ESA Under Attack on Capitol Hill

They’re at it again. Today Congress reviewed six bills over the course of two legislative hearings in both the House and Senate that would undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This is just the latest chapter in the ongoing assault against the ESA by one of the most anti-wildlife Congresses we’ve seen in decades.

Here’s a quick run-down of the bills being considered, each of which carries the potential to weaken our nation’s landmark wildlife protection law.

  • H.R. 717 introduced by Representative Pete Olson (R-TX), would put financial cost considerations above species preservation. It would require decision-makers to first consider the economic costs of protecting an animal or plant being considered for listing, and it would remove deadlines for completing the listing process.
  • H.R. 1274 introduced by Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA), would consider any information submitted by a state or local government to be the “best available” science even if that information is contradictory, out-of-date or fraudulent. This would be a significant departure from scientific integrity standards. This could have far-reaching consequences for the listing process of endangered species.
  • H.R. 3131 introduced by Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI), would hamstring citizen enforcement and participation in the implementation of the ESA. It would restrict the ability of citizens to sue or hold the agency accountable and thereby leaving the listing of species prone to political interference. It would also prevent species from receiving timely protections.
  • H.R. 2603 introduced by Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), would eliminate the ESA’s protections for foreign species located in the United State, obstructing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) ability to address illegal wildlife trafficking or issue permits for exhibitors of foreign endangered and threatened species. This would nullify the Obama Administration’s rule on African elephant ivory and undermine the FWS’s ability to reduce the U.S. role in the illicit ivory trade.
  • H.R. 424 introduced by Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) and a bill in the Senate cynically called the “HELP for Wildlife Act” (S. 1514), would reinstate the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to delist gray wolves in the Great Lakes states and reaffirm the 2017 decision to return wolves in Wyoming to state management. The bills would also preclude any further judicial review on these decisions thereby undercutting citizen’s access to the courts. These bills not only interfere with the ESA’s science-based decision-making process, they also undermine the rule of law and harm all bills that rely on citizen participation.

These latest attacks in what has become an all-out war on the ESA by the current Congress—there have been over 160 legislative attacks against the ESA since January, 2015—serve as a dire warning for the road ahead for our most imperiled wildlife. We are facing what many scientists believe is the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history. We cannot afford to let anti-wildlife interests in Congress tear down our most effective law at protecting species from the fate of extinction.

Stand with Defenders in fighting to protect the ESA and the threatened and endangered species whose only hope for a future on this planet depends on it.  If you care about wildlife and the Endangered Species Act, please call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 or submit your comments online and urge them to oppose the so-called “HELP for Wildlife Act.” Wolves and other imperiled wildlife are counting on you.

Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the status of gray wolf conservation and other developments important to wildlife and our work. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails where you will get all the latest news and action alerts to support wildlife.


Call on your senators to oppose the “HELP for Wildlife Act” that would abandon wolf recovery in the Great Lakes and bypass science in ESA decisions.

Trump to Strip Alaska Park and Refuge Wildlife Protection

Directives to Expand Hunting and Trapping Launch Long, Uncertain Legal Process

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is taking aim at restrictions on recreational hunting and trapping inside national parks and refuges in Alaska, according to directives posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  The regulations limit questionable hunting techniques, such as killing bear cubs and sows with cubs, luring grizzlies with rotting meat, trapping and snaring bears, and killing wolves while they are raising pups, among other controversial methods.

In a pair of July 14, 2017 memos, Virginia Johnson,  Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, orders the acting directors of the National Park Service (NPS) and theU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), “to initiate a rulemaking process to reconsider” each of their agency rules. She cites “various prohibitions that directly contradict State of Alaska authorizations and wildlife management decisions.”

The essential conflict is that Alaska encourages lethal removal of predators in order to increase the supply of game animals while the federal agencies are charged with sustaining all native wildlife – including predators.  Traditional federal-state cooperation in wildlife management has broken down in recent years and has been replaced with lawsuits from the state and political acrimony.

