Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mr. Trump Is Bad Man


Over the weekend, when the NYTimes published it's largely positive endorsement of Clinton the editors promised an anti-Trump version soon. "Soon" came quickly. Monday they hit the stands with an entirely negative slam against the candidate from down the street who they've known so well for so long: Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President. Even before they could go to town on Trump, his campaign attacked The Times: "The news that the ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch New York Times Editorial Board endorsed an ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch candidate in Hillary Clinton has to be some of the least surprising news ever." Nor is the indictment from Keith Olbermann above-- an addendum to last week's rant-- nor the Trump-goring The Times served up yesterday.

The endeavored to lay out how Trump is selling himself to the voters and "why he can't be believed, starting with the utter nonsense about him being some kind of a "financial wizard who can bring executive magic to government."
Despite his towering properties, Mr. Trump has a record rife with bankruptcies and sketchy ventures like Trump University, which authorities are investigating after numerous complaints of fraud. His name has been chiseled off his failed casinos in Atlantic City.

Mr. Trump’s brazen refusal to disclose his tax returns-- as Mrs. Clinton and other nominees for decades have done-- should sharpen voter wariness of his business and charitable operations. Disclosure would undoubtedly raise numerous red flags; the public record already indicates that in at least some years he made full use of available loopholes and paid no taxes.

Mr. Trump has been opaque about his questionable global investments in Russia and elsewhere, which could present conflicts of interest as president, particularly if his business interests are left in the hands of his children, as he intends. Investigations have found self-dealing. He notably tapped $258,000 in donors’ money from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses, according to the Washington Post.
No critique of Trump is complete without mentioning that he's a compulsive-- or in Ted Cruz's words, "pathological"-- liar who virtually never opens his yap without expelling utter bullshit from it.

Trump, who has no experience in national security, declares that he has a plan to soundly defeat the Islamic State militants in Syria, but won’t reveal it, bobbing and weaving about whether he would commit ground troops. Voters cannot judge whether he has any idea what he’s talking about without an outline of his plan, yet Mr. Trump ludicrously insists he must not tip off the enemy.

Another of his cornerstone proposals-- his campaign pledge of a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim newcomers plus the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants across a border wall paid for by Mexico-- has been subjected to endless qualifications as he zigs and zags in pursuit of middle-ground voters.

Whatever his gyrations, Mr. Trump always does make clear where his heart lies-- with the anti-immigrant, nativist and racist signals that he scurrilously employed to build his base.

He used the shameful “birther” campaign against President Obama’s legitimacy as a wedge for his candidacy. But then he opportunistically denied his own record, trolling for undecided voters by conceding that Mr. Obama was a born American. In the process he tried to smear Mrs. Clinton as the instigator of the birther canard and then fled reporters’ questions.

Since his campaign began, NBC News has tabulated that Mr. Trump has made 117 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, including three contradictory views on abortion in one eight-hour stretch. As reporters try to pin down his contradictions, Mr. Trump has mocked them at his rallies. He said he would “loosen” libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations that displease him.

An expert negotiator who can fix government and overpower other world leaders?

His plan for cutting the national debt was far from a confidence builder: He said he might try to persuade creditors to accept less than the government owed. This fanciful notion, imported from Mr. Trump’s debt-steeped real estate world, would undermine faith in the government and the stability of global financial markets. His tax-cut plan has been no less alarming. It was initially estimated to cost $10 trillion in tax revenue, then, after revisions, maybe $3 trillion, by one adviser’s estimate. There is no credible indication of how this would be paid for-- only assurances that those in the upper brackets will be favored.

If Mr. Trump were to become president, his open doubts about the value of NATO would present a major diplomatic and security challenge, as would his repeated denunciations of trade deals and relations with China. Mr. Trump promises to renegotiate the Iran nuclear control agreement, as if it were an air-rights deal on Broadway. Numerous experts on national defense and international affairs have recoiled at the thought of his commanding the nuclear arsenal. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell privately called Mr. Trump “an international pariah.” Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced global warming as a “hoax,” although a golf course he owns in Ireland is citing global warming in seeking to build a protective wall against a rising sea.

In expressing admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump implies acceptance of Mr. Putin’s dictatorial abuse of critics and dissenters, some of whom have turned up murdered, and Mr. Putin’s vicious crackdown on the press. Even worse was Mr. Trump’s urging Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign by hacking the email of former Secretary of State Clinton. Voters should consider what sort of deals Mr. Putin might obtain if Mr. Trump, his admirer, wins the White House.

A change agent for the nation and the world?

There can be little doubt of that. But voters should be asking themselves if Mr. Trump will deliver the kind of change they want. Starting a series of trade wars is a recipe for recession, not for new American jobs. Blowing a hole in the deficit by cutting taxes for the wealthy will not secure Americans’ financial future, and alienating our allies won’t protect our security. Mr. Trump has also said he will get rid of the new national health insurance system that millions now depend on, without saying how he would replace it.

The list goes on: He would scuttle the financial reforms and consumer protections born of the Great Recession. He would upend the Obama administration’s progress on the environment, vowing to “cancel the Paris climate agreement” on global warming. He would return to the use of waterboarding, a torture method, in violation of international treaty law. He has blithely called for reconsideration of Japan’s commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. He favors a national campaign of “stop and frisk” policing, which has been ruled unconstitutional. He has blessed the National Rifle Association’s ambition to arm citizens to engage in what he imagines would be defensive “shootouts” with gunmen. He has so coarsened our politics that he remains a contender for the presidency despite musing about his opponent as a gunshot target.

Voters should also consider Mr. Trump’s silence about areas of national life that are crying out for constructive change: How would he change our schools for the better? How would he lift more Americans out of poverty? How would his condescending appeal to black voters-- a cynical signal to white moderates concerned about his racist supporters-- translate into credible White House initiatives to promote racial progress? How would his call to monitor and even close some mosques affect the nation’s life and global reputation? Would his Supreme Court nominees be zealous, self-certain extensions of himself? In all these areas, Mrs. Clinton has offered constructive proposals. He has offered bluster, or nothing. The most specific domestic policy he has put forward, on tax breaks for child care, would tilt toward the wealthy.

Voters attracted by the force of the Trump personality should pause and take note of the precise qualities he exudes as an audaciously different politician: bluster, savage mockery of those who challenge him, degrading comments about women, mendacity, crude generalizations about nations and religions. Our presidents are role models for generations of our children. Is this the example we want for them?

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Cruz And Trump-- Not Really That Much Of A Stretch


Saturday afternoon Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith interviewed Ted Cruz in front of a lively audience in Austin, Texas' capital city, famously described as a big blue dot in a sea of red. When Cruz ran for the Senate he lost Austin-- badly. Travis County gave his opponent, Paul Sadler 224,070 votes (59%) and gave Cruz 133,354 (35%)-- around the same outcome that Obama and Romney had the same day. Austin voters believe in science and knowledge and don't believe in the hogwash that conservative ideologues like Ted Cruz peddle. To stifle it's voice and minimize it's electoral impact, Austin in divided up between 4 congressional districts. One of the congressmen-- far right Republican Lamar Smith, a Trump fanatic, was on the ballot that same day. He won his district, TX-21 61-35% but the Travis County part of the district was a nightmare for him. He lost in his part of Travis County 48,104 (61%) to 25,607 (32%) to Candace Duval, who spent $56,932 to Smith's $1,705,681. Point being: Austin might not be the best audience for Senator Cruz. So I applaud him for going to the University of Texas' Hogg Memorial Auditorium to be grilled-- and he was grilled-- about why he endorsed Trump. Evan Smith did a really good job.

Cruz admitted his decision to endorse Trump was "agonizing." Why agonizing? Check out the video at the bottom of the page. But why did he do it? One-- he gave his word that he would endorse the winner of the GOP primary process, and, two-- he asked the campaign to guarantee him that they would pick Supreme Court nominees from an expanded list (21) of far right judicial extremists-- and they did. If you believe in Ted Cruz and his hope about being a principled, freedom-loving conservative, the story ends there.

If on the other hand, you see Cruz as a crass and craven politician, who was staring at the end of his career after he tried the principled freedom-loving shtik in Cleveland, only to see it collapse catastrophically as Texas Republicans began openly debating who would be a better candidate to take him down in 2018, Rick Perry or Michael McCaul. Parenthetically, McCaul, who married into the Clear Channel fortune and is now one of the richest men in Congress, also has a chunk of Austin in his congressional district and of the 7 counties in the district only Travis County voted against him-- 51,121 (55%) for Tawana Cadien, an African-American nurse, to 37,302 (40%) for him. Cadien had spent $51,855 against McCaul's $1,075,667. On his Facebook post endorsing the same Trump he asserted "is a pathological liar" who "doesn't know the difference between truth and lies," one of his excuses for the endorsement was the time-honored conservative shibboleth-- he prayed on it. Yeah... God wants Ted Cruz to endorse the pathological liar.

Anyway, if you don't see Cruz as the prayerful idealist, you might see that he decided to take the gamble that he'll be accepted back into the Republican mainstream fold now that he's kissed and made up with The Donald. Starting with Austerity-obsessed Paul Ryan, the party establishment has normalized Trump and successfully moved to paint him-- often against his will-- into a Republican-in-good-standing. The GOP grassroots now overwhelming sees him as such. Cruz keeps saying something to the effect of that no matter what one thinks of Trump, Hillary is the greater of two evils. More and more Republicans have been doing so in the last month. Cruz just came late to the party. Oh-- and that party is presided over by Cruz's biggest life-time donor, right-wing sociopath and hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer-- who also happens to be Trump's biggest donor and who was loudly pissed off that Cruz wasn't on board.

Glenn Beck says he now wishes he had backed Rubio instead of Cruz. His idol cracked! "For the very first time I heard Ted Cruz calculate. And when that happened, the whole thing fell apart for me. And it’s my fault. It’s my fault for believing men can actually be George Washington. It’s my fault. I should have said, 'You know who can win? You know who can beat Hillary Clinton? Marco Rubio.'"

And the most recent poll of Texas voters shows, predictably enough, the state firmly in Trump's hands-- 42% to 36% among likely voters. Perhaps more concerning to Cruz, though, were the unfavorable numbers immediately before his prayers told him to endorse Trump. "Extremely unfavorable" among likely Texas voters:
Cruz- 33%
Senator John Cornyn- 11%
Governor Greg Abbott- 16%
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick- 18%
Attorney General Ken Paxton- 13%
Obama- 40%

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Law Firm Files Suit on Behalf of Government Against Giant Chemical Firms; Government Declines to Join


Victims blinded by a methyl isocyanate gas leak from a chemical factory in Bhopal, India, 1984 (source).

by Gaius Publius

This news brought to you by the hashtag #CultureOfCorruption.

There's a fair amount to digest in the news story below, so I'll try to give you the short strokes first:
  • Four huge chemical companies have been lying to the federal government about how dangerous some of its chemicals in consumer products are. These products include mattress foam.
  • A whistleblower apparently went, not to the government, but to a law firm, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman — or at least came to the attention of the law firm, then didn't go to the government.
  • The law firm is bringing a lawsuit against these companies, on behalf of the federal government, which has decline to join.
  • The damages sought — $90 billion.
I know there are questions around the way this is playing out. For example, why didn't the whistleblower(s) go to the government? Why isn't the government suing on its own behalf? And so on.

About the first question, I think there's an obvious explanation. The Obama administration treats whistleblowers with disdain, and it also tends to give corporations, especially those with a lot of money to spread around, a considerable pass. After all, today's sued company could be tomorrow's campaign contributor, or employer. For example, Eric Holder came from and went back to a law firm that lobbies for Wall Street banks he himself failed to prosecute as Attorney General.

About the second question, we'll have to see, as this story develops, what the Obama administration will do. But if they do decline to act, it may be time to look again at our hashtag.

Now the story, from Lorainne Chow at EcoWatch (my emphasis):
$90 Billion Whistleblower Suit Filed Against Four of the Nation's Largest Chemical Companies

Four of the country's largest chemical companies have been accused of selling billions of dollars worth of harmful isocyanate chemicals but intentionally concealing their dangers to consumers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the past several decades.

BASF Corporation, Bayer Material Science LLC, Dow Chemical Company and Huntsman International LLC have been named in a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit brought by New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP on behalf of the U.S. government.

EcoWatch learned that the recently unsealed whistleblower lawsuit was served on the chemical companies on Wednesday. The lawsuit was originally filed under seal in federal court in Northern California.

Kasowitz brought this action on behalf of itself and the federal government to recover more than $90 billion in damages and penalties under the FCA, which imposes penalties for concealing obligations to the government.

According to a copy of the lawsuit seen by EcoWatch, "Each of these companies is separately liable to the United States Government for billions of dollars in civil reporting penalties, which continue to accumulate by tens of thousands of dollars daily, and for billions of dollars in similarly increasing breach of contract damages."

In the suit, the law firm said that the defendants manufacture and sell isocyanate chemicals such as methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), polymeric MDI (PMDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI). These raw materials make up polyurethane products such as liquid coatings, paints and adhesives; flexible foam used in mattresses and cushions; rigid foam used as insulation; and elastomers used to make automotive interiors.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that exposure to isocyanate can irritate the skin and mucous membranes, cause chest tightness and difficult breathing. Isocyanates also include compounds classified as potential human carcinogens and is known to cause cancer in animals.
The piece concludes with this:
According to Andy Davenport of Kasowitz, "The defendants' cover-up implicates major human health concerns. Thankfully, the whistleblower law allows us to assist the federal government in holding these companies responsible for their actions while we alert regulators and the public to the serious undisclosed hazards of these chemicals."
Assisting a government that may not want assisting creates an interesting situation. Because the lawsuit was brought privately, it's (a) civil, not criminal; (b) a potential generator of large fees for the firm (I've seen estimates as high as $27 billion); (c) a suit that may go nowhere.

About (a) — According to one of the links in the above piece, the federal government "has declined to intervene" in this suit, meaning, that it is not joining as a plaintiff. The site LawNewz.com states: "The firm brought the action as a qui tam complaint, which is when a whistleblower brings legal action on behalf of the U.S. government. These complaints typically remain under seal while the government reviews them and decides whether to join."

The government has declined the opportunity to join the suit, which means that the law firm is on its own.

About (c) — It may be difficult to sue for unpaid penalties if those penalties were never assessed. LawNewz.com reached out to an industry spokesperson and received this reply:
"This qui tam complaint is meritless. Dow has complied with all the federal laws and requirements referenced in the complaint. It is noteworthy that the law firm provided these allegations to the United States Department of Justice, which declined to intervene or take any action in support of the lawsuit. Moreover, the False Claims Act does not allow a claim for unassessed civil penalties."
It may well be that the strategy of the suit is to publicize this, if true, horrendous action and shame the government into acting, either by joining the suit or by suing on its own.

Culture of Corruption

I think it's fair to ask why the government declined to sue, either with the law firm or on its own — or more to the point, is failing to pursue criminal charges for the companies' failing to meet reporting requirements that keep the public from harm. If the allegations are true, and it seems pretty clear they could be, not only were the companies derelict in their duty to the public — in other words, corrupt — but so is the government in its response to this new information.

I don't know if this will go anywhere without greater publicity, but do stay tuned. I think being poisoned by isocyanates in your brand new foam mattress might be something the American consumer may care about.

Bayer and Monsanto

Oh, and if you weren't aware, Bayer, mentioned above, wants to buy Monsanto. Here's why that's a terrible idea. Bayer is also one of the companies whose pesticides are killing bees. None of the people running these companies has your health, or that of our species, at heart.


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Herr Professor Trumpf Probably Never Heard Of Hayek, But I'm Sure Paul Ryan Will Try Explaining His Neoliberal Doctrine To Him


Ryan and his horde of congressional zombies have discovered hash tags and can't get enough of #BetterWay which is nothing more than a package of failed reactionary austerity plans that would utterly destroy the lives of working families. To Paul Ryan, whose intellectual development stopped in junior high school when he read his first Ayn Rand novela, #BetterWay is also the excuse for his support for as unqualified and dangerous a presidential candidate as Donald J. Trump. "He'll sign our legislation," he promises others interested in his goals for continuing the catastrophic neoliberal agenda Ryan has built his sorry career around.

George Monbiot, writing in Friday's Guardian asked a crucial question the neoliberal disaster for working families, namely, why the left has been so ineffective in fighting it. In fact, he says, the left hasn't even bothered to define what it is and what dangers are lurking behind it. "It has," he offered, "played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has-- or had-- a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?" See how much Paul Ryan you recognize in this description:
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages-- such as education, inheritance and class-- that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

...The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism-- the Mont Pelerin Society-- it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way-- among American apostles such as Milton Friedman-- to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

...[I]n the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change ... there was an alternative ready there to be picked up.” With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed-- often without democratic consent-- on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative.” But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile-- one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied-- “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism.” The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is ... unearned income that accrues without any effort.” As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment.” When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them.”

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity... [W]hen neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was ... nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.

A cohesive and compelling alternative isn't likely to be coming from Pelosi (let alone her "ideas and messaging man," Blue Dog Steve Israel). In fact, the New Dems and Blue Dogs are the embodiment, as much as Republican hacks like Paul Ryan, of neoLiberalism. Is there a solution? It has nothing to do with the DCCC or the corrupted and sclerotic Democratic Party establishment. But it has everything in the world to do with the next generation of Democratic leaders, from Ted Lieu, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson and Barbara Lee to Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, Bao Nguyen and Jamie Raskin.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

The Hell With Fact Checkers, The Debates Should Feature A Panel Of Psychiatrists


Many in the media prepared for today's debate by doing features on how much Trump lies. People who have been paying attention for the last year-- or who have been aware of him outside of the political realm-- have long realized that virtually nothing he says is true. Before tonight, PolitiFact had investigated 259 statements he's made and found just 11 true (4%). 70% of his statements are false (and that leaves out another 15% that are half false). Look at the headline of yesterday's L.A. Times. They reported that "never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has. Over and over, independent researchers have examined what the Republican nominee says and concluded it was not the truth-- but “pants on fire” (PolitiFact) or “four Pinocchios” (Washington Post Fact Checker). [T]he scope of Trump’s falsehoods is unprecedented, and he is dogged in refusing to stop saying things once they are proved untrue... Trump’s pattern of saying things that are provably false has no doubt contributed to his high unfavorable ratings. It also has forced journalists to grapple with how aggressive they should be in correcting candidates’ inaccurate statements, particularly in the presidential debates that start Monday.

Thomas E. Mann, a resident scholar at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, said Trump appears to recognize that a faction of the Republican Party has lost respect for facts, evidence and science... “He’s a salesman,” Mann said. “He’s a con man. He’s hustled people out of money that they’re owed. He’s lived off tax shelters. He’s always looking for a scheme and a con, and in that sphere, you just fall into telling lies as a matter of course.”

...Marty Kaplan, a professor of entertainment, media and society at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has two theories on Trump’s falsehoods.

Perhaps he’s just putting on  an act, like P.T. Barnum-- a “marketer, con, snake-oil salesman who knows better, knows how to get the rubes into the tent.” Or maybe, Kaplan suggested, Trump is just “completely unconstrained by logic, rules, tradition, truth, law.”

“I’m confused,” he said, “whether the whole fact-free zone that he’s in is a strategic calculation or a kind of psychosis.”

Over the weekend, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns compiled a list of easily refutable whoppers Trump told-- just last week! Newspaper editorials are piling up against him; virtually all of them mention he's a compulsive liar when explaining why he's patently unfit for office. So what can we expect tomorrow? How many lies will Trump tell per question? His campaign has been screaming all week that fact-checking is unfair. There's an implicit threat he could walk out if a moderator points out that he's lying.

On Sunday, Politico published a lengthy post fact-checking both candidates for a week. The headline: Donald Trump's Week Of Misrepresentations, Exaggerations And Half-Truths. At this point, his supporters are relieved when it's half-truths.
We subjected every statement made by both the Republican and Democratic candidates – in speeches, in interviews and on Twitter – to our magazine’s rigorous fact-checking process. The conclusion is inescapable: Trump’s mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton’s as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.

Though few statements match the audacity of his statement about his role in questioning Obama’s citizenship, Trump has built a cottage industry around stretching the truth. According to Politico’s five-day analysis Trump averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds over nearly five hours of remarks.
But what the media doesn't do is attempt to assert a motivation or any kind of real analysis about why Trump seems incapable of being truthful. Lists of his lies are completely passé this late in the campaign. We all know he lies every time he opens his mouth. Who will be the first to explain why? Politico's silly attempt-- "he simply talks more"-- comes off more like an excuse than an analysis.

I did enjoy how Politico ended their deep look into his lies though, making it more about what the American conservative movement has turned into, than just another instance of Trump making crap up:
87. “I certainly don't think you want Candy Crowley again. ... She turned out to be wrong.” (Sept. 22, Fox and Friends interview)

Trump was referring to a dramatic moment in Candy Crowley’s moderating of the second presidential debate in 2012. President Obama said he called the Benghazi attack an act of terror the day afterward in the Rose Garden, and Mitt Romney claimed he hadn’t used the word for 14 days. “Get the transcript,” Obama said, and Crowley interjected that he was correct and Romney was mistaken. Conservatives criticized Crowley for interfering, but her live fact-check was accurate. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,” Obama said on Sept. 12 in the Rose Garden.
Of course when your news universe is reading Breibart, listening to Limbaugh and watching Fox... you're in an alternative universe anyway. It looks, at this point-- at least according to the latest polling-- that half the country is now unmoored from objective reality.

These sum up the debate in two pictures. Is Trump's candidacy going to survive tonight? And now we don't just need his tax returns released; we need to see a drug test.

Trump is trying to blame his miserable performance on a defective mic. Maybe someone cut his coke with some rotgut amphetamine sulfate

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Sssshhhhh... The Debate is Starting


Samantha Bee wasn't nice to Matt Lauer in her assessment of the pre-debate thing they had a week or so ago. That's cause he sucked. Lester Holt, we're assured, is supposed to be better. We'll see in a few minutes. Ever hear of Pollfish? They're a real-time mobile survey platform and they did a flash poll yesterday (400 Americans) showing that over 30% of Americans are opting to avoid the political drama to enjoy their watching their favorite TV shows or Monday night football. And although more than have the respondents said they thought Trump would be more likely to attack Hillary than Hillary would be to attack Trump, most respondents expect that issue-by-issue Hillary will win tonight.

This morning, writing for Trump's son-in-law's paper, the New York Observer Matt Mackowiak. laid out laid out how Trump can "win" tonight: "all Trump has to do is perform above basement-level expectations... In a change year," he wrote, "Trump is the change candidate. Clinton is a lot of things, but she is not a change agent after eight years of Obama.The question for voters, particularly swing voters in battleground states, is whether Trump offers too much change. They need to know if he is an unacceptable risk." More Samantha Bee, since she seems to be able to explain just why some voters--many?-- don't already know how unacceptable Trump is:

Mackowiak included a little conventional wisdom on Trumpist short-comings-- "Trump can win this debate by not losing it. This will require discipline, self-control, patience, and calm. These are not his natural strengths. Serious, thoughtful debate prep would have benefitted him, but he appears to have been wholly unwilling to commit to it. This may prove to be a politically fatal error." But he went to town on the media's sexist expectational set-up of Hillary:
Trump likes to call himself a counterpuncher. But not every jab needs to be countered. I expect Hillary to jab and uppercut constantly. Her team appears to believe the only way she can win the debate is by invalidating Trump as a legitimate choice.

This approach has risks: She may appear too negative, too harsh, too shrill or too unlikeable. Likability is a real factor in how viewers evaluate debates. Emotions, nonverbal communications, posture, and facial gestures all play a role in how a candidate is perceived in the television era.

...Hillary must finally address legitimate questions of honesty and ethics. Will she directly, clearly, and honestly answer questions about her private email server-- why it was created, what were the risks it posed to national security, and why she deleted 33,000 emails. Will she answer allegations about selling access and favors at the State Department to wealthy Clinton Foundation donors? Will she demonstrate, over 90 minutes with no commercials, that she has the strength and stamina to be president, and finally put health questions behind her?

These are the issues she needs to put behind her to pull away from Trump.
Nate Silver's operation wanted to remind everyone before the debate starts that "eight out of 10 times, the non-incumbent party’s candidate-- that’s Trump this year-- gained in the polls after the first debate. That includes each of the last five times. There are various theories to explain this. Some people think, for instance, incumbent presidents do poorly in first debates because they’ve had four years to grow unaccustomed to being challenged so directly, or that the challenger benefits simply by being on an equal playing field with the sitting president. Those theories don’t apply this year. That said, there are other reasons to think Trump has more to gain. He is currently winning a lower percentage of self-identified Republicans than Clinton is getting Democrats, so perhaps he has more lower-hanging fruit than Clinton: More Republican voters may come home after seeing both Clinton and Trump in action." And that, historically (pre-social media), "first debates haven’t moved the polls all that much."

The Atlantic's brief interview with anthropologist Jane Goodall might be worth reading again before Trump and Hillary start duking it out. She watched his primary debates and told Fallows that "In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals." (Fallows suggests, "I’d start by thinking of him as a monkey with a machine gun.")

“In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

In her book My Life With the Chimpanzees, Goodall told the story of “Mike,” a chimp who maintained his dominance by kicking a series of kerosene cans ahead of him as he moved down a road, creating confusion and noise that made his rivals flee and cower. She told me she would be thinking of Mike as she watched the upcoming debates.

For his article, Fallows spoke with experts who had some debate advice for Hillary:
Stuart Stevens, who prepared Mitt Romney to dominate Barack Obama in their first 2012 debate, said that she should launch the direct attack that Trump’s primary opponents were too slow to use. “He is a ridiculous person who doesn’t know anything, which she can expose,” he told me. “She can say, ‘Mr. Trump says he supports the Bill of Rights-- by the way, how many are there? He represents the party of Lincoln. By the way, when did he serve?’ You have to go right in there and demonstrate the utter ridiculousness of everything he says.”

Samuel L. Popkin, a political scientist at UC San Diego who has been part of the debate-prep team for many Democratic politicians, recommended a version of what Chris Matthews did with his abortion questions. “She can ask him about his policy of renegotiating the national debt,” he told me. “Then she comes right back, boom, ‘If you say that as president, you’ve just caused a worldwide stock-market crash.’ She doesn’t want to bog down into details. But she can show the specific, crucial details that pull everything else down.”

Most people I spoke with recommended a picador-like mocking approach, designed not to confront Trump directly but to cumulatively provoke him into an outburst. About his physical endowments, he is not so much thin-skinned as skinless, as Marco Rubio demonstrated-- but no one I spoke with thought this a wise path for Clinton to follow. Instead she could mock him on his other point of greatest sensitivity: that he may be a fake billionaire and phony business success. From history’s perspective, the most damaging moment for Trump from the Democratic convention was when Khizr Khan spoke about the death of his son, Captain Humayun Khan. For Trump himself, I would imagine it was the moment when Michael Bloomberg, unquestionably richer than he is, said, “I’m a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a con when we see one.” When Comedy Central hosted a roast of Trump five years ago, he didn’t seem to object to jokes about his hair, about his weight, even about his lecherous remarks regarding his daughter Ivanka. The one subject he nixed, according to Aaron Lee, a writer for the roast, was “any joke that suggests Trump is not actually as wealthy as he claims to be.” So this is a scab Hillary Clinton should deftly pick.

watching for this tonight?

Donald Trump will almost certainly insult her directly, about her own crookedness and about the sins of her husband. This was the heart of his strategy during the primary debates-- “I call him ‘Little Marco’ ”; “More energy tonight. I like that” to Bush-- and is his instinct. She will answer those quickly and firmly-- “My husband and I have been through a lot, as the world well knows. But after 41 years, we are still together”-- and then move back to whatever policy point she wants to make. One way to describe this strategy is Martin O’Malley’s. “She has to be direct and tough right back to him, but then quickly pivot to what matters for the country,” he said. “It’s not enough just to disqualify this guy, since he’s survived remarks that in other times have been automatically disqualifying. She also needs to say what the election is about.”

Another way to describe this strategy is to use a phrase from Michelle Obama’s convention speech: When they go low, we go high.

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Gerrymandering Creates Corrine Browns, Debbie Wasserman Schultzes and Robert Pittengers


Corrine Brown-- a two-and-half decade win-win for the Florida Republicans

Just a tad over two years ago, we looked at 24 year congressional veteran Corrine Brown' and her grotesquely gerrymandered district. I described FL-05 as one that "twists and turns down from the African American neighborhoods of Jacksonville-- that aren't even contiguous-- along a narrow strip a mile or two wide along Rt 17 (which then disappears into Ted Yoho's district and through some sparsely populated rural areas until finally finding Palatka in the east and African-American neighborhoods of Gainesville in the west before chugging down into Sanford and Pine Hills in the Orlando metropolitan area." Much like Wasserman Schultz did, Brown used her position in the state legislature to work with the Republicans to create a seat that served her own purposes-- never having to worry about being defeated-- as well as theirs-- getting thousands and thousands of black Democrats out of neighboring districts that would be safer for Republicans.
Obama won the district both times with 73%. With a PVI of D+21 this district defines "safe." Republicans have trouble winning R+1 districts and they don't try-- not ever, not anywhere, when a district is D+6 or above. Brown is screaming and threatening to go to the Supreme Court because Judge Terry Lewis ordered the legislature to remove Sanford from her district, which might take her down from a D+21 to a D+19, depending on other factors. Republicans didn't bother running candidates against her in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and last year, when there was a Republican running with no support (and a campaign war chest of $19,941 against Brown's $613,190), Brown won with 71%. "We will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court," she thundered, "dealing with making sure that African Americans are not disenfranchised."

Give me a break. Instead of making deals with Republicans in states to create marginally red districts by agreeing to have ethnically-cleansed districts, Democrats like Brown could spread around some of her Democratic voters, still keep a deep blue district that she would never lose, and help the Democrats defeat John Mica, Dan Webster and Ron DeSantis. Marcia Fudge should know better, even if Corrine Brown can't see beyond her own careerism.
Since then, a court ruling forced her district into more rational boundaries-- east/west from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, instead of north/south, still safely Democratic and very friendly territory for an African-American Representative... except not Brown. Facing 24 criminal charges related to swindling people with a charity/personal slush fund-- not on a Trumpian level, but bad enough-- she was soundly defeated by conservaDem Al Lawson in her primary, 39,261 (48%) to 32,157 (39%), despite having outspent Lawson $465,720 to $134,206. Yesterday Fusion ran what could be the premise for a powerful film on a corrupt political system: The Rise And Fall Of Corrine Brown and had the insight into subtitling it, "The brash Florida congresswoman’s career begs the question: Do 'majority-minority' districts empower voters of color… or ghettoize them to benefit conservatives?"
Brown’s dramatic rise and fall highlights the dilemmas of “majority-minority” congressional districts-- political boundaries drawn to group voters of color together. On one hand, such districts have increased opportunities for minority representation in the House. On the other hand, they’ve been used by white majorities, primarily Republicans, to increase power in surrounding districts, effectively sidelining minorities so that the GOP can maintain control of Congress.

The recent push to broaden her district’s demographics, Brown said, amounted to racial discrimination. “It is clear that you all think that slavery still exists, and we can just take those slaves and put them in one area and forget about the people who didn’t have representation for 129 years,” she told reporters during the redistricting fight in 2015-- even though putting African Americans in one area was precisely what Brown had helped do in the 90s, and precisely what the new redistricting sought to correct.

