Category Archives: Photos

Scott Pruitt – Destroyer of Worlds

Do you know how many soldiers make up a platoon in the U.S. Army? While answers vary by source, there appears to be consensus around a size of 16 to 60 soldiers. Thus, the security detail demanded by Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, numbering at least 20 is the equivalent of having a full-time platoon of American soldiers for “protection.” Exactly what Pruitt is so afraid of remains an open question.

On the one hand, we have Pruitt stealing, in effect, from the public through a multitude of unjustifiable first-class trips, installation of a “secure phone booth” costing more than $40,000, and other over-the-top charges for his office rework. On the other hand (or is it the same hand?), we have a man who, before his appointment by Trump was firmly entrenched as a public official in Oklahoma with the industries seeking to exploit the environment for private gain, now using his federal office to further reward those same industries and companies.

Thinking of Pruitt’s tenure as EPA head brings to mind Robert Oppenheimer, a famous physicist who led the Los Alamos Laboratory and is credited, with others, as being the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role in the World War II Manhattan Project that created the first such bomb. After observing the test firing in New Mexico, Oppenheimer later said it drew to his mind the words from the ancient Hindu text, Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Pruitt, of course, appears to know little of science and to care nothing about it in any event. His worldview appears to be that Earth is here for one reason, the unlimited exploitation of its resources by mankind, through the vehicles of mining, logging, drilling, whatever it takes and wherever is desired. Thus, in the space of a little more than a year, Pruitt has:

  • spent millions on his personal around-the-clock security, including salaries ranging from $103,000 to nearly $162,000
  • slashed the working budget of EPA by about 30 percent;
  • claimed that threats against him have sky-rocketed, but there are no public reports of arrests or prosecutions;
  • flown on charter flights and first-class flights that included putting his security detail in first-class, with the excuse that being in first-class means they can exit the plane faster; when paying for his own travel, Pruitt flew coach;
  • rolled back auto fuel-efficiency rules;
  • promoted Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord;
  • directed payment of extraordinary bonuses of 30 & 52 percent to two close aides who joined him from Oklahoma;
  • taken adverse job actions against professional agency staff who questioned his spending/travel practices;
  • insisted that vehicles in his entourage use lights & sirens when moving through Washington streets to attend dinners;
  • rented a room from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the EPA;
  • denied, contrary to the evidence, that he authorized the excessive raises or that he approved the $43,000 installation of a sound-proof booth in his office, including biometric door locks and other security features more appropriate for a banana-republic dictator;
  • incurred frequent high-cost luxury accommodation charges, seeking approval after-the-fact;
  • accepted expense reimbursements from groups with business before the EPA;
  • rescinded, often with limited process, rules protecting the water, air and national parks, allowing uncontrolled exploitation of unique national resources without regard to the consequences.

In light of those and other legal/ethical lapses, the Washington Post has called for Pruitt’s firing, but Trump continues to support him because he is executing Trump’s plan to undo every environmental protection he can find. If there’s one thing Trump hates as much as exposure of his own corruption, it’s Obama-era environmental regulations. He wants them all gone and Pruitt is just the man to do his, and the exploitative industries’, bidding.

Pruitt is on par with the likes of Ben Carson, Trump’s appointed head of the Housing & Urban Development agency, for which Carson had zero qualifications, and Ryan Zinke, Trump’s appointed Secretary of the Interior, who repeatedly calls himself a “geologist,” based solely on having a college major in geology 34 years ago, and whose principal goal appears to be reducing the size of national parks so they can be exploited for minerals, oil and gas. Scott Pruitt sees his charge as clearing the way for unregulated commercial exploitation by private firms of the nation’s precious natural resources, including its clean water and air.

It is extremely unlikely that such a person would have been allowed to continue in office overseeing an agency whose legally established purpose is the exact opposite of Trump’s and Pruitt’s agenda. The Republican controlled Congress, however, continues to tolerate this situation and is thus complicit in the crimes against nature and humanity that this administration is perpetrating in the interest of enriching already wealthy corporations and individuals.

You have read it here before, but it bears repeating. We are facing a grave threat to our well-being as a people and as a country. Absent the bringing of criminal indictments and impeachment against Trump, the 2018 mid-term elections are the next real opportunity to regain the upper hand before it is too late. You should tell everyone you know that is capable of independent thought and reason why they must vote in November for Democrats, and why they must help others in need of assistance in getting to the polls and fulfilling their citizen responsibilities. This is not a drill.

Sources for this post: https://cnn.it/2vlJVOb; https://bit.ly/2J5LRwm; https://politi.co/2qD1hBg; https://wapo.st/2qFXBho; https://nyti.ms/2Eoc7iC;https://bit.ly/2JVc1De; https://bit.ly/2qfdACU; https://bzfd.it/2J6g0LZ; https://nyti.ms/2H40tiY; https://politi.co/2viE7F0.

 

NRA, Fear Emma Gonzalez

If you didn’t march with the kids today in the March for Our Lives, the loss is yours. My wife and I participated in New York City, where the turnout exceeded estimates by many multiples. We did not hear the speeches live because the crowd was so large. The starting point was West 72nd Street at Central Park West but we were directed by the police to go to 86th Street before being allowed to turn and join the main group of marchers. If you have not heard Emma Gonzalez speech, witnessed her extraordinary poise and maturity, you owe it to yourself to watch it in its entirety. Here is the link: https://bit.ly/2pBSuz8 Do not turn it off during the long, most extraordinary pause in her address to the assembled marchers.

Emma Gonzalez and her generation are the next great wave of voters. Many are already old enough or will be by the 2018 mid-term elections. They have had all they are going to take of excuses from the likes of Sen. Marco Rubio with his “let’s all get together on a compromise because some people don’t think gun control will be effective.” An overwhelming majority of Americans in poll after poll say that the time for action is now, not some vague point in the distant future. The young people of Emma Gonzalez’s generation and the ones behind them are motivated to compel change through the ballot box and there are many of them. NRA money can’t buy them. They are not afraid of a government takeover or other paranoid delusion spread by the gun lobby. They are afraid of being massacred next week or next month in their schools, like so many of their friends. Yes, NRA, you should fear Emma Gonzalez more than anything else. She sees you for what you are and she, and her friends are going to remove from office the sycophants that have taken NRA money and done its bidding for too long. Time’s up.

Here is a selection of photographs I took during today’s march in New York City. For context, the photos start as the huge group of marchers moves uptown from the 79th Street subway station toward 86th. It is worth noting that the NYPD we encountered were uniformly helpful in answering questions. The “show of force” near the end of the photo set is simply the police trying to move the marchers off of 6th Avenue onto the exit at 44th Street. The pictures close with a chanting session near Times Square where the kids attracted a large crowd of supporters. These amazing young people are not going away.

#MarchforOurLives

March for Science 2017

It was a wet and gloomy day in Washington DC yesterday, the appointed time for the mothership of the global March for Science, but it had little, if any, effect on the size or enthusiasm of the crowd which had to be in the tens of thousands in DC alone. By the latest count, more than 500 satellite marches were scheduled in all 50 states and around the world. A report and some pictures of the DC march can be found here: http://bit.ly/2pLoSgV

The march will be followed by the Climate March in Washington DC on April 29. Satellite marches will be held around the country and in Canada (and perhaps elsewhere). See https://peoplesclimate.org/

In keeping with his unbroken history, Not-My-President Donald Trump issued a tweet demonstrating his total cluelessness and venality regarding science and the environment:

“Today on Earth Day, we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and land. We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation.”

That statement must be intended solely for his infatuant base since all informed people will recognize that Trump’s actions as President are directly contrary to the interests of science and the environment that sustains us. More on that another time. The turnout for this march shows pretty clearly that the people are not going to stand by idly while the administration wrecks the planet.

For now, I have set out below a few photos I took. It was hard to see much because of the umbrellas and the absence of high ground but these will convey the general gist.

 

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Tax March DC 2017

Yesterday tens of thousands of Americans gathered in cities across the country to demand that the sitting President of the United States release his tax returns so that the country can decide for itself whether there are concerning ties to Russia, whether and where lie his continuing conflicts of interest resulting from failure to divorce himself fully from his business interests and how he and his family may benefit from changes in the federal tax code now being considered.

