Great Barrier Reef, we hardly knew ye

Before we begin, I must rise and give a standing ovation to all my Dutch friends.

You did it. You rejected populism! The Dutch did something that the British and Americans could not do.

In case you haven’t been following the Weinblog™, this burst of joy is in reference to Geert Widlers, the extremely radical, far-right “Dutch Trump” whose party fell significantly short of winning the most seats in the Netherlands parliamentary elections on Wednesday.

The country’s Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, whose party did win the most votes, said in his victory speech that the craziness in the U.S. under Donald Trump made people rethink choosing a populist leader.

It’s great we get to be the guinea pig so other countries don’t screw up like we did.

But anyway, let’s shift gears to something a little more demoralizing that’s happening on the other side of the globe: the deterioration of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a pretty sad thought that one day, if I ever have grand-kids, I’ll have to explain to them that it was during my generation when we learned that the Great Barrier Reef was dying … and we did nothing to stop it.

That’s the reality. A recent paper published by scientists informs us that one of our planet’s foremost natural phenomena is in mortal danger – 30 years quicker than we expected. While the reef requires warm underwater temperatures to survive, global warming has caused temperatures to rise too much, proving deadly.

Great Barrier Reef

But the researchers explain that not all is hope is lost, and that there is time to restore the necessary conditions to salvage the precious underwater ecosystem.

But we have to act now.

Spoiler alert: we won’t.

Barack Obama was the symbolic leader of the monumental Paris Agreement, at which nearly 200 countries agreed to take tangible action to combat climate change. Now Obama’s gone, and Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.

As much as we will want to blame Trump, though, Australia is as guilty as anyone else, as their conservative government continues to support fossil fuel development, including the construction of a proposed coal mine – a pretty big shocker considering the barrier reef is responsible for bringing the country some 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars in tourism revenue.

One would think that would motivate them to act. Guess not.

The Barrier Reef is as astonishing as anything our natural world has to offer. So astonishing that it’s often considered one of the modern wonders of the world.

Think of the massive development of a city over time into a complex, vivacious metropolis. Now imagine that underwater, constructed entirely by living organisms. It’s almost impossible to fathom.

And we are letting it die.

But hey, at least we’ll always have coal, right?

Although, if the first two months of Trump’s presidency are any indication, perhaps the courts will find a way to step in and override his complete disregard for climate change, just like they did for a second time with his proposed travel ban.

Hawaii Travel Ban

As we all have the distinct displeasure of remembering, Trump was a man unleashed during his campaign. Initially, he had only tepid support, and he was just running his mouth saying whatever he felt like to appeal to his base. Many of those things were downright bigoted.

And now he is suffering the consequences.

Yes, the revised travel ban down cut out the most controversial parts of the first one. But the damage has already been done. No matter how stately the administration attempts to word this thing, we know what they want to do. And in America, we don’t discriminate based on religion.

It’s refreshing to finally see somebody hold Trump accountable for his recklessness.

And credit must be given where it is due: you did it, Hawaii! Yeah! High five!

From now on, you will be remembered for being a popular honeymoon destination, the movie Lilo and Stitch, and … putting a stop to Trump’s second travel ban.

Put that shit right on the license plate.

Hawaii, this is your moment

Since being granted statehood in 1959, Hawaii has been viewed by most Americans simply as a tourist destination.

Which, to say, is nothing be ashamed of. By all accounts, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world, featuring some of the most vibrant people and fascinating cultural experiences. Every person I know who has traveled there say it’s a place that everyone needs to visit at least once.

So we love having Hawaii as part of the U.S. But besides its appeal to travelers, it still lacks a very specific identity in terms of the broader history of the United States.

Yes, of course the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred there in 1941 when it was still an overseas territory of the U.S., killing 2,403 Americans, and propelling the country into World War II.

One day later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously called the attack “a day that will live in infamy.”

And so it has.

We have, nor will we ever, forget the events of Pearl Harbor.

But Hawaii needs some more positive memories to add to its history books. Because when the highlights of your state in the last 58 years is the birth of Manti Te’o and being the setting for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you know you need a bit more recognition.

Alright, fine. To be fair, it’s also the final resting place for iconic American Charles Lindbergh. But you get the point.

Hawaii needs something that the rest of the country can point to and say, “Yeah … Hawaii did that.

And that time may have finally come.

Hawaii ban

Following Trump’s issuance of his revised travel ban on Monday, the state of Hawaii has already filed a lawsuit demanding an immediate freeze on the order, even before it is set to be implemented on March 16.

As you will recall, the administration’s horribly rushed and vaguely defined first travel ban was almost immediately struck down by the federal courts. But this time, they attempted to clear any language that might give it legal pause.

That includes the exemption of permanent residents, green card and visa holders, and people who have already been approved to enter the United States, and openings for exemptions for people who want to enter the U.S. for purposes of work and study, and those seeking to visit or live with family. Iraq was also removed from the list of temporarily banned Muslim-majority countries.

Hawaii is basing its argument on the fact that judges will recognize the true intent of the ban, as stated by Trump several times on the campaign trail, and that the barring of foreigners will have a harmful impact on the state’s economy, which is boosted by visitors from abroad.

Basically, Hawaii is saying that this new ban will have the same impact as the first one — which was vocally admitted by a top Trump adviser — and if that one was nixed, then this one should be too.

It’s worth noting that two leaked Homeland Security reports basically concluded that banning residents due to their lack of citizenship will have almost no impact on protecting the country from terrorism.

It’s also worth noting that the law firm representing Hawaii is headed by Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration.

So we’ll see how this plays out. It appears that there’s much less leeway for judges to be willing to strike it down right away. That being said, Hawaii is appealing in the same appellate circuit – the Ninth Circuit – that shut down Trump’s first travel ban.

But if this goes Hawaii’s way, then this will be the state’s biggest achievement since the invention of the Mai Tai.

This is Hawaii’s moment, in all of its glory.

As their state motto goes: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono.

You can google that to see if I’m lying or not.

Democracy comes to life, in the form of an Internet live stream

In the early days of America, the White House was meant to be a place of accessibility. Fresh off British rule, our founding fathers wanted the people of our nation to be involved in government to the highest degree – a right they were not afforded under the reign of a monarch.

Indeed, during the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, people were literally allowed to stroll up to the White House and walk in. The president would even come and greet them.

What greater way is to participate in government than that?

After all, the entire premise of a republic relies on the participation of its electorate. We are expected to vote, to be vocal, and to immerse ourselves in the democratic process as much as possible. Our government, remember, is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” and our elected leaders are supposed to answer to us and nobody else.

white-house

Flash forward 200 years later. Nobody cares about government. No one writes to their congressional representatives. More than half of the country doesn’t vote. And because of it, our representatives don’t give a shit what we have to say.

Essentially, our own inertia weakens our influence.

Years of relative peace and the ubiquity of the Internet has resulted in a greater disengagement than ever in this country between the government and its people.

The mere idea of sitting down and penning a note for your U.S. Senator is archaic.

Attending a Town Hall meeting to discuss important issues? Lol-worthy.

Turning on CSPAN to watch a Senate hearing? Ludicrous.

Until now.

If there is one unquestionable truth we can all agree on with the Trump administration, it’s that this contemporary conventional wisdom of government participation has been turned on its head.

People are absolutely flooding their congressional representatives with calls, letters and emails. People are donating to charitable causes that will fight on their behalf. People are taking to the streets to protest actions and policies they believe to be antithetical to American values.

Still not convinced?

The audio for Tuesday’s federal appeals court hearing for Trump’s proposed travel ban was streamed on the Internet, and more than 136,000 people tuned in. Tens of thousands more listened on TV.

That’s astounding.

live-stream-travel-ban

Sure, 135,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the 324 million people living in this country, but, it’s still an interest level in government that would have been unheard of even a year ago.

And that is a very good thing. It’s sad that it took an event of this magnitude to get us there, but, the fact that people are vigilant and paying attention, while actively participating in day-to-day governmental affairs is extremely important, and fulfills the fundamental basis of our democratic process.

The hearing, meanwhile, continues, with early indications that the three-panel appeals court won’t overturn the initial ruling by a Seattle judge against the travel ban. Either way, it’s expected to wind up in Supreme Court, so we will not know the end result for quite some time.

And throughout the process, Trump continues to disparage our independent judiciary.

People keep worrying if there will be a sense of fatigue from those who are critical of this current administration.

But when 135,000 people listen to an audio stream of a court hearing in the middle of a Wednesday … I think we’re OK.

On that note, I’m walking up to the White House front doors right now.

We’ll see how this goes.