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How Much Damage Can Trump Do to The United States?

The Damage Donald Trump’s Done: 

As he sinks lower, he does lasting harm to America's image in the world.

There appears to be no bottom to the depths Donald Trump will plumb in his quest for the title of President of the United States.

Campaigns reveal character. Trump entered the Republican contest well known for qualities that made him a reality-TV star, among them egotism, bully-boy toughness and gross excess. The run has further — and mercilessly — revealed his essence.

He is a liar. He is a thief. He is a victimizer. He is vulgar. He is a racialist, if not a racist. He is shameless, if not conscienceless.

His insinuation in a presidential debate that he is well-endowed genitally unpardonably demeaned the office he seeks and the nation he hopes to lead.

Mark the time: At approximately 9:06 p.m. on March 3, 2016, the dignity of the American political process expired.

There is surely worse to come, because, graceless when buoyed by cheers, Trump responds to criticism or pressure like a toddler. He calls names (little Marco, and lying Ted), screams (Wrong! Wrong!) and unabashedly denies reality (he never went bankrupt).

His spectacle has confirmed that Trump is unfit to serve as President by virtue of the DNA of his personality — yet he rolls on with enough support in a weak and fractured field to hold the Republican Party hostage to a mob.

Trump’s singular unsuitability, lack of preparation and unwillingness to understand what little he knows inflict terrible consequences on the Republic.

Attempting to project strength as a potential commander in chief of a country threatened by radical Islamist terror, Trump bragged a month ago that he would subject captured jihadists to torture.

“I would bring back waterboarding,” and “I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Simultaneously, he said he would order America’s military to kill terrorists’ families — deliberately targeting non-combatant women and children.

In fact, he was promising to commit war crimes by subjecting suspected terrorists and relatives to treatment banned under international human-rights law.

Could he be serious, he was asked at a rally? Yes he was. Pausing before answering, he used vulgarity in a juvenile attempt to diminish rival Ted Cruz, a supporter of waterboarding.

After leading foreign policy experts said that military commanders would be honor-bound to refuse a torture order from a President Trump, the tower of testosterone declared at Thursday night’s debate: “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.”

Then, wiser heads took Trump to school to learn basics that, it seemed, everyone else in America had long ago learned.

On Friday, Trump acknowledged that “the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.” No one who aspires to the presidency should ever have to provide such an assurance.

He added: “It is clear that as President I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”

Which is not at all certain.

Trump’s endorsement of atrocities seriously damaged America, along with what little claim he has to the office. The much-presumed Republican presidential candidate showed the world that he has no regard for solemn human rights obligations, flaunted his barbarity and was cheered.

Draw the line for America’s enemies: Abu Ghraib — Guantanamo — Donald Trump.

On the domestic front, consider the flim-flam fleecings perpetrated by Trump University.

Exploiting his overblown image as a master businessman, Trump’s enterprise lured students into paying increasingly large amounts of money on the promise that his “hand-picked” instructors (few were) would teach the secrets for financial success.

Right out of the gate, New York State authorities told Trump that he could not call an institution that had no charter and failed to grant degrees a “university.” Ignoring the directive, Trump plowed ahead, taking the money of thousands and giving them next to nothing in return.

He faces three lawsuits, including one lodged by the New York attorney general in which 5,000 people assert they were conned out of a total of $40 million.

Trump dismisses the suits as small matters and defends Trump University’s offerings by citing, among other things, an A rating by the Better Business Bureau. Actually the BBB’s last mark was D minus.

Unless he settles for payments of extraordinary amounts of money, Trump would stand for election or enter the White House on trial for thievery — which would surely be proven.

The evidence of Trump’s instability, of his irresponsibility, of his pathological penchant for putting the dark art of the deal over telling the truth, is overwhelming.

Regardless, rivals Cruz, Rubio and John Kasich said at the close of the debate that they would support Trump as presidential nominee, certifying his fitness for the White House and placing the GOP in his ever more destructive hands.

They were cowards when the Republican party and the nation needed courage.

Trump’s Secretary of State Pick and Putin Want to Drill for Oil in the Arctic

On Friday, President Obama signed an executive order to protect part of Alaska’s Arctic known as the North Bering Sea from future oil well drilling. The news was met with enthusiasm by environmentalists and Alaska Native tribes, but the celebration was short lived.

The Wall Street Journal reported early Saturday morning that President-elect Donald Trump is expected to tap Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State. On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that he hasn't made a final decision, but said that Tillerson is a "world class player and dealmaker." If Trump does pick Tillerson for Secretary of State, that will make the CEO of the third largest petroleum company in the world America’s top diplomat.

Trump’s choice is less than surprising given that the president-elect has expressed a desire to normalize relationships with the Kremlin. During his ten year reign at the helm of Exxon, Tillerson has been noted for his close ties to Russia, which began when he oversaw Sakhalin-I, Exxon’s flagship drilling project in Russia that began in 1996.

