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“The Id That Ate The Planet”: At This Point Donald Trump’s Personality Endangers The Whole Planet

On Tuesday the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America’s most influential environmentalist groups, made its first presidential endorsement ever, giving the nod to Hillary Clinton. This meant jumping the gun by a week on her inevitable designation as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the NRDC Action Fund is obviously eager to get on with the general election.

And it’s not hard to see why: At this point Donald Trump’s personality endangers the whole planet.

We’re at a peculiar moment when it comes to the environment — a moment of both fear and hope. The outlook for climate change if current policies continue has never looked worse, but the prospects for turning away from the path of destruction have never looked better. Everything depends on who ends up sitting in the White House for the next few years.

On climate: Remember claims by climate denialists that global warming had paused, that temperatures hadn’t risen since 1998? That was always a garbage argument, but in any case it has now been blown away by a series of new temperature records and a proliferation of other indicators that, taken together, tell a terrifying story of looming disaster.

At the same time, however, rapid technological progress in renewable energy is making nonsense — or maybe I should say, further nonsense — of another bad argument against climate action, the claim that nothing can be done about greenhouse gas emissions without crippling the economy. Solar and wind power are getting cheaper each year, and growing quickly even without much in the way of incentives to switch away from fossil fuels. Provide those incentives, and an energy revolution would be just around the corner.

So we’re in a state where terrible things are in prospect, but can be avoided with fairly modest, politically feasible steps. You may want a revolution, but we don’t need one to save the planet. Right now all it would take is for America to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and other actions — which don’t even require new legislation, just a Supreme Court that won’t stand in their way — to let the U.S. continue the role it took in last year’s Paris agreement, guiding the world as a whole toward sharp reductions in emissions.

But what happens if the next president is a man who doesn’t believe in climate science, or indeed in inconvenient facts of any kind?

Republican hostility to climate science and climate action is usually attributed to ideology and the power of special interests, and both of these surely play important roles. Free-market fundamentalists prefer rejecting science to admitting that there are ever cases when government regulation is necessary. Meanwhile, buying politicians is a pretty good business investment for fossil-fuel magnates like the Koch brothers.

But I’ve always had the sense that there was a third factor, which is basically psychological. There are some men — it’s almost always men — who become enraged at any suggestion that they must give up something they want for the common good. Often, the rage is disproportionate to the sacrifice: for example, prominent conservatives suggesting violence against government officials because they don’t like the performance of phosphate-free detergent. But polluter’s rage isn’t about rational thought.

Which brings us to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who embodies the modern conservative id in its most naked form, stripped of the disguises politicians usually use to cloak their prejudices and make them seem respectable.

No doubt Donald Trump hates environmental protection in part for the usual reasons. But there’s an extra layer of venom to his pro-pollution stances that is both personal and mind-bogglingly petty.

For example, he has repeatedly denounced restrictions intended to protect the ozone layer — one of the great success stories of global environmental policy — because, he claims, they’re the reason his hair spray doesn’t work as well as it used to. I am not making this up.

He’s also a bitter foe of wind power. He likes to talk about how wind turbines kill birds, which they sometimes do, but no more so than tall buildings; but his real motivation seems to be ire over unsuccessful attempts to block an offshore wind farm near one of his British golf courses.

And if evidence gets in the way of his self-centeredness, never mind. Recently he assured audiences that there isn’t a drought in California, that officials have just refused to turn on the water.

I know how ridiculous it sounds. Can the planet really be in danger because a rich guy worries about his hairdo? But Republicans are rallying around this guy just as if he were a normal candidate. And if Democrats don’t rally the same way, he just might make it to the White House.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 3, 2016

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Climate Change, Donald Trump, Environment, Global Warming | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trade And Tribulation”: Protectionists Almost Always Exaggerate The Adverse Effects Of Trade Liberalization

Why did Bernie Sanders win a narrow victory in Michigan, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a huge lead? Nobody really knows, but there’s a lot of speculation that Mr. Sanders may have gained traction by hammering on the evils of trade agreements. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, while directing most of his fire against immigrants, has also been bashing the supposedly unfair trading practices of China and other nations.

So, has the protectionist moment finally arrived? Maybe, maybe not: There are other possible explanations for Michigan, and free-traders have repeatedly cried wolf about protectionist waves that never materialized. Still, this time could be different. And if protectionism really is becoming an important political force, how should reasonable people — economists and others — respond?

To make sense of the debate over trade, there are three things you need to know.

The first is that we have gotten to where we are — a largely free-trade world — through a generations-long process of international diplomacy, going all the way back to F.D.R. This process combines a series of quid pro quos — I’ll open my markets if you open yours — with rules to prevent backsliding.

The second is that protectionists almost always exaggerate the adverse effects of trade liberalization. Globalization is only one of several factors behind rising income inequality, and trade agreements are, in turn, only one factor in globalization. Trade deficits have been an important cause of the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment since 2000, but that decline began much earlier. And even our trade deficits are mainly a result of factors other than trade policy, like a strong dollar buoyed by global capital looking for a safe haven.

And yes, Mr. Sanders is demagoguing the issue, for example with a Twitter post linking the decline of Detroit, which began in the 1960s and has had very little to do with trade liberalization, to “Hillary Clinton’s free-trade policies.”

That said, not all free-trade advocates are paragons of intellectual honesty. In fact, the elite case for ever-freer trade, the one that the public hears, is largely a scam. That’s true even if you exclude the most egregious nonsense, like Mitt Romney’s claim that protectionism causes recessions. What you hear, all too often, are claims that trade is an engine of job creation, that trade agreements will have big payoffs in terms of economic growth and that they are good for everyone.

