Friday, November 23, 2018

Last Call For Climate Of Destruction

The federal government's report on climate change is out, and it should be a wake-up call to the planet.

The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The report’s authors, who represent numerous federal agencies, say they are more certain than ever that climate change poses a severe threat to Americans' health and pocketbooks, as well as to the country’s infrastructure and natural resources. And while it avoids policy recommendations, the report’s sense of urgency and alarm stand in stark contrast to the lack of any apparent plan from President Trump to tackle the problems, which, according to the government he runs, are increasingly dire.

The congressionally mandated document — the first of its kind issued during the Trump administration — details how climate-fueled disasters and other types of worrisome changes are becoming more commonplace throughout the country and how much worse they could become in the absence of efforts to combat global warming.

Already, western mountain ranges are retaining much less snow throughout the year, threatening water supplies below them. Coral reefs in the Caribbean, Hawaii, Florida and the United States' Pacific territories are experiencing severe bleaching events. Wildfires are devouring ever-larger areas during longer fire seasons. And the country’s sole Arctic state, Alaska, is seeing a staggering rate of warming that has upended its ecosystems, from once ice-clogged coastlines to increasingly thawing permafrost tundras.

The National Climate Assessment’s publication marks the government’s fourth comprehensive look at climate-change impacts on the United States since 2000. The last came in 2014. Produced by 13 federal departments and agencies and overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the report stretches well over 1,000 pages and draws more definitive, and in some cases more startling, conclusions than earlier versions.

The authors argue that global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” And they conclude that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“The impacts we’ve seen the last 15 years have continued to get stronger, and that will only continue,” said Gary Yohe, a professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the report. “We have wasted 15 years of response time. If we waste another five years of response time, the story gets worse. The longer you wait, the faster you have to respond and the more expensive it will be.” 

Now understand that in every government facet of climate change response, we have gone hurtling backwards in the last two years under the Trump regime, undoing what minimal progress was made under eight years of Obama.

In many cases, we now have a worse climate policy than 15 or 20 years ago because we actively have governmental policies that make climate chance worse than before.

Things are only going to get worse from here until we get rid of the Republican party that will block climate change mitigation efforts.  It's not just politics, it's survival.

It's Mueller Time, Con't

Special Counsel Robert Mueller excels at flipping smaller fish to get at bigger fish, and it looks like he's in the process of frying up some seafood for Thanksgiving.

Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi is in plea negotiations with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to Corsi and another person with knowledge of the talks.

The talks with Corsi — an associate of both President Trump and GOP operative Roger Stone — could bring Mueller’s team closer to determining whether Trump or his advisers were linked to WikiLeaks’ release of hacked Democratic emails in 2016, a key part of his long-running inquiry.

Corsi provided research on Democratic figures during the campaign to Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. For months, the special counsel has been scrutinizing Stone’s activities in an effort to determine whether he coordinated with WikiLeaks. Stone and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied any such coordination.

Stone has said that Corsi also has a relationship with Trump, built on their shared interest in the falsehood that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Corsi confirmed the plea negotiations after they were first reported by The Washington Post Friday. “It’s true. Your story is accurate,” he said, declining to comment further except to say there may be further developments next week.

David Gray, an attorney for Corsi, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mueller. An attorney for Trump declined to comment.

Corsi flips on Stone, Stone flips on bigger fish in Trump's circle, and maybe Trump himself.  That's how you build an impregnable, unassailable case, and Mueller's putting in the work to do just that.

On the other hand, Marcy Wheeler figures Corsi may be playing the game to get Trump to step in.

Is it possible that whatever Corsi would tell investigators is more damning than what Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort have presumably already said? Recall that Roger Stone, in several of his many efforts to deflect any attention on his own actions, has suggested that Corsi had his own relationship with Trump (perhaps trying to suggest that if anything Corsi learned made its way to Trump, it would have been directly).

Stone suggested that the special counsel may actually be interested in Corsi’s relationship with Trump.

Corsi was a leading proponent of birtherism, the false conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. In 2011, he wrote the book “Where’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case That Barack Obama is Not Eligible to be President.”

Around that time, Trump took up the conspiracy theory, questioning Obama’s citizenship and demanding that he release his birth certificate.

Stone said that during a conversation with Trump in 2011, “he said to me, ‘Who is this guy, Jerome Corsi?’” Stone recalled.

Stone said he asked Trump why he was inquiring about Corsi.

“I’ve been talking to him,” Stone recalled Trump saying.

Stone said that Corsi also met with Trump during the 2016 campaign.

And Corsi’s own lawyer has suggested Corsi declined to take part in criminal activity that Stone may have invited him to be a part of.

Gray said he was confident that Corsi has done nothing wrong. “Jerry Corsi made decisions that he would not take actions that would give him criminal liability,” he added, declining to elaborate.

Asked if Corsi had opportunities to take such actions, Gray said, “I wouldn’t say he was offered those opportunities. I would say he had communications with Roger Stone. We’ll supply those communications and be cooperative. My client didn’t act further that would give rise to any criminal liability.”

Of course, Corsi may not need a pardon to get himself out of the legal pickle he’s in. He may be counting on Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to bail him out. Whitaker was appointed the day before Corsi’s attempts to work the media; when firing Jeff Sessions, John Kelly made it clear Whitaker needed to be in place that day. And the same day that Corsi started this blitz, November 8, Michael Dreeben suggested both that Mueller could do all the things that prosecutors do without pre-approval — seeking immunity, making plea agreements, and bringing indictments — but also noted that subpoenaing a journalist is one of the things that requires Attorney General approval.

We'll see where this goes.  A lot of this depends on what Corsi can offer at this late stage in the game...but hearing that Corsi is cutting a deal will certainly get Trump's attention, and maybe that's the point.

Buckeye State Blues

Here in 2018, the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky tri-state area is now the heart of red-state Midwest America, and if Ohio Democrats ever want to win the 88% white state of Ohio (and getting whiter) again in the future, they're going to have to follow the Sherrod Brown model, argues American Prospect's John Russo.

The Ohio results make Republican dominance clear. The Ohio GOP won 73 of 116 Statehouse races while collecting just over 50 percent of the total vote. That sounds close, but Republicans did not even field candidates in nine races. They also won 12 of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts with just over 52 percent of the overall vote. The results reflect past gerrymandering by the Kasich administration—which will only get worse as Republicans will control reapportionment in 2020.

So what’s the matter with Ohio? Conventional wisdom says that Ohio is too white, too working class (by education), and too rural to support Democrats anymore. That might seem to explain voting patterns in the midterms. Republican Mike DeWine won the largely white exurban, small town, semi-rural, and rural areas that dominate the state. Cordray won in urban and some suburban areas, mostly in the northeast, where the population includes many people of color. Unfortunately, those areas are chiefly found in just nine of Ohio’s 88 counties. Some of those blue regions, especially the traditional Democratic strongholds of Cuyahoga, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties, no longer deliver enough votes to overcome growing Republican power elsewhere in the state.

But conflating race, class, and region misses several complicating factors. First, Ohio illustrates a point made recently by John McCullough, writing for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: When pundits talk about the “working class,” they are usually not talking about class but about whiteness. According to a 2016 Brookings Institution report, Ohio is whiter than other rust belt states (82 percent, compared with 77.6 percent in Michigan). And while much of the state is rural, its suburban and exurban areas are growing, and their predominantly white populations include both working- and middle-class residents.

Ohio’s whiteness explains only part of the problem, though. The Democrats also created their own obstacles through inbred party leadership and poor messaging
. Despite a series of defeats, the Ohio Democratic Party still relies on the same leaders, consultants, and lobbyists who failed in past elections and have not developed a bench of future candidates. Twelve years ago, the last time Democrats won Statehouse races in Ohio, the party capitalized on Republican scandals. Not this year. Further, as Alec MacGillis has written in The New York Times, the Ohio Democratic Party, unions, and some progressive organizations failed to support more progressive Democrats or to invest time or money in “areas where the party is losing ground.”

Cordray and other statewide candidates also failed to offer concrete proposals that would address the economic challenges facing both working- and middle-class voters. The only candidate who focused on such policies was also the only Democrat who won statewide: Senator Sherrod Brown. Why? Brown’s campaign embraced his small town Ohio roots and stressed his consistent support of policies—like protectionist trade rules, increasing the minimum wage, and reducing prescription drug prices—that would improve the lives of working people. This message, combined with his long-standing commitment to campaigning in every county, red or blue, ensured that his message appealed to broad range of voters across races, class affiliations, and regions.

Unfortunately, Cordray wasn’t able to follow Brown’s model. Despite Cordray’s leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which should have defined him as a progressive who would defend ordinary people from Wall Street and corporate misbehavior, he failed to directly address the economic anxieties of working people. While Cordray and Brown voiced some of the same concerns—like lowering the cost of college education or addressing the opioid crisis—Cordray waited until late in his campaign to emphasize the kind of economic policies that have long been at the core of Brown’s political identity. He also lacked Brown’s track record and his down-to-earth style.

Brown’s coattails were simply not long enough to carry other Democrats. In fact, Brown’s numbers may have been pulled down by the other statewide candidates. He won by only 6.4 percent, despite a weak Republican opponent and an 8-to-1 fundraising advantage, according to David Skolnick, political analyst for The Vindicator—the local paper in Youngstown, a Brown stronghold.

As the 2018 midterms make clear, Ohio Democrats cannot count on a strong organizing effort alone to yield victories. They also need the kind of clear message, wide-ranging outreach, and concrete proposals that Brown offered. If Democrats want to reclaim Ohio, they need to recognize that many Ohio Trump voters are also Sherrod Brown voters and vice versa.

So we're right back to the same argument that we were having in late 2016: Democrats must target white Trump voters and win them back locally, at the expense of ignoring other Democratic groups nationally.

Like it or no, the prospects of Democrats in the Buckeye state are pretty dismal.  And unlike Texas and Florida, Ohio is getting less diverse, not more diverse.  Ohio Dems may have to shift into Joe Manchin mode to survive, and it's not going to be a fun time, but the reality is that Ohio Dems right now are in even worse shape than KY Dems.

Which is why I don't think Brown has a chance in hell of any national campaign.  He might make a good Veep, but frankly, Dems can do better.
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