“Alaska’s national parks and wildlife refuges are required by federal law to be managed not as private game reserves but to protect natural diversity, including natural predator-prey dynamics,” said Rick Steiner, a retired University of Alaska professor and PEER board member, pointing out that lethal control on park boundaries are devastating in-park wolf populations.  “The State of Alaska’s unethical predator control practices have no place in modern society, and certainly not on Alaska’s magnificent national parks and refuges.”

What happens next is unclear.  The Park Service will have to begin a lengthy rulemaking process which will take years.  Meanwhile the NPS 2015 rules remain in effect.  In addition, the factors cited by Ms. Johnson are political in nature and not a legitimate basis for regulation. Further, the NPS is constrained by statutory mandates that a Trump White House cannot fiat away. Thus, assuming a new rule is promulgated before Trump leaves office, it will almost certainly be swarmed by litigation challenging its validity.

The path for the refuge rules is even murkier.  Congress purportedly rescinded these 2016 rules earlier this year through a disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act.  Under that law, FWS would be forbidden from reenacting similar rules without congressional authorization.  Consequently, it is uncharted territory as to what, if anything, FWS can do, absent Congress.  Further complicating matters is an ongoing lawsuit challenging the application of the Congressional Review Act to these refuge rules.

“Team Trump says they do not want to give away federal lands but are apparently open to having them mismanaged,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the rules do not apply to subsistence hunting or restrict the taking of wildlife for public safety purposes or defense of property. “Like most Trump initiatives, this one is ill-considered and likely ineffective but guaranteed to waste a lot of time.”

Ironically, this is unfolding even as the State of Alaska is conceding that killing wolves is not a big factor in increasing the caribou population in one large area — the stated goal of predator control. But Alaska is waiting until next year to reconsider this program.


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Trump just nominated a climate change skeptic to USDA’s top science post

 July 19

This story has been updated.

President Trump on Wednesday nominated Sam Clovis, a former college professor and talk radio host who has challenged the scientific consensus that human activity has been the primary driver of climate change, to serve in the Agriculture Department’s top scientific post.

“Dr. Clovis was one of the first people through the door at USDA in January and has become a trusted advisor and steady hand as we continue to work for the people of agriculture,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement Wednesday evening. “He looks at every problem with a critical eye, relying on sound science and data, and will be the facilitator and integrator we need. Dr. Clovis has served this nation proudly since he was a very young man, and I am happy he is continuing to serve.”

Clovis, whose expected nomination has been previously reported by The Washington Post and several other outlets, is a former economics professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, who served as one of Trump’s first campaign policy advisers. In a 2014 interview with Iowa Public Radio, he said he was “extremely skeptical” about climate change and added that “a lot of the science is junk science.”

“It’s not proven; I don’t think there’s any substantive information available to me that doesn’t raise as many questions as it does answers,” Clovis said in the interview. “So I’m a skeptic.”

This position represents a departure from the scientific consensus. In its most recent report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that it is “extremely likely” that, since the 1950s, humans and their greenhouse gas emissions have been the “dominant cause” of the planet’s warming trend.

Neither USDA nor Clovis responded to inquiries earlier this week about the prospect of his appointment, and his views on climate science.

Clovis — who started at USDA as a senior White House adviser just after Trump was inaugurated  — possesses a B.S. in political science, an MBA degree and a doctorate in public administration, according to the White House. The post for which he is being nominated, the Agriculture Department’s undersecretary for research, education and economics, has traditionally been occupied by a string of individuals with advanced degrees in science or medicine.

The overall portfolio that would be managed by Clovis, if he is confirmed by the Senate, is worth about $ 3 billion, with $ 2 billion devoted to research and $ 1 billion to education, according to Catherine Woteki, a nutrition scientist who held the job before Clovis. The person holding the position administers the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The undersecretary also serves as the USDA’s chief scientist. The 2008 farm bill specifies that appointees to the post should be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized training or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.” The measure noted that the job is “responsible for the coordination of the research, education, and extension activities of the Department.”

“There’s a huge amount of science that goes into the setting up of the programs, implementation of various policies, and the chief scientist role is to coordinate those policies across the entire department and to represent agricultural science in the decisionmaking that goes on with other departments and is coordinated with the white house science office,” said Woteki.