Most recently Tillerson brokered a massive deal with the Russian state oil company Rosneft to explore for oil in the Russian part of the Arctic Ocean in 2011. The deal also gave Rosneft significant holdings in oil resources in other countries, including the US.

The Exxon-Rosneft project, which was estimated to be worth “tens of billions” of dollars on the low end and up to $500 billion on the high end, drilled its first Arctic exploration well and struck oil in 2014.

Just days after the company announced it had hit oil in the Arctic, Exxon had to withdraw from its deal with Rosneft after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine. In 2015, Exxon filed a report with the US Securities and Exchange Commission detailing that the US sanctions on Russia had lost the oil giant up to $1 billion in revenue.

Unsurprisingly, Tillerson has spoken against sanctions on Russia so that Exxon can continue drilling in the Arctic.

“We don’t find [the sanctions] to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do,” Tiller said during the annual Exxon shareholder meeting in 2014. “So we always encourage the people who are making those decisions to consider the very broad collateral damage of who are they really harming with sanctions and what are their objectives and whether sanctions are really effective or not.”

Even though recent US orders to keep its portion of the Arctic oil well-free would be difficult for Trump to overturn, it is comparatively easy for the president-elect and his top pick for Secretary of State to lift sanctions on Russia, which is ramping up oil extraction in the Arctic.

Unfortunately, though the US and Russia have drawn political lines over the Arctic, the ecosystem itself is not so easily divided. The Arctic Ocean is one of the most pristine marine environments in the world and is home to a number of species unique to the region, many of whom are already being seriously impacted by climate change-induced ice melts. This area is also important as a major global fishery that provides sustenance not only to indigenous communities in the region, but the rest of the world as well.

Drilling in the region is particularly dangerous because there is no effective way to contain and clean up an oil spill in icy water, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. For a company like Exxon (which doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to oil spills), a spill on the order of the 1989 Exxon Valdez crisis in the Arctic would devastate the region.

“At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run U.S. foreign policy,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement published on Saturday. 

“ExxonMobil not only deliberately concealed its knowledge of climate change for decades but is responsible for one of the costliest environmental disasters in history. We urge Senators…to stand up for families across the country and the world and oppose this nomination.”

The Earth's Poles Have Lost Enough Ice to Cover Texas Four Times

As if 2016 wasn’t rough enough, climate scientists recently discovered parts of Antarctica have now melted. The polar continent’s ice shelf had been spared from rising global temperatures until this year.

Ice shelves in Antarctica had generally remained steady, and even grew, despite the steady collapse of ice up north in the Arctic. But this year, researchers recorded ice receding at both the northern and southern poles, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado.

In fact, the center recorded that the Arctic and Antarctic combined had shrunk 3.8 million square kilometers below the 1981-2010 average ice cover as of Dec. 4, which is enough ice to cover all of Texas four-and-a-half times.

Antarctica alone shrunk about 2 million square kilometers, according to data from the center, from its 1981-2010 average as of November—but the center’s research shows it could gain 0.4 percent of its mass back per decade from certain parts of the continent refreezing as usual. The Arctic shrunk about 2.3 million square kilometers during that time, and it’s on track to diminish 5 percent per decade.

All of this is bad news for land dwellers since increased ice melt means greater levels of sea level rise. With cities such as Miami, Florida, and Annapolis, Maryland, already dealing with sea flooding during high tides, other cities may soon have to set up sea walls and drainage systems.

A 2014 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists expect dozens of coastal cities, including Washington D.C., to be affected by seawater flooding by 2045. 

Donald Trump’s Interior Pick Thinks Climate Change Is ‘Creative Writing’

Today, Donald Trump nominated his pick for Secretary of the Interior: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference, and a vocal climate change denier.

Just days after selecting Scott Pruitt—an attorney general whose pockets have been lined by the fossil fuel industry—to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump has beefed up his roster of pro-fossil fuel personalities. At this point, a larger theme is emerging. As president, Trump intends to undo the current administration's climate legacy by unleashing Cabinet officials with experience systematically striking down climate regulations.

According to the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental nonprofit, McMorris Rodgers boasts a lifetime voting score of 4 percent. She’s voted to strike down bills that would limit emissions from power plants, protect communities from toxic coal ash, ban the sale of ivory products in the US, and protect threatened species like the lesser prairie chicken.

As Secretary of the Interior, McMorris Rodgers would have tremendous jurisdiction over the fate of America’s climate future, national parks, and wildlife. The Center for Biological Diversity, an endangered species protection nonprofit, called the congresswoman a “foe” to public lands, having actively promoted “the privatization and industrialization of America’s public lands,” and cosponsored “multiple bills to weaken protections on public land.”

In 2011, McMorris Rodgers supported H.R. 1126, which would have offered up more than 3 million acres of federal lands in the West to private interests. In her role as Secretary, she’ll oversee 20 percent of America’s public lands, including national parks and national wildlife refuges.

