Art Cullen, managing editor of The Progressive Populist, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at his day job, as editor of The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times (4/10). Art won for “editorials fueled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa,” which include the Koch organization, Cargill, Monsanto and the Farm Bureau and their secret funding of local governments’ defense in a major environmental lawsuit by the Des Moines Water Works. The municipal water utility sued three counties in northwest Iowa over nitrate runoff from farms that pollutes the Raccoon River, which is a source for Des Moines’ water supplies. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant counties that the utility can’t win damages in the lawsuit and a federal judge in Sioux City in March dismissed a similar federal lawsuit.
“Art has attacked local farmers, lawyers, county supervisors, Monsanto, the Koch Brothers, agribusiness and the Republican Party — all icons in northwest Iowa,” Richard Longworth, a retired Chicago Tribune reporter and foreign correspondent who has chronicled the changing Midwest economy in recent years for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told James Warren of the Poynter Institute.
“He called Sen. (Charles) Grassley, an Iowa institution, ‘nothing more than a lapdog for the Republican establishment,’ and the other Iowa senator, Joni Ernst, ‘the only woman as vulgar as Donald Trump,’
“Art’s Pulitzer is virtue rewarded,” Longworth said. “Sometimes the good guys really do win.”
The twice-weekly Times, whose circulation is approximately 3,000, has been published since June 1990 in Storm Lake, Iowa, population 10,000. The Times also handles circulation, printing and mailing of The Progressive Populist, which has been published since November 1995. John Cullen is publisher of both publications.
See the 10 editorials that were cited in the award.
See also, "In a small Iowa town, a Pulitzer-winning editor defends immigrants and tries to bring a community together" from the Los Angeles Times.
See a report from a nearby daily newspaper. the Carroll Daily Times Herald.
Another report from James Warren of the Poynter Institute.
GORSUCH COULD PROVE DOUBLE-EDGED ‘WIN’ FOR TRUMP. “When your first 100 days is as disastrous as popular vote loser Donald Trump’s, you have to stretch to find a win and take what you can get,” Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com (4/10). “So that’s what they’re going to call Mitch McConnell’s blowing up the Senate to get Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.”
The Washington Post reported (4/9): “I think it’s a big shot in the arm,” Trump ally Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said of Gorsuch’s confirmation. “It gives Republicans a taste of victory and reminds them we can have many more.” …
Many conservative activists and lawmakers noted that the key to Gorsuch’s confirmation was GOP unity from the beginning. Trump drew Gorsuch’s name from a list of 21 candidates that he released during the campaign, and announced his pick in a prime-time address from the White House’s East Room.
Conservatives expressed enthusiasm for the pick — as he was seen in the mold of the late right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia — and celebrated that Gorsuch would maintain the high court’s ideological skew, pouring millions of dollars into advertising benefiting him.
But that “unity” comes at a pretty high price, and is likely to be a one-time deal, McCarter wrote. “McConnell still has the option of getting rid of the filibuster on legislation, but that’s going to be a harder push for him because then his senators would have to vote on all the crazy stuff that the House Republicans come up with. Those are votes they will not want to have to take. Case in point: Trumpcare and Zombie Trumpcare. That stuff is toxic with voters. No one in the Senate wants to have to vote on that. If McConnell gets rid of the filibuster there, the House will probably come up with even more extreme, unpopular stuff. Get rid of Social Security? Sure, why not, because the Senate Democrats can’t filibuster it any more.”
The Supreme Court is esoteric enough that not a lot of voters are going to make it a priority issue for their votes, McCarter wrote, but the move to end the filibuster and roll over Democrats did energize activists on the progressive side for 2018 and 2020. But the scary part for Republicans is that it will energize the extremists in their own party.
TRUMP’S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER SAYS ‘WE’RE PREPARED TO DO MORE’ AS RUSSIANS HINT US POLICY COULD MEAN WAR. Donald Trump’s top national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, backed the US missile attack on Syria, saying “we’re prepared to do more,” even as Russian officials hint that current US strategy could mean war.
McMaster told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (4/9) the “president acted decisively” and that while the strike wasn’t meant to take out all of Syria’s capabilities, “it was a strong signal that the US will not stand idly by.”
When Wallace asked what the US will do if Russia defends its interests in Syria, mentioning Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s comments (4/7) that the US missile strike in Syria put the two countries “on the verge of a military clash,” McMaster stood firm on his position that Russia is “part of the problem” and should become “part of the solution.”
“This is part of the problem with Syria, Russia’s sponsorship of [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s] murderous regime,” McMaster said. “This is a great opportunity for the Russian leadership to reevaluate what they are doing. Why they are supporting a regime that is committing mass murder against its own people. So, Russia could be part of the solution. Right now I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem.”
The US military strategy on Syria has complicated Trump’s attempt to warm relations with Russia. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was scheduled to meet with Russian officials the following week in Moscow, where Tillerson met with the Russian Foreign Minister and then for two hours with President Putin.
SLIM MAJORITY BACKS MISSILE STRIKE ON SYRIA, BUT NOT MUCH MORE. An ABC/Washington Post poll found that 51% of Americans support Donald Trump’s missile strikes on a Syrian airfield, while 40% opposed it. But only 35% support additional missile strikes while 54% oppose them and 35% support military action to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad while 41% oppose military action.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ISN’T FINISHED ROLLING BACK ENVIRONMENTAL REGS. The Trump administration is asking a federal court to delay moving forward on three Obama-era environmental regulations while the administration decides if and how it wants to repeal or rework those rules, Natasha Geiling reported at ThinkProgress.org (4/10).
The administration asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (4/7) to delay arguments on both the Obama-administration’s 2015 ozone rule and 2016 methane regulations for new oil and gas operations.
The Trump administration already promised to review the 2016 methane rule, which would have required new oil and gas operations to check for and repair methane leaks, in its executive order released in late March. But on 4/7, the administration also signaled that it might be reviewing the Obama administration’s 2015 rule that lowered allowable concentration of ozone from 75 parts per bln (ppb) to 70 ppb, and asked the DC Circuit to delay oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the rule, which were scheduled for later this month.
The Trump administration has also asked the DC Circuit Court not to issue a ruling on a pending case regarding the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-administration’s policy regulating carbon emissions from power plants. Twenty-six states had filed a lawsuit against the plan, which has been under a temporary stay from the Supreme Court while the lawsuit made its way through lower appeals courts. The DC Circuit Court had already heard arguments from both sides and had been prepared to issue a ruling any day — but given the fact that the Trump administration has directed the EPA to review and rewrite the rule, the Justice Department is now arguing that the EPA should have the opportunity to review the rule before a court ruling is issued.
Environmental groups and states that had argued in support of the Clean Power Plan have already challenged the Trump administration’s request for delay in that case, arguing that the case is all but decided.
SESSIONS TAKES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S WAR ON SCIENCE TO NEXT LEVEL. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said (4/10) the Justice Department will no longer partner with an independent group of experts that has been working to improve the accuracy of forensic science.
In a public statement first reported by the Washington Post, Sessions announced he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a group of scientists, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other experts tasked by the Obama administration in 2013 with raising standards for the use of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings.
The commission, which has been critical in recommending forensic standards, guidance, and policies to the DOJ, is set to expire on 4/23. Sessions said (4/10) that the roles will instead shift internally to a still-unnamed senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force.
“The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime and increasing public safety,” Sessions said in the statement. “As we decide how to move forward, we bear in mind that the Department is just one piece of the larger criminal justice system and that the vast majority of forensic science is practiced by state and local forensic laboratories and is used by state and local prosecutors.”
Last year, the Obama White House and DOJ took efforts to strengthen forensic science, given the rates at which experts overstate and mislead the efficacy of analyzing forensic evidence such bite marks, shoe prints, hair samples, and firearms during criminal trials.
In September, a White House panel recommended that courts question the admissibility of four different techniques that are often used to secure convictions. While examiners often rely on those techniques and claim that they can name a source with absolute certainty, there is only statistical research to back up DNA analysis, scientists found. At the time, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top prosecutors across the country said they would continue to rely on the methods anyway.
RENEWABLE ENERGY SHATTERS RECORDS AS COAL PRODUCTION DROPS. Renewable power keeps shattering records in the US and around the world, while US coal production has fallen to its lowest level since 1978, according to statistics from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), Joe Romm reported at ThinkProgress.org (4/3).
Yet Donald Trump and his administration nonetheless continue to champion the dirty and dying fuels of the 19th century. Just last week Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a new push to expand coal mining on public lands, while misguidedly attacking renewables: “We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope.”
Ironically, a few days earlier, the California grid’s Independent System Operator (ISO) tweeted that it achieved a record high percentage of peak demand provided by renewables of 56.7%.
And 60% of that came from solar power, which is doubly remarkable because it’s only spring, and solar generation will be higher in the summer.
Six days later, the ISO tweeted that California set a new record for total solar generation of 9676 megawatts.
Globally, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just reported that 2016 set another record for global renewable additions with 161 gigawatts. And of that, solar set a new record with 71 GW added, surpassing the 51 GW of new wind.
“We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world,” explained IRENA chief Adnan Amin. “This is reflected in another year of record-breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity.”
Last year, renewables powered Germany for a full day and powered Portugal for four consecutive days. Denmark now produces enough electricity from wind to meet all its domestic demand and still export power. In 2016, the UK for the first time ever generated more power from wind than coal over the entire year.
As the California ISO data shows, the same energy transformation has started to take hold here. At the same time, the EIA has reported that renewable energy grew 7% last year 2016, while total domestic energy production dropped 4%, led by coal “which decreased 18% and fell to its lowest level since 1978.”
The Trump administration may slow the domestic revolution with their catastrophic pro-pollution, anti-clean energy policies. But our major trading competitors understand the future belongs to renewable pixie dust, not dirty coal dust, Romm concluded.
DROPS IN SOLAR AND WIND COSTS TURN GLOBAL POWER MARKET UPSIDE DOWN. Stunning drops in the cost of wind and solar energy have turned the global power market upside down, Joe Romm reported at ThinkProgress.org (4/6). For years, opponents of renewable power, like Donald Trump, have argued they simply aren’t affordable. The reality is quite different.
Unsubsidized renewables have become the cheapest source of new power — by far — in more and more countries, according to a new report from the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
In just one year, the cost of solar generation worldwide dropped on average 17%, the report found. The average costs for onshore wind dropped 18% last year, while those for offshore wind fell a whopping 28%.
The result is “more bang for the buck,” as the UN and BNEF put it. Last year saw 138.5 GW of new renewable capacity. That not only beat the 2015 record of 127.5 GW, but it was built with a total investment that was 23% lower than in 2015.
CHINA GRANTS TRADEMARKS FOR TRUMP MASSAGE PARLORS, BARS AND ESCORT SERVICES. China has granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for Donald Trump and his family to develop a host of branded businesses in China from hotels to insurance to bodyguard and concierge services, the London Telegraph reported (3/8).
Trump’s lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing US jobs. Critics maintain that Trump’s swelling portfolio of China trademarks raises serious conflict of interest questions.
If no one objects, the trademarks will be formally registered after 90 days. All but three are in the president’s own name. China already registered one trademark to the president, for Trump-branded construction services, on 2/14.
If Trump receives any special treatment in securing trademark rights, it would violate the US Constitution, which bans public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless approved by Congress. Concerns about potential conflicts of interest are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.
The 38 new trademarks are for businesses including branded spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, retail shops, restaurants, bars, and private bodyguard and escort services.
FARMERS PROTEST TRUMP’S REVERSAL OF CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRESS. In a sweeping executive order on energy, Donald Trump reversed years of progress in the US-led fight against climate change, which threatens farmers, ranchers and rural residents, the National Farmers Union said in a news release (3/28). The order dismantles critical Obama-era policies that prepare the United States to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“Climate change jeopardizes American food security and the livelihoods of American family farmers, ranchers and rural residents,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “This executive order sends a very clear message to Americans and the rest of the world that our country will not lead the global effort to curtail climate change. It also stems any further progress the United States can collectively make to thwart the severe effects of climate change.”
Trump’s executive order rescinds more than half a dozen federal regulations and guidance that aid in making the US food system more climate resilient.
Obama-era climate policies created a path of sustainability for family farmers and ranchers dealing with climate change by curbing carbon emissions and paved the way for agriculture to be a major contributor to reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and moved the needle toward compensating producers for environmental services, Johnson noted. See nfu.org.
“Considering family farmers’ and ranchers’ potential for sinking major amounts of carbon in their soils, agriculture needs to be engaged by the administration and to be a leader in the movement to mitigate climate change,” said Johnson.
“Discounting climate implications hinders our nation’s ability to protect it’s food system. NFU urges the administration to consider the devastating effects of climate change on the livelihoods and well-being of family farmers, ranchers and rural communities.”
EPA STAFF ‘OPENLY MOCKING’ TRUMP ENVIRO POLICIES, SAYS RETIREE. Mike Cox retired after three decades at the Environmental Protection Agency (3/31) with a scathing letter for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Joe Romm reported at ThinkProgress.org (4/10).
Team Trump is apparently an open joke to their staff — something even the Reagan and Bush administrations never experienced. Morale has collapsed, Cox notes.
“I have worked under six administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties,” Cox wrote on his last day on the job. “This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an administration and by extension you.”
The 60-year-old Cox, who worked on climate change for EPA’s Region 10, which covers Alaska and the northwest, was especially harsh on Pruitt’s science denial.
Cox called Pruitt’s claim on national TV that CO2 is not a primary contributor to recent global warming “shocking” — and directly compared it to the congressional hearing with the CEOs of the major tobacco companies where “all of the CEOs categorically denied that smoking causes lung cancer.”
What’s the result of this denial? “You will continue to undermine your credibility and integrity with EPA staff, and the majority of the public,” Cox wrote, “if you continue to question this basic science of climate change.”
In the five-page letter, Cox slams the president for the “false and misleading” claim that killing EPA carbon pollution standards will bring back coal jobs.
From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2017
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