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The Corporate Assault on Science

By Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch, October 6, 2017

The fact that science is the foundation for civilization and democracy should be self-evident. Regrettably that connection seems often to escape our collective consciousness. We tend to think of science narrowly as restricted to hi-tech, laboratories and the development of electric cars or travel to Mars. But everything we do collectively from Medicare to fighting climate change to designing social programs, building infrastructure and tax policy we take for granted is rooted in evidence, that is, science.

The advent of right-wing populist hostility towards evidence and now extended by so-called alternate facts, threatens to take us down the dystopian road of the irrational. The spread of this trend in the US – highlighted by the election of Trump as president and the inability of US culture to cope with gun violence – is as much a threat to the future of the human race as is climate change.

The trend started in earnest in the 1990’s and it took a long time for scientists themselves to step up and defend their ground. An unprecedented and overt attack on public science by Stephen Harper forced the traditionally a-political science community to take a public stand for evidence-based policy. In the summer of 2012 hundreds of demonstrators marched from an Ottawa science conference to Parliament Hill under the banner the ‘Death of Evidence’.   Many were working scientists wearing their lab coats. Last April there was the world-wide Global March for Science in 600 cities coinciding with Earth Day.

The fight back for science and by scientists is one of the bright spots in the resistance against the rise of irrationalism. But there is another dark corner that has not had as much light shone on it and that is the pernicious corruption of science and scientists.

A recent book gives us a major resource for understanding and exposing the sinister trade in lies and obfuscation that results in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths every year. Corporate Ties that Bind: An Examination of Corporate Manipulation and Vested Interests in Public Health is a 450 page, 24 chapter compendium by an   international group of scientists about how corporations routinely set out to undermine public interest science – and how they have found hundreds of scientists eager to do their bidding.

Those who consider themselves informed citizens know of course that science is often corrupted with the tobacco industry being the poster child for deadly science fraud. But even the most disillusioned will have their breath taken away by the accounts in this book. One of the most compelling chapters is authored by Canadian Kathleen Ruff (a friend) who led the successful fight against asbestos in Canada.

Ruff documents how the strategy of the tobacco industry was adopted by virtually every other dirty industry eager to hide their toxic products. The advice received by the industry from the infamous Hill and Knowlton was “…not to challenge scientific evidence but instead to seize and control it. …declare the value of scientific skepticism…creating an appearance of scientific controversy.” It was a brilliant strategy and is still being used today.

Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs

By Jill Richardson - CounterPunch, March 30, 2017

When Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan, Scientific American used his own words to criticize it for not going far enough.

“There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” Obama said. “The science tells us we have to do more.”

Scientific American analyzed the Clean Power Plan and agreed, concluding that Obama’s plan didn’t go far enough, and would fail to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Now, Trump is dismantling even that. Obama’s insufficient effort to address climate change is gone with a stroke of Trump’s pen.

The plan was to go into effect in 2022, reducing pollution in three ways. First, by improving the efficiency of coal-fired power plants. Second, by swapping coal for cleaner natural gas. And third, by replacing fossil fuel energy with clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Trump claims the plan puts coal miners out of work. But it hadn’t even been implemented yet. In reality, cheap natural gas and the use of machines instead of people to mine coal are responsible for putting far more miners out of work.

In other words, Trump is using sympathetic out-of-work miners as a cover for what is really just a handout to dirty industry.

Meanwhile, Trump is cutting job training programs for coal country. Given that, it’s hard to believe he cares at all about jobs for coal miners.

And, with a surge in cases of fatal black lung disease among miners in Appalachia, anyone who truly cared about miners would preserve the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which helps coal miners get black lung benefits.

In short, Trump’s killing of the Clean Power Plan is a handout to dirty industry with no regard for the well-being of coal miners. And it’s putting us even further behind in our efforts to leave the next generation a habitable planet.

A better leader would find a way to promote clean forms of energy while simultaneously creating good jobs for Americans. Of course, that’s exactly what Obama’s one-time “green jobs” czar Van Jones called for, and the Republicans hated him.

But the fact of the matter is that climate-smart policies create jobs. They create jobs retrofitting buildings, manufacturing solar panels and wind turbines, innovating to create more efficient batteries, and discovering the best way to upgrade our power grid.

It seems that, if we installed a wind turbine near the White House, Trump could single handedly provide the nation with clean energy from all of the bluster coming out of his mouth.

In the meantime, catastrophic climate change is as much of a crisis as ever, and the clock is ticking.

Trump’s Energy Plan: A “Brighter Future” for American Workers?

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 28, 2017

Full PDF of the White Paper can be found HERE

The day he was inaugurated, President Donald Trump issued his “America First Energy Plan.”[1] It presented policies it said would “stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health” and thereby provide “a brighter future.” Trump has promised that his energy policy will create “many millions of high-paying jobs.”[2]

What do American workers need in an energy policy? Does President Trump’s energy plan provide it? Or does it threaten our future? Is it credible or deceptive? Does it put us on the road to good jobs in an affordable, reliable energy future? Or does it threaten to reverse a massive shift to a more secure, climate-safe, fossil-free energy system — a clean energy revolution that will benefit American workers, and that is already under way?

Some in organized labor have been attracted by President Trump’s energy plan, even echoing the claim that it will provide “a brighter future.” But one thing you learn when you negotiate a contract for a union is to take a hard look at proposals you are offered— however attractive they may appear, it is best to unwrap the package and see what’s really in it before you agree. Labor should conduct similar “due diligence” for Trump’s America First Energy Plan. Was it designed to meet the needs of American workers, or of the global oil, gas, and coal companies whose executives have been appointed to so many top positions in the Trump administration? Will it encourage or hold up the energy revolution that is making renewable energy and energy efficiency the way of the future?

'Sheer Reckless Folly': Trump Destroys Obama-Era Climate Rules

By Nika Knight - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

President Donald Trump on Tuesday set about aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate policies with an executive order decried as "sheer reckless folly," which will increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.

"Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump's effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions," said David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen's Climate Program, in a statement.

"This day may be remembered as a low point in human history—a time when the world's preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe," Arkush added.

The order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would have limited the emissions of coal-powered power plants. It also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing, repeals limits on methane emissions from fracking, and directs the agency to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.

"The EPA's rollback of basic environmental rules demonstrates that when it comes to the health of our children, our communities, and our climate, this is an administration of lawlessness and disorder," said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the grassroots sustainability group UPROSE, in statement.

"For frontline communities, those of us impacted first and worst by the extraction economy, this means an escalation of public health crises, from asthma to cancer. It means an utter disregard for those of us most vulnerable to climate disasters," Yeampierre added. "It means a  world of volatility and exploitation for our children and grandchildren."

Environmentalists, local and state leaders, and advocacy groups are vowing to resist.

Climate Activists Pledge Huge Response to Trump’s Executive Order

By Dani Heffernan - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

Climate activists are joining with labor, social justice, faith, and other organizations to plan a massive march in Washington, D.C. this April 29th that will offer up resistance to Trump’s new executive orders and put forward the vision of a clean energy economy that works for all.

The “Peoples Climate March” aims to bring upwards of 100,000 people to Washington, D.C. and turn out tens of thousands more across the country to push back on Trump’s agenda and stand up for climate, jobs and justice.

350.org is one of the organizations on the steering committee for the mobilization and is working on turning out members to D.C. and actions across the country.

350.org Executive Director May Boeve said:

“The best way to fight against these executive orders is to take to the streets. Even as Trump dismantles environmental protections to shore up the fossil fuel industry, support for action to stop global warming is at an all-time high. Now it’s up to communities to bring our vision of a healthy climate and a just transition to renewable energy to life. From the upcoming congressional recess through the Peoples Climate March and beyond, we’ll be putting pressure on lawmakers to defend the climate and building power to stop the fossil fuel industry for good.”

The wide-ranging coalition behind the Peoples Climate March includes major labor unions and environmental, climate justice, faith, youth, social justice, peace groups, and more (the “Peoples” in the title is a direct reference to the role of Indigenous peoples in helping lead the effort). In 2014, the same coalition brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York City to call for climate action ahead of the Paris Climate Summit.

Contrary to Spin, Trump Slashing Energy Jobs With New Executive Order

By Nika Knight - Common Dreams, March 28, 2017

As the Trump administration brags that Tuesday's executive order to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations will create coal industry jobs, new employment data from the Department of Energy (DoE) demonstrates how misguided that claim is.

Clean energy employs many more Americans than the fossil fuel industry, and economic forecasts show that the trend will continue, according to a Sierra Club analysis published Monday of the DoE's 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pdf) released earlier this year.

"Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology, and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction," the Sierra Club observed.

Nationwide, "clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to 1; and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1," the group wrote.

"Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

The New York Times also examined the ramifications of President Donald Trump's pending order, which would dismantle former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, and echoed the Sierra Club's findings.

Indeed, the newspaper notes that while more coal plants could remain open as a result of the order, increasing mechanization means that coal miners may still see job loss:

[C]oal miners also should not assume their jobs will return if Trump's regulations take effect.

The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closings would probably stay open, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming. That would extend the market demand for coal for up to a decade.

But even so, "the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization," he said. "They’re not hiring people."

"So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs," he said.

"The problem with coal jobs has not been CO2 regulations, so this will probably not bring back coal jobs," Godby added. "The problem has been that there has not been market demand for coal."

Coal industry executive Robert Murray, of Murray Energy, apparently agrees. Murray told the Guardian that in a meeting with Trump, the coal boss told the president to temper his expectations.

"He can't bring [coal jobs] back," Murray said.

Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, added to the Guardian: "Friends of the coal industry now populate the highest perches of our agencies and they will do their best to unwind clean air and water regulations and we will fight them every step of the way. But even if all their wishes come true, I don't think there will be a big boost to the coal industry."

The Times further cast doubt on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt's claim that the order would support U.S. energy independence. "We don't import coal," Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University, told the newspaper. "So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever."

"These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires," charged the Sierra Club's Brune.

"If we truly want to grow our economy, reduce air and water pollution, protect public health and create huge numbers of news jobs for American workers," Brune added, "we must seize the opportunity that is right in front of our eyes: invest more in clean energy including solar, wind, storage and energy efficiency."

On Direct Action With Trump Around

By Arnold Schroder - Rising Tide Portland, December 1, 2016

The day before police evicted the Frontline Encampment directly in the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Jesse Jackson appeared at the blockade on horseback. Celebrity appearances at the DAPL resistance always gave the sleepless days and nights of Native American ceremony, construction equipment lockdowns, and riot police deployments a surreal tinge. But as police violence escalated and the conflict land defenders had anticipated for months loomed, the appearance of the civil rights icon and 1980s presidential candidate riding toward the burning barricades on North Dakota State Highway 1806 pushed the confrontation into the territory of a dream.

Now Governor Jack Dalrymple has ordered the eviction of the main encampment where thousands are resisting the pipeline—which is being constructed behind a fortress of razor wire fencing, floodlights, and armored vehicles—and is refusing to plow roads into the camp, refusing emergency services, and preventing delivery of supplies to water protectors. Police violence has already cost one woman her arm and potentially another vision in an eye and sent an elder into cardiac arrest, but now the state is simply trying to kill people.

This waking nightmare trajectory—events which simultaneously suspend one’s sense of reality and fill one with overwhelming dread—is of course paralleled in the ascendancy of a delusional fascist reality television star to the office of President and his subsequent appointment of a cadre of comic book villains to cabinet positions. In these moments of almost unbelievable human crisis and global change, in addition to political theory and movement history, one might look for guidance on how to respond in fictional narratives. As a friend recently said, “We are living in dystopian science fiction, and we better start acting like it.”

The following are a few thoughts on how to live up to that mandate. They begin with those narrowest in scope, pertaining directly to addressing the climate crisis and systemic ecological collapse, then move to inherent connections between movements attempting to do this and others addressing incarceration and repression, and finally into thoughts on general strategies against Trump’s assault on human dignity. What they have in common—the motivation for citing science fiction as a useful road map forward—is that they assume a situation that is so terrible it does not seem real engenders possibilities for liberatory action which otherwise would not be possible.

Why there’s hope for the climate movement under Trump

By Nick Engelfried - Waging Nonviolence, November 22, 2016

The climate movement woke on Nov. 9 to a new reality few of us had expected to be faced with: the specter of a Trump presidency and perhaps the most anti-environment administration and Congress in U.S. history. Suddenly our job of stopping new oil pipelines and fracking wells, preventing the construction of fossil fuel plants and shutting down existing fossil fuel infrastructure felt much harder.

Although the possibility of a Trump presidency had loomed for months, polls consistently showing Hillary Clinton in the lead made it seem remote. Many climate organizations laid their plans based on the presumption that they would most likely be dealing with a Clinton administration. “Assuming that as a nation we’ve managed to elect Hillary Clinton,” 350.org founder Bill McKibben wrote in an Election Day email to supporters, “we’ll need to start pressuring her from the earliest moments of her presidency.”

What the polls failed to account for was unexpectedly low voter turnout, caused in part by voter disaffection with both presidential candidates and a growing nationwide frustration with the existing political system. Despite Clinton winning the popular vote, low progressive turnout in key swing states granted Trump enough Electoral College votes to claim the presidency.

“We at The Climate Mobilization were not expecting a President Trump,” wrote leaders of The Climate Mobilization, a group that advocates for a Word War II-scale deployment of clean energy to fight climate change. “His election shows us that this country is desperate for change, but is still deeply in denial about the truth of the climate emergency.”

If there is any silver lining from the Trump victory, it would seem to be the evidence that vast numbers of people are hungry for a radical shift in politics. But Trump wants to take us in the opposite direction of progress on climate change. During his campaign, he pledged to scrap the Paris climate deal and the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. He promised to re-start approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and resurrect a dying coal industry. And his suite of potential cabinet nominees include climate science deniers and oil drilling proponents.

To many activists, the coming Trump presidency calls to mind the darkest days of the George W. Bush administration, when fossil fuel industries were basically invited to write national policy. But much has changed in the U.S. climate movement since the days of Bush. The last six years have seen the birth of climate campaigns that are bigger, bolder and more direct-action oriented than any environmental movement in decades.

Although this recent movement growth occurred during the Obama administration, its origins can be traced to a time when the climate movement was reeling from a series of shocking defeats. Obama’s campaign promises in 2008 had caused mainstream environmental groups to welcome his administration with the expectation of unprecedented progress. But this dream soon faded.

Movements, Not Presidents: The Nationwide Fight Against Neoliberalism

By Jake Johnson - Common Dreams, Spetember 29, 2016

Just months after becoming president of the United States, Barack Obama met with some of the world's most powerful executives.

It was a time of crisis: The economy was wavering dangerously in the aftermath of the housing bubble's great burst, and many of the nation's largest financial institutions had just been yanked from the brink of collapse.

Though the effects of the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression were disastrous for countless Americans, the executives with whom the president spoke on that day in March of 2009 were doing just fine. In fact, many were doing better than ever.

While millions faced the prospect of losing their homes, their jobs, and their life savings, the same CEOs that helped spark the crash were paying themselves and their employees lavish bonuses.

The executives reportedly "offered several explanations" for their salaries, but the president quickly reminded them, "The public isn't buying that."

"My administration," Obama famously added, "is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."

It was a striking, even prescient, remark. Having ascended to the White House on a wave of grassroots support, the president was expected to take a stand for the public—it was expected that those guilty of wrongdoing would be held to account, that those harmed by Wall Street's rampant fraud would receive the full support of the administration.

But such high hopes were quickly dashed.

Or perhaps they were, from the start, misplaced. While President Obama did indeed ride a wave of grassroots support into the White House, that wave, it must be remembered, was generously bolstered by Wall Street cash.

And while the hopes of the millions who voted for change they could believe in may have, in the last analysis, been ill-advised, Wall Street certainly got its money's worth.

"Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street," Matt Taibbi noted in 2009. "What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place."

The Obama administration quickly downplayed such concerns, attempting to foster a genial relationship between the winners and losers of the crisis.

"The President emphasized that Wall Street needs Main Street, and Main Street needs Wall Street," Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, said after the high-profile meeting.

Thankfully, the public didn't buy that either.

Capital Blight News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

The Man Behind the Curtain:

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