NASA Study Says Rich People Will Destroy Human Civilization

In the wake of yesterday’s contemplation of my own poor money habits, I thought it fitting to share a story that confirms my poor impulse control in actually helping save human civilization as we know it. Woo, go me.

Apparently, a new NASA study has determined that modern civilization is doomed to collapse and that it’s due to happen in the next few decades. And the reason for this collapse? It’s not climate change or nuclear war; it’s due to rich people. More precisely: social stratification and unequal distribution of resources:

Motesharri investigated the factors that could lead to the fall of civilization, which included population growth and climate change, the New Zealand Herald reported. He found that when such issues interact, they can cause the breakdown of society through the “stretching of resources” and “the economic stratification of society into ‘Elites’ and ‘Masses’.”

Using different scenarios, Motesharri and his fellow researchers found that collapse is difficult to avoid under the current conditions. In these scenarios, they discovered that elite wealth monopolies are affected much later by environmental collapse than common people, which allows them to continue their “business as usual” way of living despite the catastrophe, according to the Guardian.

Human civilization is in its twilight and it’s mainly due to income disparity and the control of resources. The next time someone on Fox News opines that it’s wrong to punish success by taxing the rich, you can point out that if we don’t tax the rich to make them less rich, human civilization ends.

I don’t know about you, not being rich myself, but I’d feel really bad if I was the cause of the collapse of civilization.

Worry not, for there is hope! But if you have a lot of money or if you watch Fox News, you’re probably not going to like what that hope requires. That’s right, it’s time to pucker up and kiss communism right on its big, Marxist-Leninist-socialist-whatever-ist loving lips.

However, the researchers stated that society can avoid collapse with the right policies and structural changes, which can also lead to the creation of a more stable and advanced society, the Guardian reported. The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality to make sure resources are distributed fairly, and to reduce the consumption of resources by relying less on limited resources and bringing down population growth. With these changes, the “business as usual” model can end and civilization can be saved and evolve.

I don’t know about this. Sounds more like class warfare and typical liberal propaganda to me. Instead of unpleasant policy and structural changes (socialism!), we should “something something something job creators something something it’s what Jesus would have wanted.”

Okay, enough jokes. I actually do believe there’s a real story here, so I’ll turn off the sarcasm for a moment and speak directly. Is the end really “extremely fucking nigh?”

Maybe. On all matters of doomsaying, I remain cautiously optimistic. I generally think that people are good and we’re capable of saving ourselves from destruction. Predictions of doom are a dime a dozen, both from street prophets and well-meaning scientists alike.

On the other hand, civilization is a remarkably fragile thing. It is rather like a spider-web; beautiful and strong but still fragile and in need of constant repair. Civilizations before ours have fallen to war, to social collapse, to neglect, to the failure to adapt to new paradigms.

We’d be arrogant indeed to assume that just because we have the Internet and smartphones, we’re immune to the pendulum of history and the caprice of nature.

Wealth inequality is a real problem, not just in the United States but across the entire world.

Arizona SB 1062 Postmortem: President Obama’s Silence

Political bloggers and pundits have been talking for a few days about the fact that President Obama hasn’t publicly spoken out against Arizona SB 1062, even as others on the national political did. Both Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake spoke against the bill. Even Mitt Romney is on the record calling for a veto. But not Obama.

If you’ll allow me to be cynical for a while (and you really should, because it’s part of the title of this blog), I think this is reflective of an understanding of the heat Obama’s presence brings to any particular issue. Republicans might be fragmented and on the verge of splitting into two (or even three!) different parties, they might be realizing that hardline religious conservatism is a bad marriage for fiscal conservatism, but damn it, if there’s one thing that can bring those crazy kids back together, it’s how much they hate Obama and his progressive-fascist-socialist-liberal-anarchist-whatever-ist agenda.

If Obama made a comment on this issue, I think it’s a safe bet that Republicans would bunker down together and tell Washington “stay the eff out of our business” and promptly pass the bill into law. Would Jan Brewer, who was the last line of defense against this bill and is pretty famous for not really getting along with the President, have bunkered down with the rest of her party if the President had tried to tell her what to do?

Considering how the current Republican strategy is exactly that (do the opposite of everything the President wants to do), I think it’s likely.

It’s not like Obama needed to weigh in on SB 1062. His base isn’t going to start wondering, hey, does the President dislike gays? We know he’s our guy on this.

I think Democrats have realized the aggro effect Obama has on Republicans and hopefully this silence on 1062 indicates that they’ve realized how to weaponize it. Silence from the President denied the Republican party its one source of glue which allowed the fractures to widen; fractures which allowed Brewer to veto the bill without expending too much political capital within her own base.

Those fractures are turning into a canyon (Arizona metaphor alert!) and Brewer has one foot on either side on that canyon. Pretty soon she’ll need to jump to one side or the other, but that’s an issue for another day. Right now, what matters is that the President didn’t say anything and that kept the Republicans from building a bridge over their own chasm.

It’s fairly shrewd of Obama’s administration if that’s what they’re doing, even if it’s also depressing to consider how much it illustrates the level of dysfunction that’s going on if it’s better that the President didn’t get involved in this issue. Ah well. The bill is dead and that’s what matters.

For A Moment, I Was Worried

Thank God, you guys. Thank God. For a minute, I was worried that Kansas, of all places, was going to eclipse Arizona in vying for the coveted “most bigoted state in the Union” award. I mean, we’ve got a reputation, you know? We’ve got Sheriff Joe and tent cities and pink underwear. Remember SB 1070? That was us! We can’t let some glorified cornfield best us in trying to single out people that don’t fit a narrow definition of what constitutes a “proper person.”

(Straight and white and preferably male, if you were wondering what defines a “proper person” in these states, but we’re willing to slide on the third one… sometimes. Depends on a lot of mitigating factors.)

Fortunately, our state government is taking steps to make sure that Kansas doesn’t surge ahead in the discriminatory law race. We’ve got our own version of the “refuse service to gays for, like, religion and stuff” law in the works.

Thank God. I mean, can you imagine having to do business with somebody who you disagreed with? What if somebody came into YOUR business and asked you to engage in commerce even though they were clearly living their lives in a way that that was offensive to your sensibilities and maybe even morally bankrupt according to your deeply held beliefs? Can you imagine the horror? It’s unthinkable!

After all, it’s not like customer service is about dealing with people and helping them even when you don’t like them or agree with them on things and even though they bother you a lot and-

Oh wait.

Shit.

Guys. You guys. I forgot something really importantI feel so stupid. It’s this rule I learned somewhere about business and capitalism and how to make money and all that jazz. It’s like, Rule number one of business, or something.

As business owner/service provider/whatever, I want your money and I will do whatever I can to get your money as long as those ways are in accordance with the law because that’s how I stay in business.

Even more astoundingly, it turns out gay money spends just as well as straight money! In fact, interest rates and inflation rates and all the other rates are exactly the same! I HAD NO IDEA. I don’t even think banks or the IRS can tell the difference between gay money and straight money.

I think I might have to rethink my entire position on this issue.

About That “Abuse Of Executive Orders” Thing

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address live, so I’ve had to play catch up in the past few days. Fortunately, the Internet makes this a very easy proposition and I’m now fully informed on, among other things, the current status of the union.

My initial thoughts: sounds like we have a lot of work to do as a union. That’s okay with me, though. Work is good, because work is progress and if there’s a term I love more than liberal, it’s progressive.

Another thought: is it just me or did this speech remind anybody of the Obama who ran for president in 2008? The man is a damn fine orator when he focuses on it. This speech felt like a return to form for the president which I, as a member of the liberal loyalist base, found especially invigorating. I think the base needed that shot of adrenaline after the debacle that was the healthcare.gov rollout.

My favorite part, however, isn’t the speech itself, but the political reaction from the other side. I swear I’m not trying to intentionally poke them with a stick, but the Republicans make it so easy. There’s the three different official Republican responses to the state of the union; way to look like a unified and coherent party there, guys. Seriously, well done.

I’m glad we covered all the different flavors of the Republican party: there’s the Republican Party response delivered by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, then there’s the Republican Tea Party response delivered by Mike Lee, and of course, the Rand Paul Tea Party Republican Party response delivered by Rand Paul, because hey, why not.

But for my money, the best punchline comes from Obama’s abuse of executive authority. Dictator! Emperor! King! How dare the president abuse his authority in so improper a fashion! It’s the death of the Constitution! The end of checks and balances. President Obama is going to unleash so many executive orders that we might as well start melting down the gold and platinum to make the man a crown.

Clearly, that’s his aim here, right? He’s going to flood the republic with executive orders. Take a look at the number of executive orders Obama has issued so far during his presidency compared to previous presidents:

Source: Nymag.com

Wait, what?

Where’s Obama on this list? Oh, there he is: one up from the bottom.

I think it’s safe to say that if unleashing a tide of executive orders was going to be President Obama’s modus operandi, he would have already started to do so instead of waiting until the sixth year of his presidency. Just a thought.

As an aside, it’s also interesting to note how few executive orders George W. Bush issued. I would have assumed his number would have been higher. But that’s the great thing about dealing with facts and reality; if facts contradict your view on a particular topic, you change your view.

Mansplaining And The GOP

I’ve been trying to limit the amount of political commentary snark that I offer on this blog, but this one is just too amusing to pass up.  In attempting to prove why the GOP does not have a war on women thing going on, Mike Huckabee managed to prove that, no really, they do:

Thursday, at the annual meeting of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., once and possibly future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee became the latest Republican to step into the quicksand that women’s issues have become for the GOP. The one-time Arkansas governor and talk show host told a roomful of party officials that Democrats insult women by telling them “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”

Robin Abcarian points out all the reasons why Huckabee is confused about which party is the one saying that. Hint: it’s not the Democrats:

Here’s a remedial lesson for Gov. Huckabee: That is not what Democrats tell women; it’s what Republicans tell them.

Republicans call women “sluts” because women tell Congress they want access to insurance-covered contraception.

Republicans talk about “legitimate rape.”

Republicans say pregnancies as a result of rape are a “gift from God” and should be carried to term.

Republicans say: “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about is, I think, the dangers of contraceptives in this country. The whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Contraception’s OK.’ It is not OK.”

Democrats know that invoking women’s sex drives in conversations about healthcare mandates is demeaning, patronizing and wrong.

What Democrats tell women is that women have the right to comprehensive health coverage, which should include access to contraception — even if you work at Hobby Lobby.

What I would really like to know is how exactly Republicans like Huckabee can accuse their opponents of doing exactly what they themselves are doing and not perceive the inherent silliness of doing so.

After all, the opposite of “pro-life” isn’t “pro-abortion.” Do Republicans believe that if the Democrats had their way, abortions would be mandatory? That, at least, would be an example of Democrats believing that the government must tell women what to do with regards to their libidos and reproductive systems.

But since mandatory abortion is only something that exists in the minds of the most deranged Tea Partyers (Partiers?), we can safely ignore this silliness and remember which party actually supports the position that includes the word “choice.”

Cause, you know, giving people choices instead of taking choices away insults them. Somehow.

On Surveillance

A few months ago, I wrote the following:

If you are able to complain about the “lack of freedom of speech” in a public forum, you still have freedom of speech. You’ll know when free speech is gone, because nobody will be able to say anything about it. (Complaining about the erosion of free speech is still vital, however, as it safeguards against that erosion.)

The day I know we’ve slid into an actual authoritarian police state will be the day when I do not see numerous books on the shelf in a public library accusing the current President of destroying the countrybeing an idiot, or just being evil in general. We won’t have a news networks that are pathologically dedicated to mocking everything the government does. Those things don’t exist in a police state. You don’t get to be a talking head on a popular news network, you get to be shot in the head.

I’m trying very hard to remember the certainty I felt when I wrote those words. Because I don’t feel it now.

I’m not going to bother linking to any news stories. There are too many to choose from. The Daily Show segment was probably the most amusing, though.

I take back what I wrote. I thought about deleting the original post, because I know longer believe it to be true, but I think it’s important to oppose censorship, even and especially self-censorship. Let the old post stand as a reminder that I was wrong.

Pope Francis is Time’s Person of the Year, but in this blogger’s humble opinion, Edward Snowden should have been.

The Stuff I Didn’t Talk About

The black hole that was NaNoWriMo kept me away from blogging regularly, which means there were plenty of rant-worthy stories that went uncommented upon. The most noteworthy, of course, was the rather disastrous rollout of the new healthcare.gov. And it was, indeed, a disaster.

Most of the good zings have already been zung at this point, so there’s not really much more to say. I do have two thoughts on the matter, though:

Anybody that started playing World of WarCraft way back in late 2004/early 2005 will understand the nature of what went wrong. Setting up server architecture and infrastructure to handle the massive amount of traffic such an endeavor is going to get is not easy, no matter what talk show hosts and pundits might like to say. Blizzard Entertainment learned that the hard way, as have many other technology giants. It’s not something you can whip up on a WYSIWYG editor like I’m doing here on WordPress (and if you don’t know what that acronym stands for, don’t talk to me about how easy it is and how it can be done in 45 minutes).

It’s not just a matter of changing one line of code. The ways in which one small change can cascade into numerous failures is nothing short of amazing if you’ve never seen it firsthand. Fun fact: I did some bug testing for a piece of database software one summer during high school. It was absolutely incredible to see how doing something as simple as setting a line of text into italics could cause an entire column of data to collapse in on itself like a neutron star.

That being said, the previous example is a video game from a video game company. The product on offer is virtual dragons and the slaying thereof, which is not a service that is necessarily vital to one’s life (unless you’re an addict, I guess). When we’re talking about health care, it’s a wee bit more important to get it right on the first try. Am I saying that the government should be held to a higher standard on this issue? Yes, yes I am. Get it right on the first try. The stakes are too high to faff about for six months until the servers are fixed, which is about how long it took Blizzard if memory serves.

In conclusion, it’s not easy to launch a website of this magnitude and get it right on the first try. Anybody who says that it is easy is either arrogant or has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. They still should have gotten it right on the first try.

Ahab Syndrome

Last time, I called the government shutdown a poker game, one where the Republicans were trying to bluff out the Democrats despite only holding a pair of threes. Upon retrospect, I think it was actually worse than that.

I think this budget fight was more akin to a game of Russian Roulette in which every chamber was loaded and the Republicans were the first ones to pick up the gun even though they knew every chamber was loaded and their opponents knew it too.

“I’ll do it,” they said. “I’ll go first and I’ll play and you’ll look like a wimp because I’m taking charge and doing what’s right.”

“Okay,” the Democrats said. “Go right ahead.”

And what was gained, for all this effort and all this spent political capital? You exhausted your good will with all but the most ardent of your base, surely it was for a reason? Nope. Nothing happened. Nothing was accomplished, unless you count costing the economy an estimated $24 billion dollars an accomplishment. Certainly I have never managed to spend $24 billion dollars. So, achievement unlocked! I guess.

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that there is an element within the Republican Party that can be diagnosed with Ahab Syndrome. It’s not a real psychiatric disease as far as I know (monomania would be the medical term, but this is more pleasantly literary).

Obamacare is their white whale. It’s the one thing that must be stopped, must be crushed, must be killed. It is the ENEMY. Does it matter if your crew dies around you? Does it matter if your ship is crushed and sunk beneath the waves?

No. All that matters is the objective. All that matters is the end of Obamacare, even if the country burns in the process, even if it costs America its position as the world’s sole superpower.

The worst part? The very worst part? I’m worried that this isn’t going to change. I keep hoping that the Republican party will oust its far right wing element and unshackle itself from the religious right. I keep hoping for the resurgence of the Rockefeller Republican. Not that I would vote Republican even if that was the case, because I am too far to the left, but it’d be nice to work with those guys. I think we could come to compromises more easily and find some common ground.

I’m still hoping this fiasco will mobilize the moderate elements in the party (assuming there are any left) and say, okay, enough is enough, let’s get back to business. Being crazy is bad for business.

And then I read something like this and I worry that all my hopes are in vain:

For a certain block of House conservatives, the ones who drove Speaker John Boehner toward a government shutdown and near-default against his will, the lesson of the last few weeks isn’t that they overreached. Not that they made unachievable demands, put their leadership in an impossible position, damaged their party’s position with the public and left a deep uncertainty about whether the GOP conference can recover and legislate.

No, what they’re taking away from the 2013 crisis is: They didn’t go far enough.

They aren’t angry with Speaker John Boehner for ultimately capitulating to Democratic demands. They’re frustrated with their more mainstream colleagues who put him in that position.

Despite my rhetorical tendency to elaborate and exaggerate (like in the Russian Roulette example above), my general position is to assume that the person on the other side of an argument is not an idiot. Most people are rational. Most people are trying to do the best they can and want to do what they think is right. Very few people wake up in the morning and say, mwahaha, how best might I destabilize the country and run the government into the ground? The ones that do tend to explode or get gunned down by police, not elected to office.

It seems to me that a rational person would look at this situation and say, “wow, you know, we really alienated everybody here. Everybody thinks we’re crazy and extremist. We need to tone things down and win back the respect of the moderate elements.” Make no mistake, the self-reporting moderate element is the largest in the country.

I don’t know how anybody can look at this situation and say, “we didn’t lose because we went too far. We didn’t lose because we were too extreme on this issue. WE LOST BECAUSE WE WEREN’T EXTREME ENOUGH!!!!!1

I had hoped the message learned here is that dysfunction cannot be tolerated for the sake of disagreement. Disagree if you want, argue if you want, but above all else, keep the gears of the machine moving. Don’t jam a wrench into the cogs because you didn’t get your way.

In Which I Agree With Jeff Flake About Something

So the government shut down today. Fortunately for yours truly, I’m employed by a level of government that has so far managed to remain functional, so I get to keep coming into work every day. I am very relieved by this fact, although I admit that the idea of not having to work did sound pretty good this morning when my alarm started chiming away.

