Monday, November 29, 2010

An Open Letter to the President

Dear President Obama:

Before I say anything else I’d first like to thank you for your hard work as the executive leader of our country and Commander in Chief of our armed services. I can only imagine how difficult your job may be and I appreciate your efforts.

I find myself in a difficult position, Mr. President. I’m fortunate to have full-time employment during a time when so many Americans are out of work. I pay my taxes and try to maintain a conscientious and informed opinion when it comes time to vote. I’ve sent letters to Congress and signed petitions. As much as I can, I try to limit my impact on the environment. Essentially, I try to be as responsible a citizen as you could ask for. Why then do I find myself in a difficult position?
My full-time job pays me about $38,000 per year: easily enough to live off of, despite the tough times. But after the rent, the bills, the payments on debt (including credit cards and school loans), and other general cost of living expenses I find I have very little left over to save for the future. If anything, I actually see the prospect of a comfortable future slipping further away, not getting closer, whether it resembles the American Dream or not.

Times are tough, I understand that. This letter is not to complain about how difficult it is to get by. The times are not only tough for me and citizens like me, but they are also tough for the federal government. With such an incredible deficit, the only options are raise taxes or cut programs or both. The way things are is not sustainable.
The trouble is that I feel either targeted or ignored. The solutions I keep hearing proposed either focus on cutting the programs I and citizens like me (or are worse off) rely on most or by increasing the wealth of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. This may simply be a failing on the part of the media to mention other solutions, but regardless, I have a few concerns I would appreciate hearing more discussion about.

Concerning taxes:

· It seems that regarding the Bush-era tax cuts the two options receiving serious discussion are either letting the top two brackets revert to prior levels or making them permanent (or issuing a temporary freeze to let someone else worry about them). Tax cuts are caviar, something to be enjoyed during times of prosperity but a waste of money when times are difficult. I know no one wants to see their taxes go up, but that is not really what is happening here is it? They are not going up, they are reverting to normal. I’d like to see more people addressing the language properly.

· Back when the 16th Amendment made income tax a permanent fixture of America in 1913, the idea of a “billionaire” was unheard of. Even millionaires were a rare breed. Given that Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and more than fifty other millionaires and/or billionaires assert that they should pay more in taxes, perhaps it is time for a new tax bracket to address the incredibly affluent.

· There has been some talk of federal sales tax. I would like to hear more talk of a financial transaction tax, similar to the ones instituted by Sweden, Brazil, Peru, and Columbia. With the trillions of dollars exchanged regularly, a 0.1% tax would raise a considerably amount of money without causing much of a burden at all on the individual. I’d also like to hear more talk about increasing dividend and estate taxes. Essentially, I think you should take a look at including non-payroll income in income tax before determining that people who already pay taxes on all their income should then pay anything else.

Concerning the military:

· The Cold War ended in 1991, yet America continues to maintain military bases placed around the world to combat this long dead conflict. Evaluating the necessity and closing many of these bases will free up millions of dollars to be used elsewhere.

· On January 22, 2009 you issued an order to suspend the military commission and shut down the Guantanamo Detention facility within the year. Your order is almost a year overdue. The longer the facility remains open the less moral high ground we can claim to hold without reeking of hypocrisy.

· The Bush administration violated International Law, both by launching a war of aggression against Iraq and by authorizing the use of torture techniques against prisoners. Our claim of moral superiority against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and any other “enemies” in the “war on terror” — again — reek of hypocrisy as long as we continue to ignore our own record of human rights abuses.

· Winslow T. Wheeler has already written extensively and critically on how budget increases in the Department of Defense have resulted in a smaller, older, less maintained military. For further clarification and proposed solutions, I recommend taking stock of his suggestions.

Concerning Wall Street and the corporation:

· One of the main catalysts for the financial meltdown and economic recession we find ourselves in was the repeal of the 1933 Banking Act, also known as The Glass-Steagall Act. In the interest of protecting the American people, either reinstate Glass-Steagall or pass any similarly proposed Act which effectively separates commercial from investment banking. Taking steps to pull America out of economic disaster is not enough unless you also make sure it does not happen again.

· Economist John Maynard Keynes cautioned that a large, robust economy needed to be matched by a large, robust government in order to prevent Capitalism’s natural inconsistencies from destroying the economy. Over the past 30 years, I’ve watched Economy gain traction over Government so that now the two are greatly mismatched. Regulation is not a bad word, it’s a necessary one.

· Many people make a big deal out of undocumented workers crossing our borders, and not nearly enough people make a similar big deal about the way capital can cross borders freely to look for the highest rate of return. Everyone wants to go where it is easiest to make a buck, but if people are serious about securing our borders it needs to go both ways.

Mr. President, I know that this letter will need to get past quite a few people before you will take a look at it. I know my concerns may seem more Democrat and less Republican, but I really just hoped to come across as a concerned American citizen rather than a concerned affiliated member of a political party. It just becomes so hard to remain hopeful sometimes when I read about proposed solutions that will cause nothing but harm for my economy but circulate plenty of cash into the economy of the wealthy.


Michael Drace Fountain

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ut Suffragium: 2010 California Propositions

Hey folks. So election season is upon us, and with it comes a vast array of Propositions, which essentially are voted-on mandates by the citizenry because we feel if Legislature deals with the issue they'll fuck it up, ignore it, or use it to fuel their own self-interests. Unfortunately, this criticism is applicable.
In an ideal world, California would not need ballot initiatives because their voted representatives are ably representing them in state legislature. And while a majority voted "will of the people" ballot initiative seems like a good way of keeping Legislature honest, all too often Propositions are little more than efforts by special interests to inhibit the work of Legislature or carve out pieces of budget pie for themselves.

Commercials for and against these propositions take over television and radio during election season, battling with ads for and against elected officials and their competitors over who can create the best smear campaign, and the result is that what the proposition is really about gets lost in invective and fear-mongering.

So what I thought I'd do, on my little corner of the blogosphere, is break down, in as fair language as possible, what each Proposition is about. I'll tell you which way I plan on voting and why, but I don't want people to use this as a voting guide. If you agree with the way I'm voting that's fine, and if you disagree then hopefully it means you've thought critically about the issue and aren't voting the way your political party is telling you to vote without thinking about it.

Voter turnout is expected to be terribly low this season, so I encourage you to get out and make your voice heard, even if it means voting for nobody. Very often (unfortunately) I leave a vote blank or write in "none" if I am not happy with the candidates. I've heard many arguments from many different people on why voting is a waste of time, or that they don't vote to make a statement. But that's wrong on both accounts. When you don't vote, the only statement you make is "I don't care who runs my city/state/country and I don't care how they do it." Politicians don't look at the voting percentages and say, "Hmm, about 70% of California (+ or - 5%) is not voting, and I bet they are abdicating their voice to make a statement of how bad we are doing things." In 2006, voter turnout was 33.6%. A politician only needs 17% of the population to vote for him with that kind of turnout. Check out this math: 17% of California's population is a little more than 6 million people. That's a little more than half the population of Los Angeles County. The number of registered voters in Los Angeles County in 2006 was a little more than 4 million people.
If getting (re-)elected means getting 6 million votes, how many politicians do you really think are going to care about the other 30 million people who "can't be bothered" or "are making a statement"? Vote your party line, vote your religious beliefs, or vote making intelligent, informed decisions about each issue and candidate even if it means you vote for "none". But vote. Make the fight for a majority vote mean something. Otherwise you end up in situations where the 30 million people who did not or could not vote for the "winner" get ignored by the politician catering to his 6 million person constituency.

Now, on with the Props.

Prop 19: The "Pot" Bill
Prop 19 legalizes marijuana under California law but not federal law. It allows local governments to tax and regulate the commercial production, distribution, and sale of marijuana. Essentially, the language of the initiative creates a similar legal treatment of pot as alcohol.
It prohibits the sale to and use for minors. It prohibits the use of pot in public "except in a public establishment licensed for on-site marijuana consumption." It's legal to drink at home and at places that are licensed to serve alcohol, and the initiative treats pot the same way. The criminal and civic penalties are similar to alcohol as well. It's illegal to drive under the influence. Employers have the right to address whether the consumption will affect job performance.

The one issue the initiative fails to cover is how the legalization of pot affects California Penal Code 647(f) PC: "Drunk in Public". The caveat for a DiP infraction is that the level of intoxication must inhibit your ability to care for yourself or others and you must not obstruct streets, sidewalks, or another other public walkways. Typically, courts include drug use under the DiP misdemeanor, but how the legalization of marijuana affects the law in this case is not addressed under the issue and could potentially cause problems.

In spite of that, I think legalizing pot is a good idea. It certainly affects the body no worse than alcohol does, and scientists have proven there are medical benefits to its consumption in certain instances. The main reason pot is stigmatized as being worse than alcohol is from such teetotaler films as "Reefer Madness" and the massive smear campaign launched by William Randolf Hearst in the 1930s. Hearst and DuPont petrochemicals had entered into a deal for processing wood pulp into paper, and since hemp created better, longer lasting paper for cheaper, they needed to eliminate the competition. That's it. That's why pot is illegal. A rich man wanted to become richer. There is certainly no good reason to treat pot in any other way than alcohol.

Prop 20: Redistricting 1
What Prop 20 does is adds the task of drawing congressional district lines to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) created by the passage of Prop 11 in 2008.

Prior to 2008, legislative districts were determined by Congress.
The Congressional districts determine how many representatives and senators should be in Congress, and legislative districts determine how much of each congressional district is handled by any particular representative. What the CCRC did is remove the power of legislative redistricting from the hands of Congress in favor of an independent panel comprised of a mixture of both major political parties and independents.
What could and did happen prior to the CCRC is legislators would redraw their district lines to include and remove portions of city districts to best ensure their reelection. Say you are a Republican representative and a portion of your district typically votes Democrat. Before the CCRC took over, you could just redraw your district so that you no longer represented that portion of the city. Essentially it was legal disenfranchisement.
Following the 2010 census, how many senators and representatives California has will change according to population growth and the shift of density eastward. Some cities may gain representatives, others may lose them, and some representatives and senators may just need to be added to Congress. Prop 20 allows the CCRC to handle the process of Congressional redistricting, in order to avoid the potential problems that arise when Congress is in charge of how much power in representation it allots itself.

Prop 20 is a good idea and I support it. Frankly, I'm in favor of abolishing the (redundant) Senate altogether. Allowing legislature to pick and choose how and who they represent is a bad idea.

To save space, I'll just say that Prop 27 not only opposes Prop 20, but wants to do away with the CCRC altogether. Since I'm in favor of Prop 20, I'll vote no on Prop 27.
It's technically possible that both propositions can receive a majority vote, in which case the proposition that received more votes will be the one to go into effect.

Prop 21: A new vehicle license fee.
Prop 21 is an initiative to add an $18 fee when you register your vehicle every year (vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act are excluded). The money accrued from this fee goes into a trust fund for the sole use of maintaining and operating California's 278 state parks.

Currently, the general fund appropriates $150 million to state parks, even though there is a maintenance backlog of about $1 billion. With the already beleaguered budget, what this initiative does is free that $150 million to be used elsewhere and use the $500 million accrued to the fund each year to our parks open and operating more efficiently. Last year, one proposed solution to the state parks problem was closing more than 200 of them. Hence this initiative. One benefit to this fee is that California vehicles will receive free admission to state parks, with the caveat that "free admission does not include camping, tour fees, swimming pool fees, the use of boating facilities, museum and special event fees, any supplemental fees, or special event parking fees."

I strongly support Prop 21. Yeah, with vehicle licensing fees already high, paying an extra 18 bucks is going to suck a little bit (a very little bit, $18 aint that much). But the perks so greatly outweigh this extra little bit that you only have to pay once a year. Healthy, vibrant, well-maintained state parks help support a healthy, vibrant tourism industry, which helps provide jobs and money to cities and local governments. Healthy, vibrant state parks also help support a healthy, vibrant environment and wildlife.
Our state parks provide an abundant recreational, historical, and cultural resource, and if the choice is between closing 75% of our state parks or paying a little more to register my car, then I think there is no choice at all. I'm going to pay a little more. Anyone who enjoys going to the beach, or camping, or hiking or mountain biking, or swimming or boating on a lake, or skiing or snowboarding should feel the same way. Especially if the upshot is that it'll be cheaper to do those activities.

Prop 22: A State Borrowing Ban
What Prop 22 does is rewrite California's Constitution to prohibit the State from raiding local government funds in the event of a budget emergency.

Last year, the state took or borrowed $5 Billion from local governments in order to handle the massive deficit problems facing the state. This initiative prohibits the State from "delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services" (official summary).

I don't like Prop 22 and I'm going to vote against it. Granted, I don't like that the State mucks about with local funds, but this proposal is worse, especially because it rewrites 13 sections of the state Constitution, adds 3 sections, and removes a section. Prop 22 is over-reaching itself, mainly at the benefit of local redevelopment. Getting a simple majority during low voter turnouts is easier for special interest groups, as I demonstrated above, and what this proposal does is mess with budgeting at a ballot-box level.
Our State budget is a mess and desperately needs fixing, but Prop 22 will cause more problems than it fixes.

Prop 23: Suspend the Global Warming Act
Prop 23 is an initiative to suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), passed in 2006 by the Senate and signed by the Governor, until unemployment in California drops to 5.5% or less for four consecutive quarters. What AB 32 does set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, so that by 2020 GHGE are at similar levels as being produced in 1990.

In January of 2010, unemployment in California was more than 12%, with some counties reporting unemployment as high as 20%. Proponents of Prop 23 point out that enacting AB 32 will cost jobs, raise energy prices, and do little to halt climate change anyway. Opponents of Prop 23 point out that voting yes on Prop 23 will cost jobs, keep energy prices high, and encourage polluters to continue business as usual.

I think it's kind of absurd that both the proponents and opponents argue some of the same outcomes whether or not Prop 23 passes. Energy costs go up and jobs go down. I strongly oppose Prop 23. AB 32 was written with job creation and small business protection in mind. A lot of ads are trying to hide what Prop 23 is really about by calling it "The California Jobs Initiative."
Everyone's worried about jobs, and I think proponents of the bill are hoping voters will look at the basics of the bill, that AB 32 will be suspended until unemployment drops to 5.5% for a year, without considering what AB 32 is trying to do.
For the record, in the past 3 decades unemployment has only dropped below 5.5% only 3 times, so Prop 23 is really about killing AB 32 rather than suspending it.
The top two donors for Prop 23 are two Texas-based oil companies: Valero and Tesoro, and they are some of the highest polluters in the state. What Prop 23 is then, is a threat from these companies. "IF AB 32 goes into effect in 2012 as planned, prepare to see our prices sky-rocket in retaliation. If we have to clean up our act, then YOU are going to pay for it."
Screw these guys. The effects of pollution on our land, our water, our skies, our food, our health, and our children's health are more important than two companies worried they are going to lose market share to green energy. I support AB 32, so I'm voting no on Prop 23.

Prop 24: Eliminate Tax Breaks
Prop 24 repeals legislation that allows California business to reduce their tax liability. As part of budget agreements in 2008, California corporations received three key tax breaks to help them save billions.
The first tax break is called Loss Carry-backs. What this means is if a corporation is experiencing a loss during any current year, that corporation can receive refunds on taxes paid for the two years previous.
The second tax break is called The "Single-sales" Factor. Previously, corporations with a large presence in California but who make sales in other states would be taxed on all income, including property-, payroll-, and sales-based income. This tax break allows corporations to instead choose to be taxed only on sales-based income made only in the state of California.
The third tax break is Tax Credit-sharing. If a corporation ends up with more tax credits than it can use, it can distribute any remaining credits to affiliates.

Tax regulators estimate that approximately 120,000 business in California would have higher taxes if Prop 24 passes.
I know our economy is in shambles, and I know that unemployment is a huge problem, but I support Prop 24. The tax-breaks were signed behind closed doors after intense lobbying by major corporations. They didn't care whether or not the tax breaks helped small business, and if Prop 24 passes, the only tax-break that small business should really miss is the Loss Carry-back.
Prop 24 is targeting the big-money corporations, and it really is unfortunate that some smaller businesses may get caught in cross-fire. On the other hand I have to wonder about the quality of a company that can only "keep its doors open" by utilizing tax loop-holes that only went in effect two years ago. Companies need to pay their fair share of taxes, just like the rest of us.

Prop 25: A simple majority
What Prop 25 does is change the requirement for Legislature to pass a budget and sign budget-related legislation from a 2/3 majority to a simple majority. Tax issues would still require a 2/3 majority.
The other part of Prop 25 financially penalizes State Legislature for every day past June 15 they fail to produce a budget.

I like the financial penalty aspect of Prop 25, but I have to vote no on this one. As the political presence of each party fluctuates each voting season, a simple majority vote on the budget would cause the budget to fluctuate wildly, depending on the goals of each party. Having a 2/3 majority vote means that most of the State Legislature has to support the budget, which will cause much less fluctuation. It makes it more difficult to pass a budget each year, true. But in the long run it is the best way to assure that someday California will have a budget that works and doesn't run a deficit. Wild swings one way or another will just cause financial turmoil. Too bad Prop 25 didn't simply propose a financial penalty.

Prop 26: Fees become taxes
What Prop 26 does is require certain State and local fees to passed by a 2/3 majority vote, just like taxes. Currently those fees only require a simple majority vote to pass. Prop 26 also requires certain local fees to be voted on by the local citizenry.

Proponents of Prop 26 essentially view fees as taxes, except they slip past the requirement of a super-majority in order to pass. What Prop 26 does is treat fees like taxes and require a 2/3 majority vote to pass them.

I have to vote no on this one. I am willing to grant that some fees are just a sneaky tax in disguise, but some fees are necessary and immediate, and requiring a super-majority before passage could effectively kill the fee. Such fees like ones passed on corporations that cause high pollution and health problems. Requiring 2/3 majority on any fee, even the simple and reasonable ones, will bog down the election process, fuel litigation, and become a bureaucratic nightmare. Should there be a way of reducing blatant special interest or political purpose fees? Yes. But Prop 26 over-reaches itself and will cause more harm than good.

Well, there we have it, all 9 Propositions on the 2010 November ballot. Sorry for all the text and the long read, it that annoyed you. But I'm glad you worked through it all to meet me back here.

Go vote, and encourage/exhort/brow-beat/whip your friends into voting.

Until next time,
Still paddlin' the old knew...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nocens Via

Congratulations, America! We're fucked!

And not proper fucked, in a way we might enjoy it.

Jobs are disappearing, consumer spending is down, consumer borrowing is down, consumer confidence is down and the government still thinks that propping up Wall Street is going to fix everything. Wrong. A person worried about feeding his kids isn't thinking about investments, he's thinking about his kids. The states are on the verge of bankruptcy, and the Fed gives them no help. Banks are losing profits? Well, here's $11 trillion to help ya. Is this the plan? Ensuring corporate health over citizen well-being? Mike Whitney thinks so.
"Intransigence is a political decision. By the November midterms, the economy will be contracting again, unemployment will be edging higher, and the slowdown will be visible everywhere in terms of excess capacity. The Obama economic plan will be repudiated as a bust and the Dems will be swept from office. The bankers will get the political gridlock they desire. Bernanke knows this." (7/29. Trillions for Wall Street)

And hey! Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling on the Citizens United case, corporations can support candidates too, just like any other citizen. It's like our government is making a concerted effort to replace the citizen voice and vote with a corporate one. Isn't that fantastic!

In other news, it turns out all the people who said "war is bad" were right. WikiLeaks released the American war diary for the past six years, which details exactly how bad the situation is within its 92,000 pages of raw field reports.
Are you starting to forget why we're over there in the first place? Don't worry, so are the people in charge. But it's cool. We just need to cut funding to a few more schools, a few more local governments, tighten our belts just a little more so the government can dump a few more trillion dollars into the paper (and personnel) shredder called the American War Machine.
It's a good thing the majority of Americans support these wars. What's that? They don't? Fuck em! The government only listens to corporations now anyway.

If only there was some way in the next few months to let the government know its citizens demanded to be listened to and receive the same (if not more) care and devotion that corporations and the military-industrial complex received.
If only we had the power to examine the people who claim to represent us and throw them out on their butts if we determined they in fact were not representing us. What would we call this magical system?
I got it! Voting. Let's call it "voting".

Okay, so we got "voting" in place. Great. Now we just need to kick out of office every senator and representative that supports propping up Wall Street over helping consumers and supports killing foreign people over educating their own.

Crap, we ran into a problem. This would require people to vote outside party lines. Why should we vote with our own convictions when there are people in charge who will happily tell us who and what to vote for? Educating ourselves on such boring subjects as "issues" and "taxes" and "voting records" is so tedious. We are so much better off just trusting in whatever political party we happen to agree with and vote straight down the ticket.
I mean, they wouldn't lie to us, right? They wouldn't misrepresent the interests of their constituents, right? Right?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Quoque Turba

Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is of gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.
— Frank Herbert

Pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, and almost daily you can read about climate problems, air pollution, water pollution, land pollution, war problems, political discord.
To me these only appear to be symptoms; the problem seems clear to me. The dangers that scientists, environmentalists, and political commentators warn of are symptoms of this much larger problem: there are too many people.

Even were the majority of the civilized world to cut their rate of consumption and waste and pollution and war in half, in another forty years the population is expected to double, which will obliterate any gains we make in the half century previous.

If humans one day become extinct...there would be no greater tragedy in the history of life in the universe. Not because we lacked the brain power to protect ourselves but because we lacked the foresight. The dominant species that replaces us in post-apocalyptic Earth just might wonder, as they gaze upon our mounted skeletons in their natural history museums, why large headed Homo sapiens fared no better than the proverbially peabrained dinosaurs.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Picture the city you live in. Try to grasp a clear mental picture of how many people live there. Perhaps a crowded mall or grocery store may help you get a good picture. Now take all those people in your mental picture and double it.
Does it seem crowded?
Do you remember those old television shows of the 1950s? Small towns where everybody knew everyone else. In 1950, the global population was half what it is now. There is a direct correlation between population and crime. Perhaps because higher population means a greater number of strangers. Not only do most most people remain suspicious of strangers, but perhaps it is also easier to commit a wrong against someone you don't know. An already underfunded and understaffed police force (check your inner city statistics) will not be able to keep up with the civil unrest wrought by a higher population density.
I predict it will come to a boil likely even before the population doubles in forty years.

From a diplomatic standpoint, world governments appear to be doing little to reduce the heat. On the contrary, some governments, the United States and Israel in particular, continue an unyielding, hard-line stance with other countries which all but guarantees violent confrontation.
Perhaps that is just what we need to save us: a war of large — perhaps even global — proportions would drastically reduce a large portion of child-bearing aged adults from the breeding population. Post-war, the damage to social infrastructure would endanger much of the globally poor, perhaps even to the point of decimating large numbers of them.
Global war is, of course, a horrific suggestion, and to suggest that it may be what is best for humanity is cynical to say the least. Additionally, there is the very real possibility that a global war would include the use of nuclear weapons, which pose a threat of wiping us all out.

If we survive, our time will be famous for two reasons: that at this dangerous moment of technological adolescence we managed to avoid self-destruction; and because this is the epoch in which we began our journey to the stars.
— Carl Sagan

Clearly, however something must be done to prevent the widespread chaos and destruction certain to result from the doubling of the global population by 2050. One possibility is that Mother Nature will settle things herself. Arizona Bay, anyone?
As the population increases, natural disasters prove to be more devastating. Consider the inevitable bottleneck during a fire at a crowded theater. Fewer people mean there is a better chance all of them get out alive. Larger disasters scale the loss of life appropriately (or inappropriately, as it were).
As natural resource consumption and waste and pollution increase so too do the odds of natural disasters resulting from climate change. The more rabbits you cram into a cage, the harder it becomes to clean up all the rabbit shit (and, incidentally, the less happy the rabbits become). But again, a climate-change caused natural disaster solution to the problem of global population involves humanity killing itself.

The final solution I can foresee to this problem is also the most difficult to implement and maintain. Humanity must make a voluntary reduction in population growth. What this means is a commitment to bearing one child per adult. Incentives to bearing one child per couple. Enhanced support for adoption and social services for couples that can't bear children (such as those in the homosexual community).
I can imagine the many scoffs that will result from this suggestion, and no wonder. Really, such a suggestion seems not only unreasonable (especially in our "freedom"-loving America) but impossible to enforce as well. Yet I posit that such measures will be the only way to limit population growth without humans killing themselves.

This is not a pretty picture I paint, and let's face it, there have been prophets of doom and naysayers before (and will be again, probably perpetually). What makes my "prophecy" so special that one should pay attention to it over any other?
I don't have a good answer to that question.
I will say that short of a global natural disaster (like the one killing the dinosaurs) or a global nuclear war humanity will survive. But at what cost? There's the question.
The entire world exists in a symbiosis, one in which humans are currently grossly overbalanced. It is only the natural order of things that humans sink back into balance. It is merely my opinion that it is better to control the descent rather than to succumb to it.

"And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." King James Version, Genesis 1:28

I'd say we pretty much have fulfilled the charge of God to Adam and Eve in this verse, with the exception of the "replenish the earth" part. Perhaps we can stop the "be fruitful and mulitply" and "subdue" parts that everyone likes to focus on and turn our attention to the rest of our duties to this planet.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Convivalis Lymphatus

Gah, what is up with the Tea Parties? Are they driving everyone else nuts too, or am I the only one?

I know that all the media types tend to focus on the crazy ones (and there are a lot of them), but it seems like many people in these groups are regular, nice-enough people that have gotten fed up with the way our government runs things.

To whom I say: Welcome to the fucking club. You're a bit late, but you made it.

What I want to know, is what happened that suddenly caused this great epiphany?

It's not the health care debate, there were plenty of you around before that. As far as I can tell, there are only two significant changes to have occurred in America in the past ten years that could possibly spawn such a weird, widespread movement of anger.
We've been at war for almost a decade, and military spending continues to increase even though the size of our opponents' militaries continue to shrink. So that's nothing new.
Lobbied and corporate interests continue to hold the attention of our lawmakers, nothing new there.
Really, I can only think of two things.

The first is the election of America's first black president.
I am having a hard time thinking of a period (during my lifetime) when I can recall a similar quantity and tone of blatant and deliberately racist comments directed at a human being from such a wide number of people as what I have read and heard directed at President Obama.
Is that what has gotten Tea Party people so riled? Their membership is comprised of mostly white, mostly conservative citizenry; could it be that they are just tired of paying their politically correct lip service?
When I read about our black and our homosexual elected representatives getting spat upon, as well as the hate speech directed their way, during last week's health care debacle, it doesn't sound to me so much that people are concerned about health care. It sounds like they are fed up with having "fags" and "niggers" run things.

The only other significant change to have occurred is when the economy tanked and millions of people lost their jobs.
Except you gotta remember, there were a significant number of people offering a significant number of warnings that current Wall Street behavior was going to cause problems. While the money was rolling in, however, no one wanted to pay attention. Only after the shit hit the fan did we start hearing calls for reform.
I tend to believe that most of the people in Tea Parties are in this second group. The problem is while they may have kept their heads in the sand prior to the economic meltdown, now they got their heads in the clouds. They vehemently argue for lower taxes and less government, even though many admit they receive monthly Social Security or unemployment benefits.
What they really mean is that they want to have all the benefits of social services without having to face the obvious drawback that somebody has to actually pay for it. What I continue to find hypocritical is that most of the people who demand smaller government support our wars in the Middle East.

The thing that really scares me about these people (whether they are racist or not), is they have no concept of action and consequence.
"I'm so sick of paying money to a government that doesn't care about me," they cry, even though if they got their wish, the unemployment checks they rely on to live while they are out protesting big government would stop rolling in.
I hear a lot of people clamoring for government to stay out of way of business, that their interference is causing people to lose jobs. As if American corporations are just waiting for the opportunity to bring their production jobs back to American shores, but government regulation is getting in the way. The only way those jobs would come back to America and offer the kind of wages that citizens would demand is if government got more involved, not less.

What I don't see from Tea Parties are solutions. What I don't see are spokespeople offering intelligent debate or alternatives. All I see are the temper tantrums of spoiled children who've had their candy taken away, and now all they can do is lash out in a rabid, blind fury.

It's kind of hard to see, but the sign underneath the flag in this photo reads, "...take your racist un-American ACORN 'groups' and arrogant wife back to your own country and strip their rights away!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tepidus Plagiarius

So, climate change scientists have been having a rough time of it lately. Some of their data is missing, some of it they skewed to get better results, and the "Global-Warming" skeptics have been all over it like flies on rotting meat.

Notice how I put "Global-Warming" in quotes (twice)? Yeah, there's a reason for that. The real issue most climate scientists are trying to deal with is not really whether the planet is getting warmer (though a lot of data and an obscene amount of glacier melt suggests it is). What climate-change scientists are really attempting to determine is how much the activities of humans change the climate.

Where "global-warming" comes in is in the vast amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that humans have been pumping into the atmosphere in greater and greater doses. But global-warming is not the whole issue. Not even close.

One skeptic argument I've heard a lot is that the world has been around millions (or thousands, if you are a conservative Christian) of years, and humans are so insignificant that to think they could affect this planet is like thinking flies could bother an elephant.
First off: what a dumb argument. Yes, a couple of flies would hardly bother an elephant, but if every fly in the entire world swarmed around one elephant, that elephant would suffocate to death.
Second: The most rudimentary chemistry and geophysics prove that humans affect the environment. There is no question about it, it is a fact. What Climate Change Science attempts to figure out is "How" and "How Much". Every time a species becomes extinct due to the direct influence of man (ie. hunting or destroying their habitat) we've changed the global environment. Every time we divert the natural flow of a river or chop down a forest we've changed the global environment. The only question to ask is "how bad will the consequences be?"

Skeptics don't ask that question. They either ignore it or assume there won't be any consequences. Why? What's so bad about wondering what the consequences of stripping and polluting our planet?
The reason is obvious: pure selfishness.

The other main problems skeptics have is they bury their heads in the sand, metaphorically speaking. They will point at all the graphs, and all the data, and say something like, "the world warms and cools in cycles, and it's been doing that for as long the world has been around, and nothing we can do will change that."
Except there is one graph they aren't looking at.
So, recorded history shows that civilized human beings have been around for around 6 thousand years. Let's say we add another millennium for the time that didn't get recorded, hasn't been found yet, or destroyed, and we're looking at around 7,000 years of civilized human history. In those 7 thousand years, man has polluted, harvested, and destroyed the natural resources of this planet.
The skeptic jumps in at this point and says, "Exactly! And the planet hasn't deviated from it's cycle of warming and cooling in all that time."
But here's a detail that often gets overlooked:
It took humans 6,950 years to reach a global population of approximately 3 billion people. And then it took only 50 years to double.
There is no data we could possibly look at to suggest how doubling the global population in 50 years has affected the environment. And in twenty years, the global population is expected to increase by another 3 billion people.

And now, do you really expect me to believe that taking 6,950 years worth of pollution, doubling it, and then cramming that into the space of merely 50 years is not going to cause environmental problems? And this is without taking into account the rapid increase of carbon consumption associated with the Industrial Revolution.

Look at our oceans. 50 years ago, you would never have found an area of the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas, filled with garbage.
Over the past 50 years, the demand for freshwater has increased 600%, even though global population has only doubled. Extreme water shortage is definitely one aspect of climate change.
While recycling and recovery has helped reduce the rate of our waste, the size and number of landfills increases along with the global population. More and more of our landmass is getting filled with more and more garbage. There is no way to look at that other than as "bad". Bad for our health, bad for our environment.

And I haven't even mentioned "global warming" yet. And really, if you look around at our rate of consumption and waste, do I really need to?
Man-made climate change is a reality, and just because there is a lack of data as to what the consequences may be doesn't mean there won't be any. It's time for a change folks. It's no longer at the point where we can ask our children to clean up our mess. We're at the point where we should ask if our children are even going to survive our mess.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Okay. So I've been ignoring this little corner of the internet. I got a "job" blogging book reviews at Semantink Publishing. (I say "job" because they don't pay me. Yet...)

It's called The Book Report and comes out every Wednesday. Give it a read. And that site also updates every day, so it's much more fun to keep coming back to.

I promise I'll be coming back and spouting all sorts of political blather soon. With all the writing I'm doing, this had to take a back seat for a while.