Nullius in verba
Media and Crime against women
Stop watching television.
It is creating more damage than good.
Occupy Media. Stop paying money to Media, Movie and Music
Stop Koodankulam nuclear project
The begin of Boss-less horizontal organizations. Must see this movie - The Take
as the most expensive presidential election in U.S. history has come to an end, we turn to an issue that impacts more and more people in this country but was rarely mentioned during the campaign: poverty. The price tag for combined spending by federal candidates, along with their parties and outside groups like super PACs, totaled more than $6 billion. This is especially striking at a time when one in six Americans is poor, with over 16 million children living in poverty. Poverty rates for blacks and Latinos are twice as high as the rates for whites. There is greater poverty among women than men, and the rate of women living in extreme poverty has reached record highs.
But a study released by the media watchdog group FAIR—that’s Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting—they reveal that poverty as an issue has been nearly invisible in U.S. media coverage of the 2012 presidential race. It found just 17 of the 10,489 campaign stories studied—that’s 0.2 percent—addressed poverty in any substantive way.
Critics have pointed out that President Obama was viewed as the anti-poverty candidate in 2008, but his re-election bid four years later has barely mentioned the poor, even though their numbers have gone up.
Cornel West talking:
I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.
Richard Nixon is to the left of him on healthcare. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on guaranteed income. And the same policies in terms of imperial foreign policy is at work. And so, I was glad to see that Romney didn’t win. We pushed back a right-wing takeover. We’ve got a right-wing mentality: cut, cut, cut, austerity, austerity, austerity. Where is the serious talk about investment in jobs, fighting the privatizing of education, and the empowerment of trade unions? And so, our battle is just beginning. We have yet to take off the gloves. You know, we’ve been fighting intensely.
Tavis Smiley talking:
you asked a moment ago whether I was watching Fox on election night, and the answer is no. This is precisely why I wasn’t watching Fox on election night. It’s also why I don’t watch a lot of MSNBC, either. I don’t like being spun to the right, and I don’t like being spun to the left. What I prefer is to get at some truth, and that’s why I appreciate Democracy Now! and other programs that are trying to get at the hard truths that Americans don’t want to deal with.
I don’t know where to start in terms of deconstructing and dissecting what I just heard. I will tell you this: this is precisely why the Republicans lost. And if they think this is the narrative that’s going to help them win into the future, then they need to put down the crack pipe. They’re stuck on stupid if they think this strategy is a winning strategy. The reality is simply this—and you’ve discussed this on this program, so this is nothing new, obviously: in the most multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic America ever, that dog just won’t hunt. If they cannot figure out a way to expand their base, the GOP is going down.
Now, I don’t like the two-party system. I surely don’t want to live in a one-party state. So I appreciate competition. I wish there were more parties, obviously. But again, if this is the narrative they think they can sell to the American people into the future and help them win elections, I don’t know what they’re thinking. So, this is a—it’s tragic to listen to. It’s really—it’s an echo chamber to our right, because this really sounds like Mitt Romney on the videotape that came out about the 47 percent.
if that’s the kind of rhetoric that they’re going to continue to engage in, go for it. I have no problem with Fox or Bill or Rush continuing to push that kind of agenda, because, again, it is not a winning strategy in this country to attack Hispanics, to attack African Americans, to attack women, to suggest that we’re all a part of a welfare state, that we’re all dependent on government. And in nowhere—at no point in either of those diatribes did you hear the truth, which is that the majority of Americans on welfare are white Americans. They are not black. They are not Hispanic. And so, that truth just gets lost in the matrix.
This was a campaign for the White House of extremes, a campaign of extremes. Too much money, as Dr. West already said—morally profane that we’d spend $6 billion, so too much money.
Too much time. I think, you know, we’ve got to get to a point of rethinking how we do presidential politics in this country, from the Electoral College to the money, to the debates, but too much time is spent on the campaign. It used to be that the campaigning would stop and the governing would start. Now there’s no line between the two.
And thirdly, too many lies told. And these were examples, again, of the lies that we heard in this campaign. The fact checkers had to work overtime in this campaign to try to get the truth to the American people. So a campaign of extremes. It’s time for us to rethink how we do presidential politics. But again, if this is the storyline that they want to run, let them run it, because they’re going to run themselves into oblivion with this.
Cornel West talking:
The lie at the center of both of them—Brother Rush and Brother Bill—the white liberal establishment is not a majority. The elite white liberal establishment is a minority. The white poor is not part of that. The white working class is not part of that.
If you really want to talk about being dependent on government, $16 trillion for Wall Street, not one of them gone to jail involved in the criminal activity linked to predatory lending, market manipulation or insider trading. The government protects them. Jamal gets caught with a crack bag; he going to jail. But Mr. McGillicuddy gets caught on Wall Street; he’s protected by the government. Neither administration—Bush, Obama—have any investigations, no prosecutions at all. So the folk who are really dependent, they get interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve. Wouldn’t it be nice if students could get interest-free loans?
So, Rush and Bill, they got to tell the truth: the white elite is very dependent on government. They get welfare anytime they want it, with no strings attached. So that’s the lie at the center of both of their views. And it’s not majority. White brothers and sisters are catching hell who are not part of the 1 percent.
Tavis Smiley talking:
I’ve known Michael Eric Dyson for a long time, and I love him with all of my heart. It is so disappointing, though, to hear Michael, Professor Dyson, advance that kind of argument. He comes out of a black prophetic tradition that is rooted in speaking truth to power—and, I might add, to the powerless. But to somehow try to suggest in any way that this president has been progressive or is the best example of progressivism that we could put forth in this country is just inaccurate.
This is precisely why Dr. West and I and others—you know, we don’t have a monopoly on the truth, and we’re not the only ones—but this is why we believe that the president has to be pushed. I’ve said so many times across the nation that great presidents aren’t born, they’re made. They have to be pushed into their greatness. There is no Abraham Lincoln—I just saw the movie coming out this weekend, I think, the Lincoln project. And Lincoln isn’t Lincoln if Frederick Douglass isn’t pushing him. FDR isn’t FDR if A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt aren’t pushing him. LBJ isn’t LBJ if MLK isn’t pushing him.
And so, what I hear in Professor Dyson’s critique is that there is some excuse to be made or that we have to settle for this as the best example of progressivism that we can find. And Doc and I just don’t believe in settling. We don’t believe in making excuses. We believe that if he is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president. And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. But that doesn’t happen unless you’re pushed.
So, the excuse making and the settling for the fact that this is the best that we can do—can you imagine what this country would be if women had settled? “This is the best that we can do”? If black folk in slavery and segregation had said, “This is the best that we can do”? That’s not—that’s not even the spirit of America, much less the spirit of those who come out of the black prophetic tradition. So that’s disappointing to hear, even though I love him with all my heart.
Cornel West talking:
And Brother Tavis is being very kind, because he’s right. I love Brother Mike Dyson, too, but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.
And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.
When FDR says, “Bring the economic royalists on; they are my foes. I’m fighting on behalf of poor people,” has Obama not just said that, but done that? Did LBJ, who declared a war on poverty, that generated the kind of legislation against American terrorism called Jim and Jane Crow for voting and—come on, Dyson. But it’s not just what he said there; it’s what he’s been saying as a whole. Brother Glen Ford crushed him in that debate. Listen to what the arguments are. You see what I mean? And again, we’re sending out our love for Dyson, because he’s been our partner, and he can be our partner again. But these kind of lies, we can’t live with.
Tavis Smiley talking:
And to me, the most progressive—I want to add right quick, to me, the most progressive means that you’re taking some serious risk.
And I just don’t see the example of that. Even the healthcare debate, the president compromised against himself. He watered down what he promised on the campaign trail before we got serious. The promising—the promise of an open debate on C-SPAN never really quite materialized. So, I’m not suggesting that I’m unhappy with the fact that we got something done on healthcare, but it’s nowhere near what it was supposed to be.
And again, if you’re going to label somebody “the most progressive,” you’ve got to show me where the risk was taken. Lincoln took risk. FDR took risk. LBJ took risk. We know, famously, LBJ said, “I know that advancing this legislation, voting rights and civil rights, is going to lose my party the South for two decades.” And he turned out to be right, but it was the right thing to do at that time. And so, that’s what we’re saying.
In the president’s forward motion in the second term to establish a legacy—and I don’t think that being president ought to be about a legacy; it ought to be about advancing the best for the American people. But in this conversation about his legacy, I want to see what risk he’s going to take. Is he going to put himself on the line for poor people? Is he going have an honest conversation about drones? As Doc said earlier, you know, is he ever going to say the word prison—the phrase, “prison-industrial complex”? Reagan wouldn’t say “AIDS.” Bush wouldn’t say “climate change.” Will Obama say “prison-industrial complex”? I mean, I want to know where the risk is that equates to being the most progressive president ever. That’s the—I don’t get that.
Cornel West talking:
Is it progressive to sign the National Defense Authorization Act, in which you can actually detain American citizens with no due process, no judicial process, to assassinate American citizens based on executive power? That’s not—that is authoritarian. That’s autocratic. It’s crypto-fascist. We have to call it for what it is. Drones are war crimes. We have to call it for what it is. That’s the tradition that produced us. That’s what Frederick Douglass is about. That’s what Ida B. Wells is about. That’s what Abraham Joshua Heschel at his best was. That’s what Dorothy Day was. That’s our tradition. Now, if one doesn’t want to be part of that tradition and be inside of the White House, then stay in the White House and have a good time and breakdance. But don’t lie. Don’t try to tell us that lies are the truth.
I draw distinction between campaigns and movements. Movements are highly sophisticated forms of bringing power and pressure to bear on the status quo. Campaigns are attempts to mobilize in order to support candidates inside of a system. And they play a role and so forth, but there was not a social movement.
We haven’t had a social movement really since the gay brothers and lesbian sisters tried to break the back of homophobia, going—before that, the feminist movement and then the great black freedom movement called the civil rights movement. Those are very rare. Usually the leaders are repressed and diluted—or diluted, so that right now, the left, we are weak. We are feeble. The Occupy movement was a tremendous expression of voices, but it was not a movement that was crystallizing in any way.
But we are bouncing back. A democratic awakening is taking place, thanks to Democracy Now! and Tavis’s show and so forth. But at the moment, we’re still dispersed and scattered.
Tavis Smiley talking:
I’m now in my 20th year in the broadcast business, and most of that time has been spent in public media spaces—NPR, PBS, PRI—and that’s by choice. I could be in a commercial space if I chose to be, I came from BET, came from CNN. I came from ABC. I’ve done the commercial thing. But I love the public radio and public TV space, because it allows us to get a different kind of truth, and I don’t have to respond to all the pressures from corporate media when you’re playing that particular game. And I have respect for my friends who do it; it’s just not for me at this point in my life. So I’ve done this for a long time.
This has been an uphill battle all along for me. It’s tragic to consider that, at my age, I’m the first person of color in the history NPR to have his own daily show. And that started in 2002. 2004, I become the first person of color in the history of PBS to have his own show every night on PBS. That’s how late to the game public TV and public radio have been in terms of giving people of color a space to operate inside of, so that when a station like WBEZ in Chicago—a great station—but when a station like WBEZ in Chicago starts making excuses for why they drop Smiley & West, when we believe and know this was all about the politics—this is the president’s home town, and they didn’t want us on the air in the last six weeks of the campaign talking about holding the president accountable and pushing him on why he’s not talking about poverty and why he’s not talking about the drones. So a decision was made here in his home town, without our knowledge, without our consultation, to just simply pull the plug on the Smiley & West show, again, without any forewarning. When that happened, you know, the citizenry here in Chicago who supports BEZ and listens to our program went crazy.
It was replaced with a repeat of Car Talk, which is not—which, as you know, is no longer even in production. Car Talk was a very popular show for years, but it’s not even in production anymore. So they pulled us off and started running repeats of Car Talk. So, that got a lot of conversation going in the city.
To make a long story short, this is not about Smiley & West being canceled. This is about the democratization of public media. It’s about the lack of diversity in public media. Something is wrong when a black man from Chicago has a better chance of being president of the United States than he does of hosting a talk show in prime time on public radio in Chicago. So all these excuses continue to be made. I’ve been fighting this battle for years. And when I talk about diversity, I don’t mean just ethnic diversity. I mean ideological diversity. For all the criticisms that public media takes for being part of the liberal media bias, we ain’t so liberal, when you listen to the ideology, when you see the lack of ethnic diversity.
And so, the good news is, without going, you know, on so long, because I don’t believe in spending too much time on what’s prologue, the reality is that within 24 hours a number of stations in Chicago called and said, “We would love to carry Smiley & West.” And so, part of our being in Chicago alongside you last night was to talk about democratizing public media and to celebrate with our listenership the fact that there are two stations in Chicago now—WCPT, Chicago Progressive Talk, and WVON, the Talk of Chicago—two stations now that are carrying the program. So we lose one station and pick up two. So, if every time I get canceled by somebody, if I can pick up two in the place of one, keep canceling me. I can live with that.
Cornel West talking:
Keep canceling. Keep canceling. You know, but Brother Tavis makes the point with great insight that when public broadcasting was first initiated under Johnson, it was for children and people of color. But it has become a white liberal elitist bastion, as if white liberal elitists own it. And so, the voices of red, our indigenous brothers and sisters, Latino, black, Asian, don’t play a fundamental role. That needs to be radically called into question. And our white liberal elitists, they need to understand that this is part of the critique that they have to come to terms with.
Tavis Smiley talking:
One of the things that—to answer your question expressly, where do we go from here, we continue using these platforms every week and every night to try to speak truth, again, to power and to the powerless. And I’m about to start my 10th year on PBS, so that show is going extremely strong. I’m 13 years now on the public radio. So I’m very blessed to be where I am with these platforms.
And with regard to poverty, specifically, where we go next is January the 17th in Washington. We are having another national symposium, just three days before the president gets inaugurated, talking about poverty. The confirmations are coming in. We’re bringing together this time the leaders in the poverty—the anti-poverty movement. We’re talking Marian Wright Edelman, confirmed. We’re talking Jeffrey Sachs, confirmed. We’re talking Cornel West, confirmed. We’re talking Jonathan Kozol, confirmed. We’re bringing together leaders in this movement, and we’re going to talk about the president calling a White House conference to eradicate poverty.
Cornel West talking:
In America, we are 34 out of 35 of the top industrial countries when it comes to child poverty, ahead only of Romania. Thirty-four of 35. Twenty-two percent of our precious children of all colors live in poverty in the richest nation in the history of the world. That’s obscene and profane. No serious talk about it. Now, in the black community, it’s nearly 40 percent; in red, 40 percent; brown, nearly 40 percent of the children. Shameful silence on behalf of leaders who do not want to tell the truth about the suffering of poor people. On top of that, corporate greed. On top of that, political indifference. On top of that, a silencing and a sidelining of progressive voices over the last four years.
Tavis Smiley talking:
So there are myriad reasons how we arrived at this place. The ultimate question now is, to whatever extent—to whatever extent there is hope in a second term for President Obama, the ultimate question is—that we raised in our gathering last night here in Chicago—are we ready to push? And that’s why Dr. West and I love that Curtis Mayfield song, “Keep on Pushing.” That’s the only option that we have at this point. You know, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of nation do we want to be? And what kind of demos are we going to be to make the nation that we want to live in? So I’m hoping that those of us on the left, who have been so quiet, are going to start to push this president.
I noted, as we all did very—the day after the election, and to their great credit, the Latino leadership called a national press conference, a national conference call, and they went on record the day after, letting the president and the whole world know what they had done to elect Barack Obama to a second term. And they laid out immediately what their expectations were, what their demands were. So there’s a long line wrapped around the White House now to push him. But the Latino leaders, they get it. They didn’t waste any time saying, “We got you re-elected, and here’s what we expect.”
Twenty-first of January. And so, just three or four days prior to that, on the 17th, we’re gathering at George Washington University for a live symposium on C-SPAN and on PBS and on public radio. But we’re talking specifically about how we get this president—demanding, in fact, that he call a White House conference on the eradication of poverty. To his credit, the first thing he did when he got elected four years ago was to sign Lilly Ledbetter. We’re demanding now that he call immediately a White House conference on the eradication of poverty, bring together all the experts, from the left and the right, and let’s craft a national plan to cut poverty in half in 10 years, to move toward eradicating it in 25 years. This is not a skill problem; it’s a will problem. Do we have the will to do this? And he ought to take a page out of Lyndon Johnson’s playbook. You know, if he wants to hit—if he wants to aim for the fences, you know, if he want to be a great American president, if he wants to leave behind a legacy—and we read in the New York Times, from all his private talks with these historians, that that’s what he wants to do: he wants to leave a legacy, he wants to be a great transformational president—we say take on the issue of poverty, so that all of America benefits. So, January the 17th, we’re going to have this national conversation, pushing him and demanding—and all these leaders have bought into this. I mentioned Jeffrey Sachs and Marian Wright Edelman and Cornel West and Jonathan Kozol and others, who are coming together. And we’re going to have, obviously, an opportunity for folk to go online, as they watch this symposium live, to sign the letter to the president that he get serious about calling a White House conference to eradicate poverty.
How do you end poverty in America?
Cornel West talking:
Well, you have to have an awakening, and you have to have people who are willing to put their bodies on the line. I think what is happening now, moving into the second term, the black prophetic tradition has waken up. What’s the brother from Howard? Brother Keith, open letter — to Obama in the Washington Post. Strong. Fredrick Harris, Columbia, Price of the Ticket, strong. Boyce Watkins, already strong. Julianne Malveaux, bell hooks, Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon and Nellie Bailey. There is an awakening that’s—and when the black prophetic tradition wakes up, you got something, because then you got Jamal and Leticia on the block beginning to say, “I need to talk politically, not be addicted to this cultural, superficial spectacle.” And that’s what we’re about.
the whole discussion now about the bipartisan consensus. Republican House Speaker John Boehner told newly re-elected President Obama he wants to see Obama succeed.
Tavis Smiley talking:
I appreciate the sentiment. But their words, at the moment, we will see what kind of truth there is, what kind of authenticity there is behind those words, when the president, now back in Washington, sits down Republicans to deal with that word that I hate—sequestration—when we start dealing with these cuts that are on the table. We’ve said many times that budgets are moral documents. Budgets are moral documents. When they get into the weeds about these numbers and about the budget priorities, we will see how strong that sentiment comes through.
part of the reason why the race was as close as it was, getting down to the wire, is because too often in the first term, the president compromised, capitulated, caved, and oftentimes negotiate against himself with Republicans. And so, I hope that we’ve learned a lesson—that he’s learned a lesson, the White House has learned a lesson, from the first administration, that sometimes you’ve got to draw a line in the sand. And as my grandfather said, there’s some fights that ain’t worth fighting even if you win, but there are other fights you have to fight even if you lose. So I would love this notion of bipartisanship to come to the fore in Washington, but if that doesn’t happen, the president has to stand on a—on some immutable principles and try to advance the conversation.
it’s the bipartisan consensus that’s the problem in Washington, not the gridlock
Cornel West talking:
You got the far right, and then you’ve got the center-right—the Republican Party, Democratic Party. And without no one who’s really progressive on the left telling the truth about the suffering. But, you know, the truth is, is that, you know, if 40 percent of white babies were going to bed every night either starving or not having enough to eat, it would be a different discussion. And each baby has the same value, but we’ve got 40 percent of the babies of color who are going to bed without, and we’re told to be silent and somehow capitulate to a debate about deficit, when we know we need massive investment for jobs with a living wage, massive investment for public housing, massive investment for public education, and we’re getting privatization on each front? There’s no way we’re going to be silent. You would have to crush us to the earth and introduce us to the worms before we’re going to be silent.
But the important thing is not to focus on that. That’s lunatic fringe. You focus on the suffering and what can be done about the suffering. As long as we focus solely on the xenophobic, right-wing fringe, there’s always going to be one. We’ve got 1,100 white supremacist militia groups in America, coming at us all the time. We can’t be obsessed with that. We’ve got to be obsessed with trying to do something that’s positive and changes the world, you see.
Tavis Smiley talking:
In 10 seconds, racism is still the most intractable issue in this country. And I know you saw this report a couple of weeks ago, just before Election Day, that finds that racial attitudes in this country have not changed at all. In four years, the needle has not moved on race relations. So, so much for the post-racial America that Mr. Obama’s election was going to usher in. It’s still the most intractable issue in the country.
Cornel West talking:
And we had a magnificent time. Started with indigenous peoples on the reservation. We went to white poor, brown poor, black poor, yellow poor, trying to allow all the voices to be heard. Color of Change, De-incarcerate, Janitors for Justice—all the different organizational groups that are bubbling from below, of all colors, especially younger generation.
Tavis Smiley talking:
That’s why we call it A Poverty Manifesto. In the back of the book, the last part of the book, 10 specific things that can be done, that must be done, to eradicate poverty in this country. And one of those 10 is taking on this prison-industrial complex. And we hope that the president and that those in the White House who are serious about creating his legacy, whatever that means, will consider doing something about poverty in this country. It is threatening our democracy. It is now a matter of national security. When people have no hope for the future, they have no power in the present. Something must be done to save this democracy by doing something about this growing gap between the have-gots and the have-nots, about this gap between the rich and the rest of us. And we’re going to keep pushing the president, lovingly, respectfully, but keep talking about this issue.
- source democracynow.org
British Grocer Expands Israeli Settlement Boycott
A leading British supermarket chain has extended its boycott of Israeli goods made in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Co-operative Group, Britain’s fifth-largest grocer, says it will now cut business ties with any companies known to source from the settlements. The co-operative has boycotted settlement products since 2009.
2 NYC Pension Funds to Target Wal-Mart Directors in Shareholder Vote
In the latest fallout from the Wal-Mart bribery scandal in Mexico, a group of New York City pension funds have announced plans to vote against the re-election of five Wal-Mart directors at the company’s upcoming shareholders’ meeting. The directors targeted include Wal-Mart chair Rob Walton, Chief Executive Michael Duke and former CEO Lee Scott.
British Parliament: Rupert Murdoch Not Fit to Run Media Company
A British parliamentary report has found Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run a major international media company in light of the widespread phone-hacking scandal at News Corp. A committee of British MPs said Murdoch and his son, James, showed “willful blindness” about the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World tabloid. The report states: “Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators.” The report goes on to say “the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance.” Labour MP Tom Watson spoke soon after the report was released.
Tom Watson: “Powerful people were involved in a cover-up, and they still haven’t accepted responsibility. And after all of this, the story is not yet over. These people corrupted our country. They brought shame on our police force and our parliament. They lied and cheated, blackmailed and bullied, and we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for so long. But to really stop requires more than tokenistic retribution. It needs conclusive attribution. The very cornerstone of justice is that those really responsible are held to account, that the rich and powerful are as low in the face of the law as the most humble and weak. And everybody in the world knows who is responsible for the wrongdoing of News Corp.: Rupert Murdoch. More than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper, and he called the tune. It is his company, his culture, his people, his business, his failures, his lies, his crimes, the price of profits and his power.”
Just days before the elections, Bloomberg announced his decision in an op-ed entitled, “A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change.=,” writing, quote, “We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption.” Bloomberg compared the records of Obama and Mitt Romney. He wrote, quote, “One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”
Bloomberg’s endorsement is particularly striking because much of the news media has barely mentioned climate change, even in the lead-up or aftermath of the superstorm. There were also no questions addressed to the presidential candidates on climate change in the course of the three presidential debates. Also, Mayor Bloomberg was a Republican who turned independent.
One of the news outlets that’s broken the silence on climate change is the magazine Bloomberg Businessweek. The cover story this week is called “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” To talk more about the issue, we’re joined by the author of the cover story, Paul Barrett, assistant managing editor at Bloomberg Businessweek.
Paul Barrett talking:
What we tried to do with the article is make a very sort of straightforward survey of what information we know about climate change and how it relates to this most recent very extreme storm. And I think the crucial point here, at least to start with, is that you’re not—we’re not in a position to say that global warming caused this particular storm, but what we are in a position to say, and what the overwhelming majority of scientists, people who know about climate, who know about weather, are saying, is that as a result of climate change—and this is a man-made climate change—we have a larger environment, a larger atmospheric situation in which storms are going to be more severe and in which we are likely to see very, very difficult storms such as this one with more frequency.
In our article, I quoted a guy from the Environmental Defense Fund named Eric Pooley, who knows a lot about this, and Eric made the analogy to baseball. He said—in connection with the disgraced slugger Barry Bonds, he said, you couldn’t attribute Bonds’s use of steroids to any one home run he hit, but only a fool would think that steroids had nothing to do with the number of home runs that Barry Bonds ultimately hit and how far he hit them. And I think that that’s a good analogy for people who may be a little science-phobic, like I am, to think about this. It’s not that you can point to one storm and say, “Ah, global warming caused that,” because there are many factors that go into extreme weather. But overall, the fact that the oceans are higher, that the water is warmer, that there’s more moisture in the atmosphere, that the Arctic ice is melting, those are facts, and it’s time to accept those facts.
One of the interesting and very relevant things about this particular storm is that it took that very hard, sharp left turn into the East Coast of the United States rather than drifting out to sea. And one of the theories about why it did that has to do with atmospheric patterns that begin over the Arctic Ocean and that resulted in cold air coming down over Canada and colliding with the warm air from the hurricane, forming not just an ordinary storm, but this superstorm, as you’ve been calling it. And there’s been work on climate, on—research done that suggests that the melting of the Arctic ice contributed to these atmospheric patterns that pushed the cold air down, and that, in a sense, super-energized the storm, added a lot of energy and geographic reach to the storm, and made it not just an ordinary hurricane, but this much more extreme event. And that’s a good illustration. It’s not that there would not have been a hurricane. There would have been a hurricane either way, but this became an extraordinary hurricane combined with this cold air from over Canada, it seems, as a result of the larger atmospheric patterns changing.
after surveying some of the science, to talk about this really interesting report from a German reinsurance company called Munich Re. The “Re” refers to reinsurance, which is the insurance that is purchased by other insurance companies as back-up insurance. Munich Re is a company that, in one sense, compiles data in a very kind of bloodless, profit-oriented way in order to figure out what the costs are going to be related to storm hazards, among other disasters.
And Munich Re put this report out on October 17th, before the storm, before we had any sense that it was going to be as extreme as it was. And what it reported was that basically extreme weather has been—has gotten more frequent, more intense, particularly as it happens in North America, and the insurance company is saying that they are now beyond the debate over whether climate change is real. They have accepted that, and they are calling on industry to deal with it as a statistical reality. And I thought that was a nice accompaniment to the scientific research, because the Munich Re guys are not doing basic climate research; they’re simply surveying the money that they pay out over time. And they’re saying, “We’ve been paying out more billions in recent decades than we had anticipated. We see a trend, and we can see no explanation other than the relationship to global warming.”
I think one of the interesting questions is when we in the United States will accept that reality. And you can see that in sort of mundane, ordinary, day-to-day human terms. Will we accept that actually it no longer works to live on barrier islands that are at sea level right on the ocean, when there are going to be hurricanes every year? Because while hurricanes have been part of that way of life for a long time, if the hurricanes are now going to be more frequent, more intense, and are going to continue to wash the towns away, we have to ask ourselves serious questions as to whether we want to spend the billions of dollars to keep rebuilding those communities. At the same time, we’re not going to pick—pack up Manhattan and move it away. So there’s going to—we’re going to have to seriously address whether we need storm protections around lower Manhattan similar to those that we have in coastal communities like New Orleans. I mean, this is a very serious question. I think we’re going, over time, to have to admit that we—if we’re going to live and work in lower Manhattan, we’re going to need levees and storm protection systems there such as we’ve had in other parts of the country.
