Let it Snow . . . and Bake

14 04 2018

Pepperidge Farm is toying with me. I just opened a package of Chessmen cookies (their only product without palm oil, but that’s another story.) I found not queens, rooks and pawns.  Rather, tulips, bright suns and watering cans. It’s spring!

Here in Minnesota, not so much. A massive, howling, historically significant blizzard rages outside my window right now. Up to 15 inches are forecast by Sunday evening, burying my weekend plans.  But hey, it’s Minnesota, right?  Expect at least nine months of winter, right?  Just laugh it off, get shoveling and chalk it up to typical if a little unexpected weather in the Great Cold North, right?

April BlzzardSorry, no. Can’t do that.  Out-of-season storms like this have happened over the historical record, but not with the frequency they are happening this year.  Most important, storms of the past were not operating in the  greenhouse-gas rich world we have created. In fact, careful observers – even casual observers – have noticed an amazing convergence of climate news over just the past few months.  I suggest THAT is the lens though which we must view the regime of aberrant, unwelcome, lingering, wintry weather.

Yes folks, serial April snow-monsters are almost certainly related to that poorly named and too-often ignored phenomenon popularly and unfortunately dubbed “global warming.”  It would most properly be called ACD or “anthropogenic climate disruption.”  A mouthful, I know. So “man-made climate change” is better.

But about that barrage of climate news.  Try these items.   Alaska’s winter this year has been, once again, well above historical averages.  And this is no “fluke.” At the other end of the world, look at what is happening to Australia’s summer.  And back in the Northern Hemisphere, Greenland continues its inexorable,  accelerating melt. That massive shrinkage of the ice cover is known to be raising ocean levels – slowly – but it also may be having an insidious, little-noted and possibly even more consequential effect – altering ocean currents. Just in the last few days, news has arrived that the Gulf Stream has indeed been proven be steadily slowing.  Should that vital conveyor belt slow to a crawl, or halt altogether, no big deal, right? How about significantly higher sea levels on the U.S. East Coast, and a large part of Europe that cools so dramatically that it challenges food production in a big way.

And here is the 800-pound gorilla of climate change news.  Temperatures near the North Pole have been doing the high jump in the dead of winter this year. Fluke? Nope. Here is similar news from 2017 and 2016. Oh, and 2015.

So, I ask, how could all these trends NOT be connected? Scientists have been steadily teasing out the intricacies of our global climate system. That means, basically, breaking it down to how sunlight, the atmosphere’s chemical composition, the oceans and, to a lesser extent, land masses interact to produce the patterns we humans have come to rely on and take for granted, and built civilization on, over centuries. But as we see more and more out-of-phase phenomena – think catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, which came and stayed, showing retrograde motion (east to west) for days – scientists have been working hard to tease out what could be happening.  Now, surely, this fact – that human activity adds 100 million tons (and climbing) of CO2 to the atmosphere every single day – must be a factor. Probably the single most significant factor, of course, but that is a debate for another time. BTW, what weighs 100 million tons? 80,000 empty full-size school buses, that’s what.

Here is recent research that explains many phenomena quite nicely.  What phenomena?  Storms that “stall,” both winter storms and summer thunderstorms, as well as hurricanes, unrelenting heat waves, plus spillages of unusually cold air from above the Arctic Circle. It’s pretty straightforward, even for non-scientists like you and me.

The jet stream – high-altitude winds that circle the planet in high latitudes – pushes weather systems along. Research shows that the jet stream has slowed and wandered in recent years.
Still with me?  Good. Here is a nice, short article explaining the phenomenon. This research is still evolving – as my scientist friend reminds me when this self-educated rabble-rouser adopts arm-waving mode – but any fair-minded observer surely can see how this all fits together.  All manner of “stalled” weather, plus out-of-season Arctic cold spills – can be laid at the doorstep of the weaker jet stream.

So why is the jet stream weaker? That seems clear too. When the Arctic is cold – as normal – the temperature difference between the North Polar region and lands to the south speeds weather along, and mainly bottles up the Arctic cold, where it belongs.  Warmer Arctic, less temperature difference from lands to the south, a slower, “stuck” jet stream. Want to know more? Here is an article – with helpful graphics – featuring updated research from the scientist who first uncovered this phenomenon, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University.

