Bernie Sanders Speaks

In his most revealing interview, the socialist presidential candidate sets out his vision for America.

 (Photography by Marius Bugge)
(Photography by Marius Bugge)

By John Nichols in The Nation

 When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told The Nation last year that he was “prepared to run for president,” he said he would do so only if it was clear that progressives were enthusiastic about a movement campaign seeking nothing less than “a political revolution.” It was an audacious proposal—but after traveling the country for a year, Sanders decided that the enthusiasm was there and announced in late April as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. There were plenty of doubters then. Two months into the campaign, however, everything about this candidacy—the crowds, the poll numbers, the buzz—is bigger than expected. That says something about Sanders. But it also says something about the prospects for progressive politics. In late June, The Nation sat down with Sanders for several conversations that asked the longtime Nation reader (“started when I was a University of Chicago student in the early 1960s”) to put not just his campaign but the moment in historical perspective for our 150th-anniversary issue:


The Nation: Your campaign for the presidency has surprised people. The crowds are big; the poll numbers are stronger than the pundits predicted. You’re a student of political history. Put what’s happening now in perspective. Are we at one of those pivot points—as we saw in the 1930s—where our politics could open up and take the country in a much more progressive direction?


Sanders: Obviously, we’re not in the midst of a massive depression, as we were in the 1930s. But I think the discontent of the American people is far, far greater than the pundits understand. Do you know what real African-American youth unemployment is? It’s over 50 percent. Families with a member 55 or older have literally nothing saved for retirement. Workers are worried about their jobs ending up in China. They’re worried about being fired when they’re age 50 and being replaced at half-wages by somebody who is 25. They’re disgusted with the degree that billionaires are able to buy elections. They are frightened by the fact that we have a Republican Party that refuses to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone address this huge issue.

In 1936, when Roosevelt ran for reelection, he welcomed the hatred of what he called “the economic royalists”—today, they’re the billionaire class—and I’m prepared to do that as well. That’s the kind of language the American people are ready to hear.

The Nation: As long as we’re talking about the evolution of public policy, let’s talk about the evolution of a word: socialism. You appeared on ABC’s This Week and, when you were asked whether a socialist can be elected president, you did not blink; you talked about socialism in positive, detailed terms. I don’t believe a presidential candidate has ever done that on a Sunday-morning show.

Sanders: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, often criticizes President Obama, incorrectly, for trying to push “European-style socialism,” and McConnell says the American people don’t want it. First of all, of course, Obama is not trying to push European-style socialism. Second of all, I happen to believe that, if the American people understood the significant accomplishments that have taken place under social-democratic governments, democratic-socialist governments, labor governments throughout Europe, they would be shocked to know about those accomplishments. One of the goals of this campaign is to advance that understanding…. How many Americans know that in virtually every European country, when you have a baby, you get guaranteed time off and, depending on the country, significant financial benefits as well. Do the American people know that? I doubt it. Do the American people even know that we’re the only major Western industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all? Most people don’t know that. Do the American people know that in many countries throughout Europe, public colleges and universities are either tuition-free or very inexpensive?

I have always believed that the countries in Scandinavia have not gotten the kind of honest recognition they deserve for the extraordinary achievements they have made…. The Danish ambassador, whom I talked to a couple of years ago, said to me that in Denmark it is very, very hard to be poor; you really have to literally want to be outside of the system. Well, that’s pretty good. In Denmark, all of their kids can go to college; not only do they go for free, they actually get stipends. Healthcare is, of course, a right for all people. They have a very strong childcare system, which to me is very important. Their retirement system is very strong. They are very active in trying to protect their environment…. And, by the way, the voter turnout in those countries is much higher; in Denmark, in the last election, it was over 80 percent. Political consciousness is much higher than it is in the United States. It’s a more vibrant democracy in many respects. So why would I not defend that? Do they think I’m afraid of the word? I’m not afraid of the word.

Read more at The Nation

Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network

The Libertarian Party’s 1980 presidential candidate, Ed Clark, center, with his running mate, David H. Koch. Credit Randy Rasmussen/Associated Press

He backed the full legalization of abortion and the repeal of laws that criminalized drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. He attacked campaign donation limits and assailed the Republican star Ronald Reagan as a hypocrite who represented “no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats.”

It was 1980, and the candidate was David H. Koch, a 40-year-old bachelor living in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. Mr. Koch, the vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and his older brother Charles, one of the party’s leading funders, were mounting a long-shot assault on the fracturing American political establishment.

The Kochs had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the burgeoning libertarian movement. In the waning days of the 1970s, in the wake of Watergate, Vietnam and a counterculture challenging traditional social mores, they set out to test just how many Americans would embrace what was then a radical brand of politics.

It was the first and only bid for high office by a Koch family member. But much of what occurred in that quixotic campaign shaped what the Kochs have become today — a formidable political and ideological force determined to remake American politics, driven by opposition to government power and hostility to restrictions on money in campaigns.

Read more at The New York Times

U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods

Rising Temperatures
1991-2012 average temperature compared with 1901-1960 average

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.

Such sweeping changes have been caused by an average warming of less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over most land areas of the country in the past century, the scientists found. If greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane continue to escalate at a rapid pace, they said, the warming could conceivably exceed 10 degrees by the end of this century.

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” the scientists declared in a major new report assessing the situation in the United States.

“Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced,” the report continued. “Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see in any particular month in their neighborhoods.”

The report is the latest in a series of dire warnings about how the effects of global warming that had been long foreseen by climate scientists are already affecting the planet. Its region-by-region documentation of changes occurring in the United States, and of future risks, makes clear that few places will be unscathed — and some, like northerly areas, are feeling the effects at a swifter pace than had been expected.

Alaska in particular is hard hit. Glaciers and frozen ground in that state are melting, storms are eating away at fragile coastlines no longer protected by winter sea ice, and entire communities are having to flee inland — a precursor of the large-scale changes the report foresees for the rest of the United States.

The study, known as the National Climate Assessment, was prepared by a large scientific panel overseen by the government and received final approval at a meeting Tuesday.

Read more at The New York Times

Obama Punts On Keystone Pipeline

A decision to give executive agencies more time to review plans for the controversial pipeline could push a final decision to after the midterm elections

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s conference in New York, April 11, 2014 (Carolyn Kaster—AP)

The Obama Administration is extending its review of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that has become an election-year minefield.

The State Department said Friday that while the public comment period will not be extended, executive agencies need more time to review the submitted comments as well as consider a Nebraska court case surrounding the pipeline. The indefinite extension could put off a decision on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to American refineries, until after November’s midterm elections.

“On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project,” the department said in a statement. “Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state. In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.

“The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents,” the State Department statement continued. “The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.”

The pipeline has become a focus of Republican critics of the Obama Administration’s regulatory process. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the White House Friday after news of the decision broke.

Read more at TIME

Why This Year’s El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster

Expect soaring global food prices, monsoons in India, drought in Indonesia, and bush fires in Australia.

El Niño, warmer than average waters in the “Niño3.4” region of the tropical Pacific Ocean, affects weather around the world. NOAA Visualization Lab

The odds are increasing that an El Niño is in the works for 2014—and recent forecasts show it might be a big one.

That’s an incredibly powerful tool, especially if you are one of the billions who live where El Niño tends to hit hardest—Asia and the Americas. If current forecasts stay on track, El Niño might end up being the biggest global weather story of 2014.

The most commonly accepted definition of an El Niño is a persistent warming of the so-called “Niño3.4” region of the tropical Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii, lasting for at least five consecutive three-month “seasons.” A recent reversal in the direction of the Pacific trade winds appears to have kicked off a warming trend during the last month or two. That was enough to prompt US government forecasters to issue an El Niño watch last month.

Forecasters are increasingly confident in a particularly big El Niño this time around because, deep below the Pacific Ocean’s surface, off-the-charts warm water is lurking:

That giant red blob is a huge sub-surface wave of anomalously warm water that currently spans the tropical Pacific Ocean—big enough to cover the United States 300 feet deep. That’s a lot of warm water. Australia Bureau of Meteorology

As that blob of warm water moves eastward, propelled by the anomalous trade winds, it’s also getting closer to the ocean’s surface. Once that happens, it will begin to interact with the atmosphere, boosting temperatures and changing weather patterns.

Read more at Mother Jones

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Poll: Americans Still Unconcerned About Global Warming

Seagulls stand on an iceberg floating in a fjord in August 2007 near Ilulissat in Greenland. A new poll finds most Americans are not greatly concerned about climate change.

Temperatures may keep rising, yet public opinion has held steady: Most Americans have only low levels of concern about climate change, a new poll by Gallup finds.

Just 34 percent of adults said they worried “a great deal” about “global warming,” about the same as last year. Meanwhile, 35 percent said they felt the same way about “climate change,” just a 2 percentage points more than last year.

“A major challenge facing scientists and organizations that view global warming as a major threat to humanity is that average citizens express so little concern about the issue,” Gallup said.

[READ: U.N. Study: Global Warming Effects to Last ‘Centuries’]

The poll was conducted in early March, yet the results were released Friday – just one week after a comprehensive report by a United Nations climate panel reasserted that not only is climate change a man-made phenomenon, but its effects are already being felt around the world, they’re worse than previously predicted and no matter what actions are taken, they’ll persist for centuries to come.

Read more at U.S. News & World Report

The scientific consensus of the facts concerning global warming: What We Know

10 million scallops are dead; Qualicum company lays off staff

Island Scallops in Qualicum Bay said it has suffered $10 million in losses because of high acidity levels in the Georgia Strait.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

High acid levels in the waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach have killed 10 million scallops and forced a local shellfish producer to scale operations back considerably.

Island Scallops CEO Rob Saunders said the company has lost three years worth of scallops and $10 million.

“I’m not sure we are going to stay alive and I’m not sure the oyster industry is going to stay alive,” Saunders told The NEWS. “It’s that dramatic.”

Saunders said the carbon dioxide levels have increased dramatically in the waters of the Georgia Strait, forcing the PH levels to 7.3 from their norm of 8.1 or 8.2. Island Scallops seeds its animals at its hatchery in Qualicum Bay and they are reared in the ocean in small net cages attached to horizontal “longlines,” according to the company’s website. The longlines are submerged about 10 metres below the surface in water about 30 metres deep. From hatchery to harvest takes about three years. Saunders said the company has lost all the scallops put in the ocean in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“(The high acidity level means the scallops) can’t make their shells and they are less robust and they are suseptible to infection,” said Saunders, who also said this level of PH in the water is not something he’s seen in his 35 years of shellfish farming.

Read more at The Parksville Qualicum Beach News

One of the most serious consequences of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to the burning of fossil fuels is acidification of the Earth’s oceans. Most scientists believe that it is already too late to reverse the trend.

There is an interesting and worthwhile discussion in the commentary section following the article. I recommend it.

Elizabeth Warren Comes Down Hard Against Global Warming, Separates Herself From Hillary Clinton On Climate Change

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren
By Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Community Banks Roundtable) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Friday, December 20th, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming. Here is the story:TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada’s tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe; and Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, but Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side.

Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world’s highest-carbon-emitting oil, 53% of which oil is owned by America’s Koch Brothers. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Iindustries.)

David Goldwyn, who “served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs,” is yet another lobbyist for TransCanada. So, TransCanada has two of Hillary’s friends working for them. Misters Elliot and Goldwyn thus worked intimately with Hillary’s people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm, much less any governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for this proposed pipeline.

Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State had already displayed a record of carrying out the policies that were being promoted by her lobbyist friends, when she did everything possible, early in President Obama’s first term, to support U.S. funding for the fascist junta in Honduras that perpetrated a coup d’etat on 28 June 2009 overthrowing that nation’s popular progressive democratically elected President, and who then installed their own regime, and promptly placed their country into a continuing violent terror that caused Honduras ever since to be the nation with the highest murder rate in the world. Hillary’s lobbyist friend in that particular matter was Lanny Davis, who also is an occasional Fox News contributor.

Secretary Clinton’s State Department thus allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and their resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth’s climate would be additionally heated if this pipeline is built and operated. Their report ignored that question, and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, which was estimated to be none.

President Obama himself is now trying to force the European Union to relax their anti-global-warming regulations so as to permit them to import the Kochs’ dirty oil. His agent in this effort is his new U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, from Wall Street.

But on December 20th, Senator Warren signed onto a letter criticizing the Obama Administration’s apparent effort to force the European Union to agree to purchase this oil. As the Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard reported, “Six senators and 16 House members, all Democrats, wrote a letter to Froman on Friday asking him to elaborate on his position on the matter. ‘If these reports are accurate, USTR’s [the U.S. Trade Representative’s] actions could undercut the EU’s commendable goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its transportation sectors,” these 22 Democratic lawmakers wrote.

Read more at the Huffington Post

Alberta Government Quietly Funded Researchers Behind ‘Independent’ Report Boosting Keystone XL

An aerial view of crude oil production in Alberta, Canada. (Flickr, Howl Arts Collective)

Before the State Department released its controversial Environmental Impact Study last week, a consulting firm called IHS CERA primed the news media by releasing its own study last year claiming that the Keystone XL wouldn’t make a substantial difference in emissions. The report was released as an “independent” study. TheNation.com filed a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request to the Alberta government, and found that taxpayers in Canada paid IHS CERA hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The heavily redacted contract, a version of which can be found here, provides $325,000 from the government of Alberta to IHS CERA. In addition, public budget documents from Alberta reveal that taxpayers in Canada have provided IHS with more than $545,426 in payments over the last year for energy-related work.

The Alberta government has been one of the most aggressive proponents of the pipeline. Last year, Alberta retained two DC lobbying firms with strong ties to Secretary of State John Kerry, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, to push for speedy approval of the Keystone XL.

Echoing the State Department EIS released last week, the IHS CERA claimed that even without the Keystone XL, Canadian oil sands would be developed by other means. “Even if the Keystone XL pipeline does not move forward, we do not expect a material change to oil sands production growth,” claims the authors.

However, assessments of the market by Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs and other leading financial analysts have found that the Keystone XL is critical for the development of the high-carbon oil sands market.

Read more at The Nation

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“Dark Money” Funds Climate Change Denial Effort

A Drexel University study finds that a large slice of donations to organizations that deny global warming are funneled through third-party pass-through organizations that conceal the original funder

A shift to untraceable donations by organizations denying climate change undermines democracy, according to the author of a new study tracking contributions to such groups.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Carol M. Highsmith

The largest, most-consistent money fueling the climate denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with so-called “dark money,” or concealed donations, according to an analysis released Friday afternoon.

The study, by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, is the first academic effort to probe the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate denial movement.

It found that the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.

Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.

The study was published Friday in the journal Climatic Change.

“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming,” Brulle said in a statement. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers.”

“If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Read more at Scientific American