Russian meddling in the 2016 election has created a crisis the Founders never could have imagined – a greedy, narcissistic con man holding the highest office in the land supported by a sympathetic Congress that likely, too, was elected with the help and interference of a foreign enemy.
The Founding Fathers did put into place a system that provided for the removal of a president from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which certainly would apply to a man who conspired with an enemy to attain office, defied the Constitution’s emolument clause to enrich himself and his family, and appointed Cabinet members with the sole purpose of deconstructing the agencies they head – all the while ignoring every established norm of presidential behavior.
What the Founders failed to anticipate was a Congress simultaneously controlled by a party that is equally corrupt – a Congress comprised of members who, themselves, may have been elected with the help of the same foreign enemy and foreign money illegally funneled through the NRA. As a result, the Constitution has no provision for nullifying the results of elections illegally decided by external forces; no way to erase widespread electoral mistakes.
So what happens if (more likely, when) Special Counsel Mueller proves that the president, his campaign, and numerous members of his staff conspired with Russia in order to steal the election? What then? Certainly, the president could be impeached if Republicans finally agree to place country above party. Certainly, those involved could be charged with crimes and brought to trial. But what about the members of the president’s party in Congress who also benefited from the conspiracy? Can they, too, be removed? And what of the many decisions that have been made since January 20, 2017?
If the president was, indeed, put into office as the result of a conspiracy, will his many appointments to the judiciary be allowed to stand? These are appointments that could impact judicial decisions for generations.
If Republicans were found to have gained control of Congress as the result of unconstitutional gerrymandering, voter suppression, illegal campaign contributions, and foreign interference, will the bills they passed without input from the opposition party be allowed to stand? What of the deficit-ballooning corporate tax cuts? What of the changes to the Affordable Care Act? What of the stolen seat on the Supreme Court?
And what of the decisions made by the president’s appointees? What of the deregulation of the nation’s greatest polluters? What of the damage done to our public school system? What of the money squandered on private jets and $31,000 dining sets?
Worst of all, what of the damage done internationally – to our trade agreements, to our strategic defense pacts, to our standing with allies?
If the decisions made by illegally and unconstitutionally elected officials are allowed to stand, what’s to prevent it from happening again? What’s to prevent unscrupulous individuals from a party – either party – from scamming the system to win and, in doing so, ensure that it can ideologically remake America in its image for decades to come?
We need a constitutional amendment to nullify election results – all of the results – if it can be unequivocally proven that an election was stolen.
It has been well-established that climate scientists are almost unanimous in their warnings of the consequences of climate change as the result of burning fossil fuels. Certainly, man-made global warming is one of the biggest threats of our time. But, unfortunately, it is not the only serious threat to the future of the planet.
There’s the threat of pollution caused by extractive industries as evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, the toxic water spill from Colorado’s Gold King mine, and the pollution of Appalachian streams by the mountaintop removal form of coal mining. There’s the overuse of agricultural chemicals as evidenced by the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s the destruction of carbon-absorbing forests by the agriculture, lumber and palm oil industries. There’s the destruction of marshes by oil drilling companies, pipeline companies and refineries. There’s the destruction of coral reefs by cruise line operators. There’s the consequences of overfishing our oceans by large, commercial fish factories. There’s the destruction of endangered species by poachers and big game hunters.
And we’re just getting started.
We also know that the agrichemical industry is poisoning our land and our bodies with pesticides. At the same time, these pesticides are causing a mass die-off of pollinators such as honey bees and bumblebees. Herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Round-Up and Syngenta’s Atrazine, are not only killing native plants. The elimination of those plants is jeopardizing the future of entire species, such as Monarch butterflies and amphibians. The herbicides have also been linked to cancer in humans. In addition, genetically-modified crops, which rely on the use of herbicides and pesticides, have destroyed the diversity of our crop species making it more likely than ever that a disease or blight could lead to famine.
