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“Dawn Of Justice”: What Exxon Mobil Knew About Possible Consequences Of Climate Change And When Did They Know It

I hope Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were paying close attention to the press conference New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman held with former Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday:

More government officials are asking what Exxon Mobil knew about climate change.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands announced Tuesday that they would join Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, in his investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied in decades past to investors and the public about the threat of climate change.

The additional participation was announced during a news conference at Mr. Schneiderman’s offices in Lower Manhattan announcing support from 15 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

Attorneys general from Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut and the Virgin Islands, as well as former Vice President Al Gore, attended the event.

While none of the other officials present, aside from Maura Healey of Massachusetts and Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands, announced inquiries of their own, Mr. Schneiderman said, “not every investigation gets announced at the outset.”

Mr. Schneiderman began his investigation in November. His staff is looking at whether statements the company made to investors about climate risks — some as recently as last year — conflicted with the company’s own scientific research.

Part of that inquiry includes the company’s funding, for at least a decade, of outside groups that worked to dispute climate science, even as its in-house scientists were describing the possible consequences of climate change, along with the areas of uncertainty.

If either Clinton or Sanders becomes the 45th President of the United States, they will face intense pressure from climate activists to nominate an attorney general willing to hold ExxonMobil and other major fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their efforts to deceive the American public and distort the American political process in an effort to thwart federal efforts to combat carbon pollution–and they must respond to this call for justice. As Gore noted at the press conference, what ExxonMobil did in the late-1980s and beyond is indistinguishable from what the tobacco industry did for decades in an effort to protect their profits at the expense of the public.

Holding ExxonMobil legally accountable for its amoral actions in the late-1980s and beyond would seem to be a no-brainer. That’s why it’s so odd to see the acclaimed science blogger David Appell lashing out against the calls to bring ExxonMobil to justice, using a variation of the “Leonardo DiCaprio flies private jets, so he’s a hypocrite!” argument you often hear from the anti-science right. Appell seems to think that climate activists just want revenge on ExxonMobil. Future generations will want revenge, of course, but today’s activists just want accountability.

Appell is wrong. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey noted that “…her office had a moral obligation to act” on ExxonMobil’s extremism. The next US Attorney General will have a moral obligation to act as well. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, take note–and take heed.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 3, 2016

April 4, 2016 Posted by | Big Oil, Climate Change, Exxon Mobil, U. S. Attorney General | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Think Beyond The Moment”: What Sanders — And His Supporters — Must Remember Before November

Exactly one year before Election Day – on November 8, 2015 – Bernie Sanders was asked whether his agreement with Hillary Clinton on basic issues outweighed the conflicts that he proclaimed at every campaign appearance.

Speaking on television rather than on the stump, the Vermont senator conceded reluctantly that he and Clinton concur on some issues. But then he added an entirely gratuitous endorsement:

“And by the way, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his bestday.”

That moment of reassuring reason is worth remembering as the debate becomes more rancorous. Clinton isn’t foreordained to win the Democratic nomination, so Sanders neither will nor should hesitate to emphasize their differences.

So far, in fact, his challenge has improved both her candidacy and the national discourse. It is healthy for Democrats to argue about the best ways to ensure more good jobs, higher wages, universal health care, affordable higher education, paid family leave, immigration reform, national security, and a clean energy future.

But the overwrought reaction of some Sanders supporters – who already insist they cannot imagine voting for Clinton because of her campaign donors, her paid speeches, her vote on Iraq, or her support for some of her husband’s policies two decades ago – evokes bad memories of another, truly disastrous presidential campaign.

It is no accident, as they say, that those who “feel the Bern” today include prominent supporters of Ralph Nader’s independent presidential campaign in 2000. Their urge to overthrow the mundane, demand the utopian, reject grubby compromise, and assert moral purity is as powerful today as four cycles ago; and perhaps even more so, especially among those who feel somehow “disappointed” by President Obama. But political decisions based solely on such emotional considerations can prove terribly costly to our country and the world – as we discovered when George W. Bush usurped Al Gore.

Nader and his supporters were not responsible alone for the appalling outcome of the 2000 election but – along with the Supreme Court majority and Gore himself — they bear a substantial share of blame. Their defamatory descriptions of the Democratic nominee were echoed across the media by reporters, columnists, and commentators who knew better — from the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to the cable networks.

Mocking Gore for his supposed personal flaws, such as an alleged propensity to exaggerate his achievements, was as fashionable in media and political circles then as it is to denigrate Hillary Clinton now. Clever people delighted in contrasting Nader’s — and even Bush’s! — “authenticity” with Gore’s stiff insincerity. (Indeed, many of the same pundits are still doing versions of the same stupid pundit tricks.)

Besides, according to the Naderites, there were no important differences between the Democratic nominee and his Republican opponent. Or at least none that merited as much concern as Gore’s earth-toned suits and the preppy character he did or didn’t inspire in a romance novel. A wave of such idiotic babble delivered America and the world into a catastrophic Bush presidency.

Fortunately, the parallels only go so far. Sanders chose a far more responsible route than Nader when he decided to run for the Democratic nomination rather than jump to a third-party line. He has focused on substantive issues and admirably dismissed fake scandals like Benghazi and Clinton’s emails. But by repeating his unfounded insinuation that Clinton’s paid speeches and Wall Street donors have somehow corrupted her, he is inflicting damage that will be very hard to mend.

Looking toward the likelihood that either Clinton or Sanders will face Donald Trump next fall, those corrosive tactics are shortsighted. Should Sanders win the nomination, he will want and need Clinton’s support. And should she defeat him, he will and should want her to win — if he believes what he said last November, and understands the exceptionally dangerous threat posed by a Trump presidency.

The next round of Democratic primaries could encourage still more destructive bashing, from either camp or both. The candidates and their supporters ought to think beyond the moment – and pay attention to filmmaker Michael Moore, an outspoken Sanders backer.

On the evening when his candidate won an upset victory in the Michigan primary, Moore tweeted this message: “A special congrats to Hillary for her victory in Mississippi on International Women’s Day. If you win the nomination, we will be there [with] you.”

Once a zealous backer of Nader, Moore eventually apologized for that tragic mistake. Evidently he would rather not feel that sorry again.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Science Is Settled”: In Spite Of What You See Outside, Global Warming Is Real

Cue the igloos.

The winter blizzard set to paralyze the East Coast has given climate change deniers the perfect opportunity to proclaim, once again, that global warming is a hoax, that several feet of snow prove the planet is as cold as ever, that the Earth is flat: You can tell by looking outside. Common sense.

During a similar snowstorm in 2010, the family of one of the nation’s leading flat-earthers, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., built an igloo on the National Mall. His daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren deposited a sign across the structure that read “Al Gore’s New Home,” in mockery of one of the saner voices on the risks of climate change.

This latest storm has produced plenty of igloo material but no evidence that Gore is wrong. Sorry, but the Earth is, in fact, a sphere — no matter what you see as you look out your bedroom window. Similarly, the planet is warming — no matter how cold it is outside your bedroom window.

Earlier this month, climate scientists released a report saying that 2015 was the warmest year on record for the planet, shattering the previous record that had been set by a very warm 2014. El Niño’s winds contributed to last year’s heat, but the bulk of it is a consequence of human activity, scientists said.

By now, the science is settled. Shouldn’t we be talking about solutions? Shouldn’t our politicians be leading a national discussion about ways to build on the climate accord that President Obama signed in Paris?

One of the most promising answers is a carbon tax, a way to raise prices on the fossil fuels that create much of the environmental havoc. A price hike would help to discourage use by everyone, from the executives at coal-fired electric plants to motorists who drive alone to and from work.

A carbon tax is even more compelling in this era of rapidly falling petroleum prices. While cheap gas helps the family budget, it simply encourages us to use more of it. And, oddly, it even encourages car buyers to skip the smaller, more efficient models and opt for bigger gas guzzlers. At the end of 2015, fuel economy for new vehicles was falling, likely reflecting more purchases of pickup trucks and SUVs, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

It might seem perverse to suggest a carbon tax — or “fee,” as some prefer to call it — just as average households are getting a break from gas prices. After all, the American middle class is still struggling with wage stagnation.

But those households need not be penalized. There are already detailed plans for protecting low- and middle-income households from the budget pinch of a carbon tax, which would affect not only gasoline but also home energy prices.

The bigger problem is that a carbon tax has no chance of passing a recalcitrant Republican Congress, many of whose members still insist that climate change isn’t real. The few GOP moderates who had, in the past, acknowledged human-caused climate change — New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for instance — dare not say so anymore.

It hasn’t always been this way inside the Republican Party. As The Wall Street Journal has noted, “Republicans, not Democrats, first championed market-based systems to control pollution.” In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain and his Democratic rival, Obama, had similar proposals for a carbon tax.

Nowadays, though, the carbon tax is anathema to an irrational Republican electorate. Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, has said that any GOP candidate who supported a carbon tax “would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process.” That helps explain why not a word has been uttered in support of it.

But that’s no reason to give up. Environmentalists and their allies have to keep plugging away at rational solutions, playing the long game. There really is no choice. Global warming is a crisis, no matter how big a blizzard batters the East Coast, and no matter how many igloos the Inhofe clan builds.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 23, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Donald And The Decider”: American Political Discourse Hasn’t Been Dumbed Down, Just Its Conservative Wing

Almost six months have passed since Donald Trump overtook Jeb Bush in polls of Republican voters. At the time, most pundits dismissed the Trump phenomenon as a blip, predicting that voters would soon return to more conventional candidates. Instead, however, his lead just kept widening. Even more striking, the triumvirate of trash-talk — Mr. Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz — now commands the support of roughly 60 percent of the primary electorate.

But how can this be happening? After all, the antiestablishment candidates now dominating the field, aside from being deeply ignorant about policy, have a habit of making false claims, then refusing to acknowledge error. Why don’t Republican voters seem to care?

Well, part of the answer has to be that the party taught them not to care. Bluster and belligerence as substitutes for analysis, disdain for any kind of measured response, dismissal of inconvenient facts reported by the “liberal media” didn’t suddenly arrive on the Republican scene last summer. On the contrary, they have long been key elements of the party brand. So how are voters supposed to know where to draw the line?

Let’s talk first about the legacy of He Who Must Not Be Named.

I don’t know how many readers remember the 2000 election, but during the campaign Republicans tried — largely successfully — to make the election about likability, not policy. George W. Bush was supposed to get your vote because he was someone you’d enjoy having a beer with, unlike that stiff, boring guy Al Gore with all his facts and figures.

And when Mr. Gore tried to talk about policy differences, Mr. Bush responded not on the substance but by mocking his opponent’s “fuzzy math” — a phrase gleefully picked up by his supporters. The press corps played right along with this deliberate dumbing-down: Mr. Gore was deemed to have lost debates, not because he was wrong, but because he was, reporters declared, snooty and superior, unlike the affably dishonest W.

Then came 9/11, and the affable guy was repackaged as a war leader. But the repackaging was never framed in terms of substantive arguments over foreign policy. Instead, Mr. Bush and his handlers sold swagger. He was the man you could trust to keep us safe because he talked tough and dressed up as a fighter pilot. He proudly declared that he was the “decider” — and that he made his decisions based on his “gut.”

The subtext was that real leaders don’t waste time on hard thinking, that listening to experts is a sign of weakness, that attitude is all you need. And while Mr. Bush’s debacles in Iraq and New Orleans eventually ended America’s faith in his personal gut, the elevation of attitude over analysis only tightened its grip on his party, an evolution highlighted when John McCain, who once upon a time had a reputation for policy independence, chose the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate.

So Donald Trump as a political phenomenon is very much in a line of succession that runs from W. through Mrs. Palin, and in many ways he’s entirely representative of the Republican mainstream. For example, were you shocked when Mr. Trump revealed his admiration for Vladimir Putin? He was only articulating a feeling that was already widespread in his party.

Meanwhile, what do the establishment candidates have to offer as an alternative? On policy substance, not much. Remember, back when he was the presumed front-runner, Jeb Bush assembled a team of foreign-policy “experts,” people who had academic credentials and chairs at right-wing think tanks. But the team was dominated by neoconservative hard-liners, people committed, despite past failures, to the belief that shock and awe solve all problems.

Anyone remember that period in the late 80s and early 90s when conservatives were branding themselves as the intellectually rigorous, the…

In other words, Mr. Bush wasn’t articulating a notably different policy than what we’re now hearing from Trump et al; all he offered was belligerence with a thin veneer of respectability. Marco Rubio, who has succeeded him as the establishment favorite, is much the same, with a few added evasions. Why should anyone be surprised to see this posturing, er, trumped by the unapologetic belligerence offered by nonestablishment candidates?

In case you’re wondering, nothing like this process has happened on the Democratic side. When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate, say, financial regulation, it’s a real discussion, with both candidates evidently well informed about the issues. American political discourse as a whole hasn’t been dumbed down, just its conservative wing.

Going back to Republicans, does this mean that Mr. Trump will actually be the nominee? I have no idea. But it’s important to realize that he isn’t someone who suddenly intruded into Republican politics from an alternative universe. He, or someone like him, is where the party has been headed for a long time.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“You Don’t Know Jack”: When It Came To Climate Change, Kemp Was As Extreme As The Rest–And A Model Of GOP Irrationality

CNN commentator Michael Smerconish–a former right-wing pundit who was effectively chased out of the conservative movement after he endorsed Barack Obama in 2008–has attempted to hold up the late Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a model of the broad-minded bipartisanship today’s Republicans should emulate. However, his analysis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Smerconish suggests that Kemp rejected right-wing orthodoxy throughout his political career, citing the following views:

Possessing the forethought to have opposed the Iraq invasion.

Willing to oppose an effort to deny public services to illegal immigrants, including education to children.

Equally reverential of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Eager to seek votes in all neighborhoods and say things like: “We may not get every vote, but we’re going to make it unambiguously clear . . . that we want to represent the whole American family, that no one will be left behind, that no one will be turned away.”

Utterly incapable of launching a personal attack…Kemp was a big-tent Republican, the original compassionate conservative.

Apparently, Kemp’s compassion didn’t extend to those victimized by human-caused climate change. Nineteen years ago, Kemp–then-GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole’s running mate–launched an acid-tongued attack on then-Vice President Al Gore during their sole debate, accusing Gore of promoting “fear of the climate” and embracing an “anti-capitalistic mentality” because Gore dared to call for strong action to combat carbon pollution. (This was, of course, two years after Kemp appeared at a mid-February CPAC conference and moronically joked, “So much for Al Gore’s theory of global warming!”)

In 1999, Kemp aligned himself with the powerful climate-denialist “think tank” known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute; in this capacity, he viciously attacked climate science and took credit for President George W. Bush’s decision not to regulate carbon pollution from power plants. Some centrist.

Yes, Kemp criticized the racists who blamed the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act for the 2008 financial crisis. Yes, he said some nice things about Obama’s historic 2008 victory. However, when it came to climate change, Kemp was as extreme as the rest–and as a model of GOP rationality, he was far from the best.

UPDATE: From 1997 and 2002, more on Kemp’s vicious attacks on climate science.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 17, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Climate Change, Jack Kemp | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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