Nel's New Day

December 30, 2014

Predictions for 2014 Fall Flat

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 7:38 PM
Tags: , ,

A favorite end-of-the-year activity, especially from conservatives, is predicting doom and gloom for the coming year. Here are three failed predictions for 2014, recorded by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman:

Ebola: The “outbreak” of the dread disease affected fewer than a half-dozen people in the United States, and only one died. There may have been fewer problems if Texas had been more concerned about health issues instead of sending away a person who evidenced Ebola.

Economy: Conservatives predicted disaster because of what they call socialism. They have been predicting that President Obama is killing the market economy, but the stock market keeps going up as the gas prices go down. Plus the economy grew five percent in the last quarter. Forget the argument from conservatives that the stock market is benefitting only the wealthy—although most of it recognize this as the truth. It’s the conservatives who believe in “trickle-down” economy. If the rising stock market benefits the rich, then everyone should be wealthy. This is another of their predictions that doesn’t work.

Insurance: Conservatives keep saying that more people will lose insurance than those who gain it because of the Affordable Care Act. The number of people in the nation without insurance fell by about 10 million. The same conservatives claimed that this reform would break the budget. Premiums are far less than predicted by a nonpartisan group, overall health spending has the lowest increase in decades, and cost-control measures are doing well. A year ago, the media was obsessed with technological problems in the website; now there is no reference to the people who have insurance.

More failed predictions:

Marriage equality: The number of states with legalized same-sex marriage has more than doubled to 36, and the divorce rate for heterosexual people hasn’t skyrocketed.

Marijuana: Despite legalization in two state and decriminalization in several others, the drug cartels haven’t taken over. Instead, they’re losing billions in profits and power.

Russia: Conservatives kept saying that the weakness of President Obama made him a failure as a leader and Vladimir Putin’s strength made him highly successful. Instead, Russia has a massive recession and is forced to strong-arm corporations to use their almost useless rubles instead of the strengthening dollar.

Pat Robertson, wealthy televangelist, annually broadcasts his predictions for the upcoming year on his 700 Club. Last year, he started his video by saying, “Check it out when the year’s over. Was I right or wrong.” You decide; the year has only a few days left. Here is what God told him a year ago about the year 2014:

The world is going to be chaos: Chaos would be more aptly described as 2008 when the U.S. economy went into free fall and created a global financial crisis.

“This year we’re not going to have a unified world”: That’s an easy one to agree with because there is never a unified world. 

“There’s going to be some kind of credit crisis, and I think China is going to lead the way.” No credit crisis to the United States—at least more than usual. Russia may have one, but it hasn’t created a problem for the United States government.

“The Iranians will have a nuclear device before the end of the year”: Didn’t happen.

“Republicans will win control of the Congress, but they will not have a veto proof majority”: He got that right, but every other media outlet had the same message from God.

The president is going to be discredited and withdraw to Hawaii: The president’s rating keeps going up—from 42.6 percent at the beginning of the year to 47 percent now—and he’s on a roll to make executive orders while Congress dithers. The only withdrawing he’s done is his usual winter holiday vacation in Hawaii which conservatives—as usual—decry.

“It’ll be the greatest year in the history of the church”: Robertson predicted miracles and healings that “will be unbelievable, all around the world”: Haven’t heard of any.

 “Islam is going to be in retreat”: At this time, ISIL is forging ahead, and Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Protestant and Catholic church membership shrank to new lows in 2014.

Robertson has had many failed prophecies in the past: start of World War III (1981); Jay Rockefeller elected as president in 1996 (1991); hurricanes ravaging the U.S. coasts (2006); successful conclusion to the Iraq war and troops leaving the country (2007); massive terrorist attacks on the nation that decimate cities and kills millions (2007); and major economic crash (2012).

In the election of 2014, more people voted for Republicans at the same time that they supported positions that these same Republicans oppose. The coming year will show an interesting clash between voters’ wishes and their representatives:

Marriage Equality:  Twenty states legalized marriage equality compared with only eight in 2013. As of Monday, 36 states, hopefully including Florida, will provide marriage for same-sex couples. Support for same-sex marriage is over 55 percent, a 15-point increase in only five years. Around the world, twenty countries also have legalized marriage equality.

same sex marriage

Minimum Wage: Twenty-one states will boost the incomes of 4.4 million minimum-wage earners at the beginning of January 2015. For the first time, 29 states plus the District of Columbia, will have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25, with Washington topping them out at $9.47. Four of these states approved the increase through ballot measures.

Marijuana Legalization: Three states passed medical marijuana laws this year, and two states legalized marijuana for adults to be regulated like alcohol. Only Florida lost its statewide marijuana measure, this one for medical marijuana, thanks to opposition from the millions of dollars from billionaire Shel Adelson. Even so, over half the voters supported medical marijuana: the measure received 58 percent of the vote but needed 60 percent to pass.

Climate Change: People from more than 1,000 organizations walked in the People’s Climate March in New York, including trade unions, schools, and faith-based, social justice, student, and public health groups, among others.

Cuba: Normalizing relations with Cuba could lead to a dramatic shift in Florida politics as the younger Cuban vote is turning Democratic.

Racial Justice: The public awareness of blacks being killed by an increased militarized police force can lead to reform in this area.

Areas to Watch: Money in politics, violence against women, student loan debt, inequality, the environment, women’s issues, and labor issues.

Change for the better—that may happen in 2015.

December 29, 2014

Conservatives Lay Blame for Murders of NYPD Officers

Filed under: racism — trp2011 @ 7:46 PM
Tags: , , , ,

A bomb at a peaceful workers’ rally at Haymarket Square in Chicago in 1886 discredited a movement against police killings of worker protesters who fought for the eight-hour day. Now conservatives are using the killings of two New York police officers for the same purpose.

For the past five months, protesters have marched throughout the United States in opposition to police killings and the judicial exoneration of law enforcement officers who killed blacks, despite the insignificant or nonexistent offences such as jaywalking, selling cigarettes, or trying to buy an air rifle in a Walmart. Nine days ago, a mentally ill career criminal killed his girlfriend before traveling to New York and killing two police officers while they sat in a patrol car. He had no connections with either New York or the protest movement, but conservatives used this tragedy to blame protesters and their supporters.

Pundits Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association chief Patrick Lynch are a very few of those who decided to blame NY Mayor Bill de Blasio, activist Al Sharpton, and President Obama because of their statements that young black men may be at danger from law enforcement. There is strong support for these men to talk about the dangers of being a black man in the United States. A black man in his early twenties is 21 more times more likely to be killed by the police than a white male of the same age.

Not all police officers agree with the conservative pundits and politicians who blame progressives for the killing of these two police officers. Adhyl Polanco, a nine-year veteran officer of the NYPD, said that his fellow officers turning their backs on de Blasio was “absolutely wrong.” Polanco said, “This police department has a culture that is going to make whoever tried to change that culture and life impossible, including the mayor.”

Regarding de Blasio’s statement that he had to talk to his mixed-race son about the dangers he faces because of his racial background:

“How can a parent—how can a parent who has a black child, how can a parent that have seen millions of kids being stopped by stop-and-frisk—and you know the statistics of that—how can the parents of kids and see black kids get killed by police over and over, how can parents that see kids being summoned illegally, being arrested in their own building for trespassing, and being the treatment that they deserve from—they get from the police department—not from all officers, because not all officers are the same—how can you not responsibly to have that conversation with your son? You have to.”

According to Polanco, white police officers don’t need to have the same conversation with their white children.

The city’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton, agreed with the criticism, saying that it was “very inappropriate” for the police not to face de Blasio while he was eulogizing Rafael Ramos at his funeral. He said the police rancor toward de Blasio reflects broader conflicts over the union contract and other issues.

Conservative police hate de Blasio for the same reason that conservatives hate President Obama: their lack of authoritarianism. Both have tried to be inclusive in their administrations, and both received ridicule for this practice. Before Giuliani denigrated de Blasio for his understanding of protesters, he blasted the president for not being like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. De Blasio wants a police force that “protects and serves,” rather than one who instantly brings violence and death to the people who pay their salaries.

Giuliani is a leader of the party that relies on white voters. Without the constituents among minorities—people of color, women, LGBT, etc.—the GOP cannot afford to lose whites as well. Giuliani says, “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” and he means, “Hate the Democrats because they support blacks.” Many of Giuliani’s listeners ignore the fact that he is wrong about “the propaganda.” Politifact rated Giuliani’s comments as “pants on fire,” and the Washington Post gave Giuliani four (out of possible four) Pinocchios.

Giuliani wasn’t alone in his claims: former Rep. Joe Walsh accused Obama of having “blood on his hands,” and Erick Erickson said the president has “created a situation where Americans cheer police officers being gunned down.” Rush Limbaugh again raised the specter of race war, using rhetoric reminiscent of the 18th century that encouraged poor whites to join the slave owners because black slaves might revolt against all whites. Then and now, racists are painting blacks as bloodthirsty savages. No one in the protest movement has called for killing police officers despite Baltimore Fox Affiliate Fox 45’s cutting a protesters’ chant and changing “killer cop” into “kill a cop.”

After an investigation, federal government may indict police officers through a little known law. Department of Justice and FBI have for weeks been examining the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, and Dontre Hamilton, all killed by police officers but not indicted through grand juries.

“Color of law” declares that anyone deprived of

“any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States … on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”

This law was used to prosecute five New Orleans police officers over the shooting of six unarmed people on Danziger Bridge after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, two of whom died. The officers were convicted, but a federal judge overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial. The officers are still in prison awaiting the trial. The LAPD officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted on state charges but later convicted for violating his 14th Amendment due-process rights.

If Giuliani and other people blame progressives for the deaths of the police officers, they must also blame conservatives who spew hateful invective. After Bill O’Reilly’s 28 episodes about “Tiller the Baby Killer,” activist Scott Roeder killed the Wichita abortion provider George Tiller while he was in church. After anti-government hysteria, Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring over 600. Fox network preaches hatred of Islam before people bomb an Islamic Center in Joplin (MO) and  Wade Michael Page kills four and wounds another six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. NRA-lovers kill 28 in Newtown and 12 in Aurora (CO) while wounding another 70. After anti-IRS paranoia, Andrew Joseph Stack crashed a private plane into an IRS building in Austin (TX) and killed two people. Anti-LGBT activism leads to killing and beating thousands of suspected LGBT people. Sean Hannity supported Cliven Bundy’s “range war” against the BLM before his supporters Jerad and Amanda Miller killed five people in Las Vegas, including two police officers.

Because no official records of police killings exist, Congress voted to re-establish a federal database for all people in the U.S. killed in law enforcement detention or custody. Past efforts to collect information have not been successful, but states that fail to report the data can lose up to 10 percent of their federal law enforcement grants. The reports must include gender, race, and age. Perhaps the country will get a picture of who the police are killing. A follow-up to that should be a record of everyone who is killed in the United States through violence.

December 28, 2014

Biblical View of Women, Marriage

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized,Women's issues — trp2011 @ 10:20 PM
Tags: , ,

Family values are the war cry from evangelical Christians as their pastors tell them how to believe. A major part of these “values” are the roles that women are to play because of biblical instruction. Feminism is rejected, sometimes successfully as shown by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby that corporations don’t have to provide contraception through insurance because of religion and false scientific beliefs. In her book, Saving Sex, Amy DeRogatis explained that the evangelical “purity movement” requires that women can be “truly valued” only “through the Biblical worldview, where women are protected, and their bodies aren’t disrespected, and they’re really valued for who they are and what they can do.”

A closer look at the Bible shows a different view of women’s roles than the evangelicals want their parishioners to know. Right-wing Christian men prefer that they be seen as the bread winners while women stay home and do all the work. Life is easier for these men if women are weak, dependent, meek, humble, subservient, and obedient.

Proverbs 31 describes a wife as a property owner, investor, trader, and shrewd business woman who earns her own money through her work and investments. She is also to be praised, trusted, and respected for her abilities.

“She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:16)

“She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.” (Proverbs 31:18)

“She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” (Proverbs 31:24)

“She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.” (Proverbs 31:15)

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” (Proverbs 31:11)

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (Proverbs 31:31)

Marriage is another areas of expertise for Christian evangelicals, and they have tried to spread the word that same-sex marriage desecrates the “holy institution established by God Himself.”

The Bible provides far more options that the one between one man and one woman. These include polygyny (more than one wife or concubine at the same time), open marriage for men who have access to female slaves or servants, forced marriage between a woman and her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and levirate marriage (when a childless widow is required to marry her deceased husband’s brother.

Jesus not only chose not to marry but also encouraged his disciples to abandon household and domestic concerns in order to follow him (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:28-30; Luke 9:57-62) or become eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom (Matthew 19:10-12): “Let anyone accept this who can.” Nowhere in the Bible is there any statement that “God Himself” established marriage as a holy institution. The closest to this “approval” is John 2:1-11 in which Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding feast.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wished everyone was like him, meaning celibate, but later endorsed male and female equality in a marriage. He also said, “Do not seek a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:27) In Galatians 3:28 Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

As Jennifer Wright Knust, author of Unprotected Texts, said,

 “If you’re reading the Hebrew Bible, we might have polygamy again. We might have not only polygamy with wives, we might have polygamy with concubines and slaves. And if we’re reading the New Testament, we would avoid marriage. The overwhelming opinion of New Testament writers is that marriage is a waste of time and that we shouldn’t be doing it because we should be spreading the Gospel. … If you’re married, you’re totally distracted and not focusing on God. If we took the New Testament seriously, we would all stop being married.”

The evangelical Christians can find many passages that promote the concept of wives as property or other chattel. The only conclusion to those passages is that the Bible cannot provide instruction about marital relationships or women’s roles–or probably anything else.

December 25, 2014

My Kind of President

For a brief time, President Obama became “Sorter-in-Chief” when he and his wife, Michelle, put toys into the “girls” and “boys” bins for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. The President’s staff had donated about 1,000 toys for the annual holiday toy drive.

Being very selective, the president started putting sports and science toys into the “girls” bin. Adding a basketball to the “girls” box, he said “I just wanna make sure some girls play some ball.” Questioned about adding Legos for the girls, the president asked, “Girls don’t like toys?” Then he added a T-Ball set to the collection. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” the president explained.

Toys for Tots

[Those who fear the president’s “War on Christmas” might want to note that the bags he carries are emblazoned with “Merry Christmas.”]

PHOTO: White House photographer Pete Souza shared this image of President Obama while doing his 2014 edits, Dec. 24, 2014.

President Obama knows that girls like Legos. Earlier this year, he consented to wearing a tiara in a group photo with Brownies from Girl Scout Troop 2612 of Broken Arrow (OK) taken at the White House Science Fair. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood-proof bridge project (below). President Barack Obama eschewed one of his self-professed rules of the job for a Girl Scout troop earlier this year. The White House Science Fair took place on May 27 and focused on girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields who are inspiring the next generation of scientists.

“We’re putting a special focus on all the inspiring girls and young women who are excelling in science,” the president said, noting that “fewer than 3 in 10 workers in science and engineering are women … we’ve got to change those numbers.”

Watch for conservatives to become unglued after a photo of President Obama wearing a “crown” circulates throughout their media!

Another source of ire for conservatives is a recent poll about the Affordable Care Act:  78 percent approve of the insurance exchanges; 76 percent support the federal subsidies; 75 percent support the Medicaid expansion; and 60 percent support the employer mandate. These are the options that GOP congressional members promise to eradicate this coming year—if the Supreme Court doesn’t do it for them.

 

 

December 24, 2014

Thank you, Santa!

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 3:55 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

This week Santa was joined by Mrs. Claus and seven elves in an environmental protest following nine weeks of protesting that saw 170 arrests. Monday’s arrests followed 28 arrests a week ago led by many prominent local musicians the day after 41 arrests led by local teachers. Crestwood Mainstream, a Texas fracking company, wants to dump two billion cubic feet of explosive methane gas in salt mines near the shores of Seneca Lake in upstate New York. The New York State DEC temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) due to ongoing concerns for safety, health and the environment, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gave approval for the storage despite geological instabilities, fault lines, possible salinization of the lake, and public health concerns. [Photo credit, We Are Seneca Lake.]

santaarrested1

The unlined salt caverns, formed by decades of salt mining, date back to the Erie Canal days of New York’s history and are not designed to serve as vessels for highly pressurized, explosive gases. FERC gave approval for storage in a cavern that has had a history of instability, including a collapsed roof. Repressurizing the cavern with compressed gas can force brine or methane through cracks and fissures.

Salt caverns are more prone to catastrophic accidents than the other more common types of underground storage for natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Eighteen instances of catastrophic failure of underground gas storage facilities, all in salt cavern facilities, have occurred since 1972. Several have included explosions with fire and death as well as evaluations of entire towns. A 2001 explosion in Kansas came from gas migrating seven miles to Hutchinson where the methane rose to the surface in abandoned brine wells. The explosion killed two people, destroyed buildings, and required the evaluation of residents.

In trying to justify their claim that storing methane in the salt caverns was not a serious problem, Crestwood used the number of catastrophic occurrences in all types of gas storage facilities, not just salt caverns. Although a small percentage of the gas storage facilities, they account for all the catastrophic incidents. The safety of highly pressurized natural gas stored in a salt cavern beneath the bank of a large lake that serves as a drinking water source has never been evaluated. Seneca Lake is a drinking water source for 100,000 people, and salt contamination cannot be remediated. Last summer Crestwood Midstream was at fault in a million-gallon spill of toxic fracking waste into a drinking water reservoir in tribal land in North Dakota. The accident killed vegetation, poisoned the soil, and threatened Lake Sakakawea.

The area near the proposed storage is a renowned part of New York’s grape and wine industry that annually contributes $4.8 billion to the state’s economy. The Finger Lakes area was also named the #1 Lake Vacation in the world last year. Over 20 million people visit the area each year.

