Why We Need the EPA

The administration has appointed Scott Pruitt, a corrupt Oklahoma oil supporter to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He has a history in his home state of copying and pasting from the letters of oil company executives to legislation that he has submitted.  Due to hydrofracturing operations that his office permitted, Oklahoma has become the most tectonically active state in the union.  Homes and water sources are being damaged and destroyed.

His interests are not our interests.

But the destruction of the EPA is against the interests of American citizens.  And when companies chafe at the restrictions put into place by laws passed on congress, they blame the agency.  In truth, companies which put pollutants into the environment are morally and legally obligated to include safe disposal of waste in their budgets.  If they cannot remain viable, then they are not competitively practical to begin with.  Keeping our air, water, land and people clean and safe is not a restriction.  It’s a responsibility.

The EPA was created in 1972 in response to widespread pollution affecting the health and well being of American citizens.  Prior to this we had a mass of environmental disasters.  In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire.  The smog in Los Angeles precipitated daily health warnings, and there were reports of women’s pantyhose melting from their legs in the sulfuric acid laden atmosphere.  Air pollution in New York City was so bad that the “Fresh Air Fund” program was initiated to send city children to host homes in cleaner Upstate New York for the summer.  Acid rain killed hundreds of thousands of trees.  Children were exposed pre- and post- natally to deadly chemicals such as poly chlorinated biphenyls (PBCs) and pesticides.  America was ravaged by the special interests of chemical companies.

In my own home town in Upstate New York, the Susquehanna River was so polluted that it was unusable.  In fact, if one of us fell into it, we were required to obtain tetanus vaccinations.  The playground in my neighborhood, I later discovered, was so contaminated with creosote and arsenic it became an EPA superfund cleanup site.  Even with regulations in place, my niece suffered concurrent miscarriages due to contaminated well water coming out of her kitchen faucet.  Once she moved, she had three healthy children.

The mission of the EPA is “to protect human health and the environment — air, water, and land.”  As an arm of the executive branch of the government, the agency enforces the regulations created after congressional acts are passed.  The Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970 addressed the control of the release of pollutants into the atmosphere and defined acceptable minimums of air quality.  On December 2, 1970 the National Environmental Policy Act established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the requirements of those acts.

In 1972, amendments to the original Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 created regulations prohibiting the release of pollutants into navigable waters and setting waste water standards for industry.  Some of the other responsibilities of the EPA include the regulation of asbestos in school buildings, public and commercial  buildings, and clean-up sites, the identification and control of toxic substances, defining and listing of hazardous materials, and the provision of Safety Data Sheets to employees of companies which use or produce hazardous chemicals.

Companies are allowed a certain amount of pollutant emissions annually.  These amounts are tradable, allowing companies that do not emit up to the limit the right to sell or “trade” their pollution allowance to companies who exceed emission limits.  This creates higher levels of pollution than normally acceptable from companies who fail to meet compliance standards.

The Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) requires the EPA to carry out it’s responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), animal protections are enforced with the goal of not placing unnecessary burden on agriculture and other pesticide users.  It is under FIFRA that President Trump recently green lighted the use of the pesticide Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate that is known to cause pre and post natal inhibition of brain development in humans.

Even with the oversight of EPA, companies still participate in illegal dumping activities. These are difficult to track due to the fact that there are few EPA compliance inspectors, often one to an entire multi-state region.  One compliance inspector stated that inspectors are trained in observation and interviewing and are advised to keep moving so that it is more difficult for shooters to take aim.  He reported that during one inspection of an illegal dumping site, there were a large number of leaking barrels marked only with the warning, “This shit will kill you.”  Not knowing what materials were actually at the site made planning for cleanup even more difficult.

Some locations are so polluted they require a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.  These are designated as Superfund cleanup sites. The EPA is tasked with creating and maintaining a list of such locations, which are then placed on the National Priorities List (NPL).  Currently there are 1,322 such sites in the US, with another 53 being proposed for entry on the NPL. The US government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) is required to fund cleanup of these polluted sites.

