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Climate Change

Getting Much Hotter Still

October A map of temperature anomalies during October. Red shows the biggest deviation from the standard (temperatures recorded between 1951 and 1980). NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

A map of temperature anomalies during October. Red shows the biggest deviation from the standard (temperatures recorded between 1951 and 1980).
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

October was by far the hottest October on record. This follows a September that was the hottest on record by far. Without a doubt this is a bad trend.

Those who deny that climate change is happening are simply either total fools or their income depends on denying climate change. Sadly there are enough people in high position in our government whose income depends on climate change denial that they can totally stop any real action to stop let alone reverse climate change and its effects.

The effects of climate change will be devastating. They also appear to be coming sooner than scientists had anticipated. The Pentagon issued yet another warning a year ago that climate change will be a major security risk as it forces mass disruptions across the world.

The United States has already seen early effects of climate change on its agricultural industry. Two of our largest agricultural state, California and Texas have both endured devastating droughts with Texas having follow up flooding. Predictions have California expecting flooding rains with the onset of the strongest El Nino ever.

It is only the political will that stops us from addressing climate change. With the horrific effects that climate change portends, finding and electing candidates who will work to end climate change should be a priority.

Plus there is the unwritten benefit of tons of jobs that will be created as we end our dependence on fossil fuels and go to climate friendly solutions.

Real Scares For Halloween

happy halloween

Who could pass up the opportunity to post a column on things to be truly scared of Halloween? Not me for sure!

stop climate change denial
Earth’s survival
We are crapping badly in the only nest we have and refuse to clean it up! Also known as climate change. Reality is hard for those who believe that some magic man in the sky is going to save us from our own filthy habits. We only have so much water, so much oxygen, so much diversity of life and so much of a shield from our own sun. We are in the process of destroying all those yet many among us think nothing is wrong. Humans have some choices – they can start cleaning up their mess, find a new planet to move to really quickly or evolve as no species has before them.

Income and wealth inequality.
So what if all the earth’s wealth ends up in a few hands? Something like 80 individuals own over half of the earth’s wealth. But humans have an innate sense of fair play and at some point there will be a cataclysmic change to bring things back into line. Or we could do it through processes we have set up already, peacefully.

reagan on guns
Gun violence
Did you ever think that your neighbor may be the guy with a cache of guns and an axe to grind? Or maybe even closer to home maybe it is your spouse. But mechanisms for helping to defuse the stresses that could cause someone to go over the edge and use their guns have been pretty much destroyed in our society. Mental health screenings, gun registrations, counseling and other societal interventions have been defunded and destroyed leaving individuals on their own to act out on their problems. Add the NRA in its capacity as dealer of weapons and it is a toxic soup.

fox socialist threat
Destroying Social Safety Nets
Republicans are set to vote to destroy Obamacare once more next week or so. Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance are all in their sights. Since they currently own two houses of congress all they need is to add the presidency and the long held wish of destroying these programs can be achieved. Sure it may end of killing lots of people but that is the price of regressing to a fantasy world that never existed. Republicans have greatly damaged the safety net over the past 3 decades. One more chance and they may be able to finally do it in.

protect voting rights
Rigged elections
But wait you say, Republicans could lose congress next year. They could, but not without doing everything they could to rig the elections in their favor. Throwing voters off the rolls who are valid voters across the country, setting up electronic voting machines across the country that can be easily hacked and gerrymandering districts such that Democrats can never win a majority in the US House nor many state houses. Perverting the system like this has led to some strange election results such as in Kansas and Kentucky last year.

Cheaper to fix while they are still up

Cheaper to fix while they are still up

Failing infrastructure
Ever drive over a bridge and wonder if it could collapse underneath you? If you don’t you may want to start thinking about it. Our predecessors built some great cities with sewer and water and electric and transportation systems. They also built in the necessary funding to keep it maintained at that time. But they did think that we would be smart enough to also follow their lead and maintain and replace as needed as a society. However our personal greed and prejudices have let that great work descend into a pit of problems that actually poses daily danger to Americans. Or maybe you have worried about our way overtaxed air traffic system might just fail someday when you are on a trip?

go vote
At the base of all the scary stuff in our country is the apathy of our citizens. By not showing up to vote they allow the wealthy to buy politicians, they allow officials to be elected that will hand the running of our local state and national governments over to those who work only to better the lives of those who fund their campaigns. Apathy gives us politicians like Joni Ernst who owes much of her campaign funds to the Koch Brothers and their subsidiaries. We get politicians like Chuck Grassley who is owned by finance and insurance companies. He did all he could to kill Obamacare and now is stalling all judicial appointments. We get politicians like Terry Branstad who has singlehandedly given away our tax dollars to Orascom and paid off political donors with huge contracts to run our Medicaid program.

