Month: August 2017

When Big Money Buys Off Criticism Of Big Money

Since its founding in 1999, the New America Foundation – an important voice in policy debates on the American left – has received more than $21 million from Google, from its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, and from his family’s foundation.

According to the New York Times, one of New America’s initiatives called Open Markets has been critical of the market power of tech giants like Google. Recently, the researcher who heads that initiative posted a statement on the New America Foundation website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google.

Schmidt communicated his displeasure to the foundation’s president, who accused the researcher of “imperiling the institution as a whole” and shut down the Open Markets initiative.

The New America Foundation isn’t alone. Over the last 3 years:

  • A non-profit group devoted to voting rights decided it wouldn’t launch a campaign against big money in politics for fear of alienating the wealthy donors it courts;
  • A liberal-leaning Washington think-tank released a study on inequality that failed to mention the role big corporations and Wall Street have played in weakening the nation’s labor and antitrust laws, presumably because the think tank didn’t want to antagonize its corporate and Wall Street donors.
  • A major university has shaped research and courses around economic topics of interest to its biggest donors, notably avoiding any mention of the increasing power of large corporations and Wall Street on the economy.
  • Comcast has been financing the International Center for Law and Economics, which supported Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation pledged $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, stipulating that a Koch-appointed advisory committee select professors and undertake annual evaluations. The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice.
  • David Koch’s $23 million of donations to public television guaranteed that a documentary critical of the Kochs didn’t air.

The list goes on.

This is not just a problem created by right-wingers like Koch. Wealthy progressives are exerting as much quiet influence over the agendas of think tanks and universities as wealthy conservatives.

Big money should not be influencing what should be investigated, revealed, and discussed – especially about big money, and the tightening nexus between concentrated wealth and political power.

Schmidt was wrong to interfere in the New America Foundation, and the Foundation was wrong to have stopped its research on the increasing market power of Google and high tech.

The Unimaginable Is Now Possible: 100% Renewable Energy

The knock on environmentalists is that they’ve been better at opposing than proposing. Sure, being against overheating the planet or melting the ice caps should probably speak for itself—but it doesn’t give us a means. So it’s important news that the environmental movement seems to be rallying round a new flag. That standard bears a number: 100 percent.

It’s the call for the rapid conversion of energy systems around the country to 100 percent renewable power—a call for running the United States (and the world) on sun, wind and water. What Medicare for All is to the healthcare debate, or Fight for $15 is to the battle against inequality, 100% Renewable is to the struggle for the planet’s future. It’s how progressives will think about energy going forward—and though it started in northern Europe and Northern California, it’s a call that’s gaining traction outside the obvious green enclaves. In the last few months, cities as diverse as Atlanta and Salt Lake have taken the pledge.

No more half-measures. Barack Obama drove environmentalists crazy with his “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which treated sun and wind as two items on a menu that included coal, gas and oil. That is not good enough. Many scientists tell us that within a decade, at current rates, we’ll likely have put enough carbon in the atmosphere to warm the Earth past the Paris climate targets. Renewables—even the most rapid transition—won’t stop climate change, but getting off fossil fuel now might (there are no longer any guarantees) keep us from the level of damage that would shake civilization.

In any event, we no longer need to go slow: In the last few years, engineers have brought the price of renewables so low that, according to many experts, it would make economic sense to switch over even if fossil fuels weren’t wrecking the Earth. That’s why the appeal of 100% Renewable goes beyond the Left. If you pay a power bill, it’s the common-sense path forward.

To understand why it took a while to get to this point, consider the solar panel. We’ve had this clever device since Bell Labs produced the first model in 1954. Those panels lost 94 percent of the solar energy in conversion and were incredibly expensive to produce, which meant that they didn’t find many uses on planet Earth. In space, however, they were essential. Buzz Aldrin deployed a solar panel on the moon not long after Apollo 11 touched down.

Improvements in efficiency and drops in price came slowly for the next few decades. (Ronald Reagan, you may recall, took down the solar panels Jimmy Carter had installed atop the White House.) But in 1998, with climate fears on the rise, a close election in Germany left the Social Democrats in need of an alliance with the Green Party. The resulting coalition government began moving the country toward renewable energy.

As German demand for solar panels and wind turbines grew, factories across China learned to make the panels ever more cheaply and the price of panels began to plummet, a freefall that continues to this day. Germany now has days where half its power is generated by the sun. In 2017, solar or wind power wins most competitive bids for electric supply: India just announced the closure of dozens of coal mines and the cancellation of plans for new coal-fired generating stations because the low cost of solar power was undercutting fossil fuel. Even in oil-rich Abu Dhabi, free power from the sun is impossible to resist, and massive arrays are going up amidst the oil fields.

