The first week of 2013 saw John Boehner, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, decrying his capitulation to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” For months, Sunday morning political talk shows had been parroting President Obama about the dire consequences to America’s middle class, our military, our nation’s infrastructure, and the European Union if American did not increase its debt limit.
Who doubted that moderate Republicans led by John Boehner would cave? They had racked up much of the debt they were decrying. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have shown the same lack of willingness to rescind the debt-financed subsidies or programs they have created.
With both sides equally promoting welfare in its various forms, the end was known before the votes were tallied. The stock market strengthened as the media-generated fiscal cliff and/or Obama’s 2 percent spending cuts (sequestration) approached.
Included in the extension of the debt limit on our already $16 trillion debt was extending the Bush-era tax income cuts to 98.5 percent of the population (but raising the payroll and investment taxes on all of the population). Our leaders also gave $4 million in “green” tax incentives to buy battery powered motorcycles and $59 million to algae growers.
And they gave $70 million in tax breaks to NASCAR, $222 million in tax rebates to rum distillers because it only causes “buzzed” driving, an additional $331 million for railroad owners to maintain tracks they may not own, and $430 million to encourage Hollywood to make movies.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:10
Artificial intelligence may one day replace carbon-based organisms, a bit of progress sought by researchers who feel that “life” can be fully encapsulated in complex algorithms, that it will be more orderly in silicon. Such thinking — alarming to some, perhaps — might, in fact, be considered “necrophilous,” to use a term analyzed by the German psychologist Erich Fromm. As he saw it, increasing orderliness and mechanization is authoritarian, dangerous and life-denying.
In the 10 or 15 years since I read Fromm, his term has become part of my own descriptive vocabulary. Applying it can, however, become a complex exercise. For instance, such actions as the raising of animals to slaughter and then eat can be considered as either life-affirming (if the emphasis is on providing food for humans) or life-denying (if the emphasis is on the non-humans).
Unfortunately, the national economy (as a sort of necrophilous bogeyman) relies on a variety of authoritarian forces to create profit and loss, and, at times, coerce anyone, even a conscientious rancher dedicated to sustainable methods of husbandry, into behaviors that are almost entirely necrophilous.
The feedlot is a good example of a meat-raising endeavor tilting heavily toward authoritarian centralization, as cattle are gathered in huge numbers and stuffed with indigestible corn and animal by-products that could never nourish them even if they miraculously escaped the meat-packing plant.
But this discussion is not primarily about cattle. It is about their wild brothers and sisters.
Last Updated on Friday, 22 March 2013 15:02
There is nothing like the Christmas season! Here are a few of my favorite things about Christmas time: Living in Montana where a white Christmas is almost a sure thing. Drinking eggnog. Listening to Christmas music (for a while anyway). Shopping for gifts. Wondering what your loved ones are going to get you. Visiting friends and family.
But let’s think about gifts for a second. Who does not like getting a gift? I am not talking about “the sweater” that gets re-gifted year after year. I certainly don’t mean those gifts that you try your hardest to look sincerely thankful for.
But there are gifts that show someone loved you enough to study you carefully for a while. Someone listened to you when you said what you wanted and looked carefully for the perfect gift. Then someone took the time and spent the money to get it.
It is giving and getting these kinds of gifts that makes Christmas so great for everyone. But the gifts under the tree are not the gifts that Christmas is all about.
Christmas is not all about the music, the eggnog, the snacks, the food, the snacks, the food, (repeated on purpose for the sake of redundancy) the family, the friends, the decorations, the shopping, the money (the golden quarter for retailers), or any of that.
Last Updated on Saturday, 29 December 2012 11:47
Sunday morning’s talking heads label Montana a “red” state to be taken for granted by Republican presidential candidates. They were spot on: Mitt Romney received 267,924 Montana votes vs. Barack Obama’s 201,813, a 67,000 vote spread.
Montana voters then morphed into independent Montanans and lockstep Republicans ended up confused and therefore angry. Obama got fewer votes than any partisan candidate for Montana’s top offices. Even the clerk of Supreme Court, Ed Smith, a Democrat, won re-election with 42,000 more votes than Obama.
Top vote getter was Romney with 268,000, then Congressman-elect Steve Daines (R) with 255,000 votes and Attorney General-elect Tim Fox (R) with 253,000 votes. State Auditor Monica Lindeen (D) won re-election with 248,000 votes and Linda McCullough (D) remains our secretary of state because 245,000 Montana voters said so.
Sen. Jon Tester, challenger Denny Rehberg and gubernatorial candidates Steven Bullock and Rick Hill were ignored by tens of thousands of voters. Tester earned only 236,000 votes in a multimillion dollar bilge-throwing contest with Denny Rehberg (R), and Kim Gillan (D) got a measly 205,000 against Steve Daines, whose flagship ad had him telling spooky political stories around a family campfire.
At the Yellowstone Valley Pachyderm Club, (every Friday noon at the Elks Lodge on Lewis Ave; the public is invited) gathered pontificators were outraged at the outcome of the presidential, U.S. Senate and Montana governor’s races. Solutions ranged from discouraging primaries so capital can be conserved for final victory to the widely held, “Those damn Libertarians gave it to the Dems. How could they not be smart enough to vote for the lesser of two evils? Didn’t they know that Republicans stand for family values, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and adherence to the Constitution?”
Last Updated on Saturday, 08 December 2012 10:59
It is time to leave politics behind, to advance beyond the silly Red State/Blue State maps, to forget about finding solutions from people vying for office who, to remain electable, ignored the real threats facing our nation and the world. It is time to educate and empower ourselves and push the politicians rather than let them push us.
Consider their response to just one major threat: climate change. Instead of planning for disaster, they wished away or, at best, minimized the contradiction between our inordinate burning of fossil fuels and the fact that such burning threatens our long-term survival.
Surely, we have better institutions than politics for seeing us through such crises. Religion and science come to mind, and I suggest that the two are not as naturally at odds as one might think.
Like many conservatives today, Mr. Romney ridiculed the very idea of “healing the planet.” But this is clearly not the approach that Brigham Young, the great nineteenth century leader of Mr. Romney’s own church, would have taken. Young, in fact, sought to live in harmony with all creatures: “But if we have provisions enough to last us another year, we can say to the grasshoppers—these creatures of God—you are welcome. I have never yet had a feeling to drive them from one plant in my garden; but I look upon them as the armies of the Lord.” Similarly, staunch evangelical scholar Francis Schaeffer maintained that, “Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers. We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect.”
It isn’t necessary to be an adherent of either faith to understand that for both of these leaders, religion could be enlisted to effect a change of outlook and provide a spiritual basis for sustainable living.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 10:28