Sunday, November 3, 2019
What A Week!
written 26 October 2019
published 3 November 2019
I went out onto the deck Thursday evening (Oct 24th), and could smell the smoke from the Kincade fire burning near Geyserville. Every day I check https://firemap.sdsc.edu, a site showing fires based on satellite information, using color to show where active hot spots are located (click on the icon in the upper right-hand corner, select fires, and then perimeters and satellite detection). As I write this, the fire is 10% contained, burning northeast, toward Cobb in Lake county. There are suggestions a PG&E transmission line tower started this fire, but investigation is ongoing.
Ukiah has managed to avoid losing power in the first two Public Safety Power Shutdowns, but we are due to shut down during the third one this weekend. Conservative critics are blaming the shutdowns on misguided investment in renewable energy by PG&E. No mention of corporate priority for shareholder return over infrastructure maintenance, or climate change (can't risk offending Trump's orthodoxy that climate change is a hoax).
In the real world, where the rest of us live, this week the San Francisco Chronicle ran a long article about the die off of 90% of the coastal kelp in the last half decade. This is an oceanic environmental catastrophe comparable to California losing 90% of the trees within a few years. The current ocean heat wave has killed coral and disrupted sea life around Hawaii, and the heat blob in the North Pacific has returned, possibly bringing more drought to California. Researchers recently reported finding seafloor methane, a potent greenhouse gas, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean, raising local atmospheric concentrations by a factor of 9. In response, President Trump has announced that the next G7 meeting of foreign leaders will not have any discussion of climate change.
In legal matter, it was a difficult week for the president. Investigations normally start with secret testimony, including grand juries, to get information on record without publicity or compromising witnesses. Relevant facts are then made public during the trial phase, where the accused can respond. Since the Justice Department under Trump's Attorney General refused to look into reported misdeeds by the president, the House of Representatives has to do it as their Constitutional responsibility, beginning with closed door hearings in front of bi-partisan committees.
Testimony on Tuesday by Bill Taylor, recent US ambassador to Ukraine, was reportedly extensive, well documented, and convincing. The president, with help from White House cabinet members, did illegally withhold aid to our ally Ukraine to pressure them to support his campaign.
This process under the rule of law was too much for the cult of Trump. In response to their worsening political situation, and the tsunami of evidence against their leader, 30 minor Republican members of the House stormed the hearings the next day, demanding "transparency", delaying hearings for several hours before losing interest and departing.
In other legal action this week, an appeals court heard arguments why Trump's tax returns should not be examined. The tax records are of interest in a number of cases, involving fraud, money laundering, and accepting foreign bribes or contributions. His attorney argued that as president, he is immune from not only indictment, but investigation, or even apprehension if caught in the middle of a crime, specifically even murder. This god like immunity would extend to anyone related to, or working for, the president. Of course, this is entirely contrary to the Constitution, which was written after a war to get rid of the divine right of a king.
Several cases suggest that Russian money, perhaps even mob money, has flowed to Trump and other Republican politicians. Trump has advocated for Russian positions before being elected, and as president has defended Russia and Putin against American intelligence conclusions, and made unilateral, ill-considered foreign policy decisions which have strengthened Russia's position in Ukraine and the Middle East. Perhaps Trump has been acting as an agent for Russian for so long that he thinks he has diplomatic immunity.
While it is clear why Trump and his hand-picked cabinet believes this insanity, since they all face jail time if it is overturned, the real question is how many Republican leaders will violate their oath of office to defend the Constitution.
What an interesting time to be alive!