One person who noticed the falling prices and improving technology early on was Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program. In 2009, his team published a series of plans showing how the United States could generate all its energy from the sun, the wind and the falling water that produces hydropower. Two years later, Jacobson and a crew of co-conspirators—including actor Mark Ruffalo—launched the Solutions Project to move the idea out of academic journals and into the real world. The group has since published detailed plans for most of the planet’s countries. If you want to know how many acres of south-facing roof you can find in Alabama or how much wind blows across Zimbabwe, these are the folks to ask.

With each passing quarter, the 100 percent target is becoming less an aspirational goal and more the obvious solution. Hell, I spent the spring in some of the poorest parts of Africa where people—for the daily price of enough kerosene to fill a single lamp—were installing solar panels and powering up TVs, radios and LED bulbs. If you can do it in Germany and Ghana, you can do it in Grand Rapids and Gainesville.

Even 72 percent of Republicans want to “accelerate the development of clean energy.” That explains why, for example, the Sierra Club is finding dramatic success with its #ReadyFor100 campaign, which lobbies cities to commit to 100 percent renewable. Sure, the usual suspects, such as Berkeley, Calif., were quick to sign on. But by early summer the U.S. Conference of Mayors had endorsed the drive, and leaders were popping up in unexpected places. Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin put it this way: “It’s not merely an option now; it’s imperative.”

Environmental groups from the Climate Mobilization to Greenpeace to Food and Water Watch are backing the 100 percent target, differing mainly on how quickly we must achieve the transition, with answers ranging from one decade to around three. The right answer, given the state of the planet, is 25 years ago. The second best: as fast as is humanly possible. That means, at least in part, as fast as government can help make it happen. The market will make the transition naturally over time (free sunlight and wind is a hard proposition to beat), but time is the one thing we haven’t got, so subsidies, hard targets and money to help spread the revolution to the poorest parts of the world are all crucial.

That’s why it’s so significant that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in April to propose the first federal 100 percent bill. It won’t pass Congress this year—but as a standard to shape the Democratic Party agenda in 2018 and 2020, it’s critically important.

Congress, however, is not the only legislative body that matters in America. Earlier this year, for instance, the California State Senate passed—by a 2-1 margin—a bill that would take the world’s sixth-largest economy to 100 percent renewable by 2045. Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown, in a bid to recreate the spirit of the Paris climate talks, invited the world’s “sub-national” leaders—governors, mayors, regional administrators—to a San Francisco conference in September 2018.

“Look, it’s up to you and it’s up to me and tens of millions of other people to get it together,” Brown said, as he invited the world to his gathering.

That’s not to say that this fight is going to be easy.Fossil fuel corporations know they’re not the future, yet they’re determined to keep us stuck in the past. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, for example, recently ordered a “study” that, as Democratic senators have pointed out, is “a thinly disguised attempt to promote less economic electric generation technologies, such as coal” by trying to show that intermittent sources of power such as sun and wind make the grid unreliable.

That’s always been the trouble with renewables: The sun sets and the wind dies down. Indeed, one group of academics challenged Mark Jacobson’s calculations this spring partly on these grounds, arguing that unproven techniques of capturing and storing carbon from fossil fuel plants will likely be necessary, as well as continued reliance on nuclear power. Yet technology marches on. Elon Musk’s batteries work in Tesla cars, but scaled up they make it economically feasible for utilities to store the afternoon’s sun for the evening’s electric demand. In May, at an industry confab, one California utility executive put it this way: “The technology has been resolved. How fast do you want to get to 100 percent? That can be done today.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is threatening to impose massive tariffs on solar panels coming into the United States. This could dramatically drive up the price of new U.S. solar installations, and two-thirds of the new arrays expected to come online over the next five years might never be built.

Before that happens, however, the growth in new rooftop installations has already come to what the New York Times has called “a shuddering stop,” because of “a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitols across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners.” Instead of cutting residents a break for helping solve the climate crisis, in state after state utility corporations—led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Edison Electric Institute (whose political advocacy efforts ratepayers actually underwrite)—are passing legislation that pre-empts “net-metering” laws, which let customers sell their excess power back to the grid. Energy consultant Nancy LaPlaca puts it this way: “Utilities have a great monopoly going and they want to keep it.”

It’s not just right-wing Republicans who oppose renewables. Democrats often support new fossil fuel schemes, in part because they are in thrall to the building trades unions for campaign support. Last fall, days after the mercenaries hired by the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline sicced German shepherds on indigenous protesters, the AFL-CIO (which includes the powerful North America Building Trades Unions) issued a statement supporting the pipeline “as part of a comprehensive energy policy. … Pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs.” Sure enough, Hillary Clinton refused to join Obama in trying to block the pipeline. And, of course, Donald Trump approved the project early in his presidency, shortly after a cheerful meeting with the heads of the building trades unions. The first oil flowed through the pipeline the same afternoon that Trump pulled America out of the Paris climate accord.

That means, of course, that renewables advocates need to emphasize the jobs that will be created as we move toward sun and wind. Already, more Americans are employed in the solar industry than in coal fields, and the conversion is only just beginning. Sanders and Merkley’s federal 100 percent bill, beyond its generous climate benefits, is expected to produce 4 million new jobs over the coming decades.

And since those jobs aren’t always going to be in the same places as the fossil fuel ones they replace, renewable advocates must also demand a just transition for displaced workers. Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) is a pro-climate and pro-labor group advocating that such workers get a deal like the 1944 G.I. Bill: three years of full wages and benefits, four years of education and retraining, and job placement in community economic development programs. This, by the way, is also a strong reason for a robust social safety net—revolutions come with losers as well as winners.

Environmental justice advocates are also quick to point out that renters and low-income homeowners need to share the economic benefits of the renewables revolution. In Brooklyn, N.Y., and Fresno, Calif., groups like UPROSE and Green for All are working on local solar projects to provide residents with clean energy andgood jobs.

Jacqueline Patterson, who heads the NAACP’s environmental justice work, notes that low-income communities need to be cushioned from any cost increases as the market shifts over. “For those communities ‘just transition’ means their bills don’t fluctuate upwards.” In the best of worlds, she adds, “They’re not just a consumer writing a check every month, but they see now a chance to own part of that infrastructure.”

In June, the philanthropic Wallace Global Fund awarded the Standing Rock Sioux a $250,000 prize plus up to a $1 million investment to build renewable energy infrastructure on the reservation, a fitting commemoration to the bravery of water protectors who tried to hold the Dakota pipeline at bay. And a reminder that private foundations will need to play a role in this transition as well.

The political battle for renewables will be hard-fought. In January, the New York Times reported that the Koch brothers have begun to aggressively (and cynically) court minority communities, arguing that they “benefit the most from cheap and abundant fossil fuels.” Their goal is not only to win black voters to the GOP’s energy program, but to stall renewables in majority-black-and-brown cities like Richmond, Calif.

America’s twisted politics may slow the transition to renewables, but other countries are now pushing the pace. In June, for instance, China’s Qinghai Province—a territory the size of Texas—went a week relying on 100 percent renewable energy, a test of grid reliability designed to show that the country could continue its record-breaking pace of wind and solar installation.

China’s not alone. One Friday in April, Great Britain, for the first time since the launch of the Industrial Revolution, managed to meet its power demands without burning one lump of coal. Since 2014, solar production has grown six-fold in Chile, where Santiago’s Metro system recently became the first to run mostly on sun. Holland said this winter that its train system was now entirely powered by the wind, and, in a memorable publicity stunt, strapped its CEO to the blade of a spinning windmill to drive the point home.

These are all good signs—but, set against the rapid disintegration of polar ice caps and the record global temperatures each of the last three years, they still amount to too little. It’s going to take a deeper level of commitment—including turning the U.S. government from an obstacle to an advocate over the next election cycles. That’s doable precisely because the idea of renewable energy is so popular.

“There are a few reasons why 100% Renewable is working—why it’s such a powerful idea,” says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “People have agency, for one. People who are outraged, alarmed, depressed, filled with despair about climate change—they want to make a difference in ways they can see, so they’re turning to their backyards. Turning to their city, their state, their university. And, it’s exciting—it’s a way to address this not just through dread, but with something that sparks your imagination.”

Sometimes, Brune says, all environmentalists have to rally together to work on the same thing, such as Keystone XL or the Paris accord. “But in this case the politics is as distributed as the solution. It’s people working on thousands of examples of the one idea.” An idea whose time has come.

Danny Glover Interview At Laney College

Danny Glover participated in a live podcast recording of “Kamau Right Now!” with comedian Irene Tu and Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency.  “Kamau Right Now!,” a debate, discussion and comedy show, records in front of a live audience and broadcasts on San Francisco’s KALW, the oldest FM station west of the Mississippi.


Harry Belafonte On Charlottesville, Trump And Protest

Harry Belafonte is a living legend. As a close associate of Martin Luther King Jr., Belafonte played an instrumental role in many of the crucial moments of the civil rights movement. On Oct. 18, he will speak at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven for the 50th anniversary fundraiser of Christian Community Action, a New Haven-based anti-poverty organization.

This is an exhausting time politically. How do you keep your energy up at age 90?
I am somewhat mindful of the fact that I’ve spent the last 70 years of my life working on social reform. Lecturing and touring, and doing a lot of work artistically in songs and music and dealing with my colleagues, only to find that now, instead of being rewarded for 70 years of a commitment toward social change, we are sitting here at the gateway of disaster with this administration. There’s still just a lot of work to be done. Until we can galvanize a group of people who are willing to talk truth to power, and to talk on issues, and to help make everything that we aspired to during the last century a fact of our lives, it’s very hard for me to sit and watch all of this go by.

