The Five Big Things- 2. Climate Change and the Coming Natural Resource Wars

The global energy market is leading us towards doom- regardless of how you look at it. The scientific community nearly universally agrees that climate change is real, with only a small minority arguing it isn’t man-made. The energy industry’s best guesses suggest we’re heading towards a market meltdown that will eventually cripple world markets. By even the most charitable read of anti-environmentalists, major energy policy changes are needed in the short-term to avoid climate problems, market meltdowns, and even resource wars.

Climate scientists are sounding the alarm. We maybe have a decade to correct the problem to avoid catastrophe. We might all die in like 30 years, if you believe the worst. There’s a global mass extinction happening in our oceans. If you choose to believe the experts, big problems are coming. But who believes the smart people anyway, right?

Let’s operate in a little different reality. Let’s assume for a minute that our doom is not thirty years away, but 200 years away. Let’s assume them “crazy liberals” are being nuts and preaching doom too early. Let’s assume all that, and still get a sense for our oncoming environmental peril if we don’t make energy policy changes.

First, let’s understand the state of oil on our planet- the oil industry estimates about 75 years of oil reserves exist on Earth. That’s assuming current levels of consumption, which is unlikely as demand rises in China and India. So in short, supply is falling, and oil gets more expensive the further you have to go to get it. Demand is rising. In some time far less than 75 years, the economic incentive to drill will be undercut by rising costs that price most people out of the market. We’ll have an economic meltdown resulting from oil simply being too expensive for most people to use. Economic meltdowns cause suffering, and worse yet, wars. What do we actually think tensions between the U.S. and Iran right now are about?

Second, let’s understand that the effects of climate change are already wreaking havoc on our economy. Superstorms like Hurricane Katrina or Sandy cause unprecedented damage, both human and economic on our economy. Tornadoes are destroying towns left and right in the homeland this year. Droughts are causing food prices to be unstable. Most of our major economic hubs in America- like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or Boston- will be harmed by rising sea levels, threatening future economic depression if we lose them. How can the insurance industry write policies to deal with killer storms and rising oceans? The economic mess we could see from these threats is incalculable. Even if climate change isn’t killing us, it won’t get better on it’s own.

If oil could set off resource wars, one can’t leave out water as doing the same. Water is the most precious resource on the planet, and already there are skirmishes and wars in sub-Saharan Africa over it. As droughts become more common place around the world from a lack of fresh water, how do you avoid wars over access and control? Much like oil, water becomes a finite resource, and power and control ride on who has it.

How about our food supply- what is the impact on our food? How will droughts hurt crops? How will extinctions change ecosystems where we hunt and fish? Will it kill species we feed on? Will it cause natural predators to no longer keep other species in check? Will all of this instability likely lead to wild price changes?

Economic instability, recessions, wars, and other factors like forest fires are all immediate things our current environmental path leads us towards. I’ve basically tried to avoid the real doom and gloom- the potential short-term death of our planet, something that will cost most of us our lives. There is no quick “Planet B” option. The fact is that the experts are warning of a catastrophic impact of inaction. We very well may be facing doom. We shouldn’t diminish that.

This is not a funny debate about “cow farts” and banning airplanes. Solar, nuclear, wind, and hydro power could be as viable of an option to fuel society as coal, oil, and natural gas, if all we’d do is reverse tax subsidies and regulations from favoring fossil fuels to renewables and clean energy sources. And why not a plan along the lines of a “green new deal?” Why not create the economic boom, and millions of new jobs in a new, clean, safer energy economy that moves us towards a better future? Take issue with AOC’s plan if you want (and I do), but is the concept bad? Are we better off moving towards an increasingly difficult, violent future than unleashing our innovators on a new pathway? It seems to me like a pathway to not only survival, but prosperity.

Read BIG Thing 1 here.

Income Assistance for those “Unwilling to Work,” Cow Farts, Killing the Airline Industry, and Placating Some Folks

Call me cynical- I don’t believe AOC’s botched roll out of her “Green New Deal” was a mistake. The Justice Dems poster child and former Bernie Sanders organizer has promised to “lean in” to an oncoming “war” in the Democratic Party, complete with primaries across the party. She’s been clear that she’s not willing to compromise with anyone, on much of anything. Her response to Democrats that want to repair Obamacare instead of overhaul the system for Medicare for All was very telling:

There are lots of questions to be answered on Medicare for All, and plenty of good reasons to look at other alternatives that get you to universality, or at least better than you have now. AOC isn’t willing to look at them though, and the reasoning has been hiding in plain sight for a long time now- her goal is eliminating any moderation within the Democratic Party. Why, you ask? Because AOC and Bernie Sanders aren’t radical or extreme anymore if everyone agrees with them.

Take the Green New Deal resolution AOC has been leading the charge on along with Senator Markey. There is nothing extreme about putting forward an actual bill (not a Resolution) to combat climate change, develop green energy, and create millions of jobs- in fact it’s smart policy on every level. During the roll out the details were a bit hazy, but the concept is so good that old pros like Markey wanted to join AOC’s cause. So did some of the party’s Presidential candidates too. It seemed like a good idea, not just harmless.

Then of course, came the details. They weren’t so good. The “FAQs” (frequently asked questions) weren’t signed off on by anyone else, and didn’t match the actual resolution. There was talk of income assistance for “those unwilling to work,” a Republican messaging wet dream. Then there was talk of cow farts. Yes, really. And yes, there was mention of eliminating airline travel. Yes, she uses planes regularly. And yes, they included language saying nuclear energy is off the table. It was an ugly “screw up,” one they even tried to claim was doctored- it wasn’t.

There are pretty decent arguments to be had for universal income, cutting back consumption of red meat, cutting back flight traffic, and not making nuclear energy central to our energy future- and nowhere near universal support for doing anything. I doubt that Democrats want to campaign on eliminating the union jobs in the nuclear sector, ending steak and burger consumption, closing airports, and giving tax dollars to “lazy people”- which is exactly how Donald Trump and Republicans will label those ideas, while spending millions of dollars to tell swing voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania just how radical Democrats are. Presented this way, you can’t build majority support for any of it. That’s even more true among swing voters.

So why release this? If you want to believe it was an honest mistake, have at it. Of course, you’re being willfully ignorant though. Why release anything to accompany the actual resolution, which was pretty clear on it’s own? FAQs can be helpful to the press, sure, but why did a draft version exist with a bunch of things not in the actual resolution? Their FAQs describe what might as well have been a different resolution altogether, so why was this draft written in the first place? How was the office staff so incompetent as to release the wrong version? I mean really, they’re calling for a massive overhaul of our energy policies and economy as a whole, but they can’t use a Congressional website correctly? If they’re truly just incompetent in this case, that should worry you too.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that they’re actually not incompetent, this wasn’t a mistake, and this was the plan all along. The idea was to have the entire Democratic “establishment” get behind the ideas that some would call “radical”- because if everyone agrees with AOC (and of course Bernie), then you can’t call them extreme or radical anymore. They’re now the mainstream. Their ideas are mainstreamed by the endorsement of them coming from the rest of the Democratic Party. Try arguing to the press that these other Democrats “didn’t sign onto that,” because they signed onto the actual resolution instead. It’s muddled messaging at best, and impossible at worst. Lefty activists will ask why they oppose the Green New Deal. The press will drag them into the weeds. The GOP will mock them over the details in the FAQs and call them radicals.

Inevitably AOC will eventually endorse her old boss Bernie, in part because she agrees with him, and in part because he’s a nice placeholder until she’s eligible to run herself. When his opponents try to label him as unelectable and extreme, she’ll trot out to his defense and not that they agreed with him, on this and other matters, such as health care. Trump will elevate her in the debate as a representative of the Democratic Party of 2020, because he sees her as vulnerable among the voters he needs. She’ll embrace that image. Everyone will be forced to pick sides. Being that so many Democrats are embracing her now, it will be tough to get back the space later. Welcome to being pinned in the corner.

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.

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.

American Politics 2040

Things change. The trajectory of things change. Nothing is set in stone that has not happened yet. This does not mean that you can’t take an honest look at your current trajectory and figure out where you are going. America could use that right now, but it’s leadership is simply unwilling or incapable of doing so. After the 2016 election, we need to really consider where it is we’re headed.

The Republican Party of Reagan and Nixon is changing, morphing before our eyes. They will become a more hard-line nationalist party, one that identifies heavily as white and traditional. They are still for low taxes and de-regulation, but are a more populist party that can support government “welfare” for those who they deem as “American.” They want to back away from being the world’s active superpower, particularly on matters of climate change and trade policy, and instead pursue a more isolationist world view on those matters. They are certainly not George W. Bush in his view of American leadership, instead agreeing more with Vladimir Putin’s regionalized powers view of the world. They reject the 20th Century, post World War II “western order” with our traditional allies in Western Europe, in part because they reject the globalist view of those countries. They’ll spend big on defense, but not to play “global policeman.” The Republican Party is becoming an “America First,” hard borders and isolationist economics party, one that embraces white identity and traditional values, is pro-military spending, dismantles collective safety nets in favor of arbitrary ones, and who opposes taxes and regulations to protect the public.

Democrats are on a trajectory that is quite different. The Democrats are becoming a fully globalist party. Global trade, collective action with our Western allies on global issues, a pluralistic identity, a more open immigration policy, and a very science driven policy process are some of the hallmarks of the Democratic future. Democrats are embracing more socialistic concepts and collective actions and solutions. Democrats embrace a more active global voice, a softer “national identity,” particularly on matters of race and language, and more integration with the world.

Over the next twenty years or so, the two parties will battle over this “America First,” traditional-nationalist view of the world, versus a more globalist, collective, Civil Rights driven world view. Election cycles will be volatile, and leadership will change more often. Primaries will push both parties more clearly into their corners. The current divisions in this country will be more stark. The need for money in our campaigns, along with gerrymandering and voter sorting, will produce more “pure” parties in terms of their differences and positions.

About twenty years from now, half of America will live in eight states. The most important two data points in determining if a state, district, or county is red or blue will be:

  • The percentage of non-white voters. This is fairly simple, straight forward, and easy to understand. If there are a large percentage of African-Americans, or certain groups of Latinos or Asians, you can expect Democrats to do well. If not, expect it to be red. The exception comes out of the second point-
  • The existence of major metropolitan markets that are “winning” in the global economy. If you have a New York or San Francisco, you’re blue. If you have a failing regional urban market or ones that are too small, you’re red. This is they key delineation point among white people. White people in large, successful urban places like Philadelphia or Washington are usually Democrats. White people in white collar suburbs near those kind of markets are swing voters who will lean left. White voters everywhere else are trending the other way. The higher education and earning white people will live in the bigger, successful job markets, and trend Democratic.
  • What does this mean in the long haul? By 2040, I have these states as blue:
    • New York
      New Jersey
      Massachusetts
      Delaware
      Maryland
      DC
      Virginia
      Georgia
      Illinois
      Texas
      New Mexico
      California
      Hawaii

    If you’re trying to think out loud on how many electoral votes that is, it should be about 220. Assuming Democrats win all of the Senate seats in these states, it’s 24 (If DC isn’t a state). Interestingly, these states should have just under 200 House seats, under my math, meaning the “friendliest” branch of the government for Democrats to win elections might be the House.

    What other states could be in play? Well, you’re looking for one of two things- major metropolitan areas that are attracting new economy jobs, and non-white voters. You need some sort of coalition between non-white voters and white voters who are “winning” in the 21st Century economy. What states have this?

    • North Carolina- I almost put this state with the group of blue states, because of the “Research Triangle” and Charlotte areas, but there are large rural swaths in this state that can and will probably keep it competitive. This will become to Democrats what Pennsylvania has been, a “must have,” in order to win.
    • Florida- I’m not overly bullish on Florida’s long term prospects for Democrats, in part because the Latino population is simply less liberal leaning than those in the West- in part because they come from different places and are less connected to the immigration issue. Florida will remain a competitive state though, because it is diverse, and has the Miami and Tampa areas that fit the bill as metropolitan areas.
    • Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania will not be the Democratic lock for national candidates that it was from 1988 through 2012, but it’s not going the wrong way completely anytime soon. Why? Philadelphia is a giant market, and to a lesser extent the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh area) will remain relevant. The state won’t remain cleanly “blue” though because Northeast PA is increasingly behaving like Central and Northwest PA already were. Democrats need to dig into the Lehigh Valley and Pocono regions in order to win statewide contests in the future. The polar opposition behavior of the rest of the state will make those areas the key.
    • Minnesota- In 2016, one of the under-reported stories of the election was how Minneapolis-St. Paul and their suburbs had to bail Democrats out. That is looking like the new norm. With some of the “generation Mondale” Democrats leaving the more rural Congressional seats, Democrats are at risk of atrophying further in those parts of the state. The “Twin Cities” will increasingly be pitted against more rural, conservative areas in competitive races.
    • Connecticut- How is Connecticut a swing-state in 20 years? I’m not very bullish on Democrats future hopes in New England right now. If you look right now, Democrats only hold two of the six Governorships. They could lose Connecticut this year. The region is very white. The only state with a mega-market in it is Massachusetts. What keeps this state from going away from Democrats? Suburban New York and Boston voters. Higher education centers and highly educated voters. Hartford. Even with those things, New England is quite white and not huge fans of taxes. Expect this state to be competitive.
    • Colorado- Put this state next to North Carolina as a state that I almost made Blue. Educated millennial voters have moved to metro Denver at a fast clip. The Latino vote should grow in Colorado moving forward. Even so, it’s a “Denver vs. the world” effect out there. In large sections of the state, Democrats probably won’t be overly competitive. This state, like Pennsylvania and Minnesota, will constantly come down to turnout in their largest metropolitan market. Denver isn’t as large as Philadelphia, so their margin of error will be a little smaller. Fortunately the state’s demographics are a little better than Pennsylvania’s in 20 years. It will still be a battle.
    • Nevada- There’s Las Vegas and the “rest of Nevada.” Democrats aren’t going to win much in rural Nevada, meaning their margins in Clark County will need to continue to decide elections. Democrats should continue to win the Las Vegas market, but they don’t win it as crazy big as one might think. Lots of older white people live in Clark County, which narrows the margins. Democrats are held up by a sizable Latino voter shares and organized labor’s considerable strength in Las Vegas. If Republican sabotage of labor weakens Vegas labor, this state may be red. Labor’s strength may decide this state’s political future.
    • Washington- If you remove the Seattle market from Washington, it’s already red. That divide probably won’t lessen in years to come. As long as Seattle remains a destination for young workers, Washington will remain blue. Still, this state’s political future will entirely ride on Seattle’s turnout, so it’s not a safe bet in twenty years.
    • Rhode Island- Either Rhode Island will continue to perform like a well-educated Boston suburb, or it will perform like an extremely white, Catholic state. Like Connecticut, I like the chances of Democrats better in the southern part of New England than the north. I still think Democrats will have to fight for it.
    • Oregon- Take everything I wrote about Washington, and put Portland in the place of Seattle. While this state is traditionally liberal, it’s also largely rural and white, which I’m predicting to be the data points that matter. Can Portland keep it Blue? Maybe. It’s not a lock though.
    • Vermont- How can I put Vermont here? The home of Bernie Sanders as a swing state? Well, there’s a few things to consider here. First, they have a Republican Governor right now, which isn’t terribly odd for them. Second, it’s very rural. Third, it’s a very pro-gun state. Vermont’s perceived liberalism may not be as “baked in” as others think, especially as the parties shift. Burlington is not a mega-market that can keep Vermont “blue” on it’s own.
  • So how important are those states in 20 years? About 125 electoral votes worth. 22 Senate seats worth. Another 100 or so House seats. If Democrats do well in these states, they can cobble together Electoral College victories and small House majorities. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Senate majority between these states and all the ones in the base.
  • What this means of course, is that Democrats will need to keep several states competitive enough to win sometimes that I did not put into this mix. Perhaps Arizona will belong in this group, or Mississippi, or South Carolina, none of whom are on my current list. I’m not bullish on the current trajectory of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio- mostly because their major urban markets have seen major population declines, and I am not certain they can overtake the declining returns of national Democrats in their more rural areas- but Democrats will need to compete in them and occasionally win to build governing majorities. I should include New Hampshire and Maine here, two rural, white New England states that don’t feel like they trend with us in this re-alignment. These states moved far towards the Republicans in Trump’s 2016 win and have Republicans as Governors currently. Even so, Democrats probably can’t check out on them.
  • Obviously trends can change. The middle-aged and elder Trump voters and their brand of politics will begin dying during the next 20 years, and young Republicans could make the party more libertarian. That may calm some of the white-nationalist rhetoric- though I’m doubtful, and I know that doesn’t drastically change their policies. The internal Democratic fight- of identity vs. ideology- isn’t over yet. Things can happen. Changes will happen.
  • No matter how much I shift things though, I keep coming back to the same two definitive data points- non-white voters and major metropolitan, global marketplaces. No matter how I apply those, the future for Democrats, on the current trajectory, is threading a needle in every election. The Democrats may never lose another popular vote for President in this country, but have many repeats of 2000 or 2016 in the future. Because Democrats win many of their House seats with more than 75% of the vote, even in a country where the majority want a Democratic House, Democrats May never see majorities the size of the one they had in 2009-10. Because half the country will live in eight states in 2040, and most of the non-white votes will be in those states, the Senate may very well simply exist to thwart the desires of the nation’s majority through a safe, conservative Senate Republican majority.
  • Here’s the part though that is most concerning. The open antipathy between the bases of the two parties may create a situation in the future where the minority of the country, the rural white states, rules with an iron fist over the majority of the country in those eight big states. I’m not sure if it will rise to the level of apartheid South Africa, or Saddam’s Iraq, but the Trump era must make you concerned about it. If “owning the Libs” is the motivating factor of the Republican Party, rather than governing an increasingly diverse country and improving outcomes for even those across the partisan divide, our union will be severely tested in ways not seen since the Civil War. That’s a dark future to look forward to.
  • Donald Trump Actually Shares Putin’s World View

    In the midst of all the insane news that came out of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit, I think we all are missing the big point. Sure, Trump saluted a North Korean General and elevated a tin-pot dictator to his level in direct negotiations, but that is a blip on the overall radar. In the long run, bringing North Korea out of it’s pariah status is a good thing, if it’s possible. Having a poor, starved, nuclear state sitting next to South Korea and Japan isn’t beneficial to anyone.

    The important thing is the suspension of “war games” with our allies in Asia, coupled with our refusal to join the rest of the G-7 in the joint statement of principles at the end of that conference, our threats to pull out of NAFTA and other trade agreements, and our willingness to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris Climate Change treaty. Donald Trump is moving the United States towards isolationism, out of our world leadership role. A United States that doesn’t counter-balance Chinese power in the Asian Pacific, doesn’t lead in negotiating Middle East Peace, doesn’t lead on international trade, and isn’t part of solving global problems is simply not a superpower anymore. Trump is creating a militant, inward looking, isolationist state, complete with fraying alliances abroad and a nativist, nationalist identity driven immigration policy at home.

    There is someone happy about that, and that’s Vladimir Putin. His stated world view is that there should be no United States superpower, but instead a collection of regional powers. Russia should dominate the old Soviet-bloc, China should move into the void we leave behind in Asia, we should dominate our hemisphere, perhaps Germany controls Western Europe, and someone should emerge in the Middle East. Even if all of that doesn’t work out, he just wants the United States to stop leading a strong Western coalition. If he can get us to break our bonds with Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, he’s happy. If he can get us out of Asia, even better. If he can get us out of the Middle East too, he now can grow Russian influence in every direction. For Putin, that’s the goal.

    Trump’s foreign policy and Putin’s long held aspirations seem to be perfectly aligned. It’s beginning to be a lot less shocking that Putin’s Russia was so solidly supportive of Donald Trump’s campaign. After all, this is the new alliance that matters.

    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.