Bernie Sanders Isn’t the Left’s Trump ~ NYT ~ Op/Ed

And this is no time for ego or self-indulgence.


Opinion Columnist

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Look, I know the primaries aren’t over, and it’s still possible that Democratic centrists will get their act together. But Bernie Sanders is now the clear favorite for the Democratic nomination. There are many things to say about that, but the most important is that he is NOT a left-leaning version of Trump. Even if you disagree with his ideas, he’s not a wannabe authoritarian ruler.

America under a Sanders presidency would still be America, both because Sanders is an infinitely better human being than Trump and because the Democratic Party wouldn’t enable abuse of power the way Republicans have.

And if you’re worried about his economic agenda, what’s your concern, exactly? That he’ll raise taxes on the rich part way back to what they were under Dwight Eisenhower? That he’ll run budget deficits? Trump is doing that already — and the economic effects have been positive.

I’m more concerned about (a) the electability of someone who says he’s a socialist even though he isn’t and (b) if he does win, whether he’ll squander political capital on unwinnable fights like abolishing private health insurance. But if he’s the nominee, it’s the job of Dems to make him electable if at all possible.

To be honest, a Sanders administration would probably leave center-left policy wonks like me out in the cold, at least initially. And if a President Sanders or his advisers say things I think are foolish, I won’t pretend otherwise in an attempt to ingratiate myself. (Sorry, I’m still not a convert to Modern Monetary Theory.) But this is no time for self-indulgence and ego trips. Freedom is on the line.


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On President’s Day, Daniel Parra met a group of friends at Eldorado High School, in East Las Vegas. The Bernie Sanders campaign was holding a soccer tournament there that a friend of Parra’s had posted about on Snapchat. Under a bright morning sun, with Frenchman Mountain soaring in the background, some forty mostly Latino soccer aficionados gathered on one of the school’s fields. Many of the players had brought their parents, brothers, and sisters along, and spectators sat on the scorched grass beneath the branches of an ash tree. A Mexican woman in her sixties with an ice-cream cart and two taco vendors with a spread of carnitas, asado, and pastor would soon be selling food, as arranged by the campaign. Dozens of cobalt-blue Bernie signs, including one, which read, “Unidos con Bernie” fluttered on the field’s wire fence. Parra, who is nineteen, tall, and slender, spoke with conviction about his support for Sanders. He hoped to transfer to Colorado State University from the community college he was attending nearby, and said that the senator’s promise of making university tuition free resonated strongly with him. But something else had drawn him to the field that morning. “I see that he’s actually trying to look after the smaller communities, not just going after the big audience,” Parra said. “Doing something like this means a lot to people like us, because we don’t really get looked upon.”

Before the game, Jose La Luz, a Puerto Rican labor activist and Sanders surrogate, called on the players to crowd around him. La Luz has been urging Latinos across the country to support Sanders, and had flown in from Texas that morning. “Buenos días!” he said to the players. Half awake, many of them failed to reply. “I can’t hear you! Buenos días!” he insisted, prompting a louder response. La Luz is sixty-nine, with slicked-back hair and a salt-and-pepper mustache. He wore dark glasses, a blue linen jacket, and had a turquoise ring on each hand. His fervor, and the Mexican slang he wove into his Spanish remarks, prompted chuckles among the attendees. “We’ve gathered this morning because we’re going to see who scores the most goals for Tío Bernie,” La Luz said. He called for a show of hands to see how many players were old enough to vote. About a dozen raised their arms. “And who will you vote for?” he asked. “Bernie!” they exclaimed in unison. “For Tío Bernie,” he asserted. “Because he is our candidate.” After La Luz announced that a “very important” person was on his way, the crowd broke into whispers. Could it be Bernie? If not him, who? La Luz said that he wanted to make sure their guest would get a proper welcome. “I want us to receive him with a strong and warm Latin-American applause!” he said, gradually lifting his booming voice. “A strong and warm Mexican applause! A strong and warm Central American applause! Because we’re proud to be Latinos, and the Latino vote will decide this election!”

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Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man ~ CounterPunch

It’s an open secret in environmental circles that Michael Bloomberg is a climate change con man, and organizations like the Sierra Club that take hundreds of millions in donations from the former New York City mayor to fight coal, are complicit in his fraudulent scheme to coopt the climate change movement for his own profit.