Like Pruitt and Trump, McMorris Rodgers also believes that man-made global warming is a hoax. In 2008, during a forum on climate change, the congresswoman said the following: “We believe Al Gore deserves an ‘F’ in science and an ‘A’ in creative writing.” She also told the Spokane Review that, “Scientific reports are inconclusive at best on human culpability of global warming.” (Approximately 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and can be attributed to human activities.)

It’s especially concerning that McMorris Rodgers has voted to weaken the Interior’s power to make decisions based on climate science. In 2014, she opposed an amendment that would allow the Interior Secretary “to include climate change as a consideration in making decisions related to conservation and recreation on public lands.”

“If McMorris Rodgers brings her ideology to management of America’s public lands, it will be open season for polluters who want to frack, drill and mine our public lands and waters,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“She just doesn’t understand that the nation’s public lands are a legacy for this and future generations rather than up for grabs to industry.”

Trump’s EPA Pick Is a Shill For the Oil Industry 
Of all the people Donald Trump was considering to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), his eventual pick, Scott Pruitt, a fellow climate change denier, has the most dangerous ties to the fossil fuel industry.  The news was announced today, after the Oklahoma attorney general beat out four other candidates, including climate change denier Myron Ebell.

Like his competition, Pruitt, a lawyer, possesses the following characteristics: a staunch disbelief in man-made global warming, a disdain for the EPA’s regulatory power, and a strong yearning to undo President Obama’s environmental policy, such as the proposed Clean Power Plan.

Pruitt, in his role as Attorney General, also has experience fighting environmental policies in court. His resume, according to the New York Times, notes him as “a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies.” Earlier this year, Pruitt spearheaded a 28-state lawsuit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against alleged constitutional overstepping by President Obama’s climate rules.

 The Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, and is essential to meeting Paris Agreement goals, was criticized by opponents for being an illegal power-grab by the EPA. The case is expected to move to the Supreme Court.

Pruitt’s most anti-environment quality, however, is conflict of interest, stemming from his mutualistic relationship with the oil and gas industry. In 2014, a New York Times investigation revealed that Pruitt had assembled an alliance between Republican attorneys general and the nation’s biggest energy companies, such as coal producer Murray Energy, and electricity utility Southern Company.

When Pruitt sent a scathing letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson regarding emissions regulations and air pollution, he concealed the fact that it had been drafted by lawyers for Devon Energy, an oil and gas company headquartered in his home-state, Oklahoma. The investigation found that letters sent from Pruitt to President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell were also written by Devon Energy.

“Outstanding!” wrote Devon Energy’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs to Pruitt’s office, referring to the EPA letter. “The timing of this letter is great… We also appreciate the flagging of the issue for other AGs.”

Among Pruitt’s campaign donors since 2010, according to ProPublica, are energy giant ConocoPhillips, and Koch Industries, which boasts ties to the fossil fuel industry at every level.

Yet, despite Trump’s repeated threats to dismantle the EPA, the president-elect won’t find it easy to completely gut the agency—even with Pruitt at its helm. Policy experts theorize that Trump can’t just cancel rules like the Clean Air Act, which regulates the emission of hazardous air pollutants. Instead, the Trump Administration will need to chip away at EPA regulations through Congress, or simply stall or roll back existing laws.

One thing Pruitt can offer Trump, however, is his extensive legal know-how, which according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the attorney general has frequently exercised since accepting the position in 2011. So far, however, he hasn’t been very successful.

“Pruitt has sued the EPA to stop vital protections for public health – including standards for reducing soot and smog pollution that crosses interstate lines; protections against emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and other toxic pollutants from power plants; and standards to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas. Each time he failed,” wrote EDF in a review of Pruitt’s environmental record.

Still, with so many climate change regulations already in the GOP’s crosshairs, Pruitt’s nomination is certain to renege some of President Obama’s environmental achievements. At the very least, it proves that Trump intends to follow through on his most devastating promises regarding our planet.

Why It Matters That Trump's Attorney General Pick Is a Climate Change Skeptic

Jeff Sessions, the ultra-conservative Republican senator from Alabama, has been a controversial political figure for decades. His early career as a US attorney was threatened by allegations of racist remarks in the 1980s, but he remained popular in his home state and managed to carve out a congressional career for himself as a staunch opponent of, among many other things, consensus climate science.

But Sessions is about to get a whole lot more influential to the lives of all Americans: President-elect Donald Trump has picked him to be the next attorney general of the United States.

In what’s become a daily routine during the Trump transitionary period, the president-elect’s pick of Sessions has been met with exasperated outcries. Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are preparing for a long period of conflict under the Trump Administration, and Sessions is sure to be a part of it.

Many critiques of Sessions center on documented accusations of racism. In 1986 he became only the second nominee to be denied a federal judgeship by the Reagan administration after his coworkers testified that he regularly used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan. He's also vocally opposed to legalized marijuana (an "anti-marijuana zealot," in the words of one activist), which could make things awkward for the eight US states (plus D.C.) that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

While his controversial past and hardline stance on immigration reform (he even opposes some types of legal immigration), are enough to raise eyebrows over this appointment, his scientifically unsound denials of climate change have largely been glossed over, so far. The senator is a devoted climate change skeptic and has gone above and beyond to take down Obama’s Clean Power Plan and sow seeds of doubt about the existence of global warming.

As US attorney general, Sessions will be tasked with leading the Justice Department and representing the federal government in legal affairs, which makes his previously reported record on racial issues cause for special concern (especially as minorities have faced historic prejudicial treatment in the US justice system).

But it would also be Sessions’ job to bring cases concerning environmental laws to federal courts if needed. The US Justice Department currently regularly prosecutes individuals and companies for environmental crimes (mainly through its Environment and Natural Resources Division), such as polluting or evading regulations. Given Sessions’ public stances against climate science and environmental legislation, there’s an additional concern that he might ignore certain environmental issues, allowing federal environmental protections to wither.

Sessions has voted against various climate bills in Congress, including President Obama’s comprehensive climate change legislation in 2010, a bill in 2011 that would allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, and another in 2007 that proposed the US government factor in the costs of global warming in future federal projects.

During a Senate hearing on climate change in 2012, Sessions led the charge against climate science. As reported by the political news site ThinkProgress, Sessions was incredulous when he was informed by the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee that 98 percent of climate scientists believe anthropogenic warming was real and serious.

“Madam Chairman, I am offended by that, I’m offended by that — I didn’t say anything about the scientists. I said the data shows it is not warming to the degree that a lot of people predicted, not close to that much,” Sessionshe said.

In 2015, during a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed budget for 2016, Sessions took hold of the questioning and careened it off course, turning it instead into an interrogation of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on the Clean Power Plan and its proposed emissions cuts for power plants. The senator used models of very recent weather trends, like decreased hurricane landfall and slightly increased soil moisture in the last ten years, to try and ensnare McCarthy in what the Washington Post regarded as “a series of ‘gotchas.’”

Unprepared for such an attack, the EPA administrator was knocked off balance and didn’t have direct answers. Sessions balked, stating: “This is a stunning development: that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who should know more than anybody else in the world, who’s imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in costs to prevent this climate—temperature increase, doesn’t know whether their projections have been right or wrong.”

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sessions, a climate change skeptic, was picked to be apart of the president-elect’s team. Trump himself famously declared that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese. Mike Pence, his vice president-elect, is also on record denying climate change (although he has softened his tone in recent months).

The facts, meanwhile, say otherwise. Now, 98 percent of climate scientists do confirm that anthropogenic warming is real and dangerous. And 2016 is likely to steal the crown yet again as the hottest year on record, up from 2015 before that, and 2014 before that. But this won’t likely sway Sessions or this administration’s opinion. The fact that the Arctic just entered its long night of winter at a temperature 36 degrees above what it should be won’t have any impact on their beliefs either.

Covering Up Climate Change So Businesses can Keep on Destroying the Planet for Profit

For instance, the State Department “retired” climate change from its “global issues" section, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration delayed the publication of climate change data because of “White House concern about the subject’s political sensitivity,” and the Environmental Protection Agency’s pages on global warming and global climate change research stopped being updated shortly after Bush took office. A high-ranking scientist at NOAA told the report’s author that “anything dealing with climate change had to be pre-approved at the White House level,” including the content on his laboratory’s website. Bush also shut down the EPA’s research libraries, an action that triggered an investigation from the Government Accountability Office.

It wasn’t just Bush—anti-environment politicians such as Stephen Harper in Canada and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have muzzled and censored scientists, as well as made government data less accessible from websites. Journalist James Rowen has been keeping an exhaustive blog about Walker’s war on the environment.

    "It’s prudent for folks to download the science that’s easily available now"

With the Trump presidency looming, many scientists who studied Bush’s policies are starting a mad dash to preserve climate science that has been made available under President Obama based on fears that it might no longer be publicly accessible. Several professors I spoke to say that officials who work for the government’s science departments are privately imploring researchers outside the government to download what they can now, or risk losing access to it later. NOAA and the EPA did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for NASA told me the agency is “apolitical” and that it is “committed to doing whatever we can to assist in making the Executive Branch transition a smooth transition.”

Scientists who don’t have to worry about upsetting their future bosses, however, tell a very different story.

“My expectation and fear is we are going to see round two of Bush,” Robert Paterson, co-director of the Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas’s School of Architecture, told me. Paterson posted about his concerns on a Facebook group for professors called Planners 2040 earlier this month. “The appointments are hostile to climate change, so I think it’s prudent for folks to download the science that’s easily available now, because you may have to file a [Freedom of Information request] later to get it.”

While it’s easy to scrape an HTML website, Paterson and others are worried that, for instance, a NOAA database and tool regularly used by city planners to calculate sea level rise could be pulled offline.

“It’s less the documents, which we can get through alternative means,” he said. “The bigger issue in my mind is the access to databases and analytic software that public dollars paid for which by administrative fiat they may remove. I use the NOAA sea level rise projection database for discussion in my environmental impact assessment class. I use the greenhouse gas emission calculator for analysis of major federal climate actions.”

One of the main concerns is that a Trump presidency doesn’t even have to purposefully take down these tools—many of them will simply break or become useless without being regularly updated.

“While we may not see the straightforward deleting of data, we expect to see access to data starved out,” Michelle Murphy and Patrick Keilty, who are spearheading a “Guerrilla Archiving” event at the University of Toronto, told me in an email. “It takes effort and money to keep databases and portals updated and maintained, and to make them publicly available. Moreover, data can move from being publicly shared through portals that make it immediately accessible to less accessible, but still technically public forms of availability.”

In addition to the guerrilla archiving initiative, researchers at Carnegie Mellon, the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Pennsylvania are working on pre-Trump hackathons and other data retention plans. Professors at each of those universities expressed similar concerns, and said they would be working together to make sure that their projects didn’t overlap. At Carnegie Mellon, for instance, associate professor Chris Labash is heading up a series of projects that will determine just how much data is lost under Trump.

    "The ephemerality of web content is something people don’t think about until there’s a catalyzing event"

"It's a bundle of research projects including looking at the tone, tenor, and trustworthiness of .gov communications, the topology of information, the commitment to information sharing with the public, what happens to information when an agency, department, or initiative is eliminated, and many other projects," Labash told me of the work.

The most important and long-running effort to compile a complete picture of the government’s websites as they stand today, however, is a joint project between the Internet Archive, the Library of Congress, and several other universities around the country. Called the “End of Term Web Archive,” the project compiled full snapshots of government websites at the end of the 2008 and 2012 terms. This project, unfortunately, likely won’t be able to capture many of the databases that professors are worried about losing. It will, however, be the most complete archive of government websites as they stand today.

“We basically crawl as much as we can—.gov, .mil, government websites that are not .gov, and social media accounts,” Jefferson Bailey, director of web archiving at the Internet Archive, told me. “We collect a lot of government web content in our regular course of activities, but we put a lot more resources into acquiring these resources before and after transition. It allows researchers to perform a longitudinal analysis of what disappears and how much content is on any given site.”

The team recently started crawling as many sites as possible—hundreds of millions of unique URLs—and will continue to crawl for two months after the inauguration. In 2008, it collected roughly 16 terabytes of information; in 2012, it collected about 21 terabytes. This year, it’s expecting the entirety of the government’s websites to be between 30 and 40 terabytes.

“We’re doing this as part of our own institutional goals,” Abigail Grotke, who is heading up the project for the Library of Congress, told me. “There are a lot of things going on in the government, and we want to take a snapshot of that.”

While the End of Term archive is a routine, nonpartisan project, both Grotke and Bailey say that there has been an increased sense of urgency this year as academics have expressed their concerns about the potential for data destruction under Trump.

“We’ve definitely seen much more attention to the issue with this transition than previous ones,” Bailey said. “The ephemerality of web content is something people don’t think about until there’s a catalyzing factor or event.” 

 Trump's Pick for Attorney General Will Likely Crack Down on Cannabis 

The election was a massive win for weed, with eight states voted to legalize adult use or medical marijuana, which upped the total number of green states to 29. However, with the election of Donald Trump, and more so his incoming administration, state marijuana programs are under threat.

"By and large, from a drug policy reform perspective, Trump's appointees so far are a nightmare," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy organization, told Motherboard.

Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions has had a historically hostile attitude toward marijuana law reform. As a U.S. Attorney in the 1980s, the now-senator from Alabama had gone on record saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan were okay until he found out they smoked pot. He's called marijuana law reform a "tragic mistake" and said that "good people don't smoke marijuana." Sessions has also criticized the Obama administration for not rigorously enforcing federal marijuana prohibition in states with adult use or medical marijuana policies.

In essence, we're dealing with a prohibitionist who would do Nixon and Reagan era drug warriors proud. One who disagrees with 60 percent of the American people who think marijuana should be legal.

    He's called marijuana law reform a "tragic mistake" and said that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

Growers, dispensary owners, product manufacturers, and marijuana users—all criminal under federal law—could easily risk arrest if Sessions so chooses to spend taxpayers' money on targeting the $6.7 billion legally compliant cannabis industry.

In regard to drug policy reform, Sessions opposes sentencing reform, which would have helped avoid the expensive and controversial practice of putting people in jail for decades for carrying a few ounces of weed. He’s also against consent decrees, which address civil rights issues like police brutality and racial profiling, and granting those who have been incarcerated voting rights— like 30 percent of black men in the Deep South.

Sessions also supports civil asset forfeiture, which allows cops to keep convicts' money and property for themselves, wrote Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. With Sessions as attorney general, the Drug War could be used to spy on, investigate, incarcerate, and deport immigrants, Muslims, and other groups that Trump has repeatedly targeted on the campaign trail, according to Piper.

"I still think the marijuana industry in states like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, where the framework has been set in a complete and well regulated way, will be allowed to do business and more and more states are falling in right behind," said Anthony Franciosi, founder of Honest Marijuana, an organic marijuana company in Colorado.

But he also thinks that the new administration could use their power to stop marijuana cultivation or sales, and the burden would fall on home growers and medical programs. The best way for cannabis industry folk to protect themselves, Franciosi recommends, is to follow state law as meticulously as possible.

At the federal level, a few measures may help state marijuana, but whether they'll be enough is up for debate. The Cole Memorandum, issued in 2013, is a guidance memo for the justice department not to challenge the state-compliant marijuana industry. "It does not codify any change in federal policy and it can readily be ignored or rebuked by the new administration," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

    The best way for cannabis industry folk to protect themselves is to follow state law as meticulously as possible.

There's also the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment, which prohibits the justice department from using federal money to prosecute those who comply with their state marijuana laws. However, that amendment needs to be renewed annually. "It is possible that Congress will not do so in 2017 because new House rules forbid the House of Representatives from considering the issue," said Armentano. Neither, the Cole Memo nor the Rohrabacher amendment are ingrained as permanent policy.

Another option could be for states to pass legislation saying that they won't cooperative with federal agents who try to interfere with state marijuana programs, says Amanda Reiman, marijuana law and policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. "I think at the end of the day, the more robust a state regulatory system is, the better off they're going to be."

Todd Mitchem, a Colorado-based entrepreneur who works with lawmakers to ensure high standards for operating in the cannabis industry, recommends that the cannabis community look at how what a reversal of marijuana laws would do to states' rights in general.

"If worse came to worse and a universal federal reversal was executed, it would not only be a very time consuming process to redefine marijuana legalization across the nation, but it could also start a state by state nationwide federal lawsuit surge arguing that the federal government is sending mixed messages," he said.

Moreover, Mitchem added, if the new attorney general wants to increase the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spending budget to go after the cannabis industry, he would need to submit the new plan and hope Congress approves the massive expenditure to go after state-compliant marijuana businesses. Which could take years.

Mitchem pointed out that to actually reverse marijuana legalization policies would be a huge financial and burden and time drain for the incoming administration to fight drug policy reform advocates, cannabis industry folk, and individual state legislatures.

Moreover, doing so would detract DEA time and resources from fighting more serious drugs like meth and heroin, which is now a bigger threat to our lives than guns.

 How Much Damage Can Trump Do
The queue of activists, interest groups, and ordinary people wringing their hands over what a President Donald Trump might do in office is long, and environmentalists are at the front of the line. Trump has issued threats and taken stands that are cause for alarm. But put aside for a moment his instincts and intentions, and take a step back. What would, or could, a President Trump actually do? There’s nothing about the answer that should make greens leap with joy—he will never be known as the Environmental President, nor would he want to be. But the limits on his freedom of maneuver are immense, in this area as in almost every other that involves the administration of a mammoth federal government. And thankfully, there is little sign that he appreciates this fact.

On the “policies” page of Trump’s official Web site, the word “environment” does not appear anywhere. You can find a page on energy that includes a pledge to “unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas,” which doubtless would have environmental implications. But direct statements about green issues are few and vague: promises to make the country energy-independent while “protect[ing] clean air and clean water” and “conserv[ing] our natural habitats”; a vow in the infrastructure section to “make clean water a priority” (by which Trump apparently means drinking water, not rivers, lakes, and wetlands); and an offhand guarantee that a Trump administration would “eliminate our most intrusive regulations, like the Waters of the U.S. Rule” and the “Clean Power Plan.”

Candidate Trump made promises that are not reflected on any official Web site. Many of these seem like expressions of random pique—a tweeted oath to reverse President Obama’s 2015 decision to change the name of Mt. McKinley to Mt. Denali, for instance. A few apply to the environment, such as candidate Trump’s call (also on Twitter) for “clean, beautiful and healthy air—not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit!” (Ironically, businessman Trump is simultaneously begging the Irish government to let him build a seawall to protect his golf course in County Clare from “global warming and its effects.”) After the election, Trump put Myron Ebell, a pro-pesticide, climate-change skeptic from the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, in charge of the “E.P.A. transition.” Overall, Trump has mainly used environmental issues as a goad to rile up crowds of economically anxious rural men who see environmentalists as a code word for “snobby urban elites.”

These applause lines fall into two broad categories: jeremiads against the “Department of Environment Protection,” as he noted at one debate, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency, and green regulations in general; and denunciations of climate change as an elitist hoax. In both areas, however, Trump is likely to discover that the subjects are nightmarishly wonky and that he has much less room to maneuver than he apparently thinks.

When it comes to E.P.A. regulations, consider the fortunes of the previous Republican president, George W. Bush. Two months after taking office, in 2001, Bush announced that he was going to withdraw new E.P.A. rules that restricted arsenic levels in drinking water—a victory for the mining industry and a symbolic slap at the Clinton administration, which had pushed through the legislation in its final days. Public reaction was fierce and, it seemed, surprising to Bush. Americans are willing to cheer on politicians who denounce bureaucratic overreach and job-killing red tape in abstract terms. But they turn out to like specific regulations against toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Panicking, Republican legislators, including die-hard E.P.A. haters, led a drive to cut arsenic even further than Bill Clinton had proposed. Seven months after noisily revoking the E.P.A. rules, Bush quietly allowed them to go into effect.

Among the few explicit environmental policies that Trump has announced is the desire to “eliminate the highly invasive ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule.” Technically, WOTUS, as it is called, defines which U.S. rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Practically, WOTUS is the latest round in a seemingly endless battle over the Clean Water Act. The law is intended to regulate “navigable waters” like the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, but it doesn’t spell out how far protections must go upstream to keep those “navigable waters” clean. Should you monitor only the tributaries of rivers, or worry about the wetlands that filter the water that goes into those tributaries? Over the years, the E.P.A. extended the law, on dubious legal grounds, to include isolated ponds and marshes used by migratory birds. Opponents called this a massive D.C. power grab; supporters said it was necessary to protect the nation’s water and wildlife. The fight has been to the Supreme Court twice since 2000, with confusing results. WOTUS, now on hold while under review from the Sixth Circuit, will end up putting the issue again to the Supreme Court—unless Trump, as he has promised, sends the E.P.A. back to the drawing board for the zillionth time.

Prediction is a mug’s game, but taking the side of water polluters has not been a winning political strategy for 50 years. Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II all undertook to weaken water regulations in the name of economic growth. They left office; the regulations remained.

If Trump goes ahead—if POTUS revokes WOTUS—the effect will be to leave in place the existing and complex jumble of state, local, and tribal water rules. According to the State Association of Wetland Managers, 35 states now have their own definition of “wetlands.” Twenty-five states have wetland and waterways programs completely separate from the Corps and E.P.A. Thirty-four states have some form of wetlands monitoring. Thirty-one states apply federal water-quality standards to their own wetlands. Many other states simply apply their general water-pollution standards to swamps and marshes, an even more stringent standard. Some Western states have collaborative water agreements with Indian tribes—Washington state, for instance, monitors a number of its rivers to protect spawning salmon, which are promised to native peoples under 19th-century treaties. And on and on. Pity the poor flunky who has to explain this to Mr. Short Attention Span in the Oval Office.

These laws won’t vanish. And corporate America—this may come as a surprise—is not likely to lend much weight to removing the E.P.A.’s oversight. Doing so, after all, will leave industry dealing with the patchwork of state and local regulations that it has been decrying for decades. It will also be left with the hundreds of vehement green organizations that use those regulations to stall and stop projects they don’t like. If I am a corporate executive, do I want well-heeled, suburban NIMBY-ites setting the standards via lawsuits? Or would I rather have the E.P.A.? Historically, industry prefers Washington. The Trump Organization is an example. Even though it has fought countless battles with local green groups, the company’s chief environmental consultant, Ed Russo, recently explained that Trump has followed federal land and water rules so diligently that the president-elect is actually an environmental hero.

Trump may have more of a chance to roll back environmental rules if he turns to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE, pronounced like a cup of coffee) standards, which were dramatically increased by Obama in 2012. Average fuel efficiency for new-model cars is supposed to rise to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, though because of the absurd way that Washington measures mileage, the actual figure will be more like 36 miles per gallon. Detroit complains about CAFE, because—as car aficionados constantly marvel—Americans have a peculiar attachment to costly, inefficient, badly handling vehicles, and it is hard to convince them to buy cheaper, nimbler, safer models. Trump could, in theory, change or eliminate the standards, which have a handy “mid-program review period” to allow for modifications.

But even if Trump wants to do this, carmakers will still have to deal with the California Air Resources Board. CARB is a perpetual candidate for Most Important Government Body You Have Never Heard Of. It set up, among other things, California’s Zero Emission Vehicle rules, which have paved the way for electric cars. CARB is influential because its standards have largely been adopted by 13 other states and the District of Columbia, representing about 40 percent of the automobile market in the U.S. CAFE or no CAFE, Detroit will still have to make fuel-efficient cars. And don’t forget international sales. At the moment, about 80 percent of the world auto market is regulated for efficiency or carbon-dioxide emissions, and most of the standards are stronger than their U.S. equivalents. Unless Detroit wants to stop selling cars to the world, it will have to meet the world’s rules.

