While Trump distracts, Pruitt pees in our swimming pool

One of my greatest fears of this President going in has been a retrenchment on dealing with climate change and environmental protections. While other concerns have surfaced on his watch, my initial fears are warranted. Selecting Scott Pruitt, a state attorney general who has sued the EPA multiple times, is not conducive to protecting the environment.

Announcing the future pull out of the Paris Climate Change Accord was an ominous step. Taking climate change science information off the EPA website is another. Reshuffling climate change scientists to less productive positions is another.

Yet there is more. Allowing coal companies  to dump pollutants in our waterways is a metaphor for the new EPA. Pruitt is letting people pee in our pool. And, just this week, there are two announcements worth noting.

First, The Huffington Post has reported an internal memo from a direct report to Pruitt  that tells EPA people to play down the science behind the climate change conclusions. This is not dissimilar to the governors of Wisconsin and Florida telling their staffs they could not use the terms climate change and global warming in dealing with the public. And, it is not dissimilar to George W. Bush’s Council on the Environment altering reports that used the words global warming or climate change.

Second, it is reported that the miles per gallon requirements placed on new cars introduced by President Obama will be rolled back. US car companies celebrate the announcement, but the environment and people will suffer. And, what is not discussed, our auto industry will fall behind as foreign car companies will move ahead with better mpg requirements. It should be noted, twelve states are prepared to sue the EPA on this change should it go through, one being California.

Pruitt is supposed to be the leader of the EPA. His people have to be one demoralized group to see a man who obviously cares less about the environment, let industry pollute more. Yet,  on a bright note, cities, states and businesses are moving climate change and environmental issues forward, more than picking up the slack caused by this anemic administration.

 

 

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The available talent pool is shallow

A leader can choose to hire people that are competent, experienced and even loyal. When a new President comes on board, they usually draw from a deep talent pool of folks who served the incumbent’s party in the past.

From the outset of the current incumbent’s election as President, the rules have not fully applied. The first clue was his surprise that he won. He had done little preparation for hiring a staff and is still behind in filling positions.

The second clue is the focus on loyalty more than the first two criteria. While there are a few capable folks on the staff, many capable and experienced folks took their names off the list or were not considered as they dared be critical of this imperfect man. They were not loyal enough.

The third clue is the continual lack of due diligence on the people announced and even hired. Many people told the President not to hire Michael Flynn. He was the first to go. Others were not approved by Congress and still more should not have been approved due to poor qualifications for the position.

A final clue is the talent pool has tightened. More candidates have taken their name out of the pool given the tempestuous White House. This a reason the President is hiring people he sees on TV which is where he spends much of his attention. By itself, that is not necessarily bad, but coupled with the lack of due diligence, several people have been offered jobs who should not have been due to conflict. As recent evidence, his legal team announced four new additions, only to withdraw their names after finding out about conflicts of interest. A Supreme Court experienced attorney named Ted Olson declined to be considered citing this chaos as one example of a well oiled machine.

One year ago, the President said he had formed the finest cabinet and staff ever. With the significant amount of turnover, it is obvious that statement was hyperbole. Yet, the people he has added of late are not being described as universally great choices. Even the more competent ones are defined as having similar character flaws to the President.

The key question I ask folks is would you want to to work for such a tempestuous and deceitful person? And, if you did, how long do you think it would take before you wore out your welcome or left because of the environment?

We need more competent, experienced and cooler heads. This is even more true when the boss colors so much outside the lines. The problem is that pool has been purposefully drained.

Monday, Monday again

Using a wonderful song from The Mamas and Papas, happy Monday everyone. Our friend Jill enjoys (and eventually laments) it when I place these songs in her head.

A few random thoughts for the start of the week are as follows:

Facebook is apologizing and saying they will do better at protecting your information. Yet, what they fail to tell you is sharing your information is their business model. Unless they are prepared to go to a subscription model, do not expect any major changes. Tailored ads based on your data and search history is revenue.

The biggest news from the Stormy Daniels’ revelations is not the tryst with Donald Trump. It is the illegal election contribution made by the attorney who has boxed himself in with his own revelations. By admitting he did not get reimbursed by Trump, he blocked a possible exit ramp that may have mitigated his guilt. I will say the creepiest thing about the Daniels’ revelation is when she said Trump told her she reminded him of his daughter. Ick.

