John Galbraith (1908 – 2006):
To a very large extent … we associate truth with convenience — with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life.
(The Affluent Society, 4th Edition, Penguin, 1984, p 7)
Al Gore (1948):
[Human] nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable …
Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. …
(Climate of Denial, Rolling Stone, 22 June 2011)
The is no investment that gives a higher return on investment than political influence. …
Instead of companies innovating, coming up with better products, serving society better, it's cheaper for them to buy politicians.
Jim Hightower (1943):
A corporation isn't a person until Texas executes one!
We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture …
People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed.
We must shape a new mentality.
Man's desires must overshadow his needs.
John Keynes (1883 – 1946):
Consumption, of course, is the sole end of economic activity.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919):
The Republican party is now facing a great crisis.
It is to decide:
- whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or
- whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln's most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and without Wall Street which desire through their control over the servants of the public to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled.
William Niskanen (1933 – 2011) [Chairman Emeritus, Cato Institute, 2008-11]:
[Corporations] have become sufficiently powerful to pose a threat to governments …
[In particular,] multinational corporations, who will have much less dependence upon the positions of particular governments, much less loyalty in that sense. …
Lee Raymond [CEO, ExxonMobil, 1999-2005]:
[We are] not a US company and I don't make decisions based on what's good for the US.
James Madison (1751 – 1836):
A zeal for different opinions [has] divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.
(Federalist No 10)
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826):
[The] selfish spirit of commerce … knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain. …
I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country. …
Al Gore (1948):
The tainted election of 1876 (deadlocked on election night by disputed electoral votes in the state of Florida) was … settled in secret negotiations in which corporate wealth and power played the decisive role …
Rutherford B Hayes [19th President of the United States, 1877-81]:(The Future, 2014)
[This] is a government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer.
It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.
The Public Interest
The Assault on Reason
Al Gore (1948)
45th Vice President of the United States (1993-2001).
- The Future, W H Allen, 2014.
Power in the Balance
The Long Reach of Corporations
Between 1888 and 1908, 700,000 American workers were killed in industrial accidents — approximately 100 every day. …
In 1853, the US Supreme Court voided and made unenforceable a contingency contract involving lobbying — in part because those providing the money did so in secret.
The justices concluded that such lobbying was harmful to public policy because it
tends to corrupt or contaminate, by improper influences, the integrity of our … political institutions [and] sully the purity or mislead the judgments of those to whom the high trust of legislation is confided [with] undue influences [that have] all the injurious effects of a direct fraud on the public. …Twenty years later, the US Supreme Court addressed the question once again, invalidating contingency contracts for lobbyists with these words:
If any of the great corporations of the country were to hire adventurers who make market of themselves in this way, to procure the passage of a general law with a view to the promotion of their private interests, the moral sense of every right-minded man would instinctively denounce the employer and employed as steeped in corruption, and the employment as infamous.(p 107)
If the instances were numerous, open and tolerated, they would be regarded as measuring the decay of the public morals and the degeneracy of the times.
It was during [Robber Baron era of the 1880s and 1890s] that the US Supreme Court first designated corporations as "persons" entitled to some of the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment …
The Progressive movement at the turn of the twentieth century began implementing new laws to rein in corporate power …
[However,] the Supreme Court sharply limited … the application and enforcement of virtually all Progressive legislation.
[TR] established the Bureau of Corporations inside his new Department of Commerce and Labor.
He launched an antitrust suit to break up JP Morgan's Northern Securities Corporation, which included 112 corporations worth a combined $571 billion (in 2012 dollars) [amounting to]
… twice the total assessed value of all property in thirteen states in the southern United SuitesThis was followed by forty more antitrust suits.
A seemingly inexhaustible source of presidential energy, Roosevelt also passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and protected more than 230 million acres of land, including the Gland Canyon, the Muir Woods, and the Tongass forest reserve — all while building the Panama Canal …
He proposed that the US "prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes," and … argued that the Constitution "does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation."
Thanks in part to his vigorous advocacy, the Progressive movement gained strength, passing a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court's prohibition against an income tax, enacting an inheritance tax, and enacting numerous regulations to rein in corporate abuses.
In the turbulent decade of the 1960s, however, the seeds of a corporate-led counter-reform movement were planted.
After the assassination of President John R Kennedy in the fall of 1965, a variety of social reform movements swept the nation …
- The civil rights movement,
- the women's movement
- the first gay rights demonstrations,
- the consumer rights movement,
- Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and
- the escalating protests against the [Vietnam War …]
Lewis Powell (1907 – 1998) [Supreme Court Justice, 1972-87]:
[The counterculture movement represents] ideological warfare against the [free] enterprise system and the values of Western society.
