A faction of conservatives pushes to build its own climate movement


At a rally next month in Miami, one group is trying to kick-start a conservative grassroots climate movement.01:44 /02:09TAP TO UNMUTE

May 29, 2021, 3:00 AM PDTBy Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — Before he became a climate activist during his freshman year of college, Benji Backer had spoken at the Conservative Political Action Conference, written for right-leaning sites such as TownHall and RedState, and made a name for himself as a conservative commentator on television.

But like many other young people, he worried about climate change and didn’t see a place for himself in either the conservative movement, which mostly ignores or denies climate change, or the environmental movement, in which major institutes like the Sierra Club tend to align with Democrats.

So in 2017, Backer founded the American Conservation Coalition, which next month is hosting what it bills as the first conservative climate rally.

“We want to plant a flagpole in the sand to say, this is an issue conservatives can and should lead on,” he said. “There is absolutely zero path to a zero emissions, climate change-free future without bipartisanship — and anybody who doesn’t accept that isn’t taking this seriously.”

The group has grown to more than 220 branches, many of which are on college campuses, with thousands of grassroots members and relationships on Capitol Hill.

The June 5 rally in Miami, a city that could wind up underwater if sea levels continue to rise, will feature like-minded Republicans such as Florida’s former Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has integrated climate adaptation into all of the city’s long-term planning.

“It is no longer an issue of the environment versus the economy; the environment is the economy,” Suarez said. “We hope to serve as a model of how conservative policies can protect the environment, invest in the future, and address the challenges of climate change.”

Backer and others say the partisan divide on climate is starting to narrow as people feel the effects of a warming climate and thanks to a rising generation of millennial and Gen Z voters who are far more likely than older Republicans to say human-caused climate change is real and that the government needs to do more about it.

Outside the left, many who care about the environment are turned off by what they view as the hectoring rhetoric of climate activists, Backer said.

“You have all these groups on the left, and then no groups on the right. That’s the market gap that we fit,” he said. “We are really the first and only grassroots movement in this space.”

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Visits Capitol Hill To Speak To Lawmakers
Benji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition, testifies during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on September 18, 2019 on Capitol Hill.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

Focusing on more optimistic messages of innovation and local solutions can bring new people into the fold, he said, pointing to billionaire Elon Musk as an example of someone being rewarded in the market while reducing carbon emissions by popularizing electric vehicles.

In rural America, there’s a long history of conservation among hunters and fishermen, going back to former President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican sportsman who founded the national park system, who now feel alienated by the culture of environmentalism and its often abstract goals.


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“There are so many parts of this country that could be brought in if you can just make it about their backyards, something they can have personal buy-in,” said Backer, who spent much of last year on a cross-country road trip in a Tesla speaking with local groups. “And with climate change, that’s really easy to do that because it’s going to affect every community in this country.”

On Capitol Hill, a cohort of mostly young Republican members of Congress are pushing the party from the inside and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, despite some uneasiness on his right, just released his own climate plan.

It focuses more on government carrots than sticks, such funding for clean energy research, and emphasizes nuclear power and carbon capture technologies, which progressive environments view warily.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue and it should be something that we can find sensible common ground on,” said Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., a 33-year-old who thinks Republicans can champion a free market approach to climate solutions, told NBC News. “But that requires the Democratic Party to not greenwash economic redistribution efforts and it requires the Republican Party to stop denialism.”

The American Conservation Coalition has faced predictable criticisms from the left and the right, but has overlapping membership with both youth conservative groups like Turning Point USA and relationships with less politicized environmental groups, like the Nature Conservancy.

The group chose Miami for its first rally because it views Florida as an example of conservative leadership on climate.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a loyalist of former President Donald Trump who is eyeing his own 2024 presidential run, just signed legislation to prepare the state for rising sea levels and more severe storms that won overwhelming support in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

DeSantis notably did not talk much about climate change around the bill, nor does it address carbon emissions, but that may have helped depolarize the issue.

“We can debate all day the whys and how this happens,” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, a Republican, said in response to Democratic criticism that it didn’t go far enough, “but if we just do that and we just debated all day, we wouldn’t do anything.”

How a false claim about beef and Biden’s climate plan spread


Yahoo News

Christopher Wilson·Senior WriterMon, April 26, 2021, 8:51 AM·5 min read

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On Sunday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out a Fox News graphic about President Biden proposing a reduction in red meat consumption. “Not gonna happen in Texas!” proclaimed the Republican, who serves nearly 30 million constituents.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=realchriswilson&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1386433630747070468&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fnews.yahoo.com%2Fhow-a-false-claim-about-beef-and-bidens-climate-plan-spread-155102973.html&sessionId=7f247ad66814665724d5898bfff6d51b9e287866&siteScreenName=YahooNews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ff2e7cf%3A1618526400629&width=550px

Abbott was retweeted by fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little, who said, “Idahoans also have beef with this agenda and for dinner!” The two governors followed in a line of conservative politicians, pundits and news outlets who spent days proudly stating their opposition to a provision of Biden’s climate plan that doesn’t exist.

The false narrative stems from coverage of Biden announcing his new climate goals last week in honor of Earth Day, including cutting U.S. carbon emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. The plan drew immediate Republican condemnation, but the beef-specific narrative stems from a Thursday article in the Daily Mail, a conservative British tabloid. The lengthy headline reads, “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs.”

The piece cites a University of Michigan study that analyzes what different changes in the U.S. diet could mean for greenhouse gas emissions. This was translated into the Fox News graphic shared by Abbott and others, which stated that the Biden proposal would cut 90 percent of red meat from Americans’ diet, allowing them a maximum of 4 pounds per year and one burger a month.

A primary issue in using the paper to condemn the Biden climate plan is that it was published in January 2020, when Biden was involved in a tight Democratic primary and a year away from being sworn in as president. His climate plan does not have any provisions regulating citizens’ ability to consume meat.

US President Joe Biden speaks during climate change virtual summit from the East Room of the White House campus April 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden during the virtual summit on climate change on April 22. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Gregory A. Keoleian and Martin Heller, two of the study’s authors, told Yahoo News that “to our knowledge, there is no connection between our study and Joe Biden’s Climate plan.”

“This appears to be an association made erroneously by the Daily Mail that has been picked up widely,” they continued. “Our study merely identifies opportunities for emissions reductions that are possible from changes in our diet. By no means does it suggest that these changes in diet would be required to meet climate goals.”

The Daily Mail’s detachment from reality did not stop the false narrative from spreading. On Friday, former Trump adviser Larry Kudlow elevated the claims on his Fox Business show.

