Wednesday, February 19, 2014

US Energy Independence Will Not Come From a Pipeline

In light of the recent State Department report regarding the environmental impact of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, it is no wonder environmentalists are bracing themselves for another Obama betrayal.  From the outset, those paying attention recognized it as a farce-- it was prepared by Environmental Resource Management, a TransCanada contractor with board members actively lobbying for the pipeline.  It is likely that Obama will hold off on making a decision to approve or reject construction of the pipeline until after the midterm elections, and even more likely that Big Oil will try to pull the wool over our eyes with the assertion that pumping 830,000 barrels a day through America's heartland will somehow alleviate our energy woes.  

Keystone XL supporters are quick to promise jobs and energy security for the American people, but truth be told the pipeline will only yield an estimated 50 permanent jobs in the USA.  Energy security will go to the highest bidder on the global market, with Chinese government-backed firms owning majority stakes in at least five of the Alberta tar sands projects already underway, with more in the works.  Houston oil refineries back Keystone XL because it suits their bottom line- they are already equipped to deal with the heavier crude that comes from tar sands since they have been importing similar from Venezuela and Mexico.  Of no consequence to their bottom line:  the 2 barrels of toxic waste generated for every 1 barrel of tar sands oil.  The toxic waste is held in "ponds" throughout the tar sands, and are visible from outer space.  Communities downstream are suffering unprecedented rates of cancer.  Deadly effects such as these can be expected near the Houston refineries and in the case of any leaks or spills from the pipeline.  TransCanada has already performed 125 excavations on 250 miles of the already completed southern leg of the pipeline to repair suspected sags and dents.  Nothing to see here, folks.  

Even if you care little about the environmental risks and paltry economic benefits, it is important to note that gas prices are projected to rise for Midwest consumers.  A spike in gas prices in America's breadbasket will impact consumer budgets nationwide.  According to TransCanada's own admission, the Keystone XL pipeline will increase the price of heavy crude oil by $2-$4 billion annually in the Midwest because refineries in the Midwest, currently supplied by the tar sands via railway, would be bypassed by the pipeline.  

If Obama turns his back on his supporters and green lights the Keystone XL pipeline, the United States is no further down the road to a sustainable energy policy than we were in 2008.  American consumers shouldn't look to Big Oil for solutions any more than an addict should look to his dealer seeking sobriety.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Brevard School Board Budget: Breaks the Law, Lacks Priorities

Let me begin by congratulating the taxpayers of Brevard on their generosity.  We are truly a generous bunch, paying for Brevard high school students to take over 5000 college courses in the coming year.  Too bad our generosity, and the high school students' precocious education, comes at the expense of younger students.  While I believe the Dual Enrollment program presents a great opportunity for Brevard's high school students, I also believe its budgetary requirements (projected to be between $3.8 and $5.2 million for the 2013-14 school year) are detrimental to Brevard's younger students.  While bright, proactive high school students  attend courses at BCC, FIT and other public and private universities completely free of charge, 3 Brevard county schools will be shuttered, along with countless innovative educational opportunities being cut for younger students.  I don't begrudge anyone higher education, but I have real misgivings about paying for someone else's kids to go to college when mine aren't getting the programs they need in elementary school.  

As has been reported, the Brevard County School Board has decided to ignore current state law during the 2013-14 school year by not following guidelines set in the Class Size Amendment, approved by voters in 2002, with support reinforced by voters in 2010 when the legislature tried unsuccessfully to repeal it.  Instead, the School Board has decided to eliminate teachers, pay a fine, and lose its designation as a "high performing district."  I'll be the first to admit that I was hugely disappointed when the Half-Cent Sales Tax referendum failed last November, but I can't justify the district flouting the state Constitution in the name of cost savings, especially when postsecondary education is being treated as a sacred cow.  

At last night's school board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli did a fine job of presenting a breakdown of the financial figures currently known by the district in its budgeting for the 2013-14 school year.  The unknown numbers rest squarely on the shoulders of Florida state legislators, who lassoed Governor Scott's $480 million education budget with enough strings to hang an elephant.  The appropriations bill left very little wiggle room in how the funds were to be spent.  Of the recent $22.6 million allocation of funds from the state, the School Board is required to spend $225,885 on new instructional materials, $2.5 million to fully fund the district's retirement benefits, $1.6 million for the employee health insurance trust fund, and $329,335 on teacher lead allocation.   The $12.6 allocated by the state for teacher raises may end up putting the School Board back in the red, depending on whether the District has to pay FICA and fringe benefits on top of the increased compensation.  That leaves just over $5 million for Brevard Public Schools, which will likely be swallowed up by dual-enrollment expenses.  

College is a looming expense for most parents, but when your children, just starting out in school, are subjected to numerous cuts and possible closures, it is unsettling to know that tax dollars are being spent on early college for high school students, rather than funding classrooms that meet constitutional class size guidelines.  In fact, Brevard taxpayers will be paying a higher bill than usual for high school students to earn college credit because the state legislature voted that school districts must now pay the customary portion of FTE (Full Time Equivalent) and tuition and fees.  Also infuriating to a mother who just wants to see kids thrive in neighborhood schools, without the threat of closure and teacher cuts: the legislature's gifts to Florida Virtual School.  While Brevard taxpayers can be praised for generosity toward high school students using public education tax dollars to pay for college credits, the Florida legislature can be praised for its generosity to the Florida Virtual School and its corporate partners.  In the new budget, Brevard County lost $6.2 million in funding, as it was siphoned to Florida Virtual Schools through legislation.  Florida students are already required to take an online class through Florida Virtual School, paid for out of the School Board's funds.  Even a student completing the virtual course in a Brevard public school lab will result in reduced funding for the district, with a portion of that student's FTE (Full Time Equivalent) going to the coffers of Florida Virtual School.  Full-time Brevard public school students that take an extra course through Florida Virtual School after school hours or during the summer also reduce the funding received by the Brevard County School Board.  

I'm not old-fashioned- I recognize that technology and innovation are crucial to the success of students. However, kindergartners can't finance their literacy education the way a high school graduate can finance a college education.  It's time Brevard Public Schools makes the right hard decision: to  prioritize elementary and secondary education over the dual enrollment program until the budget shortfall is resolved.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is Now Too Soon or Too Late?

My heart breaks for the people of Newtown, Connecticut.  I picked up my vivacious kindergartner this afternoon, admittedly more attentive to her account of the day.  She is anxious for Monday morning to arrive so she can wear her pajamas to school for a holiday party.  I think she is most excited to see what pajamas her teacher wears, with cookie decorating being a close second.  My heart won't let me venture too far on the thought that I would be having a much different conversation with my kindergartner this afternoon if I lived in Newtown, Connecticut, or worse, wouldn't be having a conversation at all.  The grief I feel for those families and teachers cannot be overstated.

I can think of no better time to discuss gun control legislation in this country than this moment though.  I think it is more of a disservice to the victims and their loved ones to refrain from meaningful discussion on gun violence prevention.  For them, the conversation is happening too late.  There is a generation of young Americans that has never known a time without school gun violence.  It is time we come to terms with the fact that the events at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Sandy Hook Elementary are not isolated instances, they are symptoms of a larger, growing cancer in our country.  We cannot put off meaningful dialogue for another day.  Bodies cool and it happens again.  

