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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,365

Journal Archives


Millions will be displaced. Where will they go?

August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By midmonth, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record. Soon, California was on fire.

Over the next two weeks, 900 blazes incinerated six times as much land as all the state’s 2019 wildfires combined, forcing 100,000 people from their homes. Three of the largest fires in history burned simultaneously in a ring around the San Francisco Bay Area. Another fire burned just 12 miles from my home in Marin County. I watched as towering plumes of smoke billowed from distant hills in all directions and air tankers crisscrossed the skies. Like many Californians, I spent those weeks worrying about what might happen next, wondering how long it would be before an inferno of 60-foot flames swept up the steep, grassy hillside on its way toward my own house, rehearsing in my mind what my family would do to escape.

But I also had a longer-term question, about what would happen once this unprecedented fire season ended. Was it finally time to leave for good?

I had an unusual perspective on the matter. For two years, I have been studying how climate change will influence global migration. My sense was that of all the devastating consequences of a warming planet — changing landscapes, pandemics, mass extinctions — the potential movement of hundreds of millions of climate refugees across the planet stands to be among the most important. I traveled across four countries to witness how rising temperatures were driving climate refugees away from some of the poorest and hottest parts of the world. I had also helped create an enormous computer simulation to analyze how global demographics might shift, and now I was working on a data-mapping project about migration here in the United States.

So it was with some sense of recognition that I faced the fires these last few weeks. In recent years, summer has brought a season of fear to California, with ever-worsening wildfires closing in. But this year felt different. The hopelessness of the pattern was now clear, and the pandemic had already uprooted so many Americans. Relocation no longer seemed like such a distant prospect. Like the subjects of my reporting, climate change had found me, its indiscriminate forces erasing all semblance of normalcy. Suddenly I had to ask myself the very question I’d been asking others: Was it time to move?

I am far from the only American facing such questions. This summer has seen more fires, more heat, more storms — all of it making life increasingly untenable in larger areas of the nation. Already, droughts regularly threaten food crops across the West, while destructive floods inundate towns and fields from the Dakotas to Maryland, collapsing dams in Michigan and raising the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Rising seas and increasingly violent hurricanes are making thousands of miles of American shoreline nearly uninhabitable. As California burned, Hurricane Laura pounded the Louisiana coast with 150-mile-an-hour winds, killing at least 25 people; it was the 12th named storm to form by that point in 2020, another record. Phoenix, meanwhile, endured 53 days of 110-degree heat — 20 more days than the previous record.

For years, Americans have avoided confronting these changes in their own backyards. The decisions we make about where to live are distorted not just by politics that play down climate risks, but also by expensive subsidies and incentives aimed at defying nature. In much of the developing world, vulnerable people will attempt to flee the emerging perils of global warming, seeking cooler temperatures, more fresh water and safety. But here in the United States, people have largely gravitated toward environmental danger, building along coastlines from New Jersey to Florida and settling across the cloudless deserts of the Southwest.


How desperate is Trump? He wants to do weekly 'Fox & Friends' stints.

Opinion by Erik Wemple

The authoritarian politico famous for idealizing the American past is itching to rekindle a bit of his own recent history. “Good to be here, great to be with my friends. I think we’re going to do this — we’ve agreed to it once a week in the morning, and I look forward to it. Like the old days,” said President Trump on Tuesday morning in an interview with the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” the remarkably stupid No. 1 morning show on cable news.

“I haven’t heard that, well that’s an exclusive right there,” said co-host Steve Doocy. “That’s fantastic,” said co-host Brian Kilmeade. Ainsley Earhardt, the third co-host, showed a wide smile.

“That’s why you have great people working for you, you don’t have to even get involved. You have the best people. And you do actually, and so anyway we’ve agreed to do it probably mostly on Monday, we’re going to do it mostly on Monday and if we have to Tuesday.”

“We’ll see how that goes,” Earhardt replied, and noted that they’d asked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to appear on the show.

The exchange was awkward but illustrative: Here was the president of the United States apprising “news” anchors how they’d be scheduling their show in the coming months. Instead of inquiring further about just how this notion had arisen, they responded like the propagandists they’ve been for years: Great!


DHS whistleblower's charges could be worse than we thought

Opinion by Greg Sargent

As you know, a whistleblower at the Department of Homeland Security recently made a series of startling allegations: He claimed, among other things, that top DHS officials brought intense pressure on him to help hype the threat of organized leftist violence to try to bolster one of President Trump’s favorite reelection narratives.

This is only one of many ways in which top officials have placed their official duties and the levers of government at the disposal of Trump’s reelection needs. This blog compiled a list of examples along these lines earlier this week.

But there’s another buried layer in the whistleblower complaint that may constitute yet another way in which this is happening.

The whistleblower, a senior official named Brian Murphy, also alleges that he was ordered by acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf “to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.”

Murphy claims Wolf said that directive originated from White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

At first, this seemed as if it might have just been another way in which top Trump officials were trying to obscure the importance of Russian interference in the election, in keeping with Trump’s longtime efforts to make that interference disappear.

But over at the Lawfare blog, Susan Hennessey and Jacob Schulz suggest that this might be more serious than it first appears: What if it constitutes an effort to cook the intelligence to literally create from scratch a largely fabricated narrative in its own right that Trump could campaign on?


Is There a Black Hole in Our Backyard?

Astrophysicists have recently begun hatching plans to find out just how weird Planet Nine might be.

What is an astrophysicist to do during a pandemic, except maybe daydream about having a private black hole?

Although it is probably wishful thinking, some astronomers contend that a black hole may be lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. All summer, they have been arguing over how to find it, if indeed it is there, and what to do about it, proposing plans that are only halfway out of this world.

The speculation began back in 2016 when Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, proposed that the weird motions of a few ice balls billions of miles beyond Pluto could be evidence of a previously unknown and unsuspected object way, way out there in the dark.

According to their calculations, that object would be roughly 10 times as massive as Earth and would occupy an egg-shaped orbit that brought it as near as 20 billion miles from the sun — several times the distance from the sun to Pluto — and took it as far as 100 billion miles away every 10,000 to 20,000 years.


Andrew Gillum: 'I don't identify as gay, but I do identify as bisexual'

Gillum spoke with Tamron Hall in an interview that aired Monday.

For months after his messy brush with law enforcement in a Miami Beach hotel room, Andrew Gillum has been subjected to rumors about his sexuality.

In an interview with the talk show host Tamron Hall that aired Monday, his first since that early morning six months ago, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor clarified that part of his private life.

“I don’t identify as gay but I do identify as bisexual,” Gillum said. “And that is something that I have never shared publicly before.”

Miami Beach police responded to a hotel room on March 13 where they reportedly found one man who had overdosed, a second man and an extremely inebriated Gillum. Police also found what they suspected to be crystal methamphetamine in the room.


Trump says there are 25 'witnesses' disputing the Atlantic. Nope.

“They have some sleazebag reporter from a third-rate magazine having some source quoting me saying, I won’t even use the term, but saying bad things. … We had 25 people that were witnesses that are on the record already that have said that never took place. It never took place — what they said.”

— President Trump, at a campaign rally in Minden, Nev., Sept. 12

The people who recounted these remarks were not identified. In trying to refute the article, the White House has focused on the first anecdote in the article — that Trump canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he did not believe it was important to honor American war dead.

“In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, ‘Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,’” Goldberg wrote. “In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as ‘suckers’ for getting killed.”

Goldberg attributed the information to “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day.”

It’s often a fool’s game to try to figure out a reporter’s anonymous sources. Sometimes, principals use cutouts — aides who speak to reporters — to give themselves plausible deniability. Or people may deny on the record speaking to a reporter when in fact he or she was a source.

Moreover, other news organizations, including The Washington Post and most notably Jennifer Griffin of Fox News, have confirmed elements of Goldberg’s report. Griffin reported that an unnamed administration official said that “when the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, ‘It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.’” She also reported that Trump simply did not want to travel by motorcade to Aisne-Marne cemetery. But she also said she could not confirm that the president described the American war dead there as “suckers” and “losers.”


Prominent Southern Baptists are dropping 'Southern' name amid racial unrest

Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention are increasingly dropping the “Southern” part of their Baptist name, calling it a potentially painful reminder of the convention’s historic role in support of slavery.

The 50,000 Baptist churches in the convention are autonomous and can still choose to refer to themselves as “Southern Baptist” or “SBC.” But in his first interview on the topic, convention president J.D. Greear said momentum has been building to adopt the name “Great Commission Baptists,” both because of the racial reckoning underway in the United States and because many have long seen the “Southern Baptist” name as too regional for a global group of believers.

“Our Lord Jesus was not a White Southerner but a brown-skinned Middle Eastern refugee,” said Greear, who this summer used the phrase “Black lives matter” in a presidential address and announced that he would retire a historic gavel named for an enslaver. “Every week we gather to worship a savior who died for the whole world, not one part of it. What we call ourselves should make that clear.”

The shift takes place at the end of a summer of racial unrest, when Confederate monuments have been removed, schools have been renamed and D.C. has decided to change the name of its football team. For Southern Baptists, the change also reflects a long-standing desire to remove confusion when the convention launches churches in the Northern United States and overseas.


Old Postal Service audit surfaces, shows DeJoy's company may have gouged taxpayers for $53 million

It turns out Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been scamming the United States Postal Service for decades, almost making it seem like sabotaging the institution has become his life's work. A 20-year-old audit of contracts for mail equipment transport unearthed by NBC News shows that his old company was awarded multiple contracts in noncompetitive bids. Those contracts cost taxpayers as much as $53 million more than would have been paid out if the contracts had been bid competitively.

DeJoy's New Breed Logistics, which was bought out by XPO Logistics in 2015, had contracts going back to 1992. DeJoy had a friend on the inside, apparently, who arranged the noncompetitive contracts which "did not fully meet Postal Service requirements" and "potentially exposed the Postal Service to cost and performance risks," according to the audit. Since the contracts were awarded outside of a bidding process, it raises questions about whether DeJoy was overbilling the USPS, gouging taxpayers. It also adds more questions about the background and qualifications of DeJoy himself, who is now under scrutiny not just for the operational changes he's made to the USPS which resulted in massive mail delays during the summer, but for alleged campaign finance violations at those same companies when he became a major Republican donor.

DeJoy didn't respond to the story, but a spokesperson released a statement saying, "There was no finding in the review that the company did not fulfill the terms and conditions of the contract." Whether the company fulfilled the contract seemed not to have been the point of the review; rather, it was how DeJoy got the gigs for his company without having to compete for them. "It's puzzling why it was not referred for investigation," said former Postal Service Inspector General Dave Williams, who served from 2003 to 2016. Yes. It is. Williams served on the USPS board of governors from 2018 until May of this year, when he quit just before DeJoy was appointed. He's been critical of DeJoy, questioning his qualifications (he has never served within the USPS) and the changes in service he's made.

Williams says that this audit underscores the problems with DeJoy's appointment and one of the reasons he quit: The board of governors didn't conduct a full background check of Joy when he was nominated. "I don't understand how an offer could have been extended before a background check was completed," Williams said. William J. Henderson, who was postmaster general during the timeframe of the audit, told NBC News he didn't recall having seen this specific audit. "We had tons of logistics partners while I was in the Postal Service, and I really didn't get into selecting particular partners or reviewing those sorts of things since they were done by purchasing."


In Visiting a Charred California, Trump Confronts a Scientific Reality He Denies

A president who has mocked climate change and pushed policies that accelerate it is set to be briefed on the scorched earth and ash-filled skies that experts say are the predictable result.

When President Trump flies to California on Monday to assess the state’s raging forest fires, he will come face to face with the grim consequences of a reality he has stubbornly refused to accept: the devastating effects of a warming planet.

To the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the American West are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

But the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous emissions. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his senior environmental officials have regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science of human-caused climate change.

Now, as he battles for a second term in the White House, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his anti-climate agenda as a way of appealing to his core supporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”


Trump Tempers Fears About Wildfires By Drinking Cup Of Flames

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