A Warning For Earth Day. And Every Day.

When I did the research for my current book, Truth Over Politics, I was astounded to see how much worse the climate crisis had become since writing my last book in 2016. Despite the brief respite caused by the pandemic, the damage will soon reach a crisis that will endanger us all. Following are but a few of the things we know about the climate crisis:

• 2019 was ranked as the second-hottest year on record, just behind 2016, which had previously replaced 2015 as the hottest year on record.
• 9 of 10 hottest years on record have occurred between 2005 and 2019.
• 2019 was the 43rd consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures above average.
• The average global temperature in 2019 was 1.71° F (0.95° C) above the 20th century average. (Scientists have warned that an increase of 1° to 2° C over the 20th century average could be a tipping point.)
• In 2019, ocean heat content (the amount of heat stored in the upper levels of the ocean), which can contribute to sea-level rise, was the highest ever recorded.
• Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now 413 parts per million (ppm). (400 ppm has long been considered the climate tipping point and, until the late 1940s, it had never been above 300 ppm for 650,000 years.)
• Arctic sea ice has shrunk about 40 percent since 1979.
• The mass of Antarctic ice sheets has declined at the rate of 145 gigatons per year since 2003.
• The mass of Greenland ice sheets has declined at the rate of 283 gigatons per year.
• The thickness of 30 well-studied glaciers has decreased by more than 60 feet since 1980.
• The sea level has risen by 8-9 inches since 1880. (About one-third of the rise has come in the last 25 years.)
• 33 percent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by warming oceans. (The reefs are home to more than a quarter of all marine life.)

The consequences of inaction is to invite more floods, more intense storms and hurricanes, more wildfires on the scale of Australia’s, more severe droughts leading to food and water scarcity, more unemployment, and more pandemics.

If all of that isn’t enough to alarm you, consider this: A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned, “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.” The report went on to state, “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”

IPBES found that around one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – many of them within decades. The cause of the threat? Human activities resulting in (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

The sirens are sounding to warn us that we desperately need to change our relationship with the planet and its other inhabitants. And they’re warning us that we need to change now! The question is: Will we listen?

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Nine – Draining The Swamp)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, on many issues, he has either done nothing or made matters worse.

Swamp Creatures: Trump said he’s drain the swamp. But his administration includes more corrupt billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history. These new swamp monsters have gutted regulations and signed orders that will enrich their own businesses and those of the president. At the same time, Trump has filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries in which they recently worked.

Lobbyists: Trump promised to re-institute a five-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for five years after they leave government. He did. But the ban he signed applies only to lobbying one’s former agency. Not the government as a whole. Moreover, he has churned through advisors and assistants like no other. So the revolving door between government and lobbying firms has actually accelerated.

Only The Best People: Trump promised he’d use his business experience to fill the White House with “great people, the very best people.” But many of the people he hired are unqualified ideologues, political hacks and white nationalists. These people have dismissed science, defied the rule of law and ignored common sense. As a result, he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history. Those who do not prostrate at his feet and show complete loyalty are summarily fired by tweet. By far, the worst of his loyalists is Attorney General William Barr who has politicized the Department of Justice as never before in order to please his master.

Foreign Interference: Trump promised he’d “stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for American elections.” But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for his re-election and those of his spineless congressmen. And, of course, he was impeached for trying to extort a foreign leader into finding dirt on a political opponent just months after the Mueller investigation enumerated the many ways he had solicited and used election help from Russia then tried to cover it up.

We recently learned that Russia is again trying to intervene in the 2020 election. But Trump refuses to condemn Putin and Moscow Mitch refuses to allow a vote on House-passed bills that would secure our elections. And Trump is still soliciting foreign support. As I write this, he’s holding what amounts to a political rally in India.

The Coming Crises.

As we understandably worry about the constitutional crisis posed by Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our democracy, there are several other crises that should be getting our full attention. Indeed, each of them poses a tremendous threat to the future of the United States and our planet.

National Debt – As of today, our national debt stands at $23.16 trillion. Worse, we will add at least $1.1 trillion to it in FY 2020. Supposedly, the economy fueled tax cuts were intended to offset the growth in spending. Instead, the cuts merely reduced revenue. And the trade wars caused by Trump’s ill-conceived tariffs have only added to the problem by increasing the cost of goods for consumers and many manufacturers. That has resulted in less real income for workers and layoffs by manufacturers. If the trend continues, how will we pay to repair our aging infrastructure? How will we be able to continue to afford our bloated defense budget? How will we be able to afford reasonable safety nets? How will the US maintain its world leadership?

Automation – Technology experts say we are now in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. We are losing jobs to automation at an alarming rate. And the revolution has only just begun. Recent studies predict that the US will lose 30 to 50 percent of existing jobs within the next few decades. For example, in the next few years, 2 to 3 million truck drivers are expected to lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. In addition, that will lead to a loss of jobs related to truckers – at truck stops, motels, cafes, etc. – mostly in small towns and rural areas. And that’s only the start. In addition to truck drivers, there are another 7-8 million professional drivers for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, UPS, FedEx, etc. who will lose their jobs.

Others who work in labor intensive and repetitive jobs will be replaced by automation. Even the so-called white collar workers will lose their jobs to automation. Paralegals, lawyers, medical technologists, even lawyers and film editors could soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The question is: What will the displaced workers do for income? Still think presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposed guaranteed annual income is a radical idea?

Overpopulation – Current world population is 7.7 billion and we added 81 million in 2019. The population is growing at more than 1 percent per year. At this rate, the population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Given the onset of automation, how will they sustain themselves? How will we feed them?

Environment – For decades, corporations have used our streams and oceans as landfills. They have spilled millions of barrels of oil into the seas. They have used factory fishing trawlers to deplete our oceans of fish. They have used our forests and our lands as a sort of supermarket of resources. They have poured toxic chemicals onto our farmlands – their runoff creating dead zones in our oceans. They have filled our atmosphere with carbon from the burning of fossil fuels and with methane from our insatiable appetite for beef. They have created inhumane factory farms that drown our lands in excrement. And they have polluted aquifers through fracking and mining.

Despite all of this, the Trump administration has relaxed most of our environmental regulations and encouraged even more of this destructive behavior from corporations. At the same time, the administration has cut their taxes – revenue that could be used to help clean up their messes.

Species Extinction – Over human history, the normal extinction rate for other species has averaged 1 to 5 species per year. However, scientists say that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times normal. We are now losing dozens of species per day! At this rate, we will lose 30 to 50 percent of all species by mid-century. In other words, we are now in the midst of the 6th mass extinction mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife habitat and human-caused pollution.

Climate Crisis – Last, but certainly not least, is the climate crisis caused almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels. As I write this, virtually the entire continent of Australia is on fire resulting in the loss of millions of animals and thousands of homes. California, too, has faced disastrous wildfires, albeit on a smaller scale. Each year, we see more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones and tornados. The damage from these climate-related disasters for 2019 was estimated at more than $140 billion BEFORE the wildfires in Australia. And scientists tell us that the crisis is only going to get worse.

Each year, the reports of melting glaciers and ice caps exceed previous predictions. Though the situation is dire, most Americans have yet to recognize the effects of climate change. But they have been affected nonetheless. Taxes that could be used to rebuild our infrastructure or to reduce the cost of health care are used to fight wildfires or to repair the damage following hurricanes. Moreover, many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence and starvation, much of it caused by drought.

And, in the future, it’s predicted that we will see much more climate-caused migration from droughts and rising sea levels.

Of course, none of this is good news. Contrary to the tradition of looking forward to the new year, if we don’t address these crises soon, we may well greet each new year with fear and trepidation of the events to come. Nevertheless, I wish you all a very happy New Year celebration! Enjoy it while you can.

Understanding The Threat Of Trump: A Holiday Reading List.

If you have a few moments to relax from your busy holiday schedule, here is a list of books that will help you better understand the political landscape of America. With the upcoming elections in 2020, nothing…I emphasize NOTHING…could be more important. The very future of democracy and our nation are at stake!

The Constitution of the United States of America
For anyone who wants to debate politics, this is the place to start. It’s one of the most powerful documents ever written. If you haven’t read it, or if you haven’t read it since grade school, I recommend you take the time to read it and understand it.

That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing by Michael Austin
The definitive guide to the thinking of our Founding Fathers and the framers of our Constitution. It’s essential reading for anyone seeking the accurate historical background to many of the today’s political debates.

CIVICS TODAY: Citizenship, Economics, & You
All naturalized US citizens are tested on the workings of our government. Yet few natural born US citizens have even read a civics book. Here’s your chance to know as much about the workings of our government as most recent immigrants.

Testing Theories of American Politics, Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page
An academic study that proves the US has become an oligarchy in which the very wealthy, the powerful and the connected control our institutions of government, often in direct contradiction of the wishes of ordinary Americans.

Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright
A personal and urgent examination of Fascism in the twentieth century and how its legacy shapes today’s world, written by one of America’s most admired public servants, the first woman to serve as US Secretary of State.

Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War On America And The Election Of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn
The incredible, harrowing account of how American democracy was hacked by Moscow as part of a covert operation to influence the US election and help Donald Trump gain the presidency written by two of our generation’s best investigative reporters.

House Of Trump House Of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger
This book tells the story of one of the greatest intelligence operations in history, a campaign by Russian operatives years in the making, ending with either a willfully ignorant or an inexplicably unaware Russian asset in the White House as the most powerful man on earth.

It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America by David Cay Johnston
A great book by an exceptional journalist that describes the rise of Donald Trump in great detail. It goes on to examine how the Trump administration is gleefully destroying the US from within.

The Mueller Report
The report by Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III and his team who were tasked with investigating Russia’s attack on our democracy and the Trump campaign. Contrary to statements by Trump and William Barr, the report details the extensive connections between Russian operatives and the campaign, including Trump himself and his family. It also outlines at least 10 instances in which Trump obstructed justice and attempted to suborn perjury.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance
A 20-year Navy veteran, Nance is an expert in intelligence and counterterrorism. In this book, he details how Trump, with the help of Putin and Russian intelligence, cheated his way into the Oval Office. He not only explains how Trump succeeded. He explains why.

Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America by Kathleen Belew
Belew details how the white nationalist movement grew out of our nation’s wars. As veterans returned home, they brought military strategies with them making the movement more dangerous. As evidenced by the reaction to America’s first black president and the White House reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, the movement now has supporters at the highest levels of government.

Democracy In Chains: The Deep History Of The Radical Right’s Stealth Plan For America by Nancy MacLean – Based on her access to a treasure trove of documents from the estate of James McGill Buchannan, MacLean reveals the playbook of the GOP, rightwing billionaires and the new conservative movement in the US.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
Although you may have trouble remembering his name, Giridharadas offers a clear-eyed examination of the state of our nation by taking us into the inner sanctums of the new gilded age in which the rich and powerful threaten our social order.

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, And The Richest, Most Destructive Industry On Earth by Rachel Maddow
An unapologetic liberal, five days each week Maddow helps her viewers understand the political developments that affect us all. In this, her second book, she explores how the fossil fuel industry has corrupted our government, led us into war and is on the verge of destroying our planet.

UN Global Outlook Report 2019
The latest UN report on climate change warns that countries have collectively failed to stop the growth in global [greenhouse gas] emissions, meaning that deeper and faster cuts are now required. Without urgent and dramatic changes, the future is bleak, according to the report.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

What If You Just Came Here From Another Planet? A Philosophy.

For many years, I’ve looked at the world around me through the lens “What if I just arrived on Earth from Mars? Does (place anything you want here) make any freaking sense? You often realize that the answer is clearly “No.”

For example, take climate change. Scientists are in almost unanimous agreement that human activity is killing the planet. Yet the issue has become politicized, so we refuse to take serious action to mitigate the damage even when doing so would transform the economy by creating millions of high-paying jobs and dramatically modernize our failing infrastructure. But one political party has convinced enough people to vote to deny that climate change is a serious threat and to maintain the status quo so that a few people in the fossil fuel industry can continue to extract billions from our economy.

Does that make any freaking sense?

Does it make any sense that our government can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed weapons system, but we “can’t afford” to give all of our citizens access to health care? Does it make sense that we spend far more on health care than it would cost to offer our citizens universal care?

And the philosophy is useful for far more than political issues. Take our societal bans on nudity. Men can freely show their chests. But women must keep theirs partially covered. They can show their backs, their bellies their side boobs, their under boobs, their upper boobs, but they must not dare to expose their nipples in public! Why? Their nipples are little different than those of men. And they are necessary to provide nourishment for their babies.

Does that make any freaking sense?

How about our shipping container-based global trade? Scottish fishermen catch cod in the North Atlantic then bring them back to Scottish ports. But instead of processing the fish there, they load them into refrigerated containers and ship them to Asia where they are processed, frozen and shipped back to Europe for distribution.

Does that make any freaking sense?

Or what about commercial sea-going fish factories that sweep the oceans of all sea life, processing the species they want and killing those they don’t? The short-term benefit is cheap seafood. But the long-term consequence is the destruction of our ecosystem.
Does that make any freaking sense?

Or what about the clear-cutting of forests to make cheap, semi-disposable furniture? Or the destruction of rainforests and wildlife habitat to raise palm oil or cattle we don’t really need? Or using caravans of semi-trailers to haul merchandise coast-to-coast instead of more efficient trains? Or denying basic human rights to people based on a 2,000-year-old collection of writings of unknown origin? Or taking children from parents seeking asylum in our nation? Or by treating people differently based on their choice of religion, their language of the color of their skin?

Does any of that make any freaking sense?

When you strip away the traditions, the political labels, the myths and the prejudices, you quickly realize that much of what we do and believe makes no sense. No sense at all! Continuing to do something just because it’s something we’ve always done will only continue to perpetuate our problems. It’s time for change. Time to look at our actions and beliefs from an objective viewpoint – as if we just came here from another planet.

The very future of our civilization, indeed our species, may depend on it.

Should Climate Change Be Declared A National Emergency?

In order to prevent Trump from declaring border security a national emergency in order to fund his idiotic border wall, Sen. Marco Rubio noted that it would set a precedent that could wind up hurting Republicans saying, “If today, the national emergency is border security…tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.”

He’s right about the political implications. But he fails to recognize the real dangers of climate change and the fact that it will hurt everyone, even Republicans. And he fails to understand that climate change is a true emergency.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid a catastrophic increase in global temperatures of 3 degrees Centigrade (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). As of today, that’s 11 years! The study warns that we must make dramatic changes to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

The consequences for failing to act? In a word, disaster. Melting ice caps will raise sea levels displacing millions and causing mass migrations worldwide. Tundra and permafrost will thaw releasing millions of tons of methane and further accelerating climate change. Ancient organisms frozen in the ice and permafrost will be released perhaps leading to a resurgence of disease. Coral reefs will die creating famine for millions who rely on the oceans for food. Many of the world’s species of wildlife will become extinct. Much of the world’s farmland will become arid adding to the famine. And the changing weather patterns will create more numerous and severe storms.

Even if the human species manages to survive such conditions, the costs will be overwhelming. Mass migration and famine will lead to wars. And the financial costs will be unfathomable. The world’s 10 worst climate-driven events of 2018 killed thousands. And last year, in the US alone, there were 14 climate-related events – hurricanes, storms, floods and wildfires – costing 247 lives and nearly $100 billion.

Yet, despite the warnings, which become more dire by the month, the Trump administration has ignored them, even reversing much of the progress made in previous years and conducting a sell-off of oil leases on previously protected public lands. Indeed, we are now the only nation on Earth that is not part of the Paris Climate Accords. This is devastating for the planet, since the US ranks second only behind China in total carbon emissions. Per person, our carbon emissions are nearly eight times those of the Chinese! Yet China and much of the rest of the world are aggressively trying to reduce emissions, while only 20 states and a handful of US cities are doing so.

And, because the GOP has politicized climate science, in the US there is now a virtual media blackout of climate news. Many in the media consider it too controversial to report on environmental damage and, when they do, they try to present opposing viewpoints even though the science community is largely united that climate change is a real danger. As a result, only 45 percent of Americans say that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes. Seriously? How many of you don’t expect to live another 11 years?

Despite all of this, there is a bit of good news, the most promising of which is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Unlike many of her colleagues, she is not only speaking out about climate change. She is offering solutions that can improve our infrastructure, lead to a cleaner environment and create millions of high-paying jobs.

Her Green New Deal consists of the following:
• Government-led investment in energy and resource efficiency, as well as reusable energies and micro-generation
• Low-carbon infrastructure redevelopment in order to create jobs
• A directed tax on the profits of oil and gas companies with proceeds being invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency
• Financial incentives for green investment and reduced energy usage, including low interest rates for green investment
• Re-regulation of international finance, including capital controls, and increased scrutiny of financial derivatives
• Curbing corporate tax evasion through compulsory financial reporting and by clamping down on tax havens
• A Global Marshall Plan Initiative using “green quantitative easing” to create money to fund the “great transition” to a society free of fossil fuels and other measures that aim to preserve the biosphere

Several of these measures have already been implemented in Norway, South Korea, the UK, Germany, even parts of the US. Progressive environmental groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have also signed on. And the movement is gaining support. A recent poll found 81 percent of US voters support the Green New Deal ― including 64 percent of Republican voters and 57 percent of self-described conservative Republicans. In addition, more than 300 state and local officials voiced support for the Green New Deal. Numerous Democrats in the new Congress have also backed the resolution, along with a number of Democratic presidential candidates. However, the support from congressional Republicans and the Trump administration amounts to crickets.

But we can fix that. By voting for Democrats in 2020, we can make them scream.

Our Political Divide Is More The Result Of Differences In Personality Than Issues.

Political pundits have expended a lot of effort to try to understand our political divide. In particular, they want to understand what led so many people to vote for a man who outwardly defies their oft-stated values. Was it the browning of America? Was it the loss of manufacturing jobs? Was it the decline of rural, small-town America? Was it that Hillary Clinton seemed to be a flawed candidate? Was it a backlash to the Obama years?

All of those may have been factors. But I believe those explanations fall short. I believe there are emotional and psychological issues that have created the chasm between liberal and conservative Americans fed by the fragmentation of media. Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, conservative propagandists have been able to feed their audiences a steady stream of outrage and lies. So, too, have websites and social media. Many Americans now expose themselves only to “news” stories that fit their preconceived ideas. And the once unifying presence of evidence-based network news is now dismissed by a large percentage of conservatives as “fake” news. This new media reality has tapped into the long-seething anger and fear of conservative Americans who feel they are ignored and left behind by Washington and the so-called intellectual elites.

As an accomplished con-man, Trump recognized the vulnerability of these conservatives and, with the help of Russian interference, he was able to manufacture and exaggerate their outrage. It was his ability to manipulate them that ultimately led him to the White House.

Let me be clear, I don’t believe that today’s conservatives are bad people. But, for the most part, they lack a curiosity for the unfamiliar. They lack compassion and empathy for people unlike themselves. They are fearful of change, even if that change promises to make things better. They see compromise as a weakness. And they have far too much regard for authority, especially when it is accompanied by the American flag and the Bible. It is because of these characteristics that they are especially vulnerable to being manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and pastors. To fully understand what I mean, let’s examine those characteristics one at a time.

CURIOSITY – Studies have shown that fewer conservatives have passports than liberals. They are less likely to travel outside of our country and, when they do, they tend to travel to countries where they don’t have to try to understand another language or another culture. This lack of curiosity has also led to their growing contempt for science – a discipline that is based on curiosity.

COMPASSION – Liberals are quick to support charitable causes to aid the impoverished, to preserve the environment, and to support human rights. But studies show that conservatives contribute even more money to charity. However, most of that money is donated to churches. Further, their compassion is too often limited to those they know or those who are like them. Want an example? Conservatives, especially evangelicals, are horrified when a white, evangelical pastor is imprisoned in Turkey for trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. But they are unmoved by the plight of brown Christians fleeing violence in Central America and Syria. And they seem perfectly okay with brown refugee children being ripped away from their parents and held in cages along our southern border.

CHANGE – For the most part, liberals see change as good if it promises improvement – improvement in the quality of life; improvement in the lives of others; improvement of the environment. Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to embrace change only if it directly helps them (America First). Otherwise, they seem bound by the rules of what once was (Make America Great Again). They would rather deny freedoms to thousands in the LGBTQ community rather than accept them as they are. They refuse to accept people of another color or another religion unless they personally know them. And they refuse to risk changing our economy to address climate change, even when it has been proven that it would improve our environment and the economy at the same time.

COMPROMISE – Many conservatives see the world in stark contrasts of black and white. Of winners and losers. Having embraced the sports axiom that a runner-up is the first loser, they have even learned to despise average. To the people who support Trump, negotiations are a zero sum game. There is no such thing as a win-win solution. There is no place for political compromise or moderation. It is that philosophy that led to Mitch McConnell’s decision to block nearly every one of President Obama’s initiatives and appointments regardless of its merits. It is what caused them to rail against the Affordable Care Act, a Republican idea. It is what caused them to block the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, a man who was selected precisely for his moderate views. It is that attitude, and that attitude alone, that led to today’s hyperbolic political partisanship despite conservative claims that both parties are equally at fault.

AUTHORITY – Liberals often pride themselves on questioning authority and showing a healthy skepticism of those in power. On the other hand, conservatives, especially those who have embraced Trump, display a blind, unquestioning loyalty to their leaders. Moreover, like their leaders, they will never admit to a mistake. In the minds of conservatives, people like Trump and Charles Koch are winners to be admired and emulated despite their ethical and moral failures. To today’s religious conservatives, such “winners” didn’t inherit their wealth from their fathers or steal it through bullying and accounting tricks. They actually believe that those “winners” were chosen by God.

So, my liberal friends, I submit to you that it will do you no good to reason with today’s conservatives. They may hear you, but they will not listen. They will not change. They will not compromise. But they will undoubtedly expect you to do what they won’t.