Drinking from the Firehose, Volume 2

Well, it was another drenching week on hose duty. Here are a few longer pieces that provide some helpful perspective on a whole range of topics, from the environment, to the media, to veterans’ issues, to energy use and gerrymandering.

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Mathematical Theorem Finds Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania Congressional District Map
Jocelyn Duffy
CMU News, 3.10.2017
“Pennsylvania’s congressional district maps are almost certainly the result of gerrymandering according to an analysis based on a new mathematical theorem on bias in Markov chains developed by Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh mathematicians. Their findings are published in the Feb. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). . . .”

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American Energy Use, in One Diagram
David Roberts
Vox, 4.13.2017
“Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory produces a new energy flow chart showing the sources of US energy, what it’s used for, and how much of it is wasted. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a bit of a mind-blower. . . .”

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How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics
Bruce Bartlett
The Big Picture, 5.21.2015

This one’s been around for a while,
but it’s a solid report worth the reading…

“The creation of Fox News in 1996 was an event of deep, yet unappreciated, political and historical importance. For the first time, there was a news source available virtually everywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a conservative tilt. Finally, conservatives did not have to seek out bits of news favorable to their point of view in liberal publications or in small magazines and newsletters. Like someone dying of thirst in the desert, conservatives drank heavily from the Fox waters. Soon, it became the dominant – and in many cases, virtually the only – major news source for millions of Americans. This has had profound political implications that are only starting to be appreciated. Indeed, it can almost be called self-brainwashing. . . .”

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EPA staffer leaves with a bang, blasting agency policies under Trump
Joe Davidson
The Washington Post, 4.7.2017
“After 25 years, he retired last week from the Environmental Protection Agency with a tough message for the boss, Administrator Scott Pruitt. ❖ ‘I, along with many EPA staff, are becoming increasing alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership,’ Cox said in a letter to Pruitt. ‘The policies this Administration is advancing are contrary to what the majority of the American people, who pay our salaries, want EPA to accomplish, which are to ensure the air their children breath is safe; the land they live, play, and hunt on to be free of toxic chemicals; and the water they drink, the lakes they swim in, and the rivers they fish in to be clean.’ “

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Trump’s Plan to End Europe
David Frum
The Atlantic, May 2017
“Why does the president want to undo the post–World War II order?”  Why indeed…

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The U.S. Military Thinks Missiles and Bombs Work Better with a Strategy, Too
VoteVets.org, 4.14.2017
“They dispatched the carrier strike force toward North Korea. They launched the cruise missiles at Syria. But the U.S. military, stung when it was sent to war before without a clear plan and then blamed for the resulting mess, is expressing caution about being thrust deeper into any of the conflicts raging around the world. . . .”

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Woody Guthrie, Old Man Trump, and a Real Estate Empire’s Racist Foundations
Bruce Bartlett
The Big Picture, 5.21.2015
“In the 1950s, Woody Guthrie lived in one of Fred Trump’s buildings. In newly discovered, never before published writings, Guthrie bitterly rails against the developer’s color line. In December 1950, Woody Guthrie signed his name to the lease of a new apartment in Brooklyn. Even now, over half a century later, that uninspiring document prompts a double-take. Below all the legal jargon is the signature of the man who had composed “This Land Is Your Land,” the most resounding appeal to an equal share for all in America. Below that is the signature of Donald Trump’s father, Fred. No pairing could appear more unlikely. . . .”

 

Notes on a Meeting with Donna Oberlander

Indivisible We Rise has introduced itself to our local representative, Donna Oberlander, and looks forward to further interactions. Last Friday, five of us met for an hour at her office. Betty Griffith represented Conservation, Nancy DiStefano represented Education, Janice Horn represented Healthcare, and Kay Luthin went as a Political committee substitute and steering committee member. Kathy Krouse served as our coordinator and spokeswoman, presenting Donna with an agenda to keep the meeting on track. Kathy presented a brief summary of who we are and what we represent, and spoke of our upcoming Earth Day event. Donna seemed quite cautious at first, but relaxed as the meeting progressed.

Janice asked about the long-term birth control that is so successfully offered in Colorado as a means to prevent abortion and lower societal costs; she seemed interested and took a handout about it. Janice also talked about a single payer option for healthcare in the Commonwealth; Donna knows the Democratic representative introducing a bill on this (HB 1688) and said she would talk to her about it.

Nancy asked about voucher and cyberschool issues. Donna was silent on our criticism of DeVos, but was vocal on how cyberschools and charter schools hurt our rural district. She has been promoting the formation of a commission on the topic, similar to the one that exists for Special Ed. We should encourage her on this.

Betty eloquently spoke about our natural world here in PA and about how the poisoned rivers have been cleared thanks to regulations. This brought on a slightly testy conversation among all of us about regulations, Pruitt, the EPA, the DEP, and dirty industries coming down the pike. Donna clearly holds the position that the DEP is a pain, preventing industries and projects from progressing, and the EPA is not her business. We expressed the other point of view.

Kay spoke on the topics of increasing division in the American citizenry and the tools of ‘fake news’ and propaganda further dividing us. Donna grew quite animated on the subject of civility and the division, stating that the pendulum used to settle in the middle, and now gets stuck to the right or the left. She said the women of the House are much better at working across the aisle than men and gave us several examples. When questioned, she said they discuss issues across the party divide. She does share our concern about the splintering of the country. Finally, we briefly discussed gerrymandering reform, which she had heard of but not with the same information our group has.

Thanks to Kathy, we presented Donna with a packet of OUR information: our structure chart, our brochure, a letter from our group asking for more environmental protection, and facts about the horror of cracker plants. Also included was a letter from the Post Gazette about weighing jobs versus health and environmental concerns. In the end, we felt that we had introduced our group to her in a firm and friendly manner. She had actually read a postcard Nancy had sent her, without knowing Nancy would be coming to the meeting, so keep your cards and letters going to her! She will now recognize our group when we call, send her fact sheets, or make requests. Let’s do just that!

♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land”

Today our new President signed (yet another) executive order nullifying many of our old President’s carefully crafted climate change guidelines — “to revive the coal industry,” they said, and send all the coal miners “back to work.” (You have to feel sorry for those miners, because they seem to actually believe it!)

This order goes along with a Jan. 24th order reversing Obama’s “Stream Protection Rule” that prevented coal mining companies from disposing of mine waste by dumping it into the water supply. (Who needs healthy kids if you’ve got a job, right?)

So, in celebration of these two giant steps backward, I offer you this great version of Jean Ritchie’s famous song, “Black Waters.”

Continue reading “♫ “Black waters, black waters run down through my land””

Action Alerts for the Week of March 3

Please: Call, write a letter, send a postcard or fax regarding these urgent concerns:

  1.  Defend healthcare
    • So far the repeal and replace plans are a mess… or possibly out and out non-existent. Tell your MoC’s to oppose repealing the ACA and protect Medicaid. Fine-tuning and improving can be worked out later.
  2.  Demand Trump’s tax returns
    • OK, enough is enough on this. Anyone who has applied for college aid must disclose tax returns, yet President Trump refuses — in spite of growing suspicions about possible conflicts of interest and ties to Russia. Demand that your MoC’s sign on to Rep. Bill Pascrell’s letter that would instruct Congress to exercise its legal authority to obtain those returns.
  3.  Push for truth and full disclosure about Trump’s Russian influences
    • Tell your MoC’s that the American people deserve to receive a full report on this situation provided by an independent team of investigators.
  4.  Oppose a dangerous gun law
    • Ask your MoC’s to vote against Concealed Carry Reciprocity. This bill would force Pennsylvania to allow dangerous people from every other state to carry hidden, loaded guns on your streets — convicted stalkers, domestic abusers, people with no training, even the legally blind… and there is nothing PA will be able to do about it! The views of the head of the NRA have gone beyond what most members believe or want. He recently declared that anyone in opposition to the Trump agenda is part of “the violent left.”
  5. Protect Our Earth
    • Ask your MoC’s to fight the gutting of the EPA. In addition, ask them to specifically oppose a proposed $800 million giveaway to Big Oil. When fossil fuel companies drill on our public lands, they often burn away — or flare — natural gas. This sends climate-busting CO2 straight into the atmosphere. And it pollutes the air in local communities.
    • They used to be able to do this for free. But President Obama changed that. His Administration made a rule that makes the fossil fuel industry pay taxpayers and tribes for the wasted natural gas. This made Big Oil think twice about destroying our wild places.
    • Now, Congress is trying to undo the Obama administration’s action. And we know why. Thanks to an investigation Friends of the Earth launched in 2015, we know exactly which companies are getting the most free natural gas from our public lands. The biggest winners are some of Trump’s biggest donors… companies like ExxonMobil, which is now running the State Department through former CEO Rex Tillerson. And companies like Devon Energy, which was so close to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that back in Oklahoma they actually drafted letters for him to copy and paste onto his letterhead when he was state Attorney General.
    • Reversing the rule would be a huge win for companies like these — and a huge loss for taxpayers and the climate! (This vote is going to be very, very close. The difference between protecting our air and letting Big Oil go back to destroying it for free is going to come down to one or two Senators!)

Thanks for rising up!

–Kathy Krouse