Progressively Restoring American Greatness By Anthony Watson
A thought-provoking book on the forces manipulating our political system and how the idea of Power to the People can be resurrected.
By Anthony Watson (c) 1991-2012
Excerpted from the book Progressively Restoring American Greatness
On the political right, to be termed a progressive is to be called a
dirty word. For a right-winger to support anything progressive is to
be called a radical, a hippie, a socialist, a communist, or worse... a
Democrat and a liberal, by their fellows. Few on the right seem to
remember that Republicans often have been the forerunners of
progressive thought in American political history and once proudly
claimed the label. It was the so-called Radical Republicans of the
middle 19th century that helped bring an end to slavery in America.
At the turn of the last century, a progressive movement
spearheaded by the conservative Republican Teddy Roosevelt
altered the direction of America in the 20th century. That earlier
progressive movement at the beginning of the 20th century
empowered every American to be all that they could be. At the
beginning of the 21st century, our country needs a unifying and
empowering political agenda that bridges the current political
chasms to restore American greatness.
Progressive also literally means making progress. The
implicit positive meaning is that the progress will generally require
a certain perseverance and focus to gradually achieve a goal over
time. That is the literal meaning of progressive, to make progress.
Progressively is a concept that Americans will have to keep in
mind, because things are going to get progressively better or they
are going to get progressively worse. The status quo cannot stand.
Change is in the air.
Americans have dug a big hole financially, and it is going to
take a long time to dig out. The depth of our debt is staggering.
Paying it down will be a progressive process. We will have to
make serious changes throughout our society to begin the long,
slow climb out of the mess where America finds itself.
Progressively restoring American greatness will require a clear
long-term plan executed over decades. All honest Republican and
Democrats will admit that the aforementioned statements are true,
but that is about all they can agree on! This progressive agenda is a
long-term plan for gradually restoring American leadership in the
world. This book seeks to restore progressively the greatness of
our country through consensus.
Unfortunately, to be progressive today is to be deemed a
liberal, persona non grata, by half this nation. For the other half, to
be progressive is to be a rabble-rouser that gets in the way of
Democratic political gain. Most Democrats are frustrated with
progressives, and the feeling is mutual. Perhaps a Progressive is
not really a Democrat. As a nation, the politics of left and right
have prevented 'progress' for far too long, and forward progress is
clearly a necessity for the 21st century
The Liberal/Conservative chasm that divides us, mirroring the
Democrat/Republican fault line, has fractured our nation.
Progressive politics laid the groundwork for American ascendancy
in the 20th century, and it can do so again. Progressive has certain
political connotations today that tend to make many Americans
think of unrestrained liberal government...at least in the eyes of
most Republicans and right-wing conservatives. It is a sad truth
that today's GOP has forgotten that a conservative Republican
president, Teddy Roosevelt, shepherded the progressive vision into
American politics. Perhaps it irks them that his liberal Democratic
cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt then nurtured it.
The current war between the parties has hamstrung us, and so
it seemed appropriate to embrace the political title of progressive.
It is a title that has history and connections on both sides of the
aisle. Progressives should be promoting a forward-thinking
political and social agenda for the new challenges we face as a
nation and not getting bogged down in partisanship.
This book is meant to appeal to all red-blooded, patriotic
Americans, whether they identify themselves as Democrat,
Republican, 3rd party, independent, or apolitical. Progressives are
not a bunch of lefty ideologues, and progressives are not the left
wing of the Democratic Party. A true progressive is a serious
person seeking serious solutions to help America and her people
progress into the future regardless of party agendas.
This book seeks to knit together a progressive agenda that
appeals to concerned Americans and builds a majority that can
lead. Make no mistake because this agenda seeks to unite
Americans, it requires Americans of every stripe to compromise.
Americans must find a common ground, and this book seeks to
reveal the common ground that is being concealed by the 'fog of
partisan war'. Whether you call yourself a conservative, a liberal, a
Democrat, a Republican, or are unaffiliated, you will find
something in this book that you will have a hard time liking.
Honestly, I set out to write a book that could unite average
Americans and that meant compromises for me as well. I
compromised, because united we stand, divided we fall is as true
as it ever was. These ideas can allow us to progress together into
Jury nullification is the lost check of the people against
government overreaching. America`s Constitution was meant to
create a system of checks and balances that would prevent tyranny.
The Founding Fathers meant to make sure that our government had
to go to twelve citizens every time they intended to rob another
citizen of property or freedom. This has long been a controversial
topic in America. The Establishment has dealt with those who
speak of jury nullification by throwing them in jail for contempt of
court. It is difficult to swim upstream on this, unless the people and
the media speak out in favor it. Again, this is another scary idea of
our founders, because it puts the power to interpret the law into the
hands of the 12 men and women on the jury. The 12 people on the
jury are supposed to be able to vote their conscience and decide for
themselves whether the law applies or the law is just.
One of the keystones of a new progressive agenda must be
citizen empowerment. America`s future rests upon whether or not
individual citizens will step up and shoulder the burdens of
citizenship. As we give more and more power to the government,
we must realize that we are really giving power to the wealthy and
big business lobbies. Power to the People will require an incredible
amount of tolerance from each one of us, because freedom is a
messy business. We will need to tolerate many differing opinions,
lifestyles, and religious beliefs to forge a coalition large enough to
overwhelm the moneyed power that has a chokehold on our
Jury nullification opponents will scream anarchy and point to
trials in the South that let Ku Klux Klan members go free for
lynching that everyone knew they had committed. However, the
Constitution clearly gives the central government the power to
protect individual rights when states and local lawmakers attempt
to abridge citizen rights. Cries from the law-and-order crowd of
anarchy and chaos always target the citizenry`s most fearful
visions, which saturate the media in the numerous flavors of cop
shows and endless news cycles of gruesome crimes drawn from all
across the country. We must trust our fellow citizens. Anarchy
would not result, because an overwhelming majority of Americans
want the bad guys to go to jail and will put them there.
The whole idea behind the American jury system was that we
might allow 99 guilty men to go free before imprisoning one
innocent man. If we do not embrace that most basic concept of our
nation`s founding, we cannot return to greatness. The Founding
Fathers and the Constitution created a justice system that might let
99 guilty individuals go free before imprisoning one innocent,
because that system was a huge check on government power.
Police can arrest people all day, but if they cannot convict them
through constitutional means, their power is checked. The power
of the central government to impose its will upon the people was
limited as well by this system. Jury nullification is the ultimate
check on government power.
The power of jury nullifications means that government
cannot pass laws that less than 95% of the people agree with.
How do we come to this calculation? Simple, given the
requirement of a jury of 12 peers agreeing unanimously to
provide a guilty verdict, we divide 1 by 12, which allows for an
8% disagreement percentage. This leads to a 92% agreement
threshold in the populace for successful implementation of a
given law. However, the ability for a citizen to get at least one
appeal on any conviction raises the bar. This guaranteed appeal
cuts the 8% threshold to a 4% disagreement threshold among
regular citizens being sufficient to influence the central
government`s ability to prosecute a given law. That means that
96% of the populace must agree with a law to send an individual
to jail. What a check on government power to imprison its own
populace! With the requirement of 96% agreement, how could
America have become the largest imprisoner of its own citizens?
America has an enormous prison population and imprisons more
of its citizenry than any other “civilized” nation by raw numbers
and by per capita. This is freedom? No! It is not freedom. We
should all live in great fear of the growing police power of our
Only jury nullification can stop this horrible abuse of the
central government`s power to make law. Years ago, when George
Bush, Sr. went into Panama and dragged Manuel Noriega back to
the U.S. for a trial, many questioned the legitimacy of such a
military action (but that is for another essay). Our own
international legal experts deemed the military intervention legal,
of course. Nonetheless, at the trial, the American people spoke out
in the courtroom. The people questioned the legitimacy of Bush
the First`s kidnapping of a foreign leader. In the end, the reality
was that the government could not get a conviction. To George
Bush, Sr.`s great dismay, there was a hung jury.
The jurors could not agree that Noriega deserved to be
imprisoned for the alleged drug trafficking that he was charged
with. Many citizens questioned our interpretation of international
law that allowed us to invade Panama as well as using the military
to pursue and capture a foreign head of state. America`s own
system of justice could not and would not convict Noriega.
Apparently, not only was it a violation of international law as
foreign international legal experts had claimed, but it was also a
violation of American law, according to America`s own citizen
Well, of course, the administration could not stand for an
outcome like that. Bush, Sr. had mobilized the military to invade a
sovereign nation, captured the duly elected leader of that country,
and brought him back to the United States. There had been much
international protest over this Christmas invasion. Many protestors
referenced Noriega`s previous high standing with our government
as an ally in the Drug War. Noriega seemed to be receiving
punishment for some transgression in his dealings with the CIA,
and this was the contention of many within, and without, the U.S.
borders. What an embarrassment it would have been for Bush if
Noriega had not been imprisoned!
