There are two types of handicap door buttons. One is easily and effortlessly pressed on your normal route to the doorway and operates so swiftly that by the time your approach ends an open door enthusiastically awaits your entry. And then there’s the recalcitrant button. This particular species lies tucked away somewhere off to the side of the door, safely outside any possible direct path, and after a two second delay operates the door at a speed so slow you have no choice but to assume its objection to your insolence rivals only the Cave of Wonders’. It is this second button, more specifically your iniquitous use of it, which I would like to address. There are really only three copacetic uses for this button: you are, as the picture above said button implies, confined to a wheelchair; you are utilizing crutches or some other prosthetic which significantly hinders your ability to walk and use your arms simultaneously; or you are holding, pulling, or pushing some inordinately large – and preferably heavy – object. But despite your seemingly obliviousness to this apparent fact, pushing this button and then standing in front of the door in increasing tedium merely because you are too corpulent and/or lazy (usually both) to manually open the door is not socially acceptable behavior. It is certainly not becoming. Far from it, you are subjecting yourself to ridicule and disdain from those behind you whose only goal at the moment is to enter or leave the building in some fashion remotely resembling a respectable manner. And it is well deserved. I know it’s difficult. Those doors weigh so much and the effort is so physically and mentally draining. But if you are, in fact, one of the indolents who prefer this misallocation of sympathy towards those actually physically impaired, you likely belong to a crowd most in need of even the modest caloric expenditure opening a door provides. The American lifestyle may be sedentary compared to the most immobile bovine, but that does not excuse your unusually emphatic embrace of it.
To the Otherwise Capable Lady Who, For Reasons Unknown, Felt the Use of the Handicap Door Button was Necessitated
Jay Cutler stopped to talk to the press today, doing his best Nathan Drake impression.
Among other things, he told Dave Haugh he was glad the November 7 game in Philedelphia is a night game so he has “time to rest after finding Iram of the Pillars.”
Thanks to the Chicago Tribune for the break. You can read the real story here.
The Cubs unloaded (female) fan favorite Kosuke Fukudome today, making my #1 blue alternate a collector’s item. In exchange for Kosuke’s services, the Cubs get a pitcher who can’t pitch in AAA (.450 ERA), and a hitter who can’t hit in A (.244 BA, with a 0.18/1 walk-to-strikeout ratio since 2010). They sure are some shrewd barters. In fairness, the Tribune’s Phil Rogers thinks the hitter, Abner Abreu, could potentially be a solid outfielder – he does have 12 homeruns this season. But his article states that Baseball America doesn’t rank him as one of the Indian’s top 30 prospects, so don’t paint me excited.
But don’t take the Cubs for suckers. In exchange for two no-name minor league guys, they also get to pay 83% of Kosuke’s contract. So there’s that.
**update** According to the Chicago Cubs press release, Abner Abreu is in his fifth professional season. So if he continues this blistering move to the majors, we will be fortunate enough to see him strikeout 30% of the time at Wrigley in about 2021. I’m waiting with bated breath.
Admittedly, my snarkish language on politics paints me as an ultra liberal ideologue. But the truth is I hate the hyper-partisan environment created by Washington to win elections and cable news to sell airtime. And the message they convey – that we’re the greatest country in the history of mankind but really, totally, completely screwed – is one of inherent incongruity.
What’s worse, politics has become less of what people believe, and more and more what’s wrong with what other people believe. It’s no longer necessary to present your own real ideas and solutions; rather you can win much more easily by just saying how terrible the opponents’ is. This is all to apparent in the “we love the Constitution, and you’re not us, so logic follows you hate the Constitution” talking points of the Tea Party. But the far right is nary the sole offender; indeed there is some truth to the GOP rhetoric in Congress that Obama and the Democrats, if they hate their budgets so much, should publicly release a counter budget. Of course, that doesn’t make any political sense. If most Americans hate, for example, that Ryan’s budget is going to shred Medicaid and that is a boon to your poll numbers, why release a budget proposal which undoubtedly is also going to contain some unpopular proposals?
