Maine News: Activists protest outside Maine mansion of conservative Supreme Court architect / by Evan Popp

Photo: Activists at the protest by Leo’s house on Saturday | Tina Stein  

Activists in Maine protested Saturday outside the Northeast Harbor home of Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the Federalist Society who has played a leading role in building the conservative Supreme Court majority that recently overturned federal abortion rights. 

Leo famously developed a list of right-wing jurists that included all three of President Donald Trump’s eventual nominees to the bench. Each of those justices — Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — joined in a June court ruling described by advocates as “dangerous and chilling” that overturned Roe v. Wade

The New Yorker has called Leo “in effect, Trump’s subcontractor” on high court nominations. And a writer with the National Review stated in 2016 that, “No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade than the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo.”

Leo bought a nearly 8,000 square foot mansion in Northeast Harbor — on Mount Desert Island — during the fall of 2018. In 2019, activists protested outside the house when Sen. Susan Collins attended a private campaign fundraiser there. 

Collins, a Maine Republican, famously cast a pivotal vote in favor of confirming Kavanaugh, one of the conservatives Leo helped elevate to the court, and also voted for Gorsuch. Activists warned that both were hostile to abortion rights, but Collins — who says she is pro-choice — still voted for them, arguing they would respect precedent set by Roe. Wade. Both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, however, ultimately voted to overturn abortion rights.  

A participant at the protest Saturday | Courtesy photo

Saturday’s protest was the continuation of a number of rallies outside Leo’s mansion, including one in June at which participants celebrated the elevation to the Supreme Court of President Biden nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and gathered to let Leo know “we are for justice, equity and love, not hate.” 

Dixie Hathaway, one of the people at the demonstration over the weekend, said the goal of the rally was to “raise awareness that this person is the one who’s primarily responsible for our Supreme Court and for all the horrible” rulings the court has made. She noted that such awareness is important given that many people don’t know who Leo is. 

“We would like to make him feel uncomfortable,” Hathaway said, adding that some participants have contacted local nonprofits that receive money from Leo to let them know about his background and to make the argument that his donations are “intended to buy acceptance in the community.” 

Hathaway said the court’s June abortion decision is just one harmful ruling the majority Leo helped seat has recently made. During the last term, right-wingers on the bench also severely limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to combat climate change and struck down a New York gun control law. 

Hathaway and another demonstrator, Tina Stein, both told Beacon that Leo seemed upset by the protest on Saturday and that the police were called about the demonstration, and Hathaway shared a photo with Beacon of an officer on the scene. However, she said activists stood their ground.

Overall, participants have had a number of productive conversations with people passing by during the demonstrations, Hathaway added. She said many of those people know about Leo and are sympathetic to the protests. 

An attempt to reach Leo for comment about the rally was unsuccessful. 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Maine Beacon, July 25, 2022,

Opinion: The Most Dangerous Looming Supreme Court Decision You Never Heard Of

Activists for expanding the U.S. Supreme Court rally outside the nation’s highest court in Washington, D.C. on June 22, 2022. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Demand Justice)

Spread the word, because the midterms elections have become even more crucial.


On June 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case called Moore v. Harper. With all the controversial decisions handed down by the Court this term, its decision to take up this case slid under most radar detectors. But it could be the most dangerous case on the Court’s upcoming docket. You need to know about it.

As this Supreme Court shows, the future of our democracy is not guaranteed.

Here’s the background: Last February, the North Carolina Supreme Court blocked the state’s Republican controlled general assembly from instituting a newly drawn congressional district map, holding that the map violated the state constitutional ban on partisan gerrymandering. The Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, advancing what’s called the “independent state legislature” theory. It’s a theory that’s been circulating for years in right-wing circles. It holds that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures alone the power to regulate federal elections in their states.

We’ve already had a preview of what this theory could mean. It underpins a major legal strategy in Trump’s attempted coup: the argument that state legislatures can substitute their own judgment of who should be president in place of the person chosen by a majority of voters. This was the core of the so-called “Eastman memo” that Trump relied on (and continues to rely on) in seeking to decertify Biden’s election.

The U.S. Constitution does grant state legislatures the authority to prescribe “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections.” But it does not give state legislatures total power over our democracy. In fact, for the last century, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the independent state legislature theory.

Yet if we know anything about the conservative majority now controlling the Supreme Court, it’s that they will rule on just about anything that suits the far-right’s agenda.

Conservatives on the Court have already paved the way for this bonkers idea. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist was an early proponent. In his concurring opinion in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 case that halted the recount in Florida in the presidential election, Rehnquist (in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) asserted that because the state court’s recount conflicted with deadlines set by the state legislature for the election, the court’s recount could not stand.

The issue returned to the Supreme Court in 2020, when the justices turned down a request by Pennsylvania Republicans to fast-track their challenge to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that required state election officials to count mail-in ballots received within three days of Election Day. In an opinion that accompanied the court’s order, Justice Alito (joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch) suggested that the state supreme court’s decision to extend the deadline for counting ballots likely violated the U.S. Constitution because it intruded on the state legislature’s decision making.

Make no mistake. The independent state legislature theory would make it easier for state legislatures to pull all sorts of additional election chicanery, without any oversight from state courts: ever more voter suppression laws, gerrymandered maps, and laws eliminating the power of election commissions and secretaries of state to protect elections.

If the Supreme Court adopts the independent state legislature theory, it wouldn’t just be throwing out a century of its own precedent. It would be rejecting the lessons that inspired the Framers to write the Constitution in the first place: that it’s dangerous to give state legislatures unchecked power, as they had under the Articles of Confederation.

The Republican Party and the conservative majority on the Supreme Court call themselves “originalists” who find the meaning of the Constitution in the intent of the Farmers. But they really don’t give a damn what the Framers thought. They care only about imposing their own retrograde and anti-democracy ideology on the United States.

But we can fight back. 

First, Congress must expand the Supreme Court to add balance to a branch of government that has been stolen by radicalized Republicans. This is not a far-fetched idea. The Constitution doesn’t specify how many justices there should be – and we’ve already changed the size of the Court seven times in American history.

Second, Congress must impose term limits on Supreme Court justices, and have them rotate with judges on the U.S. courts of appeals. 

Third, Congress must restore federal voting rights protections and expand access to the ballot box. We need national minimum standards for voting in our democracy. 

Obviously, these reforms can happen only if Democrats retain control of the House in the midterm elections and add at least two more Democratic senators—willing to reform or abolish the filibuster.

So your vote is critical, and not just in federal elections. Make sure you also vote for state legislators who understand what’s at stake to preserve our democracy. Because, as this Supreme Court shows, the future of our democracy is not guaranteed.

© 2021

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

Common Dreams, July 25, 2022,

Is China headed for a crash? / by Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts on the latest batch of critiques on China’s economic progress

Once again, Western ‘experts’ are predicting a financial crash in China. “China is flailing,” says one commentator; another says “a debt bomb is about to explode.” These would-be Cassandras reckon China’s demise will be driven by the bursting of the property bubble, excessive debt and the grinding down of the economy due to the government’s “terrible” ‘zero-COVID’ policy that keeps parts of the country in permanent lockdowns. And then of course, there are the growing restrictions on China’s exports and its investments abroad, imposed by the US and supposedly backed by its allies in Asia.

How much truth is there in this latest batch of critiques on China’s economic progress? The property crisis has reached dangerous levels. Last year, Evergrande, China’s second-largest private property developer was close to bankruptcy. The Evergrande property model is essentially a Ponzi scheme, where the company collects cash from the pre-sale of an ever-growing number of apartments, plus hundreds of thousands of individual investors and uses the cash to fund further sales by accelerating construction in progress and funding down-payments. Like any Ponzi, this works as long as it’s accelerating. But when the market slows, those incoming streams of cash start to fall behind the growing arc of cash demands. Evergrande now has about 800 unfinished projects and there are about 1.2 million people waiting to move in.

Now the property crisis has reached the point where millions of Chinese purchasers have stopped paying their upfront mortgage payments. Chinese homebuyers’ rapidly escalating boycotts on mortgage payments have spread across at least 301 projects in about 91 cities, with the value of mortgages that could be affected swelling to an estimated two trillion yuan ($297 billion). About 70 percent of household wealth in China is invested in real estate. Some Chinese banks have responded by seizing purchasers’ savings deposits, claiming they are really ‘mortgage investment products.’ This has sparked open protests outside some banks, leading to the government surrounding the banks with tanks.

At the same time, China’s usually stupendous annual growth in real GDP has been sliding, even before the COVID slump in 2020. While recovery was strong in 2021, new bouts of COVID variants have caused new lockdowns. The Chinese government has been hugely successful in its policy of zero COVID, keeping the death rate down to miniscule levels compared with the major capitalist economies. But economic growth and employment have taken a hit as a result.

The Chinese economy shrank by a seasonally adjusted 2.6 percent quarter-on-quarter in the three months to June 2022. The nationwide urban survey-based unemployment rate eased only to 5.9 percent in May, with the unemployment rate for the 16-24 age group rising to an elevated 18.4 percent. It is increasingly clear that the government’s target real GDP growth rate of five percent-plus is not going to be met this year. And remember this target has been reduced over the last few years, as the double-digit annual expansion of the last decade has disappeared.

So, is this the moment of collapse in the Chinese model of development and the end of all that talk about ‘moving towards socialism’ and so on? Many Western experts think so. What will cause this collapse, in their view, is the failure of the Chinese leaders to ‘liberalize’ the economy and open it up even more to capitalist companies and markets. Time to stop ‘zero COVID’ and relax restrictions as ‘successfully done’ (sic!) in the West. In effect, China needs more capitalism. It needs to expand the private sector.

But wait a moment. What are the causes of the current property crisis and the debt expansion? It can be laid squarely at the door of China’s expanding private sector, as promoted by a sizeable section of the Chinese leadership, particularly in the finance and property sectors.

Increasingly, China’s investment expansion has been in unproductive sectors like finance and real estate. Why in China, of all countries, was home building in the burgeoning cities left to private capital developers offering mortgages to buy? Why were homes not built by the state sector for rent? The result has been a classic case of a Western property market crash that the state now has to clear up. This will have to be resolved by the state (local governments) finishing off projects and restoring the rights of mortgagees to their money.

There is not going to be a financial crash in China. That’s because the government controls the financial levers of power: the central bank, the big four state-owned commercial banks which are the largest banks in the world, and the so-called ‘bad banks,’ which absorb bad loans, big asset managers, most of the largest companies. The government can order the big four banks to exchange defaulted loans for equity stakes and forget them. It can tell the central bank, the People’s Bank of China, to do whatever it takes. It can tell state-owned asset managers and pension funds to buy shares and bonds to prop up prices and to fund companies. It can tell the state bad banks to buy bad debt from commercial banks. It can get local governments to take up the property projects to completion. So a financial crisis is ruled out because the state controls the banking system.

But the current property mess is a signal that the Chinese economy is becoming more influenced by the chaos and vagaries of the profit-based sector. It is the private sector that has been doing badly during COVID and after. Just one small example: COVID lockdowns in Shanghai were out-sourced to the private sector with poor results; in Beijing, local government did the job directly with much more success.

Profits in the capitalist sector have been falling. Profits earned by China’s industrial firms increased only by one percent year-over-year to CNY 34.41 trillion in January-May 2022, slowing from a 3.5 percent rise in the prior period, as high raw material prices and supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 curbs continued to squeeze margins and disrupted factory activity. Profits at state-owned industrial firms rose 9.8 percent; while those in the private sector fell 2.2 percent. Only the state sector is continuing to deliver. This is what happened in the global financial crisis of 2008-9, which China avoided by expanding state investment to replace a ‘flailing’ capitalist sector. What Xi and the Chinese leaders have called the “disorderly expansion of capital.”

The capitalist sector has been increasing its size and influence in China, alongside the slowdown in real GDP growth, investment and employment, even under Xi. A recent study found that China’s private sector has grown not only in absolute terms but also as a proportion of the country’s largest companies, as measured by revenue or (for listed ones) by market value, from a very low level when President Xi was confirmed as the next top leader in 2010 to a significant share today. SOEs still dominate among the largest companies by revenue, but their preeminence is eroding.

Far from the answer to China’s mini-crisis requiring more ‘liberalising’ reforms towards capitalism, China needs to reverse the expansion of the private sector and introduce more effective plans for state investment, but this time with the democratic participation of the Chinese people in the process; not by tanks outside banks. Otherwise, the aims of the leadership for “common prosperity” will be just talk.

Having said all this, it is still the case that the public sector-dominated Chinese economy is and will do better than those in the West, the G7 economies. Here are the latest IMF forecasts for growth in the major economies.

Even this year, if China only manages around four percent real GDP growth, that would still be faster than any growth rate in the G7 economies. And the IMF forecasts that China will grow at five percent-plus in 2023, while G7 economies will be lucky to manage half that rate, assuming there is no new global slump. Indeed, longer term, the IMF forecasts that China will grow at a subdued rate of five percent a year, but that rate would more than twice as fast as the US, and more than four times as fast as the rest of the G7.

I have discussed at length in previous articles the claim by Western experts that China’s falling working-age population and its slowing productivity growth rate mean that it will begin to fail. These arguments are weak and faulty. Indeed, even on the adjusted (A) Western measures of labour productivity growth during the COVID period, China did way better than the ‘dynamic’ US.

Indeed, the forecasts (and hopes) of the Western experts that China is about to melt down are clearly not agreed with by the strategists of capital in the US and NATO. They do not expect internal disintegration and so continue to try and strangle China’s economy externally.

Michael Roberts is a Marxist economist based in London, England. He is the author of several books including The Great Recession: A Marxist view (2009), The Long Depression (2016), and Marx 200: A Review of Marx’s Economics 200 Years After His Birth (2018).

Canadian Dimension, July 22, 2022,

Survey Shows US Voters Want Congress to Expand—Not Cut or Privatize—Social Security / by Kenny Stancil

Activists participate in a rally urging the expansion of Social Security benefits in front of the White House on July 13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

83% of likely voters support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security benefits while just 7% support GOP plans to end the program in five years, giving the majority party a golden opportunity to maintain control of the House and Senate.

Voters in the United States overwhelmingly support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security for all recipients to cover higher costs of living and oppose Republican proposals to completely end the federal program—established during the New Deal era to improve economic security for retirees, people with disabilities, and widows and widowers—before the end of the decade.

That’s according to a new survey conducted from June 17-21 and published Monday by Data for Progress, which found that a whopping 83% of likely voters support expanding Social Security benefits to keep up with rising costs, including 86% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 79% of independents.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of likely voters are very concerned about Congress cutting monthly cash transfers for the program’s 66 million current beneficiaries, and more than half (53%) are very concerned about lawmakers privatizing Social Security.

Privatization of the program remains unpopular across the political spectrum, with 68% of likely voters—including 75% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans, and 59% of independents—opposed to Wall Street-backed schemes that would facilitate the movement of Social Security benefits from a guaranteed government fund into the volatile stock market.

The findings of the poll should be of interest to President Joe Biden, who is hemorrhaging support among Democratic voters and has come under fire in recent weeks for nominating Andrew Biggs—an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow with a history of backing Social Security privatization—to serve on the independent and bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board.

Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy group, has highlighted Biggs’ role in the George W. Bush administration’s failed attempt to privatize the program in 2005.

While Biden pledged on the campaign trail to support an expansion of Social Security, he has previously backed slashing the program’s benefits. Biden was vice president when former President Barack Obama proposed a “grand bargain” with congressional Republicans that would have included cuts to Social Security.

Last month, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led the introduction of the Social Security Expansion Act, which would lift the cap on income that is subject to the Social Security payroll tax and boost the program’s annual benefits by $2,400.

According to Data for Progress, 76% of likely voters—including 83% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 73% of independents—support imposing, for the first time, payroll taxes on individuals with annual incomes above $400,000 per year to fund an expansion of Social Security benefits. Currently, only those making $147,000 or less are subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

Meanwhile, a little-noticed budget document published last month by the Republican Study Committee (RSC)—a group to which nearly 75% of House Republicans belong—reiterates right-wing myths that the program is headed toward insolvency and calls for raising the retirement age by three months per year through 2040. As a result, people born after 1978 would not be eligible to receive full Social Security benefits until the age of 70.

The RSC’s bid to postpone Social Security eligibility, outlined in their so-called Blueprint to Save America, is not even the most extreme GOP proposal on offer, considering what Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has put forward.

Scott’s widely panned 12-point “Plan to Rescue America” proposes hiking taxes on the poorest 40% of U.S. households and sunsetting “all federal legislation” after five years—a move that would eliminate Social Security, Medicare, civil rights laws, and other measures unless Congress actively votes to reauthorize them.

Just 7% of likely voters support ending Social Security in five years, according to Data for Progress, which may help explain why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to endorse Scott’s policy agenda in March.

Nevertheless, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), ranking member of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, said last month during a debate with committee chair Sanders that “entitlement reform is a must,” indicating that the GOP is once again laying the groundwork to gut Social Security, Medicare, and more if it regains control of Congress in November’s pivotal midterm elections.

Likely voters, when informed that congressional Democrats are proposing to expand Social Security benefits while their Republican counterparts are proposing to swiftly terminate the program, told pollsters that they would be most likely to support a Democratic candidate over a Republican one by a margin of 55 to 31.

This suggests that campaigning on Social Security expansion could help Democrats maintain or even bolster their slim majorities in the House and Senate.

Common Dreams, July 11, 2022,

Sanders Joins Chorus Demanding Rejection of Amazon’s One Medical Purchase / by Kenny Stancil

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a rally in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

“The function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, not make billionaires like Jeff Bezos even richer,” said the Vermont senator.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday joined the chorus of progressive voices demanding that the U.S. government reject Amazon’s purchase of One Medical, a subscription-based health services provider headquartered in San Francisco.

“The function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way, not make billionaires like Jeff Bezos even richer,” the Vermont Independent wrote on social media, referring to Amazon’s ultrawealthy founder and executive chairman. “At a time of growing concentration of ownership, the Justice Department must deny Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical.”

Sanders was echoing anti-monopoly advocates and privacy defenders who have sounded the alarm over Amazon’s “dangerous” $3.9 billion buyout of One Medical—a private equity-backed company that charges its 767,000 members roughly $200 in annual concierge fees to access a network of 188 primary care clinics.

“Allowing Amazon to control the healthcare data for another 700,000+ individuals is terrifying,” Krista Brown, a senior policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project, said Thursday in a statement. “Acquiring One Medical will entrench Amazon’s growing presence in the healthcare industry.”

The corporate behemoth bought the online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $750 million, launched Amazon Pharmacy in 2020, and expanded its Amazon Care telehealth program nationwide earlier this year, among other recent deals.

“Amazon just set its healthcare efforts to warp speed,” Axios health tech reporter Erin Brodwin tweeted Thursday. “Where among Amazon’s sprawling health efforts does One Medical fit, exactly, and how will it weave the buy into its existing primary care bets?”

One Medical “already has its tentacles in Medicare” through its 2021 acquisition of Iora Health, Brodwin noted, “and now Amazon’s got a clear foothold there.”

The Lever reported Friday that Amazon “could use its new platform to advance the cause of Medicare privatization at a much more aggressive pace. The consequences wouldn’t just mean more taxpayer dollars funneled to the mega-corporation, but also Medicare recipients facing a healthcare system with ever more resources being allocated to profit instead of care.”

As the outlet noted:

President Joe Biden’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded a Medicare privatization scheme launched under former President Donald Trump. That program, which is currently referred to as ACO REACH, involuntarily assigns Medicare patients to private health plans operated by for-profit companies, like One Medical subsidiary Iora Health.

Medicare provides set payments to provide care for these patients, much like insurance. This arrangement incentivizes Iora and other privatization entities to limit the amount of care that seniors receive.

Continued expansion of Medicare privatization seems integral to One Medical’s business model.

The company’s most recent quarterly report shows that more than half of its revenue comes from Medicare. This includes Medicare Advantage plans operated by private health insurers, traditional Medicare fee-for-service payments, and the ACO REACH program.

Amazon’s purchase of One Medical “will be a blow to the fight for universal healthcare,” journalist Aaron T. Rose tweeted Thursday. “Imagine all the money Amazon will pour into lobbying to stop Medicare for All now that they have a dog in the fight.”

In addition, Brown warned, the deal—which would mark Amazon’s third-biggest acquisition after Whole Foods ($13.7 billion) and MGM Studios ($8.5 billion)—”will also pose serious risks to patients whose sensitive data will be captured by a firm whose own Chief Information Security Office once described access to customer data as ‘a free for all.'”

“Amazon has no business being a major player in the healthcare space,” she added, “and regulators should block this $4 billion deal to ensure it does not become one.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Amazon’s move to buy One Medical.

“This proposed transaction raises questions about potential anticompetitive effects related to the pharmacy services business Amazon already owns and about preferencing vendors who offer other services through Amazon,” Klobuchar wrote Thursday in a letter to the agency.

“I also ask that the FTC consider the role of data, including as a potential barrier to entry, given that this proposed deal could result in the accumulation of highly sensitive personal health data in the hands of an already data-intensive company,” she added.

This story has been updated with information about Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s letter to the FTC.

Common Dreams, July 22, 2022,

Existing climate mitigation scenarios perpetuate colonial inequalities / by Jason Hickel and Aljoša Slameršak

As Myanmar experiences more extreme weather events, a roadmap that lays the context, analysis, and options on how to tackle climate change is highly essential. (Photo: IRRI)

Originally published: The Lancet on July 20, 2022


The challenge of climate mitigation is made more difficult by high rates of energy use in wealthy countries, mostly in the Global North, which far exceed what is required to meet human needs. In contrast, more than 3 billion people in poorer countries live in energy poverty. A just transition requires energy convergence—reducing energy use in wealthy countries to achieve rapid emissions reductions, and ensuring sufficient energy for development in the rest of the world. However, existing climate mitigation scenarios reviewed by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change do not explore such a transition. On average, existing scenarios maintain the Global North’s energy privilege at a per capita level 2·3 times higher than in the Global South. Even the more equitable scenarios perpetuate large energy inequalities for the rest of the century. To reconcile the Global North’s high energy use with the Paris Agreement targets, most scenarios rely heavily on bioenergy-based negative emissions technologies. This approach is risky, but it is also unjust. These scenarios tend to appropriate land in the Global South to maintain, and further increase, the Global North’s energy privilege. There is an urgent need to develop scenarios that represent convergence to levels of energy that are sufficient for human wellbeing and compatible with rapid decarbonisation.

Read the Full Article Here

Dr. Jason Hickel is an anthropologist, author, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has taught at the London School of Economics, the University of Virginia, and Goldsmiths, University of London, where he convenes the MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics. He serves on the Labour Party task force on international development, works as Policy Director for /The Rules collective, sits on the Executive Board of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) and recently joined the International Editorial Advisory Board of Third World Quarterly.

Aljoša Slameršak contributed to data collection, methodology, data analysis, writing, editing, and drawing up the figure.

MR Online, July 22, 2022,

$2 Trillion for War Versus $100 Billion to Save the Planet / by Murad Qureshi

Originally published: Midwestern Marx, July 18, 2022

During late April and early May, South Asia experienced the terrible impacts of global warming. Temperatures reached almost 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in some cities in the region. These high temperatures came alongside dangerous flooding in Northeast India and in Bangladesh, as the rivers burst their banks, with flash floods taking place in places like Sunamganj in Sylhet, Bangladesh.

Saleemul Haq, the director of the International Center of Climate Change and Development, is from Bangladesh. He is a veteran of the UN climate change negotiations. When Haq read a tweet by Marianne Karlsen, the co-chair of the UN’s Adaptation Committee, which said that “[m]ore time is needed to reach an agreement,” while referring to the negotiations on loss and damage finance, he tweeted: “The one thing we have run out of is Time! Climate change impacts are already happening, and poor people are suffering losses and damages due to the emissions of the rich. Talk is no longer an acceptable substitute for action (money!)” Karlsen’s comment came in light of the treacle-slow process of agreement on the “loss and damage” agenda for the 27th Conference of Parties or COP27 meeting to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022.

In 2009, at COP15, developed countries of the world had agreed to a $100 billion annual adaptation assistance fund, which was supposed to be paid by 2020. This fund was intended to assist countries of the Global South to shift their reliance on carbon to renewal sources of energy and to adapt to the realities of the climate catastrophe. At the time of the Glasgow COP26 meeting in November 2021, however, developed countries were unable to meet this commitment. The $100 billion may seem like a modest fund, but is far less than the “Trillion Dollar Climate Finance Challenge,” that will be required to ensure comprehensive climate action.

The richer states—led by the West—have not only refused to seriously fund adaptation but they have also reneged on the original agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol (1997); the U.S. Congress has refused to ratify this important step toward mitigating the climate crisis. The United States has shifted the goalposts for reducing its methane emissions and has refused to account for the massive output of carbon emissions by the U.S. military.

Germany’s Money Goes to War Not Climate

​Germany hosts the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In June, as a prelude to COP27, the UN held a conference in Bonn on climate change. The talks ended in acrimony over finance for what is known as “loss and damage.” The European Union consistently blocked all discussions on compensation. Eddy Pérez of the Climate Action Network, Canada, said, “Consumed by their narrow interests, rich nations and in particular countries in the European Union, came to the Bonn Climate Conference to block, delay and undermine efforts from people and communities on the frontlines addressing the losses and damage caused by fossil fuels.”

On the table is the hypocrisy of countries such as Germany, which claims to lead on these issues, but instead has been sourcing fossil fuels overseas and has been spending increasing funds on their military. At the same time, these countries have denied support to developing countries facing devastation from climate-induced superstorms and rising seas.

After the recent German elections, hopes were raised that the new coalition of the Social Democrats with the Green Party would lift up the green agenda. However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has promised €100 billion for the military, “the biggest increase in the country’s military expenditure since the end of the Cold War.” He has also committed to “[spending] more than 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product on the military.” This means more money for the military and less money for climate mitigation and green transformation.

The Military and Climate Catastrophe

The money that is being swallowed into the Western military establishments does not only drift away from any climate spending but also promotes greater climate catastrophe. The U.S. military is the largest institutional polluter on the planet. The maintenance of its more than 800 military bases around the world, for instance, means that the U.S. military consumes 395,000 gallons of oil daily. In 2021, the world’s governments spent $2 trillion on weapons, with the leading countries being those who are the richest (as well as the most sanctimonious on the climate debate). Money is available for war but not to deal with the climate catastrophe.

The way weapons have poured into the Ukraine conflict gives many of us pause. The prolongation of that war has placed 49 million more people at risk of famine in 46 countries, according to the “Hunger Hotspots” report by the United Nations agencies, as a result of the extreme weather conditions and due to conflicts. Conflict and organized violence were the main sources of food insecurity in Africa and the Middle East, specifically in northern Nigeria, central Sahel, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the food crisis by driving up the price of agricultural commodities. Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30 percent of the global wheat trade. So, the longer the Ukraine war continues, the more “hunger hotspots” will grow, taking food insecurity beyond just Africa and the Middle East.

While one COP meeting has already taken place on the African continent, another will take place later this year. First, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, hosted the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in May and then Sharm el-Sheikh will host the UN Climate Change Conference. These are major forums for African states to put on the table the great damage done to parts of the continent due to the climate catastrophe.

When the representatives of the countries of the world gather at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2022 for COP27, they will hear Western representatives talk about climate change, make pledges, and then do everything possible to continue to exacerbate the catastrophe. What we saw in Bonn is a prelude to what will be a fiasco in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Murad Qureshi is a former member of the London Assembly and a former chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

MR Online, July 22, 2022,

Maine News: Chipotle shuts down Augusta restaurant amid unionization campaign / by Evan Popp

Photo: Workers at the Augusta Chipotle | Courtesy Maine AFL-CIO

Originally published in the Beacon on July 19, 2022

Workers at a Maine-based Chipotle argue the corporate fast-food chain is engaging in union-busting after the company announced Tuesday it is closing the Augusta restaurant where employees filed to form a collective bargaining unit. 

On Tuesday, Lisa Zeppetelli of the Chipotle northeast region corporate office informed workers that the Augusta restaurant at 1 Stephen Drive would be permanently closing, effective that day. In the message, Zeppetelli claimed that while the company had spent considerable time and resources on the store, “we don’t have management necessary to reopen.” The store originally closed temporarily in June after employees expressed concerns about staffing levels.  

Workers rallied Tuesday afternoon in protest of the decision to permanently close the restaurant, urging Chipotle to reverse the decision. In a news release announcing that protest, employees at the restaurant said the timing of the closure is revealing. Last month, a majority of workers at the Augusta restaurant filed to form a union — a first among Chipotle workers nationwide — called Chipotle United. That came after employees protested working conditions at the restaurant by walking off the job earlier in June, arguing that persistent understaffing and a lack of training was creating an unsafe environment. 

“This is union busting 101 and there is nothing that motivates us to fight harder than this underhanded attempt to shut down the labor movement within their stores,” Chipotle United member Brandi McNease said of the company’s decision to close the Augusta restaurant. “They’re scared because they know how powerful we are, and if we catch fire like the unionization effort at Starbucks they won’t be able to stop us.” 

McNease added that the company waited until the morning of a hearing to determine the next steps for the union election to announce that the store would be shut down. 

“Since we announced our intent to unionize, they’ve tried to bully, harass and intimidate our crew to prevent them from exercising their right to have a collective voice on the job,” she said. “But we remain united, our solidarity is strong and we won’t bend. We are sticking together and our customers have our backs. We are fighting this decision and we are building a movement to transform the fast food industry and ensure the workers who create all the wealth for these corporations are respected and no longer have to struggle to support their families.”

McNease pointed out that Chipotle gave its CEO a massive bonus in 2020, arguing that the claim the company couldn’t bring in enough workers to keep the Augusta restaurant open doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. She said Chipotle has the money to “attract workers and pay them living wages” if the company wanted to.  

In her email to workers on Tuesday, Zeppetelli said workers will be paid for any scheduled shifts through July 24 and will receive four weeks severance based on hours they worked over the past two weeks. Chipotle benefits will continue through July 30 and workers can keep getting benefits through the COBRA program for a period of time, she said. The company also pledged to assist workers in finding another job. 

In a statement to Beacon, Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, reiterated the arguments made by Zeppetelli in her email, writing that the company went to “extraordinary lengths to try to staff the restaurant, including deploying two recruiting experts dedicated to this one restaurant.” However, she said those efforts were unsuccessful and that the staffing issues meant reopening the restaurant wouldn’t be profitable. Schalow did not address a question about whether Chipotle was attempting to bust the workers’ union. 

The announcement that the Augusta store will be shut down comes as the effort to unionize Chipotle workers has spread. The organizing committee for the Augusta restaurant union said it has received communications from employees at other Chipotles in Maine and around the country asking for advice on forming a collective bargaining unit. And earlier this month, workers at a Chipotle in Michigan also filed to form a union. 

Such efforts are part of a labor movement that has shown renewed strength in Maine and across the country. Organizers have recently won union elections at an Amazon warehouse and myriad Starbucks locations as workers seek to force companies to treat employees better, pay them a higher wage and put in place additional protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Nicaragua celebrates 43 years of revolution: a clash between reality and media misrepresentation / by John Perry

Sandinista supporters in Masaya, July 2022. Credit: John Perry

Originally published: Council on Hemispheric Affairs on July 19, 2022 by John Perry

July 19th is a day of celebration in Nicaragua: the anniversary of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. But the international media will have it penciled in their diaries for another reason: it’s yet another opportunity to pour scorn on Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. We’ll hear again about how the government “clamps down on dissent,”1 about its “political prisoners,”2 its recent “pantomime election,”3 its “damaging crackdown on civil society”4 and much more. All of these accusations have been answered but the media will continue to shut out any evidence that conflicts with the consensus narrative about Nicaragua, that its president, Daniel Ortega, has “crushed the Nicaraguan dream.”5

Mainstream media tells its own story

Since the violent, U.S.-directed coup attempt in 2018, in which more than 200 people died, it has been very difficult to find objective analysis of the political situation in Nicaragua in mainstream media, much less any examination of the revolution’s achievements. In disregarding what is actually happening in the country, the media is ignoring and excluding the lived experience of ordinary Nicaraguans, as if their daily lives are irrelevant to any judgment about the direction the country is taking. Most notably, instead of recognizing that 75% of Nicaraguan voters supported the government in last November’s election, in which two-thirds of the electorate participated, the result is seen as “a turn toward an openly dictatorial model.”6 This judgment is backed by confected claims of electoral fraud from “secret poll watchers,”7 which ignore COHA’s strong evidence that no fraud took place.8

Streets show the political reality

In the run-up to the anniversary of the revolution on July 19th, Sandinista supporters have been filling the streets of every main city with celebratory marches. In Masaya, where I live, I took part in a procession with around 3,000 people and discovered afterwards that three other marches took place at the same time in different parts of Masaya, with even more people participating in each of those. People have much to celebrate: the city was one of those most damaged by the violent coup attempt in Nicaragua four years ago, but has since lived in peace.

During the attempted coup, for three months the city of Masaya was controlled by armed thugs (still regularly described in the media as “peaceful” protesters). Five police officers and several civilians were killed. The town hall, the main secondary school, the old tourist market and other government buildings were set on fire. Houses of Sandinista supporters were ransacked. Shops were looted and the economic life of one of Nicaragua’s most important commercial centers was suspended. My own doctor’s house went up in flames and a friend who was defending the municipal depot when it was ransacked was kidnapped, tortured and later had to have an arm amputated as a result.

So one strong motive for the marches is to reaffirm most people’s wishes that this should never happen again: 43 years ago a revolutionary war ended in the Sandinistas’ triumph over Somoza, but this was quickly followed by the U.S.-sponsored Contra attacks that cost thousands more lives. For anyone over 35, the violence in 2018 was a sickening reminder of these wars. Since then, not the least of the government’s achievements is that Nicaragua has returned to having the lowest homicide level in Central America,9 and people want it to stay that way.

Progress under Sandinistas is not recognized internationally

But this is far from the government’s only success since it returned to power in 2007. It inherited a country broken by 17 years of neoliberal governments by and for the rich (after the Sandinistas lost power in the 1990 election). Nothing worked during those years: there were daily power cuts, roads were in shocking disrepair, some 100,000s of children didn’t go to school and poverty was rampant. When the Sandinistas regained the presidency in 2007, and helped by the alliance with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela and a boom in commodities prices, the government began a massive investment program. For the second poorest country in Latin America, the transformation was remarkable.

Take the practical issues that affect everyone. Power cuts stopped because the new government quickly built small new power stations and then encouraged massive investment in renewable energy. Electricity coverage now reaches over 99% of households, up from just 50% in 2016, with three-quarters now generated from renewables. Piped water reaches 93% of city dwellers compared with 65% in 2007. In 2007, Nicaragua had 2,044 km of paved roads, mostly in bad condition. Now it has 4,300 km, half of them built in the last 15 years, giving it the best roads in Central America.10

Its remarkable advances in health care were evidenced by how Nicaragua handled the COVID-19 pandemic, with (according to the World Health Organization11) a level of excess mortality far lower than that of many wealthier countries in Latin America, including neighboring Costa Rica. It now has one of the world’s highest levels of completed vaccinations against the virus (83%),12 exceeding levels in the U.S. and many European countries. There has been massive investment in the public health service: Nicaragua has built 23 new hospitals in the past 15 years and now has more hospital beds (1.8 per 1,000 population)13 than richer countries such as Mexico (1.5) and Colombia (1.7).14 The country has one of the highest regional levels of public health spending, relative to GDP (“PIB” in Spanish–see chart), and its service is completely free.

Nicaragua is 6th out of 17 Latin American countries in public health investment
Look at education. School attendance increased from 79% to 91% when charges imposed by previous governments were abolished; now pupils get help with uniforms and books and all receive free school lunches. Free education now extends into adulthood, so out of a population of 6.6 million, some 1.7 million are currently receiving public education in some form. Under neoliberal governments illiteracy rose to 22% of the population, and now it’s down to 4-6%.

Source: Centre for Economic and Social Rights, p.58.

Strides in gender parity: another victory

Nicaraguan women have been integral to the revolution. More than half of ministerial posts are held by women, an achievement for which Nicaragua is ranked seventh in the world in gender equality in 2022.15 Only two countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have a smaller gender pay gap than Nicaragua. More than a third of police officers are female and there are special women’s centers in 119 police stations. Maternal health has been significantly improved, with maternal mortality falling from 92.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006, to 31.6 in 2021, a reduction of 66%.16 This is partly due to the 180 casas maternas where women stay close to a hospital or health center for the weeks before giving birth. The state also provides family planning free of charge in all health centers, including tubal ligations for women who do not wish to have more children. It is also true, of course, that abortion is illegal, but (unlike in other Latin American countries) no woman or doctor has ever been prosecuted under this law.

At the moment, people’s biggest concern is the state of the economy and the cost-of-living crisis. Nicaragua has advantages here, too: it is more than 80% self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs and prices have been controlled because the government is capping the cost of fuel (both for vehicles and for cooking). Nicaragua’s economy grew by more than 10% in 2021, returning to 2019, pre-pandemic economic levels, although growth was still not sufficient for the country to recover from the economic damage caused by the 2018 coup attempt. Government debt (forecast to be 46% of GDP in 2022) is lower than its neighbors, especially that of Costa Rica (70%), where poverty now extends to 30% of the population. However, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are economically interdependent, and the latter’s economic problems are a large part of the explanation for the growth in migration by Nicaraguans to the United States.17

Daniel Ortega enjoys high approval ratings

These are only a few of the factors that underlie people’s support for Daniel Ortega’s government. And this support continues: according to polling by CID Gallup,18 in early January President Ortega was more popular than the then presidents of Honduras, Costa Rica or Guatemala. M&R Consultants, in a more recent poll,19 found that Ortega has a 70% approval rating and ranks second among Latin American presidents. This was obvious when huge numbers of Nicaraguans celebrated November’s election result and it is still obvious as they go out onto the streets during “victorious July”.

At a meeting with Central American foreign ministers in June 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken urged governments “to work to improve the lives of people in our countries in real, concrete ways.”20 Blinken deliberately ignores the ample proof that Daniel Ortega’s government is not only doing that but has been more successful in this respect than any other Central American government. Yet the more that the international media parrot Washington’s criticisms of Daniel Ortega, the more that people here will reaffirm their support for his government.


1. “Nicaragua Seizes Universities, Inching Toward Dictatorship,”
2. “Nicaragua’s Secretive Ruling Family Reaches Out Quietly to the U.S.,”
3. “Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Nicaragua’s Sham Elections,”
4. “Nicaragua shuts down 50 non-profits in new crackdown,”
5. “Daniel Ortega and the Crushing of the Nicaraguan Dream,”
6. “Nicaragua Descends Into Autocratic Rule as Ortega Crushes Dissent,”
7. “The secret-poll watchers of Nicaragua. How they monitored a questionable presidential election,”
8. “If there was ‘fraud’ in Nicaragua’s elections, where is the proof?”
9. See
10. “Nicaragua posee las mejores carreteras de Centroamérica,”
11. See
12. See
13. See the Nicaraguan government White paper, downloadable at
14. See
15. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2022 (
16. “Nicaragua ha logrado disminuir la mortalidad materna,”
17. “The UN Refugee Agency is exaggerating the number of Nicaraguan refugees,”
18. See
19. See
20. “Blinken urges Central America to defend democracy to alleviate migration,”

John Perry is a COHA Senior Research Fellow and writer living in Masaya, Nicaragua.

MR Online, July 21, 2022,

Don’t Forget Comrade Simón Trinidad / by “Agamemnon” (Nelson Lombana Silva)

Simón Trinidad

Originally Published: Nelson Lombana Silva: No olvidar al camarada Simón Trinidad, July 13, 2022

With the brilliant triumph of the Historical Pact, Colombia is seeing promising developments, full of hope and expectation. These should be strengthening our spirit of solidarity towards all those political fighters stuffed into the hellholes of imperialism. They have to go free, and be compensated by the state!

One of them is comrade Simón Trinidad. He continues to resist, in one of the inhuman prisons of the United States. He does so for the sake of the right simply to rebel against the savage system that is Colombia. To forget him is not ethical.

The present movement for freedom for political prisoners must be strengthened now. The struggle must be deepened by getting into areas that matter, until freedom for revolutionaries is real.

Political prisoners are not criminals. They are social and political fighters who deserve our full admiration. They deserve our support so that, as quickly as possible, they regain their freedom.

With their sacrifice, they have contributed to the successes of democracy we see ahead of us in Colombia, with so much hope. Ours is a country hugely shaken by the violence and criminality that the regime inflicts on the people.

Comrade Simón Trinidad’s personality is democratic to the core. He gave up his position of economic and social power to put himself on the side of the people. He entered into the political and revolutionary struggle of the people with courage, loyalty and commitment. By no means does he deserve to remain as a prisoner in an imperialist dungeon. We must, as in a chorus, demand his immediate freedom.

W.T. Whitney Jr. translated this contribution.

Nelson Lombana Silva of Tolima, Colombia writes for Semanario Vox, the Newspaper of the Columbian Communist Party.