Truthout Stories Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:12:33 -0400 en-gb Day After Obama Tours Louisiana Flood Damage, Government Holds Massive Gulf Oil and Gas Lease Auction

On Tuesday, President Obama visited Louisiana for the first time since the devastating floods that killed 13 people and damaged 60,000 homes. The Red Cross has called it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy. While many climate scientists have tied the historic floods in Louisiana to climate change, President Obama made no link during his remarks. However, on Tuesday, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans protesting the Interior Department's decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held today in the Superdome -- the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. We speak to Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. She joins us from San Francisco.


AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, President Obama visited Louisiana for the first time since the devastating floods that killed 13 people and damaged 60,000 homes. The Red Cross has called it the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy. It also marked Louisiana's worst flooding since Hurricane Katrina. Some neighborhoods still have up to two feet of standing water left. President Obama spoke in Baton Rouge.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I just had a chance to see some of the damage from the historic floods here in Louisiana. I come here, first and foremost, to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. We are heartbroken by the loss of life. There are also people who are still desperately trying to track down friends and family. We're going to keep on helping them every way that we can. As I think anybody who can see just the streets, much less the inside of the homes here, people's lives have been upended by this flood.

AMY GOODMAN: While many climate scientists have tied the historic floods in Louisiana to climate change, President Obama made no link during his remarks. But while Obama was speaking in Baton Rouge, four environmental activists were arrested in New Orleans while occupying the headquarters of the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management headquarters. They were protesting the Interior Department's decision to go ahead with a lease sale of up to 24 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration and development. The sale is being held in the Superdome -- the very building where thousands of displaced residents of New Orleans sought refuge during Hurricane Katrina 11 years ago. One of the four arrested Tuesday was John Clark, a professor at Loyola University.

JOHN CLARK: You know, in a sense, I'm doing this for my ancestors, my children, my grandchildren, and that in my lifetime I've watched an area of the coastline the size of the state of Delaware disappear, and that it's very painful to me to think about the fact that my grandchildren and their children will not even be able to live here in the future, because we're going to lose southeast Louisiana.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the flooding of Baton Rouge and today's oil and gas lease sale at the Superdome, we're joined by Antonia Juhasz, an oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Antonia. Talk about the connections we're seeing today, from the protest in New Orleans to the flooding of Baton Rouge.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Good morning, and thanks for having me, Amy. So, you know, just the timing of all of these events couldn't be more devastating, really. So, you have this historic flood. You have the president there to offer assistance from FEMAand to, you know, hopefully try and assist those on the ground, while at the same time the Interior Department is continuing the problems that help excel this storm in the first place, help make it more ferocious, help make these storms more frequent. And that, of course, is the burning of fossil fuels, leading to climate change.

President Obama has been very outspoken and, in some cases, aggressive in the needs to tackle climate change, at the same time as expanding offshore oil drilling, expanding the production of oil and gas to new record heights across the United States, but, in particular, right now, most relevant to look at the expansion in the Gulf of Mexico. So, the sale taking place in about two hours at the Superdome for 24 million new acres in the Gulf of Mexico, this sale will complete, if all the leases are sold, all unsold leases in the western part of the Gulf. So that's basically federal waters offshore of Texas. And these include some ultra, ultra-deepwater leases, so leases that would be at twice the depth of that which BP was drilling when the Deepwater Horizon disaster happened. It's 4,400 blocks. It's a big sale, a sizable sale. And there have been --

AMY GOODMAN: And for one second, for those who don't remember, when you talk about the BP Deepwater Horizon, talk about how many people died and how extensive the pollution and the damage was.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Well, that would take many hours, because, of course, it was one of the most -- the largest offshore drilling oil spill in history. This was April 2010. Five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, released over a three-month period of time, extensive damage, which I've witnessed firsthand from the -- in a submarine, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, to the shores, to the air, to the animals, to the people. And the devastation continues.

One of the outcomes of this oil spill was, obviously, a tremendous amount of oil within the Gulf, and it's estimated that 33 -- that 30 million gallons of oil remain in the Gulf ecosystem to this day of oil spilled from the BP disaster, April 2010. But that oil has had all kinds -- has caused all kinds of problems. One of the problems that it contributed to was the destruction of marsh and the further erosion of the Gulf shore. Now, that destruction of the marshland is a continuation of harm caused by the oil and gas industry over decades that has contributed to coastal erosion, the elimination of marshes, the elimination of wetlands in Louisiana, which makes storms much more ferocious, because those wetlands, those marshes, should be there to suck in the water, as natural sponges, if you will, when water floods onto land. Without that marsh, that was eaten away by oil, without that coastline, that was eaten away by salt, that was allowed to incur on the coastline because of canals built for pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure, the coast isn't there, and the floods just come in and decimate communities, which we're seeing more and more of.

In addition, there is, of course, the ongoing economic harm that's suffered by fisherfolk and people who -- oil workers, people who live off of the Gulf of Mexico that were harmed by this oil spill. And that, of course, makes dealing with catastrophes even more difficult, because they don't have the economic backpinnings to deal with this type of catastrophe. And a lot of people, frankly, whose lives were upended because they've spent the last six years now organizing to try and stop offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and their lives are focused on doing that, and then they're hit by these storms, and then, now, that makes it even more difficult to do that type of organizing. So the chain events sort of roll on and on.

And one of the biggest problems is that we haven't -- well, while the lessons have been learned from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster -- meaning numerous studies, incredible analysis -- the policies that are the -- that should be the expected outcome of those lessons have not been implemented. So, the Chemical Safety Board, the most important independent investigative body looking at disasters like these, in its most comprehensive analysis of the disaster, said, you know, basically, the chance of another Deepwater Horizon-like disaster is still very likely, and the lessons have not been learned. And a regulatory environment that invites companies to essentially say they can do the right thing, but not have to prove that they can do it, still perpetuates offshore oil drilling in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: In March, hundreds of protesters disrupted another government auction of oil and gas drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico. The government was attempting to auction off 43 million acres of offshore drilling rights at an event also held at the Superdome, like today's, in New Orleans. Cherri Foytlin of Idle No More–Gulf Coast spoke out during the protest.

CHERRI FOYTLIN: I'm standing here with 200 brave souls that are saying no, no to the fossil fuel industry, and yes to a just transition for all of our people. Whoo! We came -- we marched up here, maybe 500, maybe a thousand people -- I don't know. But it's the most amazing thing to see all these people stand together with self-determination and say it's time for a new day in the Gulf of Mexico. It's over. The fossil fuel industry, you're on your way out. Make yourself a bed. You're done. It's over. Bye-bye.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Cherri Foytlin of Idle No More–Gulf Coast saying it's over. But is it over, Antonia? And what's the difference between that public auction and what's happening today?

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Yeah, so, I was there. That was quite a historic event. You know, really, public organizing against offshore oil drilling is something that is fairly brand new in this size and scale in the Gulf of Mexico. And it's really been a process over decades of Gulf Coast communities experiencing the harms of the industries, the up-and-downs of the markets for oil workers, as well. And then, of course, the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster have led to this evolution of increased opposition to drilling among Gulf Coast communities. And that protest in the Gulf at the Superdome in March against the last -- the previous lease sale was really historic and nearly shut down the sale.

So, in response, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is part of the Interior Department, for this sale taking place this morning, for the first time closed the sale to the public. So, the Superdome, which is this enormous facility, is going to have a room with, you know, 50 oil company representatives and 10 oil companies and maybe 20 journalists sitting in a room, and it will be closed to public participation, because they don't want to see this type of public opposition to the lease sale that they saw in March. It will be viewable online, so people can watch it online if they want, but that means all you can do is, you know, watch what unfolds, not try to participate in the process.

And the protest that you mentioned at the opening, at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's office in New Orleans, the like 15 or so Gulf residents and others who showed up to deliver 180,000 signatures on a petition calling for this lease sale today to be canceled, as you said, four of them were arrested because they said they wouldn't leave until the lease sale was canceled. They were hoping that the Obama administration would start doing in the Gulf Coast what it has done in the Atlantic, which, in its new proposal for the next five years -- it's finalizing a new proposal for offshore oil drilling -- new drilling in the Atlantic was taken off the table in that proposal, but offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was expanded. And what the Gulf residents are saying is "We no longer want to be the sacrifice zone for the United States. If it's good enough for the Atlantic, it's good enough for us." And they were hoping that this lease sale would be canceled, and, if not canceled, I would imagine, hoping to have the opportunity to be there and be present and show their opposition. And that is not going to be able to be the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Antonia Juhasz, we want to thank you for being with us, oil and energy analyst, author of Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we look at two stunning new reports on climate change. One about, well, will the Olympic Summer Games be able to be held in the coming decades, because it's simply too hot? And another about the cost to the millennial generation nearing $9 trillion, the cost of climate change. Stay with us.

