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Friday, April 29, 2011

Smile, You’re On Occam’s Razor

 

Why?

Why? I hear you cry. Why oh why, Jim?

Why? Help us understand. Explain it to us, Oh Great Wizard of Stonekettle Station.

Why didn’t Obama release his actual no-foolin’ long-form double-platinum birth certificate before now? If he was going to do it, why wait this long?  Why didn’t he just produce the damned thing when all the hoopla started?

It’s been two years.

Two damned years.

He could have put an end to the rumors and conspiracy theories two years ago.

He could have quietly shushed poor Orly Taitz long ago, before her increasingly spastic  antics became the easy laughing stock of late night TV hosts. Obama basically destroyed this woman. She’s the real victim here. He drove her over the edge, he must have known what was going to happen. It was like giving a drug addict a hallucinogenic poison-skinned toad as a house warming gift, sooner or later they’re going to lick the oily secretions off its cold warty skin and reduce their frontal lobes to a thin mushy gruel, and why? Why would you do such a thing?

He could have saved the GOP tens of thousands of man-hours lost shaking the bushes for the mythical snipe. The Republicans could have solved the financial crisis, turned poor people into tasty Jesus flavored gasoline, and made Karl Rove CEO of NPR by now if they had not had to deal with the code-orange security threat posed by the National Obama Birth Certificate Crisis.

He could have saved Glenn Beck untold gallons of salty crocodile tears – the poor man is so dehydrated now that he may never be able to sell gold again and he’ll have to leave FoxNews – and who then will protect our nation from the impending Nazi Illuminati New World Order Nazi Muslim Brotherhood Caliphate of Socialist Nazi Doom? Also, Nazis.

Obama could have saved The Donald millions, instead the tycoon was forced to spend his fortune on private investigators and lawyers and air-time, talk about forced redistribution of wealth. By the time Obama dropped the punchline, Trump was reduced to getting his hair weed-wacked by the same toad licking dog groomer Orly Taitz uses.

And he could have aborted the birthers before they ever drew their first gin and tinfoil scented breath. Obama could have given the entire Tea Party movement one big D&C, scraping them off the moist fecund uterine wall of America politics like the twenty year old girlfriend of a conservative Senator in a Costa Rican “health spa.”

Yes, Obama could have done those things.

But he didn’t.

Why?

If you have to ask why, why would Obama let all those people twist in the wind for so long, then you obviously don’t recognize an epic punking when you see one.

Whoa, slow down there, Jim, Obama didn’t punk the birthers.  No no no, it was Trump who won.

Trump won?

The Birthers won?

Ha. Don’t make me snort good whiskey through my nose.

Won what? Their ass?  Because that’s the trophy they just got handed.  Turns out Obama is not after all, in fact, a humanoid illegal alien reptile robot in a rubber human suit from the future bent on the destruction of civilization and the enslavement of the human race (or is he? Or is he?) – and the only people who still don’t believe it are sharing a urine crusted blanket with the moon landing deniers, the goobers who think the LHC will open a doorway into an alternate dimension of carnivorous Justin Bieber clones, and those people who can’t eat pudding without getting it all over their Batman Underoos despite help from the nurse and 200cc’s of Thorazine. Couple more “wins” like this one, and they’ll be fitting The Donald for a gold-trimmed straightjacket and shaving that dead Angora bunny off his noggin so the electrodes fit snuggly.

This win is like an episode of The Apprentice, it’s entertaining about the same way as watching Charlie Sheen careen wildly around like an unbalanced overloaded washing machine flying apart in an explosion of spinning cogs, boiling water, and splattering soap suds is entertaining. I mean, be honest, you’re not watching The Apprentice because you’re hoping the poor bastard actually gets hired, you want to see blood and epic assholery.

Now just hold on a goddamned minute, I hear you say in that aggrieved tone you use when your Ben Franklin Genuine American Revolution Powdered Wig of Freedom causes your sweat-soaked brow to break out in a patriotic heat rash shaped like the Liberty Bell. Whoa, Jim, you’re saying that Obama planned this? That he plotted for two years, sniggering into his sleeve, just waiting, waiting, for the birthers to reach a uncontrolled feverish sexual frenzy like an evangelical minister at an all boys church camp? Waiting patiently in ambush to trump the Chump? You’re saying Obama essentially created the birthers himself? Is that what you’re saying?!

Settle down, take a deep breath. You’ve got a little foam on the corner of your mouth. Here use my napkin to wipe that off. No, no, it’s OK, you can keep the napkin. Better?

Good.

To answer your question:

Could be, Doc, it just could be.

See, what if the Tea Party is right?

I know, I know. Stop spitting. It could happen. Bear with me a minute. What if the Tea Party is right?

What if Obama really is, Wylie Coyote like, an evil super genius?

Two years? For an evil super genius, that’s nothing

Now now, don’t bite at your own flesh, Gentle Reader, you’ll pull out the stitches.

Obama, according to the Tea Party, has been focused for more than 50 years on his monomaniacal plan to take over America. Five decades, folks, and more.  So focused on the destruction of America is Obama, that he plotted in the womb before he was even born! Yes, that’s right, he faked his birth certificate at the moment of birth! How? How the hell would I know? Maybe he used his Hypnotizing Negro Ray to alter events across the decades, molding the minds of liberals and conservatives, record keepers and newspaper editors, and to twist at the very fabric of space-time itself! 

Like Jesus, we have no record of his childhood. You don’t know, maybe he taunted the other children on the playground, “Nyah nyah, some day I, a scrawny mixed race kid with big ears and a funny name from a broken home will rain down epic socialism on you like a boss! Then you’ll be sorry, White Devils, yesh, oh yesh! Yesh!”

But, see, it was all a joke! It was all a set up.

Good Lord! The patience of the man. All this for a laugh?

Who knows what other mischief the man is capable of?

I mean, think about it.  I know it’s hard, your little brain is like a square tire, it’s difficult to get it moving but it will roll if you lubricate it with some tea and push hard enough. Push, Gentle Reader, push!  Bump. Bumpa. Bump! Bumpabumpa. Bumpabumpitybump!

See, if trickster Obama could plot for 50 years to punk somebody with the Tigger blood and Adidas DNA of Donald Trump, what else might he be plotting? What aren’t we seeing here? Wait! Trump? Trump! That’s another word for punk’d. Gasp! You don’t think Obama changed the past to make The Donald’s very name a joke? Sweet Baby Buttered Illegal Aliens! How far would Obama go for a gag? I mean, he does have the entire NSA Area-51 Time Travel Directorate of Freedom available to him…

This guy is like the evil Allen Funt* of political humor!

Obama punked The Donald, what if that’s just the start?

What if it turns out that Obama was a good student after all?  What if he didn’t use his Magic Minority Mojo to get into Harvard?  What if he actually earned his degree. What if he really studied? Holy Cow, the shock will probably crash capitalism and send Trump stock plummeting towards the pavement like a Merrill-Lynch executive. Great Scott! You don’t think that was the plan all along? A hostile takeover of Trump Enterprises! What if Obama is the ultimate Capitalist?

What if he’s only pretending to be a socialist American hating commie Nazi?

