IBI Watch 2/12/12

12 02 2012

America: The Next Generation //

As a child of the baby boom, born just about at its peak, I remember hearing from my elders things like “You kids just don’t understand.”  In recent years, I have told many a young person something different – something like “If I were your age (16-25), I would be furious at what people my age (50s) have done to the world.”  I truly believe that, and I believe the main reason is that we have sold our collective soul to the greed monster.  That is, we have drunk the Kool-Aid that drugs us into seeing ourselves as an island, and not interdependent with everyone and everything else.  That is, as long as I get mine, and you work hard to get yours, everything will be fine.  The result – we have allowed the rich and powerful to game the system, tilting ever more wealth and income in the direction of those who already have so much.  The implications for the next generation could not be more frightful.

Bill Moyers is back on the scene, where we so badly need him.  He has dedicated an entire installment of his newest program, Moyers and Company to prospects for today’s young generation.  I am especially glad to see that he uses my preferred generational term for these young people – the Millennials.  Calling them Generation Y (i.e. the next generation after X) is silly and has some serious problems.  What happens after Generation Z?  And please don’t refer me to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for the answer.  See Moyers’ show here.  Note – this link connects to Moyers’ closing essay, which includes a strong note of hope – and a boost to one of my favorite sites, AlterNet.  You can easily get to the rest of the show from that link – and I recommend that you do!  Here is another important segment, an interview with Heather McGhee, a strong advocate for her generation, and for the idea that we can create public solutions for some of the biggest problems facing the nation in general and Millennials in particular.

 

Tax the Rich . . . Desserts and Beverages

A new movement seeks to place taxes on soda that contains sugar, and even on the sweet stuff itself.  While incurring the usual chorus of opposition – decrying the ‘nanny state’ – the movement does have some strong statistical backing.  Here is a short Associated Press article discussing an obesity ‘plateau.’  And here is a short YouTube video featuring Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt, and Claire Brindis, authors of a major new study linking sugar consumption, obesity and metabolic syndrome.  They compare the movement to reduce sugar consumption to the early days of the anti-smoking movement.  Try this AlterNet article as well.

Michael Pollan has a lot to say on this matter – with a big-picture view.  The author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, among other works, says:  “Eat food – mostly vegetables, and not too much.”  And if you need some motivation to cut down soda consumption, check this story on what would happen to a living creature that happened to submerge in a container of Mountain Dew.  Whew, good thing the Dew goes on our insides rather than our outsides!

 

Those Evil, Job-Killing Saviors of Capitalism

It’s a case that needs to be made, though few listen.  The case?  The need for a powerful government regulatory system.  Mike Meyers wrote a terrific opinion piece for the 2/12 Star Tribune.  It attacks the modern GOP’s top talking point – that regulating business is the same as killing jobs, and that solving today’s societal ills is simple.  Their solution, naturally, would be to put our current deregulatory mania into hyper drive – end the minimum wage, kill the new Consumer Protection Bureau, abolish the EPA and on and on.  Meyers rightly points out that deregulation has been a bipartisan effort since 1992.  He also notes that many have forgotten the lessons of the past – that regulation has saved countless lives and protected vast natural resources so they can be enjoyed by future generations.  Ironically, one of the most powerful proponents of reasonable regulation to head off capitalism’s excesses was a Republican – Theodore Roosevelt.

But that was then.  This is now.  Many of my fellow progressives wonder why so many have forgotten crucial history.  I see clear, if not simple answers.  Those would be distraction, short attention spans and most of all, super-powered, massively funded corporate propaganda.  You know, regulation bad, unbridled capitalism good.

Though he does argue the point explicitly, Meyers makes the pragmatic case for President Obama’s reelection.  Though I disagree with the president on much, he is clearly on the correct side of this divide.  He dares to see government as a tool that can be employed to do good for society.  Every one of his opponents stands in the other camp.  They are the modern, extreme proponents of President Reagan’s adage about government being the problem.  In today’s climate, the Great Communicator would not stand a chance – too liberal.

No one – not Meyers, not me, not most progressives – is arguing for massive government regulatory expansion.  But reasonable controls on capitalistic excesses?  Sign me up.  Best place to start – the fight to get corporate money out of politics.  Check Annie Leonard’s latest animation, and your ideas will be popping.

 

Mitt and the Spoilers

This band of brothers continues to savage each other.  Republicans just can’t seem to line up behind Willard Mitt Romney.  He was just too damned liberal as Massachusetts governor, and then there is that Mormon thing.  Not that they are religiously prejudiced, mind you.  And then there are his inevitable gaffes, as he tries to be Mr. Right for the Tea Party extremists, and everyman to the (non-billionaire) masses.  No wonder his three remaining opponents keep scoring points.  It certainly looks from here that, absent a last-minute knight in right-shining armor (think Jeb or Christy), a battle-scarred Mitt will be on the stage debating Obama this summer and fall.  But it is still entertaining to check in on the band’s latest doings.  Let’s look at last weekend’s big victor, Rick Santorum.  Can you say religious hypocrisy?  And then there is the Pignorance Parade.  Question there – who can more vehemently deny the scary reality of man-made climate change?  Jury’s still out on that one.  Then there’s that inconvenient racist ‘past’ of that darling of some progressives, Ron Paul.  Meanwhile, let’s celebrate Mitt Romney’s dance-this-way-then-that-way strategy with, what else?  A song!

 

Climate Denialism is Cracked

While we are embroiled in our endless campaign, our vast, uncontrolled experiment with the atmosphere continues apace.  In fact, the pace is picking up.  Scientists recently discovered a growing, 18-mile long crack in an Antarctic glacier.  That particular event may not be directly connected to manmade climate change.  But this is not in dispute – ice is disappearing on a global scale, as temperatures warm.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at 393 parts per million and growing, due to our increasing greenhouse emissions.  Experts say we need to reduce that to 350 ppm to head off cascading, catastrophic climate feedbacks.

Another item in the news (and one that denialists can wrongly seize as a rebuttal point) is the recent record-setting cold wave in Europe.  My reading suggests that long-term weakening of the Gulf Stream could be a culprit, but scientists are currently saying another factor may be involved.

A favorite climate denialist rebuttal is this – it’s the sun heating things up, not our smoke and exhaust.  If you in any way believe that, check this short article from Joe Romm’s Climate Progress site.  Note the chart – while the sun’s activity declines, the earth keeps warming.  And Romm’s work deserves more exploration.

The climate is complex.  Though real scientists are overwhelming in their consensus that the system is changing, largely through human actions, the complexity allows denialists, paid shills and pignorant pundits to fog the air with their manufactured doubt.  Sometimes a clever metaphor can make things clearer.  This piece on steroids and home runs is surprisingly effective.

It is clear as day that market factors alone will not solve the climate crisis.  This article explores how government regulation and direct action will be needed – both domestically and internationally.  And a new study shows that – surprise, surprise – awareness of the issue and willingness to support action rise and fall with media coverage.  Who woulda thunk that?!

 

The Haves and the Envious Slugs

An assumption underlies indifference to the growing wealth and income gap.  That is – the wealthy earned every penny of their fortune, and they deserve to be minimally taxed – if at all.  And furthermore, if we would just get the government off the backs of these titans, they would deign to create more jobs for the rest of us lowly servants.  Take this one short step further, and the assumption becomes – the poor – working and unemployed – are that way because they lack moral character.  Paul Krugman explored and demolished that notion in a recent column.

I like to think of the divide this way – the haves and the haves’ agents.  Those agents, of course, are our members of Congress.  A recent bill – co-sponsored by Minnesota’s own Tim Walz – sought to prevent those very legislators from profiting based on insider information.  The bill passed in the Senate, and then in the House.  But the House bill is watered down, thanks in large part to one of the most corporatized agents of all, Eric Cantor.  Sign this petition – as I did – to get the backbone back into that bill.

 

Taking Care

A fine new song from the Boss is a theme for this year’s election.  Check the video.

 

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

 

Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper

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One response

12 02 2012
Mindy

And we cannot leave the mess our generation made for the Millennials to clean up alone. Thanks for rolling up your sleeves and working for all!

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