this is not just a question of the private marketplace at work, because in fact in a lot of these communities, it’s no longer possible to get private insurance. The insurance companies have basically had it with that marketplace, realizing as they do, in their strictly dollars-and-cents analysis, that you can’t profitably insure towns on barrier islands along the Atlantic. So, in fact, you and I are insuring those towns through federally sponsored flood insurance. And we need to make a policy decision, collectively as a country, do we want to continue to extend that insurance? Because we’re basically encouraging people to rebuild their houses and their restaurants and so forth in those communities, and I think we need to have a serious debate about whether that makes any sense anymore.
comments of Mitt Romney and also President Obama in the debates. As you said, never once in the three debates was climate change mentioned, or global warming, neither by the candidates nor by our colleagues in the press
not just oil drilling, but also for the use of coal, which is, you know, by far, when you’re talking about the electricity market, the fossil fuel that contributes the most carbon dioxide when it’s burned, and there—there was always a competition over who loved coal more.
The strange thing about that is that if you know what Obama’s actual record is, there was a certain dissonance between his record and his comments on coal. He’s actually—as a result of regulations that his administration put in place, rules they’ve proposed, they have done quite a bit in terms of putting ceilings on emissions of carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, that have actually already resulted in big energy companies, utilities, closing a lot of old, dirty coal plants. So we have made some small steps in the direction of shifting from coal to fuels like natural gas, which emits something like half the carbon dioxide that coal does.
But in the presidential campaign, clearly, President Obama and his advisers made a strategic decision that they were not going to run on that record; instead, I guess because they see the economy is very fragile and because they didn’t want to take this on head-on, they ended up dueling with Romney over who was more enthusiastic about drilling oil and mining coal.
- source democracynow.org
Bloomberg, what about OWS?
A new documentary looks at how photographer James Balog captured climate change on film by placing two dozen time-lapse cameras throughout the Arctic and other areas to document melting glaciers. The film chronicles Balog’s work with the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography project that works to preserve a visual legacy of how climate change and other human activity impacts the planet. Balog is an award-winning photographer whose work revolves around the relationship between humans and nature.
James Balog talking:
I’ve been fascinated by glaciers and big mountains for basically my entire adult life, since I started being a mountaineer. And that interest and life experience led me into realizing that ice was the place where you could—you could get a three-dimensional manifestation of climate change. You know, climate change is kind of abstract; a lot of it’s based on statistics and measurements and projections. But in ice, you really see climate change in action. It’s rendered in three dimensions.
So, I had an assignment from The New Yorker, and then that led to a National Geographic assignment, and that in turn led to realizing that if we put time-lapse cameras out, we could make a running record of how the landscape was changing. So, as we sit here this morning, we have 34 time-lapse cameras at 16 glaciers in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Montana, in the Northern Rockies, and in Nepal by Mount Everest. And these cameras are just sitting there clicking away. And in about another, you know, 10 minutes or so, we’ll have 34 of our little robot eyes opening and closing and capturing the memory of what’s happening in those places right now.
this glacier is called Columbia Glacier. It’s in south-central Alaska. And it’s deflating due to a combination of climate change and local glacier dynamics. But that glacier is retreated now—since that shot was taken, it’s probably pulled back close to another half-mile or a mile.
And it continues sort of in a rapid retreat, and it will go crawling its way back up the valley. And all that ice that was once there is now part of the Pacific Ocean. It’s melted away, and it’s gone.
These big rivers of ice come flowing down these valleys, and when they meet a body of water, like a lake or like the ocean, they form this big wall that’s called a calving face. And that wall is anywhere from 200-, in a few cases maybe 400-, feet high. It’s between 200- and 400-feet high. And when a calving event happens, these massive icebergs just come toppling off the front face of the glacier, and they become these big things that are bobbing in the water, floating out to sea. What also happens, though, is that if you see 200 feet above water, there’s probably somewhere between eight and 10 times that vertical distance underneath the water. There’s a lot ice that’s under the sea surface. And all of that breaks off in these big chunks and goes floating out. It’s quite dramatic.
Jeff and one of our other field team, Adam LeWinter, were actually there at Ilulissat Glacier.
Jeff Orlowski talking:
I shot that with our other friend, Adam. We knew that these calving events happened every once in a while, but we didn’t know when. And so, we scheduled a month-long trip where we would maintain a 24-hour vigil just to capture something like this. It was in May. We had 24 hours of daylight. The two of us had eight-hour shifts, and we kept—somebody was awake every single minute of every single day for that entire period. And we were just waiting for something big like that to happen. What we caught, it turns out it’s the largest calving event that’s ever been documented, that’s ever been shot like that. And that’s one of the featured scenes in the film.
it’s very interesting having that real boots-on-the-ground experience and seeing how the planet is changing, and then seeing the political commentary around it. You know, the president is in a tough position, and a lot of the politicians are, because they hear two sides of the story. I mean, we’re hearing the science and the scientists and kind of—you know, it’s very unanimous: 97 percent of the climate experts all agree that it’s happening, it’s man-made, we need to do something about it. But in Washington, they’ve got six lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry, at least, for every member of the Senate and the House. So they’re hearing a very, very different skewed story on the reality of the situation. What we were trying to do was to capture evidence, to capture imagery, that takes it away from this bipartisan debate and tries to move the conversation forward.
people kept asking us, “What are the consequences of climate change? So what? Why does it matter if the ice melts? It’s in Greenland, and it’s thousands of miles away.” And we were trying to relate that to people. The scientists have been telling us for decades that because of warming temperatures, because of melting ice, events like Sandy are going to happen with greater frequency, or they’re going to get more violent. And that’s really the end result. That’s what climate change represents, is more events like Sandy.
James Balog talking:
I didn’t particularly believe in climate change decades ago. I thought it was based on computer models, and I really didn’t have it in my psyche that it was possible for humans to change the basic physics and chemistry of this gigantic planet. It just didn’t seem probable.
I’ve been profoundly reshaped in my own mind, in my own mentality and life experience, by this. I am really, really, really concerned for my daughters’ future. I have a 24-year-old daughter, and I have an 11-year-old daughter. And I’m quite concerned that the—that by the time they get to be our age, they’re going to be living in a world that’s so radically different from what we’re living in, and it might be not such a great world. I think they’re certain to be living in much more violent extremes of weather, with unknowable geopolitical consequences from that, from perhaps agriculture stress, drought stress, whatever. I’m very concerned about the stability and security and safety of the world that my kids will be in.
- source democracynow.org
Jeff Orlowski, is the director of Chasing Ice. He began filming on the initial expedition of the Extreme Ice Survey. That winter, the team scouted and filmed glaciers that now appear in the documentary feature film Chasing Ice.
James Balog, is an award-winning photographer whose work revolves around the relationship between humans and nature. He is featured in the new film, Chasing Ice, which follows his work with the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography project that works to preserve a visual legacy of how climate change and other human activity impacts the planet. Balog is the author of seven books, including, most recently, Ice: Portraits of Vanishing Glaciers.
When the solar manufacturing company Solyndra went bankrupt last September after receiving a $527 million loan guarantee, it sparked a politically motivated congressional investigation into the White House’s handling of the program — an “investigation” that critics admitted would “stop on election day.”
After acquiring 300,000 documents, holding a dozen hearings and official meetings, issuing two subpoenas, and spending more than a million dollars on the investigation, members of Congress failed to present any evidence of political wrongdoing.
Congressional critics have “not shown the loan was granted as a result of political favoritism, despite repeated campaign-trail claims,” reported The Hill.
That didn’t stop special interest groups from spending millions of dollars on television ads this campaign season to trump up the Solyndra bankruptcy and spread “over-the-top, ultimately ridiculous” claims about clean energy programs.
According to a ThinkProgress analysis of independent advertisements from Kantar Media’s CMAG system, outside conservative groups spent $10.78 million on presidential campaign ads between April 1 and Oct. 1 of this year specifically attacking the Solyndra loan or mentioning Solyndra as part of a broader attack on clean energy stimulus spending.
The ads were purchased by the American Energy Alliance, the American Future Fund, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, Karl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, and Let Freedom Ring.
However, the impact of those Solyndra ads on American voters mirrored the outcome of the yearlong congressional investigation into the company: minimal to nothing.
Despite the millions of dollars spent on Solyndra-related television spots over the last five months, polls show that a majority of American voters still don’t know about the company or are indifferent.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from early October showed that 58 percent of registered voters are unaware of Solyndra. The poll also found that one-quarter of registered voters had a negative view of the company and 15 percent had a neutral view.
A day earlier, Hart Research released a poll conducted for the Solar Energy Industries Association showing that 67 percent of registered voters are either indifferent about Solyndra or have heard nothing recently about the company. At the same time, 70 percent of voters said they would support more government incentives to help develop the solar industry.
In addition, an April poll from the Pew Research Center found that 52 percent of Americans believe that “alternatives” to fossil fuels are the most important energy priority for the country, with 39 percent saying coal, oil, and gas should be top priorities. That poll also found that conservative Tea Party males — many of whom would never vote for a moderate candidate to begin with — are the only voters likely to view some level of government support for clean energy negatively.
Special interest groups might be buying millions in clean energy attack ads. But voters sure aren’t buying them.
The wave of money promoting lies and hyperbole on clean energy has pushed the political conversation around energy to the extreme. But the actual impact is limited. Americans still overwhelmingly support clean energy, despite what well-armed political groups say.
- source grist.org
In the 1990s, Gail Fuller stopped tilling his Kansas farm. He and his brother had inherited the farm and he wanted to move away from the way they’d been doing things in the 1970s and ’80s.
“I thought that once you got to no-till that was the answer. But I didn’t change my management practices, so no-till actually failed,” he recalls. “We were doing miserably by the early 2000s.”
Farmers like Fuller use the term “soil management” a lot, and the truth is it means different things on different farms. But when he compares the way he’s farming today to what he was doing 10 years ago, it’s not hard to understand what he means.
“We didn’t rotate our crops, we didn’t have enough crop residue in the soil, our erosion was high, our yields weren’t increasing, and our herbicide was up. We were on the verge of bankruptcy.”
That part about herbicide is important. You see, most conventional corn and soy farmers till — or break up — their soil on a large scale because it helps control the weeds. So it has become common to use more weed killer when you stop tilling. (The practice has been dubbed “chemical no-till” and it’s part of what has made the recent conversation about farm soil controversial.)
Fuller started planting cover crops — crops that, like their name implies, provide a cover to stop the soil from eroding between food crops, and provide a natural source of nutrients as well — and he radically upped the number of grains he grew. In addition to corn and soy, the farmer now grows both winter and spring wheat, winter barley, winter triticale, canola, sunflower, safflower, flax, oats, and peas, to name a few.
“We try to have something growing 24-seven, 365 days a year. I want a living root in the ground at all times.”
Gail Fuller and his soil.
In the larger sense, Fuller became a student of his own soil. And to hear him talk about it is oddly inspiring — even for a city girl who feels lucky if the tomatoes in her backyard don’t die prematurely.
When he first started this process, Fuller says his soil contained only around 1.5 to 2 percent organic matter (the living part of the soil, made up largely of decayed plant material). Now it ranges from 3.5 to 6 percent. “The native grasslands in this part of the country apparently had 6 to 7 percent, but I believe we can go higher than that,” he says.
