AMERICAblog NewsGaius Publius – AMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:22:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 To guarantee a living wage, make government the employer of last resort Thu, 02 Oct 2014 14:00:47 +0000 I recently wrote about an interview I had with economist and professor Stephanie Kelton at Netroots Nation this year.

The context was “Five Questions” and the talk ranged from climate and “burnable carbon” to what led her to become a leading light of the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) school of economics.

(For a quick look at what MMT economists think, click the link above, or see my own lay-friendly explanation.)

But the question whose answer interested me most was this one (paraphrasing):

If you were president — with an FDR-style mandate and FDR’s Congress, both houses — what would you do the fix the economy?

She answered first about the financial situation, meaning bank and financial sector regulation, and then about the economic situation, about the health of the economy. The financial recommendations were strong and well put. But the economic recommendations contained this striking proposal — let’s make the government the employer of last resort. From that proposal, all sorts of good things flow.

Listen to the clip; it’s not very long. Then a comment after.

The discussion of her financial-side fix is at the start, and as I said, very strong (unlike the “fix” in that other sense offered by the people at the Fed, for example). Then at 3:49 she gives her economic solutions. Along the way, Kelton says the following:

Economist Stephanie Kelton

Economist Stephanie Kelton

The economy performs well when you have lots of consumers with income to spend, and they go out and buy the stuff that the firms are producing. And the firms have customers and nice revenue streams and the economy works well. … The economy doesn’t work well when you’ve got the kind of inequality you have today. …

80% of all the income gains since the recovery went to the top 20% … we’re just shoveling cash into wheelbarrows for these folks. And what do they do with it? They don’t need another refrigerator … they plow it into the stock market … they buy art …

The prescription is to get incomes rising for the people at the bottom. … We need unions to come back. We need a jobs program.

And what does a Kelton “jobs program” look like? It looks like this.

If you don’t like your junk job, you can work for the government and get a living wage

How’s this for a jobs program on steroids, and a minimum wage program, and a working conditions program, all rolled into one? She starts with a look back at FDR-era programs like the WPA and CCC, then adds:

If [FDR-style jobs programs] were created the right way, and you said, “Anybody who’s ready, willing and able to work, or unable to find a job in the private sector — or if you just don’t like that job — you can come and take this [government] job. We’re going to create one for you at a living wage with these benefits …”

You create a package for the worker that then becomes the minimum, [which] everyone else has to provide … or they’re not going to get workers. That becomes the de facto minimum. … We’re not going to let you starve in America.

Fascinating proposal, one that would work beautifully. My translation back to her (6:55):

I don’t want this to go by without people getting what was said. … You’re saying that you don’t really need to define a minimum wage, because the government sets a floor. … [Then] anybody who wants a better job than the junk job they’ve got, can work for the government. That forces the private employers to compete with the government for workers, and that’s a good thing for workers.

Instant fix to junk jobs, public infrastructure needs, and all kinds of employment minimums like health care and working conditions. The economy sails because as Kelton said, the economy works well when most people — the non–very wealthy — have money to spend. Instant gains for the economy; instant gains for workers and working conditions as well.

Feel free to talk this up. And if you encounter one of those “but deficit” hawks who magically appear when the rich want more than they have, read this. It’s the perfect answer to the bipartisan question, “When would you like your austerity, now or later?”

Again, to listen to the entire interview, click here. It’s worth your time.


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“80% of all the income gains since start of recovery have gone to the top 20%” Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:00:10 +0000 My final Five Questions interview was with economist Stephanie Kelton, chair of the Economics Department at UMKC and a leading light in the “Modern Monetary Theory” school. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is the school of economics that fully recognizes the nature of an economic system that is not based on “hard currency” — exactly the system we’re living with today.

MMT has much in common with David Graeber’s explanation of money in his seminal book DEBT: The First 5000 Years, though there are areas of divergence as well (that link is well worth a read, by the way). There’s a comment on Modern Monetary Theory immediately below. To jump directly to the interview, click here.

“I know you want roads, but where will the money come from?” — a primer

Economist Stephanie Kelton

Economist Stephanie Kelton

A simple question, for those of you curious about today’s money and where it comes from. When a bank loans you a dollar, it changes a number in your account. You can then spend it as cash, or transfer it to another person’s account. So, where did the bank get the money? Answer: It didn’t go anywhere to get it; the Federal Reserve gives it the power to just make it — in other words, to simply change that number. This is why the “money supply” constantly changes.

Seriously, think about that. The Fed doesn’t “print” most of your money — just the money in your pocket, in case you want cash. But is most of your “money” in cash? Is 10% of your “money” in cash? 2%? Or is most of your “money” just a number next to your account number? Banks don’t need “money” to change that number; just permission.

Now apply that idea to government purchases, and you understand why this unrecognized (and politically inconvenient, for both parties) truth is true:

According to modern monetary theory, “governments with the power to issue their own currency are always solvent, and can afford to buy anything for sale in their domestic unit of account[.]”

Bottom line, a government that creates its own currency is always solvent — never broke, by definition — and can have as much of it as it wants, so long as inflation is not excessive (which is entirely true today, and has been true since the 1970s). Think about that when some politician, of either party, tells you:

“Yes, you can have X (retirement benefits; better roads), but where will the money come from? After all, you have to ‘pay for it’ somehow. You have to take the money from somewhere.”

No. You don’t. And the proof? The Pentagon never has to “pay for it somehow” by taking the money from “somewhere.” Never. We give them trillions a year, literally, and where does it come from? The same place your home loan came from. If the Pentagon wants a bomber, or 1000 of them, the government writes a check for a bomber and the entity whose account got credited — Raytheon, say, or Boeing — sends one over. The money to buy it never comes from “somewhere else.” And notice — (a) we’re not broke. And (b) we still run the world, very comfortably so (for us).

What’s true for our military is true for our roads — so long as inflation is not excessive, which again, is entirely true today. So why do you have bad roads, but many excellent bombers? Because “they” — the people who decide what to buy — don’t want the roads, and they do want the bombers. That’s the only reason. If they wanted better roads, you’d have them.

But I digress. I’ll deal with the implications of this “inconvenient truth” — they are huge — in another piece. Now back to Dr. Kelton.

The interview

I interviewed Stephanie Kelton in a (thankfully) quiet room at Cobo Hall in Detroit during this year’s Netroots Nation. She was kind enough to make time during her busy visit to the convention. Listen by clicking below. A guide to the interview follows.

We began, as I did with all of my interviews this year, talking about climate. When I asked “Is there burnable carbon? Do we have a carbon budget we can ‘burn through’ and still be safe?” her answer was striking.

Her reply (a paraphrase) — “We better have a carbon budget, because it doesn’t look at all like we’re going to stop burning it. If there’s no budget left, it’s over.” I hadn’t considered that angle, that the existence of a “carbon budget” might be a blessing and not a curse — curse because it will give false security to the owners of burnable carbon.

(I disagree with that assessment, by the way. As regular readers know, I think there’s no burnable carbon, no budget; and also that it’s not over. But back to Ms. Kelton.)

We also discussed how to put the carbon industry out of business. At 7:40 we hit the phrase — “But these things are costly, so how are we going to pay for them?” That complaint comes up a lot, the “cost” of a climate fix. For the real answer, see above. For the other real answer, consider the cost of returning to hunter-gatherer status for the third age of man, the one where we revert to our uncivilized roots. Now choose which cost to pay.

The “why does 2016 matter?” question comes at 9:15. Her response is straight from the anti-“free market” playbook. Kelton is another economist who sees free-market conservatism and its twin, faux-leftie neoliberal privatization, as a destructive disaster. As Dr. Kelton says, we simply have to “throw overboard” the policies that got us where we are today. Her explanation of why is clear and cogent.

But the prize of the interview comes next. I asked two more questions. First, what would she do if she ran an FDR-style administration — one with FDR’s popular mandate and FDR’s “we’re with you, boss” Congress. I won’t preview the answer here, but it’s stunningly original, at least to me. That part starts at 12:38. If you listen to nothing else, click and jump to that point. It’s in this section, by the way that the headline quote appears:

“80% of all the income gains since start of recovery have gone to the top 20%. … We’ve just shoveling cash into wheelbarrows for these people. … What do they do with it? … They buy art.”

She has an answer to the fact that, sorry to say, those manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. But not to worry. There is a solution, and the fast food workers are onto it. Her suggestion for even bigger change is so striking, though, that I’ll be expanding on it in the future.

Finally I asked (at 26:00) about her personal path, about what in her background and history brought her first to economics, and second to be “present at the birth” of Modern Monetary Theory. The answer is human and heart-warming. I couldn’t have manufactured a better close to my last interview of the convention.

The segment also includes this comment about Modern Monetary Theory:

“The MMT school is the ‘anti-austerity on steroids’ school. We’re not the sort of ‘soft left’ that says, ‘Well, austerity today is bad, but we’re going to need austerity sometime in the future’.”

In truth, we haven’t needed austerity since Jimmy Carter was president, if then. Keep the phrase “soft left that says, ‘Austerity today is bad, but we’re going to need austerity in the future'” firmly in mind. To coin a phrase, that truth “changes everything.” Again, for a quick look at the implications, click here.

This year’s previous Five Questions interviews also included Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison (here) and strategist Robert Cruickshank (here). I hope you enjoyed them all.


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“There’s no ‘burnable carbon’. We need massive reductions & sustainable infrastructure.” Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:00:30 +0000 As in previous years, I again lined up a series of Five Questions interviews at Netroots Nation. This year’s group includes House Democrat Keith Ellison, co-leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Democratic strategist and activist Robert Cruickshank; and economist Dr. Stephanie Kelton.

Cruickshank and I spoke in the middle of the exhibit hall, which explains the background sound. The interview is clear however. I started, as usual, asking about “burnable carbon” and the climate crisis — which, if you haven’t noticed, is already upon us. His reply was simple — no burnable carbon, period. Good to hear, and good to hear the reasons.

The interview is here:

Use the following to guide you, if you want to jump to one of the sections.

To the question — What should we do to stop this? — Cruickshank replies (at 4:45):

This is where a clear strategy and a clear message is really valuable. There’s always a temptation to say, “Well, if we have this really complicated policy formula that works exactly as planned, without change or alteration, we might be able to have some form of burnable carbon and not sacrifice ourselves to major problems in the future.”

But we know that profit incentive for burning carbon is so high, that even if you set up a system that looks to us like it could work, it’s going to be gamed and exploited and used by people who want to profit off of burning carbon.

So I think for climate activists, the “ask,” to me, is what it has always been. Let’s go on the path to reducing carbon emissions. Let’s not be burning any new carbon reserves. Leave that coal in the ground. Leave that oil in the ground. And instead spend our money building things that will put us [on a path to] sustainable infrastructure.

My follow-up: That’s the Ask. What’s the Do? His answer: There are lots of doable local actions — Divestment. Stop coal and oil trains. Stop the construction of new oil and coal export terminals. (Chris Hayes’ piece “The New Abolitionism,” which he references, is an excellent read, by the way.)

The answer to question four — “What to do about Hillary, corporate Dems and electoral blackmail?” — comes at 12:52. Jump there if you like. As he said, he’s answering for both himself and the Howard Dean–founded group DFA (Democracy for America) at this point.

That led, at 18:14, to this — “If you don’t get what you want, what are you willing to threaten in order to turn up the heat (on Dem candidates)?” His answer involved primaries — good so far. But how far would he personally go? In 2008, Cruickshank says, for example, he would have advised killing the ACA if the Public Option was left on the table. I call that “taking credible hostages” — something the other side really wants — then acting forcefully if they don’t respond to the threat. Cruickshank calls that “overturning the table and walking away.”

For example (at 24:29), he and DFA seem willing to support a “Matt Damon” type candidate — a viable “someone with nothing to lose” — in the 2016 primary, should that person arise, as a way for Dem voters to say No to “four more years” of privatizing corp-Dem rule.

Listen at 25:40 to hear his personal journey, how he went from Rush Limbaugh Republican (as a teen) to leftwing activist. A fascinating, and not uncommon, story. As I told him, “We all stray young.”

Next and last interview will be with Dr. Stephanie Kelton, a leading economist and part of the cutting edge “Modern Monetary Theory” school of economic thought. Stay tuned for that — it contains a truly startling, and surprisingly workable, alternative to a mandated minimum wage or even minimum working conditions laws.

The previous interview, with Representative Keith Ellison, is here.


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Five Questions with Rep. Keith Ellison – On Climate; On Hillary; On being Muslim Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:00:00 +0000 As in previous years, I again lined up a series of Five Questions interviews at Netroots Nation. This year’s group includes House Democrat Keith Ellison, co-leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; economist Dr. Stephanie Kelton; and Democratic strategist and activist Robert Cruickshank.

Rep. Ellison gave a fascinating interview. I asked three questions about climate, partly as a way to assess his position and partly as a way to present an idea that I knew would be new to him (but not to regular readers) — that we may have no “burnable carbon” and no “carbon budget.”

Your grandchildren's East Coast of the United States

Your grandchildren’s East Coast of the United States

His response was practical — he pointed to legislation he and Senator Sanders were sponsoring, the End Polluter Welfare Act, which would immediately terminate all subsidies to the carbon industry.

As he said later in the interview, this legislation is bill S.1762 in the Senate and bill HR.3574 in the House. Watch for them as they move through these chambers. Ending billions of dollars in gifts to the coal, oil and gas industry is a high priority and is a requirement for moving in a carbon-free direction.

We also talked about how to terminate, not just the subsidies, but the entire industry. For a person who hadn’t thought in these terms before, his list of ideas was impressive.

After the carbon questions I asked about Hillary Clinton and her expected 2016 candidacy. His answer surprised me. Finally, at 15:00 he discusses his spiritual transition from good Catholic to practicing Muslim.

It’s an interesting interview. Pay attention first to Mr. Ellison grappling with what I knew would be a new idea, the concept of “no burnable carbon” if we want to save the climate. He handles himself well and is clearly open to the idea that to keep the earth livable, we need to at least consider an idea that the Carbon Lords (to borrow from Doctor Who) will hate.

Cong. Keith Ellison

Cong. Keith Ellison

About the religion question — as I explained in the interview, Islam is not a religion of orthodoxy in the eyes of most practitioners. It’s a religion of practice and, as Mr. Ellison says, of service and surrender. As such, it is less filled with intolerance of ideas than Christianity, which is much more a religion of orthodoxy. Ellison is wonderfully articulate in his answer.

Next up, my Five Questions interview with economist Dr. Stephanie Kelton. Stay tuned.


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“When the Social Contract breaks from above, it breaks from below as well” Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:00:40 +0000 A photo essay. This is about the police, though that may not be obvious at first.

It’s also about Ferguson and the Social Contract.

When the Social Contract breaks from above …

The Song of the One Percent — "Who stole the people's money? Not me, I got it from this guy ..."

The Song of the One Percent — “Who stole the people’s money? Not me, I got it from this guy …”

… it breaks from below as well:

The Song of the Hopeless

The Song of the Hopeless

To see how this applies to Ferguson, read this, from Time (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Why Ferguson Was Ready to Explode

… Metrolink, St. Louis’s light rail system, completed its second line in 2006. It provided African Americans of East St. Louis, one of the poorest cities in the country, and of north St. Louis county much easier access to the St. Louis Galleria Mall and the central cultural corridor of the city, including the hip Delmar Loop district. Concurrently, the Galleria has since seen an astronomical increase in shoplifting, and there has also been an increase in general crime and hooliganism in the Delmar Loop.

This has led many to think that the Metrolink, as it has crossed racial boundaries, has enabled African American teenaged crime. This vicious cycle of young African Americans’ antisocial hostility and acting out, hardly unique to African Americans or even to Americans, and ever increasing white fear and barricade building, have intensified racial tensions, as people find the problem intractable and increasingly impossible to discuss honestly.

The current riot in Ferguson is largely a war between police and the young African Americans who think cops exist mostly to prevent African American from harming whites.

The War on the One Percent, the War on Crime, and the War on Terror are becoming three names for the same thing — forced by the One Percent. Soon they may be nearly identical. Witness this:

Salinas CA police with their new toy (and urban-friendly camouflage). Note the kick-ass sunglasses.

The Song of the Guardians — Salinas CA police with their new toy (and urban-friendly camouflage). Note the kick-ass sunglasses.

Peacekeepers, serving and protecting … the broken Social Contract.

A scheduling note

I’m back from much travel and will be posting intermittently for a while. Check here for new posts.

First up, three interviews I did at Netroots Nation, part of my Five Questions series. This year I spoke with Congressman Keith Ellison, economics professor and guru Stephanie Kelton, and political writer and activist Robert Cruickshank. Stay tuned for those. Each one was revealing.


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Paul Ryan: ‘Climate Change occurs no matter what’ (and government is not going to pay for it) Mon, 04 Aug 2014 14:00:12 +0000 We’re winning the message (see below), so the climate battle shifts to our old friend, money, where it’s always been.

“Who’s gonna pay for it?” asks a paraphrased Paul Ryan. “Not me or my friends.”

From Igor Bobic in the Huffington Post:

Paul Ryan Says ‘Climate Change Occurs No Matter What’

“Climate change occurs no matter what,” Ryan said Wednesday, as quoted by CNN. “The question is, can and should the federal government do something about it?”

“And I would argue the federal government, with all its tax and regulatory schemes, can’t. And all it will do is end up hurting [profits, by which I mean] our country, our people and especially low-income individuals [whom I deeply love],” he added. […]

We’re winning the first battle — yes, climate change is real. Now for the next battle — cost. “It’s too expensive to come from general funds.” And they’re right, because to really offset the “social cost of carbon,” at some point some of those profits from externalizing carbon cost are going to have to be taken back, forcibly. Perhaps most of them.

That’s one choice — make the wealthy pay for their mess.

Flood via Shutterstock.

Flood via Shutterstock.

The other choice for government is abandonment of the non-wealthy to their fate, and Paul Ryan is drawing those lines already. We’ve seen what happens when the “non-wealthy” in question are brown (Katrina). But what happens when they’re white and relatively middle-class (even relatively Tea Party–ish)?

As the climate crisis unfolds, the crunch will come — whom does the government really protect? And that discussion — about the social contract — will break the social contract in a significant enough way to matter. Nothing like a squabble over scarcity (pretend or otherwise) to tear a society literally apart.

Which is why I make my pitch Chicago-style (early and often) that we should be making our pitch ahead of the game. Our pitch:

When it’s climate crunch time, the cost should come from one source first — the people who caused the problem.

At crunch time, anything government does to coddle the rich (per Wall Street–funded Paul Ryan‘s implication above) will look like another bank bailout to the TP folks, and it should. Limbaugh will then get them to point at “libruls” as the source of their pain, and we’ll be so caught up in fighting each other (because of wealth-controlled withheld resources), we’ll never solve it.

Until …

Greenland melts, taking us fully to another -cene, and not the Holo one we’ve been so comfortable in. (Does it strike you that the Holocene is the real Garden of Eden? It does me.)

David Koch will die a happy man — all he needs is “business as usual” another five years or so, when the next carbon president takes office — but not the rest of us. If Paul Ryan can be pre-emptive with his message, so can we — When the bill comes due, hand it to the profiteers. We could even be pre-emptive now, Chicago-style.


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The Democratic party has lost its soul: Clinton, Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:25:30 +0000 A quick hit as we near the weekend. I thought you’d find this, about the soulless side of the Democratic party, a good and interesting read. (To jump to my Netroots Nation thoughts, click here.)

The piece is, in essence, about the neoliberal heart of the Democratic party, how it was born and grew. The author is Bill Curry. As the blurb says, he was:

White House counselor to President Clinton and a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut. He is at work on a book on President Obama and the politics of populism.

Bet he doesn’t get invited to the next Clinton birthday party. Here’s Howie Klein on Curry (my paragraphing):

If you’re from Connecticut, you probably remember Bill Curry as a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and a two-time nominee for governor. Most Americans who know who he is, though, know him for his role as a domestic policy advisor to Bill Clinton.

I know the Clintons are very touchy about their sometimes tattered brand and I suspect Bill Curry won’t be invited to the Medici Palace when Hillary takes over the world. A look at the piece he wrote Sunday for Salon– My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the victory of Wall Street Democrats, makes you wonder if Curry will even be able to force himself to vote for her. When you say “Wall Street Democrats” you could be talking about Chuck Schumer or Joe Crowley or Steve Israel or Jim Himes but mostly you’re talking about Hillary Clinton’s soul being sold the the banksters.

That said, let me introduce you to the piece. It’s decently long, so this is just a taste or two. If you like it, head on over. I know this is up the alley of at least some of you.

Curry casts his opening by noting the success of one man, Ralph Nader, single-handedly the father of the modern consumer movement, who worked mainly through Democrats of that era. Then, starting around 1978 or so, the era changed, along with the Democrats.

This isn’t about Nader; it’s about the Democrats:

My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and the victory of Wall Street Democrats
A former Clinton aide on how Democrats lost their way chasing Wall Street cash, and new populism the party needs

… For nearly 30 years Nader largely abstained from electoral politics while turning out a steady stream of testimony and books. But his influence waned. By the late ’70s the linked forces of corporate and cultural reaction we memorialize as the Reagan Revolution were gathering force. In 1978 Nader lost a pivotal battle to establish a federal consumer protection agency as key Democrats, including Jimmy Carter, whom Nader had informally blessed in 1976, fled the field.

In Reagan’s epic 1980 sweep the GOP picked up 12 Senate seats, the biggest gain of the last 60 years for either party. Nader had done his best business with Democrats, especially the liberal lions of the Senate; men like Warren Magnuson, Gaylord Nelson, Birch Bayh and George McGovern, all swept out to sea in the Reagan riptide. In the House, a freshman Democrat from California, Tony Coelho, took over party fundraising. It’s arguable that Coehlo’s impact on his party was as great as Reagan’s on his. It is inarguable that Coehlo set Democrats on an identity-altering path toward ever closer ties to big business and, especially, Wall Street.

In 1985 moderate Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore founded the Democratic Leadership Council, which proposed innovative policies while forging ever closer ties to business. Clinton would be the first Democratic presidential nominee since FDR and probably ever to raise more money than his Republican opponent. (Even Barry Goldwater outraised Lyndon Johnson.) In 2008 Obama took the torch passed to Clinton and became the first Democratic nominee to outraise a GOP opponent on Wall Street. His 2-to-1 spending advantage over John McCain broke a record Richard Nixon set in his drubbing of George McGovern.

Throughout the 1980s Nader watched as erstwhile Democratic allies vanished or fell into the welcoming arms of big business.  By the mid-’90s the whole country was in a swoon over the new baby-faced titans of technology and global capital. If leading Democrats thought technology threatened anyone’s privacy or employment or that globalization threatened anyone’s wages, they kept it to themselves.  In his contempt for oligarchs of any vintage and rejection of the economic and political democratization myths of the new technology Nader seemed an anachronism.

As Klein points out, if you’re looking for an original sinner, look at Tony Coehlo, named above.

But Clinton and Obama took the ball and ran with it:

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.

The furor over Nader arose partly because issues of economic and political power had, like Nader himself, grown invisible to Democrats. As Democrats continued on the path that led from Coehlo to Clinton to Obama, issues attendant to race, culture and gender came to define them. Had they nominated a pro-lifer in 2000 and Gloria Steinem run as an independent it’s easy to imagine many who berated Nader supporting her. Postmortems would have cited the party’s abandonment of principle as a reason for its defeat. But Democrats hooked on corporate cash and consultants with long lists of corporate clients were less attuned to Nader’s issues.

Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.

Read the last sentence again:

Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.

That takes us through just the first section. Please, do read the rest. Here’s a tease for section two (my paragraphing):

There’s much talk lately of a “populist” revival but few can say what a populist is. … Meanwhile the populist revolt on the right persists. … Democrats aren’t even having a debate. Their one think tank, the Center for American Progress, serves their establishment. (Its founder, John Podesta, once Clinton’s chief of staff, is now counselor to Obama.) The last real primary challenge to a Democratic senator was in 2006 when Ned Lamont took on Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman.

They say the GOP picks presidents based on seniority. Two years out, Republicans seem headed for a bloody knife fight while Hillary Clinton may be headed for the most decorous, seniority-based succession in either party’s history. (If she loses this time it will be to herself.)

There’s a wonderful comparison of Barack Obama in the crisis of 2008 to FDR in 1933. Not that Obama did different things (he did), but that Obama saw different things. Both saw through Democrat’s eyes. What does that say about Obama-era Democrats?

I’ll add that Curry isn’t a doomist. He sees a great coalition within the party that’s unexpressed by its leaders:

If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.

Here’s hoping.

Netroots Nation and the “professional left”

Which leads to some preliminary thoughts on Netroots Nation. I’ve been holding off my comments, but they’re coming. And I’m not the only one thinking these thoughts — or “havin’ them dreams” as Bob Dylan once wrote. Simply put, there are two kinds of “Democrat” — the kind that hates what Obama and Clinton (and next-Clinton) have done and will do to the country, and the kind that’s kinda sorta OK with that.

Yes, I know … Republicans. But if your argument is “Stop Republicans ‘cuz Evil Deeds” then you have to stop Democrats when they do evil deeds too — and with the same passion — not just go look for your next movement job once the last sorta-OK Dem took office with your help.

That passion does describe and infuse many “movement” progressive activists, but there are plenty it doesn’t seem to touch, except when they speak. For all the Warren Wing enthusiasm, there are many who will work for Hillary, then not work equally as hard to stop her once she gets power. As one writer said about this year’s Netroots Nation:

A more appropriate slogan for the event, at least for some attendees, might have been “I’m resigned to Hillary.”

Let’s say that differently. How can one be “Ready for Warren” and “Ready for Hillary” too? If you actually listen to Warren, you can’t, even if you’re Warren herself.

I’ll have more on Netroots Nation soon. I’m collecting not just my thoughts, but those of others as well. The soul of the article above touches the soul of that event, and modern “Democrats” should read this piece carefully, for the all-too-obvious reason.


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Support Chang in HI-01 – Don’t let Dems elect a Koch-friendly pro-nukes oil-funded anti-choice candidate Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:00:24 +0000 It’s definitely primary season here at La Maison, and as I’ve said many times, the election action on the Dem side is in the primaries. We don’t just have to defeat the Republicans. We have to defeat the Steve Israels of the world, as well as their Koched-up and corp-controlled candidates.

Thanks to all of you who are helping Nancy Skinner in MI-11 get her pre-election mailings out the door. If you haven’t done so already, you can donate here. Her election is Aug 5, precious few days away.

Support Stanley Chang in HI-01

Which brings me to the other House candidate I’d like you to support — Stanley Chang in Hawaii’s 1st congressional district. To go right to the support links, click one of these:

▪ ActBlue
▪ Stanley Chang campaign

To read why you should contribute, stay with us for a few more paragraphs — then please contribute.

The high-profile race in Hawaii is the Senate race, which pits true-progressive incumbent Senator Brian Schatz against “corrupt conservative New Dem” Colleen Hanabusa. (And yes, corrupt means what you think it means.) Hanabusa left her House seat in HI-01 to run against Schatz, which means there’s a race for the House in her old district. Here’s where it gets interesting — and ugly.

The HI-01 race on the Democratic side includes these three candidates:

Stanley Chang, House candidate in HI-01

Stanley Chang, House candidate in HI-01

Stanley Chang — The race’s only genuine progressive (see below)

Mark Takai — State senator who supports “imposing warrantless, suspicionless drug tests on anyone seeking public benefits” including veterans

Donna Kim — A “backward and reactionary” state senator opposed to marriage equality (yet endorsed by EMILY’s List)

It’s a deep blue district, so the Republicans don’t matter — unless you count the virtual Republicans running as Democrats.

The EMILY’s List–supported candidate is Donna Kim. The Democratic reaction against Kim was bad, however, and even many mainstream Hawaiian Dems couldn’t get behind her. RL Miller of the ClimateHawksVote SuperPAC says this (my emphasis):

[Donna Kim, a] right-wing, undeserving-of-the-label, Democrat-In-Name-Only is in a crowded Democratic primary. To prevent the DINO from being elected, progressives attempt to unify behind one of the several other candidates in the race. Political Science 101 suggests that they unify behind the most progressive alternative who represents the best chance of election.

In Hawaii’s deep blue and progressive First Congressional District, they’re about to do the opposite: unify behind [Mark Takai] a DINO-Lite instead of a viable progressive choice.

To get away from Kim, local newspapers have endorsed Mark Takai:

Hawaii newspapers have anointed Mark Takai as the other, more progressive front-runner in the August 9 primary. Mainstream groups such as the Sierra Club and Human Rights Campaign have endorsed him. But is he actually progressive or just a Kim-Lite?

The Hawaii Sierra Club endorsed Takai, but he accepted an oil industry-funded junket to Azerbaijan. Takai wants to cut Hawaii’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels by exploring nuclear power as a viable option.

The problem is that Takai is progressive only in his advertising:

Takai is way too cozy with Koch-affiliated groups. Hawaii has a Koch-affiliated think tank, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, with a mission to “promote individual liberty, the free market and limited accountable government.” Takai calls its new president a dear friend and mentor.

Equality Hawaii endorsed Takai, but he voted no on civil unions twice, only reversing his position after deciding to run for Congress a few months ago.

He’s also made friends with the gun lobby and as we mentioned above, the nuclear industry. Howie Klein at DownWithTyranny adds all this up:

The progressive in the race is Stanley Chang and he’s being challenged by two conservatives, Mark Takai and Donna Kim. Back in May the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed Chang. Last week, Japanese-American congressman, Mark Takano, lied to his fellow caucus members and convinced them that his Japanese-American pal Takai is not really a conservative and railroaded them into making it a “dual endorsement.” They should have known better because Takano, one of the least effective and least trustworthy members of the CPC, also went to bat for corrupt conservative Pete Aguilar (a New Dem) on behalf of DCCC chairman Steve Israel (a Blue Dog who was behind both Aguilar and Takai).

Can you see what’s happening here? Because the mainstream Hawaii newspapers endorsed Takai, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) later “dual-endorsed” Takai and Chang — in effect, stupidly repudiating its earlier support for Chang — Takai has the upper hand. But not by much.

(By the way, the odd thing about Takano endorsing Takai, is that Takai is anti-gay, and Takano is gay. I’ll have more about Takano later; he’s not who you thought he was when the Grayson-Takano “No Cuts” letter was being circulated.)

Chang can win with your help

Here’s the polling on the race, taken by station KTIV after the recent televised debate (via email):

Stanley Chang — 48%
Mark Takai — 39%
Kathryn Xian — 5%
Donna Kim — 2%
Others & undecided — 5%

While not definitive, this shows that Chang and Takai are the top two candidates, and clearly in range of each other.

Here’s the money situation in the race, as of the June 30 quarter:

Kim — $201K
Takai — $199K
Chang — $145K

So, a winnable race — but Chang needs your support now. The primary is August 9, a Saturday very near you. Can you help? Here are those Contribute links again:

Stanley Chang campaign

I’ll let Stanley Chang have the next-to-last word:

Did I mention he’s strongly pro-climate? That’s why the Climate Hawks SuperPAC is strongly endorsing him.

Thanks for considering this. Again, the primary is August 9; not much time left to help.


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Support pro-climate House candidate Nancy Skinner – primary is August 5 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:00:37 +0000 I wrote earlier about a strong pro-climate candidate for the House, Nancy Skinner, a Democrat running for the MI-11 seat in the U.S. Congress. It’s an R+4 district that went for Obama in 2008 (+9) and Romney in 2012 (+5).

Normally the district goes Republican in House races. This year though there’s an big opportunity, but your support is needed now. Read on to see why.

To jump straight to Skinner’s “ask,” click here. The primary is just days away.

The Republicans have given themselves no good choices

The likely winner of the Republican primary is a known foreclosure meathead named David Trott, and he’s getting savaged by his Republican primary opponent, incumbent Tea Partier Kerry Bentivolio:

Incumbent teabagger Kerry Bentivolio is up against a fatally flawed eviction and foreclosurer specialist, Dave Trott, who is being financed by the corrupt Republican Establishment.

Here’s one of the ads running against Trott — who, note, is the likely Republican winner:

Your first take-awayTrott can be beaten by the Democrat. He’s hugely vulnerable. Howie Klein at Down With Tyranny on Trott and Bentivolio (my emphasis throughout):

[T]he Michigan and the Beltway Republican establishments are embarrassed as hell to have a babbling imbecile like Bentivolio representing the district and they have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Republican Party subsidiaries helping to finance a nasty primary by [Trott] the gentleman described in the ad above, of whom we’ve written before. Trott is very wealthy– foreclosing and evicting pay[s] well apparently– and has already raised $1,099,084 to Bentivolio’s $337,190. As of December 31, Bentivolio had $130,133 cash on hand and Trott was already sitting on $710,729.

The Republicans have two bad choices, and the way to attack the winner has been handed to us.

Trott’s opponent can be a strong-climate Democrat

On the Democratic side, there are three opponents, each vying to make it to the general in November. The choices are:

Dr. Anil Kumar, a self-funded doctor who supported Romney.

Bobby McKenzie, a DCCC-endorsed former CIA operative who is pro-fracking “if done right,” or words to that effect.

Nancy Skinner, a talk show host who has run before and is all about the climate.

Howie Klein on Kumar:

Kumar, who has never run for any office nor worked on campaigns, is barely a Democrat at all. Recent campaign reports show contributions of $3,000 to Rick Snyder (2010), $2,000 for Romney (2012), $500 to Mike Rogers (2010) and $375 to Rocky Raczkowski, the crackpot Republican who ran against Gary Peters in 2010.

Klein on McKenzie:

If he runs, the Republicans will talk about nothing but Benghazi for the entire campaign, while he turns off the Democratic base with the only issue he ever talks about, anti-terrorism tactics.

Here’s Skinner on McKenzie’s pro-fracking stance:

McKenzie (from the link above): “I agree with the Sierra Club that if fracking is continuing we should monitor the water, and if it’s contaminating the water, stop it.”

Skinner: “That’s like’s saying I agree with the American Lung Association which says keep smoking, just monitor your lungs, and if you get cancer, then quit.”

But Skinner’s not just anti-fracking. She’s strongly pro-climate, making that a centerpiece of her campaign. Climate scientist Michael Mann on Skinner:

Climate Candidate Nancy Skinner (MI-11)

Climate Candidate Nancy Skinner (MI-11)

Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told ThinkProgress in an email that he was happy to learn of Skinner’s campaign.

“Nancy understands that unchecked climate change is the greatest threat we face–to our economy, out health, our national security,” he said. “I support her candidacy and I hope that it signals that more folks like her will be entering the world of politics, placing climate change action on the front burner.”

Your second take-awayMaking Skinner a winner on climate makes climate a winner. We need a climate advocate in Congress, one who gets  it, and we need a climate trophy in a Congressional race to show what can be done.

Support Skinner now — the primary is August 5 (this coming Tuesday)

The race is within reach. The Democrat who advances past the primary has a good shot at the seat. But Skinner needs support now. In particular, she needs your donations to get the next round of ads on the air.