We are speaking two days after a gathering of the far right in Charlottesville, Virginia, left one counter-protester dead, and many injured. Did the events of the weekend shock you?
They don’t shock me as much as they puzzle me. They puzzle me because this nation has been through a lot, especially during the 20th century when civilization began to move along paths that were fairly new to the global family. Up until the mid-20th century, most of the countries that are independent — and had to become sovereign nations — didn’t exist. There are different modes of expression that are new to us, and I think instead of this country being able to boast of a leader who encapsulates all that is good in the previous years, we have a leader that is telling that our lives and our commitments of the past were for naught. That should be made unacceptable.

Of the current wave of social struggle, what do you see as similar to the era of the civil rights movement? And what do you see as different?
One of the things that I’m mindful of, is the extent to which the clergy has stepped into the fray and taken command and a sense of responsibility to speak out against what’s going on. A lot ministers showed up in Virginia. I was delighted because for a long time I’ve been fed up with the church. It was very, very negative. It didn’t speak from the pulpit. It didn’t speak for the things that were in the best interests of humankind. The fact that the clergy stepped in so early [in Charlottesville] was an indication that there’s a willingness among silent communities to become heard again. I thought that was a positive response. However, we don’t have a lot of the things we had before. We don’t have a strong labor movement in this country. Decades ago, we had an active labor movement in this country. Workers and organized labor took on a lot of responsibility when it came to social process. Well, that constituency seems to be mute. It doesn’t exist. The church was fairly silent, but that emerged now. I’m just surprised that there aren’t more youthful and new voices being heard loudly and clearly. I think they’re there; they just aren’t being heard.

Something we are losing living memory of is the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthyism era. You were blacklisted. Do you think a blacklist could happen again?
Yes. I think with voices like Donald Trump being heard in such reckless ways, anything is possible. I don’t think the mood being reflected at the moment, with all the violence that’s going on and the neo-fascist movement that’s rising again, would not have happened had Donald Trump not provoked the belief by many citizens that racism has a place in the culture of this nation. It’s fascinating. The threat to democracy is no longer some totalitarian state in some faraway place smothering its citizens. America sits at the threshold of the new decline, whereas we were the hope for the future, we’re now the management of our own destruction. That’s not what this whole journey, from my perspective, was about. It’s not what the Kennedys were about, not what Eisenhower was about, it’s not what Dr. King was about, it’s not what the youth movement was about. It’s frustrating. I had occasion to say the other day, in this battle on issues of race, I don’t know that there’s much more that can be expected of the black citizens of America. We’ve been at the forefront of these changes for so long.

What is the best way to resist the neo-fascist turn?
We have to understand that we are not presented with a canvas of leadership that speaks to the best in the human heart, and we live in a nuclear time. Trump cannot be treated casually, if for nothing more than the fact he has his hand on the button of crisis.

Cornel West Says Clergy In Charlottesville Were Trapped By Torch-Wielding Nazis

We continue our roundtable discussion on violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend as thousands of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white nationalists began descending on the city to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. Thousands of counterprotesters met in Charlottesville, including clergy, students, Black Lives Matter activists, and protesters with the anti-fascist movement known as “antifa.” 


Honoring Hawaii Purple Heart Recipients At Official Medal Presentation Ceremony

At the Oahu Veterans Center today, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), Rainbow Chapter 483 (Honolulu) in honoring twelve recipients of the Purple Heart Medal at an official presentation ceremony.

The recipients, who included veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, were awarded the Purple Heart Medal by the Army for their wounds in combat, but never received a formal presentation of their medals, as is required by Army regulations. The congresswoman presented each honoree with the Purple Heart Medal and delivered remarks about the significance of the official presentation ceremony, the high cost of war and the critical importance of caring for our veterans when they return home from war.

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the armed forces of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. It is specifically a combat decoration.



Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Those making decisions about when and where to go to war often forget who pays the high price—our veterans who return home with wounds visible and invisible, our servicemembers on active duty, and their families. The veterans we recognized today have waited more than forty years for the recognition they have earned and deserve. Today’s ceremony closes the circle for these veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much.”

Addressing the recipients and their family members, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said, “Today we honor you with a medal that none of you wanted or asked for, but that is earned by those who sacrifice most. You stand in the ranks of people like Hawai?i’s Senator Daniel Inouye, President John. F. Kennedy, and so many more. We honor you, as we do them, our nation’s most prominent and distinguished heroes.”

Niki Ashton – An Opportunity For An Alternative In Canada

The leadership race that was set in motion for Canada’s federal New Democratic Party after then-leader Thomas Mulcair was ousted at the party’s April 2016 convention is entering its home stretch. The cutoff point for new members to sign up to vote is August 17, with the final two debates soon after. By mid-October, the winner will be announced.

In the 2012 leadership campaign, party members decided to play it safe and go with the centrist Mulcair, who was seen as the person who could lead the NDP into government for the first time at the federal level. But Trudeaumania came along in 2015, and the NDP went from the second largest party in parliament back to its traditional third-party status.

That result was seen by many NDP supporters as a result of a very cautious campaign in which the NDP promised to balance the budget and did not attack the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the campaign’s opening days. Trudeau, meanwhile, was able to outflank the NDP from the left by promising deficit spending to revive a stagnant economy.

