The planet is getting hotter

Bob Sheak, June 8, 2023


This post focuses on the unfolding and accelerating climate crisis and that, though there is not much time to gain some control over this crisis, there are innumerable people in the U.S. who are concerned about it and many thousands who engage in actions to address this problem. The Republican Party, many corporations, and right-wing supporters continually attempt to subvert efforts to adequately address this existential problem.


Some Context

On February 1, 2023, I sent out a post with the title “Is it too late to curtail the progression of climate disruption and its calamitous effects?” (

I referred to recent books and authoritative reports that “give us a good understanding of the dire effects and projections of climate change (climate disruption, climate crisis, global warming), how fossil-fuel corporations and an array of other powerful corporate and political forces in and outside of government have created or supported false and misleading narratives denying climate change, deflecting attention away from it, or proffering false solutions (e.g., geoengineering). There are two themes that stand out.

We don’t have much time to prevent the ongoing increase in climate catastrophes from getting worse, and we have the know how to slow down, if not prevent, this from happening. In the final analysis, politics will make the difference.

Climate scientist Michael E. Mann’s main contention in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, published in 2021, is that there is an intransigent enemy, prominently the Republican Party and its corporate and wealthy benefactors, that threatens to make life on the planet less and less habitable, and that it will take an equally powerful force to stop them.

At the same time, Mann contends it is not too late to radically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the principal sources of climate change and, through domestic and international efforts, to limit the emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next decade. That would require at least a 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions. To achieve this goal, he argues, policies based on science must be instituted, citizens must be “educated” about the facts and, some at least, must be or become active in the political process. The disinformation of the fossil fuel interests must be effectively challenged, and the government must, over the next decade institute policies to remove fossil fuels from the energy mix and replace them with renewables, energy efficiency, and other environmentally sustainable technologies.  

As time passes that there is little or no reason to expect the Republican Party or their allies and supporters to negotiate on this issue – or most issues – in good faith. See Steve Benen’s documentation of this point in his book, The Imposters: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics (publ. 2020). Kate Aronoff, Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet – and How We Fight Back (publ. 2021). Geoff Dembicki analyzes the “far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change,” in his book, The Petroleum Papers (publ. 2022).


Too little is being done to stop or reverse global warming

Meanwhile, oil, natural gas, and coal continue to provide most of the overall energy and electricity for the U.S, though there is some decline in the contribution of fossil fuels in the energy mix, as renewable energy sources increase their share of energy production. According to the U.S. Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, “renewable energy generates about 20% of all U.S. electricity, and that percentage continues to grow.” In 2021, wind accounted for 9.2%, hydropower 6.3%, solar 2.8%, biomass 1.3%, and geothermal 0.4%. (

USA Facts provides data on the problematic energy consumption from petroleum or natural gas (

About 68% of energy consumption is from petroleum or natural gas, while renewable and nuclear sources account for 20%. Coal production has declined since 2010. Natural gas and crude oil production are growing. Nuclear energy production, the nation’s leading non-fossil fuel energy source since 1984, has remained flat for two decades. Solar and wind energy are growing. Out of 7.8 million energy-related jobs in 2021, energy efficiency jobs comprised the largest share, employing 2.2 million people. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption rose in 2021 and 2022 after dropping in 2020.” 

Andrea Germanos reported on November, 2017, that nearly 17,000 scientists from 180 countries issued a warning to humanity about the advanced and unfolding disruptive changes in the “biosphere” in a letter published in the international journal BioScience. (2017). Unless humanity, that is the world’ governments, set about making transformative changes in their societies soon, the scientists believe that the best evidenced indicates that there will be “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” The scientists are especially troubled by actually observed trends, that is, of rising greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, agricultural production, and the sixth mass extinction event underway” ( With respect to agriculture, they are referring to the dominant agriculture system that relies on chemical fertilizers that degrade soil, generates carbon emissions, and overutilize and contaminate water sources.

To expedite the transition away from fossil fuels will require systemic changes of massive levels, including changes that would reduce, if not phase out, fossil fuels over the next three decades, in the U.S. and around the world.

Brad Plumer reports that “there is still one last chance to shift course…. But it would require industrialized nations to join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030 and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s. If those two steps were taken, the world would have about a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius…. Delays of even a few years would most likely make that goal unattainable, guaranteeing a hotter, more perilous future” (

However, there are developments that could shatter any hope for resolving the climate crisis. Here’s one example. In an article published for The Atlantic magazine On March 18, 2023, Christian Elliott calls our attention to research on the danger that vast areas of permafrost could melt and release the greenhouse gas methane as temperatures rise ( He writes:

“Covering nearly the same area as Norway, the Hudson Bay Lowlands in northern Ontario and Manitoba is home to the southernmost continuous expanse of permafrost in North America. Hudson Bay can stay frozen late into the summer, its ice-covered surface reflecting sunlight and keeping the surrounding area cold.

“Trapped in all that permafrost is an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon. It’s an unfathomable amount, Kirkwood says. With global warming, the permafrost is thawing, threatening to release a ‘carbon bomb’ of heat-trapping methane gas into the atmosphere.”


Political obstacles in the U.S.

Climate Deniers in the 117th and 118th Congresses

Ari Drennen and Sally Hardin document that “there are [were] 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress who still deny the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change” ( Ari Drennen is the associate director of communications for the Energy and Environment War Room at the Center for American Progress. Sally Hardin is the Center’s director of the Energy and Environment War Room.

That 139 includes “109 representatives and 30 senators, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. All 139 of these climate-denying elected officials have made recent statements casting doubt on the clear, established scientific consensus that the world is warming—and that human activity is to blame. The same 139 climate-denying members have received more than $61 million in lifetime contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries.

These numbers do not fully capture the position of Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Even those who do not take a public stand on the climate crisis, and are therefore not counted in the numbers cited by Drennen and Hardin, Republicans in the Congress vote together on relevant legislation. (The recent vote on the debt limit ceiling is an exception, but then only to avoid a first-time catastrophic default.)

Robinson Meyer illustrates this point on Republican partisanship in an article analyzing the vote on The Inflation Adjustment Act, a bill advanced by President Biden and Democrats in both houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Biden on August 16, 2022 ( Robinson notes that the legislation is “the first comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history,” and it will authorize the spending of “roughly $374 billion on decarbonization and climate resilience over the next 10 years, getting us two-thirds of the way to America’s Paris Agreement goals.”

Here’s the point. No Republicans in the House supported the bill. “The IRA [Inflation Adjustment Act] was adopted entirely along party lines, with all Democrats and not a single congressional Republican in support of the legislation.” Meyer continues. In the Senate, “the bill passed only because there were 50 Democrats in the Senate, with a Democratic vice president to cast the tie-breaking vote. Had any of those Democrats lost their elections—had Joe Manchin, for instance, decided against running for reelection in 2018 in his heavily Republican home state, or had Democrats not eked out two Senate wins in Georgia last year—then the bill would not have made it across the finish line.”

Withal, Drennen and Hardin find it to be “stark and shocking” that there were 139 elected [Republican] officials in the U.S. Congress who are willing publicly and without apology to deny the empirically-based scientific consensus, despite the obvious effects of climate change now accelerating across the country and globe. In the political partisan environment, most other Republicans in the Congress go along with the anti-scientific position.

Drennen and Hardin point out that there is an urgency about climate change that requires attention. A climate catastrophe “is no longer a distant threat looming in the future—nor has it been for quite some time. In 2020, there were 22 extreme weather events that caused damage in the United States that exceeded $1 billion each, a new annual record that shattered the previous record of 16 events that happened in both 2011 and 2017. With the backdrop of a deadly pandemic, Americans last year [2021] had to flee their homes in the face of out-of-control wildfires and an unprecedented number of hurricanes and seek shelter from sweltering heat waves—events that exacerbate already-troubling racial and economic inequalities.”

The fossil fuel industry’s funding of climate denial

As already noted, “The 139 climate science deniers have accepted more than $61 million in lifetime direct contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries, which comes out to an average of $442,293 per elected official of Congress that denies climate change. This figure includes all contributions above the Federal Election Commission’s mandated reporting threshold of $200 from management, employees, and political action committees in the fossil fuel industries. Not included in this data are the many other avenues available to fossil fuel interests to influence campaigns and elected officials. For example, oil, gas, and coal companies spent heavily during the 2020 election cycle to keep the Senate under the control of former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—a known climate denier—with major oil companies like Valero, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips contributing more than $1 million each to the conservative Senate Leadership Fund.”

“This analysis only shows direct, publicly disclosed contributions to federal candidates. The fossil fuel industry regularly spends millions of dollars of dark money advertising to the public; shaping corporate decisions; lobbying members of Congress; and otherwise funding the infrastructure that makes climate denial politically feasible and even profitable.”

The reality that so many members of Congress and senators—including many newly elected officials—deny basic science leaves the overwhelming majority of the American people who accept the evidence with a grueling task ahead. Without bold new investments in a clean energy economy and an end to the practice of subsidizing fossil fuel extraction, the agents of doubt peddling climate change misinformation will have succeeded in darkening not just the future but also the shape of the present as well.


At least 149 GOP members of the present, 118th Congress, are STILL willing to reject openly the reality of climate science.

Meteor Blades, a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos, documents that there are “at least 149 GOP members of Congress STILL reject the reality of climate change” ( That is up 10 from the 117th Congress. Blades writes:

“I include as a denier any elected official who argues in favor of expanding oil and gas production while simultaneously calling for reducing the regulatory authority of the EPA or abolishing it altogether. Low rankings on the League of Conservation Voters congressional scorecard provides additional evidence of a tendency toward denial.”

He continues.

“It would be bad enough if all these lawmakers were merely fools. However, most of them know climatologists’ warnings aren’t fake news. This doesn’t stop them from continuing to regurgitate debunked propaganda that the fossil fuel industry has for four decades been paying shills to disinform the public about. Nor does it spur them to take legislative action to address what scientists say we must. They don’t care. And if fattening their wallet accompanies their not caring, so much the better.

“These days, ‘hoax’ has mostly been replaced with some version of ‘the climate is always changing.’ This subterfuge fails to acknowledge that scientists agree with this hoary truism but simultaneously warn that the speed with which the changes are coming is unprecedented since modern humans left Africa tens of thousands of years ago. Not to mention that the overwhelming majority of climatologists have concluded that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is causing this rapid change.

In addition to explicit and publicly out-spoken climate deniers, there are other Republicans reasonably suspected of harboring such views. For Blades, “any member of Congress who doesn’t put the climate crisis among at least their Top 5 priorities counts at this late date as a denier no matter how much they claim to accept what scientists are telling us.”

He also refers to “denier-adjacents,” whose “statements are ambiguous enough to give them a pass. Many Republican candidates, incumbents or not, also escape the list by simply avoiding mentioning climate altogether.”

“There are a multitude of those denier-adjacents in the current cycle, including Eric Burlison of Missouri’s 7th district, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon’s 5th, Juan Ciscomani of Arizona’s 6th and Eli Crane of Arizona’s 7th, Anthony D’Esposito of New York’s 4th, Monica de la Cruz of Texas’s 15th, Brad Finstad of Minnesota’s 1st, Erin Houchin of Indiana’s 9th, Jen Kiggans of Virginia’s 2nd, and Anna Luna of Florida’s 13th.”


Recent evidence of a warming planet

There is ever-more evidence that the planet continues to warm and the “systemic” changes that are needed are not being realized soon enough. Indeed, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)reports on May 17, 2023, that “Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fueled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event ( Consider WMO evidence.

Surface temperatures

“There is a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year.  There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.

“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.”

“‘A warming El Niño is expected to develop in the coming months and this will combine with human-induced climate change to push global temperatures into uncharted territory,’ he said. ‘This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared,’ said Prof. Taalas.”

Ocean temperatures

The WMO report also points out “human-induced greenhouse gases are leading to more ocean heating and acidification, sea ice and glacier melt, sea level rise and more extreme weather.”

Likely to exceed 1.5C global climate temperature goal of Paris Agreement

“The Paris Agreement sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C, to avoid or reduce adverse impacts and related losses and damages.


Mel Gurtov, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest, considers highlights of “the latest IPCC report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming, the most comprehensive scientific report to date” (

The report “was approved by 195 governments, and synthesizes the results of countless other scientific reports as well as summarizes its six previous assessments.” Alas, “the IPCC contributing authors keep issuing warnings, governments keep making dubious promises, and worsening environmental conditions keep multiplying. We’re approaching a tipping point but no authority exists to stop our passing it.” We are told yet again “that 2030 is the year of living dangerously—when humanity must cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, and then proceed to stop them altogether by 2050.”

Indeed, “Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least two million years” and the prospects to curtail and/or reduce global warming “are very small.” Gurtov adds: “The planet has already warmed to 1.1 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels, and every year we see heat records being set around the world.” We are headed for 2.0 degrees C – and more.


“Governments will violate their pledges on climate change whenever their economies need pumping up—such as China’s decision to permit 168 new coal-fired power plants to be built, or the US decision to go ahead with the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.” Additionally, populations, especially in the richest countries refuse to “change their habits.”  

“They (we!) want more plastic packaging, more air conditioning, more access to food from far away, more oil and gas, more lumber from old forests, more water to combat the drought they helped create, more homes where they shouldn’t be built, and more government bailouts when things go wrong.

Gurtov amplifies his point, writing:

“Climatologists are not saying that the world will end as we approach 2.0 degrees C. of warming. What they are saying is that living conditions for nearly everyone will be profoundly affected by changes in weather, including health and safety for many millions of people and other species.” If current trends continue, the effects will be catastrophic.

* The rich-poor gap in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) continues to grow: “The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34–45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.”

* Food and water security is endangered: “Roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year due to a combination of climatic and non-climatic drivers.” As many as 2.4 billion people will experience water scarcity by 2050, and millions more will not have access to safe sanitation in water supplies.

* Extreme heat is responsible for increased deaths, water-borne diseases, and displaced persons in all world regions. “Compound heatwaves and droughts are projected to become more frequent . . . Due to relative sea level rise, current 1-in-100 year extreme sea level events are projected to occur at least annually in more than half of all tide gauge locations by 2100 under all considered scenarios. Other projected regional changes include intensification of tropical cyclones and/or extratropical storms, and increases in aridity and fire weather.”

* Every increment of global warming increase will increase the risks and make them more difficult to manage. “Multiple climatic and non-climatic risk drivers will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Climate-driven food insecurity and supply instability, for example, are projected to increase with increasing global warming, interacting with non-climatic risk drivers such as competition for land between urban expansion and food production, pandemics and conflict.”

(Democracy Now reported the following headline in its online program on June 7, 2023:

“A new study published this week by Nature Communications finds the Arctic is expected to be ice-free during the summer months starting as early as the 2030s. Even in a best-case emissions reduction scenario — which the world is not currently on track to achieve — scientists say the loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer is now inevitable in the next few decades” (”

Not enough is being done

“As usual,” Gurtov writes, “the IPCC report does mention multiple ways in which adaptation and mitigation can affect climate change. All are quite familiar, such as more efficient use of resources, better forest management, carbon capture of fossil fuels, sustainable land use, electric vehicles, and more efficient buildings. There’s never been a problem imagining a net-zero carbon world. Here and there, these changes are being accepted. But for every piece of good news, there’s an ‘on the other hand.’ For example:

* From 2035 on, new gasoline-powered cars and most heavy trucks cannot be sold in California, and only zero-emission cars can be sold in New York. That’s two big states, but it leaves 48 others.

Greenpeace reportsthat an international group is now putting together a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty. (Worst offender? Coca-Cola.) But only a tiny fraction of plastics is being recycled, and more than 170 trillion plastic particles are found in the ocean alone.

* The soft-energy path is catching on. As the IPCC reports: “From 2010– 2019 there have been sustained decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85%), wind energy (55%), and lithium ion batteries (85%), and large increases in their deployment, e.g., >10x for solar and >100x for electric vehicles, varying widely across regions.” But: “Public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation.” Any wonder why oil and gas company profits are at their highest level ever? BP, for example, reported $28 billion in profits in 2022, and ExxonMobil reported $56 billion in profits. These companies have, without embarrassment, announced they will be scaling back commitments to move toward renewable energy.”


A devastating start to 2023: 7 weather/climate disasters, 97 lives lost, billions in damage

Dinah Voyles Pulver reports on climate/energy related costs that ran to $1 billion or more just in the first four months of 2023 ( She refers to evidence from NOAA.

“The disasters – with preliminary total costs estimated at $19 billion – are the second most on record for the first four months of the year, even adjusted for inflation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday [May 8, 2023].

“The California flooding and six other billion-dollar storm events claimed 97 lives, the agency said.

“It’s also been a record warm year so far for seven states and among the top 10 warmest for another 21 states, NOAA said.” The top seven include: Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.”

Pulver continues.

“The U.S. isn’t the only country seeing record warmth in some locations. April was the fourth warmest on record globally, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said Monday. Spain, Portugal and Morocco recorded their highest-ever April temperatures, according to the Copernicus summary.

“Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Thanh Hoa, a province in Vietnam, reported its highest ever temperature last week, about 111 degrees Fahrenheit.”

What are NOAA’s billion-dollar disasters this year?

California flooding, January-March, 3.5 billion

Northeastern winter storm / cold wave, February 2-5, $1.5 billion

Two South and Eastern severe weather outbreaks, March 2-3 and March 24-26, $6.4 billion

Central tornado and Eastern severe weather outbreak, March 31-April 1, $4.3 billion

Central and Eastern severe weather, April 4-6, $2.2 billion

Central and Southern severe weather, April 15, $1.0 billion


Examples of efforts and programs to contain, slow down, and/or reverse the greenhouse gases that are the principal causes of rising temperatures and their effects?

#1 – The Biden administration ( The article on the Earth Justice website was published on May 19, 2023. It lists the climate/energy related achievements of the administration. And, bear in mind, these achievements would not have occurred if the pro-fossil-fuel Republicans and their supporters had been in control of the White House and Congress. The achievements.

  • Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling
  • Accelerate transmission infrastructure in an equitable way
  • Secure strong efficiency standards
  • Direct 40% of climate investment benefits to the communities most impacted by pollution
  • Defend Tribal sovereignty
  • Protect forests that absorb climate pollution
  • Ensure bioenergy initiatives provide real climate benefits
  • Strengthen methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry
  • Cut carbon and hazardous air pollution from power plants

#2 – Keep hope alive

This is one of the principal themes in the book, Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility. Edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua, it is a collection of short essays that reflect the book’s title. It’s about hope, commitment, activism, voting and the need to join and support social movements aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels and shifting to climate-friendly renewable energy alternatives. One essay lists 80 “climate victories” over the years from 1974 through 2022, reflecting widespread and growing activism (pp. 92-102). Solnit offers the following examples of myriad types of activism aimed at stopping and reversing global warming.

“Climate activists have blockaded roads, pipeline paths, and fracking sites, gone on…hunger strikes, tree sits, marches, long walks, rallies, FridaysForFuture weekly protests; have orchestrated divestment campaigns, petitions, phone-ins, die-ins, sit-ins, educational campaign; blockaded harbors with kayaks; hung banners from bridges; doused nude figures in fake oil in London’s Tate’s Modern museum while it was taking money from BP; painted morals in the street; staged mock trials; shut down thousands of coal plants and prevented others from being built; stopped fossil-fuel leases and pipelines; blockaded oil trains; interrupted board meetings; organized shareholders; raised money; and, more important, raised consciousness” (p. 8).

Among the climate victories is this one: “In 2022, investments in renewables outstripped investments in conventional energy for the first time” (p. 9).

Leah Cardamore Stokes gives this example. “Consider the key clean technologies: solar, wind, batteries, and heat pumps. Over the past several decades, the cost of each of these technologies have fallen rapidly.” For example, the cost of an American household to rely on solar photovoltaics for a month has dropped from $300,000 in 1957 to just $30 today (p 49).

In an essay titled “In Praise of Indirect Consequences,” Sonet writes:

“Activism routinely consists of a movement, a manifesto, a group demanding something and not getting it, at least not at first. Too often, people seem to think that if there are not immediate and obvious consequences, there’s failure. In reality, what happens in response is often more subtle, delayed, unpredictable, incremental, and indirect – and yet still valuable and significant, sometimes more so – than simple formulas and short timelines account for. Often those consequences continue to ripple outward and unfold for decade afterward” (p. 130). She adds: “The Green New Deal, longtime activists agree, changed the whole conversation about what is possible and what we want…. It was a jobs- and infrastructure program, and a farm program, and a justice program.” It later became a “template for Biden’s climate platform” (p. 135).

#3 – Minnesota as a role model, with Democrats in control of the state government

Minnesota Emerges as the Midwest’s Leader in the Clean Energy Transition

In an article on Inside Climate News, Aydali Campa points out that Minnesota as emerged as the Midwest’s leader in the clean energy transition, moving ahead of Illinois (

On May 24, 2023, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that advances the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Campa elaborates as follows.

“Legislative sessions recently wrapped up in the two Midwestern states that saw the most clean energy transition efforts in the first quarter of the year. The states, where Democrats control both legislative chambers and have Democratic governors, saw a slew of bills introduced this session promoting clean energy and environmental justice. Still, each had generally different aims and outcomes.  

“Experts say the difference in each state’s number of actions taken and how many of those measures were enacted can also be attributed to differences in electric utility markets between the two states, when their 100 percent clean energy standards were set and the political makeup of their legislative bodies. Minnesota’s Senate flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the 2022 midterms.” 

“In February, Minnesota passed a 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2040 law that also streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects, defines what qualifies as renewable energy and ensures that constructing or retrofitting of major electric facilities receive the prevailing wage in the state. The new law also includes provisions excluding large polluting incinerators near environmental justice communities from counting toward its 100 percent target and ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to and benefit from clean and renewable energy.

“On top of setting one of the country’s most ambitious clean energy standards, Minnesota also passed a new rule requiring regulators to consider existing pollution levels in an area before granting or renewing a permit within or near an environmental justice community.”


Concluding thoughts

The U.S. and all nations now face many crises, some of which could destroy the world as we know it. Certainly, the climate crisis is one such crisis, along with the growing threat of nuclear war. It doesn’t help that as the earth’s population continues to grow, mining, agricultural, and ranching continue to encroach on and destroy the dwindling habitable parts of the earth, consumption levels by the rich and the more economically prosperous countries seemingly have no restraint in their consumption levels, the rich and powerful resist environmental restrictions, and, in the U.S., the Republican Party at all levels of government oppose regulations and even encourage increased dependence on fossil fuels.   

The situation is getting so bad environmentally that in some parts of the U.S. (e.g., California, eastern Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida) insurance companies are refusing to insure home owners and businesses protection or charging exorbitant rates, according to a news item written by  Christopher Flavelle, Jill Cowan and Ivan Penn, (

Though bad, the situation is not yet hopeless. There is certainly a need to limit corporate power generally and fossil fuels specifically. This goal can be advanced by a progressive political party, by energized environmental movements, and by an informed and active electorate. The agenda: enforcing anti-trust law, phasing out fossil fuels, increasing support for climate-friendly options like solar, wind, geothermal, along with sweeping energy efficiency measures, ending subsidies to fossil-fuel corporations, banning the US export of natural gas and oil, providing transitional support for workers who are displaced from fossil-fuel jobs, and educating the public about sustainable lifestyle options and what makes for a “resilient community.” See the book, The Community Resilience Reader, for multiple views on resilient communities, and David Miller’s book, Solved: How the World’s Great Cities are Fixing the Climate Crisis.

McCarthy’s threat in the debt limit crisis enables him to win concessions from the Biden administration

May 28 2023

Trump and his electoral base, the Republican Party, and powerful and wealthy supporters are systematically working to end America’s tenuous, partisan-divided democracy and replace it with a minority-controlled, right-wing rule. They are doing this from the bottom up, across local communities, in already “red” states, and all the way up to the federal government and federal judiciary.

They are accomplishing this by advancing an extreme, anti-democratic agenda, which involves suppressing the votes of opponents, fueling racism, outlawing reproductive rights of women, promoting maximum access and deregulation of guns, scapegoating immigrants trying to enter the country, separating immigrant children at the border from their parents, and supporting policies and programs that benefit the rich and powerful (e.g., low taxes, deregulation, privatization). There is more.

In true Social Darwinist fashion, they oppose social-welfare programs that benefit the poor and working- and even middle-classes. They favor banning books, encouraging parents to criticize teachers for any subject matter that makes their children “uncomfortable.” They are subverting public education generally by diverting money from public schools to school vouchers, for-profit charter schools and home-schooling. They also want to end the separation of state and religion, replacing it with Christian Nationalism. They deny or avoid the scientifically established climate emergency and want to give oil and gas mega-corporations unhindered access to public sources of such energy.

If they have their way, America will end up with something like a modern fascist, but unstable, state. That is, it will be a government dominated by the rich and powerful, particularly mega-corporations and billionaires, by the Republican Party, by Trump’s right-wing electoral base, and by the partisan Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Trump, the Republican Party and their allies have been threatening to push the country toward economic, political, and social chaos by making demands in the present debt-limit crisis that could lead to the collapse of the economy.Trump wants the House Republicans to pass their bill and get everything they want regardless of the consequences for the domestic and global economies


It remains to be seen whether the country will experience such a calamitous outcome.

But on late May 27, 2023, President Biden and House leader Kevin McCarthy reached an agreement “in principle” that may avoid such an outcome.

The legislation will soon be voted on in the House and Senate, though it is not at all yet certain that the Party leaders in the two branches of the Congress will be able to get the votes to pass the compromised legislation in time to avoid default.

I first consider the meaning and implications of the Republican demands and then consider information on what’s in the compromised legislation designed to avoid default.




It’s meaning and potential effects

Monica Potts, a senior politics reporter at FiveThirtyEight, considers the meaning and impacts of a government default ( Here’s some of what she writes in this May 26, 2023, analysis.

“With less than a week until the U.S. runs out of cash, economists and policymakers are using words like ‘cataclysmic event’ and ‘calamity’ to describe what will happen if Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit. 

“It seems bad. Economists are predicting that if the government is unable to pay its bills, it could bring much of the global financial system to a halt. But everyday people will be affected too. So who would a failure to raise the debt limit hurt first — and who would be hurt the most?

“You can think of the impact of the default as a sinkhole, pulling down the people closest to the epicenter first but spreading out to more and more people until (depending on how long it lasts) it finally engulfs the U.S. economy. The first people who are likely to be affected are those who get money directly from the government, including government employees and recipients of government direct payments, like retirees, veterans and disabled Americans who rely on social security income. Soon, though, the government’s inability to pay its bills might hit health care providers who are reimbursed through Medicare and Medicaid. Homebuyers, too, could get hit by higher interest rates, making it even more difficult for them to purchase houses in an already-competitive market. All of this adds up to a potential economic slowdown that could cause a severe recession if the crisis drags on.”

Potts elaborates on the consequences of a default.

“A lot of people rely on the government to pay its bills on time. There are almost 2 million federal government employees whose direct income could be affected. That doesn’t include the roughly 1.3 million active-duty military personnel, as of last count, and an additional 3.9 million veterans who receive disability support.

“The government could furlough or lay off workers in an effort to save money during a debt-ceiling crisis, leaving many of these people without an income. These tradeoffs could start to happen immediately, since one of the first bills that’s coming due is $12 billion in promised veterans’ benefits on June 1, and an additional $5 billion in federal salaries and insurance is scheduled to be paid out on June 9, according to an analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“Additionally, just about 66 million Americans received some form of social security benefit, like retirement or disability income, as of the end of 2022. That number included 7.6 million disabled workers who receive Social Security Disability Insurance. Federal policy already limits the ability of recipients to save, because of asset limits, and the amount of additional income allowed, so going without any one check could pose a severe hardship, said Kimberly Knackstedt, director of the Disability Economic Justice Team at the left-leaning The Century Foundation. “That sort of insecurity of, ‘Is this check that’s already not enough to get housing and food going to come this month, or is it not,’ is causing serious concern for us and for people around the country,” Knackstedt said.

“Almost 6 million people are receiving unemployment payments, too. While unemployment insurance is administered by the states, it relies on federal money that could also be disrupted, according to Bernard Yaros, an economist at Moody’s Analytics who focuses on federal fiscal policy. The government has multiple Social Security payments set throughout the month of June, according to the BPC analysis, which could be delayed.

Industries that contract with the federal government

“And it’s not just individuals who rely on government payments. Industries that contract with the federal government, like the aerospace industry and defense contractors, are vulnerable, according to Moody’s. Health care institutions could also suffer, especially small and rural hospitals, because they rely on Medicaid and Medicare payments for much of their revenue. States heavily reliant on these industries, like Virginia, could see hits to their local economy that might be bigger than the impact on the country as a whole.” 


“Homebuyers would also be hard hit. The housing market, walloped by dramatic ups and downs during the COVID-19 pandemic, is just reaching a tenuous stability. Mortgage interest rates remain high, which has kept some buyers out of the market, but there are just enough buyers and sellers to see some activity. That could all change with a crash, which is what might happen if large numbers of people are suddenly pushed out of the market by higher rates. Jeff Tucker, a senior economist at the real-estate marketplace Zillow, estimated that rates could go up by an additional 2 percentage points. If that happened, he said, “the housing market would get pushed down further 23 percent from … the pace we were expecting for this summer.”

“Moreover, homebuying remains an important wealth-building tool, and it’s already been a market where those looking for affordable options have struggled to gain a foothold. A longer default could mean that rates remain high for a while, making it even more difficult for non-wealthy people to buy. “I think the longer term impact there will be to widen inequality from a wealth-building perspective,” Tucker said.

“White adults are already much more likely to be able to afford a home, and the median age of first-time homebuyers is rising. A debt default crisis would make that problem worse just as a diverse generation of millennials enters prime home-buying years, he said.

The entire economy

“Then there’s the threat to the broader economy, which isn’t as direct, but is still very serious. Think about it this way: In addition to the tumult that’s likely to ensue in the financial markets, if all of the people who rely on the government for payments are suddenly struggling, then those effects will ripple out to the economy, because they and the other recipients of government payments won’t be buying goods and services to the same degree. That’s part of the reason economists warn that a debt default could create a recession, even if the crisis is short. A prolonged crisis could have severe consequences, especially because the economy is already fragile. 

“Moody’s calculated the result of a short debt-ceiling breach as a 0.7 percent decline in real GDP, 1.5 million jobs lost and an unemployment rate that nears 5 percent. But a debt-ceiling breach that lasts through July would cause “economic carnage.” The Moody’s report forecasts real GDP would fall by 4.6 percent in the second half of this year, and an unemployment rate that rises to 8 percent. The downturn could have lasting effects in the form of higher interest rates and reduced growth throughout the next decade.

“In all, though, the financial credibility of the American government itself could be seriously harmed — which could have long-term economic impacts on ordinary people too. In 2011, a similar debt-ceiling fight led S&P to downgrade the U.S.’s credit rating, and something like that could happen again, costing taxpayers money. (Indeed, Fitch, a major credit-rating agency, has already issued a warning.)”


Time is running out to avoid default

Alan Rappeport, an economic policy reporter, based in Washington, reports on a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center that the government is on the edge of defaulting on the government debt ( He puts it this way:

“The United States faces an ‘elevated risk’ of running out of cash to pay its bills between June 2 and 13 if Congress does not raise or suspend the nation’s debt limit, according to an analysis released on Tuesday [May 23] by the Bipartisan Policy Center, an influential think tank that carefully tracks federal spending.”

“It comes amid negotiations between the White House and Republicans in Congress to reach an agreement that would also lift the $31.4 trillion borrowing cap.”

Rappeport continues.

“The center said that the Treasury Department would be operating on ‘dangerously low’ cash reserves after Memorial Day and that each day in June would come with increasing risk. The department has been using accounting maneuvers known as extraordinary measures to delay a default since the United States technically hit the debt limit in January, but those are expected to be exhausted soon.

“The center noted that the federal government could get a reprieve if it can muster sufficient revenue to make it to June 15, when quarterly tax payments are due. That could push a default, the so-called X-date, into July.

“However, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said this week that she thought it was unlikely that the federal government would have enough cash on hand to make it to mid-June.

In a letter to Congress on Monday, Ms. Yellen reiterated her estimate that the X-date could arrive as soon as June 1 (subsequently, moved to June 5). Her warning did not come with the caveats included in her previous updates, which had suggested that the government’s cash reserves could potentially last for a few additional weeks. Instead, she emphasized the urgency of the situation.

“‘If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, it would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests,’ Ms. Yellen said.”


House Republicans believe they have an advantage in the negotiations over the debt-ceiling crisis

Jake Johnson reports on May 24, 2023, that Matt Gaetz has publicly confirmed that Republicans view the US Economy as “Our Hostage” ( He makes his point as follows.

Through their actions in recent months, House Republicans have made clear that they view the debt ceiling standoff as a hostage situation that they can exploit to advance their political agenda—which includes draconian cuts to social programs and massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

On Tuesday, just days before the June 1 “X-date,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) came right out and admitted it, telling reporters that “my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.”

Semafor‘s Joseph Zeballos-Roig published audio of Gaetz’s comments on Twitter:

The Limit, Save, Grow Act is legislation that Republicans passed in a party-line vote last month, staking out their position that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised unless rich tax cheats are protected and an axe is taken to spending on federal nutrition assistance, Medicaid, affordable housing, childcare, and other key programs.

“The House GOP, officially led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) but heavily influenced by the far-right Freedom Caucus, has held to that position, threatening to force a debt default and unleash global economic chaos unless their demands are met.

“Gaetz, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested Tuesday that the deal McCarthy struck with his far-right flank to secure the speakership—specifically the rule allowing just one lawmaker to call a vote to unseat the speaker—has kept the Republican leader committed to debt ceiling brinkmanship.”


Examples of what House Republicans have demanded

McCarthy wants to reduce government spending, without any tax increases or limits on the military budget

McCarthy insists that the debt limit crisis can be resolved by reducing spending, with the exception of military spending. He and his Republican conference oppose any increases in federal taxes – indeed want cuts – but favor large increases in military spending. He and his supporters seem to think that Biden and House (and Senate) Democrats will ultimately concede to Republican demands rather than see the federal government defaulting on the national debt.

On taxes, Peter Certo reports on May 25, 2023, that previous tax cuts are a major contributor to the mounting national debt, followed by bipartisan military spending (

Republicans want more tax cuts

Despite this history and current turmoil over the debt-limit, the Republicans plan to “Unveil Deficit-Exploding Tax Cuts for the Rich Two Weeks After Debt Limit X-Date,” according to Jake Johnson ( He reports in this May 24, 2023 story that

“With the U.S. careening toward a default crisis that they manufactured, House Republicans are reportedly crafting a major tax cut package that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich and corporations while blowing a multitrillion-dollar hole in the federal deficit.

“The fresh push for tax cuts, according to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), further shows that ‘this hostage crisis has never been about deficits for the GOP.’

“‘It has always been about wealth transfer—taking away food and healthcare from the poor and middle class to give away $3 trillion more in tax cuts to their rich friends,’ Omar, the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday [May 23, 2023].

Politico reported earlier this week that Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee hope to finish work on their emerging tax legislation by June 16, just over two weeks after the so-called “X-date’—the day on which the Treasury Department expects the federal government to run out of money to cover its obligations unless Congress raises the debt limit or President Joe Biden acts unilaterally

In a May 22, 2023, article, Sasha Abramsky posits that “The GOP Would Rather Hold Hungry Families Hostage Than Tax the Wealthy” (


Military spending – off limits

In a May 24, 2023, article, Brett Wilkins cites a report showing how $1.1 trillion in annual US militarized spending is “crushing society” (

“As the United States barrels headlong toward a possible historic debt default, a report published Wednesday highlights that the majority of this year’s federal discretionary funds were used for militarized programs, while urging the U.S. government to re-prioritize spending to serve human needs instead of the mechanisms and machinery of violence.

“The report—entitled The Warfare State: How Funding for Militarism Compromises Our Welfare—was published by the Institute for Policy Studies’ National Priorities Project (NPP), which aims to inspire people and movements ‘to take action so our federal resources prioritize peace, shared prosperity, and economic security for all.’

“Our country’s economy faces a dire threat from so-called ‘fiscal conservatives,’ including the present GOP House majority, who have resorted to dangerous brinkmanship to force deep cuts in the federal discretionary budget,” the report states, referring to what critics and even one congressional Republican have called called ‘hostage-taking’ over the ‘debt ceiling’.

“‘The discretionary budget contains the Pentagon budget as well as a number of other broadly militarized line items, including nuclear weapons, federal immigration enforcement, law enforcement, prisons, and so on,’ the paper continues. ‘That same budget also hosts most social programs outside of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and [the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program]. It includes federal jobs programs, education, scientific research, and the like.”

“‘The militarized portion of this budget is by far its largest single component,’ the report stresses. ‘And yet the same legislators demanding billions in discretionary savings have vowed to exempt that militarized spending from any cuts. Instead, they’ve targeted the much smaller portion that funds human and community needs for even deeper cuts.”

For fiscal year 2023, that militarized portion amounts to $1.1 trillion, or 62% of the $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget. That leaves less than 40% of funds for investments in human needs like housing, education, childcare programs, disaster relief, the environment, and scientific research.


House Republicans could care less about the poor and lower-income Americans

Yes, poverty is a problem in the US

This question is addressed in recently published books on poverty. Mark Rank, distinguished professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of one of the books, The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity (publ. 2023). His research finds tens of millions of people in poverty, based on estimates for 2021. Rank writes:

“For 2021, 11.6% of the population fell below the official poverty line, representing 37.9 million individuals; 19.4% [63.8 million] experienced poverty or near-poverty; and 5.5% were living in extreme poverty” [50% or less of the official poverty line, including 18.2 million individuals] (pp. 14-15).

Most Americans will experience poverty sometime or many times during their lives. According to Rank,

“Results indicate that between the ages of 20 and 75, nearly 60% of Americans will experience at least 1 year below the official poverty line, while three-quarters of Americans will encounter poverty or near poverty (150% below the official poverty line).” He continues: “Between the ages of 20 and 35, 31.4% will have experienced poverty; by age 55, 45.0%; and by age 75, 58.5%. Similarly, 76.0 percent of the population will have spent at least 1 year below 150% of the official poverty line by the time they reach age 75” (pp. 109-110).

Poverty is typically a great, overwhelming burden on the poor and near-poor

Sociologist Matthew Desmond covers much of the same ground as Rank does in his recent book, Poverty in America (publ. 2023). He has an interesting analysis of the specific impacts that poverty has on poor and near-poor people. They have too little income or regular income, either from work or social/welfare programs, to pay for basic needs. But poverty is about more than inadequate income.

Physical pain

-They suffer physical pain or injuries from the work they do. For example, back pain from working as home health aides and certified nursing assistants, amputations in meatpacking plants.

-The adversities of living in slum housing, with the spread of asthma “from mold and cockroach allergens seeping into young lungs and airways,” lead poisoning….”

-“Roughly one in four children living in poverty have untreated cavities, which can morph into tooth decay, causing sharp pain and spreading infection to their faces and even brains” (pp. 13-14).

Trouble finding safe and affordable housing

-“Most renting families below the poverty line now spend at least half of their income on housing, with one in four spending more than 70 percent on rent and utility costs alone.” Evictions are common: “More than 3.6 million eviction filings are taped to doors or handed to occupants in an average year in America….” (p. 15).

Employment is unstable

-“Half of all new positions are eliminated within the first year. Jobs that used to come with guarantees, even union membership, have been transformed into gigs.” For example: “Temp workers are not just found driving Ubers; they are in hospitals and universities and insurance companies.” There are more than a million temp workers in manufacturing. Additionally, “America has welcomed the rise of bad jobs at the bottom of the market – jobs offering low pay, no benefits, and few guarantees” (p. 16)

Living in constant “fear” of being unable to pay the bills

-“A third of Americans live without much economic security, working as bus drivers, farmers, teachers, cashiers, cooks, nurses, security guards, social workers” (p. 17).

Living far below the poverty line

-“According to the latest national data, one in eighteen people in the United States lives in ‘deep poverty,’ that is, with income less than half the poverty line. In 2020, “almost 18 million people in America survived under these conditions.”

The Loss of Liberty

-“Almost 2 million people sit in our prisons and jails each day. Another 3.7 million are on probation or parole.” The “overwhelming major of America’s current and former prisoners are very poor” (p. 18). Those in prison are not counted in the official poverty estimates.

Feeling the government is against you

-“In recent years, up to one in twelve people killed by a gun in the United States have been killed by a police officer.”

Income is taken by the state

-“…in the form of misdemeanor charges and citations; the price paid for missing a child support payment, jumping a subway turnstile, getting caught with a joint….Criminal justice agencies levy steep fines and fees on the poor, often making them pay for their own prosecution and incarceration. When payments are missed, courts issue warrants, mobilize private bill collectors, and even incarcerate as retribution” (pp. 19-20)

Poverty is shame inducing

-“You avoid public places – parks, beaches, shopping districts, sporting arenas – knowing they weren’t built for you.”

Poverty is diminished life and personhood

-“It shrinks the mental  energy you can dedicate to decisions, forcing you to focus on the latest stressor – an overdue gas bill, a lost job – at the expense of everything else.”


Work requirements

What Republican Work Requirements in the Debt Ceiling Bill Would Do

Nik Popli reports for Time magazine on May 1, 2023, on how the House Republicans are pushing for a debt ceiling bill that would “enact new work requirements for those seeking federal assistance, claiming the measure would help cut federal spending” ( Here’s some of what Popli writes.

“Although the bill is unlikely to become law, it would require millions of low-income Americans who receive food stamps and health insurance from the federal government to work longer hours in order to qualify for benefits.”

“House Republicans say that the work requirements would reduce government spending and increase employment, but some economists are skeptical that they will result in significant savings for the federal government. ‘It’s going to cost a ton of money to implement these work requirements,’ says Lily Roberts, acting vice president for inclusive economy at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning policy institute. ‘They are going to have to hire hundreds of bureaucrats to manage the process of documenting all of those work requirements now.”

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan agency, said last week that the stricter work requirements proposed by the House GOP would reduce federal spending by $120 billion over the next decade, a small portion of the roughly $4.8 trillion in savings the bill would generate. About 600,000 Americans would lose health insurance, while about 275,000 Americans a month would lose access to food stamps, the CBO said.

“Under the GOP package, childless, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 55 could get food stamps for only three months out of every three years unless they are employed at least 20 hours a week or meet other criteria. Currently, that mandate applies to those ages 18 to 49, though it has been suspended during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“The Republican debt ceiling package would also require certain adult Medicaid recipients to work, perform community service, or participate in an employment program for at least 80 hours per month or earn a certain minimum monthly income. It would apply to those ages 19 to 55, but not those who are pregnant, parents of dependent children, those who are physically or mentally unfit for employment or enrolled in education or in substance abuse programs, among other exceptions.

“For many Americans, the new work requirements ‘could make the situation worse,’ says Claudia Sahm, an economist and senior fellow at the Jain Family Institute. ‘The people who would lose their benefits because of a work requirement are some of the most vulnerable adults,’ she says. ‘It’s often homeless people who weren’t working before, or people who’ve faced serious barriers to work that are the ones that will lose their benefits.’”

“Even if work requirements for federal aid do not make it in the final debt limit bill, Republicans are likely to keep pushing the issue, says Matt Weidinger, a senior fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. ‘I have no doubt this will come up again in future debt limit bills or reauthorization bills,’ he says. ‘The federal government is going to be searching for ways to come up with policies that cut the costs of some of these programs.’


PART 2: The “compromise”

White House and G.O.P. Strike Debt Limit Deal to Avert Default

Jim Tankersley, Catie Edmondson, and Luke Broadwater report on a tentative deal between Biden and McCarthy to avoid a government budget default ( They write “negotiators sealed an agreement to raise the debt ceiling for two years while cutting and capping certain federal programs.” The compromise would “effectively freeze federal spending that had been on track to grow.”  However, they still must obtain enough votes in both the House and Senate to finalize the deal.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

“Congressional passage of the plan before June 5, when the Treasury is projected to exhaust its ability to pay its obligations, is not assured, particularly in the House, which plans to consider it on Wednesday [May 31, 2023]. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber, and right-wing lawmakers who had demanded significantly larger budget cuts in exchange for lifting the borrowing limit were already in revolt.”

They quote Biden.

“‘It is an important step forward that reduces spending while protecting critical programs for working people and growing the economy for everyone,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘And the agreement protects my and congressional Democrats’ key priorities and legislative accomplishments. The agreement represents a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want.”

Then McCarthy:

“In a nighttime news conference outside his Capitol office that lasted just one minute, Mr. McCarthy said the deal contained ‘historic reductions in spending, consequential reforms that will lift people out of poverty into the work force, rein in government overreach’ and would add no new taxes. He declined to answer questions or provide specifics, but said he planned to release legislative text on Sunday.”

“The deal would suspend the borrowing limit, which is currently $31.4 trillion, for two years — enough to get past the next presidential election.”

The tentative agreement “gives Republicans the ability to say that they succeeded in reducing some federal spending — even as funding for the military and veterans’ programs would continue to grow — while allowing Democrats to say they spared most domestic programs from significant cuts.”

“The deal would impose caps on discretionary spending for two years, though those caps would apply differently to spending on the military than to the rest of the federal budget. Spending on the military would grow next year, as would spending on some veterans’ care. Spending on other domestic programs would fall slightly — or stay roughly flat — compared with this year’s levels.”

McCarthy got “new work requirements for some recipients of government aid, including food stamps and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. It would place new limits on how long certain recipients of food stamps — people under the age of 54, who do not have children — could benefit from the program. But it also would expand food stamp access for veterans and the homeless….”

“The tentative deal also claws back some unspent money from a previous pandemic relief bill, and reduces by $10 billion — to $70 billion from $80 billion — new enforcement funding for the I.R.S. to crack down on tax cheats. It includes measures meant to speed environmental reviews of certain energy projects and a provision meant to force the president to find budget savings to offset the costs of a unilateral action, like forgiving student loans — though administration officials could circumvent that requirement. It also includes an enforcement measure that is meant to avert a government shutdown later this year.”

A positive vote is not guaranteed

“Mr. McCarthy has repeatedly said he believes a majority of his conference would vote for the deal, but it is not clear yet how many Republicans will back the compromise — and how many Democrats might be needed to vote for it to make up for G.O.P. defections.

“The path also is likely to be rocky in the Senate, where quick action requires bipartisan support and conservatives have signaled they are unwilling to go along.

In a sign of their displeasure, House Freedom Caucus members were huddling to identify procedural tools to delay passage of the agreement or make the bill more conservative.” They want greater spending cuts.

At the same time, “the Congressional Progressive Caucus had already begun to fume about it even before negotiators finalized the agreement.” Progressive Democratic groups are unhappy with the proposed compromise bill. “Lindsay Owens, the executive director of the liberal Groundwork Collaborative in Washington, criticized the deal for forcing budget cuts in domestic programs — and in particular, for reducing enforcement money for the I.R.S.”

Jake Johnson adds to the reporting on the Biden-McCarthy compromise agreement (

“Progressive economists and advocates warned that the tentative debt ceiling agreement reached Saturday by the White House and Republican leaders would needlessly gash nutrition aid, rental assistance, education programs, and more—all while making it easier for the wealthy to avoid taxes.”

It “includes two years of caps on non-military federal spending, sparing a Pentagon budget replete with staggering waste and abuse.” According to the agreement, non-military spending would be kept flat for 2024 and increased by 1% for 2025, thus “not keeping pace with inflation.”

“After inflation eats its share, flat funding will result in fewer households accessing rental assistance, fewer kids in Head Start, and fewer services for seniors,” said Owens. “The deal represents the worst of conservative budget ideology; it cuts investments in workers and families, adds onerous and wasteful new hurdles for families in need of support, and protects the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share in taxes.”

“The agreement would also impose new work requirements on some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) while scaling back recently approved IRS funding, a gift to rich tax cheats.” Work requirements would become more stringent for SNAP recipients. Johnson writes: “the deal would reportedly impose work requirements on adult SNAP recipients without dependents up to the age of 54, increasing the current age limit of 49. Policy analysts and anti-hunger activists have long decried SNAP time limits and work requirements as cruel and ineffective at boosting employment. (Most adult SNAP recipients already work.)”

Johnson quotes Angela Hanks, chief of programs at Demos, who said: “For no real reason at all, hungry people are set to lose food while tax cheats get a free pass.” 

In addition, “The White House and Republican leaders also reportedly agreed to some permitting reforms that climate groups have slammed as a boon for the fossil fuel industry. According to The New York Times, the agreement ‘includes measures meant to speed environmental reviews of certain energy projects,’ though the scope of the changes is not yet clear.”

“And while the deal doesn’t appear to include a repeal of Biden’s student debt cancellation plan—which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court—it does reportedly contain a provision that would cement the end of the student loan repayment pause, drawing fury from debt relief campaigners.”

“Amy Hanauer, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said Sunday that “it’s a relief to see that congressional leaders and the president have come to an agreement to raise the debt limit and avert an economic disaster.”

“‘But by instituting work requirements for critical assistance programs and rescinding important funding to crack down on wealthy tax cheats, this deal will rig the economy even more in favor of the most well-off Americans while failing to fix the real structural problems that led to the current debt crisis in the first place,’ said Hanauer. ‘The deal avoids the elephant in the room: it includes no new revenues even though tax cuts of the past few decades were a primary driver of deficit growth.’”

Concluding thoughts

The debt-ceiling crisis was unnecessary, though the rising national debt needs to be addressed. But the remedy should not be on the backs of poor and lower-income Americans, as the compromise agreement suggests. From what we know about it, it will limit access to and the benefits of programs aimed at assisting the poor and students with educational debt. The outcome will be more hardship and more inequality. Oil and gas corporations will benefit from accelerated permitting processes, disregarding the existential climate crisis. The wealth and income of high-income people will remain untouched and un-audited. The increasingly radicalized Republican Party will continue raising havoc and pushing for budgets that spur increasing inequality and misery, while also engaging in voter suppression and efforts to subvert elections.

Republicans threaten default on US national debt

Bob Sheak, May 14, 2023

Partisan divide

The controversy over how to deal with the debt-limit crisis grows out of long-standing conflicting policy agendas of the Republicans and Democrats, though there are areas of agreement (e.g., bipartisan support of increases in military spending). Here are some examples of the differences. Republicans favor low taxes, minimal government regulation, maximum development and use of fossil fuels, the privatization of potentially profitable government functions, and cuts in social-welfare programs. Trump’s electoral base wants unregulated gun ownership, the end of abortion, the dominance of Christian nationalism, support of white supremacy, the imposition of tight border security measures. Democrats favor progressive taxes, regulation of gun ownership and use, the support of renewable sources of energy (though Biden has supported some new fossil fuel projects), support of reproductive rights, the separation of “church” and state, fair collective bargaining rules, and funding of social welfare programs.

The current fight in the U.S. government over the national debt reflects such underlying policy differences. Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy want to radically reduce overall government spending by curtailing government’s ability to spend on programs they oppose, and do it in a way the benefits disproportionately the rich and powerful. It is worrisome, that McCarthy and House Republicans seem willing to allow the country to default on the debt, despite the enormous harms that such action would produce. In a word, they want an unfettered form of capitalism. Democrats want to continue supporting government agencies, and looking for ways to both pay the government’s bills while, if necessary, simultaneously raising the debt limit. At the same time, Democrats also want to reduce the national debt, but through taxing the rich and mega-corporations.


Background on Debt Ceiling

In a January 17, 2023, article for Investopedia, Tim Smith provides some background on the U.S. debt ceiling law, an abstruse legal concept that defines “the maximum amount of money that the United States can borrow cumulatively by issuing bonds” and other securities ( The law was created “under the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 and is also known as the debt limit or statutory debt limit.” The justification for the law was to make the federal government fiscally responsible during WWI and thereafter.

The U.S. Treasury Department provides some information on how since 1960 Congress has raised the debt limit: “Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit – 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents (….).

Defaulting on national debt, a Republican option

Under the U.S. law, the nation would be in default if it went beyond the debt limit and failed “to pay interest payments to bondholders.” In that case, there could be catastrophic economic impacts. In default, the country’s credit rating would be lowered, the cost of servicing the debt would increase, millions of citizens would suffer economically, the economy would plummet, and the international economic position – and influence – of the U.S. would suffer.

Smith points out that, over the years, there “have been a number of showdowns

over the debt ceiling, some of which have led to government shutdowns.” The shutdowns occur when partisan conflict over budgetary agendas advanced by the major political parties is not resolved. Smith refers to examples of near-shutdowns and shutdowns.

“For example, in 1995, the Republican members of Congress, whose views were vocalized by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, used the threat of refusing to allow an increase in the debt ceiling to negotiate increased government spending cuts.

“Then-President Bill Clinton refused to make the cuts, which led to a shutdown of the government. The White House and Congress eventually agreed on a balanced budget with modest spending cuts and tax increases.”

“President Barack Obama faced similar issues during his two terms as president. In the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, Republicans in Congress demanded deficit reductions to approve an increase in the debt ceiling. During this time, U.S. Treasury debt was stripped of its triple-A rating by Standard & Poor’s—a rating it held for more than 70 years.

“In 2013, the government was shut down for 16 days after conservative Republicans attempted to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by leveraging the debt ceiling. An agreement to suspend the debt limit was passed within a day, which was when the Treasury was estimated to run out of money.

“The debt ceiling was raised again in 2014, 2015, and early 2017. With U.S. debt exceeding $20 trillion for the first time in September 2017, then-President Donald Trump signed a bill extending the debt ceiling to Dec. 8, 2017. The ceiling was later suspended for 13 months as part of a bill enacted in February 2018. The ceiling came into effect and was increased again in March 2019 when U.S. government debt topped $22 trillion.

“In August 2019, then-President Trump signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, which suspended the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021. The legislation also lifted spending caps on federal agency budgets, while ensuring that the government could pay its bills in the short term. Suspending the ceiling in this manner eliminated the risk of default for another two years, increasing spending to $320 billion for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. The debt ceiling was once again raised, to $31.4 trillion, in December 2021.” Smith writes:

The approximate amount of the current U.S. debt ceiling, as set by congressional vote on Dec. 15, 2021, and signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 16 of the same year.45 The sum represents a $2.5 trillion increase in the ceiling.”


The Republican agenda

House leader McCarthy is influenced by extremists in his caucus who expect him to lower government spending, with the exception of military spending, and oppose any tax increases.

Smith points out, “As part of their support to install McCarthy, conservative-faction Republicans have indicated that they would vote against raising the debt ceiling without significant federal spending reductions, setting the stage for political gridlock that could destabilize the financial system.”

McCarthy passes his first debt limit bill

Sahil Kapur reports on April 27, 2023, that “Speaker Kevin McCarthy passed his debt ceiling bill through the House on Wednesday by a wafer-thin vote of 217 to 215, with Democrats unifying to vote against it” ( The title of the legislation is the “Limit, Save, Grow Act.”

According to CNN, the legislation included sizable cuts to domestic programs, sparing the Pentagon’s budget, returning funding for federal agencies to 2022 levels, while aiming to limit the growth in spending to 1% per year. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that the bill would trim government deficits by $4.8 trillion over 10 years (

Kapur reports: “The Democratic-controlled Senate has promised to throw McCarthy’s bill in the trash, vowing not to negotiate over paying the country’s bills. President Joe Biden has threatened to veto it. But House Republicans will now be less inclined to grant a no-strings-attached debt limit hike after they secured the votes to make an opening bid that would cut spending and roll back key parts of Biden’s agenda.

“‘Now he should sit down and negotiate,’ McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday [April 26, 2023], putting the onus on Biden. ‘We are the only party to take fiscal action … that would lift the debt limit so we wouldn’t have economic damage.’

“But the White House insists there’s no deal to be made other than a simple debt limit bill without policy strings attached. Biden’s advisers see more risk in haggling over whether to pay the country’s bills than in pressuring the GOP not to use the threat of default as a bargaining chip.

“McCarthy’s bill would extend the borrowing limit by $1.5 trillion or through March 31 — whichever comes first — with trillions of dollars in spending cuts over a decade, mostly unspecified, some by killing clean energy tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The House bill was crafted to meet a series of demands from the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, and it was altered in the final stretch to address regional concerns from some Republicans. Republicans in swing districts, after initially hesitating, ultimately fell in line.”


The effects of the current Republican debt-ceiling proposal

House Vote on ‘Default on America’ Act a Major Political Liability for Republicans

Patrick Gasbard and Navin Nayak report on May 3, 2023, for the Center for American Progress about the House vote on the second Republican offer to settle the debt-limit crisis on their terms. The proposed legislation is titled “Default on America”


House Republicans introduced this bill, “without any hearings, markups, or floor amendments.” Gasbard and Nayak argue that “the ‘Default on America Act’ is a gut punch to America’s middle class: It would dismantle essential investments that these families depend upon, imposing an extreme 22 percent cut in just one year and locking in deep and growing cuts for 10 years.”

“One of the first polls to test support for the bill found that upon hearing that the bill ‘would cut 22% of funding for government programs that are non-military,’ the public opposed it by 25 points, at 56 percent to 31 percent. These results came before the public learned of other cuts that the bill would enact, including to veterans’ care, health care, child care, clean energy, and much more.”

“The bill enacts a $4.3 trillion cut in investments the middle class depends upon while preserving trillions of dollars in tax loopholes and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Gasbard and Nayak offer a list of some of the effects of default. They write:

“Assuming congressional Republicans impose these drastic cuts equally across all discretionary programs other than defense, here is just a fraction of the devastation the “Default on America” Act will impose on middle-class families:

-Burdensome new red tape on Medicaid that could jeopardize health care coverage for 21 million adults

-A 22 percent cut in K-12 education investments, eliminating more than 100,000 teachers’ jobs and affecting more than 25 million children

-A 22 percent cut in veterans’ medical care—reducing capacity and resulting in 30 million fewer outpatient visits

-A 22 percent cut in public safety on many fronts:

Nearly 30,000 lost jobs among law enforcement officers

-More than 7,000 fewer rail safety inspection days and the shutting down of more than 375 air traffic control towers

-The cutting of more than 1,800 food inspectors, putting the country’s food supply at risk

-A 22 percent cut in Head Start, meaning 200,000 fewer children would be unable to get a spot in early childhood education

-A 22 percent cut in child care, meaning 180,000 fewer children would have care during the day, possibly preventing thousands of parents from going to work

-Repeal of investments in clean energy manufacturing that could risk more than 140,000 new well-paying energy jobs

-A 22 percent cut to the operational funding of the Social Security Administration, which ensures Social Security checks are the correct amount and go to the correct recipients in a timely manner

-At the same time, the bill makes it easier for big corporations and wealthy individuals to cheat or avoid paying taxes altogether, by slashing the tax enforcement budget.

Vote them out of office

Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate and the author, refers to the Republican position on the debt ceiling crisis as “sadistic” in an article for Common Dreams on May 11, 2023 (

“Raising the federal debt limit over the years has secured unconditional routine Congressional passage and was endorsed by presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. After all, it allows the U.S. Treasury to pay past and existing bills, not expand future spending.

“Routine, that is, until the recent arrival of the mad-dog Republicans with their monetized brains indentured to the war-making military industrial complex and Wall Street speculators gambling with other people’s savings.”

Nader continues: “the GOP cuts represent a congealed and vicious assault against defenseless Americans. Of course, the avaricious plutocrats, with their hands deep in Uncle Sam’s pockets, have been shielded from any financial pain by the demands of these ruthless Republicans.”

“The Republican-demanded cuts totally exclude the vast, bloated military budget, which amounts to over half of the entire federal government’s operational budget, and don’t reduce the huge corporate welfare giveaways and bailouts. Republicans leave intact the huge gaping tax escapes for super-wealthy individuals and giant corporations. The latter bonanza implicitly rejects Biden’s revenue producing proposals to eliminate some of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the very rich like Trump’s family.

“A partial litany of the latest heartless GOP horrors that will result from the budget cuts they are anticipated to propose include:

“Reduced funding for nutrition programs for children; reduced Social Security benefits; increased processing delays from past GOP cuts in processing disability benefit decisions and retirement claims; cuts in Pell Grant award levels meant for about 6.6 million low-income college students; damage to federal child-care programs; and the potential elimination of some 170,000 Head Start program slots.

Fewer safety inspections of workplaces (by the already financially starved OSHA); fewer inspections of the railroads, and nursing homes. Tens of thousands of people could lose access to federally funded treatment for opioid addiction. Millions of people would not receive federal student loan forgiveness.

“The GOP demands budget cuts to the health and safety agencies that protect the American people, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic control system, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) programs for auto safety, and the Federal Emergency Management’s (FEMA) emergency rescue programs.”

“There is another way for the Democrats to defeat the extortion effort by the GOP’s dangerous extremists who are playing hostage with American lives and livelihoods. Focus intensely on six or seven Republicans in the House who either are in Districts won by Biden or have expressed saner views on this gridlock. Focus also on those House Republican members who are retiring. All that Democrats need is a switch of six votes to get the increase in the debt limit approved, leaving the GOP to wallow in its unprecedented viciousness.”


Debt Default Would “Cripple” U.S. Economy, New Analysis Warns

Jim Tankersley reports on a “new analysis” by the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, on how a debt default would cripple U.S. economy (

“The U.S. economy could quickly shed a million jobs and fall into recession if lawmakers fail to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before the federal government exhausts its ability to pay its bills on time, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, warned a Senate panel on Tuesday.

“The damage could spiral to seven million jobs lost and a 2008-style financial crisis in the event of a prolonged breach of the debt limit, in which House Republicans refuse for months to join Democrats in voting to raise the cap, Mr. Zandi and his colleagues Cristian deRitis and Bernard Yaros wrote in an analysis prepared for the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy.”

“‘The only real option,’ Mr. Zandi said in an interview before his testimony, ‘is for lawmakers to come to terms and increase the debt limit in a timely way. Any other scenario results in significant economic damage.’ At the same time, Zandi

“said he favored eliminating the statutory debt limit entirely to end the threats that a potential default posed to the economy. ‘I just think you want to break that cycle once and for all as best you can, because it’s very counterproductive,’ he said.”

Zandi considers a number of scenarios on how the impasse over the debt ceiling may be resolved.

“In one, Mr. Biden acts to circumvent the debt limit without the help of Congress, inviting a constitutional challenge but potentially minimizing the harm to the economy. White House aides have said repeatedly that Mr. Biden will not pursue that route.” (This is about the President’s possible use of Title Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to avert default, an option greatly opposed by Republicans, which is discussed in a later section).

“In a scenario where lawmakers’ inaction forced the Treasury Department to miss some required payments in order to make others, the analysis predicted a swift backlash from financial markets, akin to the stock plunge in 2008 when Congress at first voted down a program to shore up Wall Street banks as a global financial crisis set in. If, as in 2008, Congress reacted by quickly raising the debt limit, the lingering damage would be enough to cause a mild recession and nearly one million job losses.

“If lawmakers ignored the market warnings and went months without raising the limit, the analysis concluded, “the blow to the economy would be cataclysmic.” Federal spending would plunge, a deep recession would set in and the unemployment rate would spike to more than 8 percent from 3.4 percent.

“But if Mr. Biden were to accept Republicans’ budget blueprint, the analysis found, the resulting drop in federal spending on health care, education and other domestic programs would lead to a recession and widespread job loss. Low-income Americans would most likely bear a disproportionate brunt of the economic pain, it concluded.”


Can the debt ceiling law be by-passed or ignored?

The option of the 14th Amendment?

Laurence H. Tribe, a university professor emeritus at Harvard and an author, most recently, of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” advances a legal option to avoiding a debt-ceiling crisis (

“At this moment, at the White House as well as the Departments of Treasury and Justice, officials are debating a legal theory that previous presidents and any number of legal experts — including me — ruled out in 2011, when the Obama administration confronted a default.

“The theory builds on Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to argue that Congress, without realizing it, set itself on a path that would violate the Constitution when, in 1917, it capped the size of the federal debt. Over the years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling scores of times, most recently two years ago, when it set the cap at $31.4 trillion. We hit that amount on Jan. 19 and are being told that the ‘extraordinary measures’ Treasury has available to get around it are about to run out. When that happens, all hell will break loose.

“Taking advantage of that prospect, congressional Republicans are threatening to do nothing unless the administration agrees to slash lots of government programs that their party has had in its sights. If the president caves in to their demands, they will agree to raise the cap — until this crisis occurs again. Then, they will surely pursue the same game of chicken or, maybe more accurately, Russian roulette. It’s a complicated situation, but a solution is staring us in the face,” according to Tribe.

“Section 4 of the 14th Amendment says the ‘validity’ of the public debt ‘shall not be questioned’ — ever. Proponents of the unconstitutionality argument say that when Congress enacted the debt limit, effectively forcing the United States to stop borrowing to honor its debts when that limit was reached, it built a violation of that constitutional command into our fiscal structure, and that as a result, that limit and all that followed are invalid.

Tribe continues: “I’ve never agreed with that argument. It raises thorny questions about the appropriate way to interpret the text: Does Section 4, read properly, prohibit anything beyond putting the federal government into default? If so, which actions does it forbid? And, most important, could this interpretation open the door for dangerous presidential overreach, if Section 4 empowers the president single-handedly to declare laws he dislikes unconstitutional?”

“The question isn’t whether the president can tear up the debt limit statute to ensure that the Treasury Department can continue paying bills submitted by veterans’ hospitals or military contractors or even pension funds that purchased government bonds.

“The question isn’t whether the president can in effect become a one-person Supreme Court, striking down laws passed by Congress.

“The right question is whether Congress — after passing the spending bills that created these debts in the first place — can invoke an arbitrary dollar limit to force the president and his administration to do its bidding.

“There is only one right answer to that question, and it is no.

“And there is only one person with the power to give Congress that answer: the president of the United States. As a practical matter, what that means is this: Mr. Biden must tell Congress in no uncertain terms — and as soon as possible, before it’s too late to avert a financial crisis — that the United States will pay all its bills as they come due, even if the Treasury Department must borrow more than Congress has said it can.

“The president should remind Congress and the nation, “I’m bound by my oath to preserve and protect the Constitution to prevent the country from defaulting on its debts for the first time in our entire history.” Above all, the president should say with clarity, ‘My duty faithfully to execute the laws extends to all the spending laws Congress has enacted, laws that bind whoever sits in this office — laws that Congress enacted without worrying about the statute capping the amount we can borrow.’”

“By taking that position, the president would not be usurping Congress’s lawmaking power or its power of the purse. Nor would he be usurping the Supreme Court’s power to “say what the law is,” as Chief Justice John Marshall once put it. Mr. Biden would simply be doing his duty to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ even if doing so leaves one law — the borrowing limit first enacted in 1917 — temporarily on the cutting room floor.”

“For a president to pick the lesser of two evils when no other option exists is the essence of constitutional leadership, not the action of a tyrant. And there is no doubt that ignoring the debt ceiling until Congress either raises or abolishes it is a lesser evil than leaving those with lawful claims against the Treasury out in the cold.”

“In any event, Section 4 prohibits the president from permanently stiffing our creditors — even those required to wait their turn after the Treasury runs dry. So even if Speaker Kevin McCarthy and those pulling his strings succeed in making some of those creditors wait, it wouldn’t eliminate our debts; it would merely replace them with i.o.u.s. And that’s just debt in another form.”


Jessica Corbett also reports on May 8, 2023, for Common Dreams on the option of the President invoking the 14th Amendment Common Dreams

( Here’s some of what she writes.

“White House officials said this weekend that Mr. Biden has been publicly and privately adamant that he will not bargain with Republicans over raising the limit. ‘Let’s get it straight: They’re trying to hold the debt hostage to get us to agree to some draconian cuts, magnificently difficult and damaging cuts,’ Mr. Biden told a meeting of cabinet members and other economic officials on Friday [May 5, 2023].

“Citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of internal conversations, The Washington Post reported Monday that White House officials see unilateral actions—from invoking the 14th Amendment to minting a platinum coin worth $1 trillion—as ‘risky choices that could cause lasting economic damage’ but also ‘do not want to take the proposals completely off the table.’”

“The National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), which represents about 75,000 federal employees, cited the 14th Amendment in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that seeks to have the debt limit law declared unconstitutional.

“NAGE’s complaint, which names Biden and Yellen as defendants, argues the debt limit statute ‘is unconstitutional because it puts the president in a quandary to exercise discretion to continue borrowing to pay for the programs which Congress has heretofore duly authorized and for which Congress has appropriated funds or to stop borrowing and to determine which of these programs the president, and not the Congress, will suspend, curtail, or cancel altogether.’”

“The filing adds that NAGE ‘seeks to protect all its members from additional extraordinary measures as well as major spending-related actions that will necessarily be taken without approval of Congress and that result in layoffs, furloughs, requirements for unpaid work, and loss of funding of the pensions and retirement plans of its members.’”


Tal Axelrod reports for ABC News on May 7, 2023, concerning the risk of a constitutional crisis from using the 14th Amendment to solve the debt-ceiling crisis

( Axelrod’s report focuses on an interview Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gave on ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos program, “This Week.”

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday said invoking the 14th Amendment to get around the debt ceiling and continue borrowing money to pay the nation’s bills would risk a ‘constitutional crisis,’ downplaying the idea that the amendment would simply solve the looming problem — but she avoided ruling it out entirely.

“Yellen said on ‘This Week’ that the only way for the U.S. to avoid an unprecedented default as soon as next month is for Congress to pass legislation doing so, even as the White House and congressional Democrats appear to be in a stalemate with Republicans over GOP demands to tie steep spending cuts to raising or suspending the debt ceiling.

“Amid that debate, President Joe Biden said on Friday, of trying to use the 14th Amendment as a solution: ‘I’ve not gotten there yet.’

“But it didn’t seem like he took it off the table. So, is it still a possibility?” Stephanopoulos asked Yellen on Sunday.

“‘Our priority is to make sure that Congress does its job,’ she said. ‘There is no way to protect our financial system in our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling and enabling us to pay our bills. And we should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt. This would be a constitutional crisis.’

“Stephanopoulos followed up: ‘Is that a hard and fast position that the president will under no circumstances invoke the 14th Amendment?’

“All I want to say is that it’s Congress’ job to do this. If they fail to do it, we will have an economic and financial catastrophe that will be of our own making, and there is no action that President Biden and the U.S. Treasury can take to prevent that catastrophe,” Yellen replied, later saying, “I don’t want to consider emergency options.”

“The treasury secretary echoed the president’s position: that the debt ceiling should not be used as leverage as part of Republicans’ negotiations with the White House over the budget.”

“Yellen reiterated that she expects the Treasury Department to no longer be able to pay all of its obligations as soon as June 1, a timeline that has jumpstarted negotiations in Washington.

“‘This would be really the first time in the history of America that we would fail to make payments that are due,’ Yellen said. ‘And whether it’s defaulting on interest payments that are due on the debt or payments due for Social Security recipients or to Medicare providers, we would simply not have enough cash to meet all of our obligations. And it’s widely agreed that financial and economic chaos would ensue.’”


Another approach: Finding the Public Debt law to be unconstitutional

Everett Wohlers, a retired attorney with extensive government experience, explores legal questions and offers a “solution” on the debt ceiling crisis ( Wohlers’ article was published on May 10, 2023. He proposes that the Attorney General prepare a legal finding “that the Public Debt Limit law is violative of the Constitution,” finding that would eliminate the debt limit.

It would up to the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). “The OLC provides legal opinions of the Attorney General when requested by the President or the heads of executive branch agencies as provided in 28 U.S. Code §§ 511 and 512.” Under this authority, the “OLC can and does render opinions that find laws adopted by Congress to be unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable. One such opinion, rendered on July 8, 2021, found the provision in 42 U.S.C. § 902(a)(3) that prevented the President from removing the Commissioner of Social Security to be unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable. There is no reason that the same approach cannot be used with regard to the Public Debt Limit law.

“In light of the stated intent of the Speaker and his caucus in the House to allow the debt limit to be exceeded by the public debt if they do not get unreasonable concessions from the administration, thereby putting the public debt in question and perhaps outright default or repudiation, the President or the Secretary of the Treasury can request an opinion from the OLC pursuant to 28 U.S. Code § 511 or § 512, respectively, concerning the constitutionality of the Public Debt Limit law, 31 U.S. Code § 3101. As the discussion above has established, that opinion would confirm that the Public Debt Limit law is unconstitutional under one or more of the three provisions of the Constitution. The Department of the Treasury can then, in full confidence, continue to honor the public debt without regard to the Public Debt Limit law.

Therefore: “To eliminate the threat to the economy posed by a potential default on the public debt by breach of the public debt limit, either the President or Secretary of the Treasury Yellen should, without delay, request an opinion from the OLC. The law is so straightforward that an opinion finding the Public Debt Limit law to be unconstitutional and, therefore, inoperable could be issued in short order, before Treasury’s extraordinary measures can no longer prevent the debt limit from being breached.”

The problem with Wohlers’ proposal is that it does not address the issue of the ever-rising national debt. At some point, the fiscal and monetary policies of the federal government must curtail the debt from continually rising.


Concluding thoughts

The rising national debt is a problem and the current debt limit crisis must be addressed immediately to avoid an economic catastrophe domestically and internationally. In the debate with Republicans over how to respond to the debt-limit crisis, President Biden and congressional Democrats should do their best in working to resolve the crisis to minimize spending cuts and emphasize tax increases or the revocation on Trump’s massive tax cut while he was President.

The longer-term solution is to refashion the budget, something that can only be accomplished by electing majorities of progressive Democrats to the presidency and to both branches of the U.S. Congress.

They can support budgets and policies that directly affect the nation’s debt, that is, to cut military spending and increase tax rates for the rich and powerful.

Additionally, they can advance budgets that ensure the basic needs of all citizens and residents are met, that constitutional protections of citizens are not eviscerated but strengthened, that opportunities are supported for employment, health care, quality education, and that support is given to policies that foster more equality in income and wealth distributions.

There are also trends in global warming and nuclear weapons proliferation that need to be addressed. Global warming can be curtailed and hopefully reversed by phasing out of fossil fuels in all spheres of life.

The current conflict over whether to raise the national debt limit must be resolved if other pressing problems are to be solved and economic, political, and social chaos are to be avoided. Unfortunately, the Republicans in Washington appear willing to have chaos if they don’t get their own way.

The ongoing struggle over reproductive rights and democracy

Bob Sheak, May 2, 2023


This post focuses on the ongoing struggle between those who support the reproductive rights of women/females and those who oppose them. It is an issue that is highly emotional, in which religious beliefs are important to opponents, but in the final analysis it is a political issue that will be decided by whom voters elect. One of the central issues in this intense controversy and debate is the right-wing religious view that, from the moment of conception or early in a pregnancy, the embryo is a “person” with constitutional rights. It follows from this view that abortion should be banned, not only in some states but in all states. The purpose of this post is to challenge the right-wing perspectives and support the reproductive rights of women.

Reproductive Rights

Human Rights Watch offers a succinct summary of the meaning of reproductive rights and why they should be supported (

“Reproductive rights are essential for women to enjoy their human rights. These rights are centered on women’s ability to make the best choices for their lives, including around the number of children they have, if any, and the spacing between their children’s births. Reproductive rights include prenatal services, safe childbirth, and access to contraception. They also include access to legal and safe abortion. Abortion bans violate the rights to be free from violence, to privacy, to family, to health, and even the right to life. And bans are most devastating for people of color, young people, and marginalized communities, who already have trouble accessing health care and other needed services. Governments should trust women to know what is best for their bodies, their physical and mental health, and their lives.”

The Anti-Abortion stance

The embryo as “person”

The anti-abortion position is based most fundamentally on the notion that the embryo is a “person” and deserving of legal protection when there is detectable heartbeat, which according to the Mayo Clinic, usually occurs in week 9 of a pregnancy ( The embryo heart begins to form in week 6, but a heartbeat can typically be detected only by week 9, according to the Cleveland Clinic (

Anti-abortion advocates oppose any effort to abort a pregnancy, even as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, though most women will not be aware this early that they are pregnant There is no universal agreement in the anti-abortion movement on such details. Some may make exceptions if the mother’s life is at stake or if the fetus is dead or unviable. Some will even support abortions that are the result of rape or incest. But some want a total ban, beginning at six weeks or whenever a pregnancy can be identified.

Kate Zernike reports on the anti-abortion position that insists that the “fetus is a person” (

“So-called fetal personhood laws would make abortion murder, ruling out all or most of the exceptions for abortion allowed in states that already ban it. So long as Roe established a constitutional right to abortion, such laws remained symbolic in the few states that managed to pass them. Now they are starting to have practical effect. Already in Georgia, a fetus now qualifies for tax credits and child support, and is to be included in population counts and redistricting.” And in August 2022, the Indiana “Republican-controlled legislature banned abortion starting at conception — one of the strictest laws in the nation — some conservative lawmakers objected that the law included exceptions for rape and incest. “This bill justifies the wicked, those murdering babies, and punishes the righteous, the preborn human being,” one lawmaker said, pushing instead for a fetal personhood law with no exceptions.”

Under such laws, pregnant women will be subjected to laws and punishment imposed by right-wing courts and lawmakers that will severely diminish if not eliminate their ability to control their reproductive decisions. This is a viewpoint held by anti-abortion advocates for generations. Even after Roe v. Wade was passed into law in 1973, “red” states had instituted restrictions that made getting an abortion increasingly burdensome. Diana Greene Foster provides data in her book The Turnaway Study to verify this last statement (pp. 2-3). The book was published in 2020 when Roe v. Wade was still the law of the country.

“Conservative statehouses have passed countless regulations, keeping abortion legal but rendering it all but inaccessible for many Americans who don’t have the resources to travel great distances to less restrictive states. Forty-three states ban abortions for most women after a certain point in their pregnancy. A third of states currently ban abortion at 20 weeks’ gestation. And in 2019, at least 17 states introduced legislation that would ban abortion at six weeks into pregnancy or even earlier. The bills became law in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio but immediately faced legal challenges that postponed their implementation.”

The Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in June 2022, giving the anti-abortion movement added vigor and justification to fight for further restrictions on access to abortion. The ruling allows states decide on whether to outright ban abortion. Anti-abortion activists want more, a national ban on abortion.

Public opinion is opposed to abortion bans

The anti-abortion movement has momentum in many states, but public opinion today is on the other side, supporting “choice.” Steven Shepard looks at some of the evidence (

He refers to a 2022 national exit poll that found “29 percent of voters believed abortion should be ‘legal in all cases,’ while another 30 percent thought it should be ‘legal in most cases.’ That left 26 percent who thought it should be ‘illegal in most cases and only 10 percent who said it should be illegal in all cases.’” That is,

“roughly six-in-10 voters supporting legal abortion in most cases — with the median voter supporting some restrictions — and just over a third who want it to be entirely or mostly illegal.” Another 2022 midterm exit poll in Wisconsin found

“a combined 63 percent of Wisconsin voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while only 34 percent thought it should be illegal in all or most cases.”

Republicans want to portray “Democrats as too permissive, willing to support ‘abortion on demand, for virtually any reason, up until the moment of birth,’ according to a press release from the Republican National Committee on Thursday [April 6, 2023].

“But” Shepard points out, “those attacks are largely falling flat. President Joe Biden has said repeatedly he supports the Roe v. Wade framework, which allowed states to impose modest restrictions on abortion later in pregnancies. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 percent of abortions in 2020 occurred after 20 weeks of pregnancy,” that is, after 5 months of pregnancy.”

Potential political effects

The anti-abortion position may well have political consequences in favor of those who support reproductive rights, as it appears to have had in the 2022 midterm elections when Democrats were able unexpectedly to end up with control of the Senate.

Anti-abortion is one position in a larger right-wing, anti-democratic agenda

The anti-abortion position of the Republican Party and its right-wing allies is part of a larger agenda to move the country in an authoritarian direction based on Christian Nationalism, white supremacy, anti-immigration, unfettered capitalism, and extreme gender biases, along with efforts to suppress votes of opponents, gerrymander state congressional districts, and give legislators the power to decide elections in ways that override the popular vote. If they succeed, the country will be ruled by a minority of voters, right-wing lawmakers, and their rich and powerful allies.


Historical background

Historian Jennifer L. Holland considers the “History of the Pro-Life Movement in America” on the Internet site of the Organization of American Historians ( Holland is an assistant professor of history at the University of Oklahoma. “She specializes in the histories of the North American West, gender, sexuality, and race. She is currently writing a book about the modern anti-abortion movement in four western states.”

She writes that the anti-abortion movement has existed for two centuries. However, prior to 1840, “abortion was a widespread, largely stigma-free experience for American women. During that period, the American legal system used the quickening doctrine from British common law to decide the legality of abortion.”

“Quickening occurred when the pregnant woman could feel the fetus move, typically between the fourth and sixth month of pregnancy.” Holland notes: “Post-quickening abortion was a crime, but only a misdemeanor” and “Only women themselves could testify to fetal movement.” If there was concern about abortion, it had to do with how many women died attempting abortion.

In the mid-19th century, physicians became the principal anti-abortion advocates. They wanted laws that restricted abortion, reduced or outlawed the practice among non-physicians, and gave physicians more authority in the process. They claimed that their “scientific medicine” would benefit their patients, some, in order to hurt lay healers’ business, sought governmental licensing and regulation to weed out the competition. Physicians used anti-abortion laws, pushed in state legislatures, to increase their own stature and undermine their opponents. However, Holland points out that there was little substance to their claim of knowledge about the development of the embryo and fetus in pregnant females.

Nonetheless, “by 1900, every state had a law forbidding abortion at any stage, whether through the use of drugs or procedures. Almost all the laws passed during this time included a therapeutic exception, where licensed physicians could provide abortions at their own discretion as long as the abortion preserved the life of the mother. While this loophole allowed many women to obtain abortions, it also made doctors the ultimate arbiters of the morality and legality of abortions. These laws also created a large black market for women who could not access or obtain abortions through medical channels.”

In the years, 1900-1959, There was not much of an anti-abortion movement “because the state did its work. Police, courts, and lawmakers prosecuted abortionists and harassed women who procured the procedure.” 

Then, in the 1960s, the issue became politicized and movements on both sides of the abortion issue emerge.

Pro Reproductive Rights

“…in the 1960s, some Americans began to demand change from their states. In 1959 the American Law Institute, a group of professionals that put together model legislation, advocated for the liberalization of abortion law. They suggested that the law should make exceptions for women who were raped, whose fetuses were deformed, and whose mental or physical health was at stake. The abortion reform movement was made possible by a larger cultural shift in Americans’ ideas about reproduction and abortion. In the 1960s Americans witnessed the heartbreak of infant death and extreme fetal deformity. Thalidomide, a sleeping pill, caused thousands of birth defects in Europe and the United States. Later, an outbreak of German measles produced thousands of stillbirths and cases of babies born with major abnormalities. Images of white middle-class women and their deformed infants peppered American media, capturing the imaginations and parental fears of many Americans. [5] In the late 1960s a nascent feminist movement began to argue that women could not be full citizens unless they could control reproduction. Together these shifts helped push state legislatures to reform their abortion laws. Colorado was the first to amend its law in 1967, followed quickly by others, most famously California in 1967 and New York in 1970.”

Anti-abortion movement also gains momentum

“In the midst of states’ efforts at abortion reform, the modern antiabortion political movement was born. Small groups of Catholic doctors, nurses, lawyers, and housewives joined together to oppose liberalization. In 1967 the National Council of Catholic Bishops aided their campaigns with support, money, and the formation of the National Right to Life Committee. Early Catholic activists were often joined by a handful of non-Catholics, usually Protestants, Mormons, or Orthodox Christians. Supporters of abortion reform argued that “right-to-life” forces were attempting to push Catholic values on a diverse American populace, and consequently many antiabortion groups worked to present themselves as ecumenical or non-denominational. Most of these early groups failed to stop changes in their state’s abortion law but they did have some successes in the early 1970s, suggesting that not every state was ready for abortion reform.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to overthrow Roe vs. Wade in 1973gave all 50 states the power to determine the extent to which abortion would be restricted or not. In the wake of his decision, antiabortion activists retained their focus on individual fetal rights. “The tools that had the largest effect were graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, including “pictures of fetuses, in utero and aborted, fetal models, and fetuses in jars in the 1970s; fetal pins, dolls, jewelry, and clothes in addition to a proliferation of pro-life movies in the 1980s; and ultrasound visuals of fetuses in the 1990s and 2000s. Using these images, activists made a political pitch and moved fetal bodies squarely into American political culture.”

They were partially successful, as some states across the country passed laws that required parental notification, ‘informed consent’ (mandating women view materials about fetal development and the risks of abortion), and waiting periods between the initial consultation and the abortion.

“In 1992 the Supreme Court validated the legality of such laws in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, crafting a new rationale to determine the constitutionality of laws regulating abortion. Restrictions were legal as long as they did not place an “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure, validating the work of anti-abortion activists and making abortion increasingly difficult to access—especially for rural or poor women.” The words “undue burden” were open to various interpretations and easily politicized.

Those opposed to abortion had grand aims at making “pro-life politics central to social conservatism and by extension the Republican party. They made fetal life central to how many Christians viewed their religion and their politics. They asked conservative children to think of themselves as ‘survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.’ And they helped new ‘family values’ constituents consider the fetus a member of the family and legal abortion the biggest challenge facing the modern family. In all these efforts, activists were successful, not for all Americans but for enough to build an expansive movement with the defense of fetal life as its core.”

Historian Michele Goodwin offers the following comments on the relevance of “fetal personhood” in criminal law in her book, Policing the Womb (publ. 2020). She writes: “…legislative advocates of fetal protection adopt the standard that fetuses are persons. Under this framework, a fetus is a child for purposes of criminal prosecution. Viability and the capacity to live outside the womb are neither deemed necessary or relevant….it normalizes treating the unborn as if they were born and alive at the time of injury [or the abortion].


The Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, ending the right to abortion that had existed since 1973. Nina Totenberg and Sarah McCammon review the new law for NPR ( Here are excerpts and comments from their analysis.

“The decision, most of which was leaked in early May [2022], means that abortion rights will be rolled back in nearly half of the states immediately, with more restrictions likely to follow. For all practical purposes, abortion will not be available in large swaths of the country. The decision may well mean too that the court itself, as well as the abortion question, will become a focal point in the upcoming fall elections and in the fall and thereafter.”

Concurring with Justice Samuel Alito 78-page decision were Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by the first President Bush, and the three Trump appointees — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, concurred in the judgment only, and would have limited the decision to upholding the Mississippi law at issue in the case, which banned abortions after 15 weeks.”

“Dissenting were Justices Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Clinton, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama. They agreed that the court decision means that ‘young women today will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers.’ Indeed, they said the court’s opinion means that ‘from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term even at the steepest personal and familial costs.’”

Totenberg and McCammon continue.

“Writing for the majority, he [Alito] said forthrightly that abortion is a matter to be decided by states and the voters in the states. ‘We hold,’ he wrote, that ‘the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.’ As to what standard the courts should apply in the event that a state regulation is challenged, Alito said any state regulation of abortion is presumptively valid and ‘must be sustained if there is a rational basis on which the legislature could have thought’ it was serving ‘legitimate state interests,’ including “respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development.” In addition, he noted, states are entitled to regulate abortion to eliminate “gruesome and barbaric” medical procedures; to “preserve the integrity of the medical profession”; and to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability, including barring abortion in cases of fetal abnormality.”

In sum, “states appear to be completely free to ban abortions for any reason.” While Alito emphasized that the court’s decision is only about abortion. At the same time, in a concurring option, “Justice [Clarence] Thomas said the legal rationale for Friday’s decision could be applied to overturn other major cases, including those that legalized gay marriage, barred the criminalization of consensual homosexual conduct, and protected the rights of married people to have access to contraception.”

Some 15 states, in the South, West, and Midwest, have “trigger bans,” that go into effect as soon as Roe v. Wade is overruled and will act quickly to ban abortion. Totenberg and McCammon refer to an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute that finds “South Dakota, Kentucky and Louisiana have laws in place that lawmakers designed explicitly to take effect immediately upon the fall of the Roe precedent. Idaho, Tennessee, and Texas – where most abortions are already illegal after about six weeks of pregnancy – have similar laws, which would take effect after 30 days. Guttmacher says seven other ‘trigger ban’ states have laws that would require state officials such as governors or attorneys general to take action to implement them.”

Additionally, “many states also have passed gestational bans prohibiting abortion at various stages of pregnancy. Courts have blocked many of those laws in response to legal challenges, including laws in Georgia, Ohio, and Idaho that ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Now those laws may take effect immediately. So too, could a law recently enacted in Oklahoma, that makes performing abortion a felony punishable by time in prison.”

At the same time, “some [progressive] states are trying to expand access to abortion in preparation for more patients traveling from restrictive states for procedures. Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation this year designed to protect abortion providers from out-of-state lawsuits.”

Totenberg and McCammon cite University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman who says that “the anti-abortion movement will not be satisfied with this win.” Litman is also thinks this: “The next time the Republicans win control of the Senate and White House and the House of Representatives a national abortion ban is going to be on the table.”


Abortions carried out in a clinic or health-care setting

Planned Parenthood provides an overview of “in-clinic abortion procedures,” positing they are “safe and effective” ( Such are not considered “surgery.” There are two such procedures. One type is called suction abortion (also called vacuum aspiration). It is the most common type of in-clinic abortion. It uses gentle suction to empty the woman’s uterus. It’s usually used until about 14-16 weeks after the woman’s last period.”

Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) is another kind of in-clinic abortion procedure. “It uses suction and medical tools to empty your uterus. You can get a D&E later in a pregnancy than aspiration abortion — usually if it has been 16 weeks or longer since your last period.”

According to Planned Parenthood, “In-clinic abortions are extremely effective. They work more than 99 out of every 100 times. Needing to get a repeat procedure because the abortion didn’t work is really rare.”  

Anti-abortionists have had some success in reducing medical abortions

Anti-abortionists have had some success in reducing the number of abortions done in clinics or health-care centers by physicians or those with medical credentials.  

Margot Sanger-Katz and Chris Cain Miller report on a major new study that legal abortions carried out by medical providers fell by 6 percent in the six months after Dobbs, that is, through December 2022 ( The study is from WeCount, a research effort of the Society of Family Planning, which supports abortion rights (

They write that the WeCount “collected abortion counts from 83 percent of clinics, hospitals and telehealth providers in the country. For the places that did not provide data, the group estimated the changes based on historical data and the trends for nearby clinics.”

The reasons for the decline are the result of efforts by the anti-abortion movement and their political allies. “The overall decline exceeds what was estimated by some researchers before the Supreme Court ruling. New restrictions and the obstacles they create — including travel logistics and expenses, long wait times at some clinics and confusion or fear about laws — seem to have prevented even more women than expected from obtaining legal abortions.

“For many women seeking an abortion, ‘the barriers that were in place were not surmountable,’ said Alison Norris, an Ohio State professor of epidemiology and one of the authors of the report. Though many clinics expanded capacity, she said, ‘it’s insufficient to manage the losses.’”

Sanger-Katz and Miller refer to some of the specific findings.

“The data goes through Dec. 31, by which point 13 states had banned abortion with almost no exceptions and another, Georgia, had banned it after six weeks of pregnancy. Legal abortions in the states with total bans fell to nearly zero — an average decrease of around 7,300 abortions a month compared with April and May. They increased by an average of 2,100 a month in states where abortion remained legal, suggesting that some women traveled across state lines. The increase offset only a third of the decrease in the states with bans.”

“After the Dobbs decision, the average number of legal abortions performed each month across the U.S. fell from over 82,000 to about 77,000.”

Going out of state

Melissa Quinn refers to research that shows three developments ( One, “Research has shown that the women most likely to be deterred by long distances are poor, Black or Hispanic. Teenagers, immigrants and people with child care or elder care responsibility are also more affected.” Two, thousands of women are traveling long distances to obtain abortions, the data shows. Three, “The number of abortions increased substantially in several states that have preserved access and are near states with bans. The largest increases in the number of abortions performed were in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. States in regions where abortion remains legal, the West Coast and Northeast, did not experience surges.”

Medication abortion

While the number of legal abortions done by medical procedure in a clinic or comparable setting may overall have gone down, there is some evidence that “medication abortions” may have gone up, at least for the time being. The Kaiser Family Foundation provides information in an April 19, 2023 article on the availability and use of medication abortion” (

They point out that the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade allowed
states to “set their own policies protecting or banning abortion without any federal standard protecting access to abortion. This has created a new focus on medication abortion as an option for expanding access to people facing barriers to abortion care.

“Medication abortion, also known as medical abortion or abortion with pills, is a pregnancy termination protocol that involves taking two different drugs, Mifepristone and misoprostol, that can be safely used up to the first 70 days (10 weeks) of pregnancy according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The World Health Organization has authorized use to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Since the FDA first approved the drug in 2000, its use in the United States has quickly grown. By 2021, over half of abortions in the US were medication abortions. The medication abortion drug regimen approved by the FDA is available in many states across the nation, however, dispensing these pills for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy is now banned in some states.”

“Although the overall rate of abortion has declined over the past two decades, the use of medication abortion as a share of all abortions has greatly increased over the years. According to Danco Laboratories, by 2016, over 2.75 million women in the United States had used Mifeprex [mifepristone] since its FDA approval in 2000. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show medication abortions have increased steadily over the past 15 years. A 2022 Guttmacher Institute Report found that medication abortion accounted for 53% of all nonhospital abortions.”

Mifepristone and Misoprostol Regimen

“The most common medication abortion regimen in the United States involves the use of two different medications: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill, or RU-486 is sold under the brand name Mifeprex and through a generic manufactured by GenBioPro in the United States. Mifepristone works by blocking progesterone, a hormone essential to the development of a pregnancy, and thereby preventing an existing pregnancy from progressing. Misoprostol, taken 24–48 hours after mifepristone, works to empty the uterus by causing cramping and bleeding, similar to an early miscarriage. A follow-up visit can be scheduled a week or two later, to confirm that the pregnancy was terminated via ultrasound or blood test. The FDA has found that medication abortion is a safe and highly effective method of pregnancy termination. When taken, medication abortion successfully terminates the pregnancy 99.6% of the time, with a 0.4% risk of major complications, and an associated mortality rate of less than 0.001 percent (0.00064%).”

“Research has shown the misoprostol-only regimen to be a safe and highly effective method of pregnancy termination, however it may result in a higher incidence of side effects, particularly diarrhea, fever and chills. When taken, the misoprostol-only regimen successfully terminates the pregnancy approximately 80-100% of the time, with a complication rate of less than 1%. Some U.S. telehealth organizations have been providing the misoprostol-only regimen as an option for medication abortion for a number of years.” 

Efforts to limit or eliminate medication abortions

The KFF gives some examples.

 “There are other ways that state laws also affect use of and access to medication abortion. Some states require that patients be counseled about unsubstantiated claims about the ability to reverse an abortion after mifepristone is ingested.  For example, Nebraska, a state that hasn’t banned abortion, requires patients to be counselled that medication abortion may be reversed if given a high dose of progesterone after taking mifepristone—despite a lack of scientific evidence to support this claim. Similarly, Utah requires counseling that mifepristone alone is not always effective in ending a pregnancy and that patients may still have a viable pregnancy after taking mifepristone despite its record of effectiveness. Similar laws were passed in ArizonaNorth Dakota, and Kansas, with courts blocking the laws in Arizona and North Dakota, and the Governor vetoing the bill in Kansas. Prior to banning abortion ArkansasIdahoKentucky,  OklahomaSouth Dakota had similar requirements. Research demonstrates that APCs, such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, or nurse-midwives, can dispense abortion pills as safely as physicians can, but they are only permitted to do so in 20 states and DC.”

“As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Among the states that have not banned abortion, eight states have at least one restriction that requires at least one trip to the clinic, and effectively ban telehealth for medication abortion (Figure 1).

“The use of medication abortion has grown significantly since its approval by the FDA in 2000. The FDA update of the REMS could expand the availability of medication abortion and broaden the use of telehealth dispensing. However, state abortion bans, specific bans on telehealth for medication abortion, and state-level requirements for in-person dispensation of mifepristone and for in-person counseling visits and ultrasounds that are not medically recommended will continue to restrict access in many states.”

“Since the FDA approved mifepristone in 2000, it has made several changes to the rules surrounding the abortion pill. In 2016, the agency increased the gestational age limit from 7 weeks to 10 weeks, reduced the number of required in-person clinic visits, and broadened the set of healthcare providers to prescribe the drug. In 2019, the FDA approved a generic version of mifepristone and in 2021 lifted a requirement that the pills be dispensed in-person, which allowed the drug to be prescribed by a provider during telemedicine appointments and sent by mail. Earlier this year, the Biden administration widened the availability of the abortion drug to more retail and online pharmacies” (

Judge in Texas issues a federal ban on medication abortions

The legal battle targeting medication abortion intensified in November, 2022, with a lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of the doctors and medical groups, as reported by Melissa Quinn (

“The challengers argued the FDA failed to adequately consider mifepristone’s health and safety risks when it approved the drug in 2000. They sought to obtain a federal ban on this drug.” The case was filed in the federal court in the 5th Circuit in Amarillo, Texas, where U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, appointed by President Donald Trump, overseas cases.

The Biden administration appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

“Backing the Biden administration in its push to preserve mifepristone’s FDA approval were 23 blue states and the District of Columbia and 235 Democratic lawmakers, who separately filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court warning the lower courts’ orders would have far-reaching ramifications if allowed to stand.

“On the other side of the aisle, 21 red states and 147 Republican lawmakers had urged the Supreme Court to leave the 5th Circuit’s decision in place.”

The Supreme Court decided to send the case back to the 5th circuit in order to provide further substantiation for the medication abortion ban.

Concluding thoughts

The anti-abortion movement continues to push for either a total ban on abortion or a law that severely restricts legal access to it. The movement has been very successful in achieving this aim in “red” states, but not in “blue” states. What will it take to preserve or expand legal access to abortion? In the end, the decision will be made by voters if their votes are honestly and fairly counted. And if opinion polls have validity, they show that a majority of people outside of the Republican Party support the continued availability of abortion options and view the rights and health of pregnant women and teenagers over the alleged rights of an embryo.

The Republican push for maximum gun deregulation is a threat to democracy and public safety

Bob Sheak, April 17, 2023


The issue of whether or how to regulate guns is, in the final analysis, a political issue. Despite an increase in “mass shootings and killings,” Republicans are generally opposed to any regulation, and, when they have political control at any level of government, federal, state or municipal, they have moved to weaken or eliminate such regulations. The Republican Party favors the maximum freedom of citizens to buy weapons, including assault weapons, the opportunity to carry weapons virtually anywhere, and the notion that more guns equate to more freedom. They even want to secure schools by giving teachers the option of carrying guns.  

Arming teachers?

The idea of arming teachers is by and large not a popular one, though there is some increasing attention to enhancing school security systems, including having armed security personnel inside or outside school entrances, locked entrance doors with cameras to identify individuals wanting to enter a school, as well as having bullet-proof windows. That’s seemingly appropriate, given the increase in school shootings. At the same time, if the responses of those who oppose gun regulation prevail, for example the likes of Trump, the NRA, and many Republican legislators, we’ll unfortunately end up with fortress-like schools, armed teachers, and other security personnel in the schools, fearful children, and, given the record, the chances that minority children in inadequately-resourced schools will end up disproportionately among the victims. Benjamin Balthaser, associate professor of multi-ethnic US literature at Indiana University, South Bend, argues, “arming teachers” will kill education

Such “security” measures in the schools will not address the conditions that spur mass gun shootings and killings, most notably the widespread availability and ownership of firearms, including assault weapons, by millions of citizens. And they might well make them worse.

Balthaser identifies the potential problems of arming teachers.

“Bearing the role of public education in mind, it is self-evident that arming teachers will do little if anything to actually make schools safer. Not only would having multiple shooters increase the confusion and mayhem of a mass shooting, the “good-guy-with-a-gun” theory has been widely debunked, and leads to all kinds of other bizarre questions, such as: Who decides which teachers are armed? Where are the guns stored? Who decides when a teacher can use a gun? What are the penalties for misusing a gun? The practical problems with arming teachers are so abundant, like many of Trump’s gestures of contempt, these ‘solutions’ are not designed to solve real-world problems, but rather to shift the discourse and change the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in civil society.

“The proposal to arm teachers should not be seen as just a joke. It is not serious as a way to stop violence but is deadly serious about one thing: ending the progressive role of education and educators. The proposal is not about helping students but turning the student-teacher relationship from one of trust and respect into one of violence…. The right [to gun ownership by private citizens] does not imagine teachers wielding weapons so much as weapons remaking teachers”

Henry Giroux echoes these and other concerns (

Giroux writes: “Suggesting that teachers be armed and turned into potential instruments of violence extends and normalizes the prison as a model for schools and the increasing expansion of the school-to-prison pipeline. What is being left out of this tragedy is that the number of police in schools has doubled in the last decade from 20 percent in 1996 to 43 percent today. Moreover, as more police are put in schools, more and more children are brutalized by them. There is no evidence that putting the police in schools has made them any safer. Instead, more and more young people have criminal records, are being suspended, or expelled from school, all in the name of school safety.” Giroux quotes Sam Sinyangwe, the director of the Mapping Police Violence Project, to further document his point.

“The data … that does exist … shows that more police in schools leads to more criminalization of students, and especially black and brown students. Every single year, about 70,000 kids are arrested in school…. [Moreover] since 1999 [and into 2018], 10,000 additional police officers have been placed at schools, with no impact on violence. Meanwhile, about one million students have been arrested for acts previously punishable by detention or suspension, and black students are three times more likely to be arrested than their white peers.

“Trump’s proposal to arm teachers suggests that the burden of gun violence and the crimes of the gun industries and politicians should fall on teachers’ shoulders, foolishly imagining that armed teachers would be able to stop a killer with military grade weapons, and disregarding the risk of teachers shooting other students, staff or faculty in the midst of such a chaotic moment.”

The argument for gun regulation rests most fundamentally on the premises that the ownership of guns should be regulated, and that gun ownership is not an absolute, unlimited right of citizenship.

There is a need to find a balance

A reasonable position on gun rights is that they must be balanced with public safety concerns. Thomas Gabor, who has studied gun violence and policy for over 30 years in the United States and other countries, concludes that we need to find a “delicate balance” between the two. He states his position, along with other reasons, writing that “[g]un ownership can be a right while every effort is made to ensure that those who pose a risk to public safety cannot easily obtain them” (Confronting Gun Violence in America, p. 32).

We do not have such a balance and the scale is being tilted in favor of gun ownership and rights.

The Role of the NRA in the expansion of lethal firearms

For decades since the early 1970s, opponents of gun regulation, most prominently the National Rifle Association (NRA), have used their political influence to foster a one-sided interpretation of the Second Amendment to keep the federal government and many states and local governments from adequately regulating access to guns (gun ownership) by private citizens. On this point, Gabor captures the uncompromising position of the NRA and its considerable allies as follows:

“…those viewing gun ownership as an inalienable right often see this right as an absolute and will yield little ground regardless of the annual death toll or other evidence pointing to the harm produced by widespread gun ownership” (p. 263). New York Times reporter Greg Weiner illustrates this retrograde viewpoint, reporting on a speech given by Wayne LaPierre, leader of the NRA, at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference. Here’s some of what Weiner reported.

“According to this conception, rights are zones of personal autonomy where the individual owes no explanation and the community has no jurisdiction. This manner of thinking about rights is a serious barrier to reasonable regulations of firearms” (

The N.R.A. ritually claims the mantle of the Constitution, principally through its interpretation of “the Second Amendment.” At the same time, “the American founders who framed it had a far richer view in which individual rights were subject to considerations of the common good.”

The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

For the NRA and its supporters, there is more at stake than simple legal access to guns. What is at stake is whether individual citizens are able to have the “freedom” to own and carry weapons. “They argue that the Second Amendment by itself, if properly interpreted, secures the basic freedom of citizens to express dissent and enable citizens to protect themselves from a tyrannical state through insurrection if necessary.”

What does the historical record say. Through most of US history up through the end of the 20th Century, the courts have found that, as John Atcheson reports, the introductory phrase “a well-regulated militia” constrains, or takes precedence over, the clause ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms” (

Atcheson puts it this way: “In short, the individual ‘right’ was contingent on the need to keep a well-regulated militia, and hence it protected the States’ interests in having a militia, not an individual’s right to have and carry a weapon.”

Gabor (cited previously) refers to supporting evidence. He writes:

“In four Supreme Court rulings between 1876 and 1939 and in 37 cases involving challenges to gun laws heard by federal courts of appeal between 1942 and 2001, the courts have consistently set aside these challenges and have viewed the Second Amendment as protecting state militias, rather than individual rights. Thus, with little exception, the first 125 years of ruling by higher courts interpreted the Second Amendment to mean that ‘The people’ collectively have the right to bear arms within the context of a well-regulated militia, rather than for protection against fellow citizens or for other personal reasons. This view of the Second Amendment is consistent with the requirement, in America’s first Constitution, that each state maintain a militia and with the modern Constitution, which provides for both state militias and a standing army” (p. 266).

Now, the official state militias have been long ago abandoned because they were not well funded by the various states. Nonetheless the point is, for most of US history, individual rights to firearms were regulated and limited. Gabor also quotes several Supreme Court justices who expressed support for “militia” preeminence interpretation of the Second Amendment. For example, former chief justice Warren Burger, “a conservative and hunter himself, said in an interview in 1991 on the MacNeill Lehrer News Hour that the focus on the “right to keep and bear arms” has “been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud…on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime” (Gabor, p. 266). As noted above, the interest group he has in mind is the NRA and its increasingly intense efforts to end virtually all restrictions on gun ownership by private citizens.

President Clinton gave gun safety a try

Remarkably, given the power of the NRA, President Clinton signed a 1994 law banning the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (holding more than ten rounds of ammunition) – and it remained in in force for ten years until 2004, according to Gabor. The ban was allowed to expire by the US Congress in 2004. Even during the years of the ban, though, the law had “grandfathering provisions” that “allowed weapons and high-capacity magazines already manufactured to continue to be bought and sold, severely undercutting the effectiveness of the ban” (Gabor, pp. 292-293). In short, the ban on assault weapons had at best only very modest effects on reducing violence associated with guns, even from assault weapons. But, even with its flaws, the ban did have some limited, positive effect. In as assessment of the effects of the ban, Christopher Koper, associate professor at George Mason University, provides some insight, as follows:

“Although the ban has been successful in reducing crimes with AWs [Assault Weapons], any benefits from this reduction are likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics with LCMs [large-capacity magazines], which are used in crime much more frequently than AWs. Therefore, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence [as of 2013]. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence, based on indicators like the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death or the share of gunfire incidents resulting in injury, as we might have expected had the ban reduced crimes with both AWs and LCMs” (

Nonetheless, it is worth concluding that through most of U.S. history there have been federal laws in effect to limit the gun ownership of private citizens, other than for hunting, conservation, certified gun collections (where the guns are inoperable) and sports-related activities, and that the temporary assault ban did have some positive effect. Though it should also be mentioned that the ban did not close other ways by which individual can acquire guns. In addition to the grandfathering loophole and the parts of the gun market that were not covered by the ban, guns could be obtained through private sales (e.g., now through the internet) and at gun shows, both of which remain unregulated. Of course, there has always been an illegal market for guns. George Aisch and Josh Keller report on one aspect of this illegal gun market in their article “Traffikers Get Around State Laws ( Gabor presents evidence that such bans can have some positive effect (pp. 292-293).


Little regulation of firearms in “red” states

The World Population Review reports on state rankings on gun laws in 2023 ( Here’s some of what they find.

“The federal government of the United States has very few laws that regulate the sale of guns. There have been pushes to introduce federal legislation on gun control, particularly after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. However, many lawmakers still interpret the Second Amendment to mean that they should not regulate guns at all. There are some gun attachments – such as high-capacity magazines – that are banned at a federal level. However, for the most part, gun laws are governed by states.

“Some U.S. states have little to no gun regulation on guns at all. Some of the most lenient gun laws are known as open carry laws, meaning that someone can openly carry a firearm in public. Other states are concealed carry only. Some of the strictest gun laws require the person to pass a background check and undergo training before purchasing a gun.”

Restrictive gun laws make a difference

California is the state with the strictest gun laws, and it also has the seventh-lowest rate of deaths by gun violence. In addition to regulation on who can purchase a gun and what kinds of firearms may be legally obtained, California gun laws allow for funding to community programs that have reduced gun-related violence. Other states with strict gun laws include IllinoisConnecticutNew JerseyNew YorkHawaiiMaryland, and Massachusetts. Some of these states require background checks and a waiting period before someone is allowed to purchase a gun; some require that they undergo training first.

“For example, in Massachusetts, those who wish to purchase a firearm must obtain a permit to purchase from their local police department. This process alone can take weeks and requires paperwork, an interview, and a background check. After all of that, the police chief still has the discretion to deny the license. After obtaining a license, the purchaser must present the license at the gun store and pass additional background checks.

“Unsurprisingly, the states with the strictest gun laws generally have the lowest gun ownership rates. Massachusetts and New Jersey have the lowest gun ownership in the U.S. at 14.7%, Hawaii’s is 14.9%, and New York‘s is 19.9%. Of the eight states with at least an A-, the highest gun ownership rate is 30.2% in Maryland.

“Additionally, gun deaths are significantly lower in states with strict gun laws and low gun ownership. Rhode Island‘s gun ownership is the second-lowest in the country at 14.8% and has the lowest gun death rate at 3.28 per 100,000 people. Massachusetts has the second-lowest gun death rate at 3.46 per 100,000 people, followed by New York and Hawaii with 4.03 each and New Jersey with 4.75.”

The point: gun laws restricting gun ownership appear to make a difference.

Ohio, my home state, has a “D” rating and is among the states with very permissive gun ownership and carry laws. According to Every Town for Gun Safety, “Ohio has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. Ohio has no law requiring background checks on unlicensed gun sales, and state law allows teachers to carry guns in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Ohio has no laws prohibiting domestic abusers from possessing guns” (

Even when states have strict gun laws, people can still purchase them in other nearby states where there are lax gun laws or at gun shows and carry them into these states.

The Supreme Court tilts in favor of deregulation

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, which typically has the final statement on the relevant law, has created “turmoil over gun laws in lower courts,” according to a report on February 18, 2023, by Allana Durkin and Lindsay Whitehurst for the Associated Press  (

The “landmark” decision on the Second Amendment occurred on November 2021, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen. Michael Macagnone considers the implications of the amendment (

Macagnone notes that the new “legal test” embodied in the decision “looks to the history and tradition of the Second Amendment. He quotes Eric Ruben, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, who “said the Bruen decision means judges can now pick and choose what historical gun laws are analogous to modern restrictions — which has ‘enabled judicial subjectivity and unpredictability’ about gun restrictions.”

The Bruen decision posits that “Judges should no longer consider whether the law serves public interests like enhancing public safety.”

Under the Supreme Court’s new test, the government or court that wants to uphold a gun restriction must look back in history to show it is consistent with the country’s ‘historical tradition of firearm regulation.’

“Since the decision came down in June, more than a half-dozen courts have tossed gun restrictions such as requirements that firearms have serial numbers and bans on possessing firearms in mass transit. An appeals court in February [2023] struck down a federal prohibition on gun possession for people subject to domestic violence restraining orders.”

“Since the decision, more than “a half-dozen courts have tossed [eliminated] firearm restrictions.” 

Meanwhile, gun shootings and killings go up

Grace Hauck refers to new survey by USA TODAY/Associated Press/Northeastern University that documents this point (`10/louisville-shooting-mass-killings-2023-united-states/11635108002).

Hauck points out that during the 100 days since January 1, 2023, there have been 146 mass shootings and 15 mass killings, or “shootings in which four or more people were killed, not including the shooters.” In the days after Hauck wrote his article, there have been other violent “mass” gun incidents. Hauck gives these examples.

James Densley, co-founder of the Violence Project, a nonprofit research center, says that the overall trend in mass shootings is that they are becoming more frequent.

“This year,” Huack notes, “there have been three mass killings in California, two in each of Alabama and Florida and one in Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, according to the database. The killings have left at least 79 people dead and 20 injured, not including the shooters.”

“Of the 15 mass killings, four were public shootings, and most of the others were family-related incidents, said James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston who oversees the USA TODAY database, which goes back to 2006.

“Only two other times since 2006 has the U.S. witnessed more than 15 mass killings by April 10, according to the database.

“‘It is more than the average, but we have seen that number before,’ Fox said. ‘It’s hard to predict what will happen by end of year, but it’s certainly on the high side.’”

146 mass shootings in which four victims injured

“The nonprofit Gun Violence Archive tracks all mass shootings, defined as a shooting in which at least four victims are hit by gunfire. There have been 146 mass shootings this year – up 10% over the previous record year of 2021, said Mark Bryant, executive director.”

The archive tracks publicly sourced media and police reports and includes incidents like the mass shooting at Michigan State University, where a man killed three students and injured five others in February.

Thousands more killed or injured in gun violence in 2023

“While mass killings garner a disproportionate share of media attention, they account for just a fraction of the gun violence injuries Americans face each year.

Nearly 5,000 people have died from gunfire so far in 2023, and nearly 9,000 have been injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Hundreds of children under age 11 have been killed or injured, along with more than a thousand teens, the database shows.

“The archive estimates thousands of people have also died by suicide, as about half of all gun violence deaths in the U.S. each year are deaths by suicide.

“Gun violence is also increasingly seeping onto school grounds, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. Incidents in which a gun was brandished or fired or a bullet hit school property reached all-time highs last year, according to the database, which goes back to 1970.

“That data includes gang-related shootings, domestic violence, shootings at sports games, accidents and more. There have been more than 100 such incidents on school grounds this year, the database shows.” In addition, there were more than 500 road rage shootings in 2022.”

Gun violence has affected most families in the US, new survey finds

Deidre McPhillips reports on the findings of a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation ( She refers to the following findings.

 “Nearly 1 in 5 adults has had a family member killed by a gun, including in homicide and suicide. About as many adults have been personally threatened with a gun, and about 1 in 6 adults has witnessed an injury from a shooting, the survey found.”

She also notes that research shows the following.

  • These tragic trends are part of a gun epidemic that has become deadlier than ever in the US. There were nearly 49,000 gun-related deaths in 2021, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – an unprecedented surge of about 23% over two years during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The vast majority of adults say they worry at least sometimes that they or someone in their family will become a victim of gun violence, the new KFF survey found. Nearly a quarter of parents of children younger than 18 say they worry about it daily or almost daily.
  • Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teens in the US, surpassing car accidents in 2020. In no other comparable country are firearms within the top four causes of mortality among children, according to another recent KFF analysis.
  • There are vast disparities in who’s dying from guns, too. A recent study found that the homicide rate among young Black men was nearly 10 times higher than the overall firearm death rate in the US in 2021.
  • According to the new KFF survey, Black adults are more than twice as likely as White adults to have lost a loved one to gun violence and to have personally witnessed someone being shot.
  • The weight of that disparity is felt heavily in the Black community. One in 6 Black adults say that they don’t feel at all safe in their neighborhoods, far higher than the share of White or Hispanic adults, according to the new KFF survey. About a third of both Black and Hispanic adults say they worry daily or almost daily that a family member will become a victim of gun violence, and about 1 in 5 say that gun-related crimes, injuries and deaths are a constant threat to their local community.

The Nashville murders on March 27

AP News reported on March 28, 2023, about what we knew then about the Covenant school shooting in Nashville (

  • Six people were killed at a small, private Christian school just south of downtown Nashville on Monday after a shooter opened fire inside the building of about 200 students, police said.
  • Police received a call about an active shooter at The Covenant School — a Presbyterian school — around 10:15 a.m. Authorities said that about 15 minutes after that call to police, the shooter was dead. The remaining students were ferried to a safe location to be reunited with their parents.
  • Nashville police said six people, including three students, were killed. The victims were identified as Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Koonce, 60; Mike Hill, 61; and Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all age 9. Police officers also killed the shooter.
  • The website of The Covenant School, founded in 2001, lists a Katherine Koonce as the head of the school. Her LinkedIn profile says she has led the school since July 2016. Peak was a substitute teacher, and Hill was a custodian, according to investigators.___
  • Police gave unclear information on the shooter’s gender. For hours, police identified the shooter as a 28-year-old woman and eventually as Audrey Hale. Then at a late afternoon press conference, the police chief said that Hale was transgender.
  • Police said the shooter had made a detailed map of the school and conducted surveillance of the building before carrying out the massacre.
  • Police said Hale had two “assault-style” weapons and a pistol when Hale shot through the front door to enter the building. Police said Tuesday that Hale had legally purchased seven firearms from five different stores in the Nashville area.
  • Investigators found a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun and other unspecified evidence during a search of Hale’s home. Police Chief John Drake said Hale’s parents were unaware that Hale had obtained most of the weapons. They told police Hale was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder, Drake said. Hale’s parents also said they believed Hale had only purchased one gun and had sold it.
  • A team of five Nashville police officers entered the school after the initial call, said Aaron, the police spokesperson. While clearing the first floor of students and staff, they heard shots being fired on the second floor.
  • Two of the officers opened fire in response and fatally struck Hale at about 10:27 a.m., police said. Police identified Rex Engelbert, a four-year member of the force, and Michael Collazo, a nine-year member, as the officers who fatally shot Hale.
  • The six-minute video supplements a release late Monday, of about two minutes of edited surveillance footage that shows the shooter’s car driving up to the school, glass doors being shot out and the shooter ducking through one of them.Investigators were sent to the shooter’s home shortly after Hale was killed, police said. Hale had a map of the school with a planned route for the shooting, and officers found writings, police said.


Tennessee has permissive gun laws

Here is a summary of the gun law situation in Tennessee from Everytown Research (

“Although Tennessee has the tenth-highest rate of gun deaths in the country, the state has only a few basic laws aimed at reducing gun violence. Indeed, legislators in Tennessee have recently weakened the state’s policies, eliminating the carry permitting requirement, allowing nearly anyone in the state to carry loaded firearms in public, concealed or open, without a background check, permit, or safety training.

“The Volunteer State does have several of the policies aimed at keeping guns out of the wrong hands—including prohibitions for people convicted of felonies or hate crimes, fugitives from justice, people who pose a danger due to mental health, and domestic abusers.” But no restrictions, for example, on access to or ownership of assault weapons.

None of this is surprising, knowing that Tennessee is a “red” gerrymandered state that is governed at the state level by Republican governor and legislative super-majorities. This is so, even though polls find a majority of the state’s voters favor stronger gun safety legislation and Nashville and other major cities have Democratically controlled mayors and city councils that also want stronger gun safety laws. Kathy Gilsinan provides an in-depth account of this political conflict (


Failure to strengthen gun laws in the aftermath of the Nashville mass killing

The Tennessee Republican legislators failed to act meaningfully on the Nashville school shooting. Marta W. Aldrich provides information on this aspect of the gun issue (

The day after the shooting, “thousands of Nashville students marched on the Tennessee State Capitol demanding urgent action to restrict guns. However, the Republican-dominated legislature did little to address their demands for meaningful gun safety laws.

The state Judiciary Committee had already passed a bill that would drop Tennessee’s legal age to carry a gun from 21 to 18. Another bill “would arm public school teachers and staff with a concealed handgun if they are willing, have a state-issued permit, and complete firearms training. Staff at Tennessee’s private schools already have that option if their administrators approve.”

Aldrich points out that proponents of gun control “support a so-called safe storage bill requiring people to secure any weapons they leave in vehicles and boats as a way to keep them from falling into the hands of criminals. That measure was deferred, too. And Democrats were in support of a plan “to create a so-called red flag law, similar to the one that passed in Florida after a 2018 shooting killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Then, eight days after the shooting in Nashville, a key legislative committee, the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Republican Todd Gardenhire, voted 7-2 along party lines to defer action on any gun-related legislation until 2024. Gun control advocates viewed the delay as “an affront to the memories of the six victims.”

The Republican state governor, Bill Lee, “invited lawmakers to bring him legislation that would prevent people who are in the midst of a mental health crisis from having access to weapons, as long as the measure would not impede Second Amendment rights.” He makes no mention of gun violence and the need to regulate guns.

Retribution, with racist elements

Emily Cochrane and Eliza Fawcett report on how the Tennessee Republican House dismissed two Black Democratic legislators (

The Tennessee House voted on Thursday [April 6] to expel two Democrats. Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, “one week after they interrupted debate by leading protesters in a call for stricter gun laws in the wake of a shooting that left six dead at a Christian school.”

“An effort to expel a third Democrat, Representative Gloria Johnson, who had stood by the two men in the front of the chamber and joined in the chants during the protest, fell short by one vote.” Johnson attributed this to the white color of her skin.

The expulsions of two of the state’s youngest Black representatives, carried out before lawmakers were scheduled to leave for the Easter weekend, were a stunning culmination to a week that saw the funerals for the six killed in the shooting, hundreds of students and teachers walking out of school to protest at the General Assembly, and a vitriolic debate in the legislature about democracy in the state.

As protesters flooded the Capitol again on Thursday, their chants of “Gun control now” and “Not one more” were deafening outside the House chamber. After the final vote, the crowds in the galleries burst into angry yells and cries of “Shame on you,” with fists held high above their heads.

Cochrane and Fawcett note, “The ousted lawmakers could run again for their seats. But their expulsions temporarily left over 140.000 residents in Memphis and Nashville without representation in the House of Representatives.”

Justifying the expulsions

Republicans called the protests for better gun control in Tennessee an ‘insurrection.’ It’s not the first time they’ve misused the term, according to Matthew Brown (

Brown considers how Tennessee Republican officials are attempting to delegitimate the Democratic representatives who protested the lack of action on gun control after the Nashville murders by calling them “insurrectionists” 

Here’s some of his analysis.

“On the morning of March 30, hundreds of protesters marched into the Tennessee Capitol calling for gun control legislation after a shooter killed six people, including three children, at a Nashville Christian school.

“When three state lawmakers interrupted debate over an education bill to lead demonstrators gathered in the chambers’ galleries in chants, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) recessed the body for just under an hour and ordered security to clear the assembly. The protesters, who were largely parents and students, committed no violence and no arrests or property damage took place at the Capitol, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

“But during an interview with a local radio station that evening, Sexton compared the actions of two of the lawmakers to Jan. 6 rioters, saying their behavior was ‘at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol.’

“Experts say the comparison is misguided and inaccurate. But the comments, which were echoed by others on the right such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, fit an evolving pattern of Republicans accusing Democrats of ‘insurrection’ even when the label doesn’t apply.

Republicans have not yet won the war against those who want meaningful gun regulation

Kathy Gilsinan makes this point (

Despite their relative success in voter suppression and an extensive pro-gun organizing and propaganda, Republicans have not convinced cities even in Republican-dominated states. This is true in Tennessee. But they have used their influence in rural areas, in some suburbs, and in smaller cities to enable Republicans to win elected state offices. Once in power, they move to reduce or eliminate gun regulations and allow guns to reach people without background checks, red-line laws, limits on access and ownership of guns, assault guns, and more. Gilsinan elaborates.

“…something happening all over the country, at every level of government, in which the preferences of voters often filter through representative bodies whose lopsided majorities don’t really represent the electorate of the state around them. In Tennessee’s case, the metro area of Nashville, its most populous city and the economic engine of the state, finds itself with little policy influence inside a gun-friendly Legislature, while also being the site of three anguishing mass shootings in just over five years: At a church, at a Waffle House, and now at a Christian school. But it’s not just a Nashville problem — public opinion across Tennessee actually favors some tightening of gun laws, even while the Legislature prior to the Covenant shooting was using the unassailable power of its supermajority to move in the opposite direction, notably with a law allowing people over 21 to carry a gun without a permit.”

Structural factors make gun reform increasingly difficult

Gilsinan posits that the structural incentives don’t favor meaningful run regulation. She quotes Pastor Tucker.

“‘To me, it follows a national narrative,’ Pastor Tucker told me on Tuesday. ‘We look at what’s happening in Florida; Texas; Jackson, Mississippi’ — all red states reflecting similar tensions with their blue cities, where state legislatures have struck at local control in their largest population centers — ‘all of those things are interconnected. … Whoever is in power becomes the gatekeeper of the tenets of democracy. But it appears that there are folks across this country, and here in Tennessee, willing to throw those things out the window.’”

It has become increasingly clear that “the metro area of Nashville, Tennessee’s most populous city and the economic engine of the state, finds itself with little policy influence inside a gun-friendly legislature,” one that has become dominated by Republicans who win elections in the rural areas of the state, in a gerrymandered political map that puts Democrats at severe electoral disadvantages.” Gilsinan continues: “Tennessee Republican legislators have “crafted one of the stricter voting regimes in the country — which includes permanent disenfranchisement for certain felons, a strict voter ID law (gun permits count, but college student IDs don’t), and a requirement to register at least 30 days before the election. (There is no waiting period for purchasing a gun.).”

Nonetheless, “metro-area residents do vote for Democrats: In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden notched nearly 65 percent in the county that includes Nashville, a five-point improvement over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing there.”

Greater Nashville, attractive to the tech industry and tourists, is the economic engine of the state, accounting for some 40 percent of the state’s GDP.

Gilsinan continues. “This political gap, combined with Nashville’s economic dominance, is a recipe for resentment. Especially because that gap is a product not only of Tennessee’s underlying conservatism, but also of policy decisions the Republican majority has made over time to entrench its dominance. As parties in power are wont to do, they’ve drawn themselves into safe legislative districts at the state and federal levels. ‘They’ve been stealing seats,’ said Charlane Oliver, a Democratic Nashville-area state senator and co-founder of the Equity Alliance which, among other things, works to increase Black voter turnout.”

The result

“It is absolutely easier to get a gun than to vote in Tennessee,” Charlane Oliver said.) Perhaps not coincidentally, Tennessee consistently ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in voter turnout. Trump beat Biden roughly 60-40 there in 2020 (compare that to Gore’s mere 3-point loss in 2000 for a measure of the state’s political shift), but a third of voters didn’t bother at all, and that was in a record year for Tennessee turnout. The state still ranked 46th in the nation for turnout that year.”

“In this case, the rural voters, they’re the tail wagging the dog,” said Lisa Quigley, who served as chief of staff to the Democratic congressman who held what was once the Nashville seat. “The dog is just a tiny puppy with a great big tail. And there’s three little tiny puppies now in Nashville.” At the federal level, Quigley said, “there’s no place Nashvillians have to go, with two Republican senators that are quite conservative and seen as very much on the right side of the right.”

Still, the exercise of supermajority Republican power may have exposed its limits: The unwitting result of turning protest leaders into national political martyrs, standing on principle for the safety of teachers and schoolchildren, is that the kinds of gun laws Tennessee Republicans have so far resisted might now actually have a chance.

Concluding thoughts

The Republican Party and other right-wing proponents continue to use their power and resources in support of maximum gun deregulation. So far, there are blue states that have laws that restrict some aspects of gun access and ownership. But the country is deeply divided on partisan grounds with no reconciliation in sight. If Trump or some other demagogic Republican wins the 2024 presidential election, the Party will no doubt follow the hard line of the National Rifle Association and create a nation-wide situation where there is little or no gun regulation. Indeed, at the NRA convention on April 14 and 15, Trump and other aspiring Republican presidential candidates promised to advance the “freedom” of gun owners by supporting unbridled access and ownership.

Jonathan Allen writes about what Trump said at the NRA conference on gun rights (

“‘I was proud to be the most pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment president you’ve ever had in the White House,’ Trump said to an audience that leapt to its feet, cheered and chanted ‘U-S-A’ when he was introduced. ‘And with your support in 2024, I will be your loyal friend and fearless champion once again as the 47th president of the United States.’”

“This is not a gun problem,” [Trump] added, as he batted cleanup for a long list of Republican officials and office seekers. “This is a mental health problem, this is a social problem, this is a cultural problem, this is a spiritual problem.”

“During his speech,” Allen writes, “Trump made several specific policy promises. He said he would prod Congress to pass legislation creating a national system of reciprocity to allow people to carry concealed weapons while visiting other states.

“He also said that he would establish a tax credit to subsidize gun purchases and training for teachers, and that he would direct the Food and Drug Administration to study the effects of transgender hormone therapy on ‘extreme depression, aggression and even violence.’”

“Noting that he [Trump] appointed three justices to a Supreme Court that has expanded gun rights, Trump also pledged to release a list of potential Supreme Court picks — as he did during his first two campaigns — before the general election in 2024.”

Withal, the fight isn’t over. One example of the resistance to the Republican guns-everywhere approach of the Republicans et. al. comes from Nashville, where,” as reported by Jake Johnson, reinstated Justin Johnson and fellow Democrat state Sen. Charlane Oliver filed a sensible gun bill on April 14 titled “Protect Kids Not Guns Act.” ( The bill

“…would, among other changes, ban the possession of large-capacity magazine, defined as ‘an ammunition-feeding device with capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.’ The Nashville shooter, who killed three young children and three adults at a Nashville Christian school last month, fired more than 150 rounds in a matter of minutes.

“The new legislation would also add restrictions on who can sell guns and require that Tennesseans under an extreme risk protection order—meaning they’re deemed a threat to themselves or others—immediately surrender all firearms and ammunition in their possession as well as any handgun carry permit to Tennessee authorities.

Perhaps such proposals from Democrats will gain political and electoral momentum, if an increasing number of citizens are encouraged to vote for Democrats as the trends in mass shootings and killings continue and as citizens learn that deaths from guns do down in states when guns are well regulated.

Right-wing attacks on public education

Bob Sheak, April 2, 2023

What is the value of public education?

The Center on Education Policy addresses the issue of “Why We Still Need Public Schools” (

The connection between public education and democracy was recognized by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others in the early years of the nation, though the public schools only took hold “because local people rather than politicians demanded them” “In the 1830s, the push for public education gained momentum when reformers like Horace Mann, secretary of the Massachusetts board of education, promoted the notion of the ‘common school.’ Such schools “would be publicly funded and locally governed and would offer a common curriculum to all [white] students” The reformers came to view “universal public education as a solution to a host of social problems. In their view, public schools would transform children into moral, literate, and productive citizens; eliminate poverty and crime; quell class conflict; and unify a population that was becoming more ethnically diverse.”

“By the late 19th century, public elementary schools were available to all children in nearly all parts of the country. And by 1918, all states had compulsory attendance laws requiring all children to attend school at least through the elementary level.” Public high school attendance did not become commonplace until the 20th century.

The education provided by existing schools was “far from equal.” Reformers then turned their attention from “access to equity.” Some schools fell short because of “poor leadership, ineffective teaching, or misplaced priorities. Others involved factors beyond the school, such as inadequate funding, lack of community support, or communities strained by poverty and social dysfunction.” The answer to such problems was and is to “encourage reforms that will help all schools live up to the public as well as the individual educational goals. Public schools must be accountable to citizens, but citizens must also be accountable to public schools. Americans can provide a model for their children of the virtues of a well-educated citizenry by supporting public education, engaging with their local schools and advocating for better and more equitable public education.”

Take the “public” out of public education

In contemporary America, the public missions of schools are being undermined and attacked by right-wing forces that reject or downplay concepts of “the public.” These include the Republican Party, Trump and his base, corporations – especially those that can make a profit out of owning charter schools and selling books and other instructional materials to school systems. They also give substantial effort to electing right-wing candidates to school boards.

In their new book, The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway critically analyze the idea of “market fundamentalism,” which insists “there is no ‘common good’ but only “a sum of all the individual private goods. Those who espouse market fundamentalism “reject government’s claims to represent ‘the people,’ arguing “there are only people – individuals – who represent themselves, and they do this most effectively not through their governments, even democratically elected ones, but through free choices in the market.”

From this viewpoint, education is best organized around notions of individual choice, and the preferred choices are said to be in potentially profitable alternatives to the public schools such as in charter schools, many of which are religious and/or profit-oriented, or vouchers, also allegedly giving parents a choice, or giving parents the option to educate their children at home. There is little or no government or professional oversight in these situations regarding who teaches, what is taught, what is accomplished, or in the books and other materials that are required.

Democracy requires an educated citizenry

Henry Giroux reminds us that “As theorists as diverse as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Maxine Greene have observed, democracy cannot exist without an educated citizenry. Wendy Brown states rightly that democracy ‘may not demand universal political participation, but it cannot survive the people’s wholesale ignorance of the forces shaping their lives and limning their future’ (

Randi Weingarten refers to why public schools are more than physical structures (

“They are the manifestation of our civic values and ideals: The ideal that education is so important for individuals and for society that a free education must be available to all. That all young people should have opportunities to prepare for life, college, career and citizenship. That, in a pluralistic society such as the United States, people with different beliefs and backgrounds must learn to bridge differences. And that, as the founders believed, an educated citizenry is essential to protect our democracy from demagogues.”

Illiberal democracy

The right-wing approach to education does not reject the idea that democracy can be strengthened through education, but they have their own version of democracy. Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economic commentator at the Financial Times, distinguishes between liberal and illiberal versions of democracy.

“The health of our society depends on a delicate balance  between the economic and the political, the individual and the collective, the national and the global. But that balance is broken…. We are no longer able to combine the operations of the market economy with stable liberal democracy….One symptom of this disappointment is….the possibility of informed and rational debate among citizens, the very foundation of democracy, has evaporated” (p. xix).

“For a liberal democracy to work, then, citizens must be entitled to express their opinions, and as citizens, and fellow citizens must be prepared to tolerate opinions they disagree with and the people who hold them” (p. 5). Furthermore, such opinions should be “informed,” that is rooted in information and evidence that has a verifiable factual basis.

Teachers play a crucial role when they are well trained, certified to determine they have acquired the relevant knowledge, held accountable for keeping up with advances in the methods and content of subject matter, and able to translate their training and knowledge into understandable instructional practices for their students, and do so empathically in classrooms of students from diverse backgrounds.

Teachers don’t do it alone

There are specialized teachers in reading and math who provide extra help to students who need it. There are librarians who make sure the library has age-appropriate books to open up and expand the student’s understanding of the world around them. There are nurses who are there when needed. There are staff in the lunch room, and government subsidized lunch and food programs for lower-income students. These are all public responsibilities that are often absent in alternative schools and in the homes of students. Last but hardly least, schools must be made safe in a societal context in which school shooting occur all too frequently.

Parents have a role

They can volunteer in schools. They can attend teacher-parent conferences or even the public meetings of school boards. They can offer ideas on how to make the schools more effective and can express their approval and/or disapproval with various aspects of their children’s education. But they cannot or should not be able to dictate what is taught or how it is taught. They can also express their views by meeting or contacting school officials, members of the board of educations, and and through voting. If given schools lack the resources to educate children well, then government should provide such resources.

A quick overview

In this post, I identify 8 ways in which right-wing forces are trying to subvert public education. To the extent they are successful, public education, one of the pillars of liberal democracy, will be severely compromised, The right-wing attacks on public education will leave an intellectual vacuum in the society allowing powerful right-wing forces to manipulate public opinion in anti-democratic ways and imbue schools with religious and racial biases that run counter to what is expected of citizens in a liberal democracy.

