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The Real News Network - Independent News, Blogs and Editorials

‘A cat in hell’s chance’ – why we’re losing the battle to keep global warming below 2C

By Andew Simms.This article was first published on The Guardian.

A global rise in temperature of just 2C would be enough to threaten life as we know it. But leading climate scientists think even this universally agreed target will be missed. Could dramatic action help?

Under threat: a polar bear tries its weight on thin sea ice in the Arctic. Photograph: Mario Hoppmann/AFP/Getty Images

It all seemed so simple in 2008. All we had was financial collapse, a cripplingly high oil price and global crop failures due to extreme weather events. In addition, my climate scientist colleague Dr Viki Johnson and I worked out that we had about 100 months before it would no longer be “likely” that global average surface temperatures could be held below a 2C rise, compared with pre-industrial times.

What’s so special about 2C? The simple answer is that it is a target that could be politically agreed on the international stage. It was first suggested in 1975 by the environmental economist William Nordhaus as an upper threshold beyond which we would arrive at a climate unrecognisable to humans. In 1990, the Stockholm Environment Institute recommended 2C as the maximum that should be tolerated, but noted: “Temperature increases beyond 1C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage.”

To date, temperatures have risen by almost 1C since 1880. The effects of this warming are already being observed in melting ice, ocean levels rising, worse heat waves and other extreme weather events. There are negative impacts on farming, the disruption of plant and animal species on land and in the sea, extinctions, the disturbance of water supplies and food production and increased vulnerability, especially among people in poverty in low-income countries. But effects are global. So 2C was never seen as necessarily safe, just a guardrail between dangerous and very dangerous change.

To get a sense of what a 2C shift can do, just look in Earth’s rear-view mirror. When the planet was 2C colder than during the industrial revolution, we were in the grip of an ice age and a mile-thick North American ice sheet reached as far south as New York. The same warming again will intensify and accelerate human-driven changes already under way and has been described by James Hansen, one of the first scientists to call global attention to climate change, as a “prescription for long-term disaster”, including an ice-free Arctic.

Nevertheless, in 1996, a European Council of environment ministers, that included a young Angela Merkel, adopted 2C as a target for the EU. International negotiators agreed the same in 2010 in Cancun. It was a commitment repeated in the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 where, pushed by a new group of countries called the Climate Vulnerable Forum, ambitions went one step further, agreeing to hold temperature rises to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5C”.

François Hollande and Ban Ki-moon at Paris climate accord in 2015

French president François Hollande (right) and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon (second left) celebrate the Paris climate accord in 2015. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

Is it still likely that we will stay below even 2C? In the 100 months since August 2008, I have been writing a climate-change diary for the Guardian to raise questions and monitor progress, or the lack of it, on climate action. To see how well we have fared, I asked a number of leading climate scientists and analysts for their views. The responses were as bracing as a bath in a pool of glacial meltwater.

Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has an important place in the history of climate-change research. Hansen was its director from 1981 until 2013. Donald Trump is set to strip the institute of funding for climate research. Its current director, Dr Gavin Schmidt, is categoric that we are no longer likely to stay below 2C. “The inertia in the system (oceans, economies, technologies, people) is substantial and … so far the efforts are not commensurate with the goal,” he says.

Sabine Fuss, of Germany’s Mercator Research Institute, on Global Commons and Climate Change says emissions are currently “not aligned” with the 2C target and will need to “come down more quickly”. Joanna Haigh, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, thinks there is “no chance whatsoever at current levels of carbon emissions”, and her Grantham Institute colleague, Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, is not “confident” that temperature rises can be held below 2C.

Prof Andrew Watkinson of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia thinks it “unlikely” and Prof John Shepherd, a physicist at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, calls it “not very likely at all”. Stuart Haszeldine of the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh says we have “very little chance”, and Prof Piers Forster, director of the Priestly International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds calls it, “on the fanciful edge of plausible”. Glen Peters, senior researcher at Norway’s leading climate change centre, Cicero, is unambiguous, saying: “We have emitted too much already.” And these sentiments are echoed by Prof Alice Larkin, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, and Dr Chris Vernon, a glaciologist and former scientist at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Science. Only one influential scientist preferred their comments to remain anonymous, but they too said we were off-target, because the “international negotiating process is disconnected from national policymaking”.

In short, not a single one of the scientists polled thought the 2C target likely to be met. Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, is most emphatic. “My personal view,” he says, “is that there is not a cat in hell’s chance.”

The most positive response came in the guarded words of Chris Jones, head of the Earth system and mitigation science team at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, who says that current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “don’t preclude” successfully achieving the target. Prof Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, would “only confirm that it is still possible to keep global warming below 2C”. The last point, however, is contentious, for precisely the reason the target exists. Namely, to prevent global warming from feeding off itself by triggering long-term, potentially irreversible environmental domino effects, such as ice loss and forest die-back, and the weakening ability of things such as our oceans to absorb carbon. “The open question for me is not whether we will breach the 2C target,” says Prof Barry McMullin of Dublin City University, “but how soon.”

In addition, the temperature target is a global average, and local variations matter. In November 2016, the Arctic was already experiencing extraordinary anomalies. Temperatures were 20C above normal. A global average rise of 2C implies higher temperatures still for the Arctic, sufficient to push long-term ice loss and trigger other potentially uncontrollable climate changes. At the other end of the world, a development more bizarre than extraordinary is touching the Antarctic. Gambling with our future used to be largely a metaphor, but it is now possible to place bets on when the next giant iceberg will detach itself from the Larsen C ice shelf. At the time of writing, betting company PaddyPower is offering odds of 7/2 in February 2017 or 12/1 in August.

Hoskins says: “We have no evidence that a 1.9C rise is something we can easily cope with, and 2.1 is a disaster.” But Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, one of the countries most vulnerable to warming, warns in stark terms of the failure to stick to a much lower target: “The consequences of failing to keep the temperature below 1.5C will be to wilfully condemn hundreds of millions of the poorest citizens of Earth to certain deaths from the severe impacts of climate change.”

A rift in the Antarctic peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf

A Nasa photograph of a massive rift in the Antarctic peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf, observed in November 2016. Photograph: Nasa/EPA

“I think we actively chose to forgo the carbon budgets for a likely chance of 2C many years ago,” says Kevin Anderson, currently professor of climate change at Uppsala University in Sweden. “Judging that rate at which our emissions would need to be reduced was too politically challenging to contemplate.”

The one thing agreed by all the climate scientists was the need for immediate and dramatic transition to a low-carbon economy, at a scale and speed we have not yet remotely approached. And the truly striking thing is that a huge number of the actions we need to take are things that bring enormous economic, social and environmental benefits. Rationally, we would be choosing to do them anyway. Where there are challenging shifts in behaviour required, they mostly affect only a small, wealthy proportion of society. Take flying, for example: 70% of all flights by UK residents are accounted for by just 15% of the population.

So, what scale of change are we looking at to stay below 2C? Being optimistic about what might be achieved in terms of saving forests from being cut down and cleaning up industry, especially the production of steel and cement, Anderson estimates globally we can afford to emit around 650bn tonnes of carbon dioxide in total from energy systems. Currently, the world pumps out about 36bn tonnes every year alone. Starting from today, and assuming that poorer and industrialising nations see a peak in the emissions from energy use by 2025 and go zero carbon by 2050, Anderson calculates that this leaves a rich country such as the UK with the challenge of cutting its emissions by around 13% per year.

Chris Goodall charts the remarkable rise of renewable energy and its equally dramatic falling costs. But renewables have to substitute for fossil fuels, not merely add to overall energy supply. In the meantime, it matters as much that we reduce our total energy use. You will hear a lot of talk about technologies to capture carbon from the burning of fuel and prevent it entering the atmosphere. Most of the climate models used to project what will happen to our atmosphere rely heavily on the assumption that they will be used at large scale. While most climate scientists see these so-called “negative emissions technologies” for carbon capture and storage (CCS) as essential parts of the toolkit to tackle climate change, many are sceptical of hope being placed in them. It is easier not to burn the carbon in the first place.

“There is no guarantee that CCS will work at a sufficiently global scale,” says Dr Hugh Hunt, a Cambridge specialist on climate engineering. “These technologies will take decades to reach any meaningful scale.” Tellingly, as an engineer, he argues that our top priorities are to stop burning fossil fuels and for the biggest consumers to live less extravagantly. And, it seems, moderate shifts by the most profligate could yield huge climate dividends. Currently about half of all global emissions are the responsibility of just of just one in 10 of the global population.

Traffic on a Los Angeles freeway

Climate threat: traffic on a Los Angeles freeway. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

If just this group reduced their carbon footprints to that of the average, barely impoverished European, argues Anderson, global emissions would be cut by around one-third.

There are many ways to reach a 2C world, according to Prof Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, of the Central European University. “Their common characteristic is that they all require rapid and transformational action,” she says. Small, incremental changes won’t do it.

Retrofitting existing buildings in rich countries can save 70-90% of the energy used to heat and cool them, she adds. And such a move also tackles fuel poverty, creates local jobs and reduces deaths from cold. Switching transport from fossil fuels to electricity power by renewables cuts emissions but also removes the air pollution that is responsible for an epidemic of lethal respiratory disease. In Europe alone, about half a million people suffer premature deaths each year due to air pollution.

In November 2016, many, mostly low-income countries, from Bangladesh to Tanzania and Guatemala, committed to switching entirely to renewable energy by 2030-50 at the latest. Costa Rica, aided by favourable geography, has already managed to power itself for extended periods, relying just on renewables. Portugal has managed the same for shorter periods. But great leaps forward are happening elsewhere, too. China is installing more new wind energy capacity in a single year than the UK has in total.

So, adding to the prevailing global strangeness, the edifice of international climate policy rests on a target that no one believes it is likely can be met. And some think even that insufficiently ambitious. Yet, among climate scientists, there is a consensus that swift action is vital, and with it the target remains, at least, possible.

With the amount of carbon burned by humans, we have now created a climate not experienced on Earth since the Pliocene era, 2m-5m years ago. We are daily rolling the climate dice with the odds stacked against us. But we are also clever, quick and innovative when we want to be. Now that we understand the game better, the question we face is whether we will choose to change it, fast and enough, so that we can all have better lives.

Andrew Simms is co-director of the New Weather Institute, author of Cancel the Apocalypse and a research fellow on rapid transition at the University of Sussex.

 

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Chelsea Manning, cabinet picks and poverty

By Informed Rant. This article was first published on Soundcloud.

This week on Informed Rant, we look at the long list of terrible Trump picks for cabinet positions and their confirmation hearings in a conversation with journalist Kevin Gosztola, from Shadowproof.  We then explore Chelsea Manning's commutation and the fate of other incarcerated people under Trump, with lawyer and author of The Passion of Chelsea Manning, Chase Madar.  We end the show with a personal discussion of poverty and how people are at risk of sliding into this trap in an interview with screenwriter, author and journalist Ruth Fowler

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Trump EPA pick: still 'some debate' over human role in climate change

By Oliver Milman. This article was first published on The Guardian.

At Senate confirmation hearing to lead Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt defends his relationship with fossil fuel industry

Scott Pruitt testifies on Capitol Hill. The Oklahoma attorney general has sued the EPA 14 times over regulations. Photograph: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency, has claimed there is still “some debate” over the role of human activity in climate change and has defended his relationship with the fossil fuel industry during a combative Senate confirmation hearing.

Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has sued the agency he is now set to lead 14 times over the EPA’s smog, mercury and other pollution regulations. Several of these cases are still ongoing and Pruitt said he would recuse himself in dealing with these cases if instructed to do so by the EPA’s ethics board.

In testy exchanges with senators including Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey, Pruitt said there was “some debate” over how much influence human activity has upon the climate but rejected the president-elect’s claim that climate change is a “hoax”. Pruitt also said the EPA had a “very important role” in regulating carbon dioxide.

