A piece by Julian Langer, whose blog can be found at https://ecorevoltblog.wordpress.com
“Three minutes. This is it – ground zero. Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?” Tyler Durden
As Tyler stood overlooking the heart of civilization he knew he saw a failing empire on the brink of destruction. So Tyler abandons the consumer nesting instinct, in favour of neo-luddite primal anarchy.
Whether or not time and this magical land called the future exists is something for another discussion – I’ll just say that I’m not convinced. But for the purposes of this discussion it seems fair to say that we are three minutes from ground zero. The important thing to remember though is that we are not awaiting the arrival of a nuclear bomb, though Trump, Putin and North Korea appear to be directing us towards that situation. No, we are the embodiment of a thermonuclear cataclysm, a world-ruining piece of machinery, three minutes away from ground zero. So I’ll say a few words to mark the occasion.
Tyler was wrong when he said that our fathers were our models for God; our fathers were merely meant to teach us how to navigate the body of God – the body of the metropolis, the state, the market, civilisation, the Leviathan. But Tyler was correct when he said that God hates us.
After all, what has God, civilisation, the state, the Leviathan, the stranglehold of capitalism brought us? The planet is in ecological ruins. We are plagued by droughts, hurricanes, wildfires intensified by arid conditions and desertification, brought on by agriculture and the deforestation it requires, oil spills, dehabitation, specicde, air unfit to breath and mass extinction. Television feeds us the daily horror of militarism, bombs and politics, along side (m)advertising, supposed reality shows and force-fed comedy spooned down our throats, as we sink deeper into the psychosis of this hyper-real Spectacle – the word of God, the great domesticator.
But in the words of Tyler Durden, “fuck damnation, man, fuck redemption! If we are God’s unwanted children, then so be it!”
If this culture wants us to live lives of death, I propose we rebel, by seeking (near-)Life experiences; that we lose every-Thing to be free to do anything.
How do we do this?
Well if this culture is hell bent on trying to domesticate us all, bringing some wildness to this culture seems the best routeless direction to go down.
With all their attempts to make living in this culture better, most activist projects have served only to make the planetary work machine more bearable for those closest to “radicals”. The revolutionary project is now largely a t-shirt or film. Social anarchists fill potholes and keep this culture going – acts of service to God.
On the other hand, subversive art-focused and psychology-focused milieus, such as Situationists, Discordians, guerrilla ontologists and others which can generally be considered applicable to a post-anarchist practice, have succeeded in creating spaces to release the repressed flow of the wild, within the body of civilisation. This type of practice is that which Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson) calls poetic terrorism, and appears to be a means of eco-radicals waging primal war against this world-ruining culture.
Situationists are focused on challenging the psycho-geography of this culture’s everyday normal life, through mediums such as the situationist-prank, which involved turning aspects of capitalism’s everyday-narratives against itself. Discordians and guerrilla ontologists, inspired by the philosophy of Robert Anton Wilson, have often embraced the campaign of Operation Mindfuck, which has focused on art based approaches like performance and guerrilla art, as well as vandalism, practical jokes, reality hacking and hoaxes.
Drawing from these both, in mapping out a loose route for our poetic terrorism, a campaign seems available to us, as agents against this culture, as a means of wild-attack.
What does this look like?
Here are some games –
Modelling glue in the locks of shops, banks and vehicles of world-ruiners. Going into computer shops with fishtank cleaner magnets and destroying the hard drives. Standing on streets with a free hugs sign and giving each person who hugs you a home-made pamphlet on the ecological crisis. Gluing folded up pieces of paper into the coin slots of parking machines and into the card slots of ATMs. Searching for unlocked cars and turning on their lights to drain the battery. Mixing whipped cream, corn flakes, grapes, maple syrup, dish washer fluid and warm water in large quantities in black bags and pouring home-made vomit along streets, in high-traffic pedestrian areas. Standing on the edge and peeing into swimming pools. Leaving kitchen knives in public places covered in fake blood. Graffiti apocalypse poems or surrealist slogans, like “I don’t want to be a wall anymore” on walls, in chalk in public spaces, in sight of on-lookers. Putting itching powder on the toilet paper in public toilets and rolling it back up. Gluing public toilet seats down and putting glue on them. Wearing sandwich boards emblazoned with “the end was yesterday”. Filling wet paper towels with flour, wrapping it up, tying up with a rubber band and throwing flour bombs. Reviving the Existential Negation Campaign. Destroying badger traps or committing other acts of ecotage/monkey-wrenching and turning them into works of art.
These are some of the directions for this project of wild mayhem. With every work of creative-destruction performed a communiqué should be left, as words to mark the occasion.
With this, eco-radical practice escapes the revolutionary model, which is tied to History (the narrative of this culture and its “progress”), without falling into renunciation and becomes an iconoclastic endeavour, full of wild potential. Eco-radicals can challenge believers in this culture’s faith in its ability to maintain everyday normality in ways that are direct and signify a defiant rebellion, without appealing to ideologies and systems, which end up being incorporated and part of that which we hate.
As this operation is intentionally outside of History, there is no start or end date to it. This can be picked up by anyone and dropped as soon as they decide to stop. It has no governing body or even decentralised organisation behind it. It is a wild endeavour, anarchic, free.
So this is it – ground zero. Our operation will be one of wild mayhem. What is to come we cannot know for sure, but the present course only leads to ruin. Disrupting that course, disrupting its ruin of the world and encouraging God’s ruin, through wild poetic terrorism as primal war, seems like a pathway to go down with potential. If you want a future, I will turn again to Mr Durden – “In the world I see – you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.”
FBI, NYPD raid Port Authority bomb suspect's apartment | 11 Dec 2017 | FBI agents and NYPD cops swooped down on three Brooklyn apartments tied to Monday's alleged would-be terror bomber -- including the pad where he is believed to have assembled his crude explosive device, law enforcement sources said. The members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force are hunting for evidence including computers, phones and other paraphernalia that could be tied to the botched bombing, sources said. Ullah came to the US from his native Bangladesh on an F4 visa -- which is reserved for brothers and sisters of American citizens -- seven years ago, sources said.
Police: Suspect in NYC subway passage attack 'ISIS-inspired' --Ullah made the bomb in his apartment - person briefed on the probe | 11 Dec 2017 | An attempted suicide bomber who set off a rush-hour explosion at the nation's busiest bus terminal is a Bangladeshi national living in Brooklyn who was inspired by ISIS, law enforcement officials said. The suspect in Monday morning's blast at Port Authority in midtown Manhattan was identified as Akayed Ullah, 27, according to New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill. Ullah strapped a pipe bomb to his body with Velcro and zip ties, police said. It detonated earlier than intended, sources told the New York Post. Ullah lived in Brooklyn, but he immigrated from Bangladesh nearly seven years ago, federal law enforcement sources confirmed to Fox News.
Brooklyn-based Bangladeshi national in a suicide vest caused rush-hour panic in Manhattan when his 'revenge' pipe bomb exploded too early
Brooklyn-based Bangladeshi national in a suicide vest caused rush-hour panic in Manhattan when his 'revenge' pipe bomb exploded too early --A pipe bomb prematurely went off in an underground tunnel linking the Times Square subway station and the Port Authority bus terminal Monday morning around 7:20am --Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the suspect 'supposedly was setting the device off in the name of ISIS' and that it was 'definitely a terrorist attack, definitely intended' --The FDNY says three other people reported to local hospitals for minor injuries | 11 Dec 2017 | A Bangladeshi national in his 20s has been taken into custody with serious injuries after a pipe bomb he was carrying malfunctioned and exploded prematurely inside a Midtown Manhattan subway station Monday morning. It was the second time in two months that New York City was the target of a terrorist attack, and the first since President Trump sparked Muslim outrage around the world last week by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The explosion happened around 7:20am, in an underground tunnel linking the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Times Square. The underground tunnel is a major thoroughfare for workers during the morning rush hour. The suspect, identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, was walking east towards Times Square when a 'low-tech' explosive attached to his body with Velcro and zip ties partially exploded. Another five-inch metal pipe bomb was found on his person.
Explosive detonates near New York City's Times Square in 'attempted terrorist attack,' suspect in custody
Explosive detonates near New York City's Times Square in 'attempted terrorist attack,' suspect in custody | 11 Dec 2017 | A suspect is in custody today after allegedly detonating a small explosive device in an "attempted terrorist attack" in the New York City subway system, sending commuters scrambling to evacuate a major transit hub just blocks from Times Square, city officials said. The explosion occurred in an underground passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal and, despite the rush-hour crowds, only three people suffered minor injuries, officials said. The 27-year-old suspect, Akayed Ullah, is in the hospital, badly injured in the arm and torso from the device that went off in his arms, sources said. Ullah, originally from Bangladesh, told authorities he is self-inspired from ISIS online propaganda, sources said.
Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement – making America the only country on earth to opt out of the climate accord. Al Gore is captured in the new film An Inconvenient Sequel looking distressed at the election of Trump in 2016. Here, one of the film's directors tells The Ecologist’s Brendan Montague how Gore made it clear that he fears Trump is a danger to our planet.
Gore features in An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – which is released on DVD on 11 December – and follows a decade after his Oscar winning blockbuster An Inconvenient Truth. The film shows Gore’s increasing despondency during 2016 as Trump successfully campaigns for the presidency.
The latest documentary is directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, who spent almost two years filming and speaking with Gore – including behind the scenes during the Conference of the Parties negotiations held in Paris at the end of 2015.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12439'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: al goreThe EcologistAn Inconvenient Sequel
Amid Worst Winter Wildfires in California History, Concern Farmworkers Are Laboring in Hazardous Air
In California, drought-fueled wildfires raged toward Southern California's coastal cities over the weekend. The fires have scorched some 230,000 acres of land and forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate. At least one woman has died so far. The wildfires are already the fifth largest on record in California history. Climate experts say the intensity of the winter blazes is linked to climate change. Authorities have warned residents to stay inside because of the dangerous air quality caused by smoke and carcinogenic ash from the fires. But a number of farms have stayed open, sparking concerns that farmworkers are laboring in hazardous conditions without proper equipment. Last week, volunteers handing out free protective masks to farmworkers say they were kicked off some farms, despite the fact that the pickers were asking for the safety equipment. For more, we speak with Lucas Zucker, who was evacuated last week due to the wildfires. Zucker is the policy and communications director for CAUSE -- Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy -- and he helped distribute respirator masks to farmworkers who had to continue working despite the hazardous air quality conditions. We also speak with Democratic California State Assemblymember Monique Limón, who represents Santa Barbara and Ventura County.
Please check back later for full transcript.
On Eve of Alabama Senate Election, a Look at Roy Moore's Racism, Homophobia and Religious Fanaticism
Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore are locked in a tight and increasingly controversial race to fill the Alabama Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The election is on Tuesday. A Democrat hasn't won a US Senate race in Alabama for 20 years. Polling shows the two candidates are neck and neck, despite Moore being accused by at least nine women of sexually harassing or assaulting them when they were teenagers. President Donald Trump has repeatedly endorsed Roy Moore, including on Friday, when he held a rally in Pensacola, Florida, which is 20 miles from the Alabama border and in the same media market as Mobile, Alabama. Roy Moore has had a long and highly controversial political career in Alabama that's been marked by racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and religious fanaticism. Over the weekend, the Doug Jones campaign orchestrated a massive get-out-the-vote effort, particularly targeting African-American voters. A number of prominent African-American politicians, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Alabama Congressmember Terri Sewell and former Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, all campaigned for Jones over the weekend. For more, we speak with Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at People for the American Way. His most recent piece is headlined "There's More Than One Roy Moore Scandal."