Multi-faceted attacks on public education

#1 – Expanding parent’s rights

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on March 24, 2023, named “The Parents Bill of Rights.” Lexi Lonas reports the same day on “5 things to know about the House GOP’s legislation


“The legislation was introduced by Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) and approved in a largely party-line vote, as Republicans argue parents deserve more transparency from their schools and more of a say in what their children are taught.” House Democrats opposed the legislation and “dubbed the legislation the ‘Politics Over Parents Act,’ arguing the bill does nothing to increase parental engagement in their children’s education and overburdens schools.” The legislation will not get support in the Democratically-controlled Senate or by President Biden. However, the House bill will be used by the GOP to send the message “that Democrats do not want parents involved in their children’s education.”

Lonas identifies “five things to know about the Parents Bill of Rights, what it does and what it signifies.” One of the goals is to increase transparency in school curriculum and make it more accessible to parents. Specifically, the bill “would obligate schools to share on a publicly available website information about the following: types of books in classrooms and libraries; the curriculum; how a school’s budget is spent; if academic standards change; and other information about a student’s education.” But, Lonas points out, “parents already have the right to review their children’s educational materials and raised concerns about the section requiring all books to be disclosed.” Among other concerns, Democrats fear the legislation “would make banning books easier.” Democratic amendments to prevent politicians from banning books easier were defeated. The Republican legislation also requires parent notification that deal with transgender students and restroom use or sports participation, name changes sought by a student or if they switch locker rooms.

During the debate over the bill, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said this: “Parental empowerment has everything to do with jamming the extreme MAGA Republican ideology down the throats of the children and the parents of the United States of America.”

The Department of Education suggested the House GOP has its attention on the wrong things.

“We’ll remain focused on giving our teachers a raise, investing in community schools that are designed to and have the resources to actually bring parents and the community into school to fully support students, and helping parents take time off to attend school meetings. We encourage House Republicans to step up and do the same, rather than waging another culture war that will only undermine our schools, families, and students,” said a spokesperson for the department.”

Jill Anderson provides some historical background on the issue of “parent rights” in an article published February 17, 2023 for Harvard EdCast (


#2 – Book bans hit record highs

Julia Conley reports on how “Progressives Slam House Passage of GOP Book Banning Bill That Turns Children Into ‘Pawns’” (

“Progressive lawmakers and education advocates on Friday condemned federal Republican lawmakers’ foray into the nationwide attack on people of color and the LGBTQ+ community as the GOP-led U.S. House passed the so-called Parents Bill of Rights Act—legislation that critics said is aimed at banning books and further ostracizing marginalized communities, while providing no improvements to children’s safety at school” or in providing additional resources for schools in poor and minority communities.

Conley points out that similar “parents’ rights” legislation has been passed “in at least six states and introduced in at least 26, the Parents Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 5). The legislation typically “claims it will protect public school students by requiring schools to make classroom curricula publicly available and provide parents with a list of reading materials in school libraries.”

“The legislation was passed a day after the American Library Association (ALA) released a report showing that a record-breaking 2,571 book titles were the subject of ‘challenges,’ or demands that they be removed from schools or public libraries, in 2022—a 38% increase from the previous year.”

In another article, Julia Conley reports on how “US Librarians Report Book Bans Hit Record High in 2022Common Dreams (

“Librarians from across the United States released a report showing that pro-censorship groups’ efforts to ban books with LGBTQ+ themes and stories about people of color have driven an unprecedented rise in the number of book challenges, with right-wing organizers pushing library workers to remove works ranging from the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale to children’s books about foods enjoyed in different cultures.”

Book banning is coordinated

“‘Each attempt to ban a book by one of these [pro-censorship] groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore,’ said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA [American Library Association] Office for Intellectual Freedom.

“The Office for Intellectual Freedom said that starting in 2021, a rising number of challenges began targeting large numbers of titles, suggesting they were coordinated efforts from national groups like Moms for Liberty. Previously, the vast majority of book challenges were focused on a single book to which a parent or group of parents objected.

“In 2022, 90% of the books challenged were part of attempts to censor multiple titles, the ALA reported.

“‘A book challenge is a demand to remove a book from a library’s collection so that no one else can read it. Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media,” said Caldwell-Stone.

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color.”

So far, the book-banning movement has not much influenced public opinion. Conley writes: “A poll commissioned by the EveryLibrary Institute last year found that 75% of respondents were opposed to efforts to ban books, and across 16 states last fall, a majority of initiatives to pull funding from libraries failed.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis is a leading proponent of book-banning in public schools

Sarah Mervosh delves into what DeSantis is doing in his state of Florida ( She writes:

“… in Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign against what he describes as ‘woke indoctrination’ in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Last year, his administration made a splash when it rejected dozens of math textbooks, citing ‘prohibited topics.’

Now, the state is reviewing curriculum in what is perhaps the most contentious subject in education: social studies.

“In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text — not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory.”

DeSantis “signed a law last year known as the Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which prohibits instruction that would compel students to feel responsibility, guilt or anguish for what other members of their race did in the past, among other limits.”

“The state’s guidelines for evaluating textbooks targets ‘critical race theory,’ a graduate-level academic theory that rarely appears in younger grades but has become a catchall to some conservatives; and social emotional learning,’ an approach that tries to help students develop positive mind-sets and that is viewed by the DeSantis administration as extraneous to core academics.”

“The Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group, has urged the state to reject 28 of the 38 textbooks that its volunteers reviewed, including more than a dozen by McGraw Hill, a major national publisher.

“The alliance, whose co-founders served on Mr. DeSantis’s education advisory team during his transition to governor, has helped lead a sweeping effort to remove school library books deemed as inappropriate, including many with L.G.B.T.Q. characters. It trained dozens of volunteers to review social studies textbooks.

“In a summary of its findings submitted to the state last month, the group complained that a McGraw Hill fifth-grade textbook, for example, mentioned slavery 189 times within a few chapters alone. Another objection: An eighth-grade book gave outsize attention to the ‘negative side’ of the treatment of Native Americans, while failing to give a fuller account of their own acts of violence, such as the Jamestown Massacre of 1622, in which Powhatan warriors killed more than 300 English colonists.” However, when all is said and done, white settlers and U.S. military forces did almost wipe out the Native American population by the end of the 19th century, and the U.S. does have a long history of slavery and racial violence and discrimination.


#3 – Politicizing what is taught

Kathiann M. Kowalski reports on one such example ( The issue is climate change, or the climate crisis, including a provision in an Ohio higher-ed bill [Senate Bill 83] that “would require instructors to teach ‘both sides’ on climate change. This is so despite the fact that there is virtual unanimity among climate scientists that climate change is real and accelerating. There is one side that is based on verifiable evidence while the other side rejects or disregards the evidence. There are not two credible sides, only one.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) addresses the question, “Do scientists agree on climate change?” The agency answers as follows.

“Yes, the vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Most of the leading science organizations around the world have issued public statements expressing this, including international and U.S. science academies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a whole host of reputable scientific bodies around the world. A list of these organizations is provided here.”

Disregarding the science, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act could bar Ohio colleges and universities “from teaching climate science without also including false or misleading counterpoints under a sprawling higher education bill that received its first hearing last week.” On this issue and others (e.g., abortion, immigration, and diversity, equity and inclusion), “public colleges and universities would need to guarantee that faculty and staff will ‘encourage and allow students to reach their own conclusions’ and ‘not seek to inculcate any social, political, or religious point of view.’”

Additionally, “The bill also includes provisions for annual reviews and reports, requirements for ‘intellectual diversity’ in recruiting invited speakers, disciplinary sanctions for interfering with that diversity, a prohibition against faculty strikes, and more.” That is, the legislation gives a privileged place to climate deniers such as apologists from the fossil fuel industry.


#4 – Banning critical race theory

Reshawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons give us insights on why many states are banning critical race theory (CRT)

Nov 2021 (

Basically, they write, CRT has become a new bogeyman for people unwilling to acknowledge our country’s racist history and how it impacts the present. They elaborate.

“To understand why CRT has become such a flash point in the culture, it is important to understand what it is and what it is not. Opponents fear that CRT admonishes all white people for being oppressors while classifying all Black people as hopelessly oppressed victims. These fears have spurred school boards and state legislatures from Tennessee to Idaho to ban teachings about racism in classrooms. However, there is a fundamental problem: these narratives about CRT are gross exaggerations of the theoretical framework. The broad brush that is being applied to CRT is puzzling to academics, including some of the scholars who coined and advanced the framework.

“CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race. Sociologists and other scholars have long noted that racism can exist without racists. However, many Americans are not able to separate their individual identity as an American from the social institutions that govern us—these people perceive themselves as the system. Consequently, they interpret calling social institutions racist as calling them racist personally. It speaks to how normative racial ideology is to American identity that some people just cannot separate the two. There are also people who may recognize America’s racist past but have bought into the false narrative that the U.S. is now an equitable democracy. They are simply unwilling to remove the blind spot obscuring the fact that America is still not great for everyone.

“Scholars and activists who discuss CRT are not arguing that white people living now are to blame for what people did in the past. They are saying that white people living now have a moral responsibility to do something about how racism still impacts all of our lives today. Policies attempting to suffocate this much-needed national conversation are an obstacle to the pursuit of an equitable democracy.”

Ray and Gibbons “did an assessment of anti-CRT state legislation.” Here’s what they found: “Nine states (Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, and North Dakota) have passed legislation. Arizona’s legislation was overturned in November by the Arizona Supreme Court.”

“The legislations mostly ban the discussion, training, and/or orientation that the U.S. is inherently racist as well as any discussions about conscious and unconscious bias, privilege, discrimination, and oppression. These parameters also extend beyond race to include gender lectures and discussions.”

“State actors in Montana and South Dakota have denounced teaching concepts associated with CRT. The state school boards in Florida, Georgia, Utah, and Alabama introduced new guidelines barring CRT-related discussions. Local school boards in Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia also criticized CRT.

“Nearly 20 additional states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation.

“The approach of some Republican-led state legislatures is a method for continuing to roll back racial progress regarding everything from voting rights to police reform. This is a horrible idea and does an injustice to our kids. Laws forbidding any teacher or lesson from mentioning race/racism, and even gender/sexism, would put a chilling effect on what educators are willing to discuss in the classroom and provide cover for those who are not comfortable hearing or telling the truth about the history and state of race relations in the United States.”

“Ultimately, we cannot employ colorblind ideology in a society that is far from colorblind. Everyone sees it, whether they acknowledge it consciously or not. systemic racism can explain racial disparities in police killings, COVID-19, and the devaluing of homes in Black neighborhoods. If we love America, we should want it to be the best it can be. Rather than run from the issue of racism in America, we should confront it head on. Our kids and country will be better for it.”


#5 – Diverting public funds away from public schools

David Dewitt reports in the Ohio Capital Journal on how “Ohio cheats taxpayers and public schools by funneling money to unaccountable private interests” (

“Many Ohioans pay taxes for schools but don’t have school-age children. Their taxes are meant to fund quality public schools because having educated citizens is a public good. Sending their money to unaccountable for-profit, private, and religious schools is a terrible abuse.

“Compelling taxpayers to support private interests at the expense of public ones is not only unethical, but unconstitutional when those private interests intertwine with religion. American taxpayers should never be forced to fund the efforts of religious institutions of any kind. Not one red cent.

The very first clause in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights is couched firmly in that defining principle. The entire basis for making “no law respecting an establishment of religion” the first clause was “Father of the Constitution” James Madison’s takedown of anti-Constitution Patrick Henry’s proposal to send taxpayer money to support religious institutions.

Nevertheless, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has put forward a budget proposal to expand school voucher subsidies that would send money to private, for-profit, and religious ventures. Prominent Ohio Republican Statehouse leaders appear to be on board.”

In an article published in the Columbus Dispatch on March 22, 2023, Maureen Reedy, a retired teacher after 30 years of teaching and former “Ohio Teacher of the Year, also takes issue with the Ohio school voucher program and argues it is “a runaway train that makes us all losers”

( She writes,

“Instead of pushing current legislation like Senate Bill 11 that could take one billion dollars from public schools to fund private and religious school vouchers, Ohio’s lawmakers need to uphold Ohio’s constitutional promise to keep public tax dollars out of private schools.” She makes the following points for her position.

#1 – “Most of us attended neighborhood public schools, which continue to be the schools of choice for our children and grandchildren. Our public schools are community hubs that educate over 90% (1.7 million) of Ohio’s children; students come together from all backgrounds to learn and build understanding and acceptance of others.”

#2 – “Public education in Ohio is a 172-year-old promise, created on the constitutional belief that public schools are the fundamental foundation for the public good; a necessary tool to build an educated democracy and sustainable futures for our children in these challenging times.”

#3 – “School vouchers violate the Ohio Constitution. That is why over 210 public school districts have filed the ‘Vouchers Hurt Ohio’ lawsuit challenging EdChoice Vouchers for their unconstitutional use of state school funds for private school tuition.

#4 – Ohio’s constitution has some of the strongest language in the country specifying that state funds are for public (common) schools only.

“The General Assembly … will secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state; but no religious or other sect, or sects, shall ever have any exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the school funds of this state,” Article VI, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution reads.

#5 – “Ohio’s first attempt at school vouchers began as a temporary pilot in 2006, and is now a refund and rebate school privatization program that reimburses families who never intended to send their children to public schools.”

#6 – “When we let vouchers siphon funds from our public schools, our kids do not have the resources they need to succeed, and that hurts us all. EdChoice Vouchers for private schools means more school levies and higher property taxes. State funding for private schools is not only unconstitutional, it is unsustainable for Ohio taxpayers.”

#7 – “Overall, Ohio’s public schools continue to outperform private voucher schools.”

#8 – “Public schools mirror the rising challenges of society today. Teachers are not just teaching, but also taking care of rising numbers of children in crises with mental and physical health challenges, which prevent them from learning. Instead of divesting in public education, Ohio needs to re-invest in our public schools.

Let’s face it. The only way to stop this runaway school voucher train is through a lawsuit.

The defunding efforts are not limited to Ohio. Randi Weingarten gives additional examples in an article referred to earlier; published on March 28, 2023 (

She is the president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators.

“This year alone, 29 state legislatures are considering bills to either create or expand existing voucher programs.[i] This is on top of the 72 voucher and tax credit programs in 33 states already subsidizing private and home schooling, costing billions every year.[ii] Voucher programs are proliferating even though research shows that, on average, vouchers negatively affect achievement—the declines are worse than pandemic learning loss. In fact, vouchers have caused “some of the largest academic drops ever measured in the research record.”

“Proponents of vouchers used to argue that they were a way for low-income and minority families to transfer out of low-performing schools. No longer. Today most vouchers go to families who already send their kids to private schools. And private schools are not required to follow most federal civil rights laws protecting students, so they can—and many do—discriminate, especially against LGBTQ students and students with special needs.

“The universal voucher program signed by Florida Gov. DeSantis yesterday will divert $4 billion from the state’s public schools. Florida ranks 44th in the nation in per pupil spending, and 48th in average teacher salaries. DeSantis is sending taxpayers’ dollars in the wrong direction.”


#6 – Pushing child labor

In an article published by Truthout on March 23, 2023, Tyler Walicek reports on how “Child Labor Is on the Rise as Republicans See an Answer to Labor Shortages” ( He writes: “Anti-immigrant policies and spiraling rates of poverty are driving thousands of children into the U.S. labor market.” It is not well publicized. Why? “Because the practice has long been obscured from view, recent exposures of its real scope have elicited public surprise. In the past year, journalistic and governmental investigations of Southern manufacturers turned up systematic violations, while in February, The New York Times published a powerful exposé that highlighted migrant children who’d been steered into grueling work in manufacturing and agriculture. Still, these were mere glimpses. In the last fiscal year alone, the Department of Labor discovered 835 companies illegally employing more than 3,800 minors.”

“Those figures are startling enough,” Walicek notes, “but the actual extent of legal U.S. child labor is truly vast. At present, enormous numbers of minors, many of them migrant children, are legally employed on U.S. farms, thanks to an underage-labor exemption unique to agriculture. With little regulation or oversight, for many, conditions there can be just as hazardous as in illegal employment — and estimates of the full count of U.S. child farm laborers run into the hundreds of thousands.”

“On one side of this equation lies families’ desperate poverty and inequality, worsened by inhumane immigration policies; on the other, the corporate drive to profit at any cost. To make matters worse, Republican lawmakers in multiple states are making concerted efforts to repeal child labor protections — serving, as they reliably do, the interests of business at the expense of the people. One would be hard-pressed to find a more contemptible indictment of the profit incentive under our current regime than the widespread immiseration of our society’s youngest and most vulnerable.”

The editorial board of the New York Times has written about the problem of child labor ( They give the following examples to reflect this concern. “

“In February, the Department of Labor announced that it had discovered 102 teenagers working in hazardous conditions for a company that cleans meatpacking equipment at factories around the country, a violation of federal standards. The minors, ages 13 to 17, were working with dangerous chemicals and cleaning brisket saws and head splitters; three of them suffered injuries, including one with caustic burns.

“Ten of those children worked in Arkansas, including six at a factory owned by the state’s second-largest private employer, Tyson Foods. Rather than taking immediate action to tighten standards and prevent further exploitation of children, Arkansas went the opposite direction. Earlier this month, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, signed legislation that would actually make it easier for companies to put children to work. The bill eliminated a requirement that children under 16 get a state work permit before being employed, a process that required them to verify their age and get the permission of a parent or guardian.”

“Echoing that philosophy, bills are moving through at least nine other state legislatures that would expand work hours for children, lift restrictions on hazardous occupations, allow them to work in locations that serve alcohol, or lower the state minimum wage for minors. The Labor Department says there has been a 69 percent increase since 2018 in the illegal employment of children.

“The response in these states is not to protect those children from exploitation, but instead to make it legal. Voters in these states may support deregulation, but they may not know that businesses can use these bills to work children harder, cut their wages and put them in danger. There is time for them to persuade lawmakers to say no to these abuses.”

Lawmakers in these states have been vigorously lobbied by industry groups who like the flexibility of teenage employees and say that more children are needed in the work force to make up for labor shortages. One of the principal lobbying organizations pushing these bills in several states is the National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative group that supports Republican candidates and has long opposed most forms of regulation, as well as the Affordable Care Act. It has issued news releases praising lawmakers for passing bills that let businesses hire more minors for longer hours, and taking credit for supporting these efforts.”

“The real target of these rollbacks is not after-school jobs at the corner hardware store; they will have a much bigger effect on a labor force that includes many unaccompanied migrant children who work long hours to make or package products sold by big companies like General Mills, J. Crew, Target, Whole Foods and PepsiCo. As a recent New York Times investigation documented, children are being widely employed across the country in exhausting and often dangerous jobs working for some of the biggest names in American retailing and manufacturing. (Several of those companies later told The Times that they would investigate any illegal practices and try to end them.)”

One of the worst bills, introduced by Republicans in Iowa, would allow 14-year-olds to work in industrial freezers, meat coolers and industrial laundries, and 15-year-olds to lift heavy items onto shelves. It is backed by, among others, the independent business federation, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group backed by Charles Koch, the industrialist who supported many national efforts to deregulate businesses.”


#7 – Promoting guns in the schools

BBC reports that there had been 131 mass shootings in 2023 through much of April (

Paul LeBlanc, CNN, delves into the problem (

“America reached the grim number by the first week of March – record time, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.”

“Americans are tired of fearing if they or their families will be the next victims of a mass shooting. Our children are tired of being told to ‘run, hide, and fight,’” said Kris Brown, president of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, an organization seeking to mitigate gun violence in the US.”

In 2022, modest bipartisan gun safety law was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Biden. “Last year’s bipartisan gun safety bill – which garnered the support of 14 Republicans in the House and 15 in the Senate – represented the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994. But it failed to ban any weapons and fell far short of what Biden and his party had advocated for – and what polls show Americans want to see,” that is, bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“Most of the public (66%) favored stricter gun laws, a July 2022 CNN poll found, with more than 4 in 10 saying that recently enacted gun legislation didn’t go far enough to change things.

“But many Republicans, who now control the US House, have cited a mental health crisis in the US as the reason for America’s gun violence problem, showing little interest in the government trying to regulate access to guns.”

“Mental health challenges grew throughout the pandemic and violence increased, but an analysis from researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that guns made those incidences significantly more deadly. Between 2019 and 2021, all of the increase in suicides and most of the increase in homicides was from gun-related incidences. The gun suicide rate increased 10% while the non-gun suicide rate decreased.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. is awash in guns.

“There are about 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. No other nation has more civilian guns than people. And about 44% of US adults live in a household with a gun, and about one-third own one personally, according to a November 2020 Gallup survey.”

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So, it is “unsurprising that the US has more deaths from gun violence than any other developed country per capita. The rate in the US is eight times greater than in Canada, which has the seventh highest rate of gun ownership in the world; 22 times higher than in the European Union and 23 times greater than in Australia, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation data from 2019.”


#8 – Hungry children don’t typically learn as well

Jake Johnson reports on March 20, 2023 with an analysis that warns about the ‘Punitive’ Republican Attacks on SNAP [that] Could Take Food Aid From 10 Million+ (

Republicans in the U.S. Congress are doing this, despite the fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the food subsidy program is

successful at reducing poverty and food insecurity and should be both protected this year from cuts and be strengthened.”

The CBPP analysis released “estimates that more than 10 million people across the United States—including 4 million children—would be at risk of losing food benefits if the GOP’s proposed attacks on federal nutrition assistance become law.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analysis focuses specifically on legislation introduced last week by Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), who wants certain recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to face even more strict work requirements than they do under current law.

“Adults aged 18 through 49 without children in their homes can receive benefits for only three months out of every three years, unless they can document they are working or participate in a qualifying work program at least 20 hours a week or prove they are unable to work,” note CBPP’s Katie Bergh and Dottie Rosenbaum.

“If passed, Johnson’s bill would raise the age ceiling for the strict work requirements from 49 to 65, a move that Bergh and Rosenbaum argue would endanger food benefits for both the adults specifically targeted by the law and those in their households.

“Adults between the ages of 18 and 65 and without disabilities would be subject to the work requirements and benefit time limits “unless they have a child under age 7 in their home,” CBPP points out.

“Research has demonstrated repeatedly that work requirements do virtually nothing to boost employment, undercutting the GOP’s stated rationale for attempting to expand them year after year.

“A total of more than 10 million people, about 1 in 4 SNAP participants, including about 4 million children, live in households that would be at risk of losing food assistance under the Johnson bill, based on our preliminary estimates,” Bergh and

Rosenbaum write.

“People who would face the loss of benefits, according to CBPP, include “some 3 million adults up to age 65, primarily parents or grandparents, who live in households with school-age children.” Those millions of children “would see their household’s food assistance fall if their parents or other adults in the family aren’t able to meet” the Johnson measure’s work requirements, the analysis notes.”

“Additionally, the Johnson bill—which currently has 24 Republican co-sponsors—would potentially strip food benefits from ‘about 2 million older adults aged 50 to 64 who do not have children in their homes” as well as adults who happen to live in areas with higher levels of unemployment, making it more difficult to find and hold a job.’”

Facing criticism for failing to keep pandemic-related SNAP expansions alive, Democrats in the House and Senate have pledged to oppose any food assistance cuts going forward.

“The SNAP program provides food assistance for more than 41 million Americans, including children, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities,” said Stabenow.


Concluding thoughts

The attacks on the public schools are part of a larger attack on liberal democracy. In the final analysis, they want to shrink the availability of public schools at all levels. They do not want an educated citizenry, but rather a citizenry that is ideologically pacified, goes along with racist and gender-discriminating curricula, and favors a right-wing evangelical ethic.

Many teachers are responding by leaving the profession. Anna Merod reports in a Feb. 1, 2023 article that 63% of educators now consider leaving the profession

( Matt Barnum reports that “teacher turnover hits new highs across the U.S.


Many other teachers and their supporters are fighting for better benefits and schools and going on strike to achieve such goals. Jack Schneider, an award-winning education scholar, and Jennifer Berkshire, a freelance journalist and host of an education podcast, include a chapter on the war on teachers’ unions in their book titled A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door. They analyze the increase in teachers’ strikes that began in West Virginia in February of 2018, when “twenty-thousand teachers’ walked out en masse in a one-day work stoppage” that “soon spread to all fifty-five counties…and from there to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona” (p. 44). “By the end of 2019, some 645,000 teachers had participated in some kind of labor action.” (p. 44). Since, then teachers in West Virginia walked out again – this time over school privatization.” (p. 45). By this time, teachers were “the most unionized profession in America” (p. 50). They have struck against government funding for non-public schools, for  protection against arbitrary firings, for higher wages, for lower class sizes.

Jessica Corbett reports on a recent strike victory by teachers in Los Angeles ( Union negotiators for SEIU Local 99 “struck a historic deal [on March 21,2023] with the second-largest district in the United States on Friday after a three-day strike.”

Much of the public support the teachers. For example, Sharon Zhang reports that  “nearly 8 in 10 Voters Support Sen. Bernie Sanders Bill to Raise Minimum Teacher Pay to $60k” (

And some states are extending school nutrition programs. Kenny Stancil reports on March 18, 2023, that Minnesota became the 4th state to provide free school meals to all Kids ( 

“During Friday’s signing ceremony, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (DFL) said, ‘To our decision-makers who believe they have never met someone who is experiencing or has experienced hunger: Hi, my name is Peggy Flanagan, and I was 1 in 6 of those Minnesota children who experienced hunger.’

“‘By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunch room,’ said Flanagan. “We are helping family pocketbooks, especially for those 1 in 4 who don’t qualify for financial assistance with school meals. We are leading with our values that no child should go hungry for any reason, period.’

“‘This is an investment in the well-being of our children, as well as an investment in their academic success,’ Flanagan added, calling the ‘generation-changing bill ‘the most important thing’ she’s ever worked on in her life.”

The attacks on public education are doing harm, but they are being contested.

Right-wing calls for violence against opponents

Bob Sheak, March 15, 2023


The purpose of this post is to gather evidence that Trump, the Republican Party and their supporters are encouraging if not perpetrating violence in their mission to win control of the White House, both branches of the U.S. Congress, and states across the country. They now have the support of the cult-like support of Trump’s massive electoral base and, additionally, much of the corporate community, right-wing media, and the Supreme Court. They pose systemic threats to U.S. democracy. This analysis is hardly uplifting, but it is one element (verifiable evidence) in a larger, multifaceted process of trying to save democracy. With all its flaws, the Democratic Party is presently the only viable alternative with respect to domestic policies and affairs.

Trump’s CPAC speech, a call to arms?

John Hendrickson reports for The Atlantic magazine on March 4, 2023 on The CPAC [Conservative PAC] conference, focusing on Trump’s nearly two-hour speech ( Hendrickson offers this summary of the former president’s speech and the violent implications.

“Tonight’s address was among the darkest speeches he has given since his ‘American carnage’ inaugural address. Trump warned that the United States is becoming ‘a nation in decline’ and a ‘crime-ridden, filthy communist nightmare.’ He spoke of an ‘epic battle’ against ‘sinister forces; on the left. He repeatedly painted himself as a martyr, a tragic hero still hoping for redemption. ‘They’re not coming after me; they’re coming after you, and I’m just standing in their way,’ Trump told the room. He pulled out his best, half-hearted Patton: ‘We are going to finish what we started. We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to see this battle through to ultimate victory.’ He was heavy on adjectives, devastating with nouns. ‘We will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all,’ he said.” In similar violent-provoking language, he promised to totally obliterate the ‘deep state.’”

“The audience, largely composed of Trump loyalists, hooted and repeatedly yelled ‘U-S-A!’ A brief selection of the hats dotting the hallways outside the Potomac Ballroom: maga, ’merica, let’s go brandon, trump won, we the people are pissed.” Trump won the CPAC straw poll “with 62 percent of the vote, crushing his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who received 20 percent.”


Trump’s power rests on his loyal electoral base

Trump’s political power in the Republican Party is based on his electoral base of millions of voters, perhaps at present representing 30-40% of the Republican electorate. Without its support, Trump’s power disappears. In a post sent out on February 6, 2021, I described his base as follows.


Trump has served to unify disparate right-wing forces into an unquestioning populist base of support for him. This populous base includes advocates of unfounded and conspiratorial views of society, some committed to the use of violent methods to achieve their goals, along with overlapping special interest groups devoted to maximum gun rights, closed borders, Christian nationalism, white supremacy, those who question the reality of the pandemic refuse to wear masks and are angered by the lockdowns, and those opposed to covid-19 vaccines.

This is a population that generally takes Trump’s word as definitive, while rejecting the views and evidence from scientists, experts, the “dark state” of government civil servants, and the “fake news.” Emotions and ideology trump evidence. Indeed, some see Trump as chosen by God. They love his admonitions invoking “law and order” and his disparaging statements on the “black lives matter” movement and immigration. And, of course, his continues to rant about “the big steal,” referring to his misbegotten, unsubstantiated, view that he won the 2020 presidential election and did so by many millions of votes.

The nationalistic “America First” rhetoric of Trump leads his base to think that his policies are bringing back American businesses from abroad or keeping such businesses from outsourcing their businesses to other countries. It also likely makes them feel patriotic, the true and only patriots. Meanwhile, imports to the United States continue to soar. In line with such sentiments, many of the Trump supporters accept the idea that the Democrats are “radical socialists” and electing them will take the country down a path where all individual “freedoms” are lost.

Many of Trump’s base are motivated less by economic distress than by ideological commitments and special interests. Robert A. Pape, political-science professor at the University of Chicago and Keven Ruby, Senior research associate of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, find that “a closer look at the people suspected of taking part in the Capitol riot suggests a different and potentially far more dangerous problem: a new kind of violent mass movement in which more ‘normal’ Trump supporters—middle-class and, in many cases, middle-aged people without obvious ties to the far right—joined with extremists in an attempt to overturn a presidential election” (


In an article for The Atlantic magazine on March 7, 2023, investigative journalist Barton Gellman, considers the continuing right-wing attacks on election officials in Maricopa County, Arizona, with references to evidence on how widespread support is for the big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump and how election officials who certified the electoral college votes of their states have been harassed or attacked by Trump supporters


“More than a third of Republicans are still hard-core Trump supporters, and nearly two-thirds still believe the 2020 election was rigged.”

“According to a fall 2022 survey by the nonpartisan Democracy Fund, one in four election officials has experienced threats of violence because of their work. In the largest jurisdictions, that number increases to two out of three.”


Malcom Nance, a globally renowned, highly engaging expert on terrorism, extremism, and insurgency and best-selling author, offers the following description of Trump’s electoral base in his book titled They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency (publ. 2022).

“The Trump worshipping base has become an openly fascist movement. It endangers the nation with near constant threats to take up arms and create political instability through violence. The goals of TITUS [Trump Insurgency in the United States] are not just to alter and coopt the national dialogue but to dismantle the framework of government and the Constitution itself. They openly advocate the destruction of America’s diversity, multiculturalism, and equality. They continue to demand that an unelected dictator be put back into office. They want a strongman who will impose the will and ideology of forty million misguided people over the voices and lives of all other Americans” (p. 241).


Right-Wing acceptance and promotion of and/or engagement in violence: Some examples

#1 – January 6 Was a Dress Rehearsal. Now the GOP Readies for 2024

Author of 25 books and talk-show host Thom Hartmann explains in an article published on March 7, 2023, what the Republicans and their grassroots allies are doing in attempts, sometimes violent or violent precipitating, to ensure the 2024 elections, particularly the presidential election, are won by right-wing Republican candidates ( Hartmann argues that the full impact of their efforts will not be felt all at once, but only gradually as one anti-democratic “success” is followed by others.

“With few exceptions,” Hartmann writes, “they are systematically destroying American democracy with the clear objective of replacing it with strongman authoritarianism, a new and American version of what Benito Mussolini called fascism” [a one-party, authoritarian state melding together state and corporate power]. Hartmann gives a host of examples to illustrate his view. Here are some of his examples. The right-wing is:

Infiltrating police departments and the enlisted ranks of the military

Gerrymandering states so regardless of how people vote, Republicans control the levers of power

Building media structures that will support the authoritarian takeover when it happens

Organizing armed paramilitary militias, with back-channel connections to local police

Radicalizing average Americans through social media and an ever-growing network of hard-right radio shows and podcasts

Gradually, then suddenly

Consistent with the other evidence, Hartmann offers his thoughts on what Trump and Congressional Republicans would do if they should win the 2024 elections. Here are a few of his points.

“Trump had previously proclaimed his desire to change the nation’s libel and slander laws so he could sue or imprison his political opponents and those in the media who opposed him; if he had succeeded on January 6th, that would have happened by now, and people like me (and maybe you) would be in jail.

“Trump had previously promised his violent partisans that he’d pardon them and pick up their legal fees; if he’d held onto the White House…”

“If Republicans held a large enough majority in Congress, a constitutional convention like rightwing billionaires have been promoting and annually rehearsing in Washington, DC would be underway to rewrite our founding document. The right of all Americans to vote, separation of church and state, civil rights, protections of free speech and assembly, the right to due process and equal protection under the law, even the obscure Emoluments Clause would all be on the chopping block.”

“Trump-friendly corporations would be running political purges reminiscent of the Republican ‘Red Scare’ and ‘Blacklist’ of the 1950s all across the country as social media accounts were examined for evidence of “leftist” leanings….

“Private prisons would expand to take in the hundreds of thousands of people arrested protesting in the streets or for speaking out on social media. For most Americans who voted Republican or were completely apolitical, though, life would go on as normal….

“A handful of high-profile progressive politicians would have been assassinated or survived assassination attempts; the police and the FBI, however, would have been as clueless about their killers (or complicit) as they were about 10,000 people planning to storm the Capitol and assassinate the Vice President and Speaker of the House on January 6th.”

Hartmann argues there is no compromising with Trump and his right-wing allies

“They are building their power and their organizations right now; armed paramilitary groups are expanding across the country as the GOP has become so radicalized that they even proclaim Liz Cheney as their enemy.

“Billionaire-owned media properties like Fox ‘News’ and hate-talk radio push naked lies to their viewers and listeners — all to make a buck and consolidate their political power — with no loss of audience.

“And they’re packing our courts with young, hardcore rightwing ideologues.

Republicans are openly preparing for a second Civil War, calling for a “national divorce.”

“Reuters did a major and shocking report on how police forces, presumably sympathetic to local neofascist elements, refuse to even investigate death threats against elections officials and Democratic politicians.”

In short: “January 6th was a rehearsal; they’re now planning 2024. Coups build to an explosive tipping point, then suddenly appear as a fait accompli.

Unless we stop them in-process, this may be our last chance.


#2 – The explosion of white-supremacist’s propaganda to all-time high

Rebecca Beitsch reports on this unsettling trend ( She writes:

“The United States saw its highest-ever distribution of white supremacist propaganda last year, jumping 38 percent, according to data collected by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“The group recorded 6,751 incidents of propaganda activity in 2022 — a jump from 4,876 in 2021 that the ADL attributed to growth in the number of white supremacist groups and their membership.

“‘There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans and have significantly stepped up their use of propaganda as a tactic to make their presence known in communities nationwide,’ Jonathan Greenblatt, president of ADL, said in a statement alongside the report.

“Three white supremacist groups — Patriot Front, Goyim Defense League and White Lives Matter — were responsible for 93 percent of this year’s activity, which includes banners, posters and events.

“Much of that content was specifically antisemitic in nature, with ADL noting that such propaganda surged from 352 incidents in 2021 to 852 incidents last year.

“The uptick in antisemitic propaganda “was largely due to [Goyim Defense League’s] growth and their initiation of propaganda campaigns. The formation of several new antisemitic white supremacist groups in 2022 also contributed to the rise in antisemitic incidents,” ADL found.

“The spikes come as national security leaders have repeatedly warned that white supremacists extremists are an increasingly large share of the domestic violent extremists in the U.S.

““Racially motivated violent extremism, specifically of the sort that advocates for the superiority of the white race, is a persistent, evolving threat,’ FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers last year.

“‘It’s the biggest chunk of our racially motivated violent extremism cases for sure. And racially motivated violent extremism is the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism portfolio,’ he added.”

House Republicans refuse to denounce the white supremacy and “great replacement” theory that fuels right-wing violence

Julia Conley reports on this issue ( She quotes what Jamie Raskin told his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Led by ranking member Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrats on the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee this week warned that Republicans doubled down on ‘a dangerous lie’ when they refused to back a statement denouncing white supremacy.”

Raskin (D-Md.) was joined by all 20 Democrats on the committee in signing a brief, straightforward statement condemning “white nationalism and white supremacy in all its forms, including the ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory,” which claims that white Americans are intentionally being “replaced” by people of color, particularly through immigration policy.

“These hateful and dangerous ideologies have no place in the work of the United States Congress or our committee,” reads the statement.

Raskin sent the statement along with a letter to committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), saying he was driven to call on his 26 Republican colleagues to sign on to the statement after the panel held a hearing in February titled “On the Front Lines of the Border Crisis.”

In that hearing, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) asked whether immigrants arriving in the U.S. via the southern border are “changing our culture” and both Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) claimed an “invasion” by migrants and asylum-seekers is taking hold at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In his letter to Comer, Raskin noted that he had explained to the chairman at the hearing that “such language borrows from the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, the central dogma of contemporary white supremacy,” and that the theory has been invoked by white nationalists who have committed deadly acts of domestic terrorism in Buffalo, New YorkEl Paso, Texas; and Pittsburgh.

Republican lawmakers including Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have also alluded to the theory in their attacks on Democratic immigration policy.

Presented with the facts about the rise of white supremacy in the U.S. at the hearing and in Raskin’s letter, Comer and the committee’s other Republicans refused to sign the statement. Raskin wrote:

“On June 8, 2022, following the racially motivated Tops Supermarket mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, House Democrats passed H. Res. 1152, a resolution to condemn the ‘Great Replacement’ theory and affirm the commitment of the People’s House to combating white supremacy and race hatred,’ wrote Raskin. ‘Despite then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s acknowledgment that white supremacy and white nationalism are ‘definitely not American,’ not a single House Republican voted in favor of the resolution.’”


#3 – Mass shootings are up

CNN journalist Paul LeBlanc reviews evidence on “mass shootings” in America during the first months of 2023 and the relative lack of government action on gun control (

The evidence on the number of mass shootings

“The US has surpassed 100 mass shootings in 2023, a disturbing milestone that underscores the grave cost of inaction in Washington and state legislatures across the country.

“America reached the grim number by the first week of March – record time, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, which, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

“Last year, the US hit 100 mass shootings on March 19, per the GVA, almost two weeks after this year’s date. The previous year, 2021, saw a late March date as well, and from 2018 to 2020, there weren’t 100 mass shootings until May.”

Many Americans falsely believe that more guns mean more safety

Almost a third of US adults believe there would be less crime if more people owned guns, according to an April 2021 Pew survey. However, multiple studies show that where people have easy access to firearms, gun-related deaths tend to be more frequent, including by suicide, homicide and unintentional injuries.”

The U.S. tops similar countries in the extent of gun ownership

“There are about 120 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. No other nation has more civilian guns than people. And about 44% of US adults live in a household with a gun, and about one-third own one personally, according to a November 2020 Gallup survey.

More gun violence and mass shootings in US than in other comparable countries

“It is… perhaps unsurprising that the US has more deaths from gun violence than any other developed country per capita. The rate in the US is eight times greater than in Canada, which has the seventh highest rate of gun ownership in the world; 22 times higher than in the European Union and 23 times greater than in Australia, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation data from 2019.”

There is little being done by the federal government – or at any level of government – to address the problem seriously.

“Last year’s bipartisan gun safety bill – which garnered the support of 14 Republicans in the House and 15 in the Senate – represented the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994. But it failed to ban any weapons and fell far short of what Biden and his party had advocated for – and what polls show Americans want to see.” And, LeBlanc adds that there has been little momentum since then toward additional gun-control legislation.

“‘Although fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries are growing, no real legislative response has followed acts of gun violence in support of individuals or the communities in which they live. And there is scant proof that prevention measures, such as active shooter drills, have reduced actual harm,’ Mark S. Kaplan, a professor of social welfare at UCLA, told CNN.”

There are potential solutions

“There are real solutions and tools – including bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – available now that can make a difference, but only if our elected officials act to implement them,” Kaplan added.

“Yet America’s relationship to gun ownership is unique, and its gun culture is a global outlier, complicating legislative efforts.”

Withal, the fight for reasonable gun ownership continues

“Gun violence activism has become a central plank of Democratic politics, with President Joe Biden repeatedly lamenting Congress’ inability to pass ‘common sense’ measures after multiple mass shootings this year.”

“Most of the public (66%) favored stricter gun laws, a July 2022 CNN poll found, with more than 4 in 10 saying that recently enacted gun legislation didn’t go far enough to change things.”


#4 – Trump, Republicans, and their allies are trying to re-write the violent history of the January 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol as peaceful

A friendly, site seeing tour?

Chris McGreal examines the Republicans attempt to “reframe January 6 as a sightseeing tour,” despite the overwhelming evidence compiled by the House January 6 Select Committees, which documents that it was a violent attack on the Nation’s Capital in an unlawful, violent, destructive and seditious attempt to reverse a long-established, constitutional practice of certifying the 2020 presidential election (

Now in control of the House, Republicans are making light of the violence of that day and assailing the investigation into the Capitol attack. Fox News star Tucker Carlson is also selectively commenting on the videos from the Jan.6 Select Committee. Note that House majority leader Kevin McCarthy give Carlson sole possession of the Committee’s tapes.  

Amanda Marcotte argues that both have failed – so far (

“I don’t want to speak too soon, but so far, the Republican noise machine has been — dare I say? — underwhelming. Last week was supposed to be a banner week for the two biggest propaganda initiatives started by McCarthy’s caucus. However, the efforts went over like a wet fart in both cases.

“First, Tucker Carlson of Fox News attempted to rewrite the January 6 insurrection with supposedly previously unseen footage of the riot. But even within Republican circles, there’s a palpable sense of disappointment. This was supposed to be the blockbuster release of dazzling right-wing propaganda, but it’s got the same vibe as the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale. 

“Then there is Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio’s “weaponization of federal government” committee. No one of good faith believed that the Jordan committee’s hearing about the so-called “Twitter files” last week would produce any damning evidence against Democrats. (Plenty of evidence of Donald Trump using his power to suppress speech has been unearthed, but of course, none of that bothers the supposed free speech warriors of the right.)  But the big surprise was how boring the whole thing was. The conspiracy theories lacked imagination. Republican fake outrage was low energy, too.”

Nonetheless, the efforts of right-wing Republicans and Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson will undoubtedly continue. Their attempts to rewrite the history of that day as a largely a peaceful assemblage of citizens peacefully protesting an alleged rigged 2020 presidential election will go on. They will continue promoting Trump’s “big lie.”

The evidence on Jan. 6 tells a different story

The January 6 Report by the House January 6th Committee (U.S. Government Publishing Office: 2022).  Here are some relevant facts and excepts from the report.

“On June 30th [2022], “the House voted on H. Res 503 to establish a 13-Member Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol by a vote of 222 Yeas and 190 Nays with just two Republicans supporting the measure: Representative Liz Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger” (p. 130).

The Committee conducted nine public hearings, “presenting testimony from more than 70 witnesses,” including “nearly all of the President’s principal advisers” (p. 3). “In all, the Committee displayed the testimony of more than four dozen Republicans – by far the majority of witnesses in our hearings – including two of President Trump’s former attorney generals, his former White House Counsel, numerous members of the White House staff, and the highest-ranking members of his campaign general counsel. Even key individuals who worked closely with President Trump to try to overturn the 2020 election on January 6th ultimately admitted they had lacked evidence sufficient to change the election itself, and they admitted that what they were attempting was unlawful” (p. 4).

The report also notes this: “more than 60 Federal and State courts rejected President Trump’s and his supporters’ efforts to reverse the electoral outcome” (p. 3).

Hardly peaceful

Wikipedia has put together summaries of the evidence of the attempted insurrection on casualties, suicides, and damage to the Capitol buildings



“Some rioters[l] and 138 police officers (73 Capitol Police and 65 Metropolitan Police) were injured,[25] of whom 15 were hospitalized, some with severe injuries.[26] All had been released from the hospital by January 11.[431]


“Morale among the Capitol Police plummeted after the riot.[432] The department responded to several incidents where officers threatened to harm themselves.[432] Four officers from various police departments who responded to the attack committed suicide in the days and months that followed:[433] Capitol Police Officer Howard Charles Liebengood died by suicide three days after the attack,[434] and D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Jeffrey Smith, who was injured in the attack, died by suicide from a gunshot wound to the head at George Washington Memorial Parkway on January 15, after a misdiagnosed concussion. A former D.C. chief medical examiner hired by Smith’s widow reported that the “acute, precipitating event that caused the death of Officer Smith was his occupational exposure to the traumatic events he suffered on January 6, 2021”;[435][89] Smith’s widow subsequently sued two of his alleged assailants, claiming they caused a traumatic brain injury with a crowbar or a heavy walking stick, leading to his death.[436] In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some members of Congress and press reports included these two suicides in the number of reported casualties, for a total of seven deaths.[437] In July, two more members of law enforcement who responded to the attack died by suicide: Metropolitan Police Officer Kyle Hendrik DeFreytag was found on July 10, and Metropolitan Police Officer Gunther Paul Hashida was found on July 29.[438]


“The rioters caused extensive physical damage.[6][17] Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, who leads the office charged with maintaining the Capitol and preserving its art and architecture, reported in congressional testimony from late February 2021 that the combined costs of repairing the damage and post-attack security measures (such as erecting temporary perimeter fencing) already exceeded $30 million and would continue to increase.[19] In May 2021, U.S. prosecutors estimated that the damage would cost almost $1.5 million.[448] [A later estimate on April 8, 2022 put the property damage at $2.73 billion.] Interior damage from the riot included broken glass, broken doors, and graffiti; as well as defecation[449] throughout the complex, on the floor and smeared on the walls; some statues, paintings, and furniture were damaged by pepper spray, tear gas, and fire extinguishing agents deployed by rioters and police.[16][19]

The historic bronze Columbus Doors were damaged.[19][450] Items, including portraits of John Quincy Adams and James Madison, as well as a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, were covered in “corrosive gas agent residue”; these were sent to the Smithsonian for assessment and restoration.[359] A 19th-century marble bust of President Zachary Taylor was defaced with what seemed to be blood, but the most important works in the Capitol collection, such as the John Trumbull paintings, were unharmed.[16][442] On the Capitol’s exterior, two 19th-century bronze light fixtures designed by Frederick Law Olmsted were damaged.[16] Because the Capitol has no insurance against loss, taxpayers will pay for damage inflicted by the siege.[443] 

#5 – The politicization of private life, a step toward totalitarianism

In an article for The Nation magazine published on Feb. 3, 2023, Chris Lehmann posits that the GOP today has become the totalitarian force it claims to oppose

( Lehmann is the D.C. Bureau chief for The Nation and a contributing editor at The Baffler. He was formerly editor of The Baffler and The New Republic, and is the author, most recently, of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream (Melville House, 2016). Here, he refers to the present relevance of Hannah Arendt’s classic analysis of totalitarianism, which leave the individual defenseless against an all-powerful state and the propaganda it propagates. Lehman continues:

“Whatever else the Trumpian right may be, it is not at all squeamish about the politicization of private life. Intellectual historian Robert Westbrook, the Joseph F. Cunningham Emeritus professor of history at the University of Rochester, contends that the cultural right is pursuing its own version of “Gleichschaltung—the Nazi program for coordination, which meant at every level, society would be nazified.”

“The right’s intellectual vanguard is now making that case in more and more explicit authoritarian terms, Westbrook notes: ‘The national conservatives, the intellectual wing of Trumpism… they’re promoting a program for reconstructing the entire society through culture and turning it into a Catholic [evangelical? Christian nationalist?] authoritarian social order.’

“The Trump movement did not conjure this movement into being, but it has served as a powerful accelerant. The Reagan coalition was an often-tense shotgun marriage between culture warriors broadly aligned with the evangelical right and the GOP’s business establishment. Trump and his followers have cleared the way for that marriage’s annulment, as invasive culture war rhetoric and policy-making have become the principal calling cards of right-wing politics. Trump’s own ongoing assault on the electoral structure of our democracy is itself a brand of culture warfare, with sinister election workers and voting-machine makers undermining the rightful pride of place accorded to white nationalist rule in the American system.”


#6 – Supporting capital punishment for those who have abortions

South Carolina Bill to Execute People Who Have Abortions Gets Support From 21 Republicans

Julia Conley reports March 14, 2023 in an article for Common Dreams on “a new pro-forced pregnancy proposal in the South Carolina General Assembly that would make people who obtain abortion care eligible for the death penalty” (

Conley gives this background. “Proposed by state Rep. Rob Harris, the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023 would amend the state’s criminal code to give a zygote, or fertilized egg, ‘equal protection under the homicide laws of the state’—meaning obtaining an abortion could be punishable by the death penalty.” There is no exception in the bill “for people whose pregnancies result from rape or incest, and political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen noted its language is vague enough to suggest that some people who suffer miscarriages could become eligible for the death penalty.”

“The exceptions provided by Harris include only people who are “compelled” by others to have an abortion against their will or people whose continued pregnancies carry the threat of “imminent death or great bodily injury,” although numerous cases since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v.

Wade have demonstrated how exceptions to protect a pregnant person’s life often put their safety at risk.”

“Harris and his co-sponsors—seven of whom have requested to have their names removed from the legislation as it’s garnered national attention—are just the latest policymakers to propose punishments for people who obtain abortions. Alabama’s attorney general said in January that residents should be prosecuted for taking abortion pills, and former President Donald Trump said as a presidential candidate in 2016 that ‘there has to be some form of punishment’ for abortion patients before walking back the statement.”

Conley points out that executing women is not fringe GOP but mainstream, “with 21 state Republicans backing the legislation.”


The Biden administration recognizes the threat

On September 15, 2022, the Biden White House held “The United

We Stand Summit: Taking Action to Prevent and Address Hate-Motivated Violence and Foster Unity” ( It’s goal is

“to counter the corrosive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety.” It also wants to “honor the resilience of communities who are healing from hateful attacks, including mass shootings, from Oak Creek to Orlando, Charleston, Pittsburgh, El Paso, Atlanta, Buffalo, and beyond.

In addition, the Summit aimed at putting forth “a shared vision for a more united America, demonstrating that the vast majority of Americans agree that there is no place for hate-fueled violence in our country, and that when Americans stand united to renew civic bonds and heal divides, we can help prevent acts of hate and violence. Today’s Summit is just the beginning of this work, and every American has a role to play in this cause.”

“The White House is announcing a historic package of new actions the federal government, civic, faith, philanthropic, and business leaders will take to address hate-fueled violence and advance national unity:

“The President will announce new agency actions to strengthen the federal government’s coordination and community engagement to prevent, respond to, and recover from hate-fueled violence.

Federal agencies are announcing new steps to strengthen the resources available to local schools, law enforcement agencies, and cultural institutions like museums and libraries to prevent and respond to hate-fueled violence.

“Bipartisan former White House officials will launch, a Citizens’ Initiative to Address Hate-Fueled Violence in America, to foster dialogue in communities across the country and identify solutions to address hate-fueled violence. The Citizens’ Initiative will be coordinated by four former Directors of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Republican and Democratic presidents. The Presidential Centers or Foundations of Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Gerald Ford will support the initiative.

“New Pluralists, a cross-partisan group of philanthropic and field leaders, is mobilizing $1 billion in new investments to increase support for programs that build bridges among Americans of different backgrounds to foster unity.

Compact to Combat Hate and Extremism, committing to stand up against hate-fueled violence and increase their support for local initiatives that heal divides.

Service organizations, led by Interfaith America, the YMCA, and Habitat for Humanity, are launching A Nation of Bridge Buildersa new partnership that will train 10,000 Americans to be bridge builders in their neighborhoods, and will host over 1,000 bridge building events in over 300 communities.

Technology companies, including YouTube, Twitch, Microsoft, and Meta are announcing new actions their platforms are taking to prevent hate-fueled violence.  

At the Summit, the White House will also honor 16 “Uniters” from across America:

Pastor Bob Roberts, Imam Mohamed Magid, and Rabbi David Saperstein – Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Richard and Dawn Collins – 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III Foundation, Crofton, Maryland

Former Lieutenant Brian Murphy, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dennis and Judy Shepard – Matthew Shepard Foundation, Casper, Wyoming

Alana Grant – Hate Won’t Win Movement, Columbia, South Carolina 

Masood Akhtar – We Are Many United Against Hate, Madison, Wisconsin 

Jeff Binkley – Maura’s Voice, Atlanta, Georgia and Tallahassee, Florida

Valarie Kaur – civil rights leader, Los Angeles, California

Pastor Tom Breeden and Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin – One America Movement, Charlottesville, Virginia and Arlington, Virginia

Carmina Taylor – civil rights activist, Hatfield Township, Pennsylvania

Chairman Jordan Dresser – Northern Arapaho Tribe, Wyoming

Miriam Vargas Corona – UNIDOS Bridging Communities, McMinnville, Oregon

Reverend Dr. Darryn Scheske – Heartland Church, Fishers, Indiana

Taylor Dumpson – anti-hate activist, Washington, DC

Mina Fedor – AAPI Youth Rising, Piedmont, California

Dr. Suzanne Barakat – University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California

“These heroes are leading extraordinary work in their communities to stand together against hate, build bridges, and heal divides.”

“The Summit will also feature survivors of hate-motivated violence who will share their stories of loss, healing, and advocacy. Participants include bipartisan and nonpartisan federal, state, local, and Tribal officials, civil rights groups, faith and community leaders, business leaders, law enforcement officials, former members of violent hate groups who now work to prevent violence, and gun violence prevention leaders.”

Concluding thoughts

U.S. history is, at least in part, a history of violence against indigenous people, people of color (especially, African-Americans), immigrants, workers and unions, women’s rights, and others. It is reflected in the Civil War, as southern white plantation owners and their government and grassroots supporters fought a losing and bloody war to expand slavery in the west. Adam Hochschild recaptures the government’s suppression of war opponents, socialists, and trade unions during WWI in his book, American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis. Kevin M. Krouse and Julian E. Zelizer edit a collection of essays by historians “to take on the biggest legends and lies” in American history. The book’s title: Myth America. Dana Milbank analyzes the “twenty-five year crack-up of the Republican Party” in his book, The Destructionists. Dan Pfeiffer focuses his book on the “big lie” promoted by right-wing media (Battling the Big Lie: How Fox, Facebook, and the Mega Media are Destroying America). Among the most troubling books is the book by Malcolm Nance, They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency.

In this post, and others, I have presented some evidence that Trump, the Republican Party, and their supporters, along with the help of right-wing media,  are in various ways encouraging violence against opponents. This is a method, along with voter suppression, cultural wars, and outright lying, aimed at consolidating their support among the tens of millions of Americans who are in the MAGA sphere of influence. President Biden and his administration recognize the problem and are addressing it. The 2020 presidential election and the surprise Democratic control of the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, provide some hope that the Trump and his supporters will be defeated in 2024 elections. While that is essential, the Democrats have their own problems in supporting, for example, huge spending on the military, continuing support for fossil fueled energy system, and the lack of a humane immigration policy. But Biden and his administration are doing many things that are benefiting ordinary Americans. And they are not encouraging violence.

The East Palestine train derailment, an example of corporate power and greed

Bob Sheak, March 2, 2023


This post reviews salient aspects of what is known about the train derailment in East Palestine, the causes, the effects, and relevant responses by Norfolk Southern, the federal government, people in the affected community, some experts, and unions. The principal culprit is a political-economic system that is grounded in corporate power.

The Derailment

On Friday, February 3, 2023, a two-mile long freight train operated by Norfolk Southern Corporation crashed in a massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, a town of 4,700 residents (

Of the 149 railcars, 38 cars derailed and a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars. There were 20 total hazardous material cars in the train (

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the crash on Feb. 23, as reported by Jessica Corbet (,)


In one of her “letters to an American,” historian Heather Cox Richardson points out that the NTSB is not a part of the Department of Transportation but rather is an “independent agency charged with investigating civil transportation accidents” as well as being “in charge of investigating the release of hazardous materials during transportation” (Substack, Feb. 26, 2023). Richardson also notes, “Nine NTSB investigators and four engineers in labs have been involved in the accident review. They have reviewed footage of the derailment, interviewed train staff, and examined the train event recorder, a device similar to a black box on an airplane.”

Preliminary report

Corbett describes some of what the NTSB’s preliminary report includes.

“Norfolk Southern Railway’s (NS) train 32N featured two head-end locomotives, a distributed power locomotive, and 149 railcars—20 of which were transporting combustible liquids as well as flammable liquids and gas, including vinyl chloride.

“Thirty-eight cars derailed, including 11 containing hazardous materials “that subsequently ignited, fueling fires that damaged an additional 12 non-derailed railcars….”

The fire and controlled burn of chemicals

An out-of-control fire raged for days until, as fears of an explosion of increased, crews conducted a “controlled” burn of five tank cars containing vinyl chloride and other flammable toxic chemicals “releasing a huge mushroom cloud of fire and smoke” and spewing toxic chemicals into the surrounding air, water, and soil. As reported by Jacey Fortin (, the toxic chemicals spewed into the surrounding air, water, and soil included:

“Butyl acrylate, a clear liquid with a fruity odor that can cause breathing difficulty and skin irritation.

“Ethylhexyl acrylate, a clear liquid that is used to make paints and plastics and can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

“Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, a colorless liquid that is used to make paints and varnish. In an experiment that exposed people to a high level of the chemical for several hours, some subjects reported irritation of the nose and eyes, headaches and vomiting.

“Vinyl chloride, a colorless gas used in making plastic products. The compound, which the E.P.A. has said was on five of the train cars, was of particular concern to authorities in the days following the derailment. The gas has what toxicologists describe as a ‘mild, sweet odor’ and can cause dizziness, headaches and drowsiness when inhaled in the short term, and a rare form of liver cancer after chronic exposure.

“When burned, vinyl chloride decomposes into gases that include hydrogen chloride and phosgene. Hydrogen chloride has a strong, irritating odor and is corrosive to any tissue that comes in contact with it, according to the federal toxic substances registry. Phosgene smells like freshly cut hay and can cause coughing and wheezing if inhaled.”

An overheated wheel bearing

Corbett quotes Allan Zarembski, director of the Railway Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware, The Washington Post reported Thursday that “an overheated bearing is perhaps the most common cause of a failed axle in a derailment.”

“In recent years,” the newspaper added, “railroads—including Norfolk Southern—have added sensors on tracks that measure the temperature of bearings to determine whether overheating could pose a derailment risk.”

“Train 32N, which Norfolk Southern workers say they knew was unsafe, passed three hot bearing detector (HBD) systems—designed to detect overheating and provide audible real-time warnings to crews—before it derailed, the NTSB report says. At milepost 79.9, the suspect bearing from car 23 was 38°F above ambient temperature; at milepost 69.01, it was 103°F; at milepost 49.81, it was 253°F.

“NS crews are supposed to stop and inspect potential problems when alerts indicate that there is ‘a difference between bearings on the same axle greater than or equal to 115°F,” or there is a bearing between 170°F and 200°F, the publication notes. If the recorded temperature is greater than 200°F, the instruction is to ‘set out’ the railcar.

Ineffective braking system

“In this case, the HBD system at milepost 49.81 ‘transmitted a critical audible alarm message instructing the crew to slow and stop the train to inspect a hot axle,’ the document details. ‘The train engineer increased the dynamic brake application to further slow and stop the train. During this deceleration, an automatic emergency brake application initiated, and train 32N came to a stop.’” By this time, 38 trains had crashed into one another.

“Investigators examined railroad equipment and track conditions; reviewed data from the signal system, wayside defect detectors, local surveillance cameras, and the lead locomotive’s event recorder and forward-facing and inward-facing image recorders; and completed interviews. NTSB investigators identified and examined the first railcar to derail, the 23rd railcar in the consist. Surveillance video from a local residence showed what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheel bearing and affected wheelset have been collected as evidence and will be examined by the NTSB.”

“‘After the train stopped, the crew observed fire and smoke and notified the Cleveland East dispatcher of a possible derailment,’ the report continues. ‘With dispatcher authorization, the crew applied handbrakes to the two railcars at the head of the train, uncoupled the head-end locomotives, and moved the locomotives about 1 mile from the uncoupled railcars. Responders arrived at the derailment site and began response efforts.”

Need for updated braking system and reasonable working conditions

Many experts and informed observers point out that the accident could have been avoided if Norfolk Southern had an updated braking system and reasonable working conditions for railroad workers. On February 24, 2023, Amy Goodman interviewed Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Researcher and Writer for The Lever, who is part of a team following all of this very closely ( He identifies some of the problems.

“Trains have been getting longer and longer, and it is occurring at the same time that the railroad workforce is getting smaller and smaller. These were exactly the concerns that the rail unions raised last year with the Biden administration, with railroads, with the public surrounding their contract negotiations and the need for paid sick leave. So that’s the broader context.

“Then there is the fact that the industry was successful in reducing the scope of this high hazard flammable train definition.” Lawinsider offers this definition: “High-hazard flammable train means a single train transporting 20 or more tank cars loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid in a continuous block or a single train transporting 35 or more tank cars loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid throughout the train con- sist” ( For further details, see Cornell Law (

Cunningham-Cook continues by pointing to the railroad corporations’ opposition to employing new braking technology. The rail corporations, he writes, “have been successful at resisting the widespread implementation of revolutionary new braking technology called electronically controlled pneumatic braking, over 15 years old. The railroads eventually championed these new brakes but once they figured out the cost, even though it was only $3 billion, so that’s less than 3% of the amount that the railroads have spent on stock buybacks in the last decade, they lobbied hard against any rules that would mandate their implementation.

“That is a huge problem because right now railroads use 1868 technology, technology from 1868 to brake trains. It is basically a ricochet effect, so the engine brakes and then the first car brakes and then the second car brakes and then the third car brakes, which means that the train doesn’t all stop at the same time. What that does is when heavier train cars bump into lighter train cars, which is very common because they’re not properly ordering the train cars because of the massive cutbacks in the railroad workforce, that creates what is called in-train forces, which destabilize and derail trains. Railroad Workers United, this cross-union advocacy group of railroad workers, has said that that almost certainly played a significant role in the derailment here on top of the issues with the axle that was on fire.

Norfolk Southern’s poor safety record

“Then Norfolk Southern in particular really seems like it has one of the worst safety records on the rails. There has been repeated incidents in Ohio of Norfolk Southern derailments. They had two derailments last year that they still haven’t picked up the costs for even though they explicitly pledged that they would.” The best available evidence indicates that “the catastrophe could have been prevented, had it not been for lax regulation and the outsized lobbying power of corporations like Norfolk Southern.”

NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy described the derailment as ‘100% preventable.’”


The power of the giant railroad corporations

Shareholders and executives come first

With respect to the policy of Norfolk Southern and other railroad corporations, the interests of shareholders and corporate executives take priority over the conditions of work for employees, the safety of the trains, and the potential injurious impacts on communities and the environment. In Democracy Now’s interview with Matthew Cunningham-Cook (already referred to), he offers some evidence (

“Norfolk Southern’s CEO, Alan Shaw, the CEO of Norfolk Southern, ‘sees his core constituency as not the public but his shareholders. Unfortunately, the way that our society works is that it is just about the next quarterly earnings report, how much money you can extract out of the infrastructure you already own so that you can buy back more of your stock so that you can pay more dividends, so that you can pay higher executive compensation, and that fines and class-action lawsuits, they’re ultimately a drop in the bucket compared to the extraordinary profits that these railroads collect from their workforce that is overworked and in large part burned out and infrastructure that is falling apart and is not being properly maintained even though it is owned directly by the railroads.’”

Cost-cutting by Norfolk Southern in operating the railroad

“‘At the root of it all is really cutbacks to staffing,’ Ross Grooters, a locomotive engineer and co-chair of the Railroad Workers United union, said on Democracy Now! ‘You have companies that are making obscene amounts of money…you have fewer people doing a lot more work faster. You have across-the-board cutbacks on the maintenance of cars, on the maintenance of locomotives, on the maintenance of track. This is critical infrastructure. And then you have increasingly long and heavy trains, like the one we saw here, where these trains have a greater propensity to derail.’”

“As the Lever News investigation revealed, while lobbying to block safety rules, arguing that the braking systems, for example, would be too costly to implement, Norfolk Southern spent $1 billion on stock buybacks in order to boost its share price.”

Channeling money to Republicans (and Democrats) who support the Railroad’s position

In an interview on Democracy Now, Gregory Hynes gives a crisp and worrisome summary of the evidence (  Hynes is the national legislative director at SMART, the International Association of Sheet, Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.

“The railroad industry funneled, yes, over $6 million into Senate Republicans’ campaigns in 2016. John Thune was one of the top who at the time the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, was one of the highest recipients of railroad industry cash. He opposed this rule-making. The Trump administration under Elaine Chao, who was the secretary Transportation, who is the wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, rolled back the Obama administration’s very modest rules to expand this braking technology. Then once Biden and Buttigieg [inaudible], even though rail unions, public safety advocates, environmental groups have advocated the expansion of rail safety rules, they have yet to take substantive action so far. So, it’s unfortunate and it’s unclear why exactly that’s the case”  

Republicans in the U.S. Congress generally go along with the industry’s deregulation preferences

Brett Samuels writes on how “the GOP, Trump officials ‘laid the groundwork’ for loose railway regulations” in an article for The Hill on Feb. 22, 2023 (

“The White House on Wednesday blamed Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration for lax railway and environmental regulations in the aftermath of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that spilled toxic chemicals.”

“Andrew Bates, a deputy White House press secretary, argued congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials ‘owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists,’ pointing to past efforts to loosen regulations.

“‘Congressional Republicans laid the groundwork for the Trump Administration to tear up requirements for more effective train brakes, and last year most House Republicans wanted to defund our ability to protect drinking water,’ Bates said in a statement. 

“There is only one way they can prove that they are finally disowning their long history of giveaways to rail industry management at the expense of communities like East Palestine: work across the aisle with us to put Obama-Biden protections back in place and go further, including with higher fines for rail pollution and properly equipping the EPA,’ he added.

“Bates also pointed to a 2021 letter 20 Republican senators wrote to the deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, urging the agency to expand the use of automated track inspections.

“The White House also noted that the Republican Study Committee, which consists of dozens of House GOP lawmakers, last year proposed cuts to government funding to address chemical spills, as well as an elimination of the Surface Water Protection Program.

“Politico reported Wednesday that the Trump administration rolled back several safety measures for railways, including regular safety audits and an Obama-era rule that required faster brakes on trains carrying flammable materials.

Those measures were part of a broader agenda of deregulation under Trump, who repeatedly sought to loosen restrictions and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.”


The harmful effects of the crash on East Palestine

Democracy Now captures generally what happened (

“On February 3rd, a massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio blanketed the town with a toxic brew of spilled chemicals and gasses, fouling the air, polluting waterways and killing thousands of fish and frogs. Local residents are suffering ailments ranging from respiratory distress, sore throats, burning eyes and rashes, all with unknown long-term consequences.”

Page Bennett reports that, in the three weeks after the crash, the “East Palestine train derailment killed more than 43,000 fish and animals, officials say (

“Agency Director Mary Mertz said Thursday that officers have been on site every day since the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals and believe all the fish killed as a result of the incident died immediately.” Additionally, “Officials estimated 38,222 minnows and around 5,550 other species – such as other fish, crayfish and amphibians – were killed during the derailment. The deaths occurred in a five-mile span within the impact area.”

A town meeting reveals concerns of community

Interviewed on Democracy Now, Emily Wright, development director of the Ohio-based group River Valley Organizing talked about a town hall meeting on the catastrophe, where experts offered their views and community members expressed their concerns ( 

“Yes. Last night we had a town hall with independent scientists and environmental legal experts, lawyers, and a retired fire chief, Sil, who was a hazmat trainer for decades. And people were very, very happy that someone was just listening to them and answering their questions. People’s questions are, you know: What is Norfolk Southern going to do right now to help us? Because a lot of them are involved — we’re not doing any type of class-action lawsuit or anything like that. We’re just offering free legal clinics, that are going to be coming up, for people to get unbiased advice that is not soliciting. But people are concerned about: Do they make decisions now, because they don’t have the money and they need the money? Do they wait to make decisions? Are their families safe? You know, they have — 50% of the people that were at the meeting last night raised their hand that they have well water. And at this point, the only — they’re still getting the instruction to drink bottled water, because they’re not completely sure it’s safe. So, everybody just really wants questions answered. And I think everybody is not really looking at even the high-profile visits. They more just want action.

“You know, we give — a lot of people are pointing fingers right now, but everybody is pretty disgusted with everybody. I mean, you talked about how Trump rolled back those safety regulations. Then we have two years of the Biden administration where they had a chance to reinstate those, and they didn’t. And so people are upset with all political officials right now. They’re upset that our governor and our House representative came and took a sip of water in East Palestine as a political stunt and, you know, said the water is safe. But people are waking up in the same area, in the same homes with rashes and nausea and asthma symptoms in the morning from just being exposed to all of the surface and soil contaminants right now. So, you know, there were a lot of people that are visibly upset and really feel like — really feel like they’re not being represented on all levels — local, state and federal government.

So, people are going to be taking action. They’re going to be writing letters, making calls. We’re going to be doing more petitions, because this is — unfortunately, our safety in Appalachia is something that can change from administration to administration. So what we’re going to push for at River Valley also is change at a congressional level. We need laws made. We need things that can’t be taken away by executive order or, you know, placed by that. So, that’s what we’re really pushing for, is lasting change from this. And it needs to be bipartisan. Everybody needs to get at the table with this.”

Jecey Fortin reports, “Lawyers have poured into East Palestine since the train derailment, filing more than a dozen lawsuits so far on behalf of local residents” (


Politicizing the derailment and effects

Trump misleadingly denies any responsibility

Sharon Zhang takes up this point in an article for Truthout on Feb. 23, 2023. The title of her article: “Trump Lies About Slashing Rail Safety Rules During Visit to East Palestine” (

She starts out by reminding readers that, in 2017, “Trump rescinded an Obama-era rule aimed at making trains carrying hazardous materials safer.” Zhang continues:

“In an attempt to score political points on Wednesday, former President Donald Trump jetted to Ohio to visit the site of a disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment that experts say was likely worsened — or caused — by his administration’s sweeping safety deregulation.” During the visit, “Trump touted his donation of ‘Trump water’ to the residents of East Palestine, as well as his donation of ‘much lesser quality water’ that his team was able to come by.

“When a reporter asked about his administration’s overturn of an Obama-era rule specifically aimed at making trains carrying hazardous materials safer, which he carried out with the backing of Republicans early in his presidency, Trump lied, claiming that his administration “had nothing to do with it.”

But his administration, “at the behest of rail lobbyists, rescinded a rule that would have required rail cars with hazardous flammable materials to install new brake technology, known as Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes, that would have helped trains stop more quickly. Norfolk Southern had pressured the administration to repeal the rule, saying it would be too expensive to implement.

“‘Would ECP brakes have reduced the severity of this accident? Yes,’ former senior Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) official Steven Ditmeyer told The Lever. “The railroads will test new features. But once they are told they have to do it … they don’t want to spend the money.”

Republican criticisms of Biden on East Palestine train derailment ring hollow

Brett Samuels and Alex Gangitano identify some of the right-wing, Republican criticisms of Biden’s administration handling of the derailment in an article for The Hill on Feb. 24, 2023 (

One criticism is that President Biden has not yet visited East Palestine and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was late in coming to the community. The Republican critics alleged that that this reflected the administration’s indifference toward the “white citizens” in that community. They note, “Former President Trump on Wednesday [Feb. 22] accused the Biden administration of ‘indifference and betrayal’ toward East Palestine during a visit there, while the mayor of the village called it a ‘slap in the face’ that Biden went to Europe before visiting the site of a potential environmental disaster. The White House said Biden has not spoken to the mayor.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has called on the secretary resign. “Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who represents the area where the derailment occurred, gave Buttigieg an “F” for his response to the toxic chemical spill in an interview with Fox News on Feb. 18.

Responses by Buttigieg and Jean-Pierre in defense of Biden administration

At the same time, both Buttigieg and Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secetary, sought to go on offense on Thursday [Feb. 23], focusing on what the administration has done while taking to task Trump and other Republicans for opposing safety regulations.”

“Buttigieg called on the former president to support the Biden administration reversing Trump-era deregulation, saying ‘we’re not afraid to own our policies when it comes to raising the bar on regulation.’

“Jean-Pierre said attacks on Buttigieg were in ‘bad faith’ because former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wasn’t attacked when similar types of chemical spills occurred during her time as head of the agency.

“Buttigieg’s visit aligned with the release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) initial findings from the investigation into the derailment that tentatively corroborated reports that a wheel bearing severely overheated ahead of the accident.” That is, he waited for the first research from a government agency on the crash. The Transportation Department defended the timing of the secretary’s trip, saying Buttigieg wanted to ‘go when it is appropriate and wouldn’t detract from the emergency response efforts.” The Department also pointed out that

“the EPA is taking the lead on the federal response to hold Norfolk Southern accountable, noting those officials arrived at the site early on Feb. 4, hours after the crash.”

“Abdullah Hassan, an assistant press secretary at the White House, shared a readout on Wednesday detailing what the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration have been doing on the ground to aid an investigation into the derailment.



What have government agencies done?

“The EPA on Tuesday [Feb. 21] issued a legally binding order requiring Norfolk Southern to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for the cleaning that it is doing and attend public meetings at the agency’s request,”

as reported by Brett Samuels


The EPA itself provides information on the order ( In a press release, the EPA’s legally binding order requires Norfolk Southern to do the following.

“Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources.

“Reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors.

“Attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online.

“Pay for EPA’s costs for work performed under this order.

“As part of the order, EPA will approve a workplan outlining all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment. If the company fails to complete any actions as ordered by EPA, the Agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost.”  

Statements by the EPA administrator

The EPA press release refers to Administrator, Michael S. Regan justification for the stiff requirements imposed on Norfolk Southern (

“‘The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA’s order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community,’ said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. ‘Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community. I’m deeply grateful to the emergency responders, including EPA personnel, who’ve been on the ground since day one and ensured there was no loss of life as a result of this disaster. As we transition from emergency response, EPA will continue to coordinate closely with our local, state, and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestine community during the remediation phase. To the people of East Palestine, EPA stands with you now and for as long as it may take.’”

“To address the concerns of residents regarding potential indoor contamination, EPA will offer cleaning services to area businesses and families. The Agency has extensive experience with similar cleaning programs in other Midwestern communities. Under the terms of the order, Norfolk Southern will reimburse EPA for the costs of these cleaning services. More details about how community members can request this service will be available this week.

“EPA’s order marks the transition of the multi-agency response from its ‘emergency phase’ to a longer-term remediation phase. To help implement the order, EPA will establish a ‘unified command structure’ to coordinate the clean-up related efforts of FEMA, HHS, Ohio EPA, Ohio EMA, PA DEP, as well as Norfolk Southern. This approach is frequently used in situations where multiple agencies need to work together. In this case, the response includes federal, state and local agencies across multiple states.

“EPA issued this unilateral administrative order pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which gives EPA the authority to order those responsible for pollution to clean it up. The order takes effect two days after signature, though the cleanup work has already begun and will continue.”


“As soon as EPA was notified of the Norfolk Southern train derailment on Friday, February 3, EPA personnel were on-site by 2 a.m. Saturday morning to assist with air monitoring. Since then, EPA has been boots-on-the-ground, leading robust air-quality testing – including with the state-of-the-art ASPECT plane and a mobile analytical laboratory – in and around East Palestine.

“EPA has assisted with indoor air monitoring of more than 550 homes under a voluntary screening program offered to residents, and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified above levels of concern. EPA is continuing to provide screening to all residents within the evacuation zone.

More information about EPA’s ongoing response to the East Palestine train derailment is available on EPA’s website:

Bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduces safety legislation

Betsy Klein and Manu Raju also report on a bipartisan group of senators who introduced a bill on Wednesday, March 1, aimed at rail safety in wake of East Palestine crash ( It is called “the Railway Safety Act of 2023 and is being “introduced by Republican Sens. JD Vance of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Bob Casey and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania.”

According to Klein and Raju, the “bill includes a number of provisions to boost safety procedures to prevent future incidents, including ‘new safety requirements and procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride,’ a requirement for advance notice from railways to state emergency response officials about what their trains are carrying, requirements to prevent blocked railway crossings and new rules for train size and weight, according to a statement from the senators.” Additionally, the proposal “addresses the risk of wheel bearing failures by ramping up detection and inspection,” includes “a provision requiring ‘well-trained, two person crews aboard every train,” “boosts the maximum fines for rail carriers for wrongdoing,” and “increases grants for HAZMAT training and Federal Railroad Administration research and development, as well as funding for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s development of tank car safety features.”

The Biden administration

Klein and Raju point out that the Biden administration has advocated for similar reforms aimed at the rail industry. They report that in an interview on CNN on Feb. 28, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg “pointed to specific legislative actions the administration is looking for: raising the cap on fines for rail companies for safety violations, accelerating the timeline for bringing in fortified tank cars that are less likely to spill when there’s a derailment, and giving the Transportation Department ‘a freer hand on things like breaking regulations and regulations on hazardous material transportation.’”

Outside experts expect long-term health and environmental consequences

Activist and experienced Erin Brockofich led an East Palestine residents town hall meeting on Friday, Feb. 24 at East Palestine High School, where some 2,500 people and a hundred reporters were in attendance ( She was not optimistic.

“‘Unfortunately, this is not a quick fix…. This is going to be a long game.’

“Brockovich and attorneys warned of long-term health and environmental dangers from the chemicals released after the fiery train derailment in East Palestine.

“‘I can’t tell you how many communities feel that these moments are the biggest gaslight of their life,’ Brockovich told the audience.

“‘I’ve never seen in 30 years a situation like this,’ she said, warning residents that what her team was going to present them may scare them. ‘… I feel your angst, and I feel your frustration. And I want to share something with you; you’re not alone.’

“‘You want to be heard, but you’re going to be told it’s safe; you’re going to be told not to worry,’ she said. ‘That’s just rubbish because you’re going to worry. Communities want to be seen and heard.’

“‘These chemicals take time to move in the water. You’re going to need groundwater monitoring. People on well water: You really need to be on alert. They’re going to need to implement soil vapor intrusion modeling. Believe us. It’s coming,’ she said.”

“‘You have the ability to become — and you will become — your own critical thinker. You will vet information; you will ask questions, you will demand answers. You will listen to that gut and that instinct that will keep you connected as a community,’ Brockovich said. ‘Don’t let what’s happened here divide you.’

Subsequent research confirmed there were reasons to be concerned and to continue testing the air for toxic chemicals. Scott Dance reported, “Three weeks after the toxic train derailment in Ohio, an independent analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data has found nine air pollutants at levels that, if they persist, could raise long-term health concerns in and around East Palestine” (

Rail unions want, at a minimum, reforms

Kenny Stancil reviews the “rail workers outline plan for immediate reforms”, in an article on Common Dreams, Feb 24, 2023


‘In a statement, Railroad Workers United (RWU) pointed to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) newly published preliminary report on the February 3 crash and subsequent burnoff of vinyl chloride and other carcinogenic chemicals, which suggests that an overheated wheel bearing likely caused the train to derail. The inter-union alliance of rail workers also cited

RWU, which has previously highlighted how industry-led deregulation and Wall Street-backed policies such as “precision-scheduled railroading” have made the U.S. rail system more dangerous, said Friday that “Class 1 freight rail carriers, including Norfolk Southern, have prioritized profits over safety, cutting maintenance, equipment inspections, and personnel in all crafts while increasing the average train size to three miles or more.”

Proposals of the Railway Workers Union

RWU called on regulators and lawmakers to:

“Ensure sufficient staffing to do the job properly, efficiently, and safely, with all trains operating with a minimum of a two-person crew;

“Cap train length and weight at a reasonable level to mitigate the increased likelihood of breakdowns, train separations, and derailments;

Implement adequate and proper maintenance and inspections of locomotives and rail cars, tracks and signals, wayside detectors, and other infrastructure; and

“Standardize ample training and time off without the harassment of draconian attendance policies.”

Stancil also quotes Jason Doering, general secretary of RWU, who echoed Christenson’s message, saying: “Every day we go to work, we have serious concerns about preventing accidents like the one that occurred in Ohio. As locomotive engineers, conductors, signal maintainers, car inspectors, track workers, dispatchers, machinists, and electricians, we experience the reality that our jobs are becoming increasingly dangerous due to insufficient staffing, inadequate maintenance, and a lack of oversight and inspection.”

“We recognize,” Doering added, “that limits on train lengths and weights are necessary to prevent catastrophic derailments.”

Nationalize the Railroads

In an article for The Nation on Feb. 23, 2023,, John Nichols argues that “it’s time to talk about nationalizing America’s railroads”


“Railroads are systematically destroying the freight rail system,” explained Ross Grooters, a railroad locomotive engineer who cochairs Railroad Workers United, an inter-union solidarity caucus of rank-and-file railroad workers that has championed worker and community safety. ‘We need public ownership of this critical infrastructure to correct freight railroad problems—just like all other U.S. transportation infrastructure and other rail systems around the world.’”

“Last fall, as rail workers were engaged in a frustrating fight to get their bosses to provide paid sick leave and adopt needed safety measures, the Railroad Workers United (RWU) steering committee proposed the nationalization of the rail industry. The move got little attention at the time, but it’s picking up steam.

“In an online resolution, the RWU detailed the arguments for public ownership of the railroads, explaining that corporate owners had, in their pursuit of profits, put the industry on an

irresponsible trajectory to the detriment of shippers, passengers, commuters, trackside communities, and workers. On-time performance is in the toilet, shipper complaints are at all-time highs. Passenger trains are chronically late, commuter services are threatened, and the rail industry is hostile to practically any passenger train expansion. The workforce has been decimated, as jobs have been eliminated, consolidated, and contracted out, ushering in a new previously unheard-of era where workers can neither be recruited nor retained. Locomotive, rail car, and infrastructure maintenance has been cut back. Health and safety has been put at risk. Morale is at an all-time low. The ongoing debacle in national contract bargaining sees the carriers—after decades of record profits and record low Operating Ratios—refusing to make even the slightest concessions to the workers who—contrary to what the [major carriers] may state—have made them their riches.

“Railroad Workers United concluded that ‘since the North American private rail industry has shown itself incapable of doing the job, it is time for this invaluable transportation infrastructure—like the other transport modes—to be brought under public ownership.’

There are precedents

“That’s not a particularly radical notion. Much of the transportation infrastructure in the United States, including the interstate highway system, is publicly owned. And the railroads were themselves under federal government control during World War I. When the war ended, rail workers and their unions pushed to keep the industry publicly owned. Eugene Victor Debs, a veteran railroad union leader, campaigned on the issue in his 1920 Socialist Party presidential bid. But the government handed the railroads back to their wealthy owners and the issue died down—until the Great Depression devastated rural America.”

Renewed interest in nationalization

“Today, agitation for nationalization—which the great New York Times labor reporter A.H. Raskin once referred to as ‘the dirty word on U.S. railroads’—has been renewed. The Railroad Workers United effort has gained thoughtful attention in left media and support from the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, whose members build locomotives in Erie, Pa.

‘Our nation can no longer afford private ownership of the railroads; the general welfare demands that they be brought under public ownership,’ UE argued in a January statement that observed:

Railroads are, like utilities, “natural monopolies.” The consolidation of the Class 1 railroads in the U.S. into five massive companies over the past several decades has made it clear that there is no “free market” in rail transportation. With most customers having no other choice, and no central authority mandating long-term planning, each individual railroad company has little incentive to make investments in infrastructure and every temptation to take as much of their income as possible as profits.

Concluding thoughts

The evidence on what caused the derailment and ensuing calamitous events in East Palestine is compelling and that includes the power and greed of the big railroad corporations and the banks that invest in them. This power is used in elections to support candidates and lawmakers who oppose serious action to remedy the problems and/or to water down proposals in Congress and in the states so they have little remedial effect.

The Republican Party by and large supports the industry’s advocacy of deregulation. The people in politically “red” communities like East Palestine are the victims of such corporate power, but a majority of the voters and the elected officials in this community have supported Republican candidates who are deregulators.

This story is not unique. Justin Mikulka published a book on the history of the U.S. Railroad industry in 2014 titled Bomb Trains: How Industry Greed and Regulatory Failure Put the Public at Risk. Safety has never been a priority of the industry and there has long been an absence of effective government action. It is clear that, despite the odds, this must change and soon. Meanwhile, not only East Palestine but the surrounding environment, and communities – for many miles around the crash site – will likely be affected by the toxic chemicals that have been released. The health impacts are also likely to affect residents of East Palestine for many years to come.

U.S. militarism and nuclear weapons in an increasingly dangerous world

Bob Sheak, February 15, 2023


There are two interrelated parts to this post. One focuses on U.S. militarism, while the other on nuclear weapons. The aim of this analysis is to draw attention to the disproportionate power of those who favor a strong military and related policies to advance U.S. interests domestically and internationally. At the same time, this militarism provides a framework and structure for the continued development of nuclear weapons. The world is a more dangerous place as a result. In joining those who want less militarism and a process that will end nuclear weapons, the goal here is to help inform readers about the existential threat posed by such military power. The post draws on recent articles and excerpts from earlier posts.

PART 1: The militaristic slant of U.S. domestic and foreign policies 

The Cambridge dictionary defines “militarism” as “the belief that it is necessary to have strong armed forces and that they should be used in order to win political or economic advantages”


According to this definition, there is little question that the U.S. has a militaristically-oriented foreign policy. The implication is that foreign policy revolves significantly around the threat, implied or explicit, if not the actual use, of military force in relations with other countries. But it also draws attention to the domestic structures and effects of military policy and expenditures.

In a previous post (“U.S. militarism: some evidence,” Oct 13, 2021), I compiled evidence to support this viewpoint. There, I posited that U.S. militarism is reflected in:

(1) the enormous power of the military-industrial complex;

(2) the authority of the president to initiate war or launch nuclear weapons without congressional approval or without the support of the U.N.’s Security Council;

(3) the large Pentagon budgets passed typically on a bipartisan basis by majority votes the U.S. Congress;

(4) the absence of independent audits of the budgets and failure to control the cost overruns of government military contracts;

(5) the 750 or 800 hundred U.S. military bases around the globe (;

(6) the revolving door between the military and big weapons makers that creates an implicit if not explicit conflict of interests;

(7) the creation by Trump of a fourth military branch, namely, “the space force.”’

Additionally, many tens of thousands of U.S. troops have suffered the physical, mental, and moral injuries of ill-fated wars initiated by political and military leaders (see, for example, David Wood, What We Have Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars, or Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, Betraying Our Troops). With some pauses and despite anti-war movements, militarism and its damaging effects have grown since WWII and especially since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991.

Despite the support of enormous taxpayer money, land, and other resources, the military has not achieved its objective in any of the major conflicts in which it has engaged since WWII. Historian Andrew Bacevich has documented this unfortunate reality in a series of books (e.g., “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”). In his recently published book, On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century, Bacevich offers this less-than praiseworthy view of the country’s foreign policy.

“For decades, the United States has exerted itself to uphold and enhance the advantageous position it gained in 1945. Its tacit goal was not only to hold the communist world in check but to achieve ideological, economic, political, and military primacy on a global scale, with all but the most cynical American leaders genuinely persuaded that US supremacy served the interests of mankind.”

In these terms, American leaders believed that the country’s foreign policies proved that the country was exceptional and non-imperialistic in wanting the world to prosper and do so peacefully. The reality is different, as outlined above. And, presently, there are many parts of what used to be called ‘the Third Word” that are ruled by autocrats/oligarchs, in which the majority of people are poor, where societies that are highly indebted to “rich” countries through U.S. dominated international aid organizations, and that are often racked by civil war and violence. Sociologist William I. Robinson offers some insights of the sources of such conditions in his books, Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity and The Global Police State.

At the same time, the U.S. role is not uniformly negative. The U.S. has often provided economic assistance in, for example, food aid to countries in distress, although it comes nowhere close to U.S. military spending and global military operations. Still, it’s worth noting that, as one example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put out a press release on April 27, 2022, announcing the following:

“that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are taking the extraordinary step to draw down the full balance of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT) as part of an effort to provide $670 million in food assistance to countries in need as a result of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The world is suffering from historic levels of global food insecurity, which is being exacerbated by the impact Russia’s war on Ukraine is having on global food supplies. Available estimates suggest an additional 40 million people could be pushed into poverty and food security as a result of Russia’s aggression.

“USAID will use the BEHT’s $282 million to procure U.S. food commodities to bolster existing emergency food operations in six countries facing severe food insecurity: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen. USDA will provide $388 million in additional funding through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to cover ocean freight transportation, inland transport, internal transport, shipping and handling, and other associated costs” (

Possible reforms to reduce US militarism

The analysis developed here calls for a reduction in U.S. militarism, which can be achieved by: reducing military spending; instituting independent audits of the military budget and spending; advancing more effective congressional oversight; doing a reevaluation of whether the U.S. really needs over 750 or 800 or so foreign bases in 70 countries to “ensure” the safety and security of the U.S.; stopping the revolving door between the weapons makers and military officers; giving more focus to building up the State Department with the goal of enhancing U.S. diplomatic assets; ending the space force; joining with other countries to phase out nuclear weapons; and finding ways to better educate American citizens about the history of the country’s wars, the options to war, and generally about the limits of military power. By recognizing such limits and rethinking the country’s priorities, resources could perhaps be made available to address the non-military crises like accelerating global warming and the inequities that beset U.S. society and many societies around the globe.

Meanwhile, military spending soars

Lara Seligman examines Biden’s support of the largest Pentagon budget in history (

“In December, lawmakers appropriated $858 billion in national defense funding — $45 billion more than Biden sought. That included $817 billion for the Pentagon, and billions more for nuclear weapons development through the Energy Department and other national security programs.

“At the time, it was the most the U.S. had ever spent on the Defense Department, reflecting the Pentagon’s efforts to simultaneously counter the threat from Russia, keep pace with China’s growing technological advantage, modernize aging arsenals and fight inflation.”

PART 2: The looming danger of nuclear war

The forces that have led to support of U.S. militarism also endorse having nuclear weapons as a standby in cases where U.S. interests – or the interests of allies – are threatened or are the victims of nuclear attacks. In the post I sent out on February 6, 2020, “The looming danger of nuclear war,” I considered the historical and contemporary background on nuclear weapons and the threat to human existence. Here is some of what I wrote.


Nuclear weapons are the deadliest of weapons ever created by humans, in this case by scientists with financing by the federal government (i.e., the taxpayers). Along with anthropogenic climate disruption, or “climate change,” nuclear weapons have the potential to destroy all human societies and much of life on the earth.

The Manhattan Project – letting the genie out of the bottle

The project to create nuclear weapons (then called atomic bombs) was initiated by the government and paid for by taxpayers during WWII. The story of the project, called the Manhattan Project, is captured in detail by Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia (

Nuclear weapons – some facts

In hindsight, the creation of atomic bombs appears to have been an expression of the height of human folly by many knowledgeable people and scientists. Whatever, these terribly destructive weapons are a part of present-day reality and most civilian and military leaders in the US and Russia, which alone have 93% of the warheads, view them as vital and necessary components of their military arsenals, while basing their views on a hollow and ultimately counter-productive conceptions of “national security” and the assumption that nuclear arsenals can be managed in ways that deter the use of these weapons.

While the issue does not attract much mainstream media attention, it continues to be of utmost importance with 15,500 nuclear weapons stockpiled in the world, according to the Arms Control Association. That includes nuclear warheads that are on delivery vehicles and ready to be launched and warheads that are in storage (

And some are ready to be launched in just minutes. The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that “the United States still keeps its 450 silo-based nuclear weapons, and hundreds of submarine-based weapons, on hair-trigger alert….around 3,500 total—are deployed on other submarines or bombers, or kept in reserve” ( In the meantime, the US military is planning to introduce “‘low-yield’ nuclear weapons on submarine-launched ballistic missiles – weapons that could cause as much damage as the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The relatively lower-yield of such warheads makes them more likely to be used in a wider range of situations considered to be threatening by the US military command (

Perhaps the gravest hotspot, or potential nuclear war situation, is in the highly rancorous and hostile relations between Pakistan (130 nuclear weapons) and India (120 nuclear weapons), particularly over the disputed control of Kashmir. These are two nuclear powers whose troops are within miles of one another. Any slight, accidental, or misunderstood provocation could be the spark that leads to the use of nuclear weapons. [Murtanza Hussain analyzes the current dangers of the growing instability in Pakistan:

There are other nuclear powers, including England, France, China, Israel, and North Korea. At the same time, dozens of countries have the capacity to build nuclear warheads and the means to use them. At one time, six other countries had nuclear weapons but agreed to give them up (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, South Africa, Iraq, and Libya). There were four other countries on their way to having nuclear weapons and then “shelved their nuclear weapons’ programs” (Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan) (

What about other countries. According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive:     

“Virtually any industrialized nation today has the technical capability to develop nuclear weapons within several years if the decision to do so were made. Nations already possessing substantial nuclear technology and arms industries could do so in no more than a year or two. The larger industrial nations (Japan and Germany for example) could, within several years of deciding to do so, build arsenals rivaling those planned by Russia and the U.S. for the turn of the millennium….” (

The point is that the human world is already in a situation in which any one of the nuclear states could use their weapons for any one of a number of reasons – to extend power, preserve a perceived credibility, destroy an “enemy,” avoid a military defeat, or by accident. They need to be abolished.


The danger of nuclear war increases

John Mecklin, editor of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, reports on the most recent assessment of the organization on the growing threat of nuclear war, announced on January 24, 2023. The scientists moved the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 90 seconds to midnight, or when such war is expected to erupt (

Founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. The Doomsday Clock is set every year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 10 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to global catastrophe caused by manmade technologies.

In the Bulletin’s January 2023 report, “the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine. The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.” The report continues:

“The war in Ukraine may enter a second horrifying year, with both sides convinced they can win. Ukraine’s sovereignty and broader European security arrangements that have largely held since the end of World War II are at stake. Also, Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks.

“And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict—by accident, intention, or miscalculation—is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.”

Treaties to monitor and control the development, production, and use of nuclear weapons are being ended or are on a path to do so

I wrote the following overview of nuclear arms agreements in the February 6, 2020 post to which I earlier referred, “The looming danger of nuclear war.”


The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) commenced in November, 1969 and led to Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, limiting strategic missile defense to 200, later 100, interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, “an executive agreement that capped US and Soviet ICBM and SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines.” There were gaps. “The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs.” There was a follow-up agreement, SALT II, signed in June 1979, that “limited US and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces.” However, when the Soviet’s invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, President Jimmy Carter “asked the Senate not to consider SALT II, and that ended these agreements.

In July 1991, President Ronald Reagan signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start I), which “required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads….required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles.” The implementation of this agreement was “delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] and Start agreements.”

In January 1993, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin signed a follow-on agreement, called SALT II, which “called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles.” However, “START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 US withdrawal from the ABM treaty.” In between 1991 and 2002, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin “agreed to a framework for START III negotiations… ‘to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” But when START II was abandoned, the negotiations over START II never happened.

Later in 2002, on May 24, 2002, “Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each.” This was to take effect on December 31, 2002. One of the limitations of the treaty was that the US limited reductions to warheads “deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., operationally deployed’ warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. Nonetheless, the Senate and Duma approved the treaty and it entered into force on June 1, 2003.

The process of nuclear arms control agreements got another boost on April 8, 2010, when “the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers), and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800.” This lowered the warhead limited of SORT and there are tighter verification requirements, including “on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical mans for treaty monitoring.” Additionally, the treaty “provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities.” The Treaty was finalized on December 22, 2010, after the approval of the Russian parliament and the US Senate.

[but now even this last treaty is threatened]

Non-strategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

This involves “ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers,” or 311 miles and 3,418 miles. The US and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on December 8, 1987, including ‘intrusive on-site inspections.” The two sides “completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles, and later extended after the breakup of the Soviet Union to include “the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.” The US became concerned in 2014 that Russia was violating the agreement and deploying ground-launched missiles that were prohibited. This would later give Trump a reason to withdraw from the agreement – rather than to seek a negotiated resolution.

The fraying of nuclear arms control agreements

Legal scholar Marjorie Cohn provides an informative analysis of the breakdown of US-Russian nuclear weapons treaties in an article titled “US Refusal to Negotiate with Russia Increases likelihood of Nuclear War” ( She reminds us that George W. Bush withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia, agreeing to reducing and limiting anti-ballistic missile defenses in both countries. Cohn quotes David Krieger, founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation: “The fuel for a new nuclear arms race was already on fire, and a Russian strategic response was predictable, when the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty and began developing a replacing missile defense systems globally. The US withdrawal and abrogation of the ABM Treaty may prove to be the greatest strategic blunder of the nuclear age.”

Obama also contributed to the undermining of the nuclear détente with Russia when he signed off on the policy to “modernize” the US nuclear bomb arsenal. The official US nuclear arms position as stated in the US Nuclear Posture Review has also, Cohn notes, reduced “the threshold for using nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks, including cyberattacks, in ‘extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies and partners.”

Enter Donald Trump

With Trump ascension to the White House, there was increased concern about US nuclear weapons and control and command over these weapons. President-elect Trump has twittered and blustered in his ill-informed and braggadocio, maliciously narcissistic manner, that it may be better for the world if even more countries possessed their own nuclear weapons (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea), implied that he might use nuclear weapons in the Middle East to “wipe out ISIS,” suggested that the US could win an escalated nuclear arms race, wanted to undo the multilateral agreement with Iran over its nuclear energy program, is totally and unconditionally in support of Israel (which is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation international treaty and whose policies intensify the repression of Palestinians and the expropriation of their land), and is committed to continuing the “modernization” of the US nuclear weapons system. Trump recently tweeted: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” From Trump’s shallow knowledge of the subject and bully-boy temperament, there is no place for a policy of nuclear weapons reductions or nuclear weapons free zones, such has been proposed for the Middle East (including Israel).  From what we know, Trump may well behave impulsively in a crisis – and give an order within a few minutes to lunch nuclear weapons against Russia or some other perceived adversary. That would cause unimaginatively catastrophic and irreversible war. Indeed, a war to end all wars.

History professor and author Lawrence Wittner writes on how arms control and disarmament agreements have been [were] “rapidly unraveling” under Trump’s administration ( He gives the following examples.

On May 2018, “the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the laboriously-constructed Iran nuclear agreement that had closed off the possibility of that nation developing nuclear weapons.” Then on February of 2019, “the Trump announced that, in August, the US government will withdraw from the Reagan era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty – the historical agreement that had banned US and Russian ground-launched cruise missiles – and would proceed to develop such weapons.” Russian President Vladimir Putin responded in kind. The 2010 New Start Treaty is also on the chopping block, that is the treaty that “reduces US and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 each, limits US and Russian nuclear delivery vehicles, and provides for extensive inspection.” Wittner notes that if the treaty is allowed to expire, “it would be the first time since 1972 that there would be no nuclear arms control agreement between Russia and the United States.” Then there are other ominous message from the White House and Pentagon. some in Trump’s administration who are pressing for a US resumption of nuclear weapons testing. The push for “modernizing the nuclear arsenal, with the introduction of new types of nuclear warheads, is gaining support in the White House, a violation of Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And the US Joints Chiefs of Staff are expressing “new interest in nuclear warfare,” declaring in a June 2019 planning document that “using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability.” 

A history of nuclear weapons accidents

There is a long history of accidents at nuclear weapons’ launching missile sites, both in the US and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), that came within minutes of starting a nuclear war. This history is brilliantly documented by Eric Schlosser in his book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, and in a recent article for The New Yorker, titled “World War Three, by Mistake (Dec 23, 2016). You can find the article at:

Schlosser’s main argument is that “harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.” He concludes his long article with the following ominous words.

“My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, someday, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.”

Fred Pearce devotes an entire book to how accidents, mis-judgements, out-right lies have almost triggered nuclear war. See his book Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and The Legacy of the Nuclear Age. In his book, The Doomsday Machine, Daniel Ellsberg writes: “every president from Truman to Clinton has felt compelled at some point in time in office – usually in great secrecy – to threaten and/or discuss with the Joint Chiefs of Staff plans and preparation for possible imminent US initiation of tactical or strategic nuclear warfare, in the midst of an ongoing non-nuclear conflict or crisis” (pp .319-322). There were also such instances during the Bush Jr administration and, much more blatantly under Trump, who has talked about bombing North Korea and Afghanistan with nuclear weapons (see Mark Green and Ralph Nader’s book, Fake President: Decoding Trump’s Gaslighting, Corruption, and General Bullsh*t, the chapter on “War and Peace”). 

