“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” Explained By Rolling Stone’s Bill McKibben

If you’re in the mood for a horror or thriller movie, look no further than the latest issue of Rolling Stone (August 2nd, 2012 issue). Look past the post-pubescent, sexed up picture of Justin Bieber on the cover and to an article that everyone should actually read, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Writer Bill McKibben paints a disastrous picture of the planet’s future and who enemy number one is: the fossil fuel industry.

Loads of data and science are presented in the article (in direct contrast to Fox News’ idiotic attempts to smear climate science as a liberal conspiracy, or something). For example, in order to keep the global temperature from increasing by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we cannot spew more than 565 gigatons (565,000,000,000 metric tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere. At our current rate of increase, we’re set to reach that well within the next 20 years. If that doesn’t scare you, this will: Current global coal, oil and gas reserves (fuel we’re planning on burning at some point) is equal to 2,795 gigatons (2,795,000,000,000 metric tons), which is worth about $27 trillion to coal, oil and gas companies . That’s FIVE times the limit for a two-degree increase in global temperatures.

The planet is already becoming warmer, the oceans more acidic and Arctic ice is rapidly melting. As extreme as the weather has become, it’s sobering to realize that we’ve only increased the global temperature by 0.8 degrees Celsius. An 0.8 degree Celsius increase has broken 3,215 heat records across the U.S. this past June and created the conditions for the hottest rainfall in Earth’s history; This past Spring it rained in Mecca, Saudi Arabia….when it was 109 degrees Fahrenheit. It can be argued, as many climate scientists have, that even a two degree Celsius increase limit is too much.

alarming graph from NASA showing an undeniable global warming trend

The evidence is overwhelming. We know that climate change is real and that it presents drastic changes to our planet. The question is whether we will do anything to slow down the rate of temperature (and extreme weather) increase. We can change. We have the technology. What we lack is the will to act, as McKibben also points out…

We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

Record profits by the world’s largest oil companies and cheaper goods are not what building a better future looks like. We have to get beyond the “cheaper = better” equation that has been the staple of industry since the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism itself is not the enemy: corporate greed and complete disregard for everything else is. Investing in and improving the efficiency of renewable energy technologies must become international priorities. As I said in a previous eco-themed post, the traditional concept of the lavish “American life” (bigger, faster, fatter, cheaper, etc.) is clearly and undeniably unsustainable. If we value the planet we live on or even our and our posterity’s future, we have to change.

Read McKibben’s brilliant article here.

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Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson Explains “How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich”

Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson wrote a brilliant article a few days ago with a simple, analogous title: “How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich.”

You cannot truly understand the modern Republican Party without understanding what happened in the late 20th century to the American economy and tax code. Historically, the Republican Party was the party of higher taxes. To pay for the many wars America entered into and investments in infrastructure, education and science, tax rates for the rich were pretty high. When John F. Kennedy (yes, that Catholic Democrat with good hair) cut taxes in the 1960s, the top rate was at 70 percent. In case you forgot, America’s Middle Class boomed in the mid 20th century.

When inflation pushed many Americans into higher tax brackets in the 1970s, fiscal conservatives like Ronald Reagan rose in popularity. Reagan’s image and message resonated with many who became disenchanted with the American Dream in the decade of anti-war riots, vast social change, Watergate and a frightening oil crisis. As Dickinson writes, Reagan “sold the country” on what was called an “across-the-board” tax cut that brought the top rate down to 50 percent.

The Reagan presidency was incredibly expensive to the American people. Defense spending went through the roof as taxes went down overall. Sure, Reagan raised taxes 11 times in eight years to help pay (somewhat) for his tax cuts for the rich and Cold War dominance. In 1980, the top marginal tax rate was 70 percent. By 1990, it was 28 percent. When President George H.W. Bush raised taxes to help close the deficit, he lost his second term, thanks to a man named Grover Norquist.

If it weren’t for the billionaire Koch brothers, who pretty much single-handedly funded the Tea Party movement, Grover Norquist would be the leader of the modern Republican Party. Norquist runs the ironically-named group “Americans For Tax Reform,” an organization dedicated to fighting any and all tax hikes by intimidating Republican politicians into never voting/acting to raise taxes. When President George H.W. Bush lapsed on his promise to never raise taxes, he paid for his N0rquist betrayal with his presidency.

Fast-forward to 2011, where the United States of America is suffering the effects of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. President George W. Bush led America into two wars and enacted expensive policies while at the same slashing taxes to historical lows. In the past, America would raise taxes to pay for things like wars, prescription drug and education programs. But thanks to the anti-tax likes of Norquist, taxes for the richest Americans are at historical lows while the rest of the country suffers through cuts in education, public safety and welfare. Some of the largest American corporations in the world didn’t even pay any taxes in 2010…we actually continue to pay them billions of dollars in tax breaks as they continue to cut jobs. The cost to the US has been trillions of dollars.

As Dickinson explains, tax breaks actually cost more than all that is taken in from taxes, $1.2 trillion to $1.1 trillion. During the last debt ceiling debacle in Congress, Republicans refused to budge in negotiations (thank you, Tea Party and Grover Norquist). Democrats were willing to cut spending and lower taxes for the Middle Class and poor in return for letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire, which would return the top marginal tax rate to what it was under President Clinton, 39.6 percent, and bring in much-needed revenue. Republicans refused because it would “hurt” job creation.

snapshot of Dickinson's Rolling Stone article

One wonders what Ronald Reagan would think of his own party today. GOP presidential candidates love invoking Reagan when talking about how cutting government is always a good thing. Even Reagan’s former budget director, David Stockman, thinks the modern Republican Party exists to service the rich:

“The Republican Party has totally abdicated its job in our democracy, which is to act as the guardian of fiscal discipline and responsibility. They’re on an anti-tax jihad – one that benefits the prosperous classes.”

Dickinson also quoted Bruce Bartlett, one of the architects of the 1981 tax cut (that brought the top rate down from 70 percent to 50):

“Taxes are ridiculously low! And yet the mantra of the Republican Party is ‘Tax cuts raise growth.’ So – where’s the fucking growth?”

Dickinson’s in-depth, brilliantly written article is on Rolling Stone‘s website. If you have the time to read it (it’s long), I highly recommend that you do.

Madonna: Still The Reigning Queen Of Pop

Rolling Stone has declared Madonna “The Queen of Pop”….as if they even had to declare it.

The iconic magazine ran a poll where they asked readers to pick the Queen for the crown. Lady GaGa was in second place and Madonna was in first…with five times as many votes as GaGa.

Here’s what Rolling Stone had to say about the Number 1 pick:

To say that Madonna won this poll in a landslide would be like saying that she was a kind of popular pop singer in the 1980s. It wouldn’t even begin to explain the scope of the situation. She received five times as many votes as Lady Gaga, who landed in second place by a very comfortable margin. The only persistent criticism that Gaga has dealt with in recent years is that she’s too much like Madonna. It’s a hard shadow to escape. Madonna is a musical icon without peer. Her run of hits over the past 30 years is simply astounding, and when she hits the road, tickets sell like it’s a Led Zeppelin reunion tour. Sure, her last few albums didn’t match up to the classics. Nobody cares. She’s Madonna. Lady Gaga has accomplished more in recent years than any artist of her era, but she’s still got a long climb until she reaches Madonna level. It’s very likely that no other artist will ever reach it though. Her manager Guy Oseary recently tweeted that she’s started recording her 12th studio album, so clearly she has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

As I’ve said countless times before, Madonna is and always will be the Queen of Pop. Squares have four sides, China is the most populous nation on the planet, adults have 206 bones in their bodies, Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, and Madonna is the Queen of Pop. End of story.

Madonna - 2008

**Back in 2008, Madonna was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (the first year she was eligible – 25 years after her career started in 1983). Below is the video introduction from the ceremony: