Donald Trump — a “Con Artist”

Finally, Donald Trump is being identified in the main ring of the 2016 Republican Party political circus in the United States as being a “con artist,” as Senator Marco Rubio called him last week.

“It’s time to pull his mask off so people can see what we’re dealing with here,” Rubio said at campaign rally in Dallas Friday. That followed Rubio repeatedly describing Trump as a “con artist” the evening before in the last TV debate between GOP rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, and in later media appearances.

“You all have friends that are thinking about voting for Donald Trump,” Rubio went on at the rally. “Friends do not let friends vote for con artists.”

Being a con artist is not a disqualifying factor for a politician. In the U.S.—and elsewhere—there have been plenty of con artists running for political office.

But that Trump has gotten so far without being fully called out in a bid for what is widely considered the most powerful office in the world has been remarkable—and outrageous.

There has been some investigative journalism pointing to this aspect of Trump.

Especially noteworthy, an extensive article in November in Time magazine headlined: “TRUMP U. What the litigation over Trump University reveals about the man who would be President.”

Written by Steven Brill, journalist, attorney and founder of Brill’s Content, a media watch publication, it compared to snake oil what was named Trump University, “a series of adult-education classes offering Donald’s Trump’s real estate investing methods.”

“Trump and his university—which operated from 2005 through 2010, when it was shut down as…[law]suits and multiple state attorneys general investigations were beginning—lured approximately 7,000 consumers into paying $1,495 to $34,995 for courses,” Brill relates.  “Trump ‘created, funded, implemented and benefited from a scam that cost them…thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars each,’ the lawyers suing him have argued.”

“I mean this is a guy,” said Rubio at the rally,” that’s taken Trump Airlines bankrupt, Trump Vodka, nobody wanted it, Trump Mortgage, was a disaster, Trump University was a fraud.”

Rubio also claimed, as he hit hard at Trump at the rally, that: “He’s being treated with kid gloves by many in the media in the hope that he’s the nominee. Some of them are biased, they’d love to see a liberal like Donald Trump take over the Republican Party and others know he is easy to beat once he gets there.”

As a journalism professor, I disagree with this analysis.

Trump has succeeded in manipulating media by, for starters, using his bombastic style to fiercely attack the press for doing its job of asking tough questions. His public assault on Megyn Kelly of Fox News after she had the nerve as a debate moderator to throw hardball questions at Trump was typical of how he has used intimidation on media people and institutions.

Then there’s his sense of what inflames—which media cover like any big fire.

As Howard Fineman, former Newsweek chief political correspondent and now global editorial director at the Huffington Post, has written, based on an interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Trump deploys fame for fame’s sake, taps into populist expressions of fear, hatred and resentment and shows a knack for picking fights and a braggart’s focus on the horse race. All of which allow him to play into—and exploit—every media weakness and bad habit in a chase for audience and numbers.”

Fineman in his article last month—headed “Epic Media Fail: How And Why Trump Trumped The Press”—quoted Goodwin as noting how the media “are the key purveyors of the qualities of the candidates and of telling people who they are what they stand for.”

But Goodwin concludes that in in covering the fiery Trump, the press “preempted serious scrutiny of his past, character, record in business and suitability—if any—for the office of president.”

Then there’s Trump’s media savvy.

Sean Illing on Salon wrote a piece taking off from an article on Politico, both of which ran at the start of this month. The Politico story—“How Trump Did It”—revealed how in 2013 Trump told a group of “New York political operatives [who] had come to ask him to run for governor” that his plan was to run for president instead. He told them, “I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off me.”

Said Illing: “Trump knew all along that his celebrity and media savvy were sufficient to support his campaign.” Trump was aware that the “ability to control the narrative, to dominate the coverage, is all it takes. Trump’s amorality coupled with his gift for self-promotion has turned the Republican presidential race on its head.”

Illing said that the “biggest takeaway” from the Politico expose “is that Trump is indeed a professional huckster. And whatever else he is, he’s not stupid. He doesn’t believe half the absurdities he utters on the campaign trail either. As the [Politico] report makes clear, everything he’s done and said was designed to dupe the media into funding his marketing strategy. Trump’s a TV man; he understands the landscape.” Illling’s article was headed: “Donald Trump is a fraud: Report confirms the billionaire’s presidential bid is a long and calculated con job.”

No small thing is involved.

“The moment of truth: we must stop Trump,” was the headline of a piece last week in The Washington Post by Dr. Danielle Allen, director of the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and professor in Harvard’s Department of Government and also Graduate School of Education.

“Like any number of us raised in the last 20th Century,” she wrote, “I have spent my life perplexed about exactly how Hitler could have come to power in Germany. Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I now understand. Leave aside whether a direct comparison of Trump to Hitler is accurate. That is not my point. My point rather is about how a demagogic opportunist can exploit a divided country.”

As to media coverage, she told of how “journalists cover every crude and cruel thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth and therefore acculturate all of us to what we are hearing. Are they not just doing their jobs, they will ask, in covering the Republican front-runner? Have we not already been acculturated by 30 years of popular culture to offensive and inciting comments? Yes, both of these things are true. But that doesn’t mean journalists ought to be Trump’s megaphone.” She asks “why not let Trump pay for his own ads when he wants to broadcast foul and incendiary ideas? He’ll still have plenty of access to freedom of expression.”

The Washington Post itself, in an editorial last week titled “GOP leaders, you must do everything in your power to stop Trump,” declared that “history will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer.”

It continued: “This is a front-runner with no credible agenda and no suitable experience. He wants the United States to commit war crimes, including torture…He admires Russian dictator Vladimir Putin… He would round up and deport 11 million people, a forced movement on a scale not attempted since Stalin or perhaps Pol Pot. He has, during the course of his campaign, denigrated women, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, people with disabilities and many more. He routinely trades wild falsehoods and doubles down when his lies are exposed.”

The new host of TV’s Daily Show, Trevor Noah, said this month, “For me, as an African, there’s just something familiar about Trump that makes me feel at home.” He compared Trump to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and said that in this way Trump “is presidential.”

The stakes are enormous—and it’s no joke.

Unless he is rejected, we easily could be on the cusp of a media-knowing, veteran “reality show” host with a long record as a huckster becoming president of the United States.

 

 

Deepwater Wind — An Energy Revolution

An energy revolution is happening east of Long Island.

In the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Deepwater Wind is constructing the nation’s first offshore wind farm—five wind turbines off Block Island, Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind has emerged as the leading offshore wind company in the United States.

It is seeking to follow its Block Island project, to be in operation this year, with what it calls Deepwater ONE, 30 miles southeast of Montauk, Long Island. Deepwater ONE would initially involve 15 turbines but the goal is for eventually 200—and their generating a significant portion of electricity for Long Island and southern New England.

And Deepwater Wind is working to follow that up with Garden State Offshore Energy—a joint venture with the New Jersey utility PSEG—with ultimately 200 wind turbines off Cape May, New Jersey. They would produce electricity for New Jersey.

A key innovation made by Deepwater Wind is figuring out how wind turbines can be placed in deep water—as reflected in its name—over the horizon and out of sight.

This eliminates the complaints heard on Long Island 15 years ago when the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) proposed a wind farm off Jones Beach which also were  raised on Martha’s Vineyard when the Cape Wind company sought to build a wind farm off that Massachusetts island.

The need to place wind turbines in relatively shallow water and close to shore in was a result of “old technology,” says Clint Plummer, vice president of development for Deepwater Wind. However, Providence, Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind has drawn from technology established in offshore gas and oil drilling and the European experience with offshore wind to develop wind turbines that can be placed way out to sea. Also, he notes, the wind is stronger there.

“Our focus is to avoid the controversy entirely by locating wind turbines over the horizon,” says Mr. Plummer.

The U.S. has been exceedingly slow in moving ahead on offshore wind—a  technology that’s been booming in Europe, notably in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany. There are now 3,000 wind turbines off Europe. “Offshore wind is a vitally important resource for densely populated coastal areas,” says Mr. Plummer. “The European recognized that…The first offshore wind farm in the world was built off the coast of Denmark in 1991” and is “still operating.”

Some $20 billion a year is being invested in offshore wind, he says, and 85,000 people employed.  “It has become a massive global industry.”

“It’s a big industry producing big results,” says Mr. Plummer. “We have a real opportunity here in the United States particularly in the Northeast—Long Island, New England, the Mid-Atlantic States.”

This part of the U.S. relies on old power plants and there’ll be a need for a “massive change-over.”  Offshore wind “can be a big part,” he says, in “replacing the old, retiring, dirty and expensive fossil fuel plants” as well as “retiring nuclear facilities.”

For a cost the same or less as building conventional power plants, there could be offshore wind farms, he says. “We can do it cost-effectively. We can do it without controversy by installing wind turbines far enough offshore so they are over the horizon, and out of conflicted areas–shipping lanes and productive fishing areas.”

For its Deepwater ONE project, Deepwater Wind also seeks to combine energy storage with production. It is proposing two battery energy storage facilities on industrially zoned sites in Montauk and Wainscott on Long Island to hold power for when the wind lightens up.

Offshore wind, he says, also has a big advantage over onshore wind in that the components for on land turbines have “real sizing constraints”—they must be transported “over roads and bridges and around corners.” Offshore wind turbines can be assembled at coastal sites and then “taken by barge off-shore.” That’s why, he said, the average size of a wind turbine on land is two to three megawatts while offshore turbines are six to eight megawatts.  And the larger wind turbines are, “the more energy they are able to harvest out of the air.”

There has been worry among fishing interests on eastern Long Island, but Mr. Plummer says that Deepwater Wind’s turbines will be a mile apart providing plenty of room for fishing.  He says Deepwater Wind wants to “work closely” with the fishing community.

As for the concern of birds getting killed, he said Deepwater Wind conducted a two-year study using “avian radar” and found that birds in migration hug the coast and are not out where the Deepwater Wind turbines would be.

Although LIPA has not been bullish on offshore wind since its chairman Richard Kessel, a great advocate, left, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is highly enthusiastic. In January in his “State of the State” address he announced an initiative involving government “at all levels” and the citizenry.  He described offshore wind as an enormous opportunity. The National Wildlife Federation applauded Mr. Cuomo’s “commitment to clean energy.” Said its Northeast Regional Director Curtis Fisher: “For the first time today, a New York governor highlighted the important role offshore wind power must play in its energy future.”

 

 

 

Brookhhaven National Laboratory and (Shhh…!) Radioactive Contamination

A class action lawsuit begun 20 years ago charging Brookhaven National Laboratory, an offshoot of America’s atomic bomb-building Manhattan Project, with contaminating communities adjacent to it will be moving ahead this month.

After World War II there was a push in the United States to build upon the secret government laboratories involved in the Manhattan Project crash program to build atomic bombs. A drive was on to develop other uses of nuclear technology and perpetuating the atomic establishment created during the war on which $2 billion was spent and 125,000 employed. .

Also, elite Northeast U.S. universities, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, were not involved during the war in the Manhattan Project. Concerned about coastal invasion, the U.S.kept Manhattan Project facilities inland. A key facility, Los Alamos Laboratory with the University of California its manager, rose in New Mexico, for example.

Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) was set up on Long Island, New York in 1947 by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), an entity the Manhattan Project morphed into. Its missions were atomic research and developing nuclear technology for civilian purposes—particularly nuclear power plants. It would be managed by Harvard, Yale and Princeton, among other universities, on a former Army base, Camp Upton, 67 miles east of Manhattan.

As BNL literature states: “At the end of World War II, the need was seen to continue the teamwork of Government and scientific institutions that had proven effective in wartime work in order to ensure the continued progress of nuclear science in peacetime. The wartime programs under the Manhattan [Project] District had given rise to centers of research and nuclear science that continue to be active…but no similar center had been developed in the Northeast…The establishment of a new laboratory near New York City was therefore proposed. As a result, Brookhaven National Laboratory was founded.”

This happened despite Long Island being one of the few well-populated areas of the U.S. dependent on an underground water for potable water. Thus, BNL nuclear facilities would be built on this sole-source aquifer. And, it was done despite the surrounding population.

The result: a radioactive mess at BNL involving Long Island water and serious health impacts on people in the communities near BNL.

The class action lawsuit charges the “actions of the defendant were grossly, recklessly and wantonly negligent and done with an utter disregard for the health, safety, well-being and rights of the plaintiffs.” It accuses BNL of “failure to observe accepted industry standards in the use, storage and disposal of hazardous and toxic substances” and BNL itself of being “improperly located on top of an underground aquifer which supplies drinking water to [a] large number of persons.”\

The defendant is Associated Universities, Inc. which managed BNL first for the AEC and then for the agency that succeeded it, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Associated Universities—which continues with other U.S. government contracts—is composed of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins Universities, University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Its management of BNL ended in 1998 when it was fired by the DOE because of widespread contamination at BNL and DOE’s determination that Associated Universities was a bad overseer of BNL operations. Two nuclear reactors at BNL were found to have been leaking radioactive tritium into Long Island’s underground water table for many years. BNL management was then switched to a partnership of Long Island’s Stony Brook University and Battelle Memorial Institute of Ohio.

Radioactive contamination caused by BNL is documented in the 2008 book “Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town” and an award-winning 2012 documentary “The Atomic States of America.”

Since it was first brought in 1996, the lawsuit has gone back and forth between the New York State Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, the judicial panel over the Supreme Court in York.

BNL lawyers have used delaying tactics—apparently in the hope that the “class” of those suing as victims, originally 21 families, would be reduced. But only one person has died and now the “class” has grown to 180 persons suing.

In July the Appellate Division ruled the case can move towards trial. It declared that “the causes of action of the proposed intervenors are all based upon common theories of liability.”

But, outrageously, the four Appellate Division judges ruled that radioactive contamination caused by BNL can no longer be part of the case. They accepted the argument of lawyers for BNL that, as they put it in their July decision, “the nuclear radiation emitted by BNL did not exceed guidelines promulgated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” Thus the plaintiffs will now only be able to sue for other forms of BNL pollution, mainly chemical.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was the other agency in addition to the DOE that the AEC was split into after the U.S. Congress in 1974 eliminated the AEC for having a conflict of interest in being as both a promoter and regulator of nuclear power. The promotion role was given to the DOE, the regulatory role to the NRC. However, the NRC has continued to boost nuclear power. It, like the AEC, for instance, has never denied a construction or operating license for any nuclear plant anywhere, anytime in the U.S.

Moreover, the BNL radioactive pollution will not be allowed to be considered despite the U.S. government in recent years paying out millions of dollars to BNL employees in compensation for their getting cancer after exposure to radioactivity at BNL. Also, families of BNL workers who died from cancer after exposure to radioactivity have been paid. The pay-outs to former workers and their families for cancer from BNL radioactive exposure—what neighbors of the lab are now being barred from litigating about—come under the U.S. government’s “Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.”

It covers not only BNL but the other U.S. national nuclear laboratories including Los Alamos, Livermore, Oak Ridge labs, as well as other U.S. government nuclear facilities among them its Savannah River Plant and Hanford Site.

According to a Power Point presentation given at BNL in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Labor, some $8.2 billion has been set aside under the program for pay-outs, with $111.7 million of that for exposure to radioactivity at BNL and consequent cancer.

Joseph B. Frowiss, Sr., based in Rancho Santa Fe, California has been handling many of the cases involving former workers at BNL—and other U.S. government nuclear facilities—and their families. As he says on his website—http://www/frowiss.org/—“in the past seven years 1,800 of my clients have received over $300 million and hundreds more are in the pipeline…A diagnosis of one of 23 ‘specified’ cancers and typically 250 work days in a specified timeframe are the basic requirements.”

An “independent claims advocate,” Mr. Frowiss has run full-page advertisements in Long Island newspapers: “Brookhaven National Lab Employees With Cancer,” they are headed. They note that “BNL employees…are likely now eligible for lump sum tax free base awards of $150,000, possibly to $400,000, plus medical benefits.”

The class action suit originally included damages caused by BNL radioactivity. It is titled Ozarczuk v. Associated Universities, Inc. for Barbara Osarczuk who lived just outside the BNL boundary in North Shirley and developed breast and thyroid cancer which she attributes to BNL.

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are led by two prominent lawyers, A. Craig Purcell of Stony Brook, Long Island, a former president of the Suffolk County Bar Association, and Richard J. Lippes of Buffalo who represented Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal Homeowners Association in landmark U.S. litigation. That lawsuit took on the massive contamination in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls caused by the Hooker Chemical Company which resulted in widespread health impacts to residents of the area. It led in 1980 to the creation of the federal Superfund program to try clean up high-pollution sites in the United States.

Mr. Purcell said that after the many years of back-and-forth court rulings, the plaintiffs have the judicial go-ahead to sue for “loss of enjoyment of life, diminution of property values and the cost of hooking up to public water.”

Mr. Lippes said that “the lab was supposed to monitor anything escaping from it—and didn’t do it.” The attitude of BNL, he said, was that “every dollar spent for safety or on environmental issues was taking away from research.” The lawsuit “should have been resolved years ago, but there has been intransigence of lab administrators not wanting to be held responsible.”

BNL was designated a high-pollution Superfund site in 1989. In 1997, the large amounts of radioactive tritium—H30 or radioactive water—were found to have been leaking from BNL’s High Flux Beam Reactor. That reactor was closed by the DOE and then a smaller reactor was found to have also been leaking tritium and shut down.

There are now no operating nuclear reactors at BNL. But BNL remains closely connected to nuclear technology. In 2010, BNL set up a new Department of Nuclear Science and Technology with a multi-million dollar yearly budget.

BNL’s announcement at the time quoted Gerald Stokes, its associate director for Global and Regional Solutions, as saying: “BNL’s long involvement and considerable experience in nuclear energy make it a natural place to create such an organization.” On BNL’s website currently is a page headed, “Exploring Nuclear Technologies for Our Energy Future” which discusses the department. https://www.bnl.gov/nst/

Long Island environmental educator and activist Peter Maniscalco says: “The Brookhaven scientific culture still doesn’t understand the interrelationship between humans and the natural world and the lethal consequences their work in nuclear technology imposes on the population and environment of the world. They still don’t understand that nuclear power is a polluting, deadly technology,”

BNL’s involvement in promoting nuclear power has included its joining with the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) in a plan advanced between the 1960s and 1980s to build seven to 11 nuclear power plants on Long Island. BNL scientists worked hand-in-hand with LILCO attorneys at federal hearings on the scheme. One plant was completed, Shoreham Nuclear Power Station 1, but blocked from going into commercial operation by opposition by people on Long Island and local and state governments. Meanwhile, for many of those years, Phyllis Vineyard, the wife of BNL’s director, George Vineyard, was a paid member of the LILCO board, and William Catacosinos, a former BNL assistant director, CEO and chairman of LILCO.

The book “Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town” by Kelly McMasters links widespread cancer in neighboring Shirley to radioactive releases from BNL. She is an assistant professor and director of publishing studies at Hofstra University on Long Island.

The book was short-listed by Oprah Winfrey. Her magazine, O, said of it: “A loving, affecting memoir of an American Eden turned toxic.”

“The Atomic States of America,” based on the book, received among its honors a special showing at the Sundance Film Festival. Its reviews included Variety noting that Shirley “was in unhappy proximity” to BNL “around which skyrocketing cancer rates were written off as coincidence or an aberrant gene pool.” The review cited the appearance in “The Atomic States of America” of Alec Baldwin, “a lifelong Long Islander,” who in the documentary calls BNL scientists “liars and worse.” It said “in following McMasters’ work, the film builds a convincing case about cancer and nukes,”

In the first book I wrote about nuclear technology, “Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power,” published in 1980, I reprinted pages from BNL’s safety manual as an example of dangers of radioactivity not being taken seriously at BNL.

The manual advised that people “can live with radiation.”

“Is Radiation Dangerous To You?” it starts. It tells BNL employees: “It can be; but need not be.” It states: “If you wear protective clothing, wash with soap and check your hands and feet with instruments, you are perfectly safe.”