Opinion | Appalachia Is More Diverse Than You Think – by Robert Gipe – The New York Times

“. . . Many of my pro-Trump neighbors are frustrated and angry, but they are not naïve. They bear a hard-earned sophistication regarding the reliability of political promises. Federal subsidies have kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, but they are no substitute for good jobs. Ignoring or eliminating environmental and workplace safety regulations and suppressing taxes on the corporations that own the minerals and run the companies have not created prosperity for the bulk of the community, either.

Sexism and racism have played a significant role in the voting habits of some of my neighbors. So has anger. So have conservative religious beliefs. But that isn’t just in Appalachia. That’s what’s happened in America. As a nation, we are capable of great violence against those we have discounted, disagree with or feel we can afford to ignore. It is very discouraging when we do. It is painful.

What pains me and many of my neighbors in the mountains the most are divisive political posturing and partisan wrangling divorced from the realities of our economic struggles. Between the coal economy crash in 2012 and Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, coalfield communities began to look for economic life after coal. We began to look at our other assets and what else our people might do. We still are looking, but that is more difficult to do when we are pitted against one another.

We all crave honorable work at a living wage. We want success tied to the success of the community. We want to be safe. We are weary of fear. We are exhausted by hate. We in Appalachia join our fellow Americans in asking: Who will encourage our best selves? Who will enable our joy? Who will release the energy hiding in our hearts?”

Robert Gipe is the author of the novel “Weedeater” and a contributor to “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’”

$3700 Generators and $666 Sinks: FEMA Contractors Charged Steep Markups on Puerto Rico Repairs – The New York Times

By Frances Robles
Nov. 26, 2018, 106

Lisandra Oquendo and Alexis Morales Ortiz at their home in Punta Santiago, P.R.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times
Image

“Their house had been approved for $18,000 in FEMA repair funds, but little was accomplished with the money.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times
SAN JUAN, P.R. — Juan F. Rodríguez had substantial damage to his house in northeastern Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria slammed through in September 2017, but he felt better when he was told that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay for $5,000 in repairs.

The contractor hired by Puerto Rico’s FEMA-financed housing recovery program treated the roof with sealant, replaced four feet of cabinets and installed smoke detectors around his house with Velcro.

“I looked around and said, ‘Wait a minute, that treatment costs $100, and I can buy those cabinets for $500,’” Mr. Rodríguez said. “I know. I worked construction. Let’s say they did $2,000 worth of work, because prices are high now and you have to pay for labor. But $5,000?”

Mr. Rodríguez wasn’t the only homeowner who complained after the devastating storm — the worst to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years — that federal taxpayers were being charged far more for emergency home repairs than residents ever saw in improvements to their homes.””

The Race for Alaskan Oil: 6 Key Takeaways – By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain – The New York Times

By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain
Dec. 3, 2018

“FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most pristine landscapes in the United States. But that may soon change as the Trump administration seeks to exploit an untapped trove of oil beneath its coastal plain.

Since Congress approved a measure last December to open the coastal plain to oil exploration, the Department of the Interior has been charging ahead with a plan to sell drilling leases as early as next year. Trucks weighing 90,000 pounds could begin rolling across the tundra even before then to conduct seismic tests that help pinpoint oil reserves.

The hurried approach has alarmed some government specialists and environmentalists, who say that risks to wildlife and damage to the tundra are not being taken seriously enough. And it comes as the Trump administration moves more broadly to exploit fossil fuels in Alaska and beyond, erasing restrictive policies that were designed to protect the environment and address global warming.

The New York Times examined how, in the space of about a year, the refuge’s coastal plain — known as the 1002 Area — went from off-limits to open for business. Here are six takeaways.”

Drilling in the Arctic: Questions for a Polar Bear Expert – By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder – The New York Times

By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder
Dec. 3, 2018

Andrew Derocher is a biologist at the University of Alberta who has researched polar bears for more than three decades. He is also a volunteer adviser to Polar Bears International, a conservation group.

He discussed the status of polar bears in the Arctic amid a warming climate, and the potential impact of oil and gas exploration. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Worldwide in the Arctic, there are roughly 25,000 polar bears in what scientists consider to be 19 subpopulations. Over all, how are they doing?

A. People assume that because we’re concerned about polar bears from a conservation and management perspective, that all polar bears must be doing terribly. That’s not the case. Polar bears are doing just fine in many parts of their distribution, and with 19 different populations around the Arctic, we have 19 different scenarios playing out.

. . . .    The interview ended:

What do scientists know about the impact of oil and gas exploration and production on polar bears?

One of the things that’s pretty cool about bears in general and polar bears in particular is each bear has an individual behavior pattern, or personality, if you want to call it that. Some bears just don’t seem to care — they are just not worried by people, not worried by snow machines or all-terrain vehicles or trucks going by. Yet others are extremely wary, don’t like it and will move away quickly from disturbance.

By and large, I think polar bears are fairly robust to disturbance, but once they have small cubs they tend to be quite timid.

One of the concerns we have is den abandonment. If you harass a bear around a den, there’s a greater likelihood that she will leave it with her cubs. And that is not a good thing. Young cubs are not that well developed and rely on the dens for protection. Moving them around is never a good idea.

We have to accept at least the basic premise that disturbance is not going to be beneficial for the bears. Then the question is, just how bad is it going to be? That’s difficult to say. But anything that adds on to the current impacts of sea ice loss is not going to be good for the population.”

Henry Fountain covers climate change, with a focus on the innovations that will be needed to overcome it. He is the author of “The Great Quake,” a book about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. @henryfountain 

Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime – Hearst (Newspapers)

“By just about any account, Connecticut is in an unhappy, uncertain place.

Look at most ranking lists titled “Best place in America to… (pick your topic)” and you will likely have to read down until you find “Connecticut” in a mediocre — or worse — position.

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Its roads are congested, corroding factors in a stagnant economy. Its rail system is balky, detracting considerably from a now-frayed selling point that the state is “conveniently” situated between New York City and Boston.

The state’s finances are critically out of whack — $4.5 billion short in the biennium budget set to go into effect on July 1, 2019; pensions underfunded by some $100 billion and demanding annual state contributions so large they choke the state’s ability to spend on other needs.

How did we get here? It’s easy — and completely inaccurate — to pin it all on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the 63-year-old Democrat who has held office the last eight years and who will turn the power — and the headaches — over to a successor on Jan. 9.

Today’s problems are rooted in decisions — and inaction — dating back at least to the 1990’s, including labor agreements, made during the tenure of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.

The challenges will not be solved in a short time. Nor will they be wrestled to the ground by imposed will alone.

All three candidates for governor are businessmen, none with state-wide governing experience.

Oz Griebel, of Hartford, a former Republican running as an independent, is energetic, knowledgeable about transportation needs, and optimistic about the state’s potential. His idea to hold off on funding the state pensions for two years, though, is an approach that contributed to the present plight.

Republican Bob Stefanowski’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax over eight years is unrealistic. The tax — about $9.5 billion annually — represents more than half of Connecticut’s tax revenue. What’s replacing it?

Stefanowski’s style seems to be of the “imposed will” school.

The Hearst Connecticut Media Group Editorial Board believes the best person for the job is Ned Lamont, the 64-year-old Greenwich entrepreneur turned investor.”

Source: Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime

Opinion | The Republican Attack on California – By Tim Wu – NYT

A challenge to the state’s net neutrality laws shows that the G.O.P. no longer believes in federalism (if it ever did).
By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is a law professor at Columbia.
Oct. 3, 2018

“For the past 60 years or so, the Republican Party has declared itself the true party of decentralized government, the founding vision of federalism and what are sometimes called states’ rights. Whether its pious declarations were ever actually about more than securing Southern votes or limiting the rights of women and minorities has always been questionable, but at least in theory the party took federalism seriously.

But now, with the party under new management and in control of every branch of the federal government, a profound transformation is underway. States’ rights still get lip service, at least when it comes to matters like limiting transgender rights. But the new reality is that we face a rising nationalist party, uninterested in local variation, aggressively devoted to molding the nation in the image of the party and its leader, Donald Trump, into one white-hot mass.

California (surely the state now most tempted to leave the union) is the flash point. This week, it passed its own net neutrality laws, to ban blocking and throttling of the internet, as a stand-in for the federal net neutrality rules abandoned by the Trump administration in June. California has obvious reasons to want to protect an open internet: It is the land of the internet’s origin, and a place where tech entrepreneurship has thrived.

If the Republican Party actually believed in economic decentralization, it might well accept the premise of state rules where the federal government explicitly disclaims any authority to act. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a self-declared states’ rights champion, declared within hours of the law’s passage that the Department of Justice will sue California for infringing corporate prerogatives — that is, interfering with the right of cable and phone companies to block or slow internet content.”

Editorial | Make Voting Easier in New York – The New York Times

“Why is it so bad? For starters, blame the state’s “stupid policy,” as a political scientist described it to The Times recently. Sure, there’s reason to criticize other states for cutting back on polling places or hours, or passing voter-ID and proof-of-citizenship laws that make voting harder, especially for minorities and other vulnerable groups. But who are New Yorkers to judge? Their own electoral laws and practices are mired in the Dark Ages, prevented from entering the 21st century by lawmakers trying to protect their jobs.

It’s made worse by the city and state election boards, which run federal, state and local elections — a crucial job that needs to be done by professional, nonpartisan agencies. In New York, the boards are rife with incompetence.There are easy fixes, which have been associated with higher turnout in many other states that have adopted them.”

‘Like Going Back in Time’: Puerto Ricans Put Survival Skills to Use – The New York Times

“SAN JUAN, P.R. — A grandmother turned a school bathroom sink into a bath. Neighbors are piling into a garage for communal meals prepared on an old gas stove. A 79-year-old man made a bonfire out of fallen tree branches to cook.More than a month after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on a path of destruction that spared no region, race or class, residents of the island have found their creativity stretched to the limit as they try to function without many amenities of the modern world.

It is not just water and electricity that are in scarce supply. Cellphone service ranges from spotty to nonexistent. Cars are damaged and roads blocked. For many, work and school still have not resumed, so they wander the streets, play board games and sit around telling stories by candlelight.

“It’s like going back in time,” said Kevin Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, 25, who has been living in darkness since Sept. 5, the day before a previous storm, Hurricane Irma, began to chip away at Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.Crammed into homes three or four families at a time, living on canned and freeze-dried food without any means of turning it into a hot meal, and sleeping in shelters, Puerto Ricans have been learning to make do, sometimes in extreme ways.”

Yes. Here are two of many comments I recommended and support.

Wade Nelson Durango, Colorado 1 hour ago

This could be America’s greatest hour. Construct and ship 100,000 tiny homes built from shipping containers. Offer American utilities massive tax breaks to send linemen, trucks, and equipment to P.R. Create a WPA or CCC to employ tens of thousands of under-employed Americans to rebuild homes. Fill the harbors with older cruise boats to house them while they do. Put every asset of the National Guard into restoring safety, and order in the island. Put a billion of OUR tax dollars in Elon Musk’s hands to fill the island with solar and PowerWall batteries instead of giving a tax cut to the rich. In other words, SEND THE CAVALRY. Americans need to take heed; whatever is NOT DONE in Puerto Rico will eventually NOT BE DONE in your town, your state, whether NorCAL, the Eastern Seaboard, Texas, or even Denver Colorado when disaster strikes YOUR area. As you have done to the “least of these, so you have done unto me” a wise man once said!

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David Solá-Del Valle, MD

Boston 3 hours ago

Facts about Puerto Rico a full month after the Hurricane (based on my visit to PR from Oct 9-Oct 14 and having my whole family in PR):
1) 77-88% (varies daily) of the island is without electricity, and Puerto Rico only has ~400 workers to restore the grid at this point as opposed to the 18,000 that were mobilized to Florida.
2) Most of my family is without water, and they live in Caguas, a mere 16 miles south of San Juan, essentially a suburb of San Juan, and easily accessible.
3) Getting a text or a phone call outside of San Juan is still miraculous. Imagine how difficult communications are. Sometimes you have to drive to see the person you need to talk to and pray they’re home and that you haven’t wasted your gas in vain. Of note, ~50% of cell towers are still down as of today.
4) The main hospitals in Caguas are working with generators.
5) Traffic is a mess – I lived it – no traffic lights are functional, and there aren’t enough policemen to man them all. Puerto Ricans have learned to multiply their usual commutes by 3-5 times depending on the day and weather.
6) I stood in line at several supermarkets in Caguas and Carolina to find food for my family to finally be allowed to enter and find half-empty shelves. This has been particularly hard for may cousin with Crohn’s disease.
7) 50 dead officially, 113 people missing, and people dying every day from lack of electricity, water, medications, etc. A video from a fellow physician in Centro Médico (in SJ) showed how grim it

Point of View: North Carolina no longer a democracy | News & Observer | gawker.com

“In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.”

Source: Point of View: North Carolina no longer a democracy | News & Observer

A Wrenching Choice for Alaska Towns in the Path of Climate Change – The New York Times

“…..Laid out on a narrow spit of sand between the Tagoomenik River and the Bering Sea, the village of 250 or so people is facing an imminent threat from increased flooding and erosion, signs of a changing climate.

With its proximity to the Arctic, Alaska is warming about twice as fast as the rest of the United States and the state is heading for the warmest year on record. The government has identified at least 31 Alaskan towns and cities at imminent risk of destruction, with Shaktoolik ranking among the top four. Some villages, climate change experts predict, will be uninhabitable by 2050, their residents joining a flow of climate refugees around the globe, in Bolivia, China, Niger and other countries.”

Source: A Wrenching Choice for Alaska Towns in the Path of Climate Change – The New York Times