Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Jerk of the Month, John Tyner

Every once in a great while, there emerges in the pubic consciousness [pun intended], an individual who is so obnoxious that the situation calls for instantaneous revulsion, on a personal level. Such a person is John Tyner, the young man from San Diego who told a Transportation Security Agent who was about to pat him down, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." It is reported that John was on his way to South Dakota so that he could shoot lots of little holes in some pheasant. Apparently, the season was getting short and he didn't have time for national security considerations. Instead, he first refused to submit to a body scan and, then, in a brazen flaunting of law and the safety of his fellow travelers, threatened the security person with retribution if he (the patter is, by law, of the same gender as the patty [pun intended]) should dare to place his rubber-gloved-hand anywhere near his "junk".

I was not familiar with the word "junk" as a slang term for genitalia. I can't imagine any self-respecting man employing the term in a public setting. Having done so, I can only conclude that Mr. Tyner is straight, thinks sex is dirty, or was molested by a man in his younger days. Still, nothing justifies his current status as a folk hero among similarly jaundiced frequent flyers. Only in America, would spoiled youths create such a self-important stink over a momentary encounter with what many gay men would consider a cheap thrill. Get over it, people. Not everything is about you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Which political party is more interested in winning than governing?

A brand-new poll by USA TODAY/Gallup tells us all we really need to know about the difference between Republicans and Democrats. In the lead article from USA Today for Tuesday, November 9, 2010, Susan Page summarized the results thus:

Democratic voters want to sit down and work things out. Republicans are ready to rumble.

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say it's more important for political leaders to stick to their beliefs even if little gets done. Forty-one percent of Republicans put themselves at four or five on a scale in which five is the most unyielding. Only 18% of Democrats feel that way.

Democrats are almost twice as likely as Republicans to say it's more important for political leaders to compromise in order to get things done. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats rate themselves at one or two on the five-point scale compared with 31% of Republicans.

Interestingly, 49% of independents, upon whom Republicans relied upon for their sweeping victory last Tuesday, say it's more important to get things done, against only 24% who want leaders to stick to their beliefs.

Thus, it would appear that the country is destined to experience a repeat of the same obstructionism on the part of Republicans from the 112th Congress that we saw with the 111th, with the added dimension of a more powerful--and even more effective--Republican influence in the House. It's as if the boy who refuses to eat his vegetables is now planning the family meals.

The Republicans are saying that their first priority when the "Lame Duck Session" begins in ten day or so is to renew all of the 2001 tax cuts indefinitely, despite their persistent insistence during the election cycle on reducing the massive federal deficit. On the other hand, some Republicans are threatening to vote against increasing the deficit ceiling, which could result in a shut-down of the entire federal governmental apparatus.

Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Forget about it. Ratifying the Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty? Am I nuts? Further stimulus spending to head off a double-dip recession? Who am I kidding? Putting a price on the CO2 that is over-heating the planet? What's the rush?

According to this same USA Today/Gallup poll, when asked "Do you think President Obama will make a sincere effort to work with Republicans in Congress to find solutions that are acceptable to both parties?", 64% said "yes"; when asked if Republicans in Congress would do the same, only 43% said "yes; when asked if Democrats in Congress would do the same, 51% said "yes". Unless the Democrats are willing to meet the Republicans on their own terms on every issue, deadlock seems almost certain. Nevertheless, 57% of Americans say that, as a result of the recent elections, they are more upbeat about what will happen over the next two years. Which proves either that a dollop of optimism is added to every bottle of water or voters are more naive that even I thought. No wonder the gaming industry is doing so well.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Which political party is comprised of the true "activists"?, Part I

In a most-welcome announcement, hundreds of climate scientists have decided to set aside their past policy of disengagement from the world of politics and confront head-on congressional conservatives who deny both the existence and principle cause of global warming. Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa, Joe Barton, and F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., all expected to be assuming the chairmanships of key committees on January 2, 2011, have pledged to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions and the so-called Climategate scandal involving the hacking and release of thousands of emails between leading British climate scientists. (Multiple independent investigations subsequently cleared the scientists of any wrong-doing and validated their research.) I would hope that they would be attempting to find who was behind the illegal invasion of privacy but I doubt that is going to happen.

James M. Taylor, senior fellow and specialist in global warming at the conservative Heartland Institute in Chicago, was quoted by Neela Banerjee, Tribune Co. Washington Bureau, as saying, "The budget is spiraling out of control while government is handing out billions of dollars in grants to climate scientists, many of whom are unabashed activists". (For conservatives true concern for budget deficits, see my preceding blog post.) First, research grants are in no way "handouts". Ask any PhD. Second, according to Wikipedia, an "activist" is "one who is politically active in the role of a citizen". Therefore, a scientist who renders an opinion based upon his or her research cannot be an "activist". Nor could Mr. Taylor, for that matter. The difference is that Mr. Taylor's statement, which cannot be based upon peer-reviewed scientific research, is, therefore, opinion. (I realize that anyone who places science on a higher level than ideology-tested opinion is likely to be accused of being an elitist. I'm willing to take that chance.) Mr. Taylor's job as a think-tank mouthpiece doesn't make him a mere citizen; nor does it make him an expert. He is paid to find arguments which justify the pre-determined biases of his employers. He seems to fulfill that role very well.

Which political party is the true "big spender"?, Part I

House Republican leaders, such as Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, took a strong stand yesterday against allowing the Bush tax cuts from 2001 to expire for those individuals making more than $200,000 a year for individuals or $250,000 for couples. (The tax cuts are due to expire at the end of this year--10 years after passage--because they were not "paid for" through countervailing budget measures.)

President Obama is a strong advocate for renewing the tax cuts only for those making less than those amounts. Should the Republicans get their way, the federal deficit would increase by $700,000,000,000 more over the next 10 years than with Obama's proposal. Since tax cuts have the exact same effect on the federal deficit as spending--without the concomitant widely-dispersed benefits--it is plain to see that the Republicans are the real big spenders. Boy, won't the Tea Partiers be pissed when they realize this!