Trump keeps saying articles about things he will be doing are fake news. Yet, when it happens anyway, does that make it fake? Mind you, he has delayed decisions mentioned in these articles, so as to punish the media with this fake brand. But, when he eventually fires the person or signs a wretched executive order, it verifies the earlier assertion does it not? He did fire Tillerson, McMaster, e.g. even though he said he would not do so after the press reported it.

With the passing of the US spending bill on top of the tax law change, it is apparent that Congress and the President do not care about resolving our deficit and debt issues. These laws make them worse rather than better. It should be pointed out that China is talking about buying fewer US Treasuries bills, notes and bonds. That is how we get cash and is a trade threat the US cannot reciprocate.

A final shout out to the teens who are advocating for better gun governance. You are an inspiration. The lawmakers need to pay attention as they may have awakened a sleeping giant.

 

Over-politicized and under-moralized

I had the pleasure of hearing columnist and author David Brooks speak the other night. He was invited to my city by a church known for being inclusive. While his speech and following Q/A was filled with poignant quotes and observations, his caution that “we are over-politicized and under-moralized” resonated with me.

His speech was far more focused on America’s changes over time than it was political. He noted we were much more community oriented before 1968, but still had many faults around racIsm, bigotry and gender inequality. He noted the gains made post-1968, but we tore down institutional cache and became more individual minded, even more narcissistic in nature, as he explained with a few key  statistics. He thoughtfully spoke of how we have come to the current tribalism. He noted tribalism is based more on fear and hatred of others than it is love for your tribe.

This was occurring long before Trump and he said he frankly did not think Trump would win. He said people are disenfranchised and want to be heard. To Trump’s credit he reached out to these folks, yet he sold a message of fear and isolationism. An example of one of Brooks’ quotes is “Trump is the wrong answer to the right question.”

From his travels, reading and teaching, he noted people are thirsty for moral direction. We desire a moral compass. We want to do the right thing, but we have become so lonely and alienated (he again accentuated with statistics) we have limited avenues to a community mindset. We are not talking to one another and have looked less to institutions and more to movements.

Early on he defined we are consumed by both a “desiring heart” and “yearning soul.” We want to love someone and belong. We want to find contentment for our soul nurturing it. This is why we long for a sense of community or family. He noted an answer to a previous time in the 1890s when we became so disenfranchised, we saw community movements that led to better working conditions, the suffragette movement, the temperance movement, environmental protection, etc.

That is likely the answer we need to diminish this tribalism. We need to seek community oriented solutions. He said our places of faith can be more helpful, but need to focus on our being better people and picking each other up. He noted an example of a man in Shreveport who helped identify a community house in each area of the city. The house would be a place where BBQs, community events, parties et al could happen.

When someone asked what is a key takeaway, he laughed and said that is your job as I just throw out ideas. Then, he eloquently noted a story about a psychologist who was captured by the Nazis and placed in a detention camp. The question no longer was what should I do with my life? The question was now what does life have in store for me? He said that may be the better question we should ask ourselves.

As he left the stage, I witnessed a humble man who seemed to be saying through his body language, why are you clapping for me? He deserved the adoration. Even the minister of the church noted Brooks’ message had a strong sense of a Judeo-Christian ethic. We need more voices like him. We need more discussions like these.

Saturday is a good day for a march

Saturday is a big day for teens and young adults who will be showing what democracy looks like. A crowd larger than the inauguration attendees is expected to protest gun violence and advocate for change. Whether you agree with their position, which I support, you have to admire their resolve.

Change is difficult, especially when those who hold the playing cards are sponsored by an entity who does not want any. But, the majority of Americans want change, so we shall see what transpires. The legislators in Florida deserve credit for a first step. The ones in DC did as little as possible in the spending bill which included some lower hanging fruit.

With that said, one of pieces of fruit was something that should have been done all along and that is funding the CDC to measure gun deaths, which has not been done for twenty years. You cannot measure success of initiatives if you don’t measure anything.

Join me in applauding these kids for raising their voices. And, to use a favorite line uttered after gun massacres with a subtle change, “my thoughts and prayers are with the legislators as they look for that misplaced moral compass.”

A cornered animal

A cornered animal is a dangerous thing. It needs to be handled very delicately, as the animal is scared, even from those trying to help. The end result may be the same for the intervener, whether he or she is malevolent or benevolent to the animal. Or, in the case of people, the malevolence to the cornered one may because of the harm being done to many others by the animal itself.

What we are witnessing the past few weeks is the US President is like a cornered animal. He has gone full bore in trying to protect himself lashing out at anyone or any entity standing in his way. The simple reason is all the havoc he has wrought is starting to cave in on him. And, he is reverting to a basic survival instinct which is particularly vehement given his narcissistic nature. “It cannot be me, it is all those folks out to get me. The bad news about me is all fake.”

The President knows the further Robert Mueller and his team look, the more they will find. When one’s history has lacked a due diligence to work with people of integrity and is replete with untruthfulness, one should be afraid. Not working with people of integrity was the gist of a Newsweek piece on Trump well before the election. But, the fear is this goes deeper in that there may be unhealthy relationships with Russian and other nefarious actors that could be revealed.

To me, the President is guilty of obstruction of justice. He did not want people looking into his affairs, whether there is criminality or not. He took strides to prevent the investigation and actually made it worse. As Rep. Trey Gowdy said if the President is innocent, he needs to start acting like it. And, per the testimony of all our intelligence leaders, at a minimum, Trump is guilty of being an unwitting participant in Russian meddling. His echoing the words prepared by Russian hackers was gold for the intruders, which he did more than a few times.

Yet, it goes further than this. Admiring pretty women is not a crime. Neither is having extramarital affairs, although evangelicals would concur that is a sin, especially when the affairs are plural. What is a crime is sexually assaulting women. What is a crime is sexually harassing them. What is crime is using money that could be construed as campaign money to pay off women he has wronged to be quiet.

So, not only is the President being cornered on one side by Robert Mueller, his past sexual misconduct is cornering him as well. He has called one woman a liar and she is allowed to proceed with a lawsuit of defamation of character. That makes three lawsuits on sexual misconduct. But, the first defamation lawsuit may lead to others coming forward as there are sixteen or so women who have claimed sexual harassment or assault by the President.

So, my guess is this will get even more ugly in the next few months. That will make all those Republican leaders who look the other way regret not standing up to this man. And, the scarier part is this does not include his ongoing style of governance where the truth does not matter, good counsel is ignored and demeaning others who disagree is modus operandi. As the rollercoaster operator says “buckle up as it is going to be a bumpy ride.”

Water – the real crisis facing us

While Americans are distracted and consumed by the routine chaos out of the White House, we are letting huge problems go unaddressed. One of the major problems is the current and growing global water crisis. For several years, the World Economic Forum has voted the global water crisis as the greatest risk facing our planet over the longer term, defined as ten years. But, this is not just a future problem, the city of Cape Town in South Africa is in severe water crisis and continues to ration pushing forward their Day Zero as long as they can

Per The Guardian in an article this week, the United Nations warns that water shortages “could affect 5 billion people by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water. The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

‘For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,’ says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment. ‘In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.’

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

Drought and soil degradation are already the biggest risk of natural disaster, say the authors, and this trend is likely to worsen. ‘Droughts are arguably the greatest single threat from climate change,’ it notes. The challenge has been most apparent this year in Cape Town, where residents face severe restrictions as the result of a once-in-384-year drought. In Brasília, the host of the forum, close to 2m people have their taps turned off once in every five days due to a unusually protracted dry period.”

Here in the states, we exacerbate our drought and other water problems with bad piping and fracking, which waste or use huge amounts of water. But, with our vast agriculture, we need water to produce our and much of the world’s crops. We must manage it better. Two books are very illuminating. “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” by Steven Solomon is a terrific look back and ahead. He is the coiner of the phrase “water is the new oil.” The other book is called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn that details the struggles of these professions and two others with climate change and its impact on water and other things they do.

Folks, this is a major problem. We must address it now before we all have our own Day Zeroes. If this is not enough to raise concern, one of the financial experts who forewarned us of the pending financial crisis, has a new concern – water.