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26 posts
  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed
Despite warming temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions, Trump wants more coal-fired power plants like this one in West Virginia.
Despite warming temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions, Trump wants more coal-fired power plants like this one in West Virginia. (Los Angeles Times)

The Trump administration’s new rules to make it easier for coal-fired power plants to come on line is at once dangerous, and silly. Dangerous because coal is choking the planet; silly because the market is already quickly moving beyond coal — by far the most expensive and most polluting of our energy sources.

So why does Trump stick with coal, even though power companies are abandoning it for cheaper and cleaner alternatives? Ignorance is one possible answer — he may not understand what is happening in the energy markets.

But politics is the more likely explanation. Trump campaigned on bringing back coal, and while even coal miners know that’s not going to happen, this rollback of sensible regulations (likely to get a court challenge) allows Trump to brag that he did what he said he would do.

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  • Opinion
Chairman and founder T.K. Pillan of Veggie Grill, a vegan food chain that's expanding in the L.A. area.
Chairman and founder T.K. Pillan of Veggie Grill, a vegan food chain that's expanding in the L.A. area. (Los Angeles Times)

Global interest in plant-based cuisine has exploded in recent years.

Although only about 6% of Americans identify as fully vegan (no meat, eggs, dairy or fish), many people see the benefit of limiting their consumption of animal products for health, environmental and moral reasons.

The market has responded to this consumer demand. Plant-based food restaurants aren’t difficult to find in large cities (there are two in my small neighborhood alone), and many meat-serving restaurants offer some sort of vegan fare.

Even McDonald’s, home of beef burgers and processed chicken, added a vegan burger — “El Veggo” — to its menu in Finland.

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Since the Civil War, Americans have struggled to define what seems to be obvious: What is a lynching? It conjures visions of a mob pulling a man from a jail cell, hauling him to a tree and throwing a rope over a branch. But debates have centered on how how many people must take part in such an extrajudicial killing for it to qualify as a lynching (the NAACP suggested in 1921 at least five).

And must the motive be racial? Was the hanging of a suspected white horse thief in the Wild West by ranch hands the same as a white Southern mob, amid taunts, jeers and spit, turning a black man accused of insulting a white woman into “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” as Billie Holliday once sang?

Sen. Lindsey Graham and President Trump at the White House on Nov. 14.
Sen. Lindsey Graham and President Trump at the White House on Nov. 14. (Mark Wilson / AFP/Getty Images)

One of the most curious recent developments in national politics is the reincarnation of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) as an ally of President Trump, a man Graham once called a “xenophobic, race-baiting religious bigot.” 

But even the new pro-Trump Graham is dramatically distancing himself from the president on whether Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is culpable in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In a statement on Nov. 20, Trump embraced a lazy agnosticism about the crown prince’s involvement, saying that “it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

  • Opinion
A recent report found that Texas turned to a compounding pharmacy with regulatory problems for its lethal injection drugs.
A recent report found that Texas turned to a compounding pharmacy with regulatory problems for its lethal injection drugs. (Texas Department of Corrections / AFP)

A number of death penalty states have in recent years adopted secrecy laws shielding the identities of suppliers of the drugs they buy for lethal injections. Secrecy advocates argue that the drugmakers must remain in the shadows to keep opponents of the death penalty from protesting them.

In other words, if the states can’t conduct the people’s business in secret, the people might rise in opposition to the business the state is conducting. So much for open governments and public accountability.

Two recent reports highlight the dangers of such secrecy policies. Buzzfeed News published a piece last week saying that the state of Texas, by far the nation’s leading killer of the condemned, obtained execution drugs from Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, which Buzzfeed said has been cited by state regulators for 48 violations over the last eight years.

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  • Opinion
  • 2020
(Molly Riley / Associated Press)

Earlier this week, Joe Biden told an audience at the University of Montana that he was “the most qualified person in the country to be president.” He wasn’t officially announcing his run — he’d decide over the holidays, he said — but one doesn’t generally say such things unless they’re running.

Plus, Biden’s never played coy about his desire to hold the office. He first ran for president in 1988. (Dropped out because of plagiarism scandals.) He ran again in 2008. (Received less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa Caucus.)

In October, Biden received some buzz as early polling showed him leading the Democratic field in 2020. These two-years-out polls don’t mean much; similar ones showed Presidents Clinton and Obama losing re-election. Two years is plenty of time for Biden, a self-declared “gaffe machine,” to give the race away.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
  • Rich Dudes
Artist Robin Bell projected messages of protest onto Trump International Hotel, where the president is his own landlord, last year.
Artist Robin Bell projected messages of protest onto Trump International Hotel, where the president is his own landlord, last year. (Liz Gorman / Robin Bell)

Get ready for a tweet storm from you-know-who.

The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia, who are suing President Trump over allegations that he is violating the emolument clause of the Constitution, banning payments from foreign governments, has subpoenaed a range of records from the president’s businesses, some of his competitors, and federal agencies that have dealt with the Trump Organization.

This could get interesting.

  • Opinion
A statue of former United States President George H.W. Bush near the Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
A statue of former United States President George H.W. Bush near the Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. (Daniel Kramer/EPA-EFE/REX)

The death of former President George H.W. Bush is inspiring comparisons between his presidency and that of the current occupant of the White House. That was inevitable, because the traits that defined Bush’s one term in office are scandalously absent from the way Donald Trump has approached the highest office in the land.

Bush assumed the presidency after serving as a member of Congress, as ambassador to the United Nations, as CIA director and as vice president; Trump was a political amateur when he was elected (and proud of it). Bush was respectful of the expertise of his advisers and career government officials; Trump disdains them as a sinister “Deep State.” Bush was willing to abandon his “Read my lips: No new taxes” campaign pledge in order to cement a compromise agreement on the budget; Trump is loath to repudiate positions he took on the campaign trail, such as his reckless promise to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.

Bush was an ambitious politician, but he also was self-effacing and reluctant to personalize the achievements of his administration. For Trump, everything is about Trump. And Bush cherished civility, despite some low shots on the campaign trail — especially his campaign’s questionable use of a prison furlough program against his opponent, Michael Dukakis. (Willie Horton, a black man who raped a woman after escaping while on furlough, figured in a racially inflammatory TV aid aired by Bush supporters.)

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  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman announced Thursday that he was stepping down after sexual harassment allegations.
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman announced Thursday that he was stepping down after sexual harassment allegations. (Los Angeles Times)

More than a year after reports about movie producer Harvey Weinstein kicked off a cultural movement, #MeToo hasn’t seemed to have lost its potency. At least not in California, where two powerful men accused of misconduct saw their political careers derailed this month.

California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman resigned Thursday after a Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered several allegations that he had made sexually explicit comments to staffers and engaged in unwanted touching. Within hours of the Times story’s publication, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and other Democratic Party leaders were calling for him to step down.

State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) had his own #MeToo moment this summer, and it may have cost him a seat on the state Board of Equalization. The termed-out legislator had a huge lead over his Democratic opponent coming out of the June primary. But in September, Anderson was reprimanded by his colleagues for an incident in which he allegedly threatened to “bitch slap” a female lobbyist.

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
Why would President Trump appoint as acting attorney general someone, Matthew Whitaker, closely tied to a marketing firm the FTC shut down?
Why would President Trump appoint as acting attorney general someone, Matthew Whitaker, closely tied to a marketing firm the FTC shut down? (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

At first I didn’t believe Matthew Whitaker was qualified to serve as President Trump’s acting attorney general, but I’ve come around after reading about his involvement with World Patent Marketing before it went out of business.

He is indeed sleazy enough to fit right in with the this administration’s band of miscreants.