By Zack Beauchamp
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, given the fraught political debate, that the most interesting televised take on inequality is snuck in through metaphor. More surprising, though, is that the vehicle is a kids show airing on Nickelodeon. Yet it’s true: The Legend of Korra (the more-than-worthy sequel to the beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender) has been directly channeling the some of most philosophically sophisticated arguments on the morality and politics of redistributing wealth. It’s both a valuable public service and a joy to watch.
Korra is set in a world where some people, referred to as benders, have the ability to manipulate the four elements (water, earth, fire, and air). Benders have huge natural advantages over non-benders: being able to shoot fire out of your hands or freeze people in blocks of ice clearly gives you a decent leg up in a fight. But the show digs a layer deeper than that obvious use, creating a 1920s-esque industrial millieu wherein the social order constructed and maintained on bending abilities. Electricity is generated by firebenders who can manipulate lightning, the main professional sport is a sort of bending boxing, and so on.
The main thematic arc of Korra comes from a clear implication of that premise: benders and non-benders are not each others’ social equals. Because so many important roles are open only to benders, non-benders are systematically disadvantaged, denied access to important sectors of government and the economy. The police force, for example, is made up of specialized earthbenders who can manipulate metal. This state of affairs raises a basic moral question: is it acceptable to structure a society where the luck of being born a bender plays such a huge role in shaping your life chances?
Interestingly, the show makes its villain a champion of the most egalitarian solution to this problem. The masked terrorist Amon leads a shadowy organization called The Equalists, whose is to eliminate bending altogether to create a more equal society. By contrast, the heroine Korra is the bending champion par excellence: she’s The Avatar, the one bender in the world capable of manipulating all four elements. On a children’s show, even one as sophisticated as this one, the message of the good guy/bad guy division is clear: the proponents of equality are in the wrong. Though it’s made clear that Amon has a point, the means by which he goes about “redistributing” talents ?taking away benders’ powers?seems unjust.
The debate between Amon and Korra, and the show’s slant on it, could have been ripped from the work of the 20th century’s most influential political philosopher, John Rawls. Rawls is famous, in part, for arguing that the natural distribution of talents is morally arbitrary: just because you’re lucky to be born smarter, faster, or even more predisposed to working hard than your neighbor doesn’t mean you’re entitled to more stuff than she is. Governments, then, have no moral reason to allow more talented individuals to acquire more resources than their less-talented peers. This view, called “luck egalitarianism,” seems to support Amon’s position. Just because benders have natural advantages non-benders doesn’t mean they ought to be allowed to have greater opportunity from the get-go. Indeed, Rawls contemplated a version of Amon’s solution,casting a sympathetic eye to the idea that it would be a good thing to use genetic engineering to improve the lot of those born with natural disadvantages.
But Rawls explicitly rejects Amon’s actual proposal, the idea that we ought to take away talents from individuals in the name of promoting equality. Rawls was, in contrast to his Marxist opponents, a liberal progressive, willing to tolerate a degree of inequality inasmuch as that inequality improved the lot of the poorest people in society. Capitalism was good, Rawls thought, because the limited amount of inequality
it required significantly improved the lives of the poor by generating more wealth. In Korra‘s world, destroying the technology that benders power would almost certainly make the poorest non-benders worse off. If all the firebenders disappeared, Republic City’s power grid would shut off overnight, hurting non-benders that depend on it for heating, refrigeration, and light. Rawls, then, likely
would have taken Korra’s side: benders should be allowed to keep their powers because it’s best for the most vulnerable that they do.
In this case, that solution seems like a bit of a cop-out. We feel like Amon is doing something wrong when (spoiler!) he takes away a famous pro-bending team’s abilities not because it hurts the poor, but because he’s doing an injustice to the team members themselves:
This raises the idea that while significant inequality might be wrong, it might also intrinsically wrong to forcibly take the abilities from people that give rise to some inequalities. Of course, we aren’t confronted with this trade-off in the current American economic climate, as much of our inequality is caused by policy that favors the not-necessarily-so-talented 1%.
Nonetheless, though, America’s inequality problem does force us to grapple with basic moral questions about why and how much redistribution is morally justified. The Legend Of Korra, by setting up a fictional world where radical left and progressive liberal views of economic justice clash, is helping us clarify our most fundamental beliefs on the topic. Not bad for a Saturday morning cartoon.
Zack Beauchamp contributes to Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish at Newsweek/Daily Beast. You can follow him on Twitter at @zackbeauchamp.
Yesterday, Nebraska GOP primary voters nominated dark horse candidate and state Sen. Deb Fischer as their candidate for an open U.S. Senate race this November. In choosing Fischer the Nebraska GOP aligns itself with a candidate who recently called for a very high stakes game of chicken — flirting with economic catastrophe in order to force Congress to permanently enshrine Tea Party fiscal policy into the Constitution.
During last year’s debt ceiling crisis, which Speaker John Boehner threatened to repeat next year, House and Senate Republicans threatened to force the United States to default on its debt — an outcome that would have caused “a bigger GDP drop than that experienced during the Great Recession of 2008″ — unless President Obama agreed to an increasingly escalating series of demands for austerity. Even after this campaign of extortion forced the White House to make significant concessions, Fischer indicated that she would have simply let the economy blow up because Congress didn’t also agree to a constitutional amendment:
Nebraska’s 2012 Republican Senate candidates turned thumbs down Monday on the compromise debt reduction plan agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders.
“I would vote no on this specific bill because Congress needs to pass a balanced budget (constitutional) amendment first,” said state Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine.
It’s not clear which version of the balanced budget amendment Fischer is referring to here, but even the mildest forms of such an amendment are terrible ideas because they prevent the United States from responding to economic downturns or unexpected disasters, while simultaneously turning control of the nation’s budget over to unelected judges who are ill-equipped to handle it.
Moreover, at the time that Fischer endorsed blowing up the economy unless Congress votes to change the Constitution, the leading Republican proposal for such an amendment imposed such draconian spending cuts that it would “throw about 15 million more people out of work, double the unemployment rate from 9 percent to approximately 18 percent, and cause the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing by an expected 2 percent.” The lead sponsor of this plan to trigger a new Great Depression, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), also called for forcing a debt default unless Congress gives him everything he wants.
In other words, while little is known about the obscure state lawmaker who wants to join the United States Senate, her willingness to play chicken with America’s prosperity strongly suggests that she would line up with the most hardline members of the Republican caucus.
by Daniel J. Weiss, Jackie Weidman, Celine Ramstein
On April 13 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever rules to limit carbon dioxide pollution from new power plants. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to climate change and threatens the health and safety of Americans. Existing power plants are responsible for adding more than 2 billion tons of carbon and other toxic pollutants into the air each year?nearly 13,000 pounds for every man, woman, and child in the United States. The new rules will reduce the pollution added by new power plants by 123 billion pounds annually.
This piece explains the carbon pollution standard?s benefits and why it?s important. Besides cutting pollution the standard provides regulatory certainty for utilities planning to build new power plants. Still, big utilities and the coal companies, along with their congressional allies, are mobilizing to block the standard. But they?re out of touch with public opinion. Speak up on this issue by submitting a public comment to the EPA supporting the rule.
Before we get into what the EPA standard does, let?s look at why it?s necessary.
Power plants emit carbon dioxide pollution, which is a greenhouse gas that leads to climate change. One of the consequences of climate change is more smog, which harms human health. A warming atmosphere increases the creation of smog because smog forms from volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that bake in the presence of sunlight. Smog irritates the lungs, spurring respiratory ailments and sparking asthma attacks. Children, seniors, and those with respiratory diseases are most vulnerable to harm from smog.
A report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that the health cost of air pollution from coal electricity generation is $62 billion annually. A 2011 study in the New York Academy of Sciences by the late Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School and others projects that the ?best estimates from literature? of the ?climate damages from [coal] combustion emissions? is $62 billion annually.
Climate change can also increase the frequency or severity of extreme weather events, causing more event-related deaths and injuries. For instance, the Associated Press reported that the 2010 Russian heat wave that caused 11,000 deaths was ?linked to extreme temperatures and stifling smog.?
The United States suffered from multiple extreme weather events over the past two years. 2010 had the most disaster declarations ever declared. Last year was even worse, with a 20 percent increase from the previous record. Fourteen of the 2011 extreme weather disasters caused more than $1 billion in damages, with total devastation that cost nearly $60 billion. This extreme weather reemphasizes the urgency of a national carbon emissions-reduction plan.
As Nobel Laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned on April 11, the scientific evidence of the effects of climate change grows stronger every week. He cautioned that:
[Sea level] is rising even faster than we thought. The number of violent rainstorms have increased faster than we thought.
Moreover, the World Health Organization warns that ?climate change affects the fundamental requirements for health?clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.? Smog, rising seawaters contaminating drinking water, famine, and floods are all future harms from climate change. In 2009 WHO estimated that about 150,000 deaths occur each year in low-income countries as a result of climate change.
For these reasons, more than 120 health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Thoracic Society, and others publicly support EPA?s proposal. They warned that:
Climate change is a serious public health issue. As temperatures rise, more Americans will be exposed to conditions that can result in illness and death due to respiratory illness, heat- and weather-related stress, and disease carried by insects. These health issues are likely to have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and the most economically disadvantaged.
The United States is a major emitter of carbon dioxide pollution
The United States emits the second-most carbon pollution of any country, only trailing China. And since the Industrial Revolution, the United States has contributed the most carbon pollution to the atmosphere (free registration required).
At the 2009 Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen?an international meeting to devise an worldwide agreement to reduce carbon pollution?President Barack Obama committed the United States to a 17 percent reduction in carbon dioxide and other pollutants from 2005 levels by 2020. Emissions in 2010 were 5 percent lower than 2005 levels. The New York Times noted on April 16 that ?Obama?s [reduction] goal could be met with aggressive efforts by government and industry.?
Recent reductions can be eroded if future new power plants do not limit their carbon pollution. According to a new report by the Energy Information Administration, total energy-related carbon dioxide pollution in the United States fell by 1.9 percent from 2010 to 2011. Carbon pollution from coal-generated electricity fell by 4.5 percent in 2011 and is projected to fall even further?an additional 12 percent?in 2012 but then rise in 2013.
EPA?s proposed standard to limit carbon pollution from new power plants is employing authority granted by Clean Air Act. It would only apply to:
New fossil?fuel?fired electric utility generating units, or EGUs. For purposes of this rule, fossil?fuel?fired EGUs include fossil?fuel?fired boilers, integrated gasification combined cycle units and stationary combined cycle turbine units that generate electricity for sale and are larger than 25 megawatts.
When final the rules will require new power plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon pollution per megawatt hour of electricity. This corresponds to a 40 percent to 60 percent decrease from what the typical new coal-fired power plant releases. A CAP analysis based on power plant data compiled by the Sierra Club found that the pending rule would cut 123 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually from 22 pending new power plants. (See attached spreadsheet)
Requiring new power plants to take steps to limit their carbon pollution will force them to ?internalize? or account for pollution that they formerly emitted into the air for free. Previously, society bore the costs from these emissions such as extreme weather. These additional costs may make some proposed coal-fired power plants uneconomical, so they may be canceled.
Moreover, the additional cost to produce cleaner coal power from plants that are built should increase the economic incentive for utilities to instead invest in renewable electricity generated by the sun, wind, and other clean sources. As investments in clean power sources increase, their costs should decrease due to technological and manufacturing advancements. As a result, consumers will have more choices about where their energy comes from.
EPA?s proposed rule will help mitigate climate change and achieve immediate carbon pollution reductions from new power plants.
The Sierra Club identified 22 proposed but unbuilt coal-fired power plants that would likely have to comply with the new rules. Assuming that these proposed plants are built and become operational, CAP estimates that without the EPA standard they would add 220 billion pounds (more than 110 million tons) of carbon pollution to the atmosphere annually, based on their estimated future electricity generation. The reductions required by the proposed rule would reduce this pollution by an estimated 123 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually. These savings equal the pollution from nearly 11 million passenger vehicles.
The plants in the map below are in varying stages of construction. Some have permits while others are awaiting financial backing. Still others are hoping to break ground within a year. The EPA limits do not apply to new power plants if their construction began within a year of the rules? proposal date.
Some companies are considering switching their proposed plants to natural gas because it?s cheaper and cleaner to produce. Tenaska Inc. announced on May 8 that it may convert its proposed Taylorville, Illinois, coal-fired power plant into a natural gas facility. And other companies may do the same if the price of natural gas remains near its 10-year low.
The map below estimates the pollution reductions from the 22 proposed coal-fired power plants under the standard if they are all built. To fully estimate the potential carbon pollution savings from the proposed standard, our analysis assumes that all of these plants will be built. It is important to note, however, that the additional cost of compliance with the new standard may make some of these plants uneconomical to build and operate, and they may be canceled.
The carbon pollution standard provides certainty for utilities planning to build new power plants. Until now, utilities faced great uncertainty about what level of reduction?if any?would be required by future carbon pollution standards. The EPA?s Regulatory Impact Analysis of this proposed rule determined that it:
Will reduce regulatory uncertainty by defining section 111(b) [Clean Air Act] requirements for limiting GHG from new EGU [electricity generation unit] sources.
Ralph Izzo, chairman and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, spoke favorably about the proposal because of the certainty it gives utilities. PSEG is a major unregulated independent power producer in the United States with nuclear, coal, and natural gas plants in four states. Rizzo said that the proposal:
Establishes a logical and modest standard for new electric power plants and provides the industry with much needed regulatory certainty. The EPA provides a framework for the industry to confront this problem in a cost effective manner.
In addition, some utilities have adequate financial resources to comply with the proposed standards. NRG Energy plans to build a power plant in Texas that would emit 14.8 billion pounds of carbon pollution a year and be required to meet the EPA limits. In 2011 NRG earned $109 million in profit while also sitting on $1.1 billion in cash reserves. NRG and other companies should invest in innovative technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, to meet the standard.
American Electric Power, which has a large number of coal plants and is an opponent of other recent EPA safeguards, does not anticipate abrupt negative economic impacts from the rule. Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for AEP, said:
In the near term, the impact will not be as great. It impacts the ability to expand the use of coal for electricity, but it doesn?t cause immediate concern for us.
Even though several utilities can afford to comply with the standard, big utilities and the coal companies, along with their congressional allies, are mobilizing to block the carbon pollution standard for power plants. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity?a lobbying group of coal and utility companies?just launched a $40 million media blitz to defeat mercury, smog, acid rain, and carbon pollution reduction standards.
Ranking Senate Environment Committee member James Inhofe (R-OK), recipient of more than $180,000 in campaign contributions from electric utilities over the past four years, already announced his opposition to the standard. He said that it is:
My intent to kill this proposal by bringing it to a vote before the US Senate through a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
A Congressional Review Act resolution can block new rules if Congress passes it and the president signs it into law. It can be offered for a vote in the Senate and House up to 60 legislative days after the final version is published in the Federal Register. A Senate filibuster is not allowed block vote on a CRA. But recent attempts to pass CRA resolutions to block the global warming ?endangerment finding? and the cross-state air pollution rules for smog and acid rain both were defeated.
The companies and politicians opposed to the EPA?s proposed carbon pollution standards ignore most Americans? views. A February 2012 national poll conducted for the American Lung Association by bipartisan pollsters found overwhelming support for standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. According to this survey 54 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents, and 87 percent of Democrats supported the proposed carbon standard. The American Lung Association found that:
Voters overwhelming believe such carbon standards will have a positive impact on air quality (74 percent) and public health (73 percent) and, more importantly, a 44 to 25 percent plurality believe they will have a positive impact on the economy and jobs.
Another national survey released on April 26, 2012, by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that:
75 percent [of Americans] support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Among registered voters, 84 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Independents, and 67 percent of Republicans support this policy [limiting pollution from new power plants].
Sixty-one percent of Americans also support holding the fossil fuel industry?coal, oil, and natural gas?responsible for all hidden public health costs associated with illness from air and water pollution. As the Yale Project reports, ?68 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans support this policy.?
The proposed carbon pollution rule will protect Americans? health if it is adopted substantially unchanged from the proposal. The standard for new power plants will reduce the increase in carbon pollution that is accelerating global warming, spur innovation in clean technologies, and create green jobs.
But even with these benefits, the EPA must take the next step and establish carbon pollution reductions for existing power plants that would actually lower current emission levels.
Global warming pollution and its damages will continue to grow without additional reductions from operating power plants, oil refineries, and other industrial sources.
Even without the proposed rules, electricity generation from coal has declined significantly, primarily due to low natural gas prices. But these improvements can be erased if carbon pollution from new power plants is not limited. New figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that coal generated just 36 percent of U.S. electricity in the first quarter of 2012. This represents a nearly 20 percent decline in coal generation over the same time last year. As previously noted, this has led to a decline in carbon pollution from power plants in 2010 and 2011 that should continue through next year before rising again in 2013.
The proposed rule for new power plants would slow the growth of carbon pollution by 123 billion pounds annually. The EPA must follow the carbon pollution standard for new plants with one that reduces existing emissions from currently operating power plants?the source of 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution.
Such limits would add to the pollution reductions from the first and second rounds of carbon pollution limits from automobiles the Obama administration established that would cut carbon emissions by 6 billion tons over the life of the program.
The public comment period for the carbon pollution rule began on April 13. In the month since then, a broad coalition of public health, clean air, labor, and other progressive organizations have collected nearly a million comments in favor of the proposal to the EPA. These groups, including the Center for American Progress Action Fund, plan to deliver hundreds of thousands more public comments before the 60-day comment period ends on June 25, 2012.
We need your help to send a powerful message supporting the EPA. Last year more than 800,000 Americans commented in favor of proposed rules to reduce mercury, lead, and other toxic substances from coal-fired power plants. This support helped the EPA adopt strict rules to improve our air quality by reducing mercury pollution from power plants by 90 percent.
We need to fight the loud voices of big coal that use millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying to oppose this and other public health measures. It is critical that the EPA hear from more Americans that they support reducing carbon pollution from power plants. Please submit your comment in favor of the carbon pollution limits on new and existing power plants today by clicking here.
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Jackie Weidman is Special Assistant for Energy, and Celine Ramstein is an intern with the Energy team at the Center for American Progress. Thanks to Joanne Spalding and Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club.
This piece was originally published at the Center for American Progress website.
Though Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no longer law, same-sex military couples are still detrimentally impacted by the Defense of Marriage Act and in some unique ways. Same-sex military spouses are not entitled to survivor benefits, and would not even be contacted if their partner was harmed or killed in combat. Freedom to Marry and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network have teamed up to launch a new campaign called Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry to advocate for these families and the unfair way the government treats them. Watch their powerful new video about just how harmful DOMA can be:
Mitt Romney said during his 2008 presidential campaign that he would not act unilaterally to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and the U.S. should not “move heaven and earth” to find him. But now, Romney says “of course” he would have done what President Obama did last year in ordering the raid that killed bin Laden at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. ?Any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing,” Romney said earlier this month. (Vice President Biden and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, actually advised against the raid.)
Romney has assumed that Obama was assured of bin Laden’s presence at the compound and all he had to do was give the order to get him. But as Gates (and others) has noted, ?There wasn?t any direct evidence that he was there. It was all circumstantial.” The former defense secretary expounded on the difficulty surrounding Obama’s decision this morning during an interview on CBS This Morning, particularly regarding the lack of information on bin Laden’s presence at the compound, and the ramifications if the raid failed or bin Laden wasn’t there:
ROSE: What were your concerns?
GATES: I had no doubts that the SEALs could perform the mission. My concern was whether or not he was there. People don’t realize that what made the decision tough for the president was we didn’t have once single piece of hard data that he was actually in that compound. Not one. The whole thing was a circumstantial case built by analysts at CIA.
ROSE: There was no single person who could tell you he was in that building. No single person had seen him in that building.
GATES: Right. The crux of the decision revolved less about the efficacy of the military piece of it than the consequences for us if he wasn’t there in terms of the relationship with Pakistan, in terms of the war in Afghanistan. … But I’ve always thought that it was a very courageous call. If this mission had failed, it could have put the war in Afghanistan at risk and that was one of my principle concerns.
Watch the clip:
Romney doesn’t really know much about the raid that killed bin Laden, at least that’s the sentiment he displays in public. But perhaps that’s because, as one of his foreign policy advisers has said, Romney “doesn?t want to really engage these issues until he is in office.”
Former President George W. Bush jumped back into presidential politics this week, endorsing presumptive 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. He also, according to the New York Times, plans to release a book in two months that will lay out his advice on boosting economic growth:
Gingerly, the 43rd president is beginning to add his voice back into the national dialogue. A month ago, he spoke publicly in favor of one of his defining domestic legacies, the tax cuts that still divide the country. Two months from now, he plans to publish a book outlining strategies for economic growth. And on Tuesday, he made a rare return to Washington to promote freedom overseas.
That Bush believes the country needs his thoughts on how to create economic growth is laughable. After all, under his watch, ?growth in investment, GDP, and employment all posted their worst performance of any post-war expansion,? while ?overall monthly job growth was the worst of any cycle since at least February 1945, and household income growth was negative for the first cycle since tracking began in 1967.? As the Economic Policy Institute found, “between the end of the 2001 recession (2001Q4) and the peak of that expansion (2007Q4), the U.S. economy experienced the worst economic expansion of the post-war era.”
As this chart shows, the only economic indicator on which Bush exceeded the average is corporate profits:
As the New York Times’ David Leonhardt noted, “the competition for slowest growth is not even close, either. Growth from 2001 to 2007 averaged 2.39 percent a year (and growth from 2001 through the third quarter of 2010 averaged 1.66 percent). The decade with the second-worst showing for growth was 1971 to 1980 ? the dreaded 1970s ? but it still had 3.21 percent average growth.” Bush also presided over the formulation of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
And its not just under Bush that the nation saw lackluster economic growth. Over the last 50 years, in fact, two-thirds of the private sector jobs created in the country have come under Democratic administrations.
Franciscan University, a small Catholic college in Ohio, said it will drop its health insurance coverage for students instead of complying with a new federal mandate to provide contraception coverage because it goes against Catholic teaching. Along with no longer offering insurance, the college will not require students to have insurance because “[w]e didn’t want to put them in a situation where they would have to violate their conscience,” Michael Hernon, a vice president at Franciscan University, told Reuters. Fewer than 200 of the 2,500 students have been buying insurance from the university. Obama has announced accommodations for religious groups giving them an extra year to comply with the new rule and assuring them that insurers will pay for the contraception coverage instead of the organizations, but Catholic leaders have remained strongly opposed to it.
The future is always a dystopia and the past is always better than this mess we live in right now. That?s if literature has any ability to tell us about ourselves. Stories about the future: Forewarning. Stories about the good ol? days: Heartening. Somewhere in our collective unconscious we believe there was a golden era of innocence and irresistible quaintness. The present is far from that?so the future has to be worse. Most likely involving robots ? emoting and plotting their revenge.
The future scares us and we wish it could be more like it used to be. Therefore we freak out about change and demand tradition because it connects us to this proverbial Garden of Eden in our minds.
This logical glitch is a pestilence in American politics. Conservative politicians in particular pander to this notion; we must go back to the past. There it?s better because we were better.
Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney?s punt on same-sex marriage is: ?I agree with 3,000 years of history.? To him this means a love-based consensual marriage between one man and one woman; our current interpretation of marriage. Of course plural marriage, like that of Romney?s grandfathers has also been practiced in the last 3,000 years. As were arranged marriages. As were loveless contractual nuptials. Deuteronomy is pretty clear if a woman isn?t a virgin when she gets married she should be killed. It wasn?t until 1993 that North Carolina became the last state to remove the marriage exemption for rape. Regardless Romney, admits to agreeing with 3,000 years of marriage history. His Etch-a-Sketch must be set to history revision.
I personally don?t agree with any history before sewage systems, women?s suffrage or the Loving decision. I also refuse to romanticize any era before the advent of antibiotics.
The GOP?s objection to state-sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships is, they offer, based on their belief in the Bible. The current crop of Republicans are less into Jesus (who didn?t like rich people or capital punishment) than they are into 1st Century values like stoning misfits in the public square. They?ve picked gay marriage to condemn as an evil out to kill us all, because for Republicans there actually IS a magic time in the not-so-distant past to be nostalgic for?specifically 2004. Then gay marriage was the perfect catalyst to get people to vote Republican. Hence Dubya?s second term.
And now? Now in the wake of the unremarkable ending to Don?t Ask, Don?t Tell (which funny enough is no longer talked about), gay rights doesn?t have the same bite. In 2005 the Supreme Court made sodomy legal in all 50 states and since then there have been absolutely no reports of anyone turning into a pillar of salt. But Republicans who pride themselves on being traditional and firmly planted in the past regardless of folly?are going to try and chum the water with something as anemic as spousal privilege.
Last week President Obama said he supported gays being allowed to marry. This was the right thing to do. But it wasn?t the radical thing to do?it?s popular. Most Americans agree that homosexuals should be able to be married. According to a recent Gallup poll 51 percent of Americans agree with President Obama on this issue.
Will gay marriage corrode the foundation of this country? When gay marriage becomes the norm (which it will eventually) we probably won?t even notice. We?ll get the same amount of wedding invites only all of these will be legal. You?ll know the same amount of gays you know now. Our children will have the same likelihood of being homosexual as they do now. Very few American?s lives will change. It?s just a minority?a persecuted, ostracized, demonized minority?of Americans whose lives will improve with the option for full-legal rights as a married couple.
That?s if the past is actually prologue ? instead of paradise.
It has long been observed in American politics that prices at the pump can have a huge impact on votes at election time. When gas prices rise dramatically near campaign time, the party challenging the one currently in power tends to gain the upper hand, particularly when its candidates can claim they know how to lower gas prices again.
Right now, because of the current demand for gas for American consumers and businesses, and because of tensions in Iran and the rest of the Middle East, gas prices are skyrocketing. By the summer of 2012, it’s estimated that prices will be over $5 per gallon. Analysts … [visit site to read . . . → Read More: The Damaging Political Effects of Rising Gas Prices
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In the last few years, many different kinds of communication technologies have been democratized. For instance, up until not too long ago, making a film that didn't look amateurish was impossible without a whole bunch of equipment whose expense made it out of reach for almost everyone, not to mention the technical expertise required. But today, you can buy a professional-quality HD video camera for a couple thousand dollars and video editing software like Apple's Final Cut Pro for a couple hundred, and presto, you can make what looks to be a "real" movie. That means that a kid with a dream to be the next Steven Spielberg can see that dream realized. It also means that a crazy person with a conspiracy theory can see his dream realized.
Which brings us to two new movie previews for anti-Obama films that, when you look at them, seem remarkably like "real" movies. The first, called "2016," is based on Dinesh D'Souza's nutty book "The Roots of Obama's Rage." It explains how Barack Obama is motivated in everything he does by a desire to punish America and the world for colonialism, because of the "rage" he inherited from the father he never knew. The images go by pretty fast, but my favorite is the black family playing Monopoly, who suddenly jump up from their chairs and start swinging at each other (it comes at the one-minute mark). Who are they supposed to be? The Obamas? Some of Obama's co-conspirators? People sent into a frenzy by his socialist policies? It's hard to tell. Anyhow, here's the preview:
All right, you say, that's pretty crazy, but we've heard it before. Can you show me something even crazier? Oh yes, I most certainly can. Talking Points Memo put together this highlight reel of "Dreams From My Real Father," an anti-Obama movie that uses a (very bad) Obama impersonator to take us deep into the heart of a paranoid conspiracy, one that reveals how Barack Obama was actually fathered by Frank Marshall Davis, a radical poet he knew as a boy. And he had a nose job before the 2008 campaign. Also, the CIA is involved somehow. Because, you know, duh. This one isn't quite as professional-looking as "2016," but I'm sure it'll still sell a few copies:
This makes me wonder: what are these people going to do if Obama wins a second term? What I mean is, if Obama is defeated, they'll say, "That was a close one! Good thing we warned America about Obama's sinister socialist plan, and disaster was averted!" If Obama wins, he'll go through his second term, doing things that these nutballs will certainly disagree with. But the hammer and sickle will not be raised over the White House, private enterprise will not be outlawed, and we won't all be herded onto collective farms. And then what will they say? They certainly won't say, "Well, maybe we overstated things a little."
Here's my guess: they'll say that Obama's non-socialist second term was all part of the plan. He softens up the American public with just a little socialism, and then, BAM! His successor (the 2016 Democratic nominee) is the one who really brings the disastrous socialist nightmare. Just you wait.