Contempt of Congress

Congress is letting Trump decide what it can investigate. This is bigger than Lewandowski or the IG Report.


It’s official. Corey Lewandowski is contemptuous of Congress. He’s also in contempt of Congress. That’s serious enough and it can — and should — land Lewandowski in jail. But, in the long run, his repeated refusal to answer questions put to him by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday may well be less serious than allowing a witness to openly mock a congressional investigation.

Though he appeared in response to a subpoena and testified under oath, Lewandowski might as well have been on CNN making snide remarks to Ana Navarro. To give you the flavor of his testimony, he taunted California Rep. Eric Swalwell for his failed presidential campaign, characterized one of Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s questions as “just a rant,” repeatedly forced House members to read to him from the Mueller report and demanded that the committee “afford me the same privilege you afforded” special counsel Robert Mueller. “It’s a big safe, congressman. There’s a lot of guns in there,” he told Swalwell at one point. And when caught in a lie, he responded, “Oh, I’m sorry. Nobody in front of Congress has ever lied to the public before. I’m sorry.” Continue reading Contempt of Congress

Trump asserts Congress has no authority to investigate

White House says Congress has no ‘legitimate role’ in investigating Trump, and rejects document demands.

And refuses to allow staff, including the Inspector General to testify before Congress, even going so far as to threaten legal action against him if he does testify.

This combined with the contempt shown Congress on Sep 17th, 2019 by former Trump campaign manager Lewandowski before the House Judiciary Committee demonstrates this Administration considers itself “above the law”.  The following article from USA Today explains the condition

Rudeness and flippancy aren’t typically legally actionable, but refusing to answer congressional questions is. And Lewandowski refused to answer even the most basic questions too many times to count. He even refused to answer questions about the Stormy Daniels payoff.

Ostensibly, he did so based on a letter sent by the White House that claimed “executive privilege” and instructed Lewandowski not to reveal information about conversations with the president or his senior advisers that went beyond what was in the Mueller report.

President Donald Trump has made some expansive claims of executive privilege in the past, but claiming there is a privilege for conversations with Lewandowski is something special. It’s one thing to claim privilege for Cabinet members and White House staff. Extending it to people like Lewandowski would effectively make the president immune from any sort of congressional investigation at all.

Trump Admin challenges Congressional oversight


By law it is the obligation of a US intel agency to turn over a whistleblower’s complaint – it is not for the interagency to decide whether it will or won’t – if the Inspector General who received the report and reported it was credible, then on getting the report, it is MANDATORY UNDER THE LAW TO GIVE IT TO CONGRESS WITHIN 7 DAYS. The intel agency HAS REFUSED TO DO SO… The consensus is that once again, Trump’s personal defense attorney, Barr, is ignoring his obligation to the nation in order to protect Trump — this cannot be allowed to happen – Not that other of Trump’s many transgression are not important or serious, but this one is a major transgression possibly bordering on treason.

Continue reading Trump Admin challenges Congressional oversight

Trump Slaps Tariffs on Solar Panels in Major Blow to Renewable Energy


In the biggest blow he’s dealt to the renewable energy industry yet, President Donald Trump decided on Monday to slap tariffs on imported solar panels.

The U.S. will impose duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made abroad, a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply. Just the mere threat of tariffs has shaken solar developers in recent months, with some hoarding panels and others stalling projects in anticipation of higher costs. The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected tens of thousands of job losses in a sector that employed 260,000.

The tariffs are just the latest action Trump has taken that undermine the economics of renewable energy. The administration has already decided to pull the U.S. out of the international Paris climate agreement, rolled back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes, however, will prove to be the most targeted strike on the industry yet. Continue reading Trump Slaps Tariffs on Solar Panels in Major Blow to Renewable Energy

Here’s a biggie bit of proposed legislation: re: Mandatory Arbitration

What is House Bill H.R. 1423?

This bill — the FAIR Act — would make predispute arbitration agreements invalid or unenforceable if they require arbitration of an employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights dispute. It would also prohibit agreements and practices that interfere with the rights of individuals, workers, and small businesses to participate in a joint, class, or collective action related to an employment, consumer, antitrust, or civil rights dispute.

This bill wouldn’t affect arbitration provisions in contracts between employers and labor organizations or between labor organizations. However, it does nullify arbitration provisions that waive a worker’s right to seek judicial enforcement of a right arising from the U.S. Constitution, a state constitution, or a federal or state statute or policy.

This bill’s full title is the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act. Continue reading Here’s a biggie bit of proposed legislation: re: Mandatory Arbitration

A Commentator Responds to the House Impeachment enquiry

House Judiciary Committee Democrat Sets Guidelines for Trump Impeachment Probe

by Hindsight2020
143,539 Voted Support as of Yesterday at 3:17 PM
An ever-growing list of trumps “accomplishments” and of those in Congress who support him:

*Most recent: #PussyAssBitch He’s doctoring weather maps to try and prove he’s not an idiot.

*Has stayed at trump properties 293 days in 3 years, that’s our tax dollars going directly into his pocket.

*Took money from military daycares to pay for a wall that won’t work and no one wants.

*The Vice President and the Attorney General are both spending taxpayer dollars on trump hotels, lining his pockets and currying his favor.

*Privately instructed aides to skirt laws and regulations to get the wall built faster — and told them he will pardon them if necessary.

*Pressuring a government agency to give a contract for his wall to a company whose chief executive is a donor to one of his top GOP allies in Congress.

*Took hundreds of millions from 127 different projects (FEMA being one of those) for his wall.

*Thinks nuking a hurricane is an idea.

*Pushing to host the next G-7 at one of his own resorts.

*Taunted Iran by tweeting a classified image of an Iranian rocket that had exploded, thereby potentially compromising U.S. intelligence capabilities.

*His own company would save millions from the low-interest rates he is demanding.

*Said he was going to give you tax cuts through your paychecks but decided not to.

*Destroying the economy with HIS trade war.

*We will soon average a $1.2 trillion deficit.

*He is repeating NRA talking points on background checks so expect no action taken regardless of the fact there has been 27 arrested over threats to commit mass attacks since El Paso( NOT TOLEDO).

Continue reading A Commentator Responds to the House Impeachment enquiry

Get over it…

It’s Been 18 Years Since 9/11. It’s Time to End the Wars.

The September 11, 2001, terror attacks are old enough to vote now, old enough to enlist in the military and go fight in one of the ongoing wars spawned by that woeful day. “Never Forget,” went the enforcer’s refrain: Grind in the horror, amplify the fear, profit from the rage, and take no lessons from the sorrow. That is the biography of the last 18 years, and the method has taken deep root.

Some $6 trillion has been spent to date on the so-called war on terror. That money did not disappear like your lap does when you stand up. It now belongs to a very small group of people neither you nor I will ever meet: fossil fuel magnates, media titans, weapons manufacturers and the like. The austerity measures peddled by Republicans as they gleefully passed trillion-dollar tax cuts are but signposts on this road to perdition, one we were already on for decades before the Towers fell. After the attacks, we flipped on the blinkers and slid over into the fast lane, and now, here we are.

“This timeline sucks” is an oft-heard online refrain. The quip is a nod toward quantum physics and the idea of infinite possible timelines existing simultaneously, each new one spawned by a decision or event. This timeline has seen the stolen presidential election of 2000, which begat the inauguration of George W. Bush, which begat 9/11, which begat the unfulfilled promise of Barack Obama, which begat President Donald Trump and the current accelerating calamity we share together, whether we all know it or not.

The powers that be told us to “Never Forget” for one overarching reason: to feed the fires of permanent war (and the ocean of money that comes with it). “Never Forget” meant “always be afraid, and always be angry,” because political opportunism and the profit motive are furnaces ever in need of feeding, and wrath makes for powerful fuel.

That “Never Forget” unleashed a tidal wave of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant racism, as well as militant alarmism, is merely the price of doing business for those on the lucrative end of the affair. For the rest of us, it is funerals for friends who fell far away, neighbors disappeared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, racist massacres at Walmart, and concentration camps filled with caged children at the southern border. The target of wrath is always on the move, but there always must be a target. An unsettled populace is easily controlled, and even more easily plundered.

Total Fake

SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

President Donald Trump holds up a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map of a previously projected path of Hurricane Dorian.Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Shutterstock

Sharpiegate started out being funny, insofar as the president of the United States acting crazy can ever be funny. At this point, however, it’s not looking funny at all; it’s actually deeply worrying, because we’ve just learned that top administration officials demanded that the National Weather Service — which you might have imagined was the least political agency out there — make false claims on Trump’s behalf. And among the people most worried by this story are economists, who are wondering what this may presage for the parts of the government that produce economic data.

The story so far, if you somehow missed the past couple of weeks: First, Donald Trump declared that Hurricane Dorian was a menace to Alabama, when the National Weather Service was forecasting no such thing. In fact, soon after his warning the service office in Birmingham, fearing that the public would panic unnecessarily, issued a statement that Dorian would not, in fact, pose any threat to its area.

Then Trump refused to admit having been wrong, and appeared on TV with a forecast map that appeared to have been crudely altered with a black Sharpie to include Alabama in the “bubble” showing areas at risk.

So far, so hilarious. But then the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of which the Weather Service is a part, released an unsigned statement claiming that Trump had been right. And yesterday reporters at The Times revealed the back story behind that statement: Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary — whose department includes the NOAA — had threatened to fire agency officials unless they backed up his boss. Continue reading Total Fake

Choropleth Map of Slavery Extent 1861 by State by County,0.467,0.171,0.1,0

The interactive map referenced below is available for perusal from the Library of Congress Website above.

A full article about the map follows below


Mapping Slavery in the United States in 1860

by Daniel Brownstein – 2013

In debating the values of data visualization maps, I’ve gone both ways.  The value of maps as specific arguments–and tools of spatial orientation–respond to the value of the selective criteria that cartographers foreground in them, after all.  Less inventive differentiations of spatial distributions “flatten” the map’s surface, and limit their value to the map-reader.  Their arguments are not as interesting, one might say.  The early visualization of this elegant choropleth map employed data from the Census of 1860 it translated into visual form to map the density slave population across the recently seceded Southern states. Long touted as an important strategic tool, the rhetoric of an isolated mapping of the Southern states framed debates about the Civil War with greater  subtlety than current tiresome choropleth maps of “red” vs. “blue states.”  The 1861 lithograph marked the density of slave-owning in pockets by darkening sites of the greatest slave population, perhaps to mask the ownership of slaves throughout the South and point to the defenders of a slave-based economy.

1861 slave population map

If the census provided a basis for Edwin Hergesheimer and Alexander Dallas Bache to create the map, a collaborative government effort as much as an independent enterprise of the commercial engraver Henry S. Graham, the use of statistical cartography prefigured the mapping of social or political trend in the field of human geography.  While the recent German immigrant Hergesheimer created the pro-Union map from figures in the Census after his work on the US Coastal Survey, the translation of the results of the Census into visual form proceeded because the Coast Survey’s Superintendent. Continue reading Choropleth Map of Slavery Extent 1861 by State by County


Book Review: A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

by Richard @ Flexible Reality


One of the first observations of note is when this book was first published, in 1986, at a time in Ameican culture markedly different than our own time. Atwood identified several strands in our civil society which have come into an unpleasant view within the past few years, which were only wisps in 1986. Most of the book is attuned to a woman’s place in a dystopian World with, as other reviewers have pointed out, very little effort put into an explanation or characterization of how a late 20th Century New England society could morph into Gilead. In Huxley’s Brave New World,  published in 1932, the reader was treated with a plausible transition scheme, whereas in the Handmaiden’s Tale it is perfunctory, taking up less than a paragraph in a 535 page novel.

There are some moments of carefully constructed observations and descriptions of set and setting; but a lot more space was devoted to casual, and repetitive descriptions. A reader is not treated to the accuracy of description one experiences with Updike, nor are the characters as tightly portrayed, or tactile. It would be difficult for an artist to paint a life-like image of any of the characters, something that Joyce Carol Oates makes incredibly easy.

Many of the more shock-producing scenes seem manufactured, without a sense they could have been naturally occurring or developed incidents. Plus there are a host of incongruous elements such as arming Guardians with machine guns, the fastidiousness of smoking a cigarette, the pervasiveness of spies and surveillance, computerized databases, and fetishes regarding killing and murder. The at-times haphazardous transitions from present time to “the time before” is also bothersome., as are the sentence fragments which are more like scribblings on a wall than a stream of consciousness or linked relationships between element fragments.

However, the book does have considerable value for both male and female readers for its portrayal of the “female condition” in relationships, with children, with love, and languid social powers. But all this is secondary to the acclaim Atwood has received for this book for its focus on conditions Americans have seen develop in Trumpworld. The lies, nastiness, cruelty, corrupted religiosity, contempt for others, and the acceptance of a manufactured reality seen in today’s society match the conditions seen in Gilead, but were not readily apparent in 1986. In short, it’s a tough read, and not something I feel comfortable recommending to other readers.

Female Heartbeats

Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, DC, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston – RTSWR2W

The “Heartbeat Bills” passed recently in several States are entirely unconstitutional. In 1973, the Supreme Court set precedent in Roe v. Wade, which stated that abortion and a woman’s right to her body is a constitutional right.

The precedent was challenged again in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in which Pennsylvania legislation required minors to get consent from one parent for abortion and married women had to inform their husbands of their intent to abort the fetus. The Supreme Court severed the husband notification regulations, but upheld the parental consent for minors and reaffirmed Roe v. Wade.

Throughout history, one of the first actions taken by tyrannical and fascist regimes are restrictions on women’s rights and freedoms. The evidence is also clear about best practices and policies regarding sexuality and procreation, furthermore, it is also clear the more rigid and male-dominated a country is or becomes the worse conditions and results become for women and their health outcomes.

Politically there is a strong dichotomy in perceptions and support for many “women’s rights” issues including access to abortions, contraception, sexual abuse criminality, and social equality, which cleave along the liberal vs conservative bar.

The “Fetal Heartbeat” law supporters in America are overwhelmingly Republican, while the “Freedom of Choice” supporters are generally associated with the Democratic Party. The most incongruent element in the “Right to Life”, “Abstinence Only” and “Sanctity of Marriage” movements is the denial of legal rights and freedoms for women combined with an elevation of paternalistic privileges assumed by men.

150th Anniversary of The Golden Spike

Building the Transcontinental Railroad


via: Digital History: 3147


Along with the development of the atomic bomb, the digging of the Panama Canal, and landing the first men on the moon, the construction of a transcontinental railroad was one of the United States’ greatest technological achievements. Railroad track had to be laid over 2,000 miles of rugged terrain, including mountains of solid granite.

Before the transcontinental railroad was completed, travel overland by stagecoach cost $1,000, took five or six months, and involved crossing rugged mountains and arid desert. The alternatives were to travel by sea around the tip of South America, a distance of 18,000 miles; or to cross the Isthmus of Panama, then travel north by ship to California. Each route took months and was dangerous and expensive. The transcontinental railroad would make it possible to complete the trip in five days at a cost of $150 for a first-class sleeper.

The first spikes were driven in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. Two companies competed to lay as much track as possible. The Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, Calif., while the Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Neb. The government gave the companies rights of way of 200 feet on each side of the track and financial aid of $16,000 to $48,000 for each mile of track laid.

At first, the Union Pacific, which had flat terrain, raced ahead. The Central Pacific had to run train track through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Working three shifts around the clock, Chinese immigrants hand drilled holes into which they packed black powder and later nitroglycerine. The progress in the tunnels through the mountains was agonizingly slow, an average of a foot a day.

Stung by the Union Pacific’s record of eight miles of track laid in a single day, the Central Pacific concocted a plan to lay 10 miles in a day. Eight Irish tracklayers put down 3,520 rails, while other workers laid 25,800 ties and drove 28,160 spikes in a single day. On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, a golden spike was hammered into the final tie. Continue reading 150th Anniversary of The Golden Spike

Ken Burns Commencement Address 2016

Filmmaker Ken Burns delivers the Commencement address.

Filmmaker Ken Burns delivers the Commencement address. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

President Hennessy, members of the Board of Trustees, distinguished faculty and staff, proud and relieved parents, calm and serene grandparents, distracted but secretly pleased siblings, ladies and gentlemen, graduating students of the Class of 2016, good morning. I am deeply honored and privileged that you have asked me here to say a few words at so momentous an occasion, that you might find what I have to say worthy of your attention on so important a day, especially one with such historical significance. One hundred and twenty-five years. Wow.

Thank you, too, for that generous introduction, President Hennessy. I always feel compelled, though, to inoculate myself against such praise by remembering that I have on my refrigerator at home an old and now faded cartoon, which shows two men standing in hell, the flames licking up around them. One guy says to the other, “Apparently my over 200 screen credits didn’t mean a damn thing.” They don’t, of course; there is much more meaning in your accomplishments, which we memorialize today.

“The past often offers an illuminating and clear-headed perspective from which to observe and reconcile the passions of the present moment, just when they threaten to overwhelm us.”


I am in the business of memorializing – of history. It is not always a popular subject on college campuses today, particularly when, at times, it may seem to some an anachronistic and irrelevant pursuit, particularly with the ferocious urgency this moment seems to exert on us. It is my job, however, to remind people – with story, memory, anecdote and feeling – of the power our past also exerts, to help us better understand what’s going on now. It is my job to try to discern patterns and themes from history to enable us to interpret our dizzying, and sometimes dismaying, present. For nearly 40 years now, I have diligently practiced and rigorously maintained a conscious neutrality in my work, avoiding the advocacy of many of my colleagues, trying to speak to all of my fellow citizens. Continue reading Ken Burns Commencement Address 2016

On political despair, TDS and TCS

in The New Yorker – Aug. 19th, 2019

In December, 2003, the columnist Charles Krauthammer made a brief return to his first career, as a psychiatrist. Writing in the Washington Post, he said, “It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: ‘Secondary Mania,’ Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven’t been looking for new ones. But it’s time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land. Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Krauthammer, who studied psychiatry at Harvard Medical School before becoming disenchanted with the profession, wryly, if predictably, located the worst of the “epidemic” on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in “the tonier parts of Los Angeles.” Some of the most acute sufferers, he said, included Barbra Streisand, Paul Krugman, Bill Moyers, and John Dean. The leading institutional culprit was the liberal media. “The sad news is that there is no cure,” he concluded. “But there is hope. There are many fine researchers seeking that cure. Your donation to the BDS Foundation, no matter how small, can help. Mailing address: Republican National Committee, Washington, D.C., Attention: psychiatric department. Just make sure your amount does not exceed $2,000 ($4,000 for a married couple).”This specimen of op-ed high jinks came not long after the American invasion of Iraq. Some joke. No matter. The phrase “Bush Derangement Syndrome” stuck around for years, a deflector shield wielded by right-wing gladiators, even as the invasion proved a colossal disaster and the economy, thanks in part to the Administration’s enthusiasm for deregulation, sank into its worst slump since the Great Depression. The implication was that the real culprits of the era were not the policymakers in the White House but the critics baying their irrational ravings. Continue reading On political despair, TDS and TCS

Five things people still get wrong about slavery

We asked historians to debunk slavery’s greatest myths.


In August 1619, the first ship with “20 and odd” enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia. Four hundred years later, we look back at this moment as the start of an enduring relationship between the founding of the United States and the unconscionable exploitation of the enslaved.

In a sweeping project published by the New York Times Magazine this month exploring the legacy of slavery, Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote, “[The enslaved] and their descendants transformed the lands to which they’d been brought into some of the most successful colonies in the British Empire. … But it would be historically inaccurate to reduce the contributions of black people to the vast material wealth created by our bondage. Black Americans have also been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom.”

Yet centuries later, the lasting impact of slavery continues to be minimized and myths continue to flourish. For instance, there’s the erasure of the many slave revolts and rebellions that happened throughout the nation, perpetuating the lie that the enslaved were docile or satisfied with their conditions. There’s also the persistent idea that black labor exploitation is over, when mass incarceration still keeps millions of black Americans behind bars and often working for “wages” that amount to less than $1 an hour. Then there’s the idea that our understanding of slavery is accurate based on what we learned in history textbooks, when in reality, misinformation continues to be taught in our public schools about slavery’s legacy. Continue reading Five things people still get wrong about slavery

A listing of trump’s cruelties, nastiness, dishonor, and villany

Here is a listing Dec. 2012 through Nov. 2018


Here is the Flexible Reality list: Jan 20, 2017 – Current

Outrages: The Big List


A discussion on “white privilege”


A few days ago I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day with Richard Rohr. Our conversation from the moment he picked me up from the airport, was energizing and thought provoking. Rohr’s demeanor is very calming and without the fear of shaming or blaming, it’s pretty easy to talk to about anything. We discussed the institutional church, poverty, self-care, the contemplative life, and many other issues. But one topic came up that I didn’t anticipate, the issue of white privilege.

I’ve had conversations with white religious leaders about race and white privilege before but never with a contemplative Franciscan. Father Rohr expressed a desire to continue the dialogue after our visit and that’s when I thought it would be a good idea to share his answers to a few questions. Here is a very brief bio on Richard Rohr followed by our conversation on white privilege.

Richard Rohr is an internationally known inspirational speaker and has published numerous recorded talks and books. He is a contributing editor and writer for Sojourners magazine and a contributor to Tikkun magazine and the Huffington Post. He has been a featured essayist on NPR’s “This I Believe,” and a guest of Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday. He often refers to his position as being on the “edge of the inside,” as a prophetic place from which to challenge and encourage the Church.

RT: What does White privilege mean to you? How do you define it?

White privilege is largely hidden from our eyes if we are white. Why? Because it is structural instead of psychological, and we tend to interpret most things in personal, individual, and psychological ways. Since we do not consciously have racist attitudes or overt racist behavior, we kindly judge ourselves to be open-minded, egalitarian, “liberal,” and therefore surely not racist. Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging, the “we set the tone” mood that we white folks live inside of — and take totally for granted and even naturally deserved. Only the outsider can spot all these attitudes in us. It is especially hidden in countries and all groupings where white people are the majority. Continue reading A discussion on “white privilege”

How far down the list are we?

Ash to Ashes, Pine Beetles, Dutch Elm et al

Ash to Ashes

Posted: 20 Aug 2019 05:36 AM PDT

Thanks to shocking failures of government, every tree, almost everywhere, is now threatened by killer plagues

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 14th August 2019


As Dutch elm disease spread across Britain in the 1970s, the country fell into mourning. When the sentinel trees that framed our horizons were felled, their loss was a constant topic of sad and angry conversation. Today, just a few years into the equally devastating ash dieback epidemic, and as the first great trees are toppled, most of us appear to have forgotten all about it. I’ve travelled around much of Britain this summer, and seen the disease almost everywhere. A survey published this spring found infected trees across roughly three-quarters of England and Wales: the spread has been as rapid and devastating as ecologists predicted. But in this age of hyper normalization, only a few people still seem to care. Ash to ashes: our memories wither as quickly as the trees.

And almost nothing has been learned. Our disease prevention rules, whose scope is restricted by the European Union and the World Trade Organisation, and whose enforcement is restricted by the British government’s austerity, do little to prevent similar plagues afflicting our remaining trees. Several deadly pathogens are marching across Europe. While it is hard to prevent some of these plagues from spreading across the land, there is a simple measure that would stop most of them from spreading across the water: a ban on the import of all live plants except those grown from tissue cultures, in sterile conditions.

But bans are more or less banned. Nothing must be allowed to obstruct free trade. Instead, the world’s governments rely on hand flapping. Take, for example, a lethal plague called Xylella, that is ravaging olive groves in Italy, and threatens a remarkable variety of trees and shrubs, including oak, sycamore, plane and cherry. The system for preventing its spread depends on inspections of random consignments of known host plants, and a passport scheme to ensure they aren’t imported from infected areas.

This system is likely to be useless. The EU keeps a list of plants that can carry Xylella. It has been updated 12 times in four years, as new carriers emerge. No one knows how many more host species there might be. Visual inspections won’t reveal plants that carry the disease without symptoms. Random sampling won’t protect us from a plague that can be introduced by a single plant. Continue reading Ash to Ashes, Pine Beetles, Dutch Elm et al