by Trump administration officials to leave the scenic — but sometimes deadly — parks open even as the Interior Department has halted most of its operations. During previous extended shutdowns, the National Park Service barred public access to many of its sites across the nation to substantially decrease the risk of park damage and visitor injury.

The National Parks have a poop crisis on their hands.

National Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email that an average of six people die each week in the park system, a figure that includes “accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes and medical related incidents such as heart attacks.” Drowning, automobile accidents and falls are among the top causes of death at national parks….

In 1995 and 2013, respectively, the Clinton and Obama administrations made the decision to close the parks altogether. Officials concluded that keeping the parks open would jeopardize public safety and the parks’ integrity, but the closures also became a political cudgel for Democrats because they exemplified one of the most popular aspects of federal operations that had ground to a halt.

CNN: Hundreds of TSA screeners, working without pay, calling out sick at major airports.

Hundreds of Transportation Security Administration officers, who are required to work without paychecks through the partial government shutdown, have called out from work this week from at least four major airports, according to two senior agency officials and three TSA employee union officials.

The mass call outs could inevitably mean air travel is less secure, especially as the shutdown enters its second week with no clear end to the political stalemate in sight.
“This will definitely affect the flying public who we (are) sworn to protect,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the national TSA employee union, told CNN.

TSA spokesman Michael Bilello said the agency is “closely monitoring the situation” and that “screening wait times remain well within TSA standards,” although that could change if the number of call outs increases.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, as many as 170 TSA employees have called out each day this week, Thomas tells CNN. Officers from a morning shift were required to work extra hours to cover the gaps.

Call outs have increased by 200%-300% at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where typically 25 to 30 TSA employees call out from an average shift according to a local TSA official familiar with the situation.

Union officials stress that the absences are not part of an organized action, but believe the number of people calling out will likely increase.

One more from The New York Times: Shutdown Leaves Food, Medicine and Pay in Doubt in Indian Country.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the government shutdown comes with a price tag: about $100,000, every day, of federal money that does not arrive to keep health clinics staffed, food pantry shelves full and employees paid.

Chippawa Indian food bank in Michigan

The tribe is using its own funds to cover the shortfalls for now. But if the standoff in Washington continues much longer, that stopgap money will be depleted. Later this month, workers could be furloughed and health services could be pared back. “Everything,” said Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe, “is on the table.”

For many Americans who are not federal workers or contractors, a shutdown is a minor inconvenience. A trip to a national park may be canceled. A call to a government office may go unanswered. But for Native American tribes, which rely heavily on federal money to operate, a shutdown can cripple their most basic functions.

All across Indian Country, the federal shutdown slices deep. Generations ago, tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government guaranteeing funds for services like health care and education in exchange for huge swaths of territory.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.

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, this is why finding a Personal Injury Lawyer to help with your car accident claim and to get compensation is so iportant. 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?

Just Exactly What Qualifies Mitt Romney to be POTUS?

"The purple mountain majesties" of Great Basin National Park

Via Think Progress, yesterday Mitt Romney sat for an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Today, the conservative newspaper endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination in advance of the Nevada caucuses tomorrow.

During the interview, Romney was asked whether, if elected, he would consider permitting the state of Nevada to buy back public lands that are currently held by the Federal government. Here’s his response:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada. And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there. What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.” I mean, it drove the people nuts. Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Think Progress:

Public lands in Nevada – and other western states—actually provide an enormous economic boost and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs. Indeed, recent Interior Department statistics show that federally managed public lands in Nevada provided over $1 billion in economic impacts and supported 13,311 jobs in 2010 (and this statistic doesn’t even include the economic impacts of Forest Service lands, managed by the Department of Agriculture). Recreation, energy and minerals, and grazing and timber all play a part in the economic effects that public lands provide to Nevada. Activities like skiing at Lake Tahoe, boating at Lake Mead, and hiking at Great Basin National Park all take place on public lands.

Do you suppose Romney has even heard of Teddy Roosevelt? Or was the conservationist President insufficiently “conservative” for today’s Republican Party? Today “conservatives” don’t seem to care about conserving the beauty of nature for all Americans. It sounds like Romney is more interested in milking public lands for coal, gold, and oil than preserving their beauty so that in the future children can learn “to fall in love with America” as he was able to do? (h/t Think Progress).

A couple of days ago in, Romney sang “America the Beautiful” at a campaign appearance at a retirement community in Florida.

But what will Romney’s policies do to the beauty of our country? The folks at Think Progress made a video about it.

