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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Mark Weisbrot, Tribune News Service (TNS)

Ditching the Keystone XL pipeline should be a no-brainer.

The 1,179-mile pipeline extension would carry some of the world’s dirtiest oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

And it shouldn’t be necessary to repeat this, but since we have a Congress controlled by a party that denies the reality of climate change, it is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity has warmed the Earth.

The evidence of climate disruption is all around us, from warming ocean surface and land temperatures, melting Antarctic ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and increasing heat waves and other changes in extreme weather events.

Supporters of the pipeline have tried to argue that the oil from Canada’s tar sands will be exploited anyway, with or without the pipeline. There wasn’t much to that argument a year ago, but after a 50 percent fall in oil prices, there is nothing left of it.

This oil is expensive to produce, and without a guarantee of cheap transportation, oil companies are not going to invest in expanding production in the 170-billion barrel reserves of Canada’s tar sands.

This is important because it is estimated that if we are to have even a 50 percent chance of avoiding the 2-degrees Celsius (3.6-degrees Fahrenheit) warming that scientists have set as an upper limit, at least two-thirds of the world’s proven reserves of oil must remain unexploited.

Keeping this oil in the ground will be one of the great struggles of future years, since oil companies could lose hundreds of billions of dollars of assets, and they are politically powerful.

But the longer any oil stays undeveloped, the less likely it is to be used: exploitation delayed is exploitation denied. And since the oil from Canada’s tar sands brings much higher carbon emissions than the average oil produced today, it is a prime candidate for staying in the ground.

Unfortunately, although lower oil prices make the exploitation of more expensive and environmentally destructive oil less profitable, the net effect of cheaper oil is to accelerate the pace of oil consumption and therefore of climate change.

This is another reason for adopting a carbon tax that would reduce carbon-intensive energy use and bring the price of these energy sources more in line with their real — including environmental — costs.

The argument that the pipeline would create jobs is beyond exaggeration; it would create about 50 permanent jobs and about 2,000 temporary construction jobs.

The last refuge of scoundrels on the dirty oil front is the “energy security” argument.

Americans are rightfully sick and tired of endless wars, and naturally welcome the idea that becoming more self-sufficient in oil production — with Canada apparently included as part of “self” — might keep us out of wars.

But America’s wars are not so much about securing access to oil — countries with oil tend to sell it on the world market, regardless of who governs them. Even when the U.S. had sanctions against Saddam Hussein and was trying to topple his government, Iraq was still one of the United States’ biggest oil suppliers from the Middle East.

Washington has had conflicts with oil-exporting countries — Iraq, Iran, Venezuela — not so much because it wants their oil, which it has not had a problem buying. It is more of an empire thing: Those who control access to oil have more power in the world, which is what many of our most powerful political leaders crave most.

“Energy security” won’t keep us out of wars until Americans force their leaders to adopt a less militaristic and more law-abiding foreign policy.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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