Tag Archives: political

Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

Back in February, when France’s then-presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron thumbed his nose at President Donald Trump and invited jaded U.S. scientists and inventors to come build a sustainable future in France, I applauded and played along.

“[L]et’s face it,” I wrote. “France is a tough sell. The food is irritatingly fresh, the architecture tends to distract people from their cellphones, and the high-speed rail lines get in the way of SUVs.”

But now that Macron is president and has backed up his words with substance, setting up a program to bring American climate visionaries to France, it’s no longer funny. If you’re an entrepreneur, scientist, or engineer disillusioned with Trump’s America and tempted by this offer, please don’t go. It’s a terrible idea. Do you hear me, Katharine Hayhoe?

Mais porquoi? you say, after thumbing through your French phrasebook. Because the United States, the world’s second-biggest polluter, is a much more pernicious driver of climate change than France, the 18th. We need you here. The world needs you here. The future needs you here.

OK, I’ll cop to getting a little carried away. We should give Macron his due. He’s offering a four-year grant to people from anywhere in the world, so they can come work on climate change projects in France. That’s great! Science, technologies, and companies created in France won’t be constrained by French borders. We’ll all benefit. And it’s just for four years, the nominal length of Trump’s (first) term. But c’mon, be real: Nobody goes to France to live for just four years.

This screenshot from Macron’s new website, titled “Make Our Planet Great Again” seems to confirm my concerns that France wants to keep our smarties forever.

I’m worried about a brain drain. We can’t afford to lose the political heft of scientists as communicators and U.S. citizens. The United States needs people who weigh evidence and allow that evidence to change their minds. We need men and women like this of all political stripes living in American towns, talking to their American friends, going to American churches, and helping to make this country sane again. If we all sort ourselves into like-minded factions, and a chunk of the rational faction moves to France, we’re screwed. We really can’t afford to lose Neil DeGrasse Tyson to the Riviera. James Hansen, Pam Ronald … stay!

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Dear climate visionaries: Resist France’s allure

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Trump still hasn’t decided whether to dump the Paris climate agreement or not.

Born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii, Evan Weber went to the same K-through-12 school attended by future President Barack Obama. By the time Weber got to college, he was taking his fellow Punahou School alum to task for what Weber believed was an inadequate climate action plan.

Together, Weber, a college buddy, and one of their professors drafted their own climate agenda, a policy report they initially simply called “The Plan.” A direct response to Obama’s 2013 climate plan, this version called for the U.S. to go even further in reducing carbon emissions and proposed a set of financial and regulatory solutions to make it happen. Weber ran an Indiegogo campaign to drum up support around The Plan and started popping up as a climate evangelist in media outlets like the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, and Newsweek. Now his goal is to build the political power necessary to enact it.

Weber’s organization, U.S. Climate Plan, pushes for climate legislation on the state level and organizes campaigns supporting climate justice. Weber supports young activists by building partnerships between grassroots organizations, teaching statewide strategy plans, and advising college students. This, in Weber’s eyes, is how you build a generational front against climate change. “And morally, we know that we are going to win.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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Trump still hasn’t decided whether to dump the Paris climate agreement or not.

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

Mother Jones

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How did the FBI’s investigation into the Trump-Russia connection get started, anyway? Former CIA director John Brennan says he was the one who got the ball rolling:

I encountered . . . intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan said, adding that he did not see conclusive evidence of collusion but feared that Trump associates were wittingly or unwittingly being used to advance the interests of Moscow.

….Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and people with links to the Trump campaign. “That raised concerns in my mind,” Brennan said….With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began in July — the first time a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.

That’s from the Washington Post. Brennan was testifying before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the New York Times adds this disheartening tidbit:

On Aug. 4, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Mr. Brennan warned Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., not to meddle in the election. Not only would interference damage relations between the two countries, he said, it was certain to backfire.

“I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Mr. Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in election.”

Mr. Brennan’s warning proved futile. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered with the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. President Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.

I don’t blame Brennan for thinking that Russian interference in the election would outrage everyone regardless of party. I suppose I might have thought the same thing. But it ain’t so anymore:

As always, click the link for the whole story.

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Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation

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Trump Plans to Cram His Entire Legislative Agenda Into Days 96-99

Mother Jones

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Did Mack Sennett ever make “The Keystone Cops Go to Washington”? No? No matter. That’s what it feels like right now.

Let’s see if I can do justice to our current legislative follies. For starters, it appears that we’re going to get health care, tax reform, and infrastructure all in one week. Why? I guess so that President Trump can say he got going on all of them in his first hundred days. Which totally doesn’t matter and Trump couldn’t care less about it. But he released a truly comical list of all his accomplishments anyway. Not that he cares. But anyway. Let’s move on.

Health care: The House Freedom Caucus has allegedly agreed to an amendment to the previous House bill—the one that crashed and burned last month thanks to the HFC’s opposition—that now makes it acceptable. They haven’t actually said so in public yet, but maybe tomorrow they will. Maybe. Basically, it allows states to opt out of the essential coverage requirements of Obamacare. Except for Capitol Hill, that is. Members of Congress will continue to get every last thing on the list. And there’s no change to pre-existing conditions except for one teensy little thing: insurance companies can charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. How much more? The sky’s the limit, apparently. Does $10 million sound good? In practice, of course, this means that they don’t have to offer coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.

Tax reform: It turns out the Treasury Department really was taken by surprise on this, so Wednesday’s announcement will be little more than the same stuff Trump released on the campaign trail. Corporate taxes get cut by nearly two-thirds, to 15 percent. Ditto for “pass through” corporations like, oh, just to pull an example out of the air, The Trump Organization. There will be no offsetting spending cuts. There will be no border tax. There will be nothing much for the non-rich except a modest change to the standard deduction. There will, of course, be no details about which deductions and loopholes, if any, Trump plans to plug. It will be a gigantic deficit buster. And just for good measure, it’s probably literally unpassable under the Senate’s rules.

Infrastructure: In a laughable attempt to get Democratic support for his tax bill, Trump plans to add infrastructure spending and a child tax credit to it. The problem is that Trump’s infrastructure plan is little more than a giveaway to big construction companies, and his child tax credit—designed by Ivanka!—is little more than a giveaway to the well off. In other words, instead of one thing Democrats hate, the bill now has three things Democrats hate. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m not sure this is how you make deals.

This is lunacy. The barely revised health care bill probably won’t pass the House, let alone the Senate. Tax reform is just a PowerPoint presentation, not an actual plan. Plus it’s such an unbelievable giveaway to the rich that even Republicans will have a hard time swallowing it. And the infrastructure stuff is DOA. It will almost certainly be opposed by both Republicans and Democrats.

This is like watching kids make mud pies. I guess that’s OK, since this is all terrible stuff that I hope never sees the light of day. Still, I guess I prefer even my political opponents to show a little bit of respect for the legislative process.

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Trump Plans to Cram His Entire Legislative Agenda Into Days 96-99

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

Mother Jones

A month after President Donald Trump took office, khalid kamau was eating lunch in the cluttered kitchen of the Mayday Space, a leftist community center in Brooklyn. A year earlier, the 39-year-old (who prefers to spell his name without capital letters) had been driving a bus in Atlanta. Then his life took a hard left turn. When the city slashed public pensions, he became a union organizer. He then launched a Black Lives Matter chapter, became a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and led a walkout at the Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination. In December, kamau announced his candidacy for City Council in South Fulton, Georgia. Not long after that, he joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

kamau, who was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Don’t let your new president get your ass whooped,” had been a DSA member for all of a few weeks, but he already had big plans. Leaning forward on his wooden stool, he said, “I want to be the Obama of democratic socialism.”

First, kamau needed to win an election. Which is why, on an unseasonably warm weekend in February, he had come to Brooklyn for the Revolution at the Crossroads conference, a gathering of about 300 teen and twentysomething leftists that was sponsored by the Young Democratic Socialists, a subgroup of the DSA. After speaking on the kickoff panel the night before, kamau had taught the attendees how to use the free canvassing app MiniVAN and signed up dozens of volunteers for his campaign. (His organizing paid off; last Tuesday, kamau won his runoff election with 67 percent of the vote.)

Founded in 1982, the DSA claims to be the largest socialist organization in the country. It’s not a political party along the lines of the Communist Party USA or the Green Party. Many of its members are Democrats or the kind of left-­leaning independents who usually vote for Democrats. But just as the Obama era ushered in a boomlet of libertarianism on the right, the DSA is banking on Trump to make socialism great again. Its goal is not just to stop Trump’s worst policies, but to push the political conversation on the left even further to the left through a mix of political action and cultural engagement. There are signs it’s already working.

Fueled by disenchantment with the traditional institutions of the Democratic Party, the promise of Sanders’ candidacy, and the specter of Trumpism, DSA membership has more than doubled since the election. The DSA now boasts more than 20,000 members and more than 120 local chapters. Sure, you could fit just about everyone comfortably inside Madison Square Garden, but being a socialist hasn’t been this cool in years.

