The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a huge tragedy for the United States and the world at a time of great peril for humanity. Her passing has deeply affected millions and prompted leaders at the local, state, and federal levels to reflect on her incredible life and legacy. Below is a compendium of statements NPI has received honoring the late Justice and all that she accomplished.
Friday, September 18th, 2020
Friday, September 18th, 2020
An already horrific, awful year filled with tragedies has managed to get worse. Tonight, the Supreme Court released the following announcement:
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this evening surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, D.C., due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. She was eighty-seven years old.
Justice Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993. She was the second woman appointed to the Court and served more than twenty-seven years.
She is survived by her two children: Jane Carol Ginsburg (George Spera) and James Steven Ginsburg (Patrice Michaels), four grandchildren: Paul Spera (Francesca Toich), Clara Spera (Rory Boyd), Miranda Ginsburg, Abigail Ginsburg, two step-grandchildren: Harjinder Bedi, Satinder Bedi, and one great-grandchild: Lucrezia Spera. Her husband, Martin David Ginsburg, died in 2010.
All of us at NPI extend our deepest condolences to the Ginsburg family and all of her friends. This is news of the worst and most grievous kind. Justice Ginsburg was one of our brightest lights: a formidable jurist, staunch advocate for women’s rights, and a trailblazer for others. RBG, as she is affectionately known to so many, leaves a profound and powerful legacy that we must celebrate.
Justice Ginsburg was born on March 15th, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York City, to observant Jewish parents Celia and Nathan Bader. Though her given name was Joan, she became known as Ruth (her middle name) at her mother’s suggestion, since several other girls in her class also had the first name Joan.
Though a bright pupil, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s senior year was not a happy one, as her mother died from cancer the day before she graduated from James Madison High School. Though the pain of losing her mother at age seventeen must have been immense, Bader Ginsburg did not let it deter her from giving college her all.
She excelled at Cornell, becoming the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class. While attending Cornell, she met Martin Ginsburg, and they married just a month after she earned her bachelor of arts degree in government.
Ginsburg was accepted to Harvard’s College of Law in 1954, only one of nine women in a class numbering around five hundred.
She transferred to Columbia University to complete her legal studies after Martin Ginsburg took a job in New York City. Ginsburg was on the Harvard Law Review prior to transferring; she joined the Columbia Law Review after transferring, becoming the first woman to have contributed to both publications.
Ginsburg remained at Columbia University after graduating as research associate; she also clerked for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York during her twenties.
In 1963, Ginsburg was hired at Rutgers. Although she was not compensated fairly, she stuck with the university and eventually became a tenured professor. During her time at Rutgers, she founded the pioneering Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first publication of its kind devoted to women’s rights. She returned to Columbia University in 1972 and served on the faculty there until 1980.
That same year (1972), Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The following year, she took on the important role of the project’s general counsel and argued a series of landmark discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five out of six.
In 1980, Ginsburg’s time in academia came to an end when she was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, succeeding Judge Harold Leventhal. Ginsburg held this position until 1993, when she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve on the United States Supreme Court. At the time Ginsburg was nominated, the Supreme Court had just one female justice: Sandra Day O’Connor.
The United States Senate confirmed Ginsburg’s Supreme Court nomination, just as it had confirmed her Circuit Court nomination thirteen years prior.
So it was that in 1993, Ginsburg began the final chapter of her pioneering and remarkable life. Perhaps no Justice has ever been better known to the American people than she was. Like other noteworthy Americans who served during the twentieth century (FDR, JFK, LBJ), Ginsburg came to be known simply as “RBG”, or sometimes, the Notorious RBG. She became the most senior member of the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc during Barack Obama’s presidency, owing to the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens (who was succeeded by Elena Kagan).
Both during the time of the Rehnquist Court and the successive Roberts Court, Justice Ginsburg was a dependable vote and a strong voice for all of the causes that America’s most distinguished historical figures were associated with, like civil rights, voting rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and access to justice.
During the Bush years, the Obama years, and the Trump years, Ginsburg authored (and sometimes also read) an impressive series of incredibly powerful dissents that expertly tore apart the immoral rationales on which a series of bad Supreme Court decisions handed down by the Court’s right wing bloc were based.
In other instances, such as when Anthony Kennedy defected from the Court’s right wing bloc to back marriage equality, or when John Roberts defected to uphold the Patient Protection Act, Justice Ginsburg participated in the issuance of historic decisions that made the United States a better and freer country.
It is impossible to do justice to Justice Ginsburg’s career, life, and legacy in a blog post, even a long one. There’s a good reason that books have been written about her and movies made about her. She was an exemplary activist, a jurist of the highest caliber, a truly great American, and an exceptional human being.
But we would be remiss if we did not try to honor Justice Ginsburg to the best of our ability tonight and in the days to come. Physically, in life, Justice Ginsburg was not a towering figure. Metaphorically, though, in so many ways, she was a giant. Her decades of courage and persistence should inspire us all.
These are unquestionably dark days, filled with tragedy. Bad news seems to be the only certainty right now. But Justice Ginsburg wouldn’t want us to mark her passing by sinking into a well of despair. She’d want us to celebrate her life and then fight on, like she did, until her last breath. Fight ’em till we can’t — that was what I remarked that we needed to do almost four years ago when it became evident the Electoral College would give Donald Trump the presidency.
Until we have all followed Justice Ginsburg’s example, the fight cannot be over.
Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for everything. Thank you for nearly four decades of honorable service in our federal courts, including the highest court in the land. Thank you for smashing down barriers that enabled discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. Thank you for caring about the rights of all people, and the future of our planet. Thank you for showing us what it means to overcome adversity and hardship. We will miss you. But we’ll never forget you.
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
A thick smoke covers West Coast cities, but even thicker is the smokescreen being erected by deniers to conceal or cast doubt on climate damage as the underlying cause of fires that are the “new normal” of life in the West.
Top to bottom, the political right is fixated on “dead trees” and “poor forest management” as the cause of it all. When California officials tried to enlighten him on Monday, Donald Trump intoned: “It’ll start getting cooler: You just watch.”
“I don’t think science knows, actually.”
The right wing’s mound of sound, Rush Limbaugh, rushed in with the observation: “California and Washington and Oregon politicians who have not allowed all these dead trees to be cleared out of there. These forests are nothing but kindling.”
“It isn’t about climate change: It’s about poor forest management,” claims radio talk jock Jason Rantz, who is trying to pin blame on Governor Jay Inslee.
Fox’s Tucker Carlson blamed the public figures who have warned of the warming of the Earth, declaring: “In the hands of Democratic politicians, climate change is like systematic racism in the skies. You can’t see it, but rest assured, it’s everywhere and it’s deadly. And like systematic racism, it is your fault.”
The rapid imposition of a propaganda line, by right wing media in America, rivals “coordination” of news during the Soviet era, or propaganda ministry instructions from Berlin in the 1930s. It is, however, a self-imposition.
The pundits know what to say, and what they better say.
So drilled and conditioned is the Trump “base” that any deviation from the party line will produce a viewer/listener backlash.
Donald Trump has, after all, dismissed global warming as “a hoax”. Scapegoats have been identified. The still-livable parts of America have asked for it.
The right wing doesn’t even know what is burning.
As Governor Inslee wrote to Trump on Monday:
“Your comments betray ignorance of the very sources and locations of these wildfires They don’t just happen in the forests: the fire that burned eighty percent of the buildings in Malden, Washington, was a grass and brush fire. These fires could not be prevented by thinning timber because there is no timber to thin.”
The “dead trees” referenced by Limbaugh are likely to have been killed as one consequence of climate damage.
Warmer winters have allowed the pine bark beetle to reproduce not once, but twice. The beetles have killed trees in British Columbia from the Pacific to the Continental Divide. Big wildfires broke out two years ago in areas of heavy beetle kill in northwest B.C. Fire claimed part of the village of Telegraph Creek.
Fly over Yellowstone National Park sometime, or high-elevation forests elsewhere in the West. White bark pine trees are rapidly dying, a kill to which the beetle contributes. Descending from Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway, you will spot other forests weakened by insects.
Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center is a big advocate of “forest management.” He wrote last week that “blaming climate change is politics, not science.”