I hesitate to say politics is the worst it’s ever been, or the most toxic, or the least functioning. The predominance of extraordinary hyperbole and complete loss of context is part of what’s created this environment. But it does seem to be that politics has mostly devolved into, “My position is . . . wait, what’s your position? I’m against that.”
Perhaps the most disheartening truth is that releasing a budget would not be bad for the right and the center . . . but bad for the base. By showing what they want to do, they’re in effect conceding to all the things they had to give up. And in today’s hyper-partisan political makeup, compromise is no longer a satisfactory option. A perfect example is this past year’s budget. A compromise was reached, money was saved, a shutdown was averted. Everybody should have been happy. Instead nobody was, because even though everybody got something they wanted, nobody got everything they wanted.
This isn’t unique to the budget; it permeates American politics. The starting points have moved from what we agree with to what we disagree with, whether it be the budget, or tax subsidies, or environmental issues, or abortion. Ideas opponents agree on are actually more toxic than those mostly favored by the minority extremes of both wings.
Maybe this year will be different. Maybe this year political ideology will play an important role in pragmatic compromise, instead of dictating the end result of any debate. Because if we can’t do something as basic as making sure we’re able to pay the bills we’ve already voted to pay, how long can we honestly continue to blindly accept the nationalistic mythology of historical exceptionalism?
Today Twitter (specifically, GOP Representative Judy Biggert), in all its social media goodness, alerted me to “You Cut”. You Cut, put in place by Eric Cantor, is admittedly a brilliant idea. By allowing average Americans to come up with and vote on ideas to cut the federal government, it’s the GOP’s ingenious plan to expand democracy by decreasing its largest propagator. As an added bonus, it combines two of American’s favorite pastimes: irreverent online polls and complaining about Washington. Who couldn’t love that?
You Cut is, evidently, over a year old, so I guess I’m a little late to the game. Though I’m not exactly its target demographic. Still, I signed up for Judy Biggert’s twitter feed for a reason, so I guess I should pay more attention.
Anyway, this, er, “round” there are three options on the table. They all mostly sound like partisan political fodder at first glance, but one of them – eliminating the Economic Development Administration – was recommended by Obama’s Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission, making it a bit hard to argue against; while the other – terminating the Weatherization Assistance Program – is presented as a way to eliminate fraud and misuse in the federal government, which I think everybody can agree is a goodly goal. Of course, one could argue it’s possible to eliminate the fraud and misuse without terminating an otherwise useful program, but I digress.
The third option was to “reduce the number of federal employees by 10 percent through attrition”. Not saying that this, um, “round” is fixed, but this option was not only listed first, it claims a savings of over 30 times the other two options combined. So the more cynical amongst us might ever so subtly suggest that this was the preferred, uh, “winner”. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, “the failed 2009 stimulus bill showed that government-funded employment is no substitute for real market-driven private sector job creation”. I guess that’s debatable, but what’s not debatable is that the private market has not been able to create jobs, whereas the federal government has provided much needed relief to the nation’s unemployed. How do I know this? Because Eric Cantor said so:
“Since the economic downturn began in December of 2007, the private sector workforce has shrunk by more than 6 percent. Over the same period, the federal government’s workforce (excluding Census and Postal workers) grew by nearly 12 percent, adding 230,000 new federal employees, to a total of more than 2 million workers.”
So how does that stump speech go?
“Remember how the economy sucks and people can’t get jobs? Private sector jobs decreased by six percent. Six percent!! About the only place where it’s been easier to get a job is the government, which has actually increased its work force, providing much needed employment to 230,000 workers. That just doesn’t seem right. After all, with the budget crisis being what it is, it’s simply more responsible to pay unemployment premiums than full salaries for the nation’s out-of-work.”
Of course, Eric Cantor would never actually say that. I mean, can you see the second in command of the House Republican majority using the word “sucks” in a speech? Oh, my whimsy has once again gotten the better of my sensibilities.
These are not lower-income, underpaid, scratching-to-survive jobs perpetuated by the “food stamp President,” either. These are solid, middle class jobs with good benefits. The kind that support the backbone of America. The kind that provide real spending power to boost the American private industry while also contributing meaningfully to US tax revenues. These are jobs people want and can’t find. I know there’s an argument that maybe these jobs are too middle class, though that evidently doesn’t apply to people who work for Eric Cantor. And certainly I don’t mean to imply that the federal government should overtake the private sector as the main engine for job growth; it shouldn’t even come close. But one has to wonder how, with all the employment problems we already have, the US economy could handle arbitrarily jettisoning one of the best job markets.
Now, in fairness to Eric Cantor, he says he wants to lower the employment by attrition, so it’s not like he’s proposing to lay a lot of people off. At least not directly; “reductions can be made . . . by hiring only one new federal employee for every three federal workers who retire or leave federal government”. The “leave federal government” part is open to interpretation.
And he does stake a pragmatic claim alongside the overtly partisan rhetoric: “Government spending to support federal jobs has a crowd-out effect on private employment.” Which is true. As any captain of industry will tell you, it’s just so hard finding good help these days, what with the federal government eating up so much of that 9% unemployment rate.
John Bolton had an interesting op-ed in the New York Times, today, decrying the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as the New START Treaty. For those of you who forget who John Bolton is, he’s the brilliant international strategist who said that the United Nations should be eliminated . . . right before becoming the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He also has the world’s coolest mustache. (No, seriously. That’s not a jab. I really, really love that moustache.)
So the article is titled “Why Rush to Cut Nukes?” And immediately I’m thinking this would be some fun dissertation on the security that nuclear warheads provide. For the record, I disagree with the sentiment, but also recognize the historical veracity of the claim and find the argument quite fascinating. However, his sole argument against nuclear disarmament, whose brevity cannot be overstated, is that Russia still has quite a bit more than the United States. He ignores that America’s nuclear weapons are stronger and far more numerous than we could reasonably use, but that’s not an especially damning omission.
No, that would be his arguments against the Senate’s “resolution of ratification” adopted by the Foreign Relations Committee. Evidently, “the Obama administration’s main strategy is likely to emphasize . . . that resolution, which supposedly addresses concerns about missile defense and modernization of the nuclear arsenal.
“The Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution contains various ‘conditions,’ ‘understandings’ and ‘declarations’ holding that New Start doesn’t ‘impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses’ or dilute Congress’s aspiration to defend the nation from missile attack. A second understanding exempts conventional weapons systems with a global reach. A third affirms Congress’s commitment to the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.”
The problem, according to John Bolton, is that this doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. The language is what the language is, and these are “mere policy statements that attempt to influence future treaty interpretation.”
Fair enough, except, in the next paragraph, he tells us that the President’s “understandings and interpretations of treaties typically have (and should) predominate.”
Got that? So we shouldn’t enact the treaty because the interpretations which Obama has endorsed don’t mean anything, and Obama is free to act upon the treaty in whatever way he chooses. Evidently, the interpretations he endorses are different from those he, you know, endorses. I believe in the world of international diplomacy they call that the “Pants on Fire Colloquy”. Of course, Bolton could be saying that, constitutionally, Obama can’t do what he wants when it means ensuring adequate national defense, but he’s given free reign over all the stuff he wants to do to weaken it. Glad to know.
As an interesting side-bar, the Senate and the President can’t interpret a treaty anyway they want (except when they can), but Bolton is evidently free to do so. He contends, “Its preamble accepts an unspecified ‘interrelationship’ between nuclear weapons and defensive systems. Politically, even if not in treaty language, the Russians get what they want: no significant United States efforts on missile defense.”
By the way, another reason to be fearful of New START’s long term effect on the country’s defense capabilities? “[A future] President can, after all, completely withdraw from a treaty on his own.” Not sure how that proves his case, but I guess if he’s willing to throw me a bone I might as well take it.
Oh, and evidently the Continental Congress of 1789 specifically warned us against nuclear non-proliferation.
To be fair, he thinks the treaty could be amended to make it palatable; but first it needs to eliminate restrictions on nuclear launching devices and Congress should approve the development of additional nuclear warheads.
However, in its current state, this piece of legislation is a travesty of international diplomacy (something which I think we can assume he is very, very familiar with), and “the Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense.” Which is fair. I don’t know about you, but if I heard one more political campaign rant about New START last October I was going to have a fit.
What a complete tool.