Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Liberals Say: Global Warming isn't a Hoax

I was reading an article in the NYT this morning about the rapid and record setting pace of the Arctic ice caps. These massive floating pieces of ice act as a cooling element to the earth's climate, and their absence will undoubtably have a major effect on future generations. Like many features of Earth's cyclical climate, the ice caps recede and refreeze with the season. What's significant about the receding trends of 2012 is that they have broken all records of melting, meaning that unlike years past, these caps will be unable to regain their ice mass. Many scientists predict that the ice caps may be completely ice free by the year 2020, more conservative estimates say the middle of the century. Just to reiterate that point, experts are predicting that the arctic ice caps might be completely ice free within the next 50 years...
The obvious loss of ecosystems and natural beauty notwithstanding, the permanent absence of these caps will likely set off major climatic warming trends. Here's why. Over the past billion-or-so years, plant life and fossiles have been encapsulated under these sheets of ice, along with any gases they might be holding onto. With the melting of this permafrost, trapped gasses will undoubtably be released into the atmosphere and lead to CO2 levels in the atmosphere surpassing their already alarmingly high PPM levels. And, if you buy into this whole anthroprogenic global warming business, you know that that isn't a good thing.
It is difficult to imagine the sheer mass of these melting ice caps, but with their melting comes the result of sea level rising. Remember the days when Al Gore was predicting the eventual rise of sea levels resulting from global warming, well that prediction or problem isn't going away. That ice needs to go somewhere, and the ocean is the most likely depository.
So, the question remains, why hasn't any serious reform or regulation been enacted to combat these climate shifts? Simply put, because not everyone believes these shifts are taking place. If we cannot agree on the science behind greenhouse gas emissions trapping heat, why would we be compelled to lower our emission of those gasses?

The evidence is becoming more and more clear that our environment is feeling the effects of global warming. It is unfortunate to think that the evidence might only be compelling enough for some people, once the effects are too severe for reparation. It is even more unfortunate to think theses environmental effects are, at present, too severe for restoration.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Liberals Say: You Didn't Build It

If you heard any speaker from the Republican National Convention, you will recognize a common talking point: 'Obama doesn't believe small business owners are responsible for their own success.' As with many brief, catchy political gaffes, context has been omitted. When Obama made this misinterpreted statement, his implication was that there is a role for government, community and social services.

The sexy political trend as of late, is that any government is bad government. This simplistic belief is catching on, and it creates the misconception that inefficiency is an imbedded aspect of government. What Obama meant to accomplish in making this statement was that government has a role, and can benefit economic activity. Without public schooling, infrastructure, and financial assistance, the American Dream that so many people seek might never have been achieved. Government helped entrepreneurs achieve that dream, as business cannot be built off ambition alone.

Obama statement in context is as follows:

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.... So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."

It is my hope that voters will understand the basic role which government plays in commerce. Obama's comments were not looking to undermine the enterprise of Americans, but instead to bridge the theoretical gap between business and government.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Liberals Say: Voter ID Laws Repress More Votes Than They Protect

One of the most controversial political issues of 2012 has been the institution of voter ID laws in 30+ states. These laws vary by state, but generally require that voters show government issued identification at their polling location in order to receive a ballot, some states went so far as requiring a birth certificate or proof of citizenship, and many others prevented early voting. The Department of Justice (headed by Obama's appointee, Eric Holder) have filed injunctions in many states to prevent these laws from implementation before November; their reasoning being that it will suppress voter turn out, as many people lack the proper identification to vote. Proponents of voter ID laws explain that these basic requirements will prevent voter fraud; after all, it becomes more challenging to falsely vote on behalf of someone else when you are required to forge a picture ID. At face value, it seems that these voter prerequisites would make a positive impact in November. They indiscriminately prevent fraud and, they protect American democracy. So why are Democrats to upset about these state issued demands? In short, it suppresses voter turn out, it discourages new voters, and it disproportionately effects minority and lower-income voters.

This seemingly intuitive approach to protect the integrity of American Democracy is actually a thinly veiled attempt to deter Democratic votes. I believe that the integrity of American democracy is found in high voter turn out, not in stringent qualifications excluding Americans from participation in November. I think that these voter protection laws are put in place to repress Democratic voters, and are merely purported as protective measures. The intuitive measures to protect voting, are preventing a problem that does not exist. In the past decade, there were between 13-83 individual voter fraud cases, cases that Republicans are going to great lengths to bring down to zero. To employ the common illustration, Republicans are killing a fly with a bazooka, and discouraging democratic (small d) participation in the process. 

This discouragement is unfortunate not only for the reason of voter disenfranchisement, but for the disparity among those disenfranchised. Of the over 20 million citizens without proper voter identification, 25% are black, 18% are between the ages of 18-24, another 18% are seniors, and 15% are making below 35K a year. Come November, these people wont be voting; not because they don't want to, but because they aren't able to. They did nothing wrong, and they never had an intention of committing voter fraud, but their right to vote is being stolen from them. These laws also are restricting potential voters, as the absence of early voting in many state will undoubtably decrease participation. In 2008, over 30% of votes were cast before election day. You don't need much political wisdom to predict lower participation rates in states without early voting. 

I am upset about these Republican voter laws because they are politically motivated and are discouraging voter participation. Voter protection is not a controversial issue, nor is it a problem. Once voter fraud begins to plague our electoral process, we should deal with it. Until that time, let's not use the red haring of voter fraud to disenfranchise voters. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Koch's Wealth

I recently reviewed some of the numbers concerning the combined wealth of the Koch brothers. For those who don't know, the Kochs are oil moguls from Kansas who has accumulated approximately $103 billion in net worth over the course of their lifetimes.

Now, I don't consider myself to be too much of a radical, but I can realize injustice when I see it. The injustice of this net worth is that it is greater than the combined worth of 40.2% of American households. One might wonder what the Kochs do with that amount of money, as it is difficult to even visualize. One outlet or expenditure they have found is campaign or super pac financing. For the 2012 election cycle, the Koch brothers have pledged to spend $400 million to finance Republican candidates... an obscene amount that would not have been possible prior to the Citizens United  decision of 2009.

What bothers me most about this electoral reality is the fact that the Kochs are spending money as a benefit to their own self interests. Unfortunately, those self interests too often run against the interests of millions of Americans. If they Koch's financial backing of Republicans proves successful in November, their chosen candidates will work to overturn healthcare reform, cut important social programs, and decrease financial and environmental regulation. All these policy possibilities will hurt the 40.2% of Americans that the Kochs overpower. Because of the Koch's $103 billion net worth, the voices of 40.2% of American households are muffled, if not muted. The voices of people who may be unable to afford adequate healthcare; may be unable to put food on their dinner table; and may be in need of those government programs to survive... government programs that the Kochs would love to see disappear.

The American free market is a beautiful thing, and people who are able to ethically take full advantage of it (generally speaking) deserve their reward. The Kochs have been able to do just that, and deserve admiration for their efforts. What they do not deserve accolades for is their poisoning of American democracy... a poisoning that only stands to hurt millions of American families.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Impoverished Injustice

It has been quite some time since my last post; this partially due to lack of inspiration and, my recent transition into the real world. In my return to blogging I wanted to draw attention to a recent article I read, which highlights some of the injustices of the American caste system. This article is not alone in explaining the exorbitantly profitable business that is preying on the poor. A common example might be predatory loans, fine print fuck-yous, and of course, sub prime mortgages. Money-hungry financial institutions are not the only cuprits of this kind of injustice. If we look at the US penal system we understand that the poor are a very vulnerable sub population, who face a lifetime of lost opportunity, un payable fines, and criminal activity for an offense as minor as having a few flakes of cannabis.

I like to make note of this injustice because it is committed against people who lack any strong voice. Furthermore, in our society of pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps we can too easily pass unsuccessful people off as incompetent of inefficient Americans, people who don't try hard enough to succeed. I believe this to be one of the saddest realities that millions of Americans face. We live in a time where people are getting poorer, and opportunity is becoming less and less available. We are allowing for those least among us to vacillate between an impoverished life and complete destitution. Considering the complexity of this, there is no easy fix. What might present itself as a solution is a combination of  government programs, financial regulation, and general social awareness. 

Pardon the simplicity of this post. I am still working through some of these recent understandings and am overwhelmed at my own ignorance, complacency and participation in this problem. What needs to be taken from this is a renewed sense of understanding about how we treat the most vulnerable people in our society, especially at a time when that vulnerable population is growing everyday.