Be the finch

 

Think things are hopeless? That Republicans control it all?

I just saw a hawk flying straight towards my house, being chased by a dozen small finches.

Be the finch.

 

 

Trump Signs Executive Orders Reversing Dakota and Keystone Pipeline Decisions

Dakota pipeline protest

Trump has signed executive orders reversing President Obama’s administration’s decisions on both the Keystone and the Dakota pipelines.

The Dakota pipeline is currently under review by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the route and alternatives. Trump can’t just upend this effort with an executive order—not without Earth Justice or other environmental organization easily being able to get an injunction against the order in court. I expect a court challenge against this exeutive order within a day

Unfortunately, Obama’s Keystone Pipeline decision could be more easily undone. The original State Department review of the Pipeline didn’t find it to be an environmental risk. Later, State found that the Pipeline would run counter to the US efforts to combat climate challenge, but this finding was based on cheap oil. Once the price of oil rises, to $65.00 a barrel or more, than this decision would no longer be considered viable. We could challenge a Keystone decision in court, but have less chance of success.

The claims about jobs associated with the pipeline are exaggerated. Yes, there will be construction jobs to build the pipelines, but, ironically enough, many of those jobs will most likely be filled by undocumented workers from Mexico. Construction is the second largest employer of undocumented workers in the US.

Once the pipelines are built, though, the number of jobs provided is tiny, measuring in the 100s, if that.

US energy costs won’t decrease, either, especially with the Keystone pipeline. Much of the refined gas, diesel, and jet fuel is likely to be exported out of the country.

What we will see are increased environmental costs. Companies are responsible for oil spills, but it’s uncanny how all too often, we taxpayers end up footing the bill for oil clean up. In addition, both pipelines are a major risk to drinking water, as well as vital aquifers for agricultural irrigation. Today, the Canadian government noted that one pipeline spilled 200,000 liters of oil in aboriginal land, following another major spill that shut off the supply of water to two major cities.

We’ll absorb the environmental damage, including the impact of the refining, yet only the oil companies will truly benefit.

Photo courtesy Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0

The Whitehouse.gov web site changes and the Transition Plan

snapshot of archived site

Several people have tweeted about how the climate change page is no longer posted to the whitehouse.gov web site. What they’re not aware of is that this change was planned starting last October.

First of all, whitehouse.gov reflects whoever is the occupant of the White House. Unlike the EPA or Department of Labor web sites, we shouldn’t be surprised to see sweeping changes during this transition.

The National Archives and Record Administration has archived the Obama’s web pages, as well as Barack and Michelle Obama’s official POTUS and FLOTUS twitter accounts. So the pages aren’t gone. What you see now is what Trump’s team has put together during the transition. The pages specific to the tenant are going to be different.

In addition, the non-profit Archive.org has preserved the Obama whitehouse.gov web pages, in addition to all government web pages. Yes, including the climate change page.

(If you’re feeling generous, Archive.org could use a donation to help with expenses.)

This web site change is part of the transition, and not unexpected. When we should be concerned is when we see pages disappear from sites like the EPA and the Department of Labor once Trump’s cabinet members have taken over the departments.

 

Power to the People and Saturday’s March

Prints of hands on rusted steel girder

I don’t join “movements”. I’ve seen them co-opted too many times.

I saw this with Blogher, which was supposed to be a movement to give attention and voice to women writers. But three people turned it into a profit-making venture and ruined everything.

We also saw this with Occupy and Black Lives Matter.

Now we’re seeing it with the Women’s March, as one of the self-appointed  leaders  used the event to slam Hillary Clinton by deliberately leaving her name off a list of women who have led the way in this fight. This, even though the list started off with an unattributed Hillary Clinton quote.

The inevitable problems that typically occur with any “movement” have surfaced, and some have talked about not marching. However, what we have to remember is that though some people seek to co-opt a “movement”, they can’t steal the power and the passion that started it.

I hope people, all people, march tomorrow…not for the Women’s March, the movement, but for your own passion. Whatever led you to want to march isn’t gone.

As for me, I have all my feelers out and ready to expose any and all actions Trump, his cabinet, and this Congress do, starting with today’s signed Executive orders. That’s how I march: across the page.