Apathy, it’s the worst.

There are lots of monsters in our current political system and society. We can ignore them and they will eat us. or we can put up a fight.

Scary Numbers Just Before Halloween

prayer won't solve climate change
As this is written Hurricane Patricia is about to make landfall in Jalisco state on Mexico’s west coast. This hurricane appears to be one of if not the biggest (worst?) ever in the western hemisphere with wind speeds sustained over 200 mph, gusts over 250 mph and what appears to be the lowest air press ever at 880 millibars. Just for comparison on wind speeds, here is the Fujita tornado intensity scale:

Category F0: Gale tornado (40-72 mph); light damage. Some damage to chimneys; break branches off trees; push over shallow-rooted trees; damage to sign boards.
Category F1: Moderate tornado (73-112 mph); moderate damage. The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peel surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the roads.

Category F2: Significant tornado (113-157 mph); considerable damage. roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.

Category F3: Severe tornado (158-206 mph); Severe damage. Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.

Category F4: Devastating tornado (207-260 mph); Devastating damage. Well-constructed houses leveled; structure with weak foundation blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.

Category F5: Incredible tornado (261-318 mph); Incredible damage. Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 yards; trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.

More scary news on the weather front comes from Dr. Jeff Masters of on his blog. Climate change is real and headed in the wrong direction:

September 2015: Earth’s Warmest Month in Recorded History, Says NOAA

By: Jeff Masters , 3:40 PM GMT on October 21, 2015

September 2015 had the largest departure of temperature from average of any month among all 1629 months in the record that began in January 1880, said NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Wednesday. (Note that since July and August are typically the warmest months globally in absolute terms, September was not Earth’s warmest month in that regard.) NASA rated September 2015 slightly cooler, as the 2nd warmest September on record, falling below September 2014’s mark. September 2015’s warmth makes the year-to-date period (January – September) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA. September 2015 was the fifth consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set in NOAA’s database, and the seventh month of the nine months so far in 2015. A potent El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific that crossed the threshold into the “strong” category in early July continues to intensify, and strong El Niño events release a large amount of heat to the atmosphere, typically boosting global temperatures by at least 0.1°C. This extra bump in temperature, when combined with the long-term warming of the planet due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, makes it virtually assured that 2015 will be Earth’s second consecutive warmest year on record–with 2016 a good bet to exceed even 2015’s warmth.

NOAA’s top ten warmest global monthly departures from average
1) 0.90°C, Sep 2015
2) 0.89°C, Aug 2015
2) 0.89°C, Mar 2015
2) 0.89°C, Feb 2015
2) 0.89°C, Jan 2007
6) 0.87°C, Jun 2015
7) 0.86°C, Feb 1998
8) 0.85°C, May 2015
8) 0.85°C, Mar 2010
10) 0.84°C, Dec 2014

top 1% own more than half of the earth's wealth

top 1% own more than half of the earth’s wealth

In the economic area comes this scary news:

Goodbye Middle Class: 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars A Year
-38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

That first number is truly staggering. The federal poverty level for a family of five is $28,410, and yet almost 40 percent of all American workers do not even bring in $20,000 a year.

Finally this true scare from Oxfam:

Credit Suisse’s findings are in line with Oxfam’s prediction that global wealth inequality is only becoming greater. Last January, we predicted that the richest 1 percent would capture more than half of all household wealth by 2016. It looks like our prediction was right, but that we were too conservative, since it has happened a year early. Alas, our forecast was confirmed, but it’s nothing to celebrate.

When you look at the very top of the global wealth pyramid, the situation is much more alarming. When we first calculated in January 2014, the 85 richest individuals own more wealth than the poorest half of the planet. This trend has also worsened since that time. Last January, it was down to 80 people.

The implications of rising extreme wealth inequality are greatly worrying. The highly unbalanced concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer and fewer people impacts social stability within countries and threatens security on a global scale. It makes poverty reduction harder, threatens political inclusion, and compounds other inequalities.

Findings such as Credit Suisse’s are awaking wide publics to the huge economic disparities that define the modern world. And people are increasingly calling attention to government policies that only work for the wealthy. For instance, in a recent Pew survey respondents from 34 emerging and developing economies indicated corruption was the second biggest problem facing their country. The links between corruption, crony capitalism and inequality aren’t hard to find. A study of India’s new billionaires found that nearly half made their fortunes in ‘rent thick’ sectors, meaning their wealth depended on exclusive government giveaways (such as permission to build on public lands or control over the telecom spectrum). Corruption and bribery are often behind such exclusive privileges.

Are we screwed?

occupation Halloween costume: bankster

Senator Cruz And The Sierra Club

The exchange between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club president Aaron Mair during an Oct. 6 Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing was a brief flash in the news cycle. Was it also a debate about climate change?

The subject was to have been the impact of federal regulations on minority communities. The junior senator from Texas turned it into something else — a desultory grilling of Mair in which he brought out some old sawhorses from the climate denial tool shed. Here is the exchange:

Sierra Club board member Donna Buell posted this on Facebook after the hearing:

Donna Buell FB Snippet 10-09-15

Mair was quick to reply on behalf of the Sierra Club:


View the entire two-hour hearing if you have the stomach for it here.

Cruz asserted in an Oct. 7 press release he “proved, contrary to liberal assertions that man-caused climate change is ‘settled science,’ that there is still a healthy and vigorous debate about the causes and nature of climate change based on the data and scientific evidence.”

So does Cruz picking a fight indicate debate? Decidedly not. In fact, as Mair pointed out in his video response, Cruz’s claims during the hearing have been debunked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency over which Cruz has oversight in his role as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What’s this about?

It is about the attempt of right wing politicians like Cruz to hijack reasonable discussion among people with differing opinions in favor of a personal agenda.

On Oct. 12, I was part of a Sierra Club panel of presenters in which I suggested attendees could continue the discussion Cruz and Mair started by bird dogging Cruz in Washington, Iowa Wednesday morning.

Miriam Kashia, a veteran of the Great March for Climate Action, raised her hand and said, “I’ve done that.”

She reported the incident in an Oct. 13 guest opinion in the Iowa City Press Citizen,

Then, during a media interview with Sen. Ted Cruz speaking about the terrorist threat, I jumped in and asked him, “What is your response to the fact that the Pentagon tells us that climate change is the biggest threat to America’s security?” His response, “You don’t have the right to ask any questions, because you’re not a member of the media.” The media, meanwhile, was not doing its job.

Statements by Cruz and his ilk so often go unchallenged. People agree with him, and in Texas helped elevate him to power in 2012. His supporters are vocal and much of what is said serves the conservative agenda or it doesn’t get heard. I don’t doubt there is a Cruz community that buys into his world view, even though it appears to be based in something other than reality.

What becomes clearer each time people like Cruz are examined is nothing is behind the verbiage but vapidness. Sarah Beckman pointed this out about Cruz in an Oct. 13 post on Iowa Starting Line.

If you spend enough time with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, you start to get the feeling that there is something “off” about him. His long pauses, his forlorn looks out into the audience, his deep crescendos and trailing whispers, his odd pop culture references. They all paint the picture that Cruz is maybe not as honest and authentic as he lets on while campaigning.

Never is Cruz talking about what we have in common, about how we can live better with each other, or how we solve the greatest problems of our time, like mitigating the causes of global warming.

Elections matter, and when the electorate elevates people like Cruz to positions of power over NASA, NOAA and the government’s scientific bodies, we are doing ourselves no favors.

If readers plan to move to Texas to sort out this mess, and elect someone who will enter the arena to fight for all of us, then God bless. I don’t see that happening.

Cruz gives us reason enough to engage in politics. Leaving important political work to others helped produce Senators Cruz, Ernst and Grassley, and the troubled time in which we live.

There is a better way, and it’s up to us to find and follow it.

Pope Francis On Climate Change And Our Common Home

Pope Francis by Ralph Scharnau

As the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics and the first to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis’s recent visit drew large enthusiastic crowds in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. In Washington, he devoted more of his address to climate change than any other topic.

While the Pope also addressed issues like poverty and immigration, Church teachings on opposing abortion, contraception, and same sex marriage received only fleeting mention. And his doctrinal orthodoxy extended to women when he clearly rejected the notion of female priests.

Focusing on climate change followed the Pope’s issuance in mid-June of a sweeping and unique environmental encyclical. He described the relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment and blamed denial, apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology, and political shortsightedness. His words ranged from pastoral to political.

Relying on scientific studies rather than theological documents, he cited the burning of fossil-fuels (oil, coal, and gas) for overheating the planet and unleashing destructive and deadly storms, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and other extreme weather. Pope Francis sees the emissions of greenhouse gases as primarily a result of human activity.

Humanity has changed the environment with unprecedented speed. Climate change is occurring just about every place in the world. The environment, the Pope stated, cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces.

Francis warns that the world is facing widespread crop failure, economic ruin, mass migration, and the destruction of entire ecosystems. He embraced the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change, including the use of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and biomass. The Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in US history.

The Pontiff declared that humans can adopt strategies that help preserve the planet and lessen the further degradation of the environment. Rather than attempting to settle scientific questions or replace politics, the pope encourages open and honest debate on environmental issues that cross political, scientific, business, and religious lines.

Distancing himself from centuries of theological interpretation that regarded nature with outright hostility, the Pontiff asserts that nature has value in and of itself. The “green encyclical” thereby connects with another Catholic tradition that sees the earth as a sacrament, represented in canonical terms by his own namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. At the same time, he embraces ecological insights to meet the challenges of sustainable and diversified agriculture, managing marine and forest resources, and universal access to drinking water.

The papal letter puts Francis firmly on the side of the world’s climate scientists, an overwhelming number of whom document warming of the earth and acknowledge that humankind bears responsibility for a substantial portion of the temperature rise. Climate change no longer is just a scientific issue, but increasingly a moral and ethical one too.

Pope Francis wants to enter into a dialog with all people about our common home, earth. He urges individuals, families, local communities, nations, and the international community to engage in an ecological conversation about how to address our task of caring for our common home. His call for environmental care extends not only to believers but to agnostics and atheists as well.

The fair management of the global commons presents one of the most important tasks of our time. Pope Francis sees the natural environment as a collective good, available to all and necessary to human welfare.

We do not have all the solutions needed to limit climate disruption and live sustainably. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, for example, requires a complicated and lengthy process. The biggest question is do we have the social, political, and economic will to change?

Ralph Scharnau teaches U.S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University. His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque. Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

“So That A Positive Conservative Message”

Positive conservative? Oxymoron?

Positive conservative? Oxymoron?

“can rise to the top of the field.”

This is a line that Scott Walker used in his speech retiring his presidential bid for this round. BTW, look out Wisconsin – Walker will be wanting to burnish his right wing bona fides for 2020 and beyond. Wisconsin and its citizens will pay the price.

Let’s look at just how positive the conservative message is this time around:

First Positive Message:
We will continue to do everything we can to push the 17 + million Americans who now have health coverage through the PPACA back into the tyranny of coverage at the whim of insurance companies. This will include allowing insurance companies to drop coverage anytime they feel like it. All PPACA reforms will be rescinded so we can return to the normal state of insurance companies making your health decisions.

Second Positive Message:
We will do all we can to send a huge amount of people to countries they are no longer members of and cause a humanitarian crisis of unheard of proportions. We will do this to to satisfy the most racist in our party. This will not create or open new jobs in our country, because we will continue to “offshore” jobs. Besides the demand that those we deport will cause demand for many products to fall off markedly. Once more, a very positive message.

Third Positive Message:
We will cut off any government aid for the poor, the disabled and all others. If you are poor or disabled, then you must suffer and not take money from those who have more through the government.

Fourth Positive Message:
We will do all we can to cut women’s health services, especially the concept of choice. We will also do all we can to stop any forms of contraception thus nearly ensuring a massive amount of unwanted pregnancies and births. Women who have sex outside of marriage deserve the shame and burden of children they can’t care for.

Fifth Positive Message:
Guns will be allowed all places in this society and can be owned by all persons no matter what their fitness mentally. While this may create terror among the populace it is acceptable because a portion of a clause in the constitution has been interpreted to allow unfettered access to guns of any type.

Sixth Positive Message:
America must be ready to go to war at the drop of a hat over perceived grievances great and small. We will sacrifice your children and the public treasury in this cause. War is good business.

Seventh Positive Message:
Anything can be a source for profit for private business. This includes prisons, public water supplies, libraries, fire departments and any other enterprise that is currently in the public sector

Eighth Positive Message:
There is a lot of money to be made from privatizing education from pre-kindergarten to advanced degrees. We must end public supported education. That is socialism.

Ninth Positive Message:
The health of the planet must take second billing to businesses ability to make money and also not be charged with cleaning the effects of their enterprises.

Tenth Positive Message:
We continue to be amazed how well tax cuts have worked for certain sectors of American society. We will continue those tax cuts.

Eleventh Positive Message:
Corporations have gotten very healthy through hands-off governmental policy. This will continue. Among those will be no attempt to force corporations to share their profits through programs like minimum wage.

Twelfth Positive Message:
No Net Neutrality. Corporations will manage your access and monitor your activity with fees determined by a market controlled by only a few players.

Thirteenth Positive Message:
Climate Change has negative implications. We will do away with those by challenging the science and use of positive descriptors for change deniers such as calling them “skeptics.”

Fourteenth Positive Message:
We are busting workers’ right to organize into unions. This will allow more capital to flow to the corporation and give them better control of their assets, both human and monetary.

Fifteenth Positive Message:
We will redirect Social Security funds and Medicare funds to private companies. While the effect on these programs may be lethal to the programs, at least they will go out under the banner of free enterprise instead of socialism.

See? Nothing but positive coming from the right! The Democrats have nothing like this. I am sure of that.

Gibson Resolution On Climate Change

WHY-WHY-NOT(Editor’s Note: To some, eleven Republicans co-sponsoring the Gibson resolution to act on climate are merely stating obvious facts about the science of global warming, its impact on climate, and the need to take immediate action. Friends Committee on Legislation and Citizens Climate Lobby have both been supportive in developing the resolution and hope it will be a starting point toward the elimination of climate change denial in the Congress, and  the beginning of positive steps toward mitigating its causes. Following is the entire press release from FCNL).

On the eve of the Pope’s historic visit to Washington, a group of Republican lawmakers this week called upon Congress to commit to act to address changes in the climate, including efforts to balance the human impacts of climate change. The Friends Committee on National Legislation hailed the resolution introduced by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19) and ten other Republicans as the beginning of a new and more constructive spirit and dialogue in Congress about solutions to climate change.

“The Pope has called for a dialogue on how we care for the Earth. This resolution is the first step towards bipartisan conversations in the U.S. Congress about climate solutions, guided by principles of compassion, reconciliation, justice and stewardship,” stated Diane Randall, executive secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation. “We look forward to working with Rep. Gibson and other lawmakers to advance this conversation so that Congress can implement solutions for the sake of our common future.”

The 72-year-old Quaker lobby in the public interest has worked for nearly three years to build public support for an interfaith, moral call to conscience that centers on a non-partisan, Congressional resolution acknowledging dangers climate change poses to our common future and committing Congress to act. “We believe that bipartisan support is essential for Congress to act on climate change. This issue affects every person on the Earth,” explained Randall. “We’ve worked with Rep. Chris Gibson, Quakers and other faith and community groups around the country to build support for this resolution.”

“We will continue to mobilize faith communities across the country to support bipartisan, Congressional action on climate change,” she said. “As Quakers, we seek the Light of God within all people. FCNL began this grassroots moral call for action on climate change nearly three years ago, recognizing that all peoples – regardless of faith, party, race, age, or any other label – can and must be part of constructive dialogues and solutions to protect our shared Earth. People of faith have a special responsibility to transcend the partisan divides that have blocked Congressional action on this issue for so long. We are delighted to have contributed to this resolution, which commits the House to work constructively to create solutions, including efforts to balance human activities contributing to climate change.”

We are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by Reps. Gibson, Curbelo, Hanna, Stefanik, Fitzpatrick, Meehan, Ros-Lehtinen, Reichert, Dold, LoBiondo, and Costello. We support them in their efforts to address climate change in a bipartisan fashion.

~ The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a non partisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government.

DSCOVR Our Blue Marble

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

This week NASA released new photographs from the DSCOVR satellite launched Feb.11 from Cape Canaveral. DSCOVR, or Deep Space Climate Observatory, is a NOAA Earth observation and space weather satellite. DSCOVR arrived at the L1 Lagrangian point, roughly 1 million miles from Earth, on June 5 and part of its mission is to photograph Earth and transmit images every two hours.

DSCOVR is the result of work initiated in 1998 by then vice president Al Gore. We take for granted the images of the fully illuminated Earth, but for most of the last 35 years, it has been the same set of images taken Dec. 7, 1972 by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft.

Senator Ted Cruz, chair of the U.S. Senate subcommittee on space, science and competitiveness which funds NASA, has said NASA should spend less time studying the planet and more time finding ways to go out into space. Cruz views much of Earth study as “political distractions that are extraneous to NASA’s mandate.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden begs to differ.

“Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place,” Bolden said. “It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth’s environment because this is the only place that we have to live. Science helps exploration; exploration helps science.”

Whatever one thinks about the politics of NASA, the new images coming from DSCOVR remind us Earth is our only home, and there is no Planet B.

Real Solutions Or Fear And Hate?

On their way to Ames today

On their way to Ames today

Yesterday and today will be offering a dramatic contrast of the differences between what the Democratic Party stands for and what the Republican Party stands for.

Last night in Cedar Rapids, Democrats met for their annual Hall of Fame dinner. Speakers for the evening were the declared Democratic candidates for president – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee. The general focus of remarks last night were to bring back the middle class for every group in America and reestablish a country that works for all of its citizens, not just the wealthy and well connected. In short, the focus was on putting the citizens back in charge of this country.

Other issues included climate change, student debt, access to education for all, building an economy that works for all including living wages for workers, sensible immigration solutions and many others. The focus was on issues, not personalities or rumors or made up media hype.

Half a day later and 100 miles to the west in Ames we will be seeing Republicans gathering under the auspices of a quasi-Christian group known as the FAMiLY Leader. The focus of this conference is to push the theme that America is Christian and should be run by a set of principles based on their interpretation of Christianity.

Today we will see such Republican presidential candidates as Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz pander to folks who share the Family Leaders’ version of Christianity. In that version, gays are hated and of course the idea that a gay person could marry is anathema to them. Immigrants and immigration policy will be also be in for major criticism. Policies that will come in for praise are those policies that will enrich the already wealthy while continuing low wages and no benefits for the poor and middle class. No doubt there will be veiled references to Muslims being terrorists through comments on the middle east or the new deal with Iran.

Climate change will certainly come in for derision as will science in general. Shoot, I almost wouldn’t even be surprised if someone joked that the Pluto mission was staged in a back lot in Hollywood. The only science that counts for them is that which can be exploited for a buck.

At a time when serious consideration is needed concerning the deal with Iran, Republican will use it as a cornerstone around which to build fear. There will be no sensible discussion as each of the presidential candidates tries to stake out the furthest right position.

No doubt there will also be attacks on Democratic candidates, most likely Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. There will also be attacks on Planned Parenthood which has recently been the subject of another bogus right wing “documentary.” In short, the hate will flow with no real issues discussed nor any solutions offered.

Within one day the contrast between what have become polar opposites should be quite apparent to any American. Do you want solutions? Or do you want more hate and fear?

Road To Paris – What Is COP21?

Paris COP 21In 2015, France will be hosting and presiding over the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as “Paris 2015.”

COP21 will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 on the Paris-Le Bourget site, bringing together around 40,000 participants in total – delegates representing each country, observers, and civil society members. It is the largest diplomatic event ever hosted by France and one of the largest climate conferences ever organized.

COP21 will be a crucial conference, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.

To achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation – that is, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2°C – and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. These efforts must take into account the needs and capacities of each country. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change.

France will therefore be playing a leading international role to ensure points of view converge and to facilitate the search for consensus by the United Nations, as well as within the European Union, which has a major role in climate negotiations.

To learn more about COP21, go to