Open Climate Question For Next Presidential Debate: How Will You Deal With What NASA Scientists Are Calling a Global Climate Emergency?

This year, James Hansen, head of NASA’s GISS division warned that the world is experiencing a global climate emergency. Around the world, scientists are making increasingly dire warnings about what is happening to our climate. Links between extreme weather and our production of greenhouse gasses have been firmly established. The human driven heating is causing the Arctic sea ice to disappear, perhaps in as soon as a few years. The US has just experienced 12 years of extraordinarily dry conditions and a year of record drought. And the world is teetering on the edge of a climate-change driven food crisis.

Yet this year’s Presidential debates have been stunningly silent on the issue of climate change. In our politics, denial of the events occurring just outside are becoming increasingly loud and shrill. And millions and millions of dollars in oil, gas, and coal campaign contributions are enforcing an unprecedented silence on an issue of growing emergency and immediacy even as they encourage an increased exploitation of the very fuels that are causing our climate nightmare.

Within 10-20 years it is possible that the American grain belt will be well on its way to becoming a desert. Within 10 years, it is likely that the Arctic sea ice will be gone and a very intense period of ice melt will begin for Greenland, greatly accelerating the rate of sea level rise. Within 30 years, it is likely that the world’s oceans will be highly acidic, less likely to produce food for humans, and almost entirely devoid of corals. By the end of this century, it is likely that much of the world will be rendered a wasteland by 1000 ppm CO2. All this if we continue down the path of unmitigated extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

So it is for this reason that I’m submitting a simple, direct question for the prospective leader of the United States for the next four years in the upcoming Presidential Debate:

Please address the issue of what climate scientists have identified as an ongoing, climate change induced US drought and growing prospects for world hunger. Please address the issue of shrinking Arctic sea ice, more than 50% smaller than in the 1980s, record Greenland ice melt, and what appears to be increasing risk of rapid ocean rise. Please explain how you will avoid a devastating rise to 1000 ppm CO2 by the end of this century. Please address how you will deal with what NASA scientists are calling a global climate emergency.

If you agree with this question, please feel free to either copy, paste, and re-post it or to link, share, or re-tweet this blog. If you would like to ask an open climate question of your own, please do so on any social network of your choosing. The idea is to spread the word in the best way possible. So please participate in some way! Please let your voice be heard!

This is a question we are all currently involved in answering. And if we stay silent, then the answer is we will do nothing and the worst events are almost certain to occur. But if we speak up. If we make our voices heard, they still have a chance to make a difference. To stop the worst impacts of a climate change nightmare caused by our ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels.

Please also take part by signing this Change.org Petition for a Presidential debate question on climate change:

http://www.change.org/petitions/ask-about-climate-change-at-the-presidential-debates

Best to you all! And please don’t forget to lift your voices and BE HEARD!

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Presidential Debate Round #2: The 47%, 8 Trillion Arithmetic, A Binder Full of Women and an “Act of Terror”

Binders and fact checks and smears oh my!

Last night’s Presidential debate, round #2 of 3, was nothing like the first. A fiery and compassionate Obama took firm command of the forum from the start and, with few exceptions, dominated the debate with clarity and candor. In direct contrast, Mitt Romney seemed lost in a tangle of the misinformation web he’d spun for himself.

47% vs the Outsourcing Pioneer

Obama set the tone by immediately calling Romney out for his 47% remarks, illustrating clearly that character is what you are in the dark or, in this case, what you are in a locked room full of millionaires and billionaires. He also returned frequently to the subject of outsourcing, rightly labeling Romney an ‘outsourcing pioneer’ and alluding to the offshoring activities Romney first innovated at Bain Capital. Activities the company Romney founded is continuing to implement (see Sensata).

