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“An American Prayer”: Why Doesn’t Lindsey Graham Challenge The ‘Religious Climate’ Deniers In His Party?

Five years ago, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza had a lengthy and fairly depressing report on the demise of climate-change legislation in the US Senate. Lizza included this interesting tidbit about Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who initially co-sponsored the climate bill with then-Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT):

At a climate-change conference in South Carolina on January 5, 2010, Graham started to sound a little like Al Gore. “I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution” are “not a good thing,” Graham said. He insisted that nobody could convince him that “all the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day in and day out,” could be “a good thing for your children and the future of the planet.” Environmentalists swooned. “Graham was the most inspirational part of that triumvirate throughout the fall and winter,” Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said. “He was advocating for strong action on climate change from an ethical and a moral perspective.”

But, back in Washington, Graham warned Lieberman and Kerry that they needed to get as far as they could in negotiating the bill “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process,” one of the people involved in the negotiations said. “He would say, ‘The second they focus on us, it’s gonna be all cap-and-tax all the time, and it’s gonna become just a disaster for me on the airwaves. We have to move this along as quickly as possible.'”

Graham later washed his hands of the legislation under controversial circumstances, setting the stage for the bill’s death in July 2010. Graham’s abandonment of the legislation—just weeks after he had been touted as the future of climate leadership in the United States–was one of three major setbacks that year for those who longed for a bipartisan solution to the climate crisis, the others being Rep. Bob Inglis’s (R-SC) primary loss to future Benghazi bully Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in June, and Rep. Mike Castle’s (R-DE) loss to Christine O’Donnell in a Republican Senate primary in September.

Five years later, Graham is one of only two Republican presidential candidates (the other being former New York Governor George Pataki) who’s willing to acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change. The problem is, Graham can’t seem to resist taking nasty potshots at climate-concerned progressives, as he did recently in New Hampshire:

Graham continued by contrasting Democrats who view climate change as a “religion” with Republicans that refuse to accept the mainstream consensus on climate science.

“It is, to me folks, a problem that needs to be solved, not a religion,” Graham said of climate change. “So to my friends on the left who are making this a religion, you’re making a mistake. To my friends on the right who deny the science, tell me why.”

The “religion” rhetoric, apparently borrowed from an ugly 2008 column by Charles Krauthammer, is silly, and Graham would be well-advised to drop it as soon as possible if he’s serious about once again bringing both parties together on this issue. If climate change is, according to Graham, a “religion,” that means Pope Francis is following two “religions.” Does that make any sense at all?

Instead of bashing progressives, why doesn’t Graham challenge the climate deniers in his party to travel down to his home state—recently devastated by fossil-fueled flooding—and tell the relatives and friends of those who died in those floods that human-caused climate-change isn’t real, and that we don’t need to take action? That would be far more productive than taking potshots at climate hawks on the left.

 

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

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Climate Change Deniers, GOP, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Wrong Way To Honor Florida’s Rick Scott”: No One In Their Right Mind Would Give Rick Scott An Award For Protecting Wildlife

After five years in office, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not made many friends among those concerned with the environment, the climate crisis, or the state’s natural resources.

“By most expert accounts, Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in Tallahassee has been a flat-out catastrophe for the Sunshine State’s already-fragile environment,” the Miami New Times reported this week. “He slashed water management budgets and stacked regulatory boards with developers. He battled tooth-and-nail against new clean water mandates. Even muttering the words ‘climate change’ was banned in state offices.”

With this in mind, the Tampa Bay Times’ Craig Pittman found it curious when a Florida group announced that the far-right governor is receiving an award for his work on the environment.

The award, announced via email last week, is being given to Scott later this year by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, which functions as a support group for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is run by gubernatorial appointees.

In the announcement, the foundation’s chairman, Miami real estate developer and lobbyist Rodney Barreto, hailed Scott for being “instrumental in helping develop a strong connection between fish and wildlife conservation and traditional outdoor activities like hunting and especially fishing.”

The Sierra Club’s Frank Jackalone told the Tampa Bay Times, “No one in their right mind would give Rick Scott an award for protecting wildlife.”

Asked for an explanation, Brett Boston, the foundation’s executive director, insisted the group is “very apolitical.” And what about the governor’s critics, who find it ridiculous that Scott would receive an environmental award?

“People complained about Mother Teresa,” Boston said.

I’m going to assume that this is the first – and quite likely the last – time anyone has tried to draw a parallel between Rick Scott and Mother Teresa.

As for the Republican governor’s environmental record, the Tampa Bay Times’ report added:

Scott has cut funding for the state’s water districts, vetoed funding for all the state’s regional planning councils, and eliminated money for a University of Florida lab considered key to stopping invasive species from ruining the state’s agriculture and environment.