“The science is quite clear that timber harvests – including commercial timber harvests – are necessary to reduce the number of fire-prone, unhealthy forests.”
In fact, timber “harvests” are responsible for lots of these fire-prone, unhealthy forests. A buddy and I drove back roads of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest a few years back.
What we saw: Big, fire resistant Ponderosa pines had been “harvested.” Growing up in their place, thick, fire prone stands of lodgepole pine.”
Trump has gone off on a rant about how forest underbrush hasn’t been cleared and raked, constructing a trumped-up conversation with the president of Finland.
If so, he should be doing the raking.
On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom pointed out to the occupant of the White House that just three percent of the Golden State’s forests are managed by the state. The vast majority of California forests are under federal management.
U.S. Forest Service budges have consistently been drained to fight the rising number of fires, from the Continental Divide in Montana to the mountains behind San Diego. The agency has been left with inadequate resources to manage its domain. (Our own United States Senator Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, has fought to shield forest management budgets.)
We get back, however to basic consequences of climate damage.
The crisis caused by our addiction to fossil fuels has extended the fire season throughout the West. California hardly gets any breather anymore.
Scientists in Montana have tracked earlier melting of the snowpack.
Prolonged, early heat, a few years back, caused drought conditions in very-wet Forks and a fire to break out in the rainforest of the Queets River.
In his letter to Trump, Inslee quotes Stefan Doerr, chief editor of the International Journal of Wildland Fires: “If we have higher temperatures, we have a greater probability of fire starting, fire spreading and fire intensifying.”
When fires hit his province’s northern reaches, British Columbia Premier John Horgan described fire summers as “the new normal.”
These may become the good old days.
The national Climate Assessment concluded “the annual area burned in the western United States could increase two to six times from the present” if trends continue, due to human caused warming of the Earth.
The largest-ever fires in California, bigger than the fire that destroyed Paradise and the conflagration that invaded the Napa Valley wine country.
Or, to quote Inslee: “It took five days for 2020 to become our state’s second worst fire season on record with more than 600,000 acres burned, eclipsed only by the 1.1 million acres burned in 2015.”
The pundits of the right occupy cocoons of wealth and privilege, far away from the natural catastrophes about which they opine.
“You can’t see it,” says Tucker Carlson.
Carlson ought to visit Clackamas County in Oregon, where a rapidly moving fire invaded an exurban area near Portland.
He ought to visit Olympic National Park, where the big, vigorous Anderson Glacier has disappeared in the past twenty-five years.
Or study U.S. Geological Survey photos of rapid melting of the South Cascade Glacier, which the United States Geological Survey has studied since 1950.
Carlson should take a plane flight from Vancouver up to Terrace, and see vast stands of dying, orange-colored forests, or gray dead forests – the consequence of beetle kill.
He could sit down with folks at Taylor Shellfish and learn about ocean acidification, and the threat it poses to a $300 million Washington industry.
Or, he could fly out here, gaze out at Mount Rainier, and then descend into a blanket of smoke. And breathe our air. It is worse than Beijing’s.
The misinformation campaign is malicious. The smokescreen must not obscure a human-caused threat to our lives. Climate must be on voters’ minds this fall.
Friday, September 11th, 2020
Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which destroyed New York’s World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans.
In honor of those who died that day, we’re republishing a poem that we post annually here on The Cascadia Advocate.
Two thousand one, nine eleven
Two thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, “Let’s sit, let’s chat.”
They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
“I have a dream!” and once he did
The Newcomer said, “Your dream still lives.”
Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
“We’re from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine”
The Newcomer said, “You died not in vain.”
From a man on sticks one could hear
“The only thing we have to fear…”
The Newcomer said, “We know the rest,
trust us sir, we’ve passed that test.”
“Courage doesn’t hide in caves.
You can’t bury freedom, in a grave.”
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankee twang from Hyannisport shores.
A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the two thousand plus that day.
“Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we’re not”
The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, “Don’t talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me.”
Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just ’cause they must
Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
“Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!”
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
“Even from nightmares, can be born a dream.”
Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in ’44
The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
“I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow – but I don’t see fear.”
“You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You’re not really gone.
All of those people, even those who’ve never met you
All of their lives, they’ll never forget you
Don’t you see what has happened?
Don’t you see what you’ve done?
You’ve brought them together as one.”
With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
“Take my hand,” and from there he led
two thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.
— by Paul Spreadbury, dedicated to the victims of September 11th
Wednesday, September 9th, 2020
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California continued their lurch further into another crisis layered on top of the coronavirus pandemic and the systemic oppression of BIPOC individuals on Wednesday as a barrage of massive fires (many human caused) raged out of control up and down the Left Coast, threatening lives and rapidly destroying entire towns and rural communities.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown, sizing up the potential scale of the catastrophe, warned: “It could be the greatest loss in human lives and property in our state’s history. My heart goes out to all the families impacted by this devastating event.”
Like other states in the West, Oregon has seen — and fought — big fires before. But the conflagrations Oregon usually sees during fire seasons are usually in more remote areas in the east as opposed to in or near the major population centers in the Willamette Valley, which is west of the Cascade Mountains.
Because people live closer together in suburban and urban communities, it is harder to save structures and prevent loss of life from a fast moving fire.
The towns of Detroit, Blue River, Vida, Phoenix and Talent have all been substantially destroyed, a very grave Brown said. Blue River and Vida are located in Lane County, while Detroit is in Marion County and Phoenix and Talent are in Jackson County. Phoenix and Talent have populations in the thousands; Blue River, Vida, and Detroit have populations in the hundreds.
Many more towns are at risk of burning to the ground due to the fires.
Firefighters report that they are stretched thin and simply don’t have the humanpower or the resources to properly fight the destructive blazes.
The number of fires, the speed at which they are growing, and the adverse weather conditions that are hampering air support are all taking a toll.
One Eugene based firefighter said that as he returned to Lane County’s urban center, he saw “a career’s worth of fires and tragedy in about eighteen hours.”
“We’re experiencing one of those catastrophic California fires we’ve been watching unfold for years. Now they’re at home here in Oregon,” Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch told The Oregonian.
Speaking of California, the Golden State is experiencing many more such catastrophic fires, leaving the state unable to come to Oregon’s aid.
“California’s already record-setting fire season worsened considerably Wednesday as more than two dozen fires forced thousands of residents from their homes amid growing alarm about a new monster blaze that rapidly consumed more than 250,000 acres around Oroville and burned an unknown number of structures,” the Los Angeles Times reported in a story published at 12:31 PM.
“The sun, which is usually reliable, slept in on Wednesday,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s Steve Rubenstein and Michael Cabanatuan wrote. “That’s the way it seemed throughout the Bay Area as the smoke from countless wildfires mixed with clouds and fog to tint the sky, and just about everything else, a dark burnt orange. Some folks said it felt like living on the next planet over, the red one.”
The town of Paradise, which was mostly wiped out two years ago in the Camp Fire, is once again staring down an apocalyptic fate due to the aforementioned fire that has already burned hundreds of thousands of acres near Oroville.
In Washington, State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz toured the gutted town of Malden, near Pullman, which lost eighty percent of its structures on Labor Day. Franz announced that more than 587,000 acres in Washington State have recently burned (over a period of just a few days).
“I won’t soon forget the devastation I witnessed in Malden today,” Franz said. “Burned down homes, smoldering ashes, and burn scars on buildings — it was shocking. Through it all, I was amazed by the strength and resiliency of Mayor Christine Ferrell and the community. Wildfire isn’t a distant threat. It’s right here in our backyards. What I saw today strengthens my resolve: We need to come together and commit to critical investments in wildfire prevention so the tragedy the people of Malden experienced doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, Governor Jay Inslee was in Bonney Lake, in Pierce County, also touring a burned down neighborhood and talking with local officials.
Most of Washington State’s big fires are on the eastern side of the mountains, unlike in Oregon, but smaller fires on the west side have caused significant damage, particularly in Pierce County.
“Chief Bud Backer told me he has never seen a fire explode like this one in his 33 years of service,” Governor Inslee said. Climate change is making these fires more frequent, more expensive and far more dangerous. We’re beginning to see the costs of climate inaction. And they are far too high.”
A high school principal in Kent credited Inslee and state leaders for providing timely support to fire crews that saved many homes from destruction.
Said Scott Haines: “Grateful for the support and leadership of Governor Jay Inslee! Without State intervention this week, our neighborhood may have burned in the Sumner fires! East Pierce Fire immediately called in three helicopters Tuesday night from the state level and they say it was the game changer!”
Every neighborhood and home saved is a victory. But the losses are already staggering and the fires are unfortunately still burning unchecked in many places. Large fires burning in Eastern Washington include Pearl Hill, Cold Springs and Whitney. Most of them have barely been contained.
As terrible as this all is, it pales in comparison to what is coming down the pike. Climate scientists say that in ten years, 2020 will seem like the good old days.
“It’s going to get A LOT worse,” Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb told The Associated Press, in what easily ranks as one of the best articles the organization has ever created. “I say that with emphasis because it does challenge the imagination. And that’s the scary thing to know as a climate scientist in 2020.”
Colorado University environmental sciences chief Waleed Abdalati, NASA’s former chief scientist, concurred with those sentiments, telling the AP: “I strongly believe we’re going to look back in ten years — certainly twenty and definitely fifty — and say, ‘Wow, 2020 was a crazy year, but I miss it.”
The notion that 2020 might be fondly remembered later this century might seem ridiculously absurd now. But considering that things can always get worse, what these climate scientists are saying makes sense.
“A lot of people want to blame it on 2020, but 2020 didn’t do this,” North Carolina State climatologist Kathie Dello told the Associated Press, adding: “We know the behavior that caused climate change.”
Or, as our team at NPI says, climate damage.
“Climate change” is a problematic phrase because change can be good as well as bad. (In 2008, Barack Obama ran on the slogan Change We Need, for example.)
The climate is not changing for the better, however… it’s changing for the worse. And our behavior is the reason. We’re changing the composition of the atmosphere through our incessant burning of fossil fuels, which range from coal and oil to dirty gas. There are billions of us sharing one planet, and we aren’t taking very good care of it. The profound consequences of decades of inaction on climate are now materializing, just as scientists forewarned.
It’s not just the extreme weather. It’s the melting of our ice sheets and glaciers and permafrost. It’s the advancement of invasive species like the pine beetle. It’s the changes in the chemistry and temperature of our oceans.
We will go on reckoning with the consequences of our failure to respond to the science for the rest of our lives. Our children and their children will question and debate why we failed to act for so long, certainly well past the point when we could have averted some truly tragic and profound consequences.
Our continued failure to make climate justice a priority — and pursue equitable relief for disadvantaged communities — will only lead to more misery and horror in the years ahead. These fires are undoubtedly terrible. But if they don’t galvanize us to act — to turn away from the path we’ve been on — then shame on us.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2020
The Trump regime is moving at bureaucratic breakneck speed to set in place oil leases in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge, hoping to cement into place a longtime goal of Big Oil before power in our nation’s capital potentially changes.
A provision buried in the Republicans’ 2017 tax scam bill at the request of oil lobbyists opened the door to development, without hearings or consideration of environment or climate impacts. The leasing would be allowed over 1.6 million acres — the Coastal Plain of America’s greatest wilderness.
Fifteen states on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit in the District of Alaska to block oil and gas leasing in the Refuge, or “ANWR”, as the industry calls it.
Washington and Massachusetts are in the lead on the lawsuit.Lawsuit to protect the Arctic Refuge from drilling
Perhaps not since Ferguson’s first challenge to the Trump regime, which concerned the illegal travel ban aimed at Muslims, have stakes in a suit against the incumbent been this high. We were then talking about a racist immigration policy. We are now talking about the fate of the Earth, our common home.
“There is not a climate crisis,” the Trump-controlled Bureau of Land Management claimed in its environmental review of the drilling plan.
The Arctic is warming up and melting faster than any place on the planet, with consequences felt in our far-away backyard. The ice pack is shrinking. Permafrost is melting. Methane is being emitted into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. Giant fires are scorching Siberia. The shrinking ice pack no longer forms in time to protect native villages from fall storms off the Bering Sea.
As to direct impacts, we can draw on the example of the Canning River, which forms the western boundary of the Arctic Refuge, and is in the direct path for haul roads, drilling platforms and future pipelines.
The western side of the river, where industry has explored, is a kind of tundra wasteland. Empty oil barrels littler the landscape. CAT tracks remain years after rigs plowed through. By contrast, on the pristine east shore, caribou appear out of and disappear into the mists. Musk oxen plowed through our camp at the conclusion of a raft trip. A snowy plover flapped about, trying to draw the attention of a fox and protect the eggs in her nest.
The Coastal Plain is calving ground for more than 100,000 animals of the Porcupine Caribou herd. Beaufort Sea breezes mean fewer bugs. In turn, the herd supports one of the Earth’s last great predator-prey relationships, with wolves and barren ground grizzly bears always seeking out stragglers and the weak.
The lawsuit filed by the fifteen states in Anchorage charges that a rushed Trump regime drilling plan violates multiple laws, from the landmark National Environmental Policy Act to the Administrative Procedure Act. Ferguson has caught the administration before in fast, sloppy procedural work.
“President Trump and [Interior] Secretary Bernhardt – a former lobbyist for Big Oil – unlawfully cut corners in their haste to allow drilling in this pristine, untamed wildlife refuge to oil and gas development,” Ferguson said Wednesday.
“I’m leading a coalition of states to hold the Trump administration accountable to the rule of law and block this unlawful drilling plan.”
Ferguson has won or shared in two dozen legal victories against Trump administration efforts to roll back environmental protection and energy efficiency laws. The Refuge suit is his seventy-seventh legal challenge.
Overall, Ferguson has notched thirty-three wins.
State Republicans have often claimed he is grandstanding.
“Aren’t you tired of Bob Ferguson suing conservatives to impress liberals?” scammer Tim Eyman likes to say to his followers.
But it is refreshing to have an Attorney General who doesn’t content himself to suing used car dealers caught rolling back odometers. Ditto with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, Ferguson’s frequent collaborator.
Governor Jay Inslee, in a frequent role, is playing Ferguson’s wing man. “Hard to say what’s worse – destroying the nation’s largest wildlife refuge, or further inflaming the climate crisis with new oil and gas drilling so a few fossil fuel companies can profit at the people’s expense,” Inslee said in a statement.
The states are also making common cause with Alaskan Gwi’chin natives, who depend on the Porcupine Herd for sustenance and clothing. The Arctic Village Council and Venetie Village Council have filed a separate lawsuit.
The states claim that Trump’s folks violated NEPA by failing to adequately analyze the impacts its oil and gas leasing program will have on the world’s climate.
They also argue that the Trump regime failed to think about a reasonable alternative plan that would minimize impacts on the Canning River and Coastal Plain. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Trump folks did not bother to follow NEPA requirements to assess impacts on migratory birds.
The Arctic Refuge has been the object of a political battle for more than 60 years.
The wild north slope of the Brooks Range was explored by pioneer naturalists Olaus and Mardy Murie, who welcomed the legendary United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to camp one year.
“Wild Bill” celebrated his stay in his 1960 book “My Wilderness: The Pacific West.” Two Fairbanks-based pilot/conservationists, Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter, lobbied the Eisenhower Administration to protect the area.
In 1960, just before leaving office, Ike designated an eight million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range. The area became a major bone of contention as Congress passed the 1980 Alaskan Lands Act.
Congress enlarged to nineteen million acres what it renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or Arctic Refuge for short. It protected eight million acres as wilderness. But it punted on the Coastal Plain. A provision of the act gave Congress power to approve drilling in the Coastal Plain.
The George H.W. Bush administration was on the verge of pushing through leasing, when in 1989 the tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Big Oil had to retreat for a time.
George W. Bush’s administration took up the cause, along with Alaska’s oil-beholden political class. Interior Secretary Gale Norton dismissed the Coastal Plain as “flat white nothingness.” Conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg flew over the area and produced fuzzy pictures of fog. The decline in production at Prudhoe Bay, just west of the Refuge, intensified the lobbying campaign.
The Refuge had its defenders. Celia Hunter died of a heart attack at her desk in Fairbanks, sending out appeals to lobby senators against drilling. A young Boeing employee, Subhankar Banerjee, spent a winter in the Refuge, producing a book “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Light and Life.”