The NDP finds itself at a political crossroads like so many other social-democratic labor parties around the world. But with the Trudeau government breaking so many of its promises, there is a real opening for a left alternative.

Manitoba MP Niki Ashton is proposing such an alternative. Running for the party’s leadership seat, she’s cited Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn as important developments for the Left globally. At the launch of her campaign, she quickly came out to support policies like abolishing tuition fees for higher education and opposition to oil pipelines — the kind of policies that galvanized Sanders supporters.

Gerard Di Trolio, an editor at, spoke to Ashton about how the NDP ended up in its current situation, her beliefs, and her policies that would shift the NDP leftwards and reconnect with its democratic-socialist origins.

How did the NDP get to where it is today, with another leadership race in 2017 only five years after the last one?
We lost significant ground in the 2015 election. We strayed away from NDP principles and were disconnected from the grassroots including our activists as well as social movements. In the last federal election, we allowed the Liberals to “out-left” us.

The Liberals did put forward a progressive and inspiring agenda of sorts, but of course they’ve gone on to break many of the key promises that they made to progressive Canadians — whereas we took a much more centrist road, obviously the commitment to and doubling down on a balanced budget. Overall, it was a very cautious campaign that was not in tune with where a lot of our activists are.

You have campaigned for Bernie Sanders and you’ve signaled support for Jeremy Corbyn and even Syriza. What sort of lessons have you learned from these resurgent left campaigns?
I’m deeply inspired by the work of progressive-left candidates and movements around the world. Whether Sanders or Corbyn, they’ve inspired many of my generation (I’m an older millennial) because they spoke clearly about the challenges we face, particularly growing inequality and climate change, and rejected the neoliberal status quo on how to tackle the biggest challenges of our time. They put forward bold ideas, whether it’s taxing the rich, talking clearly about nationalization, or commitment to free tuition, and they’ve worked with social movements and activists on the ground.

I had a bit of time to connect with The Sanders campaign, and it was very evident to me that the connections to social movements are incredibly strong. There was a lot of inspiration taken from the grassroots when it came to running the national campaign.

In terms of Syriza: my first language is Greek, that’s my background. Through my connection with Greece, I could see the way in which so many, and again including many young people, were turning to a much more progressive vision, rejecting the status quo of old government parties to try to bring about change at a time of crisis.

During the leadership candidates’ debate in Regina, there was a question asked about the Regina Manifesto (the founding document of the NDP’s predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation). It was a socialist document and you mentioned how it still had relevance today. What does socialism mean to you?

To me it means putting people before profit. Recognizing that dignity, equality, and justice for people is paramount, not corporate greed or profit margins. I obviously believe in the power of the collective, both in terms of movements but also in terms of ownership, and I believe that is a key way for us to not just tackle inequality but achieve greater well-being through establishing public ownership in key sectors.

That’s why I’m proud that our campaign is pushing things like postal banking and calling for a crown corporation that would be involved in both the buying and negotiation of pharmaceutical prices, and, in the energy sector, the creation of a crown corporation responsible for directing a green transition.

The neoliberal mantra that greater wealth will come from privatization, deregulation, and austerity has clearly been proven wrong. We need to take a left turn and be re-inspired by our own roots within the party, but also take inspiration from other leaders around the world like Sanders and Corbyn who have used the word “socialism” on a regular basis.

Justin Trudeau has been getting a lot of attention and has been met with protests over his poor handling of indigenous issues. Reconciliation is a very long-term process, but what immediate steps would you take when in power to move forward on it?
When we’re talking about the pursuit of justice in Canada, the achievement of indigenous justice is fundamental. I’ve worked with many First Nations — there are forty-one nations in my constituency — and have been inspired by the work of so many activists on the front lines, whether it’s the struggles against resource extraction or for human rights. So much of the resistance to neoliberalism is from indigenous communities.

We made it very clear in our campaign that a key step going forward is the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That’s a key framework in terms of achieving justice. It’s not just about health care and education, but also about extraction. Our campaign has made it clear that if we’re talking about resource extraction — pipelines and other projects — there must be consultation and, very importantly, consent from indigenous communities. Otherwise these projects cannot go forward.

On social media, I noticed you gave a glowing review to the book False Choices, edited by Liza Featherstone, which is a socialist-feminist critique of Hillary Clinton’s politics. How would you define your conception of feminism compared to Hillary Clinton’s?
That was a great book. In the campaign, I’ve made it very clear that I subscribe to an intersectional feminism, recognizing that the barriers that women face, that various people face based on gender, always intersects with class, with race, with ability, with sexual orientation and sexual identity. It’s a rejection of what is known as “white feminism,” which is embodied by much of what Hillary Clinton and some of her peers have stood for.

Think of the way Gloria Steinem castigated young women for supporting Bernie Sanders and saying they supported him because that’s where the boys were. False Choices made it very clear that if we’re going to be feminists, we need to apply a feminist lens to everything, from crime policy to foreign policy.

I’ve been very critical of Justin Trudeau’s claim that he’s a feminist. You can’t be a feminist prime minister and the second largest arms dealer in the Middle East, selling arms to the Saudi regime that targets women and LGBTQ folks.

And I very much oppose the bombing of Syria that Trump initiated and Trudeau supported. Around that time there were feminists that spoke out and said that the achievement of peace is not through bombs. If we’re going to talk about feminist policy, bombing is not the way to go about it.

I believe that class is critical in implementing an intersectional feminist agenda — that’s been very important in our campaign. If we’re talking about a feminist agenda, then we’re talking about inequality that women face, that people of different genders — trans folks, non-binary folks — face because of their gender identity. That inequality is also about economic justice.

Canada gets a lot of negative attention these days for its role in climate change through its extractive industries. What policies do you propose to meaningfully tackle climate change (as opposed to the Trudeau method of going to international climate conferences that are mostly just photo ops)?
We’ve put forward a bold environmental justice platform. We’re calling for bolder emissions targets. Trudeau is continuing Stephen Harper’s approach to the environment in terms of targets, though the rhetoric is different. We’ve made it clear that while targets are key, we also need a robust plan to achieve them.

Our program is centered on citizen power and taking on corporate greed. I’ve indicated that it’s corporate greed and neoliberal policies that has brought us climate change. We’ve proposed the creation of a crown corporation, Green Canada, which would lead the federal transition to a green economy both in terms of the production and delivery of green energy. That would involve partnerships with the provinces and indigenous nations. It would be funded through a public investment bank and overseen by a citizen’s advisory board, recognizing that it is the grassroots in communities that know best the impact of climate change in their regions; they know best how to deal with mitigation and how to direct the transition.

These advisory groups would involve citizens, workers, indigenous peoples, people from industry, and climate change experts. It’s about having advice from the ground up instead of the top down, which has been happening so far from the federal government and isn’t getting us anywhere.

How do you envision reassuring workers that this transition will not be too disruptive in their lives?
First, I’d say that I come from a mining town. I come from a community that lives the boom-and-bust cycles. I know how difficult that reality is. I believe that the creation of good jobs needs to be at the center of our transition strategy. I also know that, given that boom-and-bust reality, many people want more sustainable work for their kids and their future.

In our transition strategy, green jobs will be created through the crown corporation and investments in infrastructure. That’s key to creating opportunity for people that are concerned that they will lose their jobs or their economic security. We’ve talked about investing $10 billion annually in affordable housing that is comfortable and green, including forty thousand units per year of public housing and creating more than 150,000 homes in a first mandate. This is all part of tackling climate change while also creating good sustainable green jobs in order to get there.

You’ve received a lot of attention for raising the issue of justice in Palestine in contrast to what is the mainstream political consensus in Canada. Could you discuss your position on it and your broader approach to foreign policy?
In my campaign, I’ve talked about the need for the NDP and Canada to be a voice for peace in the world. For me, it’s been important to be a voice in the face of injustice in Canada, working with indigenous leaders fighting racism and colonialism in our own country. We need to be a strong voice in the face of the same kind of injustices abroad, including in Palestine.

The situation in Palestine is becoming worse. We’re seeing escalating tension right now. Canada needs to be a strong voice in support of peace, against illegal occupation, against illegal settlements, and for respecting human rights. That’s why I showed solidarity with those who were supporting the hunger strikers who were protesting the inhumane conditions in Israeli jails.

I believe Canada has a role to play in the world in being a force for change, peace, and justice. Many inspiring activists across the country are doing great work on this front, decrying human rights abuses, decrying injustices, and putting forward a plan for change, including through the BDS movement. The NDP needs to be a strong voice in support of the work that so many activists are doing, a voice at the national level for Canada to be for peace and justice in Palestine and the Middle East.

The relationship between the NDP and social movements have gone up and down over the years. Sometimes it has been fraught with tensions between movements and electoralism. How would you approach relations with social movements? Sometimes they are skeptical of political parties.
My approach to politics has always been from the ground up, and my work has always been centered on taking direction and inspiration from social movements and grassroots activists. That’s been part of my career not just as a Member of Parliament, but as Status Of Women critic where I worked with feminist activists, in my work as Indigenous Affairs critic, and Youth critic where I dealt with post-secondary education, and most recently dealing with the issue of precarious work for millennials.

The only way to achieve political change is through working with and taking direction from social movements. So many young people in particular are at the forefront of social movements that are calling for system change whether it’s environmental justice, Black Lives Matter, indigenous solidarity movements, or feminist movements; we need to heed these calls and work together.

Anti-police-brutality movements like Black Lives Matter have focused a lot on the local or provincial level, but there is a federal police force in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It has a long and problematic relationship with indigenous people. How would you use federal government power to deal with police racism and brutality?

The federal government has a key role to play in changing the direction of the RCMP. Our campaign supports ending the RCMP’s practice of carding [similar to stop and frisk]. We also believe that as part of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Inquiry, there needs to be an investigation into the role of the RCMP and law enforcement more broadly in the targeting of indigenous women.

There needs to be a far more robust, independent mechanism for complaints and reporting in terms of the RCMP. Right now, many people are discouraged from reporting so because they don’t see the mechanism as being truly independent.

We need to repeal Bill C-51, which gives the RCMP significant power in going against privacy laws in targeting indigenous, Muslim, and racialized communities. We need to put a stop to not only that approach, but also the culture that’s geared towards intimidating so many who are fighting against injustice in their communities. I see it as a comprehensive approach, a need to move away from a historically colonial approach to policing, to one where police have a role that is significantly different than today.

The NDP was created through an alliance of the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). How would you approach the NDP’s relationship with the labor movement?
The relationship with the labor movement is foundational to who we are as a party and it needs to continue to be. The priorities that we are fighting for are the priorities of working people. Now, especially among young people, there are a lot of workers who are not in unions. There is an emerging working class not tied to traditional unions. That’s why, for me, it’s been very important to focus on the rise of precarious work and support the emerging labor activism that we’re seeing across the country. Whether it’s the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign or the workers in the Retail Action Network on the West Coast, there’s a real movement afoot, and we need to be tuned into this activism to demand justice for working people.

You have a very ambitious tax plan. Could you explain some of its main points?
We have a very exciting tax plan. I’m really proud that our plan has been seen as the most progressive. That’s because what we are calling for is making the rich and corporations finally pay their fair share.

Working people and people that are struggling are contributing their fair share when it comes to taxes. Those that are getting off the hook are those that have the most. Whether it’s legally or through other means, they’re not paying their fair share. So we’ve called for increasing income taxes on the top 5 percent, particularly the top 1 percent. We’ve called for capital gains to be taxed at the same level as earned income, we’ve called for an inheritance tax, and an increase of the corporate tax rate to pre-Harper levels. And as a result, we’ve put forward a plan where we’ve identified $40 billion where we can then invest in key priorities like pharmacare, free tuition, dental care, and the kind of investments in infrastructure that we require.

While some, particularly those in the mainstream, may say “how could you possibly pay for this?” we put forward a plan where we very clearly indicate how to do it. It’s time for the rich and powerful to pay their fair share.

There’s a debate going on within the Left involving universal basic income (UBI). You have made the case for strong social programs over UBI. Why do you think that’s a superior method to deal with inequality?
Our campaign has made it very clear that tackling inequality means a strong social safety net. It means tax reform so we can invest in the priorities that matter, and in a system that has universality. So when we’re talking about pharmacare, dental care, or free tuition — these are universal programs that would lift everyone up.

I do appreciate the ongoing discussion about UBI. But for me there are red flags, including that there are many on the Right championing it at the same time they support policies that seek to cut health care and education. That’s not an anti-poverty strategy by any means. It’s also clear to me that UBI, when discussed in the context of precarious work, doesn’t actually put an end to the rise of precarious work and automation. The way we do that is by challenging the neoliberal agenda: fighting back against privatization, proposing public ownership, stopping austerity, reinvesting in our public sector and social safety net, and saying no to bad trade deals.

Our campaign has made it very clear that the way to tackle inequality is to lift everybody up by challenging the status quo and expanding our social safety net.

Canada is one of the most decentralized countries in the world. There’s a lot of resistance today to large-scale national programs, often by the provinces. How do you deal with the other provinces, especially Quebec, on this issue?
We’ve been told for the last thirty years that the federal government is not the solution. Instead, the government has devolved their responsibilities to provinces, municipalities, and First Nations. That’s left us in the lurch and also convinced us of this new normal where the federal government doesn’t have a role to play in a lot of key areas.

We need to change that. We can’t deal with climate change if we don’t have strong federal leadership. Again, it can’t just be committing to targets, but having a way of achieving these targets. A strong federal approach is key to doing that.

The way we’re proposing tackling inequality and tax reform is the purview of the federal government. There’s so much to be gained in tax reform where the rich and corporations pay their fair share. Only the federal government that can implement such a plan of social, environmental, and economic justice.

I’m proud of the work that the NDP has done around the Sherbrooke Declaration, recognizing that Quebec has a unique place in Canada. We must respect Quebec’s jurisdiction and its different arrangements on delivering programs. That’s something that would continue under my leadership.

I have talked to people who have been NDP members in the past but lapsed their membership; they are rejoining the party for your campaign. I’ve also talked to people that have never been members before that have joined your campaign despite being skeptical of the party in the past. Going forward, what is your vision of how the party should function, especially on the issue of democracy within it?
I’m very honored that so many people are coming back to sign up for the NDP after a period of disillusionment or disengagement, and also the way in which many young people are signing up for the first time. They really believe in the ideas and the vision that we are putting forward. At events across the country, we’re seeing more and more people coming out and momentum build. It’s really exciting.

