IMF Correctly Castigates Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Ignores Own Role in Climate Crisis

I’m sure that you are aware, dear readers, that the fossil fuel industry has always been at the receiving end of various forms of government assistance. Wars for oil, cops crushing protests, car-based infrastructure, and then there are the subsidies. Subsidy discourse underwent an interesting change maybe a decade ago, as opposition to renewable subsidies was easy to rebut by pointing to fossil fuel subsidies, many of which take the form of enormous tax breaks. I started seeing more and more people claim that they weren’t really subsidies, because all taxation is theft, and so a tax break was just letting them keep more of their own money. A subsidy, they say, is when the government cuts a check!

The reality is that tax breaks are absolutely subsidies, they’re just the most efficient way to go about handing them out. Rather than the cost of cutting and verifying checks, transferring the money (yes, that stuff actually does take at least some labor and resources), you just knock some money off of what the corporations have to pay. The net effect is identical to cutting a check, though it wouldn’t shock me if doing it this way was always a bit of a shell game to hide just how much support the federal government gives to fossil fuel corporations:

Fossil fuels benefited from record subsidies of $13m (£10.3m) a minute in 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund, despite being the primary cause of the climate crisis.

The IMF analysis found the total subsidies for oil, gas and coal in 2022 were $7tn (£5.5tn). That is equivalent to 7% of global GDP and almost double what the world spends on education. Countries have pledged to phase out subsidies for years to ensure the price of fossil fuels reflects their true environmental costs, but have achieved little to date.

Explicit subsidies, which cut the price of fuels for consumers, doubled in 2022 as countries responded to the higher energy prices resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine. Rich households benefited far more from these than poor ones, the IMF said. Implicit subsidies, which represent the “enormous” costs of the damage caused by fossil fuels through climate change and air pollution, made up 80% of the total.

Ending the subsidies should be the centrepiece of climate action, the IMF said, and would put the world on track to restrict global heating to below 2C, as well as preventing 1.6 million air pollution deaths a year and increasing government revenues by trillions of dollars. The researchers acknowledged that subsidy reform was politically difficult, but said carefully designed policies that supported poorer households could work, especially if coordinated internationally.

Now, those who would make the earlier argument about tax breaks probably also wouldn’t like the inclusion of the costs incurred by pollution and climate change. Let us assume, for a moment, that their objection is in good faith. We’ve known for well over a century that by increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, we were warming our planet. Fossil fuel corporations knew how quickly the problem was moving, and how dangerous it was, and they lied about it. They actively worked to bring about the disasters that governments and the people pay for. They’ve also been perfectly aware of the dangers of the air pollution caused by their products, and lied about that as well. As this nurse said of the US, “We don’t have safety nets for our poor in this country, we have a greased chute. And at the very bottom of that greased chute of poverty, is a trip to your local emergency room.” USians also pay in terms of higher insurance premiums because of fossil fuel use, while tiny-minded assholes on TV rant about the “public health crisis” of obesity. Even in countries that do have real safety nets, they are still absorbing all the costs incurred by fossil fuel products.

If a toy company was poisoning children, they’d get fined for that. If any normal product is seriously dangerous, it gets recalled. With fossil fuels? The world just eats the costs. We all, together, pay for worse cardiovascular health, and extreme weather events, and problems for fetal and childhood development, and the list goes on, and on, and on. No, it’s very clear that by consistently paying for the vast and growing harm done by the use of fossil fuels, we are, without question, subsidizing that industry.

The costs of all of that together, according to the IMF, came to thirteen million dollar per minute in 2022, and as long as the planet keeps warming, and the fossil fuel industry is allowed to continue operating, that number is only going to get higher.

Now – the IMF is not, in my view, a good organization. Its primary role seems to be getting former colonies into debt traps to keep them from advancing – the economic counterpart to the CIA’s assassinations and coup-mongering. They are also a big part of how the world runs right now, and they spend a fair amount of time crunching numbers. I’m inclined to agree with them on this, but as a rule, I think it’s good to view them with skepticism. While it is important to end fossil fuel subsidies (and to end the industry overall), the IMF is far from blameless, and will have to end many of their own practices if we want a real response to climate change:

One of the biggest factors preventing governments in the Global South from taking climate action is barely discussed at conferences and debates meant to find solutions to the planet’s existential crisis.

It is time for us to talk about debt. Especially now, with the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held recently and economic policy options for Global South countries under the spotlight. If we want countries to have the freedom to take action that is in their interests, we must understand that the World Bank, the IMF and private banks based in wealthy countries are preventing climate progress.

How? Because of their unhealthy obsession with debt repayments from the Global South at any cost.

This extortionate debt which hangs over the heads of many countries is forcing them to make difficult choices in order to pay that debt back. Indonesia, for example, is paying back loans equivalent to more than 40 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), a key factor leading it to cut down rainforests to make way for money-making palm oil plantations. The need to repay external debt worth more than 80 percent of GDP has also been a factor in Brazil’s prioritising of soybean exports over the protection of the Amazon. And an external debt equivalent to 101 percent of GDP is why Mozambique has been trying to expand its coal and gas production in recent years.

This type of external debt almost always needs to be repaid in US dollars or other foreign currencies. So even when countries would benefit from supporting smallholder farmers, agroecology and small and medium-sized businesses, many have been forced to shape their economies around destructive fossil fuel and large-scale industrial agribusiness exports, in order to earn the dollars needed for debt repayment.

And the difficult decisions continue, with many countries spending more on servicing their debt than on education and health. Even though many have paid back their original loan amounts, a combination of rising interest rates, successive currency devaluations, fluctuating global commodity prices and the destructive impacts of climate change have kept the debt repayment finish line perpetually out of reach.

Indeed, sometimes the climate crisis has forced countries to take on more loans at even higher interest rates.

Even worse, loans from the World Bank and the IMF almost always come with rules attached – that countries privatise their public services, cut public spending, and go gung-ho into producing export commodities. These “conditionalities” and the power wielded by these institutions are worsening the climate crisis, and undermining countries’ capacity to take climate action through investing in green technologies, resilience or recovery from disasters.

Sniffing the climate winds of change, the IMF and the World Bank are now desperately attempting a makeover, and trying to present themselves as responsible climate leaders. But in reality, the IMF has advised more than 100 countries to expand their fossil fuel infrastructure, while the World Bank has spent $14.8bn supporting fossil fuel projects and policies since the Paris Agreement was signed. Their claims of being responsible climate leaders do not hold up to any scrutiny.

New research by ActionAid finds that 93 percent of countries most vulnerable to the climate crisis are in debt distress, or at significant risk of debt distress. This reflects a vicious cycle in which climate impacts put countries into debt, but that debt accelerates the climate crisis and leaves countries even more exposed to its impacts. And so the cycle continues.

All this points us towards a clear conclusion: that the global debt crisis is a major barrier to climate action and that debt cancellation can be a highly effective climate solution.

In general, when the most powerful organizations in the world start blaming each other for the problems of the world, it’s a good idea to look into why they might want your eyes elsewhere. Fossil fuel subsidies are a serious problem, but they are far from the only problem. The causes of the climate crisis are baked into how our global economic system has come to operate with the “end” of colonialism over the last century.

And this is where you can all join in on the chorus – global warming is a systemic problem, and solving it requires systemic change.

The people and institutions that wield global power are all very aware of the dangers posed by a rapidly warming planet, and are also aware of their own role in creating this crisis. While many of them may genuinely want to see it go away, they are willing to let everything be destroyed if it means that they aren’t the first to give up wealth or power. It’s basically the same as when US pundits and politicians point the finger at Chinese or Indian emissions, when saying that the US shouldn’t lead. Leaving aside the childishness of this response, the reality is that everything needs to change at least a little, and the closer you get to the top of global wealth and power, the more change needs to happen. We can’t expect the powerful to be honest, but I think they’re more likely to tell the truth about other powerful people and entities, when deflecting attention away from their own problems.

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Dark Powers Resurrect Dead Argument, Demonstrate Need for Direct Action

Many years ago, when I was still fairly new at this whole climate blogging thing, I came across a fantastic website called Skeptical Science that had a list of all the arguments against the scientific consensus on man-made global warming, along with their rebuttals. I was also an avid consumer of Peter Sinclair’s work, and between those resources, and my old hobby of arguing with deniers on the internet, I ran into the claim that the planet hadn’t been warming in years – over a decade, in fact. Specifically, the claim was that global warming stopped in 1998.

This was, of course, a dishonest argument. 1998 was the ultimate cherry-pick, because of an unusually strong El Niño that caused ’98 to stand out from the broader trend. Because it was such an outlier, using it as a starting point allowed dishonest actors to draw a line showing an apparent temperature decline, by ignoring the years prior. From

Did global warming stop in 1998?

No, but thanks to natural variability, volcanic eruptions, and relatively low solar activity, the rate of average global surface warming from 1998-2012 was slower than it had been for two to three decades leading up to it.

How much slower depends on the fine print: which global temperature dataset you look at, whether it includes the Arctic, and the exact time periods you compare. Regardless, the big picture of long-term global warming remained unchanged.

Global temperature trends by decade

(top) Based on NOAA data, global average surface temperature (orange line) has risen 0.13°F (0.07°C) per decade since 1880 (red line), which is nearly identical to the rate of warming during the 15-year period from 1998-2012 (gray line). (bottom) The rate of warming from 1998-2012 was slower than the two preceding 15-year periods, but faster than the two 15-year periods before that. NOAA graph, based on data from NCEI.

Those who deny the scientific evidence of human-caused global warming turned the slowdown into a slogan: “Global warming stopped in 1998.” In scientific journals and assessment reports, climate experts described the episode as a “pause” or “hiatus” in the previous decades’ rapid warming: they knew it wouldn’t last.

Not only was 1998-2012 the warmest 15-year period on record at the time, but greenhouse gases continued to climb to new record highs, and other climate indicators continued to show the impacts of long-term, global-scale warming: subsurface ocean heating, global sea level rise, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and record-low Arctic sea ice extent.

The argument was dead on arrival, but it was never meant to be truly alive. It was designed to spread doubt among people who didn’t know enough to spot the lie, and to support the beliefs of those already committed to denial. Understanding the intent of an argument like that is important, if you want to understand why, a decade later and a good bit warmer, some people are trying to bring it back to life:

For those who can't see it, this is a screenshot of a tweet by one John Shewchuck that reads:

For those who can’t see it, this is a screenshot of a tweet by one John Shewchuck that reads: “After over 1,000 queries via Twitter, Youtube comments, various blogs, and during my talks, every #ClimateScam alarmist completely avoids answering the question … Why are we in a 7-year cooling trend? They fear data – like a vampire fears the sun.” Followed by a graph showing Lower Tropospheric Global Temperature Anomalies from 2015 to 2022, with a trendline showing a very slight decline.

They don’t need real arguments, because the climate denial “movement” exists to support the interests of some of the most wealthy and unscrupulous people on the planet. On the one hand, I feel almost nostalgic. I was so much younger and more naïve when I first met this particular bullshit. On the other hand, it’s a testament to just how much power stands against real action on climate change. All they have to do is keep spending money, and the arguments they like will hang around forever, no many how many times they’ve been refuted. More than that, bought politicians will continue pretending that arguments like this have even a shred of merit. Still, this means I get to bring out one of my favorite gifs, at least from this particular debate:

The gif shows 7 previous "cooling periods", each one warmer than the last, between 1970 and 2020.

The gif shows 7 previous “cooling periods”, each one warmer than the last, between 1970 and 2020.

This is called The Escalator, and it shows very nicely how cherry-picked data sets can show a “cooling trend”, even in the midst of a rise in temperature that has climate scientists shitting their proverbial pants. The most recent iteration of this lie was debunked earlier this year, but I doubt you could convince Mr. Shewchuck of that. I particularly appreciated this tweet from climate scientists Zeke Hausfather:

The tweet reads:

The tweet reads: “While our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are driving long-term warming, natural variability in the form of El Nino and La Nina (ENSO) events can have a big impact on year-to-year changes. If we remove the effects of ENSO from the record, we see clearer warming:” Followed by a graph showing the Berkley Earth temperature record (blue), with a recent “pause” visible over the last few years, along with the temperature record with ENSO removed (orange) showing a more steady rise in temperature.

The thing is, I feel pretty comfortable saying that this “cooling trend” is about to reach its end, and we’re all going to be worse off because of that. The deniers will be worse off, of course, because it’ll kill their zombie talking point, and they’ll have to wait a bit before they can re-animate it and go back to insisting it’s alive and well. The rest of us will be worse off, because this whole global warming thing is getting to be a serious problem.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, scientists have detected an anomalous spike in sea surface temperatures that seems to be separate from the coming El Niño. By itself, that would already herald an increase in extreme weather, and an increase in air temperature. Add in El Niño, and it seems likely that things could get pretty wild. More than that, there’s some concern that the temperature spike might indicate that a line has been crossed, with regard to the ocean’s ability to absorb heat. If that absorption is slowing down, or if some of that heat is returning to the atmosphere in a new way, then the rate of warming may be about to increase dramatically.

The problem with this “cooling trend” line is that even if it were sincere, it relies on a vague hope that there’s some causal factor, still undiscovered, that explains the apparent pause. Even were that the case, we’d still need to account for the known thermal properties of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, because as I’ve said before, it’s physically impossible to pour that stuff into the atmosphere without trapping more heat. It’d be like putting on a heavy winter coat, and expecting to cool off over time.

I’m posting this in part because it’s worth having more rebuttals out in the world. More that that, though I’m posting this to point out the way that the concentrated power of capital – the aristocrats at the top of big corporations – can keep arguments going forever, no matter how much evidence is provided to prove them wrong. We can work to debunk and persuade, but by itself, that will never be enough. If we want change, we have to make change. We have to organize, coordinate our actions, and bring and end to this greed-fueled rush to extinction.

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Murdered for defending a forest: Official autopsy undermines cop justification

This past January, I wrote briefly about the police killing of a forest defender named Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán . When I posted that, we didn’t know much, including who the victim was, but I pointed out that the story given by the cops – that Tortuguita had fired on them first – was probably a lie. The primary reason for that assumption was the simple fact that cops lie all the time, about pretty much everything. The secondary reason is that while there probably are activists out there who would feel justified in attacking police, I cannot believe that they’d go about it by facing an advancing wall of armed cops head-on, without any cover. My assumption seems to be well-founded, and I think I should provide a content warning for descriptions of gunshot wounds going forward.

The people who knew Tortuguita said that they were a pacifist, and as far as anyone knew, they were unarmed. Then came the body cam footage from cops who were nearby, saying that the gunfire they heard sounded suppressed (some of the cops’ weapons had silencers) and responding to someone on the radio implying that the cop who did get shot was the victim of “friendly fire”. Then came the autopsy commissioned by Tortuguita’s family, which indicated that they’d been hit by dozens of bullets – so many that their paths through their body frequently intersected.

And now, we have the official autopsy, revealing, in addition to the horrifying damage to their body, zero gunpowder residue on Tortuguita’s hands, meaning zero evidence that they had fired a gun.

DeKalb county’s autopsy, released to the media through open records requests on Wednesday, offers no support for the notion that Paez Terán fired a weapon, stating that “gunpowder residue is not seen on the hands” or clothes of Paez Terán. Residue on the hands might indicate that a person fired a gun, but neither this analysis nor a test known as the GSR kit is foolproof, according to experts.

Patrick Bailey, director of the DeKalb county medical examiner’s office, told the Guardian that the county forwarded evidence to the GBI for them to perform the GSR kit, or gunshot residue test.

Nonetheless, the autopsy report does little to clarify what actually happened that day, except for noting in 19 pages of clinical detail the 57 gunshot wounds that Paez Terán received, employing every letter of the alphabet more than once to label the injuries.

“I tried to read the whole thing – in the end it was a little too much,” said Daniel Paez, Manuel’s older brother, reached at his home in Texas. “The very fact that they’re talking about Manny, and how they died – I didn’t even want to share it with our mother, since the pain of losing Manny continues to haunt us; it doesn’t seem to get better.”

“It’s just brutal,” said Wingo Smith, one of the team of attorneys representing the Paez Terán family. “It’s just gruesome, the effect of the shots on their body, the actual devastation.” Smith and his colleagues received the autopsy results and met with staff at the DeKalb medical examiner’s office last week, and shared the report with the Paez Terán family.

I want to note, here, that we don’t seem to have any body cam footage from the officers that killed Tortuguita. It’s almost like there’s either something to hide so they won’t release it, or the cops went in with an intent to kill, and so turned of the cameras. I have no evidence for this, of course, other than the fact that they apparently lied about what happened, and the fact that, once again, body cam footage of the event is either being held back, or doesn’t exist. According to the Intercept article I linked earlier, the cops initially lied by saying there wasn’t any footage at all, then walked that back partially, saying there was footage of the aftermath (which they’re not releasing).

I’ve felt this way for a while, but I think there’s ample reason to view this killing as an extrajudicial execution for the crime of opposing them. They went in ready to kill, and that’s exactly what they did. That would explain the inconsistencies in the story, it would fit what everyone around Tortuguita had to say about who they were, and it would explain why there’s no footage of the shooting – because the cops didn’t want there to be.

