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House GOPers just turned their first Oversight hearing into bad performance art by raving about Biden's (really Trump's) COVID crimes to kick off their reign of grievance, paranoia and crackpot misinformation: Antifa = fascists, insurgents = ethicists, COVID masks = Taliban, Hunter Biden. They'll get a good boost from veteran, defense contractor, teargas peddler and new Florida Rep. Cory Mills - "Soldier. Conservative. Outsider." Fascist - who gave them a dummy grenade to urge, "Let's come together and get to work."
The process of perverting once-noble democratic governance into what Randy Rainbow calls "the wackest shitshow in town" came seamlessly, he noted, thanks to Kevin McCarthy. "Now that you've handed out important committee assignments to election deniers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, pathological liars and third-rate drag queens," he asked an imaginary Only-Just-Barely Speaker, "tell us how else you mean to drag this country down into the fiery pits of hell?" For hints, see Wednesday's debacle. Eager to launch their red-meat-packed GOP Vengeance Tour, Chair James Comer began by targeting vital-at-the-time COVID relief programs as "the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history," claiming Democrats "have spent far too much time pushing money out the door and far too little time conducting meaningful oversight of how that money is being spent." "With the power of the gavel," he boasted, "we'll get answers the American people deserve" - on not just COVID fraud but lockdowns, fentanyl, Afghanistan, the border, money spent "to push divisive ideologies onto our students" etc, and thank God sensible Republicans are finally here to "hold President Biden accountable."
Less than shockingly, this was self-serving bullshit about programs that were "a lifeline for millions," as Dem Jamie Raskin noted, though he politely called it "cherry-picking." First, they're talking a $3-trillion-plus chunk of money passed by a GOP Senate and signed by Trump. Second, since that massive, urgent, unprecedented spending was approved, Democrats have spent three years - with multiple hearings, reports, investigations and prosecutions - to expose the inevitable fraud and waste that did surface, almost all of which was perpetrated by the Grifter-In-Chief himself. They found that Trump and his political cronies mismanaged over $84 billion in PPP loans, short-changing many small struggling businesses while rewarding big banks, corporations and GOP allies, including Comer's brother; that GOP lawmakers repeatedly refused to join in oversight efforts unless there was something in it for them; that millions went to what Raskin termed "those trying to profit off the generosity of the American people - imposters, hustlers, con men, liars, outright fraudsters and fakes" - while GOP pandemic profiteers turned a blind eye.
The mind-numbing idiocy and hypocrisy reflected in the day's "festival of disinformation" had no better avatar than "Marjorie Nazi Greene,," aka "Traitor-Trash Sasquatch" and "Georgia mountain creature...somehow simultaneously oleaginous & yet crispy." Thanks to McCarthy's spineless cave to the Treason Caucus, she is back on several laughably inappropriate committees, including Oversight; also - see cave - she is free to endlessly grandstand under a new House rule allowing any lawmaker to offer an amendment on anything. "We are trying to open things up for everybody," goes the official explanation, though they hope to speed up votes "as a way to lessen the stupidity factor," and good luck with that. Reveling in her new power, MTG jumped right in with one of a reported 140 amendments proposed for a bill on the use of the strategic oil reserve; she wanted to forbid Biden from selling oil from the reserve. Maybe because that's actually what it's for in an emergency, her amendment crashed and burned in a 14 to 418 vote reportedly viewed online by, like, a gazillion satisfied customers. Worse, rumor had it the 13 other people who voted with her were all different versions of George Santos.
She's been busy elsewhere too. Joining a weirdly giddy Tucker Carlson, she announced, "It's time to declare Antifa a domestic terrorist organization," though Tucker mostly wanted to know, "Where do they come from? Where do they sleep?" "America is just sick and tired of Antifa," she intoned, citing the "many people" they've killed and the masks they made people wear "during the so-called pandemic." "Antifa is the ground troops of the Democrat (sic) Party...Enough of Antifa. They are not the anti-fascists - they are the fascists." She also bravely spoke up when a Dem sought to reestablish a subcommittee on civil rights in the wake of the murder of Tyre Nichols in Atlanta - "a Democrat-controlled city," she noted, and by black cops so it wasn't "racism or anything like that." Besides, she added, "I'd like to point something": That the mother of Jan. 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt was in the hearing room, and what about civil rights for Ashli and all the poor people in jail just for trying to overthrow the government, who are just like Tyre Nichols, except, noted one observer, "One was trying to get home. The other was trying to kill Nancy Pelosi."