But Brown’s power-- and by extension, that of her African-American constituents-- had always been limited by House Republicans; the majority-minority districting that had boosted her for a quarter-century also gave the GOP a lasting majority. Although Florida’s voters were split about 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats in 1992, the GOP took 13 of the 23 House seats in the 1992 cycle, leaving just 10 for Democrats.

Today, the disparity is even starker: There are 17 Florida Republican reps in the House, and still just 10 Democrats. This was very much by design.

The 1990 census showed that Florida’s population had boomed since a decade prior. The state got to add four congressional districts to its representation in Washington. Democrats controlled both chambers of Florida’s state legislature, which was in charge of the redistricting process, but couldn’t agree how to divvy up voters into new districts.

Miguel DeGrandy, a Miami attorney, was a GOP state representative back in 1992. He remembers how his Cuban American caucus of seven Republicans reached out to the black caucus with a very clear message-- and an overture to join forces: “Your community is being shafted. Our community is being shafted."

DeGrandy says that in drawing maps that laid out boundaries of Congressional districts, Democrats-- who had been in power in Tallahassee since Reconstruction-- used black communities by breaking them up into multiple districts and using them to boost electoral chances for white Democratic candidates, a practice known as “cracking.”

“The Democrats had had a patronizing approach,” he says. They assumed blacks would vote Democratic, essentially telling them, “Trust us-- we’ll take care of you.“

Working with the NAACP, DeGrandy became a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Florida, citing the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required that minorities have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. They argued that the state had an obligation to link together minority communities in districts to harness their collective power.

Federal judges ultimately agreed and created three heavily black “majority-minority” districts-- two in South Florida, plus District 3: a sprawling, horseshoe-shaped zone that stretched hundreds of miles to include historically black neighborhoods in 14 counties, from Jacksonville to Orlando to Gainesville. That one went to Corrine Brown.

The GOP came out looking generous. Jet magazine wrote that the “amazing breakthrough resulted not from any design of liberal Democratic leaders who control more than 90% of the U.S. Black vote, but from the late GOP chairman Lee Atwater, a White South Carolinian, who quarterbacked the new congressional redistricting effort in the South to atone for his past actions.”

Democrats “were caught flat-footed,” DeGrandy says. “They thought it was going to be business as usual. They underestimated our legal resources, our legal strategies. They also underestimated public opinion.”

Political scientists say you can draw a straight line from the growth of “majority-minority” districts to the nearly unbroken Republican stranglehold on Congress. “When a majority-minority district is created, the additional minority voters must be taken from somewhere, and that somewhere is the surrounding districts,” Grant M. Hayden, a voting-rights professor at Southern Methodist University’s law school, wrote in 2004.

This “packing” of minority voters leads to a phenomenon in the outside districts that redistricting experts have called “bleaching”[a]: those polities become whiter and more consistently conservative, or at least competitive for Republicans.

These developments stick progressives with a dilemma, Hayden writes, “by forcing them to choose between additional minority officeholders and additional Democrats, between descriptive representation and substantive representation.”

...[R]edistricting reform could never pass through a safe Republican majority in the state Legislature. So the Fair Districts team put the issue directly in front of Florida voters. In 2010, as the Tea Party wave swept America and Floridians voted in historic numbers for Republicans, they also overwhelmingly-- and a little ironically-- approved two state constitutional amendments barring legislators from drawing up new districts to favor a political party or an incumbent.

Republican critics like DeGrandy argue the hugely popular Fair Districts amendments were a “Democrat-sponsored” agenda, but “they were very intelligent in how they how went through the process.”

Corrine Brown, though, saw the move as a threat to the political livelihood she had built over two and a half decades. From 2011 to 2016, while still in Congress, she fought the Fair Districts plan tooth and nail-- in concert with Republicans and conservative corporate donors, and against the ACLU and civil rights groups. Changing her district would represent a “giant step backward to our state's Jim Crow days,” she argued.

African American rights leaders disagreed. "I like Corrine," Leon Russell, an NAACP leader, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2011, "but I wish she hadn't done this. I don't think you should frustrate the process purely on basis of your self-interest, no matter who you are."

Brown’s legal challenges ultimately came to nothing. In July 2015, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that her gerrymandered district violated the Fair Districts amendments and demanded that it be redrawn. It was converted to a more compact east-west shape that runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

...On her blog, Brown conceded her loss with characteristic feistiness. “We fought a battle with one arm tied behind our backs. You know they’ve been after me for years,” she wrote. “We are a strong people. We’re descendants of people who survived the Middle Passage. We have survived centuries of abuse. We are strong. We are still standing.”
This kind of racial gerrymandering isn't, of course, just about Florida or Corrine Brown or her issues. There 809,958 people living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Almost 300,000 of them are African American. Because their city has been gerrymandered up to serve the interests of career politicians rather than the people who live there, listen to what one of the crackpot racist congressmen, Robert Pittenger (R), representing Charlotte had to say after the murder of a black resident by the police and the ensuing demonstrations:

Charlotte is 45.1% white and 54.9% non-white. But Pittenger has nothing to worry about. North Carolina's racist Republican legislature drew his district to be 73.8% white. Mecklenburg County has just about enough people now (over a million) for 2 congressmen of it's own. Instead it's divvied up among 3 districts, one overwhelmingly minority, the 12th, and two that are safely Republican, the 8th and Pittenger's 9th.

The 12th is very much like Brown's old 5th district in Florida. It twists and turns from Charlotte's urban core through Salisbury and Lexington (with sizable African-American populations) before forking off to the northwest to take in Winston-Salem's black neighborhoods and to the northeast to take in High Point and Greensboro's black neighborhoods. Look at this mess:

Without districts like NC-12, there wouldn't be extremist congressmen like Robert Pittenger, or at least there wouldn't be for more than one term. And by the way, in 2012 Obama won NC-12 with 250,719 votes (79%) to Romney's 66,291 (21%). Pittenger's 9th district gave Romney a comfortable 215,861 votes (56%) to 163,883 (43%) while Richard Hudson's 8th district gave Romney a 178,977 (58%) to 126,065 (41%) win. The 3 districts combined gave Obama 540,027 votes and Romney 461,129 votes.

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First Nations Sign Trans-Continental Treaty to Fight Tar Sands Oil


A sample of pipeline projects affecting Indigenous communities across North America. Graphic courtesy of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

I consider this momentous. The indigenous peoples of northern North America (called "First Nations" for the obvious reason) — ocean to ocean, in the U.S. and in Canada — have banded together to sign a treaty to oppose the transport of absolutely filthy (literally; there's arsenic in that stuff) tar sands oil from Alberta to any port or refinery.

The reason this is momentous lies beyond the issue of just protecting the environment, which it does, or the climate, which it most certainly also does. A treaty of this magnitude itself is momentous.

Indigenous people are called First Nations because they are, in fact, nations, sovereign peoples, with legal national standing in both countries. Yes, they've been mightily and continuously abused, partly because of their history, partly because of their decimated numbers and living conditions. But it's been more than a century since they've been united in any sense.

This, for example, is the Great Sioux Nation at the time of their first contact with whites in the 1700s:

A history of the Iroquois Confederacy can be found here. Historically though, none of these confederacies, leagues or nations has spanned the continent. Until now. This treaty, trans-continental, cross-border, is the first. And again, it is a treaty between nations.

As I said, monumental in its implications. Via Elizabeth McSheffrey, writing at the Canadian National Observer (my occasional emphasis):
First Nations across North America sign treaty alliance against the oilsands

The thunderous pounding of Indigenous drums echoed in the air on Thursday as more than 50 Indigenous nations across North America rallied together to sign a historic, pan-continental treaty alliance against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.

The collaboration, formalized at simultaneous ceremonies in Quebec and B.C., aims to block all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects affecting First Nations land and water, including TransCanada's Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, and Enbridge Northern Gateway.
About the treaty:
The document, called the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, commits its signatories to assist one another when called upon in the battle against oilsands expansion, and to work in partnership to move society towards more sustainable lifestyles. By aligning themselves with other Indigenous nations across Canada and the northern U.S., participants hope to ensure that dangerous projects are not able to "escape" by using alternative routes.

“We have the right and the responsibility to stop these major threats to our lands, our waters and our peoples,” said Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon. “For example, from Quebec, we will work with our First Nation allies in B.C. to make sure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline does not pass, and we know they’ll help us do the same against Energy East.”

It comes not only from a legal and cultural responsibility to protect their land, water, air, and climate from harm, said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, but a desire to safeguard a future for all peoples, Indigenous and non-Indigenous as well.
Of course:
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers however, Canada's largest oil and gas lobby group, said the Treaty Alliance will not change the way its members do business with Indigenous communities. 
But you expected that. The holders of (destructive) great wealth aren't going to surrender until they're forced to.

The Text of the Treaty

The treaty itself reads as follows:
"Therefore, our Nations hereby join together under the present treaty to officially prohibit and to agree to collectively challenge and resist the use of our respective territories and coasts in connection with the expansion of the production of the Alberta Tar Sands, including for the transport of such expanded production, whether by pipeline, rail or tanker.

"As sovereign Indigenous Nations, we enter this treaty pursuant to our inherent legal authority and responsibility to protect our respective territories from threats to our lands, waters, air and climate, but we do so knowing full well that it is in the best interest of all peoples, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to put a stop to the threat of Tar Sands expansion.

We wish to work in collaboration with all peoples and all governments in building a more equitable and sustainable future, one that will produce healthier and more prosperous communities across Turtle Island and beyond, as well as preserve and protect our peoples’ way of life."
"As sovereign nations, we enter this treaty pursuant to our inherent legal authority to protect our territories from threats to our lands, waters, air and climate..." Iraq invaded Kuwait in part because of Kuwaiti slant-drilling from the Kuwaiti side of the border into Iraqi oil fields. That is, actions on one side of a border that have destructive effects on another side are cause for retaliation, as the Cuban Missile Crisis makes clear.

If an oil pipeline that does not enter First Nations territory, nevertheless endangers water that flows into First Nations territory via nasty (and nearly inevitable) oil spills and pipeline leaks, that's cause for them to be concerned — as nations.

Bottom line — I'm absolutely certain they're serious, which means much added force to the fight, and we should should thank them for that. This escalates the war between the people who suffer in an oil-soaked world and the men and women who extract great wealth from it. It also brings interesting legal implications to the fight, since First Nations are indeed nations, adding even more weight to court cases in which they're likely to be involved.

A day to celebrate, as I see it.


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