Friday, May 29, 2015

Clean Air, Fresh Water, Safe Food: Not Political Issues So Why Are They

Look Around, See if This Statement is True or Not
(you may be amazed)

Once a Believer, Always a Believer
(yes or no)

Meet some of the climate deniers (in the Koch club) who want to be president - their faces - their words (not mine) seen here.

"Koch" the Drink that Refreshes
(or tries to refresh your GOP campaign - here take a sip)

Now, the main post: In his first State of the Union Address in 1790, George Washington told Congress, “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature.” He went on to call science essential to our nation.

Two hundred and twenty years later, in his first inaugural address, President Barack Obama vowed to “restore science to its rightful place.” Since then most Republicans have booed in the background and openly more so than ever in my memory.

Let’s be honest, shall we? Mankind has survived terrible wars (two major ones to date and lots of less-major “wars” scattered in between and all with huge human tolls. Mankind has even seen our share of the ultimate misery inflicted by man on man: two atomic bombs when we dropped two on Japan to end WW II). Mankind has seen and caused the deaths in so many cases it’s hard to keep track where hundreds of millions have been killed or murdered outright throughout history with some even saying, “We were just following orders” like the Nazis and the Holocaust).

Still mankind has remained pretty flexible and relatively resilient by overcoming and surviving a lot of awful events.

But, can mankind – and I remind us all, that means us all – we humans survive without clean safe water, good food, and healthy air. The short answer is no; not hardly. With that in mind, that is the point of this post: keeping safe our water, food, and air against Mother Nature and how mankind overall has been a piss poor steward of nature and those three things we have become worse and in some cases unmanaged and more so, unmanageable, and more so, since that that first Presidential SOU address in 1790 …

More to the point: Why are so many Republicans in key policy positions in public life so anti-science? A few examples from several sources will emphasize this point:

From the Atlantic (2013 article here), in part: Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, an M.D. who claims evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell” is one rather obvious example — and many more with substantial room for improvement. But Republicans, conservatives, and the religious are no more uniquely “anti-science” than any other demographic or political group. It’s just that “anti-science” has been defined using a limited set of issues that make the right wing and religious look relatively worse. 

For those who say, “Damnit keep the politics out – it’s not political, we are concerned about the air, water, and food, so leave the GOP alone,” I offer the following as a counter and background to support what I have said, “… this relates to policy makers in power” and not necessarily Mom and Pop GOPers who are deeply concerned.  From here (New Yorker in 2014) select parts with my emphasis added – the whole article is very good: 

Remember when climate change could be a bipartisan issue? Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi did an advertisement together, boasting of their partnership on the challenge it posed.  John McCain believes that man-made climate change is an urgent problem.

Now it’s virtually impossible to find any leading Republicans, including potential Presidential candidates, who will agree, without equivocation, on all of these points: that temperatures are rising, that human beings caused it, and that the nation and the world must take action to address it.

Republicans are unified in denial, and one good reason this is so is the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case.

[I add at this point: why?]  That decision revolutionized the law of campaign finance; what is less well recognized is that it transformed the climate-change debate, too.  

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Citizens United, in 2010 — the Justices (5-4) were divided — began the Super PAC era in American politics.  At the time, the decision was most remarked upon for its assertion that corporations possessed a right to freedom of speech, under the First Amendment, much as individuals do.  In fact, this part of the case was neither new nor particularly controversial. (Courts have granted corporations and newspapers First Amendment records for decades.)  

Far more important was the assertion in Citizens United that money is speech — that money contributed in support of a political campaign is entitled to full First Amendment protections.  This result leads to the conclusion that individuals could give unlimited amounts to support any candidate they wanted, as long as the money was controlled by a nominally independent entity, not the campaign itself.  

These independent entities are now known as Super PACs, and they spent more than half a billion dollars in the last election.  The gist of the Citizens United decision is that the Supreme Court gave rich people more or less free rein to spend as much money as they want in support of their favored candidates.  

Sometimes, as with Super PACs, the money supports candidates directly.  Other times, the money goes to 501(c)(4) organizations, groups with occasionally shadowy aspects to them that are supposed to refrain from direct advocacy for candidates but in fact clearly push voters in one direction or the other.  

Citizens United had the effect of taking money and power away from the political parties — which control only modest amounts of money, by contemporary standards — and handing that power to the people who write the checks.  Certain of these people, the newly empowered rich, care a great deal about climate change — about denying its existence and fighting attempts to limit its impact.  

[Again, I add this is the point]: No one is quite sure who gives how much to the 501(c)(4)’s, because they are allowed to keep their donors’ names secret. But it’s clear that in the forefront of anti-climate-change activism are the Koch brothers, who have invested huge amounts in politics and political candidates since Citizens United.

(Jane Mayer has written about the Koch brothers’ efforts.)  The Koch’s are so prominent that they have become, in effect, gatekeepers for Republican politics. Climate-change denial is now the price of admission to the charmed circle of Republican donors.  

Indeed, Americans for Prosperity, an organization heavily supported by the Koch’s, has created a pledge for officeholders to sign, which promises that they will not support any kind of legislation related to climate change that increases government net revenue. 

Dozens have signed on, including such likely Presidential candidates as the senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. [I note: here is an earlier version of that same kind of anti-climate anything pledge].

It is true that Democrats and the scientific community are not entirely powerless in this debate.  One well-known billionaire, Tom Steyer, has announced plans to spend as much as a hundred million dollars to support candidates who will address climate change. But no one should be misled that this has somehow been a fair fight.   

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, conservative groups spent roughly two hundred and sixty-five million dollars in the 2012 election cycle, and liberal groups spent about thirty-five million.  To those in the carbon-producing business (like Koch Industries and the oil companies), the regulation of global warming is seen as an existential threat; they will spend what they can to stop it.  For everyone else — that is, those merely affected by climate change — the threat is (at least for now) largely diffuse or abstract. For most people, it’s hardly even a voting issue, much less one that prompts them to write checks. The check writers are the ones who deny, and the Supreme Court gave them an immensely powerful hand.

In summary, for those who deny this post, all I can say is that you are wrong – disagree with me, but do not deny the facts of the issue. As they say, “do the math” and certainly do the research as I have – you may reach the same conclusions. The point is, and yes, this should not and indeed must not be political issue. For anyone who thinks I am just picking on Republicans – well, guess what: they have made the picking easy.

Likewise, if DEMS are guilty of things like this, I would criticize them, too. That’s the way I am. If anyone looks around at my other posts they would will see that I have challenged DEMS too when they are wrong. I call that good government oversight on my part – so, how about you? Thanks for stopping by. 

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