Furthermore, the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist is also tasked with administering its policies to ensure “scientific integrity” in the department, which means examining whether any abuses or misuses of science may have occurred in the agency.

Climate change is a major issue in the agricultural sector, as shifts in both temperatures and precipitation have a major impact on food production. Agricultural operations also rank as a major emitter of greenhouse gases linked to climate change, because of methane emissions from livestock and carbon emissions from heavy farm equipment.

Under the Obama administration the Agriculture Department had elevated the issue of climate change, seeking to curb agricultural emissions as well as help farmers adapt to changing conditions by creating regional “climate hubs” across the United States. Then-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sought to enlist farmers, ranchers and forest owners in the effort to capture and store carbon nationwide.

Since Trump took office, the agency has shifted the description of some of these efforts. On Wednesday, for example, the department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced nine grants totaling more than $8 million “to study and develop new approaches for the agriculture sector to adapt to and mitigate the effects of changing environmental conditions.” But the same press release noted that four of them were directed toward “climate outreach and extension” and another five were focused on “climate and land use.”

Clovis, an Iowa political activist who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2014, has emphasized his military and foreign policy experience in the past. During the 2016 presidential race Clovis advised Trump on Russia and other matters.


“I think that if you look at my experience … 25 years in the military, and the various jobs and opportunities I had while serving the nation, my experience as a business man, and my academic preparation … my experience in a variety of other fields, including homeland security, foreign policy, national security policy, creating jobs and all those things,” Clovis said.

The White House announcement of his nomination emphasizes his military background, noting, “After graduating from the [U.S. Air Force] Academy, Mr. Clovis spent 25 years serving in the Air Force. He retired as the Inspector General of the North American Aerospace Defense Command  and the United States Space Command and was a command pilot.”

The position for which Clovis has been appointed ranks among “the most critical” science and technology roles in the federal government, according to a 2008 report by the National Academy of Sciences. The position requires Senate confirmation.

The Trump administration has been slow to fill top Senate-confirmed science jobs — only 10 out of 45 across the government had a nominee prior to the Clovis appointment, according to a Post analysis that is based on that same NAS report. Clovis makes 11.

Al Gore: Trump’s Paris decision ‘indefensible’

Gore: Trump ‘reckless’ on climate change 00:58

Story highlights

  • Gore said he thought Trump would “come to his senses” on the Paris agreement
  • He cast Trump’s decision as an abdication of leadership

Washington (CNN)Former Vice President Al Gore expressed disappointment Sunday over his failure to persuade President Donald Trump to keep the US in the Paris climate agreement.

Gore said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump’s decision was a threat to humanity and bad for the US position in global politics. “I think it was reckless,” Gore said. “I think it was indefensible. It undermines America’s standing in the world. It threatens the ability of humanity to solve the climate crisis in time.”
Trump announced on Thursday his decision to initiate the nation’s withdrawal from the landmark agreement of which nearly every country on earth is a member. His speech came after weeks of internal White House debate.
Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, was among those who supported the US remaining in the agreement.
Gore met with both Trumps in December at Trump Tower in New York. At the time, he called their discussion “lengthy and very productive.”
In his CNN interview Sunday, Gore said he had spoken with Ivanka Trump several times since that meeting but that they had not spoken since Trump’s announcement.
“I thought that he would come to his senses on it, but he didn’t,” Gore said.
Gore also said the trend of the future would be toward clean energy and away from carbon-emitting fuels. He said there was progress happening “all over the world.”
“The direction to move in the future is very clear,” he said.
“We’re now seeing governors and mayors and businesses and civic leaders really beginning to move regardless of what the White House says. … The American people are going to provide leadership, even if President Trump will not.”

Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal

June 1 at 7:58 PM
Play Video 2:38
Fact Check: President Trump’s remarks on leaving the Paris climate accord
Fact Checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Lee examine several of President Trump’s claims from his speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord on Thursday.(Video: Meg Kelly/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

In his speech announcing his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, President Trump frequently relied on dubious facts and unbalanced claims to make his case that the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy. Notably, he only looked at one side of the scale — claiming the agreement left the United States at a competitive disadvantage, harming U.S. industries. But he often ignored the benefits that could come from tackling climate change, including potential green jobs.

Trump also suggested that the United States was treated unfairly under the agreement. But each of the nations signing the agreement agreed to help lower emissions, based on plans they submitted. So the U.S. target was set by the Obama administration.

The plans are not legally binding, but developing and developed countries are treated differently because developed countries, on a per capita basis, often produce more greenhouse gases than developing countries. For instance, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China — and eight times more than India.

Here’s a roundup of various statements made by the president during his Rose Garden address. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios in roundups of speeches.

“We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”

Each country set its own commitments under the Paris Accord, so Trump’s comment is puzzling. He could unilaterally change the commitments offered by President Barack Obama, which is technically allowed under the Accord. But there is no appetite to renegotiate the entire agreement, as made clear by various statements from world leaders after his announcement.

“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.”

This is false. The agreement is nonbinding and each nation sets its own targets. There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.

Gary Cohn, chairman of Trump’s National Economic Council, recently told reporters that “coal doesn’t even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock. Natural gas, which we have become an abundant producer, which we’re going to become a major exporter of, is such a cleaner fuel.”

“Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates. This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs — not what we need.”

Trump cited a slew of statistics from a study that was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation, foes of the Paris Accord. So the figures must be viewed with a jaundiced eye. Moreover, the study assumed a scenario that no policy analyst expects — that the United States takes drastic steps to meet the Obama pledge of a 26 to 28 percent reduction in emissions by 2025.

Moreover, the study did not consider possible benefits from reducing climate change. A footnote says: The study “does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. … The model does not take into consideration yet-to-be developed technologies that might influence the long-term cost.”

Trump also cited the impact by 2040, including a “cost to the economy” of nearly $3 trillion in lost gross domestic product. But in addition to an unrealistic scenario, that number must be viewed in context over more than two decades, so “$3 trillion” amounts to a reduction of 6 percent. The study concludes coal usage would almost disappear, but innovation in clean energy sources would slow considerably, which also raises the cost of complying with the commitments.

Environmentalists say greater investment in clean energy will lower costs and spur innovation. That may not be correct either, but it demonstrates how the outcomes in models of economic activity decades from now depend on the assumptions.

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree — think of that, this much — Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny, tiny amount.”

Trump is referring to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a 2015 report. Researchers found that proposed emissions cuts in the Paris plan would result in about 0.2 degrees (Celsius) less warming by 2100, if the cuts were not extended further.

John Reilly, lead author of the report, said he “disagrees completely” with Trump’s characterization that the 0.2 degree cut is a “tiny, tiny” amount that is not worth pursuing. As a part of the deal, countries reexamine their commitments and can exceed or extend their pledges beyond 2030. The intent of the research was to say the Paris deal was a small step, and that more incremental steps need to be taken in the long run.

“The logic that, ‘This isn’t making much progress on a serious problem, therefore we’re going to do nothing,’ just doesn’t make sense to me. The conclusion should be — and our intended implication for people was — not to overly celebrate Paris, because you still have a long journey in front of you. So carb up for the rest of the trip,” Reilly said.

“The green fund would likely obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars of which the United States has already handed over $1 billion. Nobody else is even close. Most of them haven’t even paid anything — including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism. That’s where they came.”

It is incorrect that other countries have not contributed to the Green Climate Fund. In fact, 43 governments have pledged money to the fund, including nine developing countries. The countries have pledged to pay $10.13 billion collectively, and the U.S. share is $3 billion. As of May 2017, the United States has contributed $1 billion of the $3 billion it pledged.

Trump implies that the money was taken out of U.S. defense monies. But the U.S. contributions were paid out of the State Department’s Economic Support Fund, one of the foreign assistance programs to promote economic or political stability based on U.S. strategic interests. Republican lawmakers have criticized the use of this fund, saying Congress designated the money to prioritize security, human rights and other efforts unrelated to climate change. However, the payments were made with congressional notification and meetings with congressional staff.

Trump also claimed in the speech that the Green Climate Fund “calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries.” But, as we noted, it’s actually $10 billion.

“China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years, 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

China, in its Paris Accord commitment, said that, compared to 2005 levels, it would seek to cut its carbon emissions by 60 to 65 percent per unit of GDP by 2030. India said it would reduce its emissions per unit of economic output by 33 to 35 percent below 2005 by 2030; the submission does seek foreign aid to meet its goals and mitigate the costs.

Both countries pledge to reach these goals by 2030, meaning they are taking steps now to meet their commitments. India, for instance, seeks to have renewable power make up 40 percent of its power base by 2030, so it is investing heavily in solar energy. The country is now on track to become the world’s third-largest solar power market in 2018, after China and the United States. China is also investing heavily in renewable energy.

“Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.”

Trump is referring to concerns raised by White House counsel Don McGahnthat staying in the Paris agreement would bolster legal arguments of climate advocates challenging Trump’s decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan is a flagship environmental regulatory rule of the Obama administration, and proposes to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It is crucial to the United States meeting its carbon emissions reductions pledge in the Paris agreement. But it has been placed on hold while under litigation.

According to Politico, McGahn raised concerns that the Paris agreement “could be cited in court challenges to Trump’s efforts to kill Obama’s climate rules. McGahn’s comments shocked State Department lawyers, who strongly reject both of those contentions, the sources said.”

“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States, which is what it does.”

For years, Trump has touted his strong record on the environment. But the evidence is quite slim. We awarded Four Pinocchios to his claim that he is a “very big person when it comes to the environment,” who has “received awards on the environment.”

Environmentalists have criticized many of Trump’s projects, particularly for his plans to build a golf course on protected sand dunes and chopping down hundreds of trees for a golf course renovation. As a businessman, Trump or his property did win two environmental awards. In 2007, the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., received an award for “environmental stewardship through golf course maintenance, construction, education and research.” Three years later, the golf course was cited for a series of environmental violations.

In 2007, Trump won a “Green Space Award” for donating 435 acres of land to the state of New York. He had purchased the land to build a golf course, but withdrew plans after opposition from local residents and environmental restrictions. The land was never developed into a park, and New York closed it after budget cuts in 2010.


World Awaits Trump Decision on U.S. Future in Paris Accord


by Stephen Capra
We have entered a time when the psychological deformity of this President is coming into clear focus.  The reincarnation of Andrew Jackson is creating a modern version of the “Trail of Tears” through his vicious, demented vision of ego driven power. His personal corruption and self-enrichment is at the core of every decision, his cruelty to staff and the American people is part of his deluded vision of power and control.

Today he has pulled us out of the Paris Climate accords. This move is designed for one purpose, to continue to create false hope for his followers and coal miners in particular, that “he” has their backs, while he moves to destroy their social safety net and any real promise of a future of jobs for the people he privately calls “stupid”, as his legislative agenda continues to stumble.

What makes this a very dangerous time aside from his personal insanity, is that Republicans continue a decades long desire to destroy government as we know it. They understand the potential danger that is mounting, but believe they can continue to fan the flames of racism, hate for government and the so-called liberal media long enough to ram through an agenda that will leave America decimated. While continuing to call it “freedom.”

From health care to student vouchers, eliminating Planned Parenthood and now targeting birth control, after school programs for low-income students, ending Medicare and declaring that “not all people deserve food.” We have entered a time when a group of white men have declared war on America.

This takes me to the environment, because the endless cycle of fraud and corruption that feeds the millions of dollars that elects this reprobating group, is now putting us on course I am afraid, towards a new destiny unless things change and change quickly.

The President is facing the power of a Special Prosecutor and it seems clear there is much to hide. Now he must push Republicans to obfuscate and defend him. While a few have broken ranks, the party as a whole is standing firm and engaging in their version of “fake news.” This is why this is a very dangerous time. As the pressure mounts, the President will continue as he has, to make radical, unprecedented decisions, which will have long-term consequences for America and the world.
Paris is the beginning, look for him to destroy our Monuments, this despite huge public outcry, but he needs the support of the Utah delegation and if destroying our conservation legacy is the question, the answer will be self-preservation, that remains the focal point of his selfish existence and he does not understand, nor care about the value of these magnificent lands that all Americans own. I pray I am wrong on this, but his whole Presidency thus far has been cruel and audacious in its willingness to remove the foundations of our democracy.

Democrats for their part continue to shout from the mountain top, but also falter thanks to the DNC in achieving the most important goal, which remains winning a special election or two or five to begin putting the fear of God into Republican legislators in 2018. No town hall, no protest is going to have the impact of losing two or three special elections. In politics, “I “always comes before “we.” In order to create this fear, the old guard at the DNC must invest quicker and more freely in races that are not simply urban, coastal seats, but aggressively challenge every seat.
Today, American joined Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the most important pact to save the world we have ever witnessed. This, as the polar caps are melting, species are dying off and our oceans are reaching the breaking point. This is, as I have mentioned before represents, “treason against the earth.”

No matter what else this man has done, and it has been plenty, this should be first and foremost an impeachable offense. If not it should be added, for we cannot continue to abuse that which provides us life.

Ignorance has been emboldened with the election of this President. In less than 140 days his impact to the planet has equaled that of generations of misguided and deluded legislation. In 140 days he has moved to dismantle the EPA and is moving forward with buyouts of staff that will decimate its effectiveness. We are now going to kill bears and wolves in their dens, he has his sights on destroying the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil at a time when their remains a world-wide glut. Dumping coal waste into rivers, cutting funding to protect our largest body of clean water the Great Lakes and insuring our air is fouled by utilities and what remains most amazing, is the level of support he receives by these continued moves.
These moves reflect insanity, Trump is our modern day Kamikaze pilot, and he has been placed on earth to destroy or awaken the comfort zone that has befallen our nation.

These are dangerous times, but we have been here before. The smug smile of Paul Ryan and the boorish rhetoric and behavior of this President, seem designed to appease a solid 40 percent of our population and find joy in the schadenfreude of others. Fox news and radical radio jocks are there to cement that number.  Every move of this President seems dedicated to angering someone or some nation, to appear to strong when his every action cries out as insecure and out of place.

But make no mistake, for Republicans, they have a man willing to do anything, harm anyone and destroy whatever historical norms to create a vision for America that rewards the wealthy and creates a Sinclair Lewis portrait for the rest of us.
It remains vital to understand in these times, there remain so many good people, people who want to help and respect one another (two men in Portland showed this so vividly) and our natural environment.

Despite these hard times we have progressed as a society and will continue to do so despite the hard hand of these oppressors of spirit. But we must be strong, loving and vigilant.

It remains vital to remember the words of abolitionist minister Theodore Parker, who said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Justice you see will be ours.

This President will endure the karma of his actions.

Trump expected to pull U.S. from Paris climate deal, White House says

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to pull the United States from a landmark global climate agreement, a White House official said Wednesday, though there could be “caveats in the language” announcing a withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that his decision isn’t final.

Exiting the deal would be certain to anger allies that spent years negotiating the accord to reduce carbon emissions.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning: “I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

While Trump currently favors an exit from the agreement, he has been known to change his thinking on major decisions and tends to seek counsel from a range of inside and outside advisers, many with differing agendas, until the last minute.

Nearly 200 nations, including the United States under President Barack Obama’s administration, agreed in 2015 to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat climate change. Withdrawing would leave the United States aligned only with Russia among the world’s industrialized economies in rejecting action to combat climate change.

News of Trump’s expected decision drew swift reaction from the United Nations. The organization’s main Twitter page quoted Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as saying, “Climate change is undeniable. Climate change is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.”

The Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune, called the expected move a “historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality.”

Trump pledged during his presidential campaign to withdraw the U.S. from the pact immediately after taking office, but had wavered on the issue since winning the election.

Trump’s top aides were divided on the issue; some advocated withdrawal, others urged him to stay. One potential compromise that had been discussed involved remaining in, but adjusting the U.S. emissions targets.