With all this climate news converging – and proving, if anything, the acceleration of dire predicted outcomes that our oil-soaked power elites have ignored for decades, you would think that we would have had enough.  Enough to take forceful action – rapidly changing our systems to develop ever more clean energy, dramatically conserve what we do use, institute a “carbon fee and dividend” system, etc. But as we all know, you would think wrong.

We have right now a president who (in)famously “doesn’t believe in climate change.” And he has installed the consummate oil stooge to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Sure, I am cheering the news about Scott Pruitt’s exposed ethical misdeeds and paranoid waste of public dollars on an absurdly over-the-top security entourage. If that forces him out, big cheer here. (It might speed matters if he were not a putty-faced, publicly pious Bible mangler, and slept with a porn star or three.) But what really matters is the agenda Trump has enabled at EPA – sneakily dismantling, disabling or ignoring every clean air and water protection imaginable.  And now, a coal lobbyist is heading to second-in-command at EPA.  Hard to imagine a bigger disconnect with developing scientific fact and a progressing climate crisis.

This is of course in addition to unified (thanks to partisan gerrymandering) rule by the Republican Party, which nearly unanimously denies climate science, lies for hire (yes, some Democrats too!) and conducts sick political theater rather than passing responsible legislation.

So what is an aware person to do?  Individual action is fine, but I am guessing many of my readers are already doing that. Still, driving an efficient vehicle (and as infrequently as possible), keeping the house cool and using alternative energy if possible, and eating less meat (or going vegan) can make an activist feel less of a hypocrite.

But collective action is where it’s at. So, don’t vote for oil liars, do support organizations like these to get the money out of politics (the root cause of the climate crisis and so many other intractable problems), and share science-based facts.

For instance, passing this blog post along wouldn’t hurt. Just saying.

A parting comment. Lest you accuse this author of having a tin ear for blogging about climate change on the same day the entire world seems focused on Syria, chew on this.

Want more turmoil, big-power confrontations, climate refugees destabilizing the developed world? Full speed ahead, then, business as usual. Build the damned walls, sea and border.

We know better. Or should.


Normalizing the Catastrophic

22 10 2017

I’ve been asking people these questions with increasing frequency.

InsectsWhen you’re out driving, have you noticed how few insects hit your windshield?  How many fireflies have you seen this summer?  Over the last few summers? At night, do you notice any difference in the number of moths gathering around floodlights?

Reactions have varied.  “Yeah, now that you mentioned it, there are fewer.” “Haven’t seen a single one.” “No, I hadn’t noticed.” And my favorite – one respondent said, “We’ve never had fireflies in the city.” That’s my favorite because it illustrates my point about normalizing stark change. More on that a little later. And for the record, I saw a single firefly this summer.

My observations say the change has been stark and accelerating. But until recently, I have heard and seen little notice in news reports. Until now.

PRI’s The World ran a story detailing long-term research in Germany that shows a dramatic drop in populations of ALL flying insects. That’s right, not just poster children like monarch butterflies or honeybees.  And when we say dramatic, we mean it – 75% decline. The story, including an interview with Dave Goulson, one of the scientists involved in the study, is actually pretty good.  But it includes a little of the uncertainty that is so damned annoying in these situations. As well as a few laughable suggestions.  “Grow your own food, and maybe eat a little bit less meat.”

A decline of this magnitude says something very big, and very widespread, is going on.  And the obvious answer is – agricultural chemicals.  That’s also something I have been saying for some time, in the face of happy talk writing.  This stuff says we can “solve” the problem by planting insect-friendly gardens. Sure, we plant our little patches of heaven while Big Ag continues to pickle the world with Monsanto chemicals. Hell, I even saw an article on firefly decline that suggested city lights could be the cause. Please.

Of course, those of us who give a damn about the natural world – far too few of us in my opinion – should be glad this research was done at all.  Note that it was done in Germany, and not here.  Chemical giant Monsanto does not own the German government the way it does the American Congress.

If you really want to dig in, here is the detailed article Goulson and others wrote for a scientific journal.

Personally, this is some vindication. Just as with climate change – about which I have been waving my arms since observing weather changes as far back as 1985 – my personal experience and judgment has preceded a more general alarm.  And we have to ask – will there be a general alarm on this?  And specifically, an alarm serious enough for us to do something about it?