Why does organic matter in soil, um, matter so much? For one, it makes the soil look different; it’s usually darker, spongier, and full of earthworms. Healthy soil also tends to make crops less vulnerable to pests. And, perhaps most importantly, soil with a lot of organic matter holds a more moisture. This helps farms remain more resilient through both droughts and floods — a huge variable, because while summer may be long gone, in many states, drought is stubbornly staying put.
Many farmers — especially the big corn and soy or “commodity” producers — will receive a controversial form of government-subsidized crop insurance to cover their losses. As Tom Laskawy wrote earlier this summer, it’s a broken cycle wherein most conventional farmers continue to strip the soil of nutrients, making their crops especially vulnerable to extreme weather, and yet we continue to pay them to farm that way through subsidies and insurance payments. According to Laskawy:
In commodity crop states like Iowa, upwards of 90 percent of the corn and soy crops are covered by insurance — with an additional federal agricultural disaster relief program backstopping the big losses from these kinds of weather events.
On the one hand, you could argue that this kind of thing is exactly what these programs were designed to do — protect farmers from natural disasters. But as climate scientists are (finally) loudly proclaiming, the climate future is now. Or, as an atmospheric scientist put it to the Associated Press in reference to this summer’s extreme weather, “This is what global warming looks like.”
But the silver lining is that while we are paying big dollars to farmers impacted by drought and other extreme climate variables, some (albeit fewer) of our tax dollars are also going to help farmers like Fuller become more resilient to those variables
David White, chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the department in charge of doling out conservation funding ($27 million this year), hopes to begin turning the tide among conventional farmers. Earlier this month, the NRCS launched a campaign aimed at connecting the dots between its conservation programs, soil health, and drought.
The focus on soil isn’t new for the agency, which began in the 1930s as a response to the dust bowl — arguably the biggest soil-related disaster we’ve seen in this country.
“We need to start viewing the soil as a living ecosystem. It’s not a commodity,” White told me recently over the phone.
Soil with abundance organic matter makes a good home to earthworms.
When a farmer works to increase the living organisms in the soil, he added, “water soaks in, it doesn’t run off into our streams and rivers.” This is also key, because the runoff from big conventional farms almost always carries with it excess nitrogen and phosphorous that leads to toxic algae blooms and dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.
The best visual explanation of the difference between healthy soil and its dusty, barely living counterpart, White explains, is the one where soil scientists drop clumps of two identical soils in two tubes of water. The soil with no organic matter disintegrates and the one with lots of organic matter has integrity and sticks together, even when soaked through.
“We had huge floods last year in the Midwest,” says White. “The year after that we’re in the worst drought since the ’30s. I’m firmly believing that if we can get more producers to [build healthy soil], they will be much better able to adapt to some of the changes and variations we’re seeing in the climate”
Soil with high levels of organic matter has also been shown to absorb far more carbon. “Conventional tillage releases CO2 rather than sequestering carbon. It would be good to use our soils as carbon sinks,” says White.
Of course White is also quick to acknowledge that NRCS works with farmers on an elective basis, and has no power to regulate the industry. (And, depending on what happens with this year’s farm bill, it is looking highly likely that the agency will have less money to work with in the coming years.)
Luckily, resilience in the face of drought isn’t the only selling point to healthy soil. White points to David Brandt, a conventional farmer who hasn’t tilled the soil on his farm since the 1970s. He also rotates his crops and teaches workshops on cover-cropping.
This summer, despite the drought, White said, “Brandt is harvesting 120 to 150 bushels of corn per acre. His neighbors are averaging 40 to 50 bushels per acre. He’s using 2.5 gallons of diesel per acre. His neighbors are using 30 to 40 gallons per acre. (That’s a difference of around $10 versus $120 per acre.)”
Then there’s the question of overall yield, a question Mark Bittman hoped to answer in his recent New York Times column “A Simple Fix for Farming,” when he pointed to a study of a USDA-funded farm at Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm, which compared traditional rotation of corn and soy to a farming system that rotated the crops with oats, alfalfa, and animal agriculture. Bittman wrote:
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
For the USDA, which has traditionally compartmentalized organic agriculture (the National Organic Program oversees marketing, certification, and enforcement of the organic standards — but rarely is organic part of the larger conversation about farming within the agency), any talk of reducing fertilizer or herbicides is noteworthy.
Bittman made a point of mentioning how underreported the Marsden Farm study had been before he highlighted it, writing: “it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.” (Speaking to the Des Moines Register on Monday, USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack denied that the agency had ignored the study, saying only: “We support all forms of agriculture production, but ultimately it’s up to the producer.”)
In other words, the lack of fanfare about the study fits with the larger approach USDA appears to have when it comes to all conservation. The soil campaign I mentioned above occupies a small corner of the giant USDA website, and it is not the kind of thing most people, or even most farmers, will stumble on if they’re not looking for it.
And yet, fanfare or not, changes to soil health, and the resulting reduction in chemicals and fertilizers seems to be happening quietly outside research facilities as well, on the farms where soil health is taking precedence.
Steve Groff, another farmer who is not organic, but who sells cover crops on the side, told me he hadn’t tilled his soil since 1982 and relies heavily on management techniques like crop rotation. He uses much less fertilizer than he once did and says, “I probably use 30 to 40 percent less herbicides than a conventional farmer does.”
Gail Fuller says he’s gotten his herbicide rates down about that far as well, but he’s aiming for a 75 to 90 percent reduction. “I’m not organic, and have no intention of becoming certified organic. I’m not saying conventional is the way to go either. I just think soil is a bigger factor than pesticides or herbicide use on its own. I think as we move toward healthy soil we won’t need pesticides or herbicides — or very very little.”
- source grist.org