There are more fingers on the nuclear launch button that the president’s

Ellsberg explains:

“For decades, Americans have been told that there is “exclusive presidential control of the decision to go to nuclear war and how it is to be conducted.” This officially propounded view is “embodied by the iconic ‘football,’ the briefcase carried by a presidential military aide that is to accompany the president ‘at all times,’ containing codes and electronic equipment by which the president, on receiving warning of a nuclear attack, can convey to the military his choice of a response ‘option’ to be executed” (p. 67-68). Ellsberg argues this is not true: “It was not only the president who could make the decision and issue the orders, and not even…the secretary of defense or the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon, but commanders in the field thousands of miles from Washington who thought their forces might be about to be destroyed…. In some circumstances, commanders of four-star rank could issue in their own name an authorized directive to undertake nuclear attack without the immediate prior involvement of the president” (p. 68).

This “hidden” decentralized command structure is necessary because of the threat of decapitation, that is, that the president and other high government officials could be wiped out by a surprise nuclear attack. Ellsberg puts it this way. “A single nuclear warhead on the capital could kill not only the president but all of his legally designated successors in the cabinet and Congress (and the JCS along with the secretary of defense, the only civilian aside from the president in the military chain of command) – all of them who were in town at that moment. If nuclear deterrence were to have any substantial backing at all – if it were to be more than an empty bluff – it could not be the case that one such explosion would definitively block any authorized, coordinated nuclear response to that or any subsequent attack” (p. 69).

US nuclear war policy includes the “First Use” of nuclear weapons

Ellsberg makes this point.

“Preparation for preemption or for carrying out threats of first use or first strike remains the essence of the ‘modernization’ program for strategic weapons for the last seventy years – prospectively being extended by Presidents Obama and Trump to one hundred years – that has continuously benefited our military-industrial-complex” (p. 324)….“The felt political need to profess, at least, to believe that the ability to make and carry out nuclear threats is essential to US national security and to our leadership in our alliances is why every single president has refused to make a formal ‘no-first-use’ (NFU) commitment” (p. 324)

“…the United States has tenaciously resisted the pleas of most other nations in the world to make a NFU pledge as an essential basis for stopping proliferation, including at the Nonproliferation Treaty Extension Conference in 1995 and the Review Conference since 2000. Moreover, the United States has demanded that NATO continue to legitimize first-use threat by basing its own strategy on them, even after the USSR and the Warsaw Pact had dissolved (and most of the former Pact members had joined NATO. Yet this stubborn stance – along with actual threats of possible US nuclear first use in more recent confrontations with Iraq, North Korea, and Iran – virtually precludes effective leadership by the United States (and perhaps anyone else) in delegitimizing and averting further proliferation and even imitation of US use of nuclear weapons” (324-325)

“UN Resolution 36/100, the Declaration on the Prevention of Nuclear Catastrophe, “was adopted on December 9, 1981, in the wake of Reagan’s endorsement of the Carter Doctrine – openly extending US first-use threats to the Persian Gulf – which this resolution directly contradicted and implicitly condemned. It declares in its preamble: ‘Any doctrine allowing the first use of nuclear weapons and any actions pushing the world toward a catastrophe are incompatible with human moral standards and the lofty ideals of the UN” (p. 325) – 82 nations voted in favor of it, 41 abstained (under pressure from US), 19 opposed it (including the US, Israel and most NATO member nations).”

Nuclear Winter

No nation, no people can survive an even limited, regional nuclear war. Even a first-use attack by a nuclear power that destroyed the nuclear-launching capacity of, say Russia, would produce a worldwide catastrophe. The smoke from nuclear bomb blasts would rise into the atmosphere and remain there for an extended period, enough to cripple food production around the world. (See: There are no winners in nuclear war.


Mecklin (referred to earlier) points out, “As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty between Russia and the United States, New START, stands in jeopardy. Unless the two parties resume negotiations and find a basis for further reductions, the treaty will expire in February 2026. This would eliminate mutual inspections, deepen mistrust, spur a nuclear arms race, and heighten the possibility of a nuclear exchange.” He refers to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who has warned the world has entered “a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War.” And “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the risk of nuclear weapons use, raised the specter of biological and chemical weapons use, hamstrung the world’s response to climate change, and hampered international efforts to deal with other global concerns.”

Mecklin adds:

“There is no clear pathway for forging a just peace that discourages future aggression under the shadow of nuclear weapons. But at a minimum, the United States must keep the door open to principled engagement with Moscow that reduces the dangerous increase in nuclear risk the war has fostered. One element of risk reduction could involve sustained, high-level US military-to-military contacts with Russia to reduce the likelihood of miscalculation. The US government, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; they all should be explored. Finding a path to serious peace negotiations could go a long way toward reducing the risk of escalation. In this time of unprecedented global danger, concerted action is required, and every second counts.”

Is Withdrawing from Nuclear weapons treaties the Nuclear Weapons Industry’s Business Plan?

Jonathan Alan King, the  chair of the Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, maintains in an article published on Feb. 6, 2023 that there is such a plan ( This is so because the “manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons is a uniquely profitable business monopoly with a guaranteed market.” And, as he points out, there are continuing opportunities for weapons producers to benefit from such a plan and such opportunities would be even more enhanced by the ending of nuclear weapons’ treaties. King writes:

“The most effective lever nations have to prevent a nuclear holocaust has been the series of treaties that limited deployment of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, after decades of very difficult but successful negotiations in multiple treaties limiting the use of nuclear weapons, our leaders are abandoning these safeguards. This puts Americans and the world at increased risk of nuclear catastrophe.” King makes the following points.

#1 – Big weapons makers made 147 donations “as Congress was debating for roughly $40 billion of aid to Ukraine.”

#2 – “Much of the manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons is carried out by a small number of private corporations. This is a unique and uniquely profitable business: It is a true monopoly since the contracts cannot be outsourced to Chinese, Mexican, Indonesian or other foreign corporations; the market is guaranteed with no competition, since all the products will be purchased by the U.S. government.”

#3 – The corporate leaders of the largest contractors earn more than $20,000,000 annually, thanks to U.S. taxpayers and congressional appropriators.”

#4 – “In response to President Obama’s call for pursuing nuclear disarmament, the defense industry and Pentagon put forward a program for upgrading and modernizing all three legs of the so-called ‘Nuclear triad,’ as noted by the MIT Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter: fixed land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched missiles, and bombs and missiles carried on long-range aircraft. The overall budget is estimated to be in the range of two trillion dollars. The new weapons delivery system the Government is pursuing will result in contracts with price tags in the tens of billions of dollars. The initial contracts already approach $50 billion this year.”

$5 – “This business depends on continuation of the nuclear arms race. Treaties which reduce the arsenals reduce the sales and maintenance of these weapons. That is, they cut the excessive profits of the nuclear weapons industry.

#6 – “The industry is awash in cash, since payments from the U.S. government don’t bounce and include a variety of overhead funds for “communications” and “public relations.” As a result, the industry is able to spend tens of millions to influence Congress, as documented by William Hartung and colleagues at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Members of the Armed Services Committee are among leaders who routinely receive defense contractor funds; the chairs take in contributions totaling many hundreds of thousands of dollars each.”

#7 – “Similarly, think tanks and university programs devoted to the ‘study’ of détente, foreign relations and military strategy are supported by the industry. In Massachusetts, industry members such as Raytheon generously support the Girl ScoutsWalk for Hunger, and other programs calculated to win public support and insulate them from public criticism.”

#8 – “A sharp example of a tiny fraction of our population setting polices that put the entire nation at risk is the ‘ICBM lobby’ which includes U.S. representatives from the states hosting ICBM sites — Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. The ICBM force of 400 giant Minuteman III missiles is the most dangerous of the three legs of the nuclear triad. The missiles are in known, fixed positions. If an attack is detected, they can’t be moved. U.S. policy is to fire rather than lose them. Once launched, they can’t be reversed. They serve no national security purpose but rather actively decrease national security.”

#9 – “Of course, the profits from their manufacture were made years back. Thus, the industry and its extensive lobbying apparatus actively support replacing them with a new generation of ICBMs, just as vulnerable, just as destabilizing. The Air Force has been awarding contracts which will total close to $100 billion for a new generation of land-based missiles. Many of these taxpayer-funded contracts will go to a few corporations, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other nuclear weapons contractors.”

#10 – “The upgraded nuclear weapons — whether fixed in silos, on submarines or carried by bombers — are all described as more reliable, more accurate and more lethal than their predecessors. From the point of view of Russia or China, they resemble weapons designed for a first strike — to eliminate the opponent’s deterrent force. One consequence is that U.S. “adversaries” then decide that their nuclear forces need upgrading too. A new nuclear arms race can only increase the chance of an inadvertent or intended nuclear exchange.”

#11 – “It will be a great human tragedy if our society allows a tiny number of greedy individuals to put our entire population at grave risk of catastrophic damage and suffering. The first step is to start voting out those elected officials who support these suicidal policies.”

Concluding thoughts

The domestic forces that reinforce U.S. militarism and nuclear weapons policies have no positive end result, except perhaps to postpone, but hardly eliminate, an ever-present descent toward nuclear holocaust. In the meantime, such policies contribute to enhancing the anti-democratic power of weapons makers, undermining support for domestic programs that benefit the majority of U.S. citizens, distracting from the pressing need to address accelerating “climate change,” entering into “proxy” wars involving the countries (including the U.S.) that compete for domination of the world, and generally make all but impossible the achievement of a peaceful and democratic country and world.

On a positive note, Jack Werner and William D. Hartung make the argument that the current tensions and conflicts with China, one of the two countries of most concern to Washington decisionmakers, need not lead to war ( They argue in a Feb. 9, 2023 article for the Nation magazine is that what is needed is a “policy of constructive coexistence.” They have some hope that President Biden may contribute to such a path.

“The harsh—one might even say hysterical—reaction to the Chinese balloon that crossed the continental United States last weekend was just the latest indication of rising tensions between the US and China. But the rhetorical tempest that ensued obscured and impeded what should be the most urgent issue on the agenda—preventing a war between the US and China.”

They continue.

“The only way to rebuild trust is to devote at least as much effort to working with China on issues of mutual concern as is currently being devoted to confrontation. These issues—including climate change, nuclear proliferation, and stabilizing the global economy—would not only reduce the risk of a disastrous war; they would also help resolve some of the most threatening problems facing the world today, increasing the security of both the American and Chinese peoples.”

“None of the above should preclude the United States from speaking out against negative Chinese behavior, from its stamping out of the democracy movement in Hong Kong to its harsh repression of its Uyghur population. But war or threats of war do not improve human rights—they strengthen nationalists and militarists, on all sides, who are the greatest enemies of human rights.”

Is it too late to curtail the progression of climate disrupton and its dire effects?

Bob Sheak, Feb 1, 2023

There are many recent books and reports that give us a good understanding of the dire effects and projections of climate change (climate disruption, climate crisis, global warming), how fossil-fuel corporations and an array of other powerful corporate and political forces in and outside of government have created false, but, unfortunately, narratives denying climate change, deflecting attention away from it, or proffering false solutions (e.g., geoengineering).

The authors provide extensive documentation of the problem, its causes, the concerted efforts to delegitimize efforts to address the problem, and what can be done to save the planet. Kate Aronoff’s book, Over-Heated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet – and How We Fight Back” is one of these books. Other books on these topics include John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark’s The Robbery of Nature: Capitalism and the Ecological Rift, Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin’s Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal, Robert Pollin’s Greening the Global Economy, Bill McKibben’s Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, and Ian Angus’s facing the Anthropocene: fossil capitalism and the crisis of the earth system.

There are two themes, among others, that stand out. We don’t have much time to prevent the ongoing increase in climate catastrophes from getting worse, and we have the know how to prevent this from happening. In the final analysis, politics will make the difference.

Michael E. Mann’s book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, published in 2021. The concept of “war” in this context suggests that there is an intransigent enemy, prominently the Republican Party and its corporate and wealthy benefactors, that threatens to make life on the planet less and less habitable, and that it will take an equally powerful force to stop them.

Despite the growing body of evidence that we are losing the fight against “climate change” and its myriad and destructive effects, Mann, who is a well-known and published climate scientist, offers an analysis that is designed most fundamentally to reveal what climate scientists have learned and to leave readers with some “hope” about the future. He writes, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” He continues: “Alone it won’t solve the problem. But drawing upon it, we will” (p. 267).

Mann’s main contention is that it is not too late to radically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the principal sources of climate change and, through domestic and international efforts, to limit the emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next decade. That would require at least a 50 percent decline in fossil fuel emissions. To achieve this goal, he argues, policies based on science must be instituted, citizens must be “educated” about the facts and, some at least, must be or become active in the political process. In addition, the disinformation of the fossil fuel interests must be effectively challenged, and the government must, over the next decade or two institute policies to remove fossil fuels from the energy mix and replace them with renewables, energy efficiency, and other environmentally sustainable technologies.

Mann argues, “We need policies that will incentivize the needed shift away from fossil fuel burning toward a clean, green global economy. So-called leaders who resist the call for action must be removed from office” (p. 6). The word “incentivize” suggests that the climate-related policies of corporations and the ideological commitments of the far-right republican Party can be changed through negotiations or, or more plausibly, through elections that remove them from office.

At the same time, it becomes clear as time passes that there is little or no reason to expect the Republican Party or their allies and supporters to negotiate on this issue – or any issue – in good faith. (See Steve Benen’s documentation of this point in his book, The Imposters: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics). Geoff Dembicki analyzes the “far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change,” in his book, The Petroleum Papers (publ. 2022).

Meanwhile, oil, natural gas, and coal continue to provide most of the overall energy and electricity for the U.S, though there is some decline in the contribution of fossil fuels in the energy mix, as renewable energy sources increase their share of energy production. But moving from where we are at to where we need to be will require systemic changes of massive levels, including changes that would phase out fossil fuels over the next three decades.

In this post, I offer evidence documenting that: (1) climate disruption or change is worsening internationally and domestically; (2) the last 8 years have been the hottest on record; (3) there are a host of detrimental effects of climate disruption; (4) there is a lack of sufficient efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions; and (5) there are some who are  hopeful about replacing or reducing our dependence on fossil fuels with “renewables” (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal) before the problem undermines societal institutions and brings increasing havoc to everyday life. It will take international cooperation and the enactment and implementation of a radical agenda domestically to achieve such a transition.

#1 – Greenhouse gases continue to rise


The United Nations Climate Change agency reports on Jan. 18, 2023 on the problem and offers proposals that, if enacted, would “unleash renewable energy’s full potential” ( The agency reports that

Speaking at the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Assembly in Abu Dhabi last weekend, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell said the positive outcomes from last November’s UN Climate Change Conference COP27 give the world enormous opportunity to make progress, starting now.

“It requires the cooperation of every single country represented in this room,” said Stiell. “All Parties must come together in order to achieve the level of ambition needed to get to where we need to go, and we have a lot of work to do to get there.”

“There is reason for optimism when it comes to renewable energy because renewables are moving further and faster than projected. Here are just a few examples:

“Renewable electricity capacity additions have been outpacing those of non-renewables since 2014.”

“The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Renewables Outlook complements this, noting that renewables are set to account for over 90% of global electricity capacity expansion in the next five years and that renewables will become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025, surpassing coal.”

“Worldwide renewable energy employment reached 12.7 million last year, a jump of 700,000 new jobs in one year. Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global renewable workforce.

“But there is also reason to be frustrated. As IRENA pointed out in its submission to the global stocktake, regardless of increased ambition expressed by countries at the last two COPs, current climate pledges and overall finance to support the shift to renewables remains insufficient.”

United States

Benjamin Storrow reports in Scientific American that “U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Went Up Again in 2022” ( “Though renewable energy surpassed coal generation for the first time in 60 years, causing U.S. power emissions to decline, emissions from buildings and transportation went up in 2022.”

“Emissions from buildings grew 6 percent following a particularly cold winter. Transport and industry each saw emissions increase by slightly more than 1 percent. Those sectors of the economy have historically proven difficult to green, and in 2022, they pushed total U.S. emissions up.

“The United States would need to cut emissions by about 5 percent a year over the next decade to meet its 50 percent target in 2030. For context, U.S. emissions fell by an average of 1.7 percent annually between 2011 and 2020, according to EPA figures. Yet even that figure overstates the United States’ past emission progress because it included a 10 percent drop from 2020 that resulted from the pandemic.”


#2The Last 8 or 9 Years Were the Hottest on Record

This reflects the recent findings of Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, as reported by The New York Times on Jan. 10, 2023, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on January 12, 2023,and also by Berkeley Earth, Jan 12, 2023.

For example, in the article for The New York Times, Henry Fountain and Mira Rojanasakul report that scientists from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service find this: “The eight warmest years on record have now occurred since 2014” ( They continue: “Overall, the world is now 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.1 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than it was in the second half of the 19th century, when emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels became widespread.”

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) finds that 2022 was the “Fifth Warmest Year on Record, Warming Trend Continues,” as reported by Tyler Greene and Jacob Richmond on Jan 12, 2023 ( The key point:

“2022 effectively tied for Earth’s 5th warmest year since 1880, and the last 9 consecutive years have been the warmest 9 on record.” Additionally, “Human-driven greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded following a short-lived dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, NASA scientists, as well as international scientists, determined carbon dioxide emissions were the highest on record in 2022.”

Berkeley Earth reports Jan. 12, 2023 on its Global Temperature Report for 2022


It concludes that the year was nominally the fifth warmest on Earth since 1850 based on land and ocean data, with an estimated 850 million people experiencing local record warm annual average temperatures” and that the “last eight years have been the eight warmest years observed in the instrumental record.” The authors of the Berkeley report add:

“‘Twenty-eight countries experienced their warmest annual average since record-keeping began, including most of Western Europe,’ said Berkeley Earth Lead Scientist Dr. Robert Rohde. ‘This means a substantial fraction of the world’s population has just lived through the warmest year in their local history — with disruptive and sometimes even deadly consequences.’” And:

“‘At the current rate of progression, the increase in Earth’s long-term average temperature will reach 1.5°C (2.7 °F) above the 1850-1900 average by about 2034, and 2 °C (3.6 °F) will be reached around 2060,’ Dr. Rohde said. ‘The increasing abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities is the direct cause of this recent global warming. If the Paris Agreement’s goal of no more than 2°C (3.6 °F) warming is to be reached, significant progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be made soon.’”

The full report is available at


#3 – Examples of the deleterious effects

The Trend: More hot days than cold ones

The changing climate is producing more and more “extreme weather events.” Romm writes: “while we will continue to have record-setting cold temperatures in places, the ratio of record-setting hot days to record-setting cold days will grow over time, which has been measured” (p. 32). Climate Nexus tracks all this and substantiates Romm’s contention as follows: “Record-breaking high temperatures are now outnumbering record lows by an average decadal ratio of 2:1. Record highs are occurring more often than record lows due to climate change.” And: “In a stable climate, the ratio of new record highs to new record lows is approximately even. However in our warming climate, record highs have begun to outpace record lows, with the imbalance growing for the past three decades. This trend is one of the clearest signals of climate change that we experience directly.”

Other research findings come to similar conclusions. A study published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres shows that “extreme heat events both in the summer and in the winter are increasing across the U.S. and Canada, while extreme cold events in summer and winter are declining,” so that “there are more extremely hot days during the summer as well as more days that are considered extremely hot for the time of year, like abnormally warm days in the winter” ( And research by Richard Davy published in the same journal finds that “[o]bservations from the last fifty years have shown that the nights have been warming much faster than the days. Analysis of the causes of this more rapid warming at night shows that this is likely to continue in the coming decades” (

Billion Dollar disasters in 2022

Adam Smith, considers the costs of “billion-dollar disasters” in an article Oct. 11, 2022 article for Climate Central ( Smith is a Ph.D. in “applied climatologist” who works at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). As of October, “the U.S. has experienced 15-billion-dollar weather and climate disasters so far in 2022—already well above the historical average of seven events per year.” Furthermore, “The frequency of billion-dollar disasters has also increased. In the last five years (2017-2021), there were just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters—compared to 82 days in the 1980s.”


#4 – The Causes

Despite growing recognition of the reality of advancing global warming and its destructiveness, and despite international efforts to reach agreements to stem the problem, the U.S. and the world’s nations have not yet been able to free themselves enough from fossil fuels, the principal sources of this growing existential threat.

In the U.S., the chief hurdles have been continuing support and dependence on fossil fuels, too little investment in renewables, political and economic forces that generally prioritize fossil fuels, a powerful right-wing, reactionary movement under the sway of Trump.

Here’s why the U.S. electric grid isn’t running on 100% renewable energy yet

Catherine Clifford delves into the question of why “the electricity grid is not already free of fossil fuels and running 100% on renewables ( This is curious, Clifford thinks, because the technology to generate electricity with renewable resources like wind and solar has existed for decades. She makes the following points of what needs to be done.

Scale up technologies like batteries and transmission lines. Work to shift cultural and political “toward solving tomorrow’s problems, instead of maintaining the status quo.” Shift away from fossil fuels in generating electricity for homes and businesses.” The problem is that “the U.S. electrical sector is still dependent on fossil fuels. In 2021, 61 percent of electricity generation came from burning coal, natural gas, or petroleum. Only 20 percent of the electricity in the U.S. came from renewables, mostly wind energy, hydropower and solar energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another 19 percent came from nuclear power.” There is some progress.

“The contribution from renewables has been increasing steadily since the 1990s, and the rate of increase has accelerated. For example, wind power provided only 2.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 1990, doubling to 5.6 billion in 2000. But from there, it skyrocketed, growing to 94.6 billion in 2010 and 379.8 billion in 2021.That’s progress, but it’s not happening fast enough to eliminate the worst effects of climate change for our descendants.

The power of the giant fossil fuel corporations

Amy Westervelt reports Dec. 24, 2022 on “Subpoenaed Fossil Fuel Documents Reveal an Industry Stuck in the Past ( “The industry is still running the same five-step plan, to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.” She adds:

“As part of its investigation into climate disinformation, the House Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents in November 2021 from four of the world’s largest oil companies; their U.S. trade association, the American Petroleum Institute; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber did not comply with the subpoena, but the rest submitted a variety of responsive documents, the most salient of which have been published by the Oversight Committee in two batches. The more than 1,500 pages include internal communications about media relations, advertising, and marketing campaigns from 2015 to 2021.

“Taken together, they reveal that the industry’s approach on climate really hasn’t changed since scientists first started warning that the burning of fossil fuels was becoming a problem: push “solutions” that keep fossil fuels profitable, downplay climate impacts, overstate the industry’s commitments, and bully the media if they don’t stay on message. It’s the same five-step plan, deployed to the same end: preserving power, subsidies, and social license.”

Recognition by the US government, but not enough action

There has been an understanding of and concern about the rising Earth temperature for at least 165 years, principally caused by emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Eunice Newton Foote “theorized that changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could affect the Earth’s temperature back in 1856 (All We Can Save, p. xvii).

The scientific confirmation of this theory is confirmed again and again over the last century and a half. Jumping to recent times, James Gustave Speth, an internationally environmental expert, writes that it is well documented that “the federal government knew enough in the 1970s and 1980s  [as did Exxon] to begin addressing the climate issue in energy policy and elsewhere. Such understanding is documented during the Carter administration in the 1970s, and has been continuously demonstrated in every subsequent administration up through Trump’s four years. And all of these administrations failed to reduce the rise in fossil fuel emissions (See Speth’s book, They Knew: The US Federal Government’s Fifty-Year Role in Causing the Climate Crisis). The climate denialism of the Trump administration was off the charts in denying or avoiding the problem and in undermining efforts to address it.

The “climate damage” of the Trump administration

Stacey Feldman and Marianne Lavelle consider “Donald Trump’s Record on Climate Change” after four years in the White House ( Here’s some of what they write.

“As president, he has rolled back regulations on energy suppliers at a rapid clip slowed only at times by the courts, while auctioning off millions of acres of new drilling leases on public land. Last year [2019], domestic oil production hit a record high.”

“Trump began the process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty, the agreement signed by nearly all nations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. He replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan, intended to sharply reduce emissions from U.S. power plants. He took the first step to weaken fuel economy standards for cars, the single most important effort for reining in the largest driver of U.S. emissions.

“His administration has undone or delayed—or tried to—most regulatory and executive actions related to climate change, while proposing new ones to accelerate fossil fuel development. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counts 131 actions toward federal climate deregulation since Trump took office. In the absence of any comprehensive national climate law, those moves have led to an erosion of the federal government’s main regulatory levers for cutting global warming emissions.”

Coral Davenport considers the evidence that Trump’s most profound legacy will be “climate damage” ( She writes:

“…Mr. Trump’s rollbacks of emissions policies have come at a critical moment: Over the past four years, the global level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere crossed a long-feared threshold of atmospheric concentration. Now, many of the most damaging effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, deadlier storms, and more devastating heat, droughts and wildfires, are irreversible.”

As one example, Lisa Friedman reports on how the Trump administration “traumatized the EPA” and left short of the resources needed to do its job (

The Biden Administration – the Inflation Adjustment Act

Tobias Burns reports on Sept. 7, 2022, on Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s vow to ‘rid’ the US from ‘dependence on fossil fuels’ (

“Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will call out the fossil fuel industry in a Thursday speech on the Biden administration’s economic agenda to be delivered in Detroit, Mich., where oil and gas companies have long held influence in the U.S. auto manufacturing sector.  

“The visit to Detroit comes on the heels of the Democrats’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which includes $14.2 billion worth of subsidies for electric vehicles meant to wean the auto industry off of gasoline in an effort to reduce U.S. transportation emissions that are contributing to a rise in global temperatures.” 

“Our plan — powered by the Inflation Reduction Act — represents the largest investment in fighting climate change in our country’s history. It will put us well on our way toward a future where we depend on the wind, sun, and other clean sources for our energy.” At least, this is Yellen’s view.

 IRA neglects public sector

Burns refers to an interview with University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin, who agrees that the IRA represents a step forward but is too focused on the private sector to solve the problem. Pollin said:

“The IRA is almost entirely geared toward incentivizing private investment. Between federal, state and local governments, we’re talking about $7 trillion of public spending. Why not take a tiny slice of that and do things like investing in, say, retrofitting every single public building to raise energy efficiency standards, or investing in 100 percent renewable energy to supply public buildings, or having public sector purchases of electric vehicles for public transportation significantly?” 

Other concerns

The editors at the Monthly Review agree with Pollin’s point that the IRA is too focused on the private sector to solve the climate crisis. See the November 22, 2022 issue, Volume 74, No. 6. Specifically, they are concerned that the Inflation Adjustment Act has “no emissions targets, since it relies exclusively on a carrot approach (avoiding all regulatory sticks), provide primarily in the form of tax credits and subsidies to corporations, the wealthy, electrical utilities, and relatively well-to-do consumers.” They add: “even the most optimistic assessment of the IRA would not close the gap between the present U.S. emissions reduction pathway and the pathway needed to reach zero emissions by 2050. (It should also be noted that the U.S. military’s vast and increasing climate emissions are not included in the accounting of U.S. emissions….)”

There is more. The editors write: “…the Biden climate legislation envisions the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry. A controversial part of the plan, promoted by Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, is a tradeoff in which solar and wind energy projects are contingent on opening up millions of acres of public land and water to oil and gas leases, while another provision includes locking in drilling off the coast of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.”


#5 – Reasons for being hopeful in 2023

Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, offers “4 reasons for hope in 2023” ( 

1) The reality of climate change is sinking in – “More than ever, people in the United States and globally are listening to science and taking action to stop climate change. Public opinion research highlights that fewer than 10 percent of  Americans are dismissive of climate change, and that majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming.

2) Climate action across the U.S. is now very real – “States, cities, corporations and universities are leading the way in showing how the transition to a clean energy future can happen. For example, in Michigan, the state-level government is committed to carbon neutrality as a member of the United States Climate Alliance (24 states with 58 percent of the national economy and 54 percent of the population). Many cities in Michigan, including Ann Arbor, are taking real steps toward carbon neutrality, just as the corporations in the state (e.g., the top five: FordGeneral MotorsLearWhirlpool and Meijer) are working to rapidly reduce their carbon emissions. 

(There is a problem with the goal of “carbon neutrality,” that is, it does not seek to reduce emissions but rather only to keep emissions from rising.)

3) The multiple economic benefits of clean energy are becoming too obvious to ignore – “The costs associated with renewable energy continue to plummet and are already becoming cheaper than fossil fuels almost everywhere, even before taking into the account the increasing costs of climate change. Moving quickly into clean energy will not only stave off climate disasters but will enable us to thrive economically. The United States is not alone in this effort: European countriesChinaIndiaAustralia and many more are working to accelerate the global clean energy transition. Accelerating the clean-energy transition, as well as developing all the knowledge and technology involved, is essential if our states and nation are going to compete economically in a world that is going carbon-neutral.” 

“The benefits of clean energy go well beyond halting climate change. Transitioning to clean energy will also eliminate an estimated 8 million premature deaths per year due to fossil fuel air pollution. And the latest 2022 research estimates that the clean energy transition will save the global economy trillions of dollars in terms of energy costs alone, because renewable energy sources are simply cheaper. Finally, the transition will save trillions of dollars associated with avoided climate change impacts, and will also cut dependence on petro-states that use their fossil-fuel profits for corruption and war.”

4) Climate action is increasingly designed to be equitable and just – “The foundation for a more sustainable planet needs to benefit not just the wealthy and comfortable, but those who have been historically marginalized. Here in the U.S., this includes urban, rural and Indigenous communities. In this clean-energy world, the countries that created the climate crisis will be the ones that help and empower the less affluent countries whose actions contribute little if any to the climate crisis, but who suffer the most.”

Also check out Matthew Hoffman’s list of reasons to be hopeful (


Concluding thoughts

Polls in the U.S. find that a majority of respondents have become convinced that “climate change” is a real and an existential problem that will only worsen if governments and societies do not adequately address it. Bradley Dennis, Chris Mooney and Steven Mufson refer to a report by The National Climate Assessment, compiled by a broad range of federal agencies ( They write,

“Many of the harmful impacts that people across the country are already experiencing will worsen as warming increases, and new risks will emerge.” The research evidence indicates the following. (1) Every part of the U.S. is grappling with climate change — but not equally. (2) A warming world threatens reliable water supplies. (3) Extreme events are wreaking havoc on homes and property (4) The U.S. can expect more forced migration and displacement. And (5) Climate change is a growing public health threat.

There is a scientific consensus that the problem is growing and that transitioning away from fossil fuels is a major part of any potential solution. Wikipedia refers to some of the evidence on this consensus ( On Sept 3, 2022, The United in Science 2022 report is published by the WMOsummarizing latest climate science-related updates and assessing recent climate change mitigation progress as “going in the wrong direction”.[3][4]

And on October 26: “At the 30th anniversary of the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, scientists in a BioScience study concluded that ‘We are now at ‘code red‘ on planet Earth”, presenting new or updated information about tracked ‘recent climate-related disasters, assess[ed] planetary vital signs, and […] policy recommendations.’”[5][6]

As indicated previously in this post, Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist, professor, and dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, refers to research that finds that “majorities in all states think global warming will harm future generations, support regulating CO2 as a pollutant and think corporations should do more to address global warming” ( And, according to an article by Brett Wilkins, “shareholder resolutions push big banks to phase out fossil fuels (

However, some polls find respondents qualifying their support for an energy transition away from fossil fuels. According to a Pew Research Center survey in March 2022, “69% of U.S. adults prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas,” and to do this by 2050 ( However, only a “small share of Americans (31%) believe the U.S. should phase out the use of oil, coal and natural gas completely; far more (67%) say the country should use a mix of fossil fuel and renewable energy sources.”

Russia’s war on Ukraine rattled the global oil and natural gas markets, as countries in Europe and elsewhere, which have been highly dependent on the Russian oil and gas, rallied in opposition to the war (especially in EU countries) and Russia responded.

David Gelles analyzes the situation ( Russia and OPEC tried to take advantage of the situation and raised gas and oil prices while reducing supplies of these energy sources. In the short term, “gas bills [across Europe] nearly doubled and electricity costs spiked some 70 percent in the first six months of the war, according to the Household Energy Price Index, which tracks energy costs.” In short order, however, many countries were prompted “to accelerate their development of renewable energy.” Gelles points out, “From England to Spain to Albania, countries across the European continent are rushing to deploy wind and solar power at record rates.” Unfortunately, in the short term, these countries also increased their use of coal.

Republicans and much of the corporate community are opposed to meaningful government action and have spent billions of dollars lobbying legislators and fostering disinformation to confuse people. In the present political situation, in which Republicans and their allies confound the truth about the crisis and make it a partisan issue, government has been thwarted from advancing and implementing policies that would curtail and reverse greenhouse gas emissions.

Josh Siegel and Kelsey Tamborrino report on the House Republicans plan to “keep Democrats on their heels ( They write:

“The plan, described by a dozen current and former House lawmakers, aides and outside allies, seeks to build on the political momentum that the GOP claimed on energy policy this year, as jumps in fuel and electricity prices battered President Joe Biden’s popularity and complicated his climate agenda.

“The GOP effort would include components of a strategy that top House Republican Kevin McCarthy released in June that called for measures to stimulate oil and gas production, ease permitting regulations and seek to reduce reliance on China and Russia for critical materials.”

One of the counterproductive “solutions” advanced by the supporters of fossil fuels is that natural gas and the fracking boom are “bridges” to a cleaner, lower emissions outcome.

However, as Michael Mann points out in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, the reality is that natural gas is “nearly one hundred times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a twenty-year time frame.” And when the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to break up the bedrock to get at natural gas deposits inevitably allows some of the methane to escape directly into the atmosphere,” the result of “methane releases from drilling operations, pipelines, and storage facilities.”  The Trump administration disbanded regulations issued by the Obama administration to regulate “fugitive gas, claiming it would save industry millions of dollars” (p. `150). This is a serious mis-step in that the “rise in methane is responsible for as much as 25 percent of the warming (p. 150).

In the end, our current energy-use path leads to a climate apocalypse. If we are fortunate and are able to follow an alternative path based on actions and policies that follow the science, acknowledge the growing costs of using fossil fuels, elect legislators who respond constructively to the best science and push for alternatives to fossil fuels, then we have a chance.