Also-- I once had a professor of Russian History named John Windhausen. That man could teach you everything you needed to know about the crazy world of the USSR. Ваше здоровье, doc!
Friday, September 4, 2015
Also-- I once had a professor of Russian History named John Windhausen. That man could teach you everything you needed to know about the crazy world of the USSR. Ваше здоровье, doc!
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The full war-loads of six B-52 heavy bombers
About 200 Tomahawk cruise missile warheads
Roughly 15,600 NATO-standard 6-inch artillery shells
1,476 16-inch shells from an Iowa-class battleship's main battery (which is actually more shells than a battleship's full war load)
Five and a half of the Army's old Davy Crockett tactical nukes.....
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Some douchebags in Texas decide to flout federal laws that have been in force for decades, because obeying would cost them money, and as a result get sloppy with explosive chemicals and blow a small town off the map, killing 14 people and injuring we don't even know how many....
One is a national tragedy, and the other is ultimately going to be written off as an 'industrial mishap.' Are the douchebags in Texas really any less evil than the douchebags in Boston, for all that their motivation to save a buck on safety and upkeep was so banal?
Actually, not to moralize, but alhough it lacks the visceral horror of the Boston tragedy-- which is murder by two guys whose sole goal was death and havoc, plain and simple-- IMHO the Texas thing is in some ways worse because it was ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE. We can't blame a McVeigh or an abdel-Rahman or a bin Laden or a Tsarnaev for this.
In my experience working in the environmental industry, stuff like the West fertilizer plant explosion doesn't happen unless you have a really serious and ingrained climate of sloppiness, lack of maintainance, and safety provisions that are just plain missing, all of which can usually be blamed on management's bad decisionmaking and wilful neglect, and that in turn is usually due to either management not caring, not understanding (two problems we have a lot more of nowadays, since plant managers USED to be mostly engineers rather than MBAs), or not wanting to spend the money. That OSHA hadn't been to the plant since 1985 isn't an excuse-- you're supposed to follow these procedures becasuse they will help prevent disasters, not because OSHA might fine you a few thousand dollars.
Just for clarification, there's a lot more to OSHA than just "lift with your legs, not with your back," hardhats, and safety railings. Most of the requirements for safe storage and handling of explosive, flammable, and toxic materials are part of OSHA.
That's all I've got tonight....
Friday, June 29, 2012
You can also take this as a good reason to rationalize the use of plastics on the whole.
With the increased use of plastic in the last couple decades, particularly in building materials themselves (PVC pipe, plastic-based carpet, vinyl tile) fires are actually becoming even more hazardous than they used to be, since the air in and near the buildings is saturated with toxic (and I MEAN toxic) vapors, fumes, and particulates.(footnote 1) This is one reason SCBA tanks and full-face respirators have become standard turnout equipment for fire crews rather than specialty kit, and why departments able to afford them in these days of eagle-squeezing budgets are issuing HCN alarms to their first responders.
During the 2003 Station Nightclub fire in Providence, Rhode Island, which killed 100 people-- and which my brother survived, may any gods who might be listening be thanked-- the fire generated enough carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide to turn the place into a gas chamber in NINETY SECONDS.(footnote 2)
Building materials or plastic products don't typically contain HCN itself (unless, as a remote possibility, as a dye) but hydrogen cyanide itself is very flammable and solid HCN will probably burn to nothing before it can become a hazard, if nothing aerosolizes or evolves it to a gas.
The atmospheric problems are created when the compound forms as a combustion byproduct, e.g. the vinyl component in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) reacts with the nitrogen in the atmosphere or another nitrogen compound. The vinyl chloride donates the hydrogen and carbon, the ammonia donates the nitrogen and more hydrogen, and the fire provides the energy to fuel the reaction. A related reaction can also generate hydrochloric acid (HCL) gas, using hydrogen and the chlorine component.
This article from Fire Engineering.com sums up some of the hazards of HCN in the atmosphere. You can get dangerous quantities of HCN from even very small and apparently insignificant incidents-- case in point, what happened to my friend. A plastic dish on a stove almost killed him.
If significant concentrations are inhaled, it can be extremely dangerous within very short time windows, since HCN poisoning shuts down cell respiration. HCN poisoning Initial symptoms of cyanide poisoning can occur from exposure to 20 to 40 ppm, including weakness, headache, mental confusion, vertigo, fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath, and sometimes nausea and vomiting (your body is trying to detox itself). The mental weakness is a killer because it hinders your ability to recognize the problem and escape.
