Monday, March 25, 2019

Trump’s pick to run Interior looms large behind ocean sell-off

  On March 20, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) opened all planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico for the fourth-straight offshore oil and gas lease sale since President Donald Trump took office. Throughout the past 35 years, the DOI has typically auctioned leases in 1 of 3 Gulf sections at a time. But ever since David Bernhardt, the current acting secretary, was sworn in as deputy interior secretary in August of 2017, the whole Gulf has essentially been up for grabs. These Gulfwide auctions are likely watering down the competition, allowing the oil and gas industry to buy up America’s taxpayer-owned mineral resources at fire sale prices—and Bernhardt’s former industry clients are among those who benefit.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

College executives need to pay up when their schools close abruptly

  Within the last few weeks, students attending several Argosy University campuses across the country received a nasty shock: Their campuses would be shutting down in 48 hours. The move leaves thousands of students in the lurch with unclear futures and millions of dollars in missing federal financial aid that the school received from the federal government but failed to disburse to students.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Free trade: A key to a rising standard of living

  Trade is a key to a rising standard of living in society, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

  In every exchange, both sides benefit from their own individual subjective perspective. That’s because, at the moment of the trade, they are both giving up something they value less for something they value more. Thus, trade enables people to improve their standard of living. The greater the ability of people to trade, the better off they are.

Friday, March 22, 2019

David Bernhardt is President Trump’s most conflicted Cabinet nominee

  On the whole, President Donald Trump’s Cabinet has not demonstrated integrity, honesty, or accountability to the American public. Four top Trump administration officials have resigned under a cloud of corruption after wasting taxpayer dollars or abusing their position for personal gain: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt; U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs David Shulkin; and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

  Rather than cleaning house in the wake of these controversies and resignations, President Trump is doubling down on nominating conflicted individuals to his Cabinet. In February, the U.S. Senate confirmed former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as Pruitt’s replacement at the EPA, the federal agency that enforces air and water protections. And this month, Trump nominated David Bernhardt to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior. Currently serving as the acting interior secretary since Zinke’s departure, Bernhardt is a former oil and gas lobbyist—and has so many conflicts of interest that he must carry around a list of former clients to remember them.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Horrific, long-term consequences of regime change

  84-year-old Emma Thiessen Alvarez has never forgotten the day in 1981 when Guatemalan officials came to her house looking for her daughter, a student leader who had escaped from military custody. Unable to find her, the officials settled for Thiessen’s 14-year-old son. She never saw him again.

  Thiesen’s story was highlighted in a recent New York Times article because the Guatemalan legislature is now contemplating granting blanket amnesty to military officials who participated in the reign of terror that the Guatemalan national-security establishment inflicted on the Guatemalan people for a period of some 36 years.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Rural roads need fixing

  Last week, we talked about the importance of roads to economic development. We spoke about urban growth and expansion, especially the need for highways in Huntsville and the improvement of the port in Mobile.

  Well, I overlooked the need for and importance of our rural roads. Make no doubt about it, our rural roads need fixing too. A good many of the rural bridges in the state have been condemned and are hazardous for heavy trucks and school buses to travel. Many folks figure it would be cheaper to pay more for gasoline than it is to pay for having their front-ends aligned and tires balanced every few weeks from hitting potholes in the road.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trump’s effort to cut SNAP by fiat would kill 178,000 jobs over the next decade

  President Donald Trump’s latest budget blueprint is out, and it again calls for eviscerating nearly every program that helps families afford the basics, including cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—the United States’ largest food assistance program, which helps nearly 39 million people get enough to eat—by a staggering $220 billion, literally shrinking the program by one-third. While presidential budgets are often considered dead on arrival, since they do not themselves become law, one particular proposed cut to SNAP poses an immediate and dangerous threat, given that Trump is trying to sidestep Congress to enact it by fiat.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The ongoing, never-ending U.S. death star

  The U.S. national-security establishment’s death star continues operating at full-speed and on auto-pilot. According to an article in Newsweek, the Pentagon and the CIA have now killed half-a-million people since 9/11. The article didn’t say how many of those dead people are estimated to have participated in the 9/11 attacks, but I’d say that a reasonable estimate would be maybe 10 or 20 at the most. That would mean that 498,980 people who have been killed by the U.S. death star since 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

  Moreover, those half-a-million deaths don’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed in the U.S.-incited civil wars in Syria and Lebanon.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trump’s education budget ignores needs of students and schools

  When it comes to education policy, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have no new ideas. Much like the Department of Education’s proposed budgets for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the FY 2020 budget asks for students and teachers to pay for the administration’s misguided policy aims in the form of cuts to education programs. Though DeVos’ education agenda has never been popular, this year’s budget proposal is particularly tone deaf to the needs of students and schools. The Trump administration has been fiscally irresponsible to the extreme, granting enormous tax cuts to wealthy corporations at taxpayers’ expense and letting a costly partial government shutdown drag on. And yet, every year when the budget is released, programs that help students and families seem to come last on its list of priorities, receiving huge cuts or being targeted for elimination.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Zealand attack shows white supremacy is global terrorist movement

  The atrocity in New Zealand shows us, once again, that we’re dealing with an international terrorist movement linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology that’s metastasizing in the echo chambers of internet chat rooms and on social media networks.

  This hatred is even being amplified by our own president, who speaks of an “invasion of our country.”