MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>National Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_la_national_cemetery_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 May 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 334006 at Democrats Don't Brag Enough About the Stuff They Do <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago Paul Krugman wrote about the <a href="" target="_blank">Trump double-cross:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Let&rsquo;s talk about West Virginia, which went Trump by more than 40 percentage points, topped only by Wyoming. What did West Virginians think they were voting for?</p> <p>They are, after all, residents of a poor state that benefits immensely from federal programs: 29 percent of the population is on Medicaid, almost 19 percent on food stamps. <strong>The expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare is the main reason the percentage of West Virginians without health insurance has halved since 2013.</strong></p> <p>....Trumpcare, the budget office tells us, would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance, largely through cuts to Medicaid....Then we need to add in the Trump budget, <strong>which calls for further drastic cuts in Medicaid, plus large cuts in food stamps and in disability payments. </strong>What would happen to West Virginia if all these Trump policies went into effect? <strong>Basically, it would be apocalyptic.</strong></p> <p>....So many of the people who voted for Donald Trump were the victims of an epic scam by a man who has built his life around scamming. In the case of West Virginians, this scam could end up pretty much destroying their state. <strong>Will they ever realize this, and admit it to themselves?</strong> More important, will they be prepared to punish him the only way they can &mdash; by voting for Democrats?</p> </blockquote> <p>Since I happened to be chatting about this yesterday, I want to offer an alternative explanation for what's going on here. More accurately, I guess, it's a supplementary explanation, since there's not much question that Donald Trump has indeed pulled a very long con on voters like the ones in West Virginia.</p> <p>Basically it's this: what do you expect if Democrats don't support their own policies? For the past five years, Republicans have battered Obamacare as the most horrific policy ever enacted. Democrats have&mdash;what? Hidden under rocks, mostly. Moderates looked at the polls and decided to avoid even talking about Obamacare. Progressives mostly scorned it as a piece of crap and spent their energy explaining why we should all support single-payer instead. So what's the result? Lots of people think Obamacare is horrific. After all, that's what one side says, and the other side hardly even fights back.</p> <p>West Virginians on Medicaid probably have no idea they're getting it via Obamacare. West Virginians who buy insurance from probably have no idea they're insured via Obamacare. West Virginians who got a payroll tax break early in the Obama years probably have no idea they even got it, let alone that it came from Democrats. West Virginians who got new roads or schools from the stimulus program probably have no idea it came from Democrats. West Virginians who got an increase in the minimum wage in 2007-09 probably have no idea it was passed by Democrats.</p> <p>On the other hand, they certainly <em>do</em> know that Obamacare is destroying the nation; that Democrats want to take away their guns; that Mexicans took away all their jobs; that Obama wanted to let a flood of ISIS terrorists into the country; and that fanatical leftists want to allow men into their daughters' bathrooms.</p> <p>Republicans are going to say what they're going to say. There's not much you can do to stop them from lying. What you <em>can</em> do is to loudly and proudly demand credit for the stuff you've done. If no one really knows that you subsidized their insurance or provided them with Medicaid or raised their wages or built them new schools, you can hardly expect them to vote for you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 May 2017 19:07:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 334016 at Lowering Taxes on the Middle Class Is a Loser for Democrats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Eric Levitz argues today that Democrats need to campaign on <a href="" target="_blank">lowering middle-class taxes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The party has plenty of internal disagreements on pocketbook issues. But there is a broad consensus on Team Blue that the tax code should be more progressive. It shouldn&rsquo;t be difficult for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to unite most elected Democrats around a tax-reform blueprint.</p> <p>Such a plan could combine return-free filing with a massive increase in the tax credits for earned income and child care, financed by healthy increases in the taxation of high-income individuals and multi-million-dollar estates. The party could also go more ambitious, and offer a detailed plan for overhauling the tax system with an eye toward simplicity and progressivity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the problem with this: Middle-class Americans barely pay any federal income tax at all. Here's the data from the Tax Policy Center <a href="" target="_blank">for 2013:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_income_tax_rates_2013.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>The income quintile in the dead middle pays 2.6 percent of its income in federal income taxes. How much less do even Democrats want to make it?</p> <p>If liberals really want to have an impact on the middle class, they have to focus on other taxes. For the middle quintile, the payroll tax is about four times higher than the income tax. State sales taxes are in the same ballpark. Those are the taxes that matter. As far as the federal income tax goes, if Democrats really want to lower and simplify it, they should just propose a 0 percent rate up to an income of $100,000, along with an EITC that refunds money to the working poor. That would be pretty popular.</p> <p>Of course, it would also mean that Democrats have decided to battle Republicans on their home field, which is probably a losing strategy. It also means they'll have a much harder time justifying single-payer health care, free college, subsidized daycare, and all the other stuff they support. Sure, they can pay for some of this stuff by raising taxes on the rich, but that only takes you so far.</p> <p>If I had to guess, I'd say Democrats are better off focusing on more and better services for the middle class, not lower income taxes. That redistributes income at least as well as progressive tax rates. Probably better.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 May 2017 17:35:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 334011 at "My Guilt Will Never Go Away" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on the </em><a href="" target="_blank">TomDispatch</a><em> website.</em></p> <p><span class="section-lead">"My guilt will</span> never go away," former Marine Matthew Hoh explained to me. "There is a significant portion of me that doesn't believe it should be allowed to go away, that this pain is fair."</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/HoopersWarCover.jpg"></div> <p>If America accepts the idea of fighting endless wars, it will have to accept something else as well: that the costs of war are similarly endless. I'm thinking about the <a href="" target="_blank">trillions</a> of dollars, the <a href="" target="_blank">million</a> or more "enemy" dead (a striking percentage of them civilians), the tens of <a href="" target="_blank">thousands</a> of American combat casualties, those <a href="" target="_blank">20</a> veteran suicides each day, and the diminished lives of those who survive all of that. There's that pain, carried by an unknown number of women and men, that won't disappear, ever, and that goes by the label "moral injury."</p> <p>When I started <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Hooper's War</em></a>, a novel about the end of World War II in the Pacific, I had in mind just that pain. I was thinking&mdash;couldn't stop thinking, in fact&mdash;about what really happens to people in war, combatants and civilians alike. The need to tell that story grew in large part out of my own experiences in Iraq, where I spent a year embedded with a combat unit as a US State Department employee, and where I witnessed, among so many other horrors, two soldier suicides.</p> <p>The new book began one day when Facebook retrieved photos of Iraqi children I had posted years ago, with a cheery "See Your Memories" caption on them. Oh yes, I remembered. Then, on the news, I began seeing places in Iraq familiar to me, but this time being overrun by Islamic State militants or later being re-retaken with the help of another generation of young Americans. And I kept running into people who'd been involved in my war and were all too ready to share too many drinks and tell me too much about what I was already up all too many nights thinking about.</p> <p>As these experiences morphed first into nightmares and then into the basis for research, I found myself speaking with more veterans of more wars who continued to suffer in ways they had a hard time describing, but which they wrestled with everyday. I realized that I understood them, even as they seemed to be trying to put their feelings into words for the first time. Many of them described how they had entered the battle zones convinced that "we're the good guys," and then had to live with the depth of guilt and shame that followed when that sense didn't survive the test of events.</p> <p>Sometimes they were remarkably articulate, sometimes anything but. It seemed not to matter which war we were talking about&mdash;or whether I was reading a handwritten diary from the Korean War, an <a href="" target="_blank">oral history of the Pacific War</a>, or an old bestseller about a conflict ironically labeled "<a href="" target="_blank">the Good War</a>." The story always seemed to be the same: decisions made in seconds that lasted lifetimes, including the uncomfortable balancing of morality and expediency in situations in which a soldier might believe horrific acts like torture could save lives or had to accept civilian casualties in pursuit of military objectives. In war, you were always living in a world in which no action seemed ideal and yet avoiding acting was often inconceivable.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">Matthew Hoh,</span> that former Marine, now a veterans advocate, introduced me to the phrase "moral injury," though the term is usually attributed to clinical psychiatrist <a href="" target="_blank">Jonathan Shay</a>. He coined it in 1991 while working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.</p> <p>We are, of course, beings with a complex sense of right and wrong, which can be messed with in disastrous ways. There are boundaries inside us that can't be crossed without a great price being paid. Though the term moral injury is fairly new, especially outside military circles, the idea is as old as war. When people sent into conflict find their sense of right and wrong tested, when they violate deeply held convictions by doing something (such as killing a civilian in error) or failing to do something (such as not reporting a war crime), they suffer an injury to their core being.