Yet what the models of international trade used by real experts say is that, in general, agreements that lead to more trade neither create nor destroy jobs; that they usually make countries more efficient and richer, but that the numbers aren’t huge; and that they can easily produce losers as well as winners. In principle the overall gains mean that the winners could compensate the losers, so that everyone gains. In practice, especially given the scorched-earth obstructionism of the G.O.P., that’s not going to happen.

Why, then, did we ever pursue these agreements? A large part of the answer is foreign policy: Global trade agreements from the 1940s to the 1980s were used to bind democratic nations together during the Cold War, Nafta was used to reward and encourage Mexican reformers, and so on.

And anyone ragging on about those past deals, like Mr. Trump or Mr. Sanders, should be asked what, exactly, he proposes doing now. Are they saying that we should rip up America’s international agreements? Have they thought about what that would do to our credibility and standing in the world?

What I find myself thinking about, in particular, is climate change — an all-important issue we can’t confront effectively unless all major nations participate in a joint effort, with last year’s Paris agreement just the beginning. How is that going to work if America shows itself to be a nation that reneges on its deals?

The most a progressive can responsibly call for, I’d argue, is a standstill on further deals, or at least a presumption that proposed deals are guilty unless proved innocent.

The hard question to deal with here is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Obama administration has negotiated but Congress hasn’t yet approved. (I consider myself a soft opponent: It’s not the devil’s work, but I really wish President Obama hadn’t gone there.) People I respect in the administration say that it should be considered an existing deal that should stand; I’d argue that there’s a lot less U.S. credibility at stake than they claim.

The larger point in this election season is, however, that politicians should be honest and realistic about trade, rather than taking cheap shots. Striking poses is easy; figuring out what we can and should do is a lot harder. But you know, that’s a would-be president’s job.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Protectionism, Trade Agreements, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The House That Scalia Built”: The Bitter Beginning Of The 21st Century That Scalia And The Bush Dynasty Gave Us

Two waves broke this week: a pair of deaths on our national shore that changed everything. They are inseparable in the annals of our time. Goodbye to all that a Supreme Court Justice wrought, and the House of Bush brought.

If only it were that simple.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is dead at 79, the Dickensian, most opinionated character on the bench. Friends — many of whom knew him as an operagoer, a city denizen, and an avid socializer — called the father of nine children Nino. His burial is Saturday.

The “master of invective,” as one put it, Scalia was considered brilliant, and was often callous in withering dissents on, for example, gay marriage. Taking a dim view of President Obama’s lead in the delicate Paris Agreement on climate change, his last vote was to immobilize the emissions standards. How nice of five Republican men to disrespect the Democratic president in the world’s eyes. As it happens, the Folger Shakespeare Library is staging “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — fitting, considering Titania’s haunting lines that warn of global warming.

Nobody on the creamy marble Court was more polarizing since the Civil War. The unabashed carrier of the conservative cross, Scalia seldom let up on his pounding force and lashings, even in victory.

On “60 Minutes,” Scalia scolded half the American people, saying: “Get over it!” He referred to the infamous 2000 Supreme Court decision that swung the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush by one vote. He had a chance to be civil; he didn’t take it.

Meanwhile, the Bush dynasty hangs onto its last breath with Jeb Bush’s floundering presidential campaign. His brother, former President George W. Bush, left Texas to campaign, but the magic was missing. The 43rd president looked aged. Jeb has a penchant for saying their father, Bush senior, is the “greatest man alive,” or some such.

Here’s the double knell: The House of Bush is the House that Scalia built. At least, he was an architect. Now a tragic link ties those names together.

Their historical cadence will join other follies. “Sophocles long ago/Heard it on the Aegean,” English poet Matthew Arnold wrote in “Dover Beach.” Now I know what Arnold meant when he saw an elegiac sadness in ages and armies.

All we need to do is go back to 2000 — when our known world ended — when five Republican Supreme Court justices gave new meaning to “one man, one vote.” The deciding votes were out of the citizens’ hands; nine officials voted 5-to-4 — freezing a close vote count in Florida to determine the true winner. They shut democracy down.

That rude decision changed the course of the 21st century. George W. Bush swerved into war in Iraq, giving rise to ISIS today. Remind me: What were we fighting for? Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were the pretext to war, when 19 men (15 Saudis) were hijackers in a clever plot. The unprepared U.S. Army and the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, destroyed civil society in Iraq. What a mess.

The Court outrage for the ages must not be forgot in Scalia’s dramatic death, political to the end. The decision is full of rich contradictions. Scalia, who often mocked “nine unelected lawyers” in democracy, sprang into action by stopping vote counting in Florida. The governor of Florida then was Jeb Bush. In unseemly partisanship, Scalia departed from his so-called “originalist doctrine” to strongly urge the Court to stop counting. He also abandoned his emphasis on states having a say in governance by shortchanging the Florida Supreme Court. Hs loyal colleague, Clarence Thomas, followed him every step — Thomas who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Justice Scalia died on a West Texas luxury ranch during a hunting trip. His death was apt, given his pugilistic style in upholding gun rights and every conservative cause in creation. Washington can’t get over that he’s gone, friends and foes alike. The senior sitting justice loomed large as the fiercest player, in every word he spoke and wrote. The vacancy gives President Obama one more try to work his will on a hostile Senate.

It will take time for the country to heal from the bitter beginning of the 21st century that Scalia and the Bush dynasty gave us. And for the record, I will never get over it.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, Bush Family, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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