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  • Todd Pound

Catalysts


Author's note: As a moderate extremist, this is not fun. Shucks, many of my favorite creations (all now on the chopping block): National Parks, EPA, Endangered Species Act, NSF, Planned parenthood, etc. were accomplished with Republican assistance and leadership. Everything in moderation, yes? My favorite band The Mekons countered their angry contemporaries in '78 by singing, "Never Been in a Riot." I've paid to see and hear Merle Haggard twice as many times as Noam Chomsky. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla. I don't think athletes should celebrate in-game accomplishments with such vigor, it's unsportsmanlike. I really liked James Baker's carbon tax pitch to Trump. I think Elon Musk should continue to talk to the President. I like capitalism, provided it's properly regulated and forward-thinking. I'll vote for the most genuine and pragmatic person in every election, regardless of party. I proposed an app that might help separate ideas from ideology. So it's sorta strange I should choose to write a partisan screed. But... well, they started it.

My biggest disappointment with Trump? He's just another Republican. He resists the scientific method and won't seek the council of scientists. He abhors pragmatic thought (a shame considering Pragmatism is the only philosophy the United States can claim as its offspring). He is intent on raping the land for temporary profit. He reads and speaks at a grade school level.

Like his GOP counterparts, he wants to travel backwards in time at the expense of progress in technology, cleanliness, and human rights. Such behavior should be counter-productive to the survival of a political party. Why do Republicans still exist?

Based on words and deeds, it seems to me that they owe their existence to powerful old industries willing to fight tooth & nail for survival. We've been burning coal for 3,000 years. Oil as energy is nearly as ancient. These are stubborn habits with wealthy enablers (both here and in places with even greater dependencies on oil like, say, Russia). Established institutions resist modernity and change. A Taliban warlord hates the idea of his young bride learning to read. The carbon economy can't stand to see solar eclipse it as an employer.1

Old worlds do not go down without a fight. In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation attempted to erase a fundamental (and morally corrupt) economic system. One hopes less blood is spilt as we transfer to a carbon-free economy.

This would be a perfect time to make the switch from old industry to new. I'm not even advocating turning off the money-in-politics siphon, just switching from warm to cool. Exxon to Google. Chevron to Tesla.

A superpower is going to make this switch. I'd prefer it be this one.

Humans everywhere procrastinate. Every once in a while, we get a kick in the pants (or a punch in the gut, a stab to the heart). We respond well to the startling and unexpected. Humbling, embarrassing moments are quintessential.

I hope Trump is such a catalyst.

(Apologies to Slim Pickens & Sputnik)

When Sputnik went into orbit the United States responded with astonishing speed. We created NASA. Congress passed the National Defense Education Act to emphasize scientific learning. Imagine a time when science was considered an imperative to survival of the country.

I see no reason that this latest (Russian2) surprise shouldn't also reset our resolve.

There is certainly a lot of work to do.

Trump set the tone that first day at CIA Headquarters, inexplicably complaining that the media had lied about his inauguration attendance numbers and declaring, “trust me, I’m like a smart person.” (Everyone I know is smart and not one has ever thought it necessary to remind or assure me of their aptitude. They’re smarter than that.)

But we've seen Presidential ignorance and uncouth behavior before. And, frankly, the fabrications and boasts were expected. They are noise. Ineptitude and buffoonery mustn't drown out draconian demagoguery.

Proud institutions have been forced to go rogue in an effort to preserve scientific data. Information was stashed and stowed away for safekeeping (one hopes).

This is happening in the United States of America.

With surprising speed entities and organizations were gagged and censored and cut, including the EPA, NASA, USDA, Department of Interior, and a multitude of international health organizations. Stewardship of U.S. agencies has been bequeathed to the inexperienced and downright antagonistic.

Ben Carson thinks slaves were immigrants. I have a better understanding of the African-American experience. I also know more about the brain. Everyone does. And housing. Meanwhile, EPA Director Pruitt doesn't understand very basic science.

Republicans, 2017. They are an ignorant and fearful bunch. Bush, in terms of blood and treasure lost, remains the worst of modern presidents. And he was considered the compassionate conservative. When speaking of the GOP, one mustn't fail to appreciate a term's relativity.

Trump cannot spell "tap." He doesn't understand his job, the government, or the Constitution. He is surrounded by white supremacists. He lies in ways I don't think Orwell or Heller could imagine. He is intent on cutting our social safety nets and undermining our intellectual might. He is endangering my children and your future.

If he had not touched anything, Trump would be sitting rather pretty. Obama left him with the fastest economic growth in over a decade, deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that had doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.

Trump could've simply added a carbon tax (giving all families at least $2000 the first year, increasing thereafter) and an infrastructure tuneup. 2020 might've been a breeze.

He has done much worse.

Eliot Cohen, from the previous era of conservatism, wrote a lengthy and impassioned piece in The Atlantic deeming the Trump Presidency a "Clarifying Moment in American History":

He will do much more damage before he departs the scene, to become a subject of horrified wonder in our grandchildren’s history books. To repair the damage he will have done Americans must give particular care to how they educate their children, not only in love of country but in fair-mindedness; not only in democratic processes but democratic values. Americans, in their own communities, can find common ground with those whom they have been accustomed to think of as political opponents. They can attempt to renew a political culture damaged by their decayed systems of civic education, and by the cynicism of their popular culture.

There was nothing unanticipated in this first disturbing week of the Trump administration. It will not get better. Americans should therefore steel themselves, and hold their representatives to account. Those in a position to take a stand should do so, and those who are not should lay the groundwork for a better day. There is nothing great about the America that Trump thinks he is going to make; but in the end, it is the greatness of America that will stop him.

(Everyone writes like Christopher Hitches now. Hyperbole is not.)

I take little pleasure in Bush hawks lamenting the state of their party. Trump's approval rating among Republicans remains about 90%. He has seen few defections from Congress. He is the GOP. And to my surprise, it is a party considerably and demonstrably more resolute, meaner, misogynistic, racist, and blatantly unChristian than George W. Bush.

For example, refugees.

One morning, Alan Kurdi's parents tied his tiny shoes and promised a great adventure. A new life. One hopes his drowning moment of terror was brief. His image has haunted me for years. It makes me want to hug my kids and curse this dumb, careless world. This particular death, of course, was not Trump's fault (although, if history labels Syria's civil war one of the first climate change conflicts, then I suppose climate deniers will share some of the blame).

Regardless, I'm left with the impression that in 2017 many Republicans look at the photo above and shrug. Or, worse, decide that what the we need now is a rigorously unconstitutional ban on migration.

Based on what I've seen of conservative media, the Right sees boys like Alan as potential future terrorists, destined for bloodshed like Oedipus. I'm not so afraid. I see Alan as a kid whose parents were simply escaping Syrian bloodshed. Let's not prematurely brand our enemies. That is a surefire way of making foes and assuring our worst fates. This was King Laius' mistake, yes?

What did Trump ally Rep. King tweet? "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." If this is your stance, you must accept that you are leaning a little fascist.3 You might still call yourself an American and a Christian. But I'm not sure on what grounds.

The last thing a free society, a loving society, a brilliant society,4 a religious society should do is retreat into unconstitutional immigration bans and 21 billion dollar walls.5

Trump is Sylvester McMonkey McBean, crafting new ways to divide and profit. This from a President who has already forced us to explain pussy grabbing and golden showers to our children.

He is the leader of a repugnant party full of gleeful enablers like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. It is their insincerity that cuts deepest.

"...if you only repeal the law—gut and repeal the law, as some folks are suggesting—then you have triple-digit premium increases, and you’ll collapse the individual market.” - Paul Ryan, selling his slow-kill version.

Consider for a moment that it took Ryan, presumably the last intellectual Republican leader, over seven years to comprehend this rather obvious circumstance. How many repeal bills did he oversee and send to Obama? Was that ignorance or irresponsibly?

This has got to serve as a catalyst. A marker of where not to go and what not to do. This is the moment when the Plain-Belly and Star-Belly Sneetches learn a thing or two.

First, let's reclaim the words “family” and “values.” Also, "deficit." Even, "Jesus." The Right is clearly done with them. Conservatives must never utter those words again, for it will be in vain.

Second, let's continue to insist that Bannon's preordained great social change needn't be achieved via a new world war. The calamity that will shape us is already breathing down our necks. Mobilization against pollution is a great endeavor. The foes are CO2 and methane and plastics. At stake is land, sea, and air. Let's institute a carbon tax. Let's give everyone money. Let's pay for Rep. Conyers universal healthcare plan. Let's build a new infrastructure.

We should do these things not because they are hard but because they are, actually, kinda easy.

Third, there's a narrative circulating on the left and right that Democrats overlooked rural American blight and plight. I'm not entirely sure that's fair. Obama had a plan to infuse coal mining communities with money and jobs. An old-fashioned jump-start (see Sputnik reference above). Who killed it? Republicans. Now in power, they're trying again to sell us on supply-side economics, pushing the same limp rope up the same Hill. Let's make sure this is last time we try this failed economic philosophy. It doesn't even look good on paper.

Finally, let's continue to shock the Republican 4th Reich with impressive numbers. A rogue 3.5 million women marched in the largest U.S. protest in history, a monumental display of solidarity... with a lot of great signs.

Let’s acknowledge the brilliant planning and diligence required to organize and stage this simultaneous global event. Who did that again?

Women.

There's a great line Rufus Thomas delivers in "Do The Funky Chicken" as the band behind him hits its groove: "Oh, I'm felling it now. I feel so unnecessary."

They'll hone the message, display resolve, & define perseverance... We'll be in good hands and graces again.

1- We've all seen the numbers, right? This is a story of smart, timely investment coinciding with economic trends.

2- A pair of pranksters distributes Russian flags adorned with TRUMP to CPAC attendees and no one objects or notices? Wave 'em in the air, conservatives. Wave 'em like you just don't care. Or know. Or whatever.

3- To be sure, none of us are clean. We evolved from tribal beasts. Plenty of blood has been spilt since since our garden departure. That fact alone should compel empathy and citizenship.

4- The U.S. won 6 Nobel Prizes in Science last year. All were immigrants.

5- Sadly, that's more than twice the cost of the now neutered EPA... which, prior to its demise as a scientific institution, might've capably explained the wall's potential for extinction and biodiversity loss as it cleaves wild lands.

Post's Sonic Accompaniment: "Til Victory" ... or I suppose I could almost randomly select a song from my country collection lamenting coal mining. Johnny Cash et al. had just as much an influence on my environmental concerns as the obvious evidence of removing mountains, filling streams, and burning carcinogens. It really is time to leave all that behind.


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