mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Threat To Human Existence”: Perils Of Warming Planet Are Ignored By GOP Hopefuls

Amazingly, tellingly, the last Republican debate included not a single question about one of the most ambitious international agreements in civilized history — the recently concluded Paris accord on climate change. Signed by nearly 200 countries, including the United States, the agreement attempts to moderate a threat to human existence: the warming of the planet.

But there was barely a mention of climate change on that debate stage. Not only didn’t the moderators consider it worthy of a question, but neither did the candidates believe it important enough for sustained comment. Global warming came up only in a couple of asides intended as criticisms of President Obama’s agenda.

The debate was about national security, you say? Well, they contrasted a promised muscular approach to what they described as the weakness of the president, who is too cowardly or politically correct, in their telling, to even use the right words to describe Islamic jihadists.

Yet, the Pentagon has concluded that climate change represents “immediate risks” to national security. Last year, the nation’s military leaders issued a report — “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” — that says that global warming will “affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation.”

Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was widely derided after a November Democratic debate in which he said that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” No military analyst or climate scientist has gone so far as to draw a straight line between global warming and the savagery of ISIS.

However, the Pentagon’s report does make clear that climate change will lead to greater instability worldwide: droughts, food shortages, mass migrations, failed states. And those are just the sorts of conditions that breed terrorists.

According to the Department of Defense, the U.S. armed forces will also find their resources strained at home as their troops are likely to be called upon more often for civilian assistance in the wake of natural disasters. There will be more extreme events — more violent storms, more fires, more flooding. And as if that were not enough, some of the military’s combat activities will be compromised; amphibious landings, for example, are likely to be more challenging because of rising oceans, according to the report.

Not that you’d know any of that from listening to the GOP candidates. Most leading Republicans are loath even to acknowledge that climate change is occurring — much less acknowledge that it has any connection to national security. Earlier this month, in fact, presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who heads the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, declared at a hearing on climate change that “for the past 18 years … there has been no significant warming whatsoever.”

Au contraire. According to scientists at NASA and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, 2014 was the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880. “The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record,” NASA said, “with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000.”

The refusal of the modern Republican Party to come to terms with climate change leaves it as the only major political party that doubts the science, the only modern body of flat-Earthers. Conservatives in Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Israel and everywhere else in the democratic world have accepted the scientific consensus.

So, for that matter, has ExxonMobil, which spent decades trying to muddy the waters around climate research. The oil giant may have been forced to acknowledge the facts by increasing legal and economic pressures, but it finally stated the obvious: “We believe the risks of climate change are real, and those risks warrant constructive action by both policymakers and the business community,” ExxonMobil Vice President Ken Cohen said recently. Other major oil companies have also embraced the scientific consensus.

It’s strange that Republicans are peddling fear at every turn, but they refuse to acknowledge an existential threat. Islamic jihadists are troubling, but they don’t come close to the peril represented by a warming planet.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 19, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, GOP Primary Debates, Paris Climate Accord | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Undoing Of George W. Bush”: Even With Mass Communications, The Uninterrupted 29 Day Vacation Is Where It All Began To Go Wrong

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which was one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history during the late summer of 2005. In addition to showing the determination and courage of the victims and first responders – etched deep into the nation’s consciousness – Katrina also illustrated the perils that presidents face when they fail to deal with such calamities in a timely and efficient way, as George W. Bush discovered a decade ago. Strange as it may seem at this time of instant communication and the 24-hour news cycle, Bush didn’t pay attention to the biggest news story of the moment because he was on vacation and allowed himself to get isolated from the country.

Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on the morning of Monday, Aug. 29, 2005, spread across 400 miles with sustained winds of up to 125 mph. A storm surge as high as 9 meters in some places rolled across levees and drainage canals and led to widespread flooding and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Damage was estimated at $100 billion. And, while there is no official death toll and numbers vary, more than 1,000 people died.

The National Weather Service had warned on August 28, the day before the storm made landfall on the Gulf Coast, that “most of the [Gulf Coast] area will be uninhabitable for weeks … perhaps longer.” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city evacuated and he opened the Superdome as a shelter, but the thousands of people who sought refuge there found little or no food, water and medical care.

Americans across the country were shocked by the television images they saw in Katrina’s immediate aftermath. People stood on rooftops waving their arms and pleading for help as the flood waters inundated their communities. Desperate folks in the Superdome appeared in heartbreaking TV interviews begging for aid in their time of need. Making matters worse was that 67 percent of New Orleans was African American and 30 percent of the residents were poor, creating the impression that the government was insensitive and neglectful of minorities and the less fortunate.

While all this was going on, the president of the United States remained aloof from the disaster. Day after day, George W. Bush continued a long-planned vacation at his 1,600-acre Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, and his staff didn’t want to burden him with detailed information about the situation on the Gulf Coast. When Katrina made landfall, Bush had been on holiday at his ranch for 27 days, according to a tabulation kept by CBS News.

