Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fire in the sky

So flying into Raleigh, NC over the weekend, I witnessed a phenomenon that I've encountered many, many times in my air travels, but that always completely enthralls me - watching a thunderstorm at 30,000+ feet.
While you would think that watching a thunderstorm is, well, watching a thunderstorm, there is something about being parallel to or above the thunderstorm that makes it absolutely beautiful. The clouds keep lighting up the darkness in the distance, and you can watch the small bolts of lightening jumping around inside the clouds themselves.
There is something about watching this that is incredibly soothing to me, even though as passengers we're certainly at the mercy of the pilot, and especially of the storm, as to whether we will "weather the storm" (that's literal). But fear not, because airplane instruments and pilots are on the ball, and therefore the plane will typically fly around the storm if at all possible.
After years of taking cross-country flights, I can confidently say that I have little to no fear of flying, and therefore have been able to bask in the beauty that can be taken in from such a high altitude.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Facts have officially become obsolete

Politics. Man. There is so much going on right now, and pretty much all of it is frustrating. I guess most of it is revolving around this budget debate, but it's going in some pretty interesting directions.
First and foremost, we had a congress that was almost willing to let the government shut down over some stupid, petty differences. Not to say that there aren't some major budgetary issues that congress needs to work out, but the unfortunate reality is that the members were not debating substantive budgetary issues, but instead were falling back on the culture war debates that dominated the 90s. The problem with rehashing these staid arguments is that our country truly is embroiled in an economic crisis, with unemployment being a paramount unconfronted issue.
The fight between Republicans and Democrats in congress has largely surrounded the idea of budget cuts, with Democrats (half-heartedly supported by the president) hoping to continue to fund what they consider necessary social programs, and looking at the overall federal budget with a scalpel, cutting only those things that are unnecessary in these tight financial times. Republicans, heavily influenced by the small (but apparently boisterous) Tea Party faction, were hoping to keep their mid-term election campaign promises of slashing the budget almost $100 billion. Democrats relented, and were willing to give in to the tune of around $33 billion, doing almost whatever they could to pass a budget in the eleventh hour.
Republicans were also incredibly focused upon cutting funding for, what to any rational person, seems like necessary social institutions in a democratic society; Planned Parenthood (and other Title X funded organizations) and NPR (National Public Radio). Now, I can certainly understand why Republicans would feel obligated to give the appearance of support for cutting these programs, to almost shut down the government because of such tired social issues seems ludicrous. And the fact that members of congress are opening lying on the floor of congress, especially in regards to an issue that has major policy implications, is not only unfortunate, it is endemic of the cancerous political climate that permeates our political discourse.
Senator Jon Kyl, U.S. Senator from Arizona, stated on the Senate floor that abortions accounted for "well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does". This statement is not only incorrect, it is grossly incorrect, as abortions only account for roughly 3% of "what Planned Parenthood does". Now, it would be nice to think that Senator Kyl had just thought that the numbers were the other way around (how a policy-maker could be so incorrect is beyond me), but the fact that he was using these figures to try and convince other members of congress, and probably the public, that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, leads me to believe that he was deliberately lying. A member of congress lying on the Senate floor, especially when it has policy implications, should not only be frowned upon, but should be made illegal.
So one would think that since the government is trying to slash budgets, there would be no possible way that we could be cutting taxes. Certainly tax cuts are politically popular, but our country is truly in dire economic times, and playing politics with a floundering economy is no way to help create long time economic growth and expansion, or to create long term political dominance for either party. However, instead of facing an economic and political reality, Republicans continue to push the concept of tax cuts for the wealthy benefitting the economy, because they're the ones that invest in businesses and new enterprises that will help create new jobs. This idea has been proven dead wrong over the past 30 years, but is still being pushed hard by Republicans.
Overall, I think our country would manifestly benefit from an end to the political cock-fighting, and instead act as they were elected to act, which is to truly look out for what's in the best interest of this country and citizens in it.