Noam Chomsky Diagnoses the Trump Era

The Nation

Noam Chomsky Diagnoses the Trump Era

The president has abetted the collapse of a decaying system; Chomsky explains how.

By Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian   October 4, 2017

Noam ChomskyNoam Chomsky addresses the audience at the National Autonomous University’s Educational Investigation Institute in Mexico City. (Reuters / Jorge Dan)

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com.

This interview has been excerpted from Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, the new book by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian to be published this December.

David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is striving to enact, which receive less attention. Do you think he has any coherent economic, political, or international policy goals? What has Trump actually managed to accomplish in his first months in office?

Noam Chomsky: There is a diversionary process under way, perhaps just a natural result of the propensities of the figure at center stage and those doing the work behind the curtains.

At one level, Trump’s antics ensure that attention is focused on him, and it makes little difference how. Who even remembers the charge that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, depriving the pathetic little man of his Grand Victory? Or the accusation that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower? The claims themselves don’t really matter. It’s enough that attention is diverted from what is happening in the background. There, out of the spotlight, the most savage fringe of the Republican Party is carefully advancing policies designed to enrich their true constituency: the Constituency of private power and wealth, “the masters of mankind,” to borrow Adam Smith’s phrase.

These policies will harm the irrelevant general population and devastate future generations, but that’s of little concern to the Republicans. They’ve been trying to push through similarly destructive legislation for years. Paul Ryan, for example, has long been advertising his ideal of virtually eliminating the federal government, apart from service to the Constituency—though in the past he’s wrapped his proposals in spreadsheets so they would look wonkish to commentators. Now, while attention is focused on Trump’s latest mad doings, the Ryan gang and the executive branch are ramming through legislation and orders that undermine workers’ rights, cripple consumer protections, and severely harm rural communities. They seek to devastate health programs, revoking the taxes that pay for them in order to further enrich their constituency, and to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed some much-needed constraints on the predatory financial system that grew during the neoliberal period.

That’s just a sample of how the wrecking ball is being wielded by the newly empowered Republican Party. Indeed, it is no longer a political party in the traditional sense. Conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have described it more accurately as a “radical insurgency,” one that has abandoned normal parliamentary politics.

Much of this is being carried out stealthily, in closed sessions, with as little public notice as possible. Other Republican policies are more open, such as pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, thereby isolating the US as a pariah state that refuses to participate in international efforts to confront looming environmental disaster. Even worse, they are intent on maximizing the use of fossil fuels, including the most dangerous; dismantling regulations; and sharply cutting back on research and development of alternative energy sources, which will soon be necessary for decent survival.

The reasons behind the policies are a mix. Some are simply service to the Constituency. Others are of little concern to the “masters of mankind” but are designed to hold on to segments of the voting bloc that the Republicans have cobbled together, since Republican policies have shifted so far to the right that their actual proposals would not attract voters. For example, terminating support for family planning is not service to the Constituency. Indeed, that group may mostly support family planning. But terminating that support appeals to the evangelical Christian base—voters who close their eyes to the fact that they are effectively advocating more unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, increasing the frequency of resort to abortion, under harmful and even lethal conditions.

Not all of the damage can be blamed on the con man who is nominally in charge, on his outlandish appointments, or on the congressional forces he has unleashed. Some of the most dangerous developments under Trump trace back to Obama initiatives—initiatives passed, to be sure, under pressure from the Republican Congress.

The most dangerous of these has barely been reported. A very important study in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published in March 2017, reveals that the Obama nuclear-weapons-modernization program has increased “the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” As the analysts point out, this new capacity undermines the strategic stability on which human survival depends. And the chilling record of near disaster and reckless behavior of leaders in past years only shows how fragile our survival is. Now this program is being carried forward under Trump. These developments, along with the threat of environmental disaster, cast a dark shadow over everything else—and are barely discussed, while attention is claimed by the performances of the showman at center stage.

Whether Trump has any idea what he and his henchmen are up to is not clear. Perhaps he is completely authentic: an ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac whose only ideology is himself. But what is happening under the rule of the extremist wing of the Republican organization is all too plain.

DB: Do you see any encouraging activity on the Democrats’ side? Or is it time to begin thinking about a third party?

NC: There is a lot to think about. The most remarkable feature of the 2016 election was the Bernie Sanders campaign, which broke the pattern set by over a century of US political history. A substantial body of political science research convincingly establishes that elections are pretty much bought; campaign funding alone is a remarkably good predictor of electability, for Congress as well as for the presidency. It also predicts the decisions of elected officials. Correspondingly, a considerable majority of the electorate—those lower on the income scale—are effectively disenfranchised, in that their representatives disregard their preferences. In this light, there is little surprise in the victory of a billionaire TV star with substantial media backing: direct backing from the leading cable channel, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, and from highly influential right-wing talk radio; indirect but lavish backing from the rest of the major media, which was entranced by Trump’s antics and the advertising revenue that poured in.

The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, broke sharply from the prevailing model. Sanders was barely known. He had virtually no support from the main funding sources, was ignored or derided by the media, and labeled himself with the scare word “socialist.” Yet he is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.

At the very least, the success of the Sanders campaign shows that many options can be pursued even within the stultifying two-party framework, with all of the institutional barriers to breaking free of it. During the Obama years, the Democratic Party disintegrated at the local and state levels. The party had largely abandoned the working class years earlier, even more so with Clinton trade and fiscal policies that undermined US manufacturing and the fairly stable employment it provided.

There is no dearth of progressive policy proposals. The program developed by Robert Pollin in his book Greening the Global Economy is one very promising approach. Gar Alperovitz’s work on building an authentic democracy based on worker self-management is another. Practical implementations of these approaches and related ideas are taking shape in many different ways. Popular organizations, some of them outgrowths of the Sanders campaign, are actively engaged in taking advantage of the many opportunities that are available.

At the same time, the established two-party framework, though venerable, is by no means graven in stone. It’s no secret that in recent years, traditional political institutions have been declining in the industrial democracies, under the impact of what is called “populism.” That term is used rather loosely to refer to the wave of discontent, anger, and contempt for institutions that has accompanied the neoliberal assault of the past generation, which led to stagnation for the majority alongside a spectacular concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

Functioning democracy erodes as a natural effect of the concentration of economic power, which translates at once to political power by familiar means, but also for deeper and more principled reasons. The doctrinal pretense is that the transfer of decision-making from the public sector to the “market” contributes to individual freedom, but the reality is different. The transfer is from public institutions, in which voters have some say, insofar as democracy is functioning, to private tyrannies—the corporations that dominate the economy—in which voters have no say at all. In Europe, there is an even more direct method of undermining the threat of democracy: placing crucial decisions in the hands of the unelected troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission—which heeds the northern banks and the creditor community, not the voting population.

These policies are dedicated to making sure that society no longer exists, Margaret Thatcher’s famous description of the world she perceived—or, more accurately, hoped to create: one where there is no society, only individuals. This was Thatcher’s unwitting paraphrase of Marx’s bitter condemnation of repression in France, which left society as a “sack of potatoes,” an amorphous mass that cannot function. In the contemporary case, the tyrant is not an autocratic ruler—in the West, at least—but concentrations of private power.

The collapse of centrist governing institutions has been evident in elections: in France in mid-2017 and in the United States a few months earlier, where the two candidates who mobilized popular forces were Sanders and Trump—though Trump wasted no time in demonstrating the fraudulence of his “populism” by quickly ensuring that the harshest elements of the old establishment would be firmly ensconced in power in the luxuriating “swamp.”

These processes might lead to a breakdown of the rigid American system of one-party business rule with two competing factions, with varying voting blocs over time. They might provide an opportunity for a genuine “people’s party” to emerge, a party where the voting bloc is the actual constituency, and the guiding values merit respect.

DB: Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. What significance do you see in that, and what does it mean for broader Middle East policies? And what do you make of Trump’s animus toward Iran?

NC: Saudi Arabia is the kind of place where Trump feels right at home: a brutal dictatorship, miserably repressive (notoriously so for women’s rights, but in many other areas as well), the leading producer of oil (now being overtaken by the United States), and with plenty of money. The trip produced promises of massive weapons sales—greatly cheering the Constituency—and vague intimations of other Saudi gifts. One of the consequences was that Trump’s Saudi friends were given a green light to escalate their disgraceful atrocities in Yemen and to discipline Qatar, which has been a shade too independent of the Saudi masters. Iran is a factor there. Qatar shares a natural gas field with Iran and has commercial and cultural relations with it, frowned upon by the Saudis and their deeply reactionary associates.

Iran has long been regarded by US leaders, and by US media commentary, as extraordinarily dangerous, perhaps the most dangerous country on the planet. This goes back to well before Trump. In the doctrinal system, Iran is a dual menace: It is the leading supporter of terrorism, and its nuclear programs pose an existential threat to Israel, if not the whole world. It is so dangerous that Obama had to install an advanced air defense system near the Russian border to protect Europe from Iranian nuclear weapons—which don’t exist, and which, in any case, Iranian leaders would use only if possessed by a desire to be instantly incinerated in return.

That’s the doctrinal system. In the real world, Iranian support for terrorism translates to support for Hezbollah, whose major crime is that it is the sole deterrent to yet another destructive Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and for Hamas, which won a free election in the Gaza Strip—a crime that instantly elicited harsh sanctions and led the US government to prepare a military coup. Both organizations, it is true, can be charged with terrorist acts, though not anywhere near the amount of terrorism that stems from Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the formation and actions of jihadi networks.

As for Iran’s nuclear-weapons programs, US intelligence has confirmed what anyone can easily figure out for themselves: If they exist, they are part of Iran’s deterrent strategy. There is also the unmentionable fact that any concern about Iranian weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) could be alleviated by the simple means of heeding Iran’s call to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Such a zone is strongly supported by the Arab states and most of the rest of the world and is blocked primarily by the United States, which wishes to protect Israel’s WMD capabilities.

Since the doctrinal system falls apart on inspection, we are left with the task of finding the true reasons for US animus toward Iran. Possibilities readily come to mind. The United States and Israel cannot tolerate an independent force in a region that they take to be theirs by right. An Iran with a nuclear deterrent is unacceptable to rogue states that want to rampage however they wish throughout the Middle East. But there is more to it than that. Iran cannot be forgiven for overthrowing the dictator installed by Washington in a military coup in 1953, a coup that destroyed Iran’s parliamentary regime and its unconscionable belief that Iran might have some claim on its own natural resources. The world is too complex for any simple description, but this seems to me the core of the tale.

It also wouldn’t hurt to recall that in the past six decades, scarcely a day has passed when Washington was not tormenting Iranians. After the 1953 military coup came US support for a dictator described by Amnesty International as a leading violator of fundamental human rights. Immediately after his overthrow came the US-backed invasion of Iran by Saddam Hussein, no small matter. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians were killed, many by chemical weapons. Reagan’s support for his friend Saddam was so extreme that when Iraq attacked a US ship, the USS Stark, killing 37 American sailors, it received only a light tap on the wrist in response. Reagan also sought to blame Iran for Saddam’s horrendous chemical warfare attacks on Iraqi Kurds.

Eventually, the United States intervened directly in the Iran-Iraq War, leading to Iran’s bitter capitulation. Afterward, George H.W. Bush invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in nuclear-weapons production—an extraordinary threat to Iran, quite apart from its other implications. And, of course, Washington has been the driving force behind harsh sanctions against Iran that continue to the present day.

Trump, for his part, has joined the harshest and most repressive dictators in shouting imprecations at Iran. As it happens, Iran held an election during his Middle East travel extravaganza—an election which, however flawed, would be unthinkable in the land of his Saudi hosts, who also happen to be the source of the radical Islamism that is poisoning the region. But US animus against Iran goes far beyond Trump himself. It includes those regarded as the “adults” in the Trump administration, like James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the secretary of defense. And it stretches a long way into the past.

DB: What are the strategic issues where Korea is concerned? Can anything be done to defuse the growing conflict?

NC: Korea has been a festering problem since the end of World War II, when the hopes of Koreans for unification of the peninsula were blocked by the intervention of the great powers, the United States bearing primary responsibility.

The North Korean dictatorship may well win the prize for brutality and repression, but it is seeking and to some extent carrying out economic development, despite the overwhelming burden of a huge military system. That system includes, of course, a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, which pose a threat to the region and, in the longer term, to countries beyond—but its function is to be a deterrent, one that the North Korean regime is unlikely to abandon as long as it remains under threat of destruction.

Today, we are instructed that the great challenge faced by the world is how to compel North Korea to freeze these nuclear and missile programs. Perhaps we should resort to more sanctions, cyberwar, intimidation; to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which China regards as a serious threat to its own interests; perhaps even to direct attack on North Korea—which, it is understood, would elicit retaliation by massed artillery, devastating Seoul and much of South Korea even without the use of nuclear weapons.

But there is another option, one that seems to be ignored: We could simply accept North Korea’s offer to do what we are demanding. China and North Korea have already proposed that North Korea freeze its nuclear and missile programs. The proposal, though, was rejected at once by Washington, just as it had been two years earlier, because it includes a quid pro quo: It calls on the United States to halt its threatening military exercises on North Korea’s borders, including simulated nuclear-bombing attacks by B-52s.

The Chinese-North Korean proposal is hardly unreasonable. North Koreans remember well that their country was literally flattened by US bombing, and many may recall how US forces bombed major dams when there were no other targets left. There were gleeful reports in American military publications about the exciting spectacle of a huge flood of water wiping out the rice crops on which “the Asian” depends for survival. They are very much worth reading, a useful part of historical memory.

The offer to freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in return for an end to highly provocative actions on North Korea’s border could be the basis for more far-reaching negotiations, which could radically reduce the nuclear threat and perhaps even bring the North Korea crisis to an end. Contrary to much inflamed commentary, there are good reasons to think such negotiations might succeed. Yet even though the North Korean programs are constantly described as perhaps the greatest threat we face, the Chinese-North Korean proposal is unacceptable to Washington, and is rejected by US commentators with impressive unanimity. This is another entry in the shameful and depressing record of near-reflexive preference for force when peaceful options may well be available.

The 2017 South Korean elections may offer a ray of hope. Newly elected President Moon Jae-in seems intent on reversing the harsh confrontationist policies of his predecessor. He has called for exploring diplomatic options and taking steps toward reconciliation, which is surely an improvement over the angry fist-waving that might lead to real disaster.

DB: You have in the past expressed concern about the European Union. What do you think will happen as Europe becomes less tied to the US and the UK?

NC: The EU has fundamental problems, notably the single currency with no political union. It also has many positive features. There are some sensible ideas aimed at saving what is good and improving what is harmful. Yanis Varoufakis’s DiEM25 initiative for a democratic Europe is a promising approach.

The UK has often been a US surrogate in European politics. Brexit might encourage Europe to take a more independent role in world affairs, a course that might be accelerated by Trump policies that increasingly isolate us from the world. While he is shouting loudly and waving an enormous stick, China could take the lead on global energy policies while extending its influence to the west and, ultimately, to Europe, based on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the New Silk Road.

That Europe might become an independent “third force” has been a matter of concern to US planners since World War II. There have long been discussions of something like a Gaullist conception of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals or, in more recent years, Gorbachev’s vision of a common Europe from Brussels to Vladivostok.

Whatever happens, Germany is sure to retain a dominant role in European affairs. It is rather startling to hear a conservative German chancellor, Angela Merkel, lecturing her US counterpart on human rights, and taking the lead, at least for a time, in confronting the refugee issue, Europe’s deep moral crisis. On the other hand, Germany’s insistence on austerity and paranoia about inflation and its policy of promoting exports by limiting domestic consumption have no slight responsibility for Europe’s economic distress, particularly the dire situation of the peripheral economies. In the best case, however, which is not beyond imagination, Germany could influence Europe to become a generally positive force in world affairs.

DB: What do you make of the conflict between the Trump administration and the US intelligence communities? Do you believe in the “deep state”?

NC: There is a national-security bureaucracy that has persisted since World War II. And national-security analysts, in and out of government, have been appalled by many of Trump’s wild forays. Their concerns are shared by the highly credible experts who set the Doomsday Clock, advanced to two and a half minutes to midnight as soon as Trump took office—the closest it has been to terminal disaster since 1953, when the US and USSR exploded thermonuclear weapons. But I see little sign that it goes beyond that, that there is any secret “deep state” conspiracy.

DB: To conclude, as we look forward to your 89th birthday, I wonder: Do you have a theory of longevity?

NC: Yes, it’s simple, really. If you’re riding a bicycle and you don’t want to fall off, you have to keep going—fast.

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor emeritus at MIT, has written many books and articles on international affairs, in particular on Israel and Palestine. His latest book, Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, will be published in December 2017.

David Barsamian is the director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado (www.alternativeradio.org).

One of These Images Could Bring Home the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

EcoWatch

By onEarth

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One of These Images Could Bring Home the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award

By Clara Chaisson     September 30, 2017

A red squirrel pauses in its search for spruce cones on a frigid winter morning; a rain-soaked bald eagle boldly looks straight into the camera; a seahorse clutches at a Q-tip in sewage-choked waters. These are a few of the moments captured by the finalists for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017.

Since 1965, the Natural History Museum in London has held this annual celebration of nature photography. Selected from a pool of nearly 50,000 entries from 92 countries, this year’s 13 finalists were announced by the museum earlier this month. The stunning images hint at both nature’s beauty and its devastation.

“As we contemplate our critical role in earth’s future, the images show the astonishing diversity of life on our planet and the crucial need to shape a more sustainable future,” reads the competition’s press release.

To get the perfect shot, wildlife photographers must possess an uncommon degree of patience, but these finalists don’t have much longer to wait now. At an awards ceremony on Oct. 17, the museum will unveil the winners, “selected for their creativity, originality, and technical excellence.”

An exhibition featuring 100 of the top photos will go on display at the Natural History Museum in London starting Oct. 20.