10 minutes' exposure in an atmosphere of ~300 milligrams per cubic meter of air will kill you. 2200 milligrams per cubic meter will kill you in ONE minute. HCN gas has a bitter almond odor with an air odor threshold concentration of about half a part per million. Unfortunately, your sense of smell won't save you because if there's burning plastic around, it'll stink enough to mask the HCN odor.
The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hydrogen cyanide is 11 mg per cubic meter as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) concentration.
The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has assigned hydrogen cyanide a not-to-be-exceeded ceiling limit value of 4.7 ppm (5 mg/cubic meter of air. NOTE THE DIFFERENCE. (Footnote 3)
The standard treatment (in the US, at any rate) is a small inhaled dose of amyl nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium nitrite, followed by intravenous sodium thiosulfate, usually in conjunction with supplied oxygen to keep the cell respiration and the lungs going and to keep off cyanosis or hypoxia.
Hydrogen cyanide IS naturally occurring and is found in some foods, e.g. apple seeds and almonds, but when ingested and digested it is harmless, unless you have chronic exposures like people in Africa who eat lots of cassava roots for thirty years and don't get enough Vitamin B. Ferrocyanide compounds are very stable and can be consumed safely-- they don't degrade, get metabolized, or bioaccumulate in the human body, they just go out the other end.
Be safe, everyone.
Footnote 1 - I can't stop myself from being pedantic here. Vapors and fumes are different things. Vapors are the gas form of liquids; a fume is very small airborne particles that have cooled from a very hot vapor or aerosolized solid (usually from metal, e.g. the workplace hazard 'metal fume fever'). The difference between a vapor and a fume is important when designing ventilation systems or selecting respirators.
Footnote 2 - I use the gas chamber term with all seriousness, because the Zyklon B gas used in the gas chambers Nazi death camps like Auschwitz was essentially HCN adsorbed to a carrier, and which had been a commercial pesticide before the Nazis decided that certain racial elements were pests.
Footnote 3 - Lemme just note here-- as a professional working in the environmental industry, it is my very considered opinion that most OSHA standards are unscientific and indefensible crap, based on a limited set of knowledge that mostly hasn't been updated since the 1970s, and that they are not sufficiently protective... and when I say that I mean protective of ME and my coworkers. Unless faced with a regulatory requirement I can't argue my way past, I use the ACGIH standards because they have an additional thirty years' worth of research and toxicology experience behind them, and as a result of that, are usually much more stringent than OSHA's. At one point about fifteen years ago, OSHA tried to adopt the ACGIH's standards as OSHA's own, but the legal people and ACGIH (who weren't thrilled with the idea) shot the idea down and told OSHA they couldn't copy the product of a private organization, and to do their own damn homework.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I wrote a very angry letter to Earthjustice today. Normally I support environmental advocacy groups, but every once in a while I come across something that makes me shake my head in despair. In this case, the issue is the regulation of coal ash from power plants. Coal ash is currently a topic of much dispute, given the potential hazards it can create (e.g. the Kingston, Tennessee ash lagoon disaster in 2008). Suffice it to say I know a lot about coal ash.
Earthjustice published this online press release regarding the handling and disposal of coal ash in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The press release unfortunately contained some glaring errors, and I wrote the letter below in order to assist Earthjustice in correcting the errors. I regret using some of the angrier words that I employed, but I was feeling a bit insulted by what they had published, and was angry when I wrote this.
Unfortunately, sometimes you owe your friends the duty of shouting at them when they screw up badly enough. (Apologies in advance to any friends of mine who read this!)
This experience has been a big disappointment for me, since I want groups like Earthjustice to succeed and flourish. I've donated time and money to helping a number of them (though lately they seem only to want my money).
The role of environmental advocacy groups, such as Earthjustice, MassPIRG, the Sierra Club, etc. is to inform the public on environmental hazards and other issues. It's therefore essential that the advocacy groups provide the correct information-- complete, properly researched and sourced, technically astute, and cognizant of the relevant state and federal regulations and statute. That's not easy. It's a sad fact that advocacy groups like these don't have very many technical people on their staffs. This is why people like EPA whistleblower William Sanjour (a personal hero of mine) are so valuable, because they possess both the personal inclination and the professional expertise to make a solid case for an environmental cause. Enthusiasm and public outreach are excellent and indispensable things, but they cannot replace expertise in the subject matter.