Therefore, the jury was marched before a group of
government operatives and presented with “secret evidence”. What
was the secret evidence that never saw the light of day? We still do
not know. We may never know. Perhaps the government officials
simply told the jury that they either convict Noriega or go to jail
themselves. This is an obviously strong motivation to ignore one`s
conscience and save one`s skin. And so, Noriega went to jail, but it
was far from a legal trial. After all, it was obviously a case of jury
tampering, which is a federal offense, but by then, the government
had already largely exempted itself from such mundane constraints
as the Constitution and the rule of law.
If one needs more convincing that the loss of “Jury
Nullification” has broken the American justice system, one only
need look at the Rodney King beating and the subsequent trial of
the officers involved. Many were dismayed by the acquittal of
those officers. The evidence was right there on videotape of what
was done to Rodney King. No one is saying that Rodney King is a
pillar of virtue, but even if he were on PCP, which is arguable, the
tape showed him on the ground and cuffed with multiple officers
continuing to deliver blows to an obviously helpless individual.
How can that not be police brutality?
The jury is not to blame here. The Founding Fathers saw the
judge as an impartial arbiter of facts and fairness in the courtroom,
not an ally of the prosecution. Unfortunately, in 21st century
America the judge does act as an ally to the prosecution. The
jury received strict instructions from the judge that they could not
convict the officers if the Los Angeles Police Department had
trained them to beat Rodney King in this manner. Huh? Surely,
jurors were confused by these instructions, and maybe they even
wished to vote their conscience, despite those instructions.
Unfortunately, they were faced with a jail term if they were to vote
any other way, because of the judge`s unconstitutional powers to
imprison them for voting their conscience. Contempt of court has
been used as a club to beat juries into submission for decades now.
Following the police officers` acquittal, there were riots that
on the surface had a racial component. Nonetheless, much of what
happened on the day of the acquittal was an assertion of power by
the people. It was more than the black versus white rioting that the
media and government portrayed it as. Many people hit the streets
to protest the acquittal. Some of the rioting may have been a
subconscious desire to send a message to the Establishment that
though they owned the courtroom and made the laws, the streets
were still owned by the people in those South L.A. neighborhoods.
Following this disastrous ruling, the Clinton administration
came in and retried the case, further demonstrating the broken state
of the American justice system by violating constitutional
protections against double jeopardy. The central government got
around this with the torturous logic of claiming that the officers
had violated Rodney King`s civil rights. Despite the ultimate
outcome, the retrial only made the whole situation worse by failing
to address the strict jury instructions that judges have been allowed
to force upon helpless jurors.
The true intent of the jury system is for there to be a constant
vote of the people on the laws being put out from the government.
To accomplish this, we must fund jury service. There is no way a
hard-working stiff can get a jury of his peers. All his peers are
hard-working stiffs too. All the accused`s true peers are working
for companies that do not pay for any jury service. This must
change. The federal government must fund this essential part of the
American justice system. Verified by pay stubs and/or tax returns,
jury compensation should be a more reasonable recompense for
this essential citizen service than what is currently being done. The
society must fund the salary of people called to jury service for our
justice system to work correctly.
Is this too expensive? How much are we willing to pay for
freedom? Rolling back the police state would likely reduce costs
considerably. Repeatedly, progressives must push the theme of
Power to the People. Yes, the people are the great unwashed of our
nation in the eyes of many. Together the people, the poor, the blue
collar, the middle-class, all outnumber the moneyed, the powerful,
the wealthy titans of business, and that is why those same titans are
constantly beating the drums of fear among the middle class. The
moneyed and powerful will go to their default propaganda that
criminals will take over, rape our daughters, and kill our sons. This
is the constant drumbeat of television shows like “CSI this” and
“CSI that” or “Law and Order this” and “Law and Order that”. It
will only be a brave and tolerant citizenry that will be able to resist
Within these pages, I am trying to sketch out, in admittedly broad
strokes, a picture of a positive American future. This is a vision
that, if forced upon the politicians, will allow America to make
progress on her finances and her honor, both of which have been
damaged severely at the beginning of this new century. The
following progressive ideas are deeply interconnected and can, if
executed in concert, truly bring about the American Renaissance
that we all crave. This agenda is based upon common sense, not
any true genius or inspiration. Included in the common sense I'll
admit to a healthy dose of tolerance. Politics and the media in
America have polarized society so much that common sense no
longer seems to exist. The partisan ideologies pushing common
sense to the fringe are driven by moneyed power's desire to protect
its elite status and lifestyle.
Freedom and liberty cannot exist in a climate of excessive
government and corporate power. We are on the road toward an
authoritarian capitalism that minimizes individual liberty.
Progressives must seek to promote the freedom that was the
original vision of our Founding Fathers. There are a number of
obstacles to accomplishing this return to greatness. Without
digging our way out of debt, we cannot make the investments in
our infrastructure and our people that are essential for restoring our
greatness as a nation. Moneyed power has achieved levels of
wealth sufficient to build and maintain a private infrastructure,
which stifles public infrastructure improvement. Also, the future
cannot be bright when we are beholden to so many for our energy
A clear and objective view of the American economy will be
required for success. The economic power of the military-
industrial complex (and now the terror-industrial complex as well)
is based upon conflict. With so much American economic activity
related to the defense industry, it destroys our credibility as a
peace-loving people, and it sows the seeds of endless conflict and
war across the planet...not to mention bankrupting our nation. This
agenda attempts to create a synergy of solutions to bring about
progress on all the aforementioned fronts.
Politicians have stoked the fires of discord along the left/right
axis. The angry, name-calling politics that dominate the airwaves
are very destructive to the country. The partisan wars prevent even
the discussion of controversial ideas, let alone any real action. The
two parties have divided the great issues of the day, without
necessarily any rational reasons, other than the other people are on
one side. This knee jerk reaction for conservatives to oppose
whatever liberals support, and vice versa, leads to little reasoned
Once there were 'liberal' Republicans, but those handful
that still exist are now known as RINOs, 'Republicans in Name
Only' by their own party. The two parties have become
exclusionary, costing us the special synergy between liberal
Republicans and conservative Democrats that once brought about
dynamic thinking in our politics. This push and pull tension in
four directions instead of two has been lost. The progressive
agenda in the following pages could be seen as a libertarian-
socialist vision of American politics that seeks to reignite our
natural synergies by creating the multi-polar political tension that
once made American politics great. To some a libertarian-
socialist is a contradiction, a fiction, but I submit that there is an
overlapping agenda between all ideologies, if we act as
Americans first rather than as ideologues.
The caricature of Uncle Sam on the cover shows how the
left/right war cripples us. Uncle Sam has eye patches on both eyes.
The one on his right eye is Liberalism, which means this ideology
blinds Sam to ideas from the right. The eye patch on his left eye is
Conservatism, meaning this ideology refuses to see ideas from the
left. Democrats and Republicans are beholden to the polarization
of left vs. right and conservative vs. liberal. Each side has so
demonized the other that any issue one side picks up, the other
must be immediately against. Unfortunately, this leaves poor, old
Uncle Sam blind. Americans must throw off the blinders of these
isms and look objectively for solutions to our society's ills.
We have no shortage of ills! Oh, yes, we have many, many
problems today, which presumably the readers are aware of and
care about or else they would not have opened this book. Partisan
warfare has become so heated that tension between left and right
prevent us from finding the solutions that are actually there under
A bipolar political system under stress can settle into a back
and forth swing that never actually makes progress but falls into an
illusion of change through ever more drastic swings of the political
opinion pendulum. Dramatic swings of political opinion can be
revelatory in a multi-polar political universe. However, in the
bipolar universe we are just going back and forth from the left to
the right and back again, which goes nowhere. Society can have a
very short memory. First liberal ideas are all the rage and then
conservative, but in the beginning of our republic, there was a clear
belief in liberty as the guiding ideology.
That belief in freedom brought us together as one nation and
one people and dampened the swing of the pendulum, because
freedom cannot help but create a multi-polar, diverse political
climate. The Founding Fathers provided us a framework from
which to progress, adapt, and evolve over the years, not burdened
by divisive, preconceived notions of ideology. Then, the guiding
vision was that the individual's freedom and liberty comes before
the needs of the State. The focus truly was on the individual and
their freedom and not what was best for the State, for business, or
the oft cited by anti-constitutionalists, public safety.