“The Bernie campaign really opened that Overton Window,” said Winnie Wong, a 41-year-old activist who co-founded the group People for Bernie and coined the phrase “Feel the Bern.” “We funneled thousands of people, hundreds of thousands—15 million people!—through to the other side. Are those people democratic socialists? No. Do they feel comfortable with the idea of socialism? Well, yeah! Because they voted for it.” Normalizing socialism, she said, is “the most important thing we can do.”

MAD LIBS: A quick guide to channeling your anti-Trump fervor

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Revolution at the Crossroads existed in a parallel universe to other political confabs, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference, known for its corporate sponsors, bad suits, and ritzy Beltway hotels. The opening panel was delayed because the speaker system was picking up an AM radio station. An attendee joked that “neoliberal capitalism”—”neoliberal” being the epithet of choice among the DSA set—was to blame. Sleeping bags littered the side walls. The dress code was plaid.

Socialism’s hipster makeover has been accelerated by a flowering of leftist media and culture. The DSA’s unofficial hype man is not Sanders—who is not a member—but the comedian Rob Delaney, who joined up after the election, inspired by his positive experiences with the British National Health Service as an expat living in England. Delaney has tweeted about the DSA more than 100 times since November and describes himself as a “fucking cockroach” for socialism, because of his persistence. “A lot of people have written me and said that they’ve joined because I won’t shut up about Democratic Socialists on Twitter,” he told me. He even raised money to defray expenses for some of the students who traveled to Brooklyn.

A popular gateway drug for democratic socialists is Chapo Trap House, a podcast hosted by a small clique of millennial Sandernistas that takes its deliberately head-scratching name from the jailed Mexican cartel king. It is incisive and irreverent but often scathing toward politicians, journalists, or anyone else insufficiently in line with its politics. (For instance: Clinton is an “entitled fucking slob,” and Democratic leaders should have “fucking killed themselves” after losing the election.)

Outside the conference, activists hawked Workers Vanguard, the ubiquitous Trotskyist newspaper. But inside, students chatted with writers from the two-year-old journal Current Affairs (“the world’s first readable political publication”) and Jacobin, a quarterly launched in 2010 by Bhaskar Sunkara, then an undergrad at George Washington University. Jacobin aims to do for socialism what National Review did for conservatism half a century ago. It’s polemical but not stodgy; its writers are as likely to discourse on the NBA as they are to inveigh against Uber. The magazine’s audience doubled, to 30,000 subscribers, in the four months after the election.

At the conference, where he was selling the most recent issue from a folding table along the wall, Sunkara, also a vice chair of the DSA, was a minor celebrity. “I think there’s a feeling that with the center kind of defeated, or at the very least temporarily discredited, we are the new center-left,” he told me. That newfound popularity has caused him to rethink the limitations of leftist politics. “Compared to where the goalposts were five years ago, we’re already basically there,” he said. Socialists won’t run Washington by 2020—but maybe they will in his lifetime.

But the DSA’s continued growth is hardly guaranteed. One challenge as it seeks to broaden its appeal is messaging. Members of the new socialist vanguard pride themselves on a certain degree of unfiltered vulgarity, and they target mainline liberals as often as they do Trump-backing conservatives. Amber A’Lee Frost, a Chapo co-host and YDS panelist, has referred to her cohort’s style as the “Dirtbag Left.” Frost contends that rudeness is essential to disrupting the political status quo. It is, however, a weird way to make new friends. Coalition politics are hard when everyone else is a sellout.

More pressing than its inability to play nice is the movement’s inescapable whiteness. If the audience at the conference was any indication, the DSA’s future is doomed to demographic failure—a point kamau emphasized on the event’s opening night. “I want you to look around the room,” he said, “and then I want you to realize that we’re in Flatbush, Brooklyn, right?” It was Bushwick, but the point stood. “I love Bernie, but I also think that the leaders of the Democratic Party and the leaders of the left are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the American left is a movement of black and brown people,” he told me. “And the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t look like that—the leadership of the DSA doesn’t look like that.”

In South Fulton, a mostly working-class, African American community of 100,000 people, kamau sees an opportunity to broaden the appeal of democratic socialism. He believed his race, which was nonpartisan, was a chance to act on a DSA manifesto that calls for running “openly democratic socialist candidates for local office, in and outside the Democratic Party,” and “taking out pro-corporate, neoliberal Democrats.” YDS had given each conferencegoer a three-page reading list with titles by writers such as Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Wong suggested that young socialists study up on the hard lessons of electoral politics instead. “Learn about the mechanics it takes to win these elections,” she said. “You’re not gonna learn those by reading all three volumes of Capital, I promise you.”

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

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