Please check back later for full transcript.
via Freedom News
European sections of the platformist international have issued a joint declaration on the state of the movement following last month’s gathering in Genoa. Launched in 2005, Anarkismo consists of groups which agree with an editorial statement and tends to promote organised engagement with existing mass movements such as large trade unions, in an attempt to push them towards more syndicalist and anarchist methodologies. The 2017 statement is as follows:
Delegations from Wales, France, Italy, Switzerland and Ireland — with a warm solidarity statement from our Catalan comrades of Embat — expressed the need to clarify and deepen our common work.
Where are we?
The phase that we are currently living in is without doubt one of systemic crisis and strategical transformation. Capitalism in crisis is looking for a new model of regulation while the political left is stuck in its own heavy crisis — a lack of any clear perspective or will.
Social-liberalism is an active part of the State and of the European management of capital. It has evolved as an instrument of domination and exploitation. Another section of the political left claims a reformist ambition which is based on a pro-State strategy but to date hasn’t managed to formulate an alternative along the lines of genuine social emancipation. There is also a relatively large milieu which struggles to bring to life meaningful resistance at grassroots level, but nonetheless refuses to abide by institutional frameworks.
Through the process of Fordist-type liquidation sales, capitalism brings us back to forms of exploitation which are reminiscent of the beginning of the 20th century. The traditional proletariat is being transformed and enlarged — it is re-produced through new forms of exploitation like autonomous work and new structures of wage labour in a push towards generalised precarious conditions of life.
The world, and particularly the EU, is facing new contradictions, with relative potentialities for them to explode, such as Brexit or the rise of the far-right movements towards national power. With huge internal tensions, the geostrategic European bloc is on the edge, and in the near future it may either become a coherent imperialist pole, or risk facing the pressure of other centres of power throughout the world.
The lack of a social movement able to check the dominant bloc’s offensive must be redressed to better depict the situation. No movement amongst the oppressed is able to go forward to new social conquests and organise a combative working class under the current dominant social conditions.
This in a situation when the far right is everyday more aggressive and the bourgeoisie is leading an offensive against every right and social conquest that was accumulated through struggles in the last 150 years.
Where do we want to go to and what should we do?
In the present phase and the one yet to come, we must and will have to deal with a hard and difficult situation to build our intervention, but we won’t be afraid and we will not step back.
The end of capitalism and the self-management of the whole of society are needs that cannot and should not wait any longer. As such, they are historical objectives. They are the goals that lie at the heart of our practice within the organisations of the exploited. We learn and prepare tomorrow’s values in today’s struggles.
We do not believe there is any shortcut to that. Our daily duty is to build step by step the struggles and social conflicts in our neighbourhoods and our workplaces. We must accumulate the strength in order to gather and mobilise the whole part of the society which resists and creates dissent, refuses to comply with capitalism and defends the only possible alternative: organization from below and the destruction of every form of domination and exploitation. Our politics are one of emancipation, direct grassroots action and the construction of popular power.
We’ve seen that Europe, despite its contradictions and internal conflicts, is not only a supranational union of States, but also a system of transnational power which has a proper capacity to intervene to guarantee the fundamental interests of the dominant bloc.
We believe in, and therefore we work to build, a common culture and strategy within our respective organizations and our network, in order to reinforce social struggles and strengthen class-struggle and emancipatory organised anarchism. We aim at building an international network in the common area that will be able to fight back against the processes we are facing. By identifying the potentialities of struggle, we plan to generate an alternative and a balance of power that is more favourable to us.
We are determined for as long as necessary to bring our collective contribution to the movement of social struggles in Europe and throughout the world.
Go forward, fight, build popular power!
We carry a new world in our hearts.
Alternativa Libertaria/FdCA – Italy
Alternative Libertaire – France
Coordination des Groupes Anarchistes – France
Libertarian Socialist Federation – Britain
Organisation Socialiste Libertaire – Switzerland
Workers Solidarity Movement – Ireland
Melbourne Anarchist Communist Group
Workers Solidarity Movement
Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
Special counsel Robert Mueller arrives at the US Capitol for closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee June 21, 2017, in Washington, DC. The committee meets with Mueller to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., appeared on CNN on Sunday and laid out the state of the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign in stark, simple terms:
Here is what we know:
The Russians offered help.
The Campaign accepted help.
The Russians gave help.
The President made full use of that help.
That's pretty damning. pic.twitter.com/kRo9NrdQq4
It is. I would also add, as I wrote last week, that numerous members of the Trump transition team apparently knew that Michael Flynn told the Russian ambassador to tell his government not to react to the sanctions the Obama administration had just imposed upon them. That's damning too. The Russians were essentially told, "Don't worry, we'll make sure you aren't punished for helping us win the presidency."
Whether laws were broken, beyond the charges filed so far against four top Trump advisers, we don't yet know. But it's clear that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing leads in a number of directions, from possible financial crimes to obstruction of justice to conspiracy. With former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying and agreeing to cooperate, this investigation has moved beyond the campaign to the transition and the White House. It's very serious.
And as anyone could have predicted, it was inevitable that the president's supporters in the media and the Republican Party would start to push back and try to delegitimize the investigation by attacking Mueller. This is the usual pattern in these presidential scandals.
Everyone in politics knows about the "Saturday Night Massacre" of 1973, when Richard Nixon demanded that Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, after the US Court of Appeals overruled the president's claim of executive privilege. Richardson refused and resigned, as did his deputy, William Ruckelshaus. It was left to Solicitor General Robert Bork, third in line at the Department of Justice, to do the deed. Ten months later Nixon was forced to resign in the face of certain impeachment. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him shortly thereafter.
In the Iran-Contra scandal, the Republicans went after independent counsel Lawrence Walsh with everything they had, even granting immunity to the Reagan administration's henchman, Lt. Col. Oliver North, so he could arrogantly testify before the whole country that he was proud to have broken the law on behalf of the United States of America. That investigation was finally ended when President George H.W. Bush preemptively pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five other government officials on Christmas Eve 1992, as Bush was on his way out the door.
Democrats mercilessly battered conservative Republican judge Ken Starr, who was appointed independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation when his predecessor failed to turn up any crimes. This was a key to the Democrats' success in maintaining public opinion during the Lewinsky sex scandal, because it seemed that Starr had gone far afield from his original mandate to investigate an Arkansas real estate transaction from the 1980s.
So now we have Mueller, a former US attorney and the longest-serving FBI director after J. Edgar Hoover, investigating President Trump and the 2016 election. If it is true that Trump coordinated with the Russian government during the election and then obstructed justice to cover it up, it is the most serious presidential scandal in American history. Nixon horrifically abused his power, the Reagan administration defied the will of Congress and Bill Clinton lied about an extramarital affair. This is of a different magnitude altogether.
The Republicans are obviously aware of the danger and are frantically circling the wagons. They spent months throwing various ideas at the wall, including the obscure (and largely fictitious) Uranium One scandal and other Clinton Foundation matters, in an attempt to force Mueller to resign on the grounds that he was FBI director at the time. Now they've finally settled on a grand unifying theory: the Justice Department, the FBI and the special counsel's office are all hopelessly corrupt and compromised due to their fealty to Hillary Clinton and hostility to Trump.
The theory goes like this: James Comey and his men covered up Hillary Clinton's crimes and Mueller and his team are now trying to railroad Trump. This thesis is based on the fact that an FBI agent who was involved in both cases sent some texts to his girlfriend which were allegedly anti-Trump. Muller fired him last summer and he
Trump's most ardent media advocate, Sean Hannity, came out with guns blazing last week. He condemned Mueller's "partisan, extremely biased, hyper-partisan attack team" as "an utter disgrace." He said "they now pose a direct threat to you, the American people, and our American republic."
Fox legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said "I think we now know that the Mueller investigation is illegitimate and corrupt. And Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America's secret police. Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It's like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door."
Here is Fox News' Jeanine Pirro over the weekend:December 10, 2017
Meanwhile, Trump's allies in Congress are also ratcheting up the crazy:
Was there collusion between DOJ and Fusion GPS to use Democratic funded dossier for political and legal purposes?
We need to know the answer to those questions. https://t.co/z8wKjcvxiT
I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 -- not just Trump and Russia.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 8, 2017
People wonder why Graham has suddenly become such an obsequious Trump lapdog. My suspicion is that Graham thinks he can distract Trump from doing something that will totally destroy his presidency with Clinton bait and unctuous flattery. It won't work, of course.
Trump's allies in the House have escalated their attacks as well, notably Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Ron DeSantis, a pair of Florida Republicans Trump huddled with aboard Air Force One on his way to the Roy Moore rally in Pensacola last Friday night. DeSantis has been pushing legislation to cut off Mueller's funding and Gaetz has said that America is "at risk of a coup" from Mueller, and has introduced a resolution calling for him to be fired.
All of this, from the right-wing media to the GOP Congress, is designed to push Trump to fire Mueller -- and if that fails to discredit Mueller's findings among their followers, as Paul Waldman argues here. But considering the history of partisan attacks on special prosecutors and independent counsels, this can hardly come as a surprise to Mueller and his team. Mueller has been in high levels of government for many years; he's not a political naif. He undoubtedly knew this was coming.
We don't know whether or not Mueller has laid enough landmines to protect his investigation, although there are some indications that he's made the effort. But if Trump's rhetoric on Friday night is any indication, when he called the system "rigged" and "sick," we may be about to find out.Truthout doesn't take corporate money and we don't shy away from confronting the root causes of injustice. Can you help sustain our work with a tax-deductible donation?
The degree of corruption displayed by the Trump administration is on a scale that is hard to keep track of, and hits so close to home that we often forget about the wider global implications of having an incompetent, at best, and more likely a traitorous "president". As many of us have realized since Day 1, the antics of the Distractor-in-Chief have served as excellent cover for his real agenda: covertly implementing pro-corporate policies.
In this vein, another international issue that flew under the radar recently was the withdrawal of the US last month from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as an implementing country. Through President Barack Obama, the US joined the "Anti-Corruption Pact," as it has been called, in 2011.
Now, Trump's hasty decision to pull out sends an unmistakable signal: corruption is tolerated if it helps line corporate pockets. According to Trump and lots of Republicans, anything regulating business is bad, even transparency. But the reality is that removing the US from EITI benefits no one.
Launched in 2002 by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, EITI helps address the systemic corruption in countries whose GDP relies primarily on resource extraction. More than 52 countries across the world have joined the pact, which imposes international standards on business transparency so as to hinder illicit payments such as bribes or other forms of corruption. The basic idea of the Anti-Corruption Pact is simple: if extractive firms and corporations are forced to publicly disclose their contributions to government, then citizens can hold them accountable. The agreement is designed to help countries avoid the perils of the so-called "resource curse" often faced by undeveloped, resource-rich nations.
It's little surprise that the countries that have benefited from the EITI regulations are among the poorest and most corrupt in the world, for example, Ghana and Azerbaijan.
The Chairman of the initiative, Fredrik Reinfeldt, responded to Trump's decision in a prepared statement, saying, "This is a disappointing, backwards step. The EITI is making important gains in global efforts to address corruption and illicit financial flows." Some have interpreted the US withdrawal from the EITI as part of the country's indiscriminate and large-scale gutting of regulations, treaties and international agreements. But there is also concern that the Trump administration is giving extractive industries too much control over their own regulations.
In a resignation letter written by a Department of Interior official-turned-whistleblower, Joel Clement stated: "Secretary Zinke: It is well known that you, Secretary David Burnhardt, and President Trump are shackled to special interests such as oil, gas, and mining." In light of the recent news, the fact that Interior Secretary Zinke oversees the Department of Natural Resources Revenue is indeed troubling.
During his time in Congress, Zinke, then a representative from Montana, consistently voted and legislated in favor of extractive industries. Watchdog groups have raised concerns about contributions Zinke received from those industries, totaling at least $345,000 since 2003. Other members of the Trump administration also have ties to extraction industries, notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil.
It's no secret that the "fox guarding the henhouse" approach has typified the Trump administration's approach to governance from the start. And given Trump's long history of favoring Big Oil and non-renewable resources, protecting oil companies from having to declare foreign payments on their taxes may now be at the root of the US's withdrawal from the EITI.
The Department of Natural Resources Extraction contends that the EITI didn't take account of the complex US legal framework, explaining that laws such as the Trade Secrets Act prevent the US from participating. The department put forward industry research -- which was itself funded by the extractive industry -- arguing that there is no clear relationship between "good governance" and the EITI.
However, even this research has acknowledged that the pact may ultimately prove effective in some countries. Meanwhile, other research has shown that although the EITI doesn't have a clearly positive effect on the rule of law and control of corruption, it has had a positive effect on government effectiveness, economic development and regulatory quality.
The specious argument made by Big Oil is that the EITI isn't 100 percent successful in eradicating corruption, therefore we shouldn't engage in it at all. However, none of the research shows that the EITI does any demonstrable harm or provides a justifiable reason not to participate. The real reason for US withdrawal from the EITI, it seems, is so that the extraction industry can hide its contributions to foreign governments, including bribes.
Strangely, Exxon itself last month came out in support for the EITI, saying it will voluntarily participate in the pact despite the US's withdrawal. This draws into question the real motives behind Trump's move to bring down 15 years of anti-corruption negotiations. Is it solely for corporate interests? Or perhaps it is just another example of Trump's hatred of anything Obama touched, and succeeded in accomplishing.
The decision to pull the US out of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative may not affect our everyday lives as Americans. But it destroys hope for reform in the world's darkest corners, and further damages America's credibility as an international mediator or fair player on the world stage. While the country's withdrawal from the global Anti-Corruption Pact may have slipped through the autumn news cycle, it will have repercussions on international relations for decades to come.
Former Environment Secretary Promotes Post-Brexit ‘Special Relationship’ with US Climate Science Deniers
Former environment secretary Owen Paterson made the rounds with some of the top climate science deniers on a tour of the US this autumn to promote a “special relationship” post-Brexit.
The Shropshire MP travelled to Washington D.C. in October, DeSmog UK can reveal, where he met with infamous climate science deniers Lamar Smith, James Inhofe, and Myron Ebell. He also gave speeches at both the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the Heritage Foundation – two libertarian think tanks known for promoting climate science denial and working against environmental regulations.
Paterson’s visits are the latest in a string of meetings between pro-Brexit UK politicians (such as international trade secretary Liam Fox) and US climate science denial groups.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12418'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: Owen Patersonmyron ebelljim inhofebrexit climate deniersdesmog uk disinformation databaseclimate denial databaseheritage foundationcompetitive enterprise institute
This person has been in the press a lot but says some weird things about climate science – who are they, and what are their credentials?
This group seems very keen on fossil fuels, but their research looks legit – who are they, and who are they connected to?
This ‘global warming policy’ think tank is asking for a meeting, but I’ve never heard of them – who are they, and what is their agenda?
DeSmog UK’s Climate Disinformation Database, launched today, is a quick and easy tool for the public, policymakers, researchers, and journalists to check who they’re dealing with on climate science and policy.var icx_publication_id = 14813; var icx_content_id = '12420'; Click here for reuse options! Tags: UK climate disinformation databaseclimate denial databaseglobal warming database
Speakers to broadcast terror warning in event of Melbourne city attack | 10 Dec 2017 | Police warnings to move, leave or stay would be broadcast at more than 90 city sites in the event of a terrorist or Bourke St-style attack. Already, 65 sets of loudspeakers are in place at sites including Federation Square, Flinders St station and the Bourke St Mall. A test message and "wailing" standard emergency warning signal -- alerting people that an emergency announcement is pending -- will be transmitted over speakers installed at the State Library on December 28. It comes as police warn there is an increased risk of terrorism over the festive season.
(Photo: AndrijTer / Getty Images)
Frustrated by the ever-increasing price of insulin, advocates for people living with diabetes decided to educate themselves about the pricing system for pharmaceuticals in order to hold the profiteers accountable. They discovered a complex and secretive system of kickbacks and backroom negotiations that have sent drug prices skyrocketing while manufacturers and insurers deflect the blame on each other.
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Julia Boss's daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2015, just before her ninth birthday. Like many people who are self-employed, Boss purchased a health insurance plan through the federal marketplace with high out-of-pocket costs. Until she reached a $6,000 deductible, Boss paid $251 for a vial of insulin and $381 for a box of cartridges for an insulin injection pen that her daughter uses at school. Boss also paid $198 for emergency glucagon kits that could save her daughter's life should her blood sugar levels suddenly drop.
Boss had no choice but to pay huge costs to keep her daughter alive. Her story echoes many that have emerged in media coverage over the past year as public outcry grows over rising prescription drug prices. Notorious cases of price gouging by the likes of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Mylan and Martin Shkreli have drawn plenty of media attention and left the public fuming, but greedy pharmaceutical executives are not the sole focus of Boss's frustration. Boss says insurance companies have been lying to her -- and the rest of us -- about drug prices, and she found herself paying more than her insurance plan does for insulin before hitting her deductible.
"[I feel] cheated and lied to, yes," Boss told Truthout. "Though devastated might be the best word."When it comes to insulin and other pharmaceuticals, drug companies are not competing to offer consumers the lowest price, they are competing to offer benefit managers the highest rebate on wholesale prices.
In 2016, Boss switched from a "bronze" to a "silver" insurance plan with a higher premium and lower deductibles, but drug companies had also raised the price of insulin and glucagon, so she still paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket each month until hitting a $4,100 maximum. After moving her family from Washington to Oregon, Boss briefly paid a $50 copay for insulin cartridges before her daughter developed an allergy to the product and was forced to switch to another brand that was not preferred by the insurance company.
"By then I had started to notice how uncomfortable the pharmacists looked when I picked up my daughter's prescriptions, and I had started following #insulin4all activists on Twitter -- people who have been working hard for years to bring public attention to insulin prices," Boss said. A storm was certainly brewing on social media, where diabetes patients were regularly posting pictures of their receipts from the pharmacy.
"I've seen [social media] posts from people who go to pick up insulin at the pharmacy, field the pharmacist's inevitable, 'you do know the price on this?' question, and then go out to cry in the car," Boss said. "Every one of those people feels cheated, especially when they know insulin prices have increased by over 1,000 percent in 20 years."
In November 2015, Boss founded the Type 1 Diabetes Defense Fund (T1DF), a group determined to get to the bottom of high insulin prices and hold the profiteers accountable.Secret Drug-Pricing Deals Keep Consumers in the Dark
Like other specialty drugs, insulin prices have risen dramatically in recent years and continue to go up like clockwork. For example, Eli Lilly and Co. raised the price of Humalog, a fast-acting form of insulin that Boss's daughter used before developing an allergy to it, from $2,657 per year to $9,172 from 2009 to 2017: a 345 percent increase. Along with competing insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly raised the price of its flagship insulin product again this year, despite government investigations into pricing schemes and class-action lawsuits accusing the companies of price-fixing.
Why are insulin prices so high? Boss says that in order to answer this question, we must examine the relationship between drug manufacturers and insurance companies. There are actually two prices set for insulin and other specialty drugs: the "list price" put on the open market by manufacturers like Eli Lilly, and the "net price" insurance plans pay after extracting fees and hefty rebates from manufacturers. T1DF estimates these backroom deals cut between 50 to 75 percent off the list price of various insulin products, based on market reports and public statements by pharmaceutical companies. That means Boss's insurance plan was paying much less for insulin than Boss paid out of pocket before meeting her deductible.
This isn't just the case for insulin. Data compiled by the IQVIA Institute of Human Data Science shows that the net prices insurance companies pay for most drugs are increasing at much slower rates than the list prices that consumers without insurance (or consumers who haven't yet met a deductible) would pay out-of-pocket at the pharmacy.
Rebates lowering the net price of a drug much lower than its original list price are negotiated by companies called "pharmacy benefit managers," which oversee prescription drug plans for employers and insurers. Benefit managers like CVS Caremark and Express Scripts control the formularies, or lists of specific brand name and generic drugs, offered to members under insurance plans, so they can demand fees and deep rebates from manufacturers in exchange for access to millions of customers.
Pharmacy benefit mangers typically profit from a percentage of the rebates they pass on to insurers, and a lack of transparency in their pricing systems has generated controversy in recent years as observers raise questions about whether savings are actually passed on to patients that need them. The federal government and several states have launched investigations into deals struck between manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers.
So, when it comes to insulin and other pharmaceuticals, drug companies are not competing to offer consumers the lowest price, according to TIDF. Instead, they are competing to offer benefit managers the highest rebate on wholesale prices. The higher drug companies set their list prices, the higher the rebate they can offer benefit managers. This feedback loop explains why the price of insulin keeps going up even though the drug has been around for decades.
A trio of lawsuits filed by T1DF earlier this year goes even further, alleging that manufacturers and pharmacy benefits managers acting on behalf of insurers have illegally conspired to use this "kickback scheme" to inflate the price of insulin, blood sugar test strips and emergency glucagon kits under secret agreements in order to maximize profits on both sides. Patients with high deductibles and copays are gouged as a result. A separate lawsuit alleging the insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk misled investors about secret rebate deals with pharmacy benefit managers makes similar claims.How Insurance Companies Mislead Their Customers
Drug manufacturers paid about $179 billion in rebates in 2016, with 30 percent going to government programs like Medicare and 50 percent used to place drugs on insurance formularies, according to analysts at Credit Suisse. Analysts estimate about 90 percent of the rebates secured for insurers by pharmacy benefit managers are "recycled" back into the system in order to reduce insurance premiums. However, the amount that actually trickles down to consumers is currently up for debate because insurers tend to use high list prices to calculate pharmacy benefits rather than the lower net prices secured with rebates. Meanwhile, the rebating system is pushing list prices of specialty drugs like insulin higher and higher.
Insurance plans with low copays and deductibles shield many people from ever-increasing drug prices, but people with no insurance or plans with high out-of-pocket costs like Julia Boss face excruciating prices when they go to the pharmacy. In fact, T1DF claims this system leaves some people living with diabetes and other chronic conditions paying more for drugs than insurance companies do -- even if they have insurance. Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive and President's Trump's latest nominee for health secretary, admitted as much in a speech at the conservative Manhattan Institute last year.
Boss says insurance companies get away with this because price negotiations between manufacturers, benefit managers and insurers are done in secret, and insurance plans do not disclose the post-rebate "net price" they actually pay for drugs to their customers. Instead, when patients check their insurance drug benefits, they see drug prices that are much closer to the wholesale list price that manufacturers start with before the backroom negotiations and rebates bring the net price down.
"In the current system, insurers are misleading all their customers, even those who don't pay based on list price," Boss says.
Under this system, Boss explains, both consumers with great insurance (low deductibles and copays) and those with barebones coverage see a higher drug price than their insurer actually pays when they check their benefits. Here's how Boss put it in an email to Truthout. Remember, the "list price" is the original cost of a drug set by manufacturers, and "net price" is the price insurers actually pay after secret rebates:
Imagine what would happen if insurers instead reported net cost to plan in that column (that's possibly $70 or less for a 10 ml vial of analog insulin with list price $270, based on current rebating estimates). The marketing executive would know her insulin prices aren't breaking the employer's bank, and would keep that in mind when she's asking for a raise. The Affordable Care Act-insured freelancer who's paying $270 for every vial of insulin that keeps her child alive would ask, "what in the world is happening to the other $200?" And the landscaping worker with no health insurance would ask why he's paying a $300 cash price for a life-saving medicine that costs insurers only $70.
This is particularly harmful for people with diabetes, and not just because some patients cannot afford drugs they need to survive. Under this system, it's easy for people to blame their co-workers with chronic conditions for driving up insurance prices for everyone else on an employer's plan, when in fact drug prices have been inflated by a secret system of kickbacks negotiated behind closed doors by wealthy corporations. This has also allowed conservatives to blame rising premiums under the Affordable Care Act on the same people who have been devastated by discriminatory drug pricing, according to T1DF.
Meanwhile, when people living with diabetes and other chronic illnesses cannot afford the medicines that keep them healthy, they are more likely to end up in the hospital with severe complications, driving up health care prices and premiums for everyone else.
The sheer opacity of the drug-pricing system allows all the players to deflect blame onto each other while protecting their individual profit margins. Pharmaceutical companies have received the most heat from lawmakers and the media, but they say they need to set high prices to pay for rebates negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers on behalf of insurance companies. Pharmacy benefit managers claim they save consumers billions, but last week the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry's main lobbying group released a report suggesting that insurance companies are not passing these savings on to their customers. Rebates and discounts have grown over the past decade, but workers with employer-sponsored coverage have seen out-of-pocket spending on deductibles and coinsurance rise by 230 percent and 89 percent, respectively.
When Truthout asked insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plans about the report, spokeswoman Cathryn Donaldson pointed a finger back at manufacturers.
"The bottom line is, the original list price of a drug -- which for many drugs is set not by the market, but solely determined by the drug company -- drives the entire pricing process," Donaldson said. "And if the original list price is high, the final cost that a consumer pays will be high. It is that simple: The problem is the price."
The focus on rebates, Donaldson said, is a "deliberate tactic" to obscure more serious issues around transparency and lack of competition among drug companies. However, she did not address questions about the insurance industry's practice of reporting those high list prices to their own customers, even when insurers are not paying them.
Of course, the pricing scheme that drives up the price of insulin and other drugs is not the only reason why people in the United States pay some of the highest drug prices in the world. Pharmaceutical companies are always looking for ways to extend the life of their patents, and laws barring the re-importation of drugs prevent US customers from finding cheaper options in neighboring countries. Expect all of these issues -- including secret rebate negotiations -- to come up this week when the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls insurers, manufacturers and benefit managers into a hearing examining the drug supply chain. An emerging debate over proposed reforms aimed at increasing transparency in Medicare's drug program is also expected to thrust the issue into the limelight.
If policymakers do their homework, it may only be a matter of time before consumers learn the truth about high drug prices.
Congressman Mick Mulvaney speaks to supporters of Sen. Rand Paul at a meet and greet in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on September 23, 2015. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Help Truthout supply a counterpoint to the dangerous rhetoric and misinformation spewing forth from Washington DC. It takes less than thirty seconds to contribute via card or PayPal: Just click here!
Most people have probably heard about Mick Mulvaney's seizure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as Donald Trump's appointed "acting director." They probably don't realize quite how outrageous this move is.
First, it is worth noting that Mulvaney openly holds the CFPB in contempt. When he was still in the House of Representatives, he referred to it as a "joke." Mulvaney has made it clear that he would be happier if the CFPB did not exist. Appointing him as acting director is a bit like selecting a hardcore atheist as the next pope.
It is also worth placing the CFPB in a larger economic context. The CFPB's general purpose is to protect people who are less financially sophisticated from predation by the financial industry. While it does perform this purpose, it also is working to make the financial industry more efficient, insofar as it succeeds in this effort.
Remember, the economic purpose of the financial industry is allocate credit to those who need it. In principle, we want to use as few resources as possible in this process. If we only need 1 million people rather than 2 million people to issue and service loans and perform other financial operations, then we have freed up a million people to work in health care, education or other productive sectors of the economy.
If financial corporations think they can make lots of money by writing deceptive contracts and abusive practices towards their customers, we know they will devote lots of resources to writing deceptive contracts and engaging in abusive practices. If the CFPB can shut down this avenue for making profits, then the people working in the financial sector will actually be focused on providing customers a service, rather than ripping them off. This is a gain to the economy as a whole.
Trump's decision to appoint Mulvaney was obviously intended to neuter the CFPB and reopen the door to all sorts of predatory practices. In carrying through this appointment, Trump was not only circumventing the order of succession laid out in the law creating the CFPB, he was also undermining the explicit intention of Congress for the CFPB to be an independent bureau.
No one disputes that President Trump has the right to appoint the replacement for outgoing director Richard Cordray. However the law is written so that he would have to nominate someone who would go through the Senate approval process. This means that Trump's candidate would have to make various disclosures and undergo questioning by members of the Senate.
Furthermore, once the nominee was approved by the Senate, he or she could only be removed for cause. Trump would not have the authority to remove his pick to the head the Bureau simply because he disapproved of their decisions in this capacity.
By contrast, Mulvaney has made no disclosures and was not subject to any questions from the Senate. He also has no independence from President Trump. He can be removed any day of the week for any reason. In fact, since Mulvaney's day job is running the Office of Management and Budget, where he also serves at the will of the president, he risks being fired from two jobs if he does anything that gets Donald Trump angry.
The use of an acting director, in this case, is not an accident. Cordray's plans to leave the CFPB before his term ends next summer were widely reported in the media. There is no reason that Trump could not have had a successor already selected whose name could be given to the Senate as soon as Cordray formally announced his resignation. Trump chose to go the Mulvaney acting director route precisely to circumvent this process.
Unfortunately, this is not the only case where Trump has appointed "acting" officials to head nominally independent agencies, thereby avoiding the constitutional requirement for the Senate to give its "advice and consent." Keith Norieka, a person who had a career in the financial industry, with no regulatory experience, served as acting comptroller of the currency for six months, just recently being replaced by Trump's nominee for this position.
Perhaps even more disconcerting is Trump's selection of David Kautter as acting director of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) when the term of the previous director ended November 13. Here also, there is no excuse for not having a nominee to submit to the Senate. The expiration of the IRS director's term is set in law, so Trump's team knew about this opening the day he was elected.
As is the case with Norieka, Kautter has no experience in enforcement. His background was in running tax avoidance scams at one of the country's largest accounting firms. And, this acting director of an ostensibly independent agency, like the other acting agency heads, can be fired by Trump any day of the week for any reason.
Congress could put a stop to this abuse of the authority to appoint "acting" heads of agencies and departments. There is not much ambiguity about the words "advice and consent," and there is neither with these and other acting appointees. But the Republicans in Congress don't really care much about the Constitution because right now, rich people need tax cuts.
"This is more fun than I've ever had in my life," Don Steinke told me when I called him this month. Steinke, a retired science teacher, is a leader in the fight to stop what would be the nation's largest oil-by-rail terminal. This month, the state agency in charge of reviewing the application voted unanimously to oppose the terminal -- a vote that could spell the end of the project.
First proposed in 2013 by Vancouver Energy, the terminal would have been built along the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington; 360,000 barrels of oil a day were to be brought by rail and then loaded on ships for transport to West Coast refineries. But the project quickly ran into local opposition.
The power of local organizing to stop this project got my attention. The opposition is fueled both by local impacts on water and air, and by the fact that building new oil-transport infrastructure is a terrible idea at a time when we must phase out the use of fossil fuel if we are to avert climate catastrophe.
Communities throughout the Northwest, often led by Native American tribes, have been stopping one project after another.
Just last year, for example, what would have been the largest coal export terminal in the United States was cancelled in response to opposition from the Lummi Tribe, which holds treaty fishing rights to the nearby waters. The Otter Creek mine in southeast Montana was also canceled in the face of opposition from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and area ranchers. Early this year, Washington state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark rejected a lease for a coal export facility in Longview, Washington, along the Columbia River; a county hearing examiner later denied the plant shoreline permits. Also this year, plans for a large oil terminal on the Washington coast were set back by a state Supreme Court ruling. The proposed terminal, which was opposed by the Quinault Tribe, would have shipped 17.8 million barrels of oil a year.
Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute calls this opposition the "thin green line" separating tar sands oil, Powder River Basin coal, and Bakken fracked gas and oil from Asian markets. If these projects go through, Sightline estimates, they will release the carbon equivalent of five KXL pipelines.
How are these local groups able to succeed in the face of the power and money of huge energy corporations? What is it about place-based work that succeeds?
There are many answers to this question, and the leadership of Northwest tribes is among the most important. But I was intrigued by Steinke's continued enthusiasm after years of mobilizing opposition to oil transport, and before that, to coal trains.
"I made a thousand friends!" Steinke told me. "I'm feeling overwhelmed with the blessing of knowing so many people will show up over and over again."
And show up they did. On November 28, when the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council rejected the terminal, council chairwoman Roselyn Marcus noted the quarter million comments they'd received on the project, calling it "probably the longest process in the council's history."
Residents objected to the risk of fire, explosions, and water pollution associated with having thousands of oil-filled rail cars traveling through the Columbia Gorge and through their towns and cities. The Yakama Nation, a Native American tribe, noted their right to fish and practice cultural and religious traditions along the Columbia River, "including the area threatened by the proposed Tesoro-Savage [a joint venture of Vancouver Energy] project site," Yakama chairman JoDe Goudy said in a statement. "We cannot allow any further pollution to our river."
Others spoke of the terminal's impact on the climate.
"This is on my watch," Steinke told me. "I can't sit idly by."
After years of disappointment at U.S. government inaction on the climate crisis, Steinke had nearly given up. But then he learned of plans for new fossil fuel infrastructure in his own community.
"It may be too late," he said. "But it might not be. I'm morally obligated to do everything I can to avert the worst."
Steinke began by speaking at neighborhood meetings and submitting comments on the proposed terminal to the local newspaper's website. He stood outside the library with a clipboard and a petition, and gradually built up an email list of 1,500 people; many showed up to testify and comment on the proposal.
Another opponent of the terminal, Don Orange, owner of a local auto repair shop, organized dozens of small business owners to oppose the terminal before declaring his candidacy for the Port of Vancouver commission. His Republican opponent, insurance agent Kris Greene, who was running for office for the first time, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the companies backing the terminal -- 87 percent of his campaign contributions, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Although he had far less money to spend, Orange won the November election with 65 percent of the vote.
It's up to Washington Governor Jay Inslee now to make the final decision.
Meanwhile, Steinke is thinking about his next moves. There are other proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects to be stopped. He wants to convince local school districts to use heat pumps, not natural gas, in school construction. And he wants the city of Vancouver to adopt a climate action plan as ambitious as Portland's.
His advice for others who want to make a difference: "Show up, speak up, and make your case repeatedly. Without advocates, nothing happens. Elected officials don't want to rock the boat, but if you rock it, they will be receptive."
And, if Steinke's experience is any indication, the deeper sense of community and commitment that results could be oxygen for local revolution.
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