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Embracing the Alt-Right: New Trump Campaign Chief "Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists"

Last week, Donald Trump once again upended his campaign team and named Stephen Bannon, the head of Breitbart Media, to be his campaign chief. Breitbart regularly sparks controversy with headlines such as "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy," "Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard" and "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew." In a new article published by Mother Jones, investigative journalist Sarah Posner writes, "By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the 'alt-right,' a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee's favor on social media." For more, we speak to Sarah Posner and Heather McGhee of Demos.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we turn to look at "How Donald Trump's New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists." That's actually the headline of a new article in Mother Jones by investigative journalist Sarah Posner, who has closely followed right-wing movements for years. The piece looks at Trump's new campaign chief, Stephen Bannon, who until last week headed the right-wing website Breitbart Media.

In her piece, Sarah Posner writes, quote, "By bringing on Stephen Bannon, Trump was signaling a wholehearted embrace of the 'alt-right,' a once-motley assemblage of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, ethno-nationalistic provocateurs who have coalesced behind Trump and curried the GOP nominee's favor on social media," unquote.

Breitbart regularly sparks controversy with headlines such as "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy" or "Trannies Whine About Hilarious Bruce Jenner Billboard" and "Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew."

Criticism of Breitbart Media has grown over the past year. Southern Poverty Law Center recently said, quote, "Over the past year however, the outlet has undergone a noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas -- all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the 'Alt-Right.'"

Even former Breitbart employees have spoken out. The site's former editor-in-chief, Ben Shapiro, recently wrote, quote, "Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers."

Well, to talk more about Breitbart, Stephen Bannon and the Trump campaign, we're joined by Sarah Posner, and still with us is Heather McGhee of Demos.

Sarah, welcome to Democracy Now! Why don't you start off and talk about what you found?

SARAH POSNER: Well, I was covering alt-right activities at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. And that's where I encountered a couple of times Milo Yiannopoulos, who is the site's technology editor and the principal link between Breitbart and activists on the alt-right, activists that Yiannopoulos has explicitly embraced. And I also met and talked to Stephen Bannon, who was, at the time, the head of Breitbart and is now the CEO of Trump's campaign.

And in our interview, Bannon told me that Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right, but he denied that the alt-right is an inherently racist or anti-Semitic movement that embraces white nationalism. He said that Breitbart is a nationalistic site; he denied that it's a white nationalistic site. And he said that while there are elements of anti-Semitism or some people who might be racist in the alt-right, as a whole, the movement is not a racist or anti-Semitic movement.

Now, I asked him specifically about Ben Shapiro, who you discussed, who previously was an editor at Breitbart, who's emerged as one of the site's leading critics and who has been attacked on social media by anti-Semites tweeting -- you know, just tweeting like horrible things at him and saying things about him and his family. And I asked Bannon about that hate that's been directed at his former employee. And he dismissed it, calling Shapiro a whiner.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain more the term "alt-right."

SARAH POSNER: Well, as much as Bannon wanted to claim Breitbart as the platform for the alt-right, the alt-right existed before Bannon took over Breitbart, when Andrew Breitbart, the site's founder, died suddenly in 2012. The alt-right has been around before that. The "alt-right" term was coined by Richard Spencer, who is a white nationalist writer and activist who positions the alt-right as a dissident movement that's dissatisfied with conservatism, which they portray -- a term that you'll often see people on the alt-right using for a conservative, for a movement conservative, is "cuckservative." It's a disparaging term combining the word "cuckold" and the word "conservative." And that is how they portray movement conservatives.

And this is why they've been cheered by Trump's candidacy, because they see him as a candidate who's abandoned the traditional GOP, who scoffs at movement conservatism and, in fact, embraces their issues, is willing to talk about building a wall, who's willing to talk about race in the way that Trump talks about race, who's willing to break with GOP orthodoxy on trade deals. These are all things that have led the alt-right into the Trump camp. And a lot of it has to do with the ways in which he has rejected GOP and movement conservatism orthodoxy.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Donald Trump speaking in Dimondale, Michigan, a largely white suburb of Lansing.

DONALD TRUMP: African-American communities have suffered under Democratic control. To those, I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump has been addressing the African-American community from the largely white, overwhelmingly white, community he was in there in Michigan and, before that, when he spoke in West Bend, overwhelmingly white community, a suburb of Milwaukee. Heather McGhee, that question, "What do you have to lose?"

HEATHER McGHEE: You know, we've been clear, I think, many of us in the African-American community, that Donald Trump was going to make an appeal to the black vote. He was very quick to attack Mexicans, Latinos, immigrants, very quick to attack Muslim Americans, but actually has been somewhat more reticent. And we have all been sort of anticipating this moment when he would try to divide and conquer among people of color, and say to working-class black men, particularly, that immigrants are coming to take their jobs.

You have to remember that Donald Trump -- speaking of the alt-right, Donald Trump was the loudest and, as he has in many -- with many racist ideas, the most effective mainstreamer of the idea that the first African-American president was not actually born here, is not a U.S. citizen, and therefore not a legitimate president. That's not something that the black community forgets. We also --

AMY GOODMAN: That Donald Trump was a leader of the birther movement --


AMY GOODMAN:  -- going back years challenging Obama.

HEATHER McGHEE: Yes. We also don't forget that the way that he sort of burst onto the scene in New York was as a slumlord who was forced to settle massive discrimination claims against African-American tenants. So, Donald Trump has very little support in the African-American community. Some polls say it's 1 percent, some polls say it's zero. And they understand what he is doing. Even more importantly than what Donald Trump is, it's what he is doing to reinvigorate white supremacy in this country. Even if Donald Trump is defeated on Election Day -- which I don't think is a given, right? Polls do not vote. We do not actually have Election Day by random dialing surveys. People do have to actually come out and vote, which is not necessarily a given right now. Even if he's defeated, the unmasking of American racism, the mainstreaming of these ideas, is going to be with us the day after Election Day. The African-American community is very aware of that.

AMY GOODMAN: Even Indiana governor, the vice-presidential running mate of Donald Trump, is aware of this. He was being questioned on Fox by the Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt about Donald Trump's claim that he could get to something like 95 percent of the African-American vote by 2020.

AINSLEY EARHARDT: Donald Trump is telling the African-American community, "I am the guy for you," and he says, by 2020, he's going to have 95 percent of the African-American support.

GOV. MIKE PENCE: [laughter]

AINSLEY EARHARDT: Why are you laughing?

GOV. MIKE PENCE: Well, that's Donald Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there is Governor Pence just laughing. So, talk more, Sarah Posner, expanding on what Heather McGhee has said, about what Donald Trump has -- is doing with this alt-right.

SARAH POSNER: I think, on the one hand, he's embraced the alt-right, either explicitly -- by hiring Bannon, obviously -- but also implicitly. There's a lot of wink-wink at the alt-right, particularly in the way that Trump uses his Twitter account and some of his surrogates use their Twitter account. But I think, at the same time, he's trying -- and I think that this is completely going to be completely transparent to the African-American community and to African-American voters -- he's trying to pretend that he's got a strategy for reaching out to black voters and that he's -- and that he has a prayer of reaching out to black voters. So --

AMY GOODMAN: Let me interrupt and ask you something. Some are saying that this whole presidential election that he is involved with is actually a strategy for developing Trump TV, that he is consolidating a media leadership here with Bannon, with Roger Ailes, who is now forced out because of sexual harassment allegations by more than 20 women from Fox and now is reportedly advising Donald Trump. How significant is this possibility?

SARAH POSNER: Well, I'll just caveat my answer by saying I haven't done any independent reporting on the prospects of this media outlet. But if this is something that Trump does in fact have in mind, you know, the fact that he's asking Roger Ailes for advice, and was asking Roger Ailes -- he was in regular contact with Roger Ailes even before Ailes was forced out of Fox over the sexual harassment lawsuit -- and the fact that he's hired Bannon, and combine that with how, throughout his campaign, Trump has been so disparaging of the mainstream media, the way he calls out individual reporters at his campaign events, calls on his rally attenders to turn around and scoff at and disparage the media that's covering the rally from a press pen, all of this points to -- and also that he -- how he talks about the unfairness of the way the media covers him, and almost setting the stage for blaming the media if he loses. So, if you put all of this together, regardless of what Trump actually does organizationally in terms of creating a media outlet after the -- if he were to lose the presidency, after the campaign, it seems pretty evident that there's a lot of sowing of discontent about the mainstream media, and a bolstering of these alternative media sites that have been supportive of Trump and supportive of the alt-right.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. Sarah Posner, most recent piece, we'll link to, "How Donald Trump's New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists," and Heather McGhee, president of Demos, thanks so much.