Still, MTG's shining hour was the first Oversight hearing, which she welcomed online with, "I'm ready." And wow, was she. Seeking to uncover all the COVID fraud perpetrated by Democrats while unwittingly showing what happens when an ignorant Nazi talks to people outside their echo chamber, she cornered a comptroller for PPP loans to ask, "Can you tell me how much money went to CRT?" Guy, puzzled: "CRT?" MTG: "It's a racist curriculum used to teach children their white skin is not equal to black skin and other things." Guy: still puzzled. MTG, proud of her Ah-Hah moment: "A single elementary school in Illinois received $5.1 billion for 'equity and diversity' training." Twitter, where many noted schools can't even afford pencils these days: "Holy shit! One school got $5.1 BILLION DOLLARS!! That sounds 100% accurate and in no way made up!" Also, that might even be enough to make MTG less racist! (Illinois' share of American Rescue Plan funds was $5.1 billion.) Up next: How much did Drag Queen Story Time - "where men dress up as women and read confusing books to children" - get? An LGBTQ community center in Pennsylvania got $16,000, she declared triumphantly: "We need to look into this." Says the woman who got $183,504 in PPP loans forgiven.
There was plenty more stupid to go around. Soon after Greene's amendment bombed, her frenemy Lauren Boebert excitedly bragged on Twitter, "Congress is working as it should be and I'm proud to say all three of my amendments passed today!", prompting memes about certificates of participation, the hashtag #LaurenBoebertIsSoDumb, and suggestions, "Someone should really tell her there's a Senate." When Oversight moved on from COVID to Twitter and tech issues, Boebert delivered an impassioned speech that began, "At midnight, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2023, Newsmax was removed from DirectTV, denying 13 MILLION (sic: about 150,000) customers of this highly rated news channel." "What's next?" she shrieked. "Fox News? Will the Weather Channel be canceled if they refuse to bow to the Left's altar of climate change? What about the History Channel? The Left already wants to erase history and deny truth. What about their disdain for Christian belief?" Yada yada, says the party of book burning who think the free market is great until they disagree and want to force providers to air content the GOP wants and nothing fascist about that. "If these are the Christians taken up in the rapture," said one, "Jesus can come and get them."
And so it went. The first meeting of the Judiciary Committee devolved into an angry debate after smirky pedophile Matt Gaetz proposed an amendment that members begin meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance "to invite inspirational constituents" to join in the empty posturing. Democrat David Cicilline sought to add another amendment clarifying the pledge couldn't be led by anyone who supported an insurrection against the U.S., government, given "an affirmation of your defense of democracy" is "hard to (take) seriously" if, say, someone led a tour of seditious "tourists" on Jan. 5 or broadcast the location of Nancy Pelosi before her promised hanging on Jan. 6. Oversight's Comer said they're eager to investigate Hunter Biden's paintings - "The American people deserve transparency regarding (his) expensive art transactions" - but they have no interest whatsoever in investigating the "comically corrupt" $2 billion investment Jared Kushner got from journalist-murdering, bone-saw-wielding Saudis, to whom he long offered "unwavering support," for a private equity firm he launched the day after leaving the White House, though even Saudi watchdogs found Kushner's operation “unsatisfactory in all aspects.” Weird, that.
The mind-numbing hypocrisy integral to the GOP's "festival of disinformation" is unsurprising, of course, coming from a morally bankrupt party with nothing to offer but hate and paranoia; that "wears their unfitness for office and their personal repugnance like a badge of honor"; that regularly stoops to grotesque cruelty though, "When cruelty is the point, did you have a point to begin with?"; that's still inexplicably led by a deranged narcissist who just took the 5th almost 450 times - "Only the mob takes the 5th" - rather than incriminate himself over his measureless grift; that nonetheless bends to his garbled, vengeful marching orders even when most Americans say they don't like them. And who better to represent that shamelessness than a Speaker who put liars and election-deniers on an Ethics Committee to "restore...transparency to the halls of Congress," or who can say straight-faced that he removed competent Dems Schiff and Swalwell off the Intelligence Committee because, "I cannot put partisan loyalty ahead of national security. Integrity matters." Rick Wilson: "Man, the self-awareness-removal surgery worked really well." We are now deep down the rabbit hole.
Finally, aptly joining this laughable, terrifying cabal of charlatans is Trump-endorsed seditionist, veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, State Department defense contractor, proud hawker here and around the world of arms and riot-control gear including tear gas used against BLM protesters ("Antifa rioters") and rubber bullets fired on Hong Kong activists, maker of Paul Pelosi jokes and lockstep fascist Cory Mills, newly elected to Florida via gerrymandering after an ad proclaiming, "I fought tyranny. We battled Governments brutalizing freedoms, controlling lives, and forcing citizens to cover their faces...In America, our enemy is different" - images of masked Biden, Fauci, Pelosi - "but their objective is the same. Total. Government. Control." Mills vows to "abandon woke ideology," "unleash American energy," "defend a baby's life," "hold China accountable," and, he recently sneered, tear-gas media if they'd like. He seems nice. To celebrate his new job, he welcomed GOP cohorts to "a mission-oriented 118th Congress" by gifting each an inert, anal-suppository-like, GOP-elephant-adorned, 40mm grenade for a MK19 grenade launcher, made in Florida and developed in the Vietnam War, because nothing says comity and collaboration like a fake explosive ordinance. Each bore a note: "I look forward to working with you." He'll fit right in.
"Disorder in the house
Zombies on the lawn staggering around."
Bruce Springsteen & Warren Zevon - Disorder In The House youtu.be
Cory Mills Ad: "Control" www.youtube.com
More than two dozen members of Congress have called on top U.S. climate diplomat John Kerry to push the United Arab Emirates to replace Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, as president-designate of the United Nations COP28 meeting set to begin this November.
In a Friday letter to Kerry, 27 U.S. lawmakers wrote that "the decision to name the chief executive of one of the world's largest oil and gas companies as president of the next U.N. Climate Change Conference risks jeopardizing climate progress."
The U.A.E.'s move earlier this month to appoint al-Jaber as leader of the upcoming round of international climate negotiations has been widely condemned. So too has Kerry's celebration of the pick as "a terrific choice."
Led by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the lawmakers wrote: "To help ensure that COP28 is a serious and productive climate summit, we believe the United States should urge the United Arab Emirates to name a different lead for COP28 or, at a minimum, seek assurances that it will promote an ambitious COP28 aligned with the 1.5°C limit and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings and take concrete steps to demonstrate domestic and regional leadership toward this end."
"Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world's most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy."
Like the 26 annual U.N. climate gatherings that preceded it, COP27 ended last November with no commitment to a swift and just global phase-out of oil, gas, and coal. Despite scientists' repeated warnings that expanding fossil fuel production will intensify the deadly impacts of the climate emergency, hundreds of corporations—including several based in the U.S. and the U.A.E.—are planning to ramp up planet-heating pollution in the years ahead.
Progressive critics have connected the dots between policymakers' ongoing failure to directly confront the fossil fuel industry—whose drive to maximize short-term profits is putting the future of humanity at risk—and Big Oil's corrupting influence at U.N. climate talks. While climate justice activists were heavily policed throughout the resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt during COP27, more than 630 fossil fuel lobbyists were granted access to the meeting.
In their letter to Kerry, members of Congress argued that allowing al-Jaber to preside over debates about the scale and pace of decarbonization threatens to exacerbate this untenable situation, leading to further delays in needed climate action.
"The appointment of an oil company executive to head COP28 poses a risk to the negotiation process as well as the whole conference itself," wrote the lawmakers. "Having a fossil fuel champion in charge of the world's most important climate negotiations would be like having the CEO of a cigarette conglomerate in charge of global tobacco policy. It risks undermining the very essence of what is trying to be accomplished."
"Future COPs should require any participating company to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on energy and climate issues," they continued.
"COPs should not provide a stage for greenwashing," the members of Congress added. "They should be convenings for serious climate actors and actions. Such commonsense reforms to help restore public faith in the COP process will obviously be impossible with an oil company executive at the helm."
Signatories include Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).
The lawmakers' letter to Kerry came one day after a global network of more than 450 climate justice organizations wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres that "no COP overseen by a fossil fuel executive can be seen as legitimate."
As ExxonMobil on Tuesday joined other U.S. oil companies in reporting record 2022 earnings amid rising gas prices, consumer and climate advocates renewed calls for a Big Oil windfall profits tax.
Texas-based ExxonMobil posted a $55.7 billion profit last year, breaking not only its own previous company record—$45 billion in 2008—but setting a historic high for the Western oil industry, according to Reuters. The company's profit is a 144% increase from 2021 and, as Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn noted, "enough money to send every person in the U.S. $178 to help offset the costs of high fossil fuel costs and gas bills."
Marathon Petroleum—the top U.S. refiner—said Tuesday that it raked in $16.4 billion last year while approving a $5 billion stock buyback, and Phillips 66 reported $8.9 billion in adjusted 2022 profit, a 253% increase from 2021.
Tuesday's earnings reports came just days after Chevron announced $35.5 billion 2022 profit, also a company record, and days before Shell, BP, and Total are all expected to follow suit on the strength of profits related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the European energy crisis.
\u201cExxon clearly knows that their profits are obscene and a political liability. That\u2019s why they\u2019re coming out so hard against a windfall profits tax.\u201d— Jamie Henn (@Jamie Henn) 1675175871
Meanwhile, the average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline crept up to over $3.50 on Tuesday, with average prices by state ranging from $3.40 in Nebraska to $4.93 in Hawaii, according to the American Automobile Association.
Last year, "families across Pennsylvania paid $5 a gallon for gas while Exxon made profits that 'smashed earnings records' and Chevron posted 'record earnings," said U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), responding to recent Big Oil profit reports. "This price gouging is simply disgusting, and I'm going to get to the bottom of it."
Cassidy DiPaola, spokesperson for Stop the Oil Profiteering, lamented that "while we're getting robbed at the pump, Big Oil's obscene profits are out of control and billionaire fossil fuel CEOs are getting richer and richer."
Big Oil is shattering records precisely because of the pain the public is feeling at the pump. We're paying more for gas and electricity because Big Oil companies are gouging Americans and benefiting from a rigged system that keeps prices high in times of war and crisis. And on top of that, Big Oil CEOs are making massive bonuses and rewarding big Wall Street investors while families are having to decide between filling up their gas tanks or paying for medication and childcare.
"Enough is enough," she added. "It's time to fight back against the politicians and Big Oil CEOs who put their billions before the health and safety of our families, our communities, and our climate. We need to hold them accountable now with solutions like a windfall profits tax, and invest in clean energy solutions that can free us from expensive fossil fuels."
\u201cFossil Free Memo: Big Oil's Obscene Windfall Profits https://t.co/zOXXbzm6yw\u201d— Stop The Oil Profiteering (@Stop The Oil Profiteering) 1675184096
Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said that "Big Oil has imposed a private tax on the American people—to the tune of more than $90 billion from just two companies alone."
"It's past time for the American people to take that money back," he added. "A windfall profits tax would tax Big Oil on its inflated revenues—due only to the rising global price of oil and having nothing to do with Big Oil's costs or investments—and return the money to American consumers."
\u201cYou can\u2019t make this stuff up\u2026\n\nChevron just posted their 2022 profits and they DOUBLED what they made in 2021.\n\n$36.5 BILLION in profits. \ud83e\udd2f\n\nThese profits are coming right out of your pockets.\n\nIt\u2019s time for a gas price gouging penalty to keep greedy oil companies in check.\u201d— Office of the Governor of California (@Office of the Governor of California) 1674835327
Last March, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to tax excess oil company profits and use the proceeds to pay American households a quarterly refund. That same month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Ending Corporate Greed Act, which would tax windfall profits of major corporations at a rate of 95%.
While President Joe Biden has threatened to support a windfall profits tax on oil companies if they don't ramp up production, he has not yet done so.
Responding to the increasing calls for taxing excess Big Oil earnings, ExxonMobil chief financial officer Kathryn Mikells told Reuters that windfall profits taxes are "unlawful and bad policy," and would have "the opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve."
\u201cExxon made $6.3 million PER HOUR last year, while our communities paid the price for costly climate disasters the company continues to fuel. #MakePollutersPay\u201d— Mike Meno (@Mike Meno) 1675175357
In a Reuters opinion piece published Tuesday, Sandrine Dixson-Declève, co-president of the Club of Rome and project lead for Earth4All initiative, wrote that "oil and gas companies are perhaps the most flagrant example of our upside-down world."
"Despite being responsible for the majority of the emissions that cause climate change, they continue to make higher and higher profits," she explained. "At the same time, vulnerable people in the lowest-income countries, who have done the least to cause climate change and are most impacted by the extreme weather events caused by a warming world, are getting poorer."
"There is absolutely no reason not to tax windfall profits in all sectors, in particular when they have been made during periods of scarcity and speculation when the rest of the world is worse off," Dixson-Declève added. "Ending tax incentives and subsidies for fossil fuels is simply a no-brainer in a world where climate change is already costing untold financial and human losses every year."
Close to 80% of voters in GOP Rep. George Santos' New York congressional district want him to resign—including 71% of Republicans—according to a poll published Tuesday, the same day the serial liar temporarily stepped down from his House committee assignments.
According to the Newsday/Siena College poll, Santos' overall approval rating is an abysmal 7%, with 83% disapproval. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said Santos should resign, including 89% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans, and 72% of Independents.
"Talk about buyers' remorse," Siena College Research Institute director Don Levy said in a statement. "Voters elected George Santos by a comfortable margin not even three months ago. But today, the vast majority of his new constituents—including the vast majority of those who voted for him—want him gone."
"Discouragingly, three-quarters or more of voters of every party say that Santos' behavior and now his refusing to resign show that our political system is broken, not that his behavior says little about the state of our politics," Levy added.
The survey of registered voters in New York's 3rd Congressional District was conducted last week.
