Friday, October 30, 2015

ANS -- How the Koch brothers and the super-rich are buying their way out of criticism

Here is an interesting thought from Robert Reich.  The rich are now making sure that no one has the courage to disagree with them.  This is serious stuff.  

How the Koch brothers and the super-rich are buying their way out of criticism

It's bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It's also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money. 

Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of the congregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.

He said he didn't want to antagonize certain wealthy congregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.  

I had a similar exchange last year with the president of a small college who had invited me to give a lecture that his board of trustees would be attending. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't criticize Wall Street," he said, explaining that several of the trustees were investment bankers.

It seems to be happening all over.

A non-profit group devoted to voting rights decides it won't launch a campaign against big money in politics for fear of alienating wealthy donors.

A Washington think-tank releases a study on inequality that fails to mention the role big corporations and Wall Street have played in weakening the nation's labor and antitrust laws, presumably because the think tank doesn't want to antagonize its corporate and Wall Street donors.

A major university shapes research and courses around economic topics of interest to its biggest donors, notably avoiding any mention of the increasing power of large corporations and Wall Street on the economy. 

It's bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It's also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money. 

Other sources of funding are drying up. Research grants are waning. Funds for social services of churches and community groups are growing scarce. Legislatures are cutting back university funding. Appropriations for public television, the arts, museums, and libraries are being slashed.

So what are non-profits to do?

"There's really no choice," a university dean told me. "We've got to go where the money is."

And more than at any time since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, the money is now in the pockets of big corporations and the super wealthy.

So the presidents of universities, congregations, and think tanks, other nonprofits are now kissing wealthy posteriors as never before.

But that money often comes with strings.

When Comcast, for example, finances a nonprofit like the International Center for Law and Economics, the Center supports Comcast's proposed merger with Time Warner. 

When the Charles Koch Foundation pledges $1.5 million to Florida State University's economics department, it stipulates that a Koch-appointed advisory committee will select professors and undertake annual evaluations. 

The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn't underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice.

David Koch's $23 million of donations to public television earned him positions on the boards of two prominent public-broadcasting stations. It also guaranteed that a documentary critical of the Kochs didn't air.

As Ruby Lerner, president and founding director of Creative Capital, a grant making institution for the arts, told the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, "self-censorship" practiced by public television … raises issues about what public television means. They are in the middle of so much funding pressure."

David Koch has also donated tens of millions of dollars to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and sits on their boards.

A few weeks ago dozens of climate scientists and environmental groups asked that museums of science and natural history "cut all ties" with fossil fuel companies and philanthropists like the Koch brothers.

"When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions … they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge," their statementsaid.

Even though gift agreements by universities, museums, and other nonprofits often bar donors from being involved in decisions about what's investigated or shown, such institutions don't want to bite hands that feed them.

This isn't a matter of ideology. Wealthy progressives can exert as much quiet influence over the agendas of nonprofits as wealthy conservatives.

It's a matter of big money influencing what should and should not be investigated, revealed, and discussed – especially when it comes to the tightening nexus between concentrated wealth and political power, and how that power further enhances great wealth.

Philanthropy is noble. But when it's mostly in the hands of a few super-rich and giant corporations, and is the only game available, it can easily be abused.

Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians.

But no less dangerous is the quieter and more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose, and mobilize action against what is occurring. 

ANS -- The Culture of A World Without Oil

Here is an article, a bit long, to read because it has a hopeful, upbeat take on global climate change.  
He starts by referring to an article by Margaret Atwood -- also worth reading --- find that one here:   

The Culture of A World Without Oil

By Barry Lord

(ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Margaret Atwood's brilliant contribution to this discussion analyzes the salient features of the climate change that we can now recognize as the inevitable outcome of the culture of consumption that oil and gas made possible. An Encyclical from Pope Francis was the most recent mainstream identification of this linkage, specifically focused on its cultural implications. As Atwood observes, my 2014 book Art& Energy: How Culture Changes (The AAM Press) demonstrates how all of our external energy sources have been accompanied by cultural transitions, from the mastery of fire and the culture of community around the hearth that it made possible to the culture of stewardship of the earth and the body that we are adopting as we switch to renewable energy.

Now we have daily news of the struggle between that incoming culture and the still dominant oil-based culture of consumption on which we are so dependent. By the culture of consumption I mean a culture that values buying things, experiences and brands in and for itself; we were shopping long before oil and gas, but their plenitude stimulated an entire way of life, especially associated with the automobile, that initially became visible after the First World War in the 'Roaring Twenties' (cf. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby), but really took over after World War II as oil replaced coal as the dominant global energy source beginning in the early 1960s. Supplanting the coal-based culture that depended on a disciplined work force, oil and gas made possible a widespread culture that has certainly benefited many, but which rested on ultimately unsustainable assumptions. Whereas people in the coal culture were defined in relation to the production process (as workers or capitalists, for instance), in a world powered by oil and gas we were all encouraged to see ourselves simply as consumers.

The challenge today is to define and describe the emerging culture of stewardship of the earth and the body that is so closely associated with renewable energy. A world without oil will have to be a world with fully developed renewable energy sources and the culture of stewardship that goes with them. Solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal wells provide energy by means of technology only. No fuel is needed. Once the apparatus is installed, there is nothing more to buy. The culture of consumption will no longer be rooted in our energy supply.

Even more important, by fully utilizing a global two-way power grid every building can become a producer as well as a consumer of energy. This depends on a means of storage so that we or others can access power when we need it, not just when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Storage of energy and of data (which can be seen as a kind of congealed energy) becomes a significant value in itself, resulting in stern penalties for hackers and a global grass-roots struggle to retain access to data banks in people's hands and minds, rather than in the exclusive domain of governments.

Access for use and capacity to store and share the goods of this world is what matters for stewardship. Acquisition, consumption and ownership are secondary. Mutual stocks collectively owned by all concerned may accordingly become the preferred model, rather than the private investment fortunes of today. A circular economy can be conceived, whereby the real cost of all products is redeemed through multiple uses of everything: there would be no such thing as a 'waste product'. Already we see a fledgling 'sharing economy' — Airbnb, Uber and much more — growing stronger daily.

In a world without oil, shopping will no longer focus our culture as it does today. Fashion will be transformed into trading, swapping and adapting our clothes to function effectively in every season. Currently millions of garments are discarded annually in every industrial country, and sending them to third world countries destroys the indigenous clothing industries there. Binge shopping and the annual Xmas celebration of consumerism will increasingly be questioned or rejected by a growing number of people committed to a culture that abhors waste.

Holiday shoppers in Houston, Texas. (via Getty images); Motorists stranded on a highway France for summer break departure. (via AFP/Getty Images)

Stewardship will characterize our attitudes to our bodies as well as the planet. Commodification of body parts for commerce may no longer colour our passions with such force. Already the fitness industry, which has grown to ubiquity in the same decades as renewable energy has been gathering force, fosters a concern to sustain our bodies holistically. In place of the fetishistic exploitation of 'private' body parts to sell sex, soap or sailboats, I have predicted that the culture of stewardship of the body will encourage tolerance for public nudity, especially as widespread obesity is increasingly recognized as another deplorable outcome of the oil-based culture of consumption.

Performance art in which the artist's body is his or her medium and earth art in which natural properties are celebrated already characterize our visual aesthetics. Musicians, poets and novelists will be situating their lyrics and plots in new contexts. Anxiety will persist, especially since nuclear energy will almost certainly be part of our renewable package; but we will be anxious about a wider range of concerns as we try to find out what it really means to be stewards of each other.

These predictions are generally consistent with the post-fossil fuel world that Ian Morris projects in the other book that Margaret cites, his Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve (Princeton University Press, 2015). Stewardship and sustainability will be supported by the greater equality (including gender equity) and the resistance to violence that Morris foresees. It is always exciting (and reassuring) when two scholars working from different assumptions and in diverse disciplines reach broadly parallel conclusions.

The picture that emerges from this cultural analysis is less dramatic than any of Margaret's dire alternatives. This is because it is a picture consistent with our anthropology and history. From our beginnings, homo sapiens has been the only species that evolved by employing external sources of energy additional to the food we eat; we do so because we require those external energy sources to create our cultures, which are essential to us because they provide the context for our otherwise helpless young to grow into adult human beings with the capacity to reproduce our species. Our big-brain commitment to learning rather than instinct for our survival as a species meant from the beginning that we are always going to be totally dependent on the energy sources that make possible the cultures within which we can teach and learn.

Thus our current dependence on oil is not an aberration, it is the norm. Every energy source has brought certain cultural values with it — think of slavery and coal as two of the most obvious examples. Art & Energy traces the entire history of these transitions. In a world without oil, renewable energy will take the place of oil and gas, and we will eventually become as dependent on the culture of stewardship of the earth and the body as we are today on consumption. Undoubtedly there will be downsides to the new culture that we cannot yet anticipate. We are going to be learning how to see ourselves and others as mutually interested collaborative stewards rather than essentially competitive consumers. The stakes are high: as the planet's only species committed to learning, in order to save our habitat we now have to learn sustainability.

Barry Lord is the author of Art & Energy: How Culture Changes (The AAM Press, 2014) and Co-President of Lord Cultural Resources. His blog is at

Monday, October 19, 2015

ANS -- CIA Catches Republicans Red-Handed Altering Hillary’s Emails to Smear Her

Well, the Republicans lied and changed the evidence.  I'm so surprised -- not.  They are playing dirty.  It should be illegal.  

CIA Catches Republicans Red-Handed Altering Hillary's Emails to Smear Her

by  • October 19, 2015

Ever since Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) admitted that the primary function of his House Benghazi committee was to publicly smear Hillary Clinton and damage her credibility, the details of their gross misconduct have begun pouring out, indicating that this was a much more elaborate and extensive conspiracy than it originally appeared. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), a ranking member of the House Benghazi committee, is determined that justice be served for the blatant misuse of public funds and that Secretary Clinton's name be cleared.

Now Cummings and the Central Intelligence Agency have caught Chairman Rep.Trey Gowdy (R-SC) culpable in one of the biggest scandals to hit the notorious committee. Gowdy accused Hillary Clinton of releasing the name of a classified CIA informant in her email, saying that her email server contained "some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives."

This has been found to be patently false. Gowdy has been exposed for altering documents and distorting information in order to make Clinton look culpable – except none of that information was classified, as stated in this sharp letter issued by Cummings:

The problem with your accusation—as with so many others during this investigation—is that you failed to check your facts before you made it, and the CIA has now informed the Select Committee that you were wrong. I believe your accusations were irresponsible, and I believe you owe the Secretary an immediate apology.  

To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, "redacted due to sources and methods."  To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines.

Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified.  Specifically, the CIA confirmed that "the State Department consulted with the CIA on this production, the CIA reviewed these documents, and the CIA made no redactions to protect classified information." 

Unfortunately, you sent your letter on October 7 without checking first with the CIA.  Now that we have done so, we have learned that your accusations were incorrect.

Not only has Gowdy been found leading his committee on a partisan crusade, he's been fabricating evidence and openly lying about the contents of Clinton's email server. It is an absolute travesty that the deaths of four Americans have been used in such a vile fashion by House Republicans. Instead of honoring their memories and learning from the mistakes that were made, in order to prevent them from occurring again, they have been turned into a political firebomb aimed at discrediting one of our nation's most prominent and dedicated public servants. The legality of all this is still unclear, but one would assume that some consequences would be in store for distorting intelligence documents and openly lying to the public.

In an atmosphere of political dysfunction where the House Republicans have become a roadblock preventing any substantial legislative action from moving forward, it's time to question the role of the Republican Party in our politics at all. They have wasted millions and produced nothing; they draw their salaries and waste our nation's time on ridiculous witch-hunts against Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton but do nothing as our infrastructure crumbles and our middle class withers away under the ravenous hunger of the wealthy oligarchs. They do not deserve a place in the political discourse of a civilized nation.

ANS -- 9/11: What Bush knew

Here is a short article about what Bush knew and when he knew it about 9/11.  Note that the article is from 2012.  I didn't see it then, or hear about it.  Did you?  We presume it is coming up again now because of Trump saying Bush didn't keep us safe and Jeb! saying he did keep us safe.  

TUESDAY, SEP 11, 2012 07:33 AM PDT

9/11: What Bush knew

An article sheds new light on the CIA's desperate efforts to warn about 9/11. Why didn't the White House listen?


9/11: What Bush knewIn this Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, Chief of Staff Andy Card whispers into the ear of President George W. Bush to give him word of the plane crashes into the World Trade Center, during a visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. (Credit: AP/Doug Mills)

Last year Jonathan Kay, a Canadian journalist, published "Among the Truthers," an interesting chronicle of, among other things, post-9/11 conspiracy theories. Many of these theories are outlandish on their face, such as claims that the twin towers were brought down by controlled demolition, that airplanes never struck them, that Flight 93 landed in Cleveland rather than crashing in a Pennsylvania field, and so forth.

Now if I were inclined toward a conspiratorial view of the world, I would speculate that the very outlandishness of these claims is itself part of a conspiracy to obscure what really happened on 9/11. This meta-conspiracy theory would go something like this: Over the past 11 years, it has slowly but inexorably become clear that the CIA uncovered key details of the 9/11 plot several months in advance, and tried on numerous occasions to get the Bush administration to take action to stop it.

In a New York Times Op-Ed, Kurt Eichenwald offers new evidence on this front. Throughout the spring and summer of 2001, Eichenwald claims the CIA presented the administration with compelling evidence that al-Qaida operatives were in the United States, that they were planning a major terrorist attack intended to produce mass casualties, and that this attack was imminent. In response, the Bush administration did nothing.

Indeed, the administration's level of inaction was so negligent that senior intelligence officials actually considered resigning, so as not to be in a position of responsibility when the attack took place:

Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else.

For a long time, the administration successfully covered up this series of events, by employing the clever strategy of revealing a small and ultimately misleading part of the truth: In April 2004, it declassified a single daily briefing, that featured the startling headline "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," but on closer examination did not contain much in the way of specifics regarding the attack, which took place just 35 days after the memo's printing.

Releasing this single briefing was deeply misleading, because it gave the impression that the administration had been given just one rather vague warning about the impending attack, rather than a series of much more concrete briefings, which ought to have put the government on high alert. The shocking truth, if Eichenwald is correct, is that the Bush administration was told enough in advance about the nature and timing of the 9/11 attacks that it could quite possibly have stopped them, but, for whatever reason, President Bush and his advisers chose to ignore those warnings. (According to Eichenwald, some White House neocons believed, "Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.")

Note that to this point my meta-conspiracy narrative has the unusual virtue of being based on nothing but what are now the known facts of the matter. To go beyond this, we have to enter the realm of speculation, which is where things get "conspiratorial" in the dismissive sense of the word.   We might, for example, speculate that certain neoconservatives in and around the White House were not wholly displeased with the failure to stop the attacks, since they provided an emotionally compelling, although completely irrational, basis for launching the invasion of Iraq these people were laboring to bring about.

We could take one more step, and note that, in the years after the attacks, neoconservatives played an active role in both publicizing and debunking the most extravagant 9/11 conspiracy theories, because nothing is more useful to a real conspiracy than directing attention to a series of absurd ones, which tend to discredit the very concept itself. (Note how former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer is already attacking Eichenwald as a "truther.")

Now, do I believe in this meta-conspiracy theory?  Of course not, because I am – or at least aspire to be – a Very Serious Person, and Very Serious People do not believe in conspiracies.  They do, however, participate in them.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

ANS -- We’re closer to a ‘Day After Tomorrow’ ice age than we thought

Here is a short article that's an update on the scientific feasibility of the scenario shown in a movie.  Turns out it's feasible after all, though a bit less dramatically.  

We're closer to a 'Day After Tomorrow' ice age than we thought


Updated with correction below.

A collapse of the Atlantic meridional overtunring circulation could increase water levels in mid-Atlantic cities by 0.5 to 1 meter. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The oceans crash against skyscrapers, making aquatic tunnels of Manhattan streets. Heavy layers of snow pile on endlessly, burying entire civilizations in canopies of white. Eventually, liquid turns to ice, and life as we know it is threatened by an eternal freeze.

This is the harrowing disaster scenario of "The Day After Tomorrow," a 2004 science fiction film directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Based on an imagined future of accelerated global warming, the movie was a major box office hit — it grossed over $500 million worldwide — but climatologists quickly took aim at its scientific value.

Patrick J. Michaels, a noted climate change skeptic, wrote in USA Today after the film's release, "As a scientist, I bristle when lies dressed up as 'science' are used to influence political discourse. … Each one of these phenomena is physically impossible."

He joined a chorus of critics who deemed the film wildly counterfactual. Yahoo featured "The Day After Tomorrow" in a top 10 list of scientifically inaccurate movies, while Duke University paleoclimatologist William Hydedeclared, "This movie is to climate science as Frankenstein is to heart transplant surgery."

The extreme cooling trends depicted are caused by a collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, a North Atlantic ocean water circulation system that moderates temperatures north of the equator. When the movie was released, however, there had yet to be research examining such an event's potential aftermath.

Now, a University of Southampton climate study published in Nature Scientific Reports indicates that we were naive to feel safe from "The Day After Tomorrow"-esque realities.

"The basic scenario of the AMOC as a result of global warming is not completely out of the blue or unthinkable," the study's author, Sybren Drijfhout, told The Washington Post.

[Why some scientists are worried about a surprisingly cold 'blob' in the North Atlantic Ocean]

According to the oceanography and climate physics professor, current warming patterns not only indicate that a collapse of the AMOC is possible, but also that resulting consequences would resemble "The Day After Tomorrow," though not to the same extremes.

Using an advanced climate model at Germany's Max-Planck Institute to simulate both conditions of global warming and conditions of an AMOC collapse, Drijfhout's team discovered that global temperatures could register a drop of up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit — three times stronger than concurrent warming trends.

The cold of a "Little Ice Age" would hit Western Europe the hardest, as indicated by this heat map. (Sybren Drijfhout)The cold of a "Little Ice Age" would hit Western Europe the hardest, as indicated by this heat map of 15 years after the start of AMOC collapse. (Sybren Drijfhout)

In a properly functioning circulatory system, the AMOC produces a milder climate downstream of the North Atlantic by bringing warm, salty surface water from the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic to the northern hemisphere.

But this system depends on the connection of surface waters flowing to the north and deeper waters flowing to the south — imagine a "global conveyor belt" — that can occur within just a few sinking ranges in the North Atlantic. These ranges exist only where water on the surface sufficiently nears the freezing point such that it becomes dense and heavy enough to sink to the bottom.

(For further explanation of the process, click here.)

With the Greenland ice sheet melting as a result of climate change, the AMOC's essential process is slowing down. If we're not careful, Drijfhout said, it may produce an effect comparable to "The Day After Tomorrow."

While the climate sequence in the movie is certainly sped up and exaggerated, scientist noted, the real-life consequences of an AMOC collapse would be no less cause for worry.

The cold would hit Western Europe the hardest, while Americans would have to contend with floods. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark would likely to experience 5-degree temperature drops; sea levels on the U.S. East Coast could could rise more than three feet.

"This would affect hundreds of millions of people," Drijfhout said, "At least temporarily, Europe would suffer conditions that would look like the Little Ice Age of the Middle Ages."

The collapse of the AMOC would be accompanied by a continuation of global warming conditions. These would ultimately offset and overtake the cooling trends in about 40 years, though in some places near the eastern boundary of the North Atlantic, the reversal could take more than a century.

Near the end of "The Day After Tomorrow," the heroes reach a library buried in snow, its occupants surviving just barely on the heat of burned books. New York has become a subarctic city, and helicopters scan its frozen landscape, looking for survivors.

Perhaps most tragically, it was all forecast in the beginning by the main character, a paleoclimatologist whose warnings fell on deaf ears.

"When it comes to climate change," Drijfhout said, "we are playing a dangerous game."

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the temperature drops that would occur as a result of an AMOC collapse.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Fwd: see highlighted area at end of article to the right

Hi -- This was sent by one of our readers.  See highlighted section at end of article.  
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 11:23 AM
Subject: see highlighted area at end of article to the right