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
When You're a Cannibal but Also a Frat Boy ]]> Art Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400 Three Reasons the Standing Rock Sioux Can Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Sioux youth from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota rallied with supporters in New York City after traveling 2,000 miles across the United States to protest the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline on August 7, 2016. (Photo by Joe Catron)Sioux youth from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota rallied with supporters in New York City after traveling 2,000 miles across the United States to protest the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline on August 7, 2016. (Photo: Joe Catron)

Truthout takes zero advertising money -- instead we rely on readers to sustain our site. Will you join the thousands of people who fund our work? Make a donation by clicking here!

America has more than 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines crossing the country in every direction. So plans to construct the 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline from oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Patoka, Illinois, were supposed to be a nonevent. The regulatory process was largely through state commissions and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and far less stringent than the successfully opposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Just one more pipeline.

On July 25, the Army Corps granted authorization for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, and developers hoped to open the pipeline sometime later this year. It would transport some 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day -- roughly half of the Bakken daily oil production -- on treaty lands a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe objected. The pipeline route threatens the tribe’s drinking water and would disturb sacred and cultural sites, and so the tribal government has opposed the project since 2014.

A couple hundred tribal members went to the construction site on Aug. 12 with a vow to stop the pipeline. And to make that point clear, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault chose to be arrested after crossing into the construction zone. Since that day, hundreds of Native Americans and allies from across the country have been camped near the Missouri River to join the protest. For now, construction has ceased while a court hears the tribe’s suit against the Army Corps for failing to comply with environmental and historic preservation laws.

The tribe makes a strong case based on its treaty and U.S. policy. But no matter what happens in court, there are three reasons the tribe and its allies can stop this pipeline.

First, people are more powerful than dollars.

Through social media, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people from Indian Country and beyond are making plans to travel to Standing Rock to be on that defense line. This is the power of social media, of people in numbers: There will always be more allies. One Facebook post goes up and more people arrive. Everyone who shows up knows that they could be arrested and are willing to be. How many arrests, and how much will that cost the state and the developer? A local county sheriff has warned of violence. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple already issued an emergency declaration to give state agencies funding for "public safety," which is estimated to cost as much as a million dollars.

But the state is missing the point; this protest is about a competing idea for the future of the planet -- and waves of people will show up to make that point.

Second, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe clearly has the moral high ground. An earlier proposal for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota, was scrapped because it threatened the capital's water supply. So the very decision to move the route south was to sacrifice Native communities. A decade ago, even a couple of years ago, that might have worked. But not in the era of social media. People of goodwill easily recognize this injustice.

Third, the most important reason the tribe and its allies can stop this pipeline, is that this is The Moment. There has been for a long time a growing recognition that more oil, gas, and coal need to be left in the ground. Although Keystone was defeated by popular resistance, there were many opportunities in its regulatory path for that to happen. The Dakota Access pipeline is different because the government so easily flipped on the green light. Standing Rock represents the first opportunity people have to take a stand and disrupt business-as-usual.

Once there was a case to be made for pipelines, but that moment was in our history and is now irrelevant. Many hoped there would be an easy transition away from fossil fuels to future sources. But easy transitions rarely happen in history. Instead, industry is hit by a disruptive force that changes everything, and today its name is the Standing Rock Sioux.

Opinion Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Trickle-Down Election Economics: How Big Money Can Affect Small Races

Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. (Photo: Michael Johnson)Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. (Photo: Michael Johnson)

At a press event in Kingston, New York, a Hudson Valley community about 90 miles north of Manhattan, the local Democratic congressional candidate, Zephyr Teachout, earlier this month called for a debate. But not with her Republican opponent, John Faso.

Instead she issued the challenge to two high-rolling hedge fund bosses who back him.

Take a Look

"These two New York City billionaires, Paul Singer and Robert Mercer, have put $1 million together into the super PAC supporting my opponent," she said. "The voters deserve to hear directly from the billionaires backing John Faso about what they expect to get from him in Congress.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

"When someone writes a $500,000 check they don't do it out of the goodness of their heart, continued Teachout, a Fordham University law professor who literally wrote the book on political quid pro quos: In 2014, her Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United, laid out a strong argument for what she calls "prophylactic" anti-corruption laws that focus on preventing the circumstances that give rise to corruption rather than prosecuting it after the fact.

"These are people probably trying to buy power, and voters should know who they are and what they stand for," she said in Kingston. "I'm challenging Paul Singer and Robert Mercer to put your mouth where your money is and debate me directly, not through your mouthpiece." Her supporters echoed her, reversal of the familiar adage: "Put your mouth where your money is!" they chanted.

Teachout's race for New York's 19th Congressional District, an open seat, highlights two important factors that are easily overlooked in a year when most of the political attention will be focused on the incendiary presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:

  • First, the importance of the so-called "down-ballot" races for seats in the US Congress and state legislatures.
  • Second, the likelihood that massive amounts of outside money, some of it untraceable to its source, will be brought to bear to sway the outcomes.

Although New York is not expected to be a presidential battleground this year (the state's historically Democratic tilt making Clinton, who represented New York for two terms in the US Senate, the odds-on favorite to beat Manhattan real estate mogul Trump), the respected political handicapper Charlie Cook rates five of the state's congressional races as tossups: the 1st, the 3rd, the 19th, the 22nd and the 24th Congressional Districts. Three of those contests are for seats opened up by the retirements of incumbents. Only one of the seats is currently occupied by a Democrat.

In addition, the chance of winning decisive control of the state Senate, where the political balance has been teeter-tottering between the two parties, will raise the stakes in a number of close contests for seats in the legislature's upper chamber.

New York political battlegrounds tend to cluster: competitive state legislative races often overlap with those for the US House. What follows is a closer look at a couple of the hot spots, along with the issues and the money that could impact the outcomes:

Hudson Valley

The 19th District spans the width of the Hudson Valley, from Connecticut and Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, but was drawn to leave out cities including Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Beacon to the south, and Albany to the north, though it extends below and above them on either side. Teachout and Faso are vying for the seat currently occupied by retiring Republican Rep. Chris Gibson.

Endorsed by Bernie Sanders, Teachout garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the senator's campaign email list, but she expects that to be far outstripped by the outsider funders backing Faso. "What are Paul Singer and Robert Mercer doing spending basically three times the cost of most people's houses on a Hudson Valley race?" she asked.

Singer, a Republican mega-donor who refused to take part in the Republican National Convention because he opposes Trump, spent more than $5 million backing Marco Rubio's unsuccessful bid the for the GOP nomination; fellow hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, spent some $11 million on a super PAC backing the Republican presidential bid of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Between the two of them, the financiers provided the lion's share of the more than $900,000 the super PAC dubbed New York Wins, spent to submarine Faso's Republican primary opponent,the pro-Trump Andrew Heaney.

"The dynamic we see in these state Senate races are billionaires from Greenwich, Connecticut and Park Avenue giving half a million dollars to try to swing a state Senate race in the Hudson Valley," says Michael Kink of Strong Economy for All, a coalition of labor and community groups. "There are just not a lot of billionaires in these areas and the idea that the billionaires are funding these elections suggests that those policies are not going to benefit the vast majority of people in those areas."

Several competitive state Senate races overlap with or border the 19th District. The 46th Senate District is currently occupied by Republican George Amedore, the vice president of a construction company. He's being challenged this year by Sara Niccoli, a town supervisor from the town of Palatine. She lives on the farm where her husband grew up. When she ran for local office, Niccoli says, "I was sure I wouldn't win because I'm a Democrat and it's a very Republican town, but I really got into it, I loved knocking on doors and talking to people around the community and so I won."

In local elections, Niccoli notes, there was often only one person on the ballot, on the Republican line. "You could either vote for that person or no one, or write in someone." For her, that was unacceptable. In deciding to run for the state Senate, what motivated her was the disparity between her daughter's school and those in wealthier districts.

Education is key to these races because a lot of the big money flowing into them comes from charter school backers, who push for Albany's continued funneling of public money to privately run charters, most of which are located in New York City. Paul Singer gave $500,000 each to two super PACs, New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany and Balance New York, in 2014. Balance New York spent heavily to elect Amedore that year. (Charter school money is often bipartisan; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has benefited from it in the past.) New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, founded by the corporate education reform group StudentsFirst, also targeted Democratic state legislative candidates in 2014.

Meanwhile, the public schools are suffering, and not just in New York City or in communities of color. Niccoli isn't the only one seeing that. "You have lots of tiny rural districts around the state and those school districts have a lot of poverty, a lot of need and very little money locally," says Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, a labor-affiliated organization.