Wrong or incomplete information ultimately does more harm than good; when exposed as incorrect after an advocacy organization used it to beat the drum of public opinion, the public responds with cynicism and apathy, the advocates are exposed to ridicule, and the cause itself loses credibility, leading to a situation best described with a quote from an angry Bodie Broadus on The Wire-- "...and now we look like bitches." We expect hyperbole and glibness with facts from Fox News-- a news organization that blames its excesses on being entertainment, and which once claimed as a legal defense to have no legal obligation to broadcast the truth-- and we damn them for it. These groups should at least aspire to be better than Fox News. I haven't read everything Earthjustice has written, and I hope that this document was an isolated incident.
Earthjustice has promised a reply, which I will post when it arrives.
Ego servire huic veritatem.....
No final disposal of ash produced by the combustion of coal may be accomplished by burial of such ash in the ground, other than as base for road construction or fill, unless the place where such disposal takes place has been assigned for such disposal by the board of health and plans for such disposal have been approved by the department pursuant to this section. [In other words, coal ash may only be landfilled at permitted solid waste landfills]
Saturday, March 17, 2012
The hits just keep on coming. I am gobsmacked at how quickly and virulently the war over women’s health has blown up over the last two months. Although the issue of abortion, contraception, and other medical care was always present to a lesser extent, it didn’t erupt into a major political issue until the Obama administration attempted to mandate that all employers include birth control in their health care plans.
The Catholic Church, forgetting that it is no longer a respected paragon of moral leadership, led the counterattack by screaming that the requirement was an attack on religious liberty, and incidentally making common cause with the very evangelicals churches who until recently blasted Rome as the whore of Babylon. They also lied, and I’m pretty sure lying is still a sin. The Catholic Church crossed the River Jordan into the political world years ago. Any church that wants to play politics on the national level has given up any pretense of being the neutral, benevolent and charitable influence on society that deserved a tax exemption, and should pay taxes just like any other corporation.
The disgraced senator and now presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a paleo-Catholic who was humiliated in a 2008 reelection contest after being caught waist-deep in lobbying and corruption scandals, fanned the flames in order to score political points against his opponents in the Republican primary contests.
The backlash against the Susan G. Komen foundation’s defunding of Planned Parenthood—an ill-considered move instigated by a fanatical Republican on the Komen board—didn’t help things either, since the fuss only highlighted how much Planned Parenthood does in addition to providing abortions, such as pregnancy care, cancer screenings, and the like. Two-thirds of Americans support Planned Parenthood.
In recent months, the legislatures of the state and federal governments have also been the scene of laws that might have been taken from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale (except, as many have recently noted, the book was intended as a cautionary tale rather than an instruction manual).
For example, an Arizona law now encourages doctors to lie to their patients in the expectation that the doctors would try to talk the patient out of an abortion.
Congress is considering legislation that would ban the use of federal funds to aid women needing emergency medical care if that medical care could include an abortion or the death of the fetus. Let’s just call it the Let Women Die On The Floor Act of 2012.
Texas just sacrificed an entire women’s health care program, funded by $34 million from the federal government’s Medicaid program, after the legislature and Governor Perry decided to ignore fifty-year-old laws against discriminating against health care providers and to ban Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding. It probably won’t reduce the number of abortions in Texas, but it will keep over several hundred thousand women from receiving services like breast cancer screenings, and ultimately result in some of them dying of cancer. I hope it was worth it, Rick, but you’re not running for president anymore, and don’t have to keep burnishing those Christian Coalition credentials quite so bright.
Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and several other states have enacted or are considering laws that would give a fetus more rights than the woman in whose womb it lies, and obliging the government to defend every fetus at the expense of the mother. To miscarry for any reason would become a crime in some states. Women pregnant as a result of rape would have to bear the rapist’s child—nine months of legally-mandated hell. A stillborn baby would have to be carried to term—nine months, and delivered ‘naturally,’ even if it had died in the first trimester and disintegrated into a rotting mass of slime. How exactly is that a natural delivery? Women in Arizona could soon be fired at-will for using contraception, if that offends the company management’s moral position. Unfertilized eggs may receive ‘personhood’ status in some states, thus making any contraception that could prevent their fertilization an abortion. The “Plan B” emergency contraception pill, which can prevent conception but not terminate conceived zygote, is under siege.
This legislation comes overwhelmingly from the hard right wing of the Republican party, and would do nothing more or less than strip women of their human rights.
The insanity of these Handmaid’s Tale laws is borne out by several laws proposed as parodies. For example, a law proposed in Georgia by Representative Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, called for a ban on vasectomies. A similar law, proposed in Oklahoma, would have banned the deposition of semen anywhere but a woman’s vagina, thereby criminalizing several major male pastimes.
And yet, the Republican chair of a Congressional hearing on women’s health would not allow a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke to speak, preferring instead to listen only to men. Ms. Fluke was subsequently vilified as a slut by an obese abuser of prescription painkillers and impotence medication who just happened to have a widely-broadcast radio program. To the credit of the business community, many of the program’s advertising sponsors promptly terminated their advertising contracts with the show.
I wouldn’t be surprised if people in other countries look at the US and see some sort of Strangelove scenario, with our government overrun with General Rippers afoam at the mouth about a vast conspiracy seeking to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
This just shows you how schizophrenic and intellectually bankrupt conservatism is these days. The religiously-motivated social conservatives and the small-government fiscal conservatives are tripping over each other like the Three Stooges, panicked by a primary contest that has deteriorated into bad reality TV, an economy that seems to be on the road to recovery despite their best efforts, and a Democratic (And black! How dare he!) president who seems invincible.
The result is that we have presidential candidates, senators, governors, and state legislators thumping copies of Atlas Shrugged or Adam Smith and demanding that the government stay out of the finances of people (and ‘people’ includes multibillion-dollar corporations now) because more than token taxation of the wealthy is unconscionable, socialist, and totalitarian.
Many of the exact same people, maybe only sentences later, can be found thumping the a copy of the Bible and demanding legislation that drastically prunes away women’s civil rights and reproductive rights be passed under the sort of hell-for-leather deadlines that usually involve other countries bombing our naval bases.
So it’s blackest tyranny for the government to tax citizens to pay for services that the citizens enjoy, but sound, essential, and godly policy for government to regulate the microscopic workings of women’s internal organs, never mind the bedroom? What sort of small and limited government is that? Even Ron Paul, who looms largest of the Republican presidential candidates when it comes to small government, has tied himself in a knot on the issue.
Why is the uterus fair game when capital gains tax is off limits?
William F. Buckley would weep.
I don’t expect any of these laws to stand for very long, even if they become law. The legal arguments and precedents supporting them are tenuous in the extreme, and they attempt essentially to write discrimination and inequality into state or federal law. The affront to the civil rights of half of this country’s population will not withstand even the lightest judicial review. Most of the legislators who vote for these laws, cynically, likely expect them to be overturned in short order, but they can use the fuss thus created to win the support of those evangelical Christians who expect the government to throw out the Constitution in favor of the Bible, a population probably including the 52% of Mississippi Republicans who believe President Obama is a Muslim.
That’s one reason that abortion will never actually be made illegal. It’s one of the ultimate laws of Republican hypocrisy. If they ever actually followed through with it, and they probably could have during the first George W. Bush administration, they wouldn’t have that flag to rally the troops around during the next election.
We have wars going on, economic turmoil, the head of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refuses to take his boot off the neck of the housing mortgage market because it would make it harder for him to balance the books, and a Senate Minority Leader whose sole goal for the last four years has been to keep President Obama from being reelected.
We have more important concerns.
This artificial battle over women’s health is a stupid waste of time.
Women’s health care does not need to be open to this sort of debate and bogus legislation. It should be as simple and easy to obtain as it is for men. No more, no less. The fact that women require different services, some of which involve pregnancy and childbirth, should matter not one bit.
More to the point, the state and federal government should just give up any pretense that it knows more about what is good for a woman than the woman herself. If she wants to have an abortion, it should be safe, legal, and entirely up to her. Any financial, ethical, or spiritual consequences should also be borne by her. It’s her body, it should be her choice. If we respect the freedom of the individual, ok, let’s carry it all the way through, educate her without indoctrinating her, and let her make an educated choice based on her own physical, mental, spiritual, and medical situation.
This will never happen, of course, because as long as there are politicians willing to make an issue of it, abortion will be used as a club to beat the other side. That’s no reason to stretch the issue to include breast cancer screenings which could save you’re mother’s, daughter’s, sister’s, or wife’s life.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Hi Meg, I’m Tom.
We’ve never met, but I’m a regular reader of your posts on the Daily Beast. I saw your August 10 piece on the ‘Obamaclypse,’ and the return of ‘politics as usual’ to Washington. You complain that “we’ve traded hope and unity not only for politics as usual in Washington, but for something far worse. We’ve entered a new chapter in government selfishness, new levels of disillusionment and public distrust of elected officials, something that the Twitter world has dubbed the “Obamaclypse” or “Barackalypse.”