And if Obama can punk a great American like Trump as a gag, who might he go after next? White people, African Americans? Hey! What if Obama isn’t, gasp, a Muslim after all? Can’t you just see the shocked faces in the studio audience? What? Obama is really a white Christian?  Son of a bitch! Damn, you got us. Good one, Dude! And what’s this? A lifetime supply of hallucinogenic toad flavored Rice-O-Roni as a parting gift? Awesome!

Farfetched?

Sigh, I suppose it does sound just a bit outlandish.

It’s much more likely that B. Hussein Obama is really a foreign sleeper agent, a socialist liberal Nazi created by a shadowy cabal of Indonesian Muslims who deftly manipulated world governments in the 1960’s to produce a half black, half white, liberal democrat with a funny foreign sounding name and inserted him into America by creating false birth records and newspaper announcements and bribing both republicans and democrats alike, then had his Kenyan birth father leave so he could be adopted by yet another foreigner and educated in an alien land after renouncing his citizenship only to return to America later as an illegal alien where he manipulated the system to get into some of the best schools in the world while faking his grades so he could get a degree he didn’t earn so that he could later become President with the willing assistance of thousands of people both liberal and conservative because that would be the easiest way to destroy America.

Oh yes, that makes much more sense.

Smile and wave for the camera.

Hey, is that Ashton Kuscher over there?

 

______________________________________________________________

* If you don’t know who Allen Funt is, you’re not old enough to be reading this blog. Go play with your Pokemon and be quiet, you little punk.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

 

Every sailor who stands watch in the pilothouse learns the COLREGS.

Known more commonly as the Rules of the Road, the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea are the maritime laws that govern all ships on the high seas, no matter how big or small, no matter what flag or nationality.

There are many regulations contained in the COLREGS, but the one that all bridge officers learn first is Rule 16: Take early and substantial action to avoid collision.

In a nutshell, what that means is this: look ahead, beware the dangers, take early decisive action to avoid danger and make it obvious so as to clearly signal your intentions to others.   There is little that will hazard a vessel more quickly than to be an indecisive pilot, even doing nothing is better than being timid or reacting out of fear.

And in fact, take early and substantial action is the guiding principle of all military officers, no matter their service.

If you think about that for a minute, you’ll realize that this cardinal rule of the sea is also a pretty good guide for governments too.

The last post, Rage Against The Dying of the Light, discussed in general terms how republics die. If you haven’t read the post, I basically said that the irrational fear of totalitarianism and decline often unintentionally lead to decline and totalitarianism in one form or another.  This isn’t the only possibility, decline, collapse, and chaos is another option.  There are other things that can happen, few good. 

When a nation, especially a republic, is young and dynamic, when its population in relation to the land it occupies is small and continuously expanding, then the problems are relatively easy to face.  Expansion outpaces decay.  Income outstrips expenditures. Energy and optimism outshine malaise and pessimism.  Leadership outshouts indecisive clamor. A young nation looks out towards the future.

A young nation embraces change, an old nation fears it.

People are often that way too, it’s not age per se that defines who is young and who is old, but outlook.

Compare the hopeful wondrous  attitudes of, say, the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where despite the Great Depression the theme was “The Century of Progress” and the emphasis was on change and the brightly lit future, to … well, the United States hasn’t actually hosted a World’s Fair for more than three decades now. Consider that the dynamic young US once hosted those expos every few years.

Outlook, my friends, outlook defines both people and nations.

Hindsight is almost always 20/20.  History shows repeatedly that all nations sooner or later reach a point where their populations become timid, fearful of change, static instead of dynamic, backward facing instead of forward leaning – and it is at that point where they being to decline.  It’s that point, where historians place their finger on the timeline and say, here, right here was the beginning of the end. When that happens, the events described in Dying of the Light become far more likely. The population often becomes stratified into the haves and the have-nots and sooner or later it all falls apart.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Always there are turning points where, if a nation takes early and substantial action, disaster can be avoided.

Sadly, that rarely, rarely ever happens – like ships, societies have tremendous inertia and it takes a long and sustained effort to come about – but it can be done.

If you want to avoid the rocks, you need to be alert for the shoaling water.

You cannot mandate that alertness, that skill, that sailor’s weather eye. You cannot mandate that form of seasoned critical thinking, the type of reasoning that can see clearly into the future, that can understand the myriad details of navigation and effectively extrapolate the consequences of different actions.

No, you cannot mandate that kind of thinking.

But you can create an environment that fosters it.

Good captains aren’t born, they’re made.

It’s a common fallacy that great leaders are simply born that way. If that were true then military training would be very, very different.  No. The actual truth of the matter is that while some folks are indeed born with the innate characteristics that give them a certain advantage as leaders – just as certain folks are born with the traits that make them better basketball players, or more insightful writers, or more skillful pilots – effective leadership itself is a product of education, training, and experience.

Good leaders are not born, they are made.

The same is true of good citizenship.

A ship can get underway without her Captain… but she won’t move one inch without a well trained and effective crew.

How do we save the United States of America from the fate that has befallen all other republics before us? 

Americans have been sold a false bill of goods, i.e. that our country can only be saved by a great leader.  You hear it all the time, we need a Washington, a Lincoln, a Roosevelt, a Reagan.  We need great leaders in Congress, we need a Henry Clay, a Thaddeus Stevens, a Charles Sumner – hell maybe even a Tip O’Neil.  We need a great leader to turn things around.

Nonsense.

The strength of a republic is that its greatness does not depend on great leaders – only good ones. 

And good leaders can be made - we do it every single day in the military.

In America, our leaders come from our citizens. 

If you want good leaders, you’ll need to start with good citizens.

Because, see, the weakness of a republic is that its greatness does depend, greatly, on good citizens.

In the early days of Rome, young Legionnaires were admonished to come home from battle either with their shield or carried upon the same.  In other words, strength of character matters, courage matters, duty matters.  Return with your shield or come home carried upon it as the honored dead.  No more, no less. Put another way, ask not what your country can to for you, but what you can do for your country.

When this custom declined, so did Rome.

Today, the strength and courage of our own Legionaries is not in question, but there is far more to citizenship in America than serving the republic in war.

Because, see, unlike Rome, our republic is not a hereditary one, divided into citizen and property, Patrician and Plebian and and slave.  What makes us different is that we are all citizens equally and our republic is a reflection of its citizens.  To say that our nation is in decline is to say that we are in decline – not just those on the other side of the aisle, not just those who are different, not just our neighbors of whom we don’t approve, all of us. That is what you’re saying when you say that America is in decline.

If we want to make America better, then we must become better citizens.

However, you cannot mandate patriotism.

You cannot mandate duty.

You cannot mandate honor.

You cannot mandate courage.

You cannot mandate critical thinking.

But you can create an environment that fosters it, that encourages it to grow, that makes it.

If you want a better nation, then you need to be better citizens.

Being a good citizen isn’t about being the biggest patriot. It isn’t about waving the biggest flag or a copy of the Constitution. It isn’t about which political party you belong to or which one is best. It isn’t about who you hate. It isn’t about who is more ethical or more moral or more righteous. It isn’t about which religion you believe in or what your skin color is or who you’re sleeping with.  

You don’t have to be exceptional to be a good citizen, and being a good citizen shouldn’t make you exceptional. The same is true of nations.

Being a good citizen is knowing how your government works, how your nation works.

It’s knowing the history of your country, the good parts, the great parts, the mundane parts, and most especially the bad parts. Hiding the warts won’t make them go away. Rewriting history doesn’t make it so. Those that deliberately forget the terrible part of their past are damned to see their children repeat it.

It’s about educating yourself on the issues that affect you, your neighbors, and your nation – and by educating yourself, I don’t mean just listening to the uneducated pundits who say only what you want to hear.   If you listen only to what you already “know” you’re not educating yourself.  Education should sometimes hurt, it should change the way you think, the way you see the world – if it doesn’t, if it’s not painful, you’re not learning anything. Sometimes education is about letting go things you were sure you knew.

It’s about pushing your children to be more than you are.  If your children believe only what you do, if they see the world only as you do, if they hate the people you hate, if they grow only until they are even with you and no more – then the republic can only stagnate.  Young growing nations face change head on, they embrace it. Old dying nations fight change until the barbarians tear down the walls.

It’s about working together, all of us. It’s about looking out for each other, all of us.  It’s about the strong helping the weak, all of us, else what is civilization for?

It’s about taking early and substantial action.

It’s about courage.

It takes courage to stand the watch. 

It takes courage to face down the things you fear and hate. 

It takes courage to embrace change, to be young, to be fearless.

It takes courage to have hope, to be optimistic, to believe.

It takes courage to be a good citizen.

But in can be done.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

 

Ironic, isn’t it?

Ironic, that those folks who are so worried about about the country are the ones so hell bent on destroying it?

I am, of course, talking about those who would drive this country to revolution.

See, there are certain things all revolutions have in common, especially those that led to communist, socialist, or fascist states.

It begins with the pervasive belief that the country is in decline.  That its greatness, whatever that was, is being slowly leached away, gnawed at from the outside by some ill-defined enemy and/or stolen from the inside by some shadowy conspiracy perpetuated by fell creatures bent on supplanting “our way of life.” You pound this message home, over and over, until everyone believes it. Until it is a given.

Next, education. It’s the teachers.  They are indoctrinating the next generation with those alien ideas. Divide and conquer, subvert from within the population is told. So the wealthy and privileged and those that can move their kids to private schools – and they move their money too.  What happens to the rest, the majority, the ones who aren’t wealthy, aren’t privileged? They get what’s left, what trickles down, like the mice scurrying after the crumbs under a wealthy man’s table. Within a generation or two, the ones with the education become the de facto rulers, they become the leaders, the politicians, the owners, the landholders, the officers. They have all the opportunity. The poor get what’s left.  The problem is that there are a lot of poor. Nothing opens the gap between the small number of haves and the large population of have-nots like this dichotomy.  Nothing will erase the middle-class faster, leaving behind a tiny population of entitled elites and a huge angry miserable disenfranchised sea of proletarians.

Accessible, universal, secular public education is the very heart of a republic.

Without it, without a well educated population, democracy dies.

Those calling for increased privatization of education, for voucher systems that will allow their kids to attend private schools, aren’t trying to fix public education they’re looking to abandon it.

As the gap between the rich and poor widens, between the educated and the uneducated, the population becomes increasingly susceptible to manipulation, to group think and propaganda and pervasive false beliefs. This is a fertile ground for religious and political extremism, and it is almost inevitable that such will take root and flourish.  Today, right now, nearly one in four Americans are birthers to one degree or another (read that carefully, note the small “B,” there is more than one kind of birther, not all of them are on the same side of the political spectrum and not all of them are talking about the same birth) – significantly most of them don’t believe that they are conspiracy theorists. A increasing fraction of Americans consider themselves 911 Truthers.  Today, religious and political extremism and hatred of the government isn’t the exception, it’s the norm.

As the gap widens, a disproportionate fraction of the national burden falls on the non-privileged, on what used to be the middle-class but will increasingly become the de facto poor.  An increasing percentage of their lives are taken up with the basic necessities of food, shelter, energy, transportation, communications, and reproduction. Things like child labor laws, safe workplaces, representation, medical care, education, longevity, and living wages become luxuries.  Eventually, the non-privileged make up the bulk of the military, not the officer corps but rather the ranks – who are increasingly treated as mere cannon fodder. Note the increasing call for conscription, despite the fact that it’s not necessary to maintain the military.

Meanwhile, the privileged pay little or no taxes, nor do the corporations and businesses they own.  They have access to shelters and protections denied the less fortunate. They are rarely held to account and they have an extraordinary levels of power and access to power. Inevitably, their glamorous lives, once desired, once achievable, become objects of resentment  and disdain – the poor become proud of their station, of their lack of education, of their struggle. They revel in it. And those poor who attempt to rise above their station will be pulled back down by their resentful fellows. Those few who succeed are excommunicated by the poor and privileged alike.

The gap widens.

Resentment grows.

The poor become more and more restive.

Which, perversely, convinces the privileged of their uniqueness, their birthright, of their right to privilege and power.

Increasingly the non-privileged will go hungry, cold, homeless, and without access to basic services or civil rights.  The standards of living, the rights they once knew, are taken away or are abandoned. Right now in America there is an increasing push by those in power to limit the rights of workers to organize, to repeal child labor laws, to remove protections for the weak and less privileged, to end government education loans and grants. There are far too many people in this country who go to bed hungry and homeless and uneducated every single day – and far too many people who think they deserve it.

There is much a population will bear, if they bear the burden equally.

But when the burden is unequal, revolution becomes more and more likely.

When people perceive that their voices aren’t heard, when the poor go hungry, when they are told over and over that it is their neighbors and their government who are the enemy, when those in power won’t listen or are perceived to be corrupt and in the thrall of foreign influence, corporations, and the rich – then upheaval is never far away, and you can, today, right now, see the seeds of it all around you. 

No country is ever more than three meals from revolution – as events from the fall of the Soviet Union (or its rise) to the recent revolutions in stable Middle Eastern countries exemplify.

Add to the mix: unending war, economic uncertainty, a designated scapegoat, pervasive surveillance, and a universally held belief in manifest destiny combined with a wide availability of the basic tools of revolution – weapons, communications, and demagoguery  – and the likelihood of a popular uprising increases exponentially.

Sooner or later, the disenfranchised will rise up.

The goals of the revolution will be noble, because they always are: wealth and rights for all, equality, liberty, justice, an end to corruption and greed and avarice.

But – as those in the former Soviet Union found out (both at the revolutions of its birth and the one that presided over its demise) and those in the Middle East are finding out right now – revolution rarely results in a republic, in democracy, in freedom and equality.

Revolution, big or small, almost always, eventually, gets coopted by a small handful of hardline idealists or the power hungry and results in totalitarianism in one form or another.

In fact, in only one case, has revolution ever truly ended in a democratic republic. 

 

I’ll wait, while you figure out which revolution that was.

 

So, what do we do about it?

Are we doomed to eventual revolution and totalitarianism?

Does the light have to go out and darkness fall?

No.

Of course not.

But that’s tomorrow’s post.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things That Chap My Ass About Being A World Famous Blogger…

…or, Everybody Loves Me Baby, What’s The Matter With You?

 

 

Lately Stonekettle Station has enjoyed dramatically increased popularity.

At first I thought it was because I’ve been taking those man-enhancement pills that I buy from an Internet pharmacy in Sierra Leone (made from genuine endangered species and reclaimed Soviet Era vitamin supplements, so you know they’re good), but apparently it’s because of the pithy writing.

Millions of folks drop by this site every day – give or take a couple of million.

People from all over the world and all walks of life have become avid readers, doctors, lawyers, astronauts, scientists, teachers, politicians, adventurers, actors, singers … and even some people with real jobs.  I’m especially popular in Nigerian Internet Cafes and Tulsa, Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain – and apparently blows away anybody not weighted down by a beer belly and the King James Director’s Cut Extended Edition Bible (now with even more Righteousness!). 

I would be lying if I said this didn’t make me giddy like a schoolgirl – if giddy meant “tempted to drink heavily and take a high-powered air rifle, a bag of frozen paintballs, and a copy of Catcher in the Rye up onto the roof.”

But hey, that’s sort of the point of writing in the first place.  There’s a certain degree of satisfaction when people are actually interested in reading your stuff, and then moved, sickened, or outraged enough to make the effort to forward your thoughtful meanderings to others.  It’s nice to see new minions for my plan of world domination readers, especially ones willing to send me naked pictures of themselves who are interesting and intelligent.

The hob-knobbing with world leaders, the scantily-clad silicon-enhanced groupies, and dump-truck loads of money are pretty good too.

Just Sayin’.

However, there is a  dark side to the fame and glory.

I know, I know, but it isn’t all naked Twister and wild jungle monkey sex (well, OK, it is, but this being a family blog and all, just go with me here).

So, there’s a down side.

For example, Conan O’Brien isn’t as tall in person as you’d think, plus up close he sort of resembles a Pez dispenser.

What? You missed Stonekettle Station’s appearance on Conan? It was like his biggest show ever. People Magazine said I looked like a more rugged and manly version of Tom Selleck. Of course, Snooki totally ruined it by hitting on me for the whole hour. Hey, don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.  That must have been the night you fell asleep on the couch.  Remember? You woke up the next morning, sticky and alone, surrounded by empty cans of mandarin orange slices, a crick in your neck, with a Pop Tart and Frito hangover (Seriously, dude, the blackouts are a problem, get help before you kill somebody).

Then there’s the enormous responsibility.

Stonekettle Station went viral and democracy broke out in the Middle East. Coincidence? Oooh Kay, that’s not how quantum thermodynamic linked causality works, right.  Next you’re going to tell me professional wrestling and intelligent design are just make believe. Whatever lets you sleep at night, but remember: the Stonekettle goes in, the Stonekettle goes out, in and out, in and out, and like the scratch marks on your back you can’t explain that (not if you want to stay married anyway).  Fortunately I’ve sworn a blood oath to only use my newly manifest powers for good – and by “good” I mean “what’s good for me.”  But hey, you know how humble I am, modest and unassuming even, I’d never abuse my power. It’s not like I’m going to wish you into the cornfield or anything. Probably.  If you send me cookies – and by cookies I mean walnut and chocolate chip.

Before I was famous the hate mail was of a higher caliber.

I miss that. 

See, as you reach a wider audience you get a lot more mail, huge giant sacks of it (seriously, you wonder why the price of stamps just went up again? The USPS had to hire like about a thousand more people and buy two new airplanes for all the email. It’s true) but inevitably the quality of the death threats declines dramatically.  It’s a quantity over quality issue.  Once you become famous, the death threats become a volume business.  In the heady early days of blogging when I lived on nothing but stale government-cheese sandwiches and strong whiskey, I’d get long, carefully crafted screeds involving dark promises of creative torture, years of litigation by demonic legions of the writer’s personal law firm, space alien robots powered by the limitless zero-point energy of the quantum foam, condemnation of my immortal soul to eternal torment, and haunting by Dick Cheney’s black clockwork heart.  Those letters dripped a poisonous venom brewed from the tears of defrocked priests and the blood serum of renegade militiamen, and they were penned beneath the fiery blue-white light of righteous indignation in the damp basement bunkers of the last true Americans.  The writers applied themselves with a ferocious will, making extensive use of the mighty ellipsis, the holy exclamation point, and the brain-liquefying power of Zombie Michael Jackson.  My God, do you have any idea how much Jack Daniels it takes to spell each word in a non-standard and unique way? And to say nothing of the creativity involved in random capitalization?   Sadly, like the rest of American industry, the death threat business has been outsourced overseas and I’m left with only a pale and Indian accented anemic shadow of the great hate mail I once knew. 

The hate mail used to kept me warm at night, now all I have is the cold loneness of fame and adulation. And naked Twister. Sigh.

And finally, there are the Trolls.

On-line writers always have to deal with trolls. 

Those stunted malignant warty-skinned creatures who Gollum-like haunt the dank and fetid underbelly of the Internet, leaving putrid trails of bitter foamy slime behind them wherever they tread.  Unlike the trolls of myth, these creatures – fueled by the long festering resentment of high school rejection (resulting from an early manifestation of male pattern baldness) – can’t be turned to stone by the sunlight of reason.  If you shine a light on them, they crouch back in their lair like a trapdoor spider, ready to spring forth in a flurry of hairy legs and gnashing mandibles.  Typically, I delete trollish comments without fanfare, but I do occasionally leave those that prove whatever point I’m trying to make in a blog post – or if, say, I intend to make fun of them later. 

Now while each troll is unique in his own special way, they all exhibit certain similar traits – sort of like diarrhea, it doesn’t matter the cause or the particulars, in the end and the fullness of time the watery brown effluvium all comes out the same.  

As such I have formulated Stonekettle’s Law of Trolls:

As, in the mind of a troll, there are only two choices, one of which will destroy America; as such, if the Troll makes three or more comments, the probability that you will be called a traitor to freedom is 100%.

Corollary:

You cannot reason with a troll, for trolls are not reasonable people.

Now, you have to wonder about these folks, these trolls.

Are they like this in real life?

Seriously, imagine it.

Imagine if you had a troll in your carpool, for example.

Driver: Say folks, I was thinking maybe we’d stop for coffee this morning!

Shotgun: I love me some coffee. Wonderful delicious coffee. Mmmmmm.

Backseat Passenger Side: Woot! Starbucks, Dudes!

Backseat Driver Side: How about Seattle’s Best?

Driver: I’m good either way, though I prefer that little drive up-place with the bikini chick. You know, the one with the grande lattes?

Shotgun: Bikini! Bikini!

Backseat Right: I could go for a couple of big lattes.

Backseat Left: Hey, maybe we could…

Troll, in the middle, on the hump: WTF?! Are you people stupid?! Why don’t we just give America to the terrorists?

Shotgun: Whoa, dude, did you just shit yourself?

Backseat Right: Yeah, man, sounds like somebody needs a muffin with their coffee. Wonderful delicious coffee.

Troll: God, you people are so ignorant! Coffee leads to socialism, everybody knows that. Coffee comes from South America, duh, Marxism. What do you put in Coffee? Sugar. Sugar comes from Cuba. What else do you put in coffee? Milk, from cows. Cows travel in herds. Herds! That’s Communism, Asswipes. Wake up!

Driver: Why don’t I drop you off first, and the four of us will go get coffee without you?

Troll: Fuck you, Benedict Hussein Arnold!

Come to think of it, maybe trolls do exist in the real world.

See the things I put up with for my art?

For you?

You’re welcome.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go open a can of Mandarin oranges and watch me some Conan.

The Weekend

 

Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.

No, there hasn’t been much in the way of posting here this week. Thanks for noticing.

 

I was going to do some writing this weekend, really I was.

But it was just so damned fine out that I spent the entire weekend in the shop.

image

 

There will be some kind of post later today. 

Humor perhaps, as I’m a bit sick of politics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Note About Commenting

Folks, Stonekettle Station is suddenly very popular with those parasitic cretins who seem to think every comment queue on the internet is a toilet.

I’m talking about comment spammers, just in case that’s not immediately clear. If there actually is a biblical hell, it is my fervent wish that these sorry sons of bitches spend eternity getting a boiling pitch enema from Satan while It’s a small world after all plays in the background on endless loop.

I have the comment spam filter cranked up to 11, that means some of your comments are being dropped into purgatory.

If you comment and your pithy musings don’t appear immediately, fear not. I will fish them out eventually and restore them to their proper place of glory for the world to see.  However, if I accidently confuse your brilliance for yet another missive for cheap man pills from my persistent friends in Bangalore, India or Asswhipe, Uzbekistan, drop me an email and I’ll fix it – alternatively, you may just wander away sobbing and wondering if perhaps I hate you (I do, just FYI).

Thank you.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teacher Bashing 101

The education system is a Marxist ideology that has no place in capitalistic America…

That comment appeared on a conservative education forum. 

I was invited to the site by a reader, the topic under discussion was, of course, teachers.

The comments were predictable, interspersed with the usual illiterate logical fallacies and unfocused rage, but it was that statement above which I really thought summed up the gist of the conversation. The entire thing goes like this:

The education system is a Marxist ideology that has no place in capitalistic America. It has become a financial burden on the American Tax Payer. The American Education System is a symbol of a failed ideology, an ideology that was conceived with good intentions, but with misguided application.  For example, one of the many flawed practices of the American model is forcing people to attend, who don't have an ounce of interest in learning.

I checked twice, but no, the comment wasn’t, in fact, signed Ayn Rand – but somebody was sure channeling her bitter old bourgeois ghost.

I excused myself from the conversation without commenting - not because discretion is the better part of valor, but rather because my dad taught me at a young age not to piss into the the wind.

Though probably better articulated than most, unfortunately the comment above isn’t an isolated thought.

Bashing teachers, and the US education system in general, is an increasingly popular pastime. It’s been going on for years, decades, this growing contempt and distaste for public education by a certain segment of American society.  It’s a symptom of a greater problem, the perception by that same segment of America that their country is somehow in decline.  And not only in decline, but being taken away from them. It’s a symptom of what Alvin Toffler called Future Shock.  For certain people, change is bad, something to be feared and hated.  Those fears, those hatreds, are often greatly amplified during periods of uncertainty, unrest, and especially during economic downturn.  A perception of complexity compounds the situation, and the world is an increasingly complex place (This is true no matter when you live, it was always simpler in the past, less complicated, fewer responsibilities, easier to understand through the filter of nostalgia). 

Misery loves company, and nothing brings people together like a perception of shared misery.  In times of uncertainty, when the world changes and people feel like they have lost control of their own destiny, they tend to band together to share their tales of woe – and there’s nothing worse for angry miserable people than to surround themselves with other angry miserable people.  They tend to feed on each other, inventing a shared illusion of misery that perversely makes them feel better, like they are part of something and therefore not so alone in a strange and alien world.  Ask any recovered alcoholic, the hardest obstacles to pass on the road to sobriety are your beer-buddies, those “friends” who keep enjoining you to have another drink.  It’s important to remember that the first step on that road is to accept responsibility for your own actions.

It is human nature to reject responsibility when things go bad, it’s the first rule in a car accident: Never admit fault, always blame the other guy.  This is true on the grand scale as well and history is rife with examples.  When a country is perceived to be in decline by a vocal segment of its population, whether or not it actually is, it is inevitable that someone will be blamed.  In Czarist Russia, it was Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosebaum’s (Ayn Rand’s) bourgeois relatives – which eventually led her to America and the Marxists who confiscated her father’s business directly shaped her worldview and later egoist philosophy, and continue to shape the worldviews of her many admirers including the current Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Tea Party Republican Paul Ryan.

Ryan, and those like him, perceive America to be in decline, and in fact they believe that America has been in decline since the 1960’s. 

Someone must be blamed.

Always, always, it’s the homosexuals, it’s the immoral, the irreverent, the filthy foreigners, the elites. It’s the bourgeois.  It’s the Liberals.

And no one epitomizes that more in the mind of the hardcore nationalist than teachers.

After the revolution, when the purges begin, it is the teachers who are taken to the wall first.

It is always the professors who are the first residents of the gulag and the concentration camps, even before the politicians and the despots. 

The schools always burn first. 

A teacher and novelist, Susan Straight, recently penned an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times titled Teaching, The Most Important Profession.  Straight wrote lovingly about being a teacher, about her passion for the profession and how important she thought it was.  Her words make you wish she was your kid’s teacher.  Then Straight talked about her own daughter, about how proud she was that her child had also chosen to become a teacher.  But that pride was tempered by “all the contempt and anger being hurled at teachers right now, it's alarming to be sending a daughter into the crossfire, especially when new teachers are the first to be threatened with pink slips. The growing scorn for public school teachers is at every level of education. Teachers are blamed for bad test results, for disrespectful students, for failing schools. They are thought to be lazy, draining public coffers with their monthly salaries and pension benefits.”  Susan Straight goes on to speak of Conservative contempt for teachers and education, she talks a bit about responsibility, and how America’s education system compares to others around the world. Straight’s article is well worth the read, but likely if you’re a regular here at Stonekettle Station there will be little in it to surprise you – the reason I direct your attention to it is this: Straight’s observations are proven immediately correct in the comments under the article.

Here’s a representative sample (edited for brevity and fair usage rules, not for content or intention, follow the link above to read the comments and article in full at the LA Times):

…I can tell you why teachers are getting such a bad rap. For starts[sic] they acted more like terrorist[sic] in Madison then they did educators…  As long as teachers want to keep teaching that homosexuality is OK , class warfare, and social justice and diversity they will continue to recieve[sic] my ire.

…Fire the bottom 25% of incompetent teachers and admins and [California’s] education will turn around over night. I'm sure of it. It's the low life lazy and incompetents that are ruining the entire system…

…every year at least a thousand teachers are caught in compromising situations that involve students. we need to hold teachers to the same standards as Doctors…

…Teachers [are] mainly liberal drones who taught me and people like me that the west was bad and America was the worst of the worse…

Them that can DO, them that can't TEACH... Must be nice to make your living telling others how to do their job, but never being responsible for getting a job done. Suggestion: Every third year each teacher must contract tutor, proving to the rest of us that they really know how to earn a living. ie. marketing and sales…art of compromise…produce a product… account for income and expenses, pay taxes, make enough profit to sustain your tutoring business and your personal needs, handle legalities. Then we might be confident that our children are being taught real world valuable knowledge instead of utopian communist dribble.

…but they ALREADY get three months of time off!!!  NO ONE ELSE gets that much time off!

Bad teacher's need to be fired period!

the reason a lot of [people are contemptuous of teachers] is because those same teachers have advocated for illegal immigration for their own selfish purposes…

…teachers think the only place that students can learn is because of themselves. What an absolute idiotic thought…

…they have NO respect for others who work in other professions; they do not have any respect for parents who have to juggle schedules due to your outrageous vacation time… Teacher's first year is hard - but after that they coast and use the same teaching plans year after year after year after year after year…

… in teacher's cases, you see most of them skip out of school at 2:00 p.m. and hit the local malls, enjoy a nap - while everyone else struggles to 8:00 p.m. at night to pay for your outrageous RETIREMENT, you luxury vacation time, your out of this world benefit coverage…

…If teachers did a real job for five years before they became a teacher, they would be a whole lot better than today's lot of whiny brats we have teaching our children…You think you work hard – obviously you have never held a real job in your life…

...all they care about are three things: June, July and August...plus tenure…

I learned little from my teachers - they only graded me on the knowledge I acquired from reading which my mother taught me. Most of the teachers I have met in my adult life would readily admit that the reason they went into teaching is to have the summers off…

Teacher's are NOT more noble than the general workplace. See, this is the "I am special" attitude….In the end, teaching is really just a job. A well paid one at that with amazing benefits...

ALL WEALTH and ALL JOBS ultimately come from the private sector. The private sector are those individuals with drive, intelligent, creativity, flexibility, risk taking that keeps our country a float. We rely on them for everything. Public workers just take...don't create…

There are several hundred more comments, there are few positive ones – mostly from teachers, desultorily trying to defend themselves – but the majority are like those above.  If you’ve got a minute, you should take the time to read them all. See, the folks who wrote those comment vote for the politicians who are currently dismantling public education in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, California, and likely soon in your state.  If you want to know who is going to shape your country’s future, read the comments, then do a Google News search for “Teachers” and “Education Reform” and read those articles and the associated comments.  Then log into a few conservative Tea Party forums and read the comments under the education threads there. 

I made a list of common themes:

  • Teachers have no right to representation.  Collective representation equals Marxism, communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, and so on. Everybody has the right to choose, but only if they choose not to be represented. Public sector employees work for the taxpayer, only private sector workers have the right to representation. Each teacher should have to negotiate with the public for their salaries. 
  • Teachers make too much money.  Good teachers aren’t in it for the money, Good teachers are teachers because they are noble, selfless,  principled, moral, decent, upright, gallant, polite, self-sacrificing, magnanimous, virtuous, just, and dedicated.  If you expect to make a living wage as a teacher, you are ipso facto a bad teacher QED.
  • Teachers only work nine months out of the year.  Most teachers became teachers because they get summers off. They use that time off to vacation in the Bahamas.
  • Teachers can’t be fired ever. No matter what. No matter how bad they are. Period. End of story.
  • Teachers only have to work six hours a day.  Teachers spend their afternoons napping or hanging out at the mall. 
  • Teachers are arrogant. Teachers think education makes you a better person.  Teachers think education is important. Because teachers have lots of education, they have the gall to think of themselves as better educated in education than people who aren’t educated in education – like parents. I.e. Teachers think they are special.   Remember folks, American exceptionalism doesn’t apply to teachers, that’s only for people who don’t go to college.
  • Teachers do not create a product. Teachers do not work at “real” jobs.  Teachers do not create wealth or add value.  Teachers should have to work at real jobs before being teachers.  Periodically they should stop teaching and get a real job.
  • Most teachers are incompetent.  Most teachers are bad teachers. That’s a fact, you can look it up.
  • Most teachers will be caught having sex with students. That’s another fact, it’s totally true and you can look that up too.
  • All Teachers are liberals who hate America.  Teachers hate Jesus and they want to make our kids into gay Muslim atheist communist illegal aliens who hate America, i.e. Liberals.
  • It’s all Obama’s fault.

The sheer hatred and utter contempt for teachers, for public education itself, is appalling.

Logical fallacies, faulty reasoning, and a mob mentality are symptomatic of this worldview. This is the mindset that burned witches at the stake. This is the mindset that carried out the Holy Inquisition.  This the mindset that created the Gulag and the concentration camp.  This is the mindset that destroyed civilization and brought on the dark ages.

This is the worldview that seeks to affix blame and avoid responsibility.

You want to know why America’s education system is in a shambles? You want to know who is a responsible? You want to know why a lot of teachers aren’t motivated? Why they get sick and tired of coming to work? Why fewer and fewer are choosing to stay in the classroom? Why selfless dedication and nobility just aren’t cutting it any more?

It’s because when you try to teach Language Arts, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because the reading assignment mentioned Islam.

It’s because when you try to teach geography, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you mentioned AIDS in Africa.

It’s because when you try to teach Social Studies, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because the subject matter included a gay man.

It’s because when you try to teach Economics, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you described systems other than just capitalism.

It’s because when you try to teach Home Economics, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you mentioned birth control.

It’s because when you try to teach History, a dozen angry parents demand that you be fired because you didn’t describe only those things that directly support the concept of American Exceptionalism.

It’s because when you try to teach Biology, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for not allowing their children to write “Jesus Did It” on the evolution test.

It’s because when you try to teach Earth Science, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired because you forgot to mention that global climate change is a lie because God made a deal with Noah after the Great Deluge.

It’s because when you try to teach Physics, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for teaching how radioactive decay can be used to date things that are older than 6000 years.

It’s because when you try to teach music or art, when you try to expand the library, when you want to update the computer lab, a hundred angry parents demand that you be fired for taking money away from things that matter in the real world, i.e. football.

It’s because people have been led to believe that paying public school teachers a living wage is bad because they are paid from taxes, where as paying private school teachers a living wage is good because they are paid from private funds and you’re only trying to attract the best of the best. 

It’s because people have deluded themselves into believing that Charter Schools are some kind of panacea, a magical fantasyland where every teacher is Ayn Rand, the lunch ladies practice Laissez-faire economics in the cafeteria, creationism rules the halls, and abstinence-only birth control is the watch word at the homecoming game. (Question, since Charter School teachers are in fact not public employees, is it ok for them to organize? Hello? Is this thing on?)

It’s because a vocal minority of angry people, egged on by grandstanding pundits and small-minded politicians, denigrate and disdain education itself at every turn.

It’s because this same vocal minority glorifies stupidity and revels in ignorance and condemns education as elitism.

 

It is because they are afraid.

Afraid that their children will become more than themselves.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Something For the New People

The recent influx of new readers spurred me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

I’ve added a reference page of Stonekettle Station’s top posts.

This new link list is a standalone page, not part of the regular blog page index.  You can reach it by clicking on a new link, labeled Stonekettle Station’s Greatest Hits, at the top of the main page or a post page, right under The Rules link.

I will probably edit the page a number of times until I’m satisfied with it, and I’ll add new links as I think appropriate. 

If you have suggestions for posts you’d like to see included, either email me or leave a comment under this post.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jackass, The Government

Updates at the end of the post


 

As some of you may (or not) have noticed, I’ve been offline almost all week.

There was a reason for this.

It began with the worst migraine I’ve had in years.

I’ve gotten migraines most of my life, but these days they are usually manageable and rarely incapacitating.  Every once in a while, I get one that for some unexplained reason kicks over into a headache that is much more severe.  I spent most of Sunday night, in between bouts of Olympic caliber vomiting, sitting on the floor of my kitchen with my head between my knees wishing that I’d just die and get it over with.  Honestly, I thought my eyes were going to explode out of my head like the cork from an over-pressurized champagne bottle. Most of the pain was gone by Monday evening, but I was nauseated and my hands shook until Wednesday. 

It’s four days after the peak today, and the inside of my head still feels like the filthy urine crusted linoleum floor of a skid row dive bar restroom.

In retrospect, I should have realized that evil headache was a harbinger of things to come. 

The sickening agony in my skull set the perfect tone for  the rest of this week as we careen madly towards a shutdown of the US Government like those idiots from Jackass, The Movie plummeting at breakneck speed downhill pell-mell towards disaster in a giant shopping cart whooping and hollering and gibbering like crazed baboons unable to foresee the consequences of their stupidity. And I dare you to find a better analogy for the current US Congress than the cast of Jackass, The Movie – honestly, can’t you just see John Boehner shooting-bottle rockets out of his ass while Harry Reid chokes down snow-cones saturated in his own piss? No? Maybe it’s just me.  There are four hundred million Americans – and these five hundred and thirty-five jackasses are the best we can do.

Tonight, unless a compromise is reached in the next few hours, the Government of the United States will shut down.

What does that mean?

Well, it means that our republic has failed. It means that we are too damned petty and petulant to avoid cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

What does it mean to you and I personally?

It depends.

At first, on Monday, the effects will be small, noticeable primarily in the places where the Federal government interacts directly with the public. 

Note that the key word in that previous sentence is “noticeable.”

Behind the scenes, things start to go pear shaped pretty fast.

Today, a rather vocal minority (emphasis on tiny minority) are dancing gleefully in the streets, determined to teabag the rest of us while they rub their beer bellies together and brandish their misspelled signs, screaming, “Shut it down! Shut it down!”  These morons are an abject example of why our Founding Fathers designed a republic instead of a nation ruled by an enraged mob made up of ignorant selfish assholes too damned stupid not to sit around watching  grown men shoot bottle rockets out of their asses while drinking their own piss.

See, it’s the things that aren’t immediately noticeable, the bitter results of the law of unintended consequences, that these simpleton jackasses are missing.

Let me give you an example: 

If the government shuts down, starting Monday, you won’t be able to apply for a passport. 

Oh, you can still fill out the paperwork at your local post office, but it won’t go anywhere until the government starts back up.

No big deal, right?

I mean, most of the America, Fuck Ya! xenophobes who think a government shut-down is a good thing aren’t exactly planning on travelling outside of the United States anyway. They’ve never left America, and they never intend to,  they know everything they need to know about the world from watching FoxNews and the Military Channel.  So, a bunch of dope smoking liberals can’t get passports to visit their socialist French butt-buddies? So What. Big deal, boohoo cry me a river. Right?

Wrong. 

There’s a bit more to it than that.  The federal government processes between twenty and thirty thousand passport applications per day.   Let me repeat that for the tea drinkers, that’s twenty to thirty thousand passport applications per day.  As you might imagine, the folks who do this are a bit busy and can barely keep up with the demand – which is why it takes a couple of months to get your passport after you’ve applied for it.  Try to imagine what the backlog will look like after a week of government shutdown, two weeks, a month.

So, here’s the first unintended consequence of shutting down the government: Overtime.  Overtime and lots of it – because you, the taxpayer, are going to have to pay to clear that backlog, and pay you will, sooner or later, double and triple time.  And it doesn’t end there, because, see, those passports are vetted by a number of agencies, from state records offices to the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security. You’re going to be paying for a lot of overtime. 

But that won’t be the only way you pay.

See, only a relatively minor percentage of those passports are for vacation travel.  The majority of those applications are for business travel.  The inability to get passports will have a direct impact on American business at all levels, from hiring to investment to sales to legal actions to speculation to purchasing and on and on. It will directly affect all business, big and small, from tiny specialty coffee buyers to the huge multinational defense contractors, from the recovering American car industry to Wall Street.  And it works the other way too, see the same government agency that processes your passport application also processes foreign visa applications – so those folks coming here from other countries to invest in our business, to buy our products, to pay tuition in our schools, to shop in our stores, to spend their money in our country – well, they’ll just have to wait too, and maybe they’ll just go somewhere else instead. And that has yet more impact on our badly battered economy. 

But wait, as they say, it gets better. 

Those missionaries your church was planning on sending down to the Caribbean to show the Haitians how to make potable water and shelters from Jesus? They’ll have to wait.  In a government shutdown, even Jesus gets screwed.

Those disaster relief teams that were supposed to bring aid and supplies to Japan?  Looks like the Japanese will just have to suck it up.  Maybe the Russians will help them.  Maybe the Russians will help us, since the folks who monitor those radiations leaks will also be home sitting on their hands (don’t worry about it, you’ll still be able to log onto a government website and get hourly updates on the spread of radiation and… what? Oh, heh, heh, sorry looks like nobody will be updating the webpages either.  Well, ok, go ahead and start panicking. Here, breath into this paper bag). 

How about those military families that are planning on joining their spouses overseas?  Too bad for them if they don’t already have passports and entry visas, looks like they’ll have to wait too.  But hey, it’s not like they’re actually getting paid either, so really thanks for the double dry hump.  Don’t worry about it. Folks in the military and their families are used to getting ass raped by patriotic Americans, we wouldn’t expect anything else.  Maybe you can stick another yellow ribbon magnet made in China on the back of your SUV to make up for it, that would be really helpful.

That’s is just the tip of the iceberg.

Passports, like polar bears, are an indicator species, warning flags of impending catastrophe.

Most Americans have no idea of where passports even come from and couldn’t name the agency responsible for issuing them if you exercised you 2nd Amendment rights and jammed a gun in their ear. You fill out a form at the post office, turnover your picture, pay your money, and a couple of months later your passport shows up in the mail.  Viola! That process, performed by an army of unlamented government employees somewhere in the bowels of the State Department is one of millions of functions that will cease tonight when the clock strikes the witching hour in Washington D.C. 

Those functions affect your life in countless ways.  Here’s a few examples:

- Delays in the federal permitting process will impact construction of new interstate pipelines and transmission lines that directly affect long term energy prices, or worse might delay construction of new projects to replace ones like that 40 year old natural gas pipeline which failed so spectacularly in California a couple of months ago.  Think about that.  But, heck, don’t lose any sleep over it, those other 40 year old high pressure gas lines, like that one running through your neighborhood, those are probably OK. Probably.  Ditto bridge inspections, don’t worry about those either.

- Oh, and ditto those permits and environmental reviews you need for that off shore drilling you’re so enthusiastic about.  By the way, if those permits don’t get approved during the right time of year, i.e. now, well then there won’t be enough time to start the project before winter comes in the north and hurricane season in the south. Maybe next year. 

-  Civilian Intelligence specialists will be furloughed, unless they are directly involved in the war efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya.  What does that mean? Well, it means that those Intel folks involved in political and economic intelligence collection will be doing odd jobs around the house on Monday – instead of working on gathering, processing, and disseminating the vital information our nation needs to maintain a competitive edge in the global economy. But, hey, maybe the rest of the world, including our buddies in China and India, won’t take advantage of the situation, maybe they will just stop and wait for us to get our heads out of our asses.