Banerjee’s photographs were going on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, when suddenly the exhibit was moved to a lower corridor leading to a loading dock.
Quotations, even from ex-President Jimmy Carter, were censored.
It turns out Alaska’s powerful Senator Ted Stevens was angered when Sen. Barbara Boxer put up an easel with Banerjee’s photos during Senate floor debate. Museums around the country rushed to sign up exhibits of Banerjee’s work.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, has been a foremost defender of the Refuge. In 2006 she blocked a backdoor effort by Sen. Stevens to attach Refuge drilling to a defense authorization bill. Nobody filibusters a defense bill, but Cantwell and then Senator Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut, threatened to do just that.
Stevens responded with fury on the Senate floor, threatening to come to Washington State and campaign against Cantwell.
He did, and she was reelected with almost fifty-seven percent of the vote.
During debate on the Republicans’ tax scam bill, Cantwell lost a close 52–48 vote in attempting to remove provisions for drilling in the Coastal Plain.
The Refuge is an awesome place.
Cantwell was there a few years ago, she peered into a spotting scope and spotted both a wolverine and a barren ground grizzly bear. Turning to her host, Zumiez cofounder and NPI supporter Tom Campion, the Senator asked: “Is this unusual?”
Tuesday, September 8th, 2020
In the days leading up to Labor Day weekend, officials with Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources — from Commissioner Hilary Franz on down — spoke out as loudly as they could in an attempt to head off irresponsible behavior that could lead to death, injury, and property destruction during fire season.
Unfortunately, some people either never heard or never heeded their message.
By the time the sun had set yesterday, the Pacific Northwest had joined California in firestorm misery, with hundreds of thousands of acres newly burnt or burning.
Smoke blown east by gusty winds began polluting the Puget Sound lowlands and Oregon’s Willamette Valley not long before sundown on Labor Day, causing air quality to rapidly plummet. Urban Pacific Northwesterners are advised to limit time outdoors, keep the windows closed, and run an air purifier if they have one.
“I’m sick, the amount of new fires today is unreal,” tweeted DNR fire meteorologist Josh Clark. “Early estimates figure 288,000 acres burned today across the state. Numerous homes and property destroyed, 30,000+ without power. Every one of these was 100% human-caused, and therefore 100% preventable.”
“Plus conditions were very well forecasted by yourself and many others,” replied John Abatzoglou. “Believe that your efforts + messaging do help; but these capstone wind events emphasize what science, info, suppression alone can’t fix.”
With dry and windy conditions like those that we’re seeing now, all it takes is one spark to start a red hot conflagration that no firefighting force can contain.
The news coming out of California should have served as a warning to us.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park recently lost all of its historic buildings to fire. Many of the redwoods survived (they’re a hardy, fire resistant species) but the park is no longer the lush green oasis that it once was. Its CCC-built visitors center, constructed in the 1930s, is no more. The park is expected to be closed to visitors for at least a year due to the damage caused by the CZU complex.
Sadly, some Pacific Northwesterners chose not to exercise caution, and as a consequence, Washington and Oregon have seen fires sprout up all over.
The small town of Malden, Washington (near Pullman), suffered a fate similar to Big Basin today. In just a few hours, eighty percent of the town burned to the ground, including the post office, the fire station, and city hall. The devastation was documented by media outlets based in Spokane and Pullman.
Meanwhile, down in California, the Creek Fire is raging out of control.
“The Creek Fire is up to 130,000 acres (203 square miles) and is 0% contained,” reported Marie Edinger of KMPH. “The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office says 25,000–30,000 people have been evacuated, and that many of those people should expect to be away from home for a long while.”
Searing summer fires are not a new problem on the Left Coast, of course.
But fire season didn’t used to be this deadly or destructive.
“Through only early September, wildfires so far this year have burned more than 2 million acres in the state, surpassing 2018 for the most acres destroyed in a year, according to figures from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Times research,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The climate crisis has exacerbated the commonality and severity of extreme weather events of all kinds. While the Left Coast burns from incredibly destructive wildfires, the Gulf Coast is grappling with the threat of treacherous hurricanes like Laura, which recently pummeled the Lake Charles area in Louisiana.
We have only ourselves to blame for the damage we’ve caused to our climate. Donald Trump and his enablers can sneer that it’s a hoax all they want — Mother Nature doesn’t care what they think. There’s a message in all of these extreme weather events: rethink your unsustainable and polluting ways.
The Earth is our common home. And our only home: there is no Planet B. Yet we’re trashing it. Destroying it. At breathtaking speed.
If we’re to save what is left of the home we’re borrowing from our children, we are going to have to change how we live, work, play, and govern ourselves.
It is clear that just asking people nicely not set off fireworks, burn debris, or discharge firearms recreationally is not working. It’s time for Washington, Oregon, California, and other states to take a tougher line against activities that can lead to the rapid destruction of everything from state parks to small towns. Activities like burning debris should be prohibited. Other activities should require permits.
And for all our sakes, let’s make sure we significantly increase the budget of the Department of Natural Resources. We need to not only beef up our fire prevention programs, but geologic hazards mapping too, for we live in an area prone to tsunamis, lahars, volcanic eruptions, and landslides.
Thursday, September 3rd, 2020
The steep hike up from Anderson Pass, in the Olympics yielded to an overlook of a vigorous glacier and close-up of a 7,300-foot summit seen distantly from Seattle. I did the hike twenty-five years ago.
One part of the scene has radically changed: The Anderson Glacier is no longer there. It has melted away in a quarter century.
Climate damage is impacting the Northwest in visible and breathable ways.
We’ve had the nation’s worst air from fire smoke over a couple of summers.
The fire season is much longer. Our mountains are losing their ice mantle.
Beetles are killing our forests.
The climate crisis was felt massively in the Gulf of Mexico last week, where eighty-six degree waters caused Hurricane Laura to climb overnight from a predicted Category 2 to a Category 4 storm. As of this writing, fifty-five fires are burning in California with parts of the Bay Area is getting the world’s dirtiest air.
The first predictions that climate would become a major presidential campaign issue came thirty-two years ago, in the hot summer of 1988.
George H.W. Bush was promising to become “the environmental president.” A polluted Boston Harbor was used against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis.
The climate crisis has significantly worsened in the decades since.
So have predictions, early in presidential years, that the warming of the earth would light a fire under the electorate.
It hasn’t happened.
Always, always climate and environment get eclipsed as Election Day draws near.
Al Gore jumped on bestseller lists in 1992 with his seminal climate justice book, Earth in the Balance, and was picked as Democratic vice presidential nominee later that year. Sadly, the urgency of the book was never reflected in administration policies, although Clinton did designate wonderful national monuments.
Dick Cheney took charge of energy policy under George W. Bush, and turned to the fossil fuel industry for counsel. Barack Obama had the Great Recession to attend to, and Democrats in Congress tied to the fossil fuel economy.
This year held promise, in no small part to climate advocacy in the brief presidential bid of Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Though Inslee exited the presidential race after the second round of debates, rivals moved to copy the environmental agenda he offered.
In the past few months, however, the United States has been hit by the worldwide novel coroanvirus pandemic and an ensuing economic slowdown that has cost thirty million jobs, and a reckoning over systemic racism.
The wretched response of the Trump regime has moved these crises front and center. Environmental atrocities, like the loosening of methane regulations, have moved to back pages of the New York Times. The administration has opened the door to oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Attorneys general have gained little public attention for their legal defense of the National Environmental Policy Act, the nation’s basic environmental law.
Joe Biden has an impressively decent climate plan, fortified by clean energy proposals from the Inslee camp, and a bold bold public lands platform proposed early this year by Senator Elizabeth Warren. The issue becomes what priority given as the country digs out from the Trump disaster.
Just as the pandemic sets policy, so too does climate damage. We can watch it in the massive Greenland icemelt, and in U.S. Geological Survey monitoring of year-by-year melting of the South Cascade Glacier, or hikers’ witness to the rapid shrinking of the Lyman Glacier deep in the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area.
Is there still hope for the 2020 election, or are we relegated to what a funny Democrat, Dick Tuck, said when he lost a state Senate race in California: “The voters have spoken, the bastards.”
The possible positives:
The West flips the Senate. Three Western states, and three pro-environment candidates, hold the key: Mary Kelly in Arizona, Gov. Steve Bullock in Montana, and ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper in Colorado. All face allies of the fossil fuel industry, although GOP incumbents Steve Daines (Montana) and Cory Gardner (Colorado) have lately tried to sound green. If Democrats get a majority, Senator Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, will be positioned to lead in crafting a new energy policy targeted to weaning the country form fossil fuels.
Young people show up. The most progressive, growing chunk of the American electorate often doesn’t show up. Young voters were a key to electing Barack Obama. A scribe remembers the day he hit Bend, Oregon, for a rally.
Kids were camped outside the door of the high school where Obama would speak. A high school senior introduced him. The Obama campaign assembled a progressive coalition, of which voters were a key. Joe Biden, at seventy-seven, is less exciting, but there’s a lot to like about his platform.
One or two severe hurricanes threaten the country, or come ashore with the power of Laura. While cringing at consequences, perhaps this is what’s necessary to further awaken the New York/Washington, D.C. based big media to what’s happening out in the country. We’ve seen a few signs that the glacial indifference of the news media is melting. Chuck Todd won’t permit climate deniers to appear on Meet the Press. Jolly “Today Show” weather forecaster Al Roker was dispatched to Greenland, and came back with a frightening tale to tell.
Local thinking pushes global action. Years ago, when President Kennedy promised to govern with “great vigah,” Americans looked for top down initiatives from their government. Key examples, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. With paralysis in the “other” Washington, localities must lead.
A good example would be the climate package introduced last week by King County Executive Dow Constantine. Or for the state to wear down the oil companies and finally levy a penalty on big polluters.
Environmental justice is a vital component, for human health and political support. Hurricane Laura cut a path across the Gulf Coast industrial belt, where low income and minority residents already breathe bad air and kids have high asthma rates. One compelling scene from the story was a major chemical plant fire.
A load of early conservation books (e.g. “The North Cascades: Forgotten Parkland”) can be found on a shelf next to this scribe’s writing desk. They carry messages of early frustration, and eventual triumph as vast chunks of public lands were protected as wilderness areas, national parks, and national monuments.
Supporters of wildlands were famously mocked by a Seattle Times editorialist as “mountain climbers and birdwatchers.”
A powerful U.S. Forest Service supervisor greeted a Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs delegation with the words, “Just what do you people want?”
The activists kept pressing: Look what they achieved.
The issue now is not whether the Agnew Creek Valley will get logged, but literally whether the Earth will remain habitable. Words often used by Obama in 2008 – “The urgency of now” – apply to the climate crisis.
Activists, keep pressing over the next sixty days.
It’s not too late for an alignment that will allow climate action.
Sunday, August 30th, 2020
The effort to bring more progressive representation to Washington State’s 5th Legislative District (Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Maple Valley, and nearby communities) just got a big boost today with the news that Governor Jay Inslee is backing challenger Ingrid Anderson over right leaning incumbent Mark Mullet for the district’s Senate seat, which Mullet has held for almost eight years.
“As we continue fighting a global pandemic, work to keep our kids and communities safe, and take steps to ensure a strong future economy, we need Ingrid’s frontline experience as a nurse, mom, and health care leader,” Governor Inslee said in a statement released by Anderson’s campaign. “Right now, there is not a single nurse in the State Senate. We can change that by electing Ingrid and helping all Washington families through this challenging time.”
Without mentioning Mullet, Inslee went on to explain that he needs allies in the Legislature to ensure that progressive legislation can reach his desk.
“I’ve been clear about the urgent need to adopt cleaner fuels and build a clean energy economy here in Washington State. Ingrid shares this sense of urgency, as a matter of public health and environmental protection. We need her voice – and her vote – to take overdue action to protect our health and climate.”
“I am so grateful for the support of Governor Inslee as we enter the home stretch of this campaign,” Anderson said. “We face some real challenges in the coming year as we recover from this pandemic, and once treatments are available, we will need health care professionals in office to make sure we enact equitable policies that benefit all Washingtonians. We also have the opportunity to reshape our economy and make it more fair, sustainable, and self-reliant. I look forward to working with the Governor to make needed positive change.”
“I am disappointed but not surprised by a call I received from the Governor this weekend letting me know that he would be endorsing my opponent,” Mullet said in a statement posted on Facebook reacting to Inslee’s decision.
“I respect that the Governor called to tell me this news in-person. Courtesy is an admirable thing in politics and severely lacking in our country at the moment. In the future, I look forward to working with the Governor when we agree and having a vigorous debate on the issues when we disagree. My hope for the Democratic Party is that it can be a place that accommodates different opinions like this.”
At the time Mark Mullet was first elected, in 2012, the 5th LD was a tough battleground district that Democrats were trying to do a better job competing in.
Mullet’s victory then represented a breakthrough for the party.
It’s easy to forget that for two years, Mullet was the Eastside’s only Democratic senator, with the 45th’s seat being held by Republican Andy Hill, the 48th’s seat being held by Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican again Rodney Tom, and the 41st’s seat being held by Republican Steve Litzow.
In the span of three years, however, the Democratic Party elected three very progressive senators to each of the other Eastside legislative districts:
- Cyrus Habib in 2014 in the 48th, who defeated Michelle Darnell and served for two sessions before leaving to successfully pursue statewide office;
- Lisa Wellman in 2016 in the 41st, who defeated Litzow to regain the seat once held by predecessors Randy Gordon and Brian Weinstein;
- Manka Dhingra in 2017 in the 45th, who defeated Jinyoung Englund in a special election and flipped the State Senate Democratic. Dhingra succeeded Dino Rossi, the late Andy Hill’s appointed replacement.
Progressive champion Patty Kuderer succeeded Habib after he became Lieutenant Governor in 2017 and thoroughly bested Rodney Tom the following year (2018) when Tom unwisely tried to recapture the seat he had given up in 2014.
The successive election of three strong progressive women to the Washington State Senate from the Eastside of King County’s other three legislative districts ought to have tipped Mark Mullet off to the region’s changing political dynamics.
In the span of four years, Mullet went from being its only Democratic senator and its most progressive voice (in relative terms) to its least progressive.
Any lingering doubts about the Eastside’s transformation into a progressive bastion ought to have been erased by the convincing victories of Bill Ramos and Lisa Callan in the district’s two House races in the 2018 midterms.
The duo sailed into the House only two years after Darcy Burner and Jason Ritchie failed to defeat Paul Graves and Jay Rodne. This year, Callan is unopposed for reelection and Ramos is exceptionally well positioned to secure a second term, having garnered 59.07% in the Top Two election against two challengers.
Unfortunately, instead of recognizing that his district had evolved and proceeding to offer it more progressive representation, which he could have easily done, Mullet continued to take right wing positions and votes in the Senate.
A few examples:
- Mullet has consistently refused to support proposals to levy a capital gains tax on the wealthy, which NPI’s research has found robust majorities in favor of for more than half a decade now.
- Mullet voted against enacting Initiative 1000, the Washington State Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Act, while every single one of his Democratic colleagues voted for it, including his seatmates Ramos and Callan.
- Mullet has repeatedly backed proposals to divert public tax dollars to charter schools operated by private entities.
- Voted against addressing wage discrimination for women in the workplace (House Bill 1696);
- Voted against Washington’s landmark long-term care law supporting seniors (House Bill 1087);
- Voted to extend favorable aerospace tax giveaways to all manufacturers (ESHB 1109, Amendment 489);
- Voted against a bill to prevent toxic chemicals from damaging public health and the environment (Senate Bill 5135);
- Voted against an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill to increase penalties on drunk drivers (Senate Bill 5299)
- Voted against the operating budget negotiated by Democratic leaders, including millions of in-district dollars for special education, teacher salaries, school safety, mental health programs, and more (House Bill 1109).
In a recent Facebook post, Mullet took a page out of the Republicans’ playbook and resorted to Seattle-bashing in order to make the case for his reelection.
Mullet has made it abundantly clear that he’s not going to change, even though the district he represents has. As a consequence, Ingrid Anderson decided to challenge him, and is running on a platform that embraces the essential progressive causes that Mullet has scorned during his eight years in the Senate.
Despite not having run for office before, Anderson beat out Mullet for the top spot in this month’s Top Two election, securing 48.57% of the vote. That showing undoubtedly helped persuade Governor Inslee to take sides in the race.
Anderson already had the enthusiastic backing of the state’s labor movement, who have never been able to depend on Mullet when they needed him.
Now she has the support of Governor Inslee, the Washington State Democratic Party’s most visible standard bearer. This is a big deal.
It’s very rare for an incumbent Democratic governor to back a challenger to an incumbent Democratic legislator. It’s just not something we usually see.
But the circumstances in this race are somewhat unique. Democrats are guaranteed to win this seat because there’s no Republican running.
The only question, then, is what kind of Democrat the district will send to Olympia. Will it be an open-minded team player who will provide another vote for badly needed progressive legislation, or a longtime incumbent with a record of standing with the opposition to keep the broken status quo in place?
We’ll find out in a few weeks.
Wednesday, August 26th, 2020
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has brushed off complains the Trump campaign is violating the Hatch Act with brazen use of public treasures, like the White House and Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, to give a 2020 Republican National Convention boost to a beleaguered incumbent.
“Nobody outside the Beltway really cares,” said Meadows.
Meadows might be right, in that the country has witnessed three and a half years of brazen flouting of political norms, often in violation of the law.
As citizens, however, we need face facts: We are being used and the public’s houses, monuments and historic places are being exploited.
I care, thanks to a day back in the springtime of the George H.W. Bush administration. I took part in an interview with Barbara Bush, who referred to her family as the “latest tenants” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mrs. Bush took us through rooms where history was made, occasionally taking a dig at Nancy and Maureen Reagan. We were given a quick look at the Rose Garden, as designed by Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Jackie Kennedy.
The crabapple trees were in full bloom, and afforded shade on a warm day. The garden was ablaze with colors, which is the way John F. Kennedy had wanted it.
The trees are gone, removed as part of Melania Trump’s redo of the Rose Garden. The trees have been moved to an “offsite location” and will be replanted later.
The new Rose Garden was used Tuesday night when Melania Trump delivered a Republican National Convention speech there, before a carefully picked partisan audience that did not practice physical distancing.
The White House had already been utilized for two 2020 Republican National Convention events. Trump used the premises to pardon an Arizona bank robber who has become active in rehabilitation work. And the incumbent, whose policies have split apart families, swore in five new American citizens.
Consider the brazenness of this act. Thousands are waiting to be sworn in so they can vote in the November election. Trump has famously referred to African nations, El Salvador and Haiti as “[expletive] countries” and asked why the United States can’t welcome more immigrants from Norway.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with ambitions for 2024, interrupted an official trip to Israel to speak to the Convention from the roof of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Sure, the camera crews were on the Republican payroll.
But Pompeo was flown to Israel in a plane bearing “United States of America” insignia, and stayed at the King David at government expense.
Pompeo delivered a speech to the Republican National Convention despite a recent directive to employees of his own department: “Senate-confirmed political employees may not even attend a political convention.”
Meanwhile, Fort McHenry in Maryland, of Star Spangled Banner fame, has been closed to the public due to the pandemic.
Never mind the exclusion of ordinary people… Vice President Mike Pence delivered his acceptance speech on the premises tonight.
Think for a moment. The one hundred and four year-old National Park Service is the least political of agencies. Yet, the presence of Pence suggests that the NPS supports his renomination and the 2020 Republican ticket.
Trump has twice used Park Service grounds — the public’s parks — for political purposes: a Fourth of July interview with FNC at the Lincoln Memorial and his campaign-style speech at the Mount Rushmore National Monument.
Under the Hatch Act, and rules set down by the Special Counsel, park employees cannot engage in any “activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, partisan political group, or candidate for partisan political office.”
The forty-fifth president has made inquiries about getting his visage on Mount Rushmore. In the meantime, the National Park Service has gone without a Senate-confirmed director for the entirety of Trump’s presidency.
Trump has virtually wiped out the lines between governing and campaign. Other presidents observed informal rules. For instance, H.W. Bush banned campaign strategy sessions from the West Wing, insisting they be held at the residence.
In Trump’s case, he has held forth, using the Rose Garden for a fifty-four-minute July monlogue denouncing Joe Biden and the Democrats. He will deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump appears to see no distinction between the government and his person.
The Hatch Act can be ignored: It has no enforcement mechanism.
Nobody in high position has dared raise objection to use of the White House.
The rule in this administration: Do what the chief does.
And praise him at every turn.
Trump’s acceptance speech will be followed by one more appropriation of public property and an enduring national symbol: There will be a fireworks display over the Washington Monument, the tallest building in D.C.
Monday, August 24th, 2020
Donald Trump flew to Charlotte on Monday morning to greet Republican National Convention delegates, but found an audience and could not resist pouring out his multiple grievances and untruths for nearly an hour.
The 2020 Republican National Convention has become an exercise of indulging Trump, and talking to and trying to hold onto the Trump base.
Non-loyalists need not watch.
Never – ever – has such chaos, so many scandals, and so much mockery surrounded a man in the Oval Office at such a moment.
As the convention began, twenty-seven former members of Congress and seventy national security officials from Republican administrations declared their intent to vote for Joe Biden. The list included arch-conservative former United States Senators Jeff Flake and Gordon Humphrey, and ex-Virginia Senator John Warner.
Former RNC Chair Michael Steele, now an MSNBC pundit, announced on the air that he’s joining anti-Trump Republican activists of The Lincoln Project.
News came from California: A judge has ordered Trump to pay $44,000 in legal fees to adult film star and former paramour Storny Daniels.
As morning turned to midday, scandal was enveloping on-leave Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., an early evangelical supporter of the forty-fifth president. The scandal involved a Miami hotel pool boy who came to know Mrs. Falwell – biblically. The former pool boy claimed that Falwell liked to watch from a corner.
The day ended with Falwell, Jr., offering his resignation to Liberty trustees, and then taking it back. He confirmed his wife’s affair, denied taking part in it, and claimed the ex-pool boy was a blackmailer.
It is hard to fathom what hits Trump on a day to day basis, and the latest crony to turn on him or be caught up by justice, or let off the hook.
Steve Bannon was a dark arts influence on the 2016 Trump campaign, as strategist in the run for the White House and later “chief strategist” for Trump.
He was caught — by U.S. Postal Service inspectors no less — skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use out of a private fund designed to help build a wall on the country’s southern border. It is a simple case of fraud.
Owing to his great discomfort with being associated with people whose wrongdoing has caught up with them, Trump has had to develop a hardly-knew-him explanation for one close ex-subordinate after another.
He claimed to have disapproved of the private build-the-wall fund, only to have television networks unearth a speech by Donald Junior endorsing the scheme.
The day of the convention also saw New York Attorney General Letitia James ask a judge to order Eric Trump to testify, and the Trump Organization to turn over information, as part of an investigation into whether Trump’s business improperly inflated assets. Don Jr. spoke Monday night to the convention.
Eric Trump is on the bill for Tuesday.
This past weekend, prior to the beginning of the RNC, niece Mary Trump released hours of secretly taped conversations with the forty-fifth’s president’s older sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal appellate court judge. “His [expletive] tweet and the lying, oh my God,” said Trump Barry. “I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying.”
Judge Berry has rarely spoken of her brother, but was scathing on the tape, saying: “It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel Donald is out for Donald, period.”
It has been twenty-four years since a Republican presidential nominee, Senator Bob Dole, asked: “Where’s the outrage in America?”
He was reacting to Clinton fundraising, notably then Vice President Al Gore attending a fundraiser with Buddhist monks.
The question reverberates to 2020. Opponents of Trump endlessly spotlight the headlines on their Facebook pages. Still, a chunk of the electorate – approaching forty percent – stays loyal to a serial liar surrounded by crooks.
Donald Trump’s job approval ratings have stayed pretty steady over the past five months. The base is with him. The Republican Party has become a Trump cult and, if you look at the speakers list, a Trump family enterprise.
And that is what the Republican National Convention — really the Trump National Convention — is all about. Holding the base and bestowing adulation on the chief.
With millions unemployed, and the coronavirus death total approaching 180,000, everything is about him. Donald Trump is a massively self-absorbed human being.
Each of the past week’s scandals would have consumed another president.
But we are, in a sickening way, seeing this as business-as-usual.
The president as mob boss, the crimes and ripoffs, the family intrigue, the subordinates (like Mike Pompeo and Bill Barr) ready to do anything.
If Joe Biden wins, he’ll be charged with rescuing both American government and American democracy from a deep ditch… in the midst of a pandemic.
Monday, August 24th, 2020
Editor’s Note: This is part four of a four-part series on the white supremacist text Might Is Right and the history of American fascism. This series looks at how ideas stated outright in that late nineteenth century text have continued to have influence into the present day, from Satanists and Christian fundamentalists to paleoconservatives and right-wing terrorists.
In the previous installment, we explored how the author of Might Is Right was so antisemitic and dismissive of anything connected to Judaism, he was unaware that his criticisms of Christianity were completely irrelevant to many American sects, then and now, because plenty of Christian denominations enthusiastically worship power and hierarchy more than a crucified Christ.
It’s not clear if this other, unnamed and more muscular strain of Christianity was ever noticed by Anton LaVey when he cribbed so heavily from Might Is Right to make it the partial basis of The Satanic Bible. The mockery of Christianity by name seems to have been attractive enough to him to call it blasphemy.
With some mysticism and his own flavor of pretension, sometimes jokingly summarized as “Ayn Rand with candles”, LaVey created the Church of Satan, which can be said to be the wellspring of all modern Satanism.
Overt references to Jewish conspiracies and Negro savages are gone, but he liked the parts about smashing your enemies instead of loving them and he talks about “religion” with a confident universalism despite it not being especially recognizable to a Reconstructionist Jew or Quaker, let alone a Buddhist or Shinto follower.
LaVey, for his part, does not seem to have been a person for whom anti-racism was ever important. He cultivated relationships with Neo-Nazi occultists like James Madole whose work grew into strains of contemporary terrorism like the Order of the Nine Angels (O9A), and LaVey raised Boyd Rice to a position of leadership within the Church of Satan despite, or maybe because of, Boyd Rice’s fondness for Mein Kampf and American Nazis.
Again, LaVey was born “Levey”, but he grew up in San Francisco. His idea of rebellion and blasphemy had a blind spot for what sort of forces were still most powerful in the United States, religious and otherwise.
Writing in the late 1960s, LaVey mused:
A black mass, today, would consist of the blaspheming of such “sacred” topics as Eastern mysticism, psychiatry, the psychedelic movement, ultra-liberalism, etc.
Patriotism would be championed, drugs and their gurus would be defiled, acultural militants would be deified, and the decadence of ecclesiastical theologies might even be given a Satanic boost.
In other words, LaVey’s conception of rebellion was to make the same appeals that Richard Nixon’s campaign would successfully use to gain the presidency two times. This orientation of pseudo-rebellion has continued into the present day.
The Church of Satan’s present leader, Peter H. Gilmore, provided a forward to the 2019 “Authoritative Edition” of Might Is Right, and elsewhere explained the political position of the Church of Satan was open to all, meaning fascists, too.
It is up to each member to apply Satanism and determine what political means will reach his/her ends, and they are each solely responsible for this decision.
While this is supposedly apolitical, LaVey had and his church still has a strict “no drug use” policy, so it’s not as if they had no limits.
But when you say, “We’re okay with fascists,” the result is that lots of fascists will start to show up in droves anywhere they’re tolerated, making their targets uncomfortable enough to leave until only fascists are left. The persistent lack of Satanists who are Black in the past half-century may not be so surprising, then.
This idea that “Satanism is rebellion and rebellion is being willing to embrace even fascism” ties back in to progressive Satanist strains as well.
Although it didn’t end up using The Satanic Bible or Might Is Right as a foundational text, The Satanic Temple founded in 2013 and made famous by the 2019 documentary Hail Satan? ties back more directly to Might Is Right by two of its formative figures: Shane Bugbee and Doug Misicko.
Misicko is most famous now as The Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, and has made the public orientation of the organization opposing white supremacy, as in the August 2017 op-ed for the Washington Post, “I’m a founder of The Satanic Temple. Don’t blame Satan for white supremacy.”
But as part of their collaboration on the 2003 re-printing, the two men and Bugbee’s then-fiance Amy Stocky engaged in a twenty-four-hour live-stream talking about their appreciation for Might Is Right’s message.
They also discussed more recent politics, like where they differed on the merits of white supremacist Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City Bombing and whether killing children hurt McVeigh’s cause or they were just “cop kids.”
About three hours and twenty-eight minutes in, Bugbee lists off how his previous edition included contributions by white supremacist terrorist David Lane of The Order, George Eric Hawthorne of the band “Racial Holy War (RaHoWa)”, and LaVey, and how that led to opposition from some Satanists against Nazis.
This transitions into a discussion between a caller and Bugbee about how Social Darwinism was ruined by its association to Nazis, which the caller extends to eugenics also, prompting Misicko to chime in.
“Threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak,” Misicko says. “It’s just like, ‘antisemitic’ to me isn’t a bad word. It just depends. Like, I think it’s okay to hate Jews if you hate them because they’re Jewish and they wear a stupid [expletive] frisbee on their head and walk around thinking they’re God’s chosen people.”
Misicko clarifies that it’s not okay to hate non-practicing Jews, however, leading to Bugbee and Stocky to disagree while making increasingly aggressive claims about not liking anyone with a drop of Jewish blood as well as arguing about who actually died in the Holocaust.
When asked if he’s Jewish himself, Misicko’s retort is, “I’m an Aryan king!”
As late as 2015, Misicko was using freedom of speech to justify publicly stepping away from a speaking panel in solidarity with the neo-Nazi August Sol Invictus, and in January 2017, Misicko overrode a local chapter in California to tell the right wing media hate site Breitbart that The Satanic Temple opposed counter-protesting Milo Yiannopoulus, at least prior to Yiannopoulus’s pro-child rape comments coming out a month later.
This is not to say that Misicko is himself a fascist or The Satanic Temple is a crypto-fascist organization, any more than The Church of Satan was.
And yet, hearing someone is opposed to religious tyranny sounds a bit different when they’ve admitted they included people who wear yarmulkes as being worthy of their ire, just as “free speech” ends up being little more than a euphemism when it’s used to defend white supremacists rather than fight non-disclosure agreements or protect union organizing.
When, prior to founding The Satanic Temple, Soling went on Russia Today to bemoan how public schools are more authoritarian now and function more like detention centers than education facilities, a lot of left-leaning people would agree with that. But when Soling’s explanation is that schools now have to enforce order on a heterogeneous population rather than a homogenous group of students, your ears ought to perk up a little.
Often we don’t hear anything because white liberals are by some measures more likely to justify their support policies resulting in school segregation than conservatives when it involves their own children.
It is easy to see the racism in black and white photographs of those “gap-toothed racists” in Mississippi, but it’s much harder to recognize it in ourselves when we’re paying for private schools, tutors, or moving to school districts in places that were historically hostile to minorities while we vote to keep them that way in the name of “neighborhood character.”
Whether someone uses a grotesquely racist slur to justify not wanting to send their child to school with Black kids or dresses it up in the nice pair of shoes of “giving my child the best opportunity”, it doesn’t much matter when the result is the same.
It would be nice if there were some unifying shorthand for fascism and its succubus twin racism, but there isn’t. We must pay close attention.
The book’s ideas are not immediately identifiable by any single aesthetic because as much as Satanism is central to Might Is Right’s history persisting as a specific work, Satanism has no real power in the world.
The preacher who tells his congregation to support their “Wolf-King” in the White House is exhibiting the same ideas championed by Might Is Right despite the preacher appealing often to God and labeling all his enemies the tools of Satan.
Again, the best thing that can be said of Might Is Right is that is badly written. There is no dressing up of anything, just sheer bigotry shouted in the most odious, pretentious, and artless way possible.
Having seen the ur-fascism of a mediocre late nineteenth century white supremacist, misogynist, antisemite and ardent capitalist throwing racial epithets across several hundred pages, it becomes much easier to recognize when the same arguments are being made with more abstractness or apparent kindness.
Might Is Right would argue Ariel Castro — who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and impregnated three women for a decade in Cleveland before one of his victims escaped in 2013 — did nothing wrong except be found out, just as the author argued that slavers were right to take their kidnapped women as they would.
