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.

1=========================================

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. . . .”

 

Drinking from the Firehose: Politics Issue

Recent articles on political topics that we found insightful, hopeful, or alarming — and sometimes all three
WSB
WSB

WSB
WSB

How The Racist Backlash To Barack Obama Gave Us Donald Trump
Daniel Marans
HuffPost, 3.10.2017
How The Racist Backlash To Barack Obama Gave Us Donald Trump | The Huffington Post
“Remember when pundits hailed the election of Barack Obama as the beginning of a “post-racial” America? After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it seems like a distant memory. But in 2008, it was the prevailing wisdom among political commentators.  ❖  Cornell Belcher, a long-time Democratic pollster who worked on both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, started seeing through the mirage of racial harmony well before Trump’s election made it obvious. In Belcher’s book, A Black Man in the White House: Barack Obama and the Triggering of America’s Racial-Aversion Crisis, released weeks ahead of Trump’s election, he presents years of research showing that white resentment grew steadily under Obama….”

 

What Trump’s Budget Says About His Priorities
Ben Casselman
FiveThirtyEight, 3.16.2017
“President Trump on Thursday released the outline of his first federal budget, which would boost spending on defense and border security while slashing almost everything else. It’s important to understand what this “skinny budget” is not: an actual accounting of how the government will spend taxpayers’ money. That’s up to Congress to decide, and already many provisions of Trump’s budget appear to be dead on arrival. Rather, it’s best to think of the president’s budget as a statement of priorities….”

 

Stephen King on Donald Trump: “How do such men rise? First as a joke”
Stephen King
The Guardian, 4.1.2017
He’s written novels with eerily similar plotlines – but how did Trump become president? The only way to find out: inject a panel of fictional voters with truth serum…

 

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Sexism, Sanders, and the Millennial Feminists
Susan Bordo
The Guardian, 4.2.2017
“Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the “gender wars” firsthand – from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on “women’s libbers”, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier – brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines….”

 

Six Degrees Of Trump Opposition
Percy Bacon, Jr.
FiveThirtyEight, 4.3.2017
“You can tell how much trouble Trump is in by how many groups are lined up against him.Many of the early struggles of Donald Trump’s presidency appear to be self-inflicted: a leader with little experience in government or politics, an administration with significant internal divides and a set of policy goals — such as rolling back the Affordable Care Act and blocking travelers to the United States from certain countries — that are complicated to execute.But there is another huge factor affecting him: his opposition….”

 

How to set up a VPN in 10 minutes for free (and why you urgently need one)
Quincy Larson
freeCodeCamp, 3.27.2017
How to set up a VPN in 10 minutes for free (and why you urgently need one)
“Thanks to a decision by Congress, ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress). ISPs can also sell any information they want from your online activity and mobile app usage — financial information, medical information, your children’s information, your social security number — even the contents of your emails. They can even sell your geolocation information. That’s right, ISPs can take your exact physical location from minute to minute and sell it to a third party.You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these protections?”

 

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