Evidence indicates otherwise. Right now, we have an American administration hell-bent on demolishing every environmental protection.  And suppressing, maybe destroying, climate change information vital to state and local efforts at mitigation and protection.  So that means that, just when we most need science-based regulations, we are actually opening the door to more serious, free-for-all environmental harm.

Obviously, all this should be cause for serious concern. And the World story does detail that – insects are the bottom of the land-based food chain, and many flying insects pollinate our food. You can’t expect to have anything like a functioning world ecosystem without insects.

The lack of attention makes me increasingly pessimistic about our ability to summon the political will to do anything about this. Forget the science-denying administration that now hampers any kind of science-based policy in the US. The problem is deeper.  We humans seem wired to minimize this sort of catastrophic change.  And though insect decline is probably not related to man-made climate change, our reaction to climate change is a great illustration of our flawed nature and approach. Just like the fellow who made that ridiculous statement about no urban fireflies, we quickly normalize what should be obvious changes.  Here in the Twin Cities, we have had yet another long stretch of summer-like weather in autumn, with temps hovering about 20 degrees above long-term averages.  So what do you hear on the radio?  “Seasonably mild today, high 75.” (When the ‘normal’ high is 56.) Seasonably?! And this is on Minnesota Public Radio, which really ought to know and do better.  And the forecast for tomorrow?  “Much cooler. High in the mid-60s.”  (Only ten degrees above average, not 20!)

Last Christmas, we had a two-day rainstorm, for God’s sake.  I am sure that if we surveyed a cross-section of the local public, a majority would “remember” a snowy, Currier & Ives-worthy picture.  And then there is Trump.  Faced with the obvious – that hurricanes Harvey and Irma showed influence of man-made climate change – his response was simple.  “We had bigger storms in the 30s and 40s.”  Case dismissed. Back to business – taking away people’s health care, restoring coal and building a 70-billion-dollar boondoggle wall. With a few hours off for tossing paper towels to ingrates.

So what does all this add up to?  We are not inclined to make policy changes based on science if those changes inconvenience us in any way. So when those who lead us have no respect for science, and are even hostile to it, they just reinforce our tendency to simply carry on.

As with so many other problems, the real answer is to take corporate money out of the equation.  Here is an organization trying to do just that.

Back to the humble bugs.  If we think we can continue with our inexorable destruction of the natural world in the name of corporate profits, we ignore this wise quote from Chief Seattle. At our own long-term peril.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

The Elephant in the Flood

29 08 2017

Houston FloodHurricane Harvey has become a storm for the ages.  Unlike old-fashioned hurricanes, the storm lingers over a particular area before sliding at a snail’s pace to another region to torment residents there. As of this writing, some three feet of rain has fallen in and around Houston, with a couple more feet predicted before the event is over later this week.  Tens of thousands have had their lives upended, with countless homes and businesses destroyed. Current death toll is 14, but that will rise, maybe significantly.

Mainstream media accounts are full of superlatives, and rightly so.  The hurricane itself was bad enough – strong category 4 as it came ashore near Corpus Christi – but the lingering, unrelenting tropical rain that has followed is what has caused the big pain.  You will read all manner of drama in media accounts describing the flooding – “epic,” “biblical,” “unprecendented.” But what you won’t hear, and won’t even read, unless you dig deep, is “man-made climate change.”

OK, critics, now before you say, “how callous,” or “this is no time to talk about that,” listen here. First – I do care about the humanitarian side of this. In fact, this lightly-employed substitute teacher just made a generous donation to the United Way of Greater Houston.  Second, to say this is not the time to talk about the science is to follow the same sort of mind-control thinking pushed by the NRA after a mass shooting.  You know, it’s time for “thoughts and prayers,” and then when the crisis recedes, there is nothing to talk about.

There is no better time to discuss the climate change connection with this out-of-control weather mess than right now, when it is smack dab in the middle of our faces. There are reasons why Harvey, and its remnants, are behaving in an unprecedented fashion.  A New York Times article (picked up by my local StarTribune but now not to be found on the Times site) explains the seasonally warm Gulf water, and the additional moisture – scientific fact – the atmosphere now holds thanks to our greenhouse gas emissions. But the authors go all mealy-mouthed when they devote a single paragraph to what they call “unknowns” around the climate-change connection to a lingering, monsoon-like hurricane such as Harvey. Here is the exact quote.  “Scientists are increasingly able to link some extreme weather events to climate change, but when it comes to hurricanes, many say there remain a number of unknowns.”

Bosh. No one in their right mind is saying that man-made climate change causes hurricanes, or even makes their appearance more frequent. But their behavior? That’s becoming clearer, disaster by disaster, if only we would learn the lessons.

For a quick update on the science – and Harvey’s strong climate-change connection – check this excellent new article from the Guardian, in question and answer format.  It takes on some of the inevitable objections of climate change deniers (we’ve always had hurricanes, right?), but also hedges when it comes to the question of stationary weather.  That is, the observed increasing tendency of weather systems – including catastrophic weather systems like Harvey – to stall, battering locales with unheard-of long-duration deluges.  This reminds me of cutting-edge research by Rutgers University’s Jennifer Francis on the slowing of the Northern Hemisphere’s jet stream – resulting in many cases in stalled weather.  Here is one of her explanatory videos, and here is a blog post I wrote on this research several years ago.

Climate scientists have to hedge.  They are, after all, in the crosshairs of the best-funded, best-organized science denial (read: lying for hire) campaign since Big Tobacco was telling us cigarettes were good for our health.  Just ask Michael Mann about that.

I don’t have to hedge. I don’t care who attacks my fact-backed opinions. But I do want to go on the record as saying that this monstrous post-hurricane flood event is directly connected to man-made climate change.  People are suffering in the US and elsewhere. In fact, predictions show that, irony of ironies, US red states – home in many cases to science denying governors and senators – will suffer the most among American regions. The suffering is only going to get worse until we wake up to the need for a WWII-like struggle against the climate crisis, as argued by, among others, 350.org.

Man-made climate change – better called man-made climate disruption – is a serious and growing problem.  It was already a problem when I discovered it and started investigating the science back in the 1980s. It was a problem long before that, back when Rex Tillerson’s ExxonMobil funded research that proved the fossil-fuel link.

You would think that we would have suffered enough, paid enough, learned enough by now to mount a consistent policy effort. But of course you would think wrong. We have elected as president a profoundly ignorant science denier who has called the climate crisis a “Chinese hoax,” and he has appointed a publicly pious, privately paranoid, lying oil shill as the self-directed wrecker of the EPA. And smilin’ Scott Pruitt – who sued EPA over a dozen times before his “triumphant” appointment – has gone on to become, by some measures, the most effective member of this government-ravaging Cabinet.

If the Houston flood of 2017 is not enough to turn the tide of policy, what will it take? Or, to quote the late, great Pete Seeger, “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

Pollinators Passing On

20 07 2017

I was on vacation on Minnesota’s north shore last week. One mid-morning, this beautiful, large moth was hiding in the shade next to the hostel where I was staying. I coaxed it onto my hand and moved it to a large shady tree nearby.

It’s worthwhile to try to save as many of these beneficial insects as possible. At least, it feels good. If nothing else.

mothI have firsthand experience with the dramatic drop-off in bees, butterflies and moths. About 12 years ago, we installed native gardens at my former residence.  For several years, we thrilled to a riot of the most amazing diversity of pollinators of all kinds.  Then, suddenly, variety and abundance took a death dive.  And remained at that depressingly reduced level.

What has caused this?  Experts cite various reasons.  Fence-to-fence factory farms, with no room for the wild plants the insects need is clearly part of the reason.  Dittos for humans destroying ever more natural habitat.  And for one of the most famous – and once ubiquitous – beneficial insects of all, the monarch butterfly, habitat loss coupled with extreme winter weather in their seasonal home in Mexico is surely a big factor as well.

But I think we – all of us, even scientific experts who should know better – are dancing around the chemical truth. If you don’t know about neonicotinoid pesticides, you should.  A study was recently done in Germany.  The European Union – which is considerably less sold out to massive corporations than the good old US of A – banned these chemicals on flowering plants several years ago.  Which means this new study was a controlled one.  Here are the results.  Note that Syngenta and Bayer – the agents of this death in Europe – are determined to spin the results, but did not have any control over the experiment.

I am loath to quote Trump, but . . . “Sad.”  You see, those damned chemicals continue to rule the fields here in the American corporate paradise that’s just getting cozier and cozier for massive planet wreckers – in this case, Monsanto.

