Friday Reads: Rent seeking by Billionaire Lobbyists wrecks the World

jack21

Good Morning!

Those of you that have known me for some time know that I am a big fan of our nation’s National Parks. I spent a good deal of my childhood travelling all over the country with the major destinations being our National Parks. This is because my mother was taken on camping trips to our new National Park System when she was a girl. I followed in that traditional and took my oldest daughter and youngest–mostly with my parents but sometimes with my husband in tow if he would actually leave work–and headed off to many in the west.

Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument and then the Anasazi Indian sites were my favorites.  It was really dismaying for me to read this today because Chaco Canyon rates high in my all time favorite places.  The evil extraction businesses wants to frack in our National Parks and Chaco Canyon is on the list.  This is the kind of legislation the Koch Brothers love because they can wreck our national parks and earn billions by paying the U.S. government next to nothing to do so.  What they pay to Republicans in Congress is a completely different matter.

Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Four Corners region of the U.S., preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian historical areas in the country. The site hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest and the area is considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people.

Both Chaco Canyon National Park and Otero Mesa in New Mexico, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are being targeted for exploratory research for oil and gas extraction.

  • Click here to learn more about fracking.

  • Read Gloria Flora’s article ”Fracking the Commons.”

  • Read an essay on fighting oil and gas development in National Forests.

  • Take our partner’s call to action to ban fracking on federal lands.

This really rates up there with some of the absolute worst policy I’ve ever heard about.  Considering that a lot of this energy is being sold to places in China and India, there is really no reason to rape our public lands for the benefit of a few folks.images (29)

The Koch Brothers are intent on keeping this country addicted to fossil fuel. They obviously want to frack us into some post apocalyptic hell realm while they continue to live off their daddy’s wealth.  The Koch Brothers are pushing legislation all over the south to get rid of tax incentives for solar power conversion and to put taxes on it to make it more expensive.

As U.S. Solar electric capacity has expanded explosively – 418% – from  2326 megawatts in 2010 to 12,057 MW in February 2014, an increase of 9,731 MW reports the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Solar has moved rapidly from a niche market to 1.13% of total U.S. capacity.  To stop the rapid growth of solar, which is threatening to break Americans from the death grip of fossil fuels, the Koch Brothers are demanding to tax the sun.

U.S installed solar capacity shot up over 400% in the last 4 years.

The rapid decline in the cost of solar panels and state and federal incentives have spurred investment in solar power at all scales from individuals to small businesses to large utilities. Net metering, which allows users to reverse their power meter when they produce more power than they consume, has incentivized rooftop solar. Moreover, states from Hawaii to South Carolina have developed programs to make the installation costs affordable to average consumers. Forbes reported in July 2013 on how  Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii’s Democrats made solar accessible to renters. This is exactly the kind of legislation I advocated a decade earlier when I ran for a position on the board of Kauai’s electric power co-op. It’s great to see seeds planted finally coming up and bearing fruit.

Senate Bill 1087, which Gov. Abercrombie signed on June 27, makes solar photovoltaic systems, as well as solar thermal water heaters and big-ticket energy efficiency upgrades, available to all these underserved customers by eliminating the thorny issue of the upfront costs.On-bill financing enables residential or commercial property owners or renters to avoid the initial out-of-pocket expense to install energy improvements. Upgrades are instead financed with loans paid back via a line item on the customer’s monthly utility bill. If the property is sold or transferred, the loan stays with the meter and would be taken over by the new property owner or tenant.

But, this great progress in bringing clean energy to the individual threatens monopolists from the Koch brothers to electric utilities. The Koch’s AFP have conspired with utilities to write legislation to force individuals to pay a tax to the utility companies for accessing the grid. The Koch Brother’s AFP has demanded laws to tax the sun.

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This is what the billions of dollars of Sheldon Adelson support:  Genocide on indigenous Palestinians. 

There are so many lobbying groups in Washington DC these days that money and tax subsidies go to a continued, horrifying array of policies that are not good for any one but a few people and power brokers.  SOS John Kerry called the state of Israel a state of apartheid.  He is most certainly right. The current government–cobbled together from right wing extremists–promotes policies aimed at Palestinians that are straight out of the playbook of South Africa.  There is no way our government should be giving any government money and support when there are policies used to kill indigenous peoples.

 Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.

1.  South Africa created Bantustans as a way of denaturalizing Blacks, ensuring that they could not vote for the national government and were assigned citizenship only in their weak Bantustan.

Gaza and the West Bank function as Bantustans, as South African Blacks have no trouble recognizing.  Indeed, a former Italian prime minister maintains that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon told him he thought the Bantustan system was the best way of dealing with the Palestinians.  The Palestinians living in these occupied territories have no citizenship in any real state.  They are stateless.  The West Bank has been segmented into 8 units.  Palestinians cannot travel between them without going through numerous checkpoints.  They cannot vote for the Israeli government, but they are ultimately controlled by the Israeli military.  When in 2006 they were allowed to hold elections for a toothless “parliament,” and they cheekily elected a party the Israelis find unacceptable, the election results were overturned by Israel.

2.  South Africa instituted a “pass” system to control the movement of Blacks.

Israel instituted a “permit” system to control the movement of Palestinians.  West Bank Palestinians cannot live outside the 8 designated areas without a permit.  Desmond Tutu, who knows a bit about Apartheid South Africa, remarked of seeing, on his visit to the Occupied West Bank, “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.

3.  In Apartheid South Africa, 80% of the land was set aside for white settlers.

Israel itself was ethnically cleansed of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and was designated “Jewish,” such that the expelled Palestinians (now millions strong) were denied the right to return to their homes.  Some 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are from southern Israel, and cannot return to their nearby homes in cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers.  In the Palestinian West Bank, some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped significant amounts of land from Palestinians, for which they paid nothing to the original owners, and their squatter settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, who cannot live in them.

4.  In Apartheid South Africa, Blacks from the Bantustans could not attend universities designated for whites.

In the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli military governor has recognized a squatter university, Ariel, built on usurped Palestinian land.  Although Palestinian-Israelis can attend, stateless West Bank Palestinians cannot get on campus because they are barred from settlements by the Apartheid pass system, as Dahlia Scheindlin wrote at 972mag:

“Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.”

5. South African Apartheid forbade marriages between people of different ethnicities.

Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian heritage cannot intermarry in Israel.  Two Israeli citizens of different ethnic heritage can marry abroad and return to Israel.  But Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank are not allowed to bring their spouse to Israel.  The same problem is not faced by Israeli Jews who marry squatters on the Palestinian West Bank.

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Pink Floyd has joined the call to boycott Israel just as musicians boycotted South Africa when its government was destroying the civil rights, liberties, and lives of its indigenous peoples.

With the recent news that the Rolling Stones will be playing their first-ever concert in Israel, and at what is a critical time in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom and equal rights, we, the two surviving founders of Pink Floyd, have united in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.

The BDS movement is modeled on the successful nonviolent movements that helped end Jim Crow in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. Indeed, key figures who led the South African freedom struggle, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s close associate, Ahmed Kathrada, have come out in support of BDS for Palestinian rights. BDS offers us all a way to nonviolently pressure the Israeli government to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable and unsustainable.

Adelson loves him some Bibi so much that he is buying up Israeli media much of which is highly critical to the PM’s policies.  This ensures that the ordinary Israeli hears even less of what’s really going on around them.

Israel’s news media are lively, but venues are not infinite, with four main national newspapers, three television news broadcasters and a handful of radio and news Web sites vying to inform and sway public opinion in a country known for its rough-and-tumble politics.

An investigative report by Channel 10 aired last year claimed that Adelson’s newspaper Israel Hayom was spinning the news to show Netanyahu in a more positive light. The newspaper’s editor, Amos Regev, dismissed the report, saying,  “This so-called evidence doesn’t prove anything other than the routine workings of a news organization.”

Adelson’s new ventures are seen as a good thing for Netanyahu. Israel’s media is often very critical of Netanyahu —  and loves engaging in what the Prime Minister calls “psychobabble” about his motives. Though he makes plenty of public pronouncements, Netanyahu rarely grants on-the-record interviews or does not host regular news conferences. Adelson’s purchase might also be a plus for Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who regularly faces media scrutiny for what critics call her imperial lifestyle (she recently came under fire for yelling at a staffer for buying bags of milk instead of a proper carton).

Adelson has played a big role in GOP politics and is vocal about his support for Israel. In 2012, he spent millions backing the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, not only in a bid to beat President Obama but also to ensure strengthened support for Israel in domestic U.S. politics.

And, more recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to Adelson after referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories” in a speech at the spring leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an event Adelson hosted at his Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

This reminds me of the same kind of treatment we’re getting at the hands of Australian Rupert Murdoch.  Fox continues to put right wing advocacy of its billionaire owner and Roger Ailes above all kinds of facts, science, data, and reality.

A Scientific American editor must have struck a nerve over at Fox News this week when hetweeted about having a “Fox & Friends” producer shoot down his idea to talk about the impacts of climate change on the show.

On Thursday morning, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” went off on editor Michael Moyer for tweeting about having an uncomfortable experience on the show. During the segment, they showed a photo of Moyer with text on the screen that labeled him a “‘Scientific’ Coward.”

Hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman and Brian Kilmeade agreed they had a “nice chat” with Moyer on set when he appeared Wednesday. But they said Moyer apparently didn’t feel the same way.

“Clearly he has a problem with Fox,” Doocy said. “So why did he come on? Clearly, it was just to promote himself, and maybe his magazine as well. But, you know, hashtag classy. We put him on, we have a nice conversation and then he stabs us in the back.”

“The bone that he had to pick with Fox, he said, was that he wanted to come on here and talk all about climate change,” Kooiman added. “Well, our producers decide what we air.”

“We talk about climate change all the time,” Doocy interjected.

Moyer was brought on to talk about future trends in technology. He later tweeted that when he suggested the number one future trend would be the impact of climate change, he was “told to pick something else.” The experience, he told TPM on Wednesday, made him decide against future appearances on the program.

“There are some things that in science and scientific discourse are not controversial at all,” Moyer told TPM. “I hope that we can all as a society agree to at least discuss them and come up with good solutions. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t make it not true.”

Fox News later denied that a producer “specifically” told Moyer that he couldn’t discuss climate change. In response, Moyer told TPM that he had proof: a producer had sent him an email specifically asking, “can we replace the climate change with something else?”

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The refreshing thing is that most of these people are really old and we can just hope that  when we dance on their graves, this kind of crap will be all over.  There have been a number of books noting the decline in the number of people identifying as “Conservative Christian Evangelicals” which could eventually stop the influence of the millionaire preachers and their misogyny and homobigotry.  The end of dominionists would put an end to popular support of the kinds of things billionaires like Adelson and the Koch Brothers finance.

The common thread in these books is the contention that Christianity, especially conservative Christianity, is rapidly losing strength and cultural authority in a changing America. Charting Americans’ religious beliefs is notoriously tricky, as comparison between any two religion-related polls will attest. Nevertheless, these authors’ argument that conservative Christianity — both evangelical Protestantism and conservative Catholicism — is losing sway in America has become the consensus view of most experts who study American religiosity. In 2012, the Pew Research Center made headlines with a study showing that for the first time, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation (19.6 percent) surpassed the number of white evangelical Protestants (19 percent). Other surveys conducted in recent years (by Gallup, the General Social Survey, Baylor University, and other research organizations) show declines in the number of people who identify as Christian, believe in God, and attend church regularly. American Catholicism has undergone its own similar involution, with nearly half of all Catholics under age 40 now Hispanic and a majority of Catholics favoring same-sex marriage, according to Pew. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in America has risen rapidly, more than doubling since 1990. In the most recent (2008) American Religious Identification Survey, Islam surpassed Mormonism as America’s fastest growing faith.

For conservative Christians, the turnabout has been disorienting. Just 10 years ago, conservative Christianity appeared ascendant, with a coalition of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics twice electing a born-again Christian to the presidency and, in 2004, outlawing gay marriage in 11 states. Today, laws against same-sex marriage are being rolled back and conservatives have failed to budge debate over access to contraception in the new health law. The Tea Party, which pairs evangelicals in an uneasy alliance with an increasingly assertive libertarian movement, is now a dominant force in Republican politics, shouldering aside once-feared evangelical organizations such as the Christian Coalition. Key evangelicals, stung by polls showing younger Americans are turned off by strident conservatism, have begun pivoting politically, as have Catholic bishops in response to Pope Francis’s attempt to reorient his church toward evangelism and social justice. Last year, prominent evangelical leaders, including the political director of the Southern Baptist Convention, spurned the Tea Party and emerged as prominent backers of comprehensive immigration reform. Evangelical leaders told me they were responding to demographic change in America: both the rise of immigrants in their churches and the emergence of a younger, more politically progressive generation of Christians. Yet in a sign of Christians’ diminished political clout, so far evangelicals’ fervent activism on this issue has failed to garner congressional Republican support.

The broader cultural implications of this shift in American religiosity are immense and deserve careful study. The books considered in this essay don’t supply such study — but then, that’s not their aim. Change has come so quickly to American conservative Christianity that conservatives are still scrambling to understand the challenges they face, and to persuade one another that their problems are real, which is telling. Reading these books is like listening in on a board meeting as corporate executives struggle to come to terms with sudden massive economic decline. The errors and off notes in each book — and there are plenty, ranging from counterfactual history to weird persecution complexes — are as valuable as the books’ many passages of sound reportage and insightful critique. After decades in which conservative Christians went from strength to strength in America, growing in numbers and political clout, suddenly they are facing a moment of acute self-doubt. The contours of that doubt can help more neutral observers gain a fuller understanding of America’s changing religious present, and its future.

Nothing else would be better than to get rid of what seems an endless parade of millionaire/billionaire racists.  However, there are some that still exist and have managed to bundle up racism in a more subtle, “elegant” form.

Like Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling confirms our comfortable view of racists. Donald Sterling is a “bad person.” He’s mean to women. He carouses with prostitutes. He uses the word “nigger.” He fits our idea of what an actual racist must look like: snarling, villainous, immoral, ignorant, gauche.  The actual racism that Sterling long practiced, that this society has long practiced (and is still practicing) must attract significantly less note. That is because to see racism in all its elegance is to implicate not just its active practitioners, but to implicate ourselves.

How can it be that in a “black league,” as Charles Barkley calls the NBA, an on-the-record structural racist like Donald Sterling was allowed to thrive? Everyone now wants to speak to Elgin Baylor. Where were all these people before? Where was Kevin Johnson? Where was the Los Angeles NAACP? When Donald Sterling was driving black tenants out of his buildings, where was David Stern?

Far better to implicate Donald Sterling and be done with the whole business. Far better to banish Cliven Bundy and table the uncomfortable reality of our political system. A racism that invites the bipartisan condemnation of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell must necessarily be minor. A racism that invites the condemnation of Sean Hannity can’t be much of a threat. But a racism, condemnable by all civilized people, must make itself manifest now and again so that we may celebrate how far we have come. Meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on.

Money still gives these people an oversized role in policy,culture, and politics.  This is unacceptable in a democracy.  It is easy to see how power and money create worse living situations for people.  Most of the policies these cretons support are not supported by the majority of people.  We need to find a way to keep their influence down to the same size as every other single voter in the country. Freedom of speech is about government suppression of religion and spoken ideas.  It isn’t about giving people with oversized egos and wallets more say in everything than every one else.

It’s enough to make you miss the guillotine.  I know this has been a long one today, but as you can see, I had a lot to get off my chest.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?