Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well, political gamesmanship has hit home on a personal level.

I have almost stopped blogging about politics, as nothing makes any sense these days. There isn't anything logical that exists anywhere in our political process or discourse about which someone like me can make logical statements. It's like attempting to deconstruct Alice In Wonderland. It ain't happenin'.

But this one, I thought I might as well comment about, since it seems I am going to take a personal hit. You see, I am a federal worker. And President Obama, in yet another capitulation to the crazies on the Republican side of the aisle, has proposed to freeze the pay of all federal workers for two years. This will, of course, do absolutely nothing to address the country's massive deficit and will likely make the economic situation in this country that much worse, with that much less money in play in which to lubricate the cogs and gears of our economy. I thought actually that was the most pressing issue, to "get the economy moving again." But I guess we are all about empty gestures at this point.

I am of two minds about this. On one level, I am actually not too upset with this. I am pretty well paid for someone in my profession. I am not hurting. I took my current job because a host of other reasons, not related to pay, mostly about the negatives at my last job. I certainly didn't take a job with the federal government because I wanted to get rich. I am still not rich, but I am better paid than I would have been had I remained in the commercial sector. I will say that this is definitely not a true statement for most government employees. It is just that my profession, engineering, happens to compete directly with those companies who also employee engineers. So, the government feels they need to pay well in order to compete for those same employees. But, as I said, I didn't take my current job because of the pay.

So, I am actually willing to "do my bit." I can take a hit financially if it were to help out the overall situation. I certainly can't complain, in that I do have a steady job and the prospects of losing it are pretty small. That is a whole lot more than can be said about most of the work force in this country. So, I will count my blessings in that regard.

But here's the thing. I see this as a meaningless gesture that is supposed to placate the Republican party and their "balance the budget at any cost!" nutjobs. It isn't likely to do anything to help bring the deficit under control. I just get this feeling that I am being asked to "suck it up" so the money saved from these pay freezes will be used to finance, in part, the continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% wage earners. They certainly aren't being asked to "suck it up." In fact, extending those tax cuts for the wealthy seems to be a higher priority for the Republicans than actually doing something about the deficit. And this is what burns me. This is, yet again, an inequitable response. Everything is tilted toward the rich and powerful these days. Everything.

I would really, really like someone to explain to me why I don't deserve any pay raise for the next two years, but it is of paramount importance to keep the tax rates of the very rich at historic lows. Please, Republicans, explain that to me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Methane: The real environmental time bomb.

Forget carbon dioxide. Here’s a story regarding what could potentially be the final kicker in global warming and climate change.

Gas locked inside Siberia's frozen soil and under its lakes has been seeping out since the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. But in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane — a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide — at a perilous rate.

Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.

Most climate scientists, with a few dissenters, say human activities — the stuff of daily life like driving cars, producing electricity or raising cattle — is overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap heat, causing a warming effect.

But global warming is amplified in the polar regions. What feels like a modest temperature rise is enough to induce Greenland glaciers to retreat, Arctic sea ice to thin and contract in summer, and permafrost to thaw faster, both on land and under the seabed.

There are huge amounts of methane trapped in a frozen state in both the earth’s permafrost and underneath the ocean’s floors. If we ever reach a point where massive amounts of methane are released into the atmosphere, that would most likely mean the end of human society as we know it. Oh, a number of individuals and even groups would survive. But whatever society might finally result from the remnants of our current society would have more in common with the stone age tribes than our current cities which are totally dependent upon cheap energy, plentiful food, clean water, a very complex infrastructure, and a division of labor among our current populace that allows very intense specialization. You think there will be much need for investment bankers, designers of video games, or changers of lubricants in automobiles? I seriously doubt it, as the survivors will be scrabbling in order to remain so.

But we are all too wrapped up in our little insanities to care. Global warming is a myth. Scientists are elitists. Opinions matter much more than facts. Hate thy enemy and smite him before he smites you, even metaphorically. That's all that matters these days.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boy, I hate Christmas commercials on television.

When I was a kid, Christmas commercials used to be kind of cute or silly.... "Noelco! Even our name says Merry Christmas!" I am old enough that I still remember the stop animation Santa riding down the hill on a three headed shaver. But it seems that a vast majority of the commercials we see today are for two, very high-priced items: jewelry and automobiles. The ones for jewelry, I am sorry to admit, really kind of make me want to hurl. Ultra-romantic, everything just perfect. Oh, how your lady's eyes will glow with love and complete adoration when you give her this expensive bauble. Who in their right mind would go out into the woods or even in their own yard and put up literally thousands of Christmas lights just so they can give their wife/girlfriend a necklace? Cripes. Maybe I am just a total unromantic, but these things are so stupid in their overwhelming desire to make the watcher try to emulate the "Perfect Christmas Gift." Ugh.

And the ones for cars... It's now apparently expected that people will go out and buy expensive cars at Christmas. One commercial even had a wife surprising her hubby with a brand new car, and she somehow contrived to have the damn thing inside in the living room with all the Christmas decorations.

At a time when 10% of Americans are out of work and a larger percentage have either given up looking or are what we euphemistically referred to as "under-employed", it doesn't seem terribly appropriate to be rubbing the fact that there are still some people (the ones who want Bush tax cuts for the top 2%) who can buy this really unnecessary but terribly expensive crap.

Yeah, I know that I write a variation of this post every single Christmas... But that doesn't lessen my feelings any.


Image from The Golem Universe.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Three perfect examples of why Republicans don’t care and the rest of us are screwed.

And this is just in the last couple of days.

John Kyl and the rest of the Republicans are going to vote No on the ratification of the nuclear weapons treaty with the Russians, for absolutely no good reason other than yet another opportunity to stick it to Obama.

Republican leaders blow off a scheduled meeting with President Obama, for absolutely no good reason other than yet another opportunity to stick it to Obama.

Republicans won’t vote on extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class without including the extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as well. But they won’t support an extension of unemployment benefits for out of work Americans. The only reason they would do this is that millionaires and billionaires are more important to them than everyone else. And yet another chance to stick it to Obama.

These people are truly without shame. They go around, screaming about how evil Democrats are, accusing them of doing the very same things that they are doing to the middle class. And a huge percentage of the American public believes them, because everyone knows that Democrats are evil tax-and-spend liberals who want to destroy this country.

God, I really, really do hate this country right now. We are going to deserve everything that we get when we eventually become the largest third world country on the entire frikkin’ planet.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mid-term election, 2010: The bestest, most definitive post-election analysis, bar-none, that you won’t find anywhere else. Period.

See, it’s like this. Much of the population of the United States is deeply confused. And misinformed. Deeply confused and misinformed. And angry. Deeply confused, misinformed and angry. That’s us. Did I mention angry? Keep your filthy government hands off my Medicare! Socialist! Taxes are evil! It’s my money!! And why hasn’t anyone filled that big pothole in my street yet?

This, by itself, explains much of what happened during the mid-term election. Why else would the country go out of its way to reward a political party who had the most to do with the problems that we all experience and yet are not offering any viable solutions other than to scream “No!” at the top of their collective lungs? And “Boo!”, of course. Can’t forget “Boo!” Must keep everyone scared out of their wits every minute of every day. “No!” and “Boo!”

Besides, you can’t show your displeasure in How Things Are Going by voting out a party if they are not in power already, can you? No, you most certainly cannot. You can only show your displeasure in How Things Are Going by voting out a party that holds the power. Give the other guy a chance, even if we are relatively certain they are going to screw things up even more than they are now. It somewhat the same when your favorite NFL team is 2 and 12 and mired in last place. What do you do? Fire the coach. What an easy call. That’s what you call a no-brainer. The team may be down to the third string quarterback who might have some specific difficulty in not throwing the ball to the team in the other colored jerseys at least four times in a single game, not to mention that the offensive line has been decimated by injuries and non-performers, but the coach, well… It’s his own fault that he inherited such a crummy team, isn’t it? Fire the bastard!

So, the heavy lifting part of my analysis being done (aren’t you impressed?), lets talk about some specifics. Tea Party types did really well in their respective House races, but pretty much failed miserably when it came to the Senate races. Sharron Angle in Nevada, Chris O’Donnell in Delaware and Ken Buck in Colorado all lost, which looks, on its surface, as a resounding victory for sanity. Nevadans apparently detested Harry Reid and yet he won a convincing victory over Angle. And, as a bonus prize, it appears that Joe Miller, Moosehead Sarah’s personal pick, is losing in Alaska to someone named “Write In Vote.” I only hope that people in Alaska knew how to spell Murkowski’s name.

This is one of the few silvers lining in the entire mess that I can come up with. The voting population, when they really get a chance to look at their particular candidates, seems to say, “No, this person is too crazy for me to vote for, even though I really, really don’t like the other guy either.” That’s a hopeful sign, when you think about it. We are willing to elect some pretty insane people to high office (think Michele Bachmann), but there are lines that maybe we aren’t ready to cross just yet.

I guess that last statement is true at least in the Senate, anyway. Well, Marco Rubio did win his election for Senate, in pretty convincing fashion, in Florida. But Floridians are kind of crazy to begin with anyway, right? Old white retirees and Cuban exiles aren’t your normal voting block. And there’s that whole 2000 presidential election thing which we all remember. And perhaps, just perhaps, Rubio isn’t really all that crazy. Hopefully. We will see. I will admit that he does look very photogenic on television. I wonder if Republicans are going to criticize him, like they do President Obama, of having his head on a swivel when flipping between the teleprompter screen on the right and the teleprompter on the left. His acceptance speech, while it sounded very heartfelt, did seem a bit contrived when it was obvious he was reading every single word. But that’s O.K. with me. I’m just looking for consistency from the media types.

The other thing of note that we might consider is that we, as voters, aren’t very consistent. Voters in New York decided to not elect a very hot-tempered individual with a rather shady past, shall we say. Yet, in Florida, that is exactly who they elected to be their next governor. I mean to say, running a healthcare company that had to plead guilty to overcharging both the state and federal governments for Medicare payments and taking the 5th Amendment 75 times during a deposition about his role in that scandal isn’t really conducive to trustworthiness, is it? Yet, he is going to be the next governor in Florida. I’m not sure what the difference between Florida voters and voters in New York. You can’t tell me that New Yorkers have higher standards than do Floridians. Many New Yorkers root for the damn Yankees, for gosh sakes!

The overwhelming impression I came away with from the midterm elections is that the vast American electorate can be compared to a petulant four year old with a penchant for throwing tantrums and holding his breath until he gets his way, even if he (or she) has completely forgotten the reason why he (or she) is throwing a tantrum in the first place. All he (or she) knows is that they are throwing a tantrum and, by God, it’s going to be a good one! Everyone in earshot will know that he (or she) is Displeased! No, little sister cannot play with my toys! No, I don’t want to eat my dinner! I hate dinner! I’m hungry! No, I don’t want to go to bed! I want to watch TV! I hate this show!

Maybe one day we, as a people, will grow out of this difficult phase. More likely, we will just grow into another one.

Maybe puberty.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Apropos of election day.

Vote at your own peril. Or not.

From Oddly Specific, link at right.