In “Sewage surfer,” photographer Justin Hofman captured this heartbreaking image of a seahorse clinging to a Q-tip near Indonesia’s Sumbawa island before falling ill himself from the polluted water. The world’s largest archipelago has the highest level of marine biodiversity, but it is also the second-highest contributor of ocean plastic—hopefully not for long. Indonesia has pledged to reduce its marine waste by 70 percent by 2025.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319807/980x.jpgJustin Hofman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park and Preserve provides an ideal environment for brown bears—but to this cub (with its patient mother) in “Bear hug,” it’s just a big playground.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319926/980x.jpgAshleigh Scully / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In “Saved but caged,” an anti-poaching patrol in the Sumatran rainforest rescued this six-month-old tiger cub after it spent four days trapped in a snare, likely set by oil-palm plantation workers. The cub, whose leg had to be amputated, will spend the rest of his life in a Javan zoo.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319952/980x.jpgSteve Winter / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Living up to 200 years old, saguaro cacti in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert National Monument tower at more than 40 feet. In “Saguaro twist,” Jack Dykinga captured these slow-growing giants in the gentle light of dawn.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319958/980x.jpgJack Dykinga / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Bald eagles on Alaska’s Amaknak Island hang around the harbor to scavenge for fishing industry leftovers. Bedraggled yet valiant, this raptor in “Bold eagle” seems to encapsulate the species’ recovery from the brink of extinction.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319977/980x.jpgKlaus Nigge / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Just after Andrey Narchuk snapped this shot, “Romance among the angels,” of mating sea angels in the Sea of Okhotsk, he became ensnared in a gill net and needed to make an emergency ascent.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11319980/980x.jpgAndrey Narchuk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

During the golden hour of mellow sunlight in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, a female leading a herd of a dozen elephants to a watering hole looks straight at the photographer in “The power of the matriarch.”

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David Lloyd/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Only two small populations of the endangered Iberian lynx remain in southern Spain, but in her search for the elusive cat in Sierra de Andújar National Park, photographer Laura Albiac Vilas (in the 11-to-14-year-old category!) got lucky to catch this shot, “Glimpse of a lynx.”

https://assets.rbl.ms/11320012/980x.jpgLaura Albiac Vilas / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A resplendent quetzal delivers fruit to its chicks in the Costa Rican cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota in “Resplendent delivery.”

https://assets.rbl.ms/11320088/980x.jpgTyohar Kastiel / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The clown anemonefish is immune to the anemone’s stinging tentacles. In exchange for shelter and food, the fish scare away the anemone’s predators and improve water circulation. In this image, “The insiders,” from the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia, other organisms are along for the ride: parasitic isopods peek out from fishes’ mouths.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11320090/980x.jpgQing Lin / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A mother Weddell seal—the world’s southernmost breeding mammal—introduces her young pup to east Antarctica’s icy waters for the first time in “Swim gym.”

https://assets.rbl.ms/11320091/980x.jpgLaurent Ballesta / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In “Arctic treasure,” an Arctic fox dashes through the snow of Wrangel Island in the Russian Far East with a goose egg. Foxes here steal up to 40 eggs a day and cache them in the refrigerator-cold soil to feast on at a later date.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11320093/980x.jpgSergey Gorshkov / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Red squirrels keep busy foraging during the winter, but Swedish photographer Mats Andersson caught this little guy in a brief moment of respite in “Winter pause.” Between the fluffed fur and closed eyes, you can practically feel the chill coming off the screen.

https://assets.rbl.ms/11329116/980x.jpgMats Andersson / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.

Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.

EcoWatch- Related:

By Center for Biological Diversity

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Monarch butterfly. St. Louis Zoo/Christopher Carter

House Republicans Advance Five Bills to Cripple Endangered Species Act

In party-line votes, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, led by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), advanced five bills today that would hamstring the Endangered Species Act and condemn hundreds of species to extinction. The legislation can now move to the full House floor for further consideration.

In December, Rep. Bishop stated that his goal was to repeal the act in its entirety. These bills represent the foundation of this longstanding goal.

“These bills would put monarch butterflies, wolverines and hundreds of other imperiled animals on a fast track to extinction,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This legislative onslaught is a brutal, blatant effort to cripple the Endangered Species Act. The only winners would be special interests that put profits ahead of our nation’s most cherished wildlife.”

Senate Bill Aims to Strip Protections From 1,098 Endangered Species Including Utah Prairie Dog, Florida Panther https://www.ecowatch.com/senate-bill-intrastate-species-2490613995.html  @WWF

Photo published for Senate Bill Aims to Strip Protections From 1,098 Endangered Species Including Utah Prairie Dog,...

The House Committee on Natural Resources approved the following bills today:

  • H.R. 717 by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) would require consideration of the economic costs of protecting an animal or plant on the endangered species list and remove deadlines for completing the listing process.
  • H.R. 1274 by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) would automatically deem any information submitted by a state or local government to be the “best available” science even if such information were contradictory, out-of-date or fraudulent, weakening the listing process for endangered species.
  • H.R. 3131 by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) would hamper citizen enforcement and participation in the implementation of the act’s provisions. Undercutting the ability of citizens to bring lawsuits would make the agency more prone to improperly consider politics in its listing decisions and prevent imperiled species from receiving protections in a timely manner.
  • H.R. 2603 by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) attempts to limit the Endangered Species Act’s provisions for exotic game species that have been imported into the U.S. for trophy hunting. If taken literally, this legislation would remove the need for conservation permits of exotic game species, eliminating a critical funding source for overseas conservation of those very species.
  • H.R. 424 by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would reinstate a 2011 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states. In 2014, a federal judge found numerous scientific and legal deficiencies with that 2011 decision and brought back protections for gray wolves. The legislation would invalidate the court opinion and preclude all judicial review into the future.