\u201cSpecial Newsday / Siena College NY 3 Congressional District Poll:\nNY 3 Voters Say Santos Should Resign 78-13%, Including 71% of Reps\n\nhttps://t.co/29pwfP7Tx4\u201d— SienaResearch (@SienaResearch) 1675161006
From intrigue surrounding how his net worth skyrocketed from almost nothing to $11 million in less than two years; to demonstrable lies about his education, employment history, residence, and purported Jewish heritage; to allegations of fraud perpetrated in Brazil and against a U.S. combat veteran and his dying dog, Santos' lies have dominated his short congressional career.
On Tuesday, Santos said he would temporarily step down from the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee amid investigations into his campaign finances. The embattled congressman thanked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for "allowing me to take time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees."
Responding to this, the political action group MoveOn tweeted: "Stepping down from committees is just the start. Santos needs to resign."
A coalition of more than 1,300 climate and racial justice groups from across the United States on Monday joined a call for an independent investigation into the police killing of forest defender Manuel Paez Terán earlier this month, and demanded the resignation of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old activist and medic—known as Tortuguita—Dickens "has still failed to condemn the killing," said the groups, and has instead opted "to condemn protestors and parrot the rhetoric of extreme right-wing governor Brian Kemp."
Tortuguita was shot and killed on January 18 when a joint task force including Atlanta police officers raided an encampment at Weelaunee forest. The forest is the site of a proposed $90 million police training facility known as Cop City.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality."
Over the weekend Dickens, a Democrat, condemned people who have protested Tortuguita's killing in Atlanta, accusing protesters of traveling to the city to "wreak havoc" at demonstrations that were overwhelmingly peaceful.
"Within a few hours of the shooting, Dickens tweeted support for [an] injured state trooper and completely ignored the death at the hands of a task force which included Atlanta police officers on his watch," wrote the groups, which include People vs. Fossil Fuels, Jewish Voice for Peace, Climate Justice Alliance, and Oil Change International. "As a growing number of Atlanta residents, national and global news outlets, and human rights and environmental organizations worldwide call for an investigation of the police narrative of Tortuguita's death, Dickens has dismissed their concerns. He has refused to bring any scrutiny to the one-sided and unsubstantiated recounting of events. Dickens has yet to offer condolences to the slain protestor's family."
The groups noted that Dickens and the Atlanta City Council have the authority to terminate the land lease for Cop City in the forest and called for the mayor to do so immediately, denouncing his strong support for the Atlanta Police Foundation's proposal.
"His championing of Cop City occurs against the backdrop of a continued investment in the gentrification of Atlanta and a continued disinvestment of affordable housing for a city identified as having the country's highest level of wealth inequality," said the groups. "Mayor Dickens can somehow find $90 million dollars for Cop City, one third of which will come from taxpayer money. Still, he can't find money to keep our already overwhelmed hospitals open or to finance much-needed affordable housing."
Ikiya Collective, a signatory of the letter, noted that the training slated to take place at Cop City "will impact organizing across the country" as police are trained to respond to popular uprisings.
"This is a national issue," said the collective. "Climate justice and police brutality are interconnected, which is why we are joining the Stop Cop City calls to action with the frontline communities in Atlanta."
"It is imperative that we demand an independent investigation into the police murder of Manuel 'Tortuguita' Paez Terán," said Ikiya Collective. "We join calls for the termination of the lease and for Mayor Dickens' resignation."
A pair of reports published Thursday show that many workers employed in the U.S. military-industrial complex support shifting manufacturing resources from military to civilian use—a conversion seen as vital to the fight against the climate emergency.
Moving "from a war economy to a green economy" can help avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis, noted the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute, publisher of the new research.
"Ever-higher military spending is contributing to climate catastrophe, and U.S. lawmakers need a better understanding of alternative economic choices," Stephanie Savell, co-director of Costs of War, said in a statement. "Military industrial production can be redirected to civilian technologies that contribute to societal well-being and provide green jobs. This conversion can both decarbonize the economy and create prosperity in districts across the nation."
In one of the papers released Thursday, Miriam Pemberton, an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, described "how the United States developed a war economy," as reflected in its massive $858 billion military budget, which accounts for roughly half of all federal discretionary spending.
As Pemberton explained:
When the U.S. military budget decreased after the Cold War, military contractors initiated a strategy to protect their profits by more widely connecting jobs to military spending. They did this by spreading their subcontracting chains across the United States and creating an entrenched war economy. Perhaps the most infamous example: Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jet, which is built in 45 states.
The strategy proved successful. Today, many members of Congress have political incentives to continue to raise the military budget, in order to protect jobs in their districts. Much of the U.S. industrial base is invested in and focused on weapons production, and industry lobbyists won't let Congress forget it.
Not only is the Pentagon a major contributor to planet-heating pollution—emitting more greenhouse gases than 140 countries—and other forms of environmental destruction, but a 2019 Costs of War study showed that "dollar for dollar, military spending creates far fewer jobs than spending on other sectors like education, healthcare, and mass transit," Pemberton continued.
Moreover, "military spending creates jobs that bring wealth to some people and businesses, but do not alleviate poverty or result in widely-shared prosperity," Pemberton wrote. "In fact, of the 20 states with economies most dependent on military manufacturing, 14 experience poverty at similar or higher rates than the national average."
"A different way is possible," she stressed, pointing to a pair of military conversion case studies.
"The only way to really lower emissions of the military is you've got to make the military smaller."
As military budgets were shrinking in 1993, Lockheed was eager to expand its reach into non-military production.
"One of its teams working on fighter jets at a manufacturing facility in Binghamton, New York successfully shifted its specialized skills to produce a system for transit buses that cut fuel consumption, carbon emissions, maintenance costs, and noise, called 'HybriDrive,'" Pemberton explained.
By 1999, Lockheed "sold the facility producing HybriDrive buses and largely abandoned its efforts to convert away from dependence on military spending," she wrote. "But under the new management of BAE Systems, the hybrid buses and their new zero-emission models are now reducing emissions" in cities around the world.
According to Pemberton, "This conversion project succeeded where others have failed largely because its engineers took seriously the differences between military and civilian manufacturing and business practices, and adapted their production accordingly."
In another paper released Thursday, Karen Bell, a senior lecturer in sustainable development at the University of Glasgow, sought to foreground "the views of defense sector workers themselves," noting that they "have been largely absent, despite their importance for understanding the feasibility of conversion."
Bell surveyed 58 people currently and formerly employed in military-related jobs in the U.S. and the United Kingdom and found that "while some workers said that the defense sector is 'socially useful,' many were frustrated with their field and would welcome working in the green economy."
"This was a small group so we cannot generalize to defense workers overall," writes Bell. "However, even among this small cohort, some were interested in converting their work to civil production and would be interested in taking up 'green jobs.'"
One respondent told Bell: "Just greenwashing isn't going to do it. Just putting solar panels up isn't going to do it. So we're trying to stress that the only way to really lower emissions of the military is you've got to make the military smaller."
"By the way, do we really need to update all our ICBMs [Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles]?" the survey participant asked. "Don't we have enough to blow up the world three times over, or five times over? Why don't we take those resources and use them someplace else where they really should be?"
"It's hard to exaggerate the importance of this visit more than two decades since Guantánamo was open to hold detainees beyond the reach of the law," said one ACLU official.
For the first time ever, a United Nations human rights and counterterrorism expert will visit the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a U.N. office announced Wednesday.
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Irish attorney and law professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin—the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism—will visit Guantánamo as part of a "technical visit to the United States" from February 6-14.
In addition to visiting the prison, OHCHR said Ní Aoláin will "carry out a series of interviews with individuals in the United States and abroad, on a voluntary basis," including victims and relatives of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and former Guantánamo detainees in countries where they have been repatriated or resettled.
Human rights advocates welcomed the development.
"We commend the Biden administration for agreeing to let a U.N. human rights expert visit Guantánamo, finally ending a shameful U.S. government moratorium that sought to establish a prison outside the reach of law," Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said in a statement.
\u201cFirst-ever visit by a UN human rights expert to Guantanamo. It\u2019s hard to exaggerate the importance of this visit more than 2 decades since Guantanamo was open to hold detainees beyond the reach of the law. Let\u2019s hope it signals real movement towards ending this shameful atrocity.\u201d— Jamil Dakwar (@Jamil Dakwar) 1675275471
"International human rights norms and institutions are integral to preventing the torture, indefinite detention, and unfair trials that now symbolize Guantánamo globally," Shamsi added. "It should never have taken two decades, but we're encouraged to see the basic principle of U.N. rights officials' independent access to all sites of detention and detainees respected at long last by our country."
Since it was first opened in January 2002 by the George W. Bush administration in the early months of the so-called War on Terror, Guantánamo, or Gitmo in U.S. military parlance, has imprisoned 779 men and boys. Many of them were tortured, and only a handful were ever charged with any crime. According to retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson—who served as chief of staff to Bush-era Secretary of State Colin Powell—Bush, along with Dick Cheney, his vice president, and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, knew that most Gitmo prisoners were innocent, but kept them locked up for political reasons.
Although then-Presdident Barack Obama—under whom President Joe Biden served as vice president—signed executive orders meant to close Guantánamo and end torture, he was blocked by Congress from implementing the former policy, while torture continued at Gitmo during his tenure.