No doubt, things have changed a lot since the 18th century,
but they have not changed as much as the politicians and
ideologues would have us believe. The Constitution and the Bill of
Rights are still our best weapons. Like the wielding of any weapon
though, it requires courage. It requires the courage to embrace and
demand the rights that individuals are guaranteed by our
Constitution. Unfortunately, individuals have been tempted to turn
over too much of their freedoms to authorities under the influence
of the siren song of safety. The Bill of Rights empowers the
individual citizen to effect change, but citizens must act and be
engaged. Freedom and individual rights are the real defense against
those that would loot our nation's treasury and run our country into
An interesting thing about history is how often the same
pressing problems seem to recur as a particular nation or society
matures, grows, and eventually, passes into oblivion. Each
ideology or ism of its day attacks these recurring problems:
substance abuse, feeding the poor, ensuring civil rights, educating
our children, etc-with a very narrow mindset. History has also
shown that as the pendulum swings back and forth over time, the
swings become ever more violent in each direction. Eventually, the
society tears itself apart. The great American social experiment can
evolve beyond this rollercoaster ride to civil strife.
Remember, moneyed power and their agents are terrified of the
power of the people. The colossal partisan divide and the rabid
rhetoric from the right and left are bought and paid for by moneyed
power. They will fill the airwaves with more and more docu-dramas
of fear to divide us. Through all the wrath and hateful speech, the
money moves the wheels of the state behind the scenes. The laws
created strip the individual of his rights and ability to prevent
moneyed power from getting the legislation they have paid for.
That is what politics in America is really all about today:
money and power. When the power of the individual is constrained,
the power of money and the state become unrestrained. Unholy
alliances between billion dollar corporations and millionaire
government officials become ever more self-serving. Political
rhetoric is used to fire the partisan furnaces any time the regular guy
might actually get some real legislative support.
The healthcare legislation, known as ObamaCare, is a perfect
example of partisanship being used as obstruction. Rallies and
slogans to defeat the legislation were truly divorced from the
realities of the bill, because in partisanship only passion matters,
not reason. Privately funded 'grassroots' rallies, where misguided
Americans shout slogans against socialism and declaring any
government healthcare insurance will be incompetent, while at the
same time protesting potential cuts to their Medicare and Social
Security Benefits, make no sense. To citizens of developed nations
on the outside, looking in, the passionate slogans shouted by
American citizens about the 'Coming Socialist Horror', defy
common sense. It is clear to the citizens of most developed nations
that there should be a social safety net that governments provide
for their citizens.
When common sense is on the fringe, we are in real trouble.
The next chapter is meant to establish just how far common sense
has been pushed from the middle ground. On September 11, 2001,
supposedly, the world changed forever. Perhaps, it did change, but
I am unable to understand the complete transformation of our
national zeitgeist. American reaction to that event boggled me. We
seemed consumed by hate, paranoia, and hell bent for revenge. We
let our emotions divorce reason from our national thought
My reactions were on the fringe. How I reacted and how I felt
about the attacks on the World Trade Center were considered naïve
and foolish by friends and colleagues. I was vilified. I held my
head in my hands many a day and wondered when the lunacy and
fear mongering would end. I often despaired that the WTC attacks
would lead to war that would never end.
Today, I feel a new wave in society. We are beginning to see
the mess we are in. There is a willingness to embrace some new
ideas in the air. The ideas in this book will first start with
empowering individual Americans in their own lives, and most
importantly, in their political lives. Moneyed power is not going to
give up its money or its power voluntarily, and currently, our laws
and legislation are very protective of that power and money.
Empowering individuals can lead to dangerous mob rule
without a clear unifying vision of what the society of individuals is
hoping to achieve, so this book attempts to survey the
undiscovered country of common interests. Staking out today's
unknown middle ground will require some compromises by all
sides. A new day dawns in the American body politic where
tolerance and an eye toward practical solutions for our children's
futures will rule the day.
Either we have the courage to be free, or we will not be free.
It is so very simple. On 09/11/2001, we proved to the whole world
that Americans did have the courage to be free, and then, each day
afterward, we seemed to run from that courageous truth that caused
the whole world to rally to our side. The moneyed and powerful
were terrified by what happened on 9/11, because it stripped away
all the theater of the military-industrial complex and showed that
only freedom and individual liberty could effectively combat our
How Individual Liberty Defeated the Terrorists
The ideas of freedom and individual liberty have never been more
under assault than they are today. The Founding Fathers laid the
groundwork for a society so forward thinking and revolutionary
that moneyed power had a hard time accepting it, even back then.
Within a few generations, the Founding Fathers' ideas and
framework were under assault by those elected into power after
George Washington. These elected positions of power, in concert
with wealthy private citizens and corporate entities, have ever
since constantly sought to curtail these rights. Lack of technology
severely crippled their efforts to rein in freedom. Until the late
twentieth century, the vastness of the country limited meaningful
surveillance. Once technology began to offer real intelligence at a
national and global scale, there was still substantial resistance to
domestic spying by our own government, especially from
That changed on September 11, 2001. Now that the fear and
suspicion of terrorism has transformed America, those
technological abilities are being turned to the curtailment of
individual freedom and liberty in the name of safety. Despite Ben
Franklin's grim statement of reality, 'Those who would give up
essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve
neither liberty nor safety', we have done just that. Today
Americans are afraid and believe that the sacrifice of some liberty
and freedom will make them safer. They are very wrong.
The curtailment of individual liberty and freedom can only
make us less safe. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is true. The
events of September 11, 2001, clearly illustrate this truth. The cold,
harsh reality of that truth is scary and makes us want to hand it off
to big government. Unfortunately, big government cannot handle
the responsibility-not in its current incarnation, and certainly not
without instituting laws and procedures that would seem
totalitarian even to our post-9/11 eyes. On September 11, 2001, the
government's inherent inability to protect us from this type of
attack was clearly demonstrated.
Big government not only failed to uncover the plot, it failed
to stop the first plane from hitting its target, and in fact, it failed to
stop three out of the four airplanes hijacked on September 11,
2001. The brave people on board stopped Flight 93. They were
free people, acting on information available in a free society; they
were the ones to stop the only plane that did not hit its target.
This is not meant to condemn the government and the
military for failing to stop the other three planes. It is the nature of
the bloated bureaucratic beast that is government to react slowly.
Government is too big and pondering to react to the increasingly
fluid and flexible attacks of 21st century terrorist organizations.
Only, we as a people can compete with those organizations. In the
years since 09/11/2001, we have given away more and more of our
ability to defend ourselves against terrorists. Every time we cede
an individual right or liberty, we make ourselves less safe, not
Today, the people on board Flight 93 would not be able to
stop the terrorists. Today, all communications are subject to
snooping due to the Patriot Act. Some DHS flunky would now cut
off the cell phone calls that allowed those people on board Flight
93 to come to an enlightened decision as to what action to take.
Perhaps, the passengers on Flight 93 fashioned weapons from
pocketknives and nail clippers, which would now be denied them.
Even after the 9/11 disasters prompted greater security at
airports, passengers stopped the next terrorist attempt aboard an
airline. The shoe bomber of 2003, Richard Reid, made it through
security and was going to do his dirty deed on board, but he was
noticed and restrained by passengers. Passengers stopped the
Northwest Airlines bomber of Christmas 2009 as well. These
passengers, who ignored seat belt signs and other restraints on their
freedom within the cabin, stopped another potential act of airplane
terror over eight years after the WTC attacks. Big government
failed again, and the answer government provides is always to
further restrain passengers and eliminate individual rights.
We are spending a lot of money and setting many bad
precedents with these "no constitutional rights" zones being
created in our nation's airports. The fear of giving up one's
rights makes many want to stay away from airports, but the
pressures of business force a different action. Air travel is
essential in today's world, so many reluctantly comply. Without
clear alternatives, the reluctant comply fatalistically. This
fatalism is not justified.
There is an alternative course of action that does a better job
of protecting us from terrorists, while still protecting individual
freedom and liberty. It is individual freedom and liberty that make
us stronger and harder to attack. Conversely, we are actually
weaker and easier to attack when we are not protected by the
flexibility of freedom. We should roll back much of the body
scanning and random searching of individuals, driven by shadowy,
computerized databases. A secret no-fly list is simply not very
effective when it contains the names of so many innocents.
America is free, and its people must have freedom of movement
without being required to show their papers. This is what it means
to live in a free society.
If America's solution to the terrorist threat is to end the free
society we live in, then the terrorists have won! One of the positive
effects of America's old style freedoms was the incredible ease
that our citizens could move about. A salesperson could hop on a
plane at a moment's notice and save that important account, for
example. There is an ignored, and difficult to quantify, but very
real, economic cost to these burdens that the new security regimen
has brought. This drag on our economy has been completely
ignored for the last decade.
Reducing this security burden should free up many millions
of dollars to be spent more effectively. Specifically, we should
have more air marshals. We should harden all the cockpit doors
and allow pilots to carry side arms. If we had done nothing more
than the aforementioned, we would have prevented repetitions of
the World Trade Center bombings. There is no need to repeal the
Bill of Rights within airline terminals. The fact is the terrorists are
not likely to strike the same place, the same way, so where do we
repeal the Bill of Rights next? Everything in our large, mobile
society is a potential weapon to be used against us, and we seem on
course to eventually expand the 'No Bill of Rights' zones to every
corner of the nation.
The passengers on Flight 93 showed us the way. They
demonstrated the power of the people. The greatness in America
lies in her people and the diversity of those people. Due to the
history of individual freedom and liberty, one hundred people
plucked from the streets and put into an airplane will contain a
wide range of people and skills. This is our strength. Among
those passengers, may be current and former military personnel,
police and firefighters, nurses and doctors, and even some
gangbangers, bikers, and an assortment of bad asses,
malcontents, and ne'er do wells, but they are all Americans...as
messy as that is to live in. If we had done nothing to reform
airport security after 9/11, there would have been no recurrence
of 9/11, because the passengers on Flight 93 demonstrated the
true mettle of Americans.
The phrase, "Let's Roll!" should be immortalized in the
American pantheon. Those passengers personified America in their
final acts of courage. These civilians, these common Americans,
were thrown together by random chance, but they did this nation
proud when they stopped that plane. They truly saved lives by
sacrificing their own. They made terrorists realize that Americans
were not the sheep that we are often portrayed as.
It is the consideration of what happened on Flight 93 that we
find the most confidence that our Founding Fathers' elevation of
the rights of the individual above all else, truly is the correct
course. Not only is this the correct course, but a more defensible
course than ever before. It is what makes America such a
complicated, trailblazing experiment in human culture. We need to
take back our country from the fear-mongers and take charge of
our own safety and security again.
This book's overriding theme is about America's citizens
standing up and setting the agenda for the politicians. Years after
September 11, 2001, the course we took as a nation was obviously
wrong. We allowed the politicians, liberal and conservative, to tell
us what was best for us, rather than recognizing that the passengers
of Flight 93 had shown us the way. The people of this nation must
step up and take control of the ship of state by exercising their
rights as free American citizens.
Let the politicians work out the details, but the leadership
must come from us. Freedom is not free. We must think and
understand the issues. We must question authorities that seek to
retain power for themselves. Of course, America's citizens cannot
take the power back if we are too afraid. Politicians will always
feed our fears to preserve their power and take the path of least
resistance to stay in office. Unless we stand up and take
responsibility for our nation and her policies, the government of
the people, by the people, and for the people shall perish from this
The Lost Legacy of Star Trek
Star Trek, the original series that only ran for three seasons has had
an undisputed influence on the growth and direction of technology
in America and in the world. There have been books and TV
episodes dedicated to track the etymology of gadget after gadget to
a particular Roddenberry-inspired device. This technological
legacy has been documented elsewhere in detail, but many of the
social messages and legacies have been lost and forgotten. Gene
Roddenberry is one of the visionary thinkers of our time and I am
heavily influenced by his vision, as our society is as a whole.
My passion for the TV show, 'Star Trek - Original' runs
deep. Maybe it was because I was born in 1962, so I was just at the
right age, I do not know. That being said, I cannot deny that my
ideas on foreign policy are influenced by the imagined future
evolution of nationalism on the planet Earth. After all, for me, the
Federation was where 1960s America was leading the globe and
then the universe. In the Federation of that far future century, war
had largely been done away with, though there was always the
occasional skirmish to be worked out. Peace reigned on Earth.
At the time the series was canceled, few would have guessed
how broadly and deeply the series has now penetrated our society.
It is one of the legacies of a time when we had a single vision
being pumped into our living rooms by the television. Much of
'Star Trek' tech has found its way into our technological world,
and engineers citing the show's influence on their ideas of what
was possible often celebrate this. However, there was more there in
that television series that should have made it into the 'idea
commons' of the American zeitgeist. I see the broader and greater
legacy of the series as largely unfulfilled and ignored in the post-
There was a Russian on the bridge of the Enterprise during
the height of the Cold War. Would there be a Muslim there today,
or are we just too full of negative emotions to include a follower of
Islam today on the bridge? Socially, the series was just as far
advanced as it was technically. Martin Luther King actually
implored Nichele Nichols to stay on the show when she told him
that she was planning to abandon the Uhuru role. Martin Luther
King convinced her of the social import of her role. He recognized
the powerful social statements being made by Star Trek. Much of
that social legacy is what is unfulfilled today and yet that was
mostly what was so great about the series. The whiz-bang stuff was
fantastic, but by setting things far in the future, Roddenberry could
tackle difficult social issues from an objective distance and he did
so with a phaser-like focus.
Kirk's long speeches about humanity's longing to be free
rather than safe ring hollow in today's world of strip searches at the
airport and CIA rendition. The Dignity of the Common Man, the
real desire to let guilty men go free, rather than imprison one
innocent man, were real ideals, real beliefs. They were time-
honored, time-tested beliefs that taught us that despite the flaws,
freedom and individual liberty were the best way to go even in the
There was a distinct libertarian-socialist vein in the plot lines. Those
libertarian-socialist ideals have been almost completely lost in the real
world. Can you imagine what Dr. McCoy would have said were
Spock to advise the captain to torture a captive to obtain
information?! In episode after episode, these basic ideas about
humanity and the dignity of the individual are there, loudly
The all-powerful Federation was always forced to respect the
dignity, not only of the common man, but also of the common
sentient life form, no matter what their technological advancement.
Could the "Prime Directive" stand up to today's torturous logic? Or
would it be considered "quaint" like the Geneva Convention? We
need only cue a William Shatner soliloquy to hear this vision of
freedom and individual dignity eloquently and passionately
The real legacy of Star Trek is in danger of being lost. The
Dignity of the Common Man was the most central theme and how
that dignity had withstood hundreds of years of technological
advancement. Through it all the essential rightness of it as a
guiding principle never dimmed, or so predicted Gene
Roddenberry of our future.
True fans of this series, who believed in it so fervently,
should consider the deeper social message of the series and how it
relates to today to help change the course of our nation. Americans
need help understanding why they should stand up to the
surveillance society. The fear-mongers will say we have to let the
government turn this technology onto us, 'to keep us safe'.
Progressives should promote the dignity of the individual in the
way Gene Roddenberry did when we were young, but now is not
here to do today.
Truly, this vision of freedom is the great legacy of Star Trek
that should stand the test of time. Eventually, all the technological
predictions will be far surpassed, and the interplay of the
characters is all that is left. What Roddenberry was saying about
the world, about the universe, was that no matter how the
landscape changes, post 9/11 or not, there are certain guiding
principles of humanity that will help get us through and that will
set us apart in the greater universe.
The Bicycle Shall Lead the Way
Progressives will need to embrace the ideal that there are strong
synergies created by individual freedom. An embrace it must be,
because there is no question that individual freedom is a scary
thing. People will have more freedom to be stupid as individual
liberty increases under this progressive course. There is the actual
likelihood that society will be less safe in some ways, though more
safe in other more important ones. Freedom is not having to allow
your wife or daughter strip-searched at the airport. Nonetheless,
there is something very scary about allowing individuals to be free,
because one's fellow citizens will have the freedom to make bad
Life is full of risk, and our nation's return to greatness will
travel a risky road, there is no doubt. We will be trusting in our
fellow citizens to use their new freedoms wisely or at least not
destructively. Trust is a difficult word for Americans these days,
but trust our fellow Americans, we must. Sometimes, even I doubt
my fellow Americans' sanity and responsibility, given the current
state of affairs.
Despite my doubts about American sanity and responsibility,
as a bicycle commuter, I put my life in the hands of my fellow
Americans several times a week. Essentially, I trust that
Republicans and Democrats et al will at least drive responsibly. I
put faith in the system of licensing that trains and then tests drivers
before allowing them to drive. This is a system of licensing that is
run by government. The government is licensing citizens to
command a deadly weapon on the road after some training and
testing. There is a distinctive libertarian nature to bicycle
commuting as I trust my fellow citizens to be responsible drivers
with limited oversight by authorities.
Over the years, I have often commuted to my jobs on a
bicycle. I found that I did not have the disposition for the gym and
would rarely go. However, one must get to work and that generally
involves a commute. Most of the time, I have found ways to
commute on a bicycle at least some days, and it has paid off in
health benefits for me over the years.
That is not to say that there are no risks to bicycle
commuting. I have to ride in traffic and share the road with multi-
ton vehicles that are operated by strangers of varying degrees of
driving skill. After having commuted tens of thousands of miles, I
have to thank the driving skills of many anonymous American
drivers over the years to be able to write this. I have had to trust
my fellow Americans with my life, and they have come through
for me. That experience makes it easier for me to embrace the idea
of freeing my fellow Americans so that they might lead this
country back to greatness.
Not only has my bicycle commuting allowed me to trust my
fellow Americans more, I have also realized what a powerful and
efficient machine the bicycle is. I have saved many gallons of
gasoline and doctor bills through the benefits of this wonderful
machine, but it goes beyond these basic positives. The invention
and widespread adoption of the bicycle in the late 19th century
changed the world, but America especially. The bicycle is an
incredibly efficient device when it comes to converting human
effort into distance. The bicycle became a great equalizer for the
poor, but hard-working soul in America. Previously, transportation
independence required a horse and a horse required a lot of food,
housing and other maintenance that was relatively costly. The
bicycle brought to the common man a means of transportation that
could simply be parked overnight without food or water being
The bicycle was a game changer as we entered the 20th
century, becoming a platform for many early internal combustion
engines. The rise of the automobile diminished the bicycle's
importance in the West, but in much of the developing world, it
continued to be the go to vehicle. A case could be made that
China's current economic power had its germination in the
efficient use of the bicycle by the populace for much of the 20th
During WWII, the Dutch utilized the bicycle to continue to
resist the Germans. The Germans had stripped the country of
mechanized vehicles. Those vehicles not confiscated were useless
because all the fuel was under German control as well. The Dutch
were left with their bicycles. The Dutch leveraged these human
powered vehicles to create chaos and sabotage all across Holland.
The two-wheeled partisans of the Netherlands were a pain in
Hitler's @$$ the entire war.
Now in the 21st century, the bicycle provides an opportunity
in our society where we can experiment with rolling back our legal
Nanny-state. Right now, for all practical purposes in America,
bicycles do not really have to follow traffic laws. Of course, on the
books, they are supposed to follow the traffic laws, but in practical
terms, the police mostly ignore the bicyclist. Police understand the
dangerous and vulnerable position the cyclist is in. Unless a cyclist
engages in extremely dangerous behavior, police allow bicyclists a
certain amount of latitude as it relates to traffic law. Many cities
ban cyclists on sidewalks, but on certain busy streets, riding on the
sidewalk is the only sane thing to do. The police often blithely
allow it as common sense policing by not enforcing a stupid and
In the bicycle, we have a machine that can help us conserve
fuel and cut down on gridlock and pollution. Large-scale adoption
of commuting by bicycle would bring untold benefits, many of
them intangible and difficult to predict, but benefits will be
delivered for sure. Instead of having the police give bicyclists an
'unofficial' pass on traffic laws, we could institutionalize the
freedom of the bicycle. Simply exempt bicyclists from all traffic
laws nationally except where the cyclists endanger others.
By exempting cyclists from traffic law, we can take a step in
this grand experiment to inject greater freedom into our society.
Police would still be allowed to ticket or even arrest cycling
citizens for truly reckless behavior. On the other hand, police will
allow cyclists to choose whether they will come to a full stop at
that stop sign or ride on the sidewalk. Put cyclists on their honor to
not make mischief for the rest of society and allow them
There are very positive social effects to be achieved by this
cycling freedom experiment. This national policy will encourage a
hardy breed of Americans that wish to be freer to adopt the bicycle
as their main mode of transportation. Freedom of requirements to
carry papers, like drivers licenses, or the freedom to ignore that
stop sign, because you are a human powered vehicle should be
powerful motivators for the true American. Non-riders who object
will just have to accept that a good look both ways at a slow clip
on a bike conserves enormous energy for the rider and allows them
sufficient time to assess whether it is safe or not. Over long
distances, this energy conservation is essential to actually
completing one's commute sometimes.
Doubters of the great libertarian-socialist experiment that this
book promotes can start their research on the wheels of a bicycle.
It is so appropriate that this be the vehicle to demonstrate the
validity of the ideas of freedom AND social interconnection. The
bicycle is one of the most efficient machines ever invented to
convert work into distance. The bicycle is an invention of
peacetime that became the basis of a mechanical world, first for the
individual unable to afford a horse and then as a platform for small
engines ushering in the great petroleum-based modern world.
Many people currently in power see the average American as
a lazy slug that will never change their ways and deserves
abridgement of their rights due to their weak will. The bicycle
holds the key to change some of the current calculus in America's
balance of trade AND demonstrate the power of free individuals. If
even a small percentage of Americans switched to bicycle
commuting, the amount of energy and money saved would be
enormous. If large numbers of Americans biked a couple thousand
miles a year on their commutes, healthcare costs would likely fall
and the energy savings could make America completely energy
independent, especially if it is in conjunction with a strong nuclear
Progressives on bicycles can truly alter the entire playing
field. Progressives can be the true game changers. Two-wheeled
progressives completely change the economic calculus that
currently seems to doom America. Two-wheeled progressives in
sufficient numbers can deliver a future that is unimagined by
anyone right now. Citizens and politicians could wake up in ten
years and see the country in the black again. The power of the
people would be clearly and unequivocally demonstrated by such
an economic and social miracle. Politicians would have to
acknowledge the power of the people. The people would gain the
confidence that freedom and individual liberty really is the right
answer just as Ben Franklin had said at the very beginning!
All that has come before in this book is interconnected and
the bicycle is no exception. We must deliver the economic miracle
to ourselves, not to the moneyed and the powerful. We cannot
deliver the miracle, if we are divided. The people will have to stop
fighting over the scraps and work together to take back the
economy and the country. These pages are meant to convince
Americans that there are solutions to the seemingly insoluble
issues before us and therefore a reason to come together.
Of course, the pages that came before certainly advocated
spending some money. This is not an austerity program. The
bicycle can seriously help fund the progressive agenda that has
been outlined here, but not all of it. This agenda really is not pie in
the sky. It is a plan to progressively restore American greatness
based on common sense and hard work. What could be more
patriotic than that?
anthony [at] theprogressiverestoration.com
Progressively Restoring American Greatness
The visions of America you read in this book are from a man who considered changing his citizenship from the United States.
I was disgusted by the endless news cycles of sex and drug scandals during the last decade of the 20th century; the cannibalization of our leadership
seemed stupid and self-destructive. All the while, individual rights were being consistently eroded under the thin guise of public safety.
During this time of personal political despair, I considered becoming a Canadian citizen. I explored the details of making such a citizenship change and
reasoned it was feasible and doable to shed my American citizenship. However, in the end, I could not do it. I could not have my, as yet unborn,
children not be Americans. I could not let go of being an American myself. America is an ideal that I could not abandon for my children or myself.
Upon deep reflection, I still saw all the negative elements that made me want to flee and no longer be an American, but something inside prevented
me from leaving this country. When I found that American deep inside, I realized I believed in the ideals too much. Things that I questioned about
the Constitution and the Bill of Rights when I first learned about them in school, because they seemed a danger to public safety, I now understood.
As a student, when I first started hearing about and considering the Bill of Rights, much of it seemed a bit impractical and even naive. By wrestling
with the choice of citizenship, I found the Bill of Rights and embraced it passionately. The ideals of individual liberty and freedom, enshrined in
that document, introduced the concept of a free citizen to a world of divine monarchies. I looked in the mirror, and I was an American. I believed in
what the Founding Fathers preached, and I could not abandon it. My kids would be Americans with the red, the white, and the blue coursing through their
veins, just like me. And this book and this vision were created as a gift to my children; all American children for that matter.
Anthony Watson is a native born Californian. He currently resides behind the Orange Curtain with his wife and two sons.
The Partisan Divide Worsens Global Climate Change
By Anthony Watson (c) 1991-2017
There is no question that fanatical environmentalism has had a hand in the public`s eroded belief in the scientific community. Many predictions of disaster permeated scientific opinion in the 1970s, and much of it did not come to be true. In addition, some feel good liberal analysis of social problems during this decade, based on so-called hard social science, cast doubt on the real hard sciences like biology, botany, and physics, to name a few. The softer social sciences were used to justify expensive, yet ineffective, social programs. This helped substantiate some of society`s growing doubts about science in general. Finally, the political conflict over global climate change made science appear even more confused as both proponents and opponents were able to pay for scientific opinions and data to support their political positions.
To the public, so-called hard science has begun to look like an opinion and not a factual measure of the real world. Coupled with a greater religious zeal that snuck into the public sector more and more during the 20th century, science became ever more suspect. The battle over global climate change and what to do about it really made Americans skeptical of scientists. Scientists seemed to be saying just what they were paid to say. The public`s faith in science as a bottom line to cut through political passions was broken. The theory of evolution, once considered an unassailable fact, has been questioned due to a waning belief in science and a growing embrace of evangelical Christianity among mainstream society. Pouring gasoline on the fire, political parties have fostered the conflict between science and religion for their own gain.
Essentially, Republicans have been able to reap large benefits by identifying with the evangelical Christian constituency. Republicans had an instant grassroots revolution based upon the myth that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation and that the evil liberal Democrats have taken America from her traditional roots.
This war between religion and science has been generally unproductive for our country, but it has helped bring about a Republican resurgence, so it hard for that party to let go of the war. This is just another example of partisanship ignoring the nation`s needs to promote its electability.
For years, conservative Republicans have been denying global climate change even existed. The Republican embrace of the evangelicals allowed them to leverage the constituency`s mistrust of science to bring into doubt that human activity was changing the global climate. Along with this scientific distrust, semantics got in the way too. Twenty years ago, global climate change was widely known as global warming. That was a real misnomer and helped cloud the issue to the delight of the skeptics. Any time there was a harsh winter storm or severe bouts of cold weather, the jokes would fill the air about “Global warming? What global warming?”
Nonetheless, global climate change was happening twenty years ago and it is clear that it continues to happen now. However, with evangelicals convinced that science is anti-Christian and Republicans supporting that view, it means that there is more doubt today about global climate change than there was two decades ago. The right portrays most proposed solutions to global climate change as hippies trying to roll back America`s technological society to some nature-worshipping commune.
The right claims that it wants to make policy on hard science and not on political rhetoric, but science supports manmade global climate change. Giant blizzards engulfing the US in the winter have strengthened the cries of, “What global warming?” and bred more skepticism from the right as well as the average American on the street. These blizzards actually are supportive of global climate change if one understands the science behind it.
This distrust of science is bad for America and humanity in general. Science is not inherently evil, but rather a tool. Just as a gun, might be used to kill a teenager in a drive by, it can also stop a rapist before the act. The scientific method is a tool and not some great mystery. Science requires testable and repeatable experiments. When such experiments are not easily created and replicated, there is definitely room for debate. However, in the case of global climate change much of that debate revolves around just how dramatic and how fast the global climate is changing, not whether it is changing. The reality that there still exists reasoned debate among climate scientists is used by the naysayers to promote their wait and see arguments.
Weather still defies our computer models to make long-term accurate predictions. This is due to the extraordinary amount of data that needs to be processed. Unfortunately, we are still years away from achieving processing speeds that allow us to collect data and crunch the numbers in time to beat the occurrence of the weather. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Earth`s weather is a large heat driven equation and as the numbers being entered into the equation get bigger one can expect ever more giant swings in the output as well as greater unpredictability. In lay terms, understanding this basic aspect of the equations defining weather models means one could expect colder winters, hotter summers, more and more violent hurricanes and tornadoes along with a good deal of unexpected variability with greater heat factors being applied to the equation.
Exactly how this will all play out is still beyond our technology to predict, but that does not mean we should take no action and simply ignore the situation. Over the years, both sides of the debate have taken advantage of the uncertainty of future weather predictions and been able to field their set of scientists and experts backing their point of view. It is one of the reasons why the decision to take action has been put off for so long. There seemed to be no conclusive evidence.
Tragically muddying the water as well is the traditional environmentalist lobby, which has backed their own scientific studies and been caught skewing facts on some occasions. Traditional environmentalist solutions often fail to take into account some basic pragmatic realities. Unfortunately, many of the environmentalist-sponsored models cannot be considered anything more than guesses due to uncertainties about the historical data and difficulty collecting real time data in the present. Yes, global climate change is real, but exactly how it will all work out in the end is speculation. That is the true hard science on the matter and the actions we take must be flexible. The climate is changing and at least some of that change is directly related to human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels.
How much of the change is arguable for sure, but current temperature swings are swinging beyond historical variations. The thawing of the ancient iceboxes in the south and north of the planet are real. Such thawing will open a Northwest Passage to be plied by the world`s merchant sailors soon. Countries like Tuvalu in the South Pacific are struggling to keep their heads above water, literally, as sea level rise begins to shrink their flat coral atoll of a country to nothing. Venice is building a vast complex of storm doors and sea walls to protect their city from global sea level rise. The British are also spending enormous amounts of money to protect London from storm surges coming up the Thames. Oil companies are investing billions in preparation for an ice-free Artic that can be drilled. The investment of REAL BIG dollars says global climate change is happening.
Another thing that is abundantly clear is that historically America has been blessed with an advantageous climate. We have been able to feed ourselves, and much of the world, via our vast tracts of arable land. In fact, one of America`s deepest and darkest times was definitely related to the black blizzards of the Great Depression`s Dust Bowl blighting these same vast tracts of arable land. We cannot be sure about how things will work out in the climate change roulette the world has begun. Perhaps things will work out in America`s favor, but the odds are long that changes to the climate will preserve this inherent American advantage. After all, change means just that, change, and we can hardly afford any degradation to our current advantage.
Afford is what we will somehow have to do as weather related disasters bleed our nation`s economic resources. Already hurricanes appear to be increasing in number due to the greater heat input into the atmosphere. These destructive storms also appear to be becoming more powerful. Tornados also appear to be on the increase in the breadbasket of America. Whether these trends will continue, no one can be sure, but the odds would seem to favor their continuation. The greater heat input is just like putting bigger numbers into the aforementioned climate modeling equations. Those equations predict greater heat input would create greater variability and unpredictability and that appears to be accurate.
The denial of these scientific facts, which are all pointing to one conclusion, “human industrial activity is affecting global climate”, represents a great failure of conservatism, not to mention the world of science as well. Conservatives found it far too easy to recruit scientists that could spin the numbers in ways that made out global climate change to be nothing more than normal permutations of the Earth`s climate or the sun`s output. If scientists had been less easy to recruit on this matter, perhaps things would have worked out differently, but it seems money can buy anything, including scientific facts.
The denial of these scientific facts, which are all pointing to one conclusion, “human industrial activity is affecting global climate”, represents a great failure of conservatism, not to mention the world of science as well. Conservatives found it far too easy to recruit scientists that could spin the numbers in ways that made out global climate change to be nothing more than normal permutations of the Earth`s climate or the sun`s output. If scientists had been less easy to recruit on this matter, perhaps things would have worked out differently, but it seems money can buy anything, including scientific facts.
The corruptions of money and corporate power have deformed our society horribly not just on this issue, but also on many more. Corporations control much of the research dollars and, therefore, the livelihood of scientists. That makes getting the scientific data the corporate lobbyists needed was just a matter of writing checks. Now, in the 21st century, it is very easy to blame conservatives and corporations for this stunning failure to act upon the obvious, but that answer is far too easy. Ordinary Americans really wanted to believe these spin-doctoring scientists, since gas was cheap in the 1990s, and tooling around in a big SUV is fun. Progressives must admit that Americans cannot continuously blame politicians for chasing the money when we as citizens provide so little coherent guidance. Citizens are or should be the power of this nation, and it is high time we stepped up to the plate.
Another reason we are tackling the environmental issues as our first specific policy position is that these are the most scientifically verifiable issues of our time. Competing ideologies have muddied the clarity of environmental issues. Average citizens need to book up on the scientific method, so that they can do some interpretation on their own of data relating to climate change and a whole host of other complicated issues. Progressives must help educate the people on the global climate change issue and help drive consensus on solutions. To do this, progressives will need to take on the traditionally Democratic and liberal environmental lobby not just the Republican and conservative lobby. Progressives must understand how liberals exacerbated global climate change by stalling the most effective solution to the problem.
Many conservative readers of this text may be amused by the irony that my big break with liberalism back in 1989 was due to my tree-hugging nature. The next chapter was originally titled, What a Tree Whispered to Me, when I first tried to urge public action on the global climate change issue over 20 years ago.
The idea of a pro-nuclear environmentalist is an oxymoron to many. The events in Japan at Fukushima seem to have killed nuclear power as an energy option…again…just as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island did back in the 1980s. The climate environment has deteriorated to such an extent that this position is no longer tenable when one considers all the facts, even in light of Fukushima. Nuclear power is our last hope of maintaining a high standard of living in conjunction with a relatively clean environment.
It is about time that intelligent and objective people step forward and give the public the whole story concerning nuclear power. The ideologically motivated claptrap that has been used to persuade the American public to drop nuclear power as an energy source is criminal in its misrepresentation of the facts. A future without nuclear power can only be a grim one. The Earth cannot stand another generation of fossil fuel combustion, like the last.
Let`s begin with Fukushima and the radioactivity fears that nuclear energy drags around like a boat anchor. These fears have a real basis in fact of course. Radioactivity is invisible and insidious. However, one of the beautiful things about nuclear power and radioactivity is that Geiger counters are cheap. It is extremely difficult in the 21st century, if not impossible to hide problems, like radioactivity leaks.
Some have pointed to Chernobyl as hastening the end for the Soviet Union, because the USSR`s reputation was deeply damaged by the nuclear accident. This can be partly attributed to the USSR lying about the state of affairs at the reactor. Their lies were transparent to the world`s Geiger counters and destroyed many trusting national relationships. Unlike other technologies and chemicals like MTBE groundwater pollution that cleaned up California`s air only to destroy large portions of the state`s water supplies, radiation leaks are SUPER EASY for the public to detect with inexpensive Geiger counters. At Fukushima, like Chernobyl, it is impossible for governments and corporations to cover up what is going on and how bad things really are. These facts about radioactivity should be considered real positives by the public, not negatives.
Additionally, citizens should consider that Fukushima is a near worst-case scenario in Japan, a 9.0 earthquake and an 80-foot tsunami hit the reactors and we have not seen the kind of enormous radiation leaks like what was released at Chernobyl. Also, worthy of consideration is that Fukushima is a very old design from decades ago, if this level of safety from an obsolete architecture does not give people some confidence, it is hard to imagine what will.
Another objection to nuclear power is that nuclear waste disposal techniques are inadequate. This argument is not compelling when other power sources are held to the same standard. Current disposal methods for spent fossil fuels are non-existent. We do not trap the exhaust from fossil fuel combustion and put it into barrels. Instead, we spew the poisonous byproducts into our atmosphere.
The waste products of fission are put into barrels and their whereabouts catalogued. Admittedly, those barrels will be hazardous for many thousands of years. However, the waste products of fossil fuels hang around to affect our environment and weather detrimentally for an unknown period. Additionally, spent nuclear fuel can be used in breeder reactors to further reduce waste, not something that can be done in the case of fossil fuels.
Finding a place to store our barrels of radioactive waste should not be as great a problem as many would have us believe. There are large expanses of desert in the American West contaminated by years of nuclear testing. These areas would be perfect for storing barrels of nuclear waste. The US government set off hundreds of nuclear bombs a mere 65 miles from Las Vegas in the fifties and sixties. Over 100 of these atomic bomb tests were above ground and these blasts were visible for miles around. Stacking some barrels of spent nuclear fuel there seems trivial in comparison. Of course, Nevada should be compensated with seriously discounted electricity, maybe even free electricity, to overcome the NIMBY effect that has so dogged America`s quest for energy independence.
The American public has an overwhelming fear of nuclear reactors. Three Mile Island scared many people. The amount of radiation released at Three Mile Island should be put into perspective, though. A de-classified document from the 1990s revealed details of a nuclear experiment that went awry, code named Green Run. In the late 1950s, near Spokane, Washington, nearly 8,000 curies of radiation were released. By contrast, the Three Mile Island incident released barely 40 curies. Forty curies are not good, but in comparison to what occurred over 50 years ago when nobody had a Geiger counter, it is minor. Not to mention the government was actually doing publicly viewable airburst bomb tests for decades after WWII, and these seem to have been dissipated by natural processes.
The Green Run experiment and the legacy of airburst atomic bomb testing in the Nevada desert are illustrative. Thousands, perhaps millions, of curies of radiation released into the air, but the government is able to conceal its errors due to the widespread lack of Geiger counters at the time. In addition, there are no huge cancer spikes in Nevada and Utah as one would expect. Obviously, the environment has some capacity to dissipate radiation. After all, uranium is a natural ore, and many areas on Earth are naturally radioactive to some extent. An oil slick, thousands of square miles wide, could never be swept under the rug by the government, because the environment simply cannot dissipate this type of pollution as easily. Before the days of cheap Geiger counters, hiding radiation leaks was not that hard, but the damage from huge oil spills has always been clear for all to see.
The environment does not effectively assimilate oil. Even though the Gulf of Mexico now appears relatively clean, the millions of barrels of oil spilled there still lurk about in the water damaging the health of its inhabitants. In Prince William Sound, the Exxon Valdez accident was far worse than Three Mile Island. It was painful to watch the footage coming from Alaska`s Prince William Sound. The animal suffering was so great, even more so than appeared to be the case in the Gulf. News footage of men wiping off Alaska's rocky beaches with towels would have been laughable, had it not been so tragic.
These petroleum disasters will only recur. The world runs on oil. War after war in the Middle East has horribly fouled the Persian Gulf. Arabian marine life will never be the same. Chernobyl, the worst nuclear reactor accident, has a legacy of nature reserves. Truly, the lack of humanity in the Chernobyl “dead zone” has produced a wealth of wildlife and regeneration of the ecology none would have predicted.
Tankers and pipelines crisscross the globe. Thousands of potential disasters are waiting to happen every day AND are happening, but Geiger counters do not pick up oil spills. Major spills are hard to cover up, but continuous minor spillage here and there takes its toll silently. The risks of petroleum cannot be justified when compared to the risks of fission.
The analogy of an urban sewer system is useful when considering the nuclear power situation. The lack of fossil fuel waste disposal condemns us to sit in and breathe our own excrement. With nuclear fission, we can at least put our waste into a septic tank. The nuclear waste comparison to fossil fuel waste clearly demonstrates that fossil fuels are far more toxic, due to the difficulty in containing the waste. What is the half-life of fossil fuel waste?
The United States is demographically and geographically well suited to exploit fission. We still have empty tracts of seismically stable land. A nuclear reactor, a thousand miles or more away, could service San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York. Those same irradiated deserts that played host to underground nuclear bomb tests could be put to the far more beneficial use of generating electricity. The whole of the continental United States might eventually be serviced from a few central locations. Energy production is a national security issue as great as any other, especially since we seem to be heavily involved in the wars and unrest in oil producing regions due to our dependence on foreign oil.
The generation of power for the country is too important to be put in the hands of for profit companies. The potential for profit driving the course of energy generation in this country is too great. Hydrogen power and fuel cell technologies are touted as viable solutions, but again when examined closely, profiteering is revealed. Individuals and corporations with a stake in building a hydrogen-based economy are clearly funding studies that suggest that hydrogen fuel cells can save us from dependence on fossil fuels. These fuel cells are often billed as producing nothing but innocuous water vapor. Every scientist knows that water vapor is a greenhouse gas AND will cause climate change. Pumping industrial amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere cannot help, but change the climate. Hydrogen is driven by the profit hungry and does not make sense.
All of the nuclear plants should be nationalized and run as public utilities in the national interest. The cost of choosing, designing, and building these locations will be astronomical. That is why environmentalists need to rally behind nuclear energy. Nuclear energy does not suffer from the limitations of weather nor does it produce significant climate changing emissions and is a proven industrial strength energy generator. The changing climate demands real alternatives now, not later. Many environmentalists preach conservation. Through conservation, they say, we can reduce emissions, but that is simply not enough.
Environmentalists are ignoring future demand for electrical power that will outstrip conservation savings. For example, if more cities build rail mass transit systems, this could create a new and very large demand for electrical power, since many of these light rail and subway systems are electric. Trains, especially bullet trains, will likely be using superconductivity or wireless power transmission technology and will use enormous amounts of power.
America needs to prepare her infrastructure for the electric car as well. The electric car will move transportation to a mostly electric model. That means later as we build other alternative energy production, we can simply switch out the nuclear backend generation as alternative sources come on line. As other alternatives become more viable or fusion is perfected, we will already have the infrastructure to support a mostly electric transportation model. This makes our infrastructure modular, because we will not have to switch out our transportation infrastructure as our energy generation capabilities evolve. We will just plug in the new electrical generation sources into the backend and our infrastructure just keeps humming along. Right now, we are too dependent on fossil fuels for all manner of industrial and transportation infrastructure.
Current hybrid technologies involve lots of exotic and heavy metals making their green claims somewhat suspect. A better solution would be hybrids with small gasoline engines for around town and electric motors that could be powered on the interstates via wireless power transmission or direct connections embedded in the road rather than carrying batteries. This eliminates the pollution intensive batteries from the equation and allows an electric car to have a much larger range over an electrified interstate system. The electric car's future drain on the power grid is rarely factored into the conservation equations. Huge amounts of electricity will be required for that transition and nuclear fission can provide the juice.
Some studies have shown that a plug-in all electric car will actually generate more carbon emissions than the current internal combustion model using current power generation technologies. This is because the energy has to be created offsite and then transported to the vehicle. Creation of the power within the vehicle by burning gasoline is far more efficient. Because less energy is used to travel a given distance in a gasoline automobile, less pollution is created. Unless the electricity is generated cleanly, the electric car can solve nothing. Small gasoline powered hybrids in town with the ability to couple to an electrified interstate system can bring about a practical future based on fission generated electricity.
Lack of pragmatic reform from the environmental activists has painted our country into a corner. America continued burning cheap oil all throughout the last decade of the 20th century. Oil was so cheap. Two-thirds of Americans opposed a tax on a gallon of gas. It was easy to talk about saving the environment, but if it makes gas prices go up, then Americans could not stomach it. Throughout most of its history, the environmental establishment has focused on what industry and people cannot do, rather than what it can and this has made Americans look at environmentalists as job killers.
We need immediate solutions more than ever. Alternate energy sources are subject to the vagaries of weather and still have a ways to go before they can replace current electrical generation methods. The generation of industrial amounts of electrical power on demand is a tall order. Excess electricity generated on especially sunny or windy days cannot be stored. When there is no wind or sun, then electricity must be generated by oil or natural gas. Solar, tidal, wind and geo-thermal technologies are worth pursuing, but pouring the lion share of our precious financial resources into these technologies is not practical. Such financial expenditures are more about lining the pockets of opportunistic profiteers with government connections, than actually building a new and practical energy generation infrastructure.
Nuclear fission is the lesser of two evils, but certainly the lesser. Precisely because it is not perfect, means that environmentalists must get involved in the production of energy by fission. Progressives will advocate the government nationalization of all nuclear generating facilities to be operated as national public utilities. The lessons of Enron`s manipulation of energy generation to boost profits, demonstrates the need to nationalize. This issue is too important to be left in the hands of private industry. Environmentalists must accept the need for nuclear fission and buy in to an agenda for its development. Environmentalists have a role, as government watchdogs, to make sure the bureaucrats do not cut corners at the expense of the environment and safety.
The government currently allows civilian reactors to use only low-grade nuclear fuel because of national security concerns. This creates far more waste than necessary. Nationalization should ease national security concerns and allow the reactors to burn high grade, 99% pure fuel, as the military does. This would decrease the amount of waste created significantly, especially when coupled with a return to using breeder reactors to process some nuclear waste back into fuel. Americans should also realize that military reactors are widely used within our borders. Americans just do not know due to the lack of transparency.
We get additional synergies as well from a clear and focused build out of nuclear generated electricity generation. Research for the development of alternate energy sources could be carried out at the nuclear power plants, making them the sites of national energy laboratories too. Fission is not the final answer, of course, and therefore we can continue to pursue other energy sources. We will continue to chase the elusive goal of controlled fusion. Fusion is the ultimate answer, perhaps, but the use of thorium in future fission processes may also make fission waste easier to deal with. How ever things evolve in the future, it starts with embracing fission technology as it stands. Our world, as we know it, cannot survive another twenty years of fossil fuel combustion like the last.
In conclusion, readers should consider what a game changer this policy position is. America is painted into a corner. Current trends do not bode well for us. If we continue to import so much energy into the country, other financial expenditures must suffer more than they already do. Finally, imagine America as an energy exporter! Energy would no longer be a source of red ink, but a source of black ink, revenue, in the balance of trade!
What to Do About Water as the Climate Changes
These specific policy positions in the progressive agenda are interconnected, and it does not do for some pieces to be tossed while others are embraced. The previous section was an all out push for growing our nuclear power energy generation. For all the aforementioned reasons, nuclear power is a good idea, but here is another: its implementation should bring more juice into the electrical grid for problem solving. We can use that extra juice to help bring a solution to our growing water problems.
Any doubts Americans have about the state of water quality in America should simply consider how much bottled water they are drinking. Only those that cannot afford anything else drink tap water regularly in America. Of course, perception and marketing could be driving this, but our own government has admitted that America`s water supply contains trace amounts of many polysyllabic chemicals and drugs. Americans pay taxes for water treatment and safe drinking water, but most Americans do not believe that tap water is safe. Scientific analysis of the state of water quality in America certainly confirms the existence of drug residues in water samples all across America, but that is a problem of our own making, which we may be able to solve.
However, just having water that is treatable will be a problem. Global climate change is playing havoc with our 20th-century water distribution networks of dams and aqueducts. Dams in the West, no longer work as designed, due to the early snowmelts that are now occurring. Even in years where the Sierra and Rockies get the expected amounts of snow pack, early spring rains and warming melts the snow pack much faster than it used to. Water that will be needed in the warm summer months is forced to be released because the dam fills too soon. Instead of a slower melt that allows spring usage to draw down the reservoir to make room for subsequent late spring melting, the fast melts mean the dam fills too fast and cannot be drawn down over time. Additional snowmelt ends up just running over the top, because there is no room. Then in the summer, reservoirs are lower than they otherwise would have been, and there is no late spring melt water to quench the summer and autumn thirst.
There is really only one way to deal with this situation, and that is to build desalinization plants. How many we will need depends on how much climate changes affect the American continent`s rainfall patterns. Desalinization plants are very expensive in dollars and energy terms. It takes an enormous amount of energy to desalinate seawater. Nuclear power will allow us to have the necessary energy to run these desalinization plants at some kind of reasonable price.
Desalinization has become the only answer, due to our nation`s foolish destruction of its own fresh water supplies. Fresh water has been lost due to the pollution of groundwater by our dependence on polysyllabic chemicals and fossil fuels. MTBEs have destroyed groundwater supplies all over California. These chemicals were meant to help gasoline burn cleaner and, therefore, reduce air pollution. Air pollution has been reduced, but at the expense of groundwater, a fool`s bargain. Fracking used to extract natural gas might also reduce air pollution since natural gas burns fairly cleanly, but the groundwater risks created by fracking are enormous.
America`s abundant water allowed for irrigation of enormous tracts of arable lands. Water is one of America`s great blessings, and we have squandered it and may never enjoy the same abundance, due to climate change. America needs climate change to be mitigated, because one of the pillars of our nation`s greatness is our favorable climate. Desalinization plants will allow us to irrigate our farmlands, as climate change could severely reduce American rainfall totals. Also, desalinization plants can allow us to irrigate large areas of the country that we will need to return to their native flora.
Given the long-term advantages that our climate has provided us in geo-politics, preventing large-scale climate change is strongly in our national interest. There are some ways, all of them expensive, to handle this environmental crisis. Controlling the climate is beyond our scientific abilities, but we can seek to ally ourselves with those that have been the great climate moderators of history: plant life. Plants and trees filter and transform the atmosphere, producing oxygen from carbon dioxide and water. The urban heat islands that we have created with our cities will need to be tamped down and trees can help us do this.
A large program dedicated to the replanting of native species in the many different microclimates that make up our nation can help us stabilize the continent`s climate. Because normal rainfall patterns will likely be changing, we may need to irrigate new native stands of trees that will take decades to actually have a positive effect on our climate. These huge stands of native plant life will also act as a buffer to pollution that the Asian continent will surely be sending our way.
Additionally, in the arid West, there is a growing salinity problem. Irrigation, repeated fertilizer use, and population growth have put enormous pressure on our agriculture-rich western farmlands. The earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia were based on irrigated farmlands. It was salinity in their soils that brought an end to these civilizations of the Fertile Crescent after centuries of prosperity. We now know these fertile lands to be desert-ified Iraq.
Desalinization plants will allow us to flush the salt out of our groundwater over time. This is a common sense plan as speculative as it sounds. It will cost billions to pull it off, but it will gradually pay dividends and, in the end, preserve America`s climate advantage. With so much money necessary to pull this off, citizens will need to be heavily involved to give politicians the will to spend the money and make an investment that will not have any short-term benefits, but will pay huge dividends over time. The use of tax dollars in support of public utilities allows for taking the long view.
Adopting these policies will not only preserve America`s climate advantage, but will also act as stimulus. Simultaneous institution of such a comprehensive energy production/climate change initiative will create jobs galore. Such job stimulus packages have historically created jobs and will do so again. The state of our national treasury mandates that the government money we spend from now on, not only creates jobs, but also builds out an infrastructure to serve the nation into the future.
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