Climate Happy Talk at the New York Times

I’m always watching for the dominant media to advocate market based measures instead of regulation.  They are pressing this approach particularly hard in the climate change area, and many liberal groups fall for it – witness the recent enthusiasm for Cap and Trade.[1]

Such approaches can be quickly debunked with the help of Google, and the resulting information makes a good short educational presentation for a meeting, an op-ed or letter to the editor, talking points, Facebook post or just something to bug your friends about. As an example, I recently spotted an article in The NY Times, and wrote the following for the local Democratic Party newsletter. 

Now don’t get me wrong, The Times has done fine reporting and editorial work on climate change and particularly on hydrofracking. The Business Section, however, is differently managed and written for a somewhat more select clientele. From these pages we are more likely to learn that free market magic is solving the most difficult problems.

Such a piece appeared on 3/20/13 under the heading “A Model For Reducing Emissions.”[2] “Who would have thought the United States would one day be a leader in cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” asked columnist Eduardo Porter citing a 13% drop in US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 2007. “It was perhaps the biggest decline among industrial countries,” he enthusiastically added. But, the best news is, “What stands out most in this shift, however, is not environmental regulation or public concern about global warming but the price of energy and market-driven technological advancements.” Who says the age of miracles is over?

Lets stop right here. Using the year 2007 as the baseline is cherry picking the good news to manufacture a trend, and that trend appears to be ending. The EPA started collecting emissions data in 1990 and the long term picture shows an 8.7% increase in US greenhouse gas emissions from then to the most recent data for 2011.[3]  In addition, the United Nations reports that 32 countries including the EU and Russia had a better percent change in emissions since 1990 than did the US.[4]

Not being totally out of touch, columnist Porter notes that the recent emissions reduction is largely due to the recession and that wonderful fracked gas. Interestingly, he says that the switch to fracked gas, particularly in electrical generation, brings “within reach” President Obama’s 2009 promise of a 17% cut in CO2 emissions by 2020. This explains a part of Obama’s fascination with natural gas, though we might add that 17% is woefully inadequate.  Porter also recognizes that while CO2 is the main greenhouse gas, it isn’t the only one, and that fracking also releases Methane.

Actually, the emissions drop since 2007 resulted from US coal fired generating plants having been run at 50% of capacity. In turn, this was caused by reductions in demand due to the recession, combined with unsustainably low natural gas prices.[5]  We can not solve the climate problem by relying on continued economic stagnation and a gas price that is below the cost of production.  True, the market economy does appear to be prone to just such stagnation, but this is not to be wished for. The answer to both the climate and the stagnation problem is massive government led investment in green energy.  

Steve Max is a vice chair of DSA.

 [1] A failed Obama plan to give polluters credits or allowances to legally pollute.  By polluting less, they could sell their unused credits to other polluters or to Wall Street companies to package into derivatives or to gamble on pollution futures. 

Lessons in Organizing from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union

January 17, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join DSA Vice-Chair Chris Riddiough to explore what we can learn from the work of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969-77), the largest of the socialist feminist women’s unions of the 1970s, which had a rock band, a graphics collective, the underground abortion collective JANE, and numerous other projects. Check out their website and join the discussion via internet connection.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 41 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 10 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.


DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 15, 2017
· 46 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 1 rsvp

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.