"International human rights norms and institutions are integral to preventing the torture, indefinite detention, and unfair trials that now symbolize Guantánamo globally."
Hundreds of Guantánamo detainees were released during the Bush and Obama administrations, with a relative handful freed under Biden. Today, 35 men remain locked up at Gitmo. According to the Pentagon, 20 of them are cleared for release while nine—including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—have ongoing cases before military commissions from which numerous prosecutors have resigned amid allegations of rigging to secure convictions.
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an activist group, said in a statement that it "deeply appreciates the willingness of the special rapporteur's office and the Biden administration to work together to make her visit to Guantánamo possible."
"As 9/11 family members, we remain gravely concerned about the absence of justice within the military commission system," the group added. "We welcome the commitment of the special rapporteur to the human rights of victims of terrorism and we hope that her work can inform a path forward to judicial finality for family members, the accused, and all those affected by 9/11 and its aftermath."
Biden—whose former press secretary said closing Guantánamo is "our goal and our intention"—has been criticized for failing to do so two years into his administration and 21 years after the prison opened.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand," said the Atlanta Community Press Collective. "Ours is, 'Cop city must never be built—not here, not anywhere."
As Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced Tuesday that construction of the $90 million, 85-acre police and fire training center known as "Cop City" will proceed under what Dickens called a "compromise," critics of the project had a resounding message: "Defend the Atlanta Forest. Stop Cop City."
Speaking during a Tuesday press conference at Atlanta City Hall, Dickens, a Democrat, outlined changes to the project. Acknowledging "concerns about the environmental impact" of the project, the mayor said a 100-foot tree buffer would be added, and that 100 new hardwood trees would be planted for each one destroyed during construction. Dickens also said the complex's firing range would be moved further away from a nearby residential area.
Dickens also defended the type of police training that would take place at the facility, saying it "includes vital areas like de-escalation training techniques, mental health, community-oriented policing, crisis intervention training, as well as civil rights history and education."
However, activists—many of whom protested inside and outside City Hall chanting slogans including "APD, shut it down," referencing the Atlanta Police Department, and "Cop City will never be built"—were not swayed in their opposition to the project.
"Our firm line is no Cop City anywhere," Jasmine Burnett, organizing director at Community Movement Builders, told Unicorn Riot outside City Hall. "No destruction of the forest at all. I know, they're trying to harp on the fact that it's only 85 acres. And allegedly, the rest will be left for public use. But that's 85 acres too much."
\u201cRIGHT NOW: Protesters outside City Hall ahead of an announcement of amended plans to move forward with the future site of the Atlanta public safety training center\u201d— Joe Ripley (@Joe Ripley) 1675185881
"We are also calling for the charges to be dropped against all of the protesters who've been charged with any crimes, but especially the domestic terrorism charges," Burnett added, referring to the 19 nonviolent protesters facing prosecution under a 2017 Georgia law that expanded the definition of "domestic terrorism" to include certain property crimes.
Over the objections of environmental, racial justice, Indigenous, and other groups, the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF)—a private organization whose backers include major corporations like Amazon, Home Depot, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and UPS—was given permission in 2021 to build what's officially called the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center in the Weelaunee Forest in DeKalb County just outside Atlanta city limits. Cop City would be built on land stolen from the Muscogee people, many of whom were forced westward during the genocidal Trail of Tears period.
Last month, militarized police shot and killed Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, a 26-year-old protester also known as "Tortuguita" who allegedly opened fire on them, during a raid to violently clear forest defenders from the site. While a few federal lawmakers have called for an independent probe, Georgia Democrats including U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have said little to nothing about the killing, or about Cop City in general.
Also protesting outside City Hall on Tuesday, community organizer Micah Herskind said: "How dare they stand in front of people and say, 'Oh, this plan, where we're tearing down trees, is actually good for people, and it's good for the economy, and it's—you know, it's actually going to protect people?' It's obviously false, and I hope that it's reported as such, because it's such classic, blatant spin, that they're taking us for fools if they think anyone would believe that tearing down trees and putting cement over it is protecting the environment. That's outrageous."
\u201cThere is no compromise between the movement and the government. \n\nThe fact that they feel the need to say there is shows that we are winning.\n\nNo more backroom deals. No more empty promises.\n\nNo Cop City.\nNo land-swap.\nNo more repression.\n\nWe are close. Keep fighting.\u201d— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@Defend the Atlanta Forest) 1675190179
In a statement, the Atlanta Community Press Collective said that "like all other points of 'compromise,' this has proved empty rhetoric to cover over the undemocratic railroading of this project on to unrepresented, disenfranchised residents of Atlanta and DeKalb County. This is more backroom talk between powerful elites and their dark money contributors."