“Speaking of stupid, there’s a study coming out of the University of Michigan which says that to meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat, stop eating poultry and fish, seafood, eggs, dairy and animal-based fats,” Kudlow said, “OK, got that? No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue. I’m sure Middle America is just going to love that.”

“Can you grill those brussels sprouts? So get ready. You can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled brussels sprouts and wave your American flag,” Kudlow continued, seemingly unclear about the fact that beer already comes from plants. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a shot at the narrative Sunday evening, tweeting, “Excited to be watching the Oscars with an ice cold plant-based beer. Thanks Joe Biden.”

It was full steam ahead at that point. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., tweeted Friday morning, “Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030. They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn’t Joe stay out of my kitchen?”

On Saturday, Donald Trump. Jr., the oldest son of the former president, retweeted the Fox News graphic and said, “I’m pretty sure I ate 4 pounds of red meat yesterday. That’s going to be a hard NO from me.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia congresswoman who has promoted conspiracies and has repeatedly used racist and xenophobic language, attempted to knock Biden by referring to him as the McDonald’s character the Hamburglar and tweeting an image of him eating a burger with the caption “No burgers for thee, but just for me.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., is seen on the House steps during the vote on the $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act, on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

This is not the first time that conservatives have ginned up a false narrative about meat consumption to negatively portray Democratic climate policies. In 2019, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., rolled out her Green New Deal proposal, she was accused of wanting to take away Americans’ burgers. At a press conference opposing the Green New Deal, Republican legislators ate burgers and drank milkshakes.

Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump White House official, addressed the concern at that year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, saying, “They want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP, Image Bank/Getty Images

Biden pledges to slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030


PUBLISHED THU, APR 22 20216:00 AM EDTUPDATED AN HOUR AGOEmma Newburger@EMMA_NEWBURGERSHAREShare Article via FacebookShare Article via TwitterShare Article via LinkedInShare Article via EmailKEY POINTS

  • President Biden is pledging to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, in the latest push by the administration to aggressively combat climate change.
  • The target more than doubles the country’s prior commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
  • The announcement comes before the president hosts a closely watched climate summit on Thursday’s Earth Day, with world leaders from countries like China and India.

President Joe Biden is pledging to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% by 2030, in the latest push by the administration to aggressively combat climate change.

The target, announced Thursday, more than doubles the country’s prior commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, when the Obama administration set out to cut emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. The U.S. is currently not yet halfway to meeting that goal.

Biden’s pledge on Earth Day is in line with what environmental groups and hundreds of executives at major companies have pushed for. The president announce the target at the closely watched global leaders’ climate summit on Thursday, during which he hopes to urge global cooperation to address the climate crisis.

“This is the decisive decade,” Biden said at the summit on Thursday morning. “This is the decade that we must make decisions to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”

“This is a moral imperative. An economic imperative. A moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities,” the president said.

World leaders appear on screen during a virtual Climate Summit, seen from the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021.

World leaders appear on screen during a virtual Climate Summit, seen from the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021.Tom Brenner | Reuters

All 40 world leaders the president invited to the virtual summit will be attending, including those from China and India, and are anticipated to make new commitments. The U.K. and European Union have committed to slash emissions by 68% and 55%, respectively, by 2030. China, the world’s biggest emitter, has vowed to reach peak emissions by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060.

During the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping repeated the country’s previous commitments and emphasized green development and multilateralism to reduce global emissions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for concrete action on climate change and announced an India-U.S. Climate and Clean Energy Agenda Partnership for 2030. He also re-confirmed the nation’s vow to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a virtual Climate Summit with world leaders in Berlin, Germany, April 22, 2021.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a virtual Climate Summit with world leaders in Berlin, Germany, April 22, 2021.Kay Nietfeld | Reuters

Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga announced a stricter emissions target of 46% reduction by 2030. Canada also updated its target and vowed to reduce 2005 emission levels by 40-45% by 2030.

The summit is a chance for the U.S. to rejoin global efforts on climate after then-President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord, halted all federal efforts to reduce domestic emissions and rolled back more than 100 environmental regulations to favor fossil fuel production.

“I’m delighted to see that the United States is back, is back to work together with us in climate politics,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during the summit.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 world leaders at the East Room of the White House on April 22, 2021.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 world leaders at the East Room of the White House on April 22, 2021.Al Drago | Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who this week announced that Britain would slash emissions by 78% by 2035, praised Biden “for returning the United States to the front rank of the fight against climate change.”

“It’s vital for all of us to show that this is not all about some expensive politically correct, green act of bunny hugging,” Johnson said. “This is about growth and jobs.”

Biden’s pledge also moves forward his campaign promise to decarbonize the country’s energy sector by 2030 and put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by midcentury.WATCH NOWVIDEO01:25Biden commits to 50% greenhouse gas reduction levels by 2030

Biden so far has proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package that would aid a transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, while promising to create green jobs. If passed, the legislation would be one of the largest federal efforts ever to reduce emissions.

“A strong national emissions reduction target is just what we need to catalyze a net-zero emissions future and build back a more equitable and inclusive economy,” Anne Kelly, vice president of government relations at sustainability nonprofit Ceres, said in a statement.

In order to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050, the U.S. must curb emissions by 57% to 63% in the next decade, according to an analysis by Climate Action Tracker, an independent group that analyzes various government climate pledges.

This week’s summit also comes ahead of a major U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, during which nations in the Paris agreement will unveil updated emissions targets for the next decade.

First U.S.-China meeting under Biden gets off to a rocky start


PUBLISHED THU, MAR 18 20218:45 PM EDTUPDATED FRI, MAR 19 20213:07 AM EDTEvelyn Cheng@CHENGEVELYNSHAREShare Article via FacebookShare Article via TwitterShare Article via LinkedInShare Article via EmailKEY POINTS

  • The first high-level gathering of U.S. and Chinese officials under President Joe Biden kicked off with an exchange of insults at a pre-meeting press event Thursday, according to NBC News.
  • The two-day talks are set to conclude Friday.
  • A planned four-minute photo session for the officials to address reporters ended up lasting one hour and 15 minutes due to a frothy exchange, according to NBC News
Opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R), joined by national security advisor Jake Sullivan (R), speaks while facing Yang Jiechi (2nd L), director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, and Wang Yi (L), China’s foreign minister at the opening session of U.S.-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18, 2021.Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — The first high-level gathering of U.S. and Chinese officials under President Joe Biden kicked off with an exchange of insults at a pre-meeting press event in Alaska on Thursday.

A planned four-minute photo session for the officials to address reporters ended up lasting one hour and 15 minutes due to a frothy exchange, according to NBC News. Both the Chinese and U.S. side kept calling the reporters back into the room so they could add remarks.

Expectations were already low for the meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.