There are also many questions whether he has lied about his charitable giving, the scale of his earnings and others. Trump first said he would release his returns when the audits were finished. That excuse fails on multiple grounds. He signed the returns when they were filed and, as we all do, vouched for their accuracy and completeness. The audit may reveal issues with those criteria, or other failings, but the audit, which Trump could and likely would contest for years, is no excuse for withholding the returns from public scrutiny. As many of the signs at yesterday’s march stated: what is Trump hiding? T

he same question arises due to the Trump decision to withhold from public view the visitor logs to the White House. The proposed excuses for this latest example of secret government are security and privacy. The security question can easily be handled by time delaying the release or by masking names where there is a legitimate security reason for not disclosing a visitor to the White House. In an open democracy those should be few and far between. The privacy rationale is ludicrous coming from an administration that supports letting Internet providers sell the browsing records of their users.

For those interested but couldn’t attend a march personally, I have attached 116 images from the march in the District of Columbia which was massive. The photos from ground level do not fully reveal the size of the event nor, of course, the sounds.

Next up is the March for Science on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. I urge you to join this march to convey to the administration that the people of this country are not going to accept the dismantling of the environmental protections that have been put in place to protect our life-essential air, water, bio-diversity and other natural elements critical to life on the one planet on which we can live. See this site for information:  https://www.marchforscience.com/

The Women’s March

“Shame, Shame, Shame, Shame, SHAME! SHAME!!” This moment in front of the new Trump Hotel in Washington DC was, for me, the defining point in the extraordinary, historic Women’s March. The chant began with a few voices and quickly the chorus rose to a crescendo, beautifully adapting the meme from Game of Thrones where religious fanatics used it against captive members of the elite.

Trump wasn’t there to hear it, of course. He was comfortably ensconced in the White House admiring himself and thinking of new ways to defy the lessons of history by viciously attacking “the press” and “the media” as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” http://n.pr/2kd2p90

I was there with my wife, step-daughter, and some friends representing different generations. Another husband was with us and did a great job as “point man” for our group of a dozen. I was stepped on and pushed around many times by the crush of the crowd and I stepped on and bumped into quite a few people myself. To move in a group you had to form a human chain, linking hands and snaking through the small spaces in the sea of humanity. “’S’cuse me, sorry, sorry.” Not once was a cross word or dirty look exchanged. Everyone was there for the same purpose and no doubt as awed as we were at the staggering size of the crowd. We waited in a line for an entire hour to get to the bank of portable toilets.

A multitude of issues were represented among the throng, but there was no conflict among them in the March. Everyone was respected by everyone else. A remarkable experience. “This,” the crowd often repeated, “is what democracy looks like.”

We bailed out a few blocks short of the White House as exhaustion and hunger took their toll. Restaurants and the Metro were overwhelmed by thousands upon thousands of people at the end. Upon returning home, we were amazed at the pictures from around the country and around the world of parallel marches, involving millions of marchers globally. The crowd in Washington alone is estimated at more than a half million. The pictures of Chicago and Austin and everywhere are surreal.

The President will almost certainly continue to deny the reality that he is a minority president, that his approach to leadership desecrates the office he holds and is an embarrassment to this country. His relentless practice of personal aggrandizement, self-approval and hostility to truth, is matched by the shills he has hired to be the face of the White House. Kellyanne Conway, in particular, holding the title Counselor to the President, responds to points about Trump’s lies by pointing to mistakes others make. She just did this again about Trump’s demonstrably false claims about public attendance at his inauguration, angrily arguing that a member of the White House press pool, mistakenly reported that a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King had been removed. https://yhoo.it/2iRm2aJ. That mistake was acknowledged and corrected, but Trump’s lies remain. And the reporter who made the mistake is just a reporter. Trump is President of the United States of America. The two incidents are not remotely comparable.

Interestingly, Ms. Conway, when pressed about why the President would have his Press Secretary make a provably false statement in his first post-inaugural appearance, threatened the press again with a statement to the effect that “if you’re going to refer to the Press Secretary in these terms we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here.”  In other words, the press had better lay off criticizing the President and his staff or there will be no more access.

There is no reason to believe that Trump can or will change his approach to leadership. He is in, I predict, for a very rough time as President. The Women’s March is just the beginning. “Shame, Shame, Shame, Shame, SHAME! SHAME!!”

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