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Michele Bachmann Envisions a World Without Food Industry Safety Standards

Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann believes that the government needs to stay out of the business of protecting the foods we eat. At a campaign stop this week, she told her supporters that food suppliers are “overburdened” by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. She informed the crowd that, yes, we need safety, but more importantly, we also need what she calls “common sense.”

Bachmann is joining in the chorus of conservative voices railing against “burdensome” regulations, but she is among the first to make the claim in regards to the food industry. Last December, Bachmann was one of the few members of Congress to vote against legislation that would have protected consumers by increasing the oversight of the food processing industry, a move that she claims would cause producers to spend more on safety and less on creating new jobs.

Bachmann was joined in her crusade against food safety standards last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage went on the offensive last year when Congress debated legislation to increase food industry safety standards. Heritage claimed that regulation will never work, and that the free market has built in mechanisms that weed out any bad eggs who produce substandard goods:

Market forces such as competition, brand-name value, monitoring by financial markets and insurers, and common law are also powerful drivers of food safety. There are bad actors in every pursuit, of course, but considering the sheer size of the market, Americans enjoy a remarkably safe food system.

Global Financial Leaders Recommend Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Global financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have released a new set of recommendations for G20 countries to meet their goal of providing $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations to combat climate change. In addition to calls for charges on carbon emissions and higher prices for carbon-intensive fuels, the financial experts said the first source of funding should come from redirecting fossil fuel subsidies.

In a move that will surely leave the dirty energy industry in a fit of rage, global economists said that fossil fuel subsidies should be cut and redirected towards helping developing nations fight climate change. The total amount spent on industry subsidies for G20 countries is currently $60 billion a year, more than half of what the countries have pledged to spend per year on climate initiatives and renewable energy projects.

From The Huffington Post:
  

The draft paper says the starting point should be a review of fossil fuel subsidies, amounting to $40 billion to $60 billion a year. But many of those subsidies are handed out in poor countries, where people living on the edge of subsistence need help, for example, to buy cooking gas. Still, subsidy reforms in industrialized countries and emerging economies could contribute $10 billion a year to a climate fund, it said.

40th Anniversary of the Lewis Powell Memo Launching Corporate Propaganda Infrastructure

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Lewis Powell Memo, a document that set the stage for the creation of the echo chamber that protects corporate interests ahead of the public interest.  A corporate lawyer and well-known tobacco industry defender at the time, Lewis Powell wrote this influential memo to a friend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce laying out a strategy to develop a long-term campaign to set up corporate front groups and think tanks to manufacture the appearance of credibility for corporate interests.

The echo chamber that the right wing constructed over the past four decades since Powell’s infamous memo has played a central role in blocking action on climate change and a host of other public health and environmental threats. This unethical corporate propaganda mill capitalizes on the dark side of social sciences, preying upon people’s biases and encouraging them to support and defend corporate interests above their own.

Charlie Cray from Greenpeace USA has written an excellent overview of the significance of the Lewis Powell memo, and with the kind permission of Greenpeace, we share Charlie’s piece in full below.  Please read it, share it widely, and help to shine a bright spotlight on this document. If more people understood the roots of this corporate propaganda campaign, perhaps they would become immune to its influence.

The Lewis Powell Memo - Corporate Blueprint To Dominate Democracy
by Charlie Cray, Greenpeace USA

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

PolluterWatch Memo to Koch PR Team: Ever Consider Making Your Astroturf A Little Less Obvious?

PolluterWatch is serving up a great tongue-in-cheek “memo to the Koch PR team” tonight, noting the obvious blunders from Koch Industries’ astroturfing and attack squad lately. The Kochtopus keeps revealing just how highly coordinated its media and blogger network is, mysteriously generating defensive and offensive pieces in quick succession at the drop of a billionaire’s hat.

If it weren’t so blatantly obvious in slinging the same mud and honey around the media Koch-o-sphere, perhaps Koch’s ever-ready defender squad might be worthy of compensation? Oh wait, New Media Strategies does get paid by Koch to blatantly and disastrously attempt to edit the Koch profile on Wikipedia. 

And even if Koch’s friends in media claim to rush to the company’s defense out of pure ideological zealotry and not for compensation, there are a few instances where that argument fails to impress.  As PolluterWatch points out, Koch’s PR team recently posted on the company’s Facebook page about a piece written by Steven Hayward that seemed to support Koch’s anti-science position on climate change and predictably tooted the old Climategate dud.

He Said, She Said, We’re (Not) Clueless

Recently (thanks, Wonk Room!) I came upon a classic case study of why the debate on climate change–and indeed, debates on public issues in general–has grown so dysfunctional.

The story begins with a new report from the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which has produced many previous studies on how to create so-called “green jobs.” The new study finds that two pending Environmental Protection Agency regulations will also create jobs—a lot of them–by greening the electric power industry.

In the wake of recent Republican attempts to restrict the EPA’s powers and dramatically cut its budget—plans bolstered by the accusation that the agency is destroying jobs—the PERI study is politically salient in the extreme. And indeed, it was recently cited by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson before Congress.

Enter the critics:

Greenpeace Airship Hovers Over Secretive Koch Summit with Message "Koch Brothers: Dirty Money"

UPDATE: Video footage of the Greenpeace airship flight below this post.

A Greenpeace airship today flew over the secretive Rancho Mirage polluter strategy meeting hosted by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Wealthy elite interests and oil tycoons arriving at the posh resort to plot their anti-democracy agenda were greeted with the aerial message “Koch Brothers: Dirty Money.”

Greenpeace also released information collected from tax records confirming that the Koch Family Foundations continue to fund climate denial organizations.  The most recent records available document that the Kochtopus dished out $6.4 million in 2009 to front groups and think tanks that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. That brings the Kochtopus’s confirmed Dirty Money total to $54.9 million since 1997, with the majority, $31.3 million, spent since 2005.

Financial Post Op-Ed Spins Familiar Tale of Climate Change Denial

The recent op-ed piece in Canada’s Financial Post by Czech President Václav Klaus is more than a little infuriating.  Klaus, an economist by trade with no background in climate science, has become a favourite skeptic for hire at the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing libertarian think tanks. 

Klaus is a vocal skeptic on the topic of global warming. His 2007 book argues that global warming is akin to a new religion or ideology that threatens to undermine freedom and the world’s economic and social order.  At a 2007 speech at the Cato Institute, he argued that, “Environmentalism should belong in the social sciences” along with other “isms” such as communism, feminism, and liberalism.  He went on to argue that, “environmentalism is a religion” and a “modern counterpart of communism” that seeks to change people’s habits and economic systems.

At his 2009 keynote address at the International Conference of Climate Change (a.k.a. Denial-a-Palooza), he maintained that environmental activists don’t necessarily care about temperature, or carbon dioxide, rather they care about rent seeking and political profit.  In an increasingly familiar trope, he argued that the climate change movement has become popularized because it gives politicians an excuse to exert more control over society.

Klaus delivered a keynote speech at last week’s Global Warming Policy Foundation Inaugural Annual Lecture in London.  According to his address, “Global warming in the last 150 years was modest and future warming and its consequences will not be dangerous or catastrophic.  It doesn’t look like a threat we should respond to,” he said.

ExxonMobil Gave $1.5M to Climate Denier Groups Last Year, Breaking Its Pledge To Stop Funding Denial Machine

ExxonMobil gave $1.5 million to climate deniers and industry front groups known for working to create doubt about global warming, attacking the integrity of climate scientists, and protecting the status quo for polluters, according to a front-page story in the Times of London today. 

Contrary to its stated commitment to stop funding climate denier groups, the Exxon funding spigot remained as open as the BP gusher, continuing to pollute the media landscape with oil-soaked misinformation designed to cripple international action on climate change.

Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets project has documented the nearly $25 million spent by ExxonMobil since 1998 to fund climate denier groups.

Exxon-funded groups used their latest infusion of oil money to create a media frenzy over the “Climategate” non-scandal and other efforts to derail progress towards an international agreement to fight climate change at the COP-15 talks in Copenhagen last winter.

Denial-a-palooza Round 4: 'International Conference on Climate Change' Groups Funded by Exxon, Koch Industries

In what has become an annual non-event, the Heartland Institute will gather the who’s-who of the global warming denial network together in Chicago this weekend for the fourth International Conference on Climate Change

As in years past, the event is expected to receive very little mainstream media coverage.  The deniers like to think the reason is some liberal media conspiracy.  In reality, the lack of interest stems chiefly from the fact that this denial-a-palooza fest is dripping with oil money and represents a blatant industry effort to greenwash oil and coal while simultaneously attacking the credibility of climate scientists.

Despite the lack of press interest, the show must go on.  After all, the Chicago meet-up will provide deniers and industry front groups a chance to coordinate their ongoing efforts to smear the reputation of the IPCC, and they can reminisce about the Climategate non-scandal like boys in the schoolyard kicking around a rusty old can.

For insight into the underlying aim of the Chicago denier conference, let us take a look at the funding sources for the sponsoring organizations.

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