Trump’s Arizona Rally Confirms His COVID Policy Is Driven Only by His Ego

Trump’s Arizona Rally Confirms His COVID Policy Is Driven Only by His Ego

Pretend for a moment that I’m a Hollywood writer pitching a script to a producer. It’s a tragic farce, I’d say, about the worst president in history allowing tens of thousands of his own people to die in a preventable pandemic because he thinks actually addressing the crisis will make him look bad on television.

The harshest scene in the movie? After one failed political rally in a hyperinfected state that saw thousands of people deliberately exposing themselves to infection and death, this calamity president holds another rally days later in yet another state where the pandemic is running wild, this time with mostly young people attending. Many of them don’t protect themselves, either, because the evangelical megachurch hosting the rally says they have a magic machine that destroys the virus in ten minutes. The name of this church? “Dream City.”

… and out on my ass I’d go. Not even Netflix would buy such a preposterous premise. It is simply too absurd for the screen, be it big or little.

Look out the window, friends. Trump’s Dream City is all around us now. It is the new name of the nation whose people have been murdered in order to fit a failed president’s eternally warped sense of his own indelible greatness. It’s all too terrible for a Hollywood script, and exactly as real as your next breath.

There were 3,000 attendees at Trump’s Dream City Church gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, a state where infections have jumped 142 percent since Memorial Day. Most of them were in the same young demographic which has been getting newly infected at such a dangerous rate that Anthony Fauci specifically warned about the phenomenon during congressional testimony yesterday.

Trump did not, does not, and will never care. He devoted fewer than 10 minutes out of another rambling masterpiece of incoherence to actually discussing COVID-19 with those mostly unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder young folks, choosing instead to shower that audience with the contents of his bloated spleen, again.

When Trump did nick the topic while in Arizona, it was only to lie about it. Did you know his border wall, which doesn’t actually exist, stopped COVID? Trump preposterously said so, during a visit to one of the wall fragments his cronies have actually managed to construct.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this one; when I try, the bearings in my mind seize and proceed to melt. Suffice it to say that walls don’t “stop” viruses unless they fall on someone who is infected, and at that point you have a whole different problem anyway.

Trump’s “Dream City” Arizona campaign swing was preposterous from wheels-up to bedtime. The AP photo of Trump examining that sliver of wall yesterday looks so much like the scene where the hominids behold the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey that I am almost completely undone by the comparison.

Trump’s pivot to the border wall and immigration is a return for him to the well-known political harbor of race-baiting that has ever been his go-to topic in times of trouble. Immediately after the debacle in Tulsa, he reached for White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s fascist immigration policy playbook in an attempt to change the topic and placate his unsettled base. This is a script we have all seen before.

“The number of new COVID-19 cases are spiking in several states, but President Trump did not announce new public health responses on Monday,” reports Truthout’s Mike Ludwig. “Instead, he issued an executive order extending and expanding suspensions of immigration and guest worker programs until the end of the year. The White House is also moving to push lower-wage workers out of the H-1B visa program, and it barred asylum seekers from gaining lawful employment for one year after filing a claim.”

These useless and callous actions will accomplish two goals: They will spread more misery, and they will make the racists within Trump’s base happy. That’s it, that’s all, turn out the lights when you leave.

COVID-19 is exploding across a wide swath of the country as the first wave of the pandemic continues its long burn through the populace. According to NBC News, Oregon has seen a 234 percent jump in infections, Oklahoma has seen a 202 percent jump, and Florida’s rate increased by 155 percent, all since the Memorial Day holiday weekend when too many people listened to either our damfool president or their own damfool governors and failed to take proper precautions.

Speaking of damfool governors, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas — who led the way for states seeking to “Reopen” too soon — is facing a massive spike of infections as well, and sounds positively panicky about it … yet he has not summoned the will to even discuss a reinstatement of broader safety measures like some neighboring states are doing as their own spiking infection rates threaten to topple their fragile medical infrastructure.

Why the hesitation, even in the face of looming disaster? Just a guess, but Abbott has a Trump drone named Dan Patrick for a lieutenant governor, and Patrick would likely cut Abbott to ribbons if he deviates too far from established Trumpian orthodoxy on COVID. This is not a good reason for Abbott to let his own constituents sicken and die, but it’s probably the reason why exactly that is going to happen.

How bad is it, really? The U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 casualties, with more than 2.3 million infections and over 121,000 deaths. Other nations that endured similarly severe outbreaks have successfully labored to contain the pandemic, while rates of infection here break records daily.

Those numbers, bad as they surely are, are also below the actual infection rate because the Trump administration has deliberately dragged its feet on establishing a national testing regimen. Trump admitted this on Saturday, and has confirmed it at least twice since.

On Tuesday, Fauci told Congress that more testing was desperately needed. Trump’s response? “The Trump administration is planning to defund a number of COVID-19 testing sites across the country,” reports Truthout’s Chris Walker, “and it remains unclear whether doing so might be part of a broad plan by the president to ‘slow down on testing.’”

Trump is also giving serious consideration to a dramatic scale-back of the COVID national emergency declaration, all so he can “declare victory over the coronavirus” in an election year, even as the bodies pile up around his feet.

As early as next week, the European Union (EU) may announce restrictions that would block Americans from traveling to Europe. “That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States,” reports The New York Times. Such a move would be a body blow to the EU’s own attempts at an economic recovery, but it is so bad over here that they may have no choice.

