Category Archives: Global warming

Happy Fourth of July: A More Perfect Union

Flag July 4th

It’s a good 4th of July weekend.  The benefits of citizenship have been affirmed for members of the LGBT community, but as the founders told us we’re on a path to create “a more perfect union.”  Therefore, there’s more work to be done to insure that housing, employment, and other areas of American life aren’t stumbling blocks of discrimination. We will have to keep up efforts toward building that “more perfect” union.

Ravenal Bridge

There may be some dead-enders, some battle flag flying remnants of blatant racism, but no matter how hard the Klan and their allies try, their proposed demonstration will be nothing compared to the thousands who walked along the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina.  We’re closer to being a nation of people who are taking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message to heart:

“When evil men plot, good men must plan.  When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind.  When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. “

At least two churches in the south have been the target of recent arson attacks, so in order to form that more perfect union it’s time for people of good will to build and bind.   It’s been a long walk from the bridge in Selma to the bridge in Charleston, but we’re getting there.  We still have to acknowledge the often painful accuracy of Winston Churchill’s backhanded compliment, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else.”  

In a more perfect union, we’d not have maps showing that a person earning minimum wages cannot achieve a point at which only 30% of his income can pay for a one bedroom apartment.

Rent map

The darker the blue the worse the problem.  We’ll have a more perfect union when we address the complications of living on inadequate wages.  It does no good to march behind banners proclaiming that hard working Americans should “save for the future,” – when simply meeting basic needs for food, housing, and adequate clothing consume all the family’s income. It takes us no closer to a more perfect union to proclaim, “if the poor would just work harder they’d get ahead,” when elements of our judicial system, parts of our educational system, and the myopia of commerce combine to force workers into multiple jobs at minimal wages.  We are no closer to forming a more perfect union when we reward those who prosper at the expense of those who produce.

Unassisted graph

In a more perfect union this graph would be significantly lower.  How do we care for the least able among us? The learning disabled young man with nerve damage, but not quite enough to meet disability standards?  Unmarried, with no dependent children, unemployed except for odd jobs paying about $10 per hour?  A victim of child abuse, and now a victim of a system in which he doesn’t qualify for benefits because he’s never been able to find employment which sustains them. [Reuters]

We’ll be a more perfect union when we are more aware that the able-bodied are not necessarily able to fully function in our modern economy.  In a more perfect union there is more educational, job, housing, and food support for those who live on the margins of despair.

I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man.” Thomas Jefferson to Cornelius Blatchly, October 1822

And yet:

“About seven in 10 (69%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,400, up two percent compared to $27,850 for public and nonprofit graduates in 2012.   About one-fifth (19%) of the  Class of 2013’s debt was comprised of private loans, which are typically more costly and provide fewer consumer protections and repayment options than safer federal loans.”  [TICAS]

In a more perfect union, education advances the “happiness of man,” not merely the bottom line of banking institutions, and certainly not the unrestrained avarice of some for-profit operations who once having the federal funds in hand look to more recruitment without much concern for those already recruited.

And, then – predictably – there’s the Wall Street Casino, which has created SLABS (Student Loan Asset Based Securities).  While certainly not in the mortgage meltdown class, these are problematic because:

“What I find most disturbing about SLABS is that they create a system where an increase in tuition (and the debt-burden on the borrower) equals an increased profit for the investor. When you consider the role that unscrupulous speculators played in the mortgage crisis, one can’t help but wonder if a similar over-valuation of college tuition is taking place for the benefit of SLABS investors. With the cost of attending college increasing nearly 80% between 2003-2013 while wages have decreased, it’s no wonder that so many people are having difficulty paying off their student loans.” [MDA]

This situation is NOT the way to “diffuse light and education.”

There are countless other topics and issues on which we might dwell, assistance for the elderly, transportation, trade, economic security, police and community relations, infrastructure issues, voting rights,  domestic terrorism, domestic violence, gun violence, climate change … the list is  as long as the population rolls, as we try to create that more perfect union of imperfect human beings.

What we need is Churchill’s optimism – that eventually, after avoiding problems, exacerbating problems, tinkering with problems – we’ll do the right thing.

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Filed under banking, civil liberties, education, financial regulation, Global warming, homelessness, income inequality, Minimum Wage, poverty, racism

Things that could get me to toss confetti in 2013

ConfettiThere are things that could get me to toss confetti for 2013.   Not many, mind you, which would justify the consequent vacuuming, but a goodly handful.

#1. The Senate of the United States of America does something constructive with the FILIBUSTER rule.   The original rule was intended to prevent the willful trampling of minority points of view, but the abuse of the rule is now part of the clichéd “Washington Gridlock.”  There is a delicate balance between Majority Rule and Minority Rights, but Obstruction for its own sake is not a laudable occupation.

#2. The Republicans in the House of Representatives eschew the  Hastert Rule , under which a majority of the majority party caucus must agree to the passage of a bill before a vote can be taken on the House floor.  This might have been a lovely idea if the current majority party caucus weren’t the replication of that other cliché– a wheelbarrow load of frogs.  Governance requires compromise, and compromise demands the admission that we don’t always get everything we want.  Ideological posturing is not a substitute for principled discourse.

#3.  Someone in a position to do something about it finally figures out that arguments over raising the debt ceiling are academic at best and consummately silly at worst — rather like announcing that because I overspent my budget for this holiday season I’m going to chop up my credit cards and not pay the bills.  Aside from being the most fiscally irresponsible action imaginable, it’s also a manifestation of the idea that the full faith and credit of the United States is some kind of bargaining chip in ideological squabbling.

#4. The National Rifle Association (aka No Rational Argument) stops pretending to care about the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and honestly announces that its ultimate intention is to promote the sale of as many firearms as its manufacturing donors can create.  After that, it should be far easier to discuss comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning military style assault weapons.

#5. More people, perhaps even more people in the national media, stop referring to “The” government and start calling it what it is — OUR government.   “The” government calls to mind the institution which cracks down on Moonshiners, or enforces school integration, or ignores calls to make Jefferson Davis’s birthday a national holiday.  “The” government didn’t decide to integrate public schools — “our” government did. “The” government didn’t decide to enact regulations to prevent air and water pollution — “our” government did.  And, “The” government didn’t create the Food Stamp (SNAP) program — “our” government did that.  And so it goes.  Continual references to “The” government is an unfortunate holdover from the Reaganesque caricature of government designed to promote the financial health of the economic elite by appealing to the discontent with those laws “our” government enacted to promote OUR general welfare.

#6. Our representatives on Capitol Hill learn to say “____ isn’t the end of the world as we know it.”  I could do with a great deal less hysterical hyperbole.  “This is the Largest Tax Increase In The History of the Universe!”  Probably not.  “This is the worst violation of human rights ever!” Probably not that either.  “This will create the worst calamity known to man.” Probably not.  “This will destroy our ____.”  Again, probably not.  Excuse me while I chuckle at the pomposity of this meaningless prognostication.

#7.  Journalists who seek to inform me via the television set prove to be (1) knowledgeable about the subject under discussion, and (2) include fact checking as part of the “context” of which they speak so often.  If a statement made by a politician is factually inaccurate, they will tell me; and I hope they’ll be able to offer a correction.  I really don’t care if they are correcting the record in the wake of Left Wing Larry or Right Wing Richard’s pontification.  The object of the exercise should be to impart accurate information so far as it can be known — I can get my “entertainment” elsewhere.  Bluntly, the “he said, she said, and then he said” reactions from professional chatterati or elected representatives is less entertaining than a good professional wrestling match, which at least has the grace to admit it’s a scripted farce.

#8. Somebody finally declares the Culture Wars over and done with.  Our contemporary version appears to incorporate a toxic dose of good old fashioned misogyny.  Women make up about 51% of our population and telling them they cannot have an abortion (even in the cases of an ectopic pregnancy or as the result of a rape) is paternalistic to the core.  Worse still would be telling them that their employer can decide if their health insurance plan covers contraceptive medication.

#9.  On a related note, it really doesn’t do to blame God for everything.  I’d cheer the week that some blowhards weren’t showcased in the media for pronouncing God’s Wrath for … whatever.  Hurricane Katrina — God’s wrath for a Gay Pride gathering? Really?  God’s wrath because we don’t pray hard enough?  That certainly doesn’t explain the attack on congregants in the Knoxville Unitarian church.  God’s Wrath because we don’t have organized  prayer in schools? Huh?  No one at Columbine High School, Platte County High School, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech University, or Sandy Hook Elementary knew how to pray and practiced it regularly? Spare me the Westboro Wannabes who “know” the mind of God better than a six year old child.

#10.  The confetti will fly when we begin to have a serious discussion about global climate change without having to incorporate the phony “science” offered up by the fossil fuel industry.  No, there isn’t a “controversy” here. And, no reputable science deflects our responsibility as human beings for the contamination of which we are clearly capable.

Speaking of the Almighty, there’s an old story about the man caught in a flood which seems appropriate at the moment.  “Why, he cried out to God, am a trapped in these flood waters?”  The Almighty, sorely tired of listening to the wailing, said, “I sent you warnings.” “When?”  “When?” responded the Deity. “When indeed.” “I sent you warnings on the radio. You ignored me. I sent you warnings in television broadcasts, and you ignored me. I even sent a deputy sheriff to personally advise you to evacuate. And, you ignored him too.”  ….

We’ve been visited with major named storms, watched ice caps diminish, seen glaciers disappear… and all together too many people are ignoring the warnings.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, ecology, energy policy, family issues, Federal budget, filibuster, Filibusters, Global warming, Gun Issues, Health Care, national debt, pollution, public health, racism, religion, VA Tech, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

>Porter loves Exxon Mobil, Ensign wants to talk, and Heller’s AWOL

>Nevada Republicans in Congress don’t quite have their heads around the science behind global warming.

Republican Rep. Jon Porter would have been a no. He “believes global warming is caused by a combination of natural and man-made factors,” his spokesman said. [LVSun]
It is hard to tell from this comment, but Rep. Porter may ascribe to the Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Dinosaur Flatulence Theory? [TP] “We don’t know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence, you know, or who knows?’ [HP] Chief among the criticisms of this silly theory is that the study Rohrabacher is citing doesn’t say anything about dinosaur farts — the study was of emissions from the sea floor. [EuA]

“Sen. John Ensign did not answer the question definitively when asked by a reporter. He said that he believes global warming “deserves serious discussion and an open debate.” [LVSun]
Nothing like a “NON-answer” to a perfectly simple question. However, the ‘open debate’ part can be interpreted to mean that the junk science paid for by energy companies is to be given the same credence as independent scientific analysis for the purposes of ‘serious discussion.’ [WaPo]

“Rep. Dean Heller could not be reached for comment.” [LVSun] This is getting to be a pattern? When the President announced his Surge for Iraq, Mr. Heller could not be found for comment. [DB] Now, there’s another hot-button issue and Rep. Heller is yet again AWOL.

They all may have missed the word that 41 major lenders around the beleaguered planet, including Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, have already signed on to an agreement that investment projects avoid harming the environment or local populations. [Grist] [NYT]

Nor do they seem to be aware that mega-energy giant Exxon-Mobil is shifting its position from “impossible to know” to “caused, at least in part, by human activity.” [DJMarketWatch] Some corporations have already made a full shift, joining the Business Environmental Leadership Council in saying: “# We accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about the science and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address its consequences. # Businesses can and should take concrete steps now in the U.S. and abroad to assess opportunities for emission reductions, establish and meet emission reduction objectives, and invest in new, more efficient products, practices and technologies…” [PCO]

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Filed under Ensign, Global warming, Heller, Jon Porter

>Overnight Express

>Nevada Senator Harry Reid (D) commenting on the Senate’s passage of the Minimum Wage Bill, “It’s long past time America’s workers get the raise they deserve.” [RGJ] Whether the House will agree to the $8.3 billion in business tax breaks in the Senate version remains to be seen.
———-
President Bush has received his copy of the “long awaited” National Intelligence Estimate, what’s known so far — after waiting 18 months is:
* There is no conclusion as to whether Iraq is having a civil war, but hopeful prospects are modified by deep uncertainty.
* There are active members of al-Qaeda in Iraq but they have been surpassed by sectarian violence as the “primary source of conflict, and “the most immediate threat to U.S. goals.”
* Iran is mentioned “but is not a focus.” [WaPo]

Well there we have it…at least three segments that have long been noted in the media, and on the blogs. I almost have the feeling I could have clicked on the “Desert Beacon Answer Desk Magic Eight Ball” and received essentially the same kind of responses. However, there is one sign that things may very well be changing: “One senior congressional aide said the NIE had been described to him as “unpleasant but very detailed.” A source familiar with its language said it contained several dissents that are prominently displayed so that policymakers understand any disagreements within the intelligence community — a significant change from the 2002 document, which listed most key dissents in small-type footnotes.” (emphasis added)

What a difference five years and a Democratic Congress makes? After members of Congress are briefed a two page de-classified summary will be posted on the DNI website.

Meanwhile in the Senate that bi-partisan resolution critical of the Bush Administration’s escalation proposal is gathering more supporters. [NYT] And, the Pentagon has reorganized the publication of nonfatal casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan in a way that shows lower numbers. [NYT] Some members of the U.S. military are worried that the U.S. is unwittingly aiding the Sadrist elements of the violence, and that surges have been attempted in the past without success. [McClatchy] American officials regional leaders are becoming increasingly worried about the repercussions of voting in Kirkuk which could precipitate violence in northern Iraq. [LAT]
———-
Now, they do it! The State of Florida is abandoning the touch screen voting machines in favor of a system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines. [NYT]
———-
The American Enterprise Institute offered payments of $10,000 each to scientists and economists to “undermine a major climate change report due from a UN panel of experts. [Guardian UK] The panel’s report says “global warming is ‘very likely’ caused by human activities and has become a runaway train that cannot be stopped.” [LAT] The American Enterprise Institute received $960,000 from ExxonMobil between 2000 and 2003. [TP.com] In 2005 the Oil Giant donated another $252,500. [SW] Update: The Huffington Post has a link to the article as well, and as usual, some good photographs.

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Filed under Florida, Global warming, Iraq, Reid