Thursday, September 22, 2011

Must-see TV

Wilderness: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” - The 1964 Wilderness Act
I just watched a program on our WPSU World station (a super-PBS station which rocks) called "Wilderness: The Great Debate." You can watch the entire video here. A point-counterpoint between everyone from Utah politicians to Robert Redford, the film documents the growing debate between environmentalists who want to preserve American wilderness as wilderness, and those whose main concerns appeared to be jobs, energy, and personal "rights." The emphasis was on the Colorado Plateau of the American West, mainly southern Utah's many wild areas.

Here's a nice summary from Utah's KUED, the creator of the film:
The core of the debate is reflected in the film’s open. “Is the West going to be reduced to just photos and films to show young people how it used to be, or are there going to be places where they can go and see the way it used to be, like wilderness and like national parks?” Redford asks. On the other hand, Mark Habbeshaw- Kane County Commissioner, says, “This is a war for rural people, for state and local sovereignty, to protect what little sovereignty we have left as a rural people; to protect our traditions, our culture[,] our ability to manage our lives with a diversified economy.”
It's an interesting film, and it gave me insight into the teabagger types with their "don't tread on me" flags, whining about how government is trying to take away their land and their rights by daring to attempt to preserve our beautiful natural places from their ATVs, their cattle, their oil rigs, and their development.

Of course you know I was yelling at the oil and coal industry types, the ranchers, the "rural people" who are "puttin' protein back into the economy and feedin' people, puttin' out bales o' hay, and takin' care o' God's creation" (also known as overgrazing, corporate-controlled ranching and farming, and CAFOs). But after it was all over, I decided to look at an image:The original image is from here. Even the areas discussed in the documentary are largely lit up or surrounded completely by cities. Development has overtaken almost every bit of land in this country. Perhaps the line in the film that hit me the most was the assertion from a Utah politician that politicians from New York and Illinois should "clean up their own states" before they try to tell people in Utah how they can handle their public lands issues.

My point is this: As this photograph illustrates, it's too late for people in New York and Illinois to deal with their own states, their own wilderness. It's gone. Gone. So, although it might cost some people their "sovereignty" or their family livelihoods or their economic prosperity, we have to choose the wilderness. We can either preserve our wilderness as it is, with no development and extremely limited access, or we can have an entire country that looks like this:This is the continent of Europe lit up at night. Teabaggers and pro-Amurka types are constantly railing against Europe over issues like public healthcare and other such "socialist" policies. Remember how repugs starting talking about "freedom fries" when the French pissed kick-ass Amurkans off by actually speaking against the first Iraq war?

Yes, Europe is filled with socialist pansies who basically know nothing. Yet, if we allow development wherever it is economically expedient, profitable, and desired by whoever decides such questions, we will end up looking like a version of Europe.

Of course, it would only be "a version," a pale version at that. Where Europe has the remains of civilization's beginnings -- Greek temples, Roman colliseums, and other architectural wonders -- our development in America doesn't look anything like that.

No, our development looks like this:

Europe's wilderness is pretty much gone, the victim of thousands of years of development. America's development began only a few hundred years ago, yet we hurry to plaster our sprawl and our footprint all over everything.

And the American West? The sweeping vistas of Utah, Montana, the Badlands? Forget it! Let's just fence it off and put cows on it, let ATV riders hotdog all over it, criss-cross it with networks of roads, put oil derricks and shale-oil fracking operations all over it, and focus on what the land can yield financially instead of what it gives to our souls and our imaginations.
"...what are you going to have left to develop if you don't preserve something, and also what are you going to preserve for the dignity and the stature of your country in terms of its heritage?” --Robert Redford

Monday, September 05, 2011

Today's random thoughts

These days, my random thoughts are all questions. I'm pretty much out of answers anymore.

1. I recently received an Obama 2012 bumpersticker and plea for more money in the mail. I stared at the sticker for some time; then I threw it away. I've been trying to decide what I'm going to do on Election Day 2012; I'm pretty much decided I'm writing in a vote for Kucinich.

Regarding my faded old "Hope" sticker from the 2008 election: My car and I were rear-ended on June 30, and the bumper was destroyed. The resulting repairs solved my problem of how I was going to get rid of the old sticker; it's gone.

Whom will you vote for in 2012?

2. The unemployment rate at the height of the Great Depression was 24.9% in 1933. Our unemployment rate today is 9.1%. What does this mean? I'm really not sure. Part of me wants to say, "why do the media insist on calling this time the worst since the Great Depression? I mean, unemployment's only 9%." I remember when I was in California, I took a photo of a headline stating that the state's unemployment had reached 12%.

Still, despite the bleak jobs outlook (NPR does a story on the jobless almost every day), my situation is pretty good. The people I know who want work have work.

What's the situation where you are?

3. I have been really weepy and down lately, and I can't get out of it. Part of it is the rainy weather and the knowledge that our climate is changing and there's no telling how many formerly snowy days will, in the future, be rainy days. A bigger part is the fact that we're coming on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I read a story earlier today that said, "most people who were glued to the news for days in 2001 now think only rarely about that horrifying day." Is that really true? Is it weird that I think about it every time I see an American flag? Every time I see a photo of Chimpy Bush or Darth Cheney? Every time I hear mention of the economy? Just today, I was listening to a story about unemployed people trying to find work and how the economy just hasn't been producing enough jobs since the crash of 2008 -- and I found myself muttering, "the economy hasn't been producing enough jobs since 9/11." But is that even true?

Are you feeling optimistic or pessimistic as we approach the anniversary of 9/11?

Your comments are appreciated.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

True, False, or just ridiculous?

I was just reading an amazing post on DCap's blog about how some idiots from a right-wing "think" tank want to abolish the National Weather Service.

Why, you ask?

Because it would be oh-so-much better to PRIVATIZE it! Because OF COURSE everything the government does is wasteful, bloated, and completely leading America into hell!

As is his custom and his skill, DCap totally lays waste to their "arguments" (I use the term loosely), but as I was reading the post, I remembered something else I heard today on NPR about how Cantor and the other moron repugs in Congress are on a mission to reduce "job-destroying regulations" to help create jobs in America.

My train of thought then stopped at this station:

A few examples of typical republican thinking:
1. Privatization is the answer to cutting government waste, as business will do things better and cheaper.

2. Regulations on business mean loss of jobs. This goes for ANY kind of regulation, whether related to the environment, business practices, or whatever.

3. Abortion and any kind of family planning are wrong; any organizations that promote anything but abstinence should be de-funded.

4. The death penalty is the best way to deal with certain criminals.

5. Welfare, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits -- all the government programs that are referred to as the "social safety net" are actually "entitlements," and entitlements are bad and should be cut and/or stopped.

These are just a few off the top of my head. Repugs have been parroting these things as Absolute Truth my entire adult life. From Ronald Reagan's Cadillac-driving welfare mothers to the proposed de-funding of Planned Parenthood, from claiming every life is precious so we shouldn't use birth control or abortion but criminals should die for their crimes, from the gutting of the social safety net to the rise of mercenaries like Blackwater and dirty-drinking-water-providers like Halliburton, the republicans have hit people over the head with this stuff for so long that many people actually believe it's true, proven fact.

But is it?

Let's look at these one at a time.

1. Does privatizing something actually cut costs or increase them? DCap's argument about the National Weather Service is proof positive that privatization would be MORE expensive than the current government-run program. If the NWS gets a billion bucks per year in funding, as the conservative think tank claims, that's ALL the weather information we see EVERYWHERE in the media coming to us for only $3.23 per every man, woman, and child in the US. Then, DCap argues, imagine how much it would cost if some corporate weather service were to charge us for this information; somehow, I don't think we'd be paying only three-and-a-quarter for our weather info, do you?
Let's look at the financial fiasco that was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the trillions that were/are being spent to hire such corporations as Blackwater, Halliburton, and more to provide everything from food and water to security. A congressional committee found that between $30 and $60 BILLION were lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.

Does ANYONE, besides republicans and their teabagger cousins, really think that American corporations -- the same ones that basically pay little or no taxes yet are granted personhood in the eyes of the law just like you or me -- can do ANYTHING without wasting, pissing away, or just plain stealing taxpayer money? I pay taxes to keep my government running, to keep it doing the things I expect government to do. I DON'T pay taxes so my government can give my money to profit-over-people, corner-cutting, mercenary assholes.

When will someone in power challenge this ridiculous assertion, this utter myth that privatization is good? Or will republicans simply continue to be allowed to spew this fallacy and slash regulations to continue helping their corporate benefactors increase their profits at the expense of the environment, ethics, and Americans?

2. Do regulations really "strangle" businesses so that they can't hire more people? I heard a story on NPR this afternoon that pretty much made it plain that this is bullshit:
Yet in a survey last month of 250 economists by the National Association for Business Economics, 4 out of 5 agreed that the current regulatory environment for American businesses was, in fact, good. In a July survey done by the Wall Street Journal in July, two-thirds of economists said the lack of jobs is due mainly to a lack of sales.
And the Wall Street Journal is not exactly a liberal rag, so they can't argue that I got this info from "the liberal media!" of NPR. And if you think about it, regulations that must be complied with can mean more jobs -- as long as more businesses keep those jobs in AMERICA instead of hiring shit-cheap labor from China, Bangladesh, and other places to up their profit margins while screwing American workers. Environmental protection, as the NPR piece mentions, demands equipment to filter emissions, wastewater, etc. -- someone has to make that equipment. Why not let Americans make the stuff?

Republicans also whine about how any other energy sources besides oil and coal are job-killers. This is patently absurd; think of how many American businesses could make a profit by installing geothermal heating systems, by making and installing solar panels, or by developing other alternative energy sources? American ingenuity could actually help us get off foreign oil, instead of dumping more and more money into tar sands and pipelines and fucking the environment in the process.

3. Let's deal with the abortion/family planning question with one logical assertion in which I have always believed: you cannot legislate morality. Questions about whether a fetus is a person, whether wearing a condom is killing a potential life, or whether Planned Parenthood is the devil can never truly be resolved; they are matters of opinion based on a person's individual beliefs. I myself belief a fetus is not a person; it's not a person until it's born. Still, I don't know whether I could go through with an abortion; it's not ever going to be an issue (unless AB is hiding something I don't know about in our bed!), so I don't have to know. I only know that it's MY body, and I would decide. No one, including the government or my parents or anyone else, can or should decide that for me or anyone.

Murder, on the other hand, is a crime because it's one living person ending the life of another living person. That one is NOT a question of morality; it's a tearing of the social fabric, ripping a person from all his worldly connections and thus harming not only him but the society in which he lives.

Which leads us to...
4. The death penalty is the best way to deal with criminals. Because I believe that no one has the right to kill another living person, it makes equal sense that the government should not have the right to kill anyone. The death penalty is a direct contradiction of republicans' belief that every life is precious, their usual supportive statement for their anti-family planning and anti-abortion stance. Because if every life is precious, then even the lives of murderers and drug dealers and whoever else they want to kill are precious, no? They can't have it both ways. I may not like murderers or drug dealers, and I may think I'd want to kill one with my bare hands if one ever hurt anyone I care about, but it's not up to me to kill anyone. And again -- I don't pay taxes so my government can effing kill people. (And by the way, that goes for wars too.)

5. Entitlements are bad! Just think about this: if our government didn't spend money on wars, what would our deficit look like? Conservative estimates of the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars put the tab at over a trillion dollars; some estimates top three trillion dollars. Would we be arguing over a few billion in "entitlements" that keep children fed, the unemployed fed and housed, and our aging population fed and housed and cared for if our national debt weren't over $14.6 trillion dollars? And if these wars, which President Obama decided to stop hiding the costs of and thus gets blamed for the huge debt (instead of just hiding it like Bush/Cheney did), hadn't increased our debt a huge amount in a short period of time, would we even be letting these republicans spew their tripe about cutting the debt by hurting the poorest and neediest among us?

Further, think about this: what would happen if your parents or mine suddenly had their social security benefits and their Medicare benefits cut by half? Or even a third? Would they be able to pay their bills? Put food on their tables? They paid their whole lives into the system, and now repubs think these "entitlements" are just typical government waste. I suppose republicans never look at the fact that THEY are living ENTIRELY off the government -- except, of course, for those checks they get from the oil companies and other big business to do their bidding.

When will the media simply say, "ENOUGH!" and stop airing republican lies?