NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Read tributes to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from national and regional leaders

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.

Read More »

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1933–2020

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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg talks about her career dur­ing ‘A Con­ver­sa­tion with Jus­tice Gins­burg’ on Wednes­day after­noon in Wait Chapel. Host­ing the event is WFU Law pro­fes­sor Suzanne Reynolds. (Pho­to: Wake For­est Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

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.

RBG with President Carter

Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg with Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter the year she was nom­i­nat­ed to the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals (Offi­cial White House Pho­to­graph)

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.

RBG with President Clinton

Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg accepts her Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion (Pho­to: Shan­non Farmer/The White House)

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 smokescreen and a big lie: Trump, climate deniers try to explain away our record fires

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.

Chehalem Mountain Fire

View south to Chehalem Moun­tain fire on Sep­tem­ber 9th, 2020. (That’s the “small” smoke plume in the mid­dle ground). All the rest of the smoke is com­ing from the River­side and San­ti­am fires, which have burned 350,00 acres in less than forty-eight hours. Pho­to: Sheila Sund, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license.

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.

Firefighting operations at Aurora

An Army Nation­al Guard UH-60M Black Hawk heli­copter waits on the tar­mac in heavy smoke at the Auro­ra State Air­port, near Auro­ra, Ore­gon on Sep­tem­ber 9th, 2020. Flight crews from the Ore­gon Army Nation­al Guard’s Gulf Com­pa­ny, 1st Bat­tal­ion, 189th Avi­a­tion Reg­i­ment based out of Salem, Ore. were called in to sup­port state and local offi­cials as unprece­dent­ed fire con­di­tions forced evac­u­a­tions across the state. Guard heli­copters have dropped more than 22,000 gal­lons of water on Ore­gon’s wild­land fires since mid-August. (Nation­al Guard pho­to by Major Leslie Reed, Ore­gon Mil­i­tary Depart­ment Pub­lic Affairs).

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.

Almeda Fire preparation

Ore­gon State Police stag­ing in Phoenix for the Alme­da Fire on Sep­tem­ber 8th, 2020. (Pho­to: Ore­gon Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

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.

Evi­dence?

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.

Wrong!

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

In memoriam, nineteen years later

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.

New York's Twin Towers

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

Fueled by hot and windy weather, fires rage out of control up and down the Left Coast

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.

GOES Satellite imagery of Left Coast fires

From NOAA: “On Sep­tem­ber 8th, 2020, the #GOESWest Satel­lite focused in on the #Ore­gon­Fires and #Cal­i­for­ni­aFires. We can not only see all the smoke they pro­duce, but by com­bin­ing Fire Tem­per­a­ture RGB with this Geo­Col­or imagery, we can see the red­dish glow of the hot spots where they orig­i­nate.”

“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

Bob Ferguson, Maura Healey lead multi-state legal challenge to block Arctic Refuge drilling

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.

Arctic Refuge panoramic view

The Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, by Zodi­ac in Demar­ca­tion Bay in Alas­ka (Pho­to: Danielle Brigi­da, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice)

“There is not a cli­mate cri­sis,” the Trump-con­trolled Bureau of Land Man­age­ment claimed in its envi­ron­men­tal review of the drilling plan.

Liars.

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.

Caribou in the Arctic Refuge

Cari­bou graze on the coastal plain of the Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a back­drop. (USFWS)

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.

Willow Ptarmigan

Wil­low ptarmi­gan with­in the Can­ning Riv­er cor­ri­dor. USFWS/Katrina Liebich

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.

Polar bears in the Refuge

A polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beau­fort Sea coast in Arc­tic Nation­al Wildlife Refuge. (Pho­to: Susanne Miller/USFWS)

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.

Maria Cantwell hosting a healthcare town hall

Maria Cantwell smiles as she lis­tens to a con­stituent ques­tion at a town hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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

DNR fire meteorologist horrified by barrage of (human caused) Labor Day 2020 fire disasters

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.”

New fires in Washington, as of Labor Day 2020

A map show­ing new fires in Wash­ing­ton State (Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources)

“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.

Scene from a fire in Malden

A struc­ture is reduced to its foun­da­tions in Malden (Pho­to: Whit­man Coun­ty Sher­if­f’s office)

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.”

Extreme­ly high, kiln-like tem­per­a­tures, smoky skies, and falling ash have made life in the Los Ange­les area hideous­ly uncom­fort­able.

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

Will 2020 be the year in which climate justice finally becomes a prevalent federal priority?

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

Governor Inslee endorses Ingrid Anderson over incumbent Mark Mullet in 5th LD race

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.

Ander­son­’s cam­paign points out that Mul­let also:

  • 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.

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Despite pandemic, Sound Transit’s East Link Line 2 remains on track for 2023 completion

The pan­dem­ic result­ing from the spread of SARS-CoV­‑2, the nov­el coro­n­avirus, has sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced rid­er­ship on Puget Sound’s net­work of bus­es and trains, with many peo­ple work­ing from home and with mass gath­er­ings of peo­ple (like sport­ing events, con­certs, and fes­ti­vals) can­celed for pub­lic health rea­sons.

Auto­mo­bile traf­fic is down too, for the same rea­sons, which means rush hour in the Seat­tle-Taco­ma-Everett area is not as long or as tor­tur­ous as it used to be.

Late­ly, a few reporters and com­men­ta­tors fix­at­ed on the short term have ques­tioned whether we still need the mass tran­sit invest­ments we’ve com­mit­ted our­selves to giv­en these con­di­tions. And the answer is unequiv­o­cal­ly yes.