In his opening remarks, Blinken said the U.S. would discuss its “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies.”

“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today,” Blinken said. “I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, adversarial where it must be.”The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.Yang JiechiDIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMISSION

Beijing considers issues in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of its domestic affairs, and the officials reiterated at the meeting that China is firmly opposed to foreign interference.

Yang said the U.S. side “carefully orchestrated” the dialogue, according to an official translation reported by NBC.

“I think we thought too well of the United States, we thought that the U.S. side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols,” Yang said, adding that “the United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength.”

Yang said the U.S. must deal with the Chinese side in “the right way” and reiterated Beijing’s call for cooperation.I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.Antony BlinkenU.S. SECRETARY OF STATE

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has been consolidating its power at home and abroad. In the last year, Beijing has pushed ahead with major trade deals with Asia-Pacific neighbors and the European Union.

Chinese authorities have also emphasized their success in quickly controlling the coronavirus pandemic domestically, and their claim of lifting all 1.4 billion people in the country out of poverty — both of which Yang pointed to in his meeting with U.S. officials.

“We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” Yang said.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately have a comment.

State-run broadcaster CCTV said the U.S. went “seriously overtime” in its opening remarks and “provoked disputes,” according to a CNBC translation of the Mandarin-language report.WATCH NOWVIDEO03:35China will be thinking “purely in their interest” in cooperation

Blinken arrived in Alaska fresh from a trip to Japan and South Korea. He told his Chinese counterparts that what he was hearing from other countries was very different from what Wang described as hopes for demonstrations of goodwill and sincerity between the U.S. and China.

“I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners,” Blinken said. “I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking. And we’ll have an opportunity to discuss those when we get down to work.”

The first round of discussions between the two countries subsequently ended after more than three hours. The two-day talks are set to conclude Friday.

Tensions between the U.S. and China escalated in the last few years under former President Donald Trump, who used tariffs and sanctions to address persistent complaints about China’s lack of intellectual property protection, requirements of forced technology transfer and other unfair business practices. The dispute initially centered on trade, before spilling over into technology, finance and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just as Biden was inaugurated, Beijing announced sanctions on 28 people, including several members of the Trump administration. Days before the first high-level meeting between the two countries, the Biden administration announced sanctions on 24 Chinese officials.

Analysts have expected Biden to take a more measured approach and work more closely with U.S. allies in putting pressure on China.

“Pro-Life” Texas Lawmaker Introduces Bill Imposing Death Penalty for Abortion

Abortion rights activists hold placards and chant outside of the Supreme Court ahead of a ruling on abortion clinic restrictions on June 27, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
Abortion rights activists hold placards and chant outside of the Supreme Court ahead of a ruling on abortion clinic restrictions on June 27, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

BYChris WalkerTruthoutPUBLISHEDMarch 10, 2021

A white lower-case t on a black background

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ARepublican lawmaker in Texas has introduced a bill that would make all abortions in the state illegal, with the punishment being the death penalty for anyone performing or undergoing the medical procedure.

Texas Republican State Rep. Bryan Slaton said in a press release that his bill would showcase how his party truly feels about the practice. “It’s time Republicans make it clear that we actually think Abortion is murder,” Slaton’s statement said. In a tweet about the proposal, Slaton also claimed the bill would “guarantee the equal protection of the laws to all Texans, no matter how small.”

Slaton’s bill, HB 3326, would charge any person who has an abortion, as well as any provider who performs the medical procedure, with assault or homicide. Those charges carry with them extreme punishments, including the death penalty in the state, and are in stark opposition to the stated “pro-life” positions anti-abortion activists say they hold.

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The bill would ban all abortions from the point of fertilization, and would not make any exceptions for rape or incest, though it would allow the procedure when a pregnant person’s life is at risk. The bill would also grant immunity to any individual who gives evidence or testifies against a person whom they have helped in obtaining an abortion.

The official Twitter account of the Texas Democratic Party sent out a tweet blasting the proposal.

“Texas Republicans filed a bill to abolish and criminalize abortions — potentially leaving women and physicians who perform the procedure to face the death penalty,” it said. “The right to choose is a human right. Period.”

Abortion is a favorite topic for Slaton, a freshman legislator in Texas. He previously led an effort to try to halt any legislation in the state from moving forward — including the naming of roads and bridges — until the issue of abortion was addressed.

It’s unlikely that Slaton’s bill will advance very far, as previous legislative efforts with similar goals have failed in recent years. An anti-abortion bill in 2017 failed to receive any hearings at all, and in 2019 a similar bill died in committee after several hours of public input.

But the bill is representative of a series of other bills across the nation that are seeking to impose extreme limits on abortion, and it’s possible that his proposal could go beyond those other two bills. Fourteen states throughout the U.S. have seen Republican legislators propose similar plans to ban abortion outright. It is hoped by these lawmakers that enacting these laws will lead to lawsuits, which in turn could result in the U.S. Supreme Court taking them up, and possibly overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision.

Just this week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed into law a bill that bans nearly all abortions in the state. In a statement regarding the new law, Hutchinson expressly stated that he hoped the law would be challenged.

The abortion ban “is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” Hutchinson said in a statement.

Jessica Mason Pieklo, executive editor at Rewire News Group, a reproductive rights-focused media organization, noted in a tweet that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas was already planning to challenge it. But Pieklo also worried over how far legal challenges would advance, particularly within conservative-leaning federal courts.

“The question is what will the Trump judges on the 8th Circuit do and what [toll] will that take on patients and providers?” she asked in her tweet.

Within the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, 10 of the 11 active judges are appointees of Republican presidents, including George W. Bush and Donald Trump. As recently as December, the court ruled in ways that would allow Arkansas to enact other strict measures regarding abortion, including banning the practice after just 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Biden’s efforts on climate is a start but what about including biodiversity?



After moving backwards for four years on all things related to the environment under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has put forward an ambitious plan to protect 30 percent of federal lands and water by 2030 as part of its broader climate initiative

This places the U.S. back into a highly significant global conversation to protect some of the most important places on Earth. Fighting climate change without advancing biodiversity efforts is as futile as trying to save tigers from extinction without protecting the habitats in which they thrive.

Biodiversity conservation is not only an important part of fighting climate change; it brings other important benefits through the provision of a whole range of ecosystem goods and services. Biodiversity is deeply linked to our mental and physical health, clean water, food security and jobs that depend on the environment. And, with approximately 1 million plant and animal species threatened by extinction, the loss of our natural habitats is as much of a global crisis as climate change.

Biodiversity is shorthand for biological diversity, which basically stands for the variety of all life forms on Earth and how they relate to each other within ecosystems. Biodiverse and healthy ecosystems help our planet withstand shocks such as climate change and natural disasters. 