Power to the people.

The latest Email Hack and the Great Soda Conspiracy

Gold finch giving camera the evil eye

I’m interested in the food industry primarily because of an interest in food safety and the environment. I’m not a Michael Pollan groupie, but when it comes to large corporations and consumers, I generally land on the side of the consumer.

My dual interest in the food industry and Clinton emails crossed recently with the release of hacked emails, these supposedly from the account of Capricia Marshall and released to a site known as DCLeaks. Marshall consulted with Coca-Cola, but has also worked on the Clinton campaign, as well as being the former US Chief of Protocol during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.

A web site known as The Russels published what they felt was a close association between Hillary Clinton and Coca-Cola, as proven by one email interchange between Clinton staff workers and the company.

When Hillary Clinton supported Philadelphia’s soda tax this April, Latham and Marshall both played critical roles in Coca-Cola’s damage control. What follows is a case study in how corporations influence American politics through strings-attached donations and well-placed personnel.

First of all, we don’t know whether these emails have been modified or not, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say they’re legitimate. Do the emails imply that Clinton was influenced by a strings-attached donation by Coke?

Let’s go back into the news archives for the time in question. PhillyVoice wrote about Clinton’s support for the soda tax. It quotes a CNN article, which quoted Clinton:

It starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources – I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal pre-school for kids,” Clinton said. “I mean, we need universal pre-school. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

Clinton supported the tax for two reasons. One, the money was going to universal pre-school, which Clinton strongly supports. A second reason that isn’t covered in the articles is the fact that this was an important issue to Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney. She was helping a fellow Democrat get one in the win column.

Now, the Coca-Cola people can have all the tizzies it wants, but they had no influence on whether a broad support for soda taxes was going to be included in Clinton’s platform. The reason why is because soda taxes are a local issue, not a national one. Clinton’s support for this specific soda tax was for reasons unrelated to the support many of us have for soda taxes: because we want to reduce consumption of sugary drinks by the young folk. Not supporting the soda tax for the same reason doesn’t make Clinton pro-obesity, it doesn’t even make her beholden to the soda industry.

The email from Coca-Cola’s Katherine Rumbaugh, VP of Government Relations, published in a Forbes article by Nancy Fink Huehnergarth  that read:

[W]e’ve confirmed that there is no continued conversation around beverage taxes today and in future engagements – campaign is not going to drive conversation here or weigh in further,” Rumbaugh wrote. “Also, Jake Sullivan, [Clinton’s senior policy adviser], confirmed that they are not driving this from a policy POV. We’re also working on how to walk this back.

Is company executive speak for, “I earned the big bucks you pay me”.

Jake Sullivan confirmed that soda taxes were not going to be part of Clinton’s policy platform. Of course, they weren’t. As for the “walking back”, didn’t happen. Clinton stated she supported the Philadelphia soda tax, the soda tax passed, and she never once stated, “No, no, I didn’t mean it.”

I’m sorry my foodie friends, but the soda tax just isn’t that big a deal to the Clinton campaign. And I strongly suggest that you drop trying to get Clinton to pick this up because this is a local issue, not a national one.

This all just demonstrates the problem with writing news stories related to email hacks: people can cherry pick through the emails to find what they want, but whatever they choose to publicize is taken out of context, out of the bigger picture, and all they’re doing is feeding the hacking machine.

They’re also, albeit indirectly, misinforming their readers. The writers have made much more of the relationship between Clinton and Coca-Cola than probably exists, because the issue is much more important to these particular journalists, not to mention Coca-Cola, than it is to the Clinton campaign. That’s not to say that sugary soft drinks impact on a growing obesity problem isn’t significant, but it’s not significant at the national level for this particular Presidential race.

Will Coca-Cola have an inside track into the White House during a Clinton Presidency? No more than any other corporation with the big bucks to lobby Congress and the White House, regardless of who is President. And frankly, when it comes to soda, there isn’t much a President, or even a Congress, can do at the national level. Soda taxes, removing soda from schools, outreach…these are almost invariably local and state decisions.