Meanwhile, it was announced today that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will quarantine visitors from states with high coronavirus infection rates for 14 days upon arrival. At present, those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington, though the list may expand depending on circumstances.

Dream City, baby. Where everything you want to be true comes true because you say so, and never mind the wailing in the hospital hallways. It’s an ongoing nightmare for the nation. For Trump, however, that dream will never die, even as so many of us do.

Trump hits Biden over swine flu, as Dem’s campaign hammers coronavirus response

President Trump on Tuesday ripped the Obama White House response to the swine flu epidemic a decade ago when Joe Biden was vice president, as Biden‘s campaign likewise hammered the president over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump accused Biden of being ineffective during the H1N1 outbreak, which infected more than 60 million people in the U.S. during the Obama administration.

TRUMP SAYS BIDEN ‘NOT MENTALLY SHARP ENOUGH’ TO BE POTUS: ‘HE DOESN’T KNOW HE’S ALIVE’

“Joe Biden’s handling of the H1N1 Swine Flu was a complete and total disaster,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. “Even polls on the matter were terrible!”

The swine flu pandemic hit the U.S. in 2009. According to CDC estimates, between April 12 of that year and April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million cases, 274,304 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths in the United States due to the virus. A vaccine was made available in November 2009.

As of May 25, 2020, the CDC has reported 1,637,456 COVID-19 cases and 97,669 deaths, although those figures include both confirmed and possible cases.

Over the weekend, Biden attacked Trump by implying that the president has been ineffective during the current crisis. On Friday, he posted a campaign ad that claimed the president “froze like a deer in the headlights” when the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S.

The ad called Trump “unprepared,” “indecisive,” and “paralyzed by his fear of offending the Chinese government.”

NY’S DAILY CORONAVIRUS DEATH RATE FALLS BELOW 100 FOR FIRST TIME SINCE MARCH AS CUOMO EYES LONG ISLAND REOPENING

The next day, Biden posted another ad that implied Trump was taking a cavalier attitude toward the pandemic.

“Nearly 100,000 lives have been lost, and tens of millions are out of work. Meanwhile, the president spent his day golfing,” Biden tweeted with an ad that showed clips of the president on the links juxtaposed with a rising death count.

Sunday, Trump pushed back by claiming that he had not played golf in months prior to the Memorial Day weekend, and that “Biden was constantly vacationing, relaxing & making shady deals with other countries” during the Obama administration. He also claimed that Obama himself “was always playing golf.”

The jabs exchanged between the president and his presumptive Democratic opponent have escalated in recent days. In addition to accusations about how they have each handled medical crises, Trump said during an interview Sunday that Biden is “not mentally sharp enough” to be president.

When asked to give an example of something positive Biden brings to the table as a political opponent, Trump did not name a single trait.

“Well, I would have said experience, but he doesn’t really have experience because I don’t think he remembers what he did yesterday,” Trump said.

Hurry, See “Planet of the Humans,” Before It’s Banned

Planet of the Humans, the new documentary film from director Jeff Gibbs and executive producer Michael Moore, contains a stunning evisceration of so-called green energy and the people profiting from it. It was released on April 21 for free viewing on YouTube and as of the afternoon of Friday, April 24, had been viewed over 1.5 million times.However, Marc Morano reported on Climate Depot that a pressure campaign has succeeded in getting the distributor to pull the film. Josh Fox, who directed 2010’s semi-factual anti-hydraulic fracturing documentary, Gasland, launched the campaign on Twitter and tweeted Friday afternoon that the distributors had agreed to withdraw Planet of the Humans. Fox also tweeted that he didn’t blame the distributors because they hadn’t seen the film before releasing it.

Gibbs and Moore approach green energy from the perspective of the ultra-far left. They believe that everything wrong and evil in the world is caused by “cancerous” capitalism and the billionaire plutocrats who control the global economy. In addition to anti-capitalism, Gibbs has been strongly influenced by Deep Ecology, the anti-human ideology that preaches that drastic population control and near-total deindustrialization are necessary to save the planet.

Much of the analysis is taken from a 2012 book, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism by Ozzie Zehner, who was a co-producer of the film and gives a key interview in it.

A better title for the film would be, The Luddite Left Eats the Climate Industrial Complex. Every type of green energy is exposed as phony, useless, and inextricably dependent on fossil fuel production and large-scale hardrock mining. The targets include wind power, solar power, ethanol, biomass, battery storage, electric vehicles, and seaweed. After revealing the manifold shortcomings in each type of renewable energy, Gibbs, who narrates the film, remarks, “It was enough to make my head explode. I was getting the uneasy feeling that green energy was not going to save us.”

The film also goes after the leading green energy promoters and profiteers. Bill McKibben of 350.org is the leading target, but Al Gore, Michael Brune and the Sierra Club, Michael Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs, Elon Musk and Tesla, Arnold Scwarzenegger, the Nature Conservancy, Vinod Khosla, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Van Jones, Richard Blood, and Jeremy Grantham are also featured. And—of course—the Kochs.

For more on Planet of the Humans, James Delingpole has a great column on Breitbart and the Washington Times has published an excellent article by Valerie Richardson. The Guardian’s review is also worth reading.

GOP “Climate Plan” Calls for Planting Trees But No Emissions Reduction

When it comes to climate, it’s quite easy for the right to use the media as a spin machine. The media, starving for plans to “counteract” the progressive Green New Deal to fulfill the everlasting need for a false dichotomy, laps up any spurious climate plan that conservatives might come out with. The most recent media grab by the GOP on climate — in which Republicans have been working on a wholly insufficient climate plan since January at least — has turned out exactly as expected.

As David Roberts writes for Vox, the narrative is “convenient” for both conservatives and the media. “This story is convenient for conservatives,” he writes, “because they have exhausted the strategy of lying about climate science and need something new to replace it.” It’s convenient for the media, because there’s a neat story about a redemption arc for the party of climate deniers.

Republicans this week are expected to unveil a plan to plant 3.3 billion trees in the U.S. every year for the next 30 years, as an attempt to somewhat green the party. The legislation, written by Arkansas Rep. Bruce Westerman, is the answer to President Donald Trump’s commitment at Davos to a worldwide initiative to plant 1 trillion trees.

The tree bill is part of a larger plan that’s in the works in the party that amounts to nothing more than a public relations stunt. As reported by Axios, the GOP climate plan will focus on three main areas: carbon capture (that’s where the trees fit in), conservation and — stop me if you’ve heard this one — clean energy “innovation.” Details on specific legislation is scant right now, but the GOP is not exactly known for putting out good faith, effective climate policy.

The tree plan is fine, but the rationale behind the campaign that Trump joined, called 1t.org, is based on an overhyped study from last year — and would be more of a Band-Aid than a solution. Aside from the trees, carbon capture is a favored strategy by the fossil fuel industry that, in essence, gives them a free pass to continue business as usual. Conservation as part of a climate plan just pins the responsibility for the climate crisis onto consumers, instead of the oil giants that have been obfuscating research on climate for decades. Innovation is, at best, a buzzword and, at worst, coded language for developing more fossil-fuel-friendly carbon capture technology.

Meanwhile, the people in charge of coordinating the plan are against setting an emissions target, which is the single most important aspect of any effective climate plan. Rep. Garret Graves, the top Republican on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, told Axios that he thinks emissions targets are “arbitrary.”

Over and over, Republicans have shown us that they value profit over planet. Now that the American public is increasingly understanding the threat that the climate crisis poses — and bringing that knowledge to the polls — the more savvy on the right are realizing that they have to change their ways. Or at least make it look like they’ve changed their ways.

Hence, planting trees: something that the climate movement has talked about, but that won’t affect the business of the oil and gas companies lining the pockets of the GOP. As a bonus, the trillion trees plan is based on a research article that was one of the top climate papers covered in the media in 2019 — so the plan has guaranteed media coverage.

“I see it as being pretty pernicious because it’s going to be a hard one for the Democrats to message against,” says Meaghan Daly, an environmental researcher at the University of New England. The Republican argument becomes, Daly goes on: “Well, the Democrats are so radical. They’re so hell-bent on getting their Green New Deal that they don’t even want us to plant trees.”

And by admitting that planting trees isn’t enough, as Westerman has done, the right gets to paint themselves as the reasonable ones. Many in the media, eager to give Republicans equal coverage on climate, are all too happy to comply. The reporting on this plan has been littered with mistruths and dubious framing.

Westerman has been repeatedly quoted, context-free, saying that the Republican plan won’t harm the economy — evoking the disproven idea that environmental regulation will bankrupt the country or is bad for the economy. Speaking about the recent plan, Westerman told The Washington Post, “I’m for reducing emissions, but I’m for doing it in a way that doesn’t deliver a gut punch to the economy.” He told The Hill something similar, and added, “If we totally quit using fossil fuels right now and there was some magical [way] we could quit putting man-made carbon in the atmosphere, what do [we do] with the carbon that’s already up there?”

There are several falsehoods that Westerman pushes in these quotes that these publications publish with no caveats. The “magical way” to quit emitting carbon is to stop using fossil fuels. And it has been repeatedly shown that environmental regulations are not the job- or economy-killers that the right might say they are. In fact, the opposite is true: By a huge margin, the least expensive, most economically friendly option is to act on climate sooner rather than later. Doing nothing — or slightly more than nothing, as the Republican plan goes — by contrast, would be the truly ruinous path to go down.

This particular line of attack on environmental regulation stems from the general supposed anti-regulation mindset on the right. Ronald Reagan was the first to start regularly using the phrase “job-killing regulations,” and Republicans have been passing the idea down the generations ever since. The largest retort to the Green New Deal, for instance, is that it would ruin the economy. But report after report shows that it is inaction that would be injurious.

Why are reputable publications like The Washington Post still perpetuating this lie about environmental regulations? Simply providing two or three sentences of context to these quotes would be much better than publishing them unqualified.

The issue, though, lies not only with reporters’ quoting practices, but also with the headlines that accompany these stories. “Are Republicans coming out of ‘the closet’ on climate change?,” reads The Washington Post headline. “Republicans eye legislation to rival Democrats’ sweeping climate plan,” says The Hill. These headlines reduce climate politics to the shallow dichotomy of deniers versus believers, Republican versus Democrat. But it’s not that simple, and never has been.