There was a young guy I remember that I met in June who said that he had worked on Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and that the kind of energy he saw at an event in Victoria was the kind of energy he saw when he was working with The Sanders campaign. That speaks to the fact that grassroots activists are coming together to rally behind a vision that is unabashedly progressive and unabashedly left. There is a hunger in Canada today for the vision and voice we are putting forward.

Going forward, one of the ways that we can rebuild as a party is by engaging in democratic reform. That means spending more time on policy and principles than on polling and public relations. That means respecting and being in much closer communication with the grassroots, and ensuring that policy debates are taking place all over the country throughout the year. That we’re taking direction from different regions about policy and positions, and that we’re engaged with social movements.

There will be some that take up NDP membership and others that don’t but still share our values. But we can still work in solidarity in trying to achieve the kind of political change in which we all believe.

I’ve also talked about the need to put an end to the way in which our candidates have been treated in the past, particularly the way in which many candidates who supported justice for Palestine were turfed. That’s unacceptable and has no place in a party like the NDP. People who support justice for Palestine, who support justice for oppressed peoples around the world, are key parts of the NDP, and they subscribe to key NDP values. We should be proud those people are putting their names forward to run for our party.

Obviously, we want to win elections and win government to affect change, but political change comes from the ground up. So working with those who are joining our party from the grassroots, those that have been part of our party for a long time — through this leadership race, we can come together to set the NDP on a different path, one that is much more connected to our principles, our roots, and the challenges of our time.

I’m very excited about the reaction we’ve been getting, the momentum that’s being built, and the opportunity we have to build the movement for social, environmental, and economic justice that we all deserve.

The Trump Administration’s Solution To Climate Change: Ban The Term

In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture – guardians of the planet’s richest farmlands – has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

Under guidance from the agency’s director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes “climate change” and “climate change adaptation”, to be replaced by “weather extremes” and “resilience to weather extremes”.

Also blacklisted is the scary locution “reduce greenhouse gases” – and here, the agency’s linguists have done an even better job of camouflage: the new and approved term is “increase nutrient use efficiency”.

The effectiveness of this approach – based on the well-known principle that what you can’t say won’t hurt you – has previously been tested at the state level, making use of the “policy laboratories” provided by America’s federalist system.

In 2012, for instance, the North Carolina general assembly voted to prevent communities from planning for sea level rise. Early analysis suggests this legislation has been ineffective: Hurricane Matthew, in 2016, for instance drove storm surge from the Atlantic ocean to historic levels along the Cape Fear river. Total damage from the storm was estimated at $4.8bn.

Further south, the Florida government forbade its employees to use the term climate change in 2014 – one government official, answering questions before the legislature, repeatedly used the phrase “the issue you mentioned earlier” in a successful effort to avoid using the taboo words.

It is true that the next year “unprecedented” coral bleaching blamed on rising temperatures destroyed vast swaths of the state’s reefs: from Key Biscayne to Fort Lauderdale, a survey found that “about two-thirds were dead or reduced to less than half of their live tissue”. Still, it’s possible that they simply need to increase their nutrient use efficiency.

At the federal level, the new policy has yet to show clear-cut success either. As the say-no-evil policy has rolled out in the early months of the Trump presidency, it coincided with the onset of a truly dramatic “flash drought” across much of the nation’s wheat belt.

As the Farm Journal website pointed out earlier last week: “Crops in the Dakotas and Montana are baking on an anvil of severe drought and extreme heat, as bone-dry conditions force growers and ranchers to make difficult decisions regarding cattle, corn and wheat.”

In typically negative journalistic fashion, the Farm Journal reported that “abandoned acres, fields with zero emergence, stunted crops, anemic yields, wheat rolled into hay, and early herd culls comprise a tapestry of disaster for many producers”.

Which is why it’s good news for the new strategy that the USDA has filled its vacant position of chief scientist with someone who knows the power of words.

In fact, Sam Clovis, the new chief scientist, is not actually a scientist of the kind that does science, or has degrees in science, but instead formerly served in the demanding task of rightwing radio host (where he pointed out that followers of former president Obama were “Maoists”). He has actually used the words “climate change” in the past, but only to dismiss it as “junk science”.

Under his guidance the new policy should soon yield results, which is timely since recent research (carried out, it must be said, by scientist scientists at MIT) showed that “climate change could deplete some US water basins and dramatically reduce crop yields in some areas by 2050”.

But probably not if we don’t talk about it.

The Nina Turner Show: Believing It’s Possible With Danny Glover

Nina Turner: I’m here with the amazing Danny Glover. Actor, activist, director, and icon. Some people know him as Mister from the Color Purple, and others know him as Mr. Lethal Weapon himself. Mr. Danny Glover, welcome to the Nina Turner show on the Real News Network.