The world’s largest reinsurance company, Swiss Re, published a stark warning highlighting that 20 percent of countries have ecosystems on the verge of collapse. In their warning, they speak about the consequence of losing vital “services” in economic terms. Instead of experiencing rolling crises in food and water supply, we need to connect the economy back to the environment and also to the biodiversity that provides “services” that we should protect.

This is why the Biden administration should take equally bold steps against climate change’s sister crisis — the drastic and accelerating loss of biological diversity on our planet. There are three critical areas where we can go beyond the “30 by 30″ initiative:

First, we need to identify who is most negatively impacting biodiversity and make them stop. For example, we know about the crucial role honeybees and other pollinators play for crops grown in the U.S. Companies that produce pesticides that harm them need to be held accountable for destroying the “services” that this biological diversity supports. We hold polluters accountable for their impact and we need to do the same for those with negative impacts on biodiversity.  

Second, Americans should protect biodiversity and ecosystems in our country and abroad because they are deeply interlinked. Just as we care about child labor in the supply chain of consumer products or toxic factories that produce goods we need, we must to stop habitat destruction that is caused by the things we buy. For example, the way we import soybeef or palm oil can damage tropical forests in Brazil and South East Asia and the shrimp we consume often damages precious mangroves across the tropics. We have to develop systems, as they are underway in Europe and the UK, to stop exporting habitat destruction abroad. We also have to hold our banks and hedge funds accountable for investing in businesses that are driving the destruction of critical ecosystems abroad (and at home). https://b97fd0143dfe94d607595f26f60fa040.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Third, we should celebrate those people across the world who are historic and natural guardians of biodiverse lands and resources. Strengthening the rights of Indigenous peoples is critical because they are often the last line of defense against the destruction of natural habitats. For example, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have fought damaging methods of oil pipeline development and oil extraction as well as President Trump’s infamous border wall. The world’s approximate 370 million Indigenous people constitute less than 5 percent of the global population, yet they manage over 25 percent of global land surfaces, in turn supporting about 80 percent of global biodiversity. The Biden administration would do well in making tribal sovereignty a linchpin of its implementation of the “30 by 30” initiative. The confirmation of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and first ever Native American Cabinet member would be a significant first step in this direction.

It is a breath of fresh air to have a U.S. administration that is putting climate action front and center. We all have a duty to educate each other on what that means and make the importance of a biologically diverse environment easier to understand and act upon. Now is the time to connect this intuition with specific and systemic actions we can take to protect biodiversity, so that “nature” can do its job in protecting all of us.

Johanna von Braun, PhD, was executive director of Natural Justice. Most recently a program officer in the Open Society Foundation’s Economic Justice Program. She has worked or consulted for leading organizations in the field of environmental justice with a focus on climate change and biodiversity for the past 20 years.


8 hours ago

Portland rioters damage ICE building; police declare ‘unlawful assembly’

The so-called J20 protest was a demonstration against Biden and law enforcement

By Louis CasianoDavid Aaro | Fox News


Far-left riots erupt in Seattle, Portland on inauguration day

FOX News chief breaking news correspondent Trace Gallagher joins’ Hannity’ with the latest.

Police declared an unlawful assembly Wednesday night in Portland, Ore., after about 150 rioters caused damage to a federal immigration facility in the city, according to the authorities.

The unrest near the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) building was declared after rioters started throwing rocks and eggs, and vandalizing the building, located in the city’s south waterfront neighborhood, Portland police Sgt. Kevin Allen said in a 10 p.m. update. 

“We have observed property damage to the building,” the Portland Police Bureau wrote on Twitter. “Anyone who is involved in criminal behavior including: vandalism and graffitting is subject to arrest or citation.”

SEATTLE PROTESTERS OPPOSE BIDEN AND POLICE, VANDALIZE BUILDINGS, CAUSE OTHER DAMAGE: REPORTShttps://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352125993532571649&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fus%2Fanti-biden-antifa-portland-police&siteScreenName=foxnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

Allen said individuals were seen carrying pepper ball guns, electronic control weapons (similar to stun guns) — shields, fireworks, and rocks. He added that federal law enforcement used “crowd-control munitions.”

“This gathering may impact traffic and access into the neighborhood,” Allen said. “We’ll continue to closely monitor this event.”

As of early Thursday, police said they were standing by “to address crimes” in the surrounding neighborhood, and some arrests were made, although they failed to elaborate any further.

Other cities saw some tension on Inauguration Day. Seattle witnessed property damage and objects hurled at cars; reporters said demonstrators were protesting against President Biden and law enforcement, and carried a sign reading, “Abolish ICE.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352081872390508546&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fus%2Fanti-biden-antifa-portland-police&siteScreenName=foxnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

In Denver, protesters burned an American flag in separate demonstrations that reportedly involved members of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as others who chanted anti-Trump and anti-Biden slogans.

Authorities said earlier gatherings in Portland — which saw Antifa protesters clash with authorities as they gathered to voice dissatisfaction with President Biden, forcing officers to retreat and taking at least one police bicycle — had ended.

The Portland Police Bureau said several events were planned in the city just hours after Biden was sworn in and implored the nation to come together. About 150 people gathered at Revolution Hall around 2 p.m. and marched to the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Oregon, Allen said. 

The so-called J20 protest was a demonstration against Biden and law enforcement. 

Some in the group smashed windows and vandalized the building with graffiti. Calls and messages to the party headquarters were not immediately returned. 

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When the group left the area and marched to a nearby park, police officers made “targeted arrests” in connection to the damage at the local Democratic Party headquarters. The group later dispersed. 

In total, eight adults were arrested for crimes ranging from rioting and possession of a destructive device to reckless burning. The suspects’ ages ranged from 18 to 38.

At one point when officers on bicycles entered the crowd to tell someone to remove metal poles affixed to a banner that could be used as a weapon, they were swarmed and pelted with objects, Allen said. https://04a540e9441ba30f292e949af14a4edf.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlhttps://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352057278812352515&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fus%2Fanti-biden-antifa-portland-police&siteScreenName=foxnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

A video posted online shows a crowd of protesters trying to take one officer’s bicycle. Within a few minutes, authorities said they recovered the bicycle and tried to leave the area, but were blocked by members of the crowd.

“As officers disengaged, the crowd showed aggression by swarming officers and throwing objects,” Allen said. Authorities said officers had to push people away “with their hands” so they could leave. 

Long poles and a large knife were recovered from people in the crowd, police added. 

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People in the crowd started blocking or stopping officers as they attempted to leave, police said. Officers deployed a smoke canister in an effort to safely leave the area, Allen said. Authorities warned the group they did not have a permit to march or remain on the sidewalk. 

