IBI Watch 5/13/12

13 05 2012

Magical Mystery Tour  //

Today’s Republican Party is a big, well-appointed express bus.  It travels from place to place, picking up passengers at various stops with various itineraries.  The passengers at the first stop read the overhead sign:  ‘We hate abortion.’  They gladly board.  At the second stop, the overhead reads ‘No gay marriage, no way, never.’ The second enthusiastic bunch boards.  At the third stop, a different crowd reads ‘No gun control.’  Weapons fans loaded, the bus is full.  The happy passengers can’t read the overhead now.  Good thing.  It reads ‘Plutocracy Forever.’

That trip to permanent plutocracy is not merely succeeding.  If anything, it is accelerating. This latest, very well researched Joshua Holland piece details the top dogs’ victory, and its continuing further consolidation.  Remembering that plutocracy is all about income and wealth inequality makes this recent Paul Krugman column so much more relevant and insightful.  The Nobel-winning economist notes that political polarization – the hallmark of contemporary America – has always matched income inequality.  Here, he discusses how the Republican Party has managed to institutionalize inequality:

“So how did that happen? For the past century, political polarization has closely tracked income inequality, and there’s every reason to believe that the relationship is causal. Specifically, money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation.”

Krugman goes on to argue that this fixation on protecting the power and wealth of our country’s true elite has effectively stymied efforts to get the economy moving again in the lingering aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse.  He details what he believes we should be doing here and here.

Many are aghast at the country’s burgeoning national debt.  Krugman would argue that the debt should not be the top concern right now, and that a pure austerity program risks outright depression.  A balanced approach, long-and short-term, would include partial restoration of income taxes on the wealthiest.  But balance is not what we are about today.  One of the most frequent Republican specters goes this way – if you raise taxes, the wealthiest will leave the country.  At least one expert believes that fear overblown.  And this is no radical lefty.  Bruce Bartlett was a key advisor to two Republican presidents (though not W).


A $2 Billion Oops

It was a bad day at the office for JP Morgan Chase this week.  You no doubt heard about the massive loss that sent their stock price way down.  And this is the large bank that escaped the 2008 crisis seemingly unscathed.  This could not happen at this master-of-the-universe, too-big-to-fail institution.  Until it did, of course.  The latest failure has rekindled talk of the Volcker Rule – designed to curtail banks’ risky investing with their own money.  This New York Times article actually appeared a few days before the Morgan Chase revelation.

This recalls two things – a concise, 60-minute This American Life edition that got to the heart of the events that led to the 2008 collapse; a more in-depth look at the whole banking system and how it got so out of control – the documentary An Inside Job.

Failed attempts to apply sensible regulation to prevent future crises like 2008 and worse seem incomprehensible except for one fact.  That would be, of course, that big money rules our entire political system.



The anti-government philosophy of Ayn Rand underlies the extreme positions of today’s Republicans.  Some of the party’s most prominent figures have long sung the ubercapitalist,  atheistic Russian émigré’s praises.  That’s what makes Paul Ryan’s public comeuppance so satisfying.  The Wisconsin congressman and Republican budget guru has been known to make Atlas Shrugged required reading for his staffers.  But now, his eyes on possible national office (Romney’s VP), he has been forced to heed criticism from the leaders of his church.   He can collect those books and go to confession, but he can’t erase this Rand- praising video.  Say what you will, the Catholic hierarchy is nothing if not consistent (pedophile priest scandals notwithstanding of course).

This AlterNet piece effectively sums up a huge contradiction between two driving forces in today’s Republican Party.   Sara Robinson offers an interesting take on the Rand matter.  She even works Mother’s Day and George Lakoff into her commentary.


Warming World, Waking Public?

Some denialist pundits have argued that manmade warming of the Earth – and the consequent perturbation of climate – has slowed or even reversed in recent years.  But the numbers don’t back that up.   Yet, despite mounting evidence that changes are already disturbing ecosystems, this issue still does not excite a lot of interest in the public.  While we still have a long way to go before building enough public interest and political will to take on this monstrous issue, some dedicated experts are working hard toward those goals.

NASA meteorologist James Hansen – who first brought manmade climate change to Congress’s attention (only to be thwarted by the pignorant (pretend ignorant) Bush-Cheney administration) has a new arm-waving article about the folly of exploiting tar sands. And activist Bill McKibben recently scheduled a worldwide awareness event.  The result was this short, inspiring video collection of people taking part in this ‘dot-connecting’ activity.

For just a little more inspiration, check this optimistic prediction of the growth of  renewable energy sources.


Numbers, Religion and Food

While it is supremely important that the world attack the manmade climate chaos problem with intellect and vigor (it will start anytime now), a root cause analysis of global warming and many other environmental challenges would finger one culprit – unfettered continued growth in the human population.  It is the most important environmental problem, long-term.  And it is hardly discussed at all.

It turns out that, under direction of President Nixon, this country thoroughly analyzed population growth and its security implications in the early 1970s.  And the researchers got it right.  Read about the NSSM – National Security Study Memorandum 200 – right here.   Just look at these laudable and reachable goals.

  • The U.S. would provide world leadership in population growth control.
  • The U.S. would seek to attain its own population stability by the year 2000. This would have required a one-child family policy for the U.S., thanks to the phenomenon of demographic momentum, a requirement the authors well understood (the Chinese did not adopt their one-child family policy until 1977).
  • Have as goals for the U.S.: making family planning information, education and means available to all people of the developing world by 1980, and achieving a 2-child family in the developing countries by 2000.
  • The U.S. would provide substantial funds to help achieve these goals.

So what has hindered progress since?  Hint – the institution was mentioned earlier in this post.

One thing is very clear – as the human population continues to grow, more and more food will be needed.  Experts say diverse seed stock – yielding a wide variety of vegetables – is one of the best ways to defend the food supply.  This article explains the loss of variety and perils of monoculture very well, particularly with a graphic image that shows the numbers of strains that have been allowed to vanish.

There are at least two organizations trying to help wake young people up to these problems:  http://www.seedsavers.org/   and the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway


Two Baseball Stories – One Sickens, One Inspires

How would you like to play on a school baseball team, qualify for a key game, and then have your team forfeit the championship game based on archaic religious dogma worthy of the Taliban?  That story is so disgusting, it requires an antidote – an inspirational video.  This one is that, big-time.


Evil Pursuit

Can you think of a young person who deserves a traumatized, awful birthday experience?  Of course you can’t.  But if you did, you might consider this outfit.



“Climate change isn’t just a scientific question. It’s a moral, a religious, a cosmological question. It involves everything we are and what we have a right to do.”
– Richard Cizik




Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN



Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Lucinda Plaisance




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