Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Special Relationship

More observations this week from an American Progressive Abroad. But first, a Brit-at-Large takes a closer look at the US and the UK and what is commonly called...

The Special Relationship
by Coast Watcher

It’s probably a coincidence that the two major Anglo-Saxon countries on Earth are undergoing a crisis at the moment. The United States is suffering from the Republican regime of Donald Trump and his Tea-bagger cronies. Social programs are being gutted or wound up across the board, leaving millions in the lurch. Jeff Sessions had Medicare and Medicaid firmly in his sights until his sacking right after the mid-term elections. The propaganda supporting government rape of the welfare systems is well under way. 

Even recent gains by the Democratic party in the House won’t suffice to pry the cold, dead grip of capitalism from control of the country. The party itself is firmly in the pocket of Big Business. In Ohio, the outgoing GOP-dominated state house is rushing through bills limiting abortions after six weeks and a Stand Your Ground gun rights legislation, both of which have caused so much death and misery in other states that have adopted them.

In Britain, the post-Brexit vote is causing all kinds of ructions in the country as Theresa May’s Conservative government grapples with finding a way of leaving the EU gracefully. The recent deal negotiated with the EU has left the country in turmoil and the deal comes in for severe criticism. Several prominent ministers and Members of Parliament have filed motions of no confidence in the Prime Minister with the chairman of the Conservative party. It looks like her tenure in No. 10 Downing Street will soon be at an end. 

Motions of no confidence in the Prime Minister usually force a general election. With the mood in Britain swinging firmly behind the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the whole Conservative government may soon be retired.

The American system of checks and balances was set up to prevent any one branch of government from becoming too powerful. It has failed. Big Business is in control. The British Parliamentary system has survived far worse crises than Brexit and will survive far more yet and still be responsive to the voter rather than Big Business—especially with a Labour government in charge.

Perhaps it’s time America abandoned its flawed experiment in democracy and returned to the parliamentary system of government the Founding Fathers rejected two hundred and forty two years ago.

BIO: Coast Watcher regularly compares and contrasts the systems of government and politicians in both the US and the UK and finds the current lot wanting. It's time for a change. Political revolution, anyone?

And now, the word on the street in everyday England...

Don't Many Americans Like Mr. Trump?
by C. A. Matthews 

"Don't many Americans like Mr. Trump?"

This question was asked by a friend's mother. She was sincere in her query, and after being in England for a week I can well understand her confusion.

Watching glimpses of the BBC and other British political television programs this past week, I see there's no reason why our friend's mum could realize just how unpopular Donald Trump is in the US or anywhere else in the world. I hate to break this to you, but British news sources are every bit as controlled (and the narrative carefully tweaked to support the status quo) as American media networks are.

Case in point: Prime Minister Theresa May and her own party's upcoming vote of no confidence in her leadership abilities. It sounds rather dire for Mrs. May, doesn't it? On a regional political news show, however, it was made to sound that the possibility of a general election being called wasn't that big of a deal. The P.M. would easily win again. Everyone in East Anglia (a Conservative stronghold) loves Theresa May and the Tory message on Brexit it appears. You would never know that there were dissenting viewpoints in the UK by watching their mainstream news programs.

Another example of how the Trump narrative has been spun by British media is coverage of the Trump Baby Blimp event from this past summer. Our friend and his mother both hadn't heard about the blimp. Sure, it flew over the skies of London and not near their small town (120 miles east of London), and they were probably busy with work and other activities, but still... The Trump Baby Blimp obviously didn't warrant a lot of press coverage in Theresa May's  Conservative stronghold, did it?

The lesson to be learned here is that censorship and media manipulation of public opinion is a  worldwide phenomenon. Many ordinary people are kept in the dark on purpose by the mass media. Outright lies to make the public think right-wing politicians are more popular and in tune with the majority than they are in reality is the order of the day. Corporate propaganda reigns supreme.

One last thing--I haven't heard any mention of Jeremy Corbyn on a newscast so far. Even with the small amount of telly I've watched I should have heard his name  at least once this past week, right? But if we've learned anything since 2016 in the US, it's this: If you don't mention your opposition then they simply don't exist, and how can voters support a person who doesn't exist?

Sound familiar, Berners?

My takeaway from all this is that we can't afford to sit back and wish for a big name newsreader to tell us what we need to know, when we need to know it. A free and fair mainstream media simply doesn't exist. So, why should we continue supporting the corrupt system that is?

Support as many independent journalists as you can while your ISP allows it. Get the facts minus the propaganda. The planet you save may well be your own.

A great place to find news you won't hear on the mainstream media--Beanstock's World Political Awakening Video Weekend. This past week's pick of the best of indie podcasts and videos was fantastic. Watch and learn a lot:

From Rainforest Action Network:

You’ve heard for years that the Keystone XL pipeline would be a disaster for our climate… but do you know WHY we’ve fought it SO hard, for so long? I want to share some of the backstory with you here today.

So without further ado, allow me to present the 8 reasons.

Why We Fight KXL:


1. Climate Impact: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released a devastating new report revealing that if we don’t keep warming to 1.5 degrees, the consequences will be absolutely devastating for our future. In fact, it’s clear that we have to ACT NOW in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and we have to keep ALL fossil fuels in the ground to achieve that. KXL would be responsible for as much carbon pollution as 37.7 million cars or 51 coal-fired power plants

2. Tribal Opposition: The KXL would cut directly through tribal lands, without their permission, and potential spills could devastate their water supplies, food sources and destroy sacred sites.

3. Social Impact: In tribal communities on the border of this project, Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing. The tribes have had to start “safe house” campaigns in opposition of “man camps” by KXL workers.

4. Health Impacts: First Nation communities that live near tar sands mines and production sites have seen an increase in cancer, poor air quality and long term damage to fish, game and water quality.

5. Forest Destruction: Tar sands mining has directly impacted the Boreal Forest. Forest loss caused by tar sands development is projected to exceed 1,150,000 hectares over the next few decades. Studies show that disrupted habitat for endangered species will be at least 10 times that amount.

6. The Location: The Keystone Pipeline is supposed to bring tar sands oil down from Alberta, Canada all the way through the middle of America to Steele City, NE. That would connect Canadian tar sands all the way to the Gulf Coast. If KXL is completed, it would carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands to refineries each day.

7. Leaks & Spills: It’s not a question of if… The only question is WHEN will the pipeline leak, and how devastating will it be for Indigenous communities? TransCanada’s pipeline oil spill in 2017 was TWICE AS LARGE as originally believed. It spilled ANOTHER 9,700 barrels in South Dakota in April 2018.

8. Agriculture:  Farmers along the pipeline route fear that the irreplaceable underground water their livelihoods depend on would be contaminated by oil spills.

If these 8 reasons aren’t enough, try this one: the future of the KXL pipeline has a direct impact on YOUR quality of life and that of all of your loved ones.

 Please act now…. Before it’s too late.

In solidarity,
Ruth Breech
Senior Climate Campaigner
Rainforest Action Network


From the Sierra Club:

The climate alarms are getting louder, and the fires burning across my home state of California are the latest sign that we can’t wait for a new Congress and White House to face reality.

In order to stop the worst impacts of climate change, major corporations have to own their climate responsibility and make urgent changes. And no company has more money and influence to push for climate action than the largest investor in the world: BlackRock.

Send a message now: tell BlackRock to align their investments and practices with a climate-safe world!

Most people don't know what asset managers like BlackRock are, but they have quietly become the largest owners of the global economy and have enormous influence behind the scenes. The world's biggest asset manager, BlackRock, manages $6.4 trillion in assets and is one of the largest shareholders in most major companies. 

That also means that BlackRock is the largest investor in companies that are driving the climate crisis. In fact, BlackRock is the number one investor in new coal plant production, one of the largest investors in oil and gas, and the top US investor in companies destroying the world’s rainforests. BlackRock is also a top shareholder of many of the big banks that finance the development of new dirty fuels and pipelines.

Rather than using that leverage to push for strong climate action, BlackRock has let most of these companies off the hook. BlackRock lags behind some of its peers by refusing to divest or vote against the directors of the worst polluters,1 by voting against shareholder proposals for climate action, and by offering no transparency into its own shareholder engagement practices.2

BlackRock has a big climate problem, but they also have a big opportunity to fix it. Their CEO, Larry Fink, says that he wants to be a climate leader and has been vocal about the need for greater corporate social responsibility.3 In his own words: “Every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”

Right now, that's mostly talk -- but if enough of us raise our voices, BlackRock will have to square its actions with its leader’s words. It’s time for BlackRock and Larry Fink to put their money and power where their mouth is. 

Send a message to BlackRock now: be a true leader in the fight against climate change!

Thanks for all you do,

Ben Cushing
Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Representative
Sierra Club

[1] Ben Chapman, The Independent. Legal & General gets tough on companies not doing enough to tackle climate change. June 11, 2018.
[2] Kimberly Gladman, 50/50 Climate Project. Asset Manager Climate Scorecard 2018.
[3] Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times. BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support. January 15, 2018.

It's high time we ended this special relationship our government has with corporations...

 The Revolution Continues has set up an easy way to donate to the cause of keeping it ad-free. Three years plus without obnoxious ads (that many news sites have to cover costs) has been great, but the editor does have to pay for internet, electricity, etc., out of her own pocket, and she would like to be able to pay her contributors in the future.

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Power to the people and not the corporations!


As families across the country prepare to gather with loved ones for the Thanksgiving holiday, lawmakers in Washington are preparing for the post-election ‘lame duck’ session, which could bring opportunities to protect and strengthen Medicare.

This and every Thanksgiving, we are thankful for Medicare. Tell your lawmakers why you are too, and ask them to prioritize Medicare, older adults and people with disabilities during the lame duck session by:

  • Passing the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S.1909; H.R. 2575), which would improve the Medicare Part B enrollment process; and
  • Opposing any attempts to raise prescription drug costs for people with Medicare, including efforts to roll back recent Part D reforms.

Take Action

  • Call your Members of Congress: Dial the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected with your Representative and Senators. Use these talking points to help guide your conversation or to leave a message.
  • Amplify your Voice: Please share this alert widely and let others know why you’re thankful for Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA.
  • Learn More: Click here to read a summary of these issues from the Medicare Rights Center, and click here for insight from the Center for Medicare Advocacy on what to expect in the lame duck session and beyond.  ***
  • Climate Hawks Vote

    On Friday, Donald Trump announced that he’ll nominate Andrew Wheeler, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency since Scott Pruitt was fired, to serve formally as the administrator. The main difference between “acting head” and “head” is critical for activists like you and me: Wheeler will need Senate confirmation.

    What you need to know about Andrew Wheeler:

    • Wheeler spent most of the last decade at a DC lobbying firm representing the coal industry, including Robert Murray of Murray Energy, an old school coal baron who's consulting with Trump to save the coal industry, never mind the planet.
    • Prior to that, Wheeler worked for the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee under Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a notorious climate denier.
    • Wheeler is shrewder than his predecessor Scott Pruitt -- he’ll avoid scandals involving mattresses, lotions, and soundproof booths -- but equally dedicated to dismantling the EPA’s entire regulatory system. And that makes him more dangerous than Pruitt.

    Here’s an example of Wheeler’s calculations. He’s trying to undo the mercury rule, the rule that required coal plants to add mercury “scrubbers” to their smokestacks. This rollback is so indefensible that even the coal-fired electric utilities have asked him not to undo this rule -- they’ve already spent the money and installed the scrubbers, so they can’t even claim that the regulation will cost them. And the rule has what EPA-folk call “ancillary benefits,” like public health. We fear he wants to undo the mercury rule to set a precedent that ancillary benefits shouldn’t be counted. In other words, public health won't ever matter one bit in Wheeler’s world. Just profits.

    We must stop Wheeler. And that means mobilizing climate hawks even before he's formally nominated.

    Even some Republican Senators, like the coal-fired electric utilities, are uneasy with a wholehearted embrace of mercury poisoning.

    Your fellow climate hawk,

    RL Miller



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