Without the Environmental Protection Agency, companies will once again be allowed to pollute unchecked without fear of regulation. The environmental condition of the United States will most likely revert to pre-EPA pollution levels as there will be no regulatory action and no incentives for industrial polluters to self regulate. Our country and our citizens will again suffer the effects of widespread pollution and contamination.  We will regress, and in doing so will reduce the levels of health and safety to which American citizens have become accustomed.

And polluters will again thrive unchecked.

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Our Journalists Have Failed Us

Today news agencies are reporting that President Elect Trump has mob ties.  Some of these ties are Russian mobsters.  In August of 2016, Ben Schreckinger reported in a Politico.com article that Felix Sater, a Russian mobster had a secret meeting with the candidate at Trump Tower.  Schreckinger reports:

 

Sater was convicted for stabbing a man in a bar fight in the early ’90s, and pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1998 for his role in a mob-orchestrated stock fraud, according to The Washington Post.

Sater also donated the more than the maximum amount allowed to the Trump campaign, which was forced to return the overage.

Why are we hearing  this from mainstream media just now?

Trump’s campaign was supported and guided by the actions of Russian activity ordered and monitored by Vladimir Putin.  Our current president decided this was information should not come out until after the election.  Why not expose the corruption?

This is information we needed while we still had a chance to vote.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) reported they knew they were being hacked since the middle of June, 2016.  At this time, the DNC reported an intrusion into its computer network.  The cyber security firm CrowdStrike released their analysis, stating publicly That Russian hackers were behind the attack.  In May of 2016, they released the following update:

CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker

Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.

In a report from 1992, Wayne Barrett, an experienced investigative journalist from the Village Voice wrote, “throughout his adult life, Donald Trump has done business with major organized-crime figures and performed favors for their associates.”  

On July 31, 2016, CNN published Barrett’s findings on its website, but the story never got any airtime.  Why is that?

Joel Gerstein reported in an October 21st, 2016 in a Politico article entitled “Trump seeks to keep groping claims out of Trump University suit” states:

Trump’s legal team is asking U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel to rule that lawyers and witnesses at the Trump University trial be prohibited from making any reference to “audio and video recordings made or publicized during the campaign” as well as “personal conduct accusations” leveled at Trump.

 Trump’s attorneys also want to bar discussion of allegations that Trump may have paid no federal income taxes for as long as two decades, his personal charitable foundation, bankruptcies of various companies he owned or managed, and a series of comments he made alleging that Curiel was irredeemably biased because of his Latino background.

Ultimately Trump settled this case for 25 million dollars, but not until after he was elected.  Steve Eder, reporter for the New York Times wrote in his article entitled

Donald Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million in Trump University Settlement:

the position of Mr. Trump and his legal team appeared to soften soon after his election victory on Nov. 8. At a hearing last week, Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, expressed interest in moving toward a settlement. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s lawyers were seeking to delay the trial in one of the California cases until after his inauguration on Jan. 20, while also requesting that he be allowed to testify on video.
During an May
Trump also refused to release his tax returns during the election.  But Lauren Carroll, in her article for the Pulitzer prize winning Politifact reported:
As it turns out, the 1995 returns also show it’s possible Trump was able to avoid paying federal income tax for as much as 18 years, legally.
 Why was this not leading, detailed news on our major media outlets?
During an on-camera interview in May, 2016, George Stephanoupol0s questioned Donald Trump on Good Morning America asked about his tax returns.  Stephanpoulos asked candidate Trump,”Yes or no, do you believe voters have the right to see your tax returns before they make a final decision?”
Trump made claims about not being able to release them due to an audit.  When Stephanoupolos stated the IRS had no law against releasing audited taxes, Trump became increasingly angry.
“What’s your tax rate?” Stephanoupolos finally asked.
Trump stated emphatically, “None of your business.”
Except, yes, it is our business.
Leading prime time journalists should learn a lesson from this interview.  It seems most were cowed by Trump’s wrath and the possibility he would refuse interviews in the future.
Americans rely on these outlets to seek out and give them the truth.  Investigative journalists are supposed to search, verify and report.  Instead, they covered Trump’s tweets and outrageous behavior.  Sensationalism won out over fact finding because prime time new programs are dependent upon financial sponsors.  There’s no free press unless the press is free.