Arsenic added to animal feeds to make animals grow faster ends up in our water, our food and our bodies. Poultry manure, poultry feathers and bedding which are fed to cows can poison our food and lead to mad cow disease. Manure run-off from feedlots poison our streams and the methane from cows adds to greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Antibiotics added to animal feeds accounts for 80 percent of all antibiotic use leading to a surge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And the methods of large factory-style livestock farms are not only inhumane. They lead to injuries and animal stress which lead to hormonal changes in the meat which, in turn, impacts humans.
Not to be overlooked is what we’re doing to our aquifers. These underground rivers and pools represent the accumulation of water which has filtered through soil and rock over a period of thousands of years – water that is as pure as any on our planet. Yet, instead of reserving this water for human consumption, we are using it to irrigate crops otherwise unsuited for places such as California, Colorado and western Nebraska. We are also polluting the aquifers by fracking and mining. Even our attempts to “restore” aquifers are misguided. We are pumping them full of treated effluent – effluent still filled with pharmaceuticals and hormones. And, incredibly, in much of America we are using the water from aquifers to flush our toilets!
All of these ecological problems are caused by our unsustainable lifestyle – a lifestyle dictated and fueled by the greed of large corporations. Reversing these problems will require regulations, investments, education, new technologies, and, most important of all, a change in politics. The very future of our species depends on it.
Half of all the species on Earth have disappeared in the last 40 years. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Africa and Brazil, the destruction of rain forests continues almost unabated endangering thousands more species of plants and animals while belching tons of carbon and methane into the atmosphere. The resulting increase in world temperatures from deforestation, gas and diesel-powered cars, and coal-fired power plants is causing the Greenland glaciers to lose 17 feet of elevation every year. Likewise, the Antarctic ice shelves and glaciers are melting at alarming rates. In addition, the Arctic sea ice is disappearing putting the future of Polar Bears, even indigenous people in jeopardy.
Greed has led to the near extinction of Northern White Rhinos with only 5 now left on the entire planet, and they’re only alive because they’re guarded 24/7 to protect them from poachers. Ivory poachers are killing African elephants at the rate of more than 33,000 per year. If that continues, wild African elephants will become extinct within 12 years! Tigers and many other species are also nearing extinction in the wild. Even bees and butterflies are endangered by our overuse of pesticides.
We have destroyed most of our great ocean reefs and we continue to dump oil, agrichemicals and trash into the oceans creating large dead zones and “islands” of plastic. Hundreds of large factory ships scoop up anything that swims into nets 24 hours a day, keeping those species that are valuable for sale and killing the rest.
Factory farming of cattle, pigs and poultry has led to the overuse of antibiotics that pollute our bodies and make bacteria increasingly immune to medicines. Dairy cows are treated like milk factories, fed a steady diet of hormones intended to cause them to give more milk. And most of the animals are confined in pens with little room to turn around. Moreover, the waste from these meat and milk factories pollutes our ground water and the animals create enormous amounts of methane released into the atmosphere to add to the greenhouse gases. At the same time, corporate farming of grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts have incorporated more herbicides and pesticides while stripping the flavor and nutrition from our food supply.
Oil companies, subsidized by US taxpayers, are searching farther and deeper for oil and gas while polluting the land and water wherever they go. Not only are they responsible for massive spills in our oceans. They are pumping millions of gallons of benzene and other chemicals into the ground which pollutes our ancient underground aquifers. Coal companies are removing entire mountaintops in Appalachia while destroying forests and streams. Manufacturers and refineries quietly dump their toxic waste into our streams or, if it is so toxic that it might raise alarms in the US, they ship it to third world nations for disposal.
At the same time we are destroying the planet with our greed, holy wars are being waged around the globe displacing millions of people in the name of God and Allah. The destruction is spurred on by military contractors who pump out weapons by the millions then traffic them globally in the name of “defense.”
Given all of these crises, you might expect that Congress is working overtime to find ways to end the destruction. But you’d be wrong. While the planet is quite literally melting down, our crack politicians are playing golf with the polluters; vacationing with the weapons manufacturers; sucking up to billionaire campaign donors; doling out subsidies to corporate farmers. And, instead of addressing the real issues, the GOP and its propaganda arms (Fox News Channel and talk radio) have voters in a tizzy over such issues as the religious freedom to discriminate against others, the imaginary “war on Christians” and the false narrative that “tree huggers” are standing in the way of job creation and higher wages.
And when GOP leaders are asked about climate change, they begin their denial with “I’m not a scientist” or “climate change is unproven.” Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But I have eyes and ears. I can see the effects of pollution. I can see films of rampant deforestation. I can read reports from climate scientists and environmental scientists. And I can listen to experts who flatly state that 2015 may be our last chance to begin the necessary changes to head off the cascading effects and downward spiral of climate change.
So what is the downside of committing to policies that will slow and eventually reverse the destruction of our planet?
There is none. Certainly, some industries and jobs will be negatively impacted. But far more will be created. Making positive changes such as reducing our consumption, changing to a more plant-based diet, and switching from carbon fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biofuels should not be difficult. And the new industries these changes create will be the economic engines that drive our future…if we are to have a future on this planet.
On the day following President Obama’s inspiring State of the Union address, I think it appropriate to wonder, if a world leader were to make a State of the World address, what would it be? What would be the calls to action? What accomplishments would it tout? What dire warnings would it contain?
If I was that world leader, my address would include the following:
Accomplishments? There are very few. Charities and non-governmental organizations have nibbled at the edges of some problems, such as access to clean water, housing and food. But most of these are mere symptoms of larger issues. For example, many nations have contributed to refugee camps while ignoring, or even exacerbating the conflicts that created the refugees in the first place. We have killed terrorists while creating others as a result of those very same killings, all the while ignoring the causes that led to much of that terrorism in the first place. And though we have discussed environmental problems, we have solved few. Sometimes, these two larger issues overlap. For example, at the current rate of killings (an elephant is killed every 15 minutes), African elephants could disappear from the wild in just 11 years. The reason for the slaughter? Ivory is expensive and highly sought after for jewelry, so terrorists are killing the elephants to claim the ivory in order to fund their terrorist activities.
According to a new scientific study, the world’s oceans are on the precipice of mass extinctions. The oceans are being overfished and horribly polluted. Coral reefs are being destroyed by cruise ships and, most especially, container ships in order for large corporations to increase manufacturing profits by exploiting low labor costs in underdeveloped countries. There are large “islands” of trash and plastics floating in our oceans. BP and other oil companies have polluted our waters with oil spills consisting of millions of barrels of crude oil. Fracking is pumping benzenes and other toxic chemicals into our aquifers and polluting our drinking water, even causing earthquakes. Chemical companies and large corporate farms are responsible for toxic runoff from farmlands that have created “dead zones” in our oceans at the mouths of rivers. Those same chemical companies have contributed to the near catastrophic collapse of bee colonies needed to pollinate our food plants. As a result of the tsunami at Fukishima, radioactive water is pouring into the ocean unabated. And the effects of that mess are, as yet, unknown.
Back on land, white rhinos are now extinct in the wild and virtually non-existent in zoos. Black rhinos are greatly endangered. Amur Tigers are virtually extinct and all large cats are endangered. Pandas, which have long been on the edge of extinction, are now even more threatened by climate change. Mountain and Lowland Gorillas are endangered, in addition to Orangutans – both as the result of wars and habitat loss. Rain forests are being denuded in order to exploit them for exotic hardwoods and palm oil. Some forests are being cleared under the mistaken belief that the land can be used for agriculture.
Polar ice sheets and glaciers are melting at phenomenal rates inevitably leading to rising seas that will displace millions and millions of people. And the cost of relocating many of the world’s largest cities will run into the hundreds of billions, likely trillions, of dollars. The loss of ice pack in the Arctic is also threatening the existence of Polar Bears and other species. Of course, it has been well-established that ice melt is the result of our love affair with fossil fuels, but only a few nations are taking the problem seriously. As a result, 2014 was the warmest year on record. Global warming is leading to larger, more violent and more numerous storms. To make matters worse, the Koch-bought US Congress is intent on passing laws that will defund the Environmental Protection Agency, cut environmental regulations for large corporations and maintain tax breaks for the world’s largest polluters, all the while denying their impact on climate change.
Economic inequality and religious extremism have led to an explosion of wars and terrorism worldwide, resulting in the deaths of millions and the displacement of millions more. The immigration of those fleeing violence and economic oppression has led to the rise of hate, racism and right wing extremism in the refugees’ host nations. Meanwhile, economic inequality continues to get worse. It is estimated that, by 2016, 1 percent of the world’s population will own more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth! Yet conservative politicians in the US, Europe and elsewhere continue to vote to cut taxes for large corporations and the wealthy. The beneficiaries then contribute to political campaigns to help elect those who will do their bidding, and the cycle repeats. (Actually, it’s less of a cycle than a death spiral.)
Such is the sad state of the world today. And, thanks to conservative politics, things are only getting worse.
Every single day, I receive emails and letters from dozens of organizations seeking help: The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Oceana, Greenpeace, Walk Free, UNICEF, Care, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, Mercy Corps, No Kid Hungry, Food and Water Watch, Organic Consumers Association, ACLU, Everytown for Gun Safety…the list goes on and on.
While each of these organizations are focused on meeting separate and specific needs, they all have one thing in common. The problems they have been created to solve are all caused by greed…the greed of large corporations, the greed of politicians, the greed for power and profits.
For example, 80 percent of all antibiotics are used by factory farms to ensure they don’t lose their investment in poultry, hogs and beef cattle. Our rivers and oceans are polluted by the run-off of chemicals from corporate farms. Bee colonies are being destroyed by the makers of pesticides. Our beaches and oceans are polluted by off-shore oil drilling. Our fresh water aquifers are polluted from the fracking of oil and gas companies. Our forests are being denuded by large lumber companies. Entire mountains have been decapitated by coal companies. Our reefs are being destroyed by cruise ships and large corporate fishing factories. Natural grain crops are being replaced by genetically modified “Frankenfoods” created by chemical companies. Our air is polluted by factories and carbon-burning power plants. Our streets are filled with people carrying guns pushed by the NRA and gun manufacturers. Our skyrocketing poverty is caused by greedy corporations paying below-subsistence wages. Our governments run deficits as the result of corporate giveaways and tax write-offs. All of these things are enabled by a Congress with politicians elected by large sums of money from billionaires hoping to avoid taxes and corporations hoping to avoid regulation. And the issues are under-reported by corporate media conglomerates that are more intent on advertising revenue than telling the truth.
The result of our runaway corporate society is a planet in dire trouble. Hundreds of species of animals and plants are plummeting toward extinction. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are causing new, untreatable infections. Pollutants in our air, water and food are causing chronic diseases such as asthma, autism, and birth deformities. Oil profits and weapons exports have led to a perpetual state of war. Increased gun sales and weakened laws have led to unsafe streets and mass shootings. And carbon pollution is changing our weather, melting our ice caps and increasing our sea levels.
There is only one way to solve our growing collection of problems. We must elect politicians who understand the cause of our problems; who are not financed by corporations and billionaires; who are more interested in solving problems than getting elected.
How can you tell the difference between one politician versus another? Look at their lists of donors and endorsements. (If their websites don’t list the donors, call their campaign office and ask.) Look at the disclaimers at the end of the commercials. If the ads aren’t paid for by the candidate’s campaign committee or political party, vote for the opponent. Or failing all of that, vote for the candidate who slings the least mud.
In order to fuel our energy habit, there are now more than 1.8 million oil wells worldwide. We know that 36 percent – 648,000 – of them will leak. In addition, we know that all of the oil and gas pipelines that crisscross our country will leak. Yes, all of them! And they’ll leak, not just once, but on multiple occasions. Imagine the combined impact to our environment. Imagine the oil fouling our aquifers, streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Imagine the carbon being released into our atmosphere.
Yet almost all of this oil and gas production is an unnecessary risk. We already know of many non-polluting, renewable forms of energy – wind, solar, hydroelectric, fuel made from algae, and fuel from grasses. Indeed, scientists tell us that we can fuel our entire planet, including our automobiles and trucks, with wind energy alone.
We don’t even need oil and gas to make the plastics that have become the basis of modern manufactured goods. A scientist recently proved that plastic can be made efficiently and economically from carbon sucked from the atmosphere – a process that will both meet our manufacturing needs and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change. Even a 16-year-old science student in Istanbul has proven that plastic can be made from something we throw away every day – banana peels.
So, then, someone please tell me…exactly why do we continue to pollute our planet? Why are we risking the future of our planet by continuing to belch greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? Why are we going ever deeper into our oceans in search of oil? Why are we risking the pristine beauty of the Arctic and the few unspoiled places left on Earth? Why are we mining high polluting tar sands that will give us little more energy than is required to refine them? Why are we even considering allowing a foreign-based company to build a dangerous pipeline across the nation’s largest aquifer? Why are we endangering our fresh water supplies by pumping pollutants into the ground in order to fracture rock formations and cause them to release oil? An even better question is why do we continue to subsidize Big Oil companies enabling them to make spectacular profits while paying remarkably little in taxes?
Of course, the answer to all of these questions is greed. The oil and gas companies and their associated industries exercise great power in Washington and the oil-producing states. They generate billions in profits. As a result, they can afford to hire powerful lobbyists. They can spend millions in misleading advertising campaigns. And, since the Supreme Court decision on behalf of Citizens United, they can contribute millions to political campaigns.
It’s time for the public to demand better; time for more transparency in government; time to stop the subsidies to Big Oil and increase subsidies for sustainable energy; time to pass legislation to overturn Citizens United.
The next time you hear someone say, “Drill, baby, drill” or “Frack, baby, frack,” tell them to go suck on an exhaust pipe. Tell them to get out of the way of the future…because it’s clear that our planet has no future with oil.
Actually, it’s long past time. Had the United States shown leadership when scientists first explained the consequences of climate change, when Al Gore released his Inconvenient Truth, we might have already recreated our economy, inspired other nations and generated millions of jobs. Instead, conservatives chose to politicize the issue to protect Bush/Cheney’s interests in Big Oil.
As a result, we’ve seen more than a decade of increased oil exploration; more than a decade of drilling, fracking, and tar sands mining; more than a decade of mountaintop removal to more cheaply mine coal; more than a decade of ice melt releasing methane; more than a decade of increasing corporate farming with its reliance on chemicals and animal confinement generating even more methane; and more than a decade of obstructing alternative fuel industries.
We’ve heard conservatives ridicule solar energy while China and Europe have captured the manufacture of photovoltaic cells. We’ve heard conservatives ridicule Cap and Trade legislation intended to reduce carbon emissions. Worse, we’ve heard conservatives throw tantrums over the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline which environmental scientists fear will amount to “game over” with regard to climate change.
Meanwhile, President Obama has been understandably quiet with regard to the issue. With Cap and Trade blocked in Congress, his administration has quietly gone about raising fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks. The administration had created incentives and offered loans to help jumpstart alternative energy sources. And the EPA has created new standards for electric generation, causing many power plants to switch from coal to natural gas. All of these measures have reduced US carbon emissions 10 percent since 2005.
That’s good, but not nearly good enough!
With climate change accelerating at an astounding pace, it’s time for the US to invest heavily in measures that can halt and reverse global warming. With the world’s largest economy, we’re in a unique position to show leadership. Not only will this head off an increasing number of calamities, including wars, floods, starvation and other human tragedies. It will transform our economy, create jobs and reverse our decline in exports.
Imagine if, instead of increasing investments in our war machine designed to protect sources of cheap oil, we could use that money to help emerging countries gain access to clean water and cheap electricity. And what if we could do so by helping them leapfrog existing, dirty technology by selling them new carbon-free, sustainable energy? We would be helping them build their economies as we build our own. In addition, we would be building friendships that would last generations.
Imagine if by developing new technologies that would create inexpensive forms of carbon-free energy, we could, once again, export products to China that are made in the US. It’s possible. But it will take unified leadership from both President Obama and Congress.
Well, I can dream. Can’t I?
After seeing a headline by David Suzuki “Trading Water for Fuel is Fracking Crazy,” I started thinking about all of the trade-offs we’re being asked to make. Yes, as Suzuki points out, we are being asked to trade the purity of fresh water in our aquifers that took hundreds and thousands of years to accumulate for the profits of gas and oil companies through the use of toxic chemicals for fracking.
And that’s only one of the trade-offs we’re being asked to make in order to benefit big business.
We’re being asked to trade the beauty of the Appalachians and the area’s pristine waters for the profits of the coal industry through the use of mountaintop removal mining. We’re asked to trade the natural taste and nutrition of fresh fruits and vegetables for the profits of Monsanto, Walmart and large agribusiness companies by allowing the increased use of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) seeds. We’re asked to trade the effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics by allowing large cattle feeders, hog growers and poultry growers to increase profits by adding antibiotics to animal feeds.
In order to increase profits for manufacturers, we’re asked to purchase products made overseas that could be made by workers in the US. So that large corporations can pay employees less than a liveable wage, we are asked to help their employees with food stamps, child care and other safety net programs. In order to increase the profits of corporations, we are asked to lower their income taxes and increase ours. In order to help billionaires avoid paying income taxes, we are asked to give them a large array of tax breaks, including greatly reduced capital gains taxes.
And, in what is probably the most questionable trade-off of all, we are asked to ignore the very real long-term consequences of climate change for the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry.
All of these trade-offs and their consequences are avoidable. We simply need the will to change the way we allow corporations to operate. We should demand that they pay for all of the costs of their actions. And that the cost of government subsidies, including the costs to our environment and our health, be included in corporate expenses.
In other words, if corporations truly are people as the US Supreme Court has ruled, we should hold them accountable for their actions.
The chemical spill in West Virginia that polluted the drinking water of more than 300,000 people should remind everyone of the real cost of fossil fuels. As you know, conservatives are fond of saying that subsidies for research and the expansion of alternative energy are unfair; that they disguise the true cost of solar, wind and other forms of clean, renewable energy. Of course, they never mention the massive direct subsidies our government gives to the coal, oil and gas industries (estimated at $14 billion to $51 billion per year) or the indirect subsidies (the cost of damage to our environment; the cost of health problems that result from breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water; the cost of clean ups of spills; the cost of regulation).
If all of the indirect costs were added, the total subsidies for the fossil fuel industries are almost incalcuable and they’re certain to grow as we deal with the damages caused by climate change.
By comparison, the indirect costs of renewable energy are almost negligible. Wind generators require materials for manufacture and fossil fuels to transport them to their eventual sites. They also reportedly cause the deaths of some birds. But those deaths are dwarfed by the number of birds killed and endangered by oil spills and from drinking chemical pollutants. Solar panels also require manufacture and transportation. But that’s it.
Once in operation, neither add CO2 to the atmosphere. Neither can cause toxic spills. Wind and solar generation is decentralized so there’s less chance of widespread power outages. Both eliminate the need for daily trainloads of fuels. They require no pipelines. There is no need to remove entire mountaintops. No need to pump toxic chemicals into the earth in order to extract wind or sun. And there is no need for waste disposal. When the wind generators and solar panels become obsolete, most of their materials can be recycled.
Best of all, they create jobs in the US, and they would create a lot more if Congress would provide manufacturers with the incentives and protections needed to fend off state-sponsored manufacturers in China. They also reduce the need for fossil fuels, which should make our reserves of oil and gas last well into the future.
So why do Congressional Republicans continue to rubber stamp subsidies for oil, gas and coal while denying much smaller subsidies for alternative energy? The answer, as always, is money.
The majority of fossil fuels are extracted from red states, such as Alaska, Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. Most refineries are also located in red states – Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Oil, gas and coal companies have very deep pockets from decades of favored political status and profiteering. They have one of the largest lobbying groups in Washington. The companies and their billionaire owners are willing to spend whatever it takes to retain their monopolies. Moreover, the Citizens United ruling by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court made it possible for corporations to offer large donations to political campaigns. And politicians are more than willing to accept them.