Young and Smart Politics

I’ve never been a fan of politicians so when my wife told me we were invited to a political rally I immediately felt the stick in my eye.  I had soured on politics since the last elections when I was forced to vote for the best of the worse.  I’m a registered independent voter who is frustrated with both parties and their inability to find some good forward-thinking candidates rather than the same old rich white guys governing with 1950’s values.  I was not going to attend the rally but my sage wife reminded me that this was a new group organized by some young and smart people and that there would be free food and Craft beer.  I agreed to go with an open mind—what kind of beer?

Although I was a reluctant attendee I was interested to hear from this group Our Shot NC because they were born from the Women’s March back in January.  Millions of mostly women demonstrated and promoted local and national issues, many near and dear to me, like: health care for all, combating global warming, and gun control.  I obviously don’t agree with all their platforms but I am a fan of women who have a kick-ass way of getting things done–get out of the way guys. 

As per the group’s website:

OUR SHOT NC is a political action committee formed by ordinary citizens, just like you.  We believe in a North Carolina where ALL can work, prosper, and raise families.  OUR SHOT NC is raising money to donate directly to progressive candidates running for State House of Representatives, to help them early in their campaign.  Candidates who value fair elections, education, health, environment and equal rights.

Even though I promised to have an open mind I couldn’t help but feel like I was about to be sucked into the same old political game with some repackaging.  “Give us your money, vote for us and then we’ll abandon you for the big money.”  But the friends who invited us to the rally are: young, smart, and HONEST so I am willing to listen and hope for the best.

When we arrived at the meeting I was relieved to see that there weren’t thousands of demonstrators outside chanting “SHAME” and I didn’t see many BMW’s, Mercedes, or chauffeurs.  We signed in and I immediately noticed that Millennial women were running the rally and the few old, white guy’s, in attendance, only dominance was being first in the line for the feeding frenzy of free cookies and barbecue.  I went to the bar and they had one of my favorite beers which was a positive way to start the night.

The rally quickly turned into a true love fest with the packed house, desperate for political change, cheering every word.  Friendly to the cause politicians attended and motivational words from a local young and smart, charismatic Legislator, who is destined for big things, kept the crowd psyched.  The excitement rivaled rabid fans at a Yankee-Red Sox game or parishioners rocking a Baptist service.  I couldn’t help but feel the passion but did they have the right stuff to win over this independent moderate?political rally cartoon

The short answer is yes with some reservations.  To me this rally was all about the changing of the guard from Boomers to Millennials and it’s about time because we’re tired and can’t remember a damn thing.  In general, the group was more progressive than me but I was impressed with their passion and commitment.  On this night, the message was about finding and funding candidates who better represent the everyday people of North Carolina and not special interests.  The most important point they made is how many of the past elections won by ultra conservative puppets were won with very slim margins even though they were funded with large war chests supplied by special interest groups (many not my interests).  OurShot presented a Bernie Sanders funding model soliciting many small donations to raise enough money to level the playing field but also keep the candidates free of political bosses and big money groups.

Will we donate?—probably!  The bigger question is will they get our vote?  That depends on the candidates and platform although with our present lawmakers the bar for my support is set low.  We must replace bad representatives on both sides of the aisle with candidates who are willing to intelligently debate and compromise to get things done while staying true to their constituents.

I also realize that to improve our government, old guys like me must be willing to consider a broader spectrum of candidates.  Although I wouldn’t label myself a progressive I have more in common with this group than the ultra-conservative wing nuts.  I left with a good feeling about our future and hopefully the new candidates will realize that getting elected is about following through on your promises and continuing the grass roots funding to avoid the temptation to be bought by special interests and party bosses.  “Whose shot? Our Shot!”

Fixing Global Warming

Weather has changed dramatically in my lifetime.  The old ocean beaches I vacationed at are mostly underwater, and the Northeast winters that used to let me ski and skate from December to March now are often snow-less with breaks of summer-like temperatures.  Rain in the desert, drought in the once drenched mountains, tornadoes, hurricanes, massive forest fires, and floods where they never were are a sign that something is wrong.

There is a problem and most scientists have concluded that a big part of that problem is the carbon emissions from energy sources like gas, oil, and coal.  Carbon and other gases, including methane (what are you feeding those cows?), build up in our atmosphere and form an umbrella that traps heat—the more gases, the more heat, the more melting, higher oceans, and beyond weird weather patterns.  It seems logical that we need to do something about the carbon emissions that we create, but in the case of our lawmakers logic isn’t always the path taken.  That logical solution of cleaning up our dirty air has been slow in coming or even blocked by powerful forces who profit from fossil fuels and choose to ignore or minimize the negative effects these carbon-belching fuels have on our fragile environment

It’s time to become vocal about the self-destruction of our world and demand action based on real science.  We need to moderate our current administration’s FUBAR proposals of rolling back restrictions on: mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions.  Climate change is not a hoax and the scientifically backed evidence confirms that the world is warming and that man-made carbon emissions are primarily to blame.global warming cartoon

There have been real technological advances in alternative clean energy sources like solar and wind but our country still seems to favor drilling and pipelines.  Both the clean energy and fossil fuel advocates must realize that a solution is about compromise.  That compromise may be found in a new player in the battle who could be a game changer and help find a solution that could bring these two sides together–The Drawdown Project, self-billed as The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  From The Drawdown Projects website: Drawdown maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming. For each solution, we describe its history, the carbon impact it provides, the relative cost and savings, the path to adoption, and how it works. The goal of the research that informs Drawdown is to determine if we can reverse the buildup of atmospheric carbon within thirty years. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.

Project Drawdown is a different approach with hundreds of non-partisan scientists offering solutions to our carbon fed global warming problem with a detailed analysis of the different forms of energy and actions that can be taken to reduce our carbon emissions.  The biggest positive to the project is that it offers many choices that can be mixed and matched to produce a hybrid energy package that could appeal to all.

In addition to recommending a transition to wind, solar, geo, and tidal energy production Drawdown goes a step farther by offering a complete carbon solution proposing best practices in areas like: lifestyle, forestry, farming, diet, food production, building, and our waste stream.  The 100 solutions can be mixed in any way and phased in or enacted immediately since most of the proposed actions are “shovel-ready” using existing technology.  Adopting some or all of Drawdown’s plan would be a great start to cleaning up our air.

It’s time to do something about the carbon emissions and the Drawdown group seems to be on the right path using scientific data rather than lobbyists to push for change.  As with any issue getting the right information is critical in formulating our future energy plan so hopefully our lawmakers acknowledge the alarming changes in our weather and pay attention to the brilliant scientists who have the solutions.

Click here to learn more about Drawdown

Smartphone Addiction

I recently was watching 60 minutes and the following story really hit home, “Brain Hacking” by Anderson Cooper on our addiction to our smartphones.  In the TV report a former Google product manager reveals how our smartphones are ADDICTIVE!  Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked.  One of the former google programmers, Tristan Harris: “Well every time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see, “What did I get?” This is one way to hijack people’s minds and create a habit, to form a habit. What you do is you make it so when someone pulls a lever, sometimes they get a reward, an exciting reward. And it turns out that this design technique can be embedded inside of all these products”.

In hindsight, I’ve only had two addictions before the iPhone thing.  The first was an addiction for candy bars of all shapes and sizes from Sky Bars to Three Musketeers.  Most of my paper route money went to my habit and I even was hit by a truck when blindly, candy crazed, running across the street to resupply my stash of chocolate and satisfy my sweet tooth.  Thankfully I pulled back on my chocolate consumption before I became a speed bump, but still love chocolate in moderation.

The second and very common addiction was to cigarettes.  Like most teenagers from my generation I started smoking with my buddies to be “cool”.  The cigarette companies marketing was brilliant portraying smokers as world class athletes, actors, and just plain beyond cool guys.  I and millions of others in my peer group were easy hooks.  The cool pull along with the nicotine and habit addiction were enough to counter disgusting yellow fingers, foul smell, inability to run more than a hundred yards, and the death sentence.  It was a tough habit to kick but it became a no-brainer to toss the smokes when I realized that unless I quit my daughter was destined to be hooked too.

Until I saw the 60 Minutes program I thought I was a recovered addict ignoring all the signs that I had entered the addiction world again.  The show was, like in OZ, pulling back the curtain and revealing the reality of the smartphone addiction.  It truly is like a slot machine with every click of the phone revealing a jewel of a fact or message like the record breaking 85 Happy Birthday greetings from family, friends, and stalkers.  You become totally oblivious about the world around you and your focus on that phone counters concern for walking off a cliff or having any interaction with real people.  It’s like reliving my past cigarette problem, grabbing the IPhone when I awake in the morning and continuing to check for mostly non-time-sensitive posts, texts, or tweets on a regular basis—pathetic chain-smoking/Smart-phoning.cartoon of man walking off cliff while on phone

No one except for maybe the President (present one excluded) needs to be in a constant communication loop.  I think it’s time to conquer my addiction and many others should do the same especially those texters swerving and crashing in record numbers.  Whenever I feel the urge to check my phone every minute I remind myself that it wasn’t that long ago that it was enough for me to come home from work and once a day check my answering machine for all my messages.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a techy and value everything smartphones can do from streaming a Yankee game to covering your ass with last minute Birthday greetings.  It’s the “checking the phone constantly for no reason” use that I am determined to stop.  The world seemed to work fine pre-smartphone without the stressful 24-7 news and the constant stream of mostly unimportant alerts.  If I’m going to play a slot machine it should be for cash and not the shallow reward of reading a post about someone’s cat or dog getting a new outfit.