“Science tells us that the climate is changing and that human activity in some manner impacts that change,” he said. “The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue ... so it should be.”

Last year was the warmest on record, scientists announced on Wednesday, with Nasa and Noaa both stressing the primary driver of the warming trend is the burning of fossil fuels and other human activity. Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have occurred this century.

Pruitt also seemed uncertain over how much lead can be safely ingested by children, in the wake of the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan. “I don’t know,” Pruitt said. “I’ve not looked at the scientific research on that. That’s not something I’ve reviewed nor know about.” The EPA itself states that any amount of lead consumption can be harmful.

Democrats on the Senate committee on environment and public works questioned Pruitt over his repeated challenges to the agency he now seeks to head, as well as his ties to the fossil fuel industry. The oil giant Exxon and coal firm Murray Energy have both given the maximum allowable amount of money to Pruitt, with the Oklahoma attorney general siding with donors 13 times in court cases against the EPA.

One Oklahoma firm, Devon Energy, even drafted a letter for Pruitt that he sent on to the EPA in 2011 under his letterhead with minimal alterations. The letter criticized federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas producers. A boom in gas fracking activity in Oklahoma has contributed to a surge in earthquakes in the state.

Questioned over this letter by Democrat Jeff Merkley, Pruitt said: “I was representing the interests of the state. It was protecting the interests of the state, it wasn’t sent on behalf of any one company. It was particular to an industry – there’s an oil and gas industry that is vibrant and vital to the state.”

In his opening statement, Pruitt said: “We must reject as a nation the false paradigm that if you’re pro-energy you’re anti-environment and that if you’re pro-environment you’re anti-energy. In this nation we can grow our economy, harvest the resources God has blessed us with as well as being good stewards of the land, air of water by which we’ve been favored.”

Pruitt said he wanted a better partnership with the states, which he said had been subject to “duress and punishment” from the EPA. He said the states had the “resources and expertise” to safeguard America’s environment but accepted that pollution does cross state lines.

Republicans on the committee backed Pruitt, with Senator James Inhofe, who once brought a snowball to the senate floor in an attempt to disprove global warming, citing Pruitt’s fighting of “federal overreach” as praiseworthy. Fellow Republican attorney generals from other states have also supported Pruitt’s nomination.

However, Christine Todd Whitman, who was EPA administrator under George W Bush, warned there may be “war” within the agency unless Pruitt adopted a more conciliatory posture.

“I wish he hadn’t been nominated,” Whitman, a Republican, told Guardian US. “Mother Nature doesn’t care about states’ rights. You need some area of federal oversight to protect human health and the environment. You can’t just turn it back to the states; most of them don’t have the budget to do the scientific research.

“I think this new administration will try to back down some of the regulations and slow down enforcement of the regulations they don’t like. They will starve the agency for money.

“I would hope that Scott Pruitt will understand how important and complicated the EPA is once he gets in there but EPA people are assuming it will be a war. That won’t be pretty for anyone. Unless he makes real strides to outreach and respect the mission, it will be war.”

Thirteen former state EPA chiefs have urged the Senate to reject Pruitt, citing his “deeply troubling” position on climate change and his repeated courtroom challenges to EPA clean air and water standards.

“Rather than EPA acting as our partner in state-led efforts to ensure clean air and water for our residents, we fear that an EPA under Mr Pruitt would undermine the rules that help to make sure that our state regulations are successful,” the group wrote in a letter to the environment and public works committee.

More than 170 environment groups, including the Sierra Club and the Clean Air Task Force, have written a separate missive to senators decrying Pruitt’s views that “run counter to the EPA’s critical mission to protect our health and the environment”. The letter also calls for the Senate to reject the Oklahoma attorney general.

Pruitt is the “worst nominee ever tapped to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency”, according to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“He doesn’t have a single environmental achievement to his name, doesn’t believe in the agency’s mission, and has made a career out of suing the EPA to try to block it from doing its job as the guardian of our environment and health,” she added.

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Democrat Disunity: Hypocritical Media Attacks on Sanders

By Yves Smith. This article was first published on Naked Capitalism.

On every conceivable front, the Democrats double downing down on the strategy that led them to hemorrhage losses in representation, meaning power, at every level of government. In keeping, more and more voters are leaving the party.

The latest repeat of a failed strategy is to try to smear Sanders in a cack-handed effort to win over his base. This is as likely to succeed as calling Trump voters “deplorables” did.

The reality is that the Democratic party leders have no strategy. Instead, they are taking the playbook of a mad scientist in a kitschy horror movie, frantically spinning dials and flipping switches as his invention has gone out of control. His control, needless to say.

The Democrats’ actions made clear they were fixated on the Federal government patronage and revolving door goodies that control of the Executive branch conferred. Beyond the state-that-is-almost-a-country of California, the lucre isn’t large enough for them to deviate from their stance of being party of the 10% and trying to hold onto their traditional base by being marginally less God-awful than Republicans. Reader johnnygl flagged this section of a Washington Post story on how the post-election strategy of Russiaphobia plus Trump bashing plus yet more identity politics isn’t working with voters:

Democrats have lost considerable ground on this front. The 28 percent who say the party is in touch with concerns of most Americans is down from 48 percent in 2014 and the biggest drop is among self-identified Democrats, from 83 percent saying they are in touch to just 52 percent today. That is a reminder that whatever challenges Trump is having, Democrats, for all the energy apparent at the grass roots, have their own problems.

Let’s put this more bluntly: even with Trump turning out, whether by virtue of capture, inclination or not caring, backing solidly Republican positions, with his impulsive foreign policy shows of manhood as an added huge negative, Democrats are becoming more and more immune to lesser-evilism. The party has tried to fool voters too many times with hope and change and other pro-worker cant while delivering the goods only to their wealthy patrons. The defectors aren’t coming back until the party starts to deliver for them.

The Unity campaign is revealing how desperately the Democrats are clinging to their self-delusion. They seem to believe that they can kick Sanders and his voters and yet still get them to turn out at the polls for them. By contrast, Sanders, who knows what moves his base isn’t him personally but his policies, has only upside from participating in this charade. He gets a platform to keep selling his message, while the Democrats kid themselves that they can peel away his supporters without making concessions.

One proof that the operatives recognize the Unity campaign is backfiring is the upsurge in attacks on Sanders via the most loyal Democratic party mouthpieces, the Washington Post and the New York Times. With the election proving that the establishment media doesn’t have much sway with great swathes of the public, these hit pieces are tantamount to throwing water balloons at Sanders from the Acela: they may make gratifying splashes but they don’t do real damage. But they demonstrate yet again how committed the party remains to losing if winning requires giving more to ordinary citizens.

The first smear masquerading as reporting, Bernie Sanders’s strange behavior, ran last week in the Washington Post. It was so obtuse, presumably by design, that I remarked then: “This is either a candidate for ‘Most clueless political piece every written,’ as in ‘What about ‘power struggle’ don’t you understand?’ or Democratic party authoritarianism in action. The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.”

The article, by Aaron Blake, is intellectually dishonest from the get-go. This is its first paragraph:

Bernie Sanders has embarked on a “Come Together and Fight Back” tour with with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez. But he’s not really helping on that first part.

Really? Sanders launched a Unity Tour and Perez and the Democratic Party establishment decided to come along? This sort of “unity” charade is a Democratic party fixture.

Let us not forget why this exercise is even seen as necessary. The Democrats are trying to win over Sanders voters who correctly saw the selection of Perez as DNC head over Sanders’ pick Keith Ellison as a big fat middle finger to them. This “Unity Tour” is the 2017 analogy of the many efforts to “reintroduce” Hillary Clinton to voters, as if after decades of overexposure, they were somehow in the dark as to what she was about. They presume that if Perez hits the road with Sanders, they’ll come to like the new DNC, even though it is just the same as the old DNC.

The benefit to Sanders is that this is so patently foolish is that all he has to do is play along. He gets to go around the US and keep pitching his preferred policies.

But as Perez is getting boos at virtually ever whistlestop, someone must be at fault! And it can’t possibly be that the Democrats are trying to get the dogs to eat dog food that they’ve already rejected. No, it must be Sanders’ doing. The article proceeds from the straw man that it is Sanders’ job to create Democratic party unity, when the onus is on the party to find a way to reach his voters.

Put it another way: the Post, presumably reflecting the views of the Democratic elite, sees voters as chattel. They actually seem to believe that Sanders is like an old Tammany hall boss, or a union leader, who can deliver a block on his say so. So look at the things the Post views as offenses:

He said that he still isn’t actually a Democrat

He repeated his line that President Trump “did not win the election; the Democrats lost the election” — drawing some angry responses from Hillary Clinton supporters who see this as either a shot at her or as something that Sanders’s primary campaign contributed to (or both)

Sanders’s message has differed from Perez’s in a couple key ways

The big hissy fit, however, that Sanders hadn’t endorsed Ossoff yet, stating yet another obvious fact that Democrats don’t want the children to hear: “Some Democrats are progressive, and some Democrats are not,” and saying he didn’t know enough either way to decide.

Sanders did relent and endorse Ossoff. While purists are unhappy over that move, the reality is that his support will make perilous little difference either way in an affluent district in the South. And as reader Marina Bart pointed out in comments, the tisk-tiskers are missing the real play:

If the entire corporate media is aimed against you, it is very hard to fight back. Six corporations control something like 90% of media distribution in this country, and they deliver the messaging their plutocratic owners desire. Now add Silicon Valley’s corporate-controlled social media platforms, which have the same masters, same agenda, and same willingness to manipulation what information their users can access. Activists alone cannot win national elections. We need some sizable chunk of the millions who don’t really like or want to think about any of this, whether because they’re comfortable or despairing. They want the same policies we want. They just don’t want to work hard to get it, or grapple psychologically with the real situation we’re facing, because it’s upsetting. To reach those voters, we need some media coverage that isn’t aggressively hostile or deceitful. That’s why the Unity Tour was a brilliant thing for Bernie to do, even if it means getting prodded into sort of endorsing a hack like Ossoff.

Bernie is trying a strategy to take over the party from within. To do that means things like “Okay, sure, I’ll “endorse” Ossoff. He’d be better than a Republican. But he’s no progressive, and we need a progressive movement.” And then the Dems scream at him again, and try to squeeze better compliance out of him, but the damage TO THEM is done — lots of discussions of Ossoff’s positions, which means more people find out that he’s opposed to universal health care. I saw people all over the place in the last few days saying they had given Ossoff money and now they were sorry. Next time, maybe they’ll do a better job of vetting the candidates the neoliberal Dems are pushing.

And Bernie trundles on, saying things the corporate media has been hiding: how the Democratic Party lost seats all over the country during Obama’s term, just how bad that is. He’s shown the DNC Chair to be a boor and a boob.

He’s making it much harder for the Democrats to run the play they’re trying to run. He’s slowing down their ability to promulgate numerous false stories about who they are, how popular they are, what policies are popular, where their money goes — all of this is really helpful to any real change, no matter what comes next.

The effort to beat Sanders into line became more obviously two-faced with another hack job, this one in the New York Times, At a ‘Unity’ Stop in Nebraska, Democrats Find Anything But.

The cause celebre is that Sanders has backed a young progressive, Heath Mello, who is running for mayor of Omaha. Per the fixation of the Democrats with the top of the ticket, since when have they cared about a mayoral campaign, particularly in flyover?

Mello’s offense is that he is being depicted as anti-abortion. But that is a trumped up charge. Mello is Catholic. He’s adopted the formula that many Catholic campaigners have so as not to offend fellow Catholics who might be inclined to vote for him: to say he’s personally pro-life but politically supports abortion rights.

So what is his sin that has gotten the attack dogs after him, when anyone with an operating brain cell knows the real issue is his economic positions? This is apparently the only real dirt:

Mr. Mello, a practicing Catholic, supported a Nebraska State Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before an abortion.

Let us contrast that with the actions of Democratic party vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, who also took the position that he is personally pro-life but politically supports the right to abortionsper Politico:

He pledged in his 2005 gubernatorial campaign to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies in the state by promoting adoption and abstinence-focused education. That cycle, the state NARAL chapter ripped Kaine’s GOP opponent, Jerry Kilgore, as “an extremely anti-choice candidate” but still withheld its endorsement of Kaine because he “embraces many of the restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.”

In a 2007 NARAL scorecard, Kaine was described as a “mixed-choice” governor and his state got an F grade thanks in part to a number of laws and other policies restricting access to abortions. Two years later, Kaine upset both local and national reproductive rights groups by signing a law that authorized the sale of customized “Choose Life” license plates. Kaine argued he was supporting free speech, but his critics complained that the law would fund pro-life organizations and didn’t square with another very important hat that he was wearing at the time: Obama’s personally picked head of the Democratic National Committee.

And proving how captured groups will go to bat for Team Dem, the validators for the attack on Mello and Sanders are the heads of the American Federation of Teachers and the pro-abortion group NARAL. But did either of them object to Tim Kaine’s clearly dodgy record? From the same Politico story quoted above:

Tarina Keene, president of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, declined to comment specifically on Kaine’s stance on abortion. Instead, she issued a statement focused on her group’s reasons for endorsing Clinton.

Oh, and what about the sainted Obama, who doesn’t have the vexing problem of having been raised Catholic? Or the Clintons?

In fact. both are official backers of the policy devised by Richard Nixon: of having abortions be legal but keeping them scarce by not having the government pay for them. That of course is not problem to the affluent 10% that is the Democratic party’s true base. The Hyde Amendment, the legislative embodiment of the “no Federal funding of abortions except to save the mother’s life or in cases of incest or rape, became law in 1976. The law was made more restrictive in the 1980s. The only change under the Clinton Administration was to allow for Medicaid to cover abortions for rape and incest.

Recall that Hillary Clinton said that in 2008 abortions should be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare, I mean rare.” categories that are not mutually compatible. And that is consistent with an earlier statement, reflecting her Methodist roots, that she saw abortion as “morally wrong”.

From an Atlantic story in 2016:

For the most part, Clinton’s stance matches the official stance of the United Methodist Church, or UMC—the tradition in which she was raised and remains a faithful member….To understand Clinton, according to her husband, “you should look first at her Methodist faith.” Her youth pastor and lifelong mentor, the Reverend Donald Jones, said she views “the world through a Methodist lens.”….

Clinton has made efforts to reach out to pro-life advocates and, The New York Times reports, she shows sincere respect for those whose stance is motivated by religious belief. It is not clear, however, that the public understands Clinton’s piety or the depth of her attachment to the Methodist tradition.

Needless to say, that resulted in Clinton in having a “nuanced” position on abortion that might look a tad too equivocal. Again from the Atlantic:

One of Clinton’s greatest challenges in the run-up to November will be to persuade the Millennials—people aged 18 to 35—who supported Bernie Sanders to go to the polls. Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum argued recently that young voters appreciated Sanders’ simple and clear rejection of limits on abortion: “He’s for X, full stop. He’s against Y, end of story. Millennials want a decisive answer, Drum said; otherwise it doesn’t “sound like the truth.” Because Clinton is open to regulations on abortion, progressive Millennials may see her as “another tired establishment pol who never gives a straight answer about anything.”

And Obama, the 11th dimensional chess player whose religion has never seemed to impinge on his politics? Obama issued Executive Order 13535, which extended the Hyde Amendment to Obamacare.

But you’d never know that reading the howls of the loyal camp followers, like Lauren Rankin in Allure, who followed close on the heels of the New York Times hit piece with Bernie Sanders’ Actions Show He Values Votes More Than Women. It apparently does not occur to her that a $15 hour minimum wage and other worker protections will give women a much greater ability to get abortions because more women who are now middle or lower income would be able to pay for them themselves.

And this is yet another demonstration of the Democrats embracing failure. Women’s fashion magazines were virtually ordering their readers to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Similarly, a female friend described Alternet’s pre-election editorial stance as “How to have better orgasms while voting for Clinton.”

Yet recent polls show that female tribalism didn’t work very well. Sanders has more support among women than men. It appears that women are more acutely aware of the precariousness of their financial position that fashion magazine writers and editors are.

In other words, the attacks on Mello and Sanders are rank hypocrisy. If you are card-carrying neoliberal, you are permitted to have “nuanced” positions on abortion. Bona fide progressives need not apply.

But as much as the mainstream media and orthodox Democrats try to have it both ways, savage Sanders yet win over his base, the more they will prove that he should proceed apace with his bottoms-up takeover campaign.

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What Have We Done: Executive Power, Drones, and Trump?

By Jesselyn Radack. This article was first published on Expose Facts.

The news is rife with President Trump’s threatened and actual military misadventures: in Syria, Yemen, and North Korea. But these military actions take on a new gravity considering the vast and secret powers Trump inherited.

Former President Obama escalated the use of drone strikes—including in non-battlefield arenas such as Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—so it is no surprise that President Trump has continued with abandon. While Obama put some constraints on drones, Trump gave the secretive, unaccountable CIA new authority to conduct drone strikes against “suspected militants.”

Specifically, President Obama’s constraints on drones included that targets pose an “imminent threat,” that their capture is “not feasible,” and that there be “near certainty” civilians will not be injured or killed. However, Obama didn’t always hew closely to his own policy, which evolved throughout his Presidency as legitimate criticism of drone strikes increased. One of the most famous Americans targeted and killed by a drone, al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, met none of the early purported criteria. Still, the Justice Department under Obama maintained that the President had the unilateral authority to target and kill American citizens like al-Awlaki. That power now rests with President Trump who has undertaken aggressive and messy military actions in the early days of his presidency.

Trump has pushed for a $54 billion increase in defense spending. Americans can expect Trump will use their money for expensive military actions like the botched raid in Yemen that killed innocent women and children and an American soldier and resulted in destruction of a $75 million military helicopter. Or, for decisions that upend years of international relations policy, such as launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria. (Replacing them will probably cost at least $1 million per missile).

This does not bode well for the millions of people living under the daily buzz of U.S. military drones. The power to target and kill using drone strikes went too unchecked in the Obama administration because we “trusted” him. Although small pockets of national security, civil liberties, and peace groups complained about the Trust Doctrine, which seemed to apply to the most controversial conduct in which our country was engaged—from torture to surveillance to drone operations–people in positions of power were generally unwilling or unable to imagine what this power would look like in the hands of someone unpredictable, petty, and vengeful. The Obama administration exalted the drone program’s “surgical precision,” the internal checks and balances built in, and the careful calculations before taking strikes. Because many saw Obama as a reasonable, intelligent President and capable leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize, Americans too calmly and too quietly accepted the secret killing practices being waged halfway around the world from U.S. Air Force bases in our backyards in Nevada and California.

The drone program is plagued by secrecy and unaccountability. That was true even before Trump put strike authority with the CIA and possibly relaxed civilian kill standards. Several whistleblowers have come forward to point out abusive practices and high turnover within the program, misleading government statements on the accuracy of strikes and targeting capabilities, and an overall pressure to launch strikes while falsely presenting the propagandist narrative that drone warfare allows precision targeting with no harmful effects at home in the US. This false narrative persists because politicians want us to believe it—and so do we.

We opened Pandora’s box and unleashed drones upon humankind. But in this case, the damage was entirely foreseeable.

Jesselyn Radack is a national security and human rights attorney who heads the “Whistleblower & Source Protection” project at ExposeFacts. Twitter: @jesselynradack
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