Entries by Neal Barkus

Why We Should Not Wait Until The 2020 Election To Deal With Trump’s Misbehavior

Democrats in the House of Representatives have decided they cannot ignore President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to produce dirt on Trump’s likely opponent in 2020. They have begun an impeachment inquiry, which may lead to the introduction and adoption of articles of impeachment in the House. Even now one can hear criticism of the move from those who ask why we just can’t wait until the 2020 election and let the voters decide whether Trump is guilty of a “high crime or misdemeanor?” But waiting until the 2020 election to deal with Trump’s conduct, up or down, would be a serious mistake. Here’s why.

When Will We Decide We’ve Had Enough?

Nearly every day, the news reveals another outrage on the part of President Trump that violates constitutional norms. The most recent is his apparent threat to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless that country produces damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden. At present Biden is Trump’s most likely opponent in 2020. Trump’s arrogance, corruption and destructiveness are unprecedented. I viscerally feel that he is ruining my country. When will we decide that we’ve had enough?

Reforming Corporate Behavior

We have heard for years that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, end of story. This notion gained ascendancy after a 1970 article published in the New York Times by economist Milton Friedman, who huffed that the idea that corporations have a broader responsibility to society is “pure and unadulterated socialism.” But today Friedman’s article seems like an odd period piece and his ideas out of step. There is a lot happening these days in boardrooms and the political arena to restore social responsibility to corporate behavior.

Undermining the Endangered Species Act

We have just been treated to another example of what happens when conservation voters fail to go to the polls or, worse, when they vote for candidates who are antithetical to sound conservation values. On August 12, 2019, the Trump Administration announced its latest effort to modify the Endangered Species Act (ESA), not in the interest of the imperiled species the Act was designed to protect, but to satisfy the oil, cattle and mining industries who contribute so heavily to the Republican leviathan.

How Secure Are West Virginia Elections?

The Mueller Report released earlier this year detailed numerous ways that Russian operatives sought to interfere with U.S state and local election apparatus in 2016. A Russian entity called the GRU targeted state boards of elections, secretaries of state and county governments with the intent of gaining access to databases of registered voters. In June 2016 they compromised the voter database of the Illinois Board of Elections and extracted information on millions of voters before the intrusion was blocked. Hundreds of outsiders probe West Virginia’s election computer security system daily. Just how secure will the West Virginia election process will be in 2020?

Shareholder Resolutions: Another Tool for Fighting Climate Change

Those of us concerned about climate change in the United States have a right to be frustrated. The Trump Administration seems determined to undermine every hard-won diplomatic, legislative and policy success in the climate arena. Take, for example, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords, weakening targets for power plant emissions, and installing an implacable opponent of the agency to chair the EPA. The list goes on. While the federal government is in the grip of these science-deniers and climate change reactionaries, other governmental units and private citizens must find a way to make a difference. One tool available to many private citizens is to exercise their rights as shareholders of large corporations.

Donald Trump: Guilty of Obstruction of Justice

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now delivered his final report on the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election to the Justice Department. This investigation was broadened mid-stream to include potential obstruction of justice by the President through his interference with the Russia investigation. The evidence of obstruction of justice is compelling, although the report was careful not to assert directly that the President committed a crime. Instead, it politely concludes that the evidence “does not exonerate” him. However, the rest of us are not constrained by the Justice Department policy. Anyone reading the Mueller Report with an ounce of objectivity will conclude that Trump actually did obstruct justice several times.

Bullying Nature

It is a bright spring day in Shepherdstown and I am gazing out my window at my self-inflicted folly – the swimming pool in my back yard. Nature wasn’t on board with the original happy plans behind this water-filled hole. Instead, nature wants to use it to grow all sorts of bacteria and algae, and allow mosquitos, toads and any other interested party to lay eggs and spawn their young. Ah, but we have the answers for nature, right? Engineering, pumps and chemicals. Every summer with much effort and money thrown at the problem, we win – temporarily. But let up a moment and nature inexorably overcomes our efforts. A swimming pool is a fool’s errand to push a large rock up a hill.

Lying in Politics

From time to time the Washington Post publishes a tally of the “false or misleading” claims President Trump has made since he has been in office.  The tally is up to 8,718 as of February 12, 2019. I am no fan of Trump, but the large majority of these are assertions that contain some grain of truth and are then exaggerated and embellished by him for effect. Trump seems to have a need to be always right, always the best, always superior to his opponents.  But I wonder how different his assertions are from the puffery one expects from any salesman who has a second-rate product.  Are Trump’s exaggerations and misstatements lies?  Do we even expect politicians to tell us the truth?

Our Most Effective Tool for Fighting Climate Change: A Tree

You can’t avoid noticing the rapid development of housing in the Eastern Panhandle. Just blink and an old farm or wooded area has been replaced by a Dan Ryan development extravaganza. In my established farming neighborhood alone there are four homes under construction. But often these homes end up being naked structures with no landscaping and no trees. Evidently, new home buyers are more interested in square footage and amenities than saving or establishing wooded areas. More’s the pity. Trees add grace and beauty, provide protection against cold winter winds and blazing summer heat, prevent rainwater erosion, and create habitat for birds and other wildlife. Perhaps most importantly, trees remove prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.