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Donald Trump’s Extract-Everything Energy Policy Dooms Us All

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Donald Trump’s Extract-Everything Energy Policy Dooms Us All

He laid out his dystopian world vision (and that of the generals he’s put in charge of what was once known as American “foreign policy”) in a December 18th address announcing the release of the administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) document. “Whether we like it or not,” he asserted, “we are engaged in a new era of competition.” The United States faces “rogue regimes” like Iran and North Korea and “rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.” In such an intensely competitive world, he added, “we will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before.… Our rivals are tough. They’re tenacious and committed to the long term. But so are we.”

To Trump and his generals, we’ve been plunged into a world that bears little relation to the one faced by the last two administrations, when great-power conflict was rarely the focus of attention and civilian society remained largely insulated from the pressures of the country’s never-ending wars. Today, they believe, the United States can no longer afford to distinguish between “the homeland” and foreign battle zones when girding for years of struggle to come. “To succeed,” the president concluded, “we must integrate every dimension of our national strength, and we must compete with every instrument of our national power.”

And that’s where, in the Trumpian worldview, energy enters the picture.

Energy Dominance

From the onset of his presidency, Donald Trump has made it clear that cheap and abundant domestic energy derived from fossil fuels was going to be the crucial factor in his total-mobilization approach to global engagement. In his view and that of his advisers, it’s the essential element in ensuring national economic vitality, military strength, and geopolitical clout, whatever damage it might cause to American life, the global environment, or even the future of human life on this planet. The exploitation and wielding of fossil fuels now sits at the very heart of the Trumpian definition of national security, as the recently released NSS makes all too clear.

“Access to domestic sources of clean, affordable, and reliable energy underpins a prosperous, secure, and powerful America for decades to come,” it states. “Unleashing these abundant energy resources—coal, natural gas, petroleum, renewables, and nuclear—stimulates the economy and builds a foundation for future growth.”

So, yes, the document does pay lip service to the role of renewables, though no one should take that seriously given, for instance, the president’s recent decision to place high tariffs on imported solar panels, an act likely to cripple the domestic solar-installation industry. What really matters to Trump are those domestic reserves of fossil fuels. Only by using them to gain energy self-sufficiency, or what he trumpets not just as “energy independence” but total “energy dominance,” can the United States avoid becoming beholden to foreign powers and so protect its sovereignty. That’s why he regularly hails the successes of the “shale revolution,” the use of fracking technology to extract oil and gas from deeply buried shale formations. As he sees it, fracking to the max makes America that much less dependent on foreign imports.

It follows then that the ability to supply fossil fuels to other countries will be a source of geopolitical advantage, a reality made painfully clear early in this century when Russia exploited its status as a major supplier of natural gas to Ukraine, Belarus, and other former Soviet republics to try to extract political concessions from them. Donald Trump absorbed that lesson and incorporated it into his strategic playbook.

“Our country is blessed with extraordinary energy abundance,” he declared at an “Unleashing American Energy Event” last June. “We are a top producer of petroleum and the number-one producer of natural gas.… With these incredible resources, my administration will seek not only American energy independence that we’ve been looking for so long, but American energy dominance. And we’re going to be an exporter.… We will be dominant. We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe.”

Attaining Energy Dominance

In energy terms, what does dominant mean in practice? For President Trump and his cohorts, it means above all the “unleashing” of the country’s energy abundance by eliminating every imaginable regulatory impediment to the exploitation of domestic reserves of fossil fuels. After all, America possesses some of the largest reservoirs of oil, coal, and natural gas on the planet and, by applying every technological marvel at its disposal, can maximally extract those reserves to enhance national power.

“The truth is that we have near-limitless supplies of energy in our country,” he declared last June. All that stood in the way of exploiting them when he entered the Oval Office, he insisted, were environmental regulations imposed by the Obama administration. “We cannot have obstruction. Since my very first day in office, I have been moving at record pace to cancel these regulations and to eliminate the barriers to domestic energy production.” He then cited his approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the cancellation of a moratorium on the leasing of federal lands for coal mining, the reversal of an Obama administration rule aimed at preventing methane leakage from natural gas production on federal lands, and the rollback of Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which (if implemented) would require sharp cuts in coal usage. And from the recent opening of the pristine Alaskan Arctic Refuge to that of those coastal waters to every kind of drilling, it’s never ended.

Never mind that the Paris agreement in no way intruded on American sovereignty. It only obligated its partners—at this point, every country on Earth except the United States—to enact its own greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures aimed at preventing global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels. (That is the biggest increase scientists believe the planet can absorb without experiencing truly catastrophic impacts like a 10-foot rise in global sea levels). In the Obama years, in its own self-designed blueprint for achieving this goal, the United States promised, among other things, to implement the Clean Power Plan to minimize the consumption of coal, itself already a dying industry. This, of course, represented an unacceptable impediment to Trump’s extract-everything policy.

The final step in the president’s strategy to become a major exporter involves facilitating the transport of fossil fuels to the country’s coastal areas for shipment abroad. In this way, he would also turn the government into a major global salesman of fossil fuels (as it already is, for instance, of American weaponry). To do so, he would expedite the approval of permits for the export of LNG, or liquefied natural gas, and even for some new types of “lower emissions” coal plants. The Department of the Treasury, he revealed in that June talk of his, “will address barriers to the financing of highly efficient, overseas coal energy plants.” In addition, he claimed that the Ukrainians tell us “they need millions and millions of metric tons [of coal] right now. There are many other places that need it, too. And we want to sell it to them, and to everyone else all over the globe who need[s] it.” He also announced the approval of expanded LNG exports from a new facility at Lake Charles, Louisiana, and of a new oil pipeline to Mexico, meant to “further boost American energy exports, and that will go right under the [as yet unbuilt] wall.”

Such energy moves have generally been viewed as part of a pro-industry, anti-environmentalist agenda, which they certainly are, but each is also a component in an increasingly militarized strategy to enlist domestic energy in an epic struggle—at least in the minds of the president and his advisers—to ensure America’s global dominance.

Where All This Is Headed

Trump achieved many of these maximal-extraction objectives during his first year in office. Now, with fossil fuels uniquely imbedded in the country’s National Security Strategy, we have a clearer sense of what’s happening. First of all, along with the further funding of the US military (and of the “modernization” of the country’s nuclear arsenal), Donald Trump and his generals are making fossil fuels a crucial ingredient for bulking up our national security. In that way, they will turn anything (or any group) standing in the way of the extraction and exploitation of oil, coal, and natural gas into obstructers of the national interest and, quite literally, of American national security.

In other words, the expansion of the fossil-fuel industry and its exports has been transformed into a major component of American foreign and security policy. Of course, such developments and the exports that go with them do generate income and sustain some jobs, but in the Trumpian view they also boost the country’s geopolitical profile by encouraging foreign friends and partners to rely ever more heavily on us for their energy needs, rather than adversaries like Russia or Iran. “As a growing supplier of energy resources, technologies, and services around the world,” the NSS declares without a hint of irony, “the United States will help our allies and partners become more resilient against those that use energy to coerce.”

As the Trump administration moves forward on all this, the key battlefield will undoubtedly be the building and maintaining of energy infrastructure—the pipelines and railroads carrying oil, gas, and coal from the American interior to processing and export facilities on the coasts. Because so many of the country’s large cities and population centers are on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, or the Gulf of Mexico, and because the country has long depended on imports for much of its petroleum supply, a surprising share of existing energy infrastructure—refineries, LNG facilities, pumping stations, and the like—is already located along those same coasts. Yet much of the energy supply Trump seeks to exploit—the shale fields of Texas and North Dakota, the coal fields of Nebraska—is located in the interior of the country. For his strategy to succeed, such resource zones must be connected far more effectively to coastal facilities via a mammoth web of new pipelines and other transport infrastructure. All of this will cost vast sums of money and lead to intense clashes with environmentalists, Native peoples, farmers, ranchers, and others whose lands and way of life will be severely degraded when that kind of construction takes place, and who can be expected to resist.

For Trump, the road ahead is clear: Do whatever it takes to install the infrastructure needed to deliver those fossil fuels abroad. Not surprisingly then, the National Security Strategy asserts that “we will streamline the Federal regulatory approval processes for energy infrastructure, from pipeline and export terminals to container shipments and gathering lines.” This is bound to provoke numerous conflicts with environmental groups and other inhabitants of what Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, calls “Blockadia”—places like the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where thousands of Native people and their supporters camped out last year in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to block construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Given the administration’s insistence on linking energy extraction to US security, don’t for a moment imagine that attempts to protest such moves won’t be met with harsh treatment from federal law enforcement agencies.

Building all of that infrastructure will also prove expensive, so expect President Trump to make pipeline construction integral to any infrastructure modernization bill he sends to Congress, thereby securing taxpayer dollars for the effort. Indeed, the inclusion of pipeline construction and other kinds of energy build-out in any future infrastructure initiative is already a major objective of influential business groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the US Chamber of Commerce. Rebuilding roads and bridges is fine, commented Thomas Donohue, the Chamber’s influential president, but “we’re also living in the midst of an energy renaissance, yet we don’t have the infrastructure to support it.” As a result, he added, we must “build the pipelines necessary to transport our abundant resources to market.” Given the influence such corporate interests have over this White House and congressional Republicans, it’s reasonable to assume that any bill on infrastructure revitalization will be, at least in part, energy focused.

And keep in mind that for President Trump, with his thoroughly fossil-fuelized view of the world, this is just the beginning. Issues that may be viewed by others as environmental or even land-conservation matters will be seen by him and his associates as so many obstacles to national security and greatness. Facing what will almost certainly be a series of unparalleled potential environmental disasters, those who oppose him will also have to contest his view of the world and the role fossil fuels should play in it.

Selling more of them to foreign buyers, while attempting to stifle the development of renewals (and thereby ceding those true job-creating sectors of the economy to other countries) may be good for giant oil and coal corporations, but it won’t win America any friends abroad at a moment when climate change is becoming a growing concern for ever more people on this planet. With prolonged droughts, increasingly severe storms and hurricanes, and killer heat waves affecting ever-larger swaths of the planet, with sea levels rising and extreme weather becoming the norm, the urge for progress on climate change is only growing stronger, as is the demand for climate-friendly renewables.

Donald Trump and his administration of climate-change deniers are quite literally living in the wrong century. The militarization of energy policy at this late date and the lodging of fossil fuels at the heart of national-security policy may seem appealing to them, but it’s an approach that’s obviously doomed. On arrival, it is, in fact, already the definition of obsolescence.

Unfortunately, given the circumstances of this planet at the moment, it also threatens to doom the rest of us. The further we look into the future, the more likely international leadership will fall on the shoulders of those who can effectively and efficiently deliver renewables, not those who can provide climate-poisoning fossil fuels. That being so, no one seeking global prestige would say at Davos or anywhere else that we are blessed with “a substantial ability to deliver the people of the globe a better quality of life through fossil fuels.”

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Trump Building Massive Concentration Camp For Immigrant Children

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Trump Building Massive Concentration Camp For Immigrant Children

You remember during the election when people compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and the common response was that at least he isn’t throwing people in concentration camps? Well, that’s because he wasn’t President* yet.

Now that he is Moron-in-Chief, he has made numerous attempts to ban people of an entire religion from the country, employed brutal tactics to expel immigrants (including legal immigrants and even some US citizens who happen to be brown), and generally acted — you guessed it — just like Hitler. He’s also building, as predicted, a massive concentration camp to house immigrant children who have been ripped from their parents at the border by fine men and women who are following orders.

McClatchy reports that Trump’s  Department of Health and Human Services is considering building a “tent city” like those built by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to torture prisoners to house between 1,000 and 1,500 children who have been torn screaming from their parents’ arms.

HHS officials confirm that Fort Bliss and other locations in Texas to build what can reasonably be called concentration camps for the children.

“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official. These concentration camps are “necessary” because the number of children imprisoned by our government has increased by over 20 percent since white supremacist sympathizer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announced that the U.S. government would be taking children from their parents if they are caught trying to cross the border.

This comes following news that the Trump administration “lost” more children than this concentration camp will hold, even putting many directly into the hands of human traffickers.

“Detaining children for immigration purposes is never in their best interest and the prospect of detaining kids in tent cities is horrifying,” says Clara Long, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “US authorities should focus on keeping families together, ensuring due process in asylum adjudications and protecting the rights of children.”

But Trump doesn’t care about decency. He cares about locking children up.

It is unclear when he will decide gas chambers are in these children’s best interest, but we shouldn’t put it past him. Human rights aren’t exactly something he cares about.

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Michael Cohen Just Got Some Very, Very Bad News

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Michael Cohen Just Got Some Very, Very Bad News

Michael Cohen is not having a great time as of late. Abandoned by his liege Donald Trump, he has been forced to deal with his numerous illegal activities all by his lonesome — and things have been pretty lonesome. Not only are his lawyers fleeing, but now it appears that he probably should kiss his friends and family goodbye.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur reports that Cohen has received word from federal prosecutors that he’s going to be arrested soon.

In May, Cohen’s office was raided, with investigators taking documents and recordings, electronic devices, and hard drives related to the $130,000 Cohen personally paid adult film star, Stormy Daniels, to cover up an affair she had with the big orange dotard currently occupying the Oval Office.

Daniels’ attorney Michael Avanatti predicted last month that Cohen would be indicted for “a number of crimes” within 90 says. Now, he says, “it looks like I’m about to be proven right.”

Cohen has been telling friend and family that he expects to be indicted any day. Lawyers at the Southern District of New York reportedly called Cohen’s attorneys, saying they were “preparing paperwork” to arrest the Trump fixer according to Tur, who spoke to a source close to Cohen.

Cohen’s arrest could be bad news for Donald Trump, who recently refused to rule out pardoning Cohen for his crimes — something he has considered for his allies and even himself while simultaneously denying that anyone has done anything wrong.

“Trump should be super worried about Michael Cohen,” an ex-White House official told Vanity Fair. “If anyone can blow up Trump, it’s him.”

Interestingly, Sean Hannity freaked out on air last week and urged people under investigation to destroy evidence. It seems we finally know why.

It’s unclear what Mueller has on Trump’s former personal lawyer, but one thing is for sure — Trump has reason to be worried.

 

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Mad as ever at Comey, yet still floored by the stupidity of the Clinton who got to be president

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Mad as ever at Comey, yet still floored by the stupidity of the Clinton who got to be president

 

TMcIntyre2009 / Flickr The First First Gentleman...
TMcIntyre2009 / Flickr

Excessive ego and failures in judgment often go hand in hand. That’s one lesson made plain by the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on James Comey and the FBI’s handling of what Bernie Sanders memorably referred to—in defending Hillary Clinton—as her “damn emails.”

The report made a few things very clear. In legal terms, the most important was the finding that the decision to not bring charges against Sec. Clinton was the correct call. The IG found that there was no political bias in that decision, and found that the standard the FBI used in making that judgment “was consistent with the department’s historical approach in prior cases under different leadership, including in the 2008 decision not to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for mishandling classified documents.” The Guy Who Lost the Popular Vote by 3 Million can tweet whatever he likes, but that is the key finding when it comes to the question of whether—as his supporters are still chanting more than 500 days after the election—his opponent should’ve been locked up.

Then there’s the matter of failures in judgment. The report cited FBI director James Comey’s egregious failures on the two most important matters relating to the email investigation. First was his decision to issue a statement on July 5, 2016, announcing his recommendation that Sec. Clinton not face charges, a statement that included wholly inappropriate remarks that she and her team had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Such remarks go far beyond what an FBI director is supposed to say about an investigation. In fact, he’s not supposed to say anything, he’s just supposed to make a recommendation to the attorney general or whomever else is supervising an investigation in case of a recusal.

The IG report went into more detail:

Comey admitted that he concealed his intentions from the Department until the morning of his press conference on July 5, and instructed his staff to do the same, to make it impracticable for Department leadership to prevent him from delivering his statement. We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so, and we found none of his reasons to be a persuasive basis for deviating from well-established Department policies in a way intentionally designed to avoid supervision by Department leadership over his actions.

In other words, Comey just said, “Fuck policy. I know best. I’m James Comey.” (Yes, I do imagine him saying this to himself, a la Keith Hernandez on “Seinfeld.”)

