The northern San Joaquin Valley public, at least, doesn't have to look any farther than the "boondoggle/land deal" called UC Merced, anchor tenant for the most severe housing construction boom/bust in its history, to see right through the campaign of scientists rallying to run for public office. All one has to remember is how scientists in the UC system and in the state and federal resource agencies charged with enforcing environmental law and regulation, not to mention public meeting legislation, bowed to political pressure and corrupted their own research to appease the UC and the finance, insurance and real estate special interests behind the Merced project.
As one top state Department of Fish & Game official put it during the environmental research period for the UC Merced project, "I work for the governor." (And Gov. Davis had promised this project if local politicians were able to deliver the Valley for him in 1998. They did and he did.) Likewise, the renamed state Department of Fish & Wildlife recently announced its support for Gov. Brown's environmentally ruinous Delta Tunnels Project.
What about the environmental laws enacted by the California Legislature, like the California Environmental Quality Act, which is supposed to govern the environmental review of development projects in the state. CEQA is regularly betrayed by fully credentialed scientists working for developers and for the agencies that are supposed to regulate developers.
The fully credentialed scientific consultants hired by developers to finesse CEQA manifest "science for hire" in all its glory.
We have also found, after extensive experience with scientists, particularly biologists in meetings on policy and political issues, that scientists with advanced academic degrees are elitist, intensely anti-democratic and regard the public as just another endangered species. However, when agency scientists are facing particularly crude political pressure from elected officials working on behalf of their donors, they will appeal to members of the public to sue the agency to compel them to be honest and uphold the law.
An example of a congressman with a mathematics background mentioned below is Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton. But, McNerney was a place-holding, also-ran sacrificial Democrat against Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, the Endangered Species Act hater chairman of the House Resources Committee. McNerney would not be in office if it hadn't been for former Rep. Pete McCloskey, a Republican lawyer and sponsor of the ESA, who came out of retirement in his early 80s, rented an apartment in the district, and ran against Pombo in the Republican primary, tying the political corpse of Jack Abramoff to Pombo's tail so tightly that the stink followed him to his political grave in the General Election against the formerly insignificant McNerney.
Another elite surfacing in the turmoil of the Trump administration are the rightwing Christians. Whereas the scientists reach their state of "election" via a PhD and tenure, God himself elects the leaders of the rightwing Christians through the mysterious process of "re-birth" for the purpose of unseating all worldly power standing in the way of their drive to establish an imperial Global Non-Denominational Christian Pastorate.
Although Badlands is not a religious site, when we think of government by the scientists and/or the rightwing Christians, we see two elites, staring like hypnotized chickens into the mirrors of their own fundamentalisms as they dance on the tip of the middle finger of the combined forces of monopoly finance capitalism. And we say, "Mercy!"
We know these fundamentalist, "political" scientists and Christians do not represent the best scientists or Christians in the nation and urge them not to permit themselves to be represented by these glory seekers.
Meet the lab-coat liberals
Dismayed by President Trump’s views on climate science and other research issues, scientists are storming the campaign trail.
LOS ANGELES --
The lab-coat liberals are marching on Washington.
Dismayed by President Donald Trump’s perceived hostility to climate science and other areas of research, a surge of scientists is entering the public arena and running for political office for the first time.
They represent an evolving brand of Democrat that has been gaining steam for months. What began with rogue Twitter accounts and protest marches has graduated into candidacies in House races in places as varied as California, Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.
The handful of scientists who have formally announced their candidacies so far — and the others who are preparing to join them — have cast themselves as a counterforce to the Trump administration’s dismissal of climate science and de-prioritization of innovation funding.
But they are also stretching the boundaries of the scientific field into unfamiliar terrain. Researchers traditionally avoided wading into politics. Now, amid winds of anti-intellectualism, they are testing whether a significant number in their ranks can break through.
“It is past time for scientists to step up and get involved … because that is the only way that we are going to change the course,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, a cancer researcher-turned-business owner who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Pennsylvania. She is the founder of 314 Action, a political action committee that helps people with scientific backgrounds run for office. “Traditionally, the attitude has been that science is above politics, and by getting involved in politics, it could possibly pollute science. My response to that is, ‘How’s that working for you?'”
Researchers have long bemoaned stagnating federal investment in innovation, and advocacy groups have existed for more than a decade to encourage scientists to become more active in civic affairs. But few current members of Congress come from backgrounds in math and science. Among the 435 members of the House, there are seven engineers, one physicist, one microbiologist and one chemist, according to the Congressional Research Service.
For many scientists, Trump’s election marked a turning point. Researchers marched in protest throughout the world in April, and former New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist and now chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said he began fielding more calls from scientists considering running for public office.
“It’s still not in the dozens [of prospective candidates]. But instead of two or three, it might be 12 or 15,” Holt said. “There seems to be a general sense that policy is being made without sufficient attention to scientific evidence.”
Trump, whose dismissal of mainstream climate science had already alarmed researchers, infuriated the scientific community when, soon after taking office, he proposed reducing non-defense research and development spending by about 19 percent, sharply curbing spending on climate and clean energy innovation and basic science and medical research.
Hans Keirstead, a pioneering stem-cell researcher who is running to unseat GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in California’s Orange County, said that when he “saw the budget and health care bills starting to come up, that’s what tipped me over the edge.”
Looking to Washington from a lab where his latest clinical trial on an ovarian cancer treatment is underway, Keirstead said of Congress, “I see it as a grander platform to do good.”
While many researchers believe they hold a firmer grasp on science-related policy than politicians from other fields, the mechanics of an election remain largely unfamiliar — and there have been uneven starts to their campaigns.
Despite a torrent of media coverage surrounding her bid to unseat GOP Rep. Steve Knight in Southern California, geologist Jess Phoenix raised just more than $77,000 in the second quarter of this year. She told a small group of supporters soon after the fundraising period closed that she had finished strong and that the next quarter would be “even better.” But other scientists have found the effort too taxing.
Patrick Madden, a computer scientist and university professor who recently abandoned his campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York, described a jolt when his department chair came to him “a little freaked out” that the university had received a public records request from a conservative opposition group for Madden’s emails and other documents.
“In politics, it seems you get ahead by lying, by misleading, by misstating things,” Madden said.
He said scientists have a “good skill set” for Congress and that the records request would not have dissuaded him. But he succumbed when it became apparent he could not raise enough money to run a competitive campaign.
“I was hassling all my friends, all my contacts, and it just didn’t feel … I don’t want my life to revolve around money,” Madden said. “To get up in the morning and worry about money, worry about money all day long — it was no fun.”
By one measure, scientists would appear exceptionally well-positioned to run for public office. Seventy-six percent of Americans say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in scientists generally to act in the best interests of the public, according to a Pew Research Center poll last year. That level of confidence outpaces religious and business leaders, educators, the news media and elected officials.
But Pew has also documented wide differences in opinion between scientists and the public on issues ranging from evolution to vaccines and the safety of genetically modified foods. And other research suggests that if scientists wade too deeply into politics, public confidence in them might fall.
Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who has studied public opinion on climate change, has found in surveys that when natural scientists stray from pure science and offer policy prescriptions related to their work, trust in those scientists erodes. And scientists who engage in politics face the additional problem of communicating with lay people unaccustomed to the dialogue of a university or a lab.
“You know, the premise of having more scientists in Congress is an interesting one,” said Jennilee Brown, a Republican strategist in Los Angeles who studied chemistry as an undergraduate student. “Initially, I would say that’s a fantastic idea because scientists are very used to looking at complex situations and … finding solutions to things.”
However, Brown said, “Where I question scientists running for Congress is more in their … power of public persuasion.”
Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who sits on 314’s board and has been working with a handful of scientist candidates, said Friday that the challenge for scientists is no different than for lawyers or elected politicians, all of whom must learn to leave their profession’s jargon behind when talking with voters. But in contrast to Trump, he said, scientists may cut an especially appealing profile.
“In this environment Trump is setting, where everything is a rhetorical Twitter stream,” Trippi said, “I actually think people talking common sense based on the facts … may be where a sweet spot is” in 2018.
Naughton’s political action committee said it is working with 10 congressional candidates and has heard from thousands of people who are interested in running for office at some level. They have hosted candidate trainings to address messaging, fundraising and other tactical concerns, and they have helped candidates find strategists and other advisers to work on their campaigns.
Phoenix, the geologist, said scientists have to work harder to “humanize” their issues, reflecting a view among some academics that without concerted outreach, science can seem out of touch. In a campaign, Phoenix said, “Even if you can’t get people excited about, you know, ‘Save the whales,’” she said, “you can say, 'Do you want your kids going outside at recess? Yes? OK, then we need to have protections for air quality in place.'”
Andrew Hoffman, a University of Michigan professor who has written about the role of scholars in public life, said many scientists are unprepared to step into the bruising field of politics, with debates that are “much messier” than in evidence-based research. But, like Holt, he said he senses that is changing.
The scientific community is “facing a crisis of relevance, and scientists are starting to feel compelled to stand up for it,” Hoffman said.
In Congress, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), a wind energy consultant, said last week that “it would be helpful to have more STEM people in both parties, really,” saying that “would help us with some of these technical issues.”
His own doctorate in mathematics, McNerney said, has given him “a perspective and an appreciation for science and research and what’s possible in a technical field,” informing his opinion about matters ranging from telecommunications to nuclear energy and data security.
But he acknowledged that when he was first seeking election — as the current crop of scientist candidates is now — his background did not afford him a ready-made network for a political campaign.
“For one thing, people in STEM … generally shy away from political involvement. So generating support … developing a support network and getting the sort of grass-roots support that I needed was a real challenge.”
Elaine DiMasi, an experimental physicist who has taken a leave from Brookhaven National Laboratory to weigh a run against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, said that after watching her friend Madden withdraw from his race, “I think I understand how difficult it’s going to be.”
DiMasi, who is planning to burn through savings to support herself while campaigning for the rest of the year, said her father was “horrified” at her decision.
“He said, ‘You’re going to give up your job and be a politician?’” DiMasi said. “And I said, ‘I’m going to be a scientist with a job as a legislator working on policy.’”
DiMasi said her parents eventually came around. Perhaps more important for her congressional campaign, she added, “They’re donors.”
Public Universities Get an Education in Private Industry
Can academic researchers remain impartial if they are beholden to corporate money?
· Molly McCluskey
·Bottom of Form
At the University of California, Davis, researchers are regularly invited to attend on-campus meet-and-greets with potential corporate funders to discuss possible sponsorship opportunities. Handshakes and business cards are routinely exchanged—so are nondisclosure agreements.
Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Davis, says such meetings and the attendant nondisclosure agreements are commonplace and that it’s university administrators—rather than the corporations themselves—who encourage their professors and researchers to attend. Eisen describes one meeting in which a company started out by passing around a document. “It was a 13-page agreement, and I refused to sign it,” Eisen says. “I said: ‘Look, there are 20 things in here I don’t understand and 15 things I completely disagree with. There’s no way I’m signing it.’”
But, unlike Eisen, many in the scientific community and academia do sign the NDAs—creating blind spots that make it impossible for the rest of the world to discern whether a corporation has had any undue influence on research. I spent a year poring over documents and talking to universities, companies, lawyers, and researchers to figure out what kind of role corporate funding plays in public-university studies across the United States. Nearly all of the people I spoke with talked about the increasing ease with which corporate representatives have access to researchers, although some were more comfortable with the arrangement than others.
Proponents of such arrangements—including all of the university officials I spoke with—say that corporate engagement in research is critical if universities are to continue their cutting-edge work. For many opponents, however, the mere mention that a corporation has sponsored research is enough to dismiss it as compromised. That’s because corporate backers can be given a great deal of power and latitude, selecting the specific kinds of studies, materials, and techniques to be used in exchange for their funding. Unsurprisingly, companies excel at creating the conditions most likely to give them the results they want. “It’s a problem, obviously,” says Ivan Oransky, a distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute, where he teaches medical journalism. “But if you tried to rid literature of every badly designed study, you’d be left with about four papers a year.”
But sometimes, a study is so controversial that even corporate backers cry foul. That’s what happened last December when a paper commissioned by the International Life Sciences Institute—composed of companies like Red Bull and Hershey among others—downplayed the importance of limiting one’s sugar intake. The university professors who had authored the paper quickly came under fire for conflicts of interest, and at least one has vowed to disclose all her funding from now on. Even Mars, one of the paper’s funders, slammed the study as based on weak evidence that only served to confuse consumers. According to the Associated Press, Mars said the paper “undermines the work of public-health officials and makes all industry-funded research look bad.”
Further complicating the issue is that there are no widely accepted or adopted industry guidelines for how these relationships should be conducted. Although the American Association of University Professors has issued recommendations for engagement, according to Laura Markwardt, a spokesperson for the association, “We don’t necessarily track which colleges and universities adopt which provisions.”* Among the sources I contacted—including representatives from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of University Women, and others, as well as individual academics and officials at more than a dozen universities across the country—none knew of any universal standards governing such relationships, only the occasional rule or rules recommended by a given research department, university, or academic journal.
“Will we accept one of those? Yeah, we will, but everybody has to be formally educated about what this means.”
Defending science without universal engagement standards is difficult; but it is especially troubling given the contempt for science pervading government right now. For some scientists, it’s hard enough trying to convince many elected leaders that they should be informed by scientific research, rather than philosophical or religious beliefs, on politically charged issues, without having to also defend corporate-backed studies. Shortly after the presidential election last fall, thousands of scientists from around the country did call on the Trump administration to set high standards for integrity and transparency in supporting independent scientific research—and, importantly, to allow that science to guide state and federal policies. For many academics at public research universities, however, the question of who’s funding what, and how their research is used, is just politics as usual.
Academics and university officials, for example, are constantly under increased pressure from corporate funders to agree to conduct studies that would remain the property of the funder—meaning the researchers would be prohibited from publishing their own work. This allows a corporation to do its own vetting and to publish on its own time line—with the imprimatur of the university and without the peer review that any reputable academic journal would insist on. Plus, these lucrative work-for-hire arrangements often don’t count toward tenure reviews and can prevent academics from accepting better, more prestigious, work while they’re committed to the corporate projects. “We resist [work-for-hire agreements] because that’s not what we’re here to do,” says Thomas Coggins, who oversees sponsored awards and research compliance at the University of South Carolina. Still, resisting is not the same as banning. “Will we accept one of those? Yeah, we will, but everybody has to be formally educated about what this means.”
Meanwhile, the acute need for corporate funding at public universities is only growing—as is the opacity around whether funders are influencing research results. In an age of instant information, such deficiencies can undermine even the most valid studies and the most reputable scientists.
Unlike in the lab, when it comes to funding relationships, there is no scientific method.
* * *
At private universities, corporate donors and large endowments are part and parcel of day-to-day operations. But what about public universities, which are directly funded by taxpayers and which are subject to public-records laws? Is there an inherent conflict of mission between a public university and a private corporation? It’s hard to say—and that’s mostly because it’s impossible to get a clear handle on exactly how much corporate money is flowing into public-university research in the United States. That’s because much of that funding is simply not disclosed. Only one university, the University of Michigan, maintains a public database of how its research is funded. I sent public-records requests to more than a dozen public universities—many of them among the National Science Foundation’s top-10, tier-1 public research schools—for information on corporate-sponsored research. Only four of those requests yielded a full response. The rest netted documents with vital information redacted, were met with extended processing times of up to six months, required fees of several hundred dollars or more, or, in some cases, were ignored or just flat-out denied.