During Trump’s overseas trip last week, European leaders pressed him to keep the U.S. in the pact. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Trump at length about the issue during a meeting in Brussels, and even at the Vatican, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin made his own pro-Paris pitch to Trump and his advisers.

Trump claimed before taking office that climate change was a “hoax” created by the Chinese to hurt the U.S. economy. Such an assertion stands in defiance of broad scientific consensus.

But Trump’s chief White House economic adviser, Gary Cohn, told reporters during the trip abroad that Trump’s views on climate change were “evolving” following the president’s discussions with European leaders.

Word of Trump’s decision comes a day after the president met with Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Like his boss, Pruitt has questioned the consensus of climate scientists that the Earth is warming and that man-made climate emissions are to blame.

 Once in power, Trump and Pruitt have moved to delay or roll back federal regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions while pledging to revive the long-struggling U.S. coal mines.

What is not yet clear is whether Trump plans to initiate a formal withdrawal from the Paris accord, which under the terms of the agreement could take three years, or exit the underlying U.N. climate change treaty on which the accord was based.

There have been influential voices urging Trump not to ditch the Paris accord. Forty Democratic senators sent Trump a letter urging him to stay in, saying a withdrawal would hurt America’s credibility and influence on the world stage.

Hundreds of high-profile businesses have spoken out in favor of the deal, including Apple, Google and Walmart. Even fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, BP and Shell say the United States should abide by the deal.

The U.S. is the world’s second largest emitter of carbon, following only China. Beijing, however, has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting its targets under the Paris accord, recently canceling construction of about 100 coal-fired power plants and investing billions in massive wind and solar projects.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Michael Biesecker contributed from Washington.

Trump has a dangerous disability

Trump’s puzzling way of handling interviews

Opinion writer May 3 at 7:36 PM

It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence.

In February, acknowledging Black History Month, Trump said that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.” Because Trump is syntactically challenged, it was possible and tempting to see this not as a historical howler about a man who died 122 years ago, but as just another of Trump’s verbal fender benders, this one involving verb tenses.

Now, however, he has instructed us that Andrew Jackson was angry about the Civil War that began 16 years after Jackson’s death. Having, let us fancifully imagine, considered and found unconvincing William Seward’s 1858 judgment that the approaching Civil War was “an irrepressible conflict,” Trump says:

Library shelves groan beneath the weight of books asking questions about that war’s origins, so who, one wonders, are these “people” who don’t ask the questions that Trump evidently thinks have occurred to him uniquely? Presumably they are not the astute “lot of,” or at least “some,” people Trump referred to when speaking about his February address to a joint session of Congress: “A lot of people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.” Which demotes Winston Churchill, among many others.

What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.

The United States is rightly worried that a strange and callow leader controls North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. North Korea should reciprocate this worry. Yes, a 70-year-old can be callow if he speaks as sophomorically as Trump did when explaining his solution to Middle Eastern terrorism: “I would bomb the s— out of them. . . . I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”

As a candidate, Trump did not know what the nuclear triad is. Asked about it, he said: “We have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.” Invited to elaborate, he said: “I think — I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.” Someone Trump deemed fit to be a spokesman for him appeared on television to put a tasty dressing on her employer’s word salad: “What good does it do to have a good nuclear triad if you’re afraid to use it?” To which a retired Army colonel appearing on the same program replied with amazed asperity: “The point of the nuclear triad is to be afraid to use the damn thing.”

As president-elect, Trump did not know the pedigree and importance of the one-China policy. About such things he can be, if he is willing to be, tutored. It is, however, too late to rectify this defect: He lacks what T.S. Eliot called a sense “not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.” His fathomless lack of interest in America’s path to the present and his limitless gullibility leave him susceptible to being blown about by gusts of factoids that cling like lint to a disorderly mind.

Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

Trump on North Korea: Tactic? ‘Madman Theory’? Or Just Mixed Messages?


