False Aplogies

Rush Limbaugh, that wonderful paragon of virtue, wisdom, and love, released a statement today recanting his words, but little else after viciously attacking a female Georgetown Law student who was supposed to testify before Congress. (www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/03/03/a_statement_from_rush)

What is going on in Washington DC and on the campaign trail is nothing less than disgusting.  These men are purporting to support liberty when in fact they are opposing it stridently.  Changes to a requirement that birth control be offered to allowing exemptions is nothing less than government again bowing to corporate and religious interests at the sake of simple human dignity and choice.  Instead individual freedoms are being curtailed in order to pander to special interests. 

I do not care what someone’s religious orientation or belief is, nothing allows you to superimpose your beliefs on individuals in the name of “protecting religious freedom”.  I would agree with some others if the requirement was for individuals to take birth control.  However the requirement is that health insurance must provide, if requested, birth control.  While some, like Rush, oppose this simple, common sense creation of opportunity, it is not a rational decision.  There has been over the last few years nothing short of a full offensive against women’s rights and choices in this country.  It is disgusting how little respect for women that many public and elected figures have for women.

I encourage anyone who reads this to think about this as you decide to vote this fall.  Are we going to support politicians who purport to defend freedoms and choice while stripping them away?  Or are we going to say no to the insanity and support those who actually want to protect basic freedoms, rights, and human dignity.

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Republican Response

My own party sickens me with their response to the President’s State of the Union Address.  It appears that the Republicans continue their decade-long trend of a lack of vision and foresight and maintain the quasi-religious belief that all government action is bad.  While there are many failed policies, there is a time for rationality.

  • It does not make sense that healthcare is linked to your place of employment.
  • It does not make sense that we can fund foreign wars with over a trillion dollars while we let our own infrastructure decay and our schools turn to rot with a lack of funding.  Afghanistan was a just war, but Iraq was not.  However now future generations are stuck footing the multi-trillion dollar bill.
  • It does not make sense for the rich (defined here as $250k a year or more in annual income) to pay less money to support the very system that allowed them to become rich.
  • It is the Republican party that is dividing this country by engaging in class warfare – supporting the rich while the middle class and poor fail.  Otherwise why would they have blocked a tax cut extension (until the last minute) for millions of Americans while marching like lemmings to continue cutting taxes for the wealthy.
  • It is the Republican party that continues towards a self-fulling prophecy of cutting government services so that government fails.
  • It is not the wealthy who are job creators.  It is the middle class and the poor. This is simple math.  A human only needs to eat so much food, own so many cars, own so many houses.  With a fraction of the wealth distributed more evenly (so the US doesn’t have wealth disparity along the lines of most south American dictatorships), job creation would boom.  Go ask any millionare how much they spend on groceries a week against someone in the middle class.  It’d probably be about the same.  Guess how many middle class families you  could have for ~$1 million a year?  Let’s be generous and say 4.  That’s FOUR TIMES as much consumption.
  • It is the Republicans who advocate for more foreign energy imports (Hello Keystone XL, ITS IN CANADA) through their continued denial of climate change science and continue to promote monarchies and strong-men across the globe rather than fostering policies that encourage democracy.
  • It was the deregulation in California that caused the energy crisis, and it was deregulation of banks that caused the housing bubble.
  • It is the Republicans who claim to be for small government while advocating for invasive policies into individual liberties.  Heaven forbid someone should have the inherent right to control their own body (birth control, abortion, ability to end your life when it is the correct time), or marry whom they please.  They push their conservative religious agenda on everyone while complaining about how there isn’t enough protection for religious freedom.

My party needs to get off of it’s high horse and come to terms with the world we live in.  Not some fantasy dream land.  Bring me a candidate who applies reason and logic to policies, with a true view of small government and I will consider them.  The Enlightenment was one of the greatest occurrences in the West, but the Republicans turn their backs to reason.  Until they come to see reason again, I will continue to vote for the Democrats, who at least seem to get one thing right: basic human rights and the ability to pursue happiness without religious persecution.

Humanity and the wilds

In her “Wars of Light and Shadow” series, Janny Wurts talks about the “free wilds”, areas protected from human encroachment where the mysteries of the planet run wild.  I am a fervent believer, perhaps to a self-ascribed theory, that once the wilds disappear from the world that humanity will be irrevocably lost.

While out camping/hiking this weekend, this message once again struck home.  Hiking up part of western Mount Tam provides gorgeous vistas of the ocean while hiking over open hills, through chaparral, and even more impressive, coastal redwood forests.  Of the many forests I have been through, to take a word from Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed of Paksenarrion” this time, there have been different senses of “taig” or oneness with living things.  In the cold forests of the north, there is a sense of not caring about humanity.  There one is alone with nothing but themselves and a sense of endless time where seasons have marched past with impunity long before the coming of man.  In central and coastal California, the forests are much more warm feeling.  There the tread of man seems something more readily accepted, even if not entirely welcome.

This in turn leads to a second observation.  In the forests farther south, Monterey on down, a fair number of people seem bothered when greeted, whereas the farther north traveled, I feel that the more welcome a quick hello becomes.  Perhaps this is because collectively we feel more in need of a human presence when the taig of the forest is cooler toward human encroachment that we seek comfort from passing individuals, whereas when the forest is more welcoming individuals become cooler.

Perhaps farther south the forests are closer to civilization and our “civilized” sides come out.  But when one is farther from “civilization” the old rules that kept humanity alive through the dark winters restores itself.  More a passing thought on the human condition and the forest.  But I have been there and sensed the uniqueness of these forests, which provides the imperative that they are individual and should be protected.

So called “Pledge to America”…

… and why no one who advocates for smaller government should fall for it.

Today the House Republicans issued their so-called “Pledge for America“.  It is merely another source of worthless pandering from a party that likes to think it still has some shred of fiscal conservatism left to it.

In the first page, it manages to raise the specter of tyranny, creates ghosts of “an unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary” which have “combined to thwart the will of the people”.  So let me get this straight: President Obama has managed to pass every bit of legislature he wanted to, there have been no filibusters in the Senate, and the CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roberts is overreaching? (Okay, I’ll agree to this last point, but not as something that is leaning in the direction the House Republicans who drafted this document would want you to believe.)

For all the fact that the document raises these issues, it is worthwhile to note that I have heard tell that about the only thing the Founding Fathers feared as much as tyranny was the uneducated masses, and some probably would have sided with tyranny.

Assorted pledges take up the bottom half of the first page and roll on the second.  However, when looking at the track record of unethical “family-values” behavior (how many sex scandals do you need?), lack of transparency (how many millions were “misplaced” or “lost track of” under President Bush and the Republicans?), and honest in its dealings (again, how many WMD did we find in Iraq?), this document is nothing more than wool that is being pulled over people’s eyes.

It talks about “job killing tax hikes”, yet taxes were higher under Reagan and Clinton (and boy were those Clinton years good economically).  It offers vague platitudes about stopping “out-of-control spending” when the Republican record on massive growth of government (don’t forget the military budget folks) actually has changed, almost flipped, over the last few decades.  I haven’t vetted this source, but I’d recommend checking it out (also check here).

It talks about the horrors of government run health care: Fine, be honest, get out there and start talking about repealing Medicare and Medicade.  That same crappy government run health care that had conservative protesters out on the street telling the government to not take it away.  That is the will of the people.

The “tax hikes” that are coming are an end is the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts that were deceivingly set to end after 10-years, so that their impacts wouldn’t need to be analyzed and the impacts to debt shown.  While the GOP focuses often on GDP, I agree with many that a better measure is median and mean average income.  This Times article is quite informational on the topic, and the charts here on State of the USA also paint a picture that the GOP doesn’t like to bring up.  Yes, the USA as a whole has increased GDP quite drastically.  However, for the average person, you were better off, substantially, a decade ago (before the tax cuts) than you are today.

The most infuriating issue with the “Pledge” is that it has few to no concrete details about what programs will be cut.  It talks suddenly about the need for fiscal constraint, during a recession, after 8 years of reckless spending.  It talks about how much we are spending on the paying debt for the US having more in debts than in income.  Yet, when one looks at a chart on US debt, such as this one on Wikipedia, there is a decided trend.  President Regan enters office… debt skyrockets, dips in the latter Clinton years, and then explodes under Bush.  But maybe this is why the “Pledge” likes to couch things in terms of “non-security” discretionary spending.  Maybe it is because of the amount of money (ignoring the literal human cost) poured into Iraq (a war we didn’t need to go into), to the tune of, about $750 billion in roughly the last 8 years.  That’s money that’s not going towards better roads, better education or health care.  Money not going towards the American people that the disingenuous Republican party leadership would have you ignore in the accounting.

All of these falsehoods, burying of true costs, yet the document at the beginning would have you believe it was going to be more transparent.  It’s another pack of lies that the Party leadership would have us believe.  Instead they should come clean and support PRECISE programs they would cut and their impacts.  Otherwise it’s nothing but more hot air.

Bobby Jindal and the two-faces of the modern Republican Party

Today on NPR I was listening to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal talking about how the Federal Government hadn’t done enough to protect Louisiana’s coastline.  Since this seems to be a continuing trend of Republicans and conservatives, I thought I would do my homework about what Bobby Jindal’s stance was about drilling, oil, energy, and the Feds.

To make sure that I heard things correctly, I pulled up several other sources to verify that I heard this staunch anti-big-government Republican say that the Feds had not responded quickly or adequately enough.  From Reuters: “The U.S. Coast Guard and BP failed to take decisions quickly enough and delayed supplying necessary clean-up equipment even as oil washes onto the state’s fragile marshland, said Governor Bobby Jindal.”

In his 2009 GOP response to Obama’s speech: “… we need urgent action to keep energy prices down” including “increase[d] drilling for oil and gas here at home.”  He also believes that “Democratic leaders in Washington – they place their hope in federal government.  We [the Republicans] place our hope in you, the American people. …. We oppose the National Democratic view that says the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government.”

Digging even a little bit farther back, shows that he was a sponsor of the “Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act (HR 4761)” which was a bill to eliminate the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling.  That’s correct, Governor  (then-Representative) Jindal supported offshore drilling.  The same type of offshore drilling that is now polluting Louisiana coastlines.

Now he is crying out for the US Army Corps of Engineers to build a series of sand berms across the coastline to protect it from oil and hurricanes.  Note: That is the US Army, not the Louisiana National Guard.  (Yes, that is a cheap shot, because the Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction, not the Louisiana National Guard… but it helps prove the point.)

Other prominent Louisiana politicians also have their hands in dirty oil money, primarily Republicans, with one Democratic standout: Representative Charlie Melancon.

For once I wish that the same people who beg for federal assistance would put their money where their mouth is: If you don’t want government assistance, then stop asking for it when things go wrong.  Research done by the Tax Foundation also supports this.  For every $1.00 of tax money sent to the feds, Louisiana received $1.45 back.  

So, I would like to put out a proposal to the Republican party: Why don’t you make full disclosure over just how much federal money you have turned down, how many ear-marked bills you culled for your own district, and put the money where your mouth is.  You ask for offshore drilling and little regulation, and you’ve gotten it.  I just wonder how many people affected by the spill were there chanting “Drill, Baby, Drill” during the last presidential election…

South Dakota supports Astrology

A rather interesting excerpt from proposed legislation in South Dakota (emphasis added).  I’ll just let this one stand on its own….

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the House of Representatives of the Eighty fifth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, the Senate concurring therein, that the South Dakota Legislature urges that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming 14 include the following:

(1) That global warming is a scientific theory rather than a proven fact;

(2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and 18 that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and

(3) That the debate on global warming has subsumed political and philosophical 20 viewpoints which have complicated and prejudiced the scientific investigation of 21 global warming phenomena; and …

Nuclear revival in the US?

Yesterday, the NY Times had an article about US funding for 2 new nuclear plants in Georgia (the state, not the country).  I am cautiously optimistic about this project, while at the same time dreading it.  I have long been a supporter of nuclear energy, since the science behind radiation is much more well understood than the interactions related to climate change.  However, I believe that supporters need to be clear in what nuclear energy is, and is not.

In so much as it is used to replace or prevent construction of coal burning (or probably natural gas as well) power plants, this is a good idea.  However, nuclear energy is not emissions free.  Concrete is associated with large quantities of CO2 emissions, and uranium mining has its own environmental drawbacks based on how it is performed.  More importantly, there is no federal repository for nuclear waste.  Instead it is collecting at the individual nuclear power plant sites across the US.

Regarding overall CO2 emissions, I am a fan of nuclear because it can provide low emissions baseload power.  That is, they can run essentially 24/7.  They are highly reliable as well, and are not intermittent (nor do they have the associated problems with intermittent).  Perhaps one day, in a few decades, other alternatives might be cost effective and reliable, such as storage, but until then, we need something that can reduce baseload emissions in a (fairly) clean manner.  And, I believe, that nuclear power is the best way forward…. for now.