Since I actually have a regular job and a part-time job, and am not a talking head and incipient professional celebrity—really, Meg, why are you hanging out with the Perez Hilton set?—who can blow off work to party in Vegas, it took me a couple days to find the time to write you a response.
I was a bit puzzled by the time frame you used. Apparently the problem is that you feel anxious because two and a half years after being elected, President Obama hasn’t fixed everything. You’re worried that the people who supported him in 2008 are going to feel angry and disappointed.
Now, I’m no fortunate one, no senator’s daughter (hat tip to John Fogerty), so things have looked pretty grim to me for a long time. It’s true, we’re totally bummed out that the economy is still creaking along, but our generation—yours and mine, since I’m only a few years older than you—is a pretty tough-skinned bunch sometimes. We kinda have to be. We’ve had a lot of disappointments over the last ten years, and the American Dream is pretty much a hallucination now. This country already has the most unequal distribution of wealth in the developed world, and the middle class is sinking fast.
Yes, our generation saw Columbine and 9/11, as you mentioned—and a nice bit of sentimental appeal that was, too. Remember, though, that we also saw President Bush deliberately lie for six months and then lead the nation into a pointless war that has seen tens of thousands of Americans killed and wounded. We saw oil industry lobbyists practically write the administration’s energy legislation. We saw the results of the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that Republicans rammed through Congress in the waning days of the Clinton Administration, as one bank after another crashed and burned in a cloud of debt. I saw a large number of the people I graduated from college with lose their jobs when the economy tanked during one of the several downturns we had between 2001 and 2008.
I’ll be honest. I voted for President Obama in 2008 because his vision was as close as we could get to the opposite the Bush Administration’s goals and track record. We had just had eight solid years of government by a political machine that fostered crony capitalism, deficit spending on a scale never seen before or since, and one Congressional scandal after the next; John Boehner handed out checks from lobbyists on the House floor! Jack Abramoff, anyone? CEOs from Enron to AIG were partying like the worst of the Roman emperors while laying off hundreds of workers, and running their companies into the ground. Wages didn’t budge after 2001, but inflation kept on going, so your salary bought you less every year. The baby boomers “dropped the ball on their burden of responsibility”—you’re absolutely right there. By the time the primary season ended in 2008, millions people were willing to believe in change precisely because the country obviously needed it.
So it’s no wonder that we’re a little burned-out and cynical. Nothing new there. I list the above not for the sake of blaming the Bush Administration, the Republican Party, or conservatives in general—though they bear responsibility for much of what’s currently wrong with this country—but to show you why the current mess isn’t a deal-breaker for me as far as President Obama. I’m used to stuff like this. Most people my age don’t look to leaders like President Obama for inspiration. We look to them for substance, and the ability to get things done. Some people are going to be disappointed or heartbroken, yes, but the rest of us are just going to have to keep calm and carry on, because we’re stuck in this situation.
I distinctly remember another inspirational figure. In fact, I campaigned for your dad, Senator McCain, in New Hampshire in 1999 and 2000, back when he was the maverick he’s now just pretending to be, the McCain of McCain-Feingold. Your dad and President Obama had a lot in common—they wanted to reach young people, they called for a wholesale change in the way Washington functions, and they wanted a new era of government transparency and accountability. Unfortunately the Republican leadership kicked your dad to the curb in favor of George W. Bush after the South Carolina primary, the first of several new low points for political smear campaigns.
Senator Obama was an inspirational in 2008 and he’s still an inspirational figure now. One of the most appealing things about him (and your dad too, for that matter) was that he wasn’t just ladling out pie-in-the sky solutions (Ron Paul), the tired crap that every Republican has recycled since 1980 (your dad) or bogus homespun wisdom (Sarah Palin). At the same time, though, give the man credit for being substance as well as style. Starting in the fall of 2008, President Obama has over the last three years consistently given probably the most candid assessment of the nation’s economy that any president has offered; even before he was inaugurated he was warning that recovery would take time.
He seems a bit different now, yes, but really, what president hasn’t had to trim his sails a bit after two and a half years in office? Still, he’s accomplished far more than he’s given credit for.
Let’s look briefly at some of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments (not in order of importance):
- The rescue of the automotive industry. Whether you like the idea of bailouts or not, it saved a lot of peoples’ jobs and most of the money has been paid back to the government.