President Trump’s negotiating strategy has often involved the taking of an extreme position, in the hope that the other actor in a test of wills will be thrown off enough to move in his direction.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — It was only a few hours after his secretary of state cracked open the door on Thursday to negotiating with the North Koreans that President Trump stepped in with exactly the kind of martial-sounding threats against the country that the White House, until now, had carefully avoided.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” he said to Reuters during a round of his 100-days-in-office commemorations. “Absolutely.”

Viewed in the most charitable light, Mr. Trump was, in his own nondiplomatic way, building pressure to force the North into a freeze of its nuclear and missile tests, the first step toward resuming the kind of negotiations that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had spoken of earlier in the day. Or, perhaps, he was engaging in a bit of the “madman theory” that he and many of his aides reportedly admire about President Richard M. Nixon, who tried to convince Ho Chi Minh, the wily North Vietnamese leader, that he might be crazy enough to drop “the bomb” if they could not find a way to end the Vietnam War.

But the most likely explanation is that Mr. Trump, who until now has largely avoided taking the bait that the North Korean propaganda machine churns out with its own warnings of imminent war, simply reverted to an old habit: sounding as tough as the other guy. The problem is that it clashes with the message his administration has been sending out in recent days that no pre-emptive strikes are planned and that there is plenty of time and space for diplomacy. Mr. Trump’s aides talk of an “integrated strategy” of escalating military and economic pressure to force diplomatic engagement.

The objective, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who heads the United States Pacific Command, told Congress this week, is to “bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees,” a reference to the insecure if absolute leader of North Korea.

That also seemed to be Mr. Tillerson’s message. In an interview with NPR, he tried to sound reassuring, saying: “We do not seek a collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We seek a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.” He even raised at least the possibility of direct talks.

Mr. Trump missed an opportunity to reinforce that effort to reassure the North Koreans that the United States is not looking to topple their leader. Instead, his message could be taken as the opposite.

Mr. Trump’s negotiating strategy has often involved the taking of an extreme position, hoping that the other actor in a test of wills will be thrown off enough to move in his direction. That is one thing when it means threatening to pull out of Nafta, the gambit Mr. Trump floated, then retreated from, this week. But it can be a far riskier bet when exchanging signals with Mr. Kim, who has survived so far — like his father and grandfather before him — by employing a similar playbook of extreme rhetoric, often followed by acts of violence.

So far, Mr. Trump has directed one operation to bolster his claim that he is perfectly willing to use force in an unpredictable manner: his decision a month ago to conduct an intensive, brief attack on a Syrian air base where American intelligence agencies say the Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack on its own people. It had no follow-up.

But for North Korea, lashing out to send a message is an art form, practiced since the days when Mr. Kim’s grandfather ordered the seizure of an American ship, the Pueblo, in 1968, followed by the shooting down of an American reconnaissance plane, killing 31. Then, seven years ago, came the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel — most likely by a North Korean torpedo, though the country denies it — that took 46 lives.

The young Mr. Kim, who took over the following year after his father’s death, has worked to burnish his own madman credentials. He is believed to have ordered the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that wiped out the company’s computer systems in 2014 and the killing of his half brother in Malaysia this year, part of a sustained campaign to eliminate potential rivals. More than a few have been executed with antiaircraft guns, just to make a point.

The fear is that small acts and mutual threats of war can lead to miscalculation. Only hours before Mr. Trump spoke, the North released a propaganda video showing the White House shattering apart in what looked like a nuclear blast. No one takes those videos seriously, but they indicate a state of mind in which every action has to have a reaction.

“That’s what I worry about the most,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said recently. “Rapid escalation.”

Past presidents have recognized the risk. It is notable that the shooting down of the American spy plane in Nixon’s time, one of the largest losses of Americans in a Cold War military attack, did not result in retaliation, in part for fear of rekindling the Korean War.

Behind the scenes in the Trump White House, officials are just beginning to debate how to react to potential North Korean acts. One of the most active debates is over what to do if the North attempts a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Should it be destroyed on the launchpad? Should the United States try to intercept it in midflight, with all the risks of escalation if that succeeds, and the risks of embarrassment if it fails?

Such questions are still being debated, as recently as during a meeting at the White House on Thursday, just as Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson were sending what sounded like uncoordinated messages.