Sunday, January 26, 2020

Last Call For Housing Of Pain, Con't

California's housing crisis of a decade ago has become its homelessness crisis of today as the the state refuses to take measures to create affordable housing in fear of collapsing another housing bubble.

Many blame mental illness and drug addiction for the soaring numbers, but experts say that is only part of the puzzle. The state’s severe housing shortage, which has forced rents to increase at twice the rate of the national average and put the median price of a single family home at $615,000, has also contributed to the crisis.

John Maceri, CEO of the Los Angeles-based social services provider The People Concern, said social safety nets, like affordable housing and job training, are all but gone, leaving already vulnerable people to fend for themselves.

“You reap what you sow,” Maceri said recently.

He was one of 300 volunteers who gathered in Santa Monica last week for an annual homeless count, part of a larger effort in Los Angeles County that spanned three days and covered thousands of square miles. Similar counts took place in San Francisco, San Diego and other parts of the country.

The federally mandated survey stretches to every nook and cul-de-sac. Its mission is simple: using U.S. census tracts, count every person who appears to be experiencing homelessness and report those numbers to the county. The county tallies them up using statistical analysis and sends them to the state, which sends a report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Similar to the census, the federal government doles out resources based on these findings. Cities and counties with the most need typically get the most money.

In Santa Monica, an idyllic coastal oasis in Southern California, the count took on the air of a community fair. Parking attendants ushered hundreds people into St. Monica Catholic Church on a Wednesday night, offering warm drinks and snacks to volunteers who greeted one another. The crowd filled with local residents and city officials was thick with anticipation.

Around 11 p.m., hundreds of volunteers, lawmakers and law enforcement officers embarked on what has become routine for the affluent community. The city was an early adopter of the count, said former mayor and current state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Democrat.

Bloom served three terms as Santa Monica’s mayor when homelessness still felt like a local problem. The city, with its soft beaches and year-round sunshine, had always been a magnet for homeless people. Residents and outsiders sang a familiar refrain: People experiencing homelessness were drawn to Santa Monica’s comfortable environment and abundant social services.

“Homelessness has been here for decades,” Bloom said. “But for many of those decades, we really didn’t see it as much as we do today.”

Nobody wants to build affordable housing, nobody wants to run affordable housing, and nobody wants to raise taxes to provide services to the homeless.  New York City at least got that part right, but LA and San Francisco and other large cities in California have absolutely failed on this regard.

Yes, the Trump regime has done everything in its power to make the situation worse, but California's had this issue long before Trump was ever in the White House.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

Donald Trump can taste his twisted "acquittal" this week as he rage-tweeted threats against Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff all morning.

President Donald Trump on Sunday suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will pay a "price" for his role in the impeachment saga.

"Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man," Trump tweeted. "He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!"

The president posted those comments after writing earlier Sunday that his impeachment "is a massive election interference the likes of which has never been seen before."

Speaking with NBC's "Meet the Press," Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, said he thought Trump's tweet is "intended to be" a threat to him. Trump responded later Sunday by calling Schiff a "conman."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called the tweet "really unfortunate."

"The president has a tendency to say things that seem threatening to people," Lofgren, who is also an impeachment manager, said. She added that Trump "really ought to get a grip and be a little more presidential."

Also on "State of the Union," Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he did not think Trump's tweet was "a death threat."

"I don't think he's encouraging a death threat," Lankford said, adding, "I think what he's saying is [Schiff] will be held to a price" politically. 

I remind you that this is happening during Trump's impeachment trial, and the jurors in that trial are openly defending, normalizing, and downplaying his open public threats during that trial against the lead prosecutor.

Meanwhile, those same jurors are arguing whether or not there will be witnesses in the trial at all.  It's such a mockery of justice that it would give Kafka a headache.

Schiff, for his part, believes Trump's tweet was an open threat.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has taken a leading role in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, said Sunday that a tweet from the president is "intended to be" a threat.

"I don't think it was personal to refer to the CBS story. What may be personal, though, and I think I have to be very candid about this, is I made the argument that it's going to require moral courage to stand up to this president," Schiff said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager in the Senate trial, added that Trump is a "vindictive" president.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it, and if you think there is, look at the president's tweets about me today saying that I should 'pay a price,'" Schiff said.
Do you take that as a threat?" NBC's Chuck Todd asked.

"I think it's intended to be," Schiff responded.

Again, Trump turning to open threats at this stage clearly means he thinks he has already won.  As I've been saying for quite some time now, Trump is driven by vengeance, and once Mitch McConnell solves his little impeachment problem, Trump will go full out to hurt the people he sees as having wronged him.

Sunday Long Read: Frackin' Cancer

A 20-month investigation into the fracking industry in Ohio by Rolling Stone's Justin Nobel has uncovered evidence that the waste fluid from fracking is far more dangerous than anyone will admit, because it turns out on top of being toxic to humans and animals, it's radioactive to boot.

In 2014, a muscular, middle-aged Ohio man named Peter took a job trucking waste for the oil-and-gas industry. The hours were long — he was out the door by 3 a.m. every morning and not home until well after dark — but the steady $16-an-hour pay was appealing, says Peter, who asked to use a pseudonym. “This is a poverty area,” he says of his home in the state’s rural southeast corner. “Throw a little money at us and by God we’ll jump and take it.”

In a squat rig fitted with a 5,000-gallon tank, Peter crisscrosses the expanse of farms and woods near the Ohio/West Virginia/Pennsylvania border, the heart of a region that produces close to one-third of America’s natural gas. He hauls a salty substance called “brine,” a naturally occurring waste product that gushes out of America’s oil-and-gas wells to the tune of nearly 1 trillion gallons a year, enough to flood Manhattan, almost shin-high, every single day. At most wells, far more brine is produced than oil or gas, as much as 10 times more. It collects in tanks, and like an oil-and-gas garbage man, Peter picks it up and hauls it off to treatment plants or injection wells, where it’s disposed of by being shot back into the earth.
One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.

In the popular imagination, radioactivity conjures images of nuclear meltdowns, but radiation is emitted from many common natural substances, usually presenting a fairly minor risk. Many industry representatives like to say the radioactivity in brine is so insignificant as to be on par with what would be found in a banana or a granite countertop, so when Peter demanded his supervisor tell him what he was being exposed to, his concerns were brushed off; the liquid in his truck was no more radioactive than “any room of your home,” he was told. But Peter wasn’t so sure.

“A lot of guys are coming up with cancer, or sores and skin lesions that take months to heal,” he says. Peter experiences regular headaches and nausea, numbness in his fingertips and face, and “joint pain like fire.”

He says he wasn’t given any safety instructions on radioactivity, and while he is required to wear steel-toe boots, safety glasses, a hard hat, and clothes with a flash-resistant coating, he isn’t required to wear a respirator or a dosimeter to measure his radioactivity exposure — and the rest of the uniform hardly offers protection from brine. “It’s all over your hands, and inside your boots, and on the cuticles of your toes, and any cuts you have — you’re soaked,” he says.

So Peter started quietly taking samples of the brine he hauled, filling up old antifreeze containers or soda bottles. Eventually, he packed a shed in his backyard with more than 40 samples. He worried about further contamination but says, for him, “the damage is already done.” He wanted answers. “I cover my ass,” he says. “Ten or 15 years down the road, if I get sick, I want to be able to prove this.”

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.

“It’s ridiculous that these drivers are not being told what’s in their trucks,” says John Stolz, Duquesne’s environmental-center director. “And this stuff is on every corner — it is in neighborhoods. Truckers don’t know they’re being exposed to radioactive waste, nor are they being provided with protective clothing.

“Breathing in this stuff and ingesting it are the worst types of exposure,” Stolz continues. “You are irradiating your tissues from the inside out.” The radioactive particles fired off by radium can be blocked by the skin, but radium readily attaches to dust, making it easy to accidentally inhale or ingest. Once inside the body, its insidious effects accumulate with each exposure. It is known as a “bone seeker” because it can be incorporated into the skeleton and cause bone cancers called sarcomas. It also decays into a series of other radioactive elements, called “daughters.” The first one for radium-226 is radon, a radioactive gas and the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon has also been linked to chronic lymphocytic leukemia. “Every exposure results in an increased risk,” says Ian Fairlie, a British radiation biologist. “Think of it like these guys have been given negative lottery tickets, and somewhere down the line their number will come up and they will die.”

Peter’s samples are just a drop in the bucket. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.

One trillion barrels of toxic fluid being created and pumped into the ground every year, and much of it is radioactive.  The people transporting it have no idea.  The injuries from the industry are going to be catastrophic, even if it wasn't directly involved in making the planet hotter.

Just another log for the inferno.

Checking The Endorsements, Endorsing The Checks

The Des Moines Register, Iowa's largest newspaper, has endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president.

No wonder Iowa Democrats are unsettled.

Each of the remaining candidates campaigning across Iowa ahead of the caucuses could make a fine president. Each would be more inclusive and thoughtful than the current occupant of the White House. Each would treat truth as something that matters. Each would conduct foreign policy by coalition building rather than by whim and tweet.

The outstanding caliber of Democratic candidates makes it difficult to choose just one.

But ultimately Iowa caucusgoers need to do that. Who would make the best president at this point in the country’s history? At a time when the economic deck has become so stacked against working Americans that the gap between rich and poor is the highest in more than 50 years? At a time when a generation of war has stressed military families and sapped the treasury?

The Des Moines Register editorial board endorses Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses as the best leader for these times.

The senior U.S. senator from Massachusetts is not the radical some perceive her to be. She was a registered Republican until 1996. She is a capitalist. “I love what markets can do,” she said. “They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity.”

But she wants fair markets, with rules and accountability. She wants a government that works for people, not one corrupted by cash.

A former Harvard professor and expert in bankruptcy law, she helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The agency was specifically designed to prevent a repeat of the banking crisis and look out for little guys swindled by lenders and credit card companies.

She believes government should actively work to prevent and respond to abusive practices that jeopardize individuals and the country’s economy.

Warren doesn’t measure the health of the economy by looking at the stock market or an unemployment rate that doesn’t count the longtime jobless or chronically underemployed. She measures it by how working families are doing. Many are not doing well, and Warren seeks major reforms to help them.

A qualification: Some of her ideas for “big, structural change” go too far. This board could not endorse the wholesale overhaul of corporate governance or cumulative levels of taxation she proposes. While the board has long supported single-payer health insurance, it believes a gradual transition is the more realistic approach. But Warren is pushing in the right direction.

It's a good case for Warren, and good argument for her, as well as taking note of the caveat.

Meanwhile, the Sioux City Journal not only endorses Biden but endorses a straight-up Biden/Klobuchar ticket.

In choosing a nominee for president this year, Democrats should pick the individual they believe stands the best chance of producing the support - not only within their party, but among independents and disgruntled Republicans - necessary to win the general election and deny Donald Trump a second term (yes, we anticipate the Senate will acquit him in the impeachment trial).

Because he is, in our view, the candidate best positioned to give Americans a competitive head-to-head matchup with President Trump (we remain open-minded about the November presidential election), members of The Journal editorial board today endorse the candidacy of Joe Biden, the former U.S. senator and vice president, in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Feb. 3 Democratic Party caucuses.

Why do we believe Biden represents the best shot Democrats have within this field to get the ultimate prize they want? Three primary reasons:

* He possesses a greater breadth and depth of knowledge on issues domestic and foreign - experience forged over more than 40 years of elected office in Washington, D.C. - than his rivals.

* He articulates moderate positions on issues more in line with the nation as a whole. Unlike some candidates in this race, he doesn't guarantee a world he can't deliver and most Americans don't want. On health care, for example, he proposes to build upon the Affordable Care Act with inclusion of a public option instead of a government-run, single-payer health care system with a pricetag in the trillions and trillions of dollars at a time when the nation’s debt is more than $20 trillion. We believe many more Americans would consider the former approach than would consider the latter

* He combines respect from both sides of the aisle and the political and personal skills necessary to unite conflicting positions behind common-ground solutions to complex issues facing our country. We view Biden as a pragmatist - and we believe his pragmatism is an attribute. We refuse to believe middle-of-the-road compromise should be or is a relic of the past. This nation is too diverse for any one side to insist on everything and employ an all-or-nothing approach. We believe leaders who embrace the greater good remain important, if not essential to our national dialogue today. If the Democratic nominee emerges as the winner in November, he or she will need to work with others to meet America's challenges at home and abroad.

For some of these same reasons, we view the candidacy of Sen. Amy Klobuchar positively, as well. In fact, if Biden is the nominee, we urge him to consider Klobuchar as a running mate. We believe the two of them together would be a formidable team.

Klobuchar is the first pick however of New Hampshire's largest daily, the Union Leader.

If you are an independent or Democrat, however, yours may be one of the most consequential votes ever cast in a New Hampshire Primary. If there is to be any realistic challenge to Trump in November, the Democratic nominee needs to have a proven and substantial record of accomplishment across party lines, an ability to unite rather than divide, and the strength and stamina to go toe-to-toe with the Tweeter-in-Chief.

That would be U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. She is sharp and witty, with a commanding understanding of both history and the inner workings of Capitol Hill.

Trump doesn’t want to face her. He is hoping for Bernie, Biden, Buttigieg or Warren. Each has weaknesses, whether of age, inexperience or a far-left agenda that thrills some liberals but is ripe for exploitation in a mainstream general election.

Sen. Klobuchar has none of those weaknesses and the incumbent needs to be presented a challenger who is not easily dismissed. Her work in Washington has led to the passage of an impressive number of substantive bills, even as the partisan divide has deepened. In 2018 she won reelection, taking back dozens of conservative-leaning counties that had gone for Trump two years earlier, when Hillary Clinton barely beat him in Minnesota. In fact, Sen. Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, has never lost an election.

But can a woman be elected President? We say of course, the right woman can and should be. By choosing Amy Klobuchar, New Hampshire primary voters can go a long way to proving it.

Ultimately, I still think Biden wins the primary for the three reasons the Journal lists.  The Register doesn't exactly have a stellar track record of picking Democratic winners in Iowa or the Democratic nominee overall, having picked Paul Simon in 1988, Bill Bradley in 2000, John Edwards in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2008, all people who didn't win Iowa and didn't win the Democratic nomination.

They at least got Clinton right in 2016, but that was like guessing the sun was hot. If you're interested in why the other Democratic candidates didn't get the endorsement, well the Register has you covered there too.

I'm going to come out and say though that a Biden/Kamala Harris ticket is far more likely than Biden/Klobuchar.

Oh, and I notice nobody in endorsement land is talking about Sanders.  The thing is though, he's ahead now in Iowa and well ahead in New Hampshire.  That may be his peak, but it's the right time for it.  February will be hotly contested and then we go into Super Tuesday on March 3.

Make sure you're ready to vote in your state's primary and general.  Double-check your voter registrations, folks.
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