Since January, congressional Republicans have launched 47 legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act or particular endangered species. Since the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2011, more than 270 attacks have been instigated.

“When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, Rep. Bishop is only interested in undermining science, stopping citizens from holding the government accountable in court and green-lighting the slaughter of wolves,” said Hartl. “The American people do not support these radical attacks. They want our government to do more to help endangered species recover, just as it did with bald eagles and gray whales.”

Nine out of 10 Americans support the Endangered Species Act and want it either strengthened or left unchanged by Congress, according to a 2015 poll.

Solar Grew Faster Than All Other Forms of Power for the First Time

Bloomberg

Solar Grew Faster Than All Other Forms of Power for the First Time

By Anna Hirtenstein      October 4, 2017

From Climate Changed

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  • Renewables enjoyed record installations in 2016, IEA says
  • Forecaster sees solar dominating the renewables industry

Solar power grew faster than any other source of fuel for the first time in 2016, the International Energy Agency said in a report suggesting the technology will dominate renewables in the years ahead.

The institution established after the first major oil crisis in 1973 said 165 gigawatts of renewables were completed last year, which was two-thirds of the net expansion in electricity supply. Solar powered by photovoltaics, or PVs, grew by 50 percent, with almost half of new plants built in China.

“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement accompanying the report published on Wednesday in Paris. “We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”

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This marks the sixth consecutive year that clean energy has set records for installations. Mass manufacturing and a switch by governments away from fixed payments for renewables forced down the cost of wind and solar technology.

The IEA expects about 1,000 gigawatts of renewables will be installed in the next five years, a milestone that coal only accomplished after 80 years. That quantity of electricity surpasses what’s consumed in China, India and Germany combined.

The surge of photovoltaics in China is largely due to government support for renewables, which are being demanded by a population concerned about air pollution and environmental degradation that has led to deadly smogs. The country is seeking to reduce its reliance on coal and has become the world’s largest market for renewables, particularly solar.

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“The solar PV story is a Chinese story,” said Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA’s renewable energy division. “China has been for a long time the leader in manufacturing. What’s new is the share in the market. This year, it was equivalent to the total installed capacity of PV in Germany.”

The U.S. and India are among other nations pushing renewables. They along with China are projected to make up two-thirds of the clean-energy expansion worldwide. Despite President Donald Trump’s vow to bolster coal’s position in the power market, the U.S. is expected to be the second-largest market for renewables.

The IEA also expects biofuels to take a larger role in the transportation industry, surpassing gains by electric vehicles.

“A lot of attention has been given in recent months to electric vehicles, and rightly so. They are increasingly globally, exponentially,” Frankl said. “But I have to say, we should not forget the biofuels, which at the end of 2016 represented 96 percent of total renewable transport.”

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Electric vehicles numbers will double by 2022, but biofuels will still make up 93 percent of renewables consumed in the transport industry, the IEA estimates. The fuels are needed especially for heavier vehicles including planes and ships.

The organization recommends that governments put incentives in place to spur the development of biofuels made from non-edible plants, which would avoid diverting food crops into fuel tanks. The cost of biofuels currently is about double the global price of gasoline, Frankl said.

“America doesn’t have a gun problem. It has several of them.”

MoveOn.org Shared a Video From Vox

“America doesn’t have a gun problem. It has several of them.”     October 4, 2017
Demand commonsense gun control: MoveOn.org/guncontrol

America's gun problem, explained in 18 charts

A mass shooting in Las Vegas has claimed over 50 lives according to police, which would make it the deadliest shooting in modern US history. Yet mass shootings are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to America's problem with gun violence.

Posted by Vox on Monday, October 2, 2017

“Something Needs to Be Done Already”

Powerful: Jimmy Kimmel on gun control: "Something needs to be …

Share if you agree with Jimmy Kimmel: Something needs to be done already.Like CREDO Mobile for more videos like this.Tell Congress: Gun control now: http://credo.cm/GunControlNow

Posted by CREDO Mobile on Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Conan O’Brien’s Response to Las Vegas Shooting

Occupy Democrats

Conan O’Brien’s Response to Las Vegas Shooting

Conan's Emotional Response to the Las Vegas Terror Attack

Conan just delivered this and it is ABSOLUTELY perfect!Shared by Occupy Democrats; like our page for more!

Posted by Occupy Democrats on Monday, October 2, 2017

Make America Great Again-Enact Gun Reform!

Occupy Democrats

Colbert Pleads with Trump: DO Something About Guns!

WHOA! Stephen Colbert just went there!Shared by Occupy Democrats; like our page for more!

Posted by Occupy Democrats on Monday, October 2, 2017

America’s Best Christian

Mrs. Betty Bowers. America’s Best Christian

The Killing Made in Killing

Remember the day after 9/11, when politicians scolded us, “Now isn’t the time to talk about terrorism”? Yeah, I don’t either.

Posted by Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian on Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Another Worst Mass Shooting in the United States

The New Yorker

Another Worst Mass Shooting in the United States

By Jelani Cobb         October 2, 2017

People typically have to apply themselves to reach new benchmarks, and it is indisputable that we, as a society, have applied ourselves to reach this one.

https://media.newyorker.com/photos/59d2a68ed766b6183ca3ddef/master/w_1626,c_limit/Cobb-Another-Worst-Mass-Shooting-United-States.jpgPhotograph by David Becker / Getty

At a certain moment in the darkness of Sunday night, Las Vegas, a city that serves as a monument to the American willingness to suspend disbelief, became the setting for a macabre performance that we have seen many times before, one we wish could be permanently cancelled, one which summons an entirely different sort of disbelief. The First reports in the early hours of Monday announced that an unnamed gunman, firing from a perch high up in the Mandalay Bay hotel, had killed at least twenty people, at a Jason Aldean concert at an outdoor venue on the Vegas strip, and injured as many as a hundred more. Aldean now joins Ariana Grande and the Eagles of Death Metal as an entertainer who has seen his attempts to inspire joy be corrupted into tableaux of incalculable grief. The vantage point of a shooter thirty-two stories in the air, firing an automatic weapon at a crowd on the ground, meant that the attack in Las Vegas would generate horrific numbers of injuries—the gunfire amplified by the likelihood of people being trampled as they fled. By dawn, the number had ticked upward to “at least fifty” fatalities.

The headlines soon began referring to the tragedy as the worst mass shooting in the last century of U.S. history, surpassing the previous incident to hold that title in less than two years: in June of 2016, the massacre in the Pulse night club, in Orlando, resulted in forty-nine deaths, excluding that of Omar Mateen, the gunman who was killed when police breached the building. There is a grim record-keeping involved here, one that itself highlights the ways in which the horror of mass shootings begins to blur, owing to their sheer frequency. By mathematic calculation, the deadliest shooting is “the worst.” But, by a different measure, five years ago, we didn’t think that any shooting could be worse than the one that killed twenty children, just six and seven years old, and seven adults, in Newtown, Connecticut. Two summers ago, we felt something similar when nine people in a Charleston church were murdered by a young man whom they had invited to join them in prayer. And how are we to categorize the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and seventeen others, given that it not only struck at innocents but also at a fundamental rite of democracy—of citizens engaging their elected representative?

The distance between forty-nine dead in Orlando and at least fifty-eight in Las Vegas is sixteen months. The deadliest shooting before Orlando, the massacre at Virginia Tech, which claimed the lives of thirty-two people, held that terrible distinction for nine years—not a small amount of time, but damning by another measure, in that our “worst” tragedy could not exist for a decade without being surpassed. People typically have to apply themselves to reach new benchmarks, and it is indisputable that we, as a society, have applied ourselves to reach this one. As with arenas of positive human achievement—the tallest building, the fastest plane, the longest period of time spent in space—these records are a reflection not simply of the determination of the individual but of the advent of new technologies designed to assist them. Stephen Paddock, the alleged Las Vegas gunman, was equipped with weaponry far advanced from the collection of firearms that Charles Whitman used to murder fourteen people, from the University of Texas clock tower, fifty-one years ago.

The growing number of mass shootings in the United States provide case studies not only for law-enforcement officials but also for those with ulterior motives. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, the C.E.O. of the National Rifle Association, said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But in Las Vegas the only thing that have could have stopped a sniper hidden behind a bank of windows on the thirty-second floor of a building, shooting at people twelve hundred feet away, would have been the unlikely presence of a similarly armed sniper located at a vantage point that gave him or her an open shot at the perpetrator. We have no idea what Paddock’s motives were, but it is not hard to imagine that he chose his location because it would be difficult for a hypothetical good guy with a gun to locate him, much less take counter-measures.

Donald Trump announced his condolences to the families of those who died, and are still dying, in Las Vegas. “May God bless the souls of lives that are lost,” Trump said. He also denounced the massacre as “an act of pure evil.” This is true. But it is an entirely predictable, politically abetted evil. Matt Bevin, the governor of Kentucky, tweeted, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .” But this is a purpose of law—to regulate evil. One measure of the development of a civil society is the obstacles that we place in the path of those who would commit acts of great harm to innocents. By Monday afternoon, it was reported that gun- and ammunition-manufacturers’ stocks were rising. We have done the opposite in the five years since the Newtown shooting ignited a renewed interest in gun reform. The attack in Las Vegas is the worst mass shooting right now, not because of the number of the dead but because it reveals, yet again, that our steadfast refusal to do anything different is enabling those who wish to give us more of the same.

Jelani Cobb is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.”

Las Vegas, Gun Violence, and the Failing American State

The New Yorker

Las Vegas, Gun Violence, and the Failing American State

By John Cassidy         October 2, 2017

Of all the ways in which American democracy is showing symptoms of dysfunction, the inability to face down the gun lobby is one of the most egregious.

 https://media.newyorker.com/photos/59d2c88fc9b1a7074609eb60/master/w_1626,c_limit/Cassidy-Las-Vegas-Shooting.jpgPhotograph by Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Writing on Twitter on Monday, Matt Bevin, the Republican Governor of Kentucky, said, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs . . . You can’t regulate evil . . .” Perhaps not. But, as countries such as Australia, Britain, and Canada have demonstrated, you can certainly regulate the sale of guns, especially weapons of war, to good effect.

Between 1979 and 1996, Australia had thirteen fatal mass shootings. Since 1996, when the country introduced a law that banned the sale of semiautomatic weapons and launched a buyback program for weapons that had already been sold, there have been no mass shootings. None.

The United States, by contrast, introduced a ban on certain semiautomatic, military-style weapons in 1994—but allowed it to lapse, in 2004. While there is no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a “mass shooting” and what constitutes merely another deadly entry on the police blotter, there is little doubt that the frequency of large-scale gun atrocities has increased in the past decade.

Between the summers of 2015 and 2016 alone, President Barack Obama responded to seven different deadly shootings. On some of these occasions, he didn’t hide his frustration at the inability of the United States to tackle the problem of gun violence. “America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love,” he said on October 1, 2015, the day that a student at Umpqua Community College shot and killed nine people. “It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America—next week, or a couple of months from now. . . . We are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.”

Citing the example of Australia and other countries, such as Britain, that have passed strict gun-control laws, Obama went on, “So we know there are ways to prevent it . . . And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress, and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.”

Obama didn’t come out and say it explicitly, but he was suggesting that the U.S. government, in its totality, is abandoning one of its basic duties: the protection of its citizenry from readily identifiable threats. And, of course, Obama was right. Of all the ways in which American democracy is showing symptoms of turning into a dysfunctional state, the inability to face down the gun lobby is surely one of the most egregious.

In the statement that Donald Trump read out on Monday morning, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, he didn’t mention guns, gun laws, or semiautomatic rifles—at least ten of which were reportedly found in the hotel room of the alleged Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock. Trump’s omissions were hardly surprising. Addressing the National Rifle Association in April, the President declared, “the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to an end,” and added, “You have a true friend and champion in the White House.” In February, the President signed a law that made it easier for people with a history of mental illness to buy guns, including semiautomatic rifles.

At the daily White House briefing on Monday, a reporter asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s press secretary, whether the shooting had “made the President think anything more about pursuing tighter gun laws . . . to prevent massacres like this from happening again.” Sanders replied, “There’s a time and place for political debate. But now is the time to unite as a country.” In response to a follow-up question, Sanders tried a different tack, saying, “One of the things that we don’t want to do is try to create laws that won’t . . . stop these types of things from happening. I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over four thousand victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country.”

In response to the tragedy in Las Vegas, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, ordered the flags over the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-mast, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said, “This is a time for national mourning and for prayer.” Neither responded immediately to a call from Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, for the establishment of a bipartisan Select Committee on Gun Violence, which would “study and report back common-sense legislation to help end the crisis.”

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, preparations continued for the passage of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2017, a carefully misnamed piece of legislation that would make it easier to import assault-style rifles, transport weapons across state lines, and purchase silencers—the sale of which has been strictly restricted since the nineteen-thirties, when they proved popular with gangsters. Last month, the House Committee on Natural Resources marked up the SHARE Act and passed it. Until the shooting in Las Vegas, it had been expected to go to the floor of the House as early as this week, and its supporters, including the N.R.A., were expecting a victory. “There has never been a better opportunity to pass this important and far-reaching legislation,” a piece on the Web site of the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action noted last month.

Following the massacre in Las Vegas, the Republican sponsors of the SHARE Act will probably let a little time elapse before they put it to a vote. But there is little reason to suppose it won’t ultimately get majority support, at least in the House, while efforts to tighten up the gun laws will continue to flounder. In a failing state, that is how things work.

John Cassidy has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1995. He also writes a column about politics, economics, and more for newyorker.com.