Research funding finds its way into universities in a number of ways. Sometimes the money goes into a school department dedicated to soliciting and working with corporate partners for research purposes. Other times, funds go into the university’s foundation. Donations to a university’s foundation are tax-deductible and, depending on the state, may or may not be subject to public-records laws. Research compiled by Alexa Capeloto, an assistant journalism professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found that 20 states have attempted to regulate public-university foundations through legislation or case law. Eleven states determined that university foundations serve as an extension of the university and are subject to public-records laws. Nine states exempted the foundations. Only eight states have passed clear laws on these foundations, and of those, three defined foundations as nonpublic entities. As a result, it can be near impossible to track the source of research dollars—however public the institution.
Often it is the companies themselves that provide the most information about educational outreach. The Dow Chemical Company website, for example, listsmore than 30 universities it partners with “to advance scientific research and develop the world’s next generation of scientists and leaders.” Monsanto collaborates with universities in a number of ways, including through “peer-reviewed research in academic journals” and by providing “graduate-degree advisors and academic mentors.” And DuPont’s seeds division, Pioneer, sponsors symposia and workshops on university campuses throughout the United States.
Robert “Buck” Sanford Jr., a professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University, finds the trend disconcerting. “You wake up one morning and you look around, and there are 10 people on campus that are getting research funding from Corporation X, Corporation Y, and Corporation Z, and some of it’s forest, some of it’s health, some of it’s food, some of it’s geology exploration,” he says. “It’s not at all regulated as far as I know. It’s really open-ended.”
But even though corporations may be more eager than their academic partners to announce their sponsored relationships, it doesn’t mean that universities are just passively accruing funding. In fact, universities are counting on that revenue and are actively courting industry dollars. One way they do so is through “industry-affiliates” programs, which—for a fixed fee—provide corporate partners with a wide range of benefits, like a guaranteed seat on an advisory board, early access to student résumés, private recruiting sessions, or full access to in-person meetings on campus. Industry-affiliates programs are usually organized by individual departments, even within the same university, and have varying levels of oversight and transparency.
On nearly every school day in September 2016 alone, one or more industry partners hit the Purdue campus.
Some schools openly advertise their programs. At Montana State University’s Center for Biofilm Engineering, for example, affiliates pay $24,000 a year to advise on research, specify deliverables, and have their products tested by university staff before going to market. “Advantages of directly funding project work at the [Center for Biofilm Engineering] include complete confidentiality and project direction by scientists and engineers at the top of biofilm investigation,” reads a brochure for the program. “We can offer confidential feedback on R&D direction, marketing ideas, or strategic decisions. Many of our members have found that this benefit alone is worth the annual membership fee.”
Virginia Tech has 30 industry-affiliates programs. One, for the Multifunctional Integrated Circuits and Systems Group, assures potential partners, “The University will, to the extent possible, take Members’ suggestions into account in selecting research topics, adopting research methodology, and directing research activities in an effort to maximize use of membership fees.” Affiliates of the university group can opt for a basic $10,000 membership level or for a $40,000 level, which allows for sponsorship of a graduate fellowship, during which the student will “explore a research area that is of interest to the sponsoring Principal Member, consistent with MICS’s strategic plans” and “collaborate on research/thesis directions.”
How Corporate America Invented Christian America:
Inside one reverend's big business-backed `1940's crusade to make the country conservative again
Kevin M. Kruse
In December 1940, as America was emerging from the Great Depression, more than 5,000 industrialists from across the nation made their yearly pilgrimage to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, convening for the annual meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers. The program promised an impressive slate of speakers: titans at General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, Mutual Life, and Sears, Roebuck; popular lecturers such as etiquette expert Emily Post and renowned philosopher-historian Will Durant; even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Tucked away near the end of the program was a name few knew initially, but one everyone would be talking about by the convention’s end: Reverend James W. Fifield Jr.
Handsome, tall, and somewhat gangly, the 41-year-old Congregationalist minister bore more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Stewart. Addressing the crowd of business leaders, Fifield delivered a passionate defense of the American system of free enterprise and a withering assault on its perceived enemies in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Decrying the New Deal’s “encroachment upon our American freedoms,” the minister listed a litany of sins committed by the Democratic government, ranging from its devaluation of currency to its disrespect for the Supreme Court. Singling out the regulatory state for condemnation, he denounced “the multitude of federal agencies attached to the executive branch” and warned ominously of “the menace of autocracy approaching through bureaucracy.”
It all sounds familiar enough today, but Fifield’s audience of executives was stunned. Over the preceding decade, as America first descended into and then crawled its way out of the Great Depression, these titans of industry had been told, time and time again, that they were to blame for the nation’s downfall. Fifield, in contrast, insisted that they were the source of its salvation.
They just needed to do one thing: Get religion.
Fifield told the industrialists that clergymen would be crucial in regaining the upper hand in their war with Roosevelt. As men of God, ministers could voice the same conservative complaints as business leaders, but without any suspicion that they were motivated solely by self-interest. They could push back against claims, made often by Roosevelt and his allies, that business had somehow sinned and the welfare state was doing God’s work. The assembled industrialists gave a rousing amen. “When he had finished,” a journalist noted, “rumors report that the N.A.M. applause could be heard in Hoboken.”
It was a watershed moment—the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other. The two systems had been linked before, of course, but always in terms of their shared social characteristics. Fifield’s innovation was his insistence that Christianity and capitalism were political soul mates, first and foremost.
