Not much of a choice

We like to pretend like there is a real choice in politics, but there isn’t. Because of decades of gerrymandering safe districts, the two-parties have infected national politics with the old stereotypes of entrenched ward bosses with near lifetime appointments in both houses of Congress.

Our Presidential choices aren’t much better either. In the primary races, candidates pathetically pander to a small fraction of their party’s base that is ideologically driven and has the loudest bullhorn, no matter how much of the party they truly represent. After a candidate is chosen, they then spend the next few months and hundreds of millions of dollars pandering to just 4-6 million “undecided/swing” voters. These people largely vote with their pocketbooks in mind and are far less independent than they would have you believe.

There are, of course, the “3rd” party candidates that run too. Occasionally they are successful but usually at city-council and state legislative levels. People will tell you that you’re throwing your vote away when you vote for them, and that the mere fact that they dare to challenge the status quo of the 2 party duopoly makes them a potential “spoiler”, which is like labeling someone as being a leper.

It isn’t any wonder that people are generally fed up with politics today.

I heard this one today: “Romney and Obama are both stranded in the middle of the ocean. Who gets saved? America.”

But is it really just an either-or, two sides to the same coin choice? Looking at my options, I really don’t think so. I stand firm that I’m a limited-government type of guy, but not in a rigid Ron Paulite type of way. I’d much rather the government left me alone to make my own choices and didn’t tax me to pay for land wars in Asia to feed the coffers of plutocrats. But when asked to vote Republican, 9.9 times out of 10 I have to say no.

You can chose to blame some of what I’m about to say as one-off crazies or individual lunacy that doesn’t reflect the party as a whole. But I call bullshit. While I’m all for smaller, more efficient government, voting for a Republican on the federal level means that I support the following:

Trickle-down economics – this is of course the theory that if the already wealthy just had a bit more money and were burdened with taxes less, that they would just hire all of the unemployed people out there and the economy would have room to grow. We know this doesn’t work having tried it on more than once occasion in the last century. Currently we’re in a demand-slump. Meaning that it is weak consumer demand that is slowing down the economic recovery. The rich spend less of their income, while the middle and lower class tends to spend more of it. Until those people are spending more, we won’t see continued growth. And if wages continue to be stagnant, we’re going to be living in a Walmart economy for decades.

Science denial – Only 6% of scientists associate with the GOP. Why? Maybe because a plurality believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and that we came about from the literal garden and a magical talking snake that told us knowledge was a bad thing. Or that they deny the very well established science on global climate change.

Crazy – The GOP has enacted or tried to enact laws that force a women to have a vaginal probe stuck in her if she’s considering an abortion. One of their reps thought that women couldn’t get pregnant if she was “legitimately raped”. A one time front-runner for POTUS claimed that the HPV vaccine made people retarded. A majority of republicans believe that the current President of the US was either born outside of the US or is a Muslim.

Imperialism – Many want to go to war with Iran preemptively, ignoring a decade of a similar failed policy in the US. Paul Ryan calls for an annual increase in military spending – indefinitely (with seemingly no way to pay for it).

Destroying the Environment – Republicans have even included it in some of their official platforms that the dissolution of the EPA is one of their priorities, as well as repealing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. A vast majority don’t accept the overwhelming evidence that humans are the primary cause of global climate change.

 

I could go on, but I won’t. I could also point out stupid shit democrats do like react to everything bad that happens with a ban, such as the large soda ban that has taken place in New York. Their constant lip service to responsible spending while never (on their own) tackling the long-term problems we will face when it comes to entitlement spending and the growing national debt. Yes, I know exactly how we got to the mess we’re in now, but dealing with it is a whole other issue.

So, when given the choice between someone that understands science and someone that thinks rape babies don’t happen, or given the choice between someone that understands that unions have been a positive impact on the middle class for the last century versus someone that still believes in the myth of trickle-down economics, I generally, reluctantly, raise a blue flag.

 

 

*I’m drafting a post on alternative choices, as well as a sort of meta-post on where I personally stand on the important issues of the day. As always, constructive comments and suggestions more than welcome. Cheers.

Time to make progress

 
via Treehugger

This is a picture of a dead bird. This bird died because it ate all of that plastic you see there. Plastic that you and I threw away, and ended up in the ocean, or washed up on the shore. This bird doesn’t know any better, because evolution in our feathered friends hasn’t had time to adjust to the industrial revolution. Evolution has also failed to equip this bird with the ability to digest any of this plastic, so it just sits inside the bird, and the bird will either starve or hemorrhage or choke to death.

 

These are the stomach contents from a dead sea turtle. Again, a ton of fucking plastic. Chances are, the turtle found the plastic here:

This is a small part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of floating plastic and other garbage that is twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is where my trash ends up. This is where your trash ends up. We’ve made this garbage patch.

This is another dead fucking bird. It died due to the oil that spilled in the Gulf of Mexico last year from the BP spill. That oil was being pumped for you and for me. We were going to use it to get to work, heat our homes, make our blue jeans, and to create a bunch of plastic, the same type of plastic the bird and the turtle died from.

This is one of the ways in which we source the oil that killed the bird and produced the plastic that created the trash that killed the other bird and that fucking turtle whose stomach contents are pictured above. We just fucking take it from other people. We make up all kinds of excuses for war and our international relationships and dealings, but it so much of it comes down to securing our unlimited access to oil and the profis that oil will afford a select few.

 

This is natural gas, and it is what some people are proposing we use to help get us off of oil. This is a picture of someone lighting their god damned drinking water on fire, because of the practice of hydraulic fracking for natural gas. Fracking allows natural gas to leak into the wells and aquifers that people use for drinking water, agriculture, and farming. Then the water is pretty much ruined forever. Though this is a pretty kick ass party trick. If you’re throwing a ” I can’t drink my fucking water any more” party, that is.

Meanwhile, while we’re burning all these fossil fuels, we’re making the Earth warmer. “Isn’t that a good thing?’ a total idiot might ask? No, it isn’t. One of the effects it is having is on the forests in British Colombia. “Who cares, because it’s only Canada?” you might ask? Well, that’s also something a complete idiot would ask. All those trees in the picture above aren’t supposed to be that color. They are brown and red because they are infested with bark beetles. Those bark beetles are experiencing warmer, shorter winters thanks to global warming, and that means that their offspring aren’t dying off during due to frigid temperatures, and their population is exploding. These trees are part of a system that forms an enormous carbon sink. But because they are dying, that carbon can’t be stored there. Which creates more warming. And more warming will cause more severe weather. So you’ll probably want to turn up the heater a bit more in the winter depending on where you live. And you’ll want to turn up the A/C a bit more in the summer. And that’ll require a bit more energy, which will end up using more oil.

Please, please do at least one thing today to change this. And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…

One thing you might even do is write to your representative. Let them know that the EPA needs to be able to regulate greenhouse gases, including CO2. While you’re at it, let them know that you don’t want mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other particulates in the air you breathe.

Just do something, stick with it, and make progress. We need it.

“…progress,
man’s distinctive mark alone,
Not God’s, and not the beast’s;
God is, they are,
Man partly is,
and wholly hopes to be”                     ~ Robert Browning Hamilton
 
 
Cheers.

The steeper bill to pay

The bill that House Republicans are proposing that will set the budget through the end of the fiscal year (Sept ’11) “loads up every piece of the far-right social agenda in one bill, from restricting a woman’s right to choose to preventing government from protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.” – quote from as Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. in Huff Post today. While I find many of the proposals distasteful, it is the ones concerning the environment that I would like to draw your attention to. As some of you reading this know, I’m currently in school, pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning. These issues are important to me, and often I’m shocked that there is so little regard paid to them.

I found a list of the environmental riders on the budget bill at the Sietch Blog. You can read them here, and there is a pdf version here. My thanks to the writers there for posting this. I’ll list just a couple of the ones that I found particularly appalling:

Section 1746: Taking Away EPA’s Authority to Enforce the Clean Air Act – states that zero funds may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce or promulgate any regulation related to the emissions of greenhouse gases due to concerns regarding climate change. This far reaching legislation prevents EPA from regulating carbon pollution and protecting Americans from the impacts of climate change. This section stops EPA from requiring new power plants, oil refineries, and other major new sources of carbon pollution to begin reducing their carbon emissions. It also prevents EPA from setting minimum federal standards for power plants and oil refineries, and severely interferes with EPA’s permitting process for new or expanded facilities. In addition, this section prevents the public from learning how much carbon pollution is actually being emitted by the largest polluters. This legislation ties EPA’s hands and allows carbon pollution to continue or even increase unabated – endangering public health, food and water supplies, wildlife habitat, species, forests and coastlines throughout our nation.

Section 1747: Blocking EPA Efforts to Clarify the Scope of the Clean Water Act – halts the EPA’s ongoing effort to make clear which waters remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions and subsequent Bush administration policy. This provision leaves millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams without clear Clean Water Act protection. These streams provide at least part of the drinking water for 117 million Americans. It jeopardizes EPA’s ability to enforce the law against oil spills and waste dumping in these waters.

 Section 4008: Limiting Enforcement of the Cement Kiln Air Toxics Standard – EPA is prohibited from using any funds to implement or enforce a health standard to control mercury and other pollutants from cement plants. Cement plants are the third leading source of man-made mercury emissions and have evaded controls prescribed under the Clean Air Act for over 13 years. EPA finalized these life-saving standards in September 2010 with a compliance deadline of September 2014. These overdue standards will save 2,500 lives, prevent 1,000 heart attacks, and reduce 130,000 missed days of school and work each year, according to EPA estimates. EPA also projects that this rule would save $18 billion in health costs just from reductions of fine particulate matter. Defunding implementation of this critical reduction of mercury, lead, particulate matter and other hazardous pollutants will not remove any regulatory obligations. In fact, this amendment deprives states and cement manufacturers from getting technical assistance and support in developing compliance plans. Barring EPA from providing critical guidance for this protective health standard puts the public at risk and leaves industry without critical compliance input.

 Section 4015: Blocking EPA from Regulating Emissions from Stationary Sources – issues a “stop-work” order to the EPA for any regulation of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons from stationary sources for any reason, including their impacts on ozone, climate change, or any other public health threat. The broad impacts of this amendment, therefore, include blocking work underway to address dangerous carbon dioxide pollution; a de facto construction ban on power plants and factories; interference with the

Renewable Fuel Standard; preventing EPA from implementing a three-year study of biomass greenhouse gas emissions; interference with the EPA’s acid rain program; preventing enforcement of rules covering emissions of HFCs and perfluorocarbons from refrigeration and other equipment.

This stop-work order would accomplish nothing other than to ensure that more dangerous pollution is dumped into the air and that U.S. companies fall behind in the global competition for clean energy markets.

The rest of the list is just as disgusting. Everything from defunding NOAA to gutting funding for important studies and our involvement in the IPCC. Many of these measures will not only create conditions of unparalleled environmental destruction, but cost thousands of jobs, and directly (and indirectly) impact the health of tens of thousands (or more), and the potential to contaminate the drinking water of hundreds of millions.

 

This is all being done in the name of controlling the deficit. But I doubt that the motivation behind such actions is really just fiscal responsibility. For whatever reason, it has become the party line of the Republicans that any government proposals that are aimed at benefiting the environment are somehow inherently evil. While I don’t doubt that this meme was started in the interests of businesses not wanting to spend a few extra bucks complying with environmental standards that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, I believe this new round of cuts is born out of something else entirely. It’s almost as if the new partly line is simply “fuck the liberals, let’s pass reactionary legislation that will drum up hysteria and unite our base”. They’re even bringing back styrofoam into the congressional lunchroom. Yeah, styrofoam, that substance that has been banned in several cities and is toxic throughout its entire millennial life span. Oh, and there is that state rep in Montana that is introducing legislation that would declare global warming beneficial to the welfare and and business climate of his state. The Republicans are basically taking their ideological positions to the extreme, in an effort to gut government of any type of power to protect its citizens from the dangers that industry can impose upon us.

Unfortunately, Republicans are living in the delusion of “now”. All of their proposed cuts to environmental spending are looking at the short-term deficit impact. None of these cuts address the long-term economic impact (hint: it isn’t good) nor do they address the long-term health-effects, or the long-term environmental impacts (which will impact the other two). Republicans love talking about how we can’t pass the deficit bill on to our children and grandchildren, but when we craft policies that demonstrate a total disregard for the environment, we leave them with a much steeper bill to pay.

Some like to claim that the green/lib crowd is trying to scare people with doomsday-type scenarios about climate change and other environmental issues. But the facts remain:

We are running out of fresh water

We are affecting global climate change, and the Earth is getting hotter

We are running out of arable land

We are dumping hazardous chemicals into the land, air and water that are screwing with our health and depleting the amazing amount of biodiversity found on this wonderful planet of ours.

These facts should be of grave concern to everyone, regardless of political persuasion. But they aren’t. Because in the culture of capitalism we currently find ourselves in, there are those that value the future balance sheets of our children’s bank accounts more than we do their health and livelihoods.

That’s all for now. Cheers.