Opinion | The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea – By Timothy Egan – The New York Times

By Timothy Egan
Contributing Opinion Writer, Nov. 23, 2018

A sign designating the Corral Canyon Park recreation area stands amid landscape charred by the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Calif., on Nov. 13.CreditCreditReed Saxon/Associated Press

“AGOURA HILLS, Calif. — When I was a little kid I passed through a ghost forest in Montana, the blackened, standing skeletons of the largest wildfire in recorded American history. That was the Big Burn of 1910, which torched an area nearly the size of Connecticut in a weekend.

What remained of that blowup told a story: of hurricane force winds, of 100-foot trees that crushed firefighters, of a land so scorched by intense heat that it was decades before seedlings sprouted in some places.

But at least life returned. And over the last century, a healthy forest emerged along with a consensus political view that wild land was essential to our national character.

Today, walking over the ashen floor of another spectral land, I’m struck by how naked everything looks in the world’s largest urban national park. Almost 90 percent of the federal land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was burned in this month’s Woolsey Fire. The smell alone is mournful.

The story it tells is grim, a portent of nature altered and convulsive. It’s not just that this audacious experiment — a huge parkland on the doorstep of a metro area of 13 million people — is now on life support. It’s that, as we are the first species to radically disrupt the world that gave us life, much of that world may soon be unsafe for human habitation.

California used to have distinct fire seasons. Now the storms of flame and smoke are year-round, and all of the nation’s most populous state is a fire zone. One in eight Americans lives in a land that could turn catastrophic on any given day.

Last year it was the wine country north of San Francisco and the mountains above Santa Barbara. This year it’s the area around Yosemite National Park, the peopled canyons of the northern part of the state, and this last best open space on the shoulders above Los Angeles.

In the north, the town of Paradise was essentially wiped off the map, with more than 13,000 homes gone, more than 80 people killed, hundreds still missing, thousands homeless — the deadliest fire in state history. It’s a human tragedy.

In the south, it’s almost 100,000 acres put to flame in the mountains that meet the sea, with deer left charred in their tracks, an iconic Western-set movie ranch burned into black and white, the sweet-scented chaparral and sage highlands all of a moonscape. It’s a tragedy of nature.”

The Trump Fog Machine – by Timothy Egan – NYT

“But while his legislative agenda is in tatters, his master strategy — throwing out distraction bombs on a regular basis, while turning the screws of power toward a backward era — is working. In just the last two weeks, he has allowed a humanitarian crisis affecting more than three million American citizens to fester, reportedly mocked a dying senator, and threatened to annihilate a nation of 25 million people.

But what are we talking about? Football. And whether the people who play the sport have the same right as every other American to express themselves — which, legally, is not even a question. In Trump’s view, athletes should just shut up and take their brain damage. While Americans in Puerto Rico clung to life on an island without power or adequate water and food, Trump tweeted 24 times about football.

What’s been forgotten at times in the blur of bloviation is astonishing. Possibly colluding with Russia to hijack an American election. Firing the F.B.I. director who was looking into that maze of questions. Pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Rolling back protections for clean air, water and workplace safety. Losing half his staff to scandal, deceit or overt idiocy.”

Yes, yes, yes, and     here are the two top comments I approved.

Karin Gustafson

Arkville, NY September 29, 2017

Dear Mr. Egan,

I agree with your assessment here. I (and many others I know) feel so exhausted by Trump’s continual assaults on decency that we simply want to turn off, tune out–vigilance becomes too painful; the nerves that detect lapses in judgment and morality just wilt after all the battering; passivity arises as a way to cope with abuse– Yes, it sounds a little histrionic, but isn’t. The degradation in the norms of presidential behavior has degraded expectation as well; no one is even shocked at the hypocrisy any more. I am very worried about what we will wake up too next as Trump’s ego careens between gratification and pay-back. He seems just so completely careless of consequence.

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB September 29, 2017

Yes, it’s all going according to plan: government by chaos; the shock doctrine, etc.

It’s meant to leave all of us mentally exhausted and crying for relief.

Meanwhile, Trump loyalists are giddy with pleasure at the carnage being wrought.

The only solution is at the ballot box. Until then, we must keep calm and carry on and hope for brighter days to come.


Who Will Save the Republic? – by Tim Egan – NYT

“We’re looking for a few good men and women in Congress to understand the gravity of this debasement. We don’t need more parsing about the bad “optics” or “timing” of Trump firing the man who could have ended his presidency. We need a Republican in power to call it what it is: a bungled attempt to obstruct justice.”

Park Rangers to the Rescue – by Tim Egan – The New York Times

“It started at the inauguration, when the uniformed protectors of America’s front lawn took in the sweep of humanity at the National Mall. It seemed obvious that the crowd for President Trump was not nearly as large as that for Barack Obama in 2009. Somebody in olive green retweeted the obvious, using comparative pictures.

This small act of historical clarification by the keepers of our sacred sites and shared spaces would have been no big deal, had not the response from the new president sounded like an edict from the Dear Leader. A gag order on public servants was issued, and the National Park Service tweet on crowd size vanished, replaced by a picture of a bison.”

The Trump and Pony Show – by Tim Egan – The New York Times

“As a professional skeptic, I’m going to remain doubtful that Donald Trump has been a willing Russian tool, masterfully serving the needs of a dangerous American adversary. I’m not going to buy all the sordid details of “that crap,” as the president-elect called intelligence reports of his being compromised by nasty people operating out of the Kremlin.

I’m going to believe Donald Trump, for now, which is more than he ever did for the graceful president soon to exit. Trump has been a garbage conveyor belt, passing along every bit of half-fermented slop that came his way. “An extremely credible source has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud,” he tweeted in 2012, to cite one lie among thousands.”

David Lindsay

(In reply to a comment at the NYT suggesting all the press just leave if Trump bullies one of them.)

Yes, or, “Perhaps the next time Trump assembles the press to witness his latest performance, and he attacks them collectively and/or individually, all present should”
refuse to take the next question, until the reported told he or she will not be answered, is answered. If you ban one of us from asking you a question, you ban all of us, is what I would like to see the press corp adopt as their response to his demagoguery.

As another commenter wrote, each reported would defer, saying I cede my question to the person (you just refused to answer.)


Many frustrated comments. Here is my favorite so far:

Jan VA 3 hours ago

“The middle class white people who voted for Trump will end up hurting the worst-but they are “unfazed”, according to a NYT article yesterday. I can’t help hearing Bob Dylan, over and over:

And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.”

Reply 161 Recommended

A Handful of Christmas Miracles – Timothy Egan, The New York Times

“Obama finds his voice. Well, and then he lost it after the Paris attacks. Over all, the prez had a very strong year. His leadership was crucial in what could be breakthrough pacts to lessen climate change and keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But I say “could be,” because both agreements might still unravel. If they work, the world will be safer, and more livable.And it’s a minor Christmas miracle that the American economy continues to purr along, while those of Europe and China stumble. Over a 69-month streak of growth, the economy has added 13.7 million new jobs, while the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent. Bravo.”

Source: A Handful of Christmas Miracles – The New York Times

Fossil Fools The leading Republican presidential candidates are promoting the very junk science that was hatched, in part, in Exxon’s board room. nytimes.com|By Timothy Egan

Tim Egan: “As a global citizen, Exxon failed miserably, to say the least. A host of organizations, and some politicians have called for Exxon to be prosecuted for fraud not unlike that which tobacco companies engaged in when they hid the risks of smoking. Exxon argues that it was a climate change “pioneer” and didn’t so much deceive the public as stir a broader debate.

At least it is now on record as stating the obvious: that climate change is real, and human-caused, and that something — perhaps beneficial to its corporate bottom line — needs to be done.

The Republicans did not get the updated memo. Their two leading candidates for office, Ben Carson and Donald Trump, deny the consensus of human-caused climate change. They’re still reading from quarter-century-old Exxon talking points.”

The leading Republican presidential candidates are promoting the very junk science that was hatched, in part, in Exxon’s board room.
nytimes.com|By Timothy Egan

Moms and Guns – Tim Egan, The New York Times

“It passed with little notice when an 11-year-old boy shot and killed an 8-year-old girl a few days ago in Tennessee — shot her because she wouldn’t show him her puppy. The boy used his family’s 12-gauge shotgun to kill the second-grader.It passed, as these things do in a country that accepts more than 33,000 deaths by gunfire every year, because we now live by an Onion headline that’s long ceased to be satirical: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” ”

Source: Moms and Guns – The New York Times

The Junk Politics of 2015 The candidates are offering us nothing but empty calories. nytimes.com|By Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan: “At least one Republican wants to sic the Internal Revenue Service on his political enemies. So promised Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in a remarkable statement overlooked at the kids’ table debate last week. “I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the I.R.S. and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”

Other Republicans think we should be living in a theocracy. “It’s time we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, testing the latest version of his church-lady demagogy. He wants to ignore the high court on both gay marriage and abortion — breaking the law while waving his Bible.”

The candidates are offering us nothing but empty calories.
nytimes.com|By Timothy Egan