So, were journalists to caught up in the Trump circus to report facts or were they just lazy? No matter which, their lack of due diligence has changed our entire electoral process, and not, I think, for the better.

No Reason to Live

maxresdefaultIt’s official.  I live in a shithole town in a shithole state in a shithole country.  And it’s not about to get any better anytime soon.  Do nothing republicans are now in charge of the entire government, led by a narcissistic megalomaniac.  People were shot and killed while waiting to vote.  And a local priest videotaped himself on an altar in a Catholic church in this town with an aborted fetus on the altar.  We are going to lose health care for people struggling along to make ends meet and people with pre-existing conditions are going to lose the right to receive medical treatments in a greedy insurance-based hellhole.  Women will continue to lose the right to make decisions that have to do with their bodies.

The Zika virus, which causes microcephaly in vitro (that means children of infected parents have pin heads and undeveloped brains), has been in our country for a while now, and children in Puerto Rico are being born with microcephaly.  So when it hits the mainland (already in Florida), who’s going to care for those children women will be forced to bring to term?  Health insurance won’t cover a pre-existing condition (if it existed prenatally, they won’t have to cover the expenses of dealing with care and complications).

Who’s going to raise those children?  The women the government forced to bring them to term?  Of course.  Will they get assistance from the government for the expenses of keeping these children alive?  No, they will not.  According to our new president, our new congress and our new supreme court, women who live in the United States have only themselves to blame for getting pregnant while infected with a virus they don’t know they’ve been exposed to.  And microcephaly can occur even when Zika is in the sperm of an infected male.  Lucky women!  You get to live with a family you don’t want and raise a child with an extreme disability.

And as long as women have no right to make decisions about their own body, tough luck.

Did you vote these bastards in?  White men with money are the only group that will be protected and the United States will lose all the progress it’s made in the last 150 years.

Thanks America.  Fuck you.

Ebola: Who’s at Fault?

The fault with Ebola can be spread far and wide.   Start with our Homeland security not seeing Ebola as a threat.  Move to a do-nothing congress unwilling to fund research and development, equipment and training. Then look at a racist, hubris filled country which did not demand action while this disease was decimating African nations and believes that somehow chanting USA! USA! makes us better and more capable than other nations.  That is the pot.

Next add a drug industry uninterested in developing medications and treatments for conditions and diseases which don’t pay and instead concentrate on developing drugs for men (Viagra, Cialis) and the wealthy (Botox, Cancer treatments). Stir in apathy and a large portion of unwillingness to see beyond the bottom line.

Bring to a boil over a fire of mistaken belief that Americans are John Wayne clones who can handle any threat with enough gun fire.

Now go to Texas where these beliefs are exaggerated.  Enter a corporate hospital where oversight is slack, and budgeting focuses on corporate gain instead of patient care.  Investment in employee training and personal protective equipment is minimal, despite the deaths overseas and the growth of local refugee populations.  Overconfidence and lack of understanding of the situation upon patient admission left any who came in contact exposed.  The incompetence and lack of training of the state and local health departments as well as the hospital’s concerns about liability (nurses were advised to use their best judgement) combined with a media mandate to minimize the threat in order to not “cause a panic” despite the very facts they were reporting, to create an environment in which contamination and transmission were practically guaranteed.

Finally, sprinkle liberally with a health care system that encourages the poor to stay away from diagnosis and treatment until they are in extremis and you have not just a recipe, but a mandate for disaster.  At each level ignorance, greed, overconfidence, dodging of responsibility and racism are putting not just Americans, but the entire hemisphere at risk.  

However, this is hardly the time to be divesting ourselves of experts. Reporters at CNN stated “Americans don’t want to be told to stay at home and watch daytime TV for three weeks”.  Of course we don’t.  But, it doesn’t matter what we want now.  It doesn’t matter what the bottom line is.  It doesn’t matter how many guns you have or what political party you belong to.  We have to put all that aside, admit it and deal with it. 

Ebola is a deadly epidemic and it’s here.  It’s in Dallas, and it’s quite possibly cropping up in other Texas cities, in New Haven, Connecticut and perhaps Ohio. It will show up in other places.  We can’t close our borders to disease.  A wall won’t keep it out.  America is going to have to buckle down and prepare.  We will have to spend money.  We will have to learn something.  We will have to train people.  

We don’t have time to argue about blame.  That will have to wait.  We need to get to work.  Together.

Independence Day

Independence Day.

How to Help in A Disaster

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tornado Damage – Hattiesburg, MS

With all the recent disasters we see and hear about, it’s human nature to want to help our neighbors both near and far in need.  But it’s often not clear what is the best way to really be of assistance. This is why I am reprinting a post on this subject from a federal disaster worker at  AllExperts.com.

Question:
What would you say are the best things to do after a major disaster? To help someone else, not yourself.

John Doe

Answer:
John, thanks for asking.

If you are not in a disaster but want to assist people who have been affected by one, there are several things you can do.  There are also certain things you should not do.

First, support organizations which are responding to the disaster.  Non-profit organizations which respond to disasters are not funded by the government and need financial support.  Choose your favorite, the one you think does the most good and donate money to them.  You can find a list of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) here: http://www.nvoad.org/  These are recognized organizations and will not scam you.

Unless specifically requested, do not donate clothing, food or other items.  During Hurricane Andrew, tons of donated items had to be disposed of in Florida (fur coats, kitchen utensils, old shoes) because they were not needed and/or there were not enough people available to sort through them.  There was no place to store much of the donations and they became wet, moldy and a health hazard.  

There are agencies in the NVOAD (above) who do take donations of clothing, food, water and other in-kind donations, so check with them and ask what they need.

Seeing the suffering caused by a disaster makes most people want to help in some way.  If you would like to volunteer, go ahead and find an organization which can give you the proper training and credentials so that you can really help.  Many NVOAD groups have free classes in disaster response and relief and you can sign up and take them.  Other agencies have need for people with special skills (counseling, social work, massage therapy, cooking, building, etc,) and are happy to find new volunteers.

Please don’t just go to a disaster area to volunteer.  There are several reasons for this,  First, disaster areas are usually dangerous with debris and  limited emergency services.  Police and sheriff’s departments are stretched thin, as are fire departments, paramedics and hospitals.  Trying to find a place for unattached volunteers to work is just not a priority when disaster survivors need their attention.

During Hurricane Katrina, fire departments from all over the country just took it upon themselves to travel to Louisiana.  I was there at the firefighters’ staging area.  Although their hearts were in the right place, it was sometimes a strain on local responders trying to find them a place to stay and assign them to work teams.  You don’t really think about it, but when people’s homes are destroyed, they are staying in motels and eating at restaurants.  If too many workers come into the area, they take up those rooms that the disaster stricken families need.  When I first got to Katrina, there was no power and no food shipments coming in.  I went to a Burger King drive in one night and the sign said, “We have burgers, no buns.”  The next night I went through and it said, “We have buns, no burgers.”  

I know this is a lot, but finally, let me say: be prepared.

-Get your home ready for a disaster, have a disaster go bag, water, medications, a disaster plan, a place to shelter inside the house.
-Designate a family meeting place and someone outside the area to contact in case you and your family get separated. (Sometimes phones don’t work locally but connect to other cities and states)
-Make sure you have appropriate insurance (Home owners insurance does not normally cover flood damage).
-Keep your important papers (deeds, car registration copies, insurance papers, utility bills) somewhere that is safe and waterproof
-Take them with you if you have to evacuate.
-Learn first aid and CPR, find out what your community’s emergency plans are.
-Vote.  Pay attention to which of your representatives supports government disaster response.  The money that goes to disaster victims is the money they (and you) have been paying in as taxes.  It is your disaster savings account.  And if it is ever your turn, you will need the same aid.

That about covers it.  I hope you decide to become a disaster volunteer or get a job with a disaster agency or company.  There’s no better feeling than helping someone who has lost everything.  I know, I’ve been there.

Allexperts.com

The New Dust Bowl

The New Dust Bowl

Long Dunes

This is an image of the formally fertile Texas Panhandle.  These dunes are created by topsoil blown from tilled fields which have received no significant rain for months.  We are having frequent dust storms which obscure visual range and cause traffic accidents.  And soon, no doubt, we will begin having riotous range fires.

On a typical day in the Spring, sustained winds in Amarillo, Texas may run thirty miles per hour, gusting to sixty.  Downslope winds coming from the mountains of New Mexico dry as they expand, wringing any humidity from the air as it travels Eastward.  Likewise, air coming in Westward over the Caprock is forced up and cools rapidly, causing precipitation to fall before it reaches us.  All this results in nothing but dry, hot air.  And it’s getting drier and hotter.

Native plant which grow here are used to little precipitation.  This is, after all, a high, arid desert.  But with irrigation and an acceptable annual rainfall in the past, this area grew wheat, sorghum, soybeans and cotton.  Now, with an average rainfall of less than two inches per month, very little grows here without a huge amount of irrigation.  With the dryness of the air, tremendous amounts of water are lost to evaporation before they even hit the ground.  The water is wasted, the plants are stunted, the harvests are low. Fields are left with stunted crops unharvested, dried out: fire hazards.

Dead trees and dusty ground have thinned herds

Two Steers

The Panhandle was alive with cattle at one point.  Herds of Black Angus, Hereford Whiteface, Longhorns and Limosin roamed the area.  But as grazing land dried up, ranchers sold off their herds due to the cost of grains.  This is an image of two hybrid cattle on a dusty, overgrazed field.  Many of the trees here are dead, the rest twisted to the Northwest from the constant push of the Southwest winds.  A fire in this field would spread in an instant, fueled by the bone-dry vegetation and high winds.  It would travel faster than these two steers could go, roasting them alive before anyone could get there to help them.  It’s happened before.

Firefighters can barely keep up with the fast moving flames.  Grass fires create their own winds as the rapidly rising hot air sucks in the relatively cooler air along the ground surface.  The firestorm pulls in fuel, oxygen, rocks, and builds strength as it travels.  They are hot, they are quick, they are deadly.  In Arizona last year 19 firefighters were killed in one blaze alone.  Every day we have fire weather warning.  We keep our fingers crossed.

calf or foal being covered by drifting dust

Dead Calf

The losses suffered are not just financial.  This image is of a young foal being covered in the drifting sand is not remarkable in itself.  What is frightening about this scene is that at three o’clock in the afternoon, at a temperature of 88 degrees, there was not a single fly on this carcass.  Under ordinary circumstances, there would be a visible cloud of them on and over the body.  But there were none.

In fact, in 1974 there were grasshoppers, cicadas, dragonflies, ants, praying mantis, bees, wasps, beetles and any number of other insects in the area.  Car windshields had to be cleaned of insect parts after a drive in the country.  There would be swarms of gnats, mosquitos, mayflies and other flying creatures in the yards, fields and ponds.  Now there are not.  Our cars are not covered with bugs, just mud.  There aren’t roly-polys under the rocks, just sand.  Our wasp problems have solved themselves.

As for the birds that used to eat those bugs?  They’ve just disappeared.  We have the occasional Robin, but the others: meadowlarks, mockingbirds, flycatchers- they’ve moved on. Instead we have sparrows, finches and doves; the seed eaters.

I have a story told to me by a friend about a local rancher and his elderly mother.  The rancher went over to his mother’s house during a particularly bad recent dust storm.  He found her crying at the window.  When he asked what was wrong, she turned to him and said, “This is how it started the first time.”

The geographical center of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, according to filmmaker Ken Burns, is just short of two hours’ drive from here.  There are still a lot of older adults who remember the harsh, dry conditions and the monster, daylight eating dust storms.

They are afraid.

I am too.

Crying for Change

Crying for Change.

Wash

A Great Depression-style dust storm howls outside, blotting out the stars.  There is a pall which covers the sky, the ground, the cows, the flowers, the windows, the faces and even gets in the teeth.  The air is ionized as fractious dirt strips electrons from the air like drunk cowboys tearing at cathouse gals’ raggedy gowns.  At night the faint glow of the streetlights downtown turns the dusty sky a roiling, blowing rose.  Up in the nineties this afternoon, the temperature is supposed to drop at least forty five degrees over the next four days.  The wind speeds are not.

via Wash.

Wash

Wash.

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