Saturday, June 3, 2017

Model Truth Telling

A talk by Carl Baker at the March for Truth
Pasco, Washington, June 3, 2017
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Our founding document begins with the idea that power in this country is held by the people.  That we are to govern ourselves. And that the government that we have built is our tool that we use to govern ourselves.

I know that many of you think that the government that we have today is no longer responsive to the people. That it's been corrupted. And I agree. But I contend that the core idea of self-governance cannot be removed. It is still present.  The constitution still starts with "We the People". And we can return our government to its proper role as a servant to the people rather than as a tool for their exploitation.  The tools are there if we will do the work. And we are doing the work. We are marching and protesting and organizing and running for office.  And we are calling and writing and emailing and talking to our elected representatives and reminding them that they work for us.

And I'd like to add to this work by asking that we take a minute to ask how we got here. To step back in time and consider the historical context in which the words "We the People" were originally penned. Because this was a unique time in the history of the world. We've labeled it as the Enlightenment. And it was a time in which the thinkers of the day were recognizing the importance of the idea of truth. That it was possible (even easy) to be fooled about what is and isn't true about the world. And that it mattered. That if you believe things that are not true about the world, you have no defense against behaving in ways that cause harm to yourself or to others.

René Descartes quote "Cogito ergo soom" is an important element of the early Enlightenment. These are words that many of us have heard many times. But what do they mean?  They translate to "I think, therefore I am".  But that's hardly helpful, is it?  What is Descartes doing here? He seems to be making an argument, the conclusion of which is "I am".  How is this any kind of satisfactory or sensible conclusion?  "I am"?  I mean, of course you exist. How is this a question?

The answer is that these are the words of a man seeking to know the truth. A man who was so obsessed with finding the truth that he was determined to make no assumptions. To question everything. Including his own existence.

This idea that the truth matters pervades the Enlightenment. One might say that it is the Enlightenment. And it forms the basis of all of our intellectual enterprises. In science, and mathematics and philosophy and history and other endeavors we find this dedication to the truth.

And to discover the truth, we've built institutions dedicated to finding it. Human institutions that try to compensate for our tendency to fool ourselves.  Systems that try to winnow the good ideas from the bad.  Institutions in which ideas are put forward and examined and corrected or discarded. And these systems allow us to make progress toward learning what's true. They are human institutions and subject to human failings, but the do make progress.  Over time, slowly and clumsily, they fumble along and bad ideas are discarded and good ones retained.

So this is where we come from. This well-motivated, high-minded passion for the truth has brought us these clunky, ponderous, failure-prone, but ultimately effective institutions that help us find what is and isn't true about the world.

And this actually pretty good, right? Because by figuring out what is and isn't true about the world, we've come to understand that:

You shouldn't invest with Bernie Madoff.
It's not ok to own black people as property.
Vaccines do prevent disease and don't cause autism.
We can have an adverse effect on our environment.
We can fix the problems that we cause to our environment.
It's really true that we are exploiting immigrants and not the other way around.

The idea that I'm sneaking up on is the idea that our government shares its heritage with our other truth-seeking institutions. That it is one of these cumbersome, ponderous, adversarial, failure-prone, but ultimately effective processes for uncovering the truth.  And yet, today, we live in a world of "post-truth politics".  A world of "alternative facts".  A world in which the President of the United States can contradict himself multiple times within a single sentence, and it's considered normal.

So what do we do about this? Well, get out your smartphone or tablet, because the "ask" is coming up. Or you can respond on paper later at that table over there. But here's the idea. We're going to start by modeling the behaviour that we want to see in our elected representatives. We'll adopt the idea that the truth matters, and we'll act on it. This is actually the hard part. Because if the truth matters, our own ideas about it have to take second place. When we present an idea, and someone challenges it, we have to ask "could they be right?"  "Am I wrong about this?".  And when we're shown to be wrong,  we have to correct ourselves. Which is something that humans have a huge psychological resistance to. Especially at first. But it gets easier with time.