Some of my fondest childhood memories come from time spent with my family at a hunt camp in Ocala.  My dad taught me to shoot a rifle when I was in the second or third grade.  I am not one to challenge a hunter's second amendment rights, but show me a hunter who dismisses the need for gun control overhaul at this moment, and I'll show you a hunter who hugs his guns harder than his kids.  Why should gun ownership not be regulated as rigidly as a driver's license?  There are common sense changes that can be made, like reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004.  Effective legislation could ban all military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high capacity ammunition magazines, like the AR-15 used in last week's Oregon mall shooting and the 100-round drum magazine used in July's Aurora movie theater shooting.  Equally important is the requirement for criminal background checks for every gun sale, even at gun shows.  Most people think this is already the law, but in actuality unlicensed gun sellers proffer guns at gun shows with zero background checks.  The 4 guns used in the Columbine massacre were all purchased at gun shows.  Likewise, problems with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System must be addressed.  States should be required to share pertinent mental health and domestic violence records with the national database.  Currently about 80-90% of disqualifying mental health records, and 25% of felony convictions are absent in the NICS database. Ten states do not provide relevant domestic violence records that indicate prohibited gun purchasers.  A background check is only as good as the records database it is privy to.  

Someone is bound to suggest that we arm teachers or principals in response to this tragedy.  More guns are not the answer, unless your interest is in profits for the NRA and gun manufacturers.  My interest is currently riding her bike in the driveway, blissfully anxious about which jammies to wear to kindergarten Monday morning.  I pray for solace for the bereaved in Connecticut, and clarity for the people who feel powerless to stop the recent surge in gun violence.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Loses if Romney Wins?

Yes, that's right Captain Obvious, Obama will be the official loser if Romney gets to the magic electoral number of 270, but who else will lose?  And how bad?  

There are the obvious losses: the LGBT community stands to lose their greatest advocate  ever to reside in the White House.  The tenuous steps made toward marriage equality will be decimated by a Romney administration.  Romney has pledged to appoint an attorney general who will defend the Defense of Marriage Act and "champion a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman."  If he succeeds, it would be the only amendment (putting aside the 18th...we all know how well that turned out) that restricts citizens' liberty.  To expect anything less than blatant discrimination from Romney, who brags (behind closed doors, naturally) about blocking routine birth certificates for children of gay parents during his tenure as Massachusetts governor, is foolish.  

Also on the losing end, women with an interest in preserving their privacy and choice.  Romney has pledged to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood.  While good protein for right-wing social issues-voters, that funding is critical for services unrelated to abortion (which accounted for 3% of services performed by Planned Parenthood in 2010), like cancer screening (14.5%), contraception (33.5%) and STD testing and treatment (38%).  Seventy-six percent of Planned Parenthood patients have incomes at or below one hundred fifty percent of the federal poverty level.  Pair defunding Planned Parenthood and Romney's promised repeal of Obamacare, and you have a huge population with zero access to reproductive health services.  Add to that scenario, "forcible rape" Paul Ryan a heartbeat away from the presidency and four Supreme Court justices in their 70s, and Romney's professed "delight" at signing a bill overturning Roe v. Wade, and you can see all the choices women stand to lose.  

Also losing, the Earth and science.  In the wake of superstorm Sandy, it is hard for me to understand turning environmental issues political.  But that is exactly what we can expect under a President Romney.  His quip about Obama's concern for rising sea levels during the 2008 campaign, was the biggest laugh line in his RNC speech after all, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.  As is all too often the case, Romney was for it before he was against it, the environment I mean.  As governor he issued a "climate protection plan" and directed the creation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (only to shy away once bitten by the presidential bug).  He fought against the "Filthy Five" high pollution power plants.  But as President, Romney has promised to end subsidies for renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.  He has vowed to curb regulations that discourage burning coal, basically thumbing his nose at the fact that coal use accounts for 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Similarly, Romney plans to roll back Obama's fuel economy standards, which requires automakers to more than double fuel efficiency in vehicles by 2025, so that new cars average 54.5 miles per gallon.  The policy is projected to reduce oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025-- that's as much as the US currently imports a day.  The Environmental Protection Agency projects that the fuel rule will save families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, with an average savings of $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. 

Education will also suffer under Romney's proposal of shifting student loans back to the private sector, at a cost of $58 Billion to taxpayers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  That's right, $58 Billion of taxpayer money over the next decade, paid to private lenders to service federal student loans.  A President Romney will repeal Obama's programs for income-based student loan repayment and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  Better hope you can "borrow the money from your parents" if you plan to attend classes during the next four years.  Public education will also lose when Romney ties federal funding to "parental choice" voucher-system reforms.  

Immigration reform will also, not surprisingly, lose.  Romney opposes the DREAM Act, and has only come out in support of a pathway to citizenship for military veterans.  That leaves approximately 800,000 young people without citizenship options, in spite of the fact that they were brought to this country as children through no "fault" of their own.  

I would be remiss to leave out the pivotal issue of job creation, which is of course related to all of the aforementioned "losers."  We've been promised 12 million jobs under a President Romney.  While his Jobs plan is made up of a hodgepodge of numbers from several studies (some projecting 10 year figures, not 4, as he'd have you believe), it may hold water, regardless of who wins November 6th.  In August, Moody's Analytics predicted 12 million jobs will be created by 2016, NO MATTER WHO WINS THE WHITE HOUSE.  Likewise, Macroeconomic Advisors predicted 12.3 million jobs created by 2016, regardless of winner and loser.  

So, to all of those tossing off the "social issues" as backseaters in this election, I encourage you to give them a thought.  And consider what you're willing to lose in the next 4 years.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Binders Full of Women" Drawing Attention

It's no surprise when Presidential Debates spawn catchy soundbites to be used in the next blitz of political ads, and if current trending reports have anything to say about it, "binders full of women" is the new Big Bird.  Since Romney answered a question about pay equity for women at Tuesday's debate by referring to the "binders full of women" he used to hire qualified women for cabinet positions, the term has garnered astounding media and Internet attention.  A Facebook page entitled "Binders Full of Women" accrued over 100,000 "likes" in less than an hour following the debate and Twitter was flooded with #bindersfullofwomen tweets.  Even online retailer Amazon reports a surge in reviews for binders, drenched in sarcasm.  

Putting fun aside, fact checkers were quick to point out that the binders Governor Romney referred to landed on his gubernatorial desk because of the actions of  the nonpartisan Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.  The caucus had approached both Mitt Romney and his opponent, Shannon O' Brien, prior to the 2002 gubernatorial election with their Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP).  The project was a nonpartisan, collective effort of over 25 women's organizations to recruit women to apply for government positions within the incoming administration, and to recommend qualified women for those positions.  Both the O'Brien and Romney campaigns committed to the MassGAP process.  In short, the "binders full of women" Romney boasted about were not a result of his campaign's diligence or initiative, and they would have just as likely graced the desk of a Governor O' Brien, had she been elected.  

In 2002, women comprised about 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in the Massachusetts government.  Under Governor Romney in 2004, 42 percent of the new cabinet appointments were women.  However, from 2004-2006 the percentage dropped to 25 percent.  

Mitt Romney infamously dodged Diane Sawyer's probes regarding his opinion about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act during the GOP primaries, but his advisor Ed Gillespie told reporters after Tuesday's debate that the governor was opposed to the bill.  Several hours later, Gillespie clarified Romney's position further, stating that he had opposed the bill in 2009, but would not act to repeal it as president.  

President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in to law in 1963, and Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.  Currently, according to Department of Labor statistics, women earn an average of 77 cents compared to their male counterparts' dollar.   

A transcript, from the Commission on Presidential Debates, of the questioning that led to the catchphrase "binders full of women" follows: 

QUESTION: In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
OBAMA: Well, Katherine, that's a great question. And, you know, I was raised by a single mom who had to put herself through school while looking after two kids. And she worked hard every day and made a lot of sacrifices to make sure we got everything we needed. My grandmother, she started off as a secretary in a bank. She never got a college education, even though she was smart as a whip. And she worked her way up to become a vice president of a local bank, but she hit the glass ceiling. She trained people who would end up becoming her bosses during the course of her career.
She didn't complain. That's not what you did in that generation. And this is one of the reasons why one of the first -- the first bill I signed was something called the Lily Ledbetter bill. And it's named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less, and the Supreme Court said that she couldn't bring suit because she should have found about it earlier, whereas she had no way of finding out about it. So we fixed that. And that's an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women's issue, this is a family issue, this is a middle-class issue, and that's why we've got to fight for it.
It also means that we've got to make sure that young people like yourself are able to afford a college education. Earlier, Governor Romney talked about he wants to make Pell Grants and other education accessible for young people.
Well, the truth of the matter is, is that that's exactly what we've done. We've expanded Pell Grants for millions of people, including millions of young women, all across the country.
We did it by taking $60 billion that was going to banks and lenders as middlemen for the student loan program, and we said, let's just cut out the middleman. Let's give the money directly to students.
And as a consequence, we've seen millions of young people be able to afford college, and that's going to make sure that young women are going to be able to compete in that marketplace.
But we've got to enforce the laws, which is what we are doing, and we've also got to make sure that in every walk of life we do not tolerate discrimination.
That's been one of the hallmarks of my administration. I'm going to continue to push on this issue for the next four years.
CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women?
ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, "How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men." They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications." And I said, "Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?"
ROMNEY: And -- and so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women.
I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
We're going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women. In the -- in the last women have lost 580,000 jobs. That's the net of what's happened in the last four years. We're still down 580,000 jobs. I mentioned 31/2 million women, more now in poverty than four years ago.
What we can do to help young women and women of all ages is to have a strong economy, so strong that employers that are looking to find good employees and bringing them into their workforce and adapting to a flexible work schedule that gives women opportunities that they would otherwise not be able to afford.
This is what I have done. It's what I look forward to doing and I know what it takes to make an economy work, and I know what a working economy looks like. And an economy with 7.8 percent unemployment is not a real strong economy. An economy that has 23 million people looking for work is not a strong economy.
An economy with 50 percent of kids graduating from college that can't finds a job, or a college level job, that's not what we have to have. CROWLEY: Governor?
ROMNEY: I'm going to help women in America get good work by getting a stronger economy and by supporting women in the workforce.
CROWLEY: Mr. President why don't you get in on this quickly, please?
OBAMA: Katherine, I just want to point out that when Governor Romney's campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it? He said, "I'll get back to you." And that's not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy. Now, there are some other issues that have a bearing on how women succeed in the workplace. For example, their healthcare. You know a major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.
I think that's a mistake. In my health care bill, I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured. Because this is not just a -- a health issue, it's an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family's pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that in fact employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage.
That's not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country, who rely on Planned Parenthood for, not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That's a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care, and the credits that we're providing. That makes a difference in whether they can go out there and -- and earn a living for their family.
These are not just women's issues. These are family issues. These are economic issues.
And one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are.
CROWLEY: Mr. President...
OBAMA: And I've got two daughters and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody's sons have. That's part of what I'm fighting for as president of the United States.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reality TV Romney

I'm not a fan of reality TV, and I've been told that it's annoying to share a couch with me if such a show is being watched.  I just can't seem to ignore the ridiculous premise that most of those shows follow.  Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of wherever...these are not representative of any truth whatsoever.  The exceptions to my rule against reality TV are few and far between, but the ones that squeeze through all fit the requirement that some veritable talent or thoughtful strategy be exhibited.  So my guilty pleasures are Survivor and American Idol while I fold laundry.  

I actually had planned on folding laundry during last week's presidential debate (I have three kids and the requisite laundry), but I was never able to pull myself away from the train wreck unfolding before my eyes long enough to pull it from the dryer.  Lucky for me, there's a tumble cycle to release those wrinkles.  Hopefully Obama has a similar cycle to reverse the unforeseen wrinkles in his campaign created by his dismal performance at that debate.  I won't mince words when it comes to his debate performance- he lost and it was painful to watch.  

But I think its premature for Romney supporters to be dancing in the street.  This election cycle reminds me of a bad reality show, with actual policy explained by actual numbers playing a cameo role, at best.  I can blink the absence of sunscreen on Survivor, and cheer when the winner (free from sun-damage) gets a million dollars.  But what I can't ignore, and I don't think I'm alone on this couch, is the blatant way Romney is backpedaling on his published positions.  For months, dating back to the GOP primary debates, Romney has been pushing for an across-the-board 20% tax cut.  But, lo and behold, at last week's debate, he peered into the camera and promised to not reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthy.  Similarly, he accused the president of raiding Medicare benefits by $716 Billion, a claim that has been debunked by fact-checkers for months.  Perhaps he should run that number by his running mate, as the same cut, with nearly unanimous support from House Republicans, is present in the 2012 Ryan budget blueprint.  Politicians are inherently shape-shifters, but Romney's position fluidity represents an all-new low.  Nobama is the only fixed policy coming out of the Romney camp.  '

Suspension of disbelief is one of the only concepts I readily recall from a 'TV and The American Family' elective course I took years ago in college.  It refers to viewers' dismissal of incongruity in the details of a TV program.  Like when a guy pops the question on The Bachelor.  The viewer has to forget about the other 20 girls he was making out with 2 weeks prior.  I'm OK with disbelief being suspended in the case of fictional TV programs, but when it comes to national policy and political discourse, I'm not at all OK.  I'm not about to forget the 1% that Romney was canoodling with when he made his infamous 47% remark.  

You can bet I'll be watching the vice presidential debate Thursday night, laundry basket at my feet,  and it had better not play out like more bad reality TV.  Biden and Ryan have to supply congruent facts and numbers to make this voter suspend her disbelief.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lowest Common Denominators Should Not Equal Foreign Policy

Since first hearing of the killings of Ambassador Chris Stevens and 3 other Americans at the American consulate in Benghazi, I have found myself in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what to think.

Scratch that.
I am infuriated, enraged at the attackers' apparent lack of moral logic and incensed at their religious hypocrisy.  How could these modern-day neanderthals treat our diplomats with such hatred, especially given Mr. Stevens' outreach to Libyan rebels following Qaddafi's ouster, all in the name of some low-budget glorified YouTube posting?  Do American foreign service personnel really have to conduct diplomacy on eggshells, ever-shifting due to the antics of the lowest brows in our nation?

Will the lowest common denominator in this country and their foreign counterparts provoke so much division to run the international show?  I reject the notion posed by Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai that "desecration is not part of freedom of expression but a criminal act."  Freedom of speech should not be hemmed by religious tolerance.  I don't believe the great religions of the world need tight-lipped political correctness to coexist.  In fact, I'd argue most world religions feature heavily the idea of moral transformation and salvation.  However, in  today's world of tailor-made media and screaming blogs, Facebook and YouTube, the most provocative and inflammatory get the most views.  The same media that fueled the Arab Spring, steered by provocateurs with different aims, can seemingly burn the whole world down.

Picking a fight with Earth's nearly 2 Billion Muslims is not the answer, not when this is our only planetary option.  Too many people on social media and mainstream media, are choosing to ignore the subtleties  of the 'world's worldview,' almost daring for a clash of civilizations.  That can't be God's wish for his creation, no matter the creed.  

Shouldn't American exceptionalism preclude our descent into xenophobia and 'nuke em all' hysteria?  Don't we exhibit our superiority to that track just in our daily interactions with our neighbors, coworkers and strangers on the street?  Didn't Ambassador Stevens' work on the ground in Libya personify such grand ideals?  

We as Americans are better than Sam Bacile and the Libyan thugs wasting their God-given talents provoking hatred and animosity.  We are better, and we must conduct ourselves as such, and not grasp for the latest battle cry that best amplifies our rage.