As the hurricane grew into a catastrophe, and as the nation watched the TV coverage in horror, Bush’s aides decided they had to inform the president about it in stark terms. One of his aides put together a video showing scenes of hurricane-ravaged communities and showed it to the president. At this point, Bush decided he should cut his vacation short and return home two days early to preside over the federal response from Washington. He flew back to Washington on August 31, after 29 days at his ranch.

On the way back, he had Air Force One fly over part of the devastated area and he glimpsed the wreckage from the plane. White House officials allowed news photographers to take photos of a grim-faced Bush looking out an Air Force One window but the PR gambit backfired. Many Americans saw the photo, which was widely disseminated, as evidence that Bush was too distant from the misery below. In a 2010 interview with NBC, Bush conceded that allowing the photo to be taken was a “huge mistake” because it made him seem “detached and uncaring.”

Bush declined to visit the devastated area right away. White House aides said at the time that Bush didn’t want to cause disruptions in rescue and recovery efforts by diverting security and communications to himself. But Bush allies privately conceded that he could have quickly visited somewhere along the Gulf Coast with minimal disruption, perhaps a staging site, to show solidarity with victims of the hurricane and the first responders. His supporters said later that his slow reaction and the weak federal, state and local response to the hurricane undermined Bush’s reputation for being an effective crisis manager and a decisive leader. And his reputation never improved even though he later made repeated visits to the hurricane zone and steered billions of federal dollars into recovery programs.

“He never recovered from Katrina,” says a former Bush adviser and Republican strategist who wants to remain anonymous to avoid offending the Bush family. “The unfolding disaster with the Iraq war [a conflict which Bush ordered] didn’t help, but it’s clear that after Katrina he never got back the popularity that he had.” Referring to Bush’s decision to fly over the ravaged areas and allow photos to be taken of him peering out the window, the former adviser added: “He’s rued that decision ever since.”

In his book “Decision Points,” Bush wrote, “That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground. That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Bush loyalists say the administration was hampered by slow and inept responses from state and local authorities in Louisiana including Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Nagin. But the president was widely blamed by the public for failing to provide emergency relief in a timely manner and for being insensitive.

Polls at the time bear out this negative assessment. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found that the bungled response to Katrina dragged down Bush’s job approval rating in mid-September 2005 to 42 percent, the lowest of his presidency until that point, while 57 percent disapproved of his performance. Only 49 percent said he could be “trusted in a crisis” compared with 60 percent who felt that way a year earlier.

“It raised fundamental questions in people’s minds about how in touch he was while there was chaos in people’s lives, and how much he cared about it,” says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “And it raised questions about the basic competence of his administration.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, was widely blamed for failing to act quickly enough to help those affected by the storm. Yet President Bush, in a vivid example of seeming out of touch, praised FEMA director Michael Brown early in the crisis. “Brownie,” Bush said, “you’re doing a heck of a job.” These words would come back to embarrass Bush when it became clear how badly FEMA had botched its work. (Brown was eventually forced out of his job.)

Summarizing many people’s perceptions of Bush’s performance after Katrina, entertainer Kanye West said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” who were disproportionately the victims of the hurricane. Bush later called this “one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.” Bush added: “He called me a racist. … I resent it. It’s not true.”

But Katrina remains a blot on Bush’s presidency even today.

 

By: Kenneth T. Walsh, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, George W Bush, Hurricane Katrina | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Cruz Balks At Questions On Flooding, Climate”: References To Science Are Inappropriate When Ted Cruz Doesn’t Like The Data

Storms in Texas last week caused deadly flooding, and conditions in some areas grew even worse over the weekend. NBC News has confirmed that at least 24 people have died in Texas in the floods, and the death toll climbs when victims in Oklahoma and Mexico are added to the tally.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), like many officials in the Lone Star State, has worked on securing federal disaster relief for the affected areas. What the far-right senator has not been willing to do, however, is answer questions about the environmental conditions that may be contributing to the floods themselves.

CNN reported the other day that Cruz finds himself “in a bind on climate change.”

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question.

“In a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster – and so there’s plenty of time to talk about other issues,” he said in response to a question on his views on climate change during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s a curious response. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear how Cruz defines “politicize” – to talk about environmental conditions contributing to an environmental disaster is “political”? Are we to believe references to science are inappropriate when Ted Cruz doesn’t like the data?

For another, Cruz’s rhetoric makes it sound as if he’d welcome a discussion about the climate crisis and its devastating, real-world effects – just not now. There’s “plenty of time” for this conversation, he said.

But the point is, Cruz has it backwards. As the crisis intensifies, and the disasters become more frequent and severe, there isn’t “plenty of time” for conversations that climate deniers always want to push away.

Over at ThinkProgress, Emily Atkin argued yesterday that “let’s not politicize this” carries with it a distinct “I’m not a scientist” vibe.

[It’s] a way to avoid talking about the science that says human-made carbon emissions are warming the earth and screwing with natural weather patterns. Cruz, for his part, says he does not accept that science.

