Friday, February 24, 2017

State of the Planet Address 2017

Every year since 2011, the TSAP has been giving our annual State of the Planet Address in mid-January.  This year, because of all the madness going on in Washington recently, we have delayed it to February. Yes, we know it is a bit of a downer to say the least.  So sit down, take off your rose-colored glasses, and read on:

Our planet is in grave danger, and has been for quite some time now.  We face several serious long term problems:  climate change, deforestation, desertification, loss of biodiversity, overharvesting, energy crises, and of course pollution of many kinds.  Polar ice caps are melting.  Rainforests have been shrinking by 50 acres per minute.  Numerous species are going extinct every year.  Soil is eroding rapidly.  Food shortages have occurred in several countries in recent years.  Weather has been getting crazier each year thanks to climate change.  We have had numerous wildfires, floods followed by long periods of drought, and a "storm of the century" at least once a year for the past few years.   And it is only getting worse every year.  In fact, 2016 has been the hottest year on record, and the third straight record year.

None of this is an accident of course.  These problems are man-made, and their solutions must also begin and end with humans.  We cannot afford to sit idly by any longer, lest we face hell and high water in the not-too-distant future.  Our unsustainable scorched-earth policy towards the planet has to end.  Yesterday.

While we do not invoke the precautionary principle for all issues, we unequivocally do for the issue of climate change and any other environmental issues of comparable magnitude.  In fact, for something as dire as climate change, as of 2015 we now support a strong "no regrets" approach.  With no apologies to hardcore libertarians or paleoconservatives, in fact. We are not fazed one bit by the naysayers' pseudoscience as it does not really "debunk" the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The only serious debate is about how fast it will happen, and when the tipping point (or points) will occur. It is not a matter of if, but when. And the less precarious position is to assume it is a real and urgent problem. We need to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where the CO2 concentration is at or below 350 ppm, ASAP.  And it is currently at an unsustainably high level of 400+ ppm, and growing.

Solving the problem of climate change will also help to solve the other ecological crises we are facing, for they all ultimately have the same root causes, not least of which is our insatiable addiction to dirty energy.  However, there is a right way to solve it, and several wrong ways.  Technology is important, but it won't be decisive on its own (economics geeks may recall Jevons Paradox).  The real problem is the paradigm that our society has been following, and that system is based on wetiko, the parasite of the mind and cancer of the soul.  It often seems that the only difference between capitalism and cannibalism is the spelling.

The TSAP endorses the ideas embodied in Steve Stoft's new book Carbonomics, most notably a tax-and-dividend system that would tax carbon (i.e. fossil fuels) at the source, and give all Americans an equal share of the revenue generated from this tax.  (Note that our proposal to tax natural resources and pay out an Alaska-like citizen's dividend already includes this.)  Yes, prices for various things would undoubtedly rise due to this tax, all else being equal, but the dividend will allow Americans to pay for this increase. The average American would in fact break even, but those who (directly or indirectly) use less energy than average will effectively pay less tax, while the energy hogs will effectively be taxed more, as they should be. Thus it is certainly not a regressive tax, and may even be mildly progressive. This is both the simplest and most equitable way to reduce carbon emissions as well as other forms of pollution, not to mention waste of dwindling non-renewable resources. The real challenge is getting the feds to accept something that won't directly benefit them (in the short term).  Carbonomics also includes other good ideas, such as improving how fuel economy standards are done, and crafting a better verison of the Kyoto treaty.  

In addition to the ideas in Carbonomics, we also support several other measures to help us end our addiction to fossil fuels once and for all.  Our Great American Phase-Out plan would phase out all fossil fuels by 2030 at the latest, via alternative energy, efficiency, and conservation.  One good idea to further the development of alternative energy would be the use of feed-in tariffs for renewable power sources.

We support ending net deforestation completely, and putting carbon back in the ground through carbon sequestration. One method is known as biochar, a type of charcoal made from plants that remove carbon dioxide from the air, that is subsequently buried. This is also an ancient method of soil fertilization and conservation, originally called terra preta.  It also helps preserve biodiversity.  Another crucial method would be regenerative organic farming, which also turns the soil into an effective carbon sink as well.

We've said this before, and we'll say it again.  Our ultimate goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030, but we need to hedge our bets.  We can phase out fossil fuels, or we can phase out nuclear power, but we can't do both at the same time--and fossil fuels need to be phased out first, and quickly.  Nuclear is doing a pretty good job of phasing itself out as it is.  So let's not get rid of it prematurely. 

But the biggest elephant in the room (make that the elephant in the Volkswagen) is overpopulation.  It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation, but it must be addressed or else all other causes become lost causes in the long run. We absolutely need to have fewer kids, or nature will reduce our population for us, and the latter will NOT be pleasant to say the least. The TSAP believes in voluntarily reducing the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.5-1.9 children per woman to do so, along with reducing immigration dramatically, but let us be clear that we do NOT support draconian and/or coercive measures of population control (like China has used).  We believe that more liberty is the answer, not less.   In fact, the two most effective means of reducing the birthrate are poverty reduction and female empowerment.  Fortunately, America's TFR has recently dropped to below 1.9, with no indication of rising back above replacement rate in the near term.  But clearly we cannot keep growing and growing, that's for sure (in fact, we need to shrink). And our insatiable addiction to economic growth (despite being decoupled from well-being) is also every bit as harmful as overpopulation as well, if not more so.  Growth for the sake of growth, the ideology of the cancer cell,  is clearly one of the most asinine obsessions our nation (and world) has ever had.  We clearly need to transition to a steady-state economy, most likely following a period of what Naomi Klein calls "selective degrowth" as well.  And to do that, we need a radical paradigm shift to happen yesterday.  Put another way, we need to leave room for Nature, lest Nature not leave room for us.  We have been warned, decades ago in fact.  Unfortunately, such warnings have largely fallen of deaf ears until very recently.

Last but not least, the TSAP now believes that as long as men remain in charge, we are all merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Let's face it, it ain't gonna be us fellas who will save the world, as the past 7000 years or so have shown.  We paved paradise and put up a parking lot, we created a desert and called it peace.  We devoured and suffocated our own empire, and our proverbial 15 minutes of fame is almost up.  Only when women finally take over and reclaim their rightful position as the new leaders of the free world--and they will--will there be any real permanent solution.

Bottom line: we need to take the environment much more seriously than we do now.  We ignore it at our own peril.  And while the current administration in DC clearly doesn't care, We the People must act nonetheless.

Oh, by the way, wanna hear a joke?  Peak Oil.  Not saying it won't happen, of course--it will eventually peak and decline at some point--but climate change kinda supersedes it.  While conventional oil most likely has already peaked, there is more than enough total oil (including unconventional) to deep-fry the Earth--and most of which needs to stay in the ground if we wish to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Fossil fuels are, after all, what Buckminster Fuller referred to as our planet's "energy savings account", which we need to wean ourselves off of and save just in case of a planetary emergency--and he first said this in 1941!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Welcome to Necrotizing Fascism

A recent article confirms what we have already known all long:  too much inequality is bad for the economy, and extreme inequality (like we currently have in the USA as well as globally) can eventually lead to economic collapse.  This occurs because of the "science of flow".  To wit, just like a living organism needs good circulation, so too does an economic system.  And when circulation gets cut off, that results in necrosis--the death of tissue that eventually overwhelms the whole system.  Inequality, and the hoarding at the top that causes it, indeed cuts off the circulation of money, and it is very telling that nearly every major economic crash or depression has been preceded by relatively extreme economic inequality.

We should also note that, as history has shown, such resulting economic crises tend to breed authoritarian political systems, most notably fascism, when such crises are not resolved within short order.  And austerity policies only worsen recessions and depressions, making fascism even more likely.  Look no further than Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the Golden Dawn party in Greece in the 2010s, and of course the Tea Party followed by Trump in the USA as well.  And the resulting fascism only makes inequality even worse in the long run, despite any initial short-term benefits that may occur.  And the vicious cycle continues.
Thus, when such necrosis breeds fascism, and that in turn breeds further inequality and necrosis, we have coined a new term for it.  We call it, "Necrotizing Fascism", named after the flesh-eating disease "necrotizing fasciitis".   And that is basically what we have now under the Trump regime.  Believe me.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump's Immigration Policy is Cruel, Callous, and Counterproductive

One issue on which the TSAP has changed considerably over the years for the better, especially more recently, has been immigration policy, which we have recently updated in our party platform.  And not coincidentally, that very issue is emerging as one of the most controversial issues concerning the new Trump regime, who is currently displaying a very angry, paranoid, hard-line, nativist, racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic character.  Such toxic and regressive attitudes toward immigrants and immigration clearly do far more harm than good overall.  Because like it or not, America has always been a nation of immigrants, and we always will be, believe me.

National security is an important issue, no doubt about that.  But Trump's method of dealing with such concerns, most notably the draconian Muslim Ban that was recently struck down by the courts, is far too crude and extreme, and ultimately makes us less safe on balance.  Most Muslims are good people, only a tiny fraction are jihadists, and we have more to worry about from reich-wing extremists in this country than we do from jihadists nowadays. In fact, you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist of any kind.  And slamming the door on refugees (who are fleeing unimaginable horrors due in part to American foreign policy blunders, and were already being vigorously vetted under Obama) is downright cruel and un-American. Besides, such draconian and xenophobic policies only alienate more people in the Muslim world, and are thus a yuuuge propaganda victory for ISIL and their fellow-travelers.

"Building the wall" along our border with Mexico would also not be a particularly wise idea on balance.  Especially Trump's idea of demanding that Mexico pay for it or reimburse us for it (or slapping a tariff on goods from Mexico to pay for it), all $15-25 billion dollars of it.  That is practically the definition of chutzpah!  And it would be wasteful.  We already have a fairly large fence in place along most of the land border, and the rest of the border's terrain is really not very suitable for building a wall there.  And it would still have to be patrolled, wall or no wall, so investing more in patrols and technology would make more sense if border security were really the goal.  In practice, it is starting to sound less like the Great Wall of China (which ultimately failed to keep out Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes, by the way), and more and more like the infamous Berlin Wall (which effectively kept half of Europe prisoner for decades).  Now, if only Gorbachev would tell him, "Mr. Trump, tear down this wall!"  (The irony.)

What about all those mass deportations that Trump has promised, and have apparently already begun to some extent?  Well, those who support such an idea apparently haven't exactly thought that one through.  First of all, it would be a logistical nightmare in practice to round them all up.  Secondly, deporting all or most of the currently undocumented immigrants in this country, or causing them to "self-deport", would basically blow a YUUUUGE hole in the economy, particularly in agriculture where they are a YUUUUGE part of the workforce, and the resulting labor shortage would cause food prices to go up.  BIGLY.  When Alabama tried such a crackdown a few years back, that was exactly what happened, so imagine that happening nationwide.  (As for the old chestnut, "dey turk ur jerbs", most of those "jerbs" are ones that very few native-born Americans are willing to do at current wages and conditions.) And last but not least, doing so would be downright cruel and callous indeed, and would break up countless families with children.

And about all that crime that immigrants supposedly bring to this country with them?  Well, the best studies find that more immigration actually tends to reduce crime overall.  And sanctuary cities also tend to have lower crime rates (and better economies as well) compared with similarly-matched non-sanctuary cities. Another myth bites the dust.

What we really need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform like Obama and Congressional Democrats had tried a few years ago, but Republicans had severely obstructed.  The system is clearly broken as it is, and so many problems can literally be solved with the stroke of a pen.  We need to make it easier to enter legally, and also easier to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, as the current process is ridiculous.  We need amnesty and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are currently here, we need to pass the DREAM Act yesterday, and we need to speed up the ridiculously long backlog of people waiting years to get in legally.  After that, of course, we should still reduce the quotas so going forward we let in no more immigrants than the previous year's emigration rate (around 200,000 per year) in order to fight overpopulation.  Note that this last bit is still part of our party platform, and has been since 2009, though we should note that the very high immigration rates (both legal and illegal) that prevailed under Bush have actually plummeted under Obama for a variety of reasons.  And finally, we need to focus on the "push" factors in the sending countries, not just the "pull" factors. 

Anything less would be uncivilized.  Believe me.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Drug Policy Discussions Have Moved

Since the ingnominious 2016 election has concluded, the True Spirit of America Party has essentially moved all new drug (and alcohol) policy related posts and discussions to our other blog, Twenty-One Debunked. Except of course for those drug policy issues directly related to the Trump administration, which will likely be significant.  Please keep following that other blog as well.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Vote of No Confidence for Trump

Well, it's official.  It's been only two weeks now and Trump has already done more damage than most presidents have done in eight years.  And his second week turned out to be even worse than the first.

It should come as no surprise now that his approval rating is at a record low and his disapproval rating is at a record high already compared with previous incoming presidents.  It took a mere eight days to reach over 50% disapproval, something that normally takes at least 500 days if it ever even reaches that high at all.  Let that sink in for a moment.  And the protests are just getting warmed up!

So Donald, take a hint already.  We the People hereby give you a vote of "no confidence".  BIGLY.  Believe me.  When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.  Put simply, YOU'RE FIRED!