In addition, Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection has shifted away from punishing polluters with fines and other penalties to instead assisting polluters with getting back into compliance. Scott praised the DEP last year for cutting the amount of time it takes to get a permit to a mere two days – down from 44 days when Jeb Bush was governor.

Scott’s DEP has also made several controversial moves to alter the award-winning state park system – selling off some land as surplus, for instance, or opening some parks to timber harvesting and cattle grazing or even hunting.

Alan Farago, president of Friends of the Everglades, told the Miami New Times. “In terms of the environment, I think [Scott is] the worst governor in modern Florida history.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2015

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dr. Evil” Turns Out To Be “Dr. Silly”: A Self-Serving Huckster Who Grubs For Corporate Dollars By Offering To Do Their Dirty PR Work

Big Oil, labor exploiters, industrial food factories, frackers, and other corporate profiteers have been paying a lot of money to a man who celebrates himself as “Dr. Evil” — the scourge of all progressive groups!

But Rick Berman is not a doctor, not evil, and not a scourge. While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he’s just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers, and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies.

Berman’s modus operandi is not exactly sophisticated. Taking money from the likes of Philip Morris, Monsanto, and Tyson Foods, he sets up tax-exempt front groups (with nondescript names like Center for Consumer Freedom, Employment Policies Institute, and Environmental Policy Alliance), posing them as independent research and academic outfits. Each one is an empty shell, run by his small staff of political hacks out of his Washington, D.C., office, and, using the names of the front groups, Berman and Co. buy full-page newspaper ads and write opinion pieces filled with made-up facts and manufactured horror stories for clueless media outlets that amount to raw hatchet attacks on whatever progressive groups or public policies the corporate funders want to kill.

His mad-dog style is hardly worrisome to those targeted, for rather than drawing converts to the corporate funder’s cause, it merely rallies the usual anti-labor, anti-enviro, anti-“fill in the blank” crowd. But it still appeals to brand-name corporate clients, for Berman promises to spew their message into the media without having any of the nastiness stick to them. “We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors,” he assured energy executives last year. “There is total anonymity,” he bragged. “People don’t know who supports us.”

And can you even imagine a political PR campaign against environmentalists that was so negative, so ridiculously slanted and downright dirty, that it actually repulsed executives of some of America’s biggest fracking corporations?

Wow — it’s got to take a big wad of ugly to gag a fracker! But in the gross world of political rancor, few cough up hairballs as foul as those produced by Berman. Last year, he was in Colorado Springs, speaking at a meeting of Big Oil frackers about his down-and-dirty plan to smear and ridicule the grassroots enviros who’ve dared to oppose the fracking of Colorado’s land, water, people, and communities. Dubbing the campaign “Big Green Radicals,” the Berman team revealed that their PR firm had dug into the personal lives of Sierra Club board members, looking for tidbits to embarrass them. Gut it up, Berman cried out to the executives, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” The Little Generalissimo then urged them to pony up some $3 million for his assault, saying they should “think of this as an endless war,” adding pointedly, “and you have to budget for it.”

Unfortunately for the sleaze peddler, one appalled energy executive recorded his crude pitch and leaked it to the media. “That you have to play dirty to win,” the executive explained, “just left a bad taste in my mouth.” Even Anadarko, an aggressive fracking corporation with 13,000 fracked wells in the Rockies, publicly rejected Berman’s political play, telling the New York Times: “It does not align with our values.”

Berman likes to be called “Dr. Evil,” but he’s so coarse, strident, bombastic, and clownish that he’s become known as “Dr. Silly.” And oops, not only is this huckster an ineffectual fake, but big holes in his curtain of anonymity are now revealing some of the corporations hiding behind it and his big funders want no part of that. To take a peek, go to www.BermanExposed.org.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 22, 2014

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, PR Campaigns | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Did Christie Settle With Exxon?”: At This Moment In History, Good Policy And Good Politics Are Not Often Synonymous

Last week, Republican governor Chris Christie’s administration settled New Jersey’s long-standing environmental lawsuit against ExxonMobil Corp. for pennies on the dollar. For a decade, the state had been seeking $8.9 billion in damages for pollution at two refineries in the northern part of the state, and yet Christie’s top officials abruptly proposed closing the case for just $225 million.

In the aftermath, as environmentalists express outrage and legislators move to block the settlement, the question on many observers’ minds has been simple: Why did Christie settle?

One possible answer is just as simple: money — more specifically, campaign cash.

According to federal records, ExxonMobil has donated more than $1.9 million to the Republican Governors Association since Christie’s first run for governor in 2009. That includes $279,000 during Christie’s election and re-election races, and also another half-million when he chaired the organization in 2014. Additionally, one of Exxon’s law firms in the New Jersey case also donated $30,000 to the RGA since 2013.

Another possible answer could be relationships.

Christie’s first attorney general worked for Exxon for seven years. His deputy chief of staff in 2014 left the governor’s office for a job with Exxon’s lobbying firm in Trenton. And weeks before the settlement was announced, one of his cabinet secretaries took a job with Exxon’s New Jersey law firm.

Still another possible answer about why Christie settled the Exxon case could be found in a little-noticed provision his administration slipped into the annual budget in 2014.

The language in question empowers the governor to divert money obtained from environmental litigation away from pollution cleanup programs and into the state’s general fund, where it can be used to fill budget gaps or finance corporate subsidies. The provision explicitly takes precedence over other state laws designed to direct proceeds from environmental lawsuits into New Jersey’s environmental protection programs.

Because the provision is temporary, remaining in force only until a new budget is enacted, critics say that it effectively encourages Christie’s administration to settle cases as quickly as possible to free up cash that the governor can then tap however he sees fit. The most expedient way to accelerate a settlement is to lessen the fines sought from the company facing the lawsuit.

“This is money that rightfully belongs to the people of New Jersey to make up for the injury to the environment,” said Jeffrey Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Instead, the governor is diverting it for other purposes. It’s a twofer: Reduced settlements help the oil companies before Christie’s presidential campaign, and Christie can quickly get more money for the record amounts of corporate subsidies he is handing out.”

So which answer is correct? Is the settlement a product of campaign cash, relationships or budget machinations? It is hard to say for certain, but in all likelihood it is probably a little bit of all three — plus some presidential campaign calculation sprinkled in.

In politics, as rare as it is to see a policy decision made on the substantive merits of an issue, it is even rarer that a decision is only about one thing. Most often, decisions represent a mixture of motivations. In agreeing to such a small settlement in the Exxon case, Christie placates his politically connected colleagues and gets himself some extra cash to spend on his budget’s new tax cuts. He also gives a gift to an oil industry donor just as he starts raising money for a 2016 White House bid.

Sure, the settlement may not be great policy, but it may be shrewd short-term politics. That divergence is hardly surprising — at this moment in history, good policy and good politics are not often synonymous.

 

By: David Sirota, a Senior Writer at The International Business Times; The National Memo, March 13, 2015

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Chris Christie, Exxon Mobil | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Turnaround Is Fair Play”: What If The Girl Scouts Investigated The Bishops?

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is going to investigate Girl Scouts USA because of concern over some of the Scouts’ program materials and some organizational ties, such as—cue ominous music—the Sierra Club and Doctors Without Borders!

But what if Girl Scouts USA were to turn the tables and scrutinize the bishops’ group overseeing the investigation: the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth?

After all, that committee includes the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Bishop of Oakland, who publicly bemoaned the fact that former Harvard president Lawrence Summers was excoriated for suggesting that women tend to have less aptitude for science and math. “Why,” asked Cordileone, “didn’t he have a right to say something which is a perfectly legitimate observation?”

(An aside: Is there anyone who seriously thinks Lawrence Summers had no legal right to say what he said? Isn’t the issue that a whole lot of people thought he was, you know, wrong; and, further, that being that glaringly wrong in public carries the consequence of strong disagreement and professional ramifications? But hey, while we’re on the subject of people having or not having the legal right to do and say things that other people strongly disagree with: It may interest you to know that Cordileone was also one of the major driving forces behind Prop. 8 in California, which outlawed same-sex marriage.)

Also on the committee is Most Rev. George Rassas. In 2008, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, said in a deposition that Rassas had “withheld information about abuse allegations.”

These are two of the people who will be seeing whether Girl Scouts USA meets the appropriate standards for a Catholic organizational partner. In light of this, why not ask whether the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth meet Girl Scouts USA’s standards, rather than just the other way around?

Girl Scouts USA has, after all, developed significant programming to encourage girls to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The website even calls girls “natural scientists”! Moreover, when faced with abuse disclosures from scouts, Girl Scout volunteers are instructed to “tell her you believe her” and “report the suspected abuse to the local agency designated to investigate such cases.” As such, the actions of Bishop Cordileone and (if Cardinal George is correct) Bishop Rassas suggest that they may not share these Girl Scouts values. I suspect those are values that many of the Girl Scouts’ constituents probably also hold dear.

Of course, I doubt Girl Scouts USA will point this out. Perhaps they rightly perceive what I should probably also do a better job taking to heart: that it’s not very charitable to judge a whole group by the few cherrypicked things you most object to (polite cough). At the same time, just like a church has the prerogative not to partner with a group that violates its religious convictions—understanding that they may thereby compromise their reach—neither is an organization that works for girls’ empowerment under an obligation to compromise its core values. Should they wish to do so, Girl Scouts USA is in a position to claim the moral high ground here.

By: Sarah Morice-Brubaker, Religion Dispatches, May 17, 2012

May 19, 2012 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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