Now let’s talk about Bill Clinton’s role in this, in particular the impact of his unplanned yet mind-bogglingly stupid meeting on June 27, 2016, with Attorney General Loretta Lynch—you know, the person ultimately in charge of deciding whether his wife would be prosecuted over the email business.

I can imagine the political strategist in his head saying “Hmmm, maybe don’t go over to her plane,” and then the ego in his head saying, “Come on, I’m special, and besides, I’m so much fun to be around. How can I deprive poor Loretta of the pleasure of my company?”

According to the IG report, Clinton actually said “I don’t want her to think I’m afraid to shake hands with her because she’s the Attorney General. I just wanted to say hello to her and I thought it would look really crazy if we were living in [a] world [where] I couldn’t shake hands with the Attorney General you know when she was right there.” There’s nothing to add to those remarks.

The IG report concluded that nothing untoward happened during this meeting, and that the investigation was not discussed at all. Nevertheless, the report stated that Lynch’s “failure to recognize the appearance problem created by former President Clinton’s visit and to take action to cut the visit short was an error in judgment.”

Politics is perception, and Comey took that “appearance problem” into account in making his decision regarding the July 5 announcement. According to the IG report, Comey “was “90 percent there, like highly likely” to make a separate public statement prior to the tarmac meeting, but that the tarmac meeting “tipped the scales” toward making his mind up to go forward with his own public statement.”

One can only guess at how Hillary and Bill Clinton took the news that he had tipped those scales. Apparently, President Clinton was “offended” by criticism he’s taken over the meeting with Lynch. Really? Okay. Here’s my reaction. Remember how in 2012 Barack Obama dubbed the former president the “Secretary of Explaining Stuff”? Now I’m thinking a more appropriate name might be “Secretary of Fucking Up Really Important Stuff, Like Helping Your Wife Get Elected President Instead of Donald Trump”. How’s that?

But back to Comey. After having already crossed the Rubicon on this matter with his July 5 statement, the FBI director clearly felt that he had the right—no, the duty—to pretty much do whatever he felt necessary to protect whatever it was he felt needed protecting—and my sense is that he believed he was the only one in government with the courage, integrity, yadda yadda yadda to do so.

Then came Anthony Weiner ‘s laptop, and Comey’s decision to tell Congress on October 28, 11 days before the election, that the FBI was essentially going to be reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Remember that the FBI had said nothing about an ongoing investigation, begun in July 2016, into the Trump campaign, the matter of Russia interfering on behalf of Trump, and whether there was coordination between the two. Here’s what the IG report said about that Comey decision, which highlighted exactly that contrast:

We found no evidence that Comey’s decision to send the October 28 letter was influenced by political preferences. Instead, we found that his decision was
the result of several interrelated factors that were connected to his concern that failing to send the letter would harm the FBI and his ability to lead it, and his
view that candidate Clinton was going to win the presidency and that she would be perceived to be an illegitimate president if the public first learned of the
information after the election. Although Comey told us that he “didn’t make this decision because [he] thought it would leak otherwise,” several FBI officials told us
that the concern about leaks played a role in the decision.

Much like with his July 5 announcement, we found thatin making this decision, Comey engaged in ad hoc decisionmaking[sic] based on his personal views even if it meant rejecting longstanding Department policy or practice. We found unpersuasive Comey’s explanation as to why transparency was more important than Department policy and practice with regard to the reactivated Midyear investigation while, by contrast, Department policy and practice were more important to follow with regard to the Clinton Foundation and Russia investigations.

Comey’s description of his choice as being between “two doors,” one labeled “speak” and one labeled “conceal,” was a false dichotomy. The two doors were actually labeled “follow policy/practice” and “depart from policy/practice.” Although we acknowledge that Comey faced a difficult situation with unattractive choices, in proceeding as he did, we concluded that Comey made a serious error of judgment.

This post has examined the ego-driven failures committed by two men. One man’s failures, while far smaller in nature, played a part in helping the other man justify, to himself at least, the disastrous decisions that flowed from his serious errors of judgment. These failures made Donald Trump president of the United States.\

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