Earth Day- Our Beautiful Earth

Today is Earth Day. It’s worth noting that while climate change is the most clear and present danger, there are plenty of other issues facing us:

  • A potential mass extinction in the oceans.
  • A Brazilian government open to cutting down the rain forests.
  • Poaching continuing to endanger many species around the planet.
  • Major issues with plastic killing marine life.
  • Pollution causing many diseases, including asthma.

The battle for our planet is not just about climate change, despite the consensus in the scientific community about it’s seriousness. There are so many other important issues facing our environment, regardless of your political stripes. These issues are having an impact on our air, water, food, and health, right now. These issues were not always political. Richard Nixon, for example, created the EPA. This is not an issue that needs to divide us.

It does though, and that is idiotic. Every great species we kill, every puff of black smoke we breathe, every piece of plastic in our ocean, every drop of dirty water we drink, it all has an effect on us. This isn’t about being a tree hugger, or hating business, or anything else- it’s about loving the beautiful planet we have. It’s about fishing in your favorite stream, hiking your favorite trail, and taking pictures of your favorite wild animal- we’re all in this together. Your planet is the only one you have, and with basic regulation, the only one you need. Protecting our planet is not a left-right issue, but a rare good-bad one that reveals a lot about us- like it or not.

One Month of Christmas, Day 7

It’s December 1st! It’s a rainy Saturday here in Easton. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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I Tip My Hat to Bush 41

After 94 great years on this Earth, President George H.W. Bush has gone home. The 41st President of the United States died last night at home in Houston.

President Bush was a genuine war hero. He also was a mixed bag politically. He was the first “third term” for a political party since Herbert Hoover, and the first Vice-President to ascend to the Presidency directly via election in the 1900’s. He lost his re-election less than two years after having a 90% approval. He never won a statewide election in Texas until his 1988 Presidential victory, losing two Senate races. He was the father of a political dynasty, but his son left the White House with record negatives, and his other son failed to win a primary. President Bush had epic highs and titanic lows.

President Bush was mixed in his record. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He twice vetoed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). He oversaw the end of the Cold War. He pardoned away crimes he may have been involved with, in relation to the Iran-Contra Scandal. He successfully lead military actions in Panama and Iraq. He and Ronald Reagan seemed to dubiously get the Iranian Embassy hostages free, minutes into their administration. He took a lifetime membership from the NRA, but gave it up when they publicly attacked federal agents. The Bush Family had been very involved with Planned Parenthood, until he accepted the Vice-Presidency in 1980. President Bush had a mixed record on taxes, Civil Rights, and education. He was not nearly as ideological as many of today’s politicians.

I liked President Bush for much the same reason as I now like President Obama- they were both no-nonsense, non-divas. They faced down the extremists in their parties, made decisions that ran against their ideology, and tried to govern from consensus. That was also part of both of their failings. Neither was responsive to the passion of the masses. Neither saw the political storms coming after they were gone (Gingrich for Bush, Trump for Obama). Both were steadfastly committed to Washington “norms,” even as they passed.

I’ll say more about Bush 41 later. For now, may he rest in peace.

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The G20 Debacle

The only lasting memory of this G20 Summit in Buenos Aires is MBS and Putin’s “bro-shake” when they got there. Past that, it was more of the unfortunate same. Our President is too compromised to meet with Putin or call out MBS’ bad behavior. Trump was the only leader there to not sign on to a statement on climate change. It ended with a video showing Trump saying “get me out of here.”

Are you tired of winning yet?

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What are the Mets Doing?

I want to give the Mets credit for getting Nelson Diaz from Seattle for Jay Bruce and four other players. The Mets got better and dumped a bad contract. They also took on five years and $63 million. I’d call it worth it, but there is still the rumor of them trading Noah Syndergaard. These two things make no sense together. Getting Cano is a “win now” move. Trading Thor is not.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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The Power of Video

I doubt Kareem Hunt plays again this season. The now former Chiefs running back was shown shoving and kicking a woman on video, back in February. The video mysteriously showed up, incriminating Hunt with an assault that was never charged. The Chiefs almost immediately released him.

Once again, we are seeing the power of video in today’s society. An incident like this, on radio, can “Ray Rice” a career.

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We’ll be back at it tomorrow…

One Month of Christmas, Day 2

Good day and Happy Monday, November 26th, 2018. Today is 29 days until Christmas. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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Our Immigration System Has Been Broken for a Century Plus, but Trump is Creating a National Disgrace

What’s happening at our Southern Border Right Now is a disgrace. Trump sent several thousand troops to the border in a basic political stunt, to pretend he’s getting tough on illegal immigration. The reality? It was a publicity stunt. Now he’s violating American and international law by not allowing asylum seekers to enter our country while their claims are investigated and decided. This is not supposed to be something up for discussion- it’s long-standing law. To make matters worse, he’s literally having us tear-gas people on the Mexican side of the border, for some unknown, indefensible reason. In the ultimate sign that their isn’t intelligent decision making going on here, he might just close some border points altogether, making things inconvenient for Americans who cross the border on the regular.

I’m reminded throughout this mess that we are a nation of immigrants, and that my family has immigrant roots too. My great-grandfather Joseph, from my father’s paternal side of the family, came to the United States with his brother from Poland, immigrants who would not become citizens for years after their arrival. My great-grandmother Julia and her husband, from my father’s maternal side of the family, came to Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, and also took years of working here and raising a family before getting citizenship. None of these relatives were high-skilled “desirable” workers, in fact some of the family members who came here had been gassed in World War I and were what I would call insane. They were all welcomed here to work though, and they built a life a world away from places in Europe where they no longer felt okay with staying. It’s the best side of America that they were allowed in.

In 1892, Ellis Island began processing immigrants as a port of entry. In 1924, just months after my Great-Grandmother Julia Kravchak arrived from her village of Udol, in present day Slovakia, the Immigration Act of 1924 shut down Ellis Island as an immigration entry processing center, and turned it into a detention center for undocumented immigrants in our country. That law created quotas for immigration, largely racist quotas that favored immigrants from white nations over people from non-white nations (at that time, largely aimed at Asian nations). While the law has been amended since then, these same quota systems have largely survived in American law. They have caused much of the backlog of those waiting for entry from Mexico, Central America, and South America, while making it easier to come from “more desirable” places. Our asylum system, our system of refugees, and our educational visa system have all worked fairly decently though, and have been good for our society and economy. Or, at least they were. Now Donald Trump’s border policy has become to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at families trying to flee violence and oppression. There is nothing to be proud of here. This is our Immigration Act of 1924, except that this time we’re actually being violent.

I’m not arguing that we should have an open border, because I don’t think we should. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t deport criminals, because I think we usually should. I’m arguing we should be a humane people, because I think we always should.

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The Eagles Still Suck

Yes, they won a football game yesterday. Yes, they’re 5-6, and one game out of first place. Yes, three of their final five games are against the two teams in front of them, so they just need to win games to win the division. Yes, someone has to win the division, host a playoff game, and then has the same shot as everyone else in the NFC. With all of that said, the Eagles stink. They have guys literally coming in off the street playing in the defensive secondary. They have no deep threat, aren’t committed to the run, and have a quarterback who still seems just a little bit off this year. Oh, and they’re not as good in the trenches on either side of the ball. And the coaching is worse. 

Who are they really going to beat though? New Orleans? The Rams? Kansas City? The Patriots? The Chargers? Please let me know, because I don’t see a contender they can beat, right now. As a result, my enthusiasm is low.

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Climate Change, Climate Change, Climate Change, and yes, more Climate Change!

I don’t think we can scream loud enough about the U.S. Government’s report on Black Friday the climate change is an imminent problem that will hurt our society across all demographics and income levels. The report, mandated by law across many agencies not only said climate change is real, or that it is man-made, but also that it is dangerous. Of course the Trump Administration tried to release it on Friday of a holiday weekend.

Democrats, but also really any people who care about Earth’s future, need to scream bloody murder about this. I may think less of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Pelosi protest stunt than an outdated can of spam, but she is absolutely right to be calling for a “Green New Deal” right now- Democrats need to latch onto this, party wide. First off, in nakedly politically potent terms, jobs. Second off, we have to move towards a more green economy, now, to avoid disaster. The fact is, there’s no sane argument *not* to move towards a green economy.

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So You Think You’re Smarter Than Your Dog?

This really isn’t a long post here, but let’s dive in here- are you smarter than your dog? Sure, dogs can’t build the intricate society we have, with houses, currency, relationships, and entertainment. On the other hand, who cares? Dogs don’t care about all of that. They like to eat, play a bit, go outside a few times a day, and sleep. In many ways, I envy them.

Today though, I was talking to my dogs and it hit me- when I talk at them, they seem to grasp my language and know what I mean. When they bark at me? I have no idea. So their brains managed to evolve enough to understand another species, but mine didn’t.

Who saved who again?

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Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid are the Best Sports Entertainment in Philly

No, for real, fight me on this. Jimmy Buckets has been here for like two weeks and has two walk-off baskets. Joel Embiid is throwing himself alley-oops off the glass. Embiid is playing like an MVP, leading the league in 30 pt., 10 reb. games so far this year. I realize maybe Ben Simmons isn’t quite leaping forward as hoped, but he’s your third scoring option now- does he need to? Not in November.

And since I know you’ll bring up Markelle Fultz- relax. He’s 20. He should be in college yet. Yes, it’s possible he has a debilitating nerve injury and is shot. Maybe he’s a head case. Or maybe he’s just young, and has been snake-bit by injuries and an impatient fan base. Why trade him now, at pennies on the dollar? Put him on the bench, get him safe minutes, and hope he turns into 70% of what you hoped in a few years.

But for now, just watch The Process and Jimmy Buckets amaze you.

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Run DMC’s “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens” is a Better Christmas Anthem than Mariah’s Song

Hear me out- I don’t hate Mariah Carey. I don’t even hate her over-played “All I Want For Christmas.”

But the reason for the season is “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens.” It’s getting overplayed, in NBA and car commercials. But it’s just better, more authentic, and didn’t play to the fantasy land Christmas love story narrative of millions of teens in my generation. They just wanted you to know they loved their mom’s cooking.

And I do too.

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. I’ve got some random thoughts. Here’s a sampling for you to read:

  • I have not watched a full possession of Eagles’ pre-season football yet, and I’m not going to. Actually going to the games is fun, but watching on TV is brutal. The starters don’t play, or don’t play hard, because they don’t need to. The back-ups are basically there to show their special teams value and get reps. This stuff is mostly unimportant, unless your team is bad.
  • I found out last night that Ronda Rousey won an Olympic medal in Judo. I had no idea. It makes sense with her fighting style, but there was little hype about it. It also means her combat sports career was far longer than I thought.
  • For my two cents, I have no problem with Jim Clyburn becoming Speaker if Nancy Pelosi can’t in January. I’m torn in my feelings about Nancy Pelosi, both holding her career and record in high esteem, and thinking she has been there so awfully long, and is a giant political liability with the voters in the middle. I’m fine if she stays, I’m fine if she steps aside for someone else to be Speaker, but I’d like her to leave leadership after the 2020 Election at worst, an even 20 years in leadership. With that said, and I love Jim Clyburn, but I’d feel the same about him.
  • I’m getting sick of the media allowing Donald Trump to claim he can “fight back” against the Mueller probe- you don’t get to fight a legal investigation. You get to make a defense if you’re charged in a court of law, or Congress. You don’t get to try and stop an investigation- that’s obstruction of justice. When Trump says he fired Comey or pulled Brennan’s clearance because they started the Russia investigation, Trump is admitting obstruction. He’s admitting a crime. He’s making it very hard to argue that he doesn’t belong in prison.
  • Aerosmith is getting ready to celebrate 50 years together as a band with a residency in Las Vegas for 2019. Technically that’s their 49th year, but I’m betting some new music will follow. You know, this is a perfect point for me to note- I’m not always a fan of “new” stuff. If I flipped through every iHeartRadio rock station right now, I couldn’t find a “new” rock band on Aerosmith’s level. Sometimes the new stuff sucks and the old stuff is great.
  • How do you give up seven runs in one inning? Better yet, how are they all unearned? Well, you can only do all of this when you lose 24-4, like the Phillies did Thursday. In one of the great ironies of sports, the Phillies came back to win game two, and gain a half game for the day.
  • That’s all for today. We’ll be back this weekend.
  • The Stuff You Can’t Recover

    If there is one thing the Trump Presidency has made clear, it is how much can be undone after a President leaves. It’s hard to undo the big stuff- repealing major acts of Congress, for instance. It takes time to undo a healthy economy too. It’s not hard though to cut taxes, and create endless federal deficits. It’s not hard to undo executive orders. You can undo a regulation with the stroke of a pen. When all else fails, a new President can basically just not enforce a rule they don’t agree with. Finite resources, different legal interpretations, and general deference on executive matters allow a President to make changes in a hurry.

    One area of damage that our unhinged President is being allowed to carry out with basic impunity is the destruction of our wildlife, public lands, and natural resources. He has given away record amounts of public land in under two years. He’s made it easier to hunt hibernating bear cubs. He pulled out of the Paris Accords. He’s eliminating fuel efficiency standards. He’s chipping away at protections for endangered species. He wants to take away California’s right to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I’m probably only scratching the surface on the damage this man has already done to our country, the environment, and our world.

    The problem with this is that once you destroy a part of our natural world, it’s gone. If an endangered species is killed off by hunters, you can’t bring it back once it’s extinct. If you allow chemicals and poisons to be dumped into our water supply, the damage to the fish and our drinking water is permanent. If you destroy the habitat for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife, they die for good. If you do nothing about climate change, and allow carbon emissions to go unchecked for four years, it takes much, much longer to heal the damage- if it’s not too late already.

    I’m not the traditional “tree hugger” environmentalist. I’m not anti-hunting, I understand the ecological needs and benefits from hunting, actually. I know we can’t get rid of all fossil fuels tomorrow, so we will have to live with energy exploration and it’s risks for a while. I’m not anti-car. I’m not asking for anything extreme at all, just some common sense. Don’t kill the emerging solar industry, and it’s thousands of jobs and clean, renewable energy. Make cars run more efficient. Start moving tax incentives away from coal and towards renewables. Protect clean water, both for our drinking purposes and it’s inhabitants. Regulate energy exploration to keep our environment safe. Protect wildlife, especially endangered species. Don’t literally encourage bad actors in our environment with public policy. It’s not too much to ask.

    I find it ironic that environmental liberals end up arguing with some of the people who enjoy the outdoors most- sportsmen and rural Americans. We all want to enjoy the natural beauty of our land, it’s something we collectively enjoy. We all know that black smoke we see coming out of a coal plant is bad for us, none of us want to breathe that in. We know dumping sludge and chemicals into the water is bad for us all. None of us want to see tigers or any other endangered animal go extinct, they’re magnificent animals to see. Let’s stop doing openly stupid things to hurt our beautiful planet. Once we kill it off, there’s no coming back from that.

    It’s Time to Re-Think Who “Won” the Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, and World Wars

    It’s 2018, and Germany has a roaring economy, universal health care, and an impressive infrastructure. China is building a world order that doesn’t center around us. France, the United Kingdom, and Canada are adjusting to life without an absolute alliance with us. Russia interfered in our elections, got away with it, and is being rewarded with Presidential summits. We have a President who is a reality TV star, who bankrupted a casino, and who tweets in all caps, LIKE THIS!

    You’d have to pardon anyone wondering out loud if the story of American Exceptionalism that came out of the 20th Century was a myth.

    While Europe built strong social-safety nets, Asia innovated, and Russia put their energy into mastering the internet, the United States built the largest military industrial complex in the world. While America built up corporate profits, built up a credit bubble, slashed taxes for the wealthy, and increased the income inequality gap, Germany went in the opposite direction, in a span of less than 30 years. While America assumed the success of the 1950’s and 60’s Civil Rights Movement, the electoral polarization that came from it became bad enough that Russia preyed on our racial tensions in interfering with our 2016 elections.

    At the end of the 1980’s, the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union was in collapse, and China was “modernizing” their economy towards capitalism. Kids were taught about the progress that had been made by the Civil Rights movement in school. The 1990’s were a period of remarkable, broad-based economic success in America. The United States was considered the world’s greatest military superpower, and used that power and influence in places like the former Yugoslavian republics. We were instrumental in peace agreements in the Middle East, even bringing the Palestinians and Israelis together in the Clinton years. It seemed as though America had defeated the evil of the world, and was creating a peaceful, prosperous world order.

    The 21st Century has to make us ask questions- children in cages, Iraq, white nationalists coming out of the shadows, Russian hacking of our elections, mass shootings with no government reaction, Abu Ghraib, tens of millions uninsured, massive student debt, Gitmo, sham summits with foreign dictators, no action on climate change, a massive bank meltdown, and so much more. Is the United States still making progress? Does our federal budget and government match our values? Have we made the right choices on how to spend our dollars? How did we squander the booming economy and budget surpluses we ended the 90’s with? How did we end up with a crumbling infrastructure, school shootings, a health care system that leaves millions behind, no plans for clean energy development and energy independence, white nationalists in the streets, school students testing out rather mediocre against other countries, but the largest military budget in the world, by leaps and bounds?

    It is clear now that things were not quite what they once seemed, at least to me. It’s clear to me that our priorities for spending our collective dollars were wrong. It’s clear to me that Germany, who lost both World Wars, is set to be in a much stronger position moving forward than we are, 100 years after World War I. It’s clear to me that China has become far more effective and innovative at solving societal and global issues, without matching us in bombs. It’s clear that 30 years after the Cold War, Russia is effectively meddling in our elections, and causing America to damage itself. It’s clear to me that the successes of the Civil Rights movement have given way to a tyranny of the majority, where resentment and re-segregation is happening both politically and in regular life. It is entirely fair to me that we question how America spent it’s capital, it’s hard-earned global power. Rather than enriching our people, building a strong, stable society, we enriched the few and built a strong country for yester-year. Obviously in the short term, we have to defeat Trump, and get his ilk out of power. In the longer term, we have to reconsider our entire paradigm, ditch our toxically polarized politics, and reconsider the decisions and actions we’ve taken with our great power.

    The Case for Renewable Energy Sources and Nuclear Power

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    Let’s set a few things straight about the energy situation on planet Earth:

    • The fossil fuel companies say that time is running out on fossil fuels. Whether you believe coal/oil/natural gas has 50, 75, 100, or even 200 years left of supply, it’s finite. Demand is rising, as more and more of the former “third world” is seeing a rise in standard of living from globalization. Rising demand and falling supply will increase prices. That is compounded by the fact that fossil fuels become more expensive to mine as we dig deeper into the supply. We will price ourselves out of fossil fuels in the near term.
    • There is no segment of the scientific community actually arguing that global warming is not happening. There is a small, and somewhat suspect wing of the community that says it is not a man-made issue, but there is no credible argument that we are not experiencing warming at the atmospheric level that is altering the state of our planet.
    • We’re not going to be able to completely get off of fossil fuels quickly. It won’t be an over-night thing. We’re talking about entirely re-making our entire power grid, our auto-industry, our housing industry, and on and on. Given the problems stated in my first point, time is ticking away.
    • Even if you don’t believe in global warming, there’s no way you believe the smog and pollution caused by fossil fuels is actually good for you. That would be an absurd and laughable position to take. If you want to argue this with me, please volunteer to go huff fumes from a big truck that is “rolling coal.”
    • Solar is creating more jobs than coal in America today. Even in Donald Trump’s America, this is true. It’s a growing industry, and one which young people tend to favor. Again, refer to point number one, and solar has a better long-term outlook as a fuel of choice. The same is true for wind.
    • A large chunk of the planet’s oil is located under the Middle East. That would be a region with great instability (Syria, for instance), governments that we’re not terribly fond of (Iran), extreme poverty and human rights abuses (Saudi Arabia), and wars- not the place you want to be beholden to for your energy.
    • People fear nuclear power, in part because of it’s military uses, and in part because of fears about accidents (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima). Here’s the facts though- nuclear power, particularly in newer plants, has a very good record of safety. Innovation will only make that better. The second fact is that nuclear power is extremely clean, comparable to our current energy sources. Nuclear power plants aren’t easy to build, and we can’t produce enough of them to make them our primary source of power, but they can be a part of the solution.
    • Much of the reason why fossil fuels still enjoy primacy in our market in the United States is because they still get a lot of the tax subsidies. If we started shifting those subsidies towards renewables, we would see the market begin moving that way even faster.
    • Much of our domestic supply of oil is in areas that we should want to protect for future generations. Oceans, national parks, and on our wild lands. Transporting via pipelines isn’t necessarily the hazard that some would have it seem to be, but the record of these pipelines is far from perfect. We risk the beauty of our natural lands and seas to increase domestic production, at very little benefit- More domestic drilling does not lower prices for us here in the United States. In fact, we don’t get all of the oil.
    • Global Climate Change is actually a real thing. Extreme weather is a problem that we are facing right now, both in the United States and abroad. Failing to act, and soon, will continue to harm everyone.
    • Russia is a petro-state. Moving the world away from their fossil fuel driven economy would force change in Putin’s Russia.

    Given the geo-politics, the economics, the potential for ruining the planet, and the positive impact that cleaner energy would have on our daily lives, it would make sense to speed up the move away from fossil fuels and onto cleaner energy. Given the economic potential in wind, solar, nuclear, and other cleaner energy sources, it makes sense to move towards them for job creation. The potential for innovation, for job creation, for a better quality of life, and to ease the geo-political stresses the fossil fuel industry creates, should be driving our policy. Unfortunately, it’s not at the national level, at this time. We need to begin the move though, and now. It’s a good reason to go vote for change in 2018.