Kochland, a warning from history


Jane Mayer in The New Yorker reviews Christopher Leonard’s book Kochland, a chronicle of “the extraordinary behind-the-scenes influence that Charles and David Koch have exerted to cripple government action on climate change” in the United States and around the world.

I can’t talk about the book, I haven’t read its seven hundred pages. What I can do is accept what Mayer is saying about Leonard’s findings, and form an opinion, pass judgment, on the brother’s Koch.

I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say, by actively funding climate-change denial, the brother’s Koch put their interests and the profits of their companies above the lives of almost every other person on the planet. It’s a position, an arrogance, as unsettling as the “smoking gun” revelation surrounding ExxonMobil, reported earlier in the month by Oliver Milman of The Guardian. The Texas oil giant made “‘breathtakingly’ accurate climate predictions in 1970s and 80s” then systematically denied the science.

The idea anyone could or would deliberately cause harm, actively destroying life on the planet, is so far beyond my comprehension it’s hard for me to fathom.

Actually that’s not true. History is awash with examples of the self-interested, and their abilities to divorce actions from consequences. It’s the logic of faith. I believe in God. I am devout. Therefore everything I do is God’s will.

It’s how everyone from kings to terrorists, moguls to dictators, rationalise their actions.


What’s the super-tipping point for Exxon?

Two stories, from opposite ends of the climate crisis, caught my attention yesterday.

The first by Damian Carrington, details three “super-tipping points” for climate action, that could cascade through our economies, potentially reducing “70% of global greenhouse gas emissions”. The report, from consultancy Systemiq, partnering with the University of Exeter, advocates policy interventions on electric vehicles, plant-based meat alternatives, and green fertilisers, as “the fastest way to drive global action”. Basically, push growth in these three sectors, to get us away from high-carbon options as quickly as possible.

While I think the idea sounds plausible, I wonder if it’s enough? It doesn’t deal with the structural problems that got us here in the first place. The Systemiq strategy was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It’s speaking business to business, which has me mulling, will another iteration of business really solve our problems?

The other story, by Oliver Milman, follows up on his piece earlier this month, “Exxon made ‘breathtakingly’ accurate climate predictions in 1970s and 80s“, detailing a report by Geoffrey Supran proving Exxon’s scientist predicted the rise in global temperatures. As I noted then, Exxon has know for at least fifty years their products were, are, and will continue causing planet wide warming.

More than a dozen America states have lawsuits against Exxon. Many believe Supran’s report strengthens their case against the Texas giant. It certainly establishes two key facts. Exxon “knew about the causes and consequences of climate change” and they “actively concealed and denied it”.

Exxon has consistently denied “they knew”. I call that a press-release denial, but they have deep pockets to defend against accusations of wrongdoing. Theoretically they could continue their denials well beyond the point of no return. I’d argue we’re already there. If, as Systemiq predicts, there’s a tipping point when detoxing our economies of carbon achieves critical mass, what’s the super-tipping point for Exxon?

When do they accept their part in all of our destruction, and do something to stop it?

UK bill wants to remove videos of refugees crossing the channel

The UK Government’s plan to amend the Online Safety Bill is a truly Orwellian move.

Yesterday Reuters reported Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wants to amend the Online Safety Bill so they can force platforms “to remove videos that show “in a positive light” migrants arriving in Britain illegally using small boats”.

First, people arriving in boats are refugees not migrants. As the UNHCR 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees states, a refugee is anyone with “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion” who finds themselves “outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. Until the facts of each case can be investigated, those arriving in boats are refugees. The alternative, where this government is headed, makes us barbaric.

The other thing to understand, despite what the vested interests, who benefit from this distraction, want you to believe, arriving in the UK “illegally” does not stop anyone from claiming asylum. Again read the 1951 Convention for yourself and you’ll see.

What this government are trying to do is remove video evidence of refugees fleeing for their lives, arriving on UK shores in appalling conditions, and in desperate need.

That way they can frame these arrivals as a threat.

I’d argue, even those propagandist videos, the kind posted by the deeply unpleasant Nigel Farage, would be taken down. If you turn down the sound, remove his stammering thoughtless monologues, you have footage of desperate people risking their lives, crossing open water, in a raft.

This government’s desire to blind people to the truth, hide the evidence, coupled with their ability to silence protest with the recently enacted Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, means we’re headed towards, if not already in, the kind of authoritarian society we condemn elsewhere in the world.

ExxonMobil knew, they knew!

Oliver Milman in The Guardian reports that Exxon has know for at least fifty years that their products were, are, and will continue causing planet wide warming.

The Guardian

Back in the 1970s Exxon’s own scientists “correctly and skilfully” “predicted there would be global heating of about 0.2C a decade due to the emissions of planet-heating gases from the burning of oil, coal and other fossil fuels”.

What did Exxon do with this information? Did they tell everyone, try to reverse it, invest in solutions? No, they watched as their prediction came true, then attacked the science.

Geoffrey Supran led the team of researchers from Harvard University and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, that uncovered the “smoking gun” showing Exxon “accurately predicted warming years before they started attacking the science”.

And why would Exxon make such a despicable choice, take such callous actions, for decades? You guessed it, to protect company profits.

They did it for the money!

Stop subsidising private education

Labour wants to end tax breaks for private education, and use the money we save to fund a state school “excellence programme”.

The Guardian

This isn’t a new idea. What’s new is how Labour are framing it. They’re putting forward a motion that will force Conservative MPs to make a public choice. They can either vote for a House of Commons select committee to “investigate reforming the tax benefits enjoyed by private schools” or they vote against it. If they vote it down they’re telling the British public, your children’s futures aren’t worth as much as the privileged few.

“Conservative MPs voting against our motion are voting against higher standards in state schools for the majority of children in our country.”

Removing charitable status from private schools will be opposed. Back in 2019 The Times ran a propagandist piece bemoaning the “rise of state pupils at Oxbridge”, calling it social engineering, as if private education isn’t already social engineering.

When I wrote about it back then, I included this clip from Question Time.

What it shows, is those who can afford a private education genuinely think they’re better than everyone else. Don’t you think it’s time they were disabused of that idea?

The Westminster Accounts

Sky News and Tortoise Media have created an extensive record of financial interests in Westminster since December 2019, when the current parliament was formed.

Sky News

Sky and Tortoise have gleefully focused on individual MPs who “accepted thousands of pounds in donations without knowing the source of the funds”.

As shocking as all that is, the thing that jumps out at me, are the amounts of money each party receives, and where those donations come from.

Since 2019 The Conservative Party have raked in a staggering £76 million in donations. More than double The Labour Party’s £32.4 million. Which is more than double the The Liberal Democrats’ £15.1 million. Think about this for a second, the Conservatives received over £24 million more than all the other opposition parties combined, combined! That’s a stark financial illustration of the fight for power in the United Kingdom. It’s like Ukraine fighting Russia without the support of the United States or Europe.

The other thing that interests me is where this money comes from. When Unite the Union donates £8.8 million to The Labour Party, they’re using the money they got from their 1.4 million members. That’s 1.4 million people given a voice by Labour. In that same period JC Bamford (JCB) gave The Conservative Party £3.3 million. That’s one person’s interests, Anthony Bamford, given a voice by the Conservatives.

Please don’t try and tell me donations don’t buy influence. Why would anyone give money if it didn’t benefit them one way or the other? I’m not talking corruption, bungs, manila envelopes under the table, although I’m certain that happens. I’m talking funding those who align with your interests. I know that’s a really obvious thing to say, but it’s never framed that way if and when it’s reported.

This same pattern plays out when you look at all party donations. Very wealth individuals donate to the Conservatives, while unions with millions of members donate to Labour.

One party represents the voice of millions, the other just a few.

%d bloggers like this: