A Call For All True Americans to Stand With Puerto Rico in Their Hour of Need

When I began writing this blog, it was in the hope that human beings would stand united to face the dire threat that is climate change. I also feared that events such as those that have recently occurred in the Atlantic would begin to rise to ferocious intensity.

Puerto Rico did not deserve the terrible blow she received on September 20th. A small island territory, she did very little to contribute to the warming oceans and atmosphere that made Maria worse. That considerably increased the devastation that was inflicted that engorged the risk to the now 3.4 million Americans who are, tonight, rendered refugees.

It does not have to be this way. Though we cannot control the force of a hurricane, we can determine the resolve of our response. We can aim our efforts at helping those who have been thrust into sweltering 100 degree heat indexes without power, air conditioning, water, and in many cases food. We can provide the leadership, as a country united in the face of adversity, that the person who presently and unjustly claims the office of President so glaringly lacks.

This is the time when we all need to pull together for the people of Puerto Rico who are also the people of this great country. To show, as Elon Musk did today, the true nature of our charity and compassion for one another. To show that we resolve ourselves to leave no American behind in the face of rising climate disasters. That we will respond with heart and justice — not with cynicism or an eye toward gaining personal power by dividing America. By responding for Texas and Florida — but not for Puerto Rico.

This is a general call to all who listen and hear these words to act in any way that you can. Though the storm is now over we risk the loss of thousands, a mass exodus of the destitute, and the surrender of a portion of America to the great and dark abyss. In the absence of Presidential leadership we must each now become a leader and take responsibility for our fellows. It is only in this way — together, indivisible — that we can successfully navigate the time of troubles ahead.

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Cruel Intentions — Opposition to Climate Change Response is Swiftly Becoming Illegal

“From 1957 onward, there is no doubt that Humble Oil, which is now Exxon, was clearly on notice” about rising CO2 in the atmosphere and the prospect that it was likely to cause global warming… — Environmental Law Center’s Director Carroll Muffett in The New York Times

*****

We’ve known for some time that failing to respond to climate change is a callous cruelty of the worst kind imaginable. That continuing to burn fossil fuels and to delay a necessary transition to renewable energy will not only melt ice caps, provoke extreme weather the likes of which none of us have seen, flood coastlines and island nations, and threaten global food production, but it will also ultimately set off a hothouse mass extinction that is likely to be as bad or worse than the Permian.

We’ve known for decades now that the best, most moral, choice for human civilization is to keep those harmful fuels in the ground. To find a better way for conducting our national and global affairs and not to continue along the catastrophic business as usual emissions path. To listen to the increasingly urgent warnings posed by scientists — not the all-too-harmful dissembling of climate change deniers.

(Nature will surely grant no quarter if we do not hold the climate bad actors to account.)

And because continuing to burn fossil fuels commits so many harms on individuals, on nations, on the world, on children who are now growing up or who have yet to be born, and on the vital skein of nature itself, this activity is increasingly being viewed in the context of liability and criminality.

Corporate Support of Climate Change Denial Invites Accusations of Fraud, Consumer Protection, Environmental Law, and Securities Violations

For its actions as a leader in misinforming the public and promoting climate change denial, Exxon Mobil has found itself at the center of a maelstrom of lawsuits and investigations. The oil and gas company opposed regulations to curtail global warming. It funded organizations critical of global climate treaties and actively sought to undermine public opinion about the scientific consensus that global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels. And, in a move reminiscent of the Orwellian nightmare, the company helped to found and lead a misinformation engine called the Global Climate Coalition of businesses opposed to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. All this despite the fact that Exxon’s own scientists had previously confirmed that fossil fuel burning was indeed the cause of the warming.

By 2015, after numerous failures to respond to letters by Congressional Lawmakers and concerned citizens, Exxon was the subject of increasing scrutiny. In October of the same year, the company became the focus of a formal request from more than 40 social justice and environmental organizations to the United States Attorney General that an investigation be opened into its public deception and climate change denial campaigns. Vice President Al Gore, among other national leaders, then called for the revocation of Exxon’s articles of incorporation.

(Exxon’s own scientists told the corporation that human-caused climate change was a threat as early as the late 1950s. Exxon then spent millions of dollars to misinform the public. Image source: The Guardian.)

The outcry built as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened an investigation into Exxon’s activities. At issue was whether or not Exxon committed fraud or violated consumer protection and securities laws. Subsequently, the California Attorney General opened his own investigation into whether Exxon misinformed its shareholders, committed securities fraud, or violated environmental laws. And by mid summer of 2016, seventeen state attorney generals were involved in the growing legal action.

After various Congressional wranglings and court hearings, the case against Exxon is now headed for a New York state trial. It now appears that Exxon is likely to be found guilty of some or all of these charges. A decision that the company is likely to attempt to appeal.

Children Sue National Governments Over Human Rights and Welfare

Also in August of 2015, a group of children in Juliana vs the United States sued the federal government — arguing that its actions have endangered future generations’ rights to the degree that it threatened their survival. The government is argued to have endangered these children and to have failed in its duty to protect their access to crucial natural resources — to include a stable atmosphere and a natural world capable of sustaining the people of the United States.

(In the U.S., a variety of climate impacts ranging from sea level rise devouring coastlines, to worsening droughts, heatwaves, fires, and floods, to increasingly intense storms, to declining ocean health, air and water quality, to harm to the U.S. food and water security all threaten our children’s future well-being and survival. Their lawsuit — compelling the federal government to act decisively on climate change — continues to move forward in federal court. Image source: Common Dreams.)

The lawsuit has named President Donald Trump as a party to be held accountable. But the legal action’s overall aim is to compel the U.S. federal government to act in a decisive manner to respond to climate change in order to protect the survival and well being of future generations. The lawsuit continues to advance in federal court despite numerous calls by the fossil fuel industry and by the Trump Administration to have the case thrown out or delayed (you can read the legal argument of the plaintiffs here). At this point, the case appears likely to receive a hearing this year.

On April 1 of 2017, a similar lawsuit was also filed by 9 year old Ridhima Pandey against the government of India. Ridhima’s lawsuit argues that India, which is also the world’s third largest carbon emitter, has failed to put into action the promises it made by signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. The case also alleges that India has violated its public trust doctrine, its implied promise to provide inter-generational equality, and a number of national environmental laws. Ridhima’s lawsuit comes as India has increasingly succumbed to dangerous heatwaves, droughts, and floods which have harmed food production, provoked mass suicides by farmers, and put the water security of a number of provinces into increasing jeopardy.

UK Government Faces Lawsuit in 21 Days if it Fails to Act on Carbon Budget

In the UK, promises to cut carbon emissions are now legally binding. Britain’s Climate Change Act required the government to find a way to reduce the amount of carbon hitting the atmosphere by 57 per cent through 2032. And considerable progress has been made toward this goal as a shift away from coal precipitated a 33 percent drop from 1992 through 2014. However, the government’s reliance on fracking, its sand-bagging of renewable energy adoption policies, and its failure to more fully incentivize electric vehicles has now put it in a position where the 57 percent goal is falling out of reach.

In response, environmental law firm ClientEarth is giving the UK government 21 days to make good by producing a policy that puts emissions reductions back on track to meet 2032 goals. Failure to do so, says the firm, will result in a lawsuit against the government for not meeting its legal obligations to the public.

(Climate change denial may make you want to laugh or cry. But it’s a deadly serious matter.)

James Thornton, chief executive at ClientEarth, noted:

“We want to work with the government on a strong, effective emissions reduction plan, but all we get is never-ending delays. Government must publish the plan, and must consult with industry and civil society. If it continues to kick this can down the road, we will have no option but to consider legal action.”

Paradigm Shift Running Throughout Civil Society

Legal actions holding powerful corporations accountable for climate harms, holding governments to account for failing to provide for the welfare of future generations, and legally compelling governments to adhere to climate policy obligations represents a pivotal shift in the rules and standards governing western civil societies. It provides an institution that enables citizens and environmental watch-dogs to shape climate policy while holding bad climate actors to account. And this critical social advancement in the presently perilous age when climate impacts are now starting to be realized could not have come soon enough.

Links:

Pressure on Exxon Intensifies

What’s Scarier than the Permian Extinction? Burn all the Fossil Fuels to Find Out.

350.org

Business as Usual Emissions Path

Professor Calls Out Writer Who Misleads on Climate Change

Exxon Mobil Climate Change Contraversy

Exxon Spear-Headed Misinformation Campaign Against its Own Scientists

Children’s Climate Lawsuit Names Trump

Small Children Take on Big Oil

Kids Sue U.S. Government over Climate Change

9-Year-Old Sues Indian Government over Climate Change

UK Government Threatened with Legal Action Over Failure to Cut Emissions

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Erik

Trump’s Promise to be America’s Most Dangerous, Divisive President

Today, both President Obama and President-Elect Trump have urged America to keep calm and united. But despite these overtures, many Americans are experiencing a sensation akin to shock following one of the nastiest, most vitriolic elections in American history. One in which Trump repeatedly scape-goated women and minorities in a bald attempt to pander to some of the most harmful social undercurrents existing in our country.

Given the ugly tone of Trump’s campaign and his loss in the popular vote by 200,000 and growing despite apparent wins in the electoral college, Americans and people abroad alike now feel a very valid sense of deep concern for the future of a fractured Nation and an increasingly threatened world. For what Trump has pledged and promised to do during his Presidential campaign represents a very real risk of severe political, climatalogical, physical, and economic harm for this country, her people, and to the people and living creatures of this world.

(Berkley students chant ‘not my President!’ in protest walk out on November 9th. Across America and the world, similar protests were underway. Michael Moore, meanwhile, was urging continuous acts of civil disobedience in opposition to Trump’s election. Currently, over 100,000 people are protesting in New York City alone.)

Disturbing Threats to Jail Political Opponents

Threatened with incarceration for presumed crimes no-one has convicted her of, Hillary Clinton must be among those feeling the shock. Trump threatened to jail her if he was elected President. And many of his followers took up the cry — posting ‘jail Hillary’ signs on the sides of roads or demanding unjust incarceration of a political opponent loudly on twitter.

Unfortunately, if Trump’s current diplomatic demeanor spoils, these election campaign threats could very easily turn real. Trump has the power to appoint a special prosecutor. The power to appoint an Attorney General who agrees with his views. The power to, in effect, ‘rig’ the judicial and prosecutorial system to favor his opinion that Hillary should be jailed.

Trump’s uttering of these words during the campaign has already been deeply damaging. Never before in modern memory has one U.S. Presidential opponent publicly threatened to jail another. But carrying out such an action would be as unprecedented as it would have a terribly chilling effect on U.S. democracy.

An Angry Finger on the Nuclear Button

As Clinton reflects on Trump’s threats to haul her off to trial, others around the world are looking fearfully back at the rage-filled rhetoric of a man who is soon to be equipped with the full might of America’s considerable arsenal. During the campaign, Trump claimed to ‘love war,’ asked, multiple times, during security briefings why the U.S. doesn’t use nuclear weapons, and pledged to ‘bomb the shit’ out of Isis and steal their oil. He’s expressed a desire to turn NATO into a protection racket meant to extort fees from allies. And he’s shown a disturbing affinity toward other aggressive leaders like Vladimir Putin.

If Trump’s belligerence and seeming lack of sense continues post-campaign, there’s a valid concern that he might order a nuclear strike with little in the way of provocation. The President does hold the nuclear codes. And though aides, advisers and a substantial military chain of command provide a buffer between a bad decision and disaster, the fact that a hot-headed Trump ignorant to the devastating consequences of the use of such weapons is the final say in the matter is a serious worry.

Killing Climate Treaties, Promoting Fossil Fuels

As nations around the world look to the U.S. with fear and concern, a number of climate bad actors stand to be empowered by a Trump Presidency. Trump has effectively pledged to cut all funding to climate science and renewable energy research and development. In one fell swoop, this action would remove NASA and NOAA’s ability to track climate change even as the main competitors to fossil fuels — wind, solar, and vehicle battery technology — are effectively stymied. It’s a 1-2 punch that would dramatically harm this nation’s already flagging resilience to a rapidly worsening global climate crisis.

Meanwhile, his board of energy advisers are hand-picked from these bad actor fossil fuel companies and include a long list of climate change deniers. Trump has pledged to bring back coal while heightening U.S. oil and gas production and consumption. He has also promised to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, de-fund the EPA, and back out of the Paris Climate Treaty.

earth-under-fire

(Trump, according to Joe Romm over at Climate Progress, appears likely to go down in history as the man who single-handedly pulled the plug on the potential for a livable climate. I agree with Joe’s lucid but stark assessment — without some kind of significant outside action, we are in a very tough spot now due to this set-back by Trump. We really have been given no rational cause to hope otherwise. Image source: Ring of Fire Network.)

Combined, these actions would have a devastating effect on the currently building but still not sufficient global response to climate change. Backsliding by the U.S. will likely also cost reduced commitments by such varied states as India and China even as other countries like the UK, Australia, and Canada are likely to take U.S. climate inaction as their own excuse to renege on past emissions reduction goals.

Overall, a Trump Presidency that follows through on its anti-stable-climate agenda could cost the world as much as 1-2 C in additional warming this Century (on top of what’s already locked in) by keeping the U.S. and other nations on a business as usual emissions path longer and essentially dismantling much of the progress that was achieved under the Obama Administration. To be very clear, current bad climate outcomes are occurring under just 1 C above 1880s level warming. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas reduction commitments under Paris are setting the world on a path to about 3 C warming by the end of this Century. Trump’s policies, when all is said and done, could easily push that to 4 C or more — which would be utterly devastating.

Prospects for escalating climate policies to achieve a less than 2 C warming this Century are now also pretty bleak as Trump rolls in. In my opinion, it would take a wholesale rebellion by energy investors through the necessary act of divestment in fossil fuel industries and reinvestment in renewables to achieve this goal — first by sapping the political power of the agencies that keep putting people like Trump into office and also by removing capital for current and future projects.

David Roberts over at Vox is rather less sanguine:

The truth is, hitting the 2-degree target (much less 1.5 degrees) was always a long shot. It would require all the world’s countries to effectively turn on a dime and send their emissions plunging at never-before-seen rates.

It was implausible, but at least there was a story to tell. That story began with strong US leadership, which brought China to the table, which in turn cleared the way for Paris. The election of Hillary Clinton would have signaled to the world a determination to meet or exceed the targets the US promised in Paris, along with four years of efforts to create bilateral or multilateral partnerships that pushed progress faster…

 That story is gone now. Dead. The US will not provide leadership — it will be an active, and very powerful, impediment. Under unified Republican leadership, progress on lowering emissions in the US will halt and reverse and US participation in international efforts to combat climate change will cease.

Deregulation + Trickle-Down Isolationism is Bad Economic Policy

Following the Great Recession, Obama and a number of effective economic leaders managed to save the world from complete financial disaster. Helpful polices by Obama and the democrats, including the maintenance of Wall Street oversight, now serve as a thin veil protecting the U.S. and the world from another financial collapse. However, Trump’s pledges to bring back pretty much all of the failed republican economic policies promoted by the Bush Administration that were so destructive while adding still more of his own trouble to the brew risks severe economic consequences.

Trump has pledged to deregulate Wall Street — enabling economic bad actors to have the same free reign that set up conditions for the financial crash back during 2008. He has threatened trade wars with China and other partners — a policy that would have a chilling impact on global markets. He and his republican allies have promoted policies that would hobble the Federal Reserve in ways that would deeply undermine the national economy. And he has promised to produce a massive tax cut for the wealthy while slashing supports for the faltering middle class and poor in this country — further worsening the systemic inequality that has already so deeply harmed and divided our nation.

Economist Paul Krugman is not optimistic — warning of a global recession arising from a Trump Presidency:

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state much of the world is still in, eight years after the great financial crisis… So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

While the threat of a new global recession may not be immediately imminent, Trump’s overall economic stance doesn’t provide much in the way of benefit to anyone but the super-rich while adding to the risk that bad actor financial agencies will again crash the markets at some near or long term future date.

Building the Wall

Related to this likely damaging set of economic views is Trump’s continued pledge to deport millions of Hispanics while erecting a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Following through with the promise would turn the U.S. into a closed society for the first time in its history as a nation even as it risks the economic collapse of a country along our southern border. And just the expectation of fallout after Trump’s election today has already sent the Peso into free-fall.

Historically welcoming to immigrants, U.S. innovation and competitiveness has been driven by a constant influx of new people, new cultures, new ideas. Trump, like the rest of us, hails from immigrant roots. Following through with such a walling off of our neighbors and the creation of a ‘fortress America’ would steer away from a policy of openness to neighbors that has lasted for the better part of two Centuries. And while trade agreements with Mexico should certainly be managed to keep the needs of the American people (and not international corporations) firmly in mind, a wholesale shutting off of our relationship with that large and developing neighbor would ultimately be harmful to U.S. interests.

No Electoral Mandate

In the spirit of unity, I’ve done my best to strike a conciliatory tone. But this is difficult when there is so much at stake and when so many greedy corporate hands are now ready to manipulate majority republican congressmen, senators, and the President. To be very clear, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary. So this country didn’t elect Trump. As with Bush in 2000, the electoral college did the deed. This means that more people in this country wanted Hillary’s presidency and policies than those who wanted Trump’s agenda. As a result, Trump can claim no solid electoral mandate.

Overall, despite a pause in the hostilities coming from Trump, severe underlying policy dangers present themselves from a Trump Presidency. An enabling majority in Congress amplifies the risk that these dangerous policies will emerge and that an electorate that has been at least somewhat disenfranchised by Gerrymandering, voter suppression on the part of republicans, and overall intimidation and abuse, will continue to generate harmful and worsening fractures in American society. As with everything else, a worsening climate crisis further threatens to exacerbate these problems even as it generates serious issues all on its own. And the ushering in of yet one more climate change denier into office only serves to create more of a disconnect with public desires for renewable energy access and climate change related action.

Overall, this is a tragic day for America and the world. One with ever-more threatening clouds on the horizon.

Links:

Donald Trump Could Jail Hillary Clinton

Exxon Concedes it May Need to Declare Lower Value for Oil in the Ground

Economic Fallout From a Trump Presidency

Trump Lost the Popular Vote

Trump Already Having a Damaging Effect on Mexico

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to Climate Hawk

(Note this is RS post #1000. One that will live in infamy.)

Election 2016: A Portrait of America Under Siege

“Donald Trump is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” — Bernie Sanders

A Bizarro Reality

To look at Donald Trump’s version of what makes America great is to take a retrograde step through a rip in space-time and enter a fake populist bizarro land. To venture into an alternate dimension where a once-mighty and enlightened nation was strong-armed into taking the downward-sloping path into crisis and collapse. And like the bizarro land of the Superman mythos, this alternate reality is trying to inflict itself on the real world. It will succeed if we let it.

Trump’s a man who’s angrily proud of the fact that he does not pay taxes to support the safety, security and prosperity of the nation he seeks to lead. He’s a billionaire pandering to white workers’ fears of economic disenfranchisement while fighting to cut the very social and economic supports that these voters often rely on. A red-faced fear-monger blaming innocent immigrants and African Americans for economic woes his party — the republicans — engineered through forty years of trickle down economics. Policies that party is seeking to enforce through an unjust suppression of voters in places like North Carolina and Florida.

trumpdystopia

(A portrait of America under siege. What would America under Trump look like? This smokestack shanty town under darkening skies and surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire fences sitting in the shadow of gilded corporate towers just about says it all. Image source: What Would Jack Do?)

Donald Trump has often sought the populist mantle Bernie Sanders rightly bears. But Trump, Sanders says, “is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” And as Bernie Sanders goes to bat on the campaign trail for Clinton, pledging to make Trump —  “start paying his fair share in taxes,” the rage-filled corporate mogul tars the career public servant Hillary Clinton, attempting to smear her with the same Wall Street trappings Trump of Trump Towers ignominy has worn since the day of his birth. In other words, it’s one thing to take campaign donations from Wall Street, but another thing entirely to live, eat, and breathe the Wall Street mantra. To support, as Trump has throughout his life, the same harmful tax cut, deregulation, and anti-minimum wage policies that created the problem of Wall Street vs Main Street in the first place.

Entering the Dystopian Upside Down World of Donald Trump

To live in Trump’s reality is to live in an America under a strange kind of upside down siege. If the real economic problem in America is income inequality — then Trump promotes more of it. If the real threats to America’s foreign policy endeavors are increasing isolation and alienation of our allies — Trump seeks to build a wall. If dictators imperil our country or disrupt our elections, then Trump praises them. And if the very real climate change spurred threats such as coastal inundation facing cities like Miami, Norfolk, and Elizabeth City and drought losses threatening the water supply of the Colorado River states are ever-worsening, Trump seeks to burn more coal, oil and gas, attacks renewables, and denies that climate change is actually happening.