From the look of it, the Republican plan won’t come anywhere near “rival[ing]” the Green New Deal — but yes, some of them do acknowledge that the climate crisis is happening. That the right is coming out with any climate plans is a sign that the climate movement is winning. It’s also a sign that the mainstream conversation around climate has been changing, as it’s changed faster in the past year than it has for the past decade. The media ought to keep up.

Noam Chomsky: Democratic Party Centrism Risks Handing Election to Trump

As the 2020 election race heats up, U.S. politics, the nation’s political culture as a whole, and even the future of organized human life are at a crossroads. Another four years of Donald Trump would deliver nightmarish blows to democracy and social rights, handing an unthinkable mandate to a president who has become notorious for undermining virtually everything of decent value to humanity.

Yet, the question remains as to whether this dangerous man will actually be defeated in 2020. At the Democratic debate on Wednesday night, we witnessed a cacophony that did little to convey the ideological elements and political values that define the Democratic Party in the age of authoritarian neoliberalism and plutocracy. Intellectual shallowness and opportunism were prevalent throughout the debate. Pete Buttigieg’s meager attempts to parry questions on his lack of support among Black voters attracted the most buzz. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren’s reasonable and anything but radical “wealth tax” proposal received little attention because it remains an anathema to the political establishment of the Democratic Party, as do Bernie Sanders’s universal health care and climate change policies.

Indeed, as evidenced by the lack of a coherent vision on the part of most candidates in Wednesday’s Democratic debate in addressing the real threats and challenges facing the country and the whole planet, the Democratic Party is still unable to get its act together, and, in its apparent determination to kill the left wing, it may very well end up ensuring a Trump electoral victory for a second time.

To discuss what is really at stake in the 2020 presidential election, Truthout’s C.J. Polychroniou interviewed Noam Chomsky, the world’s leading public intellectual and a founder of modern linguistics. Chomsky is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona. He has published more than 120 books, which have appeared in most of the world’s languages, and is the co-author of the forthcoming book with Robert Pollin and C.J. Polychroniou titled, The Political Economy of Climate Change and the Green New Deal (Verso, 2020).

C.J. Polychroniou: The 2020 U.S. presidential election is less than a year from now, and, while most polls seem to indicate that Trump will lose the national vote, the electoral vote is up for grabs. What manner of a democracy is this, and why isn’t there a public outcry in this country about the antiquated institution of the electoral college?

Noam Chomsky: Preliminary comment: I find it psychologically impossible to discuss the 2020 election without emphasizing, as strongly as possible, what is at stake: survival, nothing less.

Four more years of Trump may spell the end of much of life on Earth, including organized human society in any recognizable form. Strong words, but not strong enough.

I would like to repeat the words of Raymond Pierrehumbert, a lead author of the startling [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report of October 2018, since replaced by still more dire warnings: “With regard to the climate crisis, yes, it’s time to panic. We are in deep trouble.” These should be the defining terms of the 2020 election.

Environmental catastrophe is an imminent threat. Much of the world is taking steps to deal with it — inadequate, but at least something. Trump and the political organization he now virtually owns are taking steps too — to exacerbate the crisis. Some may recall [George] W. Bush’s infamous call, “bring it on,” directed to Iraqis preparing to “attack us” (in what happened to be their country, but put that aside). Bush later apologized, with regret, but Trump is proud to outdo him, calling on the rising seas and burning Earth to put an end to the human experiment.

In fairness, we should add that Trump is also pursuing ways to avert the environmental threat — destroy us first by nuclear war. That is the simple logic of his demolition of the Reagan-Gorbachev [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] Treaty followed at once by testing of missiles that violate it; the threat to dismantle the (Eisenhower-initiated) Open Skies Treaty, and finally, New START. These final blows to the arms control regime constitute, very simply, a call to other nations to join us in creating new and even more horrendous weapons to destroy us all, to the unrestrained applause of weapons manufacturers.

Those are the highly likely consequences of more of Trump and the party that grovels at his feet, terrified of his adoring base. They provide the essential background for the 2020 elections.

Turning finally to your question, the electoral college is not the most serious anachronism — even worse is the radically undemocratic Senate. These problems are severe, and remediable only by constitutional amendment that is sure to be blocked by the small states. All of this is part of more fundamental problems. A variety of demographic, structural and policy factors are converging to a situation where a small minority — white, rural, Christian, traditional, older, fearful of losing “their America” — will be able to dominate the political system.

These considerations raise further questions about worship of a document from centuries ago that was in some ways progressive by the standards of its day, but would very likely lead to rejection of an appeal for membership in the European Union by a country bound by it.

Speaking of political culture, Donald Trump’s rise to power has not only unleashed some very dangerous forces, but seems to have altered in significant ways the political culture of this country. Can you talk a bit about this?

The dark forces were gathering long before Trump appeared to mobilize them. It’s worth recalling that in previous Republican primaries, candidates that emerged from the base — Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum — were intolerable to the conservative establishment and were crushed. In 2016, those efforts failed. None of this is too surprising. In recent years, the Republican Party has dedicated itself [with] such fervor to its constituency of wealth and private power that a voting base had to be mobilized on grounds unrelated to its primary policy objectives — with many dark forces. And it’s also worth recalling that there are parallels elsewhere, notably in Europe, with the collapse of centrist parties. Much of what has been happening can be traced to the neoliberal assault on the general population launched a generation ago, leaving in its wake quite understandable anger, frustration and search for scapegoats — terrain that can readily be plowed by demagogues and con artists of the Trump variety. Matters we’ve discussed elsewhere.

What can the state elections of the last two weeks ago tell us about 2020?

It seems that relatively affluent suburban sectors that are part of the usual Republican voting base were having second thoughts about Trump, while his grotesque behavior energized voters who normally don’t participate. Much, seems to me, uncertain about 2020.

The power brokers in the Democratic Party are out to kill the left wing, and this time includes not only Bernie Sanders but also Elizabeth Warren. If that happens, how will it impact Trump’s chances of getting re-elected?

The donor class is clearly perturbed by Warren’s critique of wealth and corporate power, and even more so by Sanders, who committed a major crime: inspiring a popular movement that doesn’t just show up every four years to push a button and then leave matters to their betters, but continues its activism and the engagement in public affairs that is none of their business, according to long-standing democratic theory. The intense hatred of [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn in England, I think, has a similar basis. These have been concerns of the self-described “men of best quality” since the first modern democratic revolution in 17th-century England, and they haven’t abated.

The consequences are hard to predict. If the donor class succeeds in nominating a centrist candidate, progressive activist forces might be disillusioned and reluctant to do the work on the ground that will be needed to prevent the tragedy — repeat, tragedy — of four more years of Trumpism. If a progressive candidate does gain the nomination, centrist power and wealth may back away, again opening the path to tragedy. It will be a fateful year. It will be even more important than usual to remain level-headed and to think through with care the consequences of action, and inaction.

Aside from activists, no one is talking about Trump’s crimes. What does this tell us about contemporary U.S. political culture?

And the culture of the more privileged sectors of the world generally.

It’s not something new. It’s common now to invoke Watergate — when President Nixon’s terrible crimes, domestic and international, were ignored while elite opinion agonized over the attack on the foundations of the republic — thankfully overcome in a “stunning vindication of our constitutional system” (according to famed liberal historian Henry Steele Commager). What was the attack? A break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters by some thugs organized by Nixon. That’s half of the U.S. system of political power, which doesn’t take such offenses lightly. Turning to today, the prime charge so far is the abuse of presidential power to implicate a leading figure of the Democratic Party [Joe Biden] in some concocted scandal [“Ukrainegate”]. Does that suggest some conclusions about what matters to elite opinion?

One final question: Much has been written about the resurgence of democratic socialism in the United States. Do you see such a resurgence, or are people confusing traditional social democratic ideas with democratic socialism?

I’m not sure how helpful the categories are. There are a variety of serious concerns that are engaging substantial sectors of the population, mostly young. Some have to do with existential crises. The September climate strike brought many millions to the streets, just one phase of ongoing activism. Others cover a wide range of critical issues, including the scandalous health care system; a society in which 0.1 percent hold over 20 percent of wealth while half the population has negative net worth and homeless people try to survive amidst fabulous luxury; and numerous other social ills. There are also promising efforts to develop cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises that challenge fundamental hierarchic structure more directly. That’s a bare sample of considerable ferment that could open the way to a much more free and just social order — if imminent looming catastrophe can be overcome.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Debate Moderators Ask About Ellen and Bush, But Ignore Climate Crisis

As America’s pundits and newspapers rushed to pronounce the winners and losers of Tuesday night’s 2020 Democratic presidential debate, progressives argued the event’s moderators deserve to be placed in the latter category for framing healthcare questions around insurance industry talking points, hand-wringing about “demonizing” rich people, and failing to ask a single question about the greatest existential threat facing humanity.

While they completely ignored the climate crisis, the event’s moderators — Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper of CNN and Marc Lacey of the New York Times — managed to find time at the very end of the debate to ask a question that infuriated environmentalists who were waiting all night for the planetary emergency to take center stage.

“Last week, Ellen DeGeneres was criticized after she and former President George W. Bush were seen laughing together at a football game. Ellen defended their friendship, saying, we’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different,” said Burnett. “So in that spirit, we’d like you to tell us about a friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us and what impact it’s had on you and your beliefs.”

“THEY ASKED A QUESTION ABOUT ELLEN AND GEORGE BUSH BUT NOT CLIMATE CHANGE. I AM LOSING MY GODDAMN MIND,” Earther managing editor Brian Kahn tweeted. “CNN thought it was more important to use Ellen hanging out with a war criminal as a jumping off point to ask about bipartisan friendships than ask about the largest existential threat facing humanity.”

“The mainstream media’s continuing bizarre fetish for bipartisanship is the new climate denial,” Kahn added. “What an absolute joke.”

Climate researcher Leah Stokes called the lack of climate questions “complete irresponsibility.”

“Do you not understand that our house is on fire, New York Times and CNN? Do you not understand the stakes?” Stokes wrote. “Shame on you.”

NowThis

@nowthisnews

Here’s how the latest 3-hour ended…

Ellen’s friendship with George Bush: 22 minutes
Climate crisis: 0 minutes
LGBTQ+ rights: 0 minutes
Immigration: 0 minutes
Racial justice: 0 minutes

Embedded video

897 people are talking about this

The Ellen question capped off an event progressives said was dominated by corporate-friendly framing of major issues, healthcare being the most glaring example.

In one of the first questions of the night, Lacey of the Times asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) whether she would “raise taxes on the middle class to pay for” Medicare for All.

Critics were quick to point out that a similar version of that same question has been asked in every previous debate, and on each occasion moderators have failed to acknowledge that Medicare for All would also eliminate co-pays, premiums, and deductibles, resulting in lower overall costs for most Americans.

Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both stressed the latter point, but Lacey continued to focus exclusively on “middle class taxes,” echoing insurance industry propaganda against Medicare for All.

“Well, as somebody who wrote the damn bill, as I said, let’s be clear. Under the Medicare for all bill that I wrote, premiums are gone. Co-payments are gone. Deductibles are gone. All out-of-pocket expenses are gone,” said Sanders. “At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people will save money on their healthcare bills.”

In an email to supporters after the debate, People’s Action executive director George Goehl wrote that the “corporate media once again used insurance company talking points to attack Medicare For All, repeatedly asking candidates ‘How are you going to pay for it?’⁠ — but never once mentioning that Medicare for All will cut costs for everyday people.”

“The truth is, costs will go up if we pass Medicare for All⁠ — for big corporations and the very, very rich,” wrote Goehl. “Meanwhile, the rest of us will get a guaranteed right to healthcare, no matter how rich or poor we are. That’s why insurance companies and their lobbyists are fighting so hard⁠ — and spending so much⁠ — to frame the debate. If we pass Medicare for All, their days of profiteering off of other people’s misery are over.”

Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus put it more bluntly on Twitter:

David Lazarus

@Davidlaz

Dear dumbshit debate moderators: The way it works is taxes go up, while premiums, copays and deductibles go away, meaning most people save money

114 people are talking about this

The moderators’ right-wing framing of Medicare for All pervaded other questions asked throughout Tuesday night’s debate, which featured a historic 12 Democratic presidential candidates.

In a question on taxation directed at former Vice President Joe Biden, CNN host Erin Burnett said: “You have warned against demonizing rich people. Do you believe that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren’s wealth tax plans do that?”

Lucas Medina 🏳️‍🌈@LucaMedina

Really? This is how the moderators are framing these topics?
They’re asking the tough questions hard working billionaires want answered.

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In her response, Warren flipped the question on its head.

“My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax,” said Warren. “It’s why is it does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans?”

Facing Climate Crisis, Senators Have Millions Invested in Fossil Fuel Companies

While the World Is on Fire, DNC Kills Resolution for Climate Forum

“We passed a resolution supporting this multi-candidate discussion and party leaders overturned it,” said DNC voting member James J. Zogby in a statement Saturday. “The Democratic Party is supposed to be bottom up, not top down.”

Progressive strategist Dante Atkins shared results of Saturday’s vote on Twitter, and opined that the decision was a mistake for the party and Perez.

🕷Dante Atkins🕷

@DanteAtkins

OKAY: the vote before proxies was 141-118 against Resolution 4. Proxies will likely split the same way, or be even more against. It’s fairly conclusive that progressives and climate activists have lost this round.

🕷Dante Atkins🕷

@DanteAtkins

But make no mistake, Perez and the DNC have lost too. This was, in my opinion, a grievous error and a major embarrassment.

42 people are talking about this

The vote was met with sharp criticism from a coalition of environmental and progressive organizations that led a pressure campaign on the DNC to hold a debate singularly-focused on the climate crisis.

In a joint statement, the coalition—which includes CREDO Action, Sunrise Movement, and Climate Hawks Vote—accused Perez of “undermining the DNC’s own system and bypassing the will of the more than half a million grassroots activists, more than 100 DNC members in San Francisco, and most of the Democratic presidential candidates.”

“There are many DNC members from across the country who believe in listening to the grassroots and engaging in a transparent, democratic process,” the coalition said. “But Tom Perez made it clear today that he is not one of them.”

“Our entire future is at stake, but Tom Perez just swept aside the climate crisis for someone else to solve,” the joint statement continued. “That isn’t leadership. That isn’t normal order. That isn’t what it means to be a Democrat.”

Evan Weber, Sunrise’s political director, suggested it was bad political strategy.

“The Democratic Party needs the energy and motivation of young people to win in 2020,” he said. “The energy around this issue has been incredibly clear, yet Tom Perez keeps shooting the party in the foot by rejecting that energy and turning it away.”

“Without hundreds of thousands of people raising their voices, we never would have gotten the town halls on and CNN and MSNBC,” Weber’s statement continued. “This is the kind of energy we need from young people to win in 2020.”

In ‘climate apartheid’, rich will save themselves while poor suffer: U.N. report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The world is on course for “climate apartheid”, where the rich buy their way out of the worst effects of global warming while the poor bear the brunt, a U.N. human rights report said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Philip Alston, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, attends a news conference in Beijing, China, August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by its special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, said business was supposed to play a vital role in coping with climate change, but could not be relied on to look after the poor.

“An over-reliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” he wrote.

He cited vulnerable New Yorkers being stranded without power or healthcare when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, while “the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator”.

Relying exclusively on the private sector to protect against extreme weather and rising seas “would almost guarantee massive human rights violations, with the wealthy catered to and the poorest left behind”, he wrote.

“Even under the best-case scenario, hundreds of millions will face food insecurity, forced migration, disease, and death.”

His report criticized governments for doing little more than sending officials to conferences to make “sombre speeches”, even though scientists and climate activists have been ringing alarm bells since the 1970s.

“Thirty years of conventions appear to have done very little. From Toronto to Noordwijk to Rio to Kyoto to Paris, the language has been remarkably similar as States continue to kick the can down the road,” Alston wrote.

“States have marched past every scientific warning and threshold, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now seems like a best-case scenario.”

Since 1980, the United States alone had suffered 241 weather and climate disasters costing $1 billion or more, at a cumulative cost of $1.6 trillion.

There had been some positive developments, with renewable energy prices falling, coal becoming uncompetitive, emissions declining in 49 countries, and 7,000 cities, 245 regions, and 6,000 companies committing to climate mitigation.

However, despite ending its reliance on coal, China was still exporting coal-fired power plants and failing to crack down on its own methane emissions; and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro planned to open up the Amazon rainforest for mining, end demarcation of indigenous lands, and weaken environmental protection.

“In the United States, until recently the world’s biggest producer of global emissions, President (Donald) Trump has placed former lobbyists in oversight roles, adopted industry talking points, presided over an aggressive rollback of environmental regulations, and is actively silencing and obfuscating climate science,” Alston wrote.

Jay Inslee has a radical plan to phase out fossil fuel production in the US

“The ground. That is where I want to keep it.”
 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign has been releasing its climate policy — the central rationale for its existence — in pieces. Extremely large, detailed, and nuanced pieces.

I covered the first piece, on getting to 100 percent clean energy in electricity, new cars, and new buildings, here. I covered the second, a 10-year, $9 trillion investment plan, here. The third was about how climate change would reshape foreign policy under Inslee. You can read it here.

On Monday, the fourth piece, “Freedom From Fossil Fuels,” is out. It is in many ways the most radical piece yet, and likely to be the most controversial. It is about cutting off the flow of fossil fuels from the US — “keeping it in the ground,” as the kids say.

As with the previous pieces, Inslee is not screwing around. This is a serious and deeply informed plan to phase out the burgeoning US fossil fuel industry, alongside a plan to protect the workers and communities who depend on it. As I said when I covered part two, Inslee is building a credible, policy-literate Green New Deal, piece by piece — a blueprint the next president, whoever it is, can use to hit the ground running.

There are several big items of note in the latest plan, including a proposal to put a price on carbon. Fracking? He wants to work toward a national prohibition. He wants to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies, reinstate dozens of environmental rules that President Trump reversed, step up enforcement on polluters, reject all new climate-unsafe infrastructure, and boost corporate climate accountability.

And that just scratches the surface. This is a capacious plan, requiring both executive powers and legislation. The net result would be a conscious, deliberate phasing out of US fossil fuel production.

For years this kind of supply-side policy has hovered at the edge of climate discussions. Inslee is thrusting it to the center.

oil wells
Say goodbye to these.
 Shutterstock

Let’s walk through the five big steps of the plan.

Step 1: end all fossil fuel subsidies

The persistence of fossil fuel subsidies is an embarrassment to the species. Virtually everyone (except the subsidized industries) recognizes their folly by now, but inertia and political influence peddling have kept them stumbling on like zombies.

Among the G7 countries, the US is the worst offender, with $26 billion in direct annual government financial support to fossil fuel industries (and that was calculated before Trump’s tax cuts, which dropped another $25 billion in their laps).

Inslee wants to claw back all those subsidies. That includes reversing a variety of federal tax loopholes, raising royalty rates for fossil fuels on federal lands, and “ending institutional federal support for fossil fuels,” a broad category that mentions, among other things, “directing the Secretaries of Defense, Energy and the Treasury to evaluate and report on the current and historical costs of protecting oil supplies around the globe.”

(It also includes one of my favorite little side bits: “transforming the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy into the Office of Industrial Decarbonization.”)

Step 2: end federal leasing and phase out fossil fuel production

Trump has done everything he can to accelerate the exploitation of fossil fuels on federal lands and waters. Inslee would do everything he can to end it.

So the first piece here is phasing out fossil fuel production on public land. Among other things, that would include a day-one executive order banning “all new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands and offshore waters, including coal, oil, gas, oil shale and tar sands.” Then Inslee would instruct the relevant federal agencies to “utilize all existing authorities to cancel and refuse to extend existing fossil fuel leases.” Then he would work with Congress on a permanent ban (oh, and reverse Trump’s shrinking of federal monuments).

That would be, to say the least, a big deal.

The second piece is phasing out fossil fuel production more broadly. Inslee would establish a “Presidential Commission on Energy Transition” (including the secretaries of several federal agencies) that will be “tasked with identifying and setting in motion the implementation of federal policies to phase out domestic fossil fuel production.” The commission will have a special focus on a “just transition” for fossil fuel workers and communities.

Gillette, Wyoming open strip mine.
Say goodbye to these too.
 Wikipedia

This piece also involves this list of possible policies, which is so on point I just have to reproduce it:

[M]andatory set-backs from private property and targeted locations (e.g. schools, hospitals, public parks, etc); outright bans on the most-destructive practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining; the buying out and decommissioning of fossil fuel assets; working with states to restrict fossil fuel corporations’ use of eminent domain as they seek to build new infrastructure across private property; and strengthening consideration of the social climate costs associated with fossil fuel production across federal permitting agencies.

Any of those would be a big deal! (And this is one part of one part of one part of Inslee policies, yeesh.)

The third piece is the just transition. There are tons of elements to this, among them shoring up the retirement, pension, and health care benefits of retired and retiring fossil fuel workers, providing “income support and educational stipends” to fossil fuel workers, creating a “Re-Power Fund” to invest in transitioning communities, creating a “Restoration Fund” to train workers and put them to work in ecological restoration, strengthening labor and bargaining laws, and conditioning all federal clean energy investments on high labor standards.

And the fourth piece? “Ending fracking.” Period. That will mean working with Congress on a national ban while taking other executive and legislative steps in the meantime to tighten health, environmental, and safety regulations.

Yowza.

Step 3: hold polluters accountable

And here is the long-awaited price on carbon.

Inslee proposes a “climate pollution fee” — none shall call it a tax! — to be levied as far upstream as possible, “applied initially in key economic sectors in which it can have the most effective impact.” (I’m not sure what that means exactly, but experts generally agree a carbon fee would have the most initial impact in the electricity sector.) The fee would cover carbon dioxide and also other greenhouse gas “super-pollutants” like methane.

Interestingly, Inslee does not specify an initial level or a rate of increase, saying only that the fee would start low and rise aggressively.

As for the revenue, it would “provide dedicated support for frontline and low-income communities in addressing the impacts of climate disasters” and fund “environmental quality protections and economic development.”

Lots of economists prefer a “revenue neutral” carbon tax, in which the revenue is automatically returned via dividends or tax cuts. I’m glad Inslee hasn’t adopted that idea. He frames the carbon fee just as it ought to be framed: as a way of funding some of the good things he wants to do. Not the center of the plan, or even the center of this part of the plan. Just another provision.

To protect “energy intensive and trade exposed” (EITE) industries, Inslee proposes a “carbon duty,” effectively a carbon border tax on imported goods. (Some scholars doubt whether such a thing would be legal or workable under international trade rules.)

Also on the theme of holding polluters accountable, Inslee proposes strengthening and better enforcing a wide range of environmental rules and regulations. Fellow Clean Air Act obsessives will want to dig into this section — Inslee effectively wants to use all the CAA powers that have been proposed to address carbon, including Section 111, NAAQs, and Section 115. I suspect the Trumpified Supreme Court would have something to say about that.

Remember this?
 Javier Zarracina/Vox; Getty Images

Step 4: reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure

There are four pieces to step four. (I know. Bear with me.)

The first is a new “climate test” that would govern all federal investments, to ensure that they do not work against Inslee’s broader climate goals. There are lots of details about the different agencies that would apply it, but the result would be the rejection of new fossil fuel infrastructure and the revoking of many existing permits — Inslee specifically mentions the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.

The second is to restore and respect the ability of local and tribal communities to control their own land and make their own infrastructure decisions. It’s worth calling out this bit: “the depredations upon tribal land, water, and people by proponents of oil pipelines — like the Dakota Access Pipeline — demand a new direction in federal policy that recognizes the heritage and the human rights of indigenous communities.” Indeed!

Inslee would reverse Trump’s efforts to preempt states and local communities and also work to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ability to force states to accept natural gas pipelines.

The third is stopping fossil fuel exports by restoring the crude oil export ban, working to make it permanent, and working to place similar restrictions on the export of other fossil fuels like coal and liquefied natural gas.

And fourth is using the federal government’s powers to accelerate the shift away from oil, including through procurement (the government is an enormous consumer) and other such fun stuff as requiring all federal rest stops to have high-voltage vehicle-charging stations. (Also: “a new requirement that every commercial fueling station must also provide electric vehicle charging services.”)

Step 5: improve corporate climate transparency

As climate change intensifies, corporations face risks both from extreme weather events and from the climate policies that might be passed to address them. With a few exceptions, most big, carbon-intensive companies are not transparent about those risks, making it difficult for shareholders to make informed decisions and investors to rationally allocate capital.

Inslee proposes a wide variety of ways for the federal government to increase oversight over climate pollution and risk, everything from new Securities and Exchange Commission commissioners, rules, and standards to new bank lending transparency requirements. These get pretty far into the weeds — “reforming reserve-based lending and debt-restructuring rules,” anyone? — but they have the potential to have some of the most significant long-term effects.

Here Inslee specifically raises the possibility of a “climate change-driven financial crisis” and offers a long list of acronym-laden suggestions to help avoid it (the FSOC, CFTC, and NGFS all play their role).

exxon knew
This is what climate risk looks like.
 Johnny Silvercloud/Flickr

Step 6: make this plan into the official Democratic platform

So there you have it: part four (of five? six?) of Jay Inslee’s climate plan, which, like parts one through three before it, alone contains more detail and ambition than the entire climate platforms of the other Democratic candidates combined.

Specifically, in this part, Inslee is taking the “keep it in the ground” passions of the climate movement and channeling them into a comprehensive policy plan. This goes beyond run-and-gun fights against every new proposed pipeline; it’s about systematically phasing out fossil fuel production on the schedule set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It’s simply not coherent to accept the IPCC deadline — global decarbonization by midcentury — and argue that the US should go on being the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas. We are producing enough new carbon to cancel all the good we’re doing with demand-side policy. Just because that carbon might not be burned in the US doesn’t mean the US won’t suffer from the effects.

Getting serious about climate change means getting serious about phasing out fossil fuel production. Here, once again, Inslee is taking the lead in showing how it can be done.