Jul 112016

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Background Check

The Republican Party has for a few years worked to sully their expected Democrat opponent in the contest for the White House this Fall. It was nothing personal. Senator Clinton had cordial relations with most on the other side of the aisle in that august body. Nor were there fundamental disagreements with Secretary of State Clinton’s foreign policy. But lack of genuine differences is precisely what motivates character attacks. They are sometimes decisive in voter choice of the two options offered by the parties of the <1 percent.

When the GOP first went rogue they expected the second Clinton would be running against a third Bush. Instead they have to now explain and complain about virtually everything rolling off the tongue of their surprise presumptive nominee. Still, once the cork has been drawn the blood wine must be drunk—and now it’s being served in tumblers.

Rupert Murdoch, an Australian with residences in London and New York, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen because that’s a requirement for owning a television network, has led Clinton-bashing through Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and other media in his stable. They got a lot of mileage out of Benghazi, where the U.S. ambassador—along with Libyan guards and other Americans–was killed in a jihadist attack. Alas, Secretary Clinton was eventually formally cleared of culpability in that incident.

But the bashers had backup—Secretary Clinton’s private e-mail server she used for official business. Most of the public had tended to share her Democrat rival Senator Sanders’ opinion–“I don’t care about your damn e-mails.” But the Fox forces caught a lucky break. Shortly before the Secretary was due to be questioned by the FBI, the presumptive First Gentleman was observed having a tete-a-tete with the Attorney General on a plane parked on an airport tarmac. President Bill explained they were only talking about grandchildren but the AG quickly said that she would steer clear of the FBI investigation of the unauthorized server.

After a concluding three-hour FBI interrogation of the Democrat hopeful, the head of America’s main secret police issued a statement that no charges were warranted. But he didn’t stop there. His gratuitous remark’s about her carelessness with classified material were aptly characterized by the New York Times as a “ready made attack ad” for the Republicans. That’s not too surprising since he is a Republican, first brought aboard the Justice Department by Bush II.

The GOP didn’t wait for a dental inspection of this gift horse. They immediately demanded the FBI turn over every scrap they had collected to Congress and, for good measure, urged “careless Clinton” be barred from intelligence briefings given to boss party candidates. It’s safe to assume the party of Trump will try to make ServerGate their main message from now until November—and perhaps beyond.

My disgust with these Republican shenanigans by no means evokes my sympathy for Senator-Secretary-Nominee Clinton. To the contrary, J’accuse her not of incompetence or carelessness but of many real, horrible crimes–if not statutory, certainly against humanity.

She rounded up needed bipartisan Senate support to launch the criminal Iraq war. She was the principal architect of the illegal NATO war that created a failed state in Libya–and its new industry of human trafficking in the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. She gave indispensable help legitimizing the bloody coup establishing the military dictatorship in Honduras. And there’s been no more staunch ally of, and apologist for, every aggression of the Zionist hawks ruling Israel. That’s a partial, blood-stained resumè of the candidate widely held to be the lesser evil.

The Republicans were at least accomplices if not instigators in these crimes and many more. They should all be answering charges–not in partisan congressional hearings but at the International Tribunal in the Hague. There they should be joined by Secretary Clinton’s “friend and counselor” Henry Kissinger, along with Bush II and, certainly after the Chilcot Report, Bush’s junior partner Tony Blair.

Ol’ Clean Coal Is A Sorry Ol’ Soul

Far from trying to kill the coal industry, as the GOP and United Mine Workers allege, a key component of the Climate Plan submitted by the Obama administration to the UN Paris Climate Summit was “clean coal.” If scientists were permitted to show a sense of humor this wouldn’t have passed the laugh test.

Earlier claims of clean coal were based not on changing the coal but more efficient capture of carbon emissions after burning and “sequestering” them under adjacent rocks or water ponds. That’s difficult to do even under ideal laboratory conditions and has long been dismissed as a practical alternative in the real world.

But instead of deciding to focus on expanding proven, off the shelf technology to utilize clean, renewable, and freely available energy sources–such as solar and wind–the government commissioned the fossil capitalists to put their scientists and engineers to work applying Rube Goldberg ingenuity to coal that would provide symmetry to other fossil fuel profit centers to boot. This is how a New York Times special report described a pilot project in Mississippi,

The plant, which broke ground in 2010, would run on lignite, a type of coal that is difficult to process but is plentiful in the region. Most of the carbon dioxide produced by the plant would be captured, compressed, sold and piped to oil fields. There, it would be pumped underground in a process known as enhanced oil recovery, to help push up previously unrecoverable oil to levels where it could be reached.”

Where the CO2 goes from there is not explained.

I’m not a scientist but through reading history, and Len Deighton novels, I’ve heard a lot about lignite—also known as brown coal. When wartime Nazi Germany was cut off from most imports of oil and natural gas they used lignite to produce often unstable liquid and gas substitutes. In postwar East Germany before reunification plentiful brown coal used in power plants produced some very unhealthy air pollution.

The processing needed for turning lignite in to the pipe dream of clean coal is not only “difficult”–even if it worked, it would be enormously expensive and could not be competitive with other fuels in the capitalist marketplace without huge taxpayer subsidies. As the Times article shows, even that is probably not enough.

The title of the comprehensive Times piece by Ian Urbina is “Piles of Dirty Secrets Behind a Model ‘Clean Coal’ project.” It is sub-headed “A Mississippi project, a centerpiece of President Obama’s climate plan, has been plagued by problems that managers tried to conceal, and by cost overruns and questions of who will pay.”

I won’t get in to the short-sighted, careless incompetence, and even corruption, on a scale somewhat shocking even to those familiar with how the private sector uses other people’s money. That’s not my beat. I cite this article as an exposè of how phony is the climate plan of the number two greenhouse gas emitting country. Wasted money is bad—irreversible collapse of our biosphere would be catastrophe of Old Testament proportions.

While not yet catastrophic, it is global warming that is advancing rather than the duplicitous goals promised in Paris. Here are some headlines of stories I posted on our companion Labor Advocate news blog just over the last week,

Palm oil firms ditch ‘no deforestation’ pact in Indonesia; A Remote Pacific Nation, Threatened by Rising Sea; Hillary Clinton’s Ambitious Climate Change Plan Avoids Carbon Tax; Trudeau Climate Plan Challenged at Toronto ‘Town Halls’; As Glaciers Melt in Alaska, Landslides Follow; Another environmental activist is killed in Honduras — the third this year; June swoon: US breaks another monthly temperature record; Arctic sea ice crashes to record low for June; Climate Change Claims a Lake, and an Identity.

Now there have been some victories, and promising ongoing battles, by climate activists in North America—especially around pipelines. My friend Carl Sack describes some of them in a useful article in Socialist Action. But these are mainly defensive actions that, if successful, will prevent some threats getting worse. To be sure, those are important.

But what is imperative is rapid, drastic reduction of greenhouse pollution by replacing fossil fuels with renewable zero-emission sources. Protest movements can educate and agitate around this goal but achieving it will require also supplanting the political monopoly of fossil capitalism—and socializing at least key sectors of the economy.

Since this is a presidential election year in the country Bill McKibben accurately describes as a “global warming machine,” some who have earned credentials in the climate/environmental movements want to inject the issue in to the campaigns. But most see this as a lobbying effort directed at the Democrats. In an e-mail blast from the 350 Action Fund Duncan Meisel writes,

There are two things that scare me about this election. The first is Donald Trump, and the racist, reactionary movement he’s inspired. Without a doubt, he is the most dangerous Presidential nominee in modern history. The second is that without ambitious proposals from the Democratic Party (and nominee), not only will we fall short in the climate action we need, there’s a risk that not enough people show up to stop the rising wave of Trump-inspired hatred.”

Nothing new here—it’s a pretty frank advocacy of lesser evil politics. Meisel urges us to e-mail the Democrats. Ralph Nader, who has several times run for President as an independent or a Green doesn’t do much better in an opinion piece in the Guardian.


And what about the Green Party that is attracting many Bernie Sanders supporters who don’t want to back any evil? The Greens are sincere, dedicated folks and I have often collaborated with them on various issues. They deserve an honest look—and frank assessment.

One of their four “pillars” is ecology. They say “The human cost of climate change is too high. We need to get off fossil fuels and on to renewable energy.”

That’s a pretty good concise statement. But when you dig down in their platform you find this key action demand,

Enact a Fee & Dividend system on fossil fuels to enable the free market to include the environmental costs of their extraction and use. These fees shall be applied as far upstream as possible, either when fuel passes from extraction to refining, distribution or consumption; or when it first enters the United States’ jurisdiction. The carbon fee will initially be small, a dime per kilogram of carbon, to avoid creating a shock to the economy. The fee will be increased by 10% each year that global atmospheric carbon dioxide content is greater than 350 ppm, decreased 10% each year it’s less than 300 ppm, and repealed entirely when it falls below 250 ppm.”

While the Greens welcome socialists who supported Bernie Sanders political revolution they are dedicated to influencing the free capitalist market—and wary of going too fast. This along with their philosophy of decentralized “community economics,” that seems to combine elements of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Amana workshops, distinguishes them from Al Gore’s climate perspective in only one important way. Gore is conflicted and sometimes cynical from the pulls of his grasp of science vs his class loyalty. The Greens are heartfelt in their ethics based politics—an admirable personal trait but unsuitable for tackling the climate crisis.

I’ll return to this question, and also look at some Just Transition proposals next time.

In Brief…

* From the Guardian, “Jeremy Corbyn has hailed a 100,000-strong surge in Labour members since the EU referendum as evidence of a ‘political sea change’ and insisted he is in tune with the new public mood, as he seeks to quash a rebellion by many of the party’s MPs.” The Party membership now exceeds 500,000—the biggest since the post-World War II upsurge.

* The CBC reported this morning, “There were signs of progress Sunday in a contract dispute between Canada Post and the union representing 50,000 of its workers as talks resumed and the post office withdrew a threat to lock out its workers.”

* In the Arizona Daily Star, “A federal judge has ruled again that Tucson-based copper miner Asarco LLC must pay millions of dollars worth of copper-price bonuses to union employees in Arizona and Texas. In a ruling filed Tuesday, Judge Stephen M. McNamee of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix denied Asarco’s motion to reconsider his March ruling that an arbitrator acted properly in ordering Asarco to pay the bonuses.”

That’s all for this week.


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