(As bad as the effects of climate change currently are today, Donald Trump’s combination of anti-science, anti-renewables, and pro fossil fuels policy will result in a reversal of critical climate change mitigation at exactly the time when they are needed most. Leonardo Di Caprio makes an impassioned appeal for us to do our part and vote for politicians that support responsible climate change policies and against those like Trump who hurt pretty much everyone by pandering to harmful fossil fuel special interests.)

If abuses by the powerful have created harm in America and abroad, Trump talks up abusive strong-men like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. And Putin, for his own part, appears to have done everything he can to help Wikileaks hack Hillary Clinton’s emails or even post fake versions of emails to further misinform the American electorate.

Trump makes fun of dying polar bears, pretends Obama has no birth certificate, mocks reporters with physical disabilities, panders to white supremacists, and has turned himself into a wretched caricature of misogyny. There’s not a victimizable person, animal, or class he doesn’t appear willing to take advantage of.  Bully may describe him, but it doesn’t fully contain his apparent rage-filled ardor for exploitation, for wrecking lives, for running rough-shod over people or things he has labeled ‘loser.’

Praying to America’s Darker Angels

Trump seems to believe that we can transport ourselves back to a mythological past when America was greater than it is today. To promote the illusion that we are, somehow, not far better off now than we were at a time when African Americans were held as slaves, or suffered under the abuses of Jim Crow, when scientists were persecuted, when there were no labor laws preventing the exploitation of children or protecting workers’ rights to fair pay and treatment, when women had no right to vote, when the abuses of state-supported corporate exploitation by such entities as the East India Trade company led to the real Boston Tea Party and wholesale continental revolt, and when a policy of systemic genocide was enacted against the natives who lived on American soil for thousands of years before the colonists came.

What Trump’s lack-vision fails to see is that America’s aspirations for greatness led her out of a very dark time scarred by these ills and into the far more enlightened age of today. An age that is now under threat by the retrograde narratives and policies promoted by people like Trump who seem to push ever on toward a return to the old dark days of injustice and oppression. And this mindset, the abusive and revisionist view of history, is something we must reject if we are to have much hope of navigating the very serious troubles that are coming in this age global climate change and increasing dislocation. We must embrace new ways of doing things. We must turn to new leaders. We must reject the political violence of an old, angry white man, and the system of dominance and harm that he promotes.

A Necessary Endorsement of One of Our Nation’s Strongest Women

This is my endorsement for Hillary Clinton. A woman whom I admire for her strength, her tenacity, and her clarity of purpose. I may not agree with every policy she stands for or admire every aspect of her life. Like the rest of us, she is human and imperfect. But she is a true American who has served her country with honor. A lady who supports our America not just with her words, but both through paying a fair share of her substantial earnings and through her considerable life’s work. A leader I can stand behind. Someone who has already done many great things for this nation and who I believe, with the help of people like Bernie Sanders, is capable of so much more. In a day when we face off against so many abuses both at home and abroad, I think America would benefit from the steady hand of this strong woman — who has the potential to be a truly historical figure and to lead our nation out of a sea of troubles.

Donald Trump represents the worst sins the old world, but if we give Hillary the right kind of support, she can stand for the better virtues of tomorrow and serve the vision of an age that confronts its problems rather than spiraling ever deeper into self-destructive denial, anger, and isolation. That’s what this election means to me — risking an almost assured disaster by electing Trump or creating a very real possibility for reducing and escaping present harms if we elect Clinton. The choice, for me, couldn’t be clearer.

hillary-stormborn

(Throughout his campaign, Trump has impuned the dignity of women, calling them nasty and bragging about objectifying them. As a strong woman, Hillary is exactly the kind of person who should face down Trump’s misogyny. Image source: House of Clinton. )

So I urge you to lift your voices in this election. To be heard and to make your power and capacity to promote justice known. I ask you to stand strong against the intimidation, against the pervasive misinformation coming from those who would inflict so much harm. You are capable. We are capable. We can do this. We can release America from the siege that a fake Tea Party promoted by corporate interests and that people like Trump have placed her under. And we can make a strike against the underlying systemic mysogyny of our nation by electing our first female President of this United States of America.

I have listened to your voices and I know that you are strong. So be heard! It is time for the real America to shine through.

North Dakota Tramples Journalist Deia Schlosberg’s Constitutional Right to Cover Historic Climate Protests

“We already have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as any scientist thinks is safe to burn.” — Bill McKibben

*****

Deia Schlosberg seems to me to be an exceptionally responsible person. A producer of the Josh Fox film How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t ChangeDeia has already helped thousands of people to more deeply understand the very serious risks associated with our continued burning of fossil fuels. To understand it on an intimate, personal level. And for this we owe her not only our gratitude, but the firm affirmation of our voices lifted to support her during her time of unjust persecution.

deia-schlosberg_climate-direction-action-activists

(Deia Schlosberg [left] and climate activists who briefly shut down TransCanada Tar Sands production on October 11 [right]. Image source: Desmogblog.)

For Deia appears to have earned herself the ire of some of the most powerful and destructive private economic interests on planet Earth. Interests that are apparently now involved in leveraging the loyalty of politically aligned persons within North Dakota law enforcement in an attempt to intimidate and silence this responsible and compassionate journalist.

Journalistic Documentation of an Unprecedented Protest Action

Back on October 11th, Deia provided journalistic coverage of a pipeline protest in Walhalla, North Dakota. The protest involved an act of civil disobedience in which 5 people used shut-off valves to stop tar sands crude transported by TransCanada pipelines from entering the U.S. These five locations were private holdings of TransCanada and represented the main access points for corporate-produced tar sands. When the protesters operated the shut-off valves, TransCanada’s significant flow of greenhouse gas producing syncrude was temporarily halted.

tar-sands-mordor

(TransCanada is a corporate producer of tar sands — one of the most environmentally and climatologically  destructive fuels on planet Earth. An energy source whose continued use risks extraordinarily damaging climate outcomes. Now that replacement fuels and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, biofuels, and electric vehicles are much more readily available, we have an opportunity to turn away from such dangerous activities. For years now, climate activists have been fighting to make the public aware of risks and harms associated with tar sands extraction all while challenging an unhealthy level of economic dominance by fossil fuel interests that prevents and delays access to far less damaging energy sources. Image source: Desmogblog.)

Deia, according to her statements to Desmogblog, was recording the act of civil disobedience by one of the activists operating the shut-off valves — documenting what is likely to become an event of historic importance as a filmmaker and a climate journalist.

Deia noted to Desmogblog:

In general, I felt like this was an extremely important action to document because it was unprecedented — shutting down all of the oil sands coming into the U.S. from Canada. And as a climate reporter and someone who worries about the impacts of climate change and our future, I know that the Canadian oil sands are a pretty scary source of energy to be exploiting at this point.

False Charges That Violate a Journalist’s Constitutionally Protected Freedoms

To be very clear, Deia was both performing a public service by recording an event of historic significance and exercising journalistic freedoms that are held sacred by the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution plainly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Prosecutors apparently aligned with fossil fuel special interests in North Dakota obviously did not agree. Instead, on October 13th, they brought unwarranted, trumped-up charges against Deia for simply excising her Constitutionally protected First Amendment freedoms. Prosecutors claimed that Deia was involved in a conspiracy to steal property, a conspiracy to steal services, and a conspiracy to tamper with or damage a public service.

Ironically, not only do these charges serve to infringe upon the protected freedoms of an American citizen, they also have no legal basis whatsoever. For, acting as an event-documenting journalist, Deia in no way served as an accessory to or conspirator for any crime. Furthermore, the charges leveled by North Dakota do not in any way fit events as they transpired or match the legal definitions of possible crimes as they are technically defined. No property or services were stolen as part of the protest action. Access to tar sands crude was simply briefly interrupted. And since TransCanada is a private corporation that profits from its sales of tar sands to agencies within the U.S., labeling its wealth-seeking activity as a ‘public service’ is the very definition of inaccurate legalistic contortion.

Moreover, Deia’s record of the pipeline shut-off by activists has been unjustly and probably unlawfully confiscated. An action that removes from the public eye a critical piece of reporting related to an event of historic human welfare significance.

The Risk From Continuing to Burn Fossil Fuels is Human Civilization Collapse, Mass Extinction

In the context of Deia’s climate journalism, we should very clearly identify the climate harms and risks that arise from continuing to burn fossil fuels and in expanding that rate of burning. And we should also state plainly that it is these harms, these risks which provide strong justification on moral, survival, and human safety and welfare grounds for the actions made by protesters covered by Deia.

The science is pretty clear on the fact that of the five major mass extinction events that have occurred on planet Earth, at least four were set off or greatly contributed to by large environmental carbon releases and related rising global temperatures. This includes the worst mass extinction event — the Permian — in which hothouse temperatures may have produced a Canfield Ocean that, in turn, wiped out most of life on Earth.

Based on our best understanding, it takes an atmospheric equivalent CO2 level (CO2e) of around 550 to 1000 parts per million under current conditions to generate an appreciable risk of setting off a hothouse mass extinction event. This is particularly true if, as is the case today, such an initial carbon spike occurs following periods of glaciation when Earth’s available carbon stores for providing added warming feedbacks are at their highest levels. Meanwhile, the currently unprecedented rate at which human beings are adding carbon to the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning presents further risks outside the context of past hothouse events.

(Neil Degrasse Tyson —  ‘I don’t want Earth to look like Venus.’)

We’ve already pushed CO2 levels, through our burning of fossil fuels and through other industrial activities, to above 400 parts per million (and to around 490 parts per million on the CO2 equivalent scale during 2016). The amount of carbon in the atmosphere already is currently enough to risk raising global temperatures this Century to 1.6 to 2.1 degrees Celsius above 188os values, to risk amplifying feedbacks in which the Earth System produces its own carbon spike that adds to the human sources, and to present serious challenges to the resiliency of human civilization and life on Earth.

But, even worse, there’s presently enough carbon listed as proven reserves on the books of coal, oil, and gas companies across the world to push atmospheric CO2 equivalent levels well above 900 parts per million. If we burn all this carbon, or if we discover and extract even more, we will see between 4 and 9 degrees Celsius warming this century and possibly as much as 9-18 C warming in the centuries to follow. So much burning and resulting heating of the Earth would set off a catastrophe that no current human civilization would be likely to survive. One that could also cause the worst mass extinction event in all of the deep, deep time of Earth’s long history.

These basic facts may be difficult for some to hear and understand — especially when they’ve staked their aspirations for economic growth on the false hope represented by fossil fuels. But, as tough as these facts are to listen to, they remain. Continuing to burn fossil fuels will wreck civilizations, disrupt growing seasons, raise sea levels, generate storms the likes of which we have never seen, evaporate water supplies, and transform our now benevolent and life-supporting oceans into a toxin-producing mass extinction engine.

In the face of such terrible harms, we as American citizens and as human beings have the responsibility to stand up and do what we can to help people avoid them. To help people make the right choices and to shine a light in the dark places where harms are currently being committed. Deia was within her rights to do just that in documenting a climate action by protesters who voluntarily risked arrest so that the rest of us could, yet again, have the opportunity to make the right choices before it’s too late.

Links:

How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things that Climate Can’t Change

Petition (Please Sign): Drop Charges Against Deia Schlosberg

350.org Please Support

Exclusive Q&A With Deia Schlosberg on Her Arrest While Filming Activist Shutdown of Tar Sands Pipeline

Fossil Fuel Reliance: Tar Sands

First Amendment of the Constitution

Canfield Ocean

Neil Degrasse Tyson Climate Change

NOAA ESRL

Carbon Tracker

Hat tip to Bill McKibben

Hat tip to Seal

Hat tip to DT Lange

“Hey! Ho! Fossil Fuels Have Got to Go!” — World Sees Largest Climate March in History Amidst Mounting Dangers

(PBS expose covering the 2014 Climate March shows that nearly 1,500 organizations including environmentalists, faith-based groups, small business groups, economic and social justice organizations, and student organizations participated in this historic event.)

According to the National Climate Data Center, the summer of 2014 was the hottest in the global record. It was a season of record wildfires, sea surface temperatures far above the 20th Century average, and of record droughts and rainfall events around the globe. And it was a year in which the ability of nations to provide food for the world’s seven billion and growing population amidst a mounting tally of extreme droughts and floods was called increasingly into question.

On Sunday September 24, 2014, the ever-more alarmed people of the world responded.

In New York City, an estimated 410,000 took to the streets to protest the broad failure by global governments and businesses to effectively respond to the growing threat of an ever-increasing fossil fuel emission that is rapidly pushing Earth toward a dangerous hothouse environment. In London, nearly 50,000 protesters gathered as Melbourne, Australia saw 30,000 climate marchers. 25,000 lifted their voices in Paris, 15,000 marched through Berlin, and 5,000 gathered in Rio de Janeiro.

Overall, more than 2,500 protest events occurred in 166 countries around the world. Total participation is now estimated to be more than 750,000 — the largest and most widespread climate protest in history.

Climate March Grist

(Hundreds of thousands gather in New York City for Climate March. Image source: Grist.)

In New York City, the massive march began at 11:30 AM at Columbus Circle near Central Park. More than 550 buses disgorged passengers bearing signs labeled with a variety of apt sayings including: “There is No Planet B,” “Carbon Tax Now,” “Go Vegan,” “This Country has a Koch Problem,” “Never, Never Vote Republican,” and “We Can’t Burn all the Oil on the Planet and Still Live on It.”

The march, which included more than 50,000 students, numerous members of the scientific community, and such notables as Bill McKibben, Ban Ki-moon, Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Leonardo DiCaprio, and Al Gore, at times stretched to fully 4 miles in length. Loud chants such as “Hey! Ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” rocked what many still believe to be the center of global capital.

I Can't believe I'm having to protest this

(Sign speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Image source: Here.)

The rallies came just two days before a global climate summit was scheduled to convene on Tuesday, September 22. The summit, which will include more than 120 world leaders aims to provide more aggressive measures to attack the vast and growing threat of carbon pollution. As of 2013, recent studies showed that human hothouse emissions jumped by another 2.3% — primarily driven by increases in China, India and the U.S. Ominously, both China and India — previous bad actors on climate change due to astronomical increases in coal burning — have decided to opt out of the current climate summit.

A press conference held prior to the climate march drove home the growing plight of millions of people around the world already staring down the face of fossil-fuel inflicted harm. A number that is likely to jump to billions unless our race toward a hothouse extinction is rapidly halted.

peoples-climate-march17

(Is this a game? Image source: Here.)

Stanley Sturgil, a retired coal miner from Kentucky now suffering from black lung made this statement at a press conference before the march:

“Today I march because I want to behold a brighter future. We have destroyed ourselves. We have destroyed our health and I’m here because our political leaders have failed us.”

Marshall Island resident Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner also made this deeply resonant statement:

“We need to act now… We only have one atmosphere and we of the Marshall Islands only have one land we call home. We don’t want to move and we shouldn’t have to move.”

Sadly, if world leaders continue to fail to hear the pleas of their increasingly foundering constituents, residents of the Marshall Islands won’t be the only ones on the move. The migration, under business as usual carbon emissions and an emerging and deadly hothouse world will comprise a majority of the human race.

Links:

Hundreds of Thousands Turn out for People’s Climate March

Summer of 2014 Hottest on Record

Climate Change Summit: Global Rallies Demand Action

Great Photos From the Climate March

Growth Shock Launch: “I Have a Confession to Make … We are in Trouble”

Some of you may have noted my absence. I’ve been nose-deep in completing the launch of a book that has been about 10 years in the making: Growth Shock. It developed both from my experience as an emerging threats expert for Jane’s Information Group and related consulting efforts, later from my connection to thousands of wonderful young people, many of them disadvantaged, through a 6 six year schools campaign, and finally through participation in the direct actions that were Occupy Wall Street and the 2012 Stop the Pipeline demonstration sponsored by 350.org in Washington, DC.

At some point, in the support of these direct actions for positive change, I developed the notion of channeling my energies and talents into works as actions. Growth Shock is the first of these. (Learn more in Growth Shock, Going on Offense and Setting an Example for Kindness Economics.)

Growth Shock Cover Art

(Growth Shock now available)

In support of these efforts, at least 60% of the book’s proceeds will go to 350.org (40%) and to direct funding for freedom from fossil fuels (FEFF) for individuals, localities and communities (20%). But I’m not stopping with these actions. An upcoming third speculative fiction novel in the Luthiel’s Song series will be re-named The Death of Winter and I will be organizing a campaign to raise energy transition funds for public schools around the sales campaign for this book (more on this later). Another publication effort examining the loss of glacial and sea ice and its consequences will direct funds to scientific research through the Dark Snow Project and to help support  James Hansen’s continued work at Columbia University. A fourth and still unnamed publication will also be directed toward reinvigorating policy efforts to rationally and benevolently restrain human population with an ultimate goal to bringing it, along with consumption, back into balance with Earth Systems and to back out of our current and dangerous overshoot. These efforts will likely take years to complete. But they are now on the table.

The Death of Winter

Luthiel’s Song Book III to be re-named: The Death of Winter

This is not at all to denigrate the need for direct action, campaigning, and demonstration. When possible, I will continue to participate in these efforts. But my goal will be to organize my life and my means of life support to also support systems that re-invigorate, restore, renew, and enlighten. This is the basis for the kindness economics proposed in Growth Shock — that our life works re-weave humankind back into the web of life, that we stop breaking it, and that we develop human technologies and thought systems that support life, rather than harm it.

But we’re a long, long way from any of that. And, at this very late hour, some of us are only just beginning to respond as others still languish or remain trapped, captives to systems of harmful consumption and harmful action. Meanwhile, climate change, overpopulation, resource depletion and the institutionalized and greed re-inforced systems that lock the technologies, policies, cultures and thought-systems that cause such harm in place are now in a critical phase of crisis, a phase where harm from these four forces is ramping ever higher, causing great fractures through the structures of modern civilization. Like the metaphorical lemmings, we still run headlong toward the precipice. Sooner or later, we will go over.

Unless we stop. Unless we back away.

We haven’t done this yet. We haven’t even slowed down. And, for this reason, we are in deep, deep trouble.

What follows is an opener to the book Growth Shock. But for you, I’ll provide a bit of qualification. The situation is a shade or two worse than even what I describe in the intro. Though I still believe it is possible for us to stop, to turn around and to make the needed changes, the effort required will be so great that the difference between the death-fed and destruction-creating human world of now and the vital, healthy, sustainable, and reinvigorating the heartbeat of nature human world of our best future is a vast chasm. A great rift that may well be impossible to cross for individuals, communities, and nations. This does not diminish our need to try, to at least make a grand attempt before being overwhelmed by the darkness. To level all our intellect, creativity and tool making abilities toward effecting a positive change, toward reversing the terrible disaster we’ve now set in motion that has already been, for many of the innocent creatures of our world, a horrible apocalypse…

***

Excerpted from Growth Shock:

I have a confession to make. One that is not easy to vocalize. One that is equally difficult to listen to. My confession is not one of a personal nature. I am not revealing my own, petty, individual sins. Instead, I’m making a confession for us all. A revelation of the ongoing and maturing tragedy of our race. One we will each need to be made aware of soon if we are to effectively act. For the age of excess is rapidly coming to a close and we are now entering a difficult and hard to manage age of consequences.

My confession is simply this: we are in trouble. A kind of trouble that is both typical to all living creatures and beyond the scope of anything we humans have yet witnessed. A kind of trouble that is both born of the natural world and directly caused by us.

Our trouble is that over the course of the next century we will run head-long into a number of very difficult to manage shocks that are the result of our unsustainable growth. How we confront these shocks will determine whether or not human civilization survives to reach the 22nd, 23rd, or 24th centuries or whether we, at the very least, encounter a coming age of darkness and decline.

That we will encounter some trouble is now unavoidable. At this point, all we can do is seek to reduce the scale of that trouble and lessen the harm that is its inevitable result. A decade or two ago, if we had acted sooner and with due urgency, we might have prevented harm. But harm is already upon us, growing worse with each passing year. And though our trouble has already become apparent to many, we still languish, squandering the time and effort needed to manage the emerging shocks even as they grow more deadly and dangerous.

If we decide to confront these troubles, what lies before us are many decades or more of sustained effort to reduce the damage we have inflicted upon ourselves efforts from which may arise a new golden age should we overcome these troubles. For pushing beyond our current limits through renewable energy systems, providing direct supports to heal the living world we depend on, establishing more kind and inclusive economic systems, and undergoing the general transition to sustainability necessary to deal with our current crisis results in an ever-expanding justice and prosperity. The potential for a true world without end.

If we do not act, a massive and rapid decline of human civilizations, a mass extinction in the oceans and on land, and a radical re-shaping of the Earth’s environment to a state far more hostile to humankind are all in the offing.

This is my confession. For it is the truth or our age. It is our dire tragedy, and our great hope. For we are living in the age of Growth Shock.

NSA Domestic Spying Program a Deep Betrayal of Government’s Essential Promise of Liberty Endowed in the Fourth Amendment

The Liberty Bell rang until it cracked and could no longer sound. Is the same true of the American liberty against unjust search endowed in the 4th Amendment?

The Liberty Bell rang until she cracked and could no longer sound. Is the same true of the American liberty against unjust search endowed in the 4th Amendment?

(Image source: Commons)

War is a process of violence in which two combatants dehumanize each other and themselves in an ongoing effort to do harm to one another. War is physically and spiritually toxic, an ongoing degradation that inflicts terrible injury on both the victor and the vanquished. Sadly, sometimes war is justifiable as a means of self defense, as a choice between the lesser of two evils. But war is always an evil. It is never just, right, or virtuous — no matter how virtuous those who fight it may be.

In the United States’ never-ending War on Terror, a war against an ephemeral enemy who is as often the result of our imagined fears as of actual forces that actively seek to harm us, we have done great damage to our very real enemies, to enemies we imagine or wrongly identify as such, and, perhaps most tragically, to ourselves.

This assertion does not degrade the terrible losses that were inflicted upon us during 9/11, nor does it deny the right we were endowed with, as a nation and a people, to defend ourselves and to seek out those enemies who inflicted such grievous wounds upon our nation, its peoples, its children, women, men and families. But it is entirely appropriate to say, at this time, that though immense effort has been undertaken to fight off our enemies and bring the terrible war that they inflicted upon us to their doorsteps, and though much of this effort has been successful, we have not taken equal efforts to ensure the very American values we hold dear and seek to protect are not also destroyed by our own rash action.

Often times, it has been said that the ends do not justify the means. So it is also worth asking the essential question: by what means have we achieved security? It has also been said, by monsters themselves, that the danger in fighting monsters is that one risks becoming a monster. So we must ask ourselves — have we become the very mirror image of the thing we most fear? Have we taken up the tools and weapons of the very dictators and despots we have said we despise?

In answering this question, we must ask ourselves — what is tyranny? Is it absolute rule? Is it the ability of government, through its own laws and practices, to inflict violence on any people, even its own, to achieve the goals of the day without check or consequence? Or is it the ability of government and its agents to create a state of constant fearful surveillance in which even its own citizens are under permanent suspicion of the most heinous thoughts and acts? A form of continental prison in which we, the prisoners, must constantly prove our innocence of conforming to the fluid definition of what is a ‘terrorist?’

As for absolute rule, we seem, thankfully, somewhat departed from that terrible state, but not so far as we were before the War on Terror began. As for our government’s uniliteral application of violence, there are many peoples around the world that have just grievances against our government — for its use of drones to conduct what might be called an assassin’s war and for the terrible collateral damage such actions inflict. And as for the third, we have only to look at NSA’s PRISM program and the Patriot Act upon which it stands for its flimsy justification.

American citizens are endowed with essential liberties by our Constitution. It was a Constitution developed by founders who justly feared tyranny and, though quite flawed themselves, went about setting down values that were beyond the confines of the flawed human sphere they inhabited. They permitted themselves to dream of a better world inhabited by better people. A world in which governments did not act in a predatory manner against its peoples as the English had against them. They were still blind to their own deep and abiding flaws, yet they could come together to set down a noble precedent and to hold themselves and their offspring accountable to a high ideal.

That ideal endowed, in part, in the Fourth Amendment, included a guarantee that Government would not conduct searches without a legal warrant of suspicion, determined by lawful process through the conduct of careful investigation in limited instances. Now, the entire US populous is subject to constant search of their conversations, internet and phone records without any prior determination of fault. Such a massive, a-priori and all encompassing action is a vast and a direct violation of the essential freedom guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

So our government, in the seemingly rational pursuit of security for its people, has chosen the unjust and unlawful course of expansive power, constant surveillance, and endless suspicion over one of the most basic human rights precedents upon which the legitimacy of that government stands. And in this conduct, our own government, born to high ideals and yet struggling to achieve those lofty goals since the day of its inception, has inflicted upon its own people a near constant state of fear, suspicion, and phantom warfare.

For one must ask the very reasonable question — when does a war against a thing so nebulous as terrorism end? Is anyone who commits violence or plans to commit violence against US political interests a terrorist? If so, then the war and related surveillance will likely never end. And do even minor instances of such violence continue to justify that we, as a people, give up one of the critical freedoms that lends such value to being an American?

In short, do we destroy the very things we hold most dear for fear of what may happen? And must we be forced to constantly imagine that each of us, one day, could be a ‘terrorist?’

There is, indeed, a dire, deep and abiding need for peace. But such peace cannot be achieved through an endless state of violence. Responsible de-escalation and disarmament — of all parties — is the difficult but entirely worthy path to a lasting peace.

And what do we achieve through this endless war but degredation and corrosion of the very things we hold most dear? For in the end, no civilization can continue to effectively function under a constant state of fear, warfare, and the related policies of endless suspicion and surveillance. Such policies will only lead to a government that increasingly fears and views as enemies the citizenry it is sworn to protect.

It is for this reason that the constant surveillance must stop and that we must wholeheartedly return to protecting the rights Americans most deeply value. Life, liberty, equality, happiness — none of which are possible without peace or in the presence of a paranoid tyranny of constant government surveillance.

Renewables to Replace Nat Gas as World’s Second Largest Electricity Source by 2016, Generate 25% by 2018

new-and-total-world-wind-power-570x380

(Image of rocketing wind power capacity growth since 1996. Source: Futurist)

A new report from the International Energy Agency reveals that total renewable energy sourced electricity generation is set to surge another 40% between now and 2018. This means that by 2016, renewables will have supplanted natural gas as the world’s second largest source of electrical power and that by 2018, renewables will generate fully one quarter of the world’s electricity.

Power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2016, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today in its second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR).

According to the MTRMR, despite a difficult economic context, renewable power is expected to increase by 40% in the next five years. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector and will make up almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011. The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006.

(Emphasis added to clarify the usual confusion between capacity and generation)

Et tu Brute?

Raging development of renewables has come on strong despite the fact that they receive just 1/6th the subsidy support (523 billion vs 80 billion in 2011) of fossil fuels and have been the whipping boy of carbon energy cheer leaders in blogs, the media, and in chat rooms for years.

Misinformation, a clear funding disadvantage, and a constant wave of negative press from vested interests, has been unsuccessful in keeping the pace of renewable energy growth from running rapidly ahead of any other set of fuels. Doubts about renewables’ energy return on energy invested (EROEI), intermittency, and the ever-arcane ‘lack of thermal capacity’ has been rendered moot by a vast and growing volume of electricity generated from these sources. Instead, IEA has found renewables to stand on their own merits:

“As their costs continue to fall, renewable power sources are increasingly standing on their own merits versus new fossil-fuel generation,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven as she presented the report at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum in New York. “This is good news for a global energy system that needs to become cleaner and more diversified, but it should not be an excuse for government complacency, especially among OECD countries.”

Further to this point, IEA noted:

in addition to the well-established competitiveness of hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, renewables are becoming cost-competitive in a wider set of circumstances. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in several markets, including Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand. Solar is attractive in markets with high peak prices for electricity, for instance, those resulting from oil-fired generation. Decentralised solar photovoltaic generation costs can be lower than retail electricity prices in a number of countries.

Impetus for this massive growth comes primarily from wind and solar power sources, which, as noted above, are set to double their capacity over the next five years.

It’s enough to make the fossil fuels, who still remained the funding babies of the world’s governments in 2011, feel a bit of betrayed consternation.

Et tu Brute?

Coal Funding to be Cut

Adding further insult to injury, funding of the most polluting fossil fuel source — coal — appears to be on the chopping block. In his recent Climate Action Plan announcement, Obama laid down a policy in which the United States would no longer support loan funding for coal-fired power plants overseas and where his administration would begin to strictly regulate carbon emissions from coal plants in the United States. Meanwhile, the World Bank has stated that it would drastically cut its funding for new coal plants, providing support for them only in the ‘most dire of economic circumstances.’

But it’s Not all Roses for Renewables Yet

Surging worldwide investment in renewables has, sadly, come at time of lagging renewables investment in Europe. Wide-ranging ‘austerity’ measures imposed by central banks and conservative governments in Europe have forced some countries in the Eurozone to cut funding for new renewable energy projects.

That said, despite government cut-backs, the pace of adoption in many countries remains high due to both public purchases and due to the fact that prices for new generation keep falling rapidly. So even though funding fell, these lower outlays were still able to purchase more renewable watts for each dollar (or in this case, Euro), spent.

Direct Replacement Necessary to Have any Hope of Mitigating Human Caused Climate Change

Policy measures to cut coal plant funding and regulate carbon emissions raise the possibility of a growing direct replacement of fossil fuel energy sources with renewable energy sources over the coming decade. A rapid pace of this kind of replacement will be necessary to deal with a growing set of difficulties imposed by human-caused climate change. What appears hopeful is that renewables seem poised to encompass ever-larger portions of the world’s energy mix. Let’s hope the pace at which this replacement occurs is fast enough and strong enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

To wit, it is important to note that global carbon emissions are still rising. As of 2012, the world had emitted 31.6 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And though the rate of increase slowed substantially from 2011 to 2012, this massive volume of CO2 was enough to set a new record high. So the sense of urgency and impetus for change could not be higher.

From this point forward, we’re in a race between the rate of fossil fuel burning and the rate of renewables adoption. Allowing too much more to be burned before the last coal plant, oil well, and natural gas plant are shuttered (or, more dubiously, have their carbon sequestered) puts in place a situation where we were ‘too late’ to prevent a climate nightmare.

And this is one situation where we really, really don’t want to be too late.

To this thought, I’ll leave you with a recent interview of climate activist and, in my opinion, hero of social and environmental justice, Tim DeChristopher by late night entertainer David Letterman:

Links:

International Energy Agency

Renewable Energy Closing in On Natural Gas

NO KXL: No New Pipelines Without Comprehensive Climate Policy

In some ways, watching the current debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline is amusing. The State Department publishes a clearly misleading assessment. Environmentalists cry foul. The EPA suggests carbon off-sets in exchange for approval. TransCanada says suggestions by the EPA are a violation of Canadian sovereignty. Obama is criticized for climate policy weaknesses. His advisers say ‘the pipeline is no big deal.’ And Al Gore and Canadian government officials get into what could be best termed a media bar-room brawl.

But the context of this, sometimes comical, debate is entirely terrifying. As atmospheric CO2 levels speed past the dangerous 400 PPM threshold, Canada is poised to expand extraction of one of the highest emitting fossil fuels on the planet. Ripping up America’s heartland, slapping eminent domain notices on privately held land across the country, they are going through all this expense, effort, and arm-twisting to set a fuse to what NASA scientist James Hansen calls one of the ‘biggest carbon bombs on the planet.’

Tar sands are far dirtier than any other form of oil — nearly as dirty as coal. They represent a vast, if extraordinarily damaging and costly, resource. With oil at 100 dollars per barrel the Canadian government and business community is desperate to sell their polluting and energy-poor goop while many around the world are equally desperate to buy it. A pipeline or two or three (the Canadians have already built one, KXL is number two, and they are now in the process of approving a third) would make access to that oil via the international market much easier while rapidly expanding extraction. Such actions would dramatically increase the rate of carbon emission at a time when world CO2 levels are growing ever-more dangerous.

Scientists question if a world with CO2 much higher than 400 PPM can support 7 billion humans. And a group of similarly concerned scientists recently advised the White House on a growing Arctic emergency in which sea ice may completely melt by end of summer 2015.

The world is rapidly changing. These changes are the result of the fossil fuels we have already burned. But the newer, far dirtier oil Canada wishes to produce will make the situation far, far worse. Already facing serious and difficult challenges resulting from the greenhouse gasses we’ve emitted, we’ll end up facing increasingly harsh adaptive difficulties should we not begin to reduce worldwide CO2 emissions soon — spiking damage to a world and climate humans have uniquely evolved to inhabit. The question at this point, is how much worse will we make our, already dangerous, situation? Do we, in the end, decide to push our climate into a mode so harsh that it would be almost impossible for human civilization to endure?

Whether or not we tap Canada’s tar sands is central to this question. It involves a basic choice. Do we begin to turn away from fossil fuels with an ever-increasing urgency by adopting aggressive climate policies and by refusing to increase extraction of the world’s most damaging form of oil? Or do we shift into high gear in our race to a fast-approaching climate cliff?

Make no mistake. Tapping the tar sands is a huge deal. As James Hansen said, accessing the vast volumes of the world’s dirtiest oil is tantamount to lighting a fuse to one of the biggest carbon bombs on the planet. Environmentalists know it. Hansen knows it. Most scientists know it. But the State Department and Obama Administration officials have continued to make blasé statements regarding this key issue, calling the pipeline moot, or inevitable. Even worse, the US Congress pushes for the pipeline full bore.

That said, one statement from Obama officials did seem to carry a little bit of backward relevance:

“In the absence of a more meaningful energy-policy discussion, Keystone has become a symbolic referendum for a much larger set of issues,” noted Jason Grummet, a bi-partisan policy adviser to the Obama Administration, in a recent interview.

Mr. Grummet’s mention of energy (note the shameful absence of the word ‘climate’) policy hones in on the crux of the whole pipeline/climate conflict — because a complete lack of comprehensive climate and energy policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions long-term spurred the Keystone XL protests in the first place. Keystone carried so much weight and tied in so many monied and powerful special interests, that targeting it remains an effective way to attempt to force needed changes to US climate policy. Such changes — like the adoption of a national carbon tax and transfer, as proposed by James Hansen, — would result in a wide-scale reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by spurring a rapid adoption of alternative energy systems like wind, solar, storage, smart grid, and vehicle to grid technology. Comprehensive climate policy on the part of the US would also push other countries to provide similar agendas. Instead, climate policy lies almost dead on the steps of Congress. It lurches along as EPA still battles for the authority to regulate CO2, as republican members of federal and state legislatures fight to undermine renewable energy and efficiency standards even as they continue to deny even the existence of human caused climate change.

Mr Grummet  is definitely correct. We certainly do need a comprehensive energy and climate policy. And those of us concerned about climate security will keep fighting these dirty tar sands pipelines until we get one that actually puts us on a path toward a safer future. A policy that is strong enough to bend the emissions curve permanently down and put the US on a path toward zero-emissions and all alternative energy sources by 2050 or earlier. This is a matter of morality. It is a matter of preventing and reducing future harm. It is a matter of preserving the prospects for future generations. For us not to act on this issue is unconscionable. For us not to protest these pipelines bearing dirty, dangerous, and depleting oil in the absence of such comprehensive climate policy would render us beings unworthy of honor.

Links:

350.org

Some Obama Advisers Rather Blasé About Keystone Pipeline (Yes, It’s National Journal. So Take it With a Grain of Salt.)

Keystone Uses Eminent Domain to Seize Land in Texas

Al Gore Isn’t Pleased With Canada

Canadian Official Proposes Yet Another Tar Sands Pipeline

Emergency Climate Meeting: White House Officials Told Arctic Ocean Could Be Ice Free Within Two Years

US Senate Makes Shameful, Symbolic Decision to Support Keystone XL

“Big Oil may have bought themselves this meaningless vote, but the decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline remains where it’s been all along — with Secretary Kerry and President Obama.” LCV President Gene Karpinski

In a cowardly decision today, 62 US Senators decided to side with big oil and support a pipeline that has practically no benefit to offer the American people. On the other hand, a massive corporation stands to make billions exporting the dirtiest oil on the planet to China all while exploding an immense carbon bomb in our atmosphere.

Keystone creates all of 35 permanent jobs of which 10 percent would be local. Since much of the oil will be sold on the international market, it will likely push North American oil prices up. And, since oil from Keystone is slated to be exported, it does little, if anything to increase US energy security.

On the other hand, it severely erodes world climate security by “sticking a fuse into the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” All the while, Canada strip mines and poisons one of the largest arboreal forests on the planet to get at the expensive, sticky stuff and uses up more than 8% of their natural gas supplies to refine it.

It’s boondoggle to make even the most cynical politician blush. And 62 were certainly blushing today.

Fortunately, big oil’s demonstrated dominance of the US Senate (of by and for the oil companies) and its lobbyist forced symbolic vote isn’t the last word on Keystone. True authority still rests with the President and John Kerry’s State Department. Clearly the corporate pressure is on. So we’ll see if the President has the integrity to stand up to the special interests and strike a victory for our children’s future.

Come on Mr. President, step away from that carbon bomb.

Links:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/22/1765651/senate-gone-wild-vote-to-approve-keystone-passes-decision-still-lies-with-white-house/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/22/keystone-xl-pipeline-john-hoeven_n_2935921.html?utm_hp_ref=green

Democrats Win Popular Vote in Races for President, Senate and, yes, House

After repeating lies and misinformation throughout the 2012 election, Republicans didn’t miss a beat following their substantial loss on Tuesday. Again and again we are hearing Republican politicians chattering about how Democrats, especially President Obama, have no mandate.

Before we deconstruct this most recent Republican mangling of reality, let’s first take a look at the meaning of the word mandate. Mandate, according to dictionary definitions, means ‘to give someone authority to act in a certain manner.’ In general, winning an election is, by definition, a mandate. The elected person is the one given authority or mandate.

But, in a broader sense, political mandate is a definition of what a majority of Americans want. And in every case, Democrats won more popular vote totals than Republicans. Obama won the popular Presidential vote by nearly 3 million. The Democrats in the Senate won the popular vote too, expanding their majority by 2 seats. And, though they were unable to re-gain control of the House, Democrats in that branch of government received 500,000 more votes than Republicans, also winning the popular vote.

In short, Democrats, in all branches of government have the American people’s mandate to pursue the policies they’ve run on. And no Republican mangling of language is going to change that fact. Sadly, the Republicans have simply reverted to attempts to diminish their political opposition in every way and at every time. They have, instead of reverting to the role of governing after waging a punishing, untruthful, and vicious campaign, and losing, decided to just continue campaigning. This decision is a decision to put their own political goals, ones rejected repeatedly by the American people, ahead of the good of country.

Should it be any surprise that the republican party of obstructionism, hostage taking, and voter suppression would make this choice?

Republicans had a chance to lose graciously and retain their role as legitimate members of US government. But, as the viciousness continues, the clock is ticking. In another day or so, it will become obvious that Republicans have continued to wage their selfish little war on US interests. The interests of a majority of Americans. And, if this happens, the campaign to unseat every obstructionist in 2014 will have already begun. And it will begin from the same group the drubbing Republicans’ received on Tuesday originated. It will begin with the real American people. The ones Republicans continue to ignore.

Obama Re-Elected With Overwhelming Mandate; Some Republicans Send Signals of Cooperation, Others Just Continue the Viciousness

Last night, Obama made history. He was the first President since FDR to be re-elected under such tough economic conditions. He was the first President since the early 20th Century to be re-elected against such broad-based opposition by powerful special interests. And he was the first President to achieve such a victory by building a base of support almost entirely composed of grass-roots America.

This re-election wave also served up substantial gains for Democrats in both the House and Senate. Democratic majorities in the US Senate expanded, while Republican majorities in the US House narrowed. These strong wins, after Republicans worked tirelessly to obstruct, sabotage, and ensure Obama’s first term was branded a ‘failure.’

But Obama’s successes would not be overshadowed. His saving of the US auto industry ensured his strength among rust-belt states. His hard fight to establish economic recovery resulted in jobs gains throughout the election that continued to erode and disprove the Republicans’ endless negative narrative. Obama’s smart handling of the Sandy disaster showed not only strong leadership, it illustrated the increasing danger of human-caused climate change. A climate change crisis Republicans have continuously denied. Perhaps, most telling of all, were Romney’s numerous attempts to take credit for Obama’s successes. All such brazen attempts fell short, accumulating in a snow-drift of Republican lies and misinformation.

Obama ran on a tax increase for the rich. Obama ran on economic fairness. Obama ran on building new energy sources of the future — wind, solar, electric vehicles. Obama ran on a vital government empowered to help people. And Obama won. He won handily. He won with the overwhelming endorsement of the electoral college. He won with more than 2.3 percent of the popular vote. And these Americans gave Obama the mandate to pursue tax increases in order to balance the budget, to pursue new energy solutions to climate change, and to continue to make the US economic and political system more fair.

American history is filled with examples of losing parties compromising and working with victorious Presidents. However, many among the Republican party continue to indicate they will not work with Obama. In fact, many attempted to deny the fact that Obama had any mandate whatsoever. Across the conservative media airwaves and via conservative pundits everywhere, the word most oft repeated about Obama’s re-election was ‘no mandate.’

This sick nonsense is just one more attempt to emasculate and render impotent the Obama Presidency. Not only is it callous, cynical, and calculating. It lacks any traditional American spirit of democratic cooperation. Already, Republicans have reverted back to campaign mode. Already Republicans are doing everything they can to deny their own role as governors responsible for their portion of American leadership. Instead, they’ve just put together another wave of Republican spit-ball and smear rhetoric.

But the attempt by Republican media, politicians and pundits to deny the reality of Obama’s clear mandate is among the more mild responses to the President’s re-election. Today, on Twitter, Donald Trump called for a revolution to overthrow Obama’s democratic election. Trump tweeted:

This election is a sham and a travesty! We are not a democracy!

More votes equals a loss… revolution!

We can’t let this happen! We should march on Washington and stop this travesty!

It should be noted, again, that Obama won the popular vote by nearly two million or 2.3 percent. A fact that seems to have been lost on Trump in his insane and violence-mongering rants.

Moving on to Mitch McConnell, we find nothing more than a continuation of brazen obstructionism. McConnell, in a statement yesterday evening asserted:

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.

McConnell still wrongly characterizes the Obama first term as a ‘failure.’ A failure McConnell worked as hard as he could to create. And, again, as seen endlessly repeated in the Republican media, the term no mandate is asserted. McConnell is simply trying to verbally diminish Obama while puffing up his own position. But the facts weight against McConnell and his lawyer-speak.

All that said, the two adults in the Republican room appear to be Mitt Romney and John Boehner. Romney gave a gracious concession speech last night. And Boehner, both yesterday and today, has made more conciliatory communications than those previously issued from his position. Though it is unlikely that Boehner will support any policy which will actually result in a comprehensive solution to the fiscal crisis — continuing to call for spending cuts to key programs while only issuing token support for increased revenues — he has issued some statements that appear to create a little daylight on this issue.

John Boehner:

The American people re-elected the president, and re-elected our majority in the House. If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt. I offer sincere congratulations to President and Mrs. Obama and to Vice President and Dr. Biden. I wish Mitt, Ann, Paul, Janna and their families well, and thank them for having carried the banner of our party and our principles with strength, grace, and courage.

Like McConnell, Boehner attempts to diminish Obama’s strong mandate. However, his statement is less pointed than the one issued by the Minority Leader. Boehner instead leans on cooperation rather than blithering on about imaginary Obama failures.

Today Boehner continued what appeared to be an honest opening for negotiation by saying that he would be open to increased revenues through euphemistic ‘changes in the tax code’ — closing loop-holes and the like. Policies, that, for the most part, sound a lot like those which Romney advocated during the election without that terrible and gigantic tax cut for the rich which he pushed so hard.

All that said, Boehner sets an honest table for bargaining and if his position is merely a flexible starting point and not an ultimatum then, perhaps, there may be a glimmer of hope for things starting to change in Washington.

In the end, it appears that the moderates of the Republican Party are again at war with its extremists. We had a similar battle in 2008 and the result was the Tea Party. The latest step in the long march by the Republican party toward the abyss of extremism. This time, hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Indeed they should. Because that extremist agenda has been dealt a terrible blow before it even had an opportunity to do anything other than obstruct legitimate government.

A more rational policy would be for republicans to begin to show the ‘center-right’ side of republicanism. A real Reagan type republicanism that would actually accept the necessity of a tax increase. And yes, a republicanism that would accept expansions of government efforts in needed areas. That would give center-left democrats something to work with. And the result would be a taste of effective government. I believe the American people would find such a change refreshing.

Standing in Line for Hours to Vote on Election Day? Republican Voter Suppression Most Likely to Blame.

(North Miami, FL on Election Day. Photo credit: Eric Jotkoff.)

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott cut early voting days from 12 to 8. He also produced a ridiculously long and complex ballot that, by many accounts, takes as long as 12 minutes to fill out. The result of this restricting access to polling places and complex ballot combined has been enormously long lines in Florida, requiring voters to wait as many as 8 hours to exercise their democratic and human rights. The fact that the longest lines are forming in heavily Hispanic and minority areas illustrates exactly which groups Scott has targeted for suppression.

In Pennsylvania, a restrictive new voter ID law was passed by a Republican legislature. Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader, famously said of the new restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” These voter ID laws target students, minorities, and the elderly, since these groups tend to lack the credentials required to acquire the new identifications needed to cast a ballot. The result is suppressed turnout among these groups. However, courts have also suspended the Pennsylvania law after strong blow-back.

In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted fought to restrict early voting and to force through his own restrictive voter ID laws. But his efforts were blunted by courts who rolled back many of the new restrictions. Now Husted is ginning up new ways to manipulate Ohio’s vote by creating rules and technicalities that allow him to toss out provisional ballots or deny people registration. New rules put in place by Husted, just this weekend, make it possible that tens of thousands of Ohio voters may be disenfranchised.

And in Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Ed Gillespie, has tossed out thousands of voter registrations by misinforming voters of registration requirements and times, through computer ‘glitches’ that have resulted in thousands dumped from voter rolls, and through direct challenges to voters in an effort to remove their right to vote.

In total, Republicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in 30 states.

Combined, these restrictive actions reveal a nation-wide effort on the part of Republicans to suppress the vote. They utilize bureaucratic red tape, cheap tricks, and authoritarian use of government to restrict access to polls and dump voters who oppose their political views. This active usurping of democracy couldn’t be more cynical and heinous. More moderate and honorable republicans have been horrified by the efforts of their, less scrupulous, peers. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called the voter suppression led by Rick Scott ‘inexcusable’ and compared it to similar efforts in ‘third world countries.’ (See more on Whitman’s outrage at Rick Scott here.)

Given this massive effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, it is absolutely imperative that people do not become cynical. It makes it even more important for people to endure the long lines, the hardship, and to challenge efforts to suppress their vote at every opportunity. These actions could include standing in long lines to vote, directly challenging election officials who are attempting to remove your registration or invalidate your ballot, reporting these attempts to media, and filing civil liberties violations with the ACLU and other legal bodies to seek restitution for abuses against you. In addition, here is a number to directly contact the US Department of Justice should you witness any voting irregularities or illegal activity: 1-800-253-3931.

All that said, Jon Husted, Ed Gillespie, and Governor Rick Scott should all be tried for their illegal and immoral efforts to violate the civil liberties of American citizens, to undermine democracy, and to erode the public authority defined by the Voting Rights Act. Such wanton voter suppression should not be coddled and we risk moral hazard if we do not pursue all legal means to hold accountable those who have willfully and maliciously attempted to use government as an implement for limiting the democratic voice of the American people.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19320

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/11/05/roundup-voter-irregularities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/christine-todd-whitman_n_2076800.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/06/voter-suppression-targeting-t.html

Think Your Vote Doesn’t Count? Remember, Just 537 People Decided the 2000 Election. GOTV!

Just 537 people decided the 2000 Presidential election. 537. Imagine what a huge difference those votes made. Image how different the world would now be if 537 more people had voted.

Climate change may have been addressed. The Great Recession may have never happened. Laissez faire, Enron may have all been avoided.

Your vote counts. Don’t let anyone or anything — not a TV station or a newspaper or a person you may know — let you believe otherwise.

Democracy is important. Precious. Perhaps, it is the thing that is most vital about America — the fact that we all have a voice. The greatest and least among us are all equal come election day.

So if you are one of the meek, the oppressed, the down-trodden. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the hopeful, those who believe that a better future can be achieved when we work together. Lift your voices and be heard! If you are one of the concerned, one of those who can see what is happening to our climate, who is dismayed at one political party’s complete and utter denial of the problem. Lift your voices and be heard! And if you are one of those under threat of losing your rights — immigrant, woman, worker. Lift your voices and be heard!

This is your chance to shine. This is your chance to make history and decide the course of our still great nation.

VOTE!

Will W. Romney, P. Ryan Remove Women’s Reproductive Rights if Elected?

Major news media seems to have been utterly hypnotized by W. Romney’s endless vacillations and changed policy positions. But taking a step back from the enormous cloud of smoke currently being produced by the Romney campaign, we can look at clear signals via both his chosen staff and his past preferences to see which way key policy choices are likely to go.

The first, and most critical, issue is women’s reproductive rights. As a haven for leaders who are willing to let their religious beliefs transfer to laws governing women’s bodies, the US has had a very rocky history of women’s rights. Key reproductive freedoms like access to birth control and family planning services were only won during a brief period of renaissance during the 1960s and 1970s. The establishment of an abortion freedom via the Roe v. Wade decision put the capstone on women’s reproductive freedom in America and ushered in a world-wide age of expanded rights for women around the globe.

Even as these new freedoms were put in place, though, enemies of women’s rights gathered in a generations-long attempt to return America to the dark days of back alley abortions and to a time when certain forms of contraception were illegal. This backlash gained steam during the 1980s and continues to this day in the form of, likely, four conservative Supreme Court justices who are ideologically disposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. It also includes a massive influx of legislators who have fought vehemently in Congress to curtail women’s access to birth control, family planning, key health services, and to overturn abortion rights in even the most damaging and harmful cases.

In total, Republicans in the 112th Congress have voted 55 times to curtail women’s rights. This includes 17 votes to allow health insurance providers to discriminate against women, 11 votes to cut women’s access to preventive care (breast screenings etc), 10 votes to restrict access to abortion or roll back abortion rights, 7 votes to cut funding for women’s nutrition, 3 votes to block access to reproductive and maternal care services, 3 votes to undermine Medicare and Medicaid services to women, and 14 votes that undermine environmental laws protecting pregnant women from toxic substances (Source).

It is also worth noting that President Obama has indicated he will never acquiesce to the extreme anti-woman tendencies of the right wing and has threatened vetoes on any such legislation that crosses his desk.

These Republican anti-woman votes accounted for about 5% of all time spent by the 112th Congress. Among the leaders of this legislative war on women was none other than Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan. Ryan voted yes on almost every anti-woman bill submitted and has pushed for legislation making it illegal to perform an abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Ryan also pushed for a personhood bill that would make abortion even in the event of saving the mother’s life illegal. Ryan’s anti-woman votes parallel those of extremists Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who have both said that even in cases of rape abortion should be illegal. Mourdock was recently quoted as saying that ‘God intended rape pregnancies’ (Source).

Riding in on this wave of Republican anti-women sentiment is Mitt Romney. Romney claimed as recently as a month ago that he would support legislation overturning Roe v. Wade. And his choice of running mate, Paul Ryan, is among the most anti-woman of a very anti-woman Republican House. Romney earlier noted that he would also overturn the Fair Pay Act. His campaign seems to sense a growing outrage among women and, so, over the past few weeks the Romney campaign has obfuscated past extreme anti-woman positions, attempting to appear kinder and gentler to women. But this is merely the desperate smoke screen of a candidate in jeopardy of losing and seeking to pander to all voters in hopes of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (Source).

As we saw with Bush, promises of compassion made on the campaign trail have been about as valuable as a bucket of spit. And Romney, who has shown us only the endlessly changing face of a doppelganger, is certainly far from worthy of engendering trust.

In the case of a Romney election, there would be a very high risk that many women’s freedoms would be overturned. Romney-appointed justices would almost certainly be anti-abortion. Further, Romney would likely work with Republicans in Congress to continue to draft and expand anti-women legislation. A long march back to the days where women were treated as objects and property would have begun and much of the hard work of the brave American women of generations past is in dire danger of being removed should Romney be elected. Romney’s assurances to the contrary are merely empty words — a half-hearted and unclear pledge which holds no honor. To stake women’s future on such false promises and to ignore the Republican legacy of an endless war on women would be the very epitome of folly.

Links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/11/paul-ryan-personhood_n_1767760.html

Take Action:

http://www.barackobama.com/splash/choice-signup?

Huffington Post Serves as Proxy for Former Romney Adviser and CEO Steve Lombardo

In the world of today’s media you have liberal sources, conservative sources, somewhat unbiased sources that are still mostly owned by large media corporations (and therefore beholden to corporate special interests), and then you have just outright strange sources.

One such location is the Huffington Post where you can find a plethora of primarily ‘liberal’ views, a smattering of corporate slant pieces, a few features that seem to make fun of liberals lighting their hair on fire or even encouraging them to do so, and, now and again, something like this.

If you follow the link, what you will find is a typical spin piece of the kind you would find on Fox News or any other major conservative media outlet. The article attempts to deflate any enthusiasm for Obama that may have appeared from last night’s debate win and create a sense that a Romney victory is inevitable.

Given the message, the article would be immediately suspect. However, once you consider the source, it becomes clear that the article is laughably biased. First, Steve Lombardo is a the CEO of a major Washington PR firm. As a CEO, he’s already part of a group that traditionally leans conservative and would usually draw suspicion of bias. However, Lombardo was also a major campaign adviser for Romney during his Presidential run back in 2008. And now, we find Lombardo out spinning for Romney on a supposedly liberal media site.

This behavior by Huffington Post makes it highly suspect that it is, actually, what it claims or appears to be. Liberal media would never host former or current Romney spin doctors to post. And the conservative drift, especially during the election, seen on the Huffington Post and other major news sites (Yahoo, etc) has become extraordinarily concerning. This sort of drift happened at Fox News launch about 20 years ago when it attempted to bill itself as ‘moderate’ and ‘balanced.’  Rush Limbaugh also attempted to appear moderate at first couching conservatism in a load of ‘warm and fuzzy’ language reassuring ‘liberals’ that major social programs weren’t the target of conservatives who only wanted ‘sound fiscal policy’ and ‘a strong national defense.’

Now both Rush and Fox are so rabidly conservative that they regularly assault all tenets of social equality, women’s rights, safety nets for seniors and the disenfranchised even as they pursue economic policies that will lead to fiscal disintegration and a war footing which looks for enemies to create rather than aims to defend this country as a whole. What seems to have happened is that increasing corporate control of the media has resulted in the purveying and dissemination of an increasingly extreme and destructive conservative agenda. Rupert Murdoch is a prime example. But even Mitt Romney reaches his investment tentacles into huge media outlets to exert influence.

Returning to the Huffington Post, we find conservative spin on what is supposed to be a liberal media site. The purveyor of that spin is a right-wing CEO with ties to Mitt Romney. So Huffington Post rises onto the radar screen as insincerely liberal and instead serves simply to gather liberals into a kind of shooting gallery of liberals where the likes of Lumbardo can pick them off at leisure. Sad fact. But that’s what we get for giving corporations too much power to manipulate and control media.

Salt Lake Tribune Labels Mitt Romney a ‘Shape-Shifter,’ Calls Mitt’s Character into Question

In its damning criticism of Mitt Romney, the Salt Lake Tribune article entitled Too Many Mitts based its endorsement of President Obama on the numerous instances where Mitt Romney has demonstrated himself to be an inconsistent, unreliable, untrustworthy, self-contradictory politician willing to say or do anything to be elected.

“As the party’s shape-shifting nominee,” the Tribune says, “Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: ‘Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?’ ”

Conversely the Tribune praised Obama as a “a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day.”

The Tribune’s criticisms of Mitt for being a ‘shape shifter’ couples well with Mitt’s own record, a video sample of which is produced here. It also adds to the GOP’s own criticism of Mitt in which every major GOP primary contender accused Mitt of being a liar. Newt Gingrich when openly asked if he believed Romney was a liar on CBS’s morning show plainly stated ‘yes.’

What is, perhaps, more telling is that the major newspaper for a State primarily made up of Mormons would heap such damning criticism on one of their own. Perhaps the notion of Romney’s consistent and obvious instances of ‘bearing false witness’ was too much to bear. Or, perhaps, the far more moderate Mormon — Harry Reid — provides a better example of constancy and leadership than Mitt who often comes off as equal parts grasping, pandering, and elitist. It’s certainly an inelegant combination of traits and one not well disposed to effectively engaging the office of US President.

Is Tagg Romney Trying to Manipulate the Ohio Vote?

Just days after a former adviser to George Romney accused Mitt of treating voters as ‘targets to be manipulated,’ reports are coming out that Tagg Romney, Mitt’s son, may be directly attempting to manipulate the vote in Ohio.

At age 42, Taggert Romney is one of Mitt’s more visible sons. Also a wealthy investor, Tagg was recently criticized for his dealings with Ponzi scheme investment manager Allen Stanford who has been accused of bilking investors of 8 billion dollars. Tagg has invested in Solarmere Capital, an equity firm previously managed by Stanford who is now serving a 110 year jail sentence. Tagg has also drawn criticism for his recent statement that he would like to punch President Obama.

It is, perhaps, interesting to note that Taggert is also Dagney Taggert’s last name. Dagney is the central character of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Often seen as a manifesto for the super-rich, Atlas Shrugged divides the world into noble makers and ignoble takers. This simplistic world-view has been used, for generations, by the wealthy to justify their entitlement and has become a cornerstone to an emerging royalist attitude among the well-off.

In any case, The Cleveland Leader and PoliticolNews.com recently reported that Tagg Romney purchased voting machines to be used in the Presidential election for Hamilton County, Ohio. According to PoliticolNews, the purchase was made via Tagg’s Solarmere Capital links and constitutes a major conflict of interest in the current Presidential election. PoliticolNews and others are now calling for a Department of Justice investigation of this activity to ensure no foul play is involved.

In general, the fact that it is even legal for this kind of thing to occur calls into question the integrity of the voting process. A Presidential candidate, the campaign staff, business associates, and family members should be completely outside the voting process lest a conflict of interest and/or severe moral hazard result. Two elections have already called into question the integrity of the United States democratic system. 2000 and 2004 both involved alleged foul play that reduced people’s participation or, potentially, removed votes. Persons alleged to be directly involved in the 2004 voting machine manipulation incident died before they could be questioned in court. Now, in a key battleground where the Republican secretary of State is doing everything he can to suppress the vote, allegations of direct links between voting machines and the Romney family arise. Given the history of past elections, an investigation in order now and not after the election.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19137

http://www.politicolnews.com/tagg-romney-invested-in-ohio-electronic-voting-machines/

Please also sign this petition to have Tagg investigated:

http://www.change.org/petitions/attorney-general-eric-holder-investigate-tagg-romney-owning-voting-machines-in-ohio#

Total Failure of Integrity: Romney vs Romney

The following is an illustration of the Romney campaign’s endlessly changing stance on the issues in an attempt to manipulate voters. It also shows how it is basically impossible to determine what Mitt Romney stands for except his own personal advancement.

Mitt Romney on Women’s Rights:

“I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years we should sustain and support it.”

“Roe v. Wade has gone too far.”

“I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose.”

“I never really called myself pro-choice.”

Mitt Romney on the Auto Bailout

“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

“Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.”

“I’ll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry’s come back.”

Mitt Romney on Privatizing Social Security:

“I’m not in favor of privatizing Social Security or making cuts.”

“Social Security’s the easiest and that’s because you can give people a personal account.”

Mitt Romney on Health Care Reform and the Affordable Care Act:

“If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.”

“What works in one state may not be the answer for another.”

Mitt Romney on Capital Gains Tax Cut:

“It’s a tax cut for fat cats.”

“I believe the tax on capital gains should be zero.”

Mitt Romney on Osama Bin Laden:

“It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

“He’s going to pay, and he will die.”

Mitt Romney on How Conservative He is:

“I was a severely conservative governor…”

“Relative to the leading candidates, some people see me as being more conservative.”

“I’m not the most conservative candidate.” “I’m not the most conservative candidate.”

Mitt Romney on Bank Bailouts:

“The TARP program… was nevertheless necessary to keep banks from collapsing in a cascade of failures.”

“When government is… bailing out banks… we have every good reason to be alarmed.”

Mitt Romney on Desire to Serve in Vietnam:

“It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.”

“I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there.”

Mitt Romney on the Minimum Wage

“I think the minimum wage ought to keep pace with inflation.”

“There’s no question raising the minimum wage… causes a loss of jobs.”

Mitt Romney on the NRA, the Second Amendment and Firearms

“I don’t line up with the NRA.”

“I’m a member of the [NRA].”

“I supported the assault weapon ban.”

“I don’t support any gun control legislation.”

“I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.”

“Any description of my being a hunter is an overstatement of capability.”

Mitt Romney on Carbon Emissions:

“These carbon emission limits will provide real and immediate progress.”

“Republicans should never abandon pro-growth conservative principles in an effort to embrace the ideas of Al Gore.”

Mitt Romney on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’:

“When I first heard of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, I thought it sounded awfully silly.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has worked well.”

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