The Reclusive Climate-Denying Puppet Master Behind Trump
By Andy Rowell
When President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, many of his supporters hoped he would take on the political and media establishment and radically shake them both up.
In that process they might have assumed he was going to clean up politics by removing the Beltway insiders and the corporate lobbyists who have often pulled strings in Washington.
While the former has happened, the latter has not.
It is increasingly becoming clear that the swamp is being refilled by an oligarchy, where the ultra-rich who fund Trump control what is going on.
Two recent exposés—a brilliant one by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker and one in the Washington Post—focus on Robert Mercer, the reclusive brilliant computer programmer and hedge fund manager and how his money helped propel Trump into power.
Mercer, who is famous for being shy and reclusive, lives on Long Island and made his millions as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, seen as one of the most profitable hedge funds in the U.S.
But for years now, Mercer has been shaping the political and public arena in the U.S. by pouring tens of millions into causes that resonate with his libertarian views, which include climate denial.
5 Ways #Trump Continues His Assault on People & Planet https://t.co/MCvXvGBj4V @NRDC @RobertKennedyJr @MarkRuffalo @LeoDiCaprio @BillNye— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489336372.0
He is one of the main stakeholders and funders of Breitbart news, the standard bearer of alt-right conspiratorial news on the Internet of which Trump's chief of staff, Steve Bannon, was executive chairman, before joining Trump's team. Mercer has poured more than 10 million dollars into the venture. Bannon and Mercer are close. For the last five years, Bannon has acted at Mercer's de facto advisor.
But Breitbart is just the tip of the iceberg of Mercer's hidden influence.
Between 2008 and 2016, the Mercer family foundation pumped at least $77 million in political donations and gifts into what the Washington Post called "a vast universe of causes across the conservative landscape."
Mercer's millions have completely skewed the political debate in the U.S. and he is one of a number of key puppet masters now pulling Trump's strings. Indeed, as the Post noted, the Mercers "are now arguably the most influential financiers of the Trump era."
Not everyone is happy about Mercer's growing influence, including some of his colleagues. Earlier this year a colleague at Renaissance, David Magerman, published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
He outlined the close connection between Mercer and Trump's closest advisors Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway: "Stephen Bannon came from Breitbart News, of which Mercer owns a significant percentage and Kellyanne Conway came from Mercer's circle of political foundations. And, of course, Mercer's daughter Rebekah represents his interests and his worldview with her presence on the transition committee and her close relationship with Bannon and Conway."
Magerman also asked, "What did Mercer's investment in Trump amount to? He was effectively buying shares in the candidate and Robert Mercer now owns a sizable share of the United States Presidency."
Others are outraged too. Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee, told the New Yorker: "Bob has used his money very effectively. He's not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn't be President if not for Bob. It doesn't get much more effective than that."
Rebekah Mercer, one Robert's daughters and an ex-Wall Street trader, has become central to Breitbart and then later to Trump, with her sitting on Trump's transition team.
"She is the First Lady of the alt-right," Christopher Ruddy, the owner of the conservative outlet Newsmax Media, told Jane Mayer at the New Yorker. "She's respected in conservative circles and clearly Trump has embraced her in a big way." Rebekah Mercer is now leading a group called Making America Great to support Trump's agenda.
There are even those that believe that the Mercer funding of Trump may have broken the law. The New Yorker quoted Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, who said that the Mercers' financial entanglement with the Trump campaign was "bizarre" and potentially "illegal." The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.
The New Yorker recalls how one of the issues that Nick Patterson clashed with Mercer is over climate change.
When Patterson tried to engage Mercer over climate, the later responded by sending Patterson an article by Arthur Robinson, a biochemist and climate denier. Mercer has long been a supporter of Robinson and the Mercer foundation has donated at least $1.6 million to Robinson's Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. According to the New Yorker, Robinson's Institute dismisses climate change as a "false religion."
Robinson's article was a classic climate skeptic's argument that climate change would lead to "far more plant and animal life," Patterson told the New Yorker: "It looked like a scientific paper, but it was completely loaded with selective and biased information."
Robinson has been working on climate denial for years. The New Yorker noted: "A petition that he organized in 1998 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, claiming to represent thirty thousand scientists skeptical of global warming, has been criticized as deceptive."
Despite this, the petition is still widely circulated on Facebook.
Patterson believes that climate change is a threat to Mercer's libertarian ideals. "I think if you studied Bob's views of what the ideal state would look like, you'd find that, basically, he wants a system where the state just gets out of the way," Patterson told the New Yorker. "Climate change poses a problem for that world view, because markets can't solve it on their own."
After Trump won the election, Rebekah nominated the climate denier, Arthur Robinson, to be national science adviser, although this recommendation has not been taken up.
The Mercers' link to climate deniers goes deeper, too. According to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, the Mercer Foundation spent nearly $4 million directly funding groups funding climate denial between 2003 and 2010. Others have the figure much higher. Earlier this year, DeSmog estimated that the Mercers had pumped at least $22 million into climate denial organizations.
Take two quick examples:
By 2011, the Mercers were working with the notorious Koch brothers, who have poured tens of millions into think tanks who fund climate denial and over the next few years, the Mercers donated more than $25 million to the Koch brothers to fund to try to oust Barack Obama. Mercer was out-funding the Kochs on the Koch campaign. In 2014, Bloomberg News ran the headline: The Man Who Out-Koched the Kochs.
The Mercer Foundation, which is run by Rebekah, has also donated $5 million to the leading skeptic think tank, the Heartland Institute. In three days time, Heartland will hold its 12th climate denier conference. Many of the usual climate skeptic suspects will be there.
Heartland bragged: "The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States already is having a profound effect on U.S. climate policy. Meet the scientists, economists, engineers and policy experts who persuaded Trump that man-made global warming is not a crisis."
Aside from Heartland, the sponsors are the Media Research Center, which received $13.8 million from the Mercer Foundation from 2008-2014 and the Heritage Foundation, which has received $1 million over the same period.
As the Washington Post noted: "What sets the Mercers apart is their interest in finding new ways to shape the environment in which policy issues are debated" and that is exactly what the Mercers are doing on climate and the wider pro-Trump campaign.
Climate denial has long been synonymous with Exxon and the Koch-brothers, but now we have a new name on the list:
Robert Mercer, the man who swung the election for Trump.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.