In Wednesday night’s Democratic debate, Bloomberg pompously claimed, “We’re closing the coal-fired power plants. If we could enforce some of the rules on fracking so that they don’t release methane into the air and into the water, you’ll make a big difference. But we’re not going to get rid of fracking for a while. And we, incidentally not just natural gas. You frack oil, as well. It is a technique, and when it’s done poorly, like they’re doing in too many places where the methane gets out into the air, it is very damaging. But it’s a transition fuel…”

There’s a reason the mumbling Bloomberg has committed a portion of his fortune to fight coal while arguing that fracked gas is a “transition fuel” — he has massive investments in natural gas. A mysterious money management group called Willett Advisors, that handles Bloomberg’s riches, states they “are natural gas bulls” and “we invest a lot in the energy sector.” He’s banking on fracked gas and not renewable energy to power the US economy into the future.

“I don’t want to ban fracking (just do it safely) or stop the Keystone pipeline (the oil is coming here one way or another), and I support nuclear power.” Bloomberg writes in his book Climate of Hope. “Natural gas, when safely and responsibly extracted, has been a godsend for the environment and public health,” and that “fracking allows for the most efficient extraction of natural gas”  and that “it makes sense to frack.”

Fracking might pad his portfolio, but it makes zero environmental sense.

While the US weens itself off of coal, it’s fast becoming a natural gas powerhouse, which is no doubt making Bloomberg even wealthier.  Many coal-fired power plants in the US have been converted to natural gas and over 150 new gas plants and hundreds of miles of pipelines have been proposed across America — a dirty gas boom Bloomberg embraces and wants to expand. According to Global Energy Monitor, there are also 300+ liquid natural gas export terminals under construction in the US, totaling $927 billion in investments. And despite Bloomberg’s bold assertion, no new rules will stop methane from being released during the extraction process, and of course, there are carbon dioxide emissions along every step of the natural gas lifecycle — from drilling to transporting to burning, which releases a fair amount of CO2 as well.

It’s also well-documented that natural gas pipelines crisscrossing the country are major contributors to climate change. These pipes are leaking a lot more methane than Bloomberg and his pals at the Sierra Club would like to admit. Methane emissions are considered 84 timesmore potent than CO2 in the initial twenty years after being released, which means methane has a more immediate impact on our climate than burning coal. In the US, these leaks account for approximately 32 percent of the natural gas industry’s total methane pollution.

Bloomberg believes capitalism and massive interests in natural gas will save our planet. He’s dead wrong. If Democrats nominate this billionaire huckster, they’ll get what they deserve. It’s just too bad the rest of the planet will end up paying the price.


JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book, co-authored with Jeffrey St. Clair, is Big Heat: Earth on the Brink. He can be reached at You can troll him on Twitter @joshua__frank.

Study: Colorado River’s Flow Decreases 9 Percent With Every Degree Of Warming ~ KNAU radio, Northern Arizona University

FEB 21, 2020

A new paper published today in Science shows a rising risk of water shortages in the Colorado River Basin. Scientists say diminishing snowpack from climate change plays a critical role—not just because snow supplies the river with water, but because it acts as a protective shield against evaporation. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with lead author Chris Milly of the U.S. Geological Survey.


The Colorado River at Navajo Bridge

Melissa Sevigny: Your study was about what’s going to happen to the Colorado River as the world continues to get warmer. What did you find out?

Chris Milly: We wanted to know what to expect about the future for the Colorado River since it is the major source of water supply for the U.S. Southwest….We analyzed historical data for streamflow, climate, that is, precipitation and temperature, we even looked at satellite observations from the last couple of decades which allow us to see how white the basin looks, that is, how much snow can be seen from space. After all that analysis we were able to determine how sensitive the flow of the river is to rising temperatures.

I have the number here with me, so you found the river’s flow decreases about 9 percent per every degree Celsius of warming.

That number is not the highest number that’s been reported in the past… The range goes from 2 to 15. We were able, we think, to nail down what this number really is, and why previous studies have had such a wide dispersion of their estimates.

So one of the unique things about your approach was looking at the reflection of sunlight off the snow affects the environment, can you talk about that?

That’s right. That’s the thing I found most fascinating about this study. As the snow cover dwindles due to warming, it’s reflecting less sunlight back to the atmosphere. So the basin’s absorbing more sunlight. That sunlight is powering evaporation out of the basin. Now when that evaporation—the water is taken out of the basin due to the evaporation, there’s less water flowing down the river to the 40 million people that are waiting for it.

So on our current track of warming, what do you think the Colorado River is going to look like a couple of decades from now?

Going into the future, there’s a large degree of uncertainty of how the climate is going to be changing… If we take the changes in temperature alone, something we’re pretty clear about what’s going on, the effect of those warming temperatures by the middle of the century, the year 2050, are expected to decrease the flow of the river from its historical levels by anywhere from 14-31 percent. If precipitation is brought in, that range becomes bigger on both ends. We might see in the very, very best case, a couple percent increase in the flow, but if you look at the range of projections for precipitation changes they take you down to as much as a 40 percent decrease in flow when combined with the warming that’s going on.

Chris Milly, thank you so much for joining me today.

Pleasure to be here.

Warmest January Ever Puts 2020 on Track to Be One of Top 10 Hottest Years ~ NYT

The Charles River Esplanade park in Boston in January. Temperatures climbed into the low 70s in many places in Massachusetts. 
Credit…Steven Senne/Associated Press

It may only be February, but 2020 is already “virtually certain” to be among the 10 warmest years on record, and has nearly a 50 percent chance of being the warmest ever, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

The predictions follow a January that was the warmest ever in 141 years of record keeping, Karin Gleason, a climatologist with the National Centers for Environmental Information, said in a conference call. Global average temperatures last month were 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit (1.14 degrees Celsius) above average, slightly higher than in January 2016, the previous record-holder.

In comparing this year with previous years, Ms. Gleason said, one way to look at it is “we completed the first lap in a 12-lap race, and we are in the lead.”

“According to our probability statistics, it’s virtually certain that 2020 will rank among the top 10 years on record,” she said. Their analysis also showed a 49 percent chance of this year being the warmest ever, and a greater than 98 percent likelihood it will rank in the top five.

The forecasts are in keeping with a long-term trend of global warming that is occurring as a result of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. All of the 10 current warmest years on record have occurred since 2004, and the past five years have been the hottest five. Last year was only slightly cooler than 2016, the hottest year ever.

The record warmth in January was all the more remarkable because it occurred when the world was no longer in the midst of an El Niño event.

An El Niño, which is linked to warmer than average sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, can affect weather patterns worldwide and also lead to generally warmer temperatures. A strong El Niño during the first half of 2016, for example, contributed to the record temperatures that year.

But the latest El Niño ended last year, and ocean temperatures in the Pacific have returned to much closer to normal. “We’re in sort of new territory here with a record in a non-El Niño month,” Ms. Gleason said.

2019 Was the Second-Hottest Year Ever, Closing Out the Warmest Decade
Antarctica Sets Record High Temperature: 64.9 Degrees (A uncomfirmed 70 Degree high was reported a few days later.)

March Temperatures in Alaska: 20 Degrees Hotter Than Usual

January temperatures were much warmer than average across most regions of the world, with Eastern Europe and Russia having the greatest departures from normal. Australia and Eastern China were also much warmer than usual. Central India was one of the few regions with cooler than average temperatures.

Temperatures last month were also warmer than average across the contiguous United States and much of Canada. Alaska was cooler than average, but NOAA forecasts for the next few months call for a return to the above-average warmth that has been the norm in Alaska in recent years and that has led to a large decline in sea ice, particularly off the state’s west coast.

NOAA is forecasting warmer-than-average temperatures into May across most of the country, from the West through the Southwest, Southeast, Midwest and into the Northeast. There is also a likelihood of a wet spring across most of the eastern half of the country.

California and the Southwest are expected to be dry, likely leading to the return of drought to California and intensification of drought in the Four Corners of the Southwest, NOAA said.

Flat-earth society president dies

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Video shows daredevil Mike Hughes and his self-made rocket falling to the ground and crashing in a desert near Barstow, Calif., shortly after launch on Feb. 22. (Spectee/AP)
Feb. 22, 2020 at 9:19 p.m. MST


BARSTOW, Calif. — A self-styled daredevil died Saturday after a rocket in which he launched himself crashed into the ground, a colleague and a witness said.


“Mad” Mike Hughes died after the homemade rocket crashed on private property near Barstow about 1:52 p.m. near Highway 247, the Daily Press of Victorville reported.

Waldo Stakes, a colleague who was at the rocket launch, said Hughes, 64, was killed.

“It was unsuccessful, and he passed away,” Stakes told The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

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“The Day Democracy Died” ~ pretty cool video sung to “The Day the Music Died”, by songwriter Don McLean

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~~~  WATCH  ~~~

Some of the Founders and Framers of the Constitution did more than turn over in their graves… they actually resurfaced to sing “The Day Democracy Died.” That, plus they “dig those rhythm and blues!

Review: As ‘Better Call Saul’ Returns, ‘Breaking Bad’ Comes Into View ~ NYT

In the fifth season of AMC’s esteemed drama, Jimmy McGill completes his transformation into Saul Goodman and the show’s separate story lines also start to converge.

Credit…Greg Lewis/AMC



“Better Call Saul” begins its fifth season, per established practice, with a black-and-white, vérité-style peek into the grim future of the shady lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). Fearing that his cover as an anonymous fast-food manager has been blown, he’s descending into paranoia, camped in his dark apartment, peeking through the blinds.

These season-opening scenes serve as a kind of narrative relief valve, alleviating some of the sense of determinism inherent in a show that’s a prequel to a series, “Breaking Bad,” whose events and characters tended to have big, bold outlines. This time around, though, the flash forward offers an unexpected bit of fan service: an appearance by the vacuum cleaner repairman Ed Galbraith, played, as he was in “Breaking Bad” and the film “El Camino,” by the great character actor Robert Forster, who died in October.

Forster’s brief, characteristically businesslike turn in “Better Call Saul” is like a blessing, and it reinforces a tone: laconic, no-nonsense, amused by life’s absurdities but rarely taken by surprise. As with so many of Forster’s roles, you suspect he is there to show you how the creators (in this case Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould) would like to see themselves and their story.

So in Season 5, which begins Sunday on AMC, the best thing about “Better Call Saul” is still its minimalism, its quiet spaces, its willingness to linger on details, like a frazzled prosecutor’s struggle to get a bag of chips out of a courthouse vending machine.

But “Better Call Saul” is also on a clock. We know where Jimmy is headed, and in the opening episodes of the new season (four were made available) the springs of the narrative start to tighten more noticeably.

Jimmy’s assumption of the even smarmier, less scrupulous persona of Saul Goodman, begun at the end of Season 4, is quickly completed, over the protests of his girlfriend and fellow lawyer, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn). And Jimmy’s story arc, focused through four seasons on his problematic law career and his relationships with Kim and his overbearing older brother Chuck (Michael McKean), finally definitively crosses over with that of the drug-dealing rivals Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Lalo Salamanca (Tony Dalton).

Jimmy McGill’s ethical decline, symbolized by his new Saul Goodman persona, complicates his relationship with his girlfriend, played by Rhea Seehorn.
Credit…Greg Lewis/AMC


A hiccup in the Salamanca supply line, detailed in the style of studiously deadpan comedy at which the show excels, brings Jimmy in, and as the cartel lieutenant Nacho (Michael Mando) tells him, “When you’re in, you’re in.” Once there, he encounters a pair of DEA agents, Hank and Steven (Dean Norris and Steven Michael Quezada). And voilà, the outlines of “Breaking Bad” start to come into focus.

All of this is presented with the show’s usual high degree of technical and dramatic accomplishment, and its alternately peppery and dreamlike evocations of the Southwestern landscape, urban and desert. There may be a downside, though, if a slight one, to the approach of the show’s inevitable conclusion and a perceived need to lock in on its themes. In the new season it pauses occasionally to spell out Jimmy’s reasons for becoming Saul (as Jimmy, he’d always be Chuck’s loser brother), as if the flow of the story itself isn’t enough to persuade us, which might be true.

A comic montage shows a couple of stoners going on a spree of petty crime, drug use and general life wastage because of Saul’s offer of a 50 percent discount on legal services. A subplot involves Kim’s being forced to leave her pro bono work to do a job for her corporate employer, Mesa Verde, forcing an old man out of his house. (The codger is played by Barry Corbin, another instance of the show giving work to accomplished veteran actors.)

Both of those sequences are handled faultlessly, but they’re also a little more on the nose than we’re used to from “Better Call Saul” — they push us just a little harder than we need to be pushed toward appreciating Jimmy’s corruption and Kim’s ambivalence. (The same could be said of a repeated motif in which episodes end with scenes of broken, castoff objects — a garden gnome, an ice cream cone, bottles of beer.)

To repeat a contrarian view that I’ve advanced before, my attention is more likely to flag during the Jimmy-Kim American-dream scenes than it is during the scenes from the drug plot, which may be more formulaic but are imbued with humor, tension and their own nuances of feeling. (For the other side of the argument, read my colleague James Poniewozik here.)_

Part of this has to do with the presence, on that side of the show, of engaging performers like Esposito, Jonathan Banks as the steadfast enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut (having his own moral crisis now, after the killing of the gentle German engineer, Werner) and especially Dalton as the charismatic Lalo, a wonderful creation whose menace is ever-present and hardly visible. The more we see of them, as the story lines converge, the better for “Better Call Saul.”

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