What else hasn’t Mitt Romney “studied” about our country? Well, he doesn’t seem to be aware that America’s social safety net is pretty weak and that his economic policies will completely shred what’s left of social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Romney doesn’t seem to be aware that the number of Americans living in “deep poverty” is the highest it’s been in 35 years.

More than 20 million Americans live in a household with income of less than half the federal poverty rate, the level social scientists often use as a category for the very poor, according to census data for 2010. Last year that meant an annual income below $11,057 for a family of four.

The portion of the population in that category was the highest in at least 35 years and has almost doubled since 1975, from 3.7 percent then to 6.7 percent in 2010.

Romney told CNN on Feb. 1 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because they have many programs to help them. He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters on his campaign plane that low-income people have an “ample safety net,” including Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I wonder if Romney knows that one in five American children lives in deep poverty? Frankly, I doubt it. And just think of all those fetuses who don’t get proper nutrition and health care because their pregnant mothers are poverty-stricken. Mitt probably hasn’t “studied” that yet, because he really just doesn’t care.

Now Romney is claiming he “misspoke” when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien–twice!–that he’s not concerned about the very poor, because they have an “ample safety net.” But O’Brien doesn’t buy it. And, as NPR points out Romney even made the same remark about the poor to the press corps on his campaign plane after the CNN interview.

So what has Romney “studied?” And if he hasn’t familiarized himself with two of the most important issues facing Americans today–the environment and poverty–why on earth does he want to be president anyway? Is it because he’s an expert on foreign policy? Well, no. Not really.

So why does this man want to be President of the United States? He’s repeatedly told us that he knows how to create jobs and manage an economy. But then, why didn’t he do that when he was governor of Massachusetts?

Numbers are important in evaluating Mitt Romney, but the focus should not be on the $250 million estimated fortune he amassed at Bain Capital, or the $374,00 in speaking fees he took in last year, or even on the roughly 15 federal percent tax rate he paid.
The most important number is 47 — Massachusetts’s rank in job creation when he was governor. This is the number that most calls into question Romney’s own current job application.

No job is comparable to the presidency, but the closest thing to it is governor of a large state — an executive position in public office, where the welfare of millions of people is the charge. Unlike a corporate executive, whose overriding goal is to make profits for investors, the president and governors have the same central goal — improving the well-being of the entire population. The first priority, usually, is the overall economy.
Indeed, Romney won office in 2002, after shouldering aside Acting Governor Jane Swift, with a pledge to use his business experience and connections to bring jobs to Massachusetts. He failed, dreadfully.

The 47 figure is one Romney cannot escape. During his four years in office, Massachusetts ranked 47th in overall job growth — only 0.9 percent compared with 5.3 percent nationally. Romney has countered that the unemployment went down appreciably — from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his term.

How could so few new jobs translate into a healthy-looking decline in unemployment? The answer is simple — and not so healthy: Working-age adults were packing up and moving out. Many were replaced, fortunately, by immigrants. But overall, Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in its resident labor force during Romney’s term.

So what exactly qualifies Mitt Romney to be President of the U.S.? And why does he want the job? Perhaps it has something to do with the folks that are funding his campaign?

Goldman Sachs $496,430
JPMorgan Chase & Co $317,400
Morgan Stanley $277,850
Credit Suisse Group $276,250
Citigroup Inc $267,050
Bank of America $211,650
Barclays $203,650
Kirkland & Ellis $201,701
HIG Capital $188,500
PriceWaterhouseCoopers $179,300
Blackstone Group $170,550
Bain Capital $144,000
EMC Corp $127,800
Wells Fargo $126,200
UBS AG $123,900
Elliott Management $121,000
Citadel Investment Group $118,625
Bain & Co $116,050
The Villages $98,300
Sullivan & Cromwell $97,150

Or maybe the moguls who are funding his super pac “Restore Our Future,” 10 of whom gave $1 million or more?

What will become of “America the Beautiful” if Romney and his multimillion-dollar backers achieve their goals?

Friday Morning Reads: Postcards from My Family On Earth Day

Good Morning!

I watched a wonderful episode of American Masters on PBS called ‘John Muir in the New World’ on Wednesday night.   Actually, I’ve watched several escapist things the last few days including another PBS special on British Explorer  Col. Percy Fawcett called Searching for Z . Earlier, I had watched the Presidents series from American Experience including the one dedicated to US President Teddy Roosevelt.  What brings my attention to these three men is that they all were committed to wilderness, exploration, and conservation.  They were huge figures in their life times.  They fought a series of battles to keep the world’s geological marvels and wilderness away from men that wanted to exploit them down to the last tree and rock.  We are seriously short of fighters like this these days.

Today is Earth day 2011.

This all got me thinking about how my grandparents set off with my mother, her sister and her brother in Studebakers  to explore the nation’s new National Park System in the mid twenties.  My mother saw to it that my dad took my sister and me back to every place she’d seen as a kid and then some in the 1960s and 1970s.  I’ve seen nearly all of the National Parks now thanks to my mom and the family gypsy spirit.  I also took my daughters right back there too.   I was especially impressed by Dinosaur National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, and Mesa Verde as a kid.  My oldest daughter got taken to a lot of them initially in baby backpacks.  We’ve spent a lot of time in Rocky Mountain National Park too.  Little Miss Doctor Daughter made her first trip to Washington DC at six months. Then later, when she was older, we walked the same paths that I had walked in the 1960s and 1970s out in Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.  I seriously doubt the paths were there when my grandparents took my late mother, but I know she talked about dropping a hankie in the handkerchief pool and watching the mudpots.  I loved the paint pots.  Little Miss Doctor Daughter preferred morning glory pool and the Yellowstone Falls. We share a fascination with dinosaurs too.

The latest notch on my well worn National Park tourist belt is our  Gulf Islands National Seashore along the Gulf Coast.  I’ve seen them with and without the BP oil.  One of the hardest hit areas is near Pass a Loutre, a 66,000 acre Wetlands and bird sanctuary in Plaquemines Parish. It’s a few hours drive from my home.  There’s a bunch of National Refuges down here  including Delta National Wildlife Refuge and Breton National Wildlife Refuge.  Actually, the entire French Quarter is a National Park. I live in between it and the Chalmette Battlefield that was the site of the Battle of New Orleans.  They are both about 1 mile on either side of me.  Barataria is just to the south and is my favorite National Historical Park to hike these days.  It’s where Jean LaFitte and his pirates hung out and has some of the best swamp habitat around.  The swamp iris in bloom are a thing to behold.  I always take my friends there who’ve never seen an alligator in the wild.  Breton National Refuge is the second oldest National Refuge in the country.  It was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1904.

If you watch the special on John Muir, you’ll see how Roosevelt and Muir were responsible for saving the Giant Redwoods of Sequoia National Park , El Capitan, and the wonders that are Yosemite National Park and Yosemite Valley.  One of their great failures was the inability to stop Woodrow Wilson and Congress from blocking human hysteria and greed–left over from San Francisco’s great fire–from building a dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley that was part of the National Park.  That controversy led to the founding of the Sierra Club and a greater realization on the part of US citizens every where that there are things in this country left to us by nature, geology, history, or whatever you want to call it that are special beyond belief and should be beyond capitalization.  My daughters are the third generation in my family to be completely awed by the power of the Great American landscape.  I only wonder what will be left to their children and grandchildren.

I know this is a weird morning post for you to read and that you were expecting a lot of newsy links.  Instead, I spent the evening scanning some postcards and photos that my grandmother and mother collected.  That side of my family just kept traveling around the US back then and most of us still do the same today.   I want to leave you with some links to think about, however before I leave you with some postcards from my late mother and her family.

Monument Valley National Park Meets the Brothers Koch

Once upon a time, my wife and I ventured in our Western travels to see Monument Valley, that place made legendary by a gazillion John Ford/John Wayne westerns as “THE ARCHETYPAL WEST,” so much so that you couldn’t film a car commercial for many years, and in some cases to this very day, without putting Monument Valley in the background.

And there was a line of cars and Winnebagos (or whatever you call five tons of steel dragging another couple tons of car, motorcycles, mountain bikes, or whatever other trailer gear makes for an enjoyable “roughing it” in the West, complete with satellite dishes and a portable generator for the bug-zapper).  It was late spring, and the crowds weren’t what they were going to be, once school let out and the station wagons were unleashed on an unsuspecting West filled with price-gouging gas stations. Gas was still at winter “local” levels.

The run into Monument Valley is famously desolate, and you can see the spires of rock towering in the distance down a straight-line road that’s a favorite of cameramen of all ages and persuasions.

And when you get there, there’s the obligatory gatehouse for collecting tolls, and if you read the signs, you’ll notice that it’s “Monument Valley Tribal Park” which oughtn’t surprise you, since you’ve been on the Navajo Reservation — a chunk of land that embraces an area as large as West Virginia, and completely swallows the Hopi Reservation within it — for many miles now.

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power

The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch no longer sit outside Washington’s political establishment, isolated by their uncompromising conservatism. Instead, they are now at the center of Republican power, a change most evident in the new makeup of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wichita-based Koch Industries and its employees formed the largest single oil and gas donor to members of the panel, ahead of giants like Exxon Mobil, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans, and $32,000 to five Democrats.

The Koch Bros. and Corporate Welfare

For the past fifty years, through its Matador Cattle Company subsidiary, Koch Industries has been quietly milking a New Deal program that allows ranchers to use federal land basically for free. Matador, one of the ten biggest domestic cattle ranching operations, has something in the neighborhood of 300,000 acres of grazing land for its cows—two-thirds of which belong to American taxpayers, who will never see a penny of profit.

Back before there was Al Gore, there was John Muir.   Only, John Muir not only talked the talk, he climbed the mountains and studied the rocks. He also wrote all about it so that people cooped up in big cities could know the marvels of the wide-open west.  He wanted them to feel inspired and to come experience the power and overwhelming forces of nature and wilderness for themselves.  There were some bad guys back then, but think about this. Koch Industries has spent $55 million dollars trying to fight the science of climate change and seeking to undermine environmental laws. They are out to destroy our national treasures and our heritage that so many people have fought for over a century to protect.   What would John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt say about Koch Industries?

John Muir

This excerpt from a letter by John Muir was written on August 30, 1899 on the Alaskan Wilderness.

And what a glorious trip it was for you girls, flying like birds from wilderness to wilderness, the wildest and brightest of America, tasting almost every science under the sun, with fine breezy exercise, scrambles over mossy logs and rocks in the spruce forests, walks on the crystal prairies of the glaciers, on the flowery boggy tundras, in the luxuriant wild gardens of Kodiak and the islands of Bering Sea, and plashing boat rides in the piping bracing winds, all the while your eyes filled with magnificent scenery—the Alexander Archipelago with its thousand forested islands and calm mirror waters, Glacier Bay, Fairweather Mountains, Yakutat and Enchantment Bays, the St. Elias Alps and glaciers and the glorious Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, and the Aleutian Peninsula with its flowery, ley, smoky volcanoes, the blooming banks and bracs and mountains of Unalaska, and Bering Sea with its seals and Innuits, whales and whalers, etc., etc., etc.

It is not easy to stop writing under the exhilaration of such an excursion, so much pure wildness with so much fine company. It is a pity so rare a company should have to be broken, never to be assembled again. But many, no doubt, will meet again. On your side of the continent perhaps half the number may be got together. Already I have had two trips with Merriam to the Sierra Sequoias and Coast Redwoods, during which you may be sure the H.A.E. was enjoyed over again. A few days after I got home, Captain Doran paid me a visit, most of which was spent in a hearty review of the trip. And last week Gannett came up and spent a couple of days, during which we went over all our enjoyments, science and fun, mountain ranges, glaciers, etc., discussing everything from earth sculpture to Cassiope and rhododendron gardens—from Welsh rarebit and jam and cracker feasts to Nunatak. I hope to have visits from Professor Gilbert and poet Charlie ere long, and Earlybird Ritter, and possibly I may see a whole lot more in the East this coming winter or next. Anyhow, remember me to all the Harrimans and Averells and every one of the party you chance to meet, Just to think of them!! Ridgway with wonderful bird eyes, all the birds of America in them; Funny Fisher ever flashing out wit; Perpendicular E., erect and majestic as a Thlinket totem pole Old-sea-beach G., hunting upheavals, downheavals, sideheavals, and hanging valleys, the Artists reveling in color beauty like bees in flower-beds; Ama-a-merst tripping along shore like a sprightly sandpiper, pecking kelp-bearded boulders for a meal of fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and butterflies and “red tailed bumble-bees that sting awful hard”; Innuit Dall smoking and musing, flowery Trelease and Coville; and Seaweed Saunders our grand big-game Doctor, and how many more! Blessed Brewer of a thousand speeches and stories and merry ha-has, and Genial John Burroughs, who growled at and scowled at good Bering Sea and me, but never at thee. I feel pretty sure that he is now all right at his beloved Slabsides and I have a good mind to tell his whole Bering story in his own sort of good-natured, gnarly, snarly, jungle, jangle rhyme.

There! But how unconscionably long the thing is! I must stop short. Remember your penitential promises. Kill as few of your fellow beings as possible and pursue some branch of natural history at least far enough to see Nature’s harmony.

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