</p> <p>Examples of this phenomenon are relatively commonplace in popular culture. Think of scenes from Tim O'Brien's iconic Vietnam War book,&nbsp;<em><a href="" target="_blank">The Things They Carried</a>, </em>William Manchester's World War II odyssey, <em><a href="" target="_blank">Goodbye Darkness</a></em>, William Styron's <em><a href="" target="_blank">Sophie's Choice</a></em>, or films like William Wyler's <em>The Best Years of Our Lives</em>&nbsp;and Oliver Stone's <em>Platoon</em>.</p> <p>You can find similar examples as far back as the <em>Iliad</em> and as recently as late last night. Lisa Ling, for instance, was a former Air Force technical sergeant who worked in America's armed drone program before turning whistleblower. She was perhaps typical when she <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the makers of the documentary film <a href="" target="_blank"><em>National Bird</em></a> that, in helping carry out drone strikes which killed people across the globe by remote control, "I lost part of my humanity."</p> <p>Once upon a time, society expressed skepticism or worse toward such formulations, calling those who emerged visibly suffering from the acts of war "cowards" or dismissing them as fakes and frauds. Yet today post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a widely acknowledged condition that can be <a href="" target="_blank">identified</a> by MRI tests.</p> <p>PTSD and moral injury often occur together. "I think having both PTSD and moral injury are the normal things for us," Ling says of those in the drone program. Moral injury, however, takes place at the intersection of psychology and spirituality, and so <em>is</em>, in a sense,&nbsp;all in someone's head. When experiencing moral injury, a person wields guilt and/or shame as a self-inflicted penalty for a choice made. PTSD is more physical, more fear-based, and often a more direct response to an event or events witnessed in war.</p> <p>Think of it this way: PTSD is more likely to result from seeing something terrible, moral injury from doing something terrible.</p> <p><br><span class="section-lead">Moral injury doesn't</span> just affect soldiers, but civilians, too. Noncombatants are not just victims or targets, but often complex participants in war. This reality led me, as my book developed, to interview now-elderly Japanese who had experienced World War II as children. They described the horrific choices they faced, even at a young age. In a wartime landscape of hunger, survival often depended on small, grim acts that would never be forgotten.</p> <p>Sometimes, I sensed in talking to them, as in interviewing former soldiers, that the psychic injuries of wartime don't end until the sufferers do. Moral injury turns out to be a debt that often can never be repaid.</p> <p>Those survivors of the end of the war in Japan who got the food necessary to live had to pay a price for knowing what happened to those who didn't. In a landscape ravaged by war, just because something wasn't your fault doesn't mean it won't be your responsibility. An act as simple as which of her children a mother offered a disappearing supply of water to first could mean the difference between life and death. And though, in truth, it might have been impossible in such circumstances and at such an age to know that you were responsible for the death of your sister or brother, 70 years later you might still be thinking about it with an almost unbearable sense of guilt.</p> <p>And here's a small footnote: Did you know that it's possible to sit quietly on a Tokyo park bench in 2017, perfectly aware of whose distant relatives and countrymen dropped the bombs that took away the water that forced that mother to make that decision, and still shamefully continue taking notes, saying nothing as you witness someone else's breakdown?</p> <p><br><span class="section-lead">What help can</span> there be for something so human?</p> <p>There are, of course, the bad answers, all too often including opioids and alcohol. But sufferers soon learn that such substances just send the pain off to ambush you at another moment, and yet, as many told me, you may still look forward to the morning's first throat-burning shot of something strong. Drinking and drugs have a way, however temporarily, of wiping out hours of pain that may stretch all the way back to the 1940s. You drink in the dark places, even after you understand that in the darkness you can see too much.</p> <p>Tragically, suicide is never far from moral injury. The soul isn't that big a place.</p> <p>One former soldier told me he's never forgiven his neighbor for talking him out of going into the garage with his rifle. Another said the question wasn't why he might commit suicide, but why he hadn't. Someone I met knows vets who have a "designated driver," a keeper not of the car keys but of their guns during emotional rough patches.</p> <p>The Department of Veterans Affairs&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">counts</a>&nbsp;a stunning average of 20 veteran suicides a day in America. About <a href="" target="_blank">65%</a> of those are individuals 50 years old or older with little or no exposure to the country's twenty-first-century conflicts. No one tracks the suicide rate for civilians who survive war, but it's hard to imagine that it isn't high as well. The cause of all those self-inflicted deaths can't, of course, be traced to any one thing, but the pain that grows out of moral injury is patient.