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus program) worked. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the February 2009 stimulus bill had put over 800,000 people back to work by the third quarter of that year.
- In the process, the stimulus managed to accomplish a lot of too-long-deferred necessary work on the nation’s roads and bridges.
- Terminated the Bush Administration’s practice of overruling scientific findings for political concerns.
- TARP—the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program inherited from the Bush Administration—worked. Once again, billions spent, but billions repaid. Ironically, the reason Wall Street is still around to crash in 2011 is because the federal government rescued it in 2009.
- A significant CUT in spending, which Fox News never talks about because it doesn’t fit in to the right wing’s mental universe.
- Berzerk protests at town hall meetings aside, ‘Obamacare’ actually works, and fixed many of the problems created by the Bush Administration’s health-care legislation, including allowing governments to negotiate drug prices and eliminating the ‘donut hole.’
- Fumigated the White House and Capitol Hill of the lobbyists that had infested them during the Bush Administration, imposing stringent new requirements on lobbyists and bans on gifts to politicians. Boehner’s Santa Claus routine is now illegal.
- Scrapped the Bush Administration’s financial chicanery by actually counting the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the federal budget, rather than continuing to hide it in off-budget spending.
- Shut down the Bush Administration’s programs of waterboarding and extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists in favor of handling them with actual laws.
- Started getting us out of Iraq.
- Killed Osama Bin Laden.
That’s quite a track record for two and a half years, especially given the scale of the mess President Obama inherited from President Bush. I’m sorry you’re still not happy, Meg.
I have to call you out on some other stuff too.
We’re disappointed, yes, but we’re not blind. Anyone who’s kept up on current events knows that the cynicism hasn’t returned to Washington—it never left. President Obama is a breath of fresh air, yes, but that only goes so far when the rest of the room smells like a sewer. Really, the root cause that some of President Obama’s campaign promises (climate change, some banking reform regulation) have failed to live up to expectations is because the Republicans in Congress have done everything possible to gut them. In fact, the reason the President’s promise to being a new civility to Washington failed is because the Republicans took their ball and went home. I can’t really blame the president for this; all through 2009 and 2010, every time the administration offered compromise, the Republican leadership refused to play nice. John Boehner sure talks a line about spending cuts, but not when they effect the General Electric plants in his district. I keep mentioning Speaker Boehner, by the way, because he makes such a good example of what’s wrong with Washington.
When you said “The last election was all about hope and change and ushering in a new beginning and phase in America. Not only have we not been given hope and change, but generation Y is feeling disillusionment and asking ourselves what exactly we have to look forward to,” I think you forgot that there was an election in 2010, too, which for a variety of reasons put the Republicans in charge of Congress again, and gave the hard-line Tea Party group a disproportionate say in what happens in Congress. Your dad’s old colleague, Russ Feingold, one of the most respectable senators of the last twenty years, lost his seat to a wealthy Republican hack with no political experience and a cloud of ethics problems. That’s the problem of 2010 in a microcosm.
So now it’s 2011, and what’s bugging me just now? It’s not the president. It’s not even cynicism, which is at least predictable. It’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and his comment that “We weren’t kidding around, either. We would have taken it down.” The ‘it’ he’s referring to is the national economy, which Chaffetz and his allies in Congress would happily have crashed during the debt ceiling dispute. Now really, that’s a crisis of leadership right there— elected officials willing to wreck the country’s already fragile economy over a point of political ideology? These are the people who howl that President Obama is a radical? What is this, Opposite Year? This isn’t cynicism; it’s stupidity. The worst of the trouble over the debt ceiling came from the Tea Party scuttling every idea the Republican leadership came up with; it’s a bit embarrassing when your party can’t even keep itself together enough to even put something up for a vote, while the President sits there waiting for you.
So it’s no wonder that while the President is still pretty popular, Congress’ approval ratings could hardly get lower. John Boehner, the would-be kingmaker with skin the color of an Oompa-Loompa, is now less popular than the widely-vilified Nancy Pelosi. The Tea Party is turning into the Albatross Party, especially among mainstream Republicans because of how they repeatedly cut Boehner’s legs out from under him during the debt ceiling negotiations.
I’m not really certain how to end this response. Urging you to think positive would be a bit trite and pointless. “Buckle in for a bumpy ride” would be just as bad. Since you generally write interesting and thoughtful stuff, though, I think I’ll just suggest you keep up the good work, and not turn into someone like Sean Hannity, who essentially gets paid not to like President Obama, without regard for whether what he’s saying can be supported by facts.