I wanted to point out something my state Senator, Jeff Flake, said in an article, if only because before today, I don’t think I’ve agreed with Jeff Flake about anything. From an article in the New York Times:

The Republican leadership in both houses of Congress have accused their Democratic counterparts and Mr. Obama of failing to entertain even the smallest changes to the health care law, which they have said is deeply flawed and harmful to businesses.

But among the rank and file, more and more Republicans are saying they believe they have no cards left to play.

“We’ve called their bluff, and they didn’t blink,” said Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. “At this point it would kind of strain logic to assume that going deeper into this when Republicans are likely to get the blame will benefit us more.”

Bold emphasis is mine.

Last week, I was discussing the then-hypothetical government shutdown and described the situation as a game of Poker (Texas Hold ‘Em, of course). The Republicans are trying to bluff with a pair of threes while the Democrats are sitting comfortably on a nice King-high straight. The only difference between my assessment and Flake’s is that Flake suggests the Democrats kept their nerve even when Republicans called their bluff. In my scenario, the Democrats weren’t even trying to bluff. They didn’t need to bluff. They knew who did not have the political capital to keep up in this high stakes game and they knew who would be paying out the nose for the resulting fallout. Hint: not them.

The frustrating and somewhat scary part is that the Republicans played their hand anyway even though rationally, they should have folded as soon as the cards were dealt. It speaks to the level of dysfunction within a particular group of that particular party, which is frankly terrifying.

The sooner Republican voters oust this fringe element that has turned their party into a gibbering mess, the better it will be for all of us. Right now, we’re not stuck with a deep schism between a conservative party and a liberal party. We’re watching the struggle between a slightly-right-of-center party and an insane party.

Contrary to popular conservative depictions of socialist liberals such as myself, the majority of us don’t look forward to the Republican party’s spectacular and implosive collapse. Indeed, we’re rational enough to realize that in such a scenario, the deposed would do all in their power to drag everyone down with them. Which, come to think of it, seems to be exactly what’s happening right now.

The Irony Singularity

You’re familiar with the singularity, right? Basically, a point of mass so compact and so massive that it creates a black hole from which not even light can escape. There are other uses for the word singularity, such as the potential technological singularity, but I think the gravitational singularity is perhaps the most well known.

I would like to propose the creation of a new type of singularity: the irony singularity. They are caused when a statement is so ironic that nothing else could ever achieve a greater level of irony; we might say that this statement is infinitely ironic.

Now, research on the existence of irony singularities is still very much in its early stages, seeing as how I only postulated their existence a few minutes ago. Nevertheless, I believe we have a viable candidate that may prove the existence of irony singularities. Further research needs to be done, but take a look at this:

 GOP strategists are trying very hard to remind potential voters in the 2016 presidential election that Hillary Clinton (who hasn’t even decided whether to run yet) will be old when she hypothetically assumes office. Like, really old.

The article goes on to note that Ronald Reagan was a year older when he assumed office than Hillary would be in 2016, John McCain was three years older (although this was something we did criticize him about, to be fair), and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was four years older when he ran. So, you know; just throwing that out there for your consideration.

So, let’s parse this out: the Republican party, which is the party of old white men,  is trying to point out that a candidate is too old. The Republican party, the conservative party, wants you to know that “voting for Hillary Clinton would be like going back in time,” even though the very definition of conservatism is the promotion of traditional ideas in opposition to progressivism.

If the irony were any more massive, it would already have its own gravitational field. Maybe it does. Further research is required.

I can’t think of a better example that shows how off-kilter conservatism is in this country when they feel it’s politically sound to paint their opponent (notably an opponent who hasn’t even announced an intention to run) as having the same problems and weakness that they themselves have. “Don’t vote for her,” they are saying, “she’s old, just like us and we all know you hate us. So . . . vote for us instead?”

Okay. It all makes perfect sense to me now.
Source: Elf Only Inn

 

Of all the strategies to use to try and turn voters away from a potential candidate, why go with this one? Did you think we wouldn’t notice the median age of your own candidates? Seriously?

The frustrating part is, if you’ll allow me to be serious for a moment, I think it’s really unfortunate that conservatism has run into a reef and is sinking quickly. A revitalized Republican party that catered to a larger demographic than Tea Partiers, old white men, and the religious right might actually have a few good ideas. As it stands right now, though, whatever good ideas their members do have are lost in a sea of noise and reactionary bullshit. I’d like it if that changed, but I don’t think it will. At least, I don’t think it will in time for 2016.