Before the New Deal, the government had never loomed quite so large over business and, as a result, it had never loomed large in Americans’ thinking about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism. But in Fifield’s vision, it now cast a long and ominous shadow.He and his colleagues devoted themselves to fighting the government forces they believed were threatening capitalism and, by extension, Christianity. And their activities helped build a foundation for a new vision of America in which businessmen would no longer suffer under the rule of Roosevelt but instead thrive—in a phrase they popularized—in a nation “under God.” In many ways, the marriage of corporate and Christian interests that has recently dominated the news—from the Hobby Lobby case to controversies over state-level versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—is not that new at all.
For much of the 1930s, organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) had been searching in vain for ways to rehabilitate a public image that had been destroyed in the Great Depression and defamed by the New Deal. In 1934, a new generation of conservative industrialists took over NAM with a promise to “serve the purposes of business salvation.” The organization rededicated itself to spreading the gospel of free enterprise, vastly expanding its expenditures in the field. As late as 1934, NAM spent a paltry $36,000 on public relations. Three years later, it devoted $793,043 to the cause, more than half its total income. NAM now promoted capitalism through a wide array of films, radio programs, advertisements, direct mail, a speakers bureau and a press service that provided ready-made editorials and news stories for 7,500 local newspapers.
Ultimately, though, industry’s self-promotion was seen as precisely that. Jim Farley, chairman of the Democratic Party, joked that another group involved in this public relations campaign—the American Liberty League—really should have been called the “American Cellophane League.” “First, it’s a DuPont product,” Farley quipped, “And second, you can see right through it.” Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt took his shots. “It has been said that there are two great Commandments—one is to love God, and the other to love your neighbor,” he noted soon after the Liberty League’s creation. “The two particular tenets of this new organization say you shall love God and then forget your neighbor.” Off the record, he joked that the name of the god they worshiped seemed to be “Property.”
As Roosevelt’s quips made clear, the president shrewdly used spiritual language for political ends. In the judgment of his biographer James MacGregor Burns, “probably no American politician has given so many speeches that were essentially sermons rather than statements of policy.” His first inaugural address was so laden with references to Scripture that the National Bible Press published an extensive chart linking his text with the “Corresponding Biblical Quotations.” In a memorable passage, Roosevelt reassured the nation that “the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore the temple to the ancient truths.”
When Roosevelt launched the New Deal, politically liberal clergymen echoed his arguments, championing his proposal for a vast welfare state as simply the Christian thing to do. The head of the Federal Council of Churches, for instance, claimed the New Deal embodied basic Christian principles such as the “significance of daily bread, shelter, and security.” When businessmen realized their economic arguments were no match for Roosevelt’s religious ones, they decided to beat him at his own game.
Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton and the author, most recently, of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, from which this article has been adapted.
This story tagged under:
Trump and the Christian Fascists
Donald Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is being filled by the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades. If the nation suffers another economic collapse, which is probably inevitable, another catastrophic domestic terrorist attack or a new war, President Trump’s ability to force the Christian right’s agenda on the public and shut down dissent will be dramatically enhanced. In the presidential election, Trump had 81 percent of white evangelicals behind him.
Trump’s moves to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty” and allow churches to become active in politics by gutting the Johnson Amendment, along with his nominations of judges championed by the Federalist Society and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, have endeared him to the Christian right. He has rolled back civil rights legislation and business and environmental regulations. He has elevated several stalwarts of the Christian right into power—Mike Pence to the vice presidency, Jeff Sessions to the Justice Department, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, Betsy DeVos to the Department of Education, Tom Price to Health and Human Services and Ben Carson to Housing and Urban Development. He embraces the white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, greed, religious intolerance, anger and racism that define the Christian right.
More important, Trump’s disdain for facts and his penchant for magical thinking and conspiracy theories mesh well with the worldview of the Christian right, which sees itself as under attack by the satanic forces of secular humanism embodied in the media, academia, the liberal establishment, Hollywood and the Democratic Party. In this worldview, climate change is not real, Barack Obama is a Muslim and millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
The followers of the Christian right, like Trump and his brain trust, including Stephen Bannon, are Manicheans. They see the world in black and white, good and evil, them and us. Trump’s call in his speech in Poland for a crusade against the godless hoards of Muslims fleeing from the wars and chaos we created replicates the view of the Christian right. Christian right leaders in a sign of support went to the White House on July 10 to pray over Trump. Two days later Pat Robertson showed up there to interview the president for his Christian Broadcasting Network.
If the alliance between these zealots and the government succeeds, it will snuff out the last vestiges of American democracy.
On the surface it appears to be incongruous that the Christian right would rally behind a slick New York real estate developer who is a very public serial philanderer and adulterer, has no regard for the truth, is consumed by greed, does not appear to read or know the Bible, routinely defrauds and cheats his investors and contractors, expresses a crude misogyny and an even cruder narcissism and appears to yearn for despotism. In fact, these are the very characteristics that define most of the leaders of the Christian right. Trump has preyed on desperate people through the thousands of slot machines in his casinos, his sham university and his real estate deals. Megachurch pastors prey on their followers by extracting “seed offerings,” “love gifts,” tithes and donations and by selling miracle healings along with “prayer clothes,” self-help books, audio and video recordings and even protein shakes. Pastors have established within their megachurches, as Trump did in his businesses, despotic fiefdoms. They cannot be challenged or questioned any more than an omnipotent Trump could be challenged on the reality television show “The Apprentice.” And they seek to replicate their little tyrannies on a national scale, with white men in charge.
The personal piety of most of the ministers who lead the Christian right is a facade. Their private lives are usually marked by hedonistic squalor that includes mansions, private jets, limousines, retinues of bodyguards, personal assistants and servants, shopping sprees, lavish vacations and sexual escapades that rival those carried out by Trump. And because they run “churches,” in many cases church funds pay for their tax-free empires, including their extravagant lifestyles. They also engage in the nepotism found in the Trump organization, elevating family members to prominent or highly paid positions and passing on the businesses to their children.
The Christian right’s scandals, which give a glimpse into the sordid lives of these multimillionaire pastors, are legion. Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Praise the Lord Club, for example, raked in as much as $1 million a week before Jim Bakker went to prison for nearly five years. He was convicted of fraud and other charges in 1989 because of a $158 million scheme in which followers paid for vacations that never materialized. As the Bakker empire came apart, there also were accusations of drug use and rape. Tammy Faye died in 2007, and now Jim Bakker is back, peddling survival food for the end days and telling his significantly reduced television audience that anyone who opposes Trump is the Antichrist.
Paul and Jan Crouch, who gave the Bakkers their start, founded Trinity Broadcasting, the world’s largest televangelist network, now run by their son Matt and his wife, Laurie. Viewers were encouraged to call prayer counselors at the toll-free number shown at the bottom of the TV screen. It was a short step from talking with a prayer counselor to making a “love gift” and becoming a “partner” in Trinity Broadcasting and then sending in more money during one of the frequent Praise-a-Thons.
The Crouches reveled in tasteless kitsch, as does Trump. They sat during their popular nightly program in front of stained glass windows that overlooked Louis XVI-inspired sets awash in gold rococo and red velvet, glittering chandeliers and a gold-painted piano. The network emblem, which Paul Crouch wore on the pocket of his blue double-breasted blazer, featured a crown, a lion, a horse, a white dove, a cross and Latin phrases among other elements. The Crouches would have been at home in Trump Tower, where the president has a faux “Trump crest”—allegedly plagiarized—and has decorated his penthouse as if it was part of Versailles.
The Crouches were masters of manipulation. They exhorted viewers to send in checks for $1,000, even if they could not afford it. Write the check anyway, Paul Crouch, who died in 2013, told them, as a “step of faith” and the Lord would repay them many times over. “Do you think God would have any trouble getting $1,000 extra to you somehow?” he asked during one Praise-a-Thon broadcast. Viewers, many of whom struggled with deep despair and believed that miracles and magic alone held them back from the abyss, often found it impossible to resist this emotional pressure.
Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is home to many of the worst charlatans in the Christian right, including the popular healer Benny Hinn, who says that Adam was a superhero who could fly to the moon and claims that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins. Hinn claims his “anointings” have cured cancer, AIDS, deafness, blindness and numerous other ailments and physical injuries. Those who have not been cured, he says, did not send in enough money.
These religious hucksters are some of the most accomplished con artists in the country, a trait they share with the current occupant of the Oval Office.
I wrote a book on the Christian right in 2007 called “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” I did not use the word “fascist” lightly. I spent several hours, at the end of two years of reporting, with two of the country’s foremost scholars on fascism—Fritz Stern and Robert O. Paxton. Did this ideology fit the parameters of classical fascism? Was it virulent enough and organized enough to seize power? Would it go to the ruthless extremes of previous fascist movements to persecute and silence dissent? Has our deindustrialized society replicated the crippling despair, alienation and rage that always feed fascist movements?
The evangelicalism promoted by the Christian right is very different from the evangelicalism and fundamentalism of a century ago. The emphasis on personal piety that defined the old movement, the call to avoid the contamination of politics, has been replaced by Christian Reconstructionism, called Dominionism by some. This new ideology is about taking control of all institutions, including the government, to build a “Christian” nation. Rousas John Rushdoony in his 1973 book, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” first articulated it. Rushdoony argued that God gives the elect, just as he gave Adam and Noah, dominion over the earth to build a Christian society. Their state will come about with the physical eradication of the forces of Satan. It is the duty of the church and the elect to “rescue” the world so Christ can return.
This is an ideology of death. It promises that the secular, humanist society will be physically destroyed. The Ten Commandments will form the basis of our legal system. Creationism or “Intelligent Design” will be taught in public schools. People who are considered social deviants, including homosexuals, immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims, criminals and those dismissed as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace the Christian right’s perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible—will be silenced, imprisoned or killed. The role of the federal government will be reduced to protecting property rights, “homeland” security and waging war. Church organizations will be funded and empowered by the government to run social-welfare agencies. The poor, condemned for sloth, indolence and sinfulness, will be denied government assistance. The death penalty will be expanded to include “moral crimes,” including apostasy, blasphemy, sodomy and witchcraft, as well as abortion, which will be treated as murder. Women will be subordinate to men. Those who practice other faiths will become, at best, second-class citizens and eventually outcasts. The wars in the Middle East will be defined as religious crusades against Muslims. There will be no separation of church and state. The only legitimate voices will be “Christian.” America will become an agent of God. Those who defy the “Christian” authorities will be branded as agents of Satan.
Tens of millions of Americans are already hermetically sealed within this bizarre worldview. They are given a steady diet of conspiracy theories and lies on the internet, in their churches, in Christian schools and colleges and on Christian television and radio. Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is required reading. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored. This Christian propaganda hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, is rehabilitated as an American hero. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, is defined as part of the worldwide battle against satanic Islamic terror. Presently, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. public believes in Creationism or “Intelligent Design.” And nearly a third of the population, 94 million people, consider themselves evangelical.
Those who remain in a reality-based universe often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons. They do not take seriously the huge segment of the public, mostly white and working class, who because of economic distress have primal yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal and are easily seduced by magical thinking. These are the yearnings and emotions Trump has exploited politically.
Those who embrace this movement need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to elevate themselves to the role of holy warriors, infused with a noble calling and purpose. They need to sanctify the rage and hypermasculinity that are the core of fascism. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief, which includes being anointed for a special purpose in life by God, are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and desire for meaning.
“Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty,” Simone Weil wrote.
These believers, like all fascists, detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.
The rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them. The magical belief system, as it was for impoverished German workers who flocked to the Nazi Party, is an emotional life raft. It is all that supports them. The only way to blunt this movement is to reintegrate these people into the economy, to give them economic stability through good wages and benefits, to restore their self-esteem. They need to live in a society that is not predatory but instead provides well-funded public schools, free university education and universal health care, a society in which they and their families can prosper.
Let us not stand at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching towards Bethlehem. Let us shake off our complacency and cynicism. Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for the poor and the working class. Let us give all Americans a reality-based hope for the future. Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance, united behind the ludicrous figure of Donald Trump, will ride this rage to power.
San Jose Mercury-News
Editorial: Stop the $17 billion Delta twin-tunnel water grab
Mercury News Editorial Board
Two federal agencies’ decision Monday to green-light construction of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta twin-tunnels plan is an unwelcome setback for opponents of the project. But it’s not the huge milestone that proponents are claiming.
See where the proposed Delta tunnels would go
The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opinion merely said that building the tunnels “doesn’t deepen any harm” to several endangered species. “Deepen” is the key here. In effect, they’re saying that the impact of taking too much water out of the Delta in recent years has been so detrimental that building the tunnels won’t make much difference.
Pardon us for not celebrating the news.
The so-called California WaterFix is a $17 billion plan to build two four-story-high tunnels under the Delta capable of moving enough water south to fill 8,000 Olympic-size swimming pools every day. It’s a water grab, pure and simple, by the Central Valley and Los Angeles areas.
The tunnels must not be built at the expense of the health of the Delta.
It’s important to note that the latest opinion doesn’t include the expected scientific analysis of the environmental damage of actually moving additional water through the tunnels if they’re constructed and put into operation. South Bay and East Bay residents and businesses should be laser-focused on that. They are dependent on the health of the Delta ecosystem for their supply of fresh water.
Scientists have repeatedly said that the only way to ensure the future health of the Delta is to allow more water to flow through it, not take more out of it.
The expected report on the tunnels’ effect on water flow is still months away. Yet the water districts expected to pay for the project are expected to vote in September on whether to fully commit to funding the tunnels, without that crucial information.
We can see why the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Westlands Water District in the Central Valley would vote to approve. They would only need to be convinced that they would get the vast quantities of additional water to justify paying the billions they will pay in costs. Their investment in the health of the Delta is secondary to their desire for Sacramento River water.
A vote to approve funding the tunnels by the Santa Clara Valley Water District without knowing the impact of the tunnels taking more water from the Delta is incomprehensible, however. Compromising the Delta’s health is not in the Bay Area’s interests.
Even more unnerving is the open-ended commitment of ratepayer dollars. Buying in means ratepayers would be responsible for cost overruns — and state projects are not known for meeting budgets. Note high-speed rail.
In Boston, the “Big Dig” tunnel price ballooned from an expected $2.4 billion to $15 billion.
Stop the Delta tunnel folly. California can meet its water needs and save the Delta with more conservation, recycling and underground and above-ground storage, where it is environmentally and economically sound.
Water wasted to the sea?
by James E. Cloern, Jane Kay, Wim Kimmerer, Jeffrey Mount, Peter B. Moyle, and Anke Mueller-Solger
This article originally appeared in the journal San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science.
If we farmed the Central Valley or managed water supplies for San Francisco, San Jose or Los Angeles, we might think that fresh water flowing from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers through the Delta to San Francisco Bay is “wasted” because it ends up in the Pacific Ocean as an unused resource. However, different perspectives emerge as we follow the downstream movement of river water through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay.
If we were Delta farmers or administered Contra Costa County’s water supply, we would value river water flowing through the Delta because it repels salt intrusion (Jassby et al. 1995) and protects water quality for drinking, growing crops and meeting other customer needs.
If we were responsible for protecting at-risk species, we would value river water flowing through the Delta to the Bay and ocean because it stimulates migration and spawning of native salmon, delta smelt, longfin smelt, and splittail while reducing the potential for colonization and spread of non-native fish (Brown et al. 2016). River flow reduces toxic selenium concentrations in clams eaten by sturgeon, splittail, and diving ducks (Stewart et al. 2013), and it delivers plankton and detritus to fuel production in downstream food webs (Sobczak et al. 2002).
If we managed a Bay Area storm water district or sewage treatment plant, we would value water flowing from the Delta into the Bay because it dilutes and flushes such urban contaminants as metals, microplastics, and nutrients (McCulloch et al. 1970).
If we directed restoration projects around the Bay, we would value water flowing from the Delta into the Bay because it brings sediments required to sustain marshes that otherwise would be lost to subsidence and sea level rise (Stralberg et al. 2011; Schoellhamer et al. 2016). Sediment input from rivers also sustains mudflats (Jaffe et al. 2007) used as habitat and probed for food by more than a million willets, sandpipers, dunlins and other shorebirds during spring migration (Stenzel et al. 2002).
If we fished the Pacific for a living, we would value river flow into the Bay because it carries cues used by adult salmon to find their home streams and spawn (Dittman and Quinn 1996), it brings young salmon to the sea where they grow and mature, and it creates bottom currents that carry young English sole, California halibut and Dungeness crabs into the Bay (Raimonet and Cloern 2016) where they feed and grow before returning to the ocean.
If we liked to romp along the shore or served on the California Coastal Commission we would value rivers flowing to sea because they supply the sand that keeps California’s beaches from eroding away (Barnard et al. 2017).
Finally, if we were among those who want to conserve California’s landscape and biological diversity, we would value river water flowing to the sea because it creates one of the nation’s iconic estuaries and sustains plant and animal communities found only where seawater and fresh water mix (Cloern et al. 2016).
Is the fresh river water that naturally flows through the Delta to San Francisco Bay and on to the Pacific Ocean “wasted”? No. The seaward flow of fresh water is essential to farmers, fishers, conservationists, seashore lovers, and government agencies that manage drinking water supplies, restore wetlands, protect coastlines, and clean up sewage and storm pollution. Wasted water to some is essential water to others.
James Cloern is a senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Jane Kay is an independent science writer. Wim Kimmerer is a research professor with the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies. Jeffery Mount is a senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California. Peter B. Moyle is a UC Davis Professor Emeritus of fish biology and an associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences. Anke Mueller-Solger is the Associate Director for Projects at the U.S. Geological Survey.
Barnard PL, Hoover D, Hubbard DM, Snyder A, Ludka BC, Allan J, Kaminsky GM, Ruggiero P, Gallien TW, Gabel L, McCandless D, Weiner HM, Cohn N, Anderson DL, Serafin KA. 2017. Extreme oceanographic forcing and coastal response due to the 2015-2016 El Niño. Nat Commun 8:14365. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14365.
Brown LR, Kimmerer W, Conrad JL, Lesmeister S, Mueller–Solger A. 2016. Food webs of the Delta, Suisun Bay, and Suisun Marsh: an update on current understanding and possibilities for management. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14(3). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2016v14iss3art4.
Cloern JE, Barnard PL, Beller E, Callaway JC, Grenier JL, Grosholz ED, Grossinger R, Hieb K, Hollibaugh JT, Knowles N, Sutula M, Veloz S, Wasson K, Whipple A. Life on the edge – California’s estuaries. In: Mooney H, Zavaleta E, editors. 2016. Ecosystems of California: a source book. Oakland (CA): University of California Press. p 359-387.
Dittman A, Quinn T. Homing in Pacific salmon: mechanisms and ecological basis. Journal of Experimental Biology. 1996 Jan 1;199(1):83-91.
Healey M, Goodwin P, Dettinger M, Norgaard R. 2016. The state of Bay–Delta science 2016: an introduction. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14(2). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2016v14iss2art5.
Jaffe BE, Smith RE, Foxgrover AC. 2007 Anthropogenic influence on sedimentation and intertidal mudflat change in San Pablo Bay, California: 1856-1983. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 73:175-187. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2007.02.017.
Jassby AD, Kimmerer WJ, Monismith SG, Armor C, Cloern JE, Powell TM, Schubel JR, Vendlinski TJ. 1995 Isohaline position as a habitat indicator for estuarine populations. Ecological Applications 5(1): 272-289. doi:10.2307/1942069
McCulloch, DS, Peterson DH, Carlson PR, Conomos TJ. 1970. Some effects of fresh-water inflow on the flushing of South San Francisco Bay – a preliminary report: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 637A, 27 p.
Raimonet M, Cloern JE. 2016. Estuary-ocean connectivity: fast physics and slow biology. Global Change Biology (Internet]. [cited 2017 March 18]. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13546/full
Schoellhamer DH, Wright SA, Monismith SG, Bergamaschi BA. 2016. Recent advances in understanding flow dynamics and transport of water-quality constituents in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 14(4):1-25. doi: https://doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2016v14iss4art1.
Sobczak W, Cloern J, Jassby A, Muller-Solger A. 2002. Bioavailability of organic matter in a highly disturbed estuary: the role of detrital and algal resources. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99(12): 8101-8105. doi: 10.1073/pnas.122614399.
Stenzel LE, Hickey CM, Kjelmyr JE, Page GW. 2002. Abundance and distribution of shorebirds in the San Francisco Bay area. Western Birds 33: 69-98.
Stewart AR, Luoma SN, Elrick KA, Carter JL, van der Wegen M. 2013. Influence of estuarine processes on spatiotemporal variation in bioavailable selenium. Marine Ecology Progress Series 492: 41-56. doi:10.3354/meps10503.
Stralberg D, Brennan M, Callaway JC, Wood JK, Schile LM, Jongsomjit D, Kelly M, Parker VT, Crooks S. 2011. Evaluating tidal marsh sustainability in the face of sea-level rise: a hybrid modeling approach applied to San Francisco Bay. PloS one 6(11): e27388. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027388.