This is exactly the shit that the movement to defend the Atlanta forest is trying to stop. A huge facility for cops to train in urban warfare is just another level of militarization, on top of the harm done to the community by destroying the forest. Tortuguita was killed for trying to stop that. Crimethinc goes into more detail in their post Atlanta Police and Georgia State Patrol are Guilty of Murder: The Evidence and the Motive:

Gunshot residue tests are held to be reliable indicators of whether a person has fired a gun, scientifically and legally speaking. Gunshot residue can wear off over a period of four to six hours, but as mentioned in the autopsy, Tortuguita’s hands were bagged shortly after the murder, in order that if there was any gunshot residue on their hands, it would be preserved. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the autopsy, the official who prepared that narrative reported to the scene of the murder within two and a half hours and “covered the hands with white handbags to preserve any trace evidence.”

We can be sure that Atlanta authorities missed no opportunity to secure and publicize any evidence that could corroborate their narrative that Tortuguita shot first. Instead, because the autopsy showed that Tortuguita did not fire a gun at all, the results of the Dekalb County autopsy were suppressed for months.

Is it possible that Tortuguita somehow fired a gun while wearing gloves, or fired a gun and then cleaned their hands? According to the Dekalb County autopsy, Tortuguita experienced at least 57 gunshot wounds; this video shows that all of the gunfire occurred in less than eleven seconds.1 That means that Tortuguita died within a few seconds of the first shot, whoever fired it. In the instants between the first couple shots and their death, there was no time for Tortuguita to remove and conceal gloves, nor to clean gunshot residue off their hands.

To all that evidence, we must add the findings of the second autopsy, the one that Tortuguita’s family commissioned, which found that Tortuguita was “likely sitting cross-legged with their hands up” when they were killed.

This is consistent with the gunshot wounds described in the autopsy conducted by the Dekalb County Medical Examiner:

• Right Forearm and Hand—fractures of the index finger and thumb metacarpal. […]

• Left Forearm and Hand—fracture of the middle finger proximal phalange.

The image is a diagram of the locations of gunshot wounds on Tortuguita’s body. A majority of them seem to be on their legs, with several on their hands and arms, two in their gut, two in the collarbone region, and one through the eye.

As can be seen in the diagram included in the Dekalb County autopsy, bullets struck Tortuguita in both their left hand and their right hand. If they had been holding a gun in either of those hands, the gun would have been struck by a bullet, leaving evidence that Tortuguita had been holding the gun when police opened fire. Atlanta authorities would have eagerly released that evidence in order to corroborate their narrative.

They have done no such thing. They did release a photograph of the gun that they allege was in Tortuguita’s possession—but in the photograph, the gun does not show any sign of having been struck by a bullet.

It follows that Tortuguita did not fire a gun on the morning of January 18, 2023.2

In that case, how did it occur that an officer was shot that day, and with a bullet allegedly matching a handgun registered to Tortuguita that was found on the scene?

According to an early Georgia Bureau of Investigation press release,

The handgun is described as a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm. Forensic ballistic analysis has confirmed that the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Teran’s handgun.

In fact, Georgia State Patrol—the officers who murdered Tortuguita—are all standard-issued firearms that use 9mm ammunition. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the Dekalb County autopsy, during the killing of Tortuguita,

“The uniformed officers reportedly discharged their service weapons, to include a .223 caliber rifle and 9mm handguns.”

So the fact that the gun apparently registered to Tortuguita used 9mm ammunition proves nothing, considering that Georgia State Patrol officers were shooting 9mm ammunition that day.

If exculpatory “forensic ballistic analysis” existed confirming that the bullet that struck the officer was fired from the specific handgun registered to Tortuguita, the authorities would surely have released that by now. The fact that they have not done so suggests that the GBI statement that “the projectile recovered from the trooper’s wound matches Teran’s handgun” means simply that it was 9mm ammunition, like all the bullets that the Georgia State Patrol officers were firing.

Tortuguita experienced at least 57 gunshot woulds within a period of eleven seconds. That offers a hint of how many bullets were in the air during the murder. We don’t know how many rounds Georgia State Patrol officers fired off, but it may have been considerably more than that.

I would say it’s almost guaranteed that there were more bullets than that. It’s been shown that cops tend to miss more often than they hit their targets, so there were probably at least 100 9mm bullets in the air during those 11 seconds. The article goes on to discuss the body cam footage I mentioned earlier, with an officer apparently believing the police shot one of their own. More than that, the police “evidence” doesn’t fit with the video footage we do have:

One more detail remains to be accounted for. According to the “Investigator Narrative” included in the Dekalb County autopsy, “Two empty 9mm shell casings were located under the decedent’s body” by the investigator who arrived on the scene after the shooting. Did Tortuguita fire those shells?

Video footage distinctly shows that the first three shots were fired in a steady, practiced rhythm, followed an instant later by a fourth shot, after which all the other shots began. It seems most likely that an edgy officer—not Tortuguita—fired those four shots, after which all the other officers began firing. If Tortuguita had fired those first shots, there would presumably have been three or four shell casings around Tortuguita’s body—and more to the point, there would have been gunshot residue on Tortuguita’s hands.

  Have I mentioned that cops lie, yet? I feel like I might have forgotten to mention that. Cops lie a lot, which makes it hard to believe anything they say, especially since they also have a habit of planting evidence. The Crimethinc article goes on to discuss motive, and some other factors – it’s worth a read.

Environmental activists are murdered with shocking regularity around the world, where activists – often Indigenous people – are pushing back against environmental destruction that is almost universally driven by greed. According to The Guardian, Tortuguita was the first such killing in the US. The biggest driving factor in Atlanta, while greed is certainly involved in the Cop City project, seems to be the degree to which USian cops hate being told “no”. They want their new playground, they want unchallenged authority, and they are clearly willing to kill to get their way.

I believe I’ve said before that I have a great deal of respect for the people on the front lines of this fight, and I hope it’s clear to all of you that using that “military” terminology is important. These activists are not trying to wage war, but a a war is being waged against them, and their lives are very much in danger.

If you want to help, Defend the Atlanta Forest has a few suggestions, most of which don’t involve putting your body on the line:

There are many ways to get involved. You can support online, help organize your community, show up for actions, or any other number of activities depending on your availability and comfort level. The movement appreciates the need for diverse tactics, meaning many forms of struggle that move towards a common goal. Here’s some more ideas:

  • You can sign up for sporadic text alerts here: 470.606.1212
  • You can Visit the forest at 3251 W Side Place, Atlanta GA 30316.
  • You can organize protests, send phone calls or emails, or help with direct actions of different kinds to encourage contractors of the various projects to stop the destruction. You can find some of the contractors here:
  • Call Brasfield & Gorrie (678.581.6400), the Atlanta Police Foundation (770.354.3392), and the City of Atlanta (404.330.6100) and ask them to cancel the project and to remain peaceful with tree-sitters and other on-the-ground protesters.
  •  You can form an Action Group in your community, neighborhood, town, city, college, or scene. Together, you can host information nights, movie screenings, potluck dinners, and protests at the offices of contractors, at the homes of the board members, on campus, or elsewhere. You can post and pass out fliers at public places and shows, knock on doors to talk to neighbors and sign them up for text alerts, fundraisers, or actions, or you can innovate new activities altogether.
  • You can conduct independent research about the destruction of the forest, construction projects, their funders, their contractors, or lesser-known details about the project using public records searches or other open source investigation techniques and send your findings to us at defendtheatlantaforest[at]protonmail[dot]com.
  • You can organize to join or create a camp in the South River/Weelaunee Forest. Respect people’s space and try to be friendly.
  • Finally, you and friends or your group could organize to caravan down to the forest from near or far during weeks of action.

Obviously, this fight is ongoing. The twitter account associated with this list has announced a week of action from June 24th to July 1st of this year (2023, for people reading this in the future). As they said, how you go about helping is up to you. Any help is better than none, and it takes a village to raze and empire. Tortuguita’s cause was just, and it’s one that we should carry on, be it in their name, or just because it is necessary. Climate change, bigotry, capitalism, authoritarianism – they’re all different fronts on the same war, and sitting out the fight simply isn’t an option.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please share it around. If you read this blog regularly, please consider joining my small but wonderful group of patrons. Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to get a normal job, so my writing is all I have for the foreseeable future, and I’d love for it to be a viable career long-term. As part of that goal, I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series, so if supporting this blog isn’t enough inducement by itself, for just $5/month you can work with me to name a place or character in that series!

Important Video: “Gender Criticals” & Autism

I’m not sure where I first encountered the despicable practice of using autistic people as a political weapon, but it was probably the anti-vax movement. Some time after that, I learned why so many autistic people hate the organization Autism Speaks, and not long after that, I started to become more aware of how our society systematically fails, abuses, and kills people with all sorts of disabilities and neurotypes. In recent years, the reactionary “Gender Critical” movement has been using the bigoted notion that autistic people don’t know themselves or their own experiences, to attack trans people. It’s something that requires dismissing what autistic trans people have to say, often while claiming that those same people “don’t have a voice”, and so need some Rowling-style “feminist” to speak for them.

Mica of the Youtube channel Ponderful does an excellent job dismantling this bullshit, and giving her perspective as an autistic cis woman of the sort that the transphobes claim to speak for. Fair warning, this video does get a bit dark, as it goes into topics such as the frequency with which disabled people are murdered by their parents and other caregivers, and abusive “treatments” for autism. It’s an informative video, and it closes out with comments from autistic trans people, because it turns out that they actually do know their own minds, and they have voices with which to speak for themselves.


Three Arrows on Prager U’s lies about the Iraq War

Growing up, my parents had a great many books from the newspaper comic Doonesbury. For those who’re unfamiliar, the comic started in 1970 following the lives of a group of college kids, mostly centered around the experiences of one Mike Doonesbury. When B.D., the jock who never removed his football helmet, volunteered to go to Vietnam, the readers went along with him, and got a darkly humorous take on that conflict. When George Bush Sr. invaded Iraq in 1990, B.D. was there, too, along with Duke, the Hunter S. Thompson parody, who went to profiteer.

I think it’s fair to say that, along with listening to NPR in the car, Doonesbury was a pretty big part of my childhood political education. During the Gulf War era, the theme of greed was woven through the comics. Mr. Butts, a mascot for the tobacco industry, was handing out free cigarettes to B.D. and his fellow soldiers. Duke ran a sleazy club, which he opened to profit off of soldiers, officers, and the various dignitaries and oilmen drawn to the war and its profits.

The second part of my political education came from my involvement in The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), which instilled in me a religious opposition to war, and was a huge part of my social life, growing up. The third part was my high school, High Mowing Waldorf School, which regularly brought in speakers on a variety of topics, including SOA Watch, and an organization called Voices in the Wilderness, which talked about sanctions.

See, the Gulf War was pretty short by modern standards. It only lasted from 1990, to 1991, though it was a brutal affair. If you ever have any questions about whether Bush Sr. was less horrible than W, look into that war, maybe starting with The Highway of Death. The war destroyed a lot of Iraq’s infrastructure, and the sanctions regime that followed made repairing it nearly impossible. I’ve mentioned before that I view sanctions as a form of siege, using modern power and politics to blockade an entire nation, rather than just a city or fortress. The sanctions killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis between 1991, and the 2003 invasion by W’s administration, and most of those “excess deaths” were children.

After being “bombed back to the stone age”, people died. A big part of that was because the war’s destruction included sewage and water systems. That meant that clean water was hard to get, and disease was everywhere, while medicine was hard to get. It’s not clear if anyone literally starved to death but there was malnutrition, which makes people more vulnerable toinfection of every kind. On top of that, the U.S. used the U.N. to block necessary supplies, like the resources to repair the infrastructure and purify water. The sanction that angered me the most, in my teens, was on new blood bags for transfusions, on the grounds that they could, in theory, be used to make chemical weapons.

This was a continuation of the gross hypocrisy that always surrounded the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein. There’s no question that the man was a horrible person, responsible for incredible amounts of death and suffering, but the U.S. does not care about that. At various points, the U.S. government actively supported those atrocities, just as it supported Saudi Arabia’s ongoing genocide in Yemen, along with countless other crimes against humanity all around the world.

So that was my background when Bush got elected, and most of the people I knew who talked about the issue, fully expected W to try to finish what his daddy started, and get Saddam Hussein. When 9/11 happened, it was immediately assumed that Bush would use it as an excuse to attack Iraq. Not long after, I started attending a weekly peace vigil in a town near where I lived, and I continued demonstrating and protesting through the propaganda campaign that led to the invasion.

I encountered people who sincerely believed that Iraq was involved with 9/11, despite all evidence to the contrary. They screamed in my face about it, in fact. They also screamed about WMDs, even though Iraq had been under inspection for years, and there was no sign that they had anything. I watched my government lie to me, as I had known they would, and I watched the justification for the war shift, and become more vague as each lie was debunked.

I saw how it didn’t matter. The protests didn’t matter, the facts didn’t matter, the opposition from allied nations didn’t matter – none of it mattered. France opposed the invasion, so we had to deal with “Freedom Fries”, and wine stores poured out their French wines. I also saw the rise of Fox News, and its unwavering commitment to making the world worse, and to lying about fucking everything, no matter how pointless.

I’m going through all of this, so that you’d have some idea of my views and memories surrounding the Iraq war and the George W Bush administration. With that as context, imagine my feelings when considering the effort by Prager “University” to rewrite that history. For those unfamiliar, PragerU is a YouTube propaganda mill helmed by an obnoxious and creepy conservative radio host named Dennis Prager. It was originally funded by fracking billionaires, and I believe it has since been bought by The Daily Wire.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that PragerU lies even more than Fox News, and you do not, for any reason, gotta hand it to Fox.

Prager’s primary project seems to be creating an alternative history where everything that ever happened in the world both supports all the opinions of U.S. Christian fascists, and in which the United States always has been, and always will be The Greatest Country In The History Of The World. You know how there’s currently a push to prevent children from learning about LGBTQIA issues, or any accurate telling of U.S. history? Prager U is what they want to have instead.

It’s not shocking that conservatives are trying to rewrite history. That’s all they’ve ever done, really, and it’s part of how they claim moral supremacy for the United States. From cherry trees to WMDs, they just make up a history they like the feel of, and attack anyone who tells the truth as un-patriotic. Fortunately, I’m no patriot, and while I don’t know much about Dan from Three Arrows, if he is a patriot, it’s not for the U.S. (how’s that for a segue?), who just put out this video picking apart Prager’s lies about Iraq and the second Bush administration:

I think it’s helpful to have a perspective from outside the U.S., but more than that, I just appreciate anyone who’s able to dig into videos like this and the people behind them, and put out a solid debunking video on the topic. Conservatives are not going to stop trying to erase and re-write history to suit their agenda, so I think it’s extremely valuable for us to have content like this to push back against their lies.

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How the government kills for Capital in the class war

So, there’s currently an “inflation crisis” in the U.S., as well as some other countries. The cost of necessities has been rising, which, of course, hurts those at the bottom far more than anyone else. This inflation was predicted, by conservative economists, as a result of the woefully inadequate COVID-related assistance people got. They’ve basically been saying, for years now, that if people at the bottom get even a little bit of a break, it’ll tank the economy, and look! Prices are rising! We have to do something! Let’s raise interest rates, which will, down the line, increase unemployment, thereby removing the harmful excess that’s causing this inflation! It’s like bleeding someone for a fever, you see.

Of course, conservative economists lie almost as much as cops, and they’re deliberately leaving out some of the context. See, prices have been increasing, but there’s no evidence that it’s because of increased demand, and even where supplies have been hurt, as with eggs, the price increase goes well beyond covering the costs. The reality is that prices have been rising because the capitalists who own everything decided they could get away with increasing prices, by blaming it on inflation.

In recent months, corporate bosses and top Federal Reserve officials have pointed to workers’ wages as a factor in surging prices, which have pushed overall inflation in the United States to a four-decade high.

But the AFL-CIO’s new report attempts to reframe the national inflation discussion, emphasizing that while wage increases won by ordinary workers are drawing outsized attention from policymakers and executives, CEO pay hikes significantly outpaced the wage increases of rank-and-file employees last year.

Titled “Greedflation,” the report shows that “in 2021, CEOs of S&P 500 companies received, on average, $18.3 million in total compensation.”

“CEO pay rose 18.2%, faster than the U.S. inflation rate of 7.1%,” the analysis finds. “In contrast, U.S. workers’ wages fell behind inflation, with worker wages rising only 4.7% in 2021. The average S&P 500 company’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 324-to-1.”

The highest-paid executive among S&P 500 companies last year was Expedia’s Peter Kern, who brought in an eye-popping $296 million in total compensation.

Other executives at the top of the 2021 list were Amazon CEO Andy Jassy ($213 million), Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger ($179 million), Apple CEO Tim Cook ($99 million), and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon ($84 million).

“Runaway CEO pay is a symptom of greedflation–when companies increase prices to boost corporate profits and create windfall payouts for corporate CEOs,” the new analysis states.

During a conference call outlining the report’s findings, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond said that “when you look at those numbers and at CEOs trying to blame workers for inflation, it just doesn’t add up.”

In his remarks during an earnings call earlier this year, for instance, Amazon’s chief financial officer attributed inflationary pressures felt within the company during the final quarter of 2021 to “wage increases and incentives in our operations.”

But Redmond pointed out that “last year, Amazon delivered the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratio in the S&P 500 Index with a pay ratio of 6,474 to 1.”

“Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy received $212.7 million in total compensation,” he noted. “What did Amazon’s median worker earn last year? Just $32,855… Corporate profits and runaway CEO pay are responsible for causing inflation, not workers’ wages.”

I mentioned earlier that increasing interest rates are designed to increase unemployment, and I wasn’t making that up. As I’ve said before, Larry Summers has been openly calling for higher unemployment to “fight inflation”. This is what people mean when they say that poverty is a policy choice. It couldn’t be more obvious that the scarcity faced by the world’s poor is manufactured by the world’s rich, because that’s how they get so rich – by taking as much from other people as they possibly can, with no regard for the harm done.

Sometimes, you’ll encounter a misguided soul who insists that its in the best interests of the bosses for their workers to be healthy and happy. There’s a grain of truth to that, but the reality is that if workers have a better life, they also have the time and energy to learn new things, and to organize. Money is power, in a capitalist society, and those at the top do not want you to have power. They will give you enough to survive on, but only if you give them far, far more through your labor.

And then, of course, when you go to buy food, or pay rent, or pay for power, or anything else, you’re giving that money right back to the ruling class, because they own everything.

Once upon a time, there was something called a company store. The basic premise was brutally simple – since normal people had to work to survive, the owning class could pretty much set the terms. They’d pay workers in company credit, that could only be spent at the company store. The modern equivalent would be for Amazon workers to be paid with Amazon gift cards, that were only redeemable for Amazon products. You work all day in a warehouse, or driving a delivery vehicle, and then your only way to get food, clothes, medicine, or anything else would be to buy the options that Amazon tells you you can buy, at a price set by Amazon.

The only problem, from the boss’s point of view, is that that was made illegal in 1938, after decades of struggle and death by workers. The solution, as I see it, was to expand their control of everything else in the country. Think of it like the rental market – if you can’t afford to buy (and who can, these days?), then your only real option is to rent. This means that while you don’t have to rent from any particular landlord, you do have to rent from one of them. As a class, they literally own all options, and as a class, they use the money that you pay them every month to increasingly rig the game in their favor.

I think something similar has been happening to the U.S. as a whole. You might get real money as a paycheck, but what options do you really have when it comes to spending it, if all the owners are raising their prices, because they feel like it? To quote Stupendium’s Outer Worlds song, “we earn what we’re allowed, and give it right back at the bar.” I’m not saying their ownership is total. It’s not. There are small community supported agriculture (CSA) setups, like the one that provided a lot of my food when I was growing up, and other efforts to reclaim or defend bits of our lives from the all-consuming greed of the wealthy, but they’re not enough. They’re not changing our direction or momentum, and they’re simply not available to an awful lot of people.

Things like that are most available to the so-called Middle Class – people who make their living by selling labor, but are paid enough to own their own homes, and take advantage of the savings and stability of that to build community and the beginnings of community-owned production. For people who rent, and who are forever moving in search of a more affordable home or better pay, it can be hard to do that. .

CSAs are, however, a seed. If you read The Shock Doctrine, which you should (the audiobook is free), you’ll learn about the neoliberal strategy of working to ensure that certain ideas are kept “lying around”, so that they’re right to hand when there’s some sort of crisis that will allow you to do things that might otherwise meet resistance. They may have weaponized that tactic to create a century of war and injustice, but it’s a tool like any other, and it’s one that we can also use. CSAs are one such idea. They’re not “competitive” in the sense of capitalist economics, but they represent a viable model of agriculture that could be subsidized and expanded, should we get the chance to do that. The same is true of the ideas in permaculture and other managed ecosystem models. The same is true of unions and union governance, and of protest tactics, and of mutual aid, and so much else. By keeping those ideas around, we create the opportunity to expand them down the line.

It’s far more than that, though. I think all of those things are also projects that we (some of us more than others) can be working on specifically because all of them increase our power. If you get all your vegetables from a local farm that’s funded by you and others like you, then you will be insulated – at least a little – from the whims of the aristocracy. The same is true if you and your fellow workers are organized enough to take collective action in defense of your rights.

And that’s why I think that while the extra money is something that capitalists will always take, the real incentive behind the price hike is to hurt workers. This isn’t just sadism, though it would honestly surprise me if there wasn’t an element of that involved, but rather a calculated effort to increase poverty and desperation, so that workers will take whatever jobs they can get. More than that, when workers are living right on the edge of eviction and starvation, they literally don’t have the material resources to survive something like a sustained strike. See, a strong and healthy working class is the thing that they most fear, so they reaches their hand for the watering can, and they waters the workers’ beer.

More specifically, they’re leaning on the Fed to deliberately hurt the working class, so that workers don’t have the power to demand things like enough money to live on, or safe working conditions.

As the Federal Reserve kicked off its first policy meeting of the new year on Tuesday, economists and progressive advocates reiterated their now-familiar call for the central bank to stop raising interest rates amid growing evidence that hiring, wage growth, and inflation are slowing significantly.

“Pushing millions of people out of work is not the answer to tackling inflation,” Rakeen Mabud, chief economist at the Groundwork Collaborative, said in a statement. “Additional rate hikes could jeopardize our strong labor market—and low-wage workers and Black and brown workers would suffer the biggest economic consequences.”

“There’s a clear path forward to avoiding a devastating and completely avoidable recession: Chair Powell and the Fed should stop raising interest rates,” Mabud added.

The latest push for an end to interest rate increases came as fresh data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Tuesday showed that wage growth continued to cool at the tail-end of 2022, an outcome that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has explicitly been aiming for even as experts have rejected the notion that wages are responsible for current inflation levels.

According to the BLS Employment Cost Index (ECI)—a measure watched closely by Fed policymakers—wage growth climbed just 1% in the final three months of 2022 compared to the previous quarter, a slower pace than analysts expected.

“The Fed has lost its excuse for a recession,” Mike Konczal, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Roosevelt Institute, tweeted in response to the new BLS figures. “Over the last three months, inflation has come down exactly as a soft landing would predict, wage growth didn’t persist but moderated with the reopening to solidly high levels within late 1990s ranges, and the economy added 750,000 new jobs.”

Though Powell has insisted that Fed decision-making will be driven by economic data, he made clear last month that the nation’s central bankers don’t think inflation has slowed enough to justify a rate-hike pause or reversal, brushing aside the recessionary risks of more monetary tightening.

On Wednesday, the Fed is widely expected to institute a 25-basis-point rate increase followed by another of the same size at its March meeting, bringing the total number of rate hikes to nine since early 2022.

Even the central bank’s own models predict a sharp increase in the unemployment rate—and potentially millions of lost jobs—if Fed policymakers drive interest rates up to their desired range of between 5% and 5.25%.

Recent layoffs across the tech industry as well as data signaling a hiring deceleration have also intensified fears of a Fed-induced economic crisis.

“The Fed has every reason to halt further job-killing interest rate hikes as key indicators show inflation is slowing while the economic recovery remains fragile,” said Liz Zelnick, director of the Economic Security and Corporate Power program at Accountable.US. “Too many hard-working families have everything to lose if the Fed stays the course with higher rates that only push the economy closer to a recession.”

“Repeated interest rate hikes have done little to curb corporate greed that even Fed economists admit is what’s really driving high costs on everything from groceries to gas,” Zelnick continued. “The Fed faces a choice: back down and let policy and lawmakers continue to take impactful steps to rein in corporate profiteering—or keep needlessly threatening jobs and an economic downturn with further rate hikes.”

Remember – under capitalism, capitalists hold all the cards. This is why there’s no real effort to deal with the student debt crisis. It’s why there’s no real effort to make wages meet the cost of living. It’s why there’s active opposition to universal healthcare, even from self-proclaimed “progressives” in the Democratic Party. The government serves the aristocracy first, and that means doing what they must in order to keep the workers in line. A direct crackdown is bad optics, and tends to bring others to the cause, so instead they do things like forcing a deal to make a particular strike illegal, or ignoring blatant price gouging to instead “fight inflation” by deliberately increasing unemployment. 

Do you understand what that means? The official policy of this government, that supposedly represents the people, is deliberately choosing to kill people, in order to weaken the ability of the working class to make demands of their bosses. I am not exaggerating.

In the largest study of its kind on mortality patterns in Europe and the United States, a Yale researcher has found a direct correlation between unemployment and mortality.

The study showed that high unemployment rates increase mortality and low unemployment decreases mortality and increases the sense of well being in a community. Findings from the three-year study, commissioned by the European Union, will be presented to select members of the European Parliament and senior officials at a European Commission press conference on May 23 in Brussels.

Economic growth is the single most important factor relating to length of life,” said principal investigator M. Harvey Brenner, visiting professor in the Global Health Division of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine. Brenner is also professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University and senior professor of epidemiology at Berlin University of Technology.

Employment is the essential element of social status and it establishes a person as a contributing member of society and also has very important implications for self-esteem,” said Brenner. “When that is taken away, people become susceptible to depression, cardiovascular disease, AIDS and many other illnesses that increase mortality.”

Prior studies on the impact of income on survival have focused on very poor countries with high poverty and infant mortality rates. This study shows that the same principles apply to highly industrialized and wealthy societies in which occupational differences based on skill level, wages and working conditions vary considerably. Brenner said this is compounded by ethnicity, and it is this distinction which still makes for the central differences in illness, mortality rates and life expectancy in industrialized countries.

This study raises the issue to a national level-a government policy setting level,” said Brenner. “The main findings illustrate trends in mortality in Europe and North America based on economic growth and employment rates. The lower the employment rate, the more damaging, and full employment equals lower mortality rates.”

And that study doesn’t even touch on the fact that if you raise unemployment, you are going to force more people out of stable housing, and being unhoused is terrible for your health, and, of course, increases mortality.

Instead of gunning down striking workers and their families, they just adjust the economy “to fight inflation”, condemn people for being lazy, and brutalize the “undeserving poor” as a warning to everyone else. Behave and take what you’re given, or you’ll end up on the street, and spend the rest of your life in constant danger, having your belongings stolen, and being told that your plight is your own fault for being a bad person.

Still, as I said earlier, we have ways to build power that, while slow, are very difficult to stop, and are likely to improve our day to day lives in the short term as we continue working on them. That’s the good news in all of this. When I talk about “building collective power”, it’s not just about forcing the change that we need, it’s about literally making that change as we go. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that we’re guaranteed to win, but it’s a way for us to take back another thing that capitalism has stolen from us – unalienated labor. Work that’s done for our benefit and satisfaction, rather than the enrichment of an overlord. It’s a way for us to begin to take back our freedom.

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Musk Personally Suspended the Account of Left-Wing Journalist

When confronted with a fascist movement, it’s worth remembering that fascism, for all its populist trappings, serves the elite. That’s really where its power comes from. The people involved are genuine reactionaries, and monstrous people, but the movement is sustained and directed by the limitless wealth of the ruling class. It’s also worth remembering that fascists don’t really value anything other than power and victory, so they will happily claim the protections of “free speech” as part of their campaign to utterly eliminate that freedom. This is why it’s not surprising that Elon Musk, one of those at the very top of the ruling class, bought twitter promising to protect freedom of speech, and then immediately turned around and started banning people, including those he specifically said he would not ban.

Chad Loder is an anti-fascist journalist and activist, who exposed a member of the Proud Boys involved in the coup attempt of January 6, 2021, as well as the machinations of fascists like Andy Ngo. He was from Twitter back in November, as part of a larger pattern of catering to the far right. It always seemed likely that Musk, who has increasingly shown himself to be a reactionary man-child, was directly involved in this purge, but now it seems we actually have proof:

A leaked internal Twitter message appears to show that Elon Musk directly ordered staff to suspend a left-wing activist’s account on the social-media platform.

Bloomberg said it viewed a screenshot of the message in question, involving the account of Chad Loder, which read: “Suspension: direct request from Elon Musk.”

Loder, who uses they/them pronouns, describes themself on their Mastodon profile as a community activist, cybersecurity expert, and citizen journalist. Their investigation into the US Capitol riot on January 6, 2021 led to the arrest of a masked member of the far-right Proud Boys organisation who’d attacked police officers, The Intercept reported.

Musk has described himself politically as “somewhere in the middle” but encouraged his followers to vote Republican the day before November’s midterm elections.

This story’s publication resulted in an exchange between Musk and the prominent right-wing journalist Andy Ngo, who shared a series of screenshots purporting to show past tweets from Loder advocating violence. Insider couldn’t independently verify the tweets because of Loder’s account suspension.

In response to Ngo, Musk tweeted: “I don’t know this person at all, but explicit threats of violence obviously violate Twitter ToS,” or terms of service.

Loder’s account was one of several prominent left-wing accounts suspended by Twitter in November 2022.

Loder told Insider’s Sawdah Bhaimiya they suspected the suspension resulted from an “organized mass-reporting campaign,” whereby a right-wing group published a Substack blog with instructions on how to falsely report breaches of Twitter’s rules by particular accounts — with Loder’s profile listed near the top.

On Tuesday, Twitter reinstated the account of prominent white nationalist Nick Fuentes, only for it to be banned again inside 24 hours.

In a since-deleted tweet in October, Musk promoted a conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of former house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

J.M. Berger, an expert on social-media extremism, previously told Insider: “I think he’s intentionally empowering right-wing extremists.”

Not only that, but I don’t think there’s any reason to expect that he will stop empowering right-wing extremists. Their agenda is both flattering to his ego, and helpful to his greed. I don’t know that messing with twitter will reshape the world the way he or his fans might wish, but at the end of the day, he’s still immensely powerful, and he’s still using that power to limit the reach of people whose opinions he dislikes. There’s not a whole lot we can do about this, directly, it can’t hurt to make sure it’s talked about as we keep working to end that particular kind of power altogether. It’s likely that much the next few decades will be shaped, for the worse, by the whims of billionaires. As that’s happening, it’s important to remember that no matter what they say, what they are doing is supporting the far right, and suppressing the left.

Children are collateral damage in Tim Pool’s anti-LGBTQIA hate campaign

Right now, the American conservative movement is trying to erase LGBTQIA people from society. As with past genocidal projects, all of the “justifications” are bullshit, but that doesn’t stop bigoted grifters from spreading that manure around. You see, they want to destroy queer people, and they’re happy to lie to get their way. This is not a new project, but it has gotten new life in recent years, as part of a larger fascist movement and conservative backlash against the progress we’ve made on trans rights in particular, and LGBTQIA rights in general, over the last four decades or so.

This post is inspired and partially informed by a video by Lance, from The Serfs, but I dig into the subject below. I find this video useful because it shows how Pool weaves anti-queer propaganda in and around an unrelated story, to give shallow thinkers the impression that the movements for gay and trans rights, and the push for comprehensive sex education, are leading to child sexual abuse. In trying to give that impression, Pool lies, misleads, and literally cites the opinions of someone with close ties to the NXIVM sex cult, which actually did groom and abuse a great many children and adults. It’s worth keeping in mind, if you’re not already, that all of these lies and implications about Queer people serve to cover up and enable real abuse, by misdirecting people’s attention. For some, that might just be acceptable collateral damage, and for others, that is almost certainly the point. I think that going through how Pool’s video is set up, similar to what Lance does below, is useful in seeing how he furthers this agenda by association and implication.

So, to begin with, let’s look at the news from Chicago. Tim Pool builds his case around a real report of hundreds of cases of grooming, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape by teachers and staff in the Chicago public school system, during the 2021-2022 school year. This is a horrifying report, and I think it does demonstrate a need for real change. I also suspect that this is more widespread than just Chicago. Schools, like churches, give a number of adults a huge amount of power over children, and while most may gravitate to those lines of work for good reasons, others do it for that access. This seems to be the case within pretty much any hierarchical institution, but children are uniquely vulnerable because they have neither the knowledge nor the power to defend themselves, within society as it exists today. There are annual reports on this in CPS, and if the one from 2019 is anything to judge by, this is a long-standing problem, and as I said I doubt it’s limited to Chicago. I don’t recommend it as a news site, but I’m going to use the Daily Caller article Pool is using in the video above. Content warning for child sexual abuse, in case that wasn’t clear:

The Chicago Board of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) annual report found hundreds of Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers were accused of adult-to-student sexual misconduct in the 2021-2022 school year.

The OIG’s Sexual Allegations Unit (SAU) opened 447 cases investigating teachers for allegedly grooming, sexually assaulting, or raping CPS students last school year, following the 325 opened in 2021. Of the open cases, the SAU closed 600 over the past 12 months, according to the OIG annual report, reported ChicagoCityWire.

SAU investigated a Chicago high school substitute teacher for grooming several students for sex and engaging in sexual acts with at least one student on school property, the OIG found.

The CPS teacher allegedly talked to students about their sex lives in person and through social media, cell phones, and “other common grooming techniques,” according to the OIG. The report stated the teacher gave the “student unnecessary passes to exclude her from class, and encouraging students to confide in him about personal problems.”

SAU claims he made “intimate physical contact with students (including kisses, sexual hugs, and back-rubs), openly solicited sexual acts (such as asking a student to recruit another student for a ‘threesome’).”

A separate SAU investigation into a former JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) staff member found he allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old female high school student. SAU found that for 12 months, he threatened to kill the student and her family if she reported the sexual abuse.

SAU reported that the JROTC staff member and the student exchanged hundreds of text messages that “were overtly sexual, including ‘I’m ready to f*** right now … I’m not gonna be gentle either.’”

Chicago Police Department arrested the JROTC staff member and charged him with eight counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, according to the report.

She noted that the district has taken action against those engaged in wrongdoing.

Several of the open cases involved CPS-affiliated adults exposing students to pornographic images, including one high school teacher who accessed porn while he was sharing his screen with minor students.

The report applauded the OIG’s SAU’s ability to “manage its extraordinarily high case volume without compromising the quality of its investigations.”

“Over the past four years, the SAU’s accomplishments have been significant. It has opened 1,735 cases following allegations reported by students, alumni, parents, staff, and others. Of those, it has closed a total of 1,384 cases raising concerns of adult-on-student sexual misconduct, and substantiated policy violations in 302 investigations,” the report stated.

