Talking to farmers about climate change is a delicate affair, Natasha Geiling, climate change reporter for ThinkProgress, notes. While nearly half of US adults believe that climate change is happening and is the result of human activity, only 8% of farmers feel the same, according to a survey by Purdue and Iowa State universities. To explain why farmers are far less likely than the general population to accept the scientific consensus on climate change, social scientists offer a variety of explanations: farmers skew conservative; farmers have long institutional memory and are more apt to view particular events as part of larger trends; farmers don’t want to admit that they are part of the problem.

But to get farmers engaged on the issue of climate change, experts tend to suggest one simple solution: instead of calling it “climate change,” a term that has become politically charged, call it “weather variation.”

So it might seem, on its face, that the Trump administration’s most recent directive to US Department of Agriculture scientists — mandating that they avoid the term “climate change” in favor of “weather extremes” — could actually help the government discuss the issue of climate change with farmers. The directive, explained in an internal USDA email obtained by the Guardian, tells scientists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agency’s primary conservation arm, to refer to things like “climate change adaptation” as “resilience to extreme weather events” and to use “build organic soil matter” rather than “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

But instead of making these changes to more effectively communicate the department’s work with scientists, the emails obtained by the Guardian reveal a more sinister impetus for the change: a “shift in perspective within the Executive Branch.” In short, the Trump administration wants to bury mention of climate change not because doing so will make it easier to talk about the problem with farmers, but because the administration has decided that the problem is simply not a priority.

“Using the terms weather extreme, climate variability can be an entry into having a deeper conversation about the science,” Linda Prokopy, professor of Natural Resources Social Science at Purdue University, and a specialist in communicating climate change with farmers, told ThinkProgress. “When we tell people they cannot use terms that are being actively discussed in the scientific literature, that is problematic, because it really shuts down a potential conversation.”

According to Prokopy, farmers who accept anthropogenic climate change — climate change caused by humans — are more likely to take adaptive measures to help strengthen their land against climate vulnerability. If the USDA can’t talk about climate change, it’s less likely to be able to convince farmers to do things like plant cover crops or switch to no-till farming, two strategies that can help both increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil and guard soil against erosion from things like intense storms.

The dangers posed by climate change to farmers are hardly distant threats. In March, fueled by weeks of drought and above-average temperatures, wildfires swept across the Great Plains, devastating almost everything in their path. In states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, vicious fires tore through ranches, decimating herds of cattle. Some ranchers lost nearly 80% of their herds and thousands of acres of their property; for some families, those losses easily cost millions of dollars.

Understanding that climate change was bound to make life more difficult for farmers, the Obama administration began rolling out a suite of climate-focused programs, from USDA Regional Climate Hubs to a series of voluntary “building blocks” aimed at helping farmers reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to climate change. But the Trump administration has shown little interest in continuing the department’s focus, naming former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) — who called climate science “a running joke among the public” in a 2014 op-ed — secretary of agriculture. Trump nominated Sam Clovis, a former conservative talk radio host who has little science training and does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change, to be the USDA’s head scientist.

[Clovis also frequently ruminated on racial issues, blaming progressives for heightened racial tensions during Obama’s tenure. Clovis wrote in blog posts discovered by CNN that progressives were “liars, race traders and race ‘traitors'” who lack moral certitude. He argued that progressives were “the real racists.”]

The irony of Trump’s climate denial is that the farmers who will be hardest hit by the changing climate are the very rural voters that helped propel Trump to the White House. And it’s not just climate programs that could be on the chopping block in Trump’s USDA: the administration’s proposed “skinny budget” included a 21% cut to the USDA, eliminating grants meant to help spur economic activity, water treatment in rural communities, rural infrastructure plans, and more.

UNION PROMISES TO FIGHT DEFEAT AT NISSAN MISSISSIPPI AUTO PLANT. Nissan workers in Canton, Miss., voted against unionizing their automobile manufacturing plant in a disappointing defeat for union officials who hoped to get some momentum for organizing in the South.

“With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard,” said Nissan spokesperson Parul Baraj in a statement on the 2,244 to 1,307 vote to reject United Auto Workers. “Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family.”

Pro-union workers said they had no intentions of giving up any time soon. Hardball company tactics against the vote have attracted the attention of federal labor authorities, which could call for a new ballot, Mike Elk noted in the Guardian (8/5).

“It ain’t over yet,” union leader Morris Mock told a crowd of dozens of Nissan workers. “It ain’t over yet. Nissan, all you did was make us mad. We are gonna fight a little harder next time. We are gonna stand a little harder next time. We are gonna shout a little harder next time because next time we are never gonna give up.”

Mock’s speech was interrupted by chants of “six months” – the time in which workers hope the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) will grant them a new election.

“Fight to win, fight to win, fight to win!” cried Hazel Whiting, whose son, Derrick Whiting, died after collapsing on the factory floor in 2015.

Activists who fought for 14 years for the vote said they were proud that 1,307 people had voted to join a union. Nissan managers held one-on-one sessions with workers to discourage them. The company blitzed local media with anti-union ads.

The attempt by the UAW to organize at Nissan was unprecedented in size for the South. Under the banner of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFN), the UAW organized a coalition of student groups, clergy, community, labor, environmental and civil rights groups.

For more than a decade, a formal union seemed out of reach. Then, this spring, more than 5,000 union activists showed up for an historic March for Mississippi against Nissan, featuring US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The march gave the union drive an unexpected burst of energy. In the following month, the UAW gained 386 members at the Canton plant. Despite having only a narrow majority of Nissan workers signing cards, the union decided it was time to call an election and force a discussion about workers’ rights in the South.

Major factories like the 6,000-person Nissan plant in Canton often unionize after multiple attempts. Through workplace struggle and defeat, many workers learn valuable lessons. Many at the Canton plant realized they might lose but saw the election as the beginning of a long-term struggle.

The fight at Canton has pitted union activists against those who see unionization as antithetical to growth in a poverty stricken state.

“If you want to take away your job, if you want to end manufacturing as we know it in Mississippi, just start expanding unions,” Gov. Phil Bryant said the week before the election.

All over town, businesses put up signs saying “Our Team, Our Future, Vote No August 3-4.” Local TV featured a similar message. Many workers reported pressure from friends, neighbors and others to vote against the union, so the plant would not close.

Then one-on-one meetings started. Thousands of workers were forced to sit alone with bosses and describe how they felt about the union drive. In such meetings, workers were told of the threat a union would represent. They were told unionization would make the plant more rigid and would lead to many workers not being able to get favors from bosses when they needed time off.

In late July, the NLRB charged Nissan with illegally threatening workers and bribing workers to vote against the union. On the day of the election, the UAW filed seven more unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. If the federal body decides that Nissan broke the law, it could re-order another election within six months.

Nissan has denied the charges and plans to appeal. For now, despite not having a union, workers say they must act like a minority union on the shop floor.

“The company is gonna help us win this next campaign and they don’t even realize it because they are not going to keep their word,” said worker Castes Foster. “Once a snake, always a snake.”

SENATE CONFIRMS ANTI-LABOR PICK TO LABOR BOARD. The Senate (8/1) confirmed one of President Trump’s nominees to fill one of the vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Lydia Wheeler reported at The Hill (8/2).

The Senate in a 50-48 party-line vote approved the nomination of Marvin Kaplan to the board that’s responsible for resolving labor disputes and protecting workers’ collective bargaining rights in the private sector.

Trump’s nomination of Kaplan had sparked controversy, with Democrats questioning whether he would defend workers’ rights on the board. On the Senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) criticized Kaplan for the time he spent as a House staffer, where he worked on measures to strip workers of their right to organize and join unions in their workplace.

“After eight months, the Republicans are about to go on vacation, but not before they jam the NLRB with a new anti-worker nominee,” she said.

“The biggest problem in Washington is that this place works great for giant employers and for giant corporations with armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but workers and their families just get ignored.”

William Emanuel, a labor lawyer at Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles, has been tapped to fill a second open seat on the board, but the Senate has yet to vote on his nomination.

Republicans, however, are anxious to get the two vacancies filled.

If Emanuel is confirmed, the balance of power on the board will shift from Democrats to Republicans for the first time in years. It’s a change welcomed by conservatives, who have long argued the board unfairly favors unions over employers, Wheeler noted.

Republicans and business groups have been fighting a 2015 NLRB ruling, which changed the definition of a joint-employer and made franchisors potentially liable for labor law violations committed by their franchisees. They have also opposed the board’s 2014 rules to speed-up union elections.

TRUMP’S NEW APPEALS COURT JUDGE COMPARED ABORTION TO SLAVERY. The Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, despite his history of ranting against liberals and spreading far-right conspiracy theories in blog postings. often under a pseudonym.

In 2008, Bush repeated Birther claims that “Obama’s kin” living in Kenya was a criminal.  He also repeated a claim by “birther” Jack Cashill that Obama didn’t write his best-selling book, Dreams from my Father.

When Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) pressed Bush on his statement that “the two greatest tragedies in our country—slavery and abortion—relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the US Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe,” Bush explained that Roe was tragic because “it divided the country” whereas Dred Scott was tragic because it “took away Mr. Scott’s freedom” and because of its “taking the issue of slavery out of the political process and leading to civil war,” Jay Michaelson reported at (7/19). The Senate approved Bush’s nomination, 51-47, on a party-line vote (7/20).

Charles Pierce noted at Esquire.com (7/20), “This is not judicial temperament. This is a tryout for drive-time talk radio.”

TRUMP MAY SHUT DOWN GOVERNMENT OVER BORDER WALL. The Republican White House and Republican Congress are playing chicken over funding of Donald Trump’s border wall, with White House officials suggesting Trump would shut down his own government over it.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told Axios.com (8/6) the Trump administration has clear expectations for the fall: “We get tax reform and we also complete funding of the government which includes rebuilding of the military and securing our border.” (Read: the wall.)

Sources inside and close to Republican Hill leadership, however, are privately less sanguine:

• Some say there’s a good chance of a government shutdown before the end of the year because of deep rifts over spending priorities.

• No one sees Trump’s wall getting much more than a symbolic nod, which is sure to anger Trump and the Bannon faction, and could lead to a shutdown.

• Tax reform in this calendar year seems increasingly unlikely. A bill and big debate? Yes. Something signed into law? Very hard, given the points above and persistently deep disagreements over which loopholes to keep and how to pay for the tax cuts, Jonathan Swan wrote at Axios.

Congress must pass bills to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government before the end of September. Top Hill sources believe the most likely scenario is that a coalition of Republican leaders, Republican moderates and Democrats cobble together a bill that extends government funding for three months, reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program and raises the debt limit, Swan wrote. And the bills will need 60 votes to pass in the Senate.

TRUMP URGED FOX NEWS TO AIR BOGUS CONSPIRACY THEORY ABOUT SLAIN DNC AIDE. In mid-May, President Trump encouraged Fox News to publish a false story about slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in order to distract attention from the ongoing investigation of ties between his campaign and Russia, according to a lawsuit filed in New York federal court July 31.

The 33-page lawsuit provides a glimpse into the extraordinary duplicity that fueled Fox News’ reporting on the Seth Rich story, Jefferson Morley reported at AlterNet. Rich, a voter data analyst for the DNC, was murdered on a Washington street last summer in what D.C. police believe was a botched robbery.

The allegations in the lawsuit may have legal consequences for Trump and Fox News.

The lawsuit was filed by Rod Wheeler, a former police detective and longtime paid Fox News commentator hired by Rich’s family to investigate the crime. Wheeler claims Fox News commentator Ed Butowsky and correspondent Malia Zimmerman collaborated with the White House to spread the story that Rich, not the Russians, had provided DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

Trump was personally involved, says Wheeler. Butowsky, he alleges, sent him a text (5/14), two days before the story ran, saying, “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”

The suit alleges that Butowsky maintained “regular contact with Trump administration officials,” including Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon and Sarah Flores, the public affairs director at the Department of Justice, regarding “his efforts relating to Seth Rich.”

The Fox News story, promoted as a “bombshell,” quoted Wheeler as saying that Rich had been in touch with WikiLeaks and someone in the government was blocking the investigation. Wheeler says both quotes were fabricated.

Trump’s role in the story has two possible implications, one for the Russia investigation, the other for Fox News.

Trump’s involvement in promoting a false story would only be significant for the ongoing Russia investigation if other solid evidence of obstruction of justice emerges. Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University, says such evidence is lacking.

“While [Trump’s involvement] can be cited as part of a pattern,” Turley said in an email, “there is still not a compelling mosaic of a crime. This is a particularly small tile in any mosaic theory. There is a danger when otherwise lawful acts are assembled to create a criminal claim.”

Trump’s involvement is also relevant to the bid of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to buy Sky, a European satellite TV network.

In June, British authorities delayed approval of the $15 bln transaction and asked regulators to further examine whether the deal would give the Rupert Murdoch family too much control over the country’s media.

The bogus Seth Rich story provides British regulators a glimpse into how Fox seeks to influence the news agenda and the political process: with fabricated quotes, blackmail threats and the encouragement of the president of the US.

TROLLS CELEBRATE MOSQUE BOMBING WHILE TRUMP STAYS SILENT. Minnesota’s Muslim community was reeling from the bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, as worshippers were arriving for morning prayers. No one was injured, but the mosque suffered fire and smoke damage as a result of the explosion; the office of the mosque’s imam was heavily damaged. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) visited the site and referred to the bombing as a hate crime and an act of terrorism. “The destruction done to this sacred site is just unthinkable, unforgivable. I hope and pray the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he said. As of Monday afternoon, Aug. 7, Donald Trump remained silent on the mosque bombing.

Islamic groups have warned of an uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States in recent months. In a July report, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that more than 940 potential bias incidents against Muslims were reported between April and June, a 91% increase compared to the same period in 2016, Newsweek reported.

CAIR said its Facebook page had been inundated with anti-Muslim messages since the mosque bombing and its offer of a $10,000 reward. The group of messages sent by people celebrating the incident. One read: “Blow up all mosques. Muslim fairy tales have no place inside the United States.” Another said: “If they find this person they should give him a medal.”

VATICAN SHOT ACROSS BOW FOR HARD-LINE US CATHOLICS. Two close associates of Pope Francis have accused American Catholic ultraconservatives of making an alliance of “hate” with evangelical Christians to back President Trump, further alienating a group already out of the Vatican’s good graces, Jason Horowitz noted in the New York Times (8/2).

The authors, writing in a Vatican-vetted journal, singled out Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, as a “supporter of an apocalyptic geopolitics” that has stymied action against climate change and exploited fears of migrants and Muslims with calls for “walls and purifying deportations.”

The article warns that conservative American Catholics have strayed dangerously into the deepening political polarization in the US. The writers even declare that the worldview of American evangelical and hard-line Catholics, which is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, is “not too far apart’’ from jihadists.

Horowitz noted that it is not clear if the article, appearing in La Civiltà Cattolica, received the pope’s direct blessing, but the journal carries the Holy See’s seal of approval. “There has apparently been no reprimand from the pope, who is not shy about disciplining dissenters, and La Civiltà Cattolica’s editor has promoted the article nearly every day since it was published in July.”

The authors of the article argue that American evangelical and ultraconservative Catholics risk corrupting the Roman Catholic faith with an ideology intended to inject “religious influence in the political sphere.” They suggest that so-called values voters are using the banners of religious liberty and opposition to abortion to try to supplant secularism with a “theocratic type of state.”

Charles Pierce noted at (8/4) “All of this puts Callista Gingrich, our new ambassador to the Vatican, and the third wife of N. Leroy Gingrich, Definer of civilization’s rules and Leader (perhaps) of the civilizing forces, in something of a nutcracker. N. Leroy converted to Catholicism after marrying Callista,” whose relationship with Gingrich began when she was a staffer 23 years his junior and six years before the end of his second marriage.

“The Gingrichs are K Street Catholics all the way, devotees of the late Pope John Paul II and of his successor, the former Cardinal Ratzinger,” Pierce noted.

The New York Times reported: “Mr. Gingrich is a culture wars Catholic for whom the church seems a logical home for conservative Republicans. Generations removed from the Kennedy years when Catholics predictably voted Democratic, this is a new era in which conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants have joined forces in what they see as a defining struggle against abortion, same-sex marriage and secularism.”

“This would appear to be the era out of which Papa Francesco is trying to muscle the Church,” Pierce wrote, noting that in the same week, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops slammed the Trump Administration for its proposed new policy on legal immigrants. “This will make Papa Francesco and our new ambassador and her husband a fascinating interface. God works in mysterious ways, but N. Leroy Gingrich is a doozy. Of course, the Vatican has needed new gargoyles for a while now.”

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2017


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