August 5 is one week away. Do you have $11 (or $33) to contribute to a climate win? The day to click is today. Here’s Skinner’s donate link:

ActBlue on Skinner for Congress

And here’s her pitch — $11 for MI-11 and 1 climate candidate. Her “ask” is at the end:

This isn’t something to delay about if you’re at all inclined to put a little climate money on the line.

Let’s put Skinner in the general election by getting her past the primary. Her target is the August 5 primary election. Yours? Today would be good.

And thanks!


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Obama leasing millions of Gulf acres for offshore oil & gas drilling Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:10:09 +0000 More and more it’s looking like Obama’s global warming and climate change “initiative” is just a legacy play. He says the right words, then does the wrong deeds.

I can’t think of another way to describe what we’re watching. Would a man who believed these words do those deeds? Let’s look at each, the words and the deeds.

Words first

First the fine words. Here’s Obama speaking to the bright-eyed grads at UC Irvine just this summer:

[S]ince this is a very educated group, you already know the science.  Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide traps heat.  Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years. …

We know the trends.  The 18 warmest years on record have all happened since you graduates were born.  We know what we see with our own eyes.  Out West, firefighters brave longer, harsher wildfire seasons; states have to budget for that.  Mountain towns worry about what smaller snowpacks mean for tourism.  Farmers and families at the bottom worry about what it will mean for their water.  In cities like Norfolk and Miami, streets now flood frequently at high tide.  Shrinking icecaps have National Geographic making the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.

So the question is not whether we need to act.  The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest.  The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.  For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place.

That’s pretty definite, right? The problem isn’t “North American” carbon vs. “foreign” carbon. The problem is (again):

“Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide traps heat.  Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years.”

Let’s now look at just the most recent deeds.

Now deeds

On the deeds side of the ledger, Obama has just opened millions of acres of Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration. Here’s Steve Horn writing at the invaluable DeSmogBlog:

Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf [of Mexico] Acres for Offshore Drilling

Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.

It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Superdome.

On July 17, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)  announced the lease in the name of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, BOEM…today announced that the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,”proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press release.

The release says this equates to upwards of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas and falls under the banner of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement.  […]

Here’s what’s being “leased” (sorry, given away for a pittance … sorry, monetized by the billionaire oil and gas kings):

Millions of acres off the Texas coast to be leased for oil and gas exploration (click to enlarge)

Millions of acres off the Texas coast to be leased for oil and gas exploration (click to enlarge)

Could this endanger tourism (not to mention livability) in the Texas coast towns of Port Isabel and South Padre Island? Horn again:

According to BOEM‘s Proposed Notice of Sale Package, dozens of blocks sitting in close proximity to both Port Isabel and South Padre Island will be auctioned off during the August 20 [2014] lease. Both Port Isabel and South Padre Island are vacation and tourist hot spots[.]

How should we think of this?

Does Obama think none of that oil and gas will be burned?

The question one almost has to ask is this — What does President Obama think will happen to the oil and gas extracted from under the Gulf?

That’s a serious question. Does he think it will not be monetized and burned, or that it will be monetized and burned? If it won’t be monetized, is he scamming the bidders? (But if so, where’s his plan for preventing what’s extracted from ending up in our air and some billionaire’s pocket?)

And if it will be monetized, what of his words, that “Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide traps heat.  Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years”?

I honestly don’t know what to make of this drastic (and tragic, at least for us) disconnect, except to call it, as I did above, a “legacy play.” I did not want the first Black president in U.S. history to be one more sordid bringer of billionaire screwage — and world-historical screwage at that. But there it is.

The Obama Legacy Library

By the way, here’s what that screwage is buying. Bidding is now going on for Obama’s Legacy Library, with Chicago (natch) in the running. Here’s one proposal, by the Chicago architectural firm HOK (formerly Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum):

Obama's Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 1)

Obama’s Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 1)

So forward-looking, it could be Starfleet Academy (do click; you’ll be surprised). Here’s another view:

Obama's Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 2)

Obama’s Presidential Library as envisaged by the Chicago firm HOK (view 2)

See the peaceful happy people, playing in the Obama Legacy Library Park? You won’t see those faces on South Padre Island. And 20 years down the road, if Obama gets his way and Exxon gets its Obama-provided billions, those faces will look a tad bit more concerned than they do here. Here’s a hint of what’s in store for us if Obama and Exxon succeed.

Our Devolution Scenarios

Just a taste of where the descent from civilization, that gift of the narrow and stable Holocene climate, may take us. We start with our current civilizational state and work backwards:

The electronic age of wireless communication.

The electric age of power generation and transmission, including by coal and oil consumption.

The mechanical age of power generation, including by coal and oil consumption.

The animal age (beasts and slaves) of power generation.

The age of agriculture and small towns and cities.

The age of hunters and gatherers, our tribal past.

Extinction, as the planet sloughs us off.

As the social, economic and political stability of the planet degrades (if it does), where does our devolution stop? If carbon-burning never stops — and that’s clearly one of the choices on the menu — it’s hard to see our devolution stopping before we’re generating most of our power with our beasts and our backs.

Now consider, when the human world was young and we were coming from the Stone Age to the Iron Age and beyond, all the goods of the earth were close to the surface — iron, copper, tin. As we descend (if we do) to stone age living, where will we find these precious things again, to begin that long climb back? Perhaps only in landfills.

Time for Obama to take Obama seriously

All of which is meant to say — please, this really is a turning point and a tipping point in the economic, social and political world. Mr. Obama, take your words seriously and act as though you believe them. You can yourself stop many of those nasty carbon emissions from ever seeing the light of day.

▪ Stop selling coal leases on federal lands.

▪ Stop selling oil and gas leases off U.S. shores.

▪ Do these deeds now to demonstrate real commitment to limiting CO2 emissions. Control what you can control by your own unilateral action.

That’s the ask. Care to join me? Obama will have power for just a few years, and we have just a few years to use our power to influence him. In order to prevent him from destroying his legacy (and our American futures), he needs to know we’re watching.

Tell him we’re watching.


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House candidate Nancy Skinner makes climate a centerpiece issue — in a winnable race Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:00:27 +0000 Scheduling Note: I’m off in prep for Netroots Nation, so not much from me until after the event. If you’re in Detroit for the conference and you see my smiling name tag, please do say Hi. I’d be glad to chat with you.

I couldn’t have better news for you. In a winnable race, a Democratic House candidate is making climate a centerpiece issue. If anyone deserves your support, this person does.

Can climate be a winning issue elsewhere? Let’s prove it can by winning this race.

The candidate is Nancy Skinner, and the race is Michigan-11, near Detroit. They’re still in the primary stage, but this is doable. The Republicans are in serious disarray, as you’ll see. Skinner could well take the seat. (In fact, she’s in the running for Bill Maher’s Flip-A-District contest.)

From friend-of-the-Holocene Peter Sinclair:

Michigan House District 11 Candidate Nancy Skinner is making  climate change a centerpiece of her campaign, going into next month’s primary, and has come out swinging with the piece you see above.

Last week I posted a bit of distilled climate paranoia, in a video from a Louisiana congressional primary, where Sara Pailin clone Lenar Whitney laid out the complete conspiracist’s looniest fantasy of climate science as a global plot. The piece has appeared in a lot of places, and I think its an example of looney climate denial having jumped the shark in the American mind.

Now, hardly a week later, I  can show you another view, above – one that every serious pollster tells us is true. Climate Change is becoming  a winning issue.

Sinclair, in a separate piece, links to a poll conducted by Anthony Leiserowitz tracking public opinion on climate issues:

88% of Democrats, 59% of Independents and 61% of liberal/moderate Republicans think global warming is happening, compared to only 28% of conservative Republicans;

81% of Democrats and 51% of liberal/moderate Republicans are worried about global warming, compared to only 19% of conservative Republicans;

82% of Democrats and 65% of liberal/moderate Republicans support strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health, compared to only 31% of conservative Republicans.

Of course there’s more at the link. This is s very promising issue.

Support Nancy Skinner for Congress

Even if  you don’t live in Skinners MI-11, you can help out. In fact, you can help a lot. Here’s how — Skinner’s “ask” is at the end:

The ask is simple — 11:11:1 — “$11 for MI-11 and the 1 candidate who leads on climate change”. As Skinner’s campaign writes at the YouTube site:

Nancy Skinner is running in one of the very few US House Seats in the nation that is “in play” due to gerrymandering, Michigan’s 11th District. The incumbent is a first term Tea Party (and major Climate Denier), Kerry Bentivolio. Roll Call has MI-11 in it’s Top Ten Most Vulnerable Seats.

Make climate a winning issue in 2014. Support Skinner for Congress.

If the Republicans savage each other, the race could be Skinner’s to lose

More on her rivals, the Republican clowns, from Howie Klein at Down with Tyranny (my emphasis and paragraphing):

One of the most bitter and brutal Republican mini-civil wars is raging in MI-11, west and northwest of Detroit and we took a brief look at it last week. Incumbent teabagger Kerry Bentivolio is up against a fatally flawed eviction and foreclosurer specialist, Dave Trott, who is being financed by the corrupt Republican Establishment. The teabaggers are currently running this very effective ad against Trott:

Steve Israel, sensing an opportunity to elect one of his vile mystery meat candidates, recruited an ex-CIA agent, Bobby MacKenzie, who refuses to talk issues and is hoping that Trott and Bentivolio will just kill each other off. Progressive icon and local radio talk show host Nancy Skinner just announced that she’s jumping into the race and is likely to get the kind of institutional support Israel hoped to be able to deliver to McKenzie.

Climate Candidate Nancy Skinner (MI-11)

Climate Candidate Nancy Skinner (MI-11)

Nancy is a known and trusted progressive voice in Michigan and across the country due to her countless media appearances as a syndicated talk show host who doesn’t shy away from taking the battle right into the face of fascist heroes like Ann Coulter and Larry Kudlow (see video up top).

She bravely took on Joe Knollenberg in MI-09 in 2006, then considered unbeatable after David Fink spent $2 million and lost big. Today half of MI-09 is has been redistricted into MI-11. Skinner used her radio fans and local roots and national base to raise $465,000 (with no DCCC help of course) to Knollenberg’s $4 million dollars and lost 51-47%. The Detroit Free Press called Skinner “Knollenberg’s near-death experience.”

Back then, her campaign drew national attention. She was endorsed by then Senator Barack Obama; then Senator Joe Biden fundraised for her; Joan Jett also raised campaign funds for her. Environmental hero  Robert Kennedy Jr. did a television ad with Skinner endorsing her for her leadership on global warming. Skinner was voted the “Best congressional candidate in America” in a national poll.

The two other Democrats in the race, wealthy Bloomfield Hills urologist Anil Kumar and the CIA guy, McKenzie, are not likely to muster what it would take to beat either Republican. Kumar, who has never run for any office nor worked on campaigns, is barely a Democrat at all. … McKenzie worked at the state Department for a few months after his secretive stint overseas with the CIA. If he runs, the Republicans will talk about nothing but Benghazi for the entire campaign, while he turns off the Democratic base with the only issue he ever talks about, anti-terrorism tactics. …

I spoke with Nancy Skinner yesterday. She was focused like a laser on three overriding issues: jobs, economic security for working families, and climate change. …

Klein has more a the link. It’s a nice piece.

Bottom line — Climate wins when Climate Candidates win

I think the bottom line is a simple one. To make Climate a winning issue, we have to make winners out of Climate Candidates. Skinner is backable and the race is winnable. Care to help? Here’s that link again — 11:11:1, $11 for MI-11 and the 1 candidate who leads on climate change.

And thanks.


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Are you or your loved ones in the Oil Train Blast Zone? Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:00:14 +0000 Yes, oil-by-rail, the gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks to your efforts to curtail crude- and tar-oil pipelines, the greedy carbon industry is increasingly resorting to train travel to move toxic crude around the country. Risky? You bet.

Let’s start with this, from the valuable Steve Horn at DeSmogBlog — but don’t forget to read on. Are you in the path of these spill-ready trains? There’s a handy tool just below.

Industry Data Show Oil-By-Rail in North America at Record Levels

On July 3, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) released June 2014 data showing oil-by-rail and petroleum products at-large are moving at record levels throughout North America.

The release of the data comes on the heels of the ongoing oil-by-rail nationwide week of action launched by environmental groups.

For the 26th week of 2014 (the half year point) in the U.S., 18.5% more tank cars were on the tracks carrying petroleum and/or petroleum products than last year, a total of 15,894 cars.

Examined on a year-to-date basis, 7.0% more of those same tank cars were on the tracks in the U.S. this year than last, totaling 380,961 cars to date.

15,000 tank cars per week is a lot of crude rolling around the country. And it’s almost the whole country we’re talking about. Is there one near you? Let’s see.

A handy tool — are you in a blast- and spill-zone?

To see the crude-by-rail map for the whole country (and parts of Canada), click here and scroll down. You can also use that page as a tool to see how spill-ready your neighborhood is. For example, I entered “Minneapolis, MN” in the search box and this is what I found.

Crude oil by rail

Blast and spill zone for downtown Minneapolis. Red is the evacuation zone. Yellow the fire-impact zone.

If I lived in downtown Minneapolis, I’m not far, am I. And in the case of fire and toxic fumes, a lot depends on where the wind is blowing that day — and how asthmatic I am.

You can enter a street address as well, or just a zip code. Me, I’m six block away from a close encounter, so close I can see it from my window. Yikes; didn’t know that. How close are you to too many emissions at once?

Oil train traffic has increased by more than 4,000 percent in the past five years

Here’s another look at the extent of the problem, from Forest Ethics, the group that put together the search tool. Their press release reads in part (my emphasis):

25 Million Live in Oil Train Blast Zone: New Online Mapping Tool Shows Threat to Homes, Schools, and Cities

Media Contact: Eddie Scher, ForestEthics communications director, (415) 815-7027,

Today the citizens group ForestEthics launched, a website that allows users to see the routes of trains carrying millions of gallons of crude oil and assess the threat of accidents to specific locations. The group estimates that more than 25 million Americans live in the potential oil train blast zone.

For the first time ForestEthics has brought Google mapping capabilities together with railroad industry data on oil train routes across the US and Canada. The tool uses US Department of Transportation guidance for emergency response, identifying the one mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train fire or a half mile in the case of a spill. The group used census data to estimate the number of Americans living in the one mile blast zone, but the map also shows schools, sports stadiums, town halls, and landmarks across the country within the danger zone.

Oil train traffic has increased by more than 4,000 percent in the past five years, from 9,500 tank cars in 2008 to more than 400,000 in 2013, mostly Bakken crude from North Dakota and tar sands from Alberta, Canada. Derailments, spills, and fires are also on the rise. …

“These oil trains are an unacceptable threat, especially because we don’t even need this extreme oil,” says Paglia. “Oil use in the US and Canada is down, climate risks are up, and when you put these things together the only sane thing to do is ban these exploding trains.”

ForestEthics is asking that regulators ban dangerous DOT-111 tanker cars, alert communities to the presence of oil trains, prepare and equip emergency responders, and reroute trains around cities and away from water supplies. The group is also asking that new rail safety rules, under development by the Obama Administration, give citizens the power to say no to oil trains.

Are you in a blast or spill zone? Click and find out. And if you want something to do about it, write Obama’s Dept. of Transportation, who approved this risky transport. As the press release says:

ForestEthics is asking that regulators ban dangerous DOT-111 tanker cars, alert communities to the presence of oil trains, prepare and equip emergency responders, and reroute trains around cities and away from water supplies. The group is also asking that new rail safety rules, under development by the Obama Administration, give citizens the power to say no to oil trains.

You can also ask, or join Forrest Ethics in asking. The Obama administration may be oil-soaked, but you don’t have to be. Petition here.


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Myth of climate “burnable carbon” – IPCC’s “carbon budget” gives one-in-three chance of failure Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:00:58 +0000 I recently made several points that need to be hammered over and over between now and the U.N. climate meeting in Paris in late 2015:

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 or CMP11 will be held in Paris, France in 2015. This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.

The purpose of the Paris meeting is to sign a binding agreement on carbon emissions. The purpose of the IPCC is to create a scientific framework for the discussions of the treaty-making FCCC.

All of the talk in the lead-up to Paris will be about how much “burnable carbon” we can still emit. In other words, what’s our remaining “carbon budget”? Or more to the point, how much more money can Exxon make and still be one of the good guys?

Built into those U.N. discussions are a couple of assumptions fostered by the IPCC:

▪ That 2°C global warming is a safe target.
▪ That doing what gives us a 66% chance of achieving the 2° warming target is a good enough.
▪ That Exxon, the Saudis, David Koch and others deserve to make some money from their buried assets.

You’ll hear about this endlessly in the next year or so. Now is the time to counter with the truth and tell it to everyone you know.

None of those statements is true

There’s not a word of truth to any of the bulleted statements above, and the time to counter them is now, before David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos tell a hungry nation — “Here’s what we know to be true.” If Big Media latches onto the statements above, the climate war is lost until a real crisis, like Miami sinking beneath the waves, occurs.

So please, help counter the lies. They exist only to keep the carbon industry (David Koch, Rex Tillerson and Exxon) in wealth and operation. Our goal in the next few weeks will be to show that:

▪ 2°C warming takes our species far outside the climate zone that supports human civilization. Once outside that zone, the earth will stay there for thousands or millions of years.

▪ A 66% chance of species survival is Russian roulette with a three-chambered gun. Only David Koch, whose life expectancy is less than your child’s, wants you to lift it to your head and fire. If you pull the trigger, you take the bullet and he makes more money.

▪ Exxon, the Saudis, the Kochs and their ilk deserve nothing more than they already have, and probably a whole lot less.

This piece is the first in a series — Why there’s no more “carbon budget.” The reasons are many; this is one of them.

The IPCC’s own “carbon budget” has a one-in-three chance of failure

David Spratt at the invaluable Climate Code Red has a brilliant, cogent and clear explanation of the worse-than-Russian-roulette odds in the IPCC’s own data. Spratt (my emphasis; numbers in parentheses refer to his footnotes):

For the last two decades, climate policy-making has focused on 2°C of global warming impacts as being manageable, and a target achievable by binding international treaties and incremental, non-disruptive, adjustments to economic incentives and regulations (1).

But former UK government advisor Professor Sir Robert Watson says the idea of a 2°C target “is largely out of the window”, International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol calls it “a nice Utopia”, and international negotiations chief Christiana Figueres says we need “a miracle”. This is because, in their opinions, emissions will not be reduced sufficiently to keep to the necessary “carbon budget” (2).

The numbers are these: According to the IPCC, from pre-industrial times through the year 2011, man has emitted a total of 515 GtC (gigatons, or billions of tons, of carbon), mainly in the form of CO2, a greenhouse gas. At present, we continuing to emit carbon, at the rate of 10 GtC per year. So by 2015, total emissions will be at least 545 GtC.

Through the magic of faith that 2°C warming is “safe,” the IPCC has come up with a total of 790 GtC “left to burn,” which leaves about 250 GtC left in the “budget.” But that allowable budget comes with a condition — that you accept a 33% chance of failing to keep to that (already magical) warming target.

It’s all a matter of odds. The more carbon we burn, the less likely we are to stay below any warming target. And David Spratt has found a marvelous chart that lays out all of the percentages for the IPCC’s (magical) 2°C warming target.

Here’s that chart (click to open large in a new tab). I’ll walk you through the explanation after you open it.

The myth of "burnable carbon" — for a 90% chance of success, there's no budget left.

The myth of “burnable carbon” — for a 90% chance of staying under 2°C warming, there’s no budget left (source).

To orient yourself, start with the left (Y) axis. This represents cumulative carbon emissions since pre-industrial times. The gray area under the 515+ level represents emissions through 2011 — a part of the “budget” we’ve already spent. Everything above that is future emissions.

(A note about units for the Y-axis — 1 PgC, “petagram” of carbon, is the same amount as 1 GtC, gigaton of carbon. It’s two ways to say the same thing.)

The X-axis shows the odds of success, defined as “staying below 2°C warming,” for a given emissions target.

The blue line shows that as cumulative emissions go down, the odds of “success,” as defined, increase. See where the blue line crosses below 515 GtC? That’s the 90% chance of “success” point. In other words, if you want a less than 1-in-10 chance of failure, stop emitting carbon. Completely. And now.

I’ll deal with the 2°C “unicorn” in a separate piece. 2°C warming really is a unicorn, with a dangerous dragon inside. But for now, let’s pretend, along with the IPCC, that 2°C is totally safe, so long as we don’t go higher.

So what does the graph say? It says, take your choice. If you want just a two-thirds chance of staying below the (mythical) 2°C warming, you can let David Koch and Exxon get richer. If you want a 90% chance? Kill the carbon industry now. 

You read that right. If we want a 90% chance of staying below a pretend-safe 2°C warming, we have to Stop Now. Zero future emissions.

Or don’t. Because it’s always a choice, right? I’m serious. It is always a choice, and that’s the good news. We really do have control.


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Climate news: Arctic seafloor methane release is double previous estimates, and why that matters Mon, 30 Jun 2014 14:00:41 +0000 One of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan doesn’t count is methane from leaks, for example, fracking leaks, fuel line leaks, transportation leaks, and so on. Yet methane (CH4) is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases known, though very short-lived (most atmospheric methane disappears in about 12 years, becoming CO2 and water vapor).

And one of the cornerstones of the idea that mankind still has a “carbon budget” — that we can still release even more CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, though a “limited” amount — is the idea that we can do a good job of modeling climate-changing feedbacks. We can do a good job of modeling some feedbacks, but we’re very bad at modeling others, and some feedbacks have so much randomness about them that modeling them becomes next to impossible.

For an example of seemingly good models that have gotten things drastically wrong, take a look at what 13 Arctic-ice models said about the ice melt rate (loss of ice is a feedback, since it’s cause by warming, and then feeds more warming back to the system):

Loss of summer Arctic sea ice (from the Copenhagen Consensus)

Loss of summer Arctic sea ice, modeled vs. observed (source here; adapted from Fig. 1 here)


All of the fuzzy lines are predictions of various models using the assumptions of that model. The heavy black line is the mean of those models. The red line is observed loss. Note that today, we’re about at the place the IPCC models had us reaching 90 years from now. The observations peak at about 9 million square kilometers, and we’re now at about 3 million. When we reach 1 million square kilometers, the Arctic will be considered “ice free.” Not long after that, summer ice will go to actual zero. With increased warming, winter ice will go to zero also.

See why I’m always saying we’re “wrong to the slow side”? If you think a climate event will happen in some number of years, cut it in half, at least, and maybe in half again.

For an example of a process that’s almost impossible to model, consider the disappearance of Antarctic ice shelves. They don’t go gradually; they hang around, then go suddenly and in big chunks, as they have recently. We’ve crossed the point of no return on large parts of the Western Antarctic shelf. No one saw that coming when it did, and there was no way to model it. That system is just too complex, with too many unknowns.

Frozen methane is one of the largest unknowns in climate prediction

Which brings us back to methane — in particular, frozen methane. By most accounts, there’s more than 1,000 GtC — a thousand billion (“giga”) tons of carbon — locked into the tundra and the peat bogs, and frozen at the bottom of the ocean in the Arctic region. As noted, methane is a short-lived but powerful GHG. “Greenhouse warming potential” (GWP) is a comparison of the warming effect of a substance relative to CO2 (which is assigned a GWP of 1). Here’s what methane’s GWP looks like over time:

How methane compares to CO2 as a warming agent over time. Blue line — IPCC from 2007.

How atmospheric methane compares to CO2 as a warming agent over time. Blue line source: IPCC, 2007.

The small dot at 20 years on the blue line says that in the first 20 years, atmospheric methane has 72 times the warming effect as CO2. The IPCC wrote that in 2007 in the report called AR4. Assessment Report 5 (AR5), out last year, increased that number from 72 to about 85. The IPCC has moved that number up in every report since 1995.

Now note the blue line to the left of that dot, in the less-than-20-year part of the chart, as it climbs toward 100. In the first five years, the effect of methane is over 100 times that of CO2, and again, that was the number as calculated in 2007. It’s larger by more recent calculations.

I said at the start of this piece that there’s more than 1,000 GtC in methane form — remember, methane contains the carbon molecule — stored in the Arctic. That’s conservative; the number is much higher.

(A note about units used to measure carbon: You’ll see Pg, petagrams, sometimes used as a unit of weight, for example, at the previous link. A “petagram” (Pg) has the same weight exactly as a “gigaton” (Gt). I’m going to translate everything to tons of carbon (tC) for this piece, no matter where the original measurement appears.)

Whatever the number, the methane’s been down there for millions of years, and if it stays down there, we’re in good shape. (Just like coal — most of it was formed several hundreds of millions of years ago, and until recently, it just sat under the earth doing no harm at all. The steam engine changed all that, got us to dig it back up and put it back in the air.)

The key questions about methane are — how fast is it leaking back into the atmosphere, and will that rate be stable? The answer to the first question is, by many accounts, not fast. In 2007, methane release from the vast, shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) — one of several sources of methane — was put at 0.5 MtC per year. That’s half a megaton (a half-million tons) of carbon. Compare that to today’s rate of carbon emissions in CO2 form — 10 GtC per year.

A gigaton is 1,000 megatons, so quite a difference in scale. Methane may be 100 times more potent than CO2 as a GHG in its first few years (before it decays). But by weight, CH4 emissions are measured in the millions of tons of carbon, not the billions of tons. (Yet note that low number of 0.5 MtC for East Siberian releases — it’s been revised considerably upward. Read on.)

Will things stay like this, with methane emissions at a crawl? In a runaway warming scenario, there is certainly a point where all that methane will go into the air. Are we near that point? No one knows, though the consensus is that we’re not — at least not yet.

Arctic methane is leaking twice as fast as previously thought

Which brings us to the news and back to the uncertainties. That consensus I just mentioned — that we’re not near a “runaway methane” scenario — hides a sharp divide in the scientific community. There is a small group of researchers who think we could be near a methane tipping point.

In that group is the Russian research team of Natalia Shakhova and her husband Igor Semiletov, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) International Arctic Research Center. Here’s what they found recently (my emphasis):

Arctic seafloor methane releases double previous estimates

The seafloor off the coast of Northern Siberia is releasing more than twice the amount of methane as previously estimated, according to new research results published in the Nov. 24 [2013] edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is venting at least 17 teragrams of the methane [17 Mt or million tons] into the atmosphere each year. A teragram is equal to 1 million tons.

“It is now on par with the methane being released from the arctic tundra, which is considered to be one of the major sources of methane in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Natalia Shakhova, one of the paper’s lead authors and a scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Increased methane releases in this area are a possible new climate-change-driven factor that will strengthen over time.”

… On land, methane is released when previously frozen organic material decomposes. In the seabed, methane can be stored as a pre-formed gas or as methane hydrates. As long as the subsea permafrost remains frozen, it forms a cap, effectively trapping the methane beneath. However, as the permafrost thaws, it develops holes, which allow the methane to escape. These releases can be larger and more abrupt than those that result from decomposition.

The findings are the latest in an ongoing international research project led by Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, both researchers at the UAF International Arctic Research Center. Their twice-yearly arctic expeditions have revealed that the subsea permafrost in the area has thawed much more extensively than previously thought, in part due to warming water near the bottom of the ocean. The warming has created conditions that allow the subsea methane to escape in much greater amounts than their earlier models estimated. Frequent storms in the area hasten its release into the atmosphere, much in the same way stirring a soda releases the carbonation more quickly.

Yes, I too caught the point about earlier models being wrong in the last paragraph above. Shades of Arctic sea ice models? I guess only time will tell.

But 17 megatons of methane is a sharp upward estimate from the 0.5 megatons just seven years earlier. Has methane emission changed, or is the measurement more precise?

Probably both. To a large degree emissions have changed, since Shakhova and Semiletov have been taking measurements by expedition for quite some time. In fact, I wrote about one of their previous discoveries — that they found kilometer-wide plumes of methane rising through the Arctic ocean — two years ago (my emphasis):

“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres [one kilometer] in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said.

“I was most impressed by the sheer scale and the high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them,” he said.

A kilometer is over half a mile. Imagine how tall a half-mile wide undersea plume of methane gas is. The researchers found over 100 in a relatively small area and have extrapolated to thousands. 

The data isn’t in on the risk from methane

I want to close with these two points.

1. I mentioned at the start of this piece that some models were right, some very wrong, and some nearly impossible to construct. The behavior of the sequestered (captured, stored) methane, especially in the north latitudes, is in the third group — it’s very hard to model and extrapolate from. Many scientists, including many I respect, who have been in the forefront of the “zero carbon” bandwagon, don’t see an immediate danger from Arctic methane.

Eventually, yes, but immediately, no. If we let the system run out of control — by not reigning in the men and women determined to profit from carbon — we’ll cook the joint. But if we do stop the warming, stop the emissions we ourselves are causing, and do it fast enough, there’s a large contingent of scientists who say, we’ll probably avoid a massive methane release, for all sorts of reasons that, if listed, would make you think you’re back in chemistry class.

But science keeps finding things; that’s its beauty. As we learn more about methane and how it acts, and as we measure its emissions in the field, we could all get a surprise, like the Arctic ice surprise in the first chart above. That surprise has catastrophe written all over it.

2. The mythical “carbon budget” that supposedly allows us to emit an IPCC-blessed “limited” amount more of the various GHGs and still “stay safe,” that budget depends in part on the absence of a methane emissions feedback loop.

The IPCC calculates that, to have a ⅔ (66%) chance of staying below a “safe” 2°C of warming since pre-industrial times, we can emit no more than about 250 GtC (per their recent AR5). There are a lot of questionable assumptions built into that “budget”:

▪ That a ⅔ chance of not-death is a good enough chance.
▪ That “2°C warming is safe” isn’t just a guess that got frozen into wisdom.
▪ That Exxon, the Saudis and the Kochs somehow deserve any of the loot they have yet to monetize from carbon.

I’ll deal with each of those assumptions later, in a piece I’m preparing. But the biggest assumption of all is — they absolutely have to be right about methane. The people worried about methane say we could see on the order of 30 GtC, as methane, emitted in the next few decades.

That number is still within the reputed “budget” … until you consider the enhanced GWP of methane. Multiplied by 85 (the GWP of methane in the first 20 years), 30 Gt of atmospheric methane has the same warming effect as more than 250 GtC in CO2 form. Oops. No budget left.

Now consider that a mass release of methane could cause heating that causes … another mass release of methane, and so on. No one knows how these things might be connected. Do you feel lucky?

I’ll be writing a lot more about this mythical carbon budget. The money that can be made from future emissions is the one thing holding up all negotiations. The carbon-heavy countries and carbon-rich companies want the “budget” to exist and be large. The heavy carbon users — like India, China and the like — also want it to exist and be large. They think they can “win the century” by burning it. (Hint: No one will win the century if they burn it. Human civilization will begin its collapse.)

Do you want it to exist at all, this monetizable “carbon budget,” if it means only ⅔ chance that your grandchildren will not be hunter-gatherers? Do you want to make David Koch, worth over $50 billion at last count, even richer, with a rapid future loss of civilization as a downside? After all, David Koch will be dead by then, and we’ll be living in the world we let him leave to us. Something to think about.


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Obama TPP trade officials got hefty bonuses from Big Banks as “reward” for joining govt Fri, 27 Jun 2014 14:00:30 +0000 I’m convinced the best investigative reporter in the country is Lee Fang. Witness the following.

TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement still in negotiation, is a NAFTA-like treaty — it will have the legal force of a treaty — that ties the hands of any government that signs it in their dealings with big money corporations (and small ones too).

It includes a NAFTA-style trade dispute court, also legally binding, in which corps can sue cities, states, counties and nations for lost future and potential profit resulting from, for example, environmental regulations, or anything else covered by the treaty.

In a literal sense, these trade agreements are the cornerstones and building blocks of international rule by corporations. NAFTA court trumps even the U.S. Supreme Court. Its judgments are not appealable; its judges aren’t elected; only Money talks in these carefully designed agreements.

Naturally, Money wants to own the process of writing them. TPP is being written now, and some of its proposed language would handcuff governments’ ability regulate banking, especially high-risk banking like the market in derivatives. Can you see the bribery opportunity coming? Can you say Citigroup or Bank of America?

Lee Fang writing in the Republic Report (my emphasis):

Obama Admin’s TPP Trade Officials Received Hefty Bonuses From Big Banks

Officials tapped by the Obama administration to lead the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] trade negotiations have received multimillion dollar bonuses from CitiGroup and Bank of America, financial disclosures obtained by Republic Report show.

Bribe corrupt politician

Corruption via Shutterstock

Stefan Selig, a Bank of America investment banker nominated to become the Under Secretary for International Trade at the Department of Commerce, received more than $9 million in bonus pay as he was nominated to join the administration in November. The bonus pay came in addition to the $5.1 million in incentive pay awarded to Selig last year.

Michael Froman, the current U.S. Trade Representative, received over $4 million as part of multiple exit payments when he left CitiGroup to join the Obama administration. Froman told Senate Finance Committee members last summer that he donated approximately 75 percent of the $2.25 million bonus he received for his work in 2008 to charity. CitiGroup also gave Froman a $2 million payment in connection to his holdings in two investment funds, which was awarded “in recognition of [Froman’s] service to Citi in various capacities since 1999.” …

Let’s see — Selig, $14 million. Froman, $6 million. Froman’s in office, but Selig is still awaiting Senate confirmation. I wonder if the millionaire Democrats in the Senate will see a conflict of interest at his confirmation hearing. Your best guess? (Mine too.)

Thank You Street, with the reward up front this time

Interesting how sometimes you get paid after you provide the service, and sometimes you get paid before. Either way, you’re paid for the service.

By the way, this totally trumps the $180,000 per year that Obama Energy liaison, Heather Zichal, is likely to get. Even though that will be for part-time work — sitting on the Board of the country’s biggest fracked gas exporter — she still has a little work to do.

Selig and Froman, they get theirs for existing, or for having existed, or being about to exist … in government. And that’s by design and out front. Fang again:

Many large corporations with a strong incentive to influence public policy award bonuses and other incentive pay to executives if they take jobs within the government. CitiGroup, for instance, provides an executive contract that awards additional retirement pay upon leaving to take a “full time high level position with the U.S. government or regulatory body.” Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, the Blackstone Group, Fannie Mae, Northern Trust, and Northrop Grumman are among the other firms that offer financial rewards upon retirement for government service.

Fee for service about to be rendered. How blatant is this? Very, I’d say.

There’s more in Fang’s great piece. I want to send you there rather than quote too much. The second half of his article contains further explanation of my “NAFTA-style court” comment. This really is as bad as you think it is — one-world-government scary — with Exxon and Goldman Sachs and Google and Pfizer running the show.


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Obama loosens 4-decade ban on crude oil exports Thu, 26 Jun 2014 14:00:51 +0000 From the mouths of the Wall Street Journal (subscr. may be required), we learn that Obama, via his administration, which we pay him to control, has opened the door to international sales of unrefined American oil for the first time since the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s (my emphasis throughout):

U.S. Ruling Loosens Four-Decade Ban On Oil Exports

Shipments of Unrefined American Oil Could Begin as Early as August

The Obama administration cleared the way for the first exports of unrefined American oil in nearly four decades, allowing energy companies to start chipping away at the longtime ban on selling U.S. oil abroad.

In separate rulings that haven’t been announced, the Commerce Department gave Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Enterprise Products Partners LP permission to ship a type of ultralight oil known as condensate to foreign buyers. The buyers could turn the oil into gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

Climate via Shutterstock

Climate via Shutterstock

The shipments could begin as soon as August and are likely to be small, people familiar with the matter said. It isn’t clear how much oil the two companies are allowed to export under the rulings, which were issued since the start of this year. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security approved the moves using a process known as a private ruling.

For now, the rulings apply narrowly to the two companies, which said they sought permission to export processed condensate from south Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale formation. The government’s approval is likely to encourage similar requests from other companies, and the Commerce Department is working on industrywide guidelines that could make it even easier for companies to sell U.S. oil abroad.

In a statement Tuesday night, the Commerce Department said there has been “no change in policy on crude oil exports.”

“No change in policy”? Right. Who do you trust, the Commerce Department or your lying eyes? Trust me; as the article points out, the floodgates for these applications will open wide.

As the article makes clear, the original reasoning had to do with the politics of the oil embargo itself. After the ban, U.S. companies could export refined products, but not unrefined, or “crude.” The modern justification for lifting the ban has to do with … profit.

[A]s drilling companies tap shale formations across the U.S., so much oil is flooding out of the ground that prices for ultralight oil have fallen as much as $10 or more below the price of traditional crude. As a result, producers have lobbied aggressively to relax the export ban, saying they could get a higher price from foreign buyers than from U.S. refiners.

Why worry about climate change when there’s money? That’s not oil in those tankers and pipelines; that’s cash. And it’s Obama’s job, and every other president’s so far, to not get between the owners of carbon and their profit-making (sorry, job-creating).

Obama’s words and your lying eyes

Your takeaway? This is another example of Obama protecting the profits of the carbon industry, while at the same time he laments the damage it does. Obama’s words, spoken to a recent commencement audience at UC Irvine:

[S]ince this is a very educated group, you already know the science.  Burning fossil fuels release carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide traps heat.  Levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years.

How is that not totally explicit? How is that not the perfect problem statement? It sounds like he believes it, understands it. More:

We know the trends.  The 18 warmest years on record have all happened since you graduates were born.  We know what we see with our own eyes.  Out West, firefighters brave longer, harsher wildfire seasons; states have to budget for that.  Mountain towns worry about what smaller snowpacks mean for tourism.  Farmers and families at the bottom worry about what it will mean for their water.  In cities like Norfolk and Miami, streets now flood frequently at high tide.  Shrinking icecaps have National Geographic making the biggest change in its atlas since the Soviet Union broke apart.

So the question is not whether we need to act.  The overwhelming judgment of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest.  The question is whether we have the will to act before it’s too late.  For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children, but to your children and your children’s children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place.

Yet “act” means deeds, and he’s damned from his own mouth. Read that again, then consider Obama selling coal off of federal lands. Or the news in this very story. Or the huge gift to the kings of the methane industry his top energy aide Heather Zichal just organize, right before they handed her a huge gift in return.

Who do you trust? Obama’s words, or your lying eyes?

His words fly up, his deeds remain below:
Words without deeds never to heaven go.

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet. You could look it up.


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A plan to close Social Security field offices and outsource its work Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:00:57 +0000 I ran across this in my travels — anything by Richard Eskow is always worth a read — and this one’s a doozy.

The rumors you may have heard that all Social Security field offices will be closed and the work outsourced — those rumors are apparently true, according to a draft plan produced for the Social Security Administration itself by a Pete Peterson–connected private group. As you’ll see below, Congress forced the SSA to get the report from this group. But the SSA isn’t fighting it.

Nothing’s decided yet, but no one at the SSA is putting up a fuss. Is the writing on the wall? Sure looks like it. Explanation below; to jump right to what you can do, click here.

For the details, here’s Eskow. I’ll give you his main point and highlight a few side points, but please, do read it through. You need to see all of this to really get the depth of the wrong about to be done. (My emphasis throughout.)

A Secret Plan to Close Social Security’s Offices and Outsource Its Work

social security logoFor months there have been rumors that the Social Security Administration has a “secret plan” to close all of its field offices. Is it true? A little-known report commissioned by the SSA the request of Congress seems to hold the answer. The summary document outlining the plan, which is labeled “for internal use only,” is unavailable from the SSA but can be found here.

Does the document, entitled “Long Term Strategic Vision and Vision Elements,” really propose shuttering all field offices? The answer, buried beneath a barrage of obfuscatory consultantese, clearly seems to be “yes.” Worse, the report also suggests that many of the SSA’s critical functions could soon be outsourced to private-sector partners and contractors.

Here are five insights from this austerity-minded outline. …

Your neoliberal privatizers at work. This is a Democratic administration, remember, with another one (also neoliberal) presumably on the way.

How do we know this is true?

The draft report is four pages, and Eskow has analyzed it. His telling comment is this:

It is not until the final page that the bomb is dropped, surrounded by a cloud of verbal decoys. The key phrase: “Our communication and business practices enable a dispersed workforce that is no longer working in centralized, traditional offices.”

“Centralized, traditional offices.” Or, as the rest of the world calls them, “offices.”

The document suggests that Social Security’s administrative functions will be transferred online, allowing for human contact only “in very limited circumstances.” Even in those cases it appears that the default options will be telephone calls and online chats, together with rare meetings with personnel who may be housed in the offices of other agencies – or, conceivably, private corporations.

Read the report for yourself and decide (pdf).

Here’s a quick view of Eskow’s five insights:

1. This is death by jargon.

This section of Eskow’s piece is a good read by itself. If a fantastically popular program like the SSA is going to commit hara-kiri to please the privatizers, the planning has to be impenetrable. Read Eskow for examples of that language.

2. The SSA isn’t resisting [C]ongress’ brutal cuts.

Will Hillary Clinton close Social Security offices like Obama wants to? Ask her.

Will Hillary Clinton close Social Security offices like Obama wants to? Ask her.

Despite the fact that a Democratic president is running the executive branch, the Social Security Administration appears to be accepting the harsh budget cuts imposed upon it by Congress with an air of surprising passivity. This is puzzling. Social Security is an enormously successful and popular program. Historically only conservative Republicans have urged cuts to its administrative budget. Those cuts are already frustrating the public and undermining public confidence in the program. …

The fact that neither the SSA, the administration, nor the president himself are publicly fighting these brutal cuts is a betrayal of Social Security’s promise. That betrayal is made even more acute by the fact that cuts to Social Security’s administrative budgets do not help the deficit in any way, since the SSA is fully funded from Social Security’s revenues.

And do note the last — there’s zero budget benefit to closing offices, though Congress is apparently forcing that squeeze anyway. But why not resist? Mr. Obama is doing it, or allowing it, because he wants to.

3. They intend to do more outsourcing, too.

One of the bitter ironies of the bipartisan austerity craze has been the fact that, while there has been an assault on government jobs, there has been an equal or greater push to transfer government revenues to the private sector using lucrative, cost-inflating “privatization” contracts.

That seems to be what somebody has in mind for Social Security’s future, too. One of the 29 “vision elements” in the Vision 2025 document states that service delivery should be “integrated across SSA programs and with external partners …” It goes on to state that all support functions for SSA should be “provided through a shared services model (e.g., within SSA, across government, and by contract).”

Chicago parking meters, anyone?

4. They expect people to do everything on the Internet – and their website is terrible.

Forget the bad website. What’s the least likely generation to be Internet-savvy? Yep.

The fifth point — I won’t quote it here — is equally cogent and equally striking. Please do read.

The plan’s authors, NAPA, is a Pete Peterson–connected operation

As if the plan weren’t bad enough, the Social Security Administration asked, or paid, a Pete Peterson–connected group to write it. For example, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), the presumably-paid authors of the plan to close SS field offices, received $800,000 to host a 2009 Pete Peterson— created project called “Budgetball”:

WASHINGTON, DC (June 15, 2009) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner congratulated participants in yesterday’s Budgetball Tournament on the National Mall, a demonstration of fiscal fitness in the federal government’s front yard. The team from the University of Miami triumphed over seven other teams to win the top prize; the team from Philander Smith College was the runner-up.

Fiscal policymakers representing the Treasury Department, other federal agencies, think tanks and Congress faced off against the college students in the exhibition tournament. Players included David Walker, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and former U.S. Comptroller General, and Robert Reischauer, President of the Urban Institute and former Director of the Congressional Budget Office. …

Budgetball is a team sport similar to Ultimate Frisbee and designed to build awareness, especially among young people, about the nation’s growing financial challenges and the trade-offs involved in solving them. Today’s tournament was hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration, which helped design the game, and by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which supported its development.

NAPA has its feet in both the government and Peterson camps:

About the National Academy of Public Administration:

The National Academy of Public Administration is a non-profit, independent coalition of top public management and organizational leaders that tackles the nation’s most critical and complex challenges. With a network of more than 600 distinguished Fellows and an experienced professional staff, the National Academy is uniquely qualified and trusted across government to provide objective advice and practical solutions based on systematic research and expert analysis. Established in 1967 and chartered by Congress, the National Academy continues to make a positive impact by helping federal, state and local governments respond effectively to current circumstances and changing conditions.

“Objective advice”? “Uniquely trusted”? To do what? (By the way, the $800,000 number paid to NAPA for Budgetball comes from page 37 of this Peterson document.)

It looks like NAPA was singled out by Congress for this task. From the last congressional conference committee report of the 2011 Consolidated Appropriations Act:

Independent SSA Resource Analysis and Strategy.–With a large percentage of SSA’s workforce eligible for retirement, and [congressionally-created] short- and long-term constraints on available resources, the conferees are concerned that SSA faces continued service delivery challenges in the coming decades. Therefore, the conferees provide SSA with up to $500,000 to contract with the National Academy of Public Administration to develop and submit a report proposing a long-range strategic plan for SSA’s consideration. This report shall be conducted in consultation with SSA and its stakeholders and address the following: an evaluation of SSA’s existing organizational structure, workforce capacity, physical infrastructure and review of SSA’s electronic service delivery and investment in automation and information technology. The report shall be submitted within 180 days of enactment to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance.

There are still many questions. How did this group get picked — i.e., who in Congress or in the conference committee added this language? (It would almost have to be a bipartisan effort, right?)

And why in god’s earth isn’t SSA pushing back, unless these goals are shared at the high levels of the Social Security Administration itself? Finally, we know Bill Clinton is a Pete Peterson fan, and Obama is a fan of benefit cuts. But shouldn’t he be helping out? Or is he in on it too?

Your neoliberal Democrats at work

I’m going with “bipartisan effort” and “he’s in on it too” until proven otherwise. Which points the finger squarely at neoliberal Dems, who are running the joint, at least in the executive branch.

Yes, the Republicans may be worse, in the sense that they’ll shoot you faster with a bigger gun, then laugh as you die. The Democrats take you down with many small knife wounds among the pistol shots, and then pretend to care that you’re suffering. Better? Your call.

I get the argument for defeating Republicans. But the Democrats that strategy enables must also be stopped. Care to start somewhere? Start here — ActBlue makes the anti-Clinton case in a piece called “Why Settle?” The time to not settle is now, before the cement is dry.

How to stop this

Eskow again:

The American Federation of Government Employees [AFGE] is currently on a campaign that encourages people to register their objections to this troubling plan.

Join AFGE by clicking the link and learning about the pushback, especially if this touches you directly.

And for one-click responding, sign this CREDO petition. Thanks!


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Thank You Street: Ex-Obama energy aide named to Board of methane giant Cheniere Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:00:40 +0000 One more connection between the methane industry and the Obama administration.

Heather Zichal, the former “Obama energy aide” in question, was in fact deputy to Carol Browner, Obama’s energy “czar,” as the position was known at the time. When Browner left, Zichal took over most of her responsibilities, though the “czar” position itself had been reorganized. Among Zichal’s responsibilities:

[Zichal] was the architect of a June 2013 plan to reduce greenhouse gases resulting from the nation’s power plants by having the Environmental Protection Agency issue revised standards for carbon emissions from new and existing plants.

Now she’s been nominated to the Board of methane (fracking) giant Cheniere. Wonder how that happened? Not me. I wonder how we didn’t see it coming.

Steve Horn and the invaluable DeSmogBlog with the details:

Heather Zichal, Former Obama Energy Aide, Named to Board of Fracked Gas Exports Giant Cheniere

Obama's liaison to the methane and fracking industry, Heather Zichal. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Obama’s liaison to the methane and fracking industry, Heather Zichal. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Heather Zichal, former Obama White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, may soon walk out of the government-industry revolving door to become a member of the board of directors for fracked gas [methane] exports giant Cheniere, who nominated her to serve on the board.

The announcement, made through Cheniere’s U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K and its Schedule 14A, comes just as a major class-action lawsuit was filed against the board of the company by stockholders.

In reaction to the lawsuit, Cheniere has delayed its annual meeting. At that meeting, the company’s stockholders will vote on the Zichal nomination.

What will Zichal earn for the hard work of being on the Board? Before you read on, take your best guess. Done? Now read:

Zichal was nominated to join Cheniere’s audit committee of the board, and will be paid $180,000 per year for the gig if elected.

That’s $180,000 for being on the Board, a part-time job. Welcome to Thank You Street, Ms. Zichal, where the work comes first and the paycheck comes after you leave office. Please read the rest of the article. It’s chock full of good info.

Why we must have fracking

What did Zichal do to earn her new position? She was the liaison between the methane and fracking industry and the Obama administration. But you could have guessed that, right? More from Horn’s article:

Zichal was best known to many as the main mediator between the oil and gas industry and the White House during her time working for the Obama administration.


As Obama’s “climate czar,” Zichal headed up the effort — mandated via an April 13, 2012 Obama Executive Order — to streamline regulatory oversight of the gas industry in the U.S. … [T]he Executive Order signed in the form of a “Friday news dump” created “a high-level, interagency working group that will facilitate…domestic natural gas development” overseen by Zichal.

Obama signed the Executive Order after meeting with Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute (API), and other industry leaders. According to EnergyWire, API requested the creation of that working group.

Here’s Zichal talking to the American Petroleum Institute, the industry lobbying group. Note in the introduction to her talk, she’s been working with Obama since he was a senator. Who introduced her? The above-mentioned Jack Gerard:

Did you hear the “fracking can be done right” comment near the middle, and also all the leases being handed out (sorry, sold at near-nothing prices) by the Dept. of Interior?

She’s talking to her future employers. How cozy is this administration with the fossil fuel industry? In Ms. Zichal’s case, $180,000-per-year cozy. Looks like the climate got outbid once more.

Again, there’s a ton in this article, if you have the stomach for it. Thanks, Mr. Horn, for the great research.


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Climate crisis: Arizona may run out of water in 6 years Mon, 23 Jun 2014 14:00:37 +0000 I want to couple two climate change–related points to make one point.

First, Bush-era Republican Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson came out recently on the side of climate and against the deniers. His op-ed in the New York Times starts with exactly the right logic (my emphasis throughout):

THERE is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage.

Or as I’ve been saying, “Hug the monster and act.” The time to stop a disaster is before you’re in it (duh).

Paulson’s piece makes a big deal of comparing the 2008 crash and recession with the coming climate “crash.” It’s an interesting hook, as writing techniques go. You should read the piece to see how well he executes it. But I’m going to just stick to his climate points.

Paulson writes:

We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked.

This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore. I feel as if I’m watching as we fly in slow motion on a collision course toward a giant mountain. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course.

We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing.

Of course, Paulson wants a “market-based solution.” The good news is, he’s pushing for a carbon tax, one of the stronger ones:

The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response. We can do this by putting a price on emissions of carbon dioxide — a carbon tax. Few in the United States now pay to emit this potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere we all share. Putting a price on emissions will create incentives to develop new, cleaner energy technologies.

Especially if the tax is a painful one; that’s incentivizing with purpose. (Our explanation of how a carbon tax works is here.)

Paulson deals with the “but we can’t stop other nations” argument:

It’s true that the United States can’t solve this problem alone. But we’re not going to be able to persuade other big carbon polluters to take the urgent action that’s needed if we’re not doing everything we can do to slow our carbon emissions and mitigate our risks.

True; you can’t ask others to stop until you stop your own self. The time to start stopping is now. Paulson also counters the “it’s too expensive” argument with something that should be painfully obvious — the cost of adapting to climate chaos will be astronomic. He figures the cost to protect New York City from rising seas starts at $20 billion and climbs from there. And as he says, “that’s just one coastal city.” We seem to have several.

Republican Hank Paulson thinks the time to act on climate change is now. What does Republican Arizona think? Let’s check.

Republican Arizona could run out of water in six years, making Paulson’s point

The water supply of the state of Arizona, it seems, is making Hank Paulson’s point, that we need to act now — actual-now, as in “this minute.” From the Smithsonian Magazine:

Arizona Could Be Out of Water in Six Years

Prolonged drought and a rapidly expanding population are pushing Arizona’s water system to its limit

Arizona is bone dry, desiccated by the worst drought ever seen in the state’s 110-year long observational record. The Grand Canyon State has been in drought conditions for a decade, and researchers think the dry spell could hold out for another 20 to 30 yearssays the City of Phoenix.

That people have not been fleeing Arizona in droves, as they did from the plains during the 1930s Dust Bowl, is a miracle of hydrological engineering. But the magic won’t last, and if things don’t start to change Arizona is going to be in trouble fast, says the New York Times.

A quarter of Arizona’s water comes from the Colorado River, and that river is running low. There’s not enough water in the basin to keep Arizona’s crucial Lake Mead reservoirs topped up. If changes aren’t made to the entire multi-state hydrological system, says the Times, things could get bad.

Here’s the New York Times on the same subject:

Lake Mead has begun a sharp decline; the principal upstream reservoir, Lake Powell, now holds only 42 percent of its capacity, and Lake Mead about 45 percent.

If upstream states continue to be unable to make up the shortage, Lake Mead, whose surface is now about 1,085 feet above sea level, will drop to 1,000 feet by 2020. Under present conditions, that would cut off most of Las Vegas’s water supply and much of Arizona’s. Phoenix gets about half its water from Lake Mead, and Tucson nearly all of its.

And here’s a graph of Lake Mead water levels from The lake will soon be too low to pump water from, though they’re building another “intake pipe” as fast as they can.

Lake Mead water levels, comparing the last three years

Lake Mead water levels, comparing the last three years (blue is 2014 to date).

Read through both pieces to see how bad things are in Republican Arizona. (Again, at less than 1000 feet of elevation, the lake level will be lower than the “pump limit.” Think that through. Building new “intake pipes” means digging through mountains. Not trivial; not cheap.)

When will Republicans get the word? When money becomes the issue?

Or maybe that heading should read, “When will Americans get the word?”

Obama is making noise like he cares (though he’s still selling coal off of federal land; shame on him). House Republicans, however, are Denialist Central. That’s why it matters that Hank Paulson, who represents Money and its interests, is a Republican.

And that’s why it helps that Arizona, and especially Phoenix, is (a) seriously right-of-center; and (b) loaded with the wealthy, those who could afford to flee the snows and mosquitos of the East and Midwest. Can the wealthy of Phoenix afford to let themselves run out of water? Can Arizona afford to lose all of its wealthy?

We may soon find out.


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How EPA rules allow coal states like Kentucky to increase carbon emissions (you read that right) Tue, 17 Jun 2014 14:00:41 +0000 Thank you, President Obama, for making your new EPA “anti-coal” rules so twisted, it takes a while to see the trick. (Yes, your humble correspondent is a frustrated man at the moment.)

But tricks there are, and one of them would allow some coal states to increase carbon emissions — just the opposite of what the rules were designed to do.

When the EPA’s Clean Power Plan was announced, we noted a piece in The Guardian saying that the way the EPA rules were implemented, some coal states could actually increase emissions.

From the underlying article (my emphasis):

Obama plan to reduce pollution will allow some states to increase emissions

Mountain-top removal in coal-heavy states like Kentucky & West Virginia (source)

Mountain-top removal in coal-heavy states like Kentucky & West Virginia (source)

Coal-heavy states like West Virginia will be allowed to increase emissions while still meeting overall target of 30% cut nationally

Barack Obama’s new power plant rules will still allow some states to increase their share of the carbon pollution [CO2 emissions] that causes climate change, officials admitted for the first time on Wednesday.

Obama and supporters cast the new rules for power plants as an historic step to fighting climate change and protecting public health. But some of the dirtiest and most coal-heavy states – such as West Virginia and Kentucky – will be allowed to maintain or even increase their emissions under the plan, according to analysts.

While The Guardian is a reputable source, some questioned the assertion, since the “analysts” were unnamed, and the underlying analysis not explained.

Turns out The Guardian was right. Bloomberg BusinessWeek explains in detail.

How some coal states may get to increase carbon emissions under new EPA rules

Before we take you to the analysis, a small bit of background. You’d think, if you weren’t paying attention, that the EPA rules to curb emissions would be curbing … (take your best guess) … emissions.

They don’t. The EPA rules curb “emissions per megawatt-hour produced.” Partly that was done to make methane-burning even more preferenced in the rules, since methane always produces less carbon emission per megawatt-hour (assuming you don’t count leakage, which the EPA rules conveniently won’t do).

As we wrote earlier about ways to game this cap-and-trade system:

Fourth, the scheme could fail by regulating the wrong “measurable.” In the case of carbon emissions from electricity plants, the measureable could be either “carbon dioxide” or “all hydrocarbon emissions.” Using the former would prevent you from counting leakage from methane-burning (natural gas) plants. You could also measure either “total emissions” or “emissions per megawatt-hour generated.” Measuring the latter also favors methane-burning plants, since methane plants already generate more power per unit of emission.

But I didn’t anticipate that choosing the wrong measurable would also affect the way coal was regulated. Here’s Bloomberg to explain why that matters in coal’s case:

Under the estimates the agency put out last week, every state would have to cut its emissions at least a little. But it’s not clear that’s what will really happen. Some states may actually be able to increase their CO2 emissions by 2030 and still be in compliance with the new rules. The analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance dug into the formula the EPA used to determine the state goals and have come up with a scenario in which eight states—California, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Rhode Island—can all increase their COemissions. …

[Our] analysis hinges on a crucial point: The state standards don’t mandate absolute cuts in CO2. Rather, they require states to lower the ratio between the amount of emissions they produce and the amount of power they generate. The EPA has given states a great deal of flexibility to decide how to lower this ratio. The rules don’t explicitly say a state has to cut its emissions to lower the ratio. If, say, a state increases the amount of power it generates, its emissions can rise as well without disrupting the ratio

Two states illustrate how this could happen: California and Kentucky. … 

Kentucky … currently has the dirtiest power mix in the country. Almost all its electricity comes from coal. With very little renewable energy capacity, its ability to switch that coal to natural gas or other cleaner fuels is, currently, about zero. The EPA’s rules can order states with gas plants to use them more, but it can’t order a state to build them. As a result, the EPA goes easy on Kentucky. If energy demands increase in the state, as expected, the state could burn more coal, and put more carbon into the air, without raising eyebrows at the EPA.

Kentucky — one of the dirtiest of dirty coal states, gets a bye because it needs fixing more than any other state. Ponder that. War on Coal indeed.

In addition, the EPA will let states decide how to implement its targets. So politicians in a coal-corrupted state like Kentucky are free to decide whether to dig and burn whatever the coal barons say to dig and burn until there’s nothing left in the ground. How convenient.

In other words, the EPA has written its rules with a hole so large you could drive a coal train through it. Thanks, Mr. President. Got Library yet? (I think that’s not snark. It pains me to think I’m dead on.)


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