The OIG added that of the over 1,700 cases of alleged sexual misconduct between CPS-affiliated adults and students, sixteen criminal charges have been filed.

So, that’s the situation. Because of the nature of the misinformation surrounding this issue, I think I need to emphasize that the vast majority of perpetrators of this stuff are straight, cis men. That is the over-represented demographic here, not queer people of any stripe. Likewise, none of this has anything to do with drag queen anything. I also want to draw attention to the JROTC staff member, because when I wrote about schools forcing children to participate, I linked but didn’t go into that organization’s history of this exact problem.

JROTC programs are promoted not as a pipeline to active duty but as a valuable source of adult mentoring, exposure to military discipline, and inculcation of civic values. Cadets get to drill in uniform, handle weapons, learn military ranks and history, and stand at attention when visitors come to their classes. Their instructors are military veterans certified by the DOD, but many states don’t require them to have either teaching certificates or a college degree. In addition, the DOD leaves day-to-day monitoring of their performance to school administrators busy with many other responsibilities.

That lax oversight has had calamitous results. As the New York Times recently revealed in a major investigative piece, at least thirty-three JROTC instructors have engaged in sexual misbehavior with young women in the program during the last five years. And that JROTC rap sheet does not even include the “many others who have been accused of misconduct but [were] never charged” or the inappropriate behavior that went unreported because cadets were afraid of jeopardizing their potential military careers.

JROTC accounts for a minority of students (a minority of whom go on to join the armed forces), but note again the dynamic described here – it’s adults who are put in positions of authority over children. Similar power dynamics are often part of the sexual assault of adults in the U.S. military, which is also a huge problem, church abuse, workplace abuse, and familial abuse, which seems to be the most common.

Tim Pool starts his video talking about the the systematic grooming and abuse of children, while his background was a completely unrelated article about a trans activist supposedly getting someone fired from their job at a video game company for following Libs of Tiktok (a well-known stochastic terrorist), and Ian Myles Cheong, a bizarre far-right twitter activist. I looked up the Post Millennial article Pool put up there, and it’s pretty transphobic. It also ignores the fact that the firing wasn’t just about who the employee followed, but also about at least one tweet spreading the bigoted lie that trans rights are a threat to cis women’s safety. The company, Limited Run Games, felt that this public bigotry from a community manager was harmful to their brand an image, and so they fired her.

But whether or not you think that was justified, I have to ask – why announce the headline of the article about Chicago Public Schools, over an image of a headline about a trans activist, and saying, “Now the story that is on the screen is not that story. I want to give you a few moments before we get into the darker element of what’s been going on and what’s being exposed, and I want to just briefly highlight the cultural elements that are allowing such a thing to occur.”

This has nothing to do with Chicago Public Schools. As we’ve covered, most child abuse in general is by cis people. Not trans people. Trans people have nothing to do with this, but Pool brings up the abuse headline, and then immediately switches to talking about trans people. He insist that he is “Quite literally only referring to people who are targeting children in order to groom them”, and not LGBTQ+ people. As Lance points out, Tim is pretty vague about what grooming means, and he’s called things like Drag Queen Story Time, which is literally just people in colorful costumes reading stories to children. This is the same absurd fudging of definitions that has Republicans in Oklahoma trying to outlaw all “flamboyant makeup” around children. I guess they hate clowns, too?

The article describes “grooming behavior” that includes, among other things, personal conversations with children about their sex lives. His interpretation of that is that any discussion of sex or sexuality in the presence of children is “grooming”, which allows him to segue into attacking materials designed for sex ed. He literally says, “I was told that’s just claiming that gay people exist!”, without any acknowledgement of the context in which the conversations are being discussed – sexual text conversations, adults showing pornography to children, in-person sexual activity, and so on. Again, gay people haven’t come up so far, except when Pool has interjected them. The article has, so far, only described abuse by straight cis people.

He then brings out a book called Gender Queer, which is an autobiographical book targeted at older teens and adults.

When I was a teen, I did not want to actually talk about that stuff with my parents, or with anyone. Still, it was important stuff to learn, so my parents got me a book called It’s Perfectly Normal. It’s an illustrated primer on puberty, sex, and sexuality. The version I had didn’t include any mention of trans people that I can recall, but I believe it has been updated since then, following advances in general understanding of the issue, and the social change that the current conservative backlash is angry about. The book goes out of its way to be friendly and positive, including working against the various sorts of body-shaming that exist in our society. It’s illustrated, including drawings of a diversity of nude body types, as well as some depictions of sexual acts, drawings and diagrams of genitals, and so on. That’s the topic of the book. Some of the drawings may be arousing, and some may not be, and which is which will be different for different people. The whole point of the book is to teach about this stuff that’s necessary to learn as part of growing up. Consequently, this is one of those books that is banned pretty often, because conservatives think it’s “pornographic”.

The book Pool complains about is also illustrated – it’s a “graphic memoir”, but it’s a story about a young person discovering their asexuality, and that they don’t fit the gender “binary”. I’m willing to bet that it’s less explicit than my “puberty textbook”, but that hasn’t stopped people from banning it. Why is he bringing out this book? Because the religious right has been freaking out about it, and Tim Pool, despite his pretense to centrism, is a right-wing extremist.

So, he has started out this story about abuse in Chicago Public Schools by pointing to an unrelated story involving a trans activist, and then after reading a bit of the Daily Caller article out loud, he holds up this book called Gender Queer, and says “No, I got no issue with the Queer people involved in that book. I have an issue with the behaviors they’ve engaged in, such as the pushing of this book to children, which includes pornographic images”.

And then he switches to praising Dave Rubin, a gay conservative pundit, apparently to say that Rubin’s “one of the good ones”? He says that he’s fine with Rubin being “gay married”, and having kids, because he’s teaching good values, and it’s up to parents whether their kids are raised around “this stuff”. But the schools? The schools are hiding it from parents, and grooming kids by showing them porn.

You can see what’s going on here, right? So far the only actual harm to children we’ve talked about has been done by straight, cis men, preying on girls. There was one example of a teacher showing children literal pornography, and Pool is equating that to the book Gender Queer, and the LGBTQIA movement in general. This is nothing new. It’s the same bullshit propaganda used to demonize Queer people for longer than I’ve been alive. It’s the same old insistence that anything outside of cis, straight relationships is inherently more sexual, and that any discussion of can only ever be sexual.

This is a weapon that conservatives love to use. It’s not that long ago that they were working to create a moral panic about Muslims, by declaring that they made up a disproportionate majority of “grooming gangs” in the UK. That narrative conveniently left out the definition of “grooming gang” being used by pundits – localized, in-person, grooming activities on the street that targeted white girls. You may note that this definition excludes everyone abused by churches, all online activity, all abuse by families, all abuse of boys, and all abuse of non-white children, all so that they can spin the narrative that Islam somehow uniquely encourages child abuse. You can check out this Lonerbox video for more on that particular thing.

What Pool is doing seems even more dishonest than that, though, given that he’s just choosing random stories and anecdotes relating to LGBTQIA people to associate with the CPS report, so he can say that “putting these books in school and not telling parents” is the line which must not be crossed. Pool has also called a family-friendly drag show “a grooming event”.

And then Pool cites James Lindsay to justify this leap. Lindsay has made something of a career out of accusing people of being pedophiles with no evidence. Lindsay himself, on the other hand, has (or had) a long-standing friendship with Nicki Clyne, who was part of the inner circle of the NXIVM (generally pronounced “nexium”) pyramid scheme/sex cult, which engaged in actual grooming of girls. I know it’s beyond cliché at this point, but Lindsay seems to be the epitome of “every accusation by a conservative is actually a confession”.

This is the person on whose authority Tim wants us to believe that all things rainbow are part of a vast conspiracy to groom children. This person who made accusations like that while being, at best, very close to someone involved in an actual conspiracy to groom children.

And he goes back to ranting about the Limited Run Games story, calls the LGBTQIA movement a cult (having just cited someone who was friendly with an actual cult), throws in the odd concept of “political grooming”, whatever that is, and then proceeds to lie about the concept of child liberation.

So, as I understand it, “child liberation” means giving children more autonomy in their lives, rather than treating them like they aren’t people. This means letting education be more self-directed, and it means helping them figure out how to make decisions for themselves. This is an approach that would give adults less power over children. Less power to do things like grade kids worse if they don’t like them, affecting their future, and less power to abuse them, because part of the point of child liberation is teaching children that their personal autonomy matters. Andrewism has a good video on the subject if you want to dig into it. If you prefer to read articles on the subject, Andrewism links to a number of articles on the Anarchist Free Library, digging into the age-based power dynamics in our society, and the similarities between the current default schooling system, and prison. It’s an interesting subject, and not one you’re likely to encounter much outside of anarchist circles, which makes it perfect for bigoted grifters to lie to the general public about it.

I’m assuming that most of my readers are on board with comprehensive sex ed, and early teaching of consent. In the case of the former, it’s important for children to know about their bodies – including their reproductive systems – for a couple main reasons. The first is health – knowing how their bodies look and feel normally, and knowing what “normal function” is supposed to look like, gives them the tools to know when something’s wrong, and to express that more clearly. On that same note, as they age and go through puberty, their “normal function” is going to change, and it’s generally a good idea to give them warning about this so that they’re not freaked out by it. The second is safety from other people – teaching them how all the basic physiological stuff interacts with society, and what constitutes sexual activity. This is important, among other reasons, because if you don’t do that, you’ll get ignorant twits like Tim Pool who apparently can’t tell the difference between teaching someone about sex, and actually engaging or trying to engage in sexual activity with that someone.

When it comes to teaching consent, there’s little reason for sex to come up at all. At the earliest ages, it’s all stuff like whether or not they want to hug someone, whether they’re OK with a particular game or activity – it’s about teaching that they have a right to autonomy. You may note that we’re back to language from a couple paragraphs ago. Child/youth liberation is an extension of the same principle. It’s a bit contradictory to tell children that they have a right to not participate in activities that make them uncomfortable, while also telling them that they have no right to refuse to go to school when they’re told, for how long they’re told, no matter what they’re suffering while they’re there. The current system, as a default, trains children to just accept what adults tell them – of course abuse will come out of that!

But conservatives don’t actually like autonomy, in children or in adults. They want people who will be good, obedient cogs in the machine, but they know that just saying that doesn’t look great, so they have to lie, and create scapegoats for the very real problems in our society. Teachers are abusing children? Must be the gays. Oh, the vast majority of abusers are heterosexual? It’s gay culture that’s somehow infecting everyone.

This isn’t stuff that should be taken seriously, but the unfortunate fact is that Pool has a vast audience on Youtube and other platforms, and the same narrative is being pushed by the fantatical bigot who is the most watched cable news host in the United States, not to mention the entire GOP. A couple months ago, I wrote about the absurdity that always seems to lie at the core of fascist movements, and this is no exception. These people actually are the monstrous clowns that they accuse drag queens of being. They’re loud, gaudy, ridiculous, and they are committed to destroying countless lives in pursuit of their bizarre notions about how the world should work. Pool’s video ends with him telling his viewers that these horrors are happening because they, the viewers, didn’t speak up, and didn’t act. I feel a need to say something similar, but actually grounded in history – there is a fascist movement in the U.S. right now that is working hard to bring about the extermination of anyone who doesn’t fit the roles society has assigned to them. They are coming for our Queer siblings, and it is our responsibility to speak up, and to stand up in opposition to this hate, wherever we can, and however we can.

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Video: Let’s talk about Pink Floyd, rainbows, and social media…

Nothing too heavy today – I needed time for other pursuits. As some of you are no doubt aware, it was recently the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and the fact that the album art has always had a rainbow in it has some “fans” upset. I suspect it’s the same fans who get upset periodically when they find out that Rage Against the Machine “gets political”, because they apparently never know the lyrics?

I honestly don’t get how some people go through life so utterly oblivious to so much of what’s happening around them, but I guess that’s the point of all the indoctrination, propaganda, and systems of control. As Beau says, when someone’s so afraid of what’s different that they can’t stand to see a rainbow, well…

All in all, they’re just

Scientists: It’s dangerous to assume we’ll be able to cool the planet later this century

A month or two ago, I heard some politician/executive type person saying that there wasn’t any real concern with the likelihood that we’ll overshoot our climate “goals”. His reasoning was that the goal was to be under two degrees warming by the end of the century, maybe that’ll mean that we overshoot, and spend 2060-2100 bringing the temperature back down through stuff like carbon capture. I don’t remember who it was, or where I heard it (Found it! It was Shell CEO Ben van Beurden talking to John Stewart (in this video)). I also have no idea whether he believed what he was saying, but I doubt that matters. The level of irresponsibility is honestly breathtaking, given that this dude is certainly not going to be around for the period in question. He’s just cheerfully declaring that his grandkids will deal with it. Clearly the dogma of “personal responsibility” has always been projection, just like all other conservative rhetoric.

Meanwhile, back in reality, we have research confirming what anyone who’d been paying attention already knew: passing the goals set by the Paris climate agreement is unlikely to be temporary

“To effectively prevent all tipping risks, the global mean temperature increase would need to be limited to no more than 1°C—we are currently already at about 1.2°C,” noted study co-author Jonathan Donges, co-lead of the FutureLab on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The latest IPCC report is showing that we’re most likely on a path to temporarily overshoot the 1.5°C temperature threshold.”

The researchers examined various scenarios with peak temperatures from 2°C to 4°C. As lead author and PIK scientist Nico Wunderling explained, they found that “the risk for some tipping events could increase very substantially under certain global warming overshoot scenarios.”

“Even if we would manage to limit global warming to 1.5°C after an overshoot of more than 2°C, this would not be enough as the risk of triggering one or more global tipping points would still be more than 50%,” Wunderling said. “With more warming in the long-term, the risks increase dramatically.”

I’ve long felt that we have already passed some tipping points, such that even if we eliminated most or all of our CO2 emissions, we’d keep warming, albeit more slowly. This is by no means a confirmation of that belief, but I think it does imply that whether or not I’m right, we should be acting with a great deal more urgency. That is also why I keep insisting that we should be planning for life in a hotter planet, and we should expect “too hot” to be the norm for at least a century, probably much longer. Barring a political or technological revolution on a scale that I find unlikely (though that won’t stop me from trying), we’re headed for rough times.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the more it warms, the more it’s likely to keep warming, which is why I think our preparations need to include dealing with our emissions. We have to do everything at once. I’m not kidding about the time frame, either. What we do over the next fifty years or so is likely to set the climate trajectory well into the future:

Study co-author Ricarda Winkelmann, co-lead of the FutureLab on Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene at PIK, pointed out that “especially the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet are at risk of tipping even for small overshoots, underlining that they are among the most vulnerable tipping elements.”

“While it would take a long time for the ice loss to fully unfold, the temperature levels at which such changes are triggered could already be reached soon,” she said. “Our action in the coming years can thus decide the future trajectory of the ice sheets for centuries or even millennia to come.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire climate would be as “doomed” as the ice sheets – it may be that we could get to a point where the collapse of the ice sheets will continue even if cool back down significantly. Unfortunately, that kind of long-term risk isn’t limited to the ice – it threatens other systems like the Amazon rainforest, which could be turned into grassland even without continued clear-cutting. What’s possibly even more worrying is the risk to ocean currents:

An analysis of the Amazon released in September by scientists and Indigenous leaders in South America stated that “the tipping point is not a future scenario but rather a stage already present in some areas of the region,” meaning portions of the crucial rainforest may never recover—which could have “profound” consequences on a global scale.

study on the AMOC from last year, also published in Nature Climate Change, warned that the collapse of the system of currents that carries warm water from the tropics to the North Atlantic “would have severe impacts on the global climate system,” from disrupting rains that billions of people need for food and increasing storms to further threatening the Amazon and ice sheets.

Donges stressed that “even though a temporary temperature overshoot would definitely be better than reaching a peak temperature and remaining there, some of the overshoot impacts may lead to irreversible damages in a high climate risk zone and this is why low-temperature overshoots are key here.”

Pointing to estimates that current policies could lead to an average global temperature of up to 3.6°C by 2100, Donges declared that “this is not enough.”

As Winkelmann put it: “Every tenth of a degree counts. We must do what we can to limit global warming as quickly as possible.”

Neither the actions that we have taken so far, nor the actions that have been promised, are not enough. “Better than nothing” is, you know, better than nothing, but we’ve got beyond the obscene callousness shown by rulers to their subjects, and entered an era where we can see a murderous scorn for the entirely of humanity, extending indefinitely into the future.

Or, you know, maybe they’re just deluding themselves, and they’re driving us to extinction out of ignorance. As far as I can tell, there’s no material difference for the rest of us. It’s clear that they cannot be talked into actually giving a shit about anything but themselves. Hell, we can barely get the media to even pay attention to the issue. Hell, a guy literally set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court to draw attention to the issue, and it felt like it barely made a ripple. I have an almost compulsive urge to find a way to end every post on a positive note, but sometimes it’s just hard to find a silver lining. I’m sure the darkness of the season isn’t helping my mood, but for all some progress was made in this last year, it’s progress on a scale that would have been more appropriate two or more decades ago.

Climate change has already killed millions of people, and we’re still getting what feels like less than half-measures, while those at the top are allowed to literally steal billions from workers, and legislators are concerned with their “right” to engage in insider trading. As far as I can tell, there is no line. There’s no “tipping point” at which those in charge will do the right thing. We have to do it ourselves. I’ll be updating my direct action post some time in early 2023, so if you have suggestions to improve it, feel free to let me know. We’ve got a lot to do, and it’s still hard to figure out how to go about doing it in a world so clearly shaped to make us spend all our energy enriching those at the top.

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