Running a competitive race with small dollars, Niccoli says, "is just nonstop work -- it's telephone calls and emails and letters to everybody who I've ever met in my entire life. I will always always remember the person who says 'yes, I really want to support your campaign but I'm just waiting for my SSI check to come in, I'll give you $5.' I think that's as it should be in some ways; campaigns should be funded by regular people, experiencing life in their communities. They should not be funded by big corporations who establish multiple LLCs."

The LLC loophole is one of the most common complaints from those who would reform Albany. Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program describes how it works: "The Board of Elections currently classifies limited liability companies (LLCs) as individuals rather than 'corporations' or 'partnerships,' as they are treated under federal law. While most corporations can give no more than $5,000 every year, each LLC can give at the much higher limits permitted for individuals. Worse still, individuals with multiple LLCs use them to evade contribution limits entirely. And since LLCs need not disclose the identities of their members or officers, we often don't know who is behind these sums of money."

Norden cites the example of a single developer who used 27 different LLCs to donate over $4 million to PACs. He donated more than $1 million to both Gov. Cuomo and the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

Fighting uphill battles alongside Niccoli are Terry Gipson and Chris Eachus in the 41st and 39th Districts, respectively. Eachus knows the public school fight firsthand, as a retired teacher at Newburgh Free Academy in Newburgh, New York, a small, poor city with a large population of Latino and black residents. Newburgh was one of several small cities named in a recent lawsuit known as the "small cities" case, challenging New York's funding for public schools and its failure to live up to the 2006 Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling. He's challenging 88-year-old William Larkin Jr., who is running for his 14th Senate term. Eachus ran in 2012 against Larkin and says he was outspent 3 to 1. "Everybody wrote that district off and it was a mistake, it would've been a different outcome I think if people had paid attention," Easton says.

Gipson, a resident of Rhinebeck, was the senator for the 41st district from 2012 to 2014 but lost his re-election bid and aims to take the seat back from Sue Serino, the Republican who beat him. He too has made campaign finance and corruption an issue in his race, writing a letter to Gov. Cuomo in June asking him to call the legislature back in to close the LLC loophole and pass campaign finance reform. "As a former New York State Senator…I refused to help the New York City Real Estate Board get tax breaks to build luxury condominiums for Wall Street billionaires. REBNY retaliated by spending millions of dollars in support of my opponent, because the laws allowed them to do so," he wrote.

In all these races, as the election nears and the polls tighten, the candidates expect to see big donations coming. "I think one of the reasons that I was able to outraise my opponent is that he doesn't really have to work for the money, it will come in in large amounts when he needs it," Niccoli says. "What we'll see in this campaign is he'll saturate television and radio networks, everything through the airwaves will be negative on me but what I can do in response is get out on the ground."

Long Island

After announcing he would not seek re-election this year, Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) -- representing the 3rd Congressional District -- followed it up with a tell-all New York Timesop-ed, explaining that he was tired of the endless money race. "The romance was crushed by lesson No. 1: Get re-elected. A fundraising consultant advised that if I didn't raise at least $10,000 a week (in pre-Citizens United dollars), I wouldn't be back," he wrote. "Since then, I've spent roughly 4,200 hours in call time, attended more than 1,600 fundraisers just for my own campaign and raised nearly $20 million in increments of $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 per election cycle. And things have only become worse in the five years since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which ignited an explosion of money in politics by ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections."

Israel may have been tired of the game, but there was plenty of interest in replacing him. Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County Executive, won the Democratic primary; he will face off against current State Sen. Jack Martins, a Republican and Libertarian Michael McDermott.

Martins' open 7th Senate District also becomes a target for a potential flood of money. Democrat Adam Haber, a former school board member who challenged Martins in 2014, leads so far in the fundraising race over Republican nominee Elaine Phillips, mayor of the village of Flower Hill.

Long Island's state Senate districts are deeply gerrymandered: Most communities of color are split across several state Senate districts, including the 7th and the 6th.

In the 6th, Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon is fighting to maintain his seat in the legislature, where he's served since 1977. The head of the Senate Health Committee, Hannon has drawn fire in the past for having investments in companies under his committee's purview and for getting campaign donations from the medical industry. "Hannon has been getting a lower and lower percentage of the vote," in recent years, says Kink of Strong Economy for All. "There's going to be continued interest in what he's doing for regular people versus what he's doing for billionaires and big corporations." Hannon will face a rematch with Ryan Cronin, an attorney who represented financial fraud victims and positions himself as a reformer. Cronin lost to Hannon in 2012, but by less than 4 percent of the total vote.

The fact that Haber and Cronin are competitive represents a sea change: Before last spring, every single state senator from Long Island was a Republican. Then the corruption investigation roiling Albany took out Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, sentenced to five years in prison alongside his son for bribery, extortion, and conspiracy. Skelos had represented the 9th district for nearly 30 years, and had managed to maintain control of the Senate majority by hook or by crook, but his conviction left an opening for a Democrat with a strong anti-corruption message, and Todd Kaminsky, a former assistant US attorney who had famously prosecuted former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada in 2012, won a bruising special election in April.

Corruption and blatant dealmaking, Kaminsky argues, is at the heart of the disgust for Albany that he hears about in his district. "It's not really a partisan issue," he says. "I'm a Democrat but I mostly prosecuted Democrats; it's not about party, it's about people in power liking the system as it is and not wanting to make changes."

The special election Kaminsky won last spring provided  a sneak preview what could happen this fall. Kaminsky saw a media blitz against him in the few weeks right before the election. "They reached a saturation level on broadcast television, which is a difficult thing to conceptualize," he says. "There were people in New Jersey, in upstate New York, in the city, way further out of a state Senate district that is only in Nassau County. They had so much money they could afford to spend it in frivolous ways that didn't even impact the election."

New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, the pro-charter school group, dropped near $1.5 million on the race, nearly half of the total spent on the election. Despite the group's education connection, Kaminsky notes, most of the ads it ran accused him of wanting to raise taxes and tried to tie him to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "These things aren't supposed to be coordinated between the party and the independent expenditure group," Kaminsky notes, "but it was the same message that the opponent's campaign was saying and it was done at a very opportune time for the opposition."

He's girding for more of the same this fall as he seeks election to a full term. "I know that [New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany] have reloaded and have almost $3 million back in the same independent expenditure account, whether they target me or target a different race remains to be seen," Kaminsky says. "Obviously there's very little you can do to prepare yourself for $1.5 million in negative advertising. But you have to be prepared."

The message that Kaminsky was in league with de Blasio isn't a novel one in New York state politics, where the division between the city and everywhere else is often sharp. It's an accusation that flies in the Hudson Valley as well as on Long Island. The irony is that the very people spending heavily to spread that message usually themselves are not from the districts in which they're dropping thousands of dollars. "It's extremely disingenuous and misleading to try to portray some of these upstate or even Long Island candidates as somehow beholden to New York City when the fact is that the people financing these attack campaigns are largely from New York City," says Billy Easton. "What they're failing to talk about is that the same incumbent senators who are benefiting from all this political campaign largesse from these Wall Street types are also actually standing in the way of adequately funding their own schools."

In particular, the charter-school affiliated groups that spend so heavily outside of NYC are mostly advocating for more money to flow into their schools -- almost all of which are located in the city.

Real estate money also flows freely on Long Island, notes Lucas Sánchez, Long Island Director of New York Communities for Change, mostly to prevent more regulation around affordable housing but also to prevent higher taxes on the wealthy. NYCC members, mostly from communities of color in the city and on Long Island, have to challenge the heavy spending with on-the-ground organizing. "We need senators who will represent the people who are living here -- not wealthy Wall Street interests -- and our members are doing everything they can to ensure their voices will be heard in November," Sánchez says.

Another potentially tight race has emerged in Long Island's 1st Congressional District, where Anna Throne-Holst, a Southampton town supervisor and one of very few Democratic elected officials in her part of the island, is running against incumbent Lee Zeldin. Between them the two candidates already have spent more than $2 million. So far, Throne-Holst has had the most help from super PACs, but New York Wins, the group underwritten by Singer and Mercer, has surfaced in a small way on Zeldin's behalf.


A couple of upstate state Senate districts also merit watching:

The 58th District, currently held by Republican Tom O'Mara, who is being challenged by attorney and longtime Democratic party activist Leslie Danks Burke,  and the 60th, where Amber Small, a civic activist with witty campaign slogans like "Think Big, Vote Small," and "Cutting the Crap [out of our water]" originally filed to oust state Sen. Mark Panepinto, a fellow Democrat. Then Panepinto announced that he would not seek re-election -- as questions swirled about his ethics and behavior. Small now faces Republican Chris Jacobs, the Erie County Clerk and member of the Jacobs family, which owns the Boston Bruins hockey team and the Delaware North Companies.

The only thing that's certain is that with several tight House races and the fate of the state Senate in the balance, big money is sure to flow. To combat it, community organizations will be out on the ground and a group of activists are working to direct some of the money heading into headline-grabbing races toward grass-roots get-out-the-vote work and longer-term community organizing. "We are making a larger argument that funding grass-roots organizing is a better bang for the buck than TV ads or super PACs," Billy Wimsatt of Movement 2016 says. "The beauty of funding local groups that do vote work is it's not just about one candidate or one election, it's about building people power to organize in the community and make the community a better place."

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"Unruly Equality": A Brief History of Anarchism

In recent years anarchists have played prominent and controversial roles in radical social movements, domestically and internationally. Yet discussing the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary anarchism, in relation to other sectors of the Left, has proven challenging. 

(Photo: Mario Felipe Espinoza González)(Photo: Mario Felipe Espinoza González)

This article is excerpted from Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the 20th Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016).

In recent years anarchists have played prominent and controversial roles in radical social movements, domestically and internationally. Yet discussing the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary anarchism, in relation to other sectors of the Left, has proven challenging. The very terms anarchy, anarchism, and anarchist are so overcoded with meanings and burdened by associations that people frequently talk past one another, or resort to awkward attempts at humor, even when attempting to discuss them in good faith.

Since the eighteenth century, at least, the word anarchy has signified a condition of chaos, disorder, and personal vulnerability owing to the absence of a center of power capable of enforcing rules; it is still frequently used in this way today. In 1840, however, a French radical named Pierre-Joseph Proudhon reclaimed the term anarchy in a fashion similar to the ways in which the word queer and certain racial slurs have, in recent decades, been adopted and given positive connotations by the groups of people they were meant to denigrate. Proudhon argued that under conditions of profound economic inequality, such as those that reigned in industrializing Europe, the primary role of political states was to legitimate and defend the wealth of a minority. It was this joint exercise of economic and military power that actually made the poor vulnerable (to hunger, disease, beatings) and ensured society would remain chaotically ridden with conflict. He had faith that people could live harmoniously if state coercion and the lopsided distribution of resources was done away with, famously declaring, "Liberty is not the daughter but the mother of order."       

To be an anarchist was to fight the enforcement of misery upon common people.

For Proudhon, then, to be an anarchist was to fight the enforcement of misery upon common people, and he therefore wore the term as a badge of honor. Other European socialists soon elaborated upon this conceptualization, and by the 1860s anarchism had emerged as a political ideology and a specific tendency within the broader labor and radical movements of Europe. By the end of the century, such ideas had spread around the world.

Although Proudhon's linguistic reclamation may have been conceptually brilliant, the meaning he gave to the term never fully displaced its earlier connotations. As a result, for more than 150 years, anarchists have felt compelled to begin their speeches and writings with a clarification of what they mean by anarchy. Authority figures tasked with quashing the movement have exploited the commonsense understanding of anarchy as chaos in depicting the intentions of anarchist organizers. The fact that many anarchists adopted assassination and terroristic bombings as a common tactic in the closing decades of the nineteenth century made this work of misinformation easier. Anarchists of this sort exalted the temporary chaos caused by acts of violence against authority figures because they believed such acts would lead to a more ordered and egalitarian society, notbecause they desired chaos or suffering as an end goal.

These conflicting definitions go some way toward explaining the confusion the word anarchism still generates. But since the 1970s, anarchy and anarchism have taken on additional associations that further muddle the picture. In the 1970s, the influential punk band the Sex Pistols released their first single, "Anarchy in the UK," and proceeded to shock and outrage, but also captivate, radio and television audiences in a manner that purveyors of youth-culture products soon found ways to capitalize upon. The Sex Pistols' connections to anarchists were third-hand; but in the 1980s some of the punk bands that came in their wake (Crass, Conflict, Chumbawamba) made important contributions to existing anarchist movements and progressive campaigns, such as the 1984 miners' strike in England. Yet an undefined "anarchy" and the circle-A symbol popularized by punk bands quickly became go-to tropes within the music and fashion industries to symbolize teen angst, the desire to cut loose, and a shallow nonconformity. Owing to this association, anarchism is often tagged as an ill-considered, youthful rebelliousness, rather than as a sophisticated theoretical tradition and international social movement.

Classical anarchists opposed governments because they understood their essential purposes to be upholding economic inequality and war making.

Punk was not the only outgrowth of the 1970s that has added complexity to the term anarchism. In a seemingly ironic twist to global politics, anarchists have emerged as among the boldest and most persistent opponents of neoliberalism, the political ideology inaugurated, at least symbolically, by Ronald Reagan's declaration that "government is not the solution -- government is the problem!" Reagan and his allies, such as the United Kingdom's Margaret Thatcher, were not, of course, opposed to all government, but rather to the forms of state regulation of business, finance, and trade that had been implemented during the twentieth century, and which had become increasingly intolerable to major economic players as conditions changed in the 1970s. By the late 1990s, neoliberalism had become the hegemonic policy-making framework for centrist and conservative parties around the world, prompting resistance by many groups (including anarchists) who found their well-being endangered by the stripping away of protections and the growing economic inequality that ensued.

From the outset, neoliberal ideology was developed and promoted by a tight-knit circle of intellectuals who helped define the modern libertarian movement. The word libertarian has been historically contested alongside the term anarchism.  Anticapitalist anarchists adopted libertarian as a moniker following World War I (partly in an attempt to avoid associations with violence); and a variety of egalitarian political thinkers, such as Noam Chomsky, have identified as "libertarian socialists" since World War II. Commonsense associations with the term began to change in the 1960s, however, when thinkers such as Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand began widely promoting a minimal-government, hypercapitalist, and individualist ideology they called libertarianism. Although most contemporary promarket libertarians accept the need for a minimal state to protect private property rights, a few extreme advocates have labeled themselves anarcho-capitalists. Well-funded by wealthy donors, libertarians continue pressuring centrist and center-right governments to extend and deepen the neoliberal transformation of the modern state. Partnering with other sectors of the right, they have exerted a powerful intellectual and financial influence on the populist Tea Party movement that emerged in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. This has led to a situation in which a government-shrinking center is besieged by "free market" forces on the right who seek to abolish public social provisions, and on the left by anarchists (often acting in uneasy alliance with social democrats) who furiously criticize the state's defense of corporate power and imperialist war-making.

These varied meanings of anarchism often congeal in strange ways. In August 2014 the New York Times Magazine featured a cover story about the appeal of libertarian Senator Rand Paul among young Republican voters. The illustrator mimicked a flier for the legendary punk band Minor Threat and snuck a hand-drawn circle-A symbol into the magazine's masthead. A year earlier, when Tea Party-affiliated Republicans forced a federal government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid denounced members of the caucus as "anarchists" who needed to "get a life." Reid explained, "When I was in school, I studied government and I learned about the anarchists. Now, they were different than the Tea Party because they were violent. . . . [Tea Party members are] not doing physically destructive things to buildings and people, directly, but they are doing everything they can to throw a monkey wrench into every form of government." In these instances, all of the term's connotations were at play: anarchism as any antigovernmental politics, anarchism as violence, anarchism as nineteenth-century anachronism, anarchism as juvenile behavior and punk rock.

With the ideological waters so muddied in 2013, the Washington Post took the unusual step of publishing an op-ed by a left-wing academic, titled "The Tea Party Is Giving Anarchism a Bad Name." In it, Heather Gautney clarified that "real anarchist communities operate according to radically democratic principles. They theorize, and even organize, with egalitarian political and social visions in mind." Gautney acknowledged the contradictory predicament of contemporary anarchism by noting, "Despite their anti-authoritarianism, some of today's anarchists concede that states can serve socially important functions like ensuring sound infrastructure, basic consumer protections and comprehensive social welfare (though they believe such services are better executed with decentralized communities)." Understanding this ambivalence requires an account of the ways anarchists interpreted and reacted to the expansion of governmental functions, especially social democratic initiatives, during the twentieth century.

Participants have refined their conceptualization of that anticipated social order from one of unrule to one of self-rule.

Neoliberal and right-wing libertarian movements are motivated by social aims fundamentally divergent from those of the social anarchists. As noted, classical anarchists opposed governments because they understood their essential purposes to be upholding economic inequality and war making. Such anarchists believed that sociable impulses would lead humans to develop cooperative, egalitarian economies in the absence of state authority. In contrast, the neoliberal ideology that came to dominate global political and economic life at the end of the twentieth century seeks to eliminate precisely those government functions that were implemented in the mid-twentieth century to moderate economic inequality. These conservative critics view humans as naturally competitive, and believe that removing government restraints on the market will lead to free and just, but naturally unequal, societies of individuals.

While libertarians and neoliberals promote individual liberty as the supreme political value, it is a mistake to assume that unlimited individual freedom is the foundational principle of social anarchism. Instead, as Chiara Bottici has recently argued, anarchists believe in "the freedom of equals." In other words, anarchists insist that a meaningful or substantive experience of freedom is possible only under conditions of economic and political equality, which, in their view, can be achieved only through ongoing practices of solidarity prompted by care for the well-being of others.

Of course, intentions are one thing and outcomes another. At times anarchists' theorizations of the functions and motivations of government have foreclosed opportunities to redistribute resources, especially after the growth of liberal welfare-state programs, and at times put them in strange company, such as when some decried federal enforcement of civil rights legislation in the American South. These uncomfortable moments of resonance between radical and conservative forms of antistatist politics serve as especially rich sites for evaluating the coherency of anarchist political philosophy and movement strategy.

Nevertheless, it was to emphasize the egalitarianism at the heart of anarchist ethics -- that factor most clearly distinguishing anarchism from neoliberalism -- that I chose Unruly Equality as the title for my study of U.S. anarchism in the twentieth century. Since the movement was initiated in the 1860s, anarchists have defied laws, orders, and social conventions, asserting themselves impertinently in the eyes of authorities; they have been loud, defiant, and uncontrollable -- in a word, unruly. They have done so in pursuit of greater economic, social, and political equality for all human beings, making them unruly egalitarians. But in a different sense, unruled equality might be posited as the political ideal, the end goal, and the sociological hypothesis of the movement. Anarchists believe that political rule is constituted not solely to protect and enhance the life of humans but also to enforce inequality for the benefit of a minority at the expense of many others. Following from this, anarchists suggest that a more egalitarian society will require less ruliness -- that is, less coercive power -- a condition they embrace. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of twentieth-century anarchism, from the standpoint of political theory, are the ways participants have refined their conceptualization of that anticipated social order from one of unrule to one of self-rule, along with the ways their strategic thinking has evolved in light of new understandings of power and the practical successes and failings of other social movements also seeking greater freedom and equality.

If you want journalism that challenges authority and is accountable to you -- not to government or corporate interests -- then make a donation to Truthout today!

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
"The Hunt": Colonial Conservation, Caught on Film

Tribal peoples have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia. Yet, western and western-trained conservationists continue to treat them as threats to endangered flora and fauna and support relocating the people (often forcibly) to create "natural reserves."

A Maasai Moran blows a kudu horn as a symbol of his coming of age in Kajiado, Kenya. The BBC's new documentary "The Hunt" juxtaposes unrelated shots of Maasai people with stock footage of lions to erroneously imply that the Maasai are in a "constant war" with the lions. (Photo: Survival International)A Maasai Moran blows a kudu horn as a symbol of his coming of age in Kajiado, Kenya. The BBC's new documentary *series* "The Hunt" juxtaposes unrelated shots of Maasai people with stock footage of lions to erroneously imply that the Maasai are in a "constant war" with the lions. (Photo: Survival International)

Stories like this can only be published because of readers like you. Show your support for independent journalism by making a small tax-deductible donation today!

Over the last few weeks, BBC America has broadcast "The Hunt," the latest offering from world-renowned natural history broadcaster David Attenborough. The formula is familiar: gorgeous photography, silky smooth voiceovers and tear-jerking narratives about the animals on screen. The series has profiled the world's most "charismatic" predators -- big cats, birds of prey, wolves, bears -- and the ways in which they dominate their environment. The final episode focused on conservation and the threats faced by many of these species, which are unquestionably very serious.

Sadly, rather than critiquing poaching or industrialization, the program placed most of the blame for endangering species like the lion and the tiger on the shoulders of the tribal people who live in the so-called "wildernesses" that had been photographed. The narrative was full of distortion and misrepresentation and seemed to support an essentially colonial form of conservation that is deeply problematic.

Tribal peoples have been dependent on and managed their environments for millennia. Despite this, they were only cited at all as a threat to endangered flora and fauna. This attitude -- assuming that Westerners know better how to protect the environment -- is extremely widespread. It is also deeply neocolonial and has real consequences for tribal communities around the world.

The first section of the program focused on tigers in India. We saw them in their full glory, stalking deer in the forests of South Asia. For a long time, Indian tiger conservationists have claimed that to protect the Bengal tiger, it is necessary to create large reserves in which the tigers can live, breed and hunt.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this, until you consider the fact that hundreds of thousands of India's tribal people (known as Adivasis) have lived in these reserves for generations. According to "The Hunt," these people should be subjected to "voluntary relocation," a process by which thousands of Adivasis across India have been harassed, bullied and bribed into leaving their land for lives of poverty and marginalization on the fringes of mainstream Indian society.

There is no evidence that tribal presence in reserves harms tigers. In fact, the reverse is true -- evidence proves that tribal peoples are better at looking after their environment than anyone else. In the one reserve in southern India where tribespeople have been allowed to stay, tiger numbers have increased at above the national average.

Likewise, tribes are not responsible for the decline in tiger numbers. It is hunting -- by the British colonial elite, by India's upper classes and by others conspiring with corrupt officials -- that has decimated the Bengal tiger.

Adivasis -- many of whom revere the tiger and worship it as a god -- are not to blame. But the simple logic of the relocation policy was recited in "The Hunt" almost as a mantra: "conflict is inevitable" but "as people move out, the tigers move in." This sort of patchy treatment of a very serious issue was irresponsible and dangerous.

Krithi Karanth, an Indian conservationist interviewed for the program -- who acknowledged problems around the evictions, but nevertheless continues to support them -- claimed that it's a question of "difficult choices": "India's changing very rapidly and sometimes you have to make difficult choices.... In some places it's been done badly, but in others, it's been done right."

It isn't the tribal people themselves who are making these fundamental decisions about their lives, but rather professional conservationists. Many of them are western-educated and work for big conservation organizations, such as (in the case of Karanth) the Wildlife Conservation Society (whose India program director is her father, K. Ullas Karanth). In many tiger reserves, tribal people have been frequently arrested and beaten. They are moved to inadequate camps away from their ancestral land and expected, as the narration said, to "fend for themselves." Many receive only a small part of the promised compensation and few, if any, have thrived after "relocation." Many end up doing back-breaking labor in mines.

"The Hunt" features Karanth saying that Indian Adivasis living on their land have "a very difficult life.... Constantly living in fear of elephants, leopards and tigers.... People want to live in cities."

In reality, however, many members of India's Adivasi population express a desire to remain on their land. As one man, Lakanth Sing Barami, from the Baiga tribe, put it to a campaigner from Survival International, the human rights organization with which I work: "We are going to try and stay in this place.... How can we leave such great wealth behind? Do not uproot us."

It makes no sense whatsoever to evict peaceful people from their ancestral land in the name of conservation. Tribal peoples feel a deep sense of connection to their land and its loss can be an existential matter to them. The promised compensation, or the chance to live in small breeze-block huts with gas and electric lighting, but no real economic prospects, does not change that.

One Adivasi man interviewed for "The Hunt" put it bluntly: "Better just to drop a bomb on us. Then they wouldn't have to waste money on compensation."

The program's narrator did not offer any comment on this.

The show then moved on to another people in another part of the world -- the Maasai in Tanzania. Long-time viewers of BBC wildlife shows will be familiar with the sweeping savannahs and majestic prides of lions, but here, the editors give us a different angle: tribal people engaged in what is described as a "constant war" with lions.

Never mind the fact that the sense of a "war" was created more or less entirely through creative editing, juxtaposing clearly unrelated shots of aggressive looking Maasai "warriors" with stock footage of lions appearing to run away in terror. Ignore the absurd claim that hunting rituals and occasional clashes between humans and animals constitute an "ancient combat." Discount the shoddy logic of claiming that this has been going on for "2 million years," but has only just now become a problem. The most worrying element of this section of the program was the bald-faced colonial attitude of the white American conservationists on the ground, seeking to lecture tribal people on what they can and can't do.

Europeans have been interfering in Africa for centuries. Many justifications have been put forward for forcibly trying to dominate the lives of Africans, including justifications concerning religion, security, economic development, "progress" and "civilization." Conservation, it seems, is rapidly becoming a new justification for this power dynamic.

Craig Packer -- a famous American conservationist and interviewee for this section of the show -- seemed to see no problem with driving around the grasslands in a jeep, telling Maasai people how best to look after their lands. Worse, he also proposed erecting electric fences across the savannah, separating people from wildlife. The historical connotations of this -- dividing up a continent without local people's consent -- either didn't occur to him, or did not seem to him to be an issue. For Packer, the moral imperative of conservation comes first.

Once again, conservationists are blaming the wrong people. Far fewer lions are killed by tribal peoples defending their villages than are shot by trophy hunting tourists. But "The Hunt" made no mention of colonial or elite hunting in the past, or of trophy hunters in the present and offered barely any coverage of the corrupt poaching networks and habitat destruction that are really driving large mammals to extinction around the world.