In the meantime, climate scientists across the country have been speaking out about the climate implications of the Texas floods. And on Friday, ThinkProgress asked several of those scientists to weigh in on Cruz’s comments.

The overwhelming response: Talking about climate change after a weather tragedy is not political. In fact, it’s necessary.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, for example, said, “The science isn’t political. It’s the solutions that are political.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 1, 2015

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change Deniers, Climate Science, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Send Disaster Response To The States”: Mitt Romney’s Disastrous Emergency Management Plan

As 50 million East Coast residents brace for Hurricane Sandy’s impact, President Obama has already signed disaster declarations for at least a dozen states, making available the resources and unique coordinating capabilities of the federal government — specifically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA – to assist in the response and recovery.

It’s worth noting that Mitt Romney has said he’d get rid of FEMA and leave states to fend for themselves.

At a CNN-sponsored GOP debate last June, moderator John King asked Romney what he would do to keep FEMA solvent. Romney replied that we need to cut government spending and should “send it back to the states … And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” King looked a bit surprised and followed up to make sure Romney was saying what he appeared to be saying. “Including disaster relief, though?” King asked. Romney answered affirmatively: “We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

A Romney spokesperson, in a vague statement to the Huffington Post last night, suggested that eliminating FEMA is still Romney’s position.

“Send it back to the states” is a typical conservative talking point, of course. But the states don’t inspire much confidence when it comes to emergency management. FEMA also has a budget of about $6 billion that would disappear from the total pool of money available for disaster relief if the agency were eliminated tomorrow, unless states raised their taxes to make up for the loss, something Romney and his party seem unlikely to support.

Romney, as a former governor, ought to know better.

This is how a federal disaster area gets declared: The governor of a state submits a letter to the local FEMA branch requesting help. “In this request the Governor certifies that the combined local, county and state resources are insufficient and that the situation is beyond their recovery capabilities,” according to FEMA. So every time a governor submits a request for assistance — and there were a record 99 disaster declarations in 2011 — they have to declare they are incapable of handling the situation on their own.

And Romney does know, firsthand. For example, there was a November 2006 chemical plant explosion in Danvers, Mass. “You know, we’ll be looking at what the requirements are from a, from a national standpoint. We do have FEMA here now … The needs of the state or it should be the needs here, if they can be met by the state, they will be. If it’s beyond the needs or the capability of the state, then we’ll go to the federal government,” he said at a press conference.

Several months before that, in May, Romney requested additional money from FEMA to deal with flooding in Lowell, Mass. Before that, in October 2005, Romney requested FEMA help for several counties affected by flooding. Etc. etc.

But perhaps it isn’t fair to criticize Romney over these instances, since he was merely operating under the existing system and naturally wanted to do everything he could do to help his state.

But the idea of sending things back to the state makes little sense if you think about it for even a second. Natural disasters frequently transcend political borders, affecting multiple states simultaneously. Absent a unified chain of command coordinating the response in affected areas, you’d get a patchwork of different responses and approaches, which may be very difficult to coordinate. Poorer states with a weaker tax base may be less able to respond adequately. A national agency can pool and transfer resources across the entire county in a way that states can’t — individual state may go years without a major disaster, whereas FEMA is always busy. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of FEMA, especially after Hurricane Katrina, but they all relate to how it needs to be more effective, not less so.

In a nutshell, disaster preparedness hits at the whole point of having a federal government and federalism. It’s a pretty good illustration of how far to the right the GOP has shifted that Romney wants to send disaster relief to states despite that being an obviously terrible idea. And privatizing disaster relief is even scarier. Who will pay for that? How will contractors be held accountable? Other cases of largely privatized disaster relief have raised serious red flags.

 

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 29, 2012

October 30, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eric Cantor Is A Hypocrite On Disaster Relief Spending

Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was  a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov.  Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.

This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia  hard hit  by Hurricane Irene. According  to the article, other local governments  can request more aid and, in addition,  McDonnell also asked for Hazard  Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia  localities.

This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican  congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government  spending.”

What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by  Cantor  last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have  had a record 66 natural disasters  this year and Hurricane Irene was  one of the 10 most costly ever.

Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and  the  hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts   elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any  family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004   when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and  voted  against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas  to do require offsets.

Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for  the wars  in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he  ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay  for the Bush tax cuts for the  millionaires and billionaires? Did he   ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland  security? How about border agents?

Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard  Lance,  totally disagrees with Cantor.  Help is needed now. Gov. Chris  Christie  of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric  Cantor  has lost his marbles: “Our  people are suffering now, and they  need support now. And they [Congress] can  all go down there and get  back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”

It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district   office and call him on his absurdity. Does  he believe we should help  the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for  over 200  years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does  he represent the  people of Virginia? Does he care about  the others  who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this  country?

It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican  from  Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control   in New York City.

“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New  York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”

That about sums it up.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Disasters, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Governors, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: