California Gas Price Hysteria

I feel compelled to write this. I’m tired of seeing the oil lobby’s propaganda (and influence over economy) spill onto people’s timelines via shoddy reporting by journalists after sensationalist stories. Yes, prices for gas in California have recently gone up. However, slamming the state’s climate change law (2004’s AB 32 – which was also upheld by California voters in 2010) is not only ignorant and wrong – it’s narrow-minded. For one, oil companies making a stir can cause prices to rise…which is exactly what they want to happen so there will be widespread public backlash. But not so fast.

A couple of years ago, Media Matters posted a brilliant smack-down of misinformation from the right-leaning Orange County Register. The paper’s claim was common among the American right: Tackling climate change will kill the economy so we shouldn’t do anything. Except that’s not correct. At all.

In fact, as the post pointed out, climate change policies not only save consumers money, they boost the economies where they are implemented. I highly recommend a read-through of the post – it’s informative and relevant now more than ever. Read it here.

If you aren’t able to at this time, here’s a quick overview some of the facts:

  • Cap-and-Trade policies are the best market-centered ways to decrease pollution and greenhouse gasses (via California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, International Emissions Trading Association, and the EPA)
  • Consumers will end up saving money (via the California Air Resources Board, a UCLA study, and a Stanford University study)
  • Existing Cap-and-Trade laws have resulted in economic booms (via the EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and economic consulting firm Analysis Group)
  • Cap-and-Trade (prior to the recent Frankenstein-esque rise of the Tea Party) has had bipartisan support across the country

Don’t be swayed by Big Energy’s misinformation. Cap-and-Trade is the most market-friendly, cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The planet is warming, feedback loops are being tripped and time is quickly running out to avoid the worst of climate change. Renewable energy is in the midst of a revolution, but this is still the time to rise above partisanship and pseudoscience – the planet depends on us to do so.

hysterical

 

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I spy with my little eye…outrage!

Sarah Silverman is in hot water over a video she did to comically highlight the alarmingly high wage gap between men and women in this country. Some transgender activists found it insensitive and took it literally.

 

 

The video is almost four minutes long, but it can be summed up in the following few sentences:

“Every year the average woman loses around $11,000 to the wage gap. Over the course of the working years of her life, that’s almost $500,000. That’s a $500,000 vagina tax! That’s why I’m taking matters into my own hands…I’m becoming a dude.”

To nearly everyone (gay, straight, bisexual, transgender) who watched, the message was pretty self-explanatory: Hey, I’m a woman and I earn less than a man because of it…so I’ll just be a man instead! It was hilarious and to-the-point: Working women deserve the same pay as their male counterparts.

Trans issues have nothing to do with the video. They just don’t. She’s not literally saying that women who undergo gender reassignment surgery will then go on to get equal pay. But transgender activist Janet Mock – whom I love and find incredibly inspiring – took to her Twitter account to claim Silverman was making that exact point. “Sex reassignment doesn’t help one advance in workplace,” she tweeted. “Ask one of the most underemployed populations: trans people.”

So much for irony and humor.

Silverman also took to Twitter to clarify what her intentions were in making the video (something she should not have had to do):

If I literally got a sex change I would indeed find the work force far less friendly. The video wasn’t transphobic it was transignorant – never crossed my mind. But to my *unintentional* credit- people are talking about it & so begins awareness. Please don’t punish this cause because of my video. I certainly don’t only fight for causes that concern or benefit me and I expect the same of the vital trans community.

The whole “backlash” highlights a little problem on the left (and I’m saying this as a progressive Millennial who cares deeply about LGBT rights): It’s become trendy and even expected to feign outrage for the purpose of being seen as socially aware. Let me be clear: Social justice is vitally important and fighting for the rights of all people is a liberal value that should be nurtured and encouraged. Injustice, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia…these ugly things exist and we must continually fight against and expose them where ever they are.

But there are too many progressives and liberals who take it to the next level. I can’t speak for everyone, but when one takes something that is not offensive to begin with (ie: the Silverman video), sprinkles it with accusations of bigotry or ignorance, and then condemns it publicly, it comes across as self-serving and self-righteous. It’s almost a way to say, “Look at how enlightened and socially conscious I am!” It serves no constructive purpose and only works to split hairs and as self-promotion.

Am I saying that Janet Mock is self-righteous? Not at all – she’s an incredible human being who has helped change the national conversation on what it means to be transgender. I love her work and I hope to meet her some day. But within activist and social justice circles, there’s a tendency to find problems and bigotry where none exists. Whether it’s accusing LGBT ally and liberal comedienne Sarah Silverman of being insensitive to trans issues in a comedic PSA or calling someone who critiques a religious doctrine “racist,” the theme is the same: Ego stroking disguised as awareness.

We need to move beyond this. There is too much injustice, bigotry and hate in the world that needs to be addressed and defeated.

still of Sarah Silverman from the video

still of Sarah Silverman from the video

 

The brown terrorists are coming for you, Barbara

Oh my god! ISIS is in North America! Did you hear that several ISIS militants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border? Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said so and I saw it on Fox News! And Rep. Tom Cotton says ISIS is teaming up with drug cartels! Why hasn’t President Obama done anything?!

By the way, these claims are complete bullshit. Just ask both the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican embassy. The sources these men are citing – far-right blogs and “unnamed” contacts – aren’t worthy of an introductory high-school English course, let alone a member of Congress. But that hasn’t stopped Rep. Hunter from promoting his unsubstantiated claims. In fact, he’s only doubled down on them.

A little context on the U.S.-Mexico border: We’ve militarized the border and are spending a record amount of money to keep it secure from dangerous hordes of women and children looking for better lives. We’ve also made it pretty much impossible for unskilled workers to legally immigrate here. The president has waited on Congress to act on immigration reform for well over a year now. Congress’ response: President Obama is acting like a dictator who doesn’t care about U.S. security. When immigration reform is debated, Congress and conservative super-PACs – pretty much the same thing – always talk about how “we need to secure the border first.” Once it is repeatedly pointed out that the border is more secure than it’s been in years, the discussion shifts to something about how “we should not be rewarding lawbreakers,” and that “they’ll take our jobs.” And the conversation decays into xenophobia.

Insulting tirades against Mexican and Central American immigrants are a staple of the modern Republican Party. When GOP congressmen and senators aren’t busy calling immigrants “wetbacks” and their children “anchor babies,” they’re claiming the border is so insecure that terrorists are invading America. “We have to throw even more billions of dollars at border security! Terrorists are being apprehended!” It’s become the modus operandi to fighting any and all immigration reform AND sticking it to the president.

I wonder why these self-assured men haven’t mentioned the U.S.-Canada border as a potential security risk. The border between our two countries is pretty massive and security isn’t nearly as concentrated as it is in the south. It’s always the lurking danger from Mexico that we’re warned about. “They’re coming for your jobs and way of life…and some are even terrorists!” Why haven’t we heard of any border invasions by dangerous Manitobans and British Colombians with thick Fargo accents? Why isn’t the FBI investigating Justin Bieber and Alanis Morissette?

Oh, yeah, Canada is rich and white.

ISIS hasn’t come to the United States and all credible intelligence sources say they haven’t and most likely won’t any time soon. Rep. Hunter’s claims are, as the DHS put it, “categorically false.” This kind of grandstanding is nothing but irresponsible and reckless. Duncan Hunter and his extremist colleagues should be ashamed of themselves. But in 2014, this idiotic behavior doesn’t get you censured or voted out of office. It only frays more nerves of a gullible public, poisons national dialogue, and excites the right-wing blogosphere. The Islamic State and so-called “illegals” are not coming for you. Stupid governance is.

still from the 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead”

Congress Plays with Political Fire…Again

It’s hard out there for a wimp. The 113th U.S. Congress doesn’t waste time proving how inept and ineffective it is and no enemy, foreign or domestic, has changed that.

As President Obama has used executive authority to strike at the heart of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, both House Democrats and Republicans have raised serious and valid concerns over executive power to essentially declare war without declarations from Congress. The founders of the constitution spin in their graves over things like these – they were pretty specific over war declarations. But whether you agree or disagree with the current course of action toward ISIS (personally, I’ve found myself leaning toward the “wipe the bastards out” side), the real issue is – as usual – Congress’ sadly hilarious incompetence.

For a while now, the looming question of U.S. involvement has hung over Mideastern dialogue. Iraq asked us for help in fighting back the spread of ISIS within its own borders. Muslim clerics all over the world – even Saudi freaking Arabia – have harshly denounced ISIS. The world recoiled in collective horror when the Islamic State slaughtered Kurish Yazidis and Iraqi Christians and beheaded journalists on camera.

President Obama joined other leaders in condemning ISIS for what it is: barbaric and bloodthirsty. He was clear about U.S. involvement, too – he wouldn’t act unilaterally until U.S. interests were directly threatened, a cautious approach that is rather refreshing after the Bush Administration. At that moment, House and Senate Democrats got a significant portion of their colleagues to come out in support of congressional debate on the course of action they would authorize the President to take.

And then they convened for recess…for two months.

With the threat of a third Iraq war and more military involvement in Middle Eastern affairs, Congress chose now to go on vacation. I wonder why the public rates them lower than kitchen mold in approval?

With Congress literally out of the picture, President Obama has authorized missile strikes against ISIS. House Republicans’ response: We never got a bill on military action from the White House. Seriously. I’m no expert, but I think it’s the purview of Congress to write bills. Apparently Republicans never watched that one Schoolhouse Rock! video about “the bill on Capitol Hill.”

Congress has become really good at tying the president’s hands. From holding up appointments to passing the least amount of bills in U.S. history, Republican leadership has made it its sole mission to give President Obama headache after headache. They create government crises and then blame the president for government crises. As MSNBC’s Steve Benen pointed out, “congressional Republicans have been almost hysterical about presidential overreach, condemning the White House for alleged abuses that leave Congress out of the policymaking process.” He continues, “In nearly every instance, their evidence has fallen somewhere between baseless and ridiculous.”

It all comes down to politics. Congresspersons and Senators are terrified of being the ones who vote for or against wars (hello, Iraq War 2.0). If you vote for war, it can make you look tough and it pleases neoconservatives and interventionists…but it can also tag your name to a possible boondoggle. If you vote against war, it can make you look like a bleeding heart and please pacifists and isolationists…but it can also make you look weak.

Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) captured the GOP zeitgeist by openly admitting to the New York Times, “We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took [Obama] so long.” In case any of you have forgotten, there’s a midterm election coming up in November.

Time to Move On

The Garden State has become the latest state to legalize marriage equality, bringing the total number of U.S. states where equality is the law of the land up to 14, plus Washington D.C. While it is not surprising that the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples – given the recent court and legislative victories for equality – it is quite surprising that Governor Chris Christie has decided to drop his appeal of the court’s decision.

Had he gone through with his appeal, same-sex couples would still have been allowed to wed up until early next year, at which point they would possibly have their rights revoked. But, as one of Gov. Christie’s aids told the New York Times, the appeal was a “fool’s errand,” especially since the court’s decision was unanimous and included a justice he considered an ally. Even though he disagreed with the ruling, the governor realized that the tide of history and public opinion was against him. Continuing his irrelevant fight was pointless.

Kudos to the Christie Administration!

Nationally, conservatives could learn an important lesson from Christie’s decision to drop his appeal. Once a legal issue has been resolved either through a court decision or legislative action (or both), that’s the end of the story. It’s done. When one factors public opinion into the equation, it becomes even clearer; you may not like the outcome but it’s here to stay. Time to move on.

We recently went through an unnecessary, sixteen-day government shutdown and near-default on the nation’s credit because House Republicans refused to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) was law. The signature achievement of the president’s first term passed both houses of Congress in 2010 and was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, not to mention the fact that the president won a second term with both the popular vote and a large majority of the electoral college. Despite the technical glitches on the federal website (as a result of high traffic), “Obamacare” is not only working but it’s becoming popular.

Apparently, all of that didn’t matter. The GOP, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, ignored the constitution and democracy itself by bringing the country to its knees because they didn’t like that the ACA was law. They repeatedly refused to meet with Democrats to iron out a budget deal (until the polls started to sour against them) and voted over 40 times to overturn the ACA. Speaker Boehner’s caucus waged a one-house war on the nation and paid the price with a shattered public image and probably the 2014 midterm election.

Christie’s acceptance of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision should remind the far-right that it is pointless to drag out an issue that has already been resolved. Instead of acting like spoiled children – throwing national tantrums, putting hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough, dragging down the economy and international markets, trashing the nation’s international credibility – the GOP should take the advice it gave itself after the 2012 election and re-think its strategy. My advice – relegate the extremists back to the fringe and far away from party control. Grow up.

marriage equality - the law of the land in New Jersey

 

#GOPshutdown

The GOP Shutdown of 2013 is officially over. Sixteen days, $24 billion siphoned out of the economy, as well as a slow-down of the economic recovery, record low approval ratings for the Republican Party (lowest in modern history), and the looming threat of default on the national debt finally forced the hand of one of the most ineffective House Speakers in American history, John Boehner. He allowed a vote and got 87 Republicans to join the rest of us in reality to pass the Senate CR, a vote he could and should have held long before the shutdown lasted for over two weeks.

Yep, that’s right…after this fiasco and national embarrassment for Republicans, the majority of the Republican caucus (144) in the House voted to keep 800,000 people furloughed from their jobs, cancer treatments on hold, small businesses from getting vital government loans, women and children impoverished and billions of dollars bleeding out of the economy. That doesn’t even include their fetishistic willingness to breach the debt ceiling – which does not actually increase the deficit – and send the nation’s credibility global economy into free fall and most likely depression.

How has the GOP responded? Well, it’s complicated because the Republican Party is deeply fractured and in catastrophic disarray. Tea Party Republicans, all 144 of them in the House and 18 in the Senate, blamed the President for a shutdown that they literally campaigned on and fought hard to get and maintain. Nutcases like Representative Michele Bachmann have gone so far as to say that President Obama and the Democratically controlled Senate “wanted” the government shutdown. Don’t you see, America? We didn’t shut the government down as a result of our recklessness and extremism – it was all that Kenyan, Marxist’s fault!

As the President and many others have said, they put a gun to the head of country and even the global economy as leverage to defund the Affordable Care Act, a law that passed Congress in 2010, was upheld by the Supreme Court and helped re-elect President Obama in 2012. Here on planet Earth, the ACA is law, is gaining popularity and it isn’t going anywhere. But on unstable Planet Tea Party, elections don’t matter (as they’ve demonstrated by gerrymandering several House districts), health insurance regulations designed to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for several million Americans is just like Nazism and President Obama is just like Hitler…so therefore the government must shut down.

 

 

That’s not compromise. That’s extortion. You don’t get to shut down the federal government and send the global economy into depression just because you didn’t get your way in the presidential election or the ruling you wanted from the Supreme Court. You can’t set the country on fire like a band of raving pyromaniacs and prevent fire crews from extinguishing the flames, only to immediately claim you did not, in fact, set the fire.

Eighty-seven conservative Republican members of the House caucus denounced the extremism of the Tea Party and called on their delusional colleagues to see the light, end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. Then they voted with their colleagues. Earlier this week when the Senate sent a CR to the House, Speaker Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. So much for bold leadership.

Based on Boehner’s laughably bad job as Speaker and the collective amnesia of Republicans in Washington, we can most likely expect this to repeat again early next year when funding the government and raising the debt ceiling are again issues that will probably bring the United States to its knees. Since 2011, governing via one self-imposed crisis to the next is how we do things. A fourth of the legislative branch thinks it is greater than all three branches combined. But, hey, It’s the American way, right?

 

House Speaker John Boehner - leader of the pack...

House Speaker John Boehner – leader of the pack…

Elizabeth Warren Calls Out the “Anarchists” in Congress

…so about that government shutdown…

Progressive hero and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an epic speech on the Senate floor a few days ago in which she called out the far-right in the House for its extremism. House Republicans, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, literally championed a government shutdown and many of them campaigned on it (“If we don’t get our way, we’ll shut it down!”). To them, Elizabeth Warren had this to say:

“You can do your best to make government look like it doesn’t work when you stop it from working. You can do your best to make government look paralyzed when you paralyze it. You can do your best to make government look incompetent through your incompetence and ineffective through your ineffectiveness. But sooner or later, the government will reopen because this is a democracy and this democracy has already rejected your views. We have already chosen to do these things together because we all know that we are stronger when we come together.

“When this government reopens, when our markets are safe again, when our scientists can return to their research, when our small businesses can borrow, when our veterans can be respected for their service, when our flu shots resume and our Head Start programs get back to teaching our kids, we will have rejected your views once again.

“We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages. We are not that nation. We have never been that nation and we will never be that nation”

 

 

Here’s a video of the awesome smack-down – it’s a must-watch: