The DNC Is One Big Corporate Bribe

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Drink up—it’s on us! Then go protest the TPP to your heart’s content.

To get to the Democratic National Convention, you take the subway to the AT&T Station and walk to the Wells Fargo Center. Along the way, you’ll stroll by the Comcast Xfinity Live complex, where delegates and honored guests can booze it up. You’ll also see the “Cars Move America” exhibit, an actual showroom sponsored by Ford, GM, Toyota, and others. Finally, you’ll reach your seat and watch Democrats explain why we have to reduce the power of big corporations in America.

Party conventions have always been collection points for big money. But many major corporations sat out last week’s Republican gathering for fear of Trump contamination. There’s no such reticence here in Philadelphia; in fact, it feels like they’re making up for that lack of investment.

It’s hard to ferret out all the special interests at the DNC, because there’s no full public schedule. Invitations are doled out individually, and people whisper about this or that event. But enter any official hotel where a delegation is staying, or any Philadelphia landmark, and you’re likely to have a complimentary drink thrust into your hand.

As Politico’s Ben White reported on Monday, private equity firm Blackstone has a meet-and-greet on Thursday. Independence Blue Cross, the southeastern Pennsylvania arm of the large insurer, held a host-committee reception Tuesday; their chief executive is the finance chair of that host committee. The same day, Le Meridien hotel had a private event for Bloomberg LP, and the Logan Hotel hosted “Inspiring Women, a Luncheon Discussion.” The sponsors included Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, AFLAC, the Financial Services Roundtable (the industry trade lobby), and New York Life. (How many people were they serving, given the number of corporations involved?)

Facebook commandeered a bar inside the Wells Fargo Center for delegates and guests. Twitter rented out an entire restaurant, bestowing attendees with free breakfast, lunch and an open bar. (Full disclosure: I had a slider and some salad. The way I see it, I’ve boosted their market value through the free labor of tweeting and deserve something back.) And when the speeches end, convention-goers fan out to a sea of mostly industry-sponsored parties. A particular favorite of convention delegates is the Distilled Spirits Council kickoff, which in Philadelphia featured music from Jason Isbell and former Eagle Joe Walsh.

Those are just the liquor and cocktail-weenie bribes. An entire other category of corporate cash goes toward “policy discussions,” must-see educational roundtables with a host of luminaries. On Tuesday, Obama campaign guru David Plouffe (now with Uber) and Gore consultant Chris Lehane (now with Airbnb) unveiled new polling data on the sharing economy; a second Airbnb event celebrated the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Party, featuring actor Bryan Cranston. On Wednesday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation convenes its own technology conference, featuring four members of Congress, a Federal Trade Commission member, the president of the biotech lobby, representatives from Microsoft and Facebook, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, now at Amazon.

A softer version—in perfect concert with the “Hillary works for families and children” theme of the week—is the corporate PR booth, highlighting charitable work, usually with children. JPMorgan Chase has its summer youth employment program. Johnson & Johnson (they get around) has the Save the Children Action Network, committed to eradicating rural poverty. I saw House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn holding court at their booth when I passed by yesterday.

None of this is considered money toward the convention, which is being entirely privately funded for the first time. The donors who are actually paying for the festivitities in Philly are anonymous. So God (and Debbie Wasserman Shultz) only knows where it all comes from. And clearly the DNC wants to keep it that way.

The DNC’s host committee refuses to disclose the names despite a court order, allowing corporate benefactors to hide behind anonymity. The 2014 “CRomnibus” budget law massively increased contribution limits for political convention committees, which can raise up to $800,000 from a single donor per year. And overlooked by emails showing possible anti-Bernie Sanders bias by DNC officials in the Democratic primaries, the WikiLeaks trove released last Friday actually detailedhow the DNC woos big donors with gifts and perks.

The whole spectacle is not technically considered lobbying, but it may have a more insidious effect. Not only are elected officials compromised by their proximity to big money—a version of this happens daily in Washington, after all—but the delegates, usually the grassroots activists most likely to pressure their members of Congress to stand up for Democratic values, get caught up in the muck as well.

Big money didn’t necessarily overshadow Day 2 of the convention, with the historic selection of the first female president and a succession of speakers hailing Hillary Clinton’s lifetime of work. But it pervaded the whole scene. Right before the roll-call vote, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, himself one of the most prodigious corporate fundraisers in Democratic history, addressed the convention. In an interview directly afterward, he suggested that Clinton would eventually come around and support the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate trade deal, “with some tweaks.” Clinton campaign aide John Podesta had to refute McAuliffe; for his part,  Podesta has jumped in and out of government and corporate lobbying for three decades.

Wasserman Schultz, supposedly banished to Florida after resigning as DNC chair, was still hanging around Philadelphia, and slipped into the Wells Fargo Center to watch the roll call. She got to see the vice presidential nomination of her predecessor as lead party fundraiser, Tim Kaine, who ran the DNC from 2009 to 2011. During the roll call, lobbyists with the Society for Human Resource Management, which helpedstall the signature equal pay bill in Congress, cheered from the floor.

Former Attorney General and corporate lawyer Eric Holder took time off from his work with Uber and Airbnb to address the convention. Former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, now Global Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s, showed up in a video. Howard Dean praised Hillary Clinton on health care, but strangely left out her support for the public option. Perhaps that’s because he’s a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, which doesn’t want government insurance plans driving down prices. Even former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who added her praise of Clinton to others’ on Tuesday night, has her own lobbying firm. And Tuesday closer Bill Clinton also has a certain, er, comfort with the corporate world.


The best speech I saw on Tuesday happened five miles from the Wells Fargo Center. In an afternoon address she should have unleashed the previous night—and not sponsored by anyone but her own Senate office—Elizabeth Warren gave a couple hundred delegates a Power Point presentation showing how the economy shifted from broadly shared prosperity to a funnel of practically everything to the very top.

The average American holds 15 times more debt than a generation ago, Warren noted, and one in three with a credit file is dealing with a debt collector. “I went to college for $50 a semester,” Warren said, but now fixed costs on education and health care have skyrocketed, making it impossible for the middle class to keep up. The reason: disinvestment in the public good, deregulation of banks and industry, and policies that pushed practically all economic gains upward.

Warren pointed the finger directly at lobbying, which grew seven-fold in the past 30 years. After the speech, I asked her about the corporate underwriting of practically everything in Philadelphia this week. “Too many CEOs have learned that they can invest millions in Washington and get billions in return with special deals with the government,” she said. “This is the central issue of 2016.”

You wouldn’t know that from the official, industry-sponsored proceedings. Maybe the ideological split within the Democratic Party has something to do with Bernie Sanders’s supporters distaste for the ostentatious display of corporate money, and how it has affected the party. The rare moment when overturning Citizens United gets a mention in a convention speech, loud whoops and cheers go up. But corporate influence on the party goes way beyond SuperPACs and campaign contributions; in Philadelphia, it is everywhere.

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The 1 Percent’s Useful Idiots

Posted on Jul 26, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  It’s official: Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. (schroepfer / Flickr)

PHILADELPHIA—The parade of useful idiots, the bankrupt liberal class that long ago sold its soul to corporate power, is now led by Sen. Bernie Sanders. His final capitulation, symbolized by his pathetic motion to suspend the roll call, giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination by acclamation, is an abject betrayal of millions of his supporters and his call for a political revolution.

No doubt the Democrats will continue to let Sanders be a member of the Democratic Caucus. No doubt the Democrats will continue to agree not to run a serious candidate against him in Vermont. No doubt Sanders will be given an ample platform and media opportunities to shill for Clinton and the corporate machine. No doubt he will remain a member of the political establishment.

Sanders squandered his most important historical moment. He had a chance, one chance, to take the energy, anger and momentum, walk out the doors of the Wells Fargo Center and into the streets to help build a third-party movement. His call to his delegates to face “reality” and support Clinton was an insulting repudiation of the reality his supporters, mostly young men and young women, had overcome by lifting him from an obscure candidate polling at 12 percent into a serious contender for the nomination. Sanders not only sold out his base, he mocked it. This was a spiritual wound, not a political one. For this he must ask forgiveness.

Whatever resistance happens will happen without him. Whatever political revolution happens will happen without him. Whatever hope we have for a sustainable future will happen without him. Sanders, who once lifted up the yearnings of millions, has become an impediment to change. He took his 30 pieces of silver and joined with a bankrupt liberal establishment on behalf of a candidate who is a tool of Wall Street, a proponent of endless war and an enemy of the working class.

Sanders, like all of the self-identified liberals who are whoring themselves out for the Democrats, will use fear as the primary reason to remain enslaved by the neoliberal assault. And, in return, the corporate state will allow him and the other useful idiots among the 1 percent to have their careers and construct pathetic monuments to themselves.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be pushed through whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The fracking industry, fossil fuel industry and animal agriculture industry will ravage the ecosystem whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The predatory financial institutions on Wall Street will trash the economy and loot the U.S. Treasury on the way to another economic collapse whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Poor, unarmed people of color will be gunned down in the streets of our cities whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. The system of neoslavery in our prisons, where we keep poor men and poor women of color in cages because we have taken from them the possibility of employment, education and dignity, will be maintained whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Millions of undocumented people will be deported whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Austerity programs will cut or abolish public services, further decay the infrastructure and curtail social programs whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. Money will replace the vote whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is president. And half the country, which now lives in poverty, will remain in misery whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president.

This is not speculation. We know this because there has been total continuity on every issue, from trade agreements to war to mass deportations, between the Bush administration and the administration of Barack Obama. The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is capitalism. And this is the beast we are called to fight and slay. Until that is done, nothing of substance will change.

To reduce the political debate, as Sanders and others are doing, to political personalities is political infantilism. We have undergone a corporate coup. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will not reverse this coup. They, like Barack Obama, know where the centers of power lie. They serve these centers of power.

Change will come when we have the tenacity, as many Sanders delegates did, to refuse to cooperate, to say no, to no longer participate in the political charade. Change will come when we begin acts of sustained mass civil disobedience. Change will come when the fear the corporate state uses to paralyze us is used by us to paralyze the corporate state.

The Russian writer Alexander Herzen, speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the disease.”

We are here not to reform the system. We are here to overthrow it. And that is the only possibility left to restore our democracy and save our planet. If we fail in this task, if this system of corporate capitalism and globalization is not dismantled, we are doomed. And this is the reality no one wants to speak about.

We will have to be in the political wilderness, perhaps for a decade. But a decade ago Syriza, the party now ruling Greece, was polling at only 4 percent. This is what the Green Party is polling today. We will not bring about systemic change in one or two election cycles. But we can begin to build a counterweight to the corporate state. We can begin to push back.

We must find the courage not to be afraid. We must find the courage to follow our conscience. We must find the courage to defy the corporate forces of death in order to affirm the forces of life.

This will not be easy. The corporate state—once its vast systems of indoctrination and propaganda do not work to keep us passive, once we are no longer afraid, once we make our own reality rather than accommodating ourselves to the reality imposed upon us—will employ more direct and coercive forms of control. The reign of terror, the revocation of civil liberties, the indiscriminate violence by the state will no longer be exercised only against poor people of color. The reality endured by our poor sisters and brothers of color, a reality we did not do enough to fight against, will become our own.

To allow the ideological forces of neoliberalism to crush our ideals and our values is to fall into a deadly cynicism and despair. To allow the consumer culture and the cult of the self, which lies at the heart of capitalism, to seduce us is to kill our souls. Happiness does not come with the accumulation of wealth. Happiness does not come from possessions or power. These are narcotics. They numb and kill all that is noble and good within us. Happiness comes when you reach out in solidarity to your neighbor, when you lend your hand to the stranger or the outcast, when you are willing to lose your life to save it. Happiness comes when you have the capacity to love.

Our span of life, in the vastness of the universe, is insignificant. I will be 60 soon. The arch of my own life is beginning to draw to a close. We all will die. How do we use the miracle of this flash of light that is called life?

Albert Camus wrote, “One of the only coherent philosophical positions is revolt. It is a constant confrontation between [human beings] and [their] obscurity. It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

He said further, “A living [person] can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he [or she] dies in refusing to be enslaved, he [or she] reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

There is only one way to rebel. You fight for all of the oppressed or none of the oppressed. You understand that there is no country. Our country is the earth. We are citizens of the world. Nationalism is a disease. It is a disease we must purge. As long as a Muslim family suffers in a refugee camp in Syria or an LGBT person suffers from the bigotry imposed by the Christian heretics in the Christian right, we all suffer.

There are desperate single mothers struggling to raise children on less than $10,000 a year in some Philadelphia neighborhoods. Many of these children go to bed hungry. There are unemployed workers desperate to find a job and restore their dignity. There are mentally ill and homeless we have abandoned to the streets. There are Iraqi and Afghan families living in terror, a terror we have inflicted on them, in the futile and endless wars waged to enrich the arms industry. There are men and women being tortured in our worldwide archipelago of secret detention centers. There are undocumented workers whose families we have ripped apart, separating children from parents, or imprisoned.

This is reality. It is the only reality that matters. It is a reality we must and will change. Because, as the great socialist Eugene V. Debs, who upon being sentenced in 1918 for violating the Sedition Act by defying the madness of World War I, said, “I recognized my kinship with all living beings. I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Augustine wrote that hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

The fight will be hard and difficult. It will require love and self-sacrifice. It will require anger and courage. It is the greatest moral imperative before us. Those who do not defy the evil become its accomplice. We may not succeed. But we must be among those of whom future generations will say: They tried. They dared to dream. They dared to care. They dared to love. They enabled those who followed to press on in the struggle.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_1_percents_useful_idiots_20160726

DNC’s leaked emails expose corrupt funding practices within the Democratic Party

DemocraticPartyUndemocratic

By Isaac Finn
27 July 2016

The release of roughly 20,000 internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails by WikiLeaks exposes the methods that the Democratic Party utilizes in order to raise funds, dole out privileges and cover up their dirty dealings.

One of the schemes included the creation of the Hillary Victor Fund (HVF), which appealed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton through extravagant fundraisers. The fund included 40 state Democratic Party committees and could accept checks as large as $436,100, with individuals limited to $10,000 per state party, $33,400 for the DNC and $2,700 for Clinton’s campaign.

The fund in effect worked to funnel money into the Clinton campaign and the DNC. According to Politico’s analysis of the Federal Elections Commission records, between the creation of the fund in September and the end of last month, it brought in $142 million, with 44 percent ending up in the DNC and Hillary for America, with state parties keeping less than $800,000, or 0.56 percent.

As a result of campaign finance laws, these practices are at best legally questionable and at worst criminal. Legally a donor would be allowed to give a maximum contribution of $5,400 to Clinton per election cycle, $33,400 to the DNC per year, and $10,000 to each state committee in the fund per year.

If a wealthy donor had already given $33,400 to the DNC, and then gave a substantial contribution to the HVF—which the fund funneled back into the DNC—he or she would essentially have donated more money to the DNC than is allowed. This situation is particularly problematic since Clinton, and others associated with her campaign, claimed the fund was primarily to aid local Democrats.

The leaked email exchanges show the effort of leading members of the DNC to cover up the fact that funds were not being allocated to state parties. In an email chain from late April, leading DNC members—including Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Eric Walker—discussed how to deal with a Politico journalist inquiring about funds being sent back to the DNC. In the end Miranda writes, “There’s been no coverage [of funds going back to the DNC] that we’ve found, which is what we wanted.”

In May, following claims by Politico as well as then-Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that HVF was a form of “money-laundering,” officials from the DNC and Clinton campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin worked together to draft a response to these allegations. Miranda specifically ran a proposal to write a brief comment stating that HVF was not laundering money, and told Schwerin, “Since it’s your HVF we want to make sure you guys are good with it, and with the push back.”

In the leaked emails, Miranda and Schwerin also work out a number of key points to argue that the HVF is legal, including that “many millions have been raised for state parties and just haven’t been distributed to them yet,” and that “experts have agreed there’s nothing unusual about the victory funds.” These points were also used by the DNC to claim that Sanders allegations were wrong, and the Clinton campaign also joined in to criticize him for not raising funds for the state parties.

Other leaked emails expose the extent the DNC sought out large donors and created different packages to encourage donors to give more. The more a contributor gave to the DNC the more perks he or she could receive.

As Max Marshall, the DNC’s southern finance director, explained to one wealthy donor in May, “You currently qualify for the Main Line package! If were willing to contribute $33,400 we can bump you up a level to the Fairmont. Additionally, your generous contribution would allow you to attend a small roundtable we are having with President Obama in DC on May 18th or a dinner in NYC on June 8th (Invites also attached).”

In some cases special exceptions were made, such as with multinational conglomerate Honeywell. The company was given a hotel room in Philadelphia for a contribution of $60,000 to the DNC’s convention host committee because—in the words of one DNC financial staffer—they are “the biggest PAC contributor in the country,” and that the gesture would create better relations “with them for later in the election cycle and for years to come.”

Another large donor, Shefali Razdan Duggal, also requested a variety of benefits for the money she was helping to raise, including an invitation to Vice President Joseph Biden’s holiday party. She stated in the email that she was working for the “Rittenhouse Convention package,” the top-tier donors’ package. The package would require Duggal to raise $1,250,000 or personally give $467,600 between January 2015 and June 2016. This would provide the contributor with a premier hotel in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, VIP credentials and a campaign briefing with high-level Democratic officials.

The frenzy to win larger donations eventually resulted in Ruthzee Louijeune, an associate from the DNC’s outside law firm Perkins Coie, requesting that DNC officials change the wording in the announcement of a round table discussion. Louijeune, who wrote to the DNC’s financial chief of staff in May, explained, “As you know, WH [the White House] policy restricts the use of language that gives the appearance that contributors can pay for policy access to the President.”

In reality, however, the emails expose the fact that many of the wealthiest individuals could gain access to the president or other White House officials, as long as they worked out a deal with an official from the DNC and were willing to pay the right price.

During the Democratic primaries, Sanders frequently raised the issue of Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and wealthy contributors. Since his recent endorsement of Clinton, Sanders has worked to portray Clinton as a great progressive, with the party as a whole moving towards the left. In order to do this, he has chosen to remain largely silent about the email leaks.

WSWS

Why Do We Pretend to Clean Up Ocean Oil Spills?

ENVIRONMENT
Many scientists describe such efforts as ‘prime-time theatre.’ Yet the farce continues.

Gulf-Oiled-Pelicans-June-3-2010 Heavily oiled Brown Pelicans captured at Grand Isle, Louisiana on Thursday, June 3, 2010 wait to be cleaned of Gulf spill crude at The Fort Jackson Wildlife Care Center in Buras, LA. Photo Credit: IBRRC
Photo Credit: International Bird Rescue Research Center

[Editor’s note: This article is from Hakai Magazine, an online publication about science and society in coastal ecosystems. Read more stories like this at HakaiMagazine.com.]

When the Deepwater Horizon well operated by BP (formerly British Petroleum) exploded and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico with at least 650 million litres of crude oil in 2010, blue-smocked animal rescuers quickly appeared on television screens. Looking like scrub nurses, the responders treated oil-coated birds with charcoal solutions, antibiotics and dish soap. They also forced the birds to swallow Pepto-Bismol, which helps absorb hydrocarbons. The familiar, if not outlandish, images suggested that something was being cleaned up.

But during the chaotic disaster, Silvia Gaus poked a large hole in that myth. The German biologist had worked in the tidal flats of the Wadden Sea, a region of the North Sea and the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud, and critical bird habitat. A 1998 oil spill of more than 100,000 litres in the North Sea had killed 13,000 birds in Wattenmeer National Park, and the scientist had learned that cleaning oil-soaked birds could be as harmful to their immune systems as the oil accumulating in their livers and kidneys. Kill, don’t clean, she advised responders in the 2010 BP spill. Gaus then referred to scientific studies to support her unsettling declaration. One 1996 California study, for example, followed the fate of brown pelicans fouled by oil. Researchers marked the birds after they had been “cleaned” and released them into the wild. The majority died or failed to mate again. The researchers concluded that cleaning brown pelicans couldn’t restore them to good breeding health or “normal survivability.” Another study from 1997 observed that once birds affected by an oil spill had been cleaned, they fared poorly and suffered higher than expected mortality rates.

And, consider the 2002 sinking of the MV Prestige. The tanker split in half off the coast of Spain, spilling more than 70 million litres of highly toxic bunker fuel that coated more than 600 beaches with oil. The catastrophe killed some 300,000 seabirds. Although response teams diligently cleaned thousands of animals, most of the birds died within a week. Only a few hundred ever made it back to the wild. In fact, said Gaus, studies indicate that, in general, the post-treatment survival rate of oil-soaked birds is less than one per cent.

Not all bird cleaning is futile. Rescuers saved thousands of penguins following the MV Treasure spill off South Africa in 2000, for example. Success stories, however, are rare. In the Gulf of Mexico, the giant BP spill probably killed nearly a million birds. Gaus’s comments highlighted two uncomfortable realities: cleaning oily birds is a risky business, and the marine oil spill cleanup can often do more harm than good.

A theatrical response

In many respects, society’s theatrical response to catastrophic oil spills resembles the way medical professionals respond to aggressive cancer in an elderly patient. Because surgery is available, it is often used. Surgery also creates the impression that the health-care system is doing something even though it can’t change or reverse the patient’s ultimate condition. In an oil-based society, the cleanup delusion is also irresistible. Just as it is difficult for us to acknowledge the limits of medical intervention, society struggles to acknowledge the limits of technologies or the consequences of energy habits. And that’s where the state of marine oil spill response sits today: it creates little more than an illusion of a cleanup. Scientists — outside the oil industry — call it “prime-time theatre” or “response theatre.”

Oiled turtle rescued from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (image: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries/Flickr CC)

The hard scientific reality is this: a big spill is almost impossible to contain because it is physically impossible to mobilize the labour needed and current cleanup technologies in a timely fashion. When the City of Vancouver released a study in 2015 on the effectiveness of responses to large tanker or pipeline spills along the southern coast of British Columbia, the conclusion was blunt: “collecting and removing oil from the sea surface is a challenging, time-sensitive and often ineffective process,” even in calm water.

Scientists have recognized this reality for a long time. During the 1970s when the oil industry was poised to invade the Beaufort Sea, the Canadian government employed more than 100 researchers to gauge the impacts of an oil spill on Arctic ice. The researchers doused sea ducks and ring seals with oil and set pools of oil on fire under a variety of ice conditions. They also created sizable oil spills (one was almost 60,000 litres, a medium-sized spill) in the Beaufort Sea and tried to contain them with booms and skimmers. They prodded polar bears into a man-made oil slick only to discover that bears, like birds, will lick oil off their matted fur and later die of kidney failure. In the end, the Beaufort Sea Project concluded that “oil spill countermeasures, techniques and equipment” would have “limited effectiveness” on ice-covered waters. The reports, however, failed to stop Arctic drilling.

Part of the illusion has been created by ineffective technologies adopted and billed by industry as “world class.” Ever since the 1970s, the oil and gas industry has trotted out four basic ways to deal with ocean spills: booms to contain the oil; skimmers to remove the oil; fire to burn the oil; sand chemical dispersants, such as Corexit, to break the oil into smaller pieces. For small spills these technologies can sometimes make a difference, but only in sheltered waters. None has ever been effective in containing large spills.

BP oil workers attempt to clean oil covered sand on June 23, 2010 in Pensacola Beach, Florida (image: Cheryl Casey/Shutterstock.com)

Conventional containment booms, for example, don’t work in icy water, or where waves run amok. Burning oil merely transforms one grave problem — water pollution — into sooty greenhouse gases and creates air pollution. Dispersants only hide the oil by scattering small droplets into the water column, yet they often don’t even do that since conditions have to be just right for dispersants to work. Darryl McMahon, a director of RESTCo, a firm pursuing more effective cleanup technologies, has written extensively about the problem, and his

The issue partly boils down to scale, explains Jeffrey Short, a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research chemist who studied the aftermath of the 2010 BP disaster as well as the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, which grew at the alarming rate of half a football field per second over two days. “Go try and control something like that,” says Short. Yet almost 30 years after the Exxon Valdez contaminated much of Prince William Sound, the cleanup technology has changed little.

“What I find the most disturbing is the tendency for responsible authorities and industry to adopt technologies mainly because of their optics and with scant regard for their efficacy,” says Short. In addition, chaos rules in the aftermath of a spill. The enormous political pressure to do something routinely sacrifices any duty to properly evaluate what kind of response might actually work over time, says Short. “Industry says ‘we just want to clean it up,’ yet their demonstrative ability to clean it up sucks.”

Consider, for a moment, the industry’s dismal record on oil recovery. Average citizens may think that a successful marine oil spill cleanup actually involves recovering what has been spilled. They may also expect the amount of oil recovered would increase over time as industry learns and adopts better technologies. But there has been little improvement since the 1960s.

During the BP disaster, the majority of the oil evaporated, dropped to the ocean bottom, smothered beaches, dissolved, or remained on or just below the water’s surface as sheen or tar balls. Some oil-chewing bacteria offered assistance by biodegrading the oil after it had been dispersed. Rough estimates indicate that, out of the total amount of oil it spilled, BP recovered three per cent through skimming, 17 per cent from siphoning at the wellhead, and five per cent from burning. Even so, that’s not much better than theExxon Valdez spill in 1989 when industry recovered an estimated 14 per cent of the oil. Transport Canada admits that it expects only 10 to 15 per cent of a marine oil spill to ever be recovered from open water. “Even informed people are taken aback by these numbers,” says Short.

Nor are the numbers any better for small marine spills (smaller than 7,950 litres). This year, York University researchers discovered that offshore oil and gas platforms reported a total of 381 small spills between 1997 and 2010. Only 11 spills mentioned the presence of seabirds, yet it only takes a dime-sized blotch of oil in cold water to kill a bird.

A dead seabird, possibly a great egret, covered in oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. (image: Michael Martin/Flickr CC)

The danger of wishful thinking

Self-reporting combined with an appalling spill-recovery record underscores how poorly industry’s preferred technologies perform in the field. Deploying dispersants, for example, is about as effective as cleaning oil-soaked birds and remains another example of response theatre designed to hide the real damage. During BP’s catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company sprayed over 6.8 million litres of Corexit. It was the largest volume of dispersant ever used for an oil spill and one giant chemical experiment.

Researchers have known for decades that mixing oil with Corexit rarely works. Short compares it to adding detergent when you’re washing dishes: it produces a cloudy suspension that scatters through the water but hovers close to the top. Sweden has banned its use, and the U.K. followed suit, based on the potential danger to workers. That didn’t stop the aerial bombing of Gulf of Mexico waters with Corexit — which actually killed oil-eating bacteria — because it looked as if the authorities were doing something. Their work made little difference. Bottlenose dolphins, already vulnerable, died in record numbers from adrenal and lung diseases linked to oil exposure.

“We’ve put the wrong people in charge of the job,” says McMahon, who has charted industry’s oil spill myths for years. Corexit, industry’s favorite dispersant, is widely believed to contain hydrocarbon, which gives it an ominous undertone. The product was first developed by Standard Oil, and its ingredient list remains a trade secret. Although the oil industry boasts a “safety culture,” everyone really knows that it operates with a greed culture, adds McMahon. Over the years, industry has become adept at selling an illusion by telling regulators and stakeholders whatever they want to hear about oil spills (in the past, executives claimed that their companies recovered 95 per cent of spilled oil).

In Canada, multinational oil companies also own the corporations licensed to respond to catastrophic spills. The Western Canadian Marine Response Corp., for example, is owned by Kinder Morgan, Imperial Oil, Shell, Chevron and Suncor while the Eastern Canada Response Corp. is owned by Ultramar, Shell, Imperial Oil and Suncor. In a recent analysis on this cozy relationship, Robyn Allan, an economist and former CEO of the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia, concluded that letting international oil companies determine the goals and objectives of marine spill preparedness and response was a flagrant conflict of interest.

Large spills, which can destroy fisheries and entire communities, can impose billion dollar cleanup bills and still not restore what has been lost. The cleanup costs for the Exxon Valdez disaster reached US$2 billion (paid by various parties), and Exxon fought the federal government’s claim for an extra $92 million for restoration, until the government dropped their claim in 2015. To date, BP has spent more than US$42 billion on response, compensation and fines in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the evidence shows that nearshore and in-port spills are four to five times more expensive to clean up than offshore spills and that heavy oil, such as bitumen, costs nearly 10 times more than light oils because it persists longer in water. And yet, no more than C$1.3 billion has been set aside in Canada for a major oil spill — a sum experts find woefully inadequate. According to a University of British Columbia study, a release of 16,000 cubic metres of diluted bitumen in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet would inflict at least $1.2 billion worth of damage on the local economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and promoting its “natural” beauty. That figure doesn’t include the cost of a “cleanup.”

Based on the science, expecting to adequately remedy large spills with current technologies seems like wishful thinking. And there will be no change unless responsible authorities do three things: give communities most affected by a catastrophic spill the democratic right to say no to high-risk projects, such as tankers or pipelines; publicly recognize that responding to a large oil spill is as haphazard as responding to a large earthquake and that there is no real techno-fix; and recognize that industry won’t adopt more effective technologies that actually recover oil from the ocean until governments and communities properly price the risk of catastrophic spills and demand upfront multibillion-dollar bonds for compensation. “If they spill, they must lose a bloody fortune,” says Short.

Until those reforms take place, expect more dramatic prime-time theatre on oiled ocean waters. But we shouldn’t for a moment believe we’re watching a cleanup. The only things being wiped clean are guilty consciences.

[Editor’s note: The bird in the image by Michael Martin was incorrectly identified as a pelican. According to Kris Wiese, an environmental scientist at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Office of Spill Prevention & Response, it appears to be a great egret. The caption has been corrected. Thanks to Kris Wiese for the close read and the correction.]

Does Hillary Clinton Understand the Biggest Divide in American Politics?

Posted on Jul 25, 2016

By Robert Reich

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is missing a crucial point of this election.(Susan Walsh / AP)

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare “the era of big government” over.

In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left. Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)

But this view is outdated. Nowadays, it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons.

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.”  There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs).

And then there’s the Republican establishment (now scattered to the winds), and the Democratic establishment.

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock – as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.

“In five, ten years from now,” Trump says, “you’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Speaking at a factory in Pennsylvania in June, he decried politicians and financiers who had betrayed Americans by “taking away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Worries about free trade used to be confined to the political left. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, people who say free-trade deals are bad for America are more likely to lean Republican.

The problem isn’t trade itself. It’s a political-economic system that won’t cushion working people against trade’s downsides or share trade’s upsides. In other words, a system that’s rigged.

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal, although he’s now trolling for big money.

A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that 80 percent of GOP primary voters who preferred Donald Trump as the nominee listed money in politics as an important issue, and a Bloomberg Politics poll shows a similar percentage of Republicans opposed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Getting big money out of politics is of growing importance to voters in both major parties. A June New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 84 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans want to fundamentally change or completely rebuild our campaign finance system.

Last January, a DeMoines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

She must make clear Donald Trump’s authoritarian populism is a dangerous gambit, and the best way to end crony capitalism and make America work for the many is to strengthen American democracy.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/does_hillary_clinton_understand_biggest_divide_american_politics_20160725

Donald Trump’s Strategy for Victory Is Clear, but Are Democrats Able to See It?

Published on
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Hillary Clinton and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein during the plenary session titled “Equality for Girls and Women: 2034 Instead of 2134?” at the Clinton Global Initiative 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

There is an adage, based on Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”: “Know your enemy.” After watching Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I wonder just how well Democrats really know Trump and his strategy.

It is easy to paint the businessman-turned-politician as a “racist” and “misogynist.” He is all those things and more. In fact, those descriptors are part of his political strategy. Pointing them out without seeing the larger picture of how he is planning on winning the November election is a recipe for failure.

I knew that if I watched Trump give his speech, I would be so enraged by his loathsome manner and disgusting rhetoric that it might blind me to his bigger plan. When I read the transcript later, I still felt rage, but the topics appeared to be a confusing mess, with Trump jumping from domestic to foreign policy with no apparent coherence. But then a pattern emerged.

Broadly speaking, Trump is using a simple combination of two political devices, pivoting deftly from one to the other. The first is the tried-and-true form of dog-whistle politics to rally racial resentment. The second taps into anger and legitimate public disgust over the failures of capitalism. In other words, he is solidifying the resentment-filled voter base that backed him from the start, and is overtly wooing the base that Bernie Sanders inspired but abandoned when the Democratic Party undermined his nomination. Trump’s acceptance speech was a repetitive exercise in this two-prong approach, and with the combination of these two seemingly disparate voter bases, he sees victory in November.

Never mind that Trump himself is a key player in the financial system that has devastated ordinary Americans—he gets away with that contradiction by earning the oxymoronic and Orwellian moniker of “blue-collar billionaire” from the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr.

Over and over in his speech, Trump invoked the fear of the “other” (which Hillary Clinton embodies simply by being a woman) and then pivoted to the economy. For example, he brought up the case of Sarah Root, a 21-year-old woman who died when her car was slammed by an undocumented immigrant who apparently had been driving drunk.

“I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family,” Trump said. “But to this administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders. What about our economy?”

The non sequitur about the economy was followed by statistics meant to appeal to people of color: “Nearly four in 10 African-American children are living in poverty, while 58 percent of African-American youth are not employed. Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the president took his oath of office.”

By the way, The Washington Post and other fact-checking organizations have issued a comprehensive list of lies and exaggerations in Trump’s speech, which include the aforementioned statistics. But of course, facts are there to be manipulated into the dire portrait of the nation that Trump is painting.

Here is another example of Trump invoking the fear of the “other,” this time personified by Islamic State and white Americans’ fear of losing imperial prestige: “[Islamic State] has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our ambassador [the late J. Christopher Stevens] and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers.” He later invoked Clinton’s kowtowing to moneyed interests: “Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place.”

Still later in his speech, he jumped back to domestic policy by touting the killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., with no mention whatsoever of police violence and killings of black Americans. This, of course, was Trump using dog-whistle politics to win over pro-police and racist white voters. But then he quickly pivoted to the economy, saying, “This administration has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs.”

He (wrongly) accused Clinton of having an immigration policy of “mass amnesty, mass immigration and mass lawlessness” that “will overwhelm your schools and hospitals, further reduce your jobs and wages.” Such a macabre vision plays directly to nativist fears of immigrants, which Trump once more followed with a switch to the economy by promising “a different vision for our workers. It begins with a new fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat.”

When he got around to summarizing his approach to the presidency, he used the same pivot again: “My plan will begin with safety at home—which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.”

Trump, who likely would have been roundly defeated by Bernie Sanders in a general election (as many polls suggested), is determined to pick up Sanders fans by whipping up the general public frustration with the failures of capitalism. At one point, Trump just comes out and says it: “I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders—he never had a chance. But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade.”

If Democrats want to beat Trump in November, they need to recognize this strategy fast and adopt the progressive-sounding economic proposals that Trump is offering as he tries to reconcile conservative white voters with economic liberalists. In other words, Clinton needs to embody Sanders, and fast. That way, she can combine Democratic stalwarts (those who planned to vote for her all along) with the independents Sanders rallied and win by a comfortable margin in November. Of course, the Democratic Party could have ensured a win early on by refusing to undermine Sanders’ candidacy. Recent internal documentsleaked by Wikileaks have shown the contempt the party had for the candidate best suited to usher in a decisive win.

But it’s too late to worry about that now. All Clinton can do is understand Trump’s strategy and work to beat it. That would mean renouncing the very Wall Street ties she has relied on throughout her career, ties that have in large part earned her well-deserved, collective contempt from the public. Instead, she is relying on voters choosing her because she is not Trump. If Trump is espousing a politics of fear through his racism and misogyny, Clinton is no different. The fear she is relying on is a fear of Trump himself. And that may not be enough.

 

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence.”

 

Pentagon wants Clinton, racists want Trump — either way Wall St. wins

trump_clinton (1)In May 2015, weeks before Donald Trump declared his candidacy, he took a friendly phone call from his long-time golf buddy Bill Clinton. On the call, Clinton, according to the Washington Post, “encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape.” (Both sides admit to the call). Hillary Clinton had declared her own candidacy days earlier.

The Washington Post article continued, “People with knowledge of the call in both camps said it was one of many that Clinton and Trump have had over the years, whether about golf or donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Indeed, federal records show the Trump family donated to Hillary Clinton in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He gave at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In Trump’s star-studded 2005 wedding, it was none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton who got the seat in the front row—ahead of Billy Joel, Katie Couric, Tony Bennett and all the rest of the celebrities.

They’re all friends. This is the truth that neither the Clinton or Trump teams will admit now that they are trading insults on a daily basis on the campaign trail. Trump brags about his assets that surpass $1 billion, while Clinton plays down her wealth to appear “relatable.” But they are of the same social class and they travel in the same elite circles. Bill and Hillary Clinton themselves have a net worth of $111 million—from a “career in public service.” The Trumps and Clintons call each other for advice. They party, socialize and golf together. They even use the exact same tax havens—Trump and Clinton have registered their private corporations at the same Delaware address, alongside  285,000 other corporate entities.

The candidates are not identical, of course. Trump’s brazen racism and sexism has given confidence to like-minded people nationwide to follow his example. His campaign has had the effect of throwing open the window to the smell of the country’s rotting bigotry—a stink that will not be easily removed even if he loses. If he were to turn his unconstitutional campaign promises into actual policies, they would amount to a virtual declaration of war against immigrant and Muslim communities.

On the other side, Clinton offers Black and Latino communities sweet phrases while ejecting and talking down to Black Lives Matter activists who dare bring up her real record as a politician. She was a champion of the militarization of the police, of mass incarceration policies, the gutting of welfare, and record-setting deportations.

Trump bears responsibility for dozens of racist assaults and hate crimes while mainstreaming a culture of bigotry that will undoubtedly lead to more. Clinton bears responsibility for a decades-long political assault on Black and Latino communities.

Many rightfully wonder if Trump’s reckless language and unchecked machismo would lead to new wars, including nuclear ones. But Clinton’s declared foreign policies are perhaps more dangerous. Her saber-rattling against Russia and for NATO expansion plans and aggressive interventionism in Syria, Ukraine and Libya follow the neoconservative playbook and constitute the most plausible real-life scenarios for World War III.

Before, during and after the Iraq war, Clinton marched in lockstep with the Bush administration. No wonder the whole Republican foreign policy establishment is backing her over Trump!

Domestically, Hillary Clinton has built a career around doing the bidding of Wall Street and even served “proudly” as a director for the low-wage corporate giant Walmart. A champion of the bank bailout, she and Bill Clinton received $153 million in speaking fees since 2000 for 51 speeches to banks. To this day, she has refused to release the transcripts from those speeches. She recently accepted the endorsement of Henry Paulson, onetime CEO of Goldman Sachs and secretary of the treasury during the Bush and Obama administrations. Before engineering the bank bailout, Paulson made hundreds of millions off of the toxic home loans that left millions of people in the U.S. without livelihoods or homes.

Trump embodies a whole class of sleazy landlords and developers, who buy favors and regulatory changes from politicians to make super-profits at the expense of poor and working-class tenants. So the choice is between Trump, a billionaire who buys out politicians, and Clinton, a politician in the employ of billionaires.

That’s the current state of American “democracy” in a nutshell: a pure sham, a rigged process dripping with corporate money to ensure the selection of an ultra-rich racist imperialist. Trump and Clinton each have higher unfavorable ratings than any presidential candidate in U.S. history. A recent tweet captured the sentiment of millions: “there must be a cheaper way to find the worst people in society.”

How to defeat Trump and the far-right

Since 1978, the cost of tuition has gone up 1,100 percent. Health care has gone up 600 percent. Food has gone up 240 percent and shelter has gone up 380 percent. Meanwhile, typical wages have just risen 10 percent and minimum wage workers have seen their wages plummet 5 percent. The wealth of average CEOs has gone up 937 percent.

The Democratic and Republican establishments have together engineered the country’s vast inequality with anti-worker trade deals, de-unionization, the deregulation of Wall Street and the elimination of social services. They have fed hatred of immigrants, attacked the Black community, and pitted workers against each other in election after election. This status quo, which Clinton represents, is what gave birth to the Trump phenomenon in the first place, and her presidency would also provide fertile ground for continued far-right organizing. Quite simply, supporting Clinton is not the way to beat back Trump.

To really defeat the far-right and Trump, it will take a movement against Wall Street—demanding health care, jobs, housing and education as guaranteed rights and standing up militantly against racism and xenophobia.

Into the elections—and beyond

Third-party candidates are growing in popularity. The Libertarian and Green party candidates polling higher than ever and the Party for Socialism and Liberation is seeing more national interest in socialist politics than in previous campaigns. But the corporate media is giving these candidates pitifully little media coverage and is expected to exclude them from the presidential debates. So the country is being told to pick between Donald Trump and the guest of honor at his most recent wedding.

Millions, we hope, will disobey these orders and reject the false choice between the widespread misery of the status quo and far-right chauvinism. In either case, regardless if Trump or Clinton wins, there is no question that the future will be one of even more intense struggle. It will be struggle for the working class in general, for all oppressed communities, as well as for the movements for peace and environmental justice.

https://www.liberationnews.org/pentagon-wants-clinton-racists-want-trump/

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