Entries by Neal Barkus

West Virginia’s Green Amendment

On February 11, 2019, thirty-two West Virginia legislators — all Democrats — introduced Resolution 25 in the West Virginia House of Delegates. The Resolution called for an amendment to the West Virginia Constitution creating a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. Modeled on a similar amendment in Pennsylvania, the “Green Amendment” declares that these public natural resources are the common property of the people and appoints the State of West Virginia as trustee of those resources. These declarations would have sweeping legal consequences if the Green Amendment is adopted.

What Are We Going To Do About It?

Even before the upcoming public impeachment hearings, we know the facts. Despite the blizzard of falsehoods issued by Presidential tweet to cover up the crime – it was a “perfect call”, there was no quid pro quo — all these have been discredited, one by one, then abandoned. We know this: the President used our money, not his own, to squeeze a desperate country into providing political dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s possible opponent in the 2020 election. This extortion was intended to benefit himself, not the country. So the question is not what happened. Rather, the question is what are we going to do about it?

Paper or Plastic?

Remember when grocery clerks would ask this question at the checkout counter? Now you practically have to leap over the counter to prevent your groceries from immediately going into plastic bags. I have always assumed that plastic bags became the grocery industry’s packaging of choice because of the cost savings to the grocers. This is basically true. I have also assumed that paper bags are both biodegradable in landfills and recyclable into other products, while plastic bags are not biodegradable and rarely recycled. But going beneath these assumptions a little further, the environmentally sound choice between paper and plastic bags is not at all clear.

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.