“Everyone at Revolution Hall is reminded to obey all laws. Roadways in the area remain open to vehicular traffic and no permit for use of area roadways have been approved. Pedestrians and demonstrators must obey all traffic laws and utilize sidewalks. Failure to obey this direction may result in citation or arrest,” police announced over a loudspeaker. 

The crowd eventually moved west, with some people blocking a freeway on-ramp, police said. Dumpster fires were also lit in the area. 


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Other video clips show people holding banners that read: “We are ungovernable” and “We don’t want Biden – We want revenge!” for “Police Murders,” “Imperialist Wars” and “Fascist Massacres.” Marchers called for an end to the sweeping of homeless encampments and advocated for other social justice causes.

National Guard troops were not present at the gatherings. 

Earlier in the day, some 20 demonstrators gathered outside an ICE building to hold a vigil for detainees, the Oregonian reported. 

Another group of up to 150 people gathered at Irving Park, which was peaceful, Allen said. Another gathering was planned for 8 p.m. local time at Elizabeth Caruthers Park, police said. 


Portland became the site of nightly protests last year amid a national reckoning over police practices that often devolved into violence between demonstrators and authorities. Some gatherings saw destructive behavior, including assault, arson, and murder. https://04a540e9441ba30f292e949af14a4edf.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Mayor Ted Wheeler recently decried what he described as a segment of violent agitators who detract from the message of police accountability and should be subject to more severe punishment.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-6&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1352074984332554240&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fus%2Fanti-biden-antifa-portland-police&siteScreenName=foxnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=550px

In Seattle, one female from a group being monitored by police in the downtown area was arrested for alleged assault and someone else was taken into custody for damaging property. Multiple sites had been vandalized in the area, police said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Chomsky: Coup Attempt Hit Closer to Centers of Power Than Hitler’s 1923 Putsch

Police clash with Trump loyalists who breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021.
Police clash with Trump loyalists who breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021.

BYC.J. PolychroniouTruthoutPUBLISHEDJanuary 19, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

Even as the Biden administration takes the reins of power, the fact remains that authoritarianism and a fascist strain of political thinking have taken firm root on U.S. soil among a large proportion of its citizens. This utterly disturbing development will, according to Noam Chomsky in this exclusive interview for Truthout, be hard to contain. A recent poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Republicans continues to give a thumbs up to Donald Trump, even after the storming of the Capitol. In the wake of the attempted coup, and on the cusp of a new administration, what do the current political currents mean for the future?

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, you had been warning all along of a potential coup in the event that Trump would lose the 2020 election. In this context, are you surprised at all by what took place on Capitol Hill on the Electoral College vote count?

Noam Chomsky: Surprised, yes. I’d expected a strong reaction from Trump’s voting base, raised to a fever pitch by his latest antics. But hadn’t expected the attempted coup to reach this level of violence, and I suspect most of the participants didn’t either. Many seemed to have been caught up in the excitement of the moment when the leaders of the crowd surged into the hated Capitol to drive out the demons who were not just “stealing the election” but “stealing” their country from them: their white Christian country.

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That it was an attempted coup is not in question. It was openly and proudly proclaimed as just that. It was an attempt to overturn an elected government. That’s a coup. True, what was attempted was not the kind of coup regularly backed by Washington in its dependencies, a military takeover with ample bloodshed, torture, “disappearance.” But, nevertheless, it was an attempted coup. True, the perpetrators regarded themselves as defending the legitimate government, but that’s the norm, even for the most vicious and murderous coups, like the U.S.-backed coup in Chile on the first 9/11 — which was actually much worse in virtually every dimension than the second one, the one that we remember and commemorate. The first one is best forgotten on the principle of “wrong agents”: Us, not some radical Islamic fundamentalists.

The emotions of those attempting the [Capitol] coup were apparent. Belief that the election was stolen was plainly held with real fervor. And it is understandable among people who live in passionately pro-Trump areas where he is revered as their savior, and for some, even chosen by God, as he once declared. Many may scarcely have seen a Biden sign, or heard anything from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh to suggest some possible flaw in their beliefs.

In some respects, these beliefs are not as bizarre as they may look at first. A shift of tens of thousands of votes in a few counties might have swung the election the other way in a deeply undemocratic system such as ours, where 7 million votes can be swept aside along with an unknown number of others eliminated by purging, gerrymandering, and the many other devices that have been devised to steal the election from the “wrong people,” effectively authorized by the Supreme Court in its shameful 2013 decision nullifying the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder).

As we’ve discussed before, the malevolent figure in charge deserves credit for his talent in tapping the poisonous streams that run not far below the surface of American society, with sources that are deep in U.S. history and culture.

I have to say that I was also surprised by the quick reaction of those who own the country and have a large share of responsibility for the malaise that broke forth on January 6. In no small part, it is a consequence of the neoliberal assault since Reagan, amplified by his successors, that has devastated the rural areas that are the homes of many who stormed the Capitol. Those who hold the levers of the private power that dominates the society and political system never liked Trump’s behavior, which harmed the image they project as humanists dedicated to the common good. But they were willing to tolerate the vulgar performance as long as Trump and his accomplices delivered the goods, lining their pockets by robbing the public.

And that they did. The “transfer of wealth” from the lower 90 percent to the ultra-rich since Reagan opened the doors for highway robbery reaches almost $50 trillion, according to a recent Rand corporation study. No one can place numbers on the vastly greater cost of environmental destruction that was a high priority of the Trump-McConnell years of service to the very rich and corporate sector.

But January 6 was apparently too much, and the marching orders were delivered swiftly by the Big Guns.

One has to have some sympathy for the legislators caught between powerful contending forces. On the one hand, they see the angry hordes whipped to a frenzy by Trump’s performances, and still in his pocket, poised to wreak vengeance on those who betray their leader. And on the other hand, looking down on them from above, are the captains of finance and industry who fund their elections and dangle before them many other privileges to keep them in line. (How many members of Congress leave office to become truck drivers or secretaries?)

The dilemma is particularly harsh for senators, who are more reliant on the large donors. And their defection from the ranks of obsequious Trump loyalists has been somewhat greater.

Apparently, D.C. Council members had been briefed by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia that Donald Trump might invoke the Insurrection Act to seize control of the city police, but did not expect an attack on the Capitol itself. In your own view, what explains the enormous security failures that led to the Capitol siege, and do the events of January 6, 2021, qualify as a putsch?

An attempted putsch, though the connotations of the term putsch may be too strong. The events reminded many, including historians of fascism, of Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, which actually did not so easily penetrate the centers of power as the attempted coup of January 6.

The reasons for the security failures are being debated. I have no special insight. Black members of the Capitol police, who showed great courage along with many of their white colleagues, have charged for years that the force has been infiltrated with white supremacists. There may have been some collusion, and possibly serious corruption higher up the chain of command.

If Trump incited an insurrection against elected officials of the U.S. government, is it enough that he has been impeached again? Shouldn’t he be facing sedition charges since inciting an insurrection against the government is a criminal act under Title 18 of the U.S. Code?

I presume the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose their words carefully in their message on the “violent riot” on January 6, “a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process,” an act of “violence, sedition and insurrection.” They surely considered the fact that incitement to sedition and insurrection carries a heavy prison sentence. I presume that they also weighed the evidence that such incitement took place from the Oval Office.

Many questions arise about how to pursue such barely concealed charges, but we should be careful to avoid the Watergate trap. The Nixon impeachment procedures were initiated by [Massachusetts] Rep. Robert Drinan, S.J., charging him with the bombing of Cambodia, a truly monstrous crime, of Nuremberg Trial caliber. That charge was struck down by Congress. The prime charge against Nixon was that he organized thugs to invade one of two seats of political power in the country, the Democratic Party headquarters. This attack on the foundations of the Republic was overcome in a “stunning vindication of our constitutional system” (famed liberal historian Henry Steele Commager).

In short, the powerful can rise to their own defense. The victims of truly monstrous crimes can look elsewhere for recourse. Maybe history, with luck.

Incitement of an attempted coup is no laughing matter, but it scarcely weighs in the balance against a dedicated effort to destroy the environment that sustains life on Earth or demolition of the arms control regime that mitigates the threat of nuclear war.

Do you believe that Trump is finished as a political figure? Or, to put the question slightly differently, was the Washington putsch of January 6, 2021, the beginning of the end of the rise of Trumpism?

Far from it. Whether Trump will survive the error of judgment that turned major power centers against him is unclear. He may well do so. The voting base of the Party seems to remain loyal, maybe with even greater fervor after this attack on their hero by the “deep state.” Local officials too. He was cheered on his visit to the Republican National Committee the day after the Capitol riot. He has other resources.

Whatever the fate of the individual, Trumpism will not be so easily contained. Its roots are deep. The anger and resentment raised to a frenzy by this talented con man is not limited to the U.S. The $50 trillion robbery is only the icing on the cake of the neoliberal disaster, which itself is built on foundations of deep injustice and repression. We are not out of the woods, by far.

The Presidency Won’t Go Back to How It Was


President Joe Biden—and those who follow him—will navigate a new political landscape, reshaped by four years of Donald Trump.11:17 AM ETJack GoldsmithProfessor of law at Harvard Law SchoolSamuel MoynProfessor of law at Yale Law School

An illustration of Jane Austen and the presidential seal

After years of Donald Trump’s boorish defiance of presidential norms, his incitement of the violence at the Capitol closed his term with a demented rave that shamed American democracy. Tomorrow Joe Biden will return the presidency to a more decorous and honorable choreography. But in important respects, Biden cannot restore normalcy. Trump’s most profound and least recognized contributions to the office he abused are a reorientation of some of the presidency’s important powers and responsibilities. Once-fringe understandings about the role of the president approached acceptance under Trump in ways that Biden cannot dismiss, and they could transform how the great office functions for years to come.

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True, Biden’s time in office will witness reversals by conservatives and progressives on some of the uses and limits of presidential power. The Harvard law professor Adrian Vermeule predicted at the dawn of the Trump administration that the sides would reverse their positions about aggressive uses of presidential administration. He compared the pattern to two lines of dancers in a Jane Austen novel who move to opposite sides of the ballroom and then continue dancing as before. “The structure of the dance at the group level is preserved; none of the rules of the dance change; but the participants end up facing in opposite directions.”


In many instances, Vermeule’s prediction was right. Political actors and commentators supportive of Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” strategy—his aggressive use of executive orders, law-stretching interpretations of delegated power, and broad conception of his discretion to enforce (or not) the law—quickly switched their view when the Trump administration started making similar arguments in support of their quite different policies (related to immigration restrictions, environmental protection, and the like). And many conservative politicians and commentators flipped or shaded their views in the other direction as well.

This dynamic is one of the under-appreciated reasons why real executive authority has increased over decades, in spite of a rhetoric of constraint coming from whichever party has been out of power. On this score, in many ways, the Trump era was business as usual that will likely continue under Biden.

But, at the same time, under Trump new dynamics emerged that are not consonant with the standard pattern, and once-marginal understandings of the proper role of executive power approached the mainstream. This was not a merely partisan switching of sides only to continue the same dance, but a whole new song, perhaps even a new party—what Austen called in Sense and Sensibility “an unpremeditated dance.”

Sometimes Trumpian horrors provoked rage that has reshaped the presidency. At other times, he intended the reorientation. Occasionally, he was uninvolved, and the task fell to those around him. In the end, executive war making has emerged on the other side of the Trump years with both new constraints and new powers, while in the realms of economics and trade the presidency has seen once-marginal positions move to the center, leaving room for new possibilities.

The shift on war making stems from a remarkable mainstreaming in recent years of rhetorical opposition to “endless wars.” Trump railed against such wars during his presidency and both presidential campaigns. In office he clashed with the national-security bureaucracy and the military—with some public support—about drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Syria. Trump lost or was outwitted in many of these battles. But by the end of his presidency he could claim with some justification that “unlike previous administrations I have kept America out of new wars, and our troops are coming home.” There are fewer troops in Afghanistan and Iraq today than at any time since 2001.

Trump by no means supported a shift in executive power toward Congress, and he called for more military spending even as he questioned excessive foreign intervention. But during his tenure, from right and left alike, calls for reform of war powers dwarfed prior right-left opposition to American wars, in a remarkable mainstreaming of positions marginalized for many decades. The rhetoric of opposition to ending endless war took on a life of its own not just among activists but also among members of Congress, in an unprecedented reactivation of the defunct War Powers Resolution (in the case of the Yemen proxy war, supported by both Bernie Sanders and the conservative Mike Lee). Trump vetoed it, but a new consensus became visible.https://f4b94d01a6a448c08ef10605e85954c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Biden underscored the new reality with remarkable antiwar campaign pledges. He vowed to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” and to “end U.S. support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen.” A great deal of energy, from conservatives and progressives, will go into holding him to these promises. Just as significant, mainstream foreign-policy experts—including many former Obama national-security officials—now agree that something went dreadfully wrong in executive war making and American militarism generally. These sentiments have an even greater urgency as the coronavirus pandemic requires a rethinking of American national-security priorities. Biden’s national-security team has been dubbed “Generation Forever War.” But even if we assume that they are not chastened by past mistakes, they and the president they serve will have a tougher time asserting the same powers as before.

Ironically, Trump also contributed to this rethinking when he rattled America’s saber. His scary, impulsive threats to use his “bigger and more powerful” nuclear button against North Korea sparked serious congressional attention to plenary presidential control over nuclear weapons for the first time in four decades. We are a long way from any reform of this presidential power, but several officials testified about how informal constraints would check truly irrational presidential action in this area.

While the beginnings of a reset on war powers generally are discernible, a different and countervailing military reset—concerning America’s use of its cyberpowers—crystallized over the course of the Trump presidency. During the Obama administration, the United States suffered unprecedented cyber intrusions from foreign powers—notably the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the massive Chinese hack of the Office of Personnel Management databases. A consensus developed in the intelligence community that the United States had been too risk-averse in responding to these threats. The result was three important changes during the Trump era.

First, the Trump administration changed Obama-era rules in order to give Cyber Command greater latitude to engage in operations without White House sign-off. Second, Cyber Command developed and implemented a new strategy, called “Defend Forward,” under which it has a persistent presence in adversary networks so it can discover and check threats before they materialize. And third, Congress—on the quiet in National Defense Authorization Acts—gave the executive branch much more leeway to use offensive cyber tools abroad. The centerpiece of this bipartisan congressional scheme is a barely noticed express congressional authorization for Cyber Command to “take appropriate and proportional action in foreign cyberspace” in order “to disrupt, defeat, and deter” ongoing adversarial activity in the cyber domain if there is “an active, systematic, and ongoing campaign of attacks” against the United States by “Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran.”https://f4b94d01a6a448c08ef10605e85954c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Trump deserves little if any credit for these moves, which emerged out of a consensus between intelligence lifers like the Cyber Command leader Paul M. Nakasone, interested members of Congress, and sympathetic Trump national-security advisers. But the broad congressional support for these moves reveals a new consensus that the U.S. needs to take more forceful steps to protect its digital networks, and makes it unlikely that there will be a pullback under Biden.

A related mainstreaming under Trump of once-marginal criticisms of the executive pertains to domestic surveillance in the name of national security. Trump’s attacks on the FBI’s surveillance powers, and a damning inspector general report about the use of those powers in the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, led to a drop in Republican support for the FBI and an unusual split in the party on the appropriateness of domestic national-security surveillance. (At the same time, Democratic support on these matters rose.) One consequential impact of these changes was Congress’s historic failure in 2020 to renew three important sunsetted provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A renewal bill passed the House in March 2020 with more Democratic than Republican support, and then it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate a few months later. Trump’s attacks and the inspector general report were the catalysts, but the shift in Republican views has been happening slowly for more than a decade. It is too early to tell how sticky this change will be, but ascendant Republican concerns about presidential surveillance authorities may combine with still-prevalent Democratic concerns to place longer-term restrictive pressure on domestic surveillance.

Trump also succeeded in bringing a politics of economic “freedom” into question, both in domestic politics and as a foreign-policy goal. This is clearest in the realm of trade policy. Trump rode to victory by railing on NAFTA—once the darling of the New Democrats’ global economic agenda—as a bad deal for American workers. He similarly bashed the World Trade Organization and decimated its core judicial body, often to the applause of many Democrats.

As with war, Trump’s rhetoric, and the perception of its electoral success, had incalculable effects in bringing once-unfashionable beliefs from America’s extremes to its center. The Democratic platform for 2020 features a more nationalist call for industrial policy—blaming Trump tax cuts for accelerating offshoring—than seen in any presidential campaign from either side since Pat Buchanan’s and Ross Perot’s proto-Trumpian attack in 1992 on what we now call “neoliberalism.” And incoming National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan proclaimed that the Biden administration would embrace a “foreign policy for the middle class” that measured success “against a simple metric” of making “the lives of working people better, safer, easier.”https://f4b94d01a6a448c08ef10605e85954c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlSponsored VideoWatch to learn moreSPONSORED BY ADVERTISING PARTNERSee More

Trump’s rhetorical opposition to neoliberal globalization also intersected with presidential power in revealing ways. Congress narrowly passed NAFTA in 1993 (as a so-called congressional-executive agreement that does not constitutionally require a two-thirds vote), while the WTO emerged the following year when Congress approved comparable fast-track authority that effectively transferred trade policy to the president. In the intervening two decades, the executive, under Republican and Democratic control, has advanced neoliberal ideas of economic freedom until Trump. U.S. accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the centerpiece of Obama’s pivot to Asia, went on life support after Hillary Clinton was forced to oppose it under pressure in her campaign against Trump.  

Not that Trump attempted to return any trade authority to Congress, any more than he supported war-powers reform while selectively opposing wars. But, ironically, the NAFTA reform that would never have occurred without him, and that barely rose above symbolism in real terms, garnered more support from Congress than any comparable trade deal, passing the House 385–41 and the Senate 89–10.

Trump’s record of using executive power to resist neoliberalism was uneven and should not be exaggerated. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the mastermind of Trump’s trade policy, never stopped attacking multilateral rules and organizations as bad for American workers, and he convinced Trump to use unilateral presidential weapons aggressively against trading partners. But these moves aimed not to establish autarky but, rather, to embed free-trade principles in bilateral arrangements that Lighthizer believes better protect America’s economic interests. The Trump administration wanted “to get to the position where the U.S. is competing with countries on a bilateral basis and on a no-barrier basis, and then let the United States, let pure economics make the decision,” Lighthizer explained in 2018.

Despite this qualification, Lighthizer established a trans-partisan reset on trade that was unthinkable before Trump, albeit with an unclear sequel. “Lighthizer has changed a lot of thinking in dramatic ways, which is terrific,” Lori Wallach of the liberal outfit Public Citizen told ProPublica, adding that “he has not been able to reverse decades of boneheaded, job-killing trade policies, such that we still see a trade deficit today that’s bigger than when Trump took office, and ongoing outsourcing of jobs, despite good efforts to try and turn around a mess.”

Related to Trump’s galvanization of a rethinking of neoliberalism is his alteration of the conventional wisdom on China policy—both on the content of the trade and cyber policy vis à vis China, and the use of presidential power to achieve these ends. Trump’s basic critique of U.S. China policy circa 2016 is now more or less conventional wisdom: The United States was on the losing end of China’s entry into the WTO; China presents an extraordinary economic threat to the United States; and China’s theft of U.S. trade secrets requires much more aggressive responses than the jawboning, soft agreements, and piddling sanctions used by Trump’s predecessors.https://f4b94d01a6a448c08ef10605e85954c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlhttps://f4b94d01a6a448c08ef10605e85954c4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

To meet these threats, Trump has used delegated power from Congress to impose extensive and unprecedented import restrictions and tariffs on Chinese goods. He has also used statutory emergency powers (for example, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) in unprecedented ways to punish globally the use of products of certain Chinese information intermediaries (such as, most notably, Huawei) and to impose broad sanctions on the use of certain Chinese platforms in the United States (like TikTok). And much more than his predecessors, Trump has reconceptualized economic competition with China as a national-security issue.

While many of Trump’s exercises of delegated powers (such as his emergency wall declaration) drew broad criticism, the basic thrust of these policies, and these unprecedented uses of delegated power, gathered muted criticism from some but support from many, including many Democrats. (There were, to be sure, loud complaints about the domestic impact of responses to some of Trump’s unilateral trade sanctions.) Biden will surely examine all of these measures, and probably adjust many of them, especially the tariff restrictions. But the conventional wisdom is that Trump was largely right about the threat and the need for an aggressive response, and the policies in the round will likely continue under Biden. “We expect to be taking a stronger position on China than has been the case in past Democratic administrations,” an unnamed senior adviser to the Biden transition told The Washington Post.

Trump was calamitous for the institution of the American presidency, but through a strange combination of attack, innovation, and neglect, he reoriented it for his successors. “Fine dancing,” Austen wrote in Emma, “like virtue, must be its own reward.” The same is hardly true of executive power, especially given Trump’s vice and macabre closing number. But he changed the music, and has forced his successor to take his first steps on a very different stage.

Armed occupation of Malheur refuge was ‘dress rehearsal’ for violent takeover of nation’s Capitol, extremist watchdogs say

Updated Jan 08, 2021; Posted Jan 07, 2021

U.S. Capitol on lockdown
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)Getty Images

Facebook ShareTwitter Share5,214sharesBy Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive


Five years ago this month, Ammon Bundy led a 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after protesting the return to federal prison of two Oregon ranchers convicted of setting fire to public land.

Bundy was acquitted of all charges after his arrest on allegations of conspiracy and impeding federal employees through intimidation, threat or force.

On Wednesday, the extraordinary images of a violent mob of right-wing Trump supporters storming the nation’s Capitol, incited by a president who refused to accept the 2020 election results, were no surprise to groups that have tracked extremists in the West.https://a910d1429c8ef5b31cae4269acb3f73f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called the 2016 refuge occupation a “dress rehearsal for what we saw at the Capitol.” The center, based in Denver, advocates for land and water conservation in the West.

“The extremist ideologies and tactics that led to the violent occupation of public lands in Oregon are the same ideologies that President Trump has stoked among his supporters,” she said in a statement Thursday.

“You can draw a straight line from the Bundy Ranch standoff and Malheur takeover to the Trump insurrection in Washington,” she said.

Before MalheurAmmon Bundy, father Cliven Bundy and brother Ryan Bundy were accused of rallying militia members and armed supporters to stop federal officers in April 2014from impounding Bundy Ranch cattle in Nevada. Cliven Bundy owed more than $1 millionin grazing fees and penalties that he refused to pay for two decades after federal authorities moved to limit his cattle’s access to public land. Their federal prosecution in Nevada was dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct.

On the family’s Bundy Ranch Facebook page,a post with Cliven Bundy’s name under itcited support for the insurrection at the Capitol.https://a910d1429c8ef5b31cae4269acb3f73f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The post Wednesday read:“You can’t clean the swamp by standing off at a distance and smelling it. At Bundy Ranch we had a job to do, go get it done, and We the People went forward and finished the job.”

It also praised Donald Trump: “Today President Trump had hundreds of thousands of people and he pointed the way – pointed towards congress and nodded his head go get the job done. We the People did clear the chambers of Congress and 100,000 should have spent the night in the halls and 100,000 should have protected them. Trump blew his trump of retreat and the sun goes down.”

Facebook post
Facebook post on Bundy Ranch page, Jan. 6, 2020, with Cliven D. Bundy as the author.


What happened in Washington, D.C., was just the latest in violent clashes and standoffs by right-wing extremist groups,according to watchdog organizations.

Erik Molvar, executive director of the advocacy group Western Watersheds Project, said the mob mayhem in Washington was a “direct result of a growing movement of domestic terrorists within the United States, paired with a systematic failure by law enforcement to bring them to justice.”

The nonprofit conservation group has sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to challenge the return of a grazing permit to the Oregon ranchers whose prison sentences sparked the refuge occupation. Trump administration pardoned father Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven Hammond in 2018.

Ammon Bundy, reached Thursday, said he was in the mountains and wasn’t tracking what occurred at the Capitol, yet Bundy had urged people to attend Thursday’s rally in Washington, D.C. and “stand for a constitutional republic” through a video posted last month by a group he’s helped form called People’s Right. “Don’t wear a mask and stand for freedom,” he urged on the video.https://a910d1429c8ef5b31cae4269acb3f73f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

On Thursday, he told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he believes legislators meet behind closed doors without public oversight, constituting a “deliberate attack on personal liberty.” He was arrested twice in two days in August for protests at the Idaho Legislature and in October caused the cancellation of an Idaho high school football game after he refused to wear a mask or leave school grounds.

“It’s dangerous to all of us forofficials in a government capacity to claim rights that belong to the individual, whether it’s travel, what you wear over your face, or when you can go to church,” said Bundy, who has been protesting coronavirus emergency safeguards. “I also don’t believe a republican representative form of government should make decisions without public oversight and without the participation of the people.”

Greg Magarian, a law professor at Washington University Law School in St. Louis., said there’s a significant difference between what the nation witnessed in Washington this week and racial and social justice protests in the last year.

“When a group violently attacks other people or attacks a public place in a way that puts other people’s lives or safety in jeopardy, that’s a severe crime. It’s a violent riot, an attack,” he wrote Thursday for an in-house university publication. “When a group violently attacks a government institution in an effort to change the lawful governmental order, that’s insurrection. It’s terrorism.”

As other examples of insurrection, he cited the Malheur takeover, the militia takeover of the Michigan state Capitol in April and the militia-backed shutdown of Oregon’s Capitol in June 2019.

“The takeover of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, incited by the president of the United States and his agents, was terrorism, insurrection and an attempted violent coup,” he wrote.https://a910d1429c8ef5b31cae4269acb3f73f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

In an interview Thursday, Magarian also discussed similarities between the Malheur refuge occupation and the siege of the U.S. Capitol.

“These are both instances where people essentially trespassed on federal property, overwhelmed law enforcement and seized federal institutions by force,” he said.

— Maxine Bernstein