Chris Hedges’ on Biden & His Cabinet Appointments, NM Methane Regs Exempt 95% of G&O Operators, & a Critique of the Covid Relief Bill

Today we examine the challenges ahead & what we all can do to face them. Plus more evidence of why the Georgia runoffs are so important and report on flawed Methane Regs pointing to need for Green Amendment. Plus, Winona LaDuke video on Deb Haaland.

Before getting started a couple reminders:

Retake Our Democracy’s 2021 Legislative Priorities Survey. We have had almost 700 responses to date, but we’d like to get to 2000 by January 1. So please take the survey and share the link with a few friends. Nag, nag, nag.

Retake Our Democracy’s NM State Senate District Advocacy Network. We make it so easy to advocate directly and personally (zoom, of course) with your legislator. We’ve got coordinators in most all districts who will organize the zoom. You just have to sign up and then join a zoom with your Senator. You do NOT have to be an expert, just a constituent who cares about decriminalizing abortion, getting funds to early childhood, passing health security, and more. Click here to sign up.

NM Proposed Methane Regs Exempt 95% of NM Gas & Oil Operations: REALLY?

New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney held a press conference to announce that a new study had revealed that NM methane release is double what had been reported previously. He called the press conference to tell us that “this is an undeniable call to action.” That is like the NY Times calling a press conference to announce they have found evidence that Trump does not tell the truth. Seriously, the head of NM ED is just realizing there is a problem?

““It’s clear that voluntary emissions reductions measures undertaken by some operators are not enough to solve this problem,” Kenney said in a statement.”

Really? You mean you can’t trust the gas and oil industry to regulate itself? Imagine that. Yet somehow the NMED is mystified that methane release has doubled, despite a prior report from scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard University, Georgia Tech and the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research who also found the Permian Basin accounts for twice the average methane emissions of 11 other major U.S. oil and gas production regions. Maybe self-regulation isn’t working.

Justin Garoutte, a spokesman for the Environment Department, said state officials weren’t yet certain why emissions have spiked in the region. “Until the department engages in discussions with these companies regarding the root cause of the emissions problems, we are unsure what caused the increase in documented emissions,” he said. News flash to Garoutte: the root cause is that you are dealing with a bunch of companies that don’t give a rats ass about our environment if they can make just a bit more money and because the state is so dependent upon gas and oil revenue, Democratic leadership has failed to act.

Well, at least state regulators have been hard at work to develop regulations to address this crisis. One problem, according to analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund, 95% of operators would be exempt from draft regulations and implementing those regs would only reduce emissions by 21%.

If there ever was evidence that NM needs a Green Amendment, this is it. With an Energy Department that finally realizes gas and oil will not voluntarily manage methane emissions and then develops methane regulations that exempt 95% of gas and oil operations, it is clear that our state government will not protect us. Failing that, a Green Amendment provides the tool to force the state to do for the environment, what Yazzie Martinez has done for public education.

Covid Relief Comes with a Gravy Train for Wall St & Lobbyists

“$600 is what rich people think poor people think is a lot of money.” This tweet was all over social media yesterday and it expresses perfectly the perspective of so many privileged decision-makers in Washington, D.C. Yet, for working America, many of whom are 2, 3 or more months in arrears on their rent, it is very often just two week’s rent. And yet to get this meager relief to Americans who are suffering, the GOP forced the Dems to accept a provision that allows for a 100% business deduction allowance for food and drink expenses. Many of those meals will cost well over the $600 Americans will be receiving. And, as reported by Truthout, other GOP terms to get the relief passed include, punishing new state regulations for distributing the extended unemployment benefits, regs that will make it impossible to get the funds out quickly or to distribute all of them before the funds expire and the provision of billions of dollars of relief to big business.

So, as part of the Covid relief package, lobbyists and Wall St. can now write off every dime of the expensive dinners they host with legislators, using that access to ensure they can continue to exploit essential workers, communities of color, and our earth. How on earth is this Covid relief?

Well, the answer is that this was the price Dems had to pay to get very meager relief for working families. The lesson here is that If we don’t win both seats in GA, this will be the norm. Hand over your left arm to McConnell so he can sever that but spare your right pinkie. In order to have any chance to escape the hell outlined by Chris Hedges below, we must win both those races. And the election is two weeks away, Jan 5.

And while the polling news from GA is more reassuring than the polls from the last two weeks, quite obviously it is going to be close; and quite obviously the GOP will toss every barrier they can to prevent high turnout among communities of color and urban Georgia. So it is up to us to put in the time and maybe invest a bit of our $600 relief check, to make sure we win both these runoffs. Without two wins in Georgia, we are going to be negotiating every bill with Mitch McConnell with McConnell holding all the aces.

Click here to get in the game in Georgia.

We have an opportunity to officially help GOTV for Jon Ossoff via the Vote Builder VPB tool.  There will be a push with three hour shifts from Jan. 1st through Jan. 5th.  The campaign has created excellent training materials that I will be able to share with scheduled volunteers. Proposed GOTV Schedule

  • 1/1: 12pm, 3pm, 6pm (est)
  • 1/2 – 1/4: 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm (est)
  • 1/5: 8am, 11am, 1pm, 4pm (est)

If you are interested in participating by volunteering to staff one or more shifts, please join our Zoom call at 5P (Sat., Dec. 26th).

NOTE: The GA campaigns are coordinating their messaging efforts. Should you also wish to help candidate Warnock, we can get you connected with their VPB efforts as well.
Bruce Roach is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Recruiting call for NM VPB Jon Ossoff GOTV
Time: 5P Saturday, December 26th

Join Zoom Meeting

Over the last four years, we have become shell shocked by Trump’s daily barrage of moral insults. And with Mitch and Trump in control, we’ve been disempowered to take action on the environment, racial injustice, health and food insecurity and a host of other issues on a national level. There is a natural impulse to breathe a sigh of relief and fantasize about a return to normal under Biden. But in the must read piece below, Chris Hedges shatters that illusion rather thoroughly.

Is a Return to Normal REALLY What We Want?

All of us anticipate the changing of the guard. On January 20, Trump will be gone and a new day will emerge. Hope is here. But, as Chris Hedges outlined so clearly, it may not be that simple. And his clarion call piece from Common Dreams, prodded me to sound the alarms. I’ve held my tongue about Biden and the future he most likely will usher in. Roxanne commented this morning, I’m not sure people are ready for Chris Hedges; right now; they want hope. But it is also important to face up to reality and not seduce ourselves into thinking that all is well. The future under Biden is not shaping up to be such a pretty picture, as Chris Hedges has disclosed in his most recent piece from Common Dreams, “The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion”

“We cannot use the word hope if we refuse to face the truth. All hope rooted in self-delusion is fantasy. We must lift the filter from our eyes to see the danger before us. We must heed the warnings of our own prophets. We must destroy the centers of power that lure us and our children, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, to certain doom. The walls, daily, are closing in around us. The radical evil we face is as real under Trump as it will be under Biden. And if this radical evil is not smashed, then the world ahead will be one of torment and mass death.”

From Common Dreams: “The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion”

The quote above is how Hedges concludes his analysis of our prospects under Biden. While Hedges’ language can be a bit extreme, I think most of us have been disappointed with most of the cabinet appointments Biden has been announcing. Certainly, all are better than the sycophants that have surrounded Trump for four years. But that is setting a very low bar. Hedges is unsparing in his criticism.

“Biden’s appointments are drawn almost exclusively from the circles of the Democratic Party and corporate elite, those responsible for the massive social inequality, trade deals, de-industrialization, militarized police, world’s largest prison system, austerity programs that abolished social programs such as welfare, the revived Cold War with Russia, wholesale government surveillance, endless wars in the Middle East and the disenfranchisement and impoverishment of the working class.”

Common Dreams: “The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion”

Hedges then goes on to offer a less than comforting view of just some of the appointments to date.

General Lloyd J. Austin III, nominated to be secretary of defense, is on the board of Raytheon Technologies and a partner at Pine Island Capital, a firm that invests in defense industries;

Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state is a strong supporter of the apartheid state of Israel.  He was one of the architects of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and a proponent of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya,

Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair under Barack Obama, is slated to be Treasury Secretary. As the chair of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) and later as a member of the board of the Federal Reserve, she backed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which led to the banking crisis of 2008.  She supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and lobbied for a new statistical metric intended to lower payments to senior citizens on Social Security.  

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is to become a special envoy for climate. Kerry championed the massive expansion of domestic oil and gas production, largely through fracking, and, according to Obama’s memoir, worked doggedly to convince those concerned about the climate crisis to “offer up concessions on subsidies for the nuclear power industry and the opening of additional U.S. coastlines to offshore oil drilling.”

Avril Haines, a former Obama deputy CIA chief, is to become Biden’s director of national intelligence. Haines oversaw Obama’s expanded and murderous drone program overseas and backed Gina Haspel’s nomination to be the head of the CIA, despite Haspels’ direct involvement in the CIA torture program carried out in black sites around the globe. 

Neera Tanden, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, has been picked to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, as the head of the Democratic Party’s thinktank, the Center for American Progress, raised millions in dark money from Silicon Valley and Wall Street.  Her donors include Bain Capital, Blackstone, Evercore, Walmart and the defense contractor Northrup Grumman. The United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen, also gave the thinktank between $1.5 million and $3 million. She relentlessly ridicules Sanders and his supporters on cable news and social media. She also proposed a plank in the Democratic platform calling for the bombing Iran. 

Until Haaland’s appointment and also the appointment of Miguel Cardona to serve as Secretary of Education, most all of Biden’s appointments are not people who are ready to transform this country. They are just interested in restoring calm and avoiding drama, so they can go about advancing their neo-liberal goals, goals that depend on continuous economic growth, continued resource depletion and ever expanding gaps in wealth.

“The belief that we can maintain current levels of consumption, especially of animal products, capitalist expansion, imperial wars, a reliance on fossil fuels and abject subservience to unfettered corporate power, which has solidified the worst income inequality in human history, is not a form of hope but suicidal self-delusion. We are not headed under the policies of the Biden administration and the global ruling elite for the broad sunlit uplands of a new and glorious future, but economic misery, vast climate migrations, waves of new and more virulent pandemics, of which COVID-19 is a mild precursor, along with irreversible ecological systems collapse and frightening forms of societal breakdown, authoritarianism and neofascism.”

Common Dreams: “The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion”

Hedges then goes on to drive home the message we must take from the 2020 election.

“After four years of lies, the stoking of racist violence, stunning ineptitude, rampant corruption and an abject failure to cope with a national health crisis, Trump expanded his base by 11 million votes. This should be a huge, flashing red light. Worse, 70 percent of Trump voters, 51 million Americans, believe that “radical Left Democrats” and the deep state rigged the elections through “voter fraud,” including the importation of Venezuelan voting software, illegitimate mail-in ballots and the wholesale destruction of Trump ballots by election officials. One hundred and twenty-six Republican House members joined a lawsuit filed by 18 Republican state attorneys general asking the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s victory. “

Common Dreams: “The Dangerous Fantasy of Hope Rooted in Self-Delusion

Trump and McConnell have made it clear they intend to make it as difficult as possible for Biden to govern. They are handing him a recession, an out of control pandemic, a nation torn in two by racial injustice and white supremacist paranoia, and a climate catastrophe that for some time has received zero attention. That is a mighty tough challenge in the best of circumstances.

But 2021 will not be the best of circumstance. It is clear that Trump is amassing hundreds of millions of dollars in phony appeals to reverse the election results in court. He is building a war chest that will be used to fund 2022 and 2024 campaigns to eradicate any Republicans who have been disloyal to him in 2020, with disloyal defined as having the temerity to even call Biden the president-elect. He will use that war chest to prepare for his 2024 campaign, a campaign that, in effect, has already begun. All the while, if the Democrats don’t win both races in Georgia, McConnell will continue to make it impossible for Biden to do anything to address the extraordinary number of ills plaguing us. In that context, the GOP will be primed to make sweeping election wins in the midterm elections and further their stranglehold on Congress.

It would be more comforting if Biden was coming to his presidency with Bernie Sanders as Secretary of Labor and Elizabeth Warren as Secretary of Treasury. But that is not the case. Indeed, Hedges noted that to date, Biden’s message to progressives has been: “Drop dead.”

I am sorry to drop such a downer on you just days before Christmas and the New Years, but as Hedges notes, to harbor hope within delusion is fantasy and with what is ahead, we must resist the temptation to accept a return to normal, as normal has not served us since well before Trump. Indeed, in June of 2019 I wrote: “In Search of a New Normal that Is Actually Normal: Today is NOT Normal & It Hasn’t been Normal for 40 Years” That piece underscores why we need to raise our sites far higher than a return to normal. Biden is not going to be an intractable obstacle, but as his history in the Senate has displayed and the evidence from his appointments reinforce, we have work to do and blind hope will not be our ally.

We close with something upbeat, five minute commentary from Winona LaDuke on the selection of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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13 replies

  1. With respect, I must disagree on at least one point: Joe Biden hasn’t told progressives to drop dead. Bernie’s and Elizabeth’s progressive staff members who work with the Biden transition team have, in fact, said they have felt welcomed — along with their ideas. This is in stark contrast, they have gone on to say, with 2016 and the Hillary Clinton campaign. This, in and of itself, is refreshing.

    May I also point out how Joe has attempted to live up to his commitment to having the Cabinet — and any number of other appointees — mirror the vast diversity of people in the USA. For one, we will have more women — by far — than any previous administration. This is no small matter.

    It’s a start, and not a bad one at that.

    Persistence is the key, at least in my view, so let’s hang there.


    Spike Murphree
    Vice Chair at Large
    Veterans and Military Families Caucus of the Democratic Party of New Mexico

  2. Yes – Positive thinking is part of the solution if one is also willing to “see.”

    Hedges message speaks Truth to Power. So, naturally it will be unacceptable to those who believe that “Blue” corporate ownership of the government will make us “comfy” again. The “Blue” doesn’t change a thing except “image.” And Lord knows Trump’s insane, cruel, prejudiced demeaning of the term “American” through lying and intentional harm to the greater welfare should NOT be a hard act to follow.

    Understanding the “corporate footing” Biden is structuring via the majority of his appointments IS a moral stance. Personnel IS policy. His factual, historical, legislative record shows the through-line to this administration.

    Congressional weak “leadership” negotiated a faux “stimulus” bill of over 5500 pages as the clock was already chiming its’ ultimate deadline. Another typical move. Leadership did not give time for study and debate of, among other things, more major corporate tax give-aways. That’s a BI-partisan accomplishment. They only had 9 months to find a way to help the people, but it was just too heavy a lift. Unlike the greatest upward transfer of wealth accomplished in the original Cares Act, or the $790 Billion defense department hand-over of recent days. I bet you know where that money comes from. It’s not THEIR money, it is the People’s hard-earned money.

    I voted for Biden because of Trump – not because I could legitimately support a return of the Dem neoliberal elite. “Meet the new Boss. Same as the other neoliberal Old Bosses.” I hope Ranked Choice Voting will give me an opportunity to NOT waste my vote next time.

    Meanwhile, “Eyes Open”, and keep on. Sorry about the length of this comment. Fires are burning.

    • Yes, Hedges ALWAYS speaks the truth and usually so bluntly that people RUSH AWAY as quickly as possible. I am surrounded by “liberal/progressive” pollyanna types who STILL believe in Karma, the Age of Aquarius, the end of Kali Yuga, and just about every psychological diversionary action “out there”. The world is frightening and the liberal/progressive mind-set as stubbornly “hopeful” and “prayerful” as the Repubs. THIS is the very reason Biden/Harris will fail and badly. As for “Deb” this is a terrible choice–no experience at the national level and I predict YET ANOTHER lot House set to a Republican. Give me a break.

  3. What Winona LaDuke brought to the table in terms of hope for a better direction, Chris Hedges took off the table. I get the need for eyes wide open and the challenges of deep, deep corruption among the political class. But, yes Paul, a bit too much of a bummer for me at this time. Biden has no intention of being a revolutionary. No surprise there. I can only hope that progressives learn how to work WITH the older guard neo-liberal forces within the Democratic Party. We have to do better than to continuously take pot shots at each other. I get that Chris Hedges is a righteous and angry guy. He has paid his dues over and over again in terms of the journalistic assignments he has taken on and the risks he has been willing to take in putting himself on the line for progressive causes. But let’s be clear that while corporate capitalism has kicked our collective butts over the past 100 years at a minimum, socialism is no panacea and righteous anger will only get us so far in terms of clearing out the cobwebs of our limited thinking about finding creative solutions to the enormous socio-political, economic, and environmental problems we face. While Hedges will continue to write important books and speak about issues, many of the rest of us will have to practice sitting down at the tables of negotiation and speaking to governmental committees and with representatives about these issues. We will need more than fiery rhetoric to be successful in bringing about transformational change.

  4. he needs to get them through the senate. any progressive he nominates is DOA. so if haaland even makes it through the process we will be lucky, unless georgia elects both dems. that’s the truth. this country is f’ed. the only way out is through. revolution won’t work unless there are enough of people on board and unless the congress is in blue hands. that’s all. and yeah, it’s “typical” but doesn’t have to be the rule. give them a chance. be glad trump is gone. and hold your fire until you see a target.

  5. Climate killing methane releases, produced water in agriculture while oil and gas continues to use clean water, Oil and gas bonding requirements so low they encourage walk away. NM maintains a permitting culture with no environmental review, no risk disclosure, and no foresight as to how, who and if clean up can will even be possible. A New Mexico Green Amendment to the State Constitution seems the only workable solution to protect our futures.

  6. Something Hedges (and he is not the only one) also warns us about is the persistent, never-ending beating of the war drum. The empire has always needed and will always need an external enemy, something to justify the enormous military budget and to divert our attention from M4All and the like.

    I was a senior in high school in the former Soviet Union (which is now the Russian Federation or Russia), when the US and USSR started on the path of “friendly” politics after decades of the Cold War, and so I became one of the first high school exchange students to the US. For decades, Russians and Americans had been sworn enemies, and once the agreement between Reagan and Gorbachev on the Berlin Wall was reached, all the enmity was forgotten and just like that, pretty much overnight, Americans and Russians were allowed to become friends, like nothing happened before. (On a side note, Russia agreed to allow the Berlin Wall to come down on the condition that the US would not have NATO forces positioned around the Russian boarder, which the US promptly and conveniently forgot, so speaking of enemies…) So the profound realization that I carried out of that experience – the overnight change of politics, was the realization that the people on both sides had been manipulated all that time and that I would never again fall victim to the governments who at their will appoint friends and enemies.

    When Biden won and the election was declared the safest election in the US history, I kept waiting to see what would happen with the “Russia is our biggest enemy” narrative. Sure enough, I did not have to wait long. The cyber attacks. How convenient. It does not matter that there is no evidence, just like there was none in the case with the Russian interference in the elections in 2016, the American public is used to having an enemy and needs one because an enemy is what we need to unite us, and the elites in power are well aware of that and certainly play us well.

  7. HI Paul.

    Your deference to Roxanne notwithstanding, you have a long list of thinkers who have already said what you now show us.

    Hedges has been doing this for years, as have Jeremy Skahill, Chomsky, Nader, Hartman, Wolff, Sanders et. al.

    Months ago, on these pages, I said I would vote against Tyrannus rumpfk, because that would be the only choice on the ballot.

    Look at the ghastly nature of the rumpfk tapeworm pardons. With many more to come.

    Look at the D brand incoming appointments, with only two exceptions, one being Haaland. DC and corporate insiders all. Recycled political garbage. Fresh lipstick, same old, tired dirty pig.

    No apologies, I do not ascribe to the Dale Carnegie school of positive thinking. It is nothing more than weak, meek hope.

    As Lao Tzu notes, ”hope and fear are both phantoms, borne from thinking of the self.”

    Rather ‘Sixteen Tons,’ the Tennessee Ernie Ford lament about life in the coal fields. The coal fields of ‘murka. The Company, the Company paradigm, the Company leverage, the Company worker, the Company store, the Company Bank, the Company housing, the Company police, the Company stockades, the Company cemetery, the Company obituary, the Company Carpetbaggers.

    The 90 percent are controlled by the 9 percent, the nine percent by the 0.9 percent and the 0.9 percent by the 0.1 percent. The hierarchy of monarchs.

    As to the NMED confusion concerning methane realities, look no further than the clueless Guv. And I would add ambitious and compromised Guv. And the filthy rich, solidly entrenched House speaker and Senate majority leader. And the non-professional, non-paid, patronage legislature.

    All throwbacks to the feudal systems of ancient times.

    Eyes Wide Open, or Eyes Wide Shut. De Nile is a river. Denial is a frozen river of lost ideas. De Nihil is a river of hot blood, draining the life of ‘murka and the world into the toxic and ailing seas.

    Revolution or Extinction. Maybe both.

    Mick Nickel

  8. Chris Hedges used a very blunt instrument whenever he comments but I ALWAYS find I need a blunt instrument to “wake” me up. Thanks for posting this on Retake.

  9. We saw the corporate Dems viciously at work when the Obama/Clyburns interfered with the democratic process by personally calling candidates to step down step aside and shut up and back LAST PLACE
    pitifully lame barely articulate white supremacist and grabber Joe Biden who led us into the Iraq war.

    He’s told us who he is. He hasn’t lied about that. Some people don’t want to believe it.

    It’s a corrupt system that created him and it needs him to survive. And he’s told us, he’s all in.

    Gender race color ethnic origin don’t make the person. Corruption acts through all kinds of people.
    That’s not progress. That’s patriarchy.

    I appreciate knowing the truth about Cabinet picks. They are crucial to the next administration. I only hope there are enough progressives to counter Binden’s bad appointments and that the Pelosi/Shumer regime can end, otherwise, if it’s business as usual, Trump, or worse, will be back.

    Veteran for Peace

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