Apology is O’Rourke’s path out of climate contradiction

Dear Friends,

Six Bold Climate Bird Dogs arrived at Beto O’Rourke’s CNN town hall last week with great expectations. O’Rourke had just released a climate plan that generated much excitement. He talked about climate during his recent Iowa tour and the plan is featured prominently on his website.

Beto O’Rourke speaking at his Climate Change Roundtable in Des Moines on May 6, 2019. Photo by Shari Hrdina

Forty-five minutes into the CNN town hall, Terrance Pendleton asked O’Rourke a general question about climate. That was followed by Patrick Bourgeacq’s more specific inquiry into O’Rourke’s past donations from fossil-fuel interests and his pro-oil-industry votes while in Congress.

O’Rourke responded adequately, then something unexpected happened. Moderator Dana Bash picked up where Bourgeacq left off. She pushed O’Rourke about his controversial 2015 vote to support lifting the ban on crude oil exports.

[Historical perspective: On October 9, 2015, the US House voted to lift the 40-year ban on crude oil exports during the heat of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). That wasn’t a coincidence. DAPL was never about US oil independence. It was about selling fracked oil to the highest bidder. DAPL officials assured us that the oil running through Iowa was for domestic consumption. Lifting the ban on crude oil exports exposed the company’s lie. O’Rourke voted for the bill and it was signed into law by President Obama — a bipartisan betrayal of the greater public good.]

O’Rourke’s response to Dana Bash is worth viewing. As I watched the exchange live, I was wishing O’Rourke and I could talk casually over a pint of Guinness, something along these lines (O’Rourke’s quotes taken directly from his responses at the forum):

Me: “You honestly think voting to let a few rich guys sell US oil overseas makes sense?”

Beto: “Yes, I’m happy with that vote.”

Me: “Ouch. It’s just hard to see how someone who understands the urgency of the climate crisis, someone who just released a progressive, far-reaching plan to fight it, doesn’t regret a vote that clearly takes us in the wrong direction, takes us, in fact, one step closer to extinction.”

Beto“Look, I drove here tonight in a Dodge Grand Caravan that is burning gasoline.”

Me: “Please, Beto. You’re better than that. I’m so over climate deniers and other detractors calling me a hypocrite because I arrive at a pipeline protest in rural Iowa by car. Sorry, the bus and train aren’t running today.”

Beto“I want to make sure that we’re independent of the need to obtain those fossil fuels from the Middle East or Venezuela.”

Me: “Whoa. Stop right there, Beto. The legislation you supported had nothing to do with making America independent of foreign oil. It was simply about letting rich oil tycoons get even richer at the expense of our land, water, property rights, and climate. Come on, you know that!”

Beto“I’d rather those jobs and that exploration take place here in this country to satisfy our energy needs and the energy needs around the world.”

Me: “So, you’re admitting you’re ok with our land being exploited to satisfy the rest of the world’s thirst for oil? Look, if that’s your perspective on climate, it puts you on the same page as Joe Biden. Sorry, that’s not the kind of Democrat I’m interested in supporting.”

Beto“I’d love to toughen EPA standards to make sure we’re doing this in the most environmentally sound way.”

Me: “No, no, no! There’s no environmentally sound way to exploit, transport, refine, and burn oil. Dang, Beto, look at your plan! It’s spot on. Yet defending your 2015 vote on the export ban says to Iowans that you don’t really get it.

“Here’s my advice: Admit that your vote was wrong. Apologize to the Iowa farmers, landowners, and Native communities directly impacted by the pipeline. Apologize to Earth for driving another nail into an unsustainable climate future. Then perhaps, after a thorough and sincere mea culpa, Iowans will take your climate plan seriously.

“Otherwise, Beto, people see your jumping on the climate bandwagon as pure political posturing. I wanna believe it isn’t. I wanna believe you mean every word of it, and that one of the first things you’ll do to steer America on the road to a fossil-fuel-free future is to shut down DAPL and all the pipelines causing so much immediate harm and doing so much long-term damage.

“Yup,” I’d say as I chug the final swig of my Guinness. “The only way out of your dilemma is through contrition. But it has to be sincere, because one thing Iowans are skilled at is seeing through a phony. I, for one, wanna believe you’re the real deal and that you’ll deliver on your climate plan. Prove me right and the next pint is on me. And you might even get my vote.”

— Ed Fallon

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King implies Clintons should be executed

Dear Friends,

I’m not prone to cliches, but I can’t get this one off my mind: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Witness hapless US Congressman Steve King (R-Eighteenth Century), who despite public chastisement by fellow House members for his comments in support of white supremacy, was again unable to conceal his propensity to think outside the sanity box.

Last week, King posted a meme on social media showing Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who during the early years of the Cold War were executed for treason. The meme also features Bill and Hillary Clinton, noting that they are “still running free,” accompanied by “#LockHerUp.”

And why does King believe the Clintons should be locked up? He apparently buys the meme’s reference to a conspiracy theory claiming the Clintons sold uranium to the Russians, long-since debunked. How debunked? Even Fox News host Shepard Smith rejects the accusation.

The meme’s clear implication is that the Clintons deserve the same fate as the Rosenbergs — execution. In an age where the radical fringe feels emboldened to act violently against leaders and entire classes of people it disdains, King’s meme is not only politically irresponsible, it’s morally objectionable — and deeply so.

King knows he’s about to experience the election fight of his life, with three Republicans set to challenge him in the June 2020 primary. Most politicians, when threatened with electoral extinction, dive for that nebulous realm of messaging vagueness called “the center.”

Not King. He doubles down on crazy talk, like fantasizing about killing liberals in a new civil war. Like insisting that an all-white society would be superior to others. Year after year, quip after quip, the crazy talk goes on and on.

Yup. If nothing else, one has to admire King for his consistency, honesty, and chutzpah. We’ll see how those traits serve him in his upcoming election battle.

Ed Fallon

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Bill Clinton’s biggest “accomplishment”

Dear Friends,

Do you realize how embarrassingly rare it is for a progressive voice to be heard on the so-called “public” airwaves? Unless I’ve missed something (and I hope I have), the Fallon Forum is the only progressive political talk show on commercial radio anywhere in Iowa.

That’s not only sad and wrong, it’s dangerous. Our airwaves have been sold-off to a shrinking handful of corporate giants. As a result, traditional radio listeners are inundated 24-7 with a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and their ilk.

Vice President Al Gore looks on as President Clinton signs the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

It’s no wonder so many Americans have been brainwashed into buying the lie that climate change is a hoax. So yeah, this sell-off of what used to be OUR airwaves is downright dangerous.

Lest people forget, it was President Bill Clinton who signed the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, the bill that made possible this travesty of fairness. Clinton delivered many other plums to Corporate America during his presidency, including NAFTA, welfare reform, and the repeal of Glass Steagall. But the Telecommunications Act was perhaps the most far-reaching in its damage. (Note of historic interest: Joe Biden voted for all four of these bills while Bernie Sanders voted “no.”)

Which brings me to two important conclusions:

1. Support progressive talk radio. Yeah, the Fallon Forum for sure. But across the country, there are other talking heads pioneering alternatives to the Limbaugh-Hannity-Beck model of divide, lie, and further divide. There are excellent community-owned stations, too, including KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames), KICI 105.3 FM (Iowa City), and the 300+ stations affiliated with the Pacifica Network. Support us!

2. DON’T NOMINATE ANOTHER CORPORATE DEMOCRAT FOR PRESIDENT!! Ignore the “we must nominate a moderate” blather. As the late Paul Wellstone used to say, the division in America is not between left and right, it’s between top and bottom. I’m encouraged that many Democrats running for president this year understand the distinction and have track records that suggest they’ll deliver on it.

One final word about the unraveling of the public airwaves. As Michael Corcoran wrote in this Truthout story marking the 20th anniversary of the passage of The Telecommunications Act, “In 1995, before the Telecommunications Act was passed, companies were not allowed to own more than 40 radio stations. ‘Since passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Clear Channel [now called iHeartMedia] has grown from 40 stations to 1,240 stations – 30 times more than congressional regulation previously allowed,’ according to a report from the Future of Music Coalition.”

Domination of the economy and our lives by an oligarchy of unaccountable corporate or government interests is a blow to liberty. Nowhere is that domination more evident than in radio. Yet like water, the human spirit constantly seeks out cracks in the oligarchy’s armor — cracks through which to carve a path toward innovation, and through innovation, a path toward freedom.

Let’s do all we can to help bring that reality to fruition.

Ed Fallon

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Presidential candidate climate flow chart

Dear Friends, Bird Dogs, Penguins, and assorted Climate Patriots,

The last couple weeks have seen a whirlwind of activity. There are now 236 Iowans signed up to bird-dog presidential candidates. Caucus goers probing candidates on climate change have literally been everywhere!

Doug Fuller with Marianne Williamson at Enchanted Mystical Boutique

Charles Goldman and I discuss some of these interactions on this week’s Fallon Forum. Check out our conversations about Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke. Also, we dig into how bailouts have been, well, nothing more than badly-targeted socialism. And Charles, donning his pretty green medical scrubs, queries, “Is Obamacare now officially on life support?”

Sid Barfoot questions Eric Swalwell in a one-on-one situation.

Back to the presidential campaign and the relentless efforts of bird dogs, penguins, and assorted climate patriots. Our work is absolutely helping to elevate the conversation about climate change nationally — even making the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

With the knowledge that saving the world doesn’t have to be gloom and doom, Randall Damon came up with this entertaining and instructive flow chart for how to determine if a presidential candidate is truly up to the task of being the climate leader humanity needs. Feel free to share, with attribution.

Thanks again for caring about our world, our future, and what’s left of the public airwaves. — Ed

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