Monday, January 16, 2017

POLITICS - 100 Days

"Why 100 days is a benchmark for Presidential performance" PBS NewsHour 1/15/2017


SUMMARY:  While a Presidential term lasts four years, the accomplishments of a president’s first 100 days have become the measure of a successful start.  The tradition, which dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, has been extended to President-elect Donald Trump, who laid out a 100-day action plan in October.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield has more.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/13/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Russian intrigue in American politics, Obama's farewell" PBS NewsHour 1/13/2017


SUMMARY:  It was a packed week of congressional hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees, with inauguration days away.  Judy Woodruff speaks with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks about the Russian intrigue in U.S. politics, the future of Mr. Trump's relationship to his business and saying goodbye to President Obama.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

And welcome to you both.  There is so much to talk about, but let's start with talking about the president-elect and Russia.

We had the news today — on top of all the confirmation that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election, today, we learned — and we talked about earlier it on the show — David, that General Michael Flynn had phone conversations with the Russian ambassador in December, several of them.

Tonight, we're learning that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to expand what was already an investigation into the Russian interference into in election to look at any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians and the Clinton campaign, although the main focus is Donald Trump.

What do we make of all this?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I was first struck by David Ignatius' comment earlier in the program that they just could be trying to be destabilize the United States across the board.  And that's a — I hadn't heard that thought before and it's a live possibility.

Putin is someone who has been undermining the norms of what we consider the world order since he got into power and in increasing success.  What's interesting about the Trump administration is how bitterly divided they are in their attitudes towards Putin.

Steve Bannon and General Flynn have warm feelings.  Putin has been — and with a lot of the groups, the conservative groups, the more extreme conservative groups that underlie Trump, he's a bit of a hero because he speaks for traditional values, he's against the global institutions.

They see him as someone who has been on the defensive from an aggressive E.U., an aggressive NATO.  And there is a lot of sympathy there, actually.

And then, if you look at the more establishment Republicans, they see him as what I just described, subversive of the world order.  And so to me the question will be, will Trump and Bannon control policy toward the foreign policy, or will everyone else basically?

And my money is on everyone else, because I think Trump's attention span is super low.  I don't think he has the expertise to actually run a foreign policy.  And at the end of the day — and I think this is a major story of the Trump administration — he's going to want the affirmation of the establishment, as he always has.

The reason he had Clintons at his wedding because he wants that affirmation.  When he gets the chance to have it, I think he will bend gradually in that direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How are you looking at all this?

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Donald Trump is to traditional values what I am to marathon running.


MARK SHIELDS:  It just doesn't — it doesn't fit.

I have to say, Judy, I am perplexed, and I think an increasing number of Republicans are perplexed and actually nervous about Donald Trump and Russia, nervous in the sense that he is gratuitously giving Democrats the national security advantage, that they're standing up for the country.

We have testimony of General Mattis, the nominee for secretary of defense, asserting that the objective, the stated objective and the mission of Vladimir Putin's Russia is to destabilize the North Atlantic Alliance, and he, who believes in NATO and believes it's been one of the great alliances in modern history, that Putin represents a threat to this, that "Russia Today" is nothing but a propaganda arm, that General Flynn went to celebrate its anniversary, sitting at Putin's table for money, paid to show up.

So, I mean, these questions, essentially, they have just given it to the Democrats to stand up and say, wait a minute, where do you believe in this country, plus the suspicions, and real, about in fact the involvement of Russia in this election.

The question, the real moment of truth is going to arrive very shortly, a couple of weeks, when sanctions arrive on Donald Trump's — President Donald Trump's desk passed by a Republican Congress.  Is he going to oppose those sanctions? What's he going to do?

I just think it's inexplicable and irrational, his policy on Russia.
JUDY WOODRUFF:  Two more major things I want to ask both of you about.

The first one is what Donald Trump said, Mark, this week about his business interests.  He said he’s basically turning everything over to his sons, that it will be a kind of a blind trust.  Did he go far enough?

MARK SHIELDS:  Of course he didn’t, Judy.

He said after eight years, he will grade his sons, and if they didn’t perform well, they’re fired, sort of an offhand line, but showing that he did have a continuing interest.

There’s never been a sense of public service about this man.  And I don’t think there is in this alleged arrangement.  It’s anything but a blind trust.  It’s a seeing-eye trust.


It’s a blind trust.  I’m giving it to my closest relatives.


DAVID BROOKS:  It’s not really serious.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  He said he’s not going to talk to them about it.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yeah, right. (sarcastically)


DAVID BROOKS:  He has a different model.

I mean, most — the way the laws are envisioned, they are for people who work in the government — or work in a private sector, and then they cut it offer and they go to public service.  And that’s how you’re supposed to do it.

But he has a pre-modern monarchic family structure.  His business is a monarchy with family members all around.  His administration is a monarchy with family members all around.  So the laws are just not going to apply to him.  And he will wind up with some corruption problems, probably.

ART - The Sculptor

"Depicting colonialism and globalization through art ‘full of contradiction'" PBS NewsHour 1/12/2017


SUMMARY:  A “Wind Sculpture” by visual artist Yinka Shonibare MBE was recently installed in front of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.  It's the seventh in Shonibare's series of vibrantly colored and patterned public artworks that are made of fiberglass, but look like cloth.  Jeffrey Brown talks to Shonibare about his interest in depicting globalization and what he asks of his viewers.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  On a recent morning in Washington, D.C., this wind sculpture was lifted in and installed outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.  It's the latest in a series of public art works on display around the world by the artist Yinka Shonibare.

YINKA SHONIBARE MBE, Artist:  It's a freestanding sculpture, but it's a very dynamic sculpture, and it's very colorful.  And, also, it's deceptive, because, from a distance, it feels like it's actually soft material.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Playful, deceptive, full of contradiction, the stuff of Shonibare's works, most of all the sculptures for which he's best known, colonial-style figures, some headless, some with globes for heads, in brightly colored African-style costumes.

YINKA SHONIBARE MBE:  Actually, my work is really breaking down stereotypes, saying, you know what?  What you see is not necessarily what you get.  So, you might actually want to take time to find out more about something before you then start to make assumptions about it.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Shonibare himself is a mix of identities.  Born in London in 1962, he moved to his family's homeland in Nigeria at three years old, and then returned to London to study fine art.

At 19, he contracted a viral infection in his spine that left him partially paralyzed.  He also began to see his way forward as an artist, through an unintentionally provocative question that came from a teacher.

YINKA SHONIBARE MBE:  One of my teachers said, why aren't you making authentic African art?  I felt that, actually, what's authentic African art, or what's authentic identity in a global, modern world?

And so those questions have been with me since.  And I have explored those questions in many ways.

JOHN KERRY - Parting Shots

"Kerry: ‘We have a problem' if people don't care about accountability or policy being made on Twitter" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017


SUMMARY:  Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry joined other Obama administration officials for an event Tuesday at the U.S. Institute of Peace focusing on the importance of a smooth political transition.  Judy Woodruff sat down with him to ask about the Trump transition and the problems the world faces today.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  What troubles me a little bit is that people are not separating a remarkable transformation that is taking place globally [and] naturally, from things that we’re really responsible for.

Let me give you an example, Arab Spring.  We didn’t start the Arab Spring.  We couldn’t have stopped the Arab Spring, particularly with respect to Syria.  And I think there are some things that might have been able to have been done.

But that had nothing to do with the red line.  And let’s make that absolutely clear, folks.  President Obama never retreated from his red line.  He never changed his mind about his readiness to bomb Assad to make it clear, you don’t use chemical weapons, never.  There’s a mythology that’s grown up around this.

One of the greatest challenges we all face right now, not just America, but every country in the world, is, we are living in a factless political environment.  And every country in the world better stop and start worrying about authoritarian populism and the absence of substance in our dialogue, if you call it that.

LEGACY - The Obama Years

"Can a president's farewell speech help write history?" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama will deliver a farewell address to the nation in Chicago on Tuesday evening.  Why do presidents give goodbye remarks?  Judy Woodruff gets historical context on past speeches and the shaping of political legacy from presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University Law School.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  President Obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation this evening before a room full of supporters in Chicago.

We discuss a little of the Obama legacy and look ahead to tonight's speech with two historians, NewsHour regular Michael Beschloss, and Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University.

And we welcome both of you back to the NewsHour.

Michael, let me start with you.

How often do Presidents give farewell addresses?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian:  Well, George Washington began the tradition, but it's really been more a thing of modern times begun by Harry Truman, who did one from the Oval Office when he retired in 1953.

But they don't always work.  The ones that really work are when you have the sense that the President is sort of leveling with you in a way that perhaps he wasn't able to during his four or eight years in office.  So, he's saying something that you haven't heard before with new candor.

And the other thing is that when he says something that sounds as if it's a lesson he's learned that perhaps he didn't know before.  The best example of this, Eisenhower in 1961, said, worry about the military industrial complex.

It was something that he had been increasingly worried about for a long time, but this was the first time he said it to the public.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Annette Gordon-Reed, of course, it's speculation, but why do you think President Obama wants to do this?

ANNETTE GORDON-REED, Harvard University Law School:  Well, he's in an interesting position.

The election didn't turn out the way he probably thought it was going to turn out.  This is a chance to cement his legacy and talk about the kinds of things that he wanted to do as President.  And he is facing a situation where people might try to undo a good amount of that.

So, I think this is a good way for him to sort of lay a template, perhaps, for historians later on, even though that's almost an impossible thing to do.  But I think it's a way for him to talk about his legacy, to sort of say to the American people what was important to him, what he thinks he accomplished as President.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Michael, there is some reporting over the last few days that the president may be rethinking how he wants to spend his post-presidency, given the outcome of the election.  Could this be part of that?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS:  Might very well be.  He might spend a lot more time replying and criticizing things that Donald Trump may be doing as President.

And if that's true, he's got to have some kind of foreshadowing of that in this speech tonight.  One thing everyone will be wondering is, what is his current thinking about Trump?  Right after the election, he seemed quite moderate about it, hoping perhaps to coax Donald Trump to make more moderate appointments and more moderate policies than he was expecting to.

But that's all over now.  So, if Barack Obama gets through this speech and there's not some, you know, genuine statement from him saying, you know, the country has to worry a little bit about what the new President is doing and, you know, perhaps think about a different direction, then I think we may not feel that he's really leveling with us in the way that other Presidents have.

"How Obama left his mark on the criminal justice system" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama has commuted the sentences of more federal prisoners than any other president, and he's on track to leave far fewer federal inmates in federal prison since the 1960s.  Hari Sreenivasan offers a look through the life of a former prisoner.  Then William Brangham gets an assessment from Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and former Florida attorney general Bill McCullum.

"Obama's ‘bold, yet fragile' climate legacy" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama is passionate, and vocal, about combating climate change.  As his tenure draws to a close, science correspondent Miles O'Brien reviews the administration's environmental policy -- from the 2009 “cap-and-trade” climate bill, to the 2015 Paris Accord, to executive orders on greenhouse gas emissions -- in assessing the President's legacy.

"Is Obama's economic legacy one of missed opportunity or success?" PBS NewsHour 1/12/2017


SUMMARY:  What is President Obama's economic legacy?  Did his efforts to turn the country around after the 2008 financial crisis constitute a robust recovery, or too little, too late?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman assembled a panel of economic experts to discuss employment across racial groups, the types of jobs created and the obstacles the President faced in enacting his economic agenda.

THE RESISTANCE - This Week in Trump-Land

And the lies and distortion start.

"Some Trump nominees missing crucial ethics paperwork as confirmation hearings begin" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2017


SUMMARY:  Capitol Hill will be buzzing this week as President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominees answer questions in Senate hearings.  But as of last weekend, some nominees hadn't finished turning in their paperwork or cleared their ethics reviews.  Democrats are calling it a rush job and have threatened to slow down the process.  Lisa Desjardins sits down with Judy Woodruff for more.

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  The president-elect walked out of Trump Tower with a business leader, Jack Ma of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, but his words were about politics and his Cabinet nominees.

DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect:  I think they will all pass.

LISA DESJARDINS:  That after Trump met with a key ally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who dismissed concerns about vetting.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader:  Yes, everybody will be properly vetted, as they have been in the past, and I'm hopeful that we will get up to six or seven picks of the national security team in place on day one.

LISA DESJARDINS:  All this ahead of a packed week, with two confirmation hearings set for tomorrow, five more set for Wednesday, and at least three slated for Thursday.

But NewsHour learned that education secretary-designate Betsy DeVos and three other Trump nominees have not yet cleared an ethics review.  Democrats with their Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, called it a rush job.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, Minority Leader:  Jamming all these hearings into one or two days, making members run from committee to committee makes no sense.

Even if it takes a few weeks to get through them all in order to carefully consider their nominations, that is well worth it.

LISA DESJARDINS:  Schumer has threatened to slow down the Senate confirmation process if senators don't have all the nominees' information.

Meanwhile, Republicans point to 2009, when the hearing schedule was nearly as packed, and 14 Obama nominees, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, were confirmed in the first nine days after inauguration.

Now that is being called the Obama treatment, relatively fast confirmation.  But Democrats say the difference is that President Obama's nominees all cleared their ethics review process before their hearings, even before they were announced.  The Office of Government Ethics says some Trump nominees have not even filed their paperwork yet.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  So, Lisa, thank you for that report, but take us through this process.  What exactly is required of these nominees?

LISA DESJARDINS:  Well, it depends on what committee you're going in front of.

Take you through what everyone is required of, first of all, three things.  Every one of these nominees has to have an FBI background check, they have to have given financial disclosures to their committee of choice — or the committee that oversees their nomination, and they have to fill out a committee questionnaire.

But, Judy, what depends on each committee is the following, whether or not an ethics review must be filed before a hearing or simply before a vote.  It must be filed at some time.  But that's why we see these hearings this week before the ethics reviews are all in.  Also, only three committees require tax forms from the past.

"In hearing, Sessions says he'll put law above his own views" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017

IMHO:  A lie.


SUMMARY:  It's the first day of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet.  Attorney general nominee Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions spent the day before the Senate Judiciary Committee defending his views on race and civil rights and separating himself from the president-elect's campaign statements.  Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill and joins Judy Woodruff for more.

"Is Trump's plan for his company enough to avoid conflicts of interest?" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2017

NOT really.


SUMMARY:  President-elect Trump says he's going above and beyond in mitigating potential conflicts between his government office and his private interests.  But is his plan for his sons to manage his company while he retains ownership sufficient?  Steve Inskeep discusses with Norman Eisen former Special Counsel to President Obama, and Richard Painter former associate counsel to President George W. Bush.

"What kind of threat does Russia pose to the U.S.?" PBS NewsHour 1/9/2017


SUMMARY:  President-elect Trump has said he would like to improve relations with Russia.  But his choice for defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, views Russia as America's number one threat.  What's the reality of the White House-Kremlin dynamic?  Steve Inskeep discusses with Evelyn Farkas a former Defense Department official, and Michael McFaul former U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

"What we still don't know after a week dominated by Russia questions" PBS NewsHour 1/13/2017


SUMMARY:  Russia loomed over this week's congressional hearings.  What kind of investigation is needed to look into unverified reports that Russia has information on the president-elect?  And why didn't the White House do more early on to stop Russian hacking?  Steve Inskeep speaks with David Ignatius of The Washington Post, who has been compiling unanswered questions about each of the players.

"Hearings reveal Cabinet nominees' views at odds with Trump" PBS NewsHour 1/13/2017


SUMMARY:  At their confirmation hearings, many of the opinions voiced by the president-elect's nominees were very different from what Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign.  From Sen. Jeff Sessions' position on waterboarding to retired Gen. James Mattis' take on the Iran nuclear deal, nominees made it clear that the administration will have a diversity of opinions.  Steve Inskeep reports.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

TRUMP NOT FILES - It Just Occurred to Me

It just occurred to me, about Trump.

I am a big-time PC game player and one of my favorite RPG games is the Fallout series (New Vegas, 3, 4).  I am now replaying Fallout 3.

Fallout 3 has a group called the "Enclave" whose leader is "President Eden" and includes "Coronal Autumn."

"President Eden" has a solution to 'what he sees' as a problem, hence asks the "Lone Wanderer" (Fallout series hero you play) help him wipe out the 'undesirables.'

Sound like someone we know today, like Trump?

Think "Coronal Autumn" as Trump's Republican henchmen.

Monday, January 09, 2017

HUMOR - A Note From ' The Dog'

MY VICE PRESIDENT - Joe Biden Interview

"Biden: Trump’s belittling of U.S. intelligence agencies is ‘dangerous,’ ‘mindless’" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2017


SUMMARY:  As the Obama years come to a close, Vice President Joe Biden sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss his thoughts on his tenure, the election and the future of the country.  They discuss the fate of the Affordable Care Act, evidence of Russian election hacking, President-elect Trump's critique of the intelligence community, the Obama administration’s legacy in Syria and more.

I love this man!

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/6/2017

"Shields and Brooks on Trump's ‘disdain' for the intelligence community" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2017


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the U.S. intelligence report on Russian intervention in the presidential election and its implications for American democracy and foreign policy.  They also review highlights from the NewsHour's interviews with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Happy new year, gentlemen.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Happy new year, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Good seeing you in 2017.

So, let's start by talking about this intelligence report.

Mark, the entire intelligence community is behind it.  They're saying without a shadow of a doubt, in so many words, they are confident the Russians tried to interfere in the U.S. election and they developed a clear preference for Donald Trump.

What are we to make of this?  Does it change the way we look at this election?

MARK SHIELDS:  I don't know if it changes the way we look at it, Judy.  It certainly changes the way we look at the United States' relationship with Russia, I think, and in this sense, that the intelligence community said it made these findings with high confidence.

Ever since the weapons of mass destruction era and the decision on invading Iraq, the intelligence community has been very, very careful to avoid high confidence.  That's saying, we really believe this to be true.  They have been more tentative.

There was no question.  They were unequivocal and emphatic.  Every American ought to be angry, ought to be concerned that an unfriendly nation, a nation that has cooperated with us certain places, but doesn't wish us well, sought to sabotage American democracy, American confidence in our own democratic institutions, and to influence the outcome of the election.

That's a cause of concern and worry and anger.  And I would hope that we would respond, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans, to make sure it never happens again.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, how should Americans look at this?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I agree with that, with anger, with shock.

We have sort of gotten used to the idea, because of the news leaks before this report.  But the idea that Russia felt emboldened and apparently fearless to go into our election and manipulate our own election process, whether successfully or not, is a sign that they are outside the norms of normal society.

There's always statecraft.  There's always disinformation.  But this is a step up, a Russia that feels completely free to do this, a Putin who feels completely free to do this, without fear of penalty, and so far paying little penalty.

Partly, it's motivated, I think, by animus toward Hillary Clinton, as we heard earlier in the program, things she said in 2011, 2012, partly, frankly, a desire, a belief that feeling Donald Trump will be tougher on ISIS.

But the thing that should most concern us is a shift in American foreign policy.  We have had a bipartisan belief in American foreign policy based on the post-World War II institutions that believed in democratic global world, which Russia and the Soviet Union was often seen as hostile to.  And most Republicans and Democrats have always basically believed in this world order.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, and maybe Marine Le Pen, do not agree with this basic structure of the world.  They seem to have no respect for the institutions that were created after World War II, and they see a potential alliance of populists around the world who would fight Islam and restore a certain semblance of traditional values.

And so we could be seeing a pivot in American foreign policy that may be on the mind of Donald Trump, certainly seems to be on the mind of Steve Bannon, his ideologist.  And this is a piece of that larger shift.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Mark, Donald Trump, the president-elect, does have his own reaction to this report.

I mean, you know, joining in with what David's saying, I mean, he started out by calling it a political witch-hunt.  And then after he was briefed about it, he said — he made a very short comment and said, in so many words that, well, it didn't affect the outcome of the election.

MARK SHIELDS:  As usual, he takes the big picture.  In other words, I won, and anything that in any way diminishes or tarnishes my personal victory, I reject.

His disparagement, make that disdain, openly, for the American intelligence community and its work is damaging to national security.  I mean, the intelligence community, for the security of our nation, for the well-being of our nation, for the economic prosperity of our nation, competitiveness, depends on sources in other places.

And other nations depend upon our intelligence.  And here we have the President-elect dismissing, disparaging, disdaining openly, because it somehow, in his way — his perspective, diminishes his victory, is just astonishing.


DAVID BROOKS:  It's happening on three levels, like, this story.

There is the big strategic level, which I described.  Then there's the Donald Trump ego level.  And his ego is like a comet the size of Jupiter just traveling through the solar system, and we all have to be affected by its [Trump] gravitational pull.  So all of American foreign policy has to remind us that Donald Trump really did win this election all by himself, and nobody else could have helped, and so it was all me, me, me.

COLD WAR 2 - View of Rep (D-Calif) Schiff

"Rep. Schiff weighs in on the intelligence report about Russian hacking" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2017


SUMMARY:  Intelligence agencies have released their detailed findings that Russia interfered in the U.S. Presidential election.  The report says Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated a campaign of intervention, specifically intending to boost Trump's election chances "when possible.”  Judy Woodruff talks to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return to the report issued this afternoon by the U.S. intelligence community on what it calls, “Russian activities and intentions” in recent U.S. elections.

The report is a public version of a highly classified assessment given to the president and other top officials.  It alleges that Russia used covert operations to steal material from the Democratic Party and others, and disseminated it through media organizations that it controls and through third-party groups.  It called the campaign a significant escalation of Russian efforts to — quote — “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.”

For more on the report's findings and its effects, I'm joined from Capitol Hill by California Representative Adam Schiff.  He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

And, for the record, we called every current Republican member serving on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.  None was available.

Adam Schiff, Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us.

Now, this report says it has high confidence that President Vladimir Putin personally ordered this campaign to interfere with the U.S. election.  It doesn't say how it knows that, but after you were briefed and have read the classified report, are you confident that that's what happened?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.):  Well, I am very confident in it.  And I think all the members of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats and Republicans, are confident in the conclusions about the Russian involvement.

I have been on the committee now for almost 10 years, and this is among the best documented, most ironclad, I think, intelligence reports that I have seen on any major issue.  If this doesn't persuade Donald Trump about the facts, nothing will.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The report, also, Congressman Schiff, says the Russians developed what they call a clear preference for Donald Trump.  How so?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:  Well, there are many reasons why the Russians prefer Donald Trump.

I think, in the first instance, they wanted to tear down Secretary Clinton.  They, I think, despised her remarks about the flawed 2011 elections in Russia.  They feared that she would be very tough on Russia in terms of sanctions.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, they had every reason to want.  It was somebody who belittled NATO, who praised Putin, who I think would be much more amenable to their policy in Syria, where they bomb civilians.

So there were a lot of reasons for them to prefer Donald Trump.  It was their aspiration, as the report makes clear, to help him and to hurt her.

JOHN KERRY - On Syria, Russia, and More

"Kerry:  Syrian conflict is ‘the worst human catastrophe since World War II'" PBS NewsHour 1/6/2017


SUMMARY:  In our most recent interview with a top Obama administration official, Judy Woodruff sits down with Secretary of State John Kerry as the presidential transition nears.  They discuss Secretary Kerry's assessment of the U.S.-Russia relationship, now that intelligence has confirmed hacking; the administration's legacy in Syria and Israel; challenges for his successor, Rex Tillerson and more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And now to my interview with Secretary of State John Kerry.

I sat down with him earlier today at the State Department, before the public release of that intelligence report on Russia.

But I began by asking, now that we have confirmation Russia interfered in the election, does that fundamentally change Washington's relationship with Moscow?

Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you very much for talking with us.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  My pleasure.  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, now that it has been confirmed that the Russians interfered aggressively in the U.S. election, does this represent a fundamental change in the United States' relationship with Russia?

JOHN KERRY:  Well, that remains to be determined.

It certainly represents a major challenge in that relationship.  It's a hostile act.  It has serious consequences, and we're going to have to work that through.

And I say we.  I mean the United States, the next administration is going to have to approach Russia very clearly understanding what has happened.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Do you think more needs to be done to retaliate as of now?

JOHN KERRY:  Well, I think that President Obama made it clear that we would retaliate at a time of our choosing and ways of our choosing.

And that means some of them, the public will know about, some of them, they will not know about.  Obviously, with two weeks left, I think that the administration coming in is going to have to make some judgments of its own about what the next steps will be.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, it's reported the Russians were celebrating the election of Donald Trump.  Why would they be celebrating?  What do you think?

JOHN KERRY:  I'm not going to speculate.  I really think it's too important.  And I just am not going to speculate.

I think there has been a lot of news articles.  You all have been covering this for some period of time.  People are going to draw their own judgments, but I'm not going to add to that speculation.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What do you think Vladimir Putin wants?  You have been dealing with him for a long time.  What do you think he's after?

JOHN KERRY:  Well, he's after a lot of things.

There are a lot of motivations.  He obviously has agreed with us on some things and disagreed with us on others.  And we managed to find common ground and work together effectively on the Iran nuclear agreement, where Russia assumed major responsibilities to try to get the agreement done and to make it work.

So I can give you a long list of things where Russia and President Putin have found common ground and worked with the United States.  But, on Ukraine, on the implementation of the Minsk agreement, on Syria, we have obviously not been able to find the same kind of common ground, despite good efforts.

And those are problems that are going to continue into the next administration.  My hope is the next administration will approach Russia strategically, with a clear purpose of trying to find more common ground, but without giving up on fundamental values and principles that are at the core of the United States' foreign policy.

AT THE MOVIES - "Hidden Figures"

"‘Hidden Figures' brings NASA's overlooked black pioneers to light" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2017


SUMMARY:  “Hidden Figures” is a story about reaching for the stars while fighting racial and gender barriers.  The new movie follows the careers of three black women who worked at NASA's Langley headquarters in Virginia during the 1950s and ‘60s to help launch the first American into space.  Long overlooked, their story is finally being told.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

ALISON STEWART (NewsHour):  A movie opening widely this weekend tells a little known piece of history about the history of the early days of spaceflight and the crucial role played behind the scenes by African-American women who acted as mathematicians and engineers.

The film is called “Hidden Figures.” It's up for a number of honors during this awards season, including two Golden Globes on Sunday night.

Jeffrey Brown has a look at the film and that history.

ACTOR:  You have identification on you?

TARAJI P.  HENSON, “Katherine Johnson”:  We're just on our way to work.

OCTAVIA SPENCER, “Dorothy Vaughan”:  At NASA, sir.

ACTOR:  I had no idea they hired....

OCTAVIA SPENCER:  There are quite a few women working in the space program.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It's a story about an agency that reached for the stars, but was mired in racial and gender barriers still prevalent on the ground.

“Hidden Figures” is based on the real-life stories of three black woman who worked in mostly segregated quarters at NASA's Langley Center in Virginia in the 1950s and '60s.

The film focuses on efforts to launch the first American, the late John Glenn, into orbit.

ACTOR:  Let me ask you, if you were a white male, would you wish to be an engineer?

JANELLE MONAE, “Mary Jackson”:  I wouldn't have to.  I would already be one.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Janelle Monae, the singer-turned-actress, plays Mary Jackson, struggling to get her license as an engineer.  Like the others involved, this history was new to Monae.

JANELLE MONAE:  I was excited.  I said, wow, we're going to finally be celebrating women not just for their beauty, but for their brilliance.  And I got excited.  And then once I found out that they indeed were part of the space program at NASA, it became a personal responsibility to me to make sure that no young girl, or no human being, no American, you know, went through life not knowing of these true American heroes.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Mary Jackson would spend 34 years at NASA and help many who followed.

JANELLE MONAE:  She found out that the women and minorities were being paid significantly less than their male white counterparts.  And she, along with a couple of other colleagues, took this to NASA.  And, you know, NASA being the progressive place and the place that listened, she helped advance more women's careers and more minorities' careers in STEM at NASA during that time.

So, I thought that was just so remarkable, and I'm so honored to play such a woman.

CODE OF LIFE - Gene Editing

COMMENT:  The question is, is gene editing safe?  Human's are notoriously known to make mistakes, and gene editing has the potential to become dangerous because genes mutate and we may not be aware of what has happened for generations.  If you think GMO foods are a bad idea, this is even worst.

"How CRISPR gene editing puts scientists in the driver's seat of evolution" PBS NewsHour 1/5/2017


SUMMARY:  Imagine you could edit a mouse's genes to be resistant to Lyme Disease.  The mouse would breed and evolution would take its course, leading to the extinction of the disease.  That's the vision for scientists developing CRISPR, technology that allows scientists to rewrite the code of life.  William Brangham talks to Michael Specter who wrote about CRISPR for The New Yorker.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  CRISPR is a technique that allows scientists to go into the DNA of a plant or an animal or even a human being, and remove or replace a small part of that organism's genetic code.

This technique, which can be used to improve crops, eliminate genetic diseases, or specifically target the viruses and pathogens that have killed billion, could be a revolutionary advancement.

The potential for CRISPR is described in the recent issue of The New Yorker.  The story is called “Rewriting the Code of Life.”

And I'm joined now by its author, New Yorker staff writer Michael Specter.  He joins me from California.

Michael Specter, welcome.

In your story, you profile a young scientist named Kevin Esvelt.  And I want to quote a line from your story.  You say that Esvelt directs the — quote — “sculpting evolution group at MIT, where he and his colleagues are attempting to design molecular tools capable of fundamentally altering the natural world.”

I mean, that's a pretty extraordinary set of ambitions.  What are they trying to do?

MICHAEL SPECTER, The New Yorker:  You know, they're trying to look out the problems we have in health, in crops in a variety of ways, and rewrite DNA, which is the basic code of life, so that it can make us healthier, safer, protect crops, protect trees, protect endangered species.

It's a tremendously energetic and ambitious idea.  And it has — like all wonderfully ambitious ideas, it has great risks, too.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  You report on a particular experiment they're running up in Nantucket trying to target Lyme disease.

Can you explain what they're hoping to do there?

MICHAEL SPECTER:  Mostly, people think about Lyme disease in deer.  And there is a relationship.

But the real reservoir for Lyme is the white-footed mouse.  At Kevin Esvelt at MIT said, gee, let's rewrite the DNA of the mouse so that it is resistant to the Lyme tick, so when a Lyme tick bites it, it doesn't matter.

And when you do that, you sort of break this chain of transmission between mice and deer and humans.  And if you did that enough, and if you really rewrote the DNA — mice are not that rapid, but they're relatively rapid at reproducing — and you can quite easily see a way in which you would get rid of that disease.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  I mean, as you describe it in this piece, CRISPR is really putting us in the driver's seat for evolution, and not only to control, in some ways, evolution, but to accelerate evolution.

Am I understanding that this just seems to be a tremendously — tremendous potential for this?

MICHAEL SPECTER:  I think the particularly revolutionary thing here is the combination of CRISPR, which is an editing program — it's like editing something on your computer so that you can cut and paste words — combining that with this phenomenon called gene drive.

NUCLEAR POWER - New Generation Ideas

"Demand for clean energy inspires new generation to innovate nuclear power" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2017


SUMMARY:  The next generation of nuclear power is coming, as concerns about climate change bring the industry out of hibernation.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on how new startups and young scientists are hoping to develop solutions for safely generating vast amounts of nuclear energy.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  This is where nuclear power began.  Welcome to the Idaho National Laboratory.  It covers a vast swathe of high desert nearly the size of Rhode Island.

It is dotted with experimental nuclear reactors that wrote the textbooks on how to generate power by splitting atoms.  And now a new chapter is being written here.

MARK PETERS, Idaho National Laboratory:  If we're going to mitigate climate change, we have to think about how to develop new nuclear.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Laboratory director Mark Peters says concerns about climate change have brought his industry out of a long nuclear winter.

MARK PETERS:  We're restarting and testing infrastructure to start to develop the next generation of nuclear power.  So I'm just incredibly excited about the fact that we're finally starting to get a public dialogue going now that it's important to build the next generation.

MILES O'BRIEN:  The Bush and Obama administrations and Congress have concurred on that point.  Together, they authorized tens of billions in loan guarantees for nuclear plant construction, and tens of millions in funding to develop what's known as Generation IV technology.

MARK PETERS:  Generation IV are future reactors that are based on different concepts, different core designs, different coolants.

MILES O'BRIEN:  And perhaps his most promising client is an innovator from another industry.  Microsoft founder Bill Gates is among a handful of entrepreneurs with seemingly bottomless pockets making big bets on nuclear power.

In a 2010 TED Talk, he announced he had co-founded a company called TerraPower.  His partner is his former chief technology officer at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold.

NATHAN MYHRVOLD, TerraPower:  We need to have base load carbon-free power, and nuclear is a great example of something that is base load carbon-free power.  Base load means 7 by 24, day and night, whenever, it's going to be there.

COLD WAR 2 - Russian Attack on U.S. Political System

THE RESISTANCE - It should be obvious that Trump (like many) will NEVER believe anything that does not fit his world-view.  Need I say, this is a very, very dangerous in a President of the United States.

"Part 1 — Russian meddling doubters should wait to see report, says Brennan" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2017


SUMMARY:  John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sits down with Judy Woodruff to discuss the CIA's upcoming report looking into Russia's alleged election hacking, claims by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the CIA's role in preventing cyberattacks and regrets about the Syrian civil war, in the first of a two-part conversation.
Unclassified Full Report (PDF)

"Part 2 — John Brennan on what his CIA successor needs to worry about" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2017


SUMMARY:  CIA Director John Brennan joins Judy Woodruff for the second installment of our interview to discuss concerns raised by European intelligence officials regarding possible Russian intrusion in upcoming elections, whether the U.S. is on the verge of a new Cold War with Russia, and the nuclear weapon capabilities of North Korea.

"Why trust is essential between the president and intelligence community" PBS NewsHour 1/4/2017


SUMMARY:  President-elect Donald Trump has routinely taken a skeptical stance toward the U.S. intelligence community.  As the release nears of a report on alleged Russian hacking in the U.S. election, Judy Woodruff gets views from James Woolsey, senior advisor to the Trump Transition and a former CIA director; and Jeffrey Smith, former General Counsel to the CIA.

U.S. CONGRESS - First Day

"First day of new Congress reveals GOP divisions over ethics" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2017

IMHO:  Republicans are afraid because they have become the most un-ethical party in America.  ALWAYS butting money before caring for the people, butting party doctrine before the welfare of our nation.  Also note that the proposal was pulled after backlash from Republicans AND Trump.


SUMMARY:  It's opening day of the 115th Congress, and there's already tension.  Under pressure, House Republicans deserted plans some had made on Monday to rapidly gut an independent congressional ethics board.  Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what that division means for the term to come.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Good evening, and happy new year.

We're going to be having some guests joining me here at the NewsHour anchor desk in the coming weeks.

Tonight, it's Alison Stewart, who many of you will recognize from the weekend NewsHour.

Welcome, Alison.

ALISON STEWART (NewsHour):  Well, thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, in our lead story tonight:  The 115th Congress is officially off and running, but House Republicans stumbled out of the gate on this opening day.

Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

LISA DESJARDINS (NewsHour):  For Republicans, day one of Congress and what they hope is a bright now era for their party started with old issues of internal dispute.

House Republicans overnight rebelled against Paul Ryan and other leaders to try and change a House ethics panel.  Then, this morning, they reversed course.  The proposed change was about the Independent Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE, which reviews accusations.  It cannot punish members itself, but it can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.

The proposed revision would have changed the office's name to Complaint Review and, more notably, would have stripped its independence, putting it under the control of the House Ethics Committee.

Today, some, like Iowa's Steve King, were dismayed that the measure was pulled.

REP.  STEVE KING (R-Iowa):  I think we should have gone forward.  And I'm going to push for the full disbandment and abolishment of the OCE, because they're based upon the wrong principles.  And no one should have to be subjected to public criticism that's generated by anonymous accusers.

LISA DESJARDINS:  But more Republicans, like outgoing Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent, said the change would have been a mistake.

REP.  CHARLIE DENT (R-Penn.):  I thought it wasn't the right way to proceed.

BUSINESS - Made in America?

IMHO:  You cannot trust Trump to actually do what he says.  He does spin, and sometimes lies, about what he was responsible for.  Like brokering a huge $give-away to keep '800' Carrier jobs in the U.S. but ignore the other plant still being moved to Mexico.  Then ignoring that some of the '800' jobs 'saved' were not scheduled to move in the first place.  And pay attention on the ACTUAL reason for Ford's decision.

"How Trump offers a mixture of incentive and shame for business leaders" PBS NewsHour 1/3/2017


SUMMARY:  Ford announced Tuesday it's scrapping plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico and will instead invest $700 million into an existing Michigan plant, and hire 700 workers in the U.S.  Though it's a drop in the bucket in terms of the American economy, it's symbolically significant.  William Brangham speaks with Josh Boak of the Associate Press about whether President-elect Donald Trump can take any credit.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Today's announcement by the Ford Motor Company that it would add 700 more jobs at a Michigan plant came after it became one of a number of companies squarely in the eye of President-elect Trump.

William Brangham follows up on what's behind this move and others like it.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The Ford announcement follows moves from several other companies saying they too might keep some jobs in the U.S. that were planned for Mexico or elsewhere.

The president-elect has repeatedly tweeted about some of these companies, including Ford, and pressing them to keep jobs in the U.S.

Ford said today that it didn't consult with Mr. Trump on their Michigan decision.

Josh Boak has been covering the story for the Associated Press.  And he joins me now.

So, Josh, bring us up to speed.  What did Ford agree to do today?

JOSH BOAK, Associated Press:  Ford announced that it wasn't going to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico.

There were a few reasons for that, one of which was that the plant was going to build Ford Focuses.  And sales of that car have dipped as oil prices have fallen.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  This is a little, small, fuel-efficient vehicle.

JOSH BOAK:  Exactly.

But the other major impact has been Donald Trump on Twitter talking about companies and what he wants to see them do, and those two seem to have combined together.  Ford's own CEO said he hoped that Trump's policies on deregulation and taxes would be good for the company and good for the country.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  As we mentioned before, this follows moves where Trump has targeted other companies, Carrier, Boeing, Lockheed Martin.  And companies have shifted their positions based according to what Mr. Trump seems to be saying.

Overall, how many jobs are we talking about here that are going to be staying in the U.S.?

JOSH BOAK:  Well, as far as Ford's announcement today, they're looking to hire 700 workers starting in 2018.

When we look at Carrier, that's 800 jobs.  When we look last week at Sprint, that's 5,000 jobs.  OneWeb, that's 3,000 jobs.  Now, that sounds like a lot in an individual announcement, but the U.S. economy is massive.  It added 2.25 million jobs last year alone.  That's so great, that this is really a drop in the bucket in the big picture.

But it's massive symbolically.  We can't forget that part of economics is psychology and the animal spirits, and Trump is really stirring them right now.

RWANDA - Prosecuting Genocide

"The French couple bringing Rwandan war criminals to justice" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2017


SUMMARY:  In France, a wife-and-husband team has found their life's work in helping to prosecute war crimes from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.  Through their organization, Alain and Dafroza Gauthier provide investigative research in hopes of bringing war criminals to justice.  Special correspondent Jonathan Silvers reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The discovery of mass graves or other evidence of war crimes poses several challenges, chief among them, bringing the alleged war criminals to court.

According to former United States Justice Department official Allan Ryan, the recent introduction of what's known as universal jurisdiction has made it easier to prosecute these suspected war criminals.

ALLAN RYAN, Former Attorney, U.S.  Justice Department:  Universal jurisdiction is not a universal concept yet.  It allows trials to be held where otherwise they might not be.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  In France, universal jurisdiction has made it possible for a husband and wife to pursue alleged war criminals behind the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Special correspondent Jonathan Silvers has that story.

JONATHAN SILVERS, special correspondent:  For the past 15 years, Dafroza Gauthier has risen at first light to probe the Rwandan genocide and track down fugitive perpetrators, notably the slaughter's architects and executioners.

Gauthier was born and raised in Rwanda and, until recently, worked in the chemical industry.  But she has become a formidable war crimes investigator, by necessity.

DAFROZA GATHER, Rwandan Genocide Investigator (through translator):  We began by collecting information and testimony from our close friends and families.  But the more we heard their stories, the more we knew that something had to be done.

JONATHAN SILVERS:  Dafroza Gauthier has only one memento of her family, this photo of her mother, who was murdered along with scores of relatives in the spring of 1994.  Gauthier was living in Belgium when the genocide began, and she learned about her family members' demise in real time, via a series of phone calls to her native village in Rwanda.

The violence was rooted in longstanding ethnic division between the governing Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority.  In the space of 100 days, roughly 800,000 men, women, and children were killed, mostly ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutus.

DAFROZA GAUTHIER (through translator):  One day, people should ask the question why the world abandoned the Tutsis in Rwanda.  There are nation, states, politicians who should ask forgiveness of the Rwandan people.

INTERNET - Preserving History

"Internet history is fragile.  This archive is making sure it doesn't disappear" PBS NewsHour 1/2/2017


SUMMARY:  What's online doesn't necessarily last forever.  Content on the Internet is revised and deleted all the time.  Hyperlinks “rot,” and with them goes history, lost in space.  With that in mind, Brewster Kahle set out to develop the Internet Archive, a digital library with the mission of preserving all the information on the World Wide Web, for all who wish to explore.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  We're increasingly cataloging our lives online, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, seemingly endless YouTube videos.  It's a digital-first and often digital-only world.

The advantages of this unlimited digital storage seem obvious, but how permanent are some of those records?  How do we preserve digital history?

Jeffrey Brown has the story, part of our ongoing series Culture at Risk.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  So, this is like an ancient temple come to life in a modern age.

BREWSTER KAHLE, Founder, Internet Archive:  In a modern day.  It's a Greek-style building, which we loved, because the whole idea is the Library of Alexandria reborn now.

JEFFREY BROWN:  It's an ancient idea, to gather and preserve the world's knowledge.  But now that library will look like this.

These stacks of servers, Brewster Kahle told me recently, represent a 20-year and running effort to build a kind of digital library, and to essentially back up the ever-expanding World Wide Web.

BREWSTER KAHLE:  In one of these would be 100 years of a channel of television.  Or this much is all of the words in the Library of Congress.

We need to be able to preserve our digital history.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Kahle was an early Internet entrepreneur who in 1996 founded the Internet Archive, a nonprofit that operates out of an old Christian Science church in San Francisco.

It was designed to address a fundamental flaw in the original creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989.

BREWSTER KAHLE:  The wonder of it is, it's very, very simple.  Anybody could go and set up a web server on their computer and make it available to the world.

Unfortunately, it's too simple.  It's fragile, that if something happens to that piece of equipment, that Web site just, blink, is gone.

JEFFREY BROWN:  If it's online, it lives forever, right?  Well, no.

Kahle says the average lifespan of a Web page is just 92 days.  Information is altered and deleted all the time for all kinds of reasons.

A 2013 Harvard study, for example, found that half the hyperlinks in Supreme Court cases, today's equivalent of footnotes, are broken, a phenomena known as link rot.  Government agencies remove documents, and companies fail, and with them the sites they host.  Think of GeoCities, Yahoo! Video, and, more recently, the news site Gawker.

ABBY SMITH RUMSEY, Author, “When We Are No More”:  People mistake the fact that the Internet is ubiquitous with the fact that it's permanent.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Abby Smith Rumsey is the author of “When We Are No More:  How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future.”

She began her scholarly career studying how information was purposely deleted in the totalitarian Soviet system.  These days, she thinks, we have a new kind of storage and retrieval problem.

ABBY SMITH RUMSEY:  It isn't permanent at all.  And, in fact, the thing about digital technology is, you can inscribe something onto a computer, but you can't put it on a shelf and expect to pick it out at random at 50, let alone 500, years, and be able to read it.

In fact, you won't have the hardware or the software to do that.  So, it's very fragile, indeed.

THE RESISTANCE - Meryl Streep's Take-Down

Form the heart, Meryl Streep's take on Trump (without actually mentioning his name).

Thursday, January 05, 2017

CLIMATE CHANGE - Propagandized WEB Future? Denial of Science

A 'The Resistance' file.

"Endangered Species Under GOP?  Climate Change Information on the Web" by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica 1/4/2017

A recent reworking of language concerning climate change on a Wisconsin government website could be replicated under a Trump administration.

James Rowen, a longtime Wisconsin journalist and environmental blogger, recently discovered a stark remaking of a state Department of Natural Resources web page on climate change and the Great Lakes.

Until December, the page, dating from the Democratic administration of former Gov. James Doyle, had this headline — “Climate Change and Wisconsin's Great Lakes” — and a clear description of the state of the science, including this line reflecting the latest federal and international research assessments:  “Earth's climate is changing.  Human activities that increase heat-trapping (“green house”) gases are the main cause.”

The page described a variety of possible impacts on the lakes and concluded, “The good news is that we can all work to slow climate change and lessen its effects.”  Nine hyperlinks led readers to other resources.

While the web address still includes /greatlakes/climatechange, the page, managed under agency appointees of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, now has this headline:  “The Great Lakes and a changing world.”  It now says this:

As it has done throughout the centuries, the earth is going through a change.  The reasons for this change at this particular time in the earth's long history are being debated and researched by academic entities outside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The effects of such a change are also being debated but whatever the causes and effects, the DNR's responsibility is to manage our state's natural resources through whatever event presents itself.

There are now just two hyperlinks, one of which goes to a University of Wisconsin website about the environment and climate in the Yahara River watershed, which is not even connected to the Great Lakes.  The other goes to the main page of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin.  One has to poke around a while to get back to the issue at hand — the impact of global warming on the Great Lakes.

James Dick, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, sent a response explaining the changes on the web page, asserting that the page “does not say the cause and effects of the change in climate are debatable.”

“It says they are being debated.  There's a difference,” Dick said.  “Many scientists may be in agreement but this topic is still the subject of much debate and discussion among the general public.”

It's not unusual for elected state or national leaders to filter or shape government sources of information on contentious topics, including climate change, to suit their particular policy goals.  Climate scientists decried such efforts through much of the presidency of George W. Bush, particularly when handwritten edits of government climate reports by political appointees were leaked in 2005.

Under President Obama, websites highlight points that supported his carbon-cutting plans, while findings that might point to different policies tended to stay deep in the body of reports.

One example is the treatment of hurricanes in the 2014 National Climate Assessment.  The prominent text blurb of the report home page is, “The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s.  Hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.”

Buried in the report, there's this line, which seems to qualify the actual threats previously highlighted:  “[F]ewer storms have been observed to strike land during warmer years even though overall activity is higher than average, which may help to explain the lack of any clear trend in landfall frequency along the U.S. eastern and Gulf coasts.”

And so it's entirely likely that the recent web revisions in Wisconsin portend what's to come in Washington, given how Walker's approach to climate change and industry resonates with that of many people in President-elect Donald Trump's circle of advisers.

In a phone interview, the Wisconsin blogger Rowen said he certainly suspects that his state's experience is a troubling template for what could happen now at the federal level.  “If you have one-party control over all units of government and that party has a pro-corporate, anti-environment mindset, everything will be coordinated, whether in law, executive action or judicial review,” he said.

Parties on all sides of the climate policy debate are now watching closely to see what happens to a vast array of web pages on climate change created during the Obama administration as Trump's fossil-fuel friendly Cabinet choices and environmental team get to work.

Early signs, including a 74-question survey sent to Department of Energy employees (which the Trump transition team quickly disavowed as unsanctioned), had environmentalists and scientists deeply worried.

Some scurried to set up independent archives for potentially vulnerable climate data, with a repository established by the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto.

With Republicans in control in most states, and with the incoming White House and Congress committed to undoing President Obama's climate policies, the “uncertainty” theme around climate change appears likely to become popular.

To be sure, enduring uncertainty does surround many of the most consequential aspects of global warming, like the speed of sea-level rise and extent of warming in this century.  But for decades risk experts and economists with a varied range of political views have agreed that uncertain, but momentous outcomes are the reason to act — not a reason to delay.

And the data continue to accrue, with 2016 now set to be the warmest on Earth since at least 1880, when thorough temperature record keeping began, and a new study finding that, if anything, warming has been underestimated in recent years because of imperfect analysis of ocean data gathered by ships and buoys.

Lately, the wider climate-skeptic chorus has been dominated by Walker-style references to uncertainty or complexity in climate science, crystallized by phrases like “I'm not a scientist” and “the climate has always changed.”

When we wrote to Wisconsin officials seeking an explanation for the changes on the website, Dick, the natural resources department spokesman, sent the following email:

As we do from time to time with other website pages, we updated a web page that had not been updated in several years.  The update reflects our position on this topic which we have communicated for years — that our agency regularly must respond to a variety of environmental and human stressors from drought, flooding, and wind events to changing demographics.

Our agency must be ready to respond to each of these challenges using the best science available to us.  That is our role in this issue.  Adaptation has been our position on this topic for some time.  The recent update to one single webpage on our website was intended to reflect this perspective and approach to the topic.

The updated page does not deny climate is changing and it does not challenge the dedicated work of the scientists who are working on this issue.  In fact, this updated page links to U.W.-Madison programs that include climate change in their research.  It also does not say the cause and effects of the change in climate are debatable.  It says they are being debated.  There's a difference.  Many scientists may be in agreement but this topic is still the subject of much debate and discussion among the general public.

The last line raises a question about the role of government in helping explain to the public what many scientists agree on.

One thing that seems true is that so much information has accrued around climate change science and what it means for policy in recent years, that partisans seeking to purge government websites have their work cut out for them.

If you search the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, for instance, for the phrase “climate change” there are still some hits, including an educational resource for kids titled, “Global Warming is Hot Stuff!”

There's still an article posted from the February 2011, issue of the magazine of the Natural Resources Department, in which Jack Sullivan, then the director of the agency's Bureau of Science Services, said, “We need to think about what climate change means for our natural resources and get out ahead of this problem, and we're working hard to do that.”

Sullivan, however, retired in 2015, when the agency's science budget was deeply cut under Walker and a Republican-dominated Legislature.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

THE RESISTANCE - The Ex-Independent Office of Congressional Ethics - RIP (Update)

REF:  Independent Office of Congressional Ethics

As reported in "'With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office' by Eric Lipton, New York Times 1/2/2017" behind closed doors (aka in hiding) Republicans proved prof of just how UNETHICAL the Republican Party has become.

"In place of the office, Republicans would create a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review (aka road block) that would report to the House Ethics Committee, which has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers."  AND I (sadly) expect the American voter will be kept in the dark about the accusations, and if they are found 'guilty' what the punishment is (if any).

They think 'We the People' do not have a right to know, and judge for ourselves.  They fear that allowing constituents to know of unethical conduct by a member of Congress may lead to loosing a Republican seat and threaten their power.

These assholes do not want to be held accountable!

UPDATE:  Well it looks like they were forced to back off by Trump and others.