"Now, the city, DeKalb County, the APF, the funders and builders of Cop City collectively have blood on their hands, and it seems they are willing to get bloodier: These are the people in power goose-stepping us to climate apocalypse," the collective continued. "Police continue to kill at higher and higher rates. In 2022, more people in the U.S. were killed than in any other year on record. The police and their corporate and political backers have used lies, misinformation, and distorted half-truths at every step of this process. Why should we believe a word they say?"
"Power concedes nothing without a demand," the authors asserted. "Ours is: 'Cop city must never be built—not here, not anywhere. Not one blade of grass! Not one tree! Free the prisoners, drop the charges!'"
"The fight continues. The movement to stop Cop City is only growing," they added. "On February 19-26 we are calling for a Week of Solidarity to Stop Cop City, with protests throughout the U.S .and around the world."
One advocate said the proposal "proves that the bullying behavior of companies who abuse Americans for their own profit will not stand from the CFPB."
The Biden administration on Wednesday was widely praised for unveiling proposed regulatory changes that could save American families up to $9 billion a year by cracking down on unfair credit card late fees from U.S. banks.
"Over a decade ago, Congress banned excessive credit card late fees, but companies have exploited a regulatory loophole that has allowed them to escape scrutiny for charging an otherwise illegal junk fee," said Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra. "Today's proposed rule seeks to save families billions of dollars and ensure the credit card market is fair and competitive."
The CFPB proposed amending regulations related to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act to ensure that late fees—now as high as $41—are "reasonable and proportional" to the costs incurred by companies. The rule would limit most late fees to $8, ban fees greater than 25% of the required payment, and end automatic annual inflation adjustments.
"Regulations seldom deliver such concrete benefits to consumers as the plan that the CFPB has set in motion today."
Like Chopra, Liz Zelnick, director of economic security and corporate power at Accountable.US, highlighted that "despite Congress' ban on excessive late fees, the Federal Reserve's loophole has allowed greedy credit card companies to collect exorbitant charges that were designed to profit from consumers living paycheck-to-paycheck."
"The CFPB's crackdown on these exploitative charges will redirect billions from the pockets of big banks to consumers' wallets and our economy," she said. "Today's rule proposal proves that the bullying behavior of companies who abuse Americans for their own profit will not stand from the CFPB."
Elyse Hicks, consumer policy counsel at Americans for Financial Reform, pointed out that "regulations seldom deliver such concrete benefits to consumers as the plan that the CFPB has set in motion today."
"This agenda, created after the financial crisis in 2008, is as relevant as ever, looking out for Americans' financial interests, and keeping an eye on the big banks and predatory lenders who would rip them off," Hicks added.
The proposal comes as the Fed on Wednesday is expected to yet again raise the interest rate for interbank lending, despite repeated warnings from progressive economists and advocates about the negative impacts for working people. The U.S. central bank's federal funds rate influences the interest rates used by credit card companies.
\u201cExcellent work by @CFPB! This proposal to end excessive #creditcard #latefees could save consumers $9 billion if adopted. It will have a \ud835\udc2b\ud835\udc1e\ud835\udc1a\ud835\udc25, \ud835\udc26\ud835\udc1e\ud835\udc1a\ud835\udc27\ud835\udc22\ud835\udc27\ud835\udc20\ud835\udc1f\ud835\udc2e\ud835\udc25 impact on the lives of everyday consumers. This is what it means to #ProtectConsumers! #DefendCFPB\u201d— NCLC (@NCLC) 1675266399
The CFBP's announcement also coincided with a Presidential Competition Council meeting. National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told reporters Tuesday that Biden would use the Wednesday meeting to urge Congress to pass legislation targeting "junk" fees from airlines, online event ticketing services, resorts, and internet, phone, and television providers.
"These fees can be incredibly frustrating for typical Americans who have to travel or who are seeking to just engage in practical ways in our economy, like accessing internet services—they cost consumers billions of dollars a year, they make it harder for people to comparison shop," Deese said during a press call, according to CNN. "But they also reduce competition and make it more difficult for innovators and new businesses to break into markets and offer better services at lower prices."
Applauding Biden's moves, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said Wednesday that "the hidden fees attached to airline, concert, hotel, and telephone or internet bills are obscene... It's time for companies to stop hiding their real prices, and start being honest with their consumers."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) similarly praised the administration's "efforts to protect consumers," declaring that "Congress should follow President Biden's lead and crack down on junk fees on tickets, airfare, internet, hotels, and more."
Warren also celebrated the credit card fee proposal from the CFPB—her brainchild—calling the rule "terrific news."