What Didn’t Happen In 2019 – The Year In Review.

Despite the release of the Mueller Report, the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and numerous disasters and milestones, I believe 2019 should be remembered more for what did NOT happen. Following are but a few examples:

• The GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote on more than 400 House-passed bills – half of which were bipartisan.

• Congress failed to pass a bill to rebuild our aging infrastructure – our bridges, our rail system, our electric grid and more.

• The Trump administration continued to ignore the greatest threats of our time, including the climate crisis, the mass extinction of the planet’s species, the coming job losses from automation. In fact, the administration’s actions – pulling out of Paris agreement, expanding oil drilling, relaxing fuel standards for vehicles and reducing incentives for sustainable energy, the trade war with China – actually made things worse.

• The Trump administration continued to hold the $18 billion in reconstruction funds approved by Congress that were intended to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

• The federal government collected no income taxes from 91 corporations listed among the Fortune 500.

• There was no real effort by the Trump administration or Congress to reduce federal deficits and the ballooning national debt.

• There was no significant change in workers’ wages, despite large run-ups in the stock markets.

• There was no change in income inequality, wealth inequality or opportunity inequality. In fact, the gap between the wealthy and ordinary Americans continued to widen.

• There was no Senate or administration action to secure our elections. Indeed, the GOP rejected election security bills 3 times in 2019. And the GOP continued its efforts to suppress votes.

• There was no nuclear peace deal with North Korea. Instead, Trump removed the US from the ABM treaty with Russia to limit short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.

• There was no peace agreement with the Taliban and no end in sight for America’s longest-lasting war – the war in Afghanistan.

• There was no real effort to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. In fact, the actions taken by the Trump administration exacerbated the problems.

• There was no trade deal with China that would provide relief to American farmers or end tariffs on imports paid by US consumers.

• There was no federal action on gun safety measures such as universal background checks, bans on bump stocks, high capacity magazines and military-style weapons.

• There was no federal action to prevent mass shootings.

• There was no action taken to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor, or for yet another terrorist attack on US soil by a Saudi citizen.

• There was no effort to end the war in Yemen.

• There was no federal effort to combat white supremacist terrorism, the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens.

• There was no Brexit.

• And, once again, there was no effort by the Trump administration to represent or even reach out to all Americans. Instead, he continued to represent only his white nationalist base.

The Coming Crises.

As we understandably worry about the constitutional crisis posed by Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our democracy, there are several other crises that should be getting our full attention. Indeed, each of them poses a tremendous threat to the future of the United States and our planet.

National Debt – As of today, our national debt stands at $23.16 trillion. Worse, we will add at least $1.1 trillion to it in FY 2020. Supposedly, the economy fueled tax cuts were intended to offset the growth in spending. Instead, the cuts merely reduced revenue. And the trade wars caused by Trump’s ill-conceived tariffs have only added to the problem by increasing the cost of goods for consumers and many manufacturers. That has resulted in less real income for workers and layoffs by manufacturers. If the trend continues, how will we pay to repair our aging infrastructure? How will we be able to continue to afford our bloated defense budget? How will we be able to afford reasonable safety nets? How will the US maintain its world leadership?

Automation – Technology experts say we are now in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. We are losing jobs to automation at an alarming rate. And the revolution has only just begun. Recent studies predict that the US will lose 30 to 50 percent of existing jobs within the next few decades. For example, in the next few years, 2 to 3 million truck drivers are expected to lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. In addition, that will lead to a loss of jobs related to truckers – at truck stops, motels, cafes, etc. – mostly in small towns and rural areas. And that’s only the start. In addition to truck drivers, there are another 7-8 million professional drivers for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, UPS, FedEx, etc. who will lose their jobs.

Others who work in labor intensive and repetitive jobs will be replaced by automation. Even the so-called white collar workers will lose their jobs to automation. Paralegals, lawyers, medical technologists, even lawyers and film editors could soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The question is: What will the displaced workers do for income? Still think presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposed guaranteed annual income is a radical idea?

Overpopulation – Current world population is 7.7 billion and we added 81 million in 2019. The population is growing at more than 1 percent per year. At this rate, the population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Given the onset of automation, how will they sustain themselves? How will we feed them?

Environment – For decades, corporations have used our streams and oceans as landfills. They have spilled millions of barrels of oil into the seas. They have used factory fishing trawlers to deplete our oceans of fish. They have used our forests and our lands as a sort of supermarket of resources. They have poured toxic chemicals onto our farmlands – their runoff creating dead zones in our oceans. They have filled our atmosphere with carbon from the burning of fossil fuels and with methane from our insatiable appetite for beef. They have created inhumane factory farms that drown our lands in excrement. And they have polluted aquifers through fracking and mining.

Despite all of this, the Trump administration has relaxed most of our environmental regulations and encouraged even more of this destructive behavior from corporations. At the same time, the administration has cut their taxes – revenue that could be used to help clean up their messes.

Species Extinction – Over human history, the normal extinction rate for other species has averaged 1 to 5 species per year. However, scientists say that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times normal. We are now losing dozens of species per day! At this rate, we will lose 30 to 50 percent of all species by mid-century. In other words, we are now in the midst of the 6th mass extinction mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife habitat and human-caused pollution.

Climate Crisis – Last, but certainly not least, is the climate crisis caused almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels. As I write this, virtually the entire continent of Australia is on fire resulting in the loss of millions of animals and thousands of homes. California, too, has faced disastrous wildfires, albeit on a smaller scale. Each year, we see more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones and tornados. The damage from these climate-related disasters for 2019 was estimated at more than $140 billion BEFORE the wildfires in Australia. And scientists tell us that the crisis is only going to get worse.

Each year, the reports of melting glaciers and ice caps exceed previous predictions. Though the situation is dire, most Americans have yet to recognize the effects of climate change. But they have been affected nonetheless. Taxes that could be used to rebuild our infrastructure or to reduce the cost of health care are used to fight wildfires or to repair the damage following hurricanes. Moreover, many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence and starvation, much of it caused by drought.

And, in the future, it’s predicted that we will see much more climate-caused migration from droughts and rising sea levels.

Of course, none of this is good news. Contrary to the tradition of looking forward to the new year, if we don’t address these crises soon, we may well greet each new year with fear and trepidation of the events to come. Nevertheless, I wish you all a very happy New Year celebration! Enjoy it while you can.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.

Understanding The Threat Of Trump: A Holiday Reading List.

If you have a few moments to relax from your busy holiday schedule, here is a list of books that will help you better understand the political landscape of America. With the upcoming elections in 2020, nothing…I emphasize NOTHING…could be more important. The very future of democracy and our nation are at stake!

The Constitution of the United States of America
For anyone who wants to debate politics, this is the place to start. It’s one of the most powerful documents ever written. If you haven’t read it, or if you haven’t read it since grade school, I recommend you take the time to read it and understand it.

That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing by Michael Austin
The definitive guide to the thinking of our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution. It’s essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today’s political debates.

CIVICS TODAY: Citizenship, Economics, & You
All naturalized US citizens are tested on the workings of our government. Yet few natural born US citizens have even read a civics book. Here’s your chance to know as much about the workings of our government as most recent immigrants.

Testing Theories of American Politics, Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
An academic study that proves the US has become an oligarchy in which the very wealthy, the powerful and the connected control our institutions of government, often in direct contradiction of the wishes of ordinary Americans.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America And The Election Of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the US election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency written by two of our generation’s best investigative reporters.

House Of Trump House Of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger
This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House as the most powerful man on earth.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston
A great book by an exceptional journalist that describes the rise of Donald Trump in great detail. It goes on to examine how the Trump administration is gleefully destroying the US from within.

The Mueller Report
The report by Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III and his team who were tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on our democracy and the Trump campaign. Contrary to statements by Trump and William Barr, the report details the extensive connections between Russian operatives and the campaign, including Trump himself and his family. It also outlines at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed justice and attempted to suborn perjury.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance
A 20-year Navy veteran, Nance is an expert in intelligence and counterterrorism. In this book, he details how Trump, with the help of Putin and Russian intelligence, cheated his way into the Oval Office. He not only explains how Trump succeeded. He explains why.

Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew
Belew details how the white nationalist movement grew out of our nation’s wars. As veterans returned home, they brought military strategies with them making the movement more dangerous. As evidenced by the reaction to America’s first black president and the White House reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, the movement now has supporters at the highest levels of government.

Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America by Nancy MacLean – Based on her access to a treasure trove of documents from the estate of James McGill Buchannan, MacLean reveals the playbook of the GOP, rightwing billionaires and the new conservative movement in the US.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Although you may have trouble remembering his name, Giridharadas offers a clear-eyed examination of the state of our nation by taking us into the inner sanctums of the new gilded age in which the rich and powerful threaten our social order.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, And The Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth by Rachel Maddow
An unapologetic liberal, five days each week Maddow helps her viewers understand the political developments that affect us all. In this, her second book, she explores how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted our government, led us into war and is on the verge of destroying our planet.

UN Global Outlook Report 2019
The latest UN report on climate change warns that countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. Without urgent and dramatic changes, the future is bleak, according to the report.

Why We Must Have A Green New Deal Now!

The courageous and determined teenager, Greta Thunberg, is only the latest and most visible advocate for combating climate change. Then-President George H.W. Bush spoke out about the need to address global warming as early as 1988. Al Gore championed the issue following his defeat in the 2000 election. And many other US politicians of both parties have called for addressing the growing threat in years since. The most recent and most visible is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Unfortunately, many Republican politicians financed by the oily Koch brothers pilloried her. So, too, have conservative pundits. They ridiculed her Green New Deal as “taking away our meat, ending air travel, and forcing us to give up cars.”

Meanwhile, the scientific evidence of a real and present danger keeps mounting. The world’s scientists are nearly unanimous that the consequences of inaction are increasingly dire. They tell us that more than a million species will be forced into extinction, that sea levels could rise as much as 23 feet displacing tens of millions of the world’s population and drowning many of the world’s largest cities. They warn of increasingly more intense and deadly storms. They tell us that, as the ice melts and the permafrost thaws, the effects of climate change will accelerate. They tell us that our oceans could soon be fished clean of species and turned into a worldwide dead zone, that much of our most productive farmland will be devastated by droughts.

If none of that matters to you, consider this: They tell us that, If we don’t act fast, the cost to taxpayers will climb into the tens of trillions of dollars!

Science tells us that this is no longer a distant threat we can ignore. We have now passed the point where ending deforestation and replanting trees can absorb enough CO2 to head off the damage. We must take more drastic action. We must drastically change our collective lifestyles. And we have a very short time to do it. The most recent estimate is that we have about 11 years to prevent a complete disaster!

But, if we act now and we make significant changes, there is reason to hope.

Dealing with climate change will not only positively affect the climate. By changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we can reduce many chronic diseases such as asthma. Such a change will also boost the economy, create high-paying jobs, improve infrastructure and cut energy costs. By reducing our reliance on oil, it will cut funding to some of the world’s worst tyrants and corporations. And, since most recent wars have been fought over oil, it could reduce international conflicts.

Addressing the climate crisis with urgency and in a serious way is not just a win-win. It’s a win-win-win-win-win-win!

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

Destruction Of The US. (Part One – The Climate Crisis)

There are those who say that the US can withstand the damage done by Trump; that the Constitution will prevail; that people will come to their senses. I wish I could be that certain. In the coming weeks, I will be examining the damage done to our nation and our planet by this rogue presidency beginning with what is arguably our greatest threat: The Climate Crisis.

You may remember some of the progress made during the Obama administration: It embraced the UN’s Agenda 21 – a non-binding plan that emerged from the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 that set goals for combating poverty, promoting human health, promoting sustainable development, protecting the atmosphere, combating deforestation, managing fragile ecosystems, conserving biological diversity and more. It created incentives for the manufacture and use of sustainable energy alternatives. It created more stringent standards for coal-fired generating plants. It protected sensitive lands and endangered species from oil exploration and mining interests. It pushed to end factory fishing and created a national monument to protect a sensitive coral reef.

Under the Obama administration, the Navy began to plan for the sea level rise predicted by most of the world’s climate scientists. And the military began to power some of its installations with sustainable energy.

Most importantly, the Obama administration not only signed the Paris Climate Accords. It helped to create the agreement. Indeed, President Obama called it “the best chance to save the planet.”

Then along came Trump.

The racist, anti-Obama chief executive quickly withdrew our nation from the Paris agreement making the US now the only nation on the planet that is not a signatory. (Even Syria signed the pact.) He ordered his administration to relax standards for carbon emissions, in addition to deregulating some of the worst polluters. He ordered government agencies such as the EPA, NASA, NOAA, and others to remove any mention of climate change and its effects. He appointed political hacks and climate change deniers to cabinet positions and numerous other positions of power. He eliminated many regulations on coal mining and oil drilling to encourage further development of climate-changing fossil fuels. And his Interior Department began selling mineral rights on federal lands to the highest bidders. His administration even cut the Bears Ears National Monument – a place of great spiritual significance to Native Americans and of archeological importance – in half in order to make its mineral rights available.

In addition, the Trump administration plans to open the Arctic – a region already suffering from the severe impact of the climate crisis – to more oil exploration.

Worst of all, Trump has cut incentives for the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines thereby ceding their manufacture to foreign companies. He has proposed rolling back emission standards for American-made vehicles. He has cut incentives for the purchase of solar panels and electric-powered cars. And he has abandoned virtually all government research into ways to mitigate the climate crisis.

Do Trump and his supporters not live on the same planet we do? Have they not read the mounting evidence of a true global catastrophe? Have they not heard the warnings of extreme temperatures and rising sea levels? Have they not read reports of dying coral reefs and the extinction of species? Have they not experienced the anguish of watching another community torn apart by an extraordinary storm fueled by extreme temperatures? Do they not understand that one reason for the immigration crisis at our border is climate change? And that mass migration from climate change will only grow?

The world’s climate scientists say that we only have a decade or less to act in order to head off the worst effects of the climate crisis. And every few months, they announce that the climate is spiraling out of control even more quickly than their worst-case scenarios. The climate crisis is not a hoax! In fact, it is all too real. Indeed, the only questions left are: Will we act in time? Will our actions be enough? Will Trump be re-elected.

If the latter happens, it will almost certainly be game over.