Wha’ Happened This Week? So You’re Never LATE TO THE PARTY.
1. Yes yes, I’ll get to the salacious disaster porn of the debt ceiling debacle & the Amazing Platinum Coin Option, but first — this week’s top story. It’s pretty hard to make a hundreds-of-years-in-the-making story into breaking news on any given week, but that’s part of the problem, eh? So here goes: THE GLOBE IS WARMING, y’all! And we (I’m guessing you, gentle readers, aren’t big climate deniers) know it & it sucks but what are we gonna do? Literally? Drink to escape? FOREVER? The 2012 stats were published this week — and Andrew Sullivan points out the trifecta of higher temps in the US this year, higher cost to deal with all the weather damage brought on in part by said temps, aaaand lower rates of reporting it in the news. Why isn’t the media covering it? BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO FEEL LIKE A NAG.
Or because they’re not sure of the facts, or worried about those deniers calling them “alarmist” like that’s the worst insult ever. The thing about this climate change problem? It’s getting to the point (it was probably already at the point about 30 years ago) where someone needs to sound the alarm. ‘Cuz the next 5-10 years will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
One of the definitions of the word “alarm,” besides the obnoxious-morning-wake-up one, is “a call to arms.” David Roberts’ call to arms TED talk from a few months back is a MUST WATCH to be the smarty at the party — or just a person who’s not part of the problem. Tough love, guys. But it’s 17:44 minutes that will change the world. ‘Cuz look, the solution to reversing the global warming trend isn’t obvious — and a beer sounds really nice right about now — but that’s the whole challenge: the problem isn’t really “how do we fix it?” There’s a lot of technological advancement on the subject (see here). Rather, the problem is “how do we MOTIVATE enough people to actually do the fixing?”
Science philosopher Nancy Ellen Abrams says we need to think in the MUCH longer term (full discloser: she’s my mom & she’s usually right). David Roberts says doing so requires greater empathy, “pushing our circle of concern outward,” figuring out how to feel (and not just think) for future generations as we felt when we heard about the Sandy Hook massacre:
We know that the decisions we are making today are on track to create irreversible and inexorable changes in the global climate that our children and their children will inherit. We know that those changes threaten to slow or reverse our hard-fought gains in peace and health, leaving our descendants a world in violent, unceasing transition, with rising seas, greater droughts, more intense storms, shifting zones of fertility and disease, and waves of climate refugees. We discovered this not through shock or confrontation but through the slow accumulation and careful interpretation of evidence. It is still, to most people, almost entirely an intellectual phenomenon, something they know but do not feel. Relative to the gut-wrenching images out of Newtown, the evidence of the climate threat to children is, by and large, abstract and ethereal. Even those who “know” the extent of climate change find it difficult to feel authentic moral outrage about it.
Yet for every ton of carbon we emit, we are firing a bullet into the air. We may not live to see it, but those bullets will rain down on the children of the future, and they will suffer for it. […] Surely we can do better in protecting today’s children from random acts of violence. But surely we can also do better in protecting tomorrow’s children from suffering that, however distant and theoretical it may seem to us now, will yield just as many broken lives and broken hearts.
If you’ve heard/read anything useful on the matter, send it my way. TheSmartyattheParty@gmail.com. But wait! By George, the Brits have got it! (Click on the image below for one minute of awesome.)
2. Oh yes, the short term: a platinum coin worth a trillion dollars! So… Congress didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling back in those fiscal cliffical times of early 2013, gifting us a month & a half of drama as we near our country’s credit limit (sorta good analogy). What happens if we hit it? Well, it’s actually a LOT more worrisome than that cliff of yore. As a journalist at The Atlantic points out in a fantastic doom & gloom essay, it’s what the Bipartisan Policy Center calls “the X Date: The first day the U.S. government doesn’t have the money it needs to pay all of its bills. The United States has never hit the X Date.” But back here in pre-X Date America, there are solutions galore. Of course, one of the solutions is to just vote to raise the debt ceiling and allow the government to borrow more (to pay, it should be noted, stuff it’s already ‘bought’ and knows it)… if only the GOP would let it be that easy. As Paul Krugman says in an article from yesterday called “Coins Against Crazies,”
It’s crucial to understand three things about this situation. First, raising the debt ceiling wouldn’t grant the president any new powers; every dollar he spent would still have to be approved by Congress. Second, if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the president will be forced to break the law, one way or another; either he borrows funds in defiance of Congress, or he fails to spend money Congress has told him to spend.
Finally, just consider the vileness of that G.O.P. threat. If we were to hit the debt ceiling, the U.S. government would end up defaulting on many of its obligations. This would have disastrous effects on financial markets, the economy, and our standing in the world. Yet Republicans are threatening to trigger this disaster unless they get spending cuts that they weren’t able to enact through normal, Constitutional means.
So how does the governement ‘reasonably’ combat the GOP vileness? Think Progress says it clearest:
With Congressional Republicans once again threatening to take the nation’s debt limit hostage for spending cuts, economic circles have been abuzz with the possibility that a standoff could be averted via use of a $1 trillion platinum coin. An obscure law, read literally, gives the Treasury Secretary the ability to mint platinum coins of any denomination. Deposited with the Federal Reserve, such a coin would give the federal government the ability to make payments without needing to issue more debt, defusing the possibility of a default due to the debt ceiling.
Haha. THIS IS ALL TOO MUCH. But just giving y’all a heads up, ‘cuz this coin idea will be everywhere over the next few weeks.
3. Thighs! Lena Dunham has them and the world isn’t ready! Please read this awesome article (if you haven’t already) called “The Audacity of Lena Dunham, And Her Admirable Commitment To Making Us Look At Her Naked.” If the real apocalypses of global warming and X Date are upon us then, no, still not an excuse to wallow. But it IS an excuse to STOP CARING ABOUT TEN POUNDS HERE OR THERE. Yours or anyone else’s.
Quote of the week from Jon Stewart, ‘cuz I didn’t cover all the latest gun control/NRA/shooting madness, and this clip says it all:
[Gun advocates’] paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future prevents us from addressing our actual dystopic present. We can’t even begin to address 30,000 gun deaths that are actually in reality happening in this country every year because a few of us must remain vigilant against the rise of imaginary Hitler.