Among those opposing Crestwood’s actions are more than 200 businesses, more than 60 wineries, 11 municipalities (including neighboring Watkins Glen), and thousands and thousands of residents in the Finger Lakes region who are concerned about the threat it poses to human health, drinking water and the local economy, including the tourism industry.

Santa, aka Stefan Senders, explained his participation in the protests by saying, “The North Pole is melting fast due to climate change and I felt we should throw our considerable weight behind this nice bunch of folks called “We Are Seneca Lake.’ “

Sandra Steingraber, a biologist, further explained:

“As a greenhouse gas, methane is carbon dioxide’s younger and more dangerous brother. Methane is eighty-six times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Methane will inevitably leak from this facility as well as the surrounding pipeline infrastructure.”

santaarrested2 When he tried to block the gates of the facility, Santa and his party were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct in front of children. As he was hauled off in handcuffs, he called out to them, “Don’t worry, boys and girls, I’ll be out of jail in time to deliver your presents.” Santa is already giving children their presents—trying to save the planet.

December 23, 2014

Year Ends with President’s Achievements despite Do Less Than Nothing Congress

The 113th Congress passed 286 bills during its two-year term, only three more than the 112th Congress which had the lowest recorded total in congressional history and less than one-third of the 906 public bills passed by the infamous “Do Nothing Congress,” the 80th during Harry Truman’s second term as president. Fifty-one of these bill were signed last Thursday, saving the 113th from being the worst. Congress struggled to complete even routine tasks, and one-fifth of the bills were to name a postal or other government facility.

GOP senators used the filibuster to block almost all major legislation, and the House finished off the process when Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) blocked proposals from the floor unless they had a GOP majority support. For almost an entire month, Congress couldn’t even keep the government operating. Even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a 32-year veteran of Congress, described the 113th Congress as “disgraceful.” [The following chart shows the number of bills before the last 51.]

bills passed by congress

The fall election netted Republicans 13 members in the House, leaving 188 Democrats. In the Senate, Democrats dropped to 44 members, losing eight seats. Two senators are progressive-leaning independents. Thirty-one states now have Republican governors, and 80 percent of those states also have a GOP legislature.

Two years ago, Democrats won the Senate, had more votes for House members than Republicans did, and took the presidency through a majority vote. Despite these progressive victories, conservatives declared that they had a mandate to destroy President Obama and proceeded on that path. In this election, Republicans the same mandate, again trying to deny the president any rights.

Despite these unpleasant numbers for progressive people in the United States, there is hope. In his end-of-the-year press conference the president asserted that he is energized, and his actions since the election demonstrate his high level of vigor. A few things that President Obama has done in less than two months:

  • Announced his support for net neutrality, asking federal regulators to toughen their laws by putting utility-like regulation on broadband providers.
  • Made a climate deal with China to reduce greenhouse gases.
  • Issued an executive order to protect undocumented people from the threat of deportation and keep families together.
  • Signed off on EPA regulations with the EPA to limit ozone emissions.
  • Oversaw Western sanctions on the regime of Vladimir Putin, a move that is destroying the Russian economy and dropping the value of the ruble by at least one half.
  •  Explained to the people of the United States that the Keystone Pipeline benefits only huge corporations with resources in Canada.
  • Renormalized relations with Cuba, effectively bringing a Marxist-Authoritarian government into the capitalist light and paving the way to ending a 54-year embargo against the country.
  • Released 17 detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, over 10 percent of the detainees at that time.
  • Noted that the Treasury Department sold the last investment related to the Wall Street and auto bailouts.

Another end-of-the-year surprise came after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) insisted that his fellow senators stay in town to vote on a point of order. He wanted his fellow GOP senators to support his position that the spending bill was unconstitutional because it funded President Obama’s immigration actions. He got only 22 votes. Republicans were so angry that 20 of them, including leaders Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), voted against Cruz’s point of order.

Cruz’s demand led to the confirmation of over 90 nominees, almost all those who were pending. Notable among these is the confirmation of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Republicans had kept him waiting for 517 days on orders from the National Rifle Association because Murthy had called gun deaths a public health issue. Also Sarah Saldaña, confirmed as the firs Latina to head up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was opposed by almost all the Republicans. Her vote was 55-39, however, not as close as the 51 to 41 for Murthy. The lack of filibuster kept the vote for these people to a simple majority rather than the 60 percent necessary in the past.

thanks-cruz-1-638x319

Another victory, thanks to Cruz, is the confirmation of 12 judicial nominees changing 9 of the 13 federal Circuit courts of appeal to a majority of Democratic appointments. Until recently, 10 of the 13 had a majority of appointments made by GOP presidents. The confirmations were also extremely diverse: 42 percent women, 19 percent African-American, 11 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent openly gay men or lesbian women, making this the most diverse group of judges in history. Diversity in judicial diversity appointments have greatly progressed since the middle of the 20th century.

judicial_diversityWhen President Obama started his first term, the conservatives—both politicians and pundits—predicted total disaster for the country. Despite their attempts to stop everything that the president promoted, the country is making progress. The conservatives were wrong.

Gas is close to $2 a gallon, unemployment is falling, and the stock market, that skyrocketed during President Obama’s time, stays stable. The president’s approval rating is back up to 47 percent.

The 5-percent annual pace of GDP growth in the third quarter of this year, revised up from the estimated 3.9 percent, is the best quarterly growth since 2003. That was the year before George W. Bush got his second term. Economists believe that the improving economy will continue. The news caused the DOW stock market to soar over 18,000—an increase of 224 percent since President Obama first took office.

A majority of the public rates the country’s economy as “good” for the first time in seven years, when George W. Bush was president. In the CNN/ORC poll, 51 percent of the respondents found the economy to be either “somewhat good” or “very good,” up from 38 percent last October and 10 percent in September 2011.

The economy added 321,000 jobs in November, surpassing expectations and giving 2014 the highest job growth since 1999. The unemployment rate is below 6 percent, the first time since George W. Bush left the country in shambles. Thus far this year, the U.S. added almost 2.7 million jobs, the most since 1999, and dropped the unemployment rate to 5.8 percent from when President Obama first took office. Unemployment rates fell in 41 U.S. states in November; only three states—Connecticut, Louisiana, and Washington—saw these rates go up. Mississippi has the highest rate at 7.3 percent. In six years, President Obama created 4.26 times as many jobs as his predecessor in eight years.

Consumer spending surpassed previous estimates of 2.2 percent to 3.2 percent, partly fueled by the low price of gas. After saving hundreds of dollars this year, consumers may save an average of another $550 next year just on gas.

About 6.4 million Americans have enrolled for individual insurance plans for 2015 through HealthCare.gov in the participating 36 states. Another one million people enrolled in individual states with their own exchange marketplaces. The drop in the number of uninsured is the largest in four decades. Despite promises from conservatives that private-sector employers will get rid of their own coverage plans, that hasn’t happened in many companies. Walmart dropping its plan was the exception, and that company’s plan was largely worthless to many employees because people were employed for fewer than 29 hours of work a week and therefore got no health insurance anyway.

In other health expenditure news, premiums are going down and customer satisfaction is going up. The increase in health care spending is the lowest in 50 years, and the number of medical errors is shrinking system-wide.

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) attempt to destroy the president failed on two counts: Benghazi and the IRS. Much to the fury of many conservatives, a GOP-led House committee’s report, quietly released the day before Thanksgiving, stated that the Obama administration was not at fault for the four deaths at a diplomatic outpost in Libya. Two days before Christmas, Darrell Issa (R-CA), no longer chair of the House Oversight Committee as of January, released a report exonerating President Obama of any blame in the IRS scandal.

Despite a waste of resources in an attempt to prove a connection between the president and accusations that the IRS had targeted conservative organizations for punitive action, Issa failed to support his false belief. Instead he resorted to attempts to connect Democrat legislators with the IRS scandal and rejected any information that the IRS targeted more progressive groups than conservative in investigating non-profit status. After two years of playing “gotcha” with the President of the United States, Issa lost.

The Republicans had a lot to say about the president’s executive orders. Their response to good news? Nothing. Just silence.

One last thing: Sean Hannity has been voted the worst news host by his colleagues at Fox, MSNBC, and CNN.

December 22, 2014

GOP Members Break Pledge, Vote for Spending Bill

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 9:19 PM
Tags: , ,

In 2010, the House leadership made its “Pledge to America” that the GOP would not fill the must-pass government budget legislation with provisions having nothing to do with government funding. The pledge stated:

“We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with ‘must-pass’ legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead, we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.”

The 1,600-page, $1.014 trillion spending bill violates that pledge in many ways. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) said he know that the current bill violates the promise, but they have to do it “to fix bad policy.” So much for promises made by conservatives.

Hidden inside the spending bill are riders that bar federal funding for most abortions, federal and local funding for abortions in Washington, D.C., and fund for federal prisoners. The good news is that there are no new restrictions. Congress typically attaches abortion funding bans to appropriations measures since the first one, the Hyde Amendment, was passed in 1976. Abortion is legal; paying for it isn’t.

Another piece of good news is that the GOP failed to put the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act into the budget. The “non-discrimination” means that doctors, health insurance companies, and hospitals could discriminate against abortion services, going so far as allowing them to refuse information to women about abortion options. Conservatives also failed to stop tax benefits for small businesses that buy health plans covering abortion. The Title X Family Planning Program, helping low-income women avoid unwanted pregnancies, got the same $300 million as last year; the budget provides $101 million to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and $600 million for international family planning programs.

The best news about saving a few of women’s reproductive rights in the spending bill is that Peace Corps members have access to abortion coverage in cases of rape or incest, or to save the pregnant woman’s life, the same coverage that most female federal employees have. Of 433 Peace Corps volunteers surveyed, 8.8 percent said they had been raped or sexually assaulted during their service.

Another plus for women was the bipartisan commission charged with laying out a plan to bring a women’s history museum “on or near” the National Mall. For almost two decades, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has pushed for the creation of a National Women’s History Museum there.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was another winner because of the spending bill. She lost her push to deny the change to the Dodd-Frank bill that could leave U.S. taxpayers on the hook for a $303 billion bailout to the banks, but her campaign against it fortified progressive groups.

Her information about the provision being written by Citigroup lobbyists also got into the general media. Thanks to the banks, unstable financial entities, called custom swaps, will now be insured by the FDIC. Only the taxpayers will be on the hook when these fail. Citigroup is one of four banks (the others being Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase) that control more than 90 percent of the banking industry’s swaps market. These four banks gave an average of 2.6 to 3.1 times to House members and senators who voted in favor of the banks’ plan.

Federal employees, including the military, got a one-percent pay raise; cuts for military civilian personnel budget may result in layoffs. The Affordable Care Act kept its funding at 2014 levels. The moratorium on state and local online sales taxes on Internet access as continued for just one year.

Republicans can take pride in attaching a rider banning the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and stops President Obama from transferring any of the detainees to the United States. It’s a rather hollow victory because the prison now holds only 132 detainees and 64 of them have already been approved for transfers. Recently four detainees were transferred to Afghanistan, the first time that any prisoners have gone to that country since 2009. President Obama has excellent reasons for closing out the prison:

“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held. It is contrary to our values, and it is wildly expensive. We’re spending millions for each individual there.”

One of the best news from the spending bill is that, other than funding Homeland Security only through February, it keeps the government open for another nine months to the end of September 2015. Lawmakers also failed to “defund” the president’s immigration orders, and immigration services won’t stop even if the GOP decides to shut down the government again.

On the minus side, “a House priority,” according to one GOP aide was the provision in the spending bill to stop the EPA from regulating the lead content of fishing tackle and firearms ammunition. The NRA fought to get it included which may make it a “constitutional” right to bear fishing tackle.

The spending bill also protects school children from consuming less salt and all the whole grains that were in the new standards. It does not, however, exempt schools from regulations if they lose money.

Last fall, conservatives, including Blue Dog Dems, fought changing the term “navigable waterways” to “water” to cut down on pollution. A provision in the bill stops the Army Corps of Engineers from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act. The $740,000 in the budget bill for the USDA’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services gives the government more money to process applications for GMOs but not to study them. The government also cannot ask farmers to report emissions from their cattle or the manure lagoons. Although “the agriculture sector is the primary source” of methane emissions, the bill keeps ranchers from needing greenhouse gas permits for “methane emissions” produced by bovine flatulence or belching.

The taxpayers will save money, however, because the bill continues a ban on spending money for portraits of Cabinet secretaries, Congress members, and other important people.

The IRS took a budget cut but was ordered to improve its 800 helpline services. It is also specifically prohibited from making any videos “unless the Service-Wide Video Editorial Board determines in advance that making the video is appropriate” and limited in its conference spending. The bill also cautions the IRS not to use any funds to target U.S. citizens for their First Amendment rights or “ideological beliefs.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is pursuing the agency right down to the end of his term as committee chair.

The spending bill gave other agencies their congressional marching orders. The Department of Treasury cannot use any funds to redesign the one-dollar bill, nor can it build or operate a museum without permission. (But just the one-dollar bill.) The Department of Agriculture can’t use their funds to pay salaries and expenses for those who provide “nonrecourse marketing assistance loans for mohair” or to “procure processed poultry products imported into the United States from the People’s Republic of China for use in the school lunch program.”

The spending bill got bipartisan opposition: of the 40 senators who voted against the measure, 18 were Republicans and 21 were Democrats. One Independent voted against the measure. Three Republicans and one Democrat abstained. Four senators abstained.

House members pledged to not put non-budget items—like the ones above—into the must-pass appropriations bill. This is how they voted:

house vote

December 21, 2014

Hope for Freedom from Religion

Congress gave the country several lumps of coal in the holiday stockings—loss of pensions, threatened taxpayer bailouts of banks, more government peering into everyone’s private life, 10 times more campaign donations, environmental cuts, etc. Those who want a separation of church and state in the United States have received  a few goodies at the end of 2014.

In the House, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) “introduced a resolution to protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas for those who celebrate the holiday. The resolution also disapproves of efforts to ban references to Christmas. We must not allow those who chose to take offense to shut down the religious celebration of every other American.” Americans United for Separation of Church and State gave an excellent rebuttal to Lamborn’s resolution. Lamborn didn’t say how much money he wanted from the federal government to enter the “War on Christmas.” This is the third year that Lamborn has done this and the third year that the resolution went nowhere.

A Kansas organization, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE), claims that evolutionary biology should be prohibited in public-school science classes because evolution is part of a “non-theistic” religious agenda. Fortunately, U.S. District Daniel Crabtree threw their illogic out of court. COPE disapproves of the new science standards, teaching both evolution and climate change as key scientific concepts, because such education leads “impressionable” students “into the religious sphere by leading them to ask ultimate questions like what is the cause and nature of life in the universe – ‘where do we come from?’”

After decades of blaming sexual assault victims for their abuse, officials at Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) is now considered wrong for its “blaming and disparaging” attitude, in reports from 56 percent of 381 current and former students and employees who said they knew how the school dealt with these cases. Victims who reported incidents or sought treatment have been penalized in the past and told not to report the assaults to the police, an illegal action by the university. University officials told those who were children when people in their church assaulted them that speaking out would hurt the Christian cause.

Two years ago Bob Jones hired Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) to complete the investigation but fired them after the school disagreed with the investigation’s direction. Criticism led the school to rehire GRACE. The new president, Steve Pettit, acknowledged that “we failed to uphold and honor our own core values.” He is the first person outside the Jones family to head the university since it was founded in 1927.

In addition, the investigators recommended taking action against the university’s chancellor from 1971 to 2005, Bob Jones III and removing James Berg from his position as head of the counseling programs. GRACE also recommended overhauling the university’s policies on sexual assault, outsourcing victim counseling, offering assistance to past victims, reviewing old complaints to find those that should have been reported to law enforcement, and halting the use of counseling booklets and videos developed by some university officials.

The Kennesaw (GA) City Council has decided to approve a mosque after trying to stop it from opening in a shopping center storefront. The reversal came after a 150-minute with the city attorney and mayor. No reasons were given for the shift in votes, but they may have anticipated an expensive lawsuit. Protesters to the mosque said they were afraid of Muslims’ using the mosque as a center for violent acts of terrorism against Kennesaw residents.

Thanks to a conservative Supreme Court, states may be required to allow a wild variety of displays—including ones from the Pastafarians (who wear colanders on their heads) and the Satanic Temple—beside Christmas nativity scenes endorsing Christianity. Last year, Florida refused a Satanic Temple request to show an angel falling into a pit of fire at the capitol next to Christian displays, but this year the organization is back with its lawyers.

Thirty years ago five conservatives on the Supreme Court held that cities can finance religious displays when Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that Christ in a manger served “legitimate secular purposes.” He disagreed with dissenting justices who claimed that he had equated holy figures with “Santa’s house or reindeer.” Five years later, six justices ruled that a menorah doesn’t endorse religion, that it is just a celebration of “the winter-holiday season, which has attained a secular status in our society.”

The message has been that religious displays are legal if the government doesn’t favor one religion over another. The position was made even clearer in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, which ruled that the school must fund all student publications because it funded a Christian one. Government institutions aren’t allowed to stop some groups or individuals from expression if they open a forum for a specific category. In short, officials who don’t want Satanic Temple displays shouldn’t allow any religious displays.

The Supreme Court went even farther in last year’s Hobby Lobby case when it ruled that beliefs, such as IUDs causing abortions, don’t have to be factual—or even sincere. Plaintiffs just need to claim that this is their belief. That ruling leaves the state of Florida with no legal argument to stop the Satanic Temple’s display or the Pastafarians or any other group that professes a religious belief. Even secular humanism is a religion because secular humanists say it is. Ho! ho! ho!

Last year Adam Fraley was pressured to leave his position as choir director at the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria because he is gay. A new pastor was hired with the provision that he would reinstate Fraley, but he reneged after he took over as minister. David Steele, a former lay leader who had attended the church for 60 years, asked Mantor to reconsider his position on Fraley, and Mantor relieved Steele of his position. The Methodist church does not allow LGBT people to be ordained as ministers, but church leadership is authorized to make decisions about their participation in other roles. The Alexandria church, founded in the late 1800s with its current location built in 1901, will close on December 31. Mantor said that the membership had been declining, but 80 percent of the congregation, most of them over the age of 60, left in support of Fraley.

After Pope Benedict attacked the U.S. nuns six years ago because they only took care of the poor and needy, the 50,000 nuns in 341 religious orders may have come out on top. The former pope wanted them to attack abortionists and LGBT people, but the nuns continued with its focus to actually help people, particularly the poor. Benedict assigned a Seattle bishop to control them while the nuns continued their good works.

A new report from Pope Francis praises the women for their social and educational work while asking them to keep to the Church teachings. There was no specific criticism, however, and the report largely skipped over the investigation’s controversy. Another positive part of the report was its statement that women have more input into decisions that affect them.

Two years ago, Michigan GOP legislators set out to destroy the state in its lame duck session, causing a great deal of anguish to many people. This year, the state House passed a law allowing anyone with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to discriminate against LGBT people in any way that they wanted. Fifteen senators, including one Democrat, asked the Senate Majority Leader to take up the bill that passed the House, but passing it requires 20 votes. The bill is now dead–at least for this year.

Elizabeth Sheppard won a scholarship after she stood up for her beliefs. When her high school economics teacher compared atheism to smoking cigarettes, she recorded him. He claimed that atheism was against human nature and that “the mind rejects the concept of atheism” just like the body rejects smoking. The following week he taught a lesson advocating prayer for a positive state of mind. Her essay for the scholarship application stated, “His actions were unconstitutional and were not related to economics at all. This was economics class, not Sunday school.”

Her message, like the other stories, is that people should not be able to force their personal religion on everyone else. Thanks for all the people who support this position.

December 20, 2014

Conservatives Whine about President’s Shift in Cuba Policy

The big news this week was President Obama’s announcement that relations between the United States and Cuba would be normalized. For three returned Cuban spies, he got a prisoner held for five years for trying to establish a telecommunications network outside government control, a U.S. spy in a Cuba prison for almost 20 years, and 53 political prisoners. Cuban citizens will also be permitted significant access to the Internet, and human officials from the Red Cross and the United Nations will be allowed to be inside the country. This is the first serious change since Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba caused the U.S. to impose its embargo against Cuba almost 54 years ago.

In addition, the policy change will restore full diplomatic relations and expand the import and export of goods. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, Cuba has progressed toward some private ownership of property and employment in private-sector jobs as well as encouragement of foreign investment. The Republicans believe that opening up trade and investing opportunities push countries toward an American-style economy. That was the party’s philosophy in opening up relations with China several decades ago. Their belief in this progress appears limited to GOP moves, however; as usual, President Obama’s actions are wrong simply because he is a Democrat.

The policy shift was announced after 18 months of secret talks between the two countries with the support of Pope Francis. The details were finalized after a 45-minute telephone conversation last Tuesday. Leaders of the two countries had not spoken directly to each other in over 50 years.

President Obama’s new Cuban policy put him in the midst of swarming wasps led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who is still claiming that his parents, who came to the United States five years before Castro took over, are “exiles.” Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has declared Rubio the expert in this area. The media have given Rubio an inordinate amount of time and ink as he whined about possible trading with an oppressive government.

Cuba seems to be the only oppressive government that Rubio hates. In August, top aides to Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) “took an all expenses paid trip to China … courtesy of the Chinese government,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. At a cost of “10,000 a person,” the trips included meetings with Chinese government officials. Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant explained that diplomatic relations with China could spread freedom and democracy. “Staff travel … is sometimes necessary in helping advance our advocacy on a host of foreign policy issues.” That’s pretty much the same thing that the president said about Cuba.

Another possible presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, has also jumped on the denounce-Cuba-relations bandwagon. Because of his position, Bush will lose over $1 million a year as an advisory board member of Barclays. The corporation had to pay a $298-million fine to the U.S. government for illegal transactions with countries subject to U.S. sanction—including Cuba.  Bush also made money from foreign investments in China and personally visited Hainan, a Chinese province. He “praised Hainan’s environmental and economic development and spoke hopefully of establishing stronger ties between Hainan and Florida.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, “[China’s] government remains an authoritarian one-party state. It places arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly, and religion; prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations; and maintains Party control over all judicial institutions.” Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic pointed out, “Of the 16 countries identified by a recent Freedom House report as the world’s worst human rights abusers (Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, and Libya), only four lack a U.S. diplomatic presence (North Korea, Syria, Cuba, and Somalia, which is restoring relations).”

Rubio also doesn’t mind Saudi Arabia, a place that punishes homosexuality with floggings, lashings, and death—including hanging and beheading. Treated like property there, women are arrested for driving. Rubio also supports giving foreign aid to African countries where LGBT people are imprisoned for their sexual orientation and gender identity. In the United States, Rubio opposes civil rights such as job protections and marriage equality to LGBT people.

Elliott Abrams, who had pled guilty to withholding information Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, is concerned that the world will react negatively to the U.S.’s policy shift with Cuba, specifically in the Middle East, Asia, and European countries near Russia. His excuse was that the U.S. has pursued the ineffective policy for over a half century, and it should remain consistent for the sake of stability. Simon Maloy paraphrased Abrams: “How can they trust the U.S. when we’ll only adhere to a policy position for five decades for no discernible reason?”

Abrams missed the great approval from Latin America which called the president’s change, “historic steps … [and] courageous.” The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said, “This is a decision of great vision on both sides, because this conflict, which has significant negative implications for citizens of both countries, had stagnated politically for too long.” French and Canadian officials have also announced enthusiastic support. No country has made any negative announcements about President Obama’s announcement about Cuba.

The GOP is divided about President Obama’s announcement. The two Cuban senators working toward a presidency, Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), are trying to outdo each other in their rage at President Obama. On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said, “The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked. In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea.” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was on the plane from Cuba that brought Alan Gross back after five years and has said that he will sponsor legislation to expand travel from the United States to Cuba. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) promises the same in the House, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced his support for the Obama administration’s policy. GOP allies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce really like the idea of profits through Cuban trade, leaving the conservatives’ opposition to figure out how to fight business interests.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) complained that this shift “is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world.” His position is in comparison to the McCain of 2000, facing off George W. Bush for president, when he said that the U.S. could normalize relationships with Cuba in the same way that it did, with his help, in changing its policy toward Vietnam. The Miami Herald reported in 1999 that McCain was the only GOP presidential candidate at that time who believed “there could be room for negotiation on the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.”

A recent survey shows that 56 percent of people in the United States—and 52 percent of Republicans—want “normalizing relations or engaging more directly with Cuba.” Over half of Cuban Americans in Miami agree, according to a Florida International University poll. This percentage rises among Cuban Americans ages 18-29, 62 percent of whom oppose continuing the embargo. Similarly, 58 percent of those arriving since 1995 oppose continuing the embargo. A large majority of 69 percent favors diplomatic relations with Cuba with 90 percent of younger respondents strongly backing the policy shift. Younger respondents—89 percent—overwhelmingly endorse this policy shift as do 80 percent of the most recent arrivals.

If Rubio is fighting the president to get the vote, he may be disappointed. Asked if they would vote for someone who supports diplomatic relations with Cuba, 53 percent responded very or somewhat likely. Younger voters expressed the strongest support, 75 percent of those ages 18 to 29.

The subject of Cuba called for several questions at President Obama’s end-of-the-year press conference. More notable than his answers to eight journalists—at least to conservatives—is that all eight of these people are women. The right-wing responses went beyond sexist to racist. Fox White House correspondent Ed Henry criticized the women because then didn’t “press” the president. Male journalists who were not called on to provide questions shouted out two questions: did the president have resolutions for the new year, and did the president plan to start smoking Cuban cigars? Not exactly intelligent and thought-provoking—much like the complaints about the president’s new policy with Cuba.

December 18, 2014

Climate Change, Sea Rise Real

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 9:02 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The year’s biggest lie: according to PolitiFact, “climate change is a hoax” was the favored choice. Almost 32 percent of the poll respondents chose this as a lie over nine other options. Scientists overwhelmingly support the position that people are causing the climate change. In contrast, chief climate denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) will chair his chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and 17 of 22 GOP members of the House Science, Space, and Technology deny any climate change or any human cause for the problem.

Extreme heat in the winter when the polar vortex dipped far south into the United States has driven the warming in the Arctic, twice as fast as in lower latitudes. The average temperature for last year ran 1.8 degrees above the 1981-2010 average. Alaska saw 18 degrees above normal, and Greenland’s temperature were 16 degrees over normal last January. Warm temperatures are driving the above-average melt to Greenland’s ice sheet and the disappearance of a snow cover almost a month earlier than normal. The problem for the rest of the world is the serious loss of sea ice, possibly contributing to a wavier jet stream that stalls weather patterns.

Climate projections for 50 years in the future seem so impossible that many people ignore them. Looking 50 years in the past, however, consider the premier beach resort, Ocean City (VA), within “pleasant driving distance” of Washington and Baltimore, according to the glossy sales brochure. Richard F. Hall sold 2000 lots on Cedar Island starting in the 1950s, and his granddaughter and her developer husband sold more land in the 1980s. People built houses and then moved them away from the encroaching sea if they could afford to do so. Scientists warned about the failure of building at that location; state regulators allowed the development although they knew it was doomed for disaster.

cedar-island-houseNow the last house on Cedar Island has been taken by the ocean.

cedar-island-house-2On another barrier island, Miami Beach has spent millions to replenish sand on its beaches. Scientists believe that the seas will rise three or more feet by the end of the century—85 years from now. And people keep buying and building.

At the other end of the United States, the people of Shishmaref, a village of 563 people just 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle, have watched the eroding shores.  The town, originally with wide beaches, got a post office in 1901 and incorporated in 1969. Alaska’s average temperatures have warmed 3.4 degrees during the past half century, and the thawing permafrost is washing away. Fall and early winter storms also eat away at the area because the surrounding sea freezes for much less of the year than in the past. The island where the village is located loses up to 22.6 feet in one year with big storms and an annual of between 2.7 and 8.9 feet.

alaska house disappearsFor many people in the United States, the sea rise is of no concern. Yet 50 percent of the nation’s coastline is at high or very high risk of impacts from sea level rise, and 16.4 million people live in the coastal flood plain. More than half of the area covered by 40 large cities (population over 50,000) is less than 10 feet above the high tide line. Florida has the biggest problem because 27 of these cities are located in that state with 85 percent in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Even worse, each one sits on bedrock filled with holes, leaving them without any method of defense from the rising ocean.

So much ice in Greenland and Antarctica is melting that these two regions are shrinking and changing the pull of gravity. Water levels may fall in those locations while the gravitational pull contributes to the rising waters along the U.S. coastlines. As high-latitude ice melts in the higher latitudes, the water slopes more towards the equator.

Another contributing factor is the expansion of the ocean because of increased warming. People have argued that the rate of sea level is slowing, possibly because the heat is getting sucked up by the colder parts of the ocean. The slowing, however, won’t last. The last time that the planet warmed at this rate, about 120,000 years ago, sea levels were 15 to 30 feet higher than now.

A recent study shows that the worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 6 feet by 2100, but that study is based from expert opinion in 2012. Things have gotten much worse almost three years later as scientists have discovered that the Greenland ice sheet is far less stable than previously thought.

Everyone is affected by sea rise, even those who don’t live in affected areas. The damage was estimated to reach $2 trillion a year by 2100—and that study was two years ago. Cutting temperature increases in half could avoid losing almost $1.4 trillion of the total cost.

If the United States takes no action to slow down global warming, millions of people will face the same disaster during the next 50 years as residents in Ocean City and Shishmaref have endured. And many more millions will suffer from economic disaster.

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