Sketchy 8 Trillion Arithmetic

Obama also was quick to hold Romney accountable for the tax policy his campaign website says he’s running to implement. During the debate, Romney frequently denied the assertion that his tax cut would cut rates for top earners. Almost as frequently, he said that he wants to lower rates on the middle class. These debate ‘faux pas’ (nice word for lies) directly contradict information put out by his own campaign which still states Romney seeks an across the board 20% tax cut, including a very large and lucrative cut for top earners and very small and piddly cuts for the middle class.

Obama, rightly, ignored Romney’s false claims and continued to debate based on the facts, rather than attempt to muddle around in the smoke Romney was producing in prodigious quantities all evening long. Obama re-asserted the Arithmetic showing how Romney’s across the board cuts, when combined with a 2 trillion increase in defense spending and a 1 trillion dollar extension of the Bush tax cut f0r the wealthy, would blow another 8 Trillion dollar hole in the deficit on top of the debt already piling up from the lingering remains of Bush’s failed policies. (Failed policies the republican Congress has continued to enforce through its vow to Grover Norquist never to repeal.)

Binder Full of Women

In perhaps the most bizarre exchange of the night, Romney, when asked about how he would help women gain a more equal footing in the workplace, hearkened back to a time when his management team had no women. In his, disproven by facts, anecdote, Romney claimed he produced a ‘binder full of women’ from which to select female candidates for positions in the management staff which, Romney admitted, was largely composed of men. Reaction to this comment from women has been shrill and this particular Romneyism seemed to especially grate against the sensibilities of most women who rightly felt subtly insulted and objectified.

What is interesting to note about this particular Mitt-tale is the fact that the ‘binder’ he refers to was produced by a political organization called Mass-GAP which noted the dearth of women holding leadership positions in Massachusetts. So Romney wasn’t responsible for the recommendations of these women, it was produced by a political organization concerned about the lack of women in leadership. However, to Romney’s credit, he did appoint women from the Mass-GAP list so that fully 42% of the positions held at the start of his administration were women filled. But the story doesn’t end here. Romney apparently only filled positions which he thought were unimportant with people from the Mass-GAP program. In addition, the number of women holding positions within Massachusetts government, overall, declined by 3% during the time that Romney served. Hardly a stunning record of someone attempting to appear to care for women’s jobs.

What was most glaring, however, was his failure to mention the Fair Pay Act and, instead, rely on a mostly untrue and bumbling anecdote. I would venture a guess that women aren’t as concerned about a President picking women from a binder for cabinet positions as they are about equal access to jobs and access to a fair compensation at work. And though representation in the cabinet is important (Obama has appointed many women to these positions including political rival Hillary), what is more important is that those visible values fill out in larger society.

Obama noted he supported The Fair Pay Act and spoke for minutes passionately about the role of women in all aspects of American life. No binders. Just  policies to help women. Even more importantly, Obama alluded to women’s rights which would likely come under fire during a Romney Administration. Two Supreme Court justices and a VP nominee who has lead a crusade in Congress to overturn Roe could very well spell an end to women’s reproductive rights in our country. In addition, Obama pointed out that Romney’s past statements about ‘ending Planned Parenthood’ was another assault on women’s freedoms and access to family planning services. To this point Obama rightly noted that it’s not just about women, it’s about families too, a point that appeared lost on Romney.

The ‘Act of Terror’

Perhaps the most poignant event in the debate occurred when Romney began to assert that Obama had failed to identify the Libya attacks as a terrorist incident. This line of attack follows the presumptuous rhetoric that republicans and Romney have followed ever since the Benghazi Consulate was over-run. The day after the attacks, Romney held a press conference accusing the Obama administration of ‘failures.’ This political capitalism has also included a number of, rather fake, teary eyed speeches about those lost in the attacks. Romney’s overplaying of these speeches has lead family members of deceased security and diplomatic personnel to publicly ask Romney to stop using their family members deaths as political props. And though Romney appears to have toned down the rhetoric on diplomatic service member’s deaths, he has continued to presume that the Obama Administration is entirely responsible and at fault for these attacks, making bald and outrageous assertions before any evidence is produced.

Obama rightly called out Romney for his politicization of American deaths saying in a sharp tone that invoked all the power of the Commander and Chief of US forces: “It is offensive!”

And it is, this smarmy politicking over the deaths of Americans, this failure to stand behind American government’s effort to get to the bottom of the terrorist attacks, and the blatant betrayal of US forces by a party who only seems to care about political gain. But Romney continued up this dark path of demonization and unsupported claims. In his, not the first, allusion to misinformation produced by Fox News, Romney glommed onto the false claim that the Obama Administration didn’t recognize the Benghazi incident as a terrorist attack until two weeks afterward.

In reply to this skewed claim, Obama noted that he held a speech in the Rose Garden about the attacks, claiming that he stated ‘no act of terror would go unpunished.’ Romney refuted the President directly, saying the President said no such thing. Crowley, who appeared to be well prepared to deal with the issues in this debate, had a transcript of the President’s speech on hand and confirmed, to audience applause, that the President had indeed said what he claimed and that Romney was making an incorrect assertion.

Revelation of the Least Truthful Presidential Bid in Modern Memory

This direct fact-checking of Romney’s false statements and visible deconstruction of his entirely political and self-serving rhetoric seemed to crystallize the public’s view of Romney last night. Romney has been accused on all fronts, from Newt Gingrich to Ron Paul, from Rick Perry to Rick Santorum and, finally, to Obama himself, as running a dishonest campaign. He has visibly contradicted himself and changed positions on key policies time and time again. His campaign staff famously labeled this tactic ‘etch e sketch.’ And the informed public seems to view what Romney says as general ‘malarkey.’

But the malarkey reached a new level of ugliness when Romney began to make up stories about diplomatic security forces in Benghazi and official US response to attacks there. His self-serving rhetoric directly harmed the families involved even as it undermined ongoing government efforts to determine the attacks’ cause, reduce risk of future attacks, and care for the bereaved families of those who were lost. Further, republican efforts to de-fund diplomatic security were entirely off the radar as Romney and republicans used every trick in their attempt to turn the Benghazi attacks into a political silver bullet aimed at the President.

This ‘ugly lie’ grew and took a life of its own. Endlessly parroted by right wing outlets, the political right engaged in a war of words to degrade and denigrate US diplomatic forces. And this act and abetment by a politician running for the highest political office in the land is unforgivable.

What we witnessed last night was the unraveling of that extraordinarily damaging lie. This event is likely to send deep fractures through the Romney campaign, through the republican party itself, and to those billionaires, like the Kochs and the Murdochs, who have done so much harm to the American people. It is not the end to their ‘Castle in the Sand’ empires, but it may well be a sign of the start of their disintegration. (The final blows will come from the rising tide of climate change itself, but that is a subject for another article).

Closing Statement: The Eloquence of Obama Returns

At the end of a debate that, often, seemed to balance on the edge of a knife, Obama reclaimed his oratory eloquence to deliver this impassioned final appeal to the American people.

Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer.

That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.

And — and that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.

Links:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/2012-presidential-debate-full-transcript-oct-16/story?id=17493848&page=11#.UH75A4ZWIfw

http://blog.thephoenix.com/BLOGS/talkingpolitics/archive/2012/10/16/mind-the-binder.aspx

The Debate Joe Biden Won With A Smile

Last night, the Tea Partier who tried to turn Medicare into a voucher program was served up an enormous helping of just desserts by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden came out swinging and never let up until it seemed a disoriented Ryan had simply given up, resorting, half-heartedly, to chugging water and spewing memorized lines.

From the get-go, Biden dealt with Ryan with total candor, directly answering questions and providing evidence and assertions even as he held Ryan accountable for his own mangling of the facts. When Ryan rolled out the false claims that Obama had dropped the ball in Benghazi, Biden pinned Ryan to the mat by showing how republicans had cut diplomatic security funding just before the attacks. When Ryan tried to run away from his record of attempting to voucherize Medicare and force seniors to pay another 6400 dollars per year in medical expenses, Biden practically tattooed the word ‘voucher’ onto Ryan’s head. And when Ryan tried to claim that his 5 trillion, 20% across the board, tax cut would be paid for without increasing the debt or hurting the middle class, Biden kept backing Ryan into a corner in which Ryan couldn’t explain his claims for lack of facts or evidence.

Finally, a beleaguered Ryan found himself lost in the valleys of Afghanistan, falsely claiming we had 28,000 troops there when the actual number is over 60,000.

The best touch in Biden’s entirely masterful debate last night, however, was how Biden dealt with Ryan every time he made a false claim. Ryan — ‘this is the unraveling of Obama foreign policy.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t voucherize Medicare.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t cut taxes by 5 trillion dollars.’ Biden — smile.

And it was through this smile that Biden projected his thoughts. ‘This kid if full of baloney,’ his smile seemed to say. We knew that Biden was showing us, through the grace of his American eagle-like countenance, that the kid was clearly making stuff up.

Not that Biden didn’t call Ryan out. Quite to the contrary, he aggressively went after what he termed as ‘malarkey’ coming from Ryan at every opportunity. Biden’s action to defend truth made his smile all the more effective. Because the words he used to back it up set in clear relief the debate field even as it lit bright sparks in the minds of the American people.

And it is this entirely right and good fighting to expose the truth that has elicited so many howls from republicans who probably expected, instead, that Biden would roll over and allow the wealthy to feast on the middle class once again without putting up a fight. That Biden would just, stand aside, as the ideological right rolled back into the White House and reasserted its war on science. That Biden would lay down before a Mitt Romney who promises to bring back George Bush’s torture policy, republican deregulation of Wall Street, and a George Bush 2.0 tax cut to boot.

Not that guy from Scranton. Hell no. That guy hit Ryan like a fireball from the heavens above. And, this time, it was Ryan trying to pretend his hair wasn’t on fire.

And, I have to tell you, for me it was refreshing. Refreshing to hear someone stand up and fight for the middle class. To hear someone take on what are nothing more than a series of blatant untruths put out by republicans year after year, month after month, day after day. An endless mangling of the truth that is so harmful both to the United States, to our country’s economic integrity, to our future, and to the electoral process itself.

And most regular Americans seemed to agree. One blogger described the shouts and howls of joy he could hear across his neighborhood as Biden delivered powerful counter after powerful counter to Ryan’s false assertions.

And this response seemed to bear out in many post-debate polls which showed Biden as a strong winner. A CBS poll of undecideds showed Biden with a 19 point lead. ABC 6 showed Biden creaming Ryan in a 60-38 domination of a poll of the broader electorate. CNBC, a haven of many who are misinformed daily by the likes of Tea Partier Rick Santelli, showed Biden edging out Ryan 48 to 47. Perhaps the only poll of the night which showed Ryan ahead was a dubious CNN poll which, according to poll data, was heavily weighted with republicans and independents. But even this skewed poll showed Biden trailing by a hair — within the poll’s margin of error.

And from a survey of the internet following the debate it is clear that republicans are in full damage control mode. No clearer an indication that they have lost can be expressed than their attempts to label Joe Biden ‘rude.’ That he smiled too much during the debate. And this, as Romney said in an interview this morning, was ‘disrespectful.’

I couldn’t disagree more.

The rudeness and disrespect came from Ryan who thought he could get away with lying to the American people. Lying about Benghazi, lying about his Bush 2.0 tax cut, lying about alternative energy and Solyndra, and lying about his record on Medicare. Lying about his and Romney’s blatant, rude, and entirely disrespectful 30% and 47% remarks. And providing completely anti-factual information on Afghanistan. Biden was right to interrupt and to call Ryan out. When an opponent misrepresents themselves and their policies, this is entirely called for.

Obama would do well to learn from Biden’s example. Because Romney is extraordinarily loosey goosey with the facts. To leave such misrepresentations unchallenged risks that people, who don’t have access to the same level of information as a sitting President, might begin to believe these false claims. And we can already see how much damage this has done to republicans ability to understand facts and deal with reality. If the entire electorate becomes as misinformed we are lost, adrift on a sea of media impulse, shackled to the whim of the wealthy.

Something can be said for Ryan. He did tell the truth on abortion. And, appropriately, Biden didn’t challenge his truthfulness. He simply passionately described his own position in defense of women. Making his own assertion that he would fight to protect women’s rights and that he believed the assault on women’s liberties was unconscionable. And this gives us an example of how an honest debate should work. It should involve a direct and transparent comparison of candidates positions on issues. It leaves the power of choice in the hands of the American people. But when one candidate holds no respect for the truth, that candidate must be called out. Called out for attempting to deny people the right to choose candidates based on a clear understanding of positions. In fact it is a responsibility to the American public that misinformation and false claims be pointed out for what they are. A lie unchallenged is a lie free to harm the American people. And a false claim brought to light is one that can no longer live and continue to do its terrible damage.

Joe Biden did the right thing last night. He called out Ryan’s lies. It was a public service. It was not rude. It was respectful to the American people. And this is something republicans would do well to learn — a little respect for, not just a flag lapel pen, but for what that flag actually represents.

And this is why Joe Biden won, because liars never win in the light. And Joe proved that with a glorious, glowing smile.

Romney’s 5 Trillion Dollar Tax Cut By Numbers: The Arithmetic of Avarice

Silliness continues to ensue over Romney’s 5 trillion dollar tax cut. Fact checkers, again and again, have shown how Romney’s claims on his redux of the vastly unpopular Bush tax cut are ‘mostly false.’ In one example FackCheck.org, managed by the conservative Annenberg Foundation, noted:

“Romney has failed to produce evidence that what he promises is possible. And we judge that the weight of evidence and expert opinion is clear — it’s not possible.”

However, given the fact that the $5 trillion dollar number is based on some very accessible figures, it shouldn’t be difficult for anyone with a little bit of time to check and confirm that Romney is, indeed, misrepresenting himself.

First, it’s important to note where the $5 trillion number came from. The non-partisan Tax Policy Center showed that Romney’s tax plan would cost about $480 billion dollars per year by 2015. What the Obama administration did was average this number over ten years to get about 5 trillion dollars. This isn’t fuzzy math at all, since budget planning usually looks at ten year periods and decade intervals.

Here’s an overview of the math:

Cost of Romney’s tax cut this year would equal 2.1 trillion in tax revenues x .2 (a 20% tax cut) to get 420 billion dollars in lost revenue this year. Cost of Romney’s tax cut in 2015 would equal the projected revenue of 2.4 trillion x .2 to get 480 billion dollars for that year (the number the Tax Policy Center came up with). And cost of Romney’s tax cut in 2020 would be 2.8 trillion x.2 to get 560 billion dollars. Averaged over ten years, these numbers amount to around 5 trillion. So by the math, Obama’s assertion is correct. Romney creates another 5 trillion hole in the budget even before he can start filling in the deficit hole through his promised ‘cuts.’

And Romney’s 5 trillion tax cut would add to the already large 3.6 trillion dollar (per decade) tax cut enacted by President Bush, which Romney has also pledged to keep.

That’s 4.2 trillion dollars added to the debt, so far, via the Bush tax cut. Add in the 9 trillion hole caused by the Bush recession and another 5 trillion via Bush’s unpaid wars and we get to the current debt figure of about 16 trillion. When combined with republican sabotage of Obama’s $4 trillion deficit reduction proposal, it isn’t an understatement to claim the republican party wholly owns this debt problem, even if the news media has failed to identify this, rather clear, fact. And, now, to top it all off, Romney trots along with another $5 trillion over the next decade and an extension of the Bush tax cut to total $8.6 trillion or greater.

Are you beginning to feel the voodoo yet?

What’s most damning about the Romney policy, so far, is the fact that his campaign offers almost no substantive plans for where the added revenue would come from if it were to be ‘deficit neutral’ as the Romney campaign claims. In his famous ‘Big Bird’ gaffe during the most recent Presidential debate, Romney claimed he’d cut things like PBS funding. But at around 400 million per year, PBS cuts cover only 1/1000th of the revenue gap he’s created. Romney may also dump on homeowners by cutting mortgage deductions or disincentive charity by cutting reductions to charitable donations. And although these policies may fill a decent chunk of that $5 trillion dollar hole, they’re not going to fill it entirely. Meanwhile, removing those deductions greatly reduce the number of American homeowners while resulting in a severe blow to America’s charity organizations. The remainder of the money would likely come from Medicare, Social Security, and from structural tax increases to the middle class.

Fact Check’s analysis of just one piece of Romney’s plan shows how convoluted, murky, and factually devoid it is:

“The campaign hasn’t revealed where Romney would even get [the first] $500 billion in cuts. The Romney website lays out spending reductions that total $319.6 billion, which come from privatizing Amtrak, cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities and foreign aid, eliminating family planning funding, cutting the federal workforce and compensation, block-granting Medicaid and work retraining to the states, and reducing “waste and fraud.” Romney also counts $95 billion a year for repealing the federal health care law. But that’s only the spending in the law, which also includes $569 billion over 10 years of new revenues that would be lost, plus another $161 billion in revenue from the individual mandate tax and penalties on employers.”

What this paragraph reveals is that Romney’s cuts come out as a potential net negative — meaning that the cuts result in more revenues lost long-term (especially when taking into account the Affordable Care Act’s repeal). Futhermore, block granting Medicaid to the states would likely result in devastating losses to seniors and the disabled who rely on Medicaid during times of health hardship. This would result in additional costs to society that would likely ripple through any budget. Loss of family planning money would hurt the already reeling poor and harm families ability to care for their future. Cutting federal workforce compensation attacks one of the pillars of the American middle class, reducing wages for hundreds of thousands. And all of this damage and sacrifice by regular Americans just to deal with the first 8% taken by Romney’s tax cut.

And what do we get for this new massive hole blown in the budget? What do we get for this sacrifice that must be born by America’s families, by the sick, and by the elderly? In a basic break down here are the cut’s results:

“The analysis concludes that Romney’s tax cuts would predominantly favor upper-income taxpayers. Those with incomes of more than $1 million would see their after-tax income increased by 8.3 percent (for an average tax cut of about $175,000). Taxpayers with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 would see somewhat smaller increases of about 2.4 percent (for an average tax cut of $1,800), while the after-tax income of taxpayers earning less than $30,000 would actually decrease by about 0.9 percent (for an average tax increase of about $130).” — Bloomberg

In the end, according to Bloomberg, taxes are raised on those members of the middle class most near to poverty, taxes are barely cut for the middle and upper middle class. Meanwhile, the already wealthy and those in no need of help gain a huge income increase — $175,000 or more each year. So on both ends of the cut, the middle class gets hit while the wealthy, who need no help whatsoever, get another hand-out.

If this narrative sounds familiar, it should. We heard it under Bush. And Romney, rather than deciding to count losses, has instead doubled down on a policy that was a major contributor to the exploding deficit and this country’s increasing and intensifying climate of class warfare. Were Romney’s policy to push through, poverty would likely increase, the deficit would explode, critical programs would be cut (Medicaid, Obamacare, middle class salaries etc.), and tensions between the rich and the rest would only continue to rise. Romney’s plan is to double down on class warfare with another vastly unfair and destructive tax cut. Simply put, it is an arithmetic of avarice.

Links:

http://factcheck.org/2012/09/romneys-economic-exaggerations-2/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-01/surprise-romney-tax-plan-favors-the-rich.html

https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=4363

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