- Here’s one I particularly like: nearly all Indian reservations in the United States fall under the cognizance of the US Federal Government.  Schools there are federal schools. Those will shut down.  Trash pickup is a federal function, if the contract isn’t already paid nobody is going to pick up the garbage.  Drug and substance abuse programs will cease.  Food and assistance will cease. Housing construction will cease. In some cases, law enforcement may stop.  These people get fucked by Congress even more than those in the military.  But hey, at least they can take comfort in knowing the Tea Party stood pat on principle.

- You better hope you don’t need help filing your federal income tax this year.  There won’t be anybody answering the phone at the IRS. But, you know, you still need to file on time, though I wouldn’t recommend you do it via paper. Not if you’re in a hurry anyway.

- Remember those military families?  The soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardsmen will still be able to get medical care at their local bases, but their families won’t - unless it’s an emergency. Oh, you didn’t know that most of the medical services provided to the military at home are done by civilians these days? Well, yeah, it seems that a lot of military medical personnel are off to war, but that’s just a detail, I’m sure they’ll understand.  Boy, the hits just keep on coming with that one, don’t they?  No pay, no passports, no support, and no medical care for their kids, but don’t worry folks, the war will go on as scheduled. Hoorah!

- The good news is that Social Security is still funded and the checks will still go out, so no need for the Greatest Generation to cancel cable and miss Glenn Beck or have to pass on that Tea Party rally tonight.  So, that’s good. I’ll check back in two weeks when Medicare turns off, see how things are going then.

- Three hundred and ninety-four National Parks, National Historical Sites, and other facilities run by the Park Service will shut down.  That’s not just vacation spots, folks, that’s your kids education.  That’s those field trips to the Smithsonian and the Grand Canyon and the Lincoln Memorial.  Be sure to thank the Tea Party for that too, won’t you?

- The EPA? Nobody cares if they shut down, right? Except, funny thing, they’re the folks who clean up toxic spills.  Better hope there isn’t one in your neighborhood because during a shutdown they have to stop the clean up.  And for every day that goes by, a little more of that crap leaches just a little further into your soil, a little closer to the water table that your kids drink from. 

- The Air Traffic Controllers will still show up for work – but not the people who run the coffee stands and the sandwich cart and clean the toilets and empty the trash at those big regional FAA control centers.  Boy, I hope those controllers aren’t distracted by the overflowing toilets and garbage cans.  Naw, I’m sure it’ll be OK, they’d never leave just one guy in the tower at Reagan National while the other guy on duty has to drive over to Concourse D to get a couple of croissants and some coffees from Starbucks. And speaking of things that slam into the ground at five hundred miles per hour, anybody want to guess whether or not the FAA inspectors who make sure Southwest Airlines’ aging fleet of 737’s don’t peel open at 30,000 feet like a tin can full of strawberry surprise will be on the job Monday? You might want to pay particular attention during the pre-flight safety brief next week, just saying, especially that part about oxygen masks and evacuation slides.

I could go on and on, but the important thing here is that we make sure Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform a couple of $90 abortions for welfare mothers, and it’s perfectly moral to stomp and scream and throw a tantrum until the Tea Party gets its way in this matter. How bad the shutdown gets, and how it affects each of us, primarily depends on how long the childish self-absorbed jackasses in Congress decide to hold the rest of us hostage.  And make no mistake at all, that’s exactly what this is, a hostage standoff.

They say you get the government you deserve.

I know, I know, I hear ya, nobody deserves this. 

Really?

Folks, take a look around.  When you have a country where the majority steadfastly votes along party lines instead of in their own best interest, when the majority steadfastly refuses to actually educate themselves on things that actually affect their own lives, when they see the world through the lens of TV pundits, when they believe the world is only 6000 years old because a bunch of Bronze Age sheep herders said so and the government blew up the World Trade Center and the President is really an alien reptile in a rubber human suit, this is exactly what you get.  And you deserve it.

George Washington hated political parties, he said they served only to turn brother against brother and he was absolutely right. 

At least half of this country does only what their political party tells them to do and most have no idea how their own government even works.

Today, I’ve received at least three dozen messages from people who seem to think that federal law and the Constitution can be overridden with a few “Likes” on a Facebook petition.  Folks, every single person on the internet can sign your electronic petition – but Senators and Representatives will still get paid, and they will continue getting paid until somebody either repeals or modifies the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Period. You’d do yourself a big favor by spending a bit more time learning how your government works and a little less time forwarding useless chain mail around the internet. Better yet, you’d do yourself an even bigger favor by not voting for selfish grandstanding assholes in the first place.

Speaking of chain mail, please, quit forwarding me those “Click here if you think our military should get paid during a shutdown” letters. Seriously.

I’m not going to sign them, for two reasons:

1) They don’t work. They might make you feel good, but you’re not doing anything. See the bit above regarding Congressional pay.  You can be all the outraged you like, but until you change the law when the government shuts down so does military pay.  That’s just how it is.  You might want to give that some thought, perhaps while you’re on the way to your Tea Party rally where you and your friends will be shouting “Shut it down, shut it down.”  Just saying.

and 2) Because if you smoke, you get cancer.  That’s right, assholes, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.  Demanding that we fund military pay while shutting down the rest of the government is just like eating a big box of jelly donuts and then bitching when you get fat.  Actions have consequences. If you feel so strongly about this that you will not compromise, you will not budge, and you will force the shutdown of the Federal government because you think you have a God given mandate to hold five hundred million of the rest of us hostage, then you should damned well have to live with the fucking consequences

Shut it down! Shut it down! 

Fine, go ahead, shut it down.

Don’t compromise. 

But you, personally, explain to that young military wife why she can’t get a passport to follow her husband to an overseas assignment, you explain why she can’t make the rent this month, you explain why her husband should fight and die for democracy while you, Mr. Honorable Representative, spit right in the face of it because you can’t seem to understand that democracy is about compromise. You explain why we’re six months into this fiscal year, at a point where you should be working on next year’s budget, and you still haven’t done your job.  Don’t try to blame the President – you have to get a bill in front of him first, something yet another large bunch of Americans don’t seem to understand - until there is a bill on the president’s desk he’s just a cheerleader.

No, I firmly believe that if the government shuts down, then the military should not get paid. 

You want an easy out?

Fuck you. You’re making this bed, you lay in it.

If you feel that God is on your side, that you have a mandate from all the citizens of America and not just those Tea Party assholes you love so much, then you step the fuck up and put your man-meat on the chopping block, see if the voters cut it off.

But, if you really believed that you’re right, well, then you wouldn’t need a get out of jail free card.

Would you?

 


Update 1:  Folks, I appreciate the advice, I really do, but let’s all assume that I know a little something about migraines and that I’ve seen a doctor or two or three.  It’s not a tumor. Really. I’m good.

Update 2:  About an hour after I published this post, Congress reached a deal on the budget.  Looks like we’ll avoid a shutdown for now. However, I’d caution you that the real budget fight, the one for 2012, begins now. Still, this deal shows that both sides can compromise if they really want to and the Tea Party can kiss all of our asses.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Offline Today

Folks, I’ll be offline today

I’m on the downside of a truly obnoxious migraine.

While the worst appears to be over, staring at a computer screen seems contraindicated for the moment.

See you tomorrow.