Even if traf­fic vol­umes do not go back to what they once were due to greater adop­tion of a dis­trib­uted mod­el for work, our region will ben­e­fit tremen­dous­ly from the deploy­ment of a robust mass tran­sit sys­tem with a rail spine.

Link light rail, Stride bus rapid tran­sit, improved Sounder com­muter rail, and expand­ed ST Express will give peo­ple free­dom of mobil­i­ty and lib­er­ate Puget Sounders from being forced to dri­ve or even own a car.

That’s why it is so reas­sur­ing to hear that Sound Tran­sit remains on track to deliv­er East Link — Line 2 of our region’s expand­ing light rail sys­tem — in 2023, as sched­uled. ST and its con­trac­tors are now at about nine­ty per­cent of civ­il con­struc­tion and the struc­tur­al work on the Down­town Belle­vue Tun­nel, one of the most impor­tant seg­ments of the line, is com­plete.

Last Wednes­day, Sound Tran­sit invit­ed NPI and oth­er media orga­ni­za­tions to tour the Down­town Belle­vue Tun­nel with King Coun­ty Coun­cil Chair Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci and Belle­vue May­or Lynne Robin­son. While wear­ing masks and observ­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing pro­to­cols, we were able to walk through the tun­nel from por­tal to por­tal and see all the progress that has been made since it was first dug.

(Unlike with its Seat­tle-side tun­nels, this tun­nel was cre­at­ed using the sequen­tial exca­va­tion method, not with a TBM, or tun­nel bor­ing machine.)

While the tun­nel is struc­tural­ly com­plete, track is still being laid inside and work still has to be done to install the tun­nel’s safe­ty sys­tems.

It was very excit­ing to be able to walk where trains will, in just a few years, zoom under­neath Belle­vue’s finan­cial dis­trict on their way to and from Line 2’s mid­dle­most sta­tions. From the out­side, the tun­nel looks like two sep­a­rate tun­nels, but it’s actu­al­ly one sub­di­vid­ed tun­nel with a wall in the mid­dle.

After fin­ish­ing the tun­nel walk­through, I spoke with Sound Tran­sit’s Chad Fred­er­ick about the sta­tus of the project and what’s next for East Link after the tour was over. Click play below to lis­ten to our con­ver­sa­tion.

Note: This inter­view was record­ed adja­cent to an active con­struc­tion site, so you’ll hear nois­es made by machines work­ing in the back­ground. 

The con­struc­tion of the tun­nel, a project award­ed to Atkin­son Con­struc­tion, went so well that exca­va­tion was com­plet­ed five months ahead of sched­ule. Con­se­quent­ly, the spring­time COVID-19 prompt­ed pause in con­struc­tion on Sound Tran­sit’s projects isn’t going to have much of an effect on East Link at all.

“When East Link light rail ser­vice begins, east­bound trains will enter the tun­nel north of the East Main sta­tion at 112th Avenue South­east and Main Street and trav­el approx­i­mate­ly one-third of a mile, under 110th Avenue North­east and turn east near North­east Sixth Street to emerge at the future Belle­vue Down­town Sta­tion,” Sound Tran­sit says. (From there, the align­ment cross­es Inter­state 405,  116th Avenue NE, and NE 8th Street on an ele­vat­ed seg­ment.)

“Ten years from plan­ning, through exca­va­tion to sub­stan­tial com­ple­tion, this tun­nel rep­re­sents Sound Tran­sit’s com­mit­ment to a local plan that pri­or­i­tized the best tran­sit con­nec­tion through down­town Belle­vue,” said Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci.

“Work­ing togeth­er, the city coun­cil, com­mu­ni­ty and Sound Tran­sit devel­oped an align­ment that works not only for the Belle­vue com­mu­ni­ty, but also for the com­muters who will come to work in Belle­vue,” said Belle­vue May­or Lynne Robin­son. “I’m excit­ed to ride this beau­ti­ful route through the East­side.”

“East Link’s open­ing in 2023 will be pre­ced­ed in 2021 by North­gate Link and in 2022 by the Taco­ma Link Hill­top [street­car] exten­sion. One year lat­er, in 2024, we will extend Link to down­town Red­mond, Lyn­nwood and Fed­er­al Way,” said Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff, Joni Ear­l’s suc­ces­sor. “These his­toric invest­ments will final­ly give us the true mass tran­sit net­work the Puget Sound region has sought for more than a half cen­tu­ry. They will more than dou­ble our cur­rent reach and simul­ta­ne­ous­ly help fuel our region’s eco­nom­ic recov­ery.”

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

RNC is proof that Trump sees no distinction between the federal government and himself

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

Scandals and ethics violations abound as the 2020 Republican National Convention begins

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

Instructive bad reading, Part IV: Dissecting fascism with the help of “Might is Right”

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.

Jump to Part One | Two | Three | Four


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.

The film­mak­er Bug­bee did his own reprint of the book with orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions by Mis­icko, then going by the pseu­do­nym Doug Mes­ner.

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.

Bug­bee left The Satan­ic Tem­ple ear­ly on and the oth­er founder and co-own­er is Cevin Sol­ing, or “Mal­colm Jar­ry”, a self-described “sec­u­lar Jew.”

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.​


Jump to Part One | Two | Three | Four

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

Instructive bad reading, Part III: Dissecting fascism with the help of “Might is Right”

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.

Jump to Part One | Two | Three | Four


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;

yet

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,
  • com­mu­nism,
  • anar­chism,
  • fem­i­nism,
  • 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.


Jump to Part One | Two | Three | Four