And BTW, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, “Where have all the fireflies gone?” Dear reader, how many have you seen this year?  Everywhere I have lived – New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Fourth of July has been peak season for these beautiful bioluminescent bugs.  This year, I have seen exactly one.  Connection?  Who cares?  Apparently, not us. Not enough of us, anyway.

If you read through that Treehugger article, you saw more of that careful dancing around the truth.  Sure, light pollution is a factor, along with habitat destruction.  But that word “chemicals” appears once, almost furtively.

My prediction: we will realize – too late – that agricultural chemicals (perhaps those very dastardly neonics) produced by Monsanto and pals will ultimately be found responsible for firefly decline as well as the documented destruction of bees, butterflies and moths. Too late. Enjoy your glowing summer memories, friends. They ain’t coming back.

Which brings us around to the real problem that not enough of us care enough about.  That is, the way big money rules our politics and policy. Why? Because we let it happen. But at least some organizations are working to solve that thousand-pound gorilla of a problem.  Here is one.

“Get Him Outa Here”

19 05 2017

The quote, of course, comes from Trump exhorting his followers and security entourage to deal harshly with a heckler at a campaign rally.  We’ll leave aside the immediately following quote – “Knock the crap out of him!” because it does not really apply here. No way do I support such treatment of the current occupant, but based on recent events, his odds of completing even a single term in the office grow longer by the day. Could the reality TV boss from hell actually hear “You’re fired?”

Angry Trump 2The nation today seems more willing to give President Trump the heave-ho. A recent survey suggests that 48% of Americans support impeachment.  This though is unlikely, even as suspicion and revelations about the administration mount daily. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have come out against the idea, and are most likely unmovable. They still believe, hyper-partisans both, that Trump is a key factor in pursuing their corporatist agenda. And nothing stands between them and their corporatist agenda. This Dylan Matthews piece effectively explains why the two Republican leaders are very unlikely to reverse course and hold Trump accountable.

But impeachment is not the only way we will be rid of the habitually dishonest, mean-spirited huckster who now holds the presidency.  And I am not talking about waiting for the 2020 election.

Just watch Trump lately. Do you think he is having a good time?  I see less and less of the uber-confident, swaggering bully, and more and more of the angry, self-absorbed, would-be victim.  Just listen to him whine about how tough his new life is in comparison to his old. And now his sob story becomes flagging himself as the most mistreated politician ever, poor boy. See this cartoon for a sick laugh. This Slate piece makes the obvious case debunking this latest self-absorbed lie of Trump’s, but remember that even his most recent successor suffered poor treatment and obstruction at every turn.  If Trump is reviled by many – and he certainly is, including this blogger – it is because of what he has done and promises to do.  Most of the vitriol and bile hurled at Barack Obama was more because of who he was – an African-American, smooth-talking upstart who had the audacity to become president.

I believe a far more likely outcome of the growing crisis is not impeachment, but Trump’s resignation.  Yes, I know he has always sold himself as a never-quit fighter, but everyone has a breaking point.  I believe he might have resigned by now except for his committing to carry out favors for “them what brung him,” both domestic and foreign.  And remember that he may owe large sums of money to creditors domestic and foreign.  Why do you think he steadfastly thumbs his nose at decades of precedent regarding presidential tax returns?

Nevertheless, I believe the mounting pressure will break him, and sooner rather than later. But when he resigns, don’t expect anything like what the disgraced President Nixon delivered on resignation.  Say what you will about Nixon – and I am no admirer – his farewell speech was a model of class as he put the nation’s interests ahead of his own. Yes, a Democratic-controlled Congress forced his hand, unlike Trump’s, but really – can you imagine Trump delivering anything like such a speech?  Or even remaining on script long enough without descending into spontaneous blaming, bullying, threatening and whining?  Of course not.

No, when Trump resigns – and he will – we will hear a bitter, angry, extended rant in which he blames everyone – media, “elites,” “illegals,” Democrats, disloyal Republicans – for his spectacular failure. And his unswayable supporters – they are out there, maybe 35 % of voters overall – will eat it up.  This example from PRI’s The World gives an indication of the extreme, seemingly undiminished support that these voters have for Trump, despite all the outrageous behavior and growing evidence of wrongdoing.

Trump’s recent speeches build a case for his resignation as a poor, thwarted good guy who has been prevented from doing good for the American people.  The fallen hero fable will suggest that he would have done so much to help those working class people who supported him, but the __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite villain group) just would not let Donny be Donny. Ludicrous, yes, but it will sell. Mark my words.  And it will further divide this fractured nation.