Here is what the research suggests we need to do to get people to do

- fact-check information before believing it
- share only verified, trustworthy information
- retract information that they shared that proved false
- encourage others - even your allies - to avoid sharing false information
- defend others - even your opponents - when they share true information
- ask others to retract false information
- celebrate when others acknowledge they are wrong

So we model the behavior. And we ask others to do the same. Including our elected officials. And we hold them and ourselves accountable when we fail. We start with ourselves and our local officials and we move to state and federal officials and we change the culture. We discard "post-truth politics" and "alternative facts" as failed ideas and we return the truth to its rightful place in our political system.

So if you're on-board with this idea, I'll ask you to go to Protruthpledge.org and take the pledge. Do the things I've talked about and the longer list of things that are on the website and the posters at the table.  And once enough of us have done this, we can go to our local elected officials and ask them to sign on. Point out that their constituents care about the truth and that we want our officials to do the same.

An important element of this project is that there is an accountability aspect to it.  We're asking those who have taken the pledge to be public about it. And substantive violations can be reported to the organization for evaluation and corrective pressure applied. This won't apply as much to individuals, but more to elected officials.

This effort needs volunteers and organizers as well. If you're willing, you can help recruit others to sign on. You can lobby your elected officials to sign on.  You can be part of the organization promoting this culture shift. There are places on the website to volunteer to be part of the effort in various ways. Or you can just sign up.

I'll close with a quote from a Facebook comment by a friend of mine named Mike Blackford: "We must always remember that the behavior of free people in a democratic society can only be controlled by the manipulation of what they believe.  A totalitarian regime doesn't need to be very concerned with what people under their control believe because their behavior is directly controlled. A theocratic regime imposes itself upon what the people are allowed to believe and often punishes heresy with death.

When the very nature of Truth itself is under attack, and facts are buried under a pile of lies, falsehoods, deceit, myths, and frauds, and when hypocrisy is rewarded while integrity is assaulted, our liberties in a democratic society are in serious jeopardy.  Those who peddle falsehoods and lies are enemies of our democracy itself."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Price of Liberty

Colonel Andrew Hesser, USMC (ret’d)
Armed Forces Day 20 May 2017

Regional Veterans' Memorial, Columbia Park, Kennewick, WA
“We will pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, and oppose any foe to ensure the success of liberty.”  These words of President Kennedy from his inaugural address might raise the question of just what, exactly, is the price of liberty?
Were I to ask you what you think was the most important event in the 20th century, I’d like to think most of you would come up with something more significant than Princess Diana’s death – which is what 30% of the people in a recent survey said was the 20th century’s “most memorable” event.

I think it could be argued that the most important event of the 20th Century was the First World War.  It was most important because of the impact the War had on Europe and the rest of the World.  It is fitting, therefore, that we look back one hundred years and try to understand this war and how it continues to impact the world today.

The First World War, or the Great War, as it was called before it was surpassed by the Second, has captured my fascination.  As a professional soldier, I have tried to understand how men could keep on under the appalling conditions they found themselves in on the Western Front.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve done and seen in the past several years, as I tried to understand what some historians consider the real beginning of the 20th century.

The first question we might think about is “Why did the war happen?”  Was it the system of alliances?  The growth of military capability?  The fact Europe had almost a century of mostly peace?  What was it that caused this war?

Several years ago, when I was a student at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, my history professor said that the Great War happened because “No great power said it wouldn’t!”  Not the Austrians, or the Russians, or the Germans, or the French, or the British.

I’ve seen the car in which Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were riding when they were assassinated in Sarajevo--it’s in the Military Museum in Vienna.  Once I went to Artstetten, their palace an hour and a half west of Vienna.  There I was taken on a private tour of the museum, which is what it is now and was shown the crypts where the Archduke, and his wife laid to rest.  My escort was the great-grandson of Archduke Ferdinand.

I went to Bad Ischl and toured the hunting lodge of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph – it was he who declared war on Serbia.  I’ve stood behind the desk on which he kicked off the chain of events that ultimately cost 60 million lives–when you consider the 50 million killed in WWII.

As important as these were, though, no understanding of the Great War is complete without seeing the battlefields.  As many of you surely know, after a few initial months, the Western Front was stabilized along a 400-mile front from the North Sea to Switzerland.  The trenches were, in some cases, only 50 meters apart and almost never more than a few hundred.  In between was a term coined from that war: “no man’s land.”


It is possible to walk the trench lines from the Belgium Coast to Switzerland, because in many places the trenches are still there.  If they aren’t, you can just follow the cemeteries; over 160 in one battlefield alone.

By 1916, the War had become a war of attrition, and the Germans decided to attack on the salient around Verdun, in NW France.  The strategy was to attack a place the French would have to defend and to “bleed them white.”  Nowhere on the Western Front does the magnitude of the war hit home like it does at Verdun.  I’ve been there three times–in 1983, 2001, and again in 2014.  OK, I admit—I’m a little strange!

The trenches are there; so are the forts.  During the battle not a tree was left standing; afterwards, the government planted trees, but no one can go for a picnic in these forests.  Actually, signs prohibit you from leaving the roads –the woods are simply filled with unexploded ordnance.

The battle for Verdun raged from February to November 1916, and it almost destroyed the French Army.  Virtually every French regiment fought there, and when the war was over, the French build the largest war memorial I’ve ever seen to house the bones of those killed on the surrounding hills.

15,000 are buried in front of the Ossuary (literally a place for burying bones), each with a cross that says, “Mort por la France” – died for France.

After the war, all the bones were dug up from the shallow graves around Verdun – both French and German – and buried in the basement of the Ossuary.  If you get on your hands and knees, you can look into the windows and see the bones.

How many do you think are there?  Remember, these are all unknown.  Would 10,000 sound like a lot?   30,000?  How about 50,000 (about what we lost in a dozen years in Vietnam)?  Would you believe 130,000 unknown?  That was the price of liberty at Verdun.

A few years ago, I had the chance to visit the Somme River valley.  The very word has a special meaning to the British.  To relieve pressure on Verdun, the high command decided a joint British-French offensive would be launched on the first of July 1916.  The French didn’t have many divisions to contribute (only 3), so the British put in 17.  To an impartial observer, there could scarcely have been a poorer place chosen for the British to attack.  The Germans had been dug in for almost two years, constructing deep bunkers and communications lines.

Nevertheless, on the first of July, 1916, the forces of the British Empire went “over the top.”  There had seldom been a slaughter in the history of warfare to compare with the losses the British suffered.  Of 100,000 men who attacked, roughly 20,000 were killed on that single day –with another 40,000 wounded ---60% casualties.

You can visit the Canadian Newfoundland Memorial at the Somme.  It is superbly kept.  The trenches are there; between them are the shell holes.  Sheep keep the grass down, so you can see what the ground looked like.  Three hundred yards away are the German trenches; they’re maintained. as well.  I walked where the Canadians launched their attack, then I moved to the other side, a couple hundred yards away, to see what the Germans saw.

The question that I could not answer was, “How could troops continue to attack in the face of such resistance?”  One company attacked kicking a soccer ball.  They announced in advance:

The Great European Cup
The Final East Surreys v. Bavarians
Kickoff at Zero.

The First Newfoundland Regiment ceased to exist.  That was the price of liberty the Canadians paid.

The British erected two great monuments to the War in the 1920s.  One is called, “The Missing of the Somme.”  Imagine a four-sided horseshoe magnet rising from the battlefield, inscribed with the names of those killed there who, in Kipling’s words, “Lie in no known graves.”  How many names do you think are on that monument?  Remember, this is just one battle –July-November 1916.  Would you believe 73,400?  And this is just British and South African troops, the Canadians and ANZACS had their own monuments.

I was struck by the poppies at the monument, when I was there.  School children and great grandchildren come to pay their respects.  In the British Military Museum in London, I came across a letter from a British trooper.  He said, “If you get this letter, you’ll know I died doing my duty.”  Such was the price of liberty for this family.

Vera Brittain wrote a book about her losses – her brother, her fiancé, and two close friends – it became a best seller.  So was Robert Graves’ “Goodbye to All That.”

And so, 1916 came to an end –basically where it started.  One of the heroes of Verdun was put in command of a French Army in the middle of the line.  He decided to attack in April of 1917, and the French Army was slaughtered – the Germans again had the high ground.  I toured their underground fortifications.  The French Army mutinied – not mentioned much anymore.  23,000 were convicted of mutiny after Chamin de Dames; 432 condemned to death; 50 executed.  The French never attacked again.  They waited for the Americans.

As bad as the Somme was, it was worse at Passchendale in 1917.  The British held the Belgium town of Ypres throughout the war.  Three battles were fought there, with the greatest in 1917. Never in the history of warfare has a battle been fought under more appalling conditions.  The entire battlefield was a swamp.  If a soldier stepped off the duckboards, he’d probably drown, being weighed down with all his equipment.
The British attacked in the summer of 1917 and kept on attacking until, months later, they reached the high ground three miles away.  Thirty-five men were killed for each meter of ground gained.  The most famous poem of the war came out of this battle:

    In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow,
    Beneath the crosses, row on row;
    And in the sky, the larks bravely singing fly,
    Scarcely heard amid the guns below.

I was in Ypres in 2001, on Armistice Day.  Thousands of Brits were there to pay their respects.  At the Menin Gate—the other great British monument—are listed 55,000 names of Commonwealth soldiers who lie in unknown graves.  35,000 additional unknown are listed at Tyne Cot Cemetery—the largest British cemetery in Europe,

Every night at 2000 hours, the Ypres fire brigade plays “The Last Post,” sort of the British “Taps.”  They started playing in the 1920s, when the Menin Gate monument was dedicated, and if they play “The Last Post” once an evening for a soldier killed in the Ypres Salient, they’ll play until the 25th century.  Such is the price of liberty.

At the Somme and at Ypres, the battlefields keep on killing people.  Every spring, unexploded ordnance is plowed up.  The farmers stack it beside the road, and explosive ordnance disposal units collect and dispose of it.  Every eight years or so, on average, some farmer on a tractor is killed by an explosion.

The bodies keep coming up, too.  When I was there, I saw a dozen new graves—bones that had been recently discovered when a contractor was excavating to build a new road.  Apparently, the war never ends in France.

I’ve been to Belleau Wood, where the Marines fought so hard the French Government declared that forevermore the woods would be known as the Bois de le Marine.  I drank from the bulldog fountain, where Marines filled their canteens.  It looks just like it did in 1918.  The trenches are still there, but don’t leave the path!

I went to Compeign, where the Armistice was signed in a railcar-and where Adolf Hitler (who fought at Ypres) made the French surrender in 1940.

So, from the beginning in Sarajevo to the end in Compeign, the Great War consumed its youth.  Two million Germans, 1.7 million French, a million British.  35% of those baby boys born from 1882 to 1885.

In every cathedral of France of any significance, there is a simple plaque:

    “To the Glory of God and in memory of one million men of the British Empire who died in the Great War, and of whom the greater number rest in France.”

That was the price of liberty.

So, what was the long-term impact of the Great War?  Politically, it destroyed the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Turkish Ottoman Empire.  It led directly to the establishment of the Soviet Union.  It also led to the rise of Hitler’s Germany and the Second World War.  It destroyed empires and led to the creation of the League of Nations and new countries throughout the world.  And it led to the United States becoming a world power for the first time.  The modern Middle East looks like it does today because of the War.

Socially, the war led to the emancipation of women and largely to their entrance into the work force.  It also led to a sense of loss of innocence—no longer would people think that civilization was on a steady path to improvement.  In some places—think Britain—it led to pacifism.
On this day, here in the safety of the Tri-Cities, it is fitting for us who live in safety and freedom to remember those of a lost generation who fought for God, and King, and Country—and for the liberty we enjoy.

Thank you very much.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Debtors' Prison

House Bill 1783 is about giving people a fair chance to get back on their feet once they get out of prison. Our current system prevents offenders from being able to get their lives back on the right track. The bill prioritizes restitution and establishes a more rational standard for determining ability to pay. Imposing intereston legal financial obligations (LFOs) was first thought to be an incentive for offenders topay, but instead it has been shown to be an impediment. The current 12 percent interest rate is onerous and makes the LFO debt skyrocket. This results in what amounts to a debtors' prison. H.B. 1783 would change this. The bill is currently in the State Senate as E2SHB 1783.

We want offenders to rebuild their lives once they are released from prison. There are many barriers to reentry, but LFOs are one of the hardest to overcome. Ask your state senator to support E2SHB 1783.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election -- Vive la France!

New French President, Emmanuel Macron
Unlike the Americans, French voters were too smart to be swayed by far right dirty tricks. They get a smart, good-looking, sane guy with a whip smart wife as president. We get Donald Trump and Melania. BTW, Trump is 24 years older than Melania, which is the same age difference between Macron and his wife, Brigitte, only the age differential is reversed. Thus, it's "scandalous."

URGENT -- EPA Review of Regulations

We have only six more days to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implementation of the President's Executive Order 13777. Comment now!


On February 24, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” which established a federal policy “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens” on the American people.

Section 3(a) of the EO directs federal agencies to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force (Task Force). One of the duties of the Task Force is to evaluate existing regulations and “make recommendations to the agency head regarding their repeal, replacement, or modification.” The EO further asks that each Task Force “attempt to identify regulations that:
(i) Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation;
(ii) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
(iii) impose costs that exceed benefits;
(iv) create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
(v) are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriates Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), or the guidance issued pursuant to that provision in particular those regulations that rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard of reproducibility; or
(vi) derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.”

I wrote to Caryn Muellerleile, of the EPA Office of Policy requesting further information on the task force and how it would conduct its review. Here is my email, followed by her response.


Dear Ms Muellerleile;

Would you please tell me who the members of the EPA regulations review “task force” are, what their qualifications are, and what scientific techniques they will employ to adjudicate the criterion measures on your website.

Thank you,

/s/


Dear Mr. Badalamente,

Thank you for your interest in EPA’s regulatory reform efforts. 

In accordance with Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda, which is designed to reduce the regulatory burdens agencies place on the American people, EPA has established a Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO) and a Regulatory Reform Task Force. Administrator Pruitt has charged Samantha Dravis, Senior Counsel and Associate Administrator for Policy, to serve as RRO and Ryan Jackson, Chief of Staff, to serve as chairman of the Task Force. Other members of the Task Force include Byron Brown and Brittany Bolen, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Office of Policy Deputy Associate Administrator, respectively.

The Task Force is charged with evaluating existing regulations and making recommendations to the Administrator regarding rules that can be repealed, replaced or modified to make them less burdensome. Their recommendations will be informed by a public participation process that includes state, local and tribal governments, small businesses, consumers, non-governmental organizations and trade associations. At the Administrator’s directive, EPA’s Offices of Air and Radiation, Land and Emergency Management, Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Water, Environmental Information, Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations and Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization are consulting with their specific stakeholders for their input.

You can find more information about EPA’s regulatory reform activities on our website. 

Thank you again for your interest in this important issue.

Sincerely,

Caryn Muellerleile
Office of Policy
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-2855

Note that Ms Muellerleile failed to address my question regarding the qualifications of the task force members, nor the scientific techniques they would emply to judge the merits of the reulations. However, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in April 2017 demanding answers to this and other questions regarding Pruitt's planned review. They pointed out that Pruitt has placed political appointees in the position of adjudicating what is and what is not sound science, and wrote;

"Neither you, nor Associate Administrator for Policy Samantha Dravis, nor Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, nor Deputy Chief of Staff Byron Brown, nor Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy Brittany Bolen, have any meaningful scientific background. We therefore fail to see how your background will allow for the proper evaluation of the rigorous methodologies and quality of evidence that are the foundations of sound science.”

Sen Sheldon Whitehouse pointing out SDcott Pruitt's ties to the fossil industry during confirmation hearings

Those of you wishing to comment on Pruitt's directive might reiterate this point.

The Schatz/Markey/Whitehouse letter also demanded that Pruitt provide written assurances on the following points:

·         EPA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force will fully engage with public health, consumer protection, and environmental groups, as well as the general public, in order to better understand the scale and scope of the benefits associated with each regulation under consideration.
·         EPA will make public, on its website, the names and affiliations of all participants that provide input to the Task Force.
·         EPA will transparently disclose its calculations of both costs and benefits in considering the merits or any particular regulation.
·         Political appointees will not interfere with routine and non-controversial regulatory actions informed by career EPA scientists acting in the best interest of the public.
·         Going forward, you will justify all decisions you make that ignore the advice of EPA scientists with the body of peer-reviewed scientific literature relied upon in arriving at your decision.
 
These are worth reiterating in your comments.
 
Scott Pruitt is counting on the apathy of Americans as he goes about dismantling the agency he sued multiple times. Disappoint him. Comment, and keep fighting!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Changing Rep. Dan Newhouse's Votes on Climate Change

Look, we don't really care so much about changing our representative's "mind," as we do about changing his/her votes to more closely conform to our position on the issues. Take Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA4), for example. Those of us concerned with climate change want him to sponsor, co-sponsor, or otherwise support and vote for legislation addressing the mitigation of climate change. Principally, we want him to support legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

How do we accomplish this end?

Education: We could try educating Mr. Newhouse about how the climate is changing, why the climate is changing, what the impacts and costs of climate change are, and how we can reduce GHG emissions without harming the economy. This requires a science lesson, an economics lesson, and a policy lesson. Generally legislators don't like being lectured to, don't have time to dive into climate science (or any other science, for that matter), and aren't necessarily swayed by scientific facts so much as electoral facts.

Political Will: "Political will" is the watch word of the Citizens' Climate Lobby. The CCL would have us work to educate voters in the 4th Congressional District -- Mr. Newhouse's constituency -- and convince them that climate change tops their agenda of issues, such as family-wage jobs, budget deficits, the Second Amendment, abortion, etc. Then encourage them to convey their concerns about climate change to Mr. Newhouse, demonstrating the political will for action. Almost sixty percent of voters in Mr. Newhouse's district voted for Donald Trump. That should tell you what you need to know about the prospects for this strategy.

Leverage: We can find ways to convince Mr. Newhouse's main campaign contributors -- agribusiness -- that climate change will hurt their profits and that Mr. Newhouse should help them avoid that. We can liaise with agribusiness organizations, such as the Washington Farm Bureau (WFB), to update them on climate change developments, and to offer expertise on dealing with them. We can work through these organizations to put pressure on Mr. Newhouse to join the House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus so that he is able to represent Columbia Basin circumstances and needs in D.C. policy making. This will be difficult. The WFB "includes more than 46,000 member families" and is the state's largest general farm organization representing farmers and ranchers. The WFB's 2017 Policy Book demonstrates that the WFB wants no truck with climate change whatsoever. The paragraphs dealing with it are shown in the figure below (click to enlarge). Note particularly Par. 66. If we are going to change the WFB's views on climate change, we'd do well to start with future farmers -- the FFA -- who are having their 87th State Convention, May 11 - 13, 2017, at WSU.

Washington Farm Bureau 2017 Policy Book
What's Growing in Washington?
By-Pass: We can work around Mr. Newhouse at the state level through the initiative process, as we did with I-732, the CarbonWA-led carbon tax initiative. We must be better at uniting the environmental community to make this work (the public split between the "save the planet" faction, and the "social justice" faction, doomed the bill). A promising initiative program is another form of leverage. Getting a carbon tax passed at the national level in the current Republican-dominated climate (no pun intended) will be near impossible, despite the promise of the Climate Leadership Council, and the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Another pass at a state solution is more plausible.
U.S. House Climate Solutions Caucus
Replace: We can identify a viable candidate who accepts climate change science, democrat or republican, to run against Mr. Newhouse in the 2018 Election and again in the 2020 Election, and again in the 2022 Election, and so on ad-infinitum, if necessary. This is another form of leverage, and by far the most effective.

These options aren't all mutually exclusive, and can be worked more or less simultaneously, but knowing where to allocate one's limited resources is important. My predisposition at this time, would be to concentrate on by-pass and replace.

Monday, March 13, 2017

8th LD and BCDCC to Meet Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Benton County and 8th Legislative District Democrats will hold their regular monthly meeting this coming Wednesday, March 15th, at the union's labor hall on Duportail, just off the bypass in Richland. The 8th LD meets at 6:00 pm followed immediately by the BCDCC at 7:00 pm.

Please review last month's meeting minutes prior to the meeting.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Who Hasn't Donald Trump Insulted?

The latest institution to be denigrated by the White House is the Congressional Budget Office. Sean Spicer, the President's ditzy Press Secretary, said that the CBO's financial analysis of the Republican's proposed 'American Health Care Act,' should not be trusted. This preemptive strike against the CBO is due to widespread reports that the analysis will show the AHCA to be vastly inferior to the Affordable Care Act, covering far few people at far higher premiums.

Trump has now dismissed, denigrated, or demeaned the Intelligence Community, the military officer corps -- "rubble" -- Senator John McCain, because he was captured during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Judiciary, former president, Barack Obama, the U.S. Electoral System, and the Media, Muslims, Mexicans, to say nothing of past Republican presidential nominees, and of course, "Crooked Hillary," and women generally, for whom he demonstrates appalling disrespect.

The only entity for whom the American President, Donald J. Trump, exhibits respect, and indeed admiration, is Russian President, Vladimir Putin. I wonder why that is.

Friday, March 10, 2017

California's Extreme Percipitation this Winter Will Not Solve Water Problems

Oroville Dam, California
Amazing rain and snow in California this winter have made people think the drought is finished and everything can go back to normal.

California gets it water from three sources, about a third each from: precipitation, snowpack, and aquifers (groundwater). In many areas of the state, groundwater systems have been depleted for long periods - even between droughts - from which they have not recovered.

Excessive, long-term groundwater over-use resulting in groundwater depletion can cause subsidence and permanent loss of groundwater storage as well as water quality degradation and seawater intrusion. These long-term impacts on groundwater have not been remedied by the recent weather. If recovery is possible, it will likely take several to many years to accomplish.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Shut the fuck up, and support the Моско́вский Кремль's agenda!

Republican legislators are getting tired of all these American spoil-sports protesting the 2016 Election. Hey, the Russians won the election fair and square and installed their Manchurian Candidate and it's time for America to collectively sit down, shut the fuck up, and support the Моско́вский Кремль's agenda!

Feeling that it’s time to “make America safe again,” Republican state legislators are hard at work filing laws to enact harsher punishments for those charged with activities that show disrespect for authority or increase commute times.

Give GOP lawmakers credit. They are attacking this terrible protester issue on top of all the other things they’re doing to “make America safe again;” like passing laws to permit concealed carry across state lines, dismantling healthcare, repealing protections for LGTB people, blocking rules that require background checks before people with mental health issues can buy guns, repealing President Obama’s water quality bill, and a bill limiting methane pollution, repealing an order that requires federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, and other Obama-era laws that large GOP donors, like the Koch Brothers and the NRA charge are too burdensome, and or, violate the Constitution, as they interpret it, which clearly doesn't include freedom of speech.

Examples of some of America’s intrepid Republican lawmakers policy proposals include Indiana State Sen. Jim Tomes’ proposed bill (SB 285) that would require public officials to dispatch police within 15 minutes of reported “mass traffic obstructions” with instructions to clear them by “any means necessary.”

In North Dakota, HB 1203 would lift liability from drivers who “accidentally” hit protesters who are in roadways. The bill was introduced amid demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill that, if passed, would mean protesters who blocked highways could be charged with felonies carrying penalties of five years in prison. Just coincidently, Republicans rescinded an Obama administration order to phase out the use of private-prison contracts in the federal Bureau of Prisons. GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators, donated $250,000 to support Trump’s inaugural festivities. They were disappointed their investment didn’t payoff immediately with the arrest of at least a couple hundred thousand of the millions of disrespectful women who marched the day after Trump’s inauguration.

The Arizona Senate, not to be outdone by the Cornhuskers, approved Senate Bill 1142 which expands the definition of rioting to include “damage to the property of another person, and adds rioting to the list of offenses that could fall under racketeering.

State Democratic legislators warned that SB1142’s provisions could theoretically be used in tandem to bring charges against peaceful protesters at a demonstration where other participants use violence. State Senator John Kavanaugh told the Capitol Times that the bill was aimed at “full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder.” He also indicated the bill’s racketeering provisions could be used by police to investigate protest organizers ahead of time. Now there’s an idea that Mr. Putin would second, except that he would advocate using poison as part of the investigative toolkit.

Minnesota Republican lawmakers approved legislation that would increase penalties and charge demonstrators the cost of policing protests. It may be that they hope to use the added revenue to pay for the renovation of Bloomington’s Water Park of America.

Here in Washington, State Senator Doug Ericksen (WA-42), when he wasn’t campaigning for Donald Trump, was cooking up a bill of his own, S.B. 5009 (2017-18), that would label protesters, “economic terrorists.” The terrorist label may be useful, because it could place protesters on the No-Fly list and keep them from escaping to North Korea.

When asked about the fuzzy wording of his bill, and what would constitute “economic terrorism,” Ericksen said any sort of "economic disruption" or anything that could "jeopardize human life and property." Violators could face five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. So, Erickson is also coming through for the private prison folks who’ve contributed so generously to Republican coffers, to say nothing of the oil and gas industry donors to his campaign— The 42nd District includes two oil refineries and a controversial proposed coal-export terminal.

According to reports, the U.S. is set to rival Russia in oil and gas exports. With Republican lawmakers hard at work, America may rival Russia in other ways, as well; to a place where anything that isn’t permitted, is prohibited, and anything that is permitted, is compulsory. Get ready to attend Trump’s 2020 inauguration!
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak


Official Biography
Ambassador Sergey I. KISLYAK
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.
  • Born in 1950.
  • Graduated from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in 1973, as well as from USSR Academy of Foreign Trade in 1977.
  • Employee of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation since 1977.
  • 1981-1985 – Second Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the USSR to the UN in New York.
  • 1985-1989 – First Secretary, Counselor of the Embassy of the USSR to the U.S.
  • 1989-1991 – Deputy Director of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR.
  • 1991-1993 – Deputy Director of the Department of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of the USSR/Russia.
  • 1993-1995 – Director of the Department of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
  • 1995-1998 – Director of the Department of Security Affairs and Disarmament of the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
  • 1998-2003 – Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Belgium and, simultaneously, Permanent Representative of Russia to NATO in Brussels, Belgium
  • 2003-2008 - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Holds a diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
  • Speaks English and French.
  • Married, with one adult daughter. 
  • Met with now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice during Trump 2016 campaign.