This approach is a con that is harming conservation. It would be more ethical and humanitarian (not to mention easier and cheaper) for conservationists to work in partnership with local people, rather than pushing them aside.

My organization, Survival International, has been campaigning on this issue for some time. We often encounter confusion over why we are petitioning big conservation organizations, or even hostility to our claim that certain conservation policies have led to serious human rights abuses. Of course, we acknowledge that many species are critically threatened and steps need to be taken to address this.

But to do this by evicting peaceful people from their land and forcing them into the mainstream of urban-industrial society against their will is wrong. The big conservation organizations are guilty of supporting this. They rarely speak out against evictions. Human rights are not incompatible with effective environmental policy and conservationists must be held to account when there is evidence of abuses.

Nobody wants to see species going extinct due to human negligence or greed. But it is not tribal people who endangered the lion, the elephant, the tiger or any other of the animals featured in "The Hunt," and it is not tribes who should have penitential conservation measures forced upon them.

Opinion Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Public Banks Could Break the Impasse Over Marijuana Money

Cannabis reform is sweeping the US but the lucrative multibillion dollar market is forced to use a cash-based system to work around federal banking regulations. Until the feds legalize marijuana, a network of public banks working together to implement DOJ compliance may provide an alternative.

(Photo: Martijn)(Photo: Martijn)

With nearly a dozen state initiatives legalizing recreational marijuana on the November ballot, the market for legalized marijuana is certain to expand. But, because marijuana continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), private banks are effectively prohibited from fully participating in this market -- the compliance burden is too high and individual employees face the threat of prosecution. A network of city, county and state-owned public banks, sharing best practices, may be an effective way to offload the compliance burden so that marijuana-related businesses can confidently accept payments and deposits can be placed into a network of public banks, which could develop the systems needed for legal compliance with the Department of Justice and federal regulatory agencies. Short of legalization of marijuana, this may be the best way to protect local businesses and banks from a market that is fraught with risk.

The Recreational Marijuana Market

The creation of the recreational marijuana market by the state governments of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado has directly led to the establishment of a variety of marijuana-related businesses -- from growers to retail stores. These businesses are quickly growing revenues and profits. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, national legal sales of all forms of cannabis were $4.6 billion in 2014, $5.7 billion in 2015, and are projected by ArcView Market Research to be $7.1 billion in 2016. If all 50 states and the District of Columbia were to legalize recreational marijuana, GreenWave Advisors projects the total value to top $36 billion.

With licensing and tax revenue in Colorado alone expected to be $135 million in fiscal year 2015-16 (up from $70 million the previous year), elected officials in cash-strapped cities and states recognize the potential budgetary windfall of this market and are eager to bring the industry under their legal purview so they can reap the taxes.

States Promote While Feds Penalize

One would think that, with all that money in the industry, banks would be lining up to provide depository banking and other financial services to marijuana-related businesses. Not so, according to the recent article, "Banking is Not Yet Going to Pot," published in the American Banker. Most banks are ignoring the market and, in doing so, leaving money on the table.

The problem is that, while the states legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing and sale, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the federal Controlled Substance Act. The classification makes it illegal for any use -- which, in turn, makes the revenues it generates an illegal source of investment, akin to old-fashioned "drug money." The DEA's announcement in August 2016 to allow more research into possible medical benefits does not change the illegal status of money generated from this market.

This is a business school case study in the making, where conflicting government positions on marijuana legalization offer a perfect example of an imperfect market. In a market economy, one of the most important roles of government is to define the playing field and to determine the rules so that competing businesses can provide reasonably priced products and services. What has happened with the recreational marijuana market is that state and federal governments have conflicting sets of rules that introduce unnecessary risk into the market for those businesses that choose to participate. Full market participation -- and fully realized fee and tax revenues -- can only happen if a government entity provides some sort of remedy to the conflicting set of rules.

It's Still a Risky Business 

Banks are federally regulated and therefore, more vulnerable to facing federal charges, should they be found inadequately compliant. The federal Bank Secrecy Act requires banks to watch for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) law violations in customers' deposit accounts and requires them to file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to FinCEN, an agency of the US Treasury, regarding a customer's suspicious or potentially suspicious activity. Failure to file a SAR can result in criminal and civil penalties, including incarceration for involved employees. Federal law technically says a bank is itself committing money laundering by accepting a deposit of money derived from the sale of marijuana.

The imperfections in the market create risk for both participating financial institutions and marijuana-related businesses. Naturally, credit card issuers and processors shun doing business with pot-related firms. As a result, the marijuana-related businesses, having to resort to a cash-based payment system, end up incurring enormous risk by carrying excessive cash-on-hand. Banks are loath to accept marijuana-related cash as deposits for fear of facing money-laundering charges. The trajectory is to have a sizeable market that is based entirely on cash transactions with mattresses used for safeguarding profits.

Incomplete DOJ Guidance

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has provided a memo that serves as guidance to banks so that they can accept cash as deposits. But it is not a regulatory handbook, nor does it identify best practices. In other words, it gives guidance for banks on how to evade the law, a solution that is unsettling at best. As a half-remedy, it's the equivalent of the DOJ saying to banks, "You go first and we'll see if it works, and we'll prosecute you if it doesn't." The excessive compliance costs for taking this approach led MBank, a $175 million-asset institution in Portland, Oregon, to shutter its marijuana-related businesses program within a year.

The result is either a lack of banking depository services (forcing marijuana-related businesses into risky cash transactions) or depository services that are provided (at a high price). Some credit unions have jumped into the marijuana market and are charging upwards of $3,500 per month for a deposit account. This kind of pricing is certainly an indicator of an imperfect market.

The Solution: A Network of Public Banks

Of course, the DEA could legalize recreational marijuana and simply end this impasse. Or Congress could pass legislation that protects banks from the risk of handling legitimate money generated by marijuana-related businesses. The risk of participating in this market would be significantly diminished and a rapid expansion of the market to all 50 states and the District of Columbia would likely result. But this is something that neither President Obama, nor the Republican and Democrat presidential nominees, have given any indication of supporting.

Short of the federal government legalizing recreational marijuana, cities, counties or states can resolve the conflict between state and federal regulations by taking on the roles of both banker to the marijuana-related businesses and guarantor to the federal government. In California, a charter city or county can define its own rules for governance through the provisions outlined in its charter. A constitutional amendment in 1879, "home rule" power was obtained by California cities in order to thwart state meddling in municipal affairs. This means that charter cities and counties may provide credit and depository services to their residents, much like they can provide water, electricity, broadband and other utilities.

However, the bank would be more a legal entity than a traditional retail operation. It will have no retail presence, no ATMs, no consumer deposits/loans, and therefore no need for compliance with many requirements of the Dodd Frank Act. A vault is not needed, since any cash would be considered excess and deposited in the Federal Reserve, a standard procedure. As an independent corporate entity (owned by the city, county or state) it will likely consist of bank operations software and just a few cubicles in the treasurer's office. The city financial officer or county treasurer will direct all city/county government deposits generated from taxed marijuana revenue into this public bank. Debt or equity capitalization and governance will need to be addressed -- the Bank of North Dakota is a safe and proven public bank that can serve as an effective model.

In order to remedy the imperfect marijuana market, the public bank will also accept marijuana-related deposits. This "excess" cash can be picked up daily and placed in Federal Reserve vaults and credited to marijuana-related business accounts in the public bank. A web interface will allow account holders to transfer this money to their other deposit accounts with private banks or credit unions located in the same state as the public bank. This scenario can be replicated state-by-state with state-owned public banks.

A combination of city and state-owned public banks can establish best practices to resolve the pot money impasse. A combination of city and state-owned public banks can establish best practices to resolve the pot money impasse.

In these scenarios, where a city, county or state public bank accepts marijuana-related business deposits (with the cash physically deposited at the Federal Reserve), the public banking network will need to ensure rigorous compliance with the DOJ's guidance memo on accepting deposits from all the marijuana-related businesses its member public banks serve. Documentation of the origin of the cash will be required to be completed by the marijuana-related businesses before a cash pickup occurs. Enabling smartphone apps that report on specific transactions can help. Other stipulations and practices will be enforced by the public banks so that the rudimentary standards identified by the DOJ guidance memo can be enforced.

One can argue that a network of public banks that solely focus on pot money would do a superior job of setting the gold standard for implementation of the DOJ guidance memo and any subsequent guidance provided by the DOJ or other federal enforcement organizations. In fact, a network of public banks between states that have legalized recreational marijuana can establish best practices in partnership with the primary bank regulatory agencies (the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) and the DOJ. This would be a significant development. If there is a failure in the system, it will be up to these government entities to work it out, with the public banking network protecting business entities from the risk of guessing what the existing DOJ guidance memo or future guidance may mean in terms of actual business practices.