Will this be the end of Trump the public figure? Hell no. This master of “truthful hyperbole” has long shown in word and deed that he believes any publicity is good publicity.  He will become a highly-sought-after pundit on some right-wing network (Fox?) and rake in Limbaugh-esque sums. He won’t have to worry about prosecution if the current investigations into his campaign’s and administration’s collusion with Russia lead to his palace at Mar-a-Lago.  You see, his successor (Pence? Ryan?) will see that the good of the nation is served by pardoning the ex-president. Whew.

But when Trump resigns, the desperation, anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo that motivated so many to vote for this unqualified deliverer of empty promises will remain. And fester.

“Getting him outa here” will be only the beginning of a new era of divisiveness in American public life. Believe me.

ReAction Jackson

15 03 2017

In these dark days of Trumpian travail, I seek bitter humor wherever I can find it.  I hit a vein in an Associated Press story picked up by my StarTribune. Coupled with a widely publicized picture of Trump looking “tough” at his desk, making a “deal” under a portrait of Andrew Jackson, it explains the comparisons being drawn between our post-factual, post-modern president and the seventh leader of the United States. Comparisons drawn by whom? Well, naturally, Trump himself. Just as naturally, the idea does not even originate with the notoriously poorly read chief exec.

If you read the article, you will see the portrait, and find the source of the comparison.  It’s Trump’s own “brain,” that unkempt, untruthful cross between Karl Rove and Rasputin, Steve Bannon. The hate-filled white supremacist lie merchant of Breitbart infame made the connection after Trump’s inaugural address. You remember – the one that was so negative it has acquired the informal title “American Carnage.”


OK, so Trump may resemble Jackson in that both were unconventional outsiders pursuing the presidency.  It also looks from portraits that Number Seven had a pretty impressive shock of hair. But it was gray, and probably natural.  And that’s about as good as the comparison gets.

Jackson was a commoner, and a true populist. Unlike Trump, who can best be described as a faux populist, more a huckster, a snake oil salesman and self-promoter in the P.T. Barnum tradition. And whereas Trump has become notorious for impulsiveness – how did you like those recent Saturday morning Tweets about wire tapps (sic)? – Jackson, before he became president, actually showed remarkable patience when a prior presidential election was stolen from him through unethical horse trading. Can you imagine the Donald standing by while something like this happened? Depriving him of the spotlight? Not gonna happen.

But where the comparison really breaks down is here. Every time Trump wraps an XXXL (estimated size) faux-military jacket around his ample gut and appears before genuine officers and enlisted personnel, talking tough and flashing his best Dirty-Harry squint, those in the know are reminded of just what a charlatan this guy really is.

And of course there is that privilege thing, though Trump would have us believe he is the ultimate self-made mogul. The AP piece tells that story succinctly.

“There are fundamental differences in the paths they took. Trump is a real estate mogul who came from wealth. Jackson was born into poverty and rose to become a wealthy lawyer and national hero after the War of 1812.”

Enough said. Why is this important? That’s easy. Chief strategist Bannon may be evil and devious, but he is no dummy. And after all, he is the thoughtful brain behind Trump’s bumbling id. And we know what Bannon has in store for America. And part of Bannon’s master plan is to continue to pass off Trump as some kind of champion of the little guy. This is easier if enough people are foolish enough to see him as the reincarnation of the tough-guy populist seventh president.  This would be a real hoot if it weren’t so real, and so fraught with real danger.

As Bannon’s agent – because that’s what he is – President Trump threatens, and has already begun, to take the country down a very dangerous path.  He is dismantling most of the federal government, and trying his damnedest to roll back countless regulations that make life safer, protect the public from rapacious behavior by greed-mongers (like the guy in the mirror at Trump Tower), and maintain a clean environment. He and his regime are hell-bent on replacing reality with “alternative facts.”

Unlike Trump, I read books – lots of books. And unlike some of my friends and allies, I think it is important to learn as much as we can about this dangerous self-dealing sociopath. The better to stop him before he achieves his destructive goals.

I recommend two reads.

The first is a book I merely have on order right now. That is David Cay Johnston’s The Making of Donald Trump. This book has new prominence with the revelation that Johnston is the source of the two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return.  Note – Johnston says it was delivered to him. Speculation is that this little snapshot – which from some perspectives is quite positive for Trump – was leaked by someone very close to Trump.  Perhaps even DT himself.  Unable apparently to avoid every opportunity to display his clueless disingenuousness, Trump called Johnston “some reporter no one knows about.” Right. A consummate narcissist pretends no one knows about the  author of the most critical biography of said narcissist. Right.

The second book is one I’ve read and can strongly recommend.  Timothy O’Brien’s TrumpNation was actually completed in 2005, after the author had spent years closely observing Trump’s wild behavior, shady self-dealings and self-promotion. Trump actually sued O’Brien for libel – 5 billion dollars’ worth of libel – and lost. It has ample doses of wit, and the 2016 paperback edition includes a new introduction by the author.

If you read either of these critical biographies, you will not be able to escape the conclusion that we have been had. Bigly. Yoogely. And he who had us needs to be stopped before he causes more damage than he has already wrought.

But back to the dark humor, and the ludicrous effort to compare this self-aggrandizing, bullying son of privilege, this disingenuous destroyer of all breaks for the little guy, to  Andrew Jackson, a genuine populist and champion of commoners.  A prominent biography of “Old Hickory” is Jon Meacham’s “American Lion.”

A new biography, of the latter days of Donald, including his unlikely climb to the Oval Office, is waiting to be written. Here is the title, free of charge to anyone taking up the challenge:

“American Lyin’: The New Trail of Tears”

Gonna be terrific. Tremendously terrific. Believe me.


22 02 2017

On Feb. 22, a fellow on the radio reads tomorrow’s forecast for the Twin Cities.  “Colder,” he says, “high around 48.” Colder? Huh? Average high for Feb. 23 in the Twin Cities – 30. Colder?!

These globally warmed days, my inner voice responds with a John Lennon lyric almost anytime I hear a forecast.  “Just gimme some truth!”

Here’s the weather forecast I would deliver, given the chance.  “Continued very warm for this time of year tomorrow with a high of 48. That’s only 18 degrees above average, nothing like most of the last week. Especially compared with last Friday, when we broke the long-term record (going back to the late 1800s) for the date by eight freaking degrees! That temperature, if you are keeping score, kids, was 34 degrees above the old average. Hope you had your winter suntan lotion on!”

Who would have ever thought that humanity’s ongoing project, destabilizing the climate with our greenhouse gases, could be so much fun?

And the truth is, the fun is just beginning, folks. I have not yet read through the new EPA wrecker, er, uh, director’s emails – just made public – but the headlines say that Scott Pruitt is bed buddies with the oil industry. Surprised? Me neither.  After all, he has practically had a full-time job for many years, suing the EPA.

Evidence of our warping the climate is all around. A recent study described overall effects of man-made climate change on wildlife.  Not pretty. We are rapidly knocking natural processes way out of sync, and the critters can’t keep up with the pace.  Not that anyone in the oil-drunk Trump administration gives a good goddam.

But you don’t have to look very far to see the evidence.  This morning, I spotted, way up high, a flock of 30-40 geese, migrating northward. On Feb. 22. Over Minnesota.

februaryblossomsAnd back down on earth, this afternoon, I spotted open tree blossoms on the ground in my backyard. I collected a few, then looked up. There they were – many confused blooms in the preternatural February warmth. That’s what you see in the picture.

We can pretend all we want, trusting fairy tales from the likes of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Sure, he says, climate change is happening. But it is an engineering problem with an engineering solution. Right.) Or we can believe the happy-talk hogwash from the Heartland Institute (“Climate change is good for us!”), or the lying blowhard Marc Morano – chief data cherry picker if there ever was one.

But these are facts – and not alternative facts either. Global temperatures are steadily rising. Says who? Says NASA. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising, at an increasing rate. And the new administration is hell-bent on reversing virtually every environmental protection going back to Nixon and even Johnson.

We can feign pignorance (pretend-ignorance) to eternity, but scientific fact trumps (sorry) corporatist fantasy. We need a carbon fee and dividend system, and now.  We can’t wait four years (or, god forbid!) eight years for an administration that respects science.

As for right now, I gotta go.  Must batten down the hatches for those “colder” conditions tomorrow.  Only 18 degrees above average?  Brrrrrrrrrr!