Reading Might Is Right, you should find it much harder to perform apologism for the United States’ own prominent slavers and slave-catchers seeing where that same logic springs from and how far it goes.
If you ever attempt to read Might Is Right, its highest virtue is that it is so unappealing it makes obvious what sort of society it’s advocating for: the rule of rich white men to do exactly as they please and the forcible subjugation of all other people in service to them.
It would be nice if that meant it had no appeal to anyone, but history has shown time and again that it does, particularly to young white men.
In that sense, it is dangerous. However, the book is largely dangerous because it’s not received in a vacuum; it’s received in the context of a world already shaped by its ideas in their subtler, quieter, politer forms. This is fertile ground each time the ideas of hierarchy and control renew themselves in their true forms within private conversations, neglected subcultures, and anonymous Internet forums.
A year ago at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, eighty miles south of San Francisco, a nineteen year old man engaged in a mass shooting, wounding seventeen people, killing three, and resulting in his own death. One of the last messages he posted encouraged people to read this awful book while decrying the “hordes of mestizos” and “Silicon Valley white twats” that were moving to the area.
We have to understand the message is just as serious when it doesn’t include rude words, when it’s Tucker Carlson decrying “diversity” and “wokeness” to his millions of viewers while wearing a tie.
We have to pay close attention. The real gift of Might Is Right is that it says what it does so badly we have no reason to be confused by anyone else saying it even if they manage to do it more politely, artfully, or abstractly.
Sunday, August 23rd, 2020
Editor’s Note: This is part four of a four-part series on the white supremacist text Might Is Right and the history of American fascism. This series looks at how ideas stated outright in that late nineteenth century text have continued to have influence into the present day, from Satanists and Christian fundamentalists to paleoconservatives and right-wing terrorists.
Might Is Right is willing to come right out and say that it doesn’t think all people count as people, which resolves the seeming contradictions of ideologies that are more mealy-mouthed about it but ultimately feel the same way.
In the previous installment, we looked at how that applies to so-called incel or “involuntarily celibate” men, who actively oppose sex workers. It’s not sex they desire so much as they want to remove the sexual agency of women entirely.
But an important contradiction for incels and their cousin fascists does remain, even for those as open-eyed as Might Is Right’s author.
Should a believer start to think about it too much, the central paradox of the fascist would then become inescapable:
1) everything thought unfair by people unlike the fascist is a result of the immutable natural hierarchy of the world, which is good;
2) the fascist is motivated by a deep intuition that the world is unfair to the fascist and must be fixed.
In Might Is Right, there is supposedly no morality beyond taking whatever you’re able to take, and still the author can’t help but complain some people have gone about their theft the wrong way, by convincing people instead of forcing them.
The proximate enemy, then and now, can be many things:
- liberal Christianity,
- anti-racism — even the bankers in capitalism supposedly ruining it.
But if you listen to fascists long enough, they’ll reveal that the ultimate enemy is the Jews. It is always the Jews.
It’s not obvious why antisemitism should have this relationship to fascism. Italian fascism was not built on it, though as associations with the German strain became stronger, Mussolini’s fascism came to target Jews more explicitly as well.
In R.G. Price’s essay, Understanding Fascism and Antisemitism, Price writes:
The charges are that Jews promote liberalism, equality, communism, socialism, secularism, are anti-patriotic, greedy, liars, and thieves, who control banking and finance and have corrupted capitalism.
Price observes that these are all the things fascists oppose, so it might seem to be a natural development. But antisemitism goes back at least to the Greeks of Alexander, and even before, according to the Hebrew Bible’s own stories.
In the story of Esther, it’s enough that Mordecai doesn’t bow to Haman and that Mordecai is of a people set apart who can be targeted.
By virtue of being different in some way, the idea of “the Jew” can be picked out and loaded up with every negative attribute as needed.
That seems to be why the United States’ most notable antisemite Henry Ford was obsessed with Jewish people. In the 1920s, Ford popularized the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a conspiracy and published his 18-month series “The International Jew: The World’s Problem”, which ultimately would also influence the Nazis. Ford decided to blame Jewish people for the First World War and for the degeneracy of his own country. They were the Bolsheviks as well as bankers.
As Umberto Eco observes, the utility of Jews is that the fascist can portray them as a threat both inside and outside of society.
That means any domestic or international issue can be connected as part of a grand plot, a conspiracy that must be rooted out at home and fought aggressively abroad. Communism, in particular, fulfills this same role by being international and is directly counter to fascism by describing history as a struggle of classes rather than immutable biological groups.
New terms like “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) or “Postmodern Neo-Marxism” will work, too, of course, and if you listen long enough, you’ll hear it’s someone like George Soros funding all those college protesters.
Jews are the enemy not just because they exist but because the ideologies supposedly emanating from them have the power of turning strength against itself, infecting our good white children. To the fascist, everything is the way it is supposed to be and could be no other way, but it is in constant danger of all falling apart, and the reason for that is ultimately the Jews.
For Might Is Right, this extends even to Christianity.
I said earlier that Might Is Right does not ever end up saying anything brave, says nothing really surprising, and goes along siding with the powerful at every turn.
There is one exception to this, or at least it would seem so at first.
That apparent exception is the author’s hatred of religion, which for the author is indistinguishable from a hatred of Christianity.
For the author, Christianity, too, is indistinguishable from his hatred of Jews and their conquest of Roman strength with Jewish ideas.
Why it is as childplay to the hysteric Idolatry of to-day — the deification of a Jew. The ‘Divine Democrat’ was executed upon a government gibbet, because the Rulers of Imperial Rome were more powerful men than he was.
His strength, and that of his followers, was not equal to theirs.
He died an abysmal failure — a Redeemer who did not redeem — a Saviour who did not save — a Messiah whipped like a calf — a slave-agitator deservedly destroyed for preaching a Falsehood — the monstrous gospel of Love, Brotherhood, Equality.
Elsewhere, the author says:
Both ancient and modern Christianism and all that has its root therein, is the negation of everything grand, noble, generous, heroic, and the glorification of everything feeble, atrocious, dishonorable, dastardly. The cross is now, and ever has been, an escutcheon of shame. It represents a gallows, and a Semite slave swinging thereon.
You don’t really hear this sort of mockery of Christianity in American society, but note the sort of Christianity being mocked.
The author of Might Is Right is only bothered by the version of Christianity he views as weak, democratic, overly concerned with charity and equity.
He’s not talking about the Christianity of Martin Luther who encouraged German princes to strike down rebellious peasants or Christians to burn, loot, and murder all Jews. This isn’t the Christianity of John Calvin that ruled Geneva by brutal force and justified success as being a sign of God that person was of the elect.
Certainly today, the “Prosperity Gospel” that celebrates the rich for the existence of their wealth, the white evangelicals who worship power to justify their support of venal men, and the dominionists such as Washington State’s own Matt Shea would not be mistaken for those who turn the other cheek or fail to ground their claims of authority in temporal power as well.
The directly violent white supremacist Christianity Identity movement, strongest in rural Idaho, and the respectable political governance of Washingon, D.C.‘s The Family on C‑Street, share a similar fetishization power and hierarchy despite pursuing different means to achieve it.
The latter organization, behind the National Prayer Breakfast, actually started with businessmen in Seattle horrified by the West Coast General Strike of 1934.
What they saw they needed was “totalitarianism for Christ.”
More generally, Pacific Northwest journalist David Neiwert, a good friend of the Northwest Progressive Institute, identified in 2003 the relationship between fundamentalism and pseudo-fascism as one of George W. Bush’s core constituencies, and in a revision of the same material in 2005, Neiwert concluded:
The conservative movement’s straightforward appeal to a dualist and apocalyptic mindset is, in fact, the cornerstone of its drive to create a one-party state – because nurturing such a mindset among the masses is absolutely essential to establishing that kind of totalitarian political control.
That flavor of Christianity has never been the only one extant in America, but perhaps if Might Is Right’s author had been from the U.S., he may have recognized that his own love of slavery paired well with a belief that claimed morality came from God while still allowing the powerful to intuit who God cared most about.
In the final installment of this series, which will be published tomorrow, we’re going to look at the enduring influence of Might Is Right and how its direct influence is alive today on specific organizations and individuals.