In essence, state, city and county governments will better serve their constituents and create a "level playing field" by leveraging their bargaining power as a consortium of public banks that determine best practices. Agencies from the federal government will need to deal with the entire network/consortium, not individual private banks, providing a more balanced approach to federal law enforcement. And state, county and municipal law, based on community rights, can serve to further buttress the network of public banks.

Bank of North Dakota Sets Precedent

There is a precedent for having a public bank deal with compliance issues in a market economy. In 2011, the North Dakota Bankers Association worked with the state legislature to direct the Bank of North Dakota, the nation's only state-owned bank, into the home mortgage origination business in order to offset the increased compliance burden that community banks were shouldering as a result of the Dodd Frank legislation (p.5). Dodd Frank was designed to constrain the large Wall Street banks, but inadvertently penalized community banks, and North Dakota has the highest number of community banks per capita in the nation. Rural banks that only saw three to five mortgages a year could not shoulder the compliance burden, leading to business lost to out-of-state banks.

As a result, the Mortgage Origination Program for rural lenders was created by Bank of North Dakota to directly address the twin issues of compliance costs and lost business. The irony of an association of private banks using the public bank -- in a red state, no less -- as a way to ensure that they could better manage the risk of working in an increasingly federally-regulated market practically leaps off the page. It shows just how responsive a state government can be in meeting the needs of its people. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a demonstration of how a state government, acting in concert with its own depository bank, can blunt the (oftentimes) heavy hand of federal authority, a situation not all that dissimilar to the one faced by the recreational marijuana market.

The new marijuana market cannot realize its potential if participating banks bear the risk of being federally prosecuted and legitimate businesses bear the risk of using a cash-based payment system as a workaround. Until the federal government legalizes recreational marijuana, a network of public banks working together to implement the DOJ guidance memo can serve as an important way to improve market conditions so that unnecessary risk is not borne by private banks or credit unions, and a measure of safety is provided to cash-based marijuana-related businesses.

If you enjoy stories like this one, support the journalists, editors and publishers who create them! It only takes a moment to make a small donation to Truthout.

News Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Big Pharma Increased Price of Life-Saving EpiPen by Over 450 Percent

Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977.Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977. (Photo: Phillip Bradshaw / Flickr)

Martin Shkreli became one of the most notorious people in the United States for hiking the price of a rarely used life-saving drug by 4,000 percent in September 2015. And nearly a year later, dozens of reports are now coming out about how Mylan Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of the very common life-saving EpiPen by over 450 percent since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007.

You've probably heard of EpiPens, and you probably know someone who needs to carry two around with them at all times, just in case they have a severe allergic reaction as a result of some everyday occurrence -- for example, encountering a food product with peanuts or being stung by a bee.

ABC News reports that, "The website Good Rx … currently lists EpiPens as costing around $600 at multiple drug stores. In 2007, when Mylan Pharmaceuticals took over producing the drug from Merck, the cash price of the pens was about $50." And Bloomberg reports that the device only contains about $1 -- one dollar -- worth of epinephrine.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

But it's not the epinephrine that makes EpiPens unique, it's the precision delivery system, the "Pen," that makes the product special. And that delivery system really hasn't changed since 1977 when the EpiPen hit the market. So why has the price more than quadrupled since 2007? Why are patients who need this medicine currently paying $600 for two pens?

Because of the greed at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, plain and simple.

Cynthia Koons and Robert Langreth at Bloomberg wrote last year about "How Marketing Turned the EpiPen Into A Billion-Dollar Business." The report details how Mylan bought EpiPen from Merck and then aggressively marketed the drug to concerned parents, while increasing prices annually.

That strategy boosted the revenues from EpiPens by more than $1 billion, from $200 million in revenues in 2007, up to $1.2 billion in 2015. That strategy worked so well for Mylan that by 2015, EpiPen represented 40 percent of Mylan's operating profits, according to ABR/Healthco estimates.

A report from NBC News shows that during that same period Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation increased from $2.5 million to nearly $19 million -- a 671 percent increase!

The stock price also more than tripled from $13.29 in 2007 to $47.59 in 2015, and according to OpenSecrets, the company's lobbying efforts spiked from $270,000 to $1.2 million in 2008, resulting in changes in FDA guidelines that directly benefited the company's bottom line -- while patients still saw annual price increases.

That strategy of aggressive marketing, price hikes and intense lobbying efforts also feeds the problem that Sen. Bernie Sanders spotlighted on the campaign trail last year: Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world because the pharmaceutical companies take Americans for suckers.

So in 2015, while patients in the United States paid about $415 for a package of two EpiPens even after insurance company discounts, patients in France only paid about $85 for the very same package.

And just to be clear, EpiPens aren't sold in packages of two so that patients can buy a package and be safe for two allergic reactions. EpiPens are sold in packages of two because in the case of a severe allergic reaction, if emergency services can't arrive within 15 minutes of the first EpiPen shot, a second EpiPen shot needs to be administered, and if it isn't, that person could die.

One parent wrote to Emily Willingham at Forbes and described how quickly that all starts adding up: "In our case, with 2 kids, we have to have 8 at all times: 2 for each child at school and 2 for each child at home, and that is if we don't even use them! If we do have to use one, we have to purchase more."

And because EpiPens expire after one year, they'll have to purchase more anyway, and it could cost that parent nearly $5,000 every year to replace all eight EpiPens (in the unlikely scenario that Mylan doesn't continue to cruelly hike the price).

The truth is, life-threatening food and insect allergies are on the rise, and we should be doing everything we can to make easy-to-administer epinephrine at least as available as defibrillators in public places, like restaurants, schools, universities, businesses, and so on.

It's true that Mylan has made small efforts to make EpiPens more available; for instance the company has distributed nearly 700,000 free EpiPens to more than 65,000 schools around the country. And there is at least one cheaper generic option that costs "only" about $142 with a coupon, nearly twice the cost of two EpiPens in France.

Thanks to runaway corporate power, Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977.

So, while Martin Shkreli grabbed media headlines and was widely reviled for his cruel 4,000 percent price hike last year, he's by no means the only pharmaceutical executive who is relentlessly pursuing profits by taking sick Americans as suckers to be exploited and left for dead.

If we want to solve this issue, we need to rein in the pharmaceutical industries and take the profit-motive out of health care. That means we must join every other developed country in the world and expand universal Medicare coverage to every person in the country, and we need to allow Medicare to negotiate with prescription drug companies for reasonable prices that don't force people to choose between food or pharmaceuticals.

Opinion Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Less Trash You Send to a Landfill, the Less You Pay

On average, each person in the US throws away five pounds of solid waste each day. While many eco-conscious citizens do their due diligence to recycle, compost, and reduce waste, others remain apathetic about preserving the environment.

Wherever you might land on the eco-friendly scale, innovative "Pay As You Throw" (PAYT) programs are incentivizing people nationwide to increase (or start) recycling and composting through a usage-pricing model.

Basically, the less trash you send to a landfill, the less you pay.

Over 7,000 communities in the US report using this green solution, with cities seeing an average of 45 percent less trash.

Though various types of PAYT programs have been tested, waste-reduction company WasteZero reports the most cost-effective and convenient option for reducing waste is using specialized bags. With this approach, residents purchase uniquely printed bags approved by their municipality, just like you would purchase garbage bags from a store. Trash collectors only pick up these bags, incentivizing residents to follow the protocol.

A common concern is that people will just dump their trash illegally in communities where these policies are implemented. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, that's not the case. In fact, when residents are offered reliable recycling and composting options for yard trimmings, they find it easier to reduce their waste.

And PAYT is often cheaper than what most households pay for waste management, especially if you pay a trash tax to help your municipality cover the cost of having waste dropped off at a landfill.

Imagine if your city decided that everyone would have to pay a flat fee for electricity, regardless of how much you use. This fee would likely be much higher than your monthly bill, and you wouldn't have any control over it.

That's exactly how the conventional "trash tax" many of us currently pay works.

Even if you use five large PAYT bags of garbage a week, at $1.50 each -- which includes the cost of the bag itself, transportation, and disposal -- it'd be less than half the cost of the trash tax in the communities that charge it. Additionally, many communities have coupon or voucher programs for lower income residents and larger families concerned about the cost of the bags.

While cutting costs is a huge incentive, the environmental benefits of PAYT programs can't be understated. Landfills stuffed to the brim with solid waste emit large amounts of methane, a shorter-lived and more potent greenhouse gas with over 70 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide.

One of the most effective ways to curb methane emissions that threaten our climate, second only to reducing our meat consumption, is to shrink the amount of solid waste decomposing in landfills. And with less trash to be burned at incinerators, programs like PAYT will also improve air quality.

Even residents with a laissez-faire take on the environment won't be able to find a reason not to pay as they throw.

Opinion Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400