Category: Big Picture

Keep Your Eye on HR1 – the Most Consequential Pro-Democracy Legislation in Half a Century

ROBERT WEISSMAN – Our democracy is in a double crisis. We face the immediate threat posed every day by Donald Trump, with his combination of unprecedented corruption, disdain for the rule of law and autocratic governance. We also face the deeper rooted problems of Big Money dominance of our elections, shocking voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering and outrageous corporate influence over the policymaking process. After the 2018 election, we have the chance to do something about this double crisis

Facebook’s New Propaganda Partners

FAIRNESS AND ACCURACY IN REPORTING (FAIR) — That a single corporation — Facebook — has a monopoly over the flow of worldwide news is already problematic, but the increasing meshing of corporate and US government control over the means of communication is particularly worrying. All those who believe in free and open exchange of information should oppose Facebook becoming a tool of US foreign policy.

Jordan Cove LNG Campaign Contributions Raise Questions

TED SICKINGER – Controversy over foreign meddling in the 2016 Election has been swirling around Washington D.C. since the day Donald Trump was elected president. But some southern Oregon residents are convinced they’ve got their own case of foreign interference. And if it’s not OK for the Russians, they say, why would it be OK for Canadians?

In an internal memo, the White House considered whether to simply ‘ignore’ federal climate research

CHRIS MOONEY and JULIET EILPERIN – White House officials last year weighed whether to simply “ignore” climate studies produced by government scientists or to instead develop “a coherent, fact-based message about climate science,” according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post. The document, drafted Sept. 18 by Michael Catanzaro, President Trump’s special assistant for domestic energy and environmental policy at the time, highlights the dilemma the administration has faced over climate change since Trump took office. Even as Trump’s deputies have worked methodically to uproot policies aimed at curbing the nation’s carbon output, the administration’s agencies continue to produce reports showing that climate change is happening, is human-driven and is a threat to the United States.

Putin Takes Ax to Military Spending

FRED WEIR – Amid the current worries in the West over Russia, the idea that Russia would be cutting its military spending seems counterintuitive to us. But that’s just what Vladimir Putin is doing with his new budget, in which plans for a major infrastructure boost are coming at the expense of some of the Kremlin’s more ambitious defense projects.

Federal Judge’s Unprecedented Order on Climate Science ‘Could Open Floodgates’ for Big Oil Lawsuits

JESSICA CORBETT – With a decision that could have far-reaching implications, a federal judge in California has ordered the first ever U.S. court hearing on climate science for a “public nuisance” lawsuit, meaning that major oil and gas companies for the first time may have to go on the record regarding what they knew about the planetary impacts of their products—and when.

Meet the Well-Funded Players Working Hard to Thwart Oregon’s Climate Progress

ERIC DE PLACE and PAELINA DESTEPHANO -Oregon is on the cusp of a climate protection breakthrough in 2018. The state legislature is weighing the Clean Energy Jobs bill, a remarkable opportunity to join its West Coast neighbors in lowering carbon pollution while raising money to invest in clean energy and transportation. The money raised would also provide assistance for low-income state residents. (Sightline’s Kristin Eberhard wrote an excellent summary of the legislation.) Nevertheless, Oregon’s climate proposal has garnered backlash from a range of shadowy conservative groups determined to halt the bill’s progress. Many of these organizations are linked to anti-tax and anti-union politics, and many seem specifically designed to obscure their backers and operations from public view. It’s a rogues’ gallery of climate-protection opponents in Oregon, and Sightline takes a hard look at who’s who in this movement and casts some light into the shadows.

Trump “Nuclear Posture” Approves New Warheads & Factories; Opens the Door to Testing

TRI-VALLEY CARES – On January 10th, the Huffington Post leaked a draft of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, a Pentagon document that dictates the overall strategy for United States nuclear forces. The leaked document, which is rumored to be the final draft, demonstrates an aggressive shift from the Obama posture review by mandating “more usable” low-yield nuclear weapons, doubling down on building new bomb plants, and lowering the threshold to resume nuclear weapons testing.

Poll: Public Overwhelmingly Opposed to Military Interventions

JAMES CARDEN – Last week, the Committee for a Responsible Foreign Policy—a bipartisan advocacy group calling for congressional oversight of America’s lengthy list of military interventions abroad—released the results of a survey that show broad public support for Congress to reclaim its constitutional prerogatives in the exercise of foreign policy (see Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution) and for fewer U.S. military interventions generally. Undertaken last November by J. Wallin Opinion Research, the new survey revealed “a national voter population that is largely skeptical of the practicality or benefits of military intervention overseas, including both the physical involvement of the U.S. military and also extending to military aid in the form of funds or equipment as well.

Portland Fossil Fuel Ordinance Ruled Constitutional

PRESS RELEASE – January 4, 2017 (Salem, OR)—Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed, in large part, a Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) decision that invalidated Portland’s landmark Fossil Fuel Terminal Zoning Amendments, passed unanimously in December 2016. The Court ruled that Portland did not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s decision opens the door for local governments to continue to take meaningful action to combat climate change.

Congressional “Realists” Call for US to Curtail Its Use of the Military

FINLAY LEWIS – They could caucus in a phone booth. They are known as “realists,” and their default position on questions of foreign policy and national security is one of skepticism about the value of interventions abroad and of respect for privacy at home. In a debate largely being litigated within the ranks of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill, the realists don’t have a prayer of prevailing in an up-or-down vote against the neoconservative wing of the party, proponents of an interventionist ethos to embed American values in lands far removed from domestic shores and traditions.

Congressional Budget Office: US Nuclear Forces To Cost $1.2 Trillion over 30 Years

PRESS RELEASE from THE LOS ALAMOS STUDY GROUP – On Oct. 31, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 73-page [analysis] of the future costs of maintaining and modernizing US nuclear weapons, entitled “Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046.”[1][1] The total cost estimated by CBO was $1.242 trillion (T), of which $800 billion (B) is estimated as necessary to maintain and operate planned forces. The remainder ($400 B) is CBO’s estimate of the cost to modernize these forces. According to CBO, it will cost $4.6 million (M) per hour, 24/7, to keep US nuclear forces for the next 30 years.

General Motors Is Going All Electric

ALEX DAVIES – After more than a century peddling vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, General Motors is ending its relationship with gasoline and diesel. This morning, the American automotive giant announced that it is working toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future. That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023.

Impacts of Trump & Paxton’s Policies: “U.S. Might Not Have Enough Construction Workers to Rebuild”

PRESS RELEASE FROM AMERICA’S VOICE : TEXAS – As Hurricane Harvey’s destruction and devastation continues across Texas and Louisiana, key elected, community, and thought leaders are looking towards the next step: rebuilding. Daniel Gross of Slate reports that Trump’s harsh and un-American immigration policies may have an unintended consequence – hampering construction efforts in the aftermath of Harvey.

‘Fossil Fuels are Dead,’ Says CSX Railroad Chief: No More New Trains for Coal, Ever

JOHN VOELCKER – The industrial revolution that began around 1750 was powered in large part by coal, and the carbon-rich fuel had 200 good years after that. By the middle of the last century, however, serious studies had begun of its deleterious effects on human health—and that was before the climate-change impact of human emissions of carbon dioxide became known. Transportation will slowly electrify over the coming decades, while coal’s share of electric power generation will wane worldwide.

The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California

JAMES HEDDLE – In the US, as more and more energy reactors are being shut down and are entering the decommissioning process, the overriding question is becoming unavoidable at reactor communities across the country: What do we do with all these decades of tons of accumulated radwaste now being stored on-site? Each canister contains a Chernobyl’s-worth of cesium; each cooling pool, hundreds more.

Pruitt Will Launch Program to ‘Critique’ Climate Science

EMILY HOLDEN – U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a “back-and-forth critique” by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official. The program will use “red team, blue team” exercises to conduct an “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,” the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

Lockheed Martin-Funded Experts Agree: South Korea Needs More Lockheed Martin Missiles

ADAM JOHNSON – As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to rise, one think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has become a ubiquitous voice on the topic of missile defense, providing Official-Sounding Quotes to dozens of reporters in Western media outlets. All of these quotes speak to the urgent threat of North Korea and how important the United States’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system is to South Korea.