Daily Archives: August 31, 2011

Obama is losing me…

Obama - Progress?

Progress? It's been more backpedaling than progress lately.

Don’t get me wrong, the alternative possibility in 2012 is just too disgusting to even be considered.  I will vote for Obama.  There have been few politicians I have supported as much as Obama.  But with every passing day, I find it harder and harder to support him.

Today Obama wanted to schedule a speech for next week before Congress to announce his jobs creation plan.  John Boehner, being the  complete jackass that he is, defied all historical precedent and asked Obama to move the date, making up some complete BS excuse about scheduled votes and security issues.  Other Republicans have also defied Obama and told him to move the date.  The Republicans have almost single-handedly brought our government to its knees, making bipartisanship a dirty word, utterly dismissing ANYTHING the Democrats support, even if it was a position the Republicans had previously supported (e.g., the payroll tax issue from last week), and stoking pure HATRED towards political opponents.  God help us all if the economy continues to tank, and as a result, whoever runs against Obama next fall is elected.

With that said…Obama has somehow transformed in the last 2 1/2 years from a vibrant and inspiring politicians to a completely gutless and ineffective leader of the Democratic party.  Obama and his team stupidly wanted to schedule this speech on the same night as a GOP debate, and I’m sure they were just daring the Republicans to call their bluff.  After all, no one ever HAD turned a president’s request down to address Congress.  But look at the last year and a half.  First Obama complete caves in and extends the Bush tax cuts, without a HINT of negotiating for Democratic priorities.  Then came the debt ceiling “debate”, only turned INTO a debate because the Obama administration so cluelessly mis-handled things and LET Republicans turn it into a debate. 

Obama’s team made a VERY stupid decision to try and draw some attention from the GOP debate that night…and again they’re going to be embarrassed by the Republicans.  The Republicans weren’t ever going to get along with Obama.  Obama has been as much of a Republican as any Democrat EVER should be, caving to Republican demands at every turn and looking more like Ronald Reagan than Bill Clinton, and STILL the Republicans keep pushing.  It’s simple…they know they CAN keep pushing.  

I keep waiting for that brilliant, engaging politician from 2008 to show up.  And instead, I keep finding myself wishing I would have supported Hillary Clinton instead of Obama.  What a bush-league move from the Obama team today…

Deep Thoughts – Humanity as a Virus

The MatrixI work at a USGS facility that is “out in the country”, about 10 miles outside of Sioux Falls and surrounded by…well, by a lot of nothing.  But today as I was driving home, with a lonely gravel road all to myself, I still found myself thinking about just how different the landscape looks now compared to what it probably was like 150 years ago.  What once was tallgrass prairie is now corn and soybean fields as far as you can see, with the occasional “acreage” thrown in, where someone working in Sioux Falls wants a few acres “out in the country” to get away from humanity.

Even with the relatively sparse population in South Dakota, it’s not easy to get away from humanity’s footprint.  Today as I passed yet another acreage under construction, what struck me was the utter ridiculousness of the paradigm humanity has regarding “growth”.   Cities base future planning on “growth”.  The entire economic structure is built on continued “growth”.  More people, more demand for resources…is it any wonder scientists worry about the sustainability of this paradigm?  What came to mind as I was driving home was Agent Smith from the Matrix movies, saying human beings are “a virus”, in that every other organism reaches some equilibrium with the environment, but humanity just

Chesapeake Bay Growth

Urban growth in the Baltimore/Washington Area over 200 years. Does this look sustainable to you for another 200 years?

continually expands and destroys the very  environment on which it depends.

Will humanity ever get to the point where consideration for long-term sustainability outweighs short-term economic gain?   Look at all the Republican efforts right now to gut the EPA and relax environmental regulation.  Does it make sense to undo the environmental gains we’ve made since the EPA was founded, just to ensure a little more corporate profit?   Do you want your children to breathe dirtier air, drink more contaminated water, and eat more contaminated food than you have?  Will we ever value the long-term future as much as we selfishly value our own short-term pleasure and gain?

A new paradigm is obviously needed, one that’s not based on constant growth, and one that’s not based on the selfishness of the “now”.  In my part of the world here on the Great Plains of the U.S., we’ve plowed under over 60% of the prairie, have drained 80% of the wetlands, and use most of the remaining land for either urban/developed uses, or for livestock grazing.   And all of this has happened in the blink of an eye, in 150 years.    Unless the paradigm changes, what do you think even the relatively sparsely populated Great Plains will look like in another 150 years?   What will the water quality be like, if we continue to apply pesticides and fertilizers at the rate we’re doing now?  How much habitat will be available to native plant and animal species?  

Hey, what can I say, it’s Wednesday, “hump day”.  I’m tired, I’m thinking of my son, and I’m thinking of his future.  And I don’t like where things are going.  Maybe it’s because my job right now is focused on forecasting future land-use change in the U.S.  It’s fun, it’s cool to do, but it can also get a little depressing if you’re a nature lover like me, and you see the continued conversion of the natural environment to man-made land uses.

GOP Playing Politics with Disasters

Vermont Flooding

If there were such a thing as karma, this would be Eric Cantor's house floating down river.

What good is a disaster if you can’t use it to further your own political agenda?  The East Coast has been hit by an earthquake and a very damaging hurricane in the past week, and Eric Cantor is out on Fox (where else?) saying that disaster relief shouldn’t be given unless there are budget cuts elsewhere.  Cantor said his support to fund $1 billion more in disaster relief is tied to the 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security…which contains FEMA operational cuts of 6%, and slashes funding for emergency first responders by a whopping 40%. 

Good ol’ GOP logic!  Pay for a disaster by…worsening our ability to respond to future disasters!  Well, I shouldn’t say this is just GOP logic.  It’s the same kick-the-can down the road strategy Congress as a whole deals with most issues that confront them.  I do find this particularly distasteful though.  FEMA is already running low on disaster funding and is temporarily pulling funding from the Joplin tornado and other previous disasters to help respond to Hurricane Irene damage.  But despite the government’s growing inability to help citizens affected by disasters, Cantor goes on Fox News and says disaster funding needs to be balanced by budget cuts elsewhere.  I’m sure that’s very comforting to folks in Vermont and elsewhere who have had their homes and businesses swept away by flood waters.

YES, we need to balance our budget.  But we also need to help OUR OWN CITIZENS when they are most in need of assistance.  This kind of inflexibility that seems to be the new stance of the GOP is what would cripple our ability to respond to future disasters, wars, or economic emergency, especially if they are able to shove through a strict balanced budget amendment.  GOP, if you INSIST on cutting something to balance disaster funding, how about starting with your own salaries?  Oh wait, that’s right…some members of congress right now aren’t happy with how “little” they are being paid, so we can’t cut their salaries.  How about cutting defense spending?  No, we can’t do that…we have to continue funding training for first responders in Afghanistan…at SIX TIMES as much annual funding as provided to first responders in our own country

I wonder why Congress is polling at its lowest approval rating in history right now?