Most of Trump’s environmental promises are byproducts of his apparent desire to unleash the U.S. energy industry, a reliable G.O.P. crowd-pleaser since the days of Sarah Palin’s “Drill, baby, drill!” But go back again to the election of 2000, when George W. Bush, a Texas oil man, was handed the presidency by the Supreme Court. Every February, the National Association of Petroleum Engineers hosts a summit in Houston. NAPE is to the oil and gas industry what Cannes is to the movie industry—the place and time where hot properties are bought and sold. In 2001, according to one energy consultant who was there, “everybody in Houston was dancing with glee—they thought they were going to be drilling on the White House lawn! Guess what? It didn’t happen.”

And it probably will continue not to happen. Oil and gas prices worldwide right now are very low, because—far from being hobbled by restrictions, as Trump apparently thinks we are—the United States is producing vast amounts of oil and gas, thanks largely to Obama-administration policies. Most of this petroleum is from fracking. Because the cost of fracking has continuously fallen, production has proceeded almost unabated despite the low price. Oil and gas storage and inventories are at high and even record levels. There isn’t all that much unmet demand.

If, as Trump promises, U.S. petroleum companies “unleash $50 trillion“ in new energy, the environment will not be the biggest loser. The biggest loser will be the coal industry. Last year, U.S. coal production, consumption, and employment fell by more than 10 percent. In 2005, the United States had 619 coal-fired power plants; last year it had 427, a decline of almost one-third in a decade. The shutdown of coal power plants is the main reason why U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions hit a 25-year low this year. (The advance of solar and wind power also played a role.)

As Trump has charged, E.P.A. regulations have contributed to the coal industry’s woes. But the biggest reason for the decline is that natural gas is now much cheaper than coal. When utilities replace their old plants, they want to build new ones with the cheapest fuel. Increasing the supply of natural gas, which Trump wants to do, would only lower its price further, increasing its competitive advantage over coal. To all those coal miners who voted for Trump, the new president is effectively saying “Tough luck!,” even if he does not necessarily know it.

As for the threat of global warming, which he does not acknowledge, Trump has vowed that he will soon be “canceling billions in climate change spending for the United Nations” and redirecting the money to infrastructure in the United States. He seems not to know that the “billions” per year are actually only $500 million and that these payments were likely going to vanish anyway, because of obscure 1990 and 1994 laws that block the U.S. from supporting U.N. programs that include “any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood”—a code word for Palestine. These laws explain why Washington no longer contributes to UNESCO. Elimination of funds for U.N. climate programs would also have happened under a President Hillary Clinton. It has little to do with Trump.

Trump has also sworn, rather famously, to “cancel” the Paris climate deal, by which one assumes he means to withdraw the participation of the United States. The backbone of the Paris deal is the bilateral agreement that Obama signed with China, the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions. Beijing is going to—and already has—put pressure on Trump to honor that bilateral agreement. It will be difficult for Trump to unravel this deal without risking an out-and-out trade war, as China has made abundantly clear. Corporate America has no wish to bring on a trade war and understands that reneging on the climate deal would be like firing on Fort Sumter. So if this is really what Trump intends to do, he will face the opposition of big business and green activists—maybe not the way he hoped to “bring us together,” but not a bad start.

More important than this eye-poking and middle-finger-gesturing is what actually is happening to U.S. carbon emissions. Almost no matter what Trump does, the stage is set for continued decline. Not only is our coal fleet approaching the end of its useful life; not only is natural gas abundant; but the costs of both solar power and solar-power storage are falling in ways that have everything to do with technological progress and little to do with public policy. Moreover, there are major state initiatives on climate change in New England, the West Coast, and even Texas (a wind-power giant). All of these will continue no matter what Trump does.

Even the “intrusive” Clean Power Plan, an occasional Trump target, is less vulnerable than it might seem. Many state, local, and private initiatives devoted to compliance with it are already under way. Pulling these back involves a bureacratic process called “notification and review.” The courts will play a big role in this, and Obama’s appointees fill the appellate level. Trump could ask Congress to cut subsidies for solar and wind power. But because Congress just renewed those subsidies last December, history suggests that legislators will have little appetite for revisiting that particular field of battle anytime soon.

Trump can indeed throw some sand in the works by rejecting funding for research (Washington picks up some of the costs of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example). Insofar as rhetoric can be destructive, he can be destructively rhetorical. He can fail to advance progress as fast as progress could be advanced. But it would require an immense and sustained effort—a pitched, long-term battle, in which many of Trump’s supposed allies would in fact turn into his enemies—to halt progress, much less roll it back.

None of this is to say that environmentalists should cheer Trump’s election. But it is important to note that Trump is not Sauron in Mordor. Not only did Sauron have limitless persistence and an ability to sweat the details, but in Mordor he was taking over a wasteland with no existing institutional structure. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he can focus on topics for only a few minutes at a time. And he would be moving into a realm where even the smallest actions require planning worthy of D-Day, and can have immense consequences contrary to whatever is intended. The constraints of actual governance infuriated and hobbled Obama often enough—and Obama was a man with boundless patience and a willingness to engage with complexity. His successor is the opposite—and shows no sign of understanding what he faces.

Amherst Democratic News


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