[Business must strenuously defend itself against] this massive assault
- upon its fundamental economics,
- upon its philosophy,
- upon its right to manage its own affairs, and …
- upon its integrity …
[In] a secret 1971 memo that Lewis Powell … wrote two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court [he warned that the] greatest threat to free enterprise … was not Communism or the New Left but, rather, 'respectable elements of society' — intellectuals, journalists, and scientists.
(Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, The New Yorker, 30 August 2010)
Powell, a Richmond lawyer then best known for representing the tobacco industry after the surgeon general's 1964 linkage of cigarettes to lung cancer, wrote a lengthy and historic 1971 memorandum for the US Chamber of Commerce in which he presented a comprehensive plan for a sustained and massively funded long-term effort to change the nature of the US Congress, state legislatures, and the judiciary in order to tilt the balance in favor of corporate interests.
Powell was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Nixon two months later — though his plan … was not disclosed publicly until long after his confirmation hearings.
Justice Powell [invented the] novel concept of "corporate speech," which he found to be protected by the First Amendment.
[And in 1978 he] wrote the opinion in a 5-4 decision that for the first time struck down state laws prohibiting corporate money in an election …
Thirty-two years later, [with the Citizens United (2010) decision,] the US Supreme Court [extended] Powell's opinion to allow wealthy individual donors to contribute unlimited amounts to campaigns secretly …
More than half (53) of the 100 largest economies on Earth are now corporations.
Exxon-Mobil … has a larger economic impact than the nation of Norway.
For the last forty years, pursuant to the Powell Plan,
- [Corporations] and conservative ideologues have … focused on the selection of Supreme Court justices favorable to their cause …
- [The] number of corporate political action committees exploded from less than 90 to 1,500.
- The number of corporations with registered corporate lobbyists increased from 175 to 2,500.
- [The] recorded expenditures by lobbyists increased from $100 million in 1975 to $3.5 billion per year in 2010.
(The US Chamber of Commerce continues to top the list of lobbying expenditures, with more than $100 million per year …)
- [In] the 1970s, only 3% of retiring members of Congress gained employment as lobbyists; now, more than 50% of retiring senators and more than 40% of retiring House members become lobbyists.
Compared to the other nineteen advanced industrial democracies in the [OECD], the United States has
- the highest inequality of incomes and the highest poverty rate;
- the lowest "material well-being of children" according to the United Nations' index,
- the highest child poverty rate and the highest infant mortality rate;
- the biggest prison population and the highest homicide rate;
- the biggest expenditures on health care and the largest percentage of its citizens unable to afford health care.
The inequality in the distribution of [political power,] wealth, property, and income in the United States is now larger than at any time since 1929.
War and Peace
[The US] military budget is larger than those of the next fifty other nations combined. …
[Since] 1940, the US has spent $5.5 trillion on its nuclear war fighting capability — more than on any other program besides Social Security …
The US continues to dominate the international trade in weapons of all kinds …
[In 2010, 52.7%] of all of the military weapons sold to countries around the world originate[d] in the United States.
The Growth of Cities
During the last century alone, we quadrupled the human population.
[It] took 200,000 years for our species to [generate the first one billion human beings, compared to thirteen years for the seventh billion.]
In the next thirteen years, we will add another billion, and yet another billion just fourteen years after that — for a total of nine billion souls by the middle of this century.
Hunger and Obesity
[Almost] 17% of US children are obese today, as are almost 7% of all children in the world.
[About] 77% of obese children will [go on to] suffer from obesity as adults. …
[The] cost of treating … obesity-related diseases [— diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, kidney failure and colon, breast and endometrial cancers —] consumes roughly 10 to 20% of US health care spending each year.
Quality calories in fruits and vegetables now cost ten times as much as calories per gram in sweets and foods abundant in starch. …
Relative price, limitation of access to healthy food, increased inactivity, and the cumulative effects of massive food advertising campaigns all contribute in the obesity epidemic. …
When the US government introduced healthier foods into the school lunch program in 2012, students at many schools launched protests on social media and threw the healthier food away.
In many countries, there is an almost precise correlation between the introduction of American fast food outlets and climbing obesity rates.
The impact of obesity on the world's resources is equivalent of adding an extra one billion people to the planet.
The Origins of Mass Marketing
Known as the "father of public relations," [Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward] Bernays … coined the phrase "public relations" in order to avoid using the word "propaganda" …
[One of his early clients was the American Tobacco company.]
[In order to] break down the social taboo against women smoking cigarettes [Bernays] hired a group of women to dress as suffragettes and march in formation in a parade down Fifth Avenue in New York City on Easter Sunday, 1929.
When they reached the section of elevated seats reserved for the press, the faux suffragettes all pulled out cigarettes, lit them up, and proclaimed them to be "freedom torches."
Decades later, the iconic cigarette advertisement aimed at women — "You've come a long way baby" — was still using Bernays's innovative but sinister association of smoking with women's rights.
A Swelling Population
Half of the global growth in population over the next four decades is projected to take place in Africa, which is projected to more than triple its present population, to an astonishing 3.6 billion by the end of this century.
[The four keys to controlling population growth,] all of which are necessary but none of which, by itself, is sufficient, are:
- First, the education of girls — the single most powerful factor. …
- Second, the empowerment of women in society …
- Third, the ubiquitous availability of fertility management knowledge and technology …
- Fourth, low infant mortality rates.
Partially as a result, anticipated declines in fertility rates have not been achieved — especially in Africa …
The Changing Family
41% of children in the US are now born to unmarried women. …
Among African American mothers … the percentage is now 73%. …
[Women] make up less than 20% of elected parliaments, with the highest percentage (42%) in the Nordic countries and the lowest percentage (11.4%) in the Arab states.
The United States is barely above the global average.
In most wealthy industrial countries, birth rates have fallen so swiftly that some now have declining populations. …
Sweden and France … spend roughly 4% of their national income on programs that support families and make it easier for working parents to have children if they wish:
- generous maternity and paternity leave,
- free preschool,
- affordable high-quality child care,
- excellent child and maternal health care,
- protections for women returning to their career paths after having children, and other benefits. …
By contrast, Japan and Italy have failed to provide such services and [as] a result, they will soon face great difficulty in financing pensions because of a dramatic change in the ratio of their working-age population to their retired population.
[More] than half of the babies born in developed countries after the year 2000 are projected to live past the age of 100.
In the United States, more than half of the babies born in 2007 will live to be more than 104. …
[By contrast,] the average human lifespan for most of the last 200,000 years was probably less than thirty years …
In the last 150 years, however, average lifespans worldwide have climbed to sixty-nine — and in most industrial countries are now in the high seventies. …
Improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and health care — particularly the introduction of antibiotics, vaccines, and other modern medicines — have played the most important roles in increasing lifespans.
Almost 44 million people around the world have been forced from their nations of origin by conflict or persecution — of which 15.4 million are classified as refugees — and another 27.5 million people have been [internally displaced. …]
… 70% of current refugees have been in that status for more than five years …
Twelve million among them are stateless …
The two largest source countries for refugees are Afghanistan and Iraq. …
[Three] quarters of refugees worldwide are hosted in nations neighboring their country of origin.
[Climate] refugees are expected from Africa, where approximately 800 lakes have dried up completely in the last decade, including the former largest lake in Africa, Lake Chad …
Kurt Campbell [Assistant US Secretary of State]:(p 182)
[The] expected decline in food production and fresh drinking water, combined with the increased conflict sparked by resource scarcity [is likely to produce] a surge in the number of Muslim immigrants to the European Union (EU), [doubling Europe's Muslim population within the next twelve years,] and it will be much larger if, as we expect, the effects of climate change spur additional migration from Africa and South Asia. …
The number of climate refugees … could potentially involve more than 200 million people in this century [as populations] move away from the mega-deltas of South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, and Egypt.
Security And Stability
Nine of the ten hottest years ever recorded … occurred in the last ten years. …
[Unprecedented] heat waves in Europe … killed 70,000 people [in 2003, and 55,000] in Russia in 2010 …
October 2012 was the 332nd month in a row when global temperatures were above the twentieth-century average.
[The latest research] shows that food crop yields are likely to decline much more rapidly with higher temperatures than previously believed, and that the CO2 fertilization effect is much smaller than predicted.
Moreover, weeds appear to benefit from extra CO2 much more than food crops.
[Corn (maize) is] the most widely grown crop in the world …
[Yields] could fall by as much as a third from heat stress alone, with the impact of worsening droughts and the disruption of precipitation patterns taking a larger toll still. …
[Evidence suggests that] each degree increase in nighttime temperatures corresponds with a linear decrease in wheat yields.
[Between] 1980 and 2010 showed that worldwide wheat production fell due to climate-related factors by 5.5%.
[Similarly,] yields of rice declined by 10% with each one degree Celsius increase in nighttime temperatures during the dry part of the growing season …
Crop diseases and pests are also increasing with global warming.
[Approximately] one quarter of all ocean species spend at least part of their lifecycles in, on, and around reefs. …
Between 1977 and 2001, 80% of the coral reefs in the Caribbean were lost. …
In 2012, the Australian Institute of Marine Science announced that half of the Great Barrier Reef corals had died in just the previous twenty-seven years. …
[Many scientists are] now convinced that virtually all corals are likely to be killed off by the combination of
- [the highest ocean acidity in last 300 million years,]
- higher temperatures,
- pollution, and
- overfishing of species important to reef health.
The Politics Of Division
The large public multinational fossil fuel companies have an estimated $7 trillion in assets that are at risk if the global scientific consensus is accepted by publics and governments around the world. …
In 2012, a member of the royal family, Prince Turki al-Faisal, called for Saudi Arabia to convert its domestic energy use to 100% renewables in order to preserve its oil reserves for sale to the rest of the world.
Right-wing legal foundations and think tanks have repeatedly sued climate scientists and vilified them in public statements.
Right-wing members of Congress have repeatedly sought to slash climate research funding.
The Denial Machine
[The] BBC nature program The Frozen Planet was edited before the Discovery Network showed it in the United States to remove the discussion of global warming.
The Impact Of Fracking
[The fracking of shale gas] results in the leakage of enormous quantities of methane (the principal component of natural gas), which is more than seventy-two times as potent as CO2 in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a twenty-year time frame.
[Due to these so-called fugitive emissions] virtually all of the benefit natural gas might have because of its lower carbon content compared to coal is negated. …
The requirement of an average of five million gallons of water for each well is already causing conflict in regions suffering from droughts and water shortages. …
The US Environmental Protection Agency has found that the fluids used to drill for gas in Wyoming are the likely cause of [contamination of] the aquifer above an area that was fracked there.
[However,] EPA has been hampered in its [investigation of fracking in other areas due to] a special exemption [from the federal] Fresh Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act [passed at the instigation of Dick Cheney in 2005.]
Rex Tillerson [CEO, ExxonMobil]:(p 331)
The consequences of a misstep in a well, while large to the immediate people that live around that well, in the great scheme of things are pretty small.
[The advent] of shale gas [has] temporarily depressed energy prices to the point where renewable energy technologies have more trouble competing …
Although public opposition in the US has contributed to cancellation of 166 [proposed] new coal plants … coal use is still growing [globally.]
An estimated 1,200 new coal plants are now planned in 59 countries.
[Consequently,] the global use of coal is expected to increase by another 65% in the next two decades, replacing oil as the single largest source of energy worldwide.
Oil is considered cheap, primarily because the … accounting system we use for measuring its cost arbitrarily excludes … consideration of all of the harm caused by burning it.
[The] growing meat intensity of diets around the world has an especially large impact on land use because each pound of animal protein requires the consumption of more than seven pounds of plant protein. …
In Russia's boreal forest — by far the largest continuous expanse of trees on the planet — the larch trees that used to predominate are disappearing and are being replaced by spruce and fir.
When the needles of the larch fall in the winter, unlike those of the spruce and fir, the sunlight passing through the barren limbs is reflected by the snow cover back into space, keeping the ground frozen.
By contrast, when the conifer needles stay on the trees and absorb the heat energy from the sunlight, temperatures at ground level increase, thus accelerating the melting of the snow and the thawing of the tundra. …
In the last decade, more than 27 million acres (110,000 square kilometers) of forests the Western US and Canada have been devastated by [outbreaks of mountain pine beetle.]
The drought conditions weaken the trees and make them more vulnerable to beetles.
[Furthermore, the frequency of forest fires is increasing] in direct proportion to the rising temperatures. …
The great northern boreal forest of Canada and Alaska may have already become a net contributor to CO2 levels in the atmosphere, rather than a net "sink" …
[The] net loss of forests has slowed in recent years, primarily due to the planting of new forests and due to the natural regrowth of trees on abandoned agricultural land. …
[Over] the last several years, China has planted 40% as many trees as the rest of the world put together [—] approximately 100 million acres of new trees.
Following China, the countries with the largest net gains in trees include the US, India, Vietnam, and Spain.
[Approximately] 60% of the carbon that used to be stored in soils, trees, and other vegetation has been released to the atmosphere by land clearing for agriculture and urbanization since 1800. …
The diversion of cropland to biofuel plantations … results in a net increase in CO2 …
The Path Forward
In the United States … approximately $4 billion each year [in subsidies] go in carbon fuel companies. …
Yet, the large carbon polluters and their [free-market] allies have been working hard to eliminate subsidies for renewable energy before these clean technologies can become competitive [— despite the fact that] global subsidies for [fossil fuels] greatly exceed the subsidies for renewable [energy.]
An estimated 1.3 billion people in the world still have no access [to electricity whatsoever.]
The World Bank estimates that more than three quarters of the costs from climate disruption will be borne by developing countries …
[Developing] countries now are responsible for two thirds of the new renewable energy capacity [installed] since 2002 in the world, and overall have more than half of the installed global renewable energy capacity. …
In the US — still the richest country in the world — political controversies over the rising costs of disaster relief have resulted in cutbacks to emergency recovery programs that have hampered the ability of many communities to get back on their feet after climate calamities. …
In [2011-2], the US had eight climate-related disasters, each costing over $1 billion.
- Tropical Storm Irene … caused more than $15 billion in damage.
- Texas experienced the worst drought and highest temperatures in its history, and wildfires in 240 of its 242 counties. …
- [Seven tornadoes] caused more than $1 billion in damage.
- In 2012, more than half of the counties the US suffered from drought.
- Hurricane Sandy cost at least $71 billion.
China is implementing a [pilot] cap and trade system [covering 20% of its population, with a view to instituting] a nationwide cap and trade system by 2015.
In its latest Five Year Plan, China [has committed to invest almost half a trillion dollars] in clean energy. …
In addition to capping the use of coal, it has also established a number of hard targets for the reduction of CO2 emissions per unit economic growth.
In the renewable energy sector, China has dominated global production of windmills and solar panels …
[It] exports 95% of the solar panels it produces, many of them to the United States. …
[High-sun] areas of the Southwestern US and northern Mexico can easily provide all of the electricity needed in both countries.
So What Do We Do Now?
Human civilization has reached a fork in the road …
[One path] leads toward
- the destruction of the climate balance on which we depend,
- the depletion of irreplaceable resources that sustain us,
- the degradation of uniquely human values, and
- the possibility that civilization as we know it would come to an end.
- The Assault on Reason, Penguin, New York, 2007.
[For] the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has … actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. …
We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes.
We have a Congress.
We have an independent judiciary.
We have checks and balances.
We are a nation of laws.
We have free speech.
We have a free press.
Have they all failed us? …
[So] long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue … to dominate American politics. …
That is … why the House and Senate campaign committees in both parties now search for candidates who are multimillionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. …
… I ran for the US Senate [in 1984 against Victor Ashe. …]
After a detailed review of all the polling information and careful testing of potential TV commercials, the anticipated response from my opponent's campaign and the planned response to the response, my advisers made a recommendation and prediction that surprised me with its specificity:
If you run this ad at this many 'points' [a measure of the size of the advertising buy], and if Ashe responds as we anticipate, and then we purchase this many points to air our response to his response, the net result after three weeks will be an increase of 8.5% in your lead in the polls.[Three] weeks later my lead had increased by exactly 8.5%. …
Clearly, at least to some degree, the "consent of the governed" [has become] a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder. …
[The] US press was recently found [to be] the fifty-third-freest press in the world. …
[In 1970] Senator Ed Muskie of Maine [said on national television:]
There are only two kinds of politics. …Simplicity is always more appealing than complexity, and faith is always more comforting than doubt. …
[The] politics of fear and the politics of trust.
One says you are encircled by monstrous dangers.
Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you.
The other says the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men. …
[During] times of great uncertainty and public anxiety, any leader who combines simplistic policies with claims of divine guidance is more likely to escape difficult questions based on glaring logical flaws in his arguments. …
[The] legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths [includes] a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. …
The democratization of knowledge by the print medium brought the Enlightenment.
Now, broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that [have the potential to] reinvigorate democracy.
Would you like to know more?
- An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It., Rodale Books, New York, 2006. ISBN 1-59486-567-1.
- Remarks to MoveOn.org, moveon.org, New York University, 7 August 2003.
President [George W Bush] seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts — policies designed to benefit friends and supporters — and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances.
[His] administration has developed a highly effective propaganda machine to imbed in the public mind mythologies that grow out of the one central doctrine that all of the special interests agree on …
[That] government is very bad and should be done away with as much as possible — except the parts of it that redirect money through big contracts to industries that have won their way into the inner circle.
[They] promote the myth that there really is no such thing as the public interest.
[There are only] private interests.
[Which means] that those who have a lot of wealth should be left alone, rather than be called upon to reinvest in society through taxes.