Daily Archives: March 18, 2017

Doesn’t Add Up

March 17, 2017

The President’s proposed budget seems to prioritize national security over pretty much everything else. We examine how the lowest-income Americans could be affected, and what’s missing from the media debate. Also, how the White House might be manipulating data to forecast unrealistic economic growth, and why the Congressional Budget Office is so central to the American legislative process. Plus, how Wikileaks played the media with the recent CIA data dump.

The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency – The New Yorker

Nick Patterson, a former colleague of Mercer’s, said, “In my view, Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob.” Illustration by Oliver Munday / Animation by James Iacobelli / Photograph by Andrew Toth / Getty

How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.

Reclusive

By Jane Mayer A Reporter at Large

March 27, 2017 Issue

Last month, when President Donald Trump toured a Boeing aircraft plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, he saw a familiar face in the crowd that greeted him: Patrick Caddell, a former Democratic political operative and pollster who, for forty-five years, has been prodding insurgent Presidential candidates to attack the Washington establishment. Caddell, who lives in Charleston, is perhaps best known for helping Jimmy Carter win the 1976 Presidential race. He is also remembered for having collaborated with his friend Warren Beatty on the 1998 satire “Bulworth.” In that film, a kamikaze candidate abandons the usual talking points and excoriates both the major political parties and the media; voters love his unconventionality, and he becomes improbably popular. If the plot sounds familiar, there’s a reason: in recent years, Caddell has offered political advice to Trump. He has not worked directly for the President, but at least as far back as 2013 he has been a contractor for one of Trump’s biggest financial backers: Robert Mercer, a reclusive Long Island hedge-fund manager, who has become a major force behind the Trump Presidency.

During the past decade, Mercer, who is seventy, has funded an array of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise. Among these efforts was public-opinion research, conducted by Caddell, showing that political conditions in America were increasingly ripe for an outsider candidate to take the White House. Caddell told me that Mercer “is a libertarian—he despises the Republican establishment,” and added, “He thinks that the leaders are corrupt crooks, and that they’ve ruined the country.”

Trump greeted Caddell warmly in North Charleston, and after giving a speech he conferred privately with him, in an area reserved for V.I.P.s and for White House officials, including Stephen Bannon, the President’s top strategist, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Caddell is well known to this inner circle. He first met Trump in the eighties. (“People said he was just a clown,” Caddell said. “But I’ve learned that you should always pay attention to successful ‘clowns.’ ”) Caddell shared the research he did for Mercer with Trump and others in the campaign, including Bannon, with whom he has partnered on numerous projects.

The White House declined to divulge what Trump and Caddell discussed in North Charleston, as did Caddell. But that afternoon Trump issued perhaps the most incendiary statement of his Presidency: a tweet calling the news media “the enemy of the American people.” The proclamation alarmed liberals and conservatives alike. William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who commanded the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, called Trump’s statement a “threat to democracy.” The President is known for tweeting impulsively, but in this case his words weren’t spontaneous: they clearly echoed the thinking of Caddell, Bannon, and Mercer. In 2012, Caddell gave a speech at a conference sponsored by Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, in which he called the media “the enemy of the American people.” That declaration was promoted by Breitbart News, a platform for the pro-Trump alt-right, of which Bannon was the executive chairman, before joining the Trump Administration. One of the main stakeholders in Breitbart News is Mercer.

…(read more).

FOCUS: Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

Donald Trump. (photo: Bill Clark/RollCall)
By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News 18 March 17

onald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds—roughly 31 percent—taking the agency’s annual budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the smallest since it was formed in 1970. These cuts will cripple regulation of air and water quality, strip oversight of a wide range of land management programs, and loosen restrictions on chemical emissions from industrial facilities.

Much of this money would be shifted directly over to the military, which the Trump Administration wants to bolster with an additional $54 billion over the final Obama allocations.

As Wenona Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, the cuts would lower staff to about 11,800, in an agency that employed 17,000 in 2010 and, according to the Washington Post, about 15,000 today.“We should be clear that 90 percent of EPA programs are run by state agencies,” Hauter says.“Half that staff is located in regional offices.

The cuts, says Hauter, would cripple the states’ ability to protect clean air and water across the country.

Following through on his campaign promise to reduce the EPA to “little tidbits,” Trump’s budget defunds more than 50 programs. These include infrastructure improvement on Indian reservations, major projects to clean up Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, a wide range of renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, numerous climate change research programs, national heritage sites, environmental justice programs, oceanographic research and preservation, and much more. Gina McCarthy, a former EPA official under Obama, described it as “a scorched earth budget that represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land.”

Some of the immediate opposition has crossed party lines. Ohio’s recently re-elected Republican Senator Rob Portman, a close associate of former President George W. Bush, strongly opposed cuts to the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies warned, “if such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”

Among the programs affected will be popular Energy Star campaigns that set efficiency standards for household and other appliances. The program is well-established and popular among large manufacturers seeking marketing tools in a highly competitive global business. “It’s alarming and bewildering to see the Trump Administration propose cuts to critical government programs that support clean energy innovation, helped create thousands of new jobs, and saved Americans millions on their utility bills,” says Amit Ronen, Director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute.

(read more).

G20 leaders rollback commitment to free trade, anti-protectionism

The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration – Jan 16, 2015

Abstract + Article + PDF

The ‘Great Acceleration’ graphs, originally published in 2004 to show socio-economic and Earth System trends from 1750 to 2000, have now been updated to 2010. In the graphs of socio-economic trends, where the data permit, the activity of the wealthy (OECD) countries, those countries with emerging economies, and the rest of the world have now been differentiated. The dominant feature of the socio-economic trends is that the economic activity of the human enterprise continues to grow at a rapid rate. However, the differentiated graphs clearly show that strong equity issues are masked by considering global aggregates only. Most of the population growth since 1950 has been in the non-OECD world but the world’s economy (GDP), and hence consumption, is still strongly dominated by the OECD world.

The Earth System indicators, in general, continued their long-term, post-industrial rise, although a few, such as atmospheric methane concentration and stratospheric ozone loss, showed a slowing or apparent stabilisation over the past decade. The post-1950 acceleration in the Earth System indicators remains clear. Only beyond the mid-20th century is there clear evidence for fundamental shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond the range of variability of the Holocene and driven by human activities. Thus, of all the candidates for a start date for the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration is by far the most convincing from an Earth System science perspective.

Socio-Economic Trends:

Does Anthropocene Science Blame All Humanity? | By Ian Angus | Common Dreams

Though population is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, scientists in the forefront of the Anthropocene project have repeatedly rejected any “all humans are to blame” narrative. (Photo: Doc Searls/flickr/cc)
Published on Tuesday, June 02, 2015   by Climate & Capitalism

The charge that Anthropocene scholars blame all of humanity for the actions of a small minority simply doesn’t hold water. Ecosocialists need to be positive contributors to Anthropocene discussions, not critics sniping from the sidelines.

by Ian Angus

According to Earth System scientists, the Earth has entered a new geological epoch that will be less stable and less hospitable to human life. Because the change is driven by human activity, the proposed name for the new epoch is Anthropocene – from the Greekanthropos, human being.

Recently, some critics have charged that the “Anthropocene narrative” blames humanity as a whole for these changes, ignoring major differences in the nature and extent of environmental change caused by different groups of people. Such concerns are understandable, but overstated – to a considerable degree, they seem to reflect preconceptions about what the Anthropocene concept might mean, rather than serious engagement with the work of the scientists who have defined it.

+ + + + +

It is no secret that some green theorists blame environmental problems on human beings as such. Our species has been labelled a plague, a virus, and a cancer; we’ve been compared to a swarm of locusts, voraciously consuming everything we see; we’re told that people are nature’s enemy, so only radical population reduction can prevent disaster. As Murray Bookchin wrote, Malthusian greens blame environmental crises on “a vague species called humanity – as though people of color were equatable with whites, women with men, the Third World with the First, the poor with the rich, and the exploited with their exploiters.”[1]

…(read more).

The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene since 1945: J. R. McNeill, Peter Engelke

The Earth has entered a new age―the Anthropocene―in which humans are the most powerful influence on global ecology. Since the mid-twentieth century, the accelerating pace of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and population growth has thrust the planet into a massive uncontrolled experiment. The Great Acceleration explains its causes and consequences, highlighting the role of energy systems, as well as trends in climate change, urbanization, and environmentalism.

More than any other factor, human dependence on fossil fuels inaugurated the Anthropocene. Before 1700, people used little in the way of fossil fuels, but over the next two hundred years coal became the most important energy source. When oil entered the picture, coal and oil soon accounted for seventy-five percent of human energy use. This allowed far more economic activity and produced a higher standard of living than people had ever known―but it created far more ecological disruption.

We are now living in the Anthropocene. The period from 1945 to the present represents the most anomalous period in the history of humanity’s relationship with the biosphere. Three-quarters of the carbon dioxide humans have contributed to the atmosphere has accumulated since World War II ended, and the number of people on Earth has nearly tripled. So far, humans have dramatically altered the planet’s biogeochemical systems without consciously managing them. If we try to control these systems through geoengineering, we will inaugurate another stage of the Anthropocene. Where it might lead, no one can say for sure.