&nbsp;</p> <p>For such sufferers, however, progress is being made, even if the trip back is as complex as the individual. The Department of Veterans Affairs now acknowledges&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">moral injury</a>&nbsp;and its effects, and in 2014 Syracuse University created the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Moral Injury Project</a>&nbsp;to bring together vets, doctors, and chaplains to work on how to deal with it. In the meantime, psychologists are developing diagnostic assessment&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">tools</a> for what some call "<a href="" target="_blank">soul repair</a>."</p> <p>One effective&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">path back</a> seems to be through helping patients sort out just what happened to them and, when it comes to remembered transgressions, what part of those may be their own responsibility (though not necessarily their own fault). What doesn't work, according to <a href="" target="_blank">M</a><a href="" target="_blank">atthew Hoh</a>, is trying to convince veterans who view themselves as damaged that, in the <a href=",_why_do_we_keep_thanking_the_troops/" target="_blank">present American manner</a>, they are really heroes.</p> <p>Others suffering moral injury may try to deal with it by seeking forgiveness.</p> <p>Lisa Ling, for example, traveled to Afghanistan, with a desire to truly grasp her role in a drone program that regularly killed its victims from thousands of miles away. To her surprise, during an encounter with the relatives of some civilian victims of such drone strikes, they forgave her. "I didn't ask for forgiveness," Ling told me, referring to<strong> </strong>what she had done in the drone program, "because what I did was unforgivable."</p> <p>Killing by remote control requires many hands. Ling worked on databases and IT networking. Analysts studied the information in those databases to recommend humans to target. Sensor operators manipulated lasers to pinpoint where a drone pilot would eventually slam his missile home for the kill.</p> <p>"Like all of us," she added, "I spent time on the mission floor, or at briefings where I saw and heard devastating things, or blatant lies, but to actually connect my individual work to single events wasn't possible due to the diffusion of responsibility.&nbsp;For sensor operators, it is more like stepping on ants.&nbsp;For analysts, they get to know people over time.&nbsp;As watchers and listeners they describe an intimacy that comes with predictably knowing their family patterns.&nbsp;Kissing the kids, taking children to school, and then seeing these same people die."</p> <p><br><span class="section-lead">Another way back</span> is for the sufferer to try to rebalance the internal scales a little by making amends of some sort. In the case of moral injury, this can often mean drawing a line between who one was then and who one might be now. Think of it as an attempt to re-inscribe those internal borders that were transgressed so long ago.</p> <p>Perhaps not so surprisingly, the connections between moral injury and whistleblowing, like those between moral injury and suicide, appear to run deep.</p> <p>For example, Iraq War whistleblower Chelsea Manning's decision to leak <a href="" target="_blank">video</a> of civilian deaths caused by members of the US military may have been her version of amends, driven by <a href="" target="_blank">guilt</a> over silently witnessing war crimes. Among the acts she saw, for instance, was a raid on a printing facility that had been billed as an al-Qaeda location but wasn't. The US military had, in fact, been tricked into shutting down the work of political opponents of Iraq's then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Until Manning finally tells her story, this remains speculative, but I was at the same forward operating base in Iraq as she was and know what happened and how it affected me, as well as the others around us.</p> <p>Whistleblowers (and I was <a href=",_joining_the_whistleblowers'_club/" target="_blank">one of them</a>) talk of conscience, of a realization that we were part of something that was wrong. Jonathan Shay <a href="" target="_blank">suggests</a> that the failure of moral agency does not have to rest with the individual alone. It can involve witnessing a betrayal of "what's right" by a person in legitimate authority.</p> <p>That part of moral injury could help explain one of the most significant whistleblowers of our time. In talking about his reasons for blowing the whistle, Edward Snowden invoked <a href="" target="_blank">questions</a> of right and wrong when it came to the actions of senior American government officials. It would be a worthy question to put to Snowden: How much guilt and shame&mdash;the hallmarks of moral injury&mdash;do you retain from having been part of the surveillance state, and how much was your whistleblowing driven by trying to rid yourself of it?</p> <p>After all, for those suffering from moral injury, the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">goal</a>&nbsp;is always the same: to somehow reclaim the good parts of oneself and to accept&mdash;but not be eternally&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">defined</a>&nbsp;by&mdash;what one did or didn't do.</p> <p>I know, because for me, this is so much more than fiction.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">"You mean that</span> Vietnam helicopter thing?" A well-meaning family doctor asked me this when I got back from Iraq in 2010, referring to the way some vets react to the sound of a helicopter, sending them "back to the jungle." No, no, far more than that, I responded, and told him a little about <a href="" target="_blank">my sorry role</a> in administering reconstruction projects in Iraq and how it left me more interested in vodka than my family. That was my own personal taste of moral injury, of a deeply felt failure to accomplish any of the good I'd hoped to do, let down by senior leaders I once believed in. It's why I tell the story in <em>Hooper's War</em> in reverse order, opening with a broken Nate Hooper in his late eighties finally finding a form of redemption for the events of a few weeks at war when he was 18. By moving toward an innocent boy as far away in rural Ohio as one can be from war, I felt I was working through my own experience of the damage war causes deep inside the self.</p> <p>In tallying the costs of war, what's the price of a quick death versus a slow one? A soldier who leaves his brains on the wall in the den two decades after his war ended or one whose body remains untouched but who left his mind 10,000 miles away?</p> <p>The price of endless war is beyond calculation. As our wars continue to morph and roll on, the costs&mdash;financial, emotional, and in blood&mdash;only pile up as the men and women who have been welcomed home as if it were all over continue to be torn apart. The nasty conclusion on the scales of moral injury: that our endless conflicts may indeed have left our society, one that just can't stop itself from making war, as one of the casualties.</p> <p><em>Peter Van Buren, a</em><em> former State Department official, </em><em>blew the whistle on waste and mismanagement during the Iraq "reconstruction" in his book </em><a href="" target="_blank">We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People</a>.<em> His latest</em><em> book, <a href="" target="_blank">Hooper's War</a>, </em>is a novel set in World War II Japan.</p></body></html> Politics Longreads Afghanistan Health Iraq Military Tom Dispatch memorial day tomdispatch Mon, 29 May 2017 10:00:11 +0000 Peter Van Buren 333936 at She's a Climate Scientist. Here's Why She Quit Working for Trump. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This story was originally published by </em><a href="" target="_blank">High Country News</a> <em> and is reproduced here as part of the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a><em> collaboration.</em></p> <p><span class="section-lead">The day after</span> President Donald Trump's unexpected victory, Jane Zelikova was "crying her eyes out" in her office at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. As a scientist researching how big fossil-fuel industries can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she feared that her work would be stymied because of the new president's skepticism about climate change. As a Jewish refugee who came to the United States as a teen, she felt threatened by Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign. The election also created a rift in her family: Her father voted for Trump; her mother sat out the election. "Every part of me that I identify with felt fear and anger combined into outrage," Zelikova said.</p> <p>She texted furiously with three close friends&mdash;other women scientists she had known since they went to graduate school at the University of Colorado, Boulder. At first, they simply shared their alarm. But by the second day, they wondered what they could do about it. "We moved into an email thread and added women scientists we knew," Zelikova recalled. "It grew very quickly&mdash;from five people to 20 to 50 to 100&mdash;within a matter of a couple of days."</p> <p>They drafted an open letter from women scientists. "We fear that the scientific progress and momentum in tackling our biggest challenges, including staving off the worst impacts of climate change, will be severely hindered under this next U.S. administration," they wrote. The letter rejects the "hateful rhetoric" of the campaign and commits to overcoming discrimination against women and minorities in science. Then they built a website and gathered signatures. Thousands signed on, and a new activist group was born: 500 Women Scientists.</p> <p>Zelikova's experience mirrors a broader phenomenon. Many scientists felt threatened enough by Trump's victory to abandon their usual detached objectivity. They wrote members of Congress to defend science funding and scientific advisory panels and used their knowledge of government research to protect data they feared could be erased from websites. They set up alternative Twitter sites for government agencies and planned and participated in protests. "The election mobilized scientists in a way we've never seen before," said Gretchen Goldman, who leads research on science in public policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group. "I've personally been blown away by the scientists who want to be engaged in a new way."</p> <p>Previously, Zelikova, a 39-year-old Ph.D. soil ecologist, had envisioned a future as a research scientist, working in academia or in government. But Trump's election, she said, is changing her in ways she never could have imagined. Her whirlwind metamorphosis provides a glimpse into just how disruptive the last six months have been for some in federal government. Zelikova&mdash;who is intense, articulate and has an engaging smile&mdash;doesn't have a permanent federal job. She took a leave from the University of Wyoming, where she's a research scientist, for a two-year fellowship at the Energy Department. She had less to lose than career civil servants with mortgages and government pensions, so she felt freer to speak out.</p> <p>The Trump administration has proposed deep staff and budget cuts for the Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies whose mission involves safeguarding the environment. Many federal workers committed to protecting the environment share Zelikova's angst but won't say so publicly for fear of retribution.</p> <p><span class="section-lead">For weeks after</span> the election, Zelikova barely slept, working late into the night on her new group. "I am a Jewish, refugee, immigrant, woman scientist. At some level, this felt really personally offensive to me, and like an attack on all the parts of me that make me a complete human," Zelikova recalled. She had always been skeptical of political protests. She grew up in Eastern Ukraine, where Communist leaders used to orchestrate demonstrations in the 1980s. But Trump's election moved her to join protests. Her first was the Women's March the day after the Inauguration in Washington, D.C. After that, she frequently joined demonstrations, protesting Trump's travel ban and the Dakota Access Pipeline.</p> <p>Meanwhile, things were changing in Zelikova's day job at the Department of Energy. In early December, Trump's transition team sent out a questionnaire that attempted to identify employees who worked on climate change. Staffers feared the new administration would target people who had worked on former President Barack Obama's climate change agenda. The day after the inauguration, with the Obama team gone, Zelikova attended a staff meeting at which, she said, only white men talked. "The backslide was immediate," she said. Trump's budget proposal, which came out in March, slashed funding for science and research. The morale at the agency was low and dropping.</p> <p>Still, Zelikova kept working on her research. She was part of a team responding to Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's request that the Energy Department analyze options for keeping the state's largest coal-fired power plant, Colstrip, in business. Zelikova's team came up with scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent or more by installing equipment to capture carbon dioxide emissions.</p> <p>Capturing carbon takes a lot of energy, however. So Zelikova went to Colstrip last fall to talk about using renewable energy&mdash;wind or solar&mdash;to power the carbon-capture process and thereby cut emissions even further. "Wouldn't it be cool if instead of sucking that parasitic load off the plant, you powered it with renewable energy?" she said. She thinks the idea holds great promise for other fossil-fuel plants. "We went to national labs and universities, and we talked to people about how do we make this happen," Zelikova said. "And then the election happened, and it felt like this isn't going to happen." Trump is determined to eliminate Obama's Clean Power Plan, removing a major incentive for plants like Colstrip to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. His budget proposal recommends slashing funding for the Energy Department's renewable energy and fossil fuel research programs. "I'm seeing all that work become really threatened," Zelikova said. "It feels like betrayal, because I got so personally invested."</p> <p>Her boss at the time, David Mohler, recalls her reaction: "She was distraught clearly and for understandable reasons; the Trump team is really not appreciative of science, and certainly they don't believe in climate science." Before becoming deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management, Mohler was chief technology officer for the country's biggest electric utility, Duke Energy. Trump will probably slow reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Mohler says. But even Trump can't stop progress on climate change: Utilities won't reopen closed coal-fired power plants, and low-priced natural gas will keep replacing coal. And Mohler believes that wind and solar will continue to expand because of declining costs, state mandates and tax incentives, which have bipartisan support in Congress.</p> <p>Mohler, an Obama appointee, left government on Jan. 20, and moved back to South Carolina. Zelikova started thinking about leaving Washington, too. "Resistance as daily existence was starting to diminish my ability to function," Zelikova recalled. She talked her supervisor into letting her move to Colorado in February for the rest of her fellowship. She continued to work for the Energy Department at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden. In her spare time, she kept building 500 Women Scientists. The group grew quickly, spawning nearly 150 local branches around the globe in just a few months.</p> <p>One branch was founded in Seattle by Sarah Myhre, a 34-year-old climate change scientist at the University of Washington's Department of Atmospheric Sciences. The group gave Myhre the courage to stand up to a prominent professor, Cliff Mass, from her own department.</p> <p>In January, at a state legislative committee hearing, Myhre criticized Mass for stressing uncertainties about how much human-caused climate change is affecting wildfires and ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest. Myhre described Mass as an "outlier" in the department whose views did not represent the broad scientific consensus. In online comments to a <i>Seattle Times</i> opinion piece Myhre wrote in February with Zelikova and another woman scientist, Mass called them "three idealistic young scientists (none of them really are climate scientists, by the way)." When Myhre traveled to Washington, D.C., at the end of April for the People's Climate March, one of the women she marched with carried a sign that read: "Idealistic Young <i>Real</i> Scientists."</p> <p>A week earlier, on Earth Day, Zelikova joined other members of 500 Women Scientists for the March for Science in Washington, D.C., waiting for hours in a chilly rain to get through security screening for the rally at the Washington National Monument. Shivering in her watermelon-red ski shell, Zelikova reflected on the ways her life would be different if Trump had not been elected. "I would have never founded a big group&mdash;ever," she said. "I would have never been a loud advocate for things. I would have never protested. These are now the hugest part of my life."</p> <p>At the end of May, Zelikova quit her fellowship at the Energy Department. In July, she will start a new job for a tiny nonprofit called the Center for Carbon Removal, based in Berkeley, California. She hopes to help states move forward on capturing carbon from fossil fuel plants. "Western states are perfectly poised to lead on climate action," she said. "In terms of federal action, there's going to be very little, so we need to work with states, so that when the political climate changes and there can be federal action, we can be ready to go."</p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Donald Trump Energy Science Mon, 29 May 2017 10:00:10 +0000 Elizabeth Shogren 333896 at Los Straitjackets' New Album Is Goofy and Sparkling <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Los Straitjackets<br><em>What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets</em><br> Yep Roc</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/LosStraitjackets_WhatsSoFunnyAboutPeaceLoveAndLosStraitjackets_COVER%20%281%29%5B1%5D.jpg" style="height: 290px; width: 290px;"><div class="caption">Courtesey of Yep Roc Music Group</div> </div> <p>Garbed in Mexican wrestling masks and specializing in surf guitar instrumentals, Los Straitjackets have refused to take themselves seriously since their mid-'90s debut album&mdash;at least on one level. In reality, these accomplished and tasteful players have repeatedly shown that it's possible to invest a nostalgic, seemingly outdated style with a range of moods, from tender intimacy to rowdy exuberance. The bracing <em>What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets </em>is devoted entirely to songs written or co-written by the great Nick Lowe, their recent tourmate and a stellar songsmith since Britain's pub rock days of the '70s. Though Lowe's probably best known for his lyrics, which can be either heartrending or smart-alecky, Los Straitjackets' snappy versions of "Lately I've Let Things Slide" and, of course, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" make a strong case for him as a gifted melodist too. This sparkling set is good fun from first note to last, and hopefully the harbinger of a full-fledged collaboration.</p></body></html> Media Music Music Mondays Mon, 29 May 2017 10:00:09 +0000 Jon Young 333766 at A Vet Turns to Farming to Heal His Wounds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_003.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex Sutton sorts through all of his prescribed medications. His regimen at the time included anxiety medication and pills that helped him deal with depression, nightmares, and low energy issues.</strong></div> </div> <p>Alex Sutton is a decorated US Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq. Raised by his grandparents in Iowa, he joined the Army at 17, and served 13 years in the military. He has been wounded in combat and received the Purple Heart for his injuries. In 2011, he was honorably discharged and medically retired, and took up residence on an isolated farm in rural North Carolina with his fianc&eacute;e Jessica. They raise heritage breed chickens, along with some pigs and sheep.</p> <p>Beyond his physical wounds, Alex carries the weight of serious, and chronic, post-traumatic stress. The couple is dead set on healing his mental wounds through rigorous farm work and the space of time; however, healing from PTSD is a nonlinear process. In Alex's case, it encompassed periods, even weeks, of progress punctuated with deep periods of depression and the constant fear of flashbacks and nightmares.</p> <p>It's a story playing out in similar ways in thousands of homes around the country. More than <a href="" target="_blank">393,000</a> US veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD by the Veterans Health Administration. Meanwhile, a majority of US farms are in their last generation with no family members to carry on the tradition&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">40 percent of farmers</a> are over the age of 65. Groups like <a href="" target="_blank">SAVE</a> Farm and the Farmer Veteran Coalition are pushing to reintegrate vets into civilian life and the workforce through farming.</p> <p>The new film <em>Farmer/Veteran</em> follows Alex and Jessica's story as they attempt to soothe some of the mental wounds of war through agricultural therapy.<em> </em><a href=""><em>Farmer/Veteran </em>premieres on <em>Independent Lens</em> Monday, May 29th.</a></p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_004.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex decided to sell some of his tactical weapons as a result of discussions with his psychologist. He has a kid on the way, and he says he is trying to leave the soldier part of his life behind. He will keep a few handguns and hunting rifles, but feels that selling his military style weaponry will help in his recovery.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_005.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex holds one of the many birds on his farm. Alex and his fianc&eacute;e Jessica initially raised hundreds of heritage breed birds before the workload became too difficult to manage.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_007.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Jessica sits on her four-wheeler as Alex fishes. When he has bad days, he goes down to the pond on the farm to settle his mind and try and calm down. </strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_011.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>On the way to a fishing trip on Badin Lake, Alex stops for bait fish.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_012.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex baits a hook while fishing on Badin Lake. Fishing is one of the few things that can calm his nerves.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_015.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A shot pheasant waits to be cleaned at a Patriot Hunts event for veterans from the Airborne and Special Forces communities. Alex served with the 82nd Airborne and has attended a few of these events that bring together vets from the region.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_016.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Jessica stands at the bed of the Sutton's truck after a Patriot Hunts event.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_017.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A rifle cartridge sits on a table at the Sutton residence next to a mailer about veteran medical benefits.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_023.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Cattle push and bellow in a pen at a livestock auction in rural North Carolina. The Suttons came to try and a buy a cow or two and ended up with two alpacas, which Alex bought on a whim.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_028.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex and Jessica wait for the birth of their first child. After losing custody of his first daughter (from a previous marriage) after returning from his third tour in Iraq, Alex has always wanted, but feared, the arrival of his first child in his new relationship.</strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FV_021_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Alex shows his new haircut.</strong></div> </div></body></html> Media Full Width Photo Essays Military photography Mon, 29 May 2017 10:00:09 +0000 Text and Photos by Jeremy M. Lange 333441 at Camera Collection Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have a new camera, so that means I need to update my camera gallery. This time I took a family photo, and then practiced my Photoshop skillz by erasing the background so they all look like they're floating in air. I'm really bad at this kind of thing because I can't draw a straight line with a mouse to save my life. So it was good practice even if it was kind of tedious.</p> <p>Anyway, here it is: 80 years of Drum family cameras. More details in <a href="" target="_blank">this old post</a> if you're curious about them.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_cameras.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 28 May 2017 17:43:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 334001 at Trump Abroad: Big Talk, Not Much Big Action <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a headline in the <em>LA Times</em> this morning:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_trump_new_course.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Is this really true? I'm not so sure. What Trump demonstrated was big talk far more than big action. He signed a $110 billion weapons deal with the Saudis that was only a hair different from what Obama had agreed to. He announced a bunch of new business that would have happened with or without him. He supported the Saudi war in Yemen, but Obama did too. He visited all the usual places in Israel, just like Obama. He asked NATO countries to spend more on defense, just like Obama did. He played games with our Article 5 commitment, but afterward his aides made clear that nothing had changed.</p> <p>Rhetorically, of course, Trump was very different indeed. Obama may have given the Saudis nearly everything they wanted, but Trump explicitly said he didn't care about their human rights abuses. John Kerry worked endlessly on a peace deal in Israel, but he did it quietly. Trump blared his commitment to PEACE at every opportunity. Obama pushed our NATO allies to spend more on defense, but Trump gave a loud public speech about it.</p> <p>Rhetoric matters, for good and ill, but the truth is that Trump's rhetoric wasn't accompanied by much in the way of action.<sup>1</sup> In terms of what the US actually plans to do, there really hasn't been much change so far.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The biggest substantive difference is the possibility of US withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement. However, Trump hasn't announced his decision about that yet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 28 May 2017 15:54:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 333991 at Trump Tweets Get Ever More Divorced From Reality <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump has a long history of tweeting nonsense, but this might be his most unbelievable tweet ever:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I look forward to reading the <a href="">@CommerceGov</a> 232 analysis of steel and aluminum- to be released in June. Will take major action if necessary.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">May 27, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Uh huh. I'll bet he's going to dive right into that report. He lives for this kind of bedside reading.</p> <p>In other news, you can ignore all that Kushner stuff you've been reading about. The <em>Times</em> and the <em>Post</em> are just inventing it. "It is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers," Trump says. I'm glad he's finally put this to rest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 28 May 2017 14:59:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 333986 at