Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reason #13: Pale Blue Dots

I give you Earth and the moon from 6 million miles away, courtesy the Juno spacecraft. Juno launched for Jupiter about a month ago, and to give you an idea of how far away Jupiter is - it's travelled 6 million miles already, and it won't get there until July 2016.

Juno cost about $1 billion - otherwise known as one week in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reason #12: Paying it Forward

The superintendent of schools in Fresno County, CA has decided to chop more than $250 thousand out of his own salary for each of the next three years, rather than doom his district to drastic budget cuts (including the elimination of kindergarten, preschool, and the arts, natch), because he had no desire to "keep stockpiling money".

I know what you're thinking, folks, and I'm right there with you - how much does a fucking superintendent make normally??

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reason #11.5 - Huge Stone Chicks

Don't worry, ladies - I didn't forget about you.*

* it was embarrassingly difficult to find a halfway-decent statue of a famous American woman. The one pictured is Eleanor Roosevelt; it's all of eight feet tall and can be found in Riverside Park in NYC. Mount Rushmore, it ain't.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Reason #11: Huge Stone Dudes

I could talk about the significance of the new MLK Memorial being the first monument erected on the National Mall to feature a black man, but honestly, I mostly just love the fact that we're still making statues of people at all. And he's not just the first black subject on the Mall, he's the only subject who actually existed within current living memory. That rules.

As much as I'd love seeing any given Federal dollar go towards a road or a bridge, monuments are the one bit of ostentation that I think is still worth the time and money - things like this show that we're still about bigger-than-life ideas, and bigger-than-life people, as a nation. Looking at politics these days, it's hard to imagine anyone one day becoming so beyond reproach as an historical figure as to be worthy of a monument, but I suppose a lot of people would've felt that way about MLK at one point.

What's interesting is that federal planning for the monument dates back to at least the mid-90s, and James Earl Ray died in '98. So not only did they build a monument to a guy some people still remember personally, but they'd even started developing it while the guy convicted of killing him was still alive. I wonder if he knew about it.

And even if stuff like this is a waste of money, and contributing to our decline, the nice thing about monuments is that they'll probably outlast us anyway - so future nations can get a better sense of what we stood for, and build an even better society out of our ashes. If the ship really is going down, there are far worse things to leave behind than Dr. King.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reason #10: Self-Identifying Gay Couples

In the last decade, the percentage of Census respondents who chose to identify themselves as living with a same-sex partner (not to be confused with the actual percentage of same-sex partners) increased over 50%. It still seems pretty low - only 7.7 on average for every 1000 households - but we're getting there. And from the way things just went in New York, we're mostly getting there legislatively; which means that as much as Congress may be a big heap of shit right now, State Senates and Legislatures are actually doing some nice things.*

Amusingly, for some reason unclear to me, DC's same-sex household rate seems to be leading the pack by a good margin - and increasing more rapidly, as well. Wouldn't it be delightfully ironic if the nation's capital became its new gay Mecca?

* get your shit together, Wisconsin.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reason #9: Activist Judges

A "Papers Please" law in Arizona, I understand - disagree with, but understand. An even stronger "Papers Please" law in Alabama is just dumb. Luckily, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn thinks I'm probably right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Reason #8: Evacuations

Because sometimes, even the most Tea-Party-lovin', live-free-or-dyin', get-your-government-hands-off-my-Medicare-shoutin' stalwart libertarian needs someone to tell them where to go.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reason #7: Free Contraception!

I recently read a great book called The Coming Population Crash that talks at length about how revolutionary the birth control pill was for stemming the tide of horrific overpopulation and in reshaping families and women's rights - in the West in particular. The news that "Obamacare" will soon make the pill available to all women free of charge may very well prove to be the best thing to come out of that stupid bill.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reason #6: Fire

Remember that story last year about the fire fighters that stood by and watched someone's house burn down? The local fire department's jurisdiction only covered the city (South Fulton, Tennessee) proper, and residents in the surrounding area had to pay a $75 "fire subscription" fee in order to receive the department's services. In fact, fire fighters only even showed up at the burning house because the flames started approaching the house of a neighbor who had paid the fee.

The instinct here is to assume that some local politician or city council or whatever just decided to be extra greedy, or there was some controversy regarding the surrounding region's legal status with regard to the city proper. But no, the policy was in place simply because the fire department didn't have the budget to cover anything beyond the city unless people specifically paid into it.

So these people lost their house because the residents of South Fulton wouldn't have gotten on board with whatever tax increase it would've taken to allow fire coverage of their entire community. Because my tax money putting out someone else's fire - that's socialism, right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reason #5: Sometimes Force Works

Have Obama's actions regarding Libya been clearly and unequivocally constitutional? Probably not. Has it been pretty? No. Was it vital to specific American interests? No.

Did we lose any soldiers? No. Did it give young Muslims less reason to hate us? Yes.

Did we definitively accomplish our goal - unlike Iraq, unlike Afghanistan - when all was said and done?

Looks like.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reason #4: Rabies

Do you want to air-drop thousands of rabies vaccinations into the woods of western Pennsylvania? Because I damn sure don't.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reason #3: The Blue Angels

C'mon - that shit is nuts. Any government that wants to pay people to fly jets as close together as humanly possible, for naught but the amusement of nine-year-olds and the elderly, is a government I'm happy to buy into. And it's not like their Blue Angel powers would be applicable to getting normal day jobs if we suddenly pulled their funding.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reason #2: Flags

I mean, look at how pretty those things are all lined up like that - those babies ain't paying for themselves. And do you have any idea how many fucking countries there are at this point? It's madness out there. I'm looking at you, South Sudan.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reason #1: Roads

This is what large segments of my morning commute look like - all along Penn Avenue, one of the most prominent and heavily-trafficked streets in Pittsburgh. Every once in a while, they'll run through and spackle up the bigger cracks with whatever the hell this shit is, but not only does this not really leave the road itself in any better shape, and not only does it fall apart in a couple months (or faster if it rains a lot), but even at its best, it just turns a downward bump into an upward bump. Oh, and did I mention I ride a bike to work? So if a car happens to be passing me at certain moments, I can either plow straight through the worst of it, stop and wait, or risk getting clipped by a rear-view mirror.

But hey, no one likes potholes. The point is that, if my hours of SimCity-based research are any indication, roads aren't all that expensive compared to the usual big public works projects you hear about. The only trick is volume, because some cities have a metric shit-ton of roads, many of which were built sometime between Caesar and Ponce de León (completely true side note - Pittsburgh actually contains the only remaining functional wood-paved street in America).

I'm not an economist (or a, um...road...paving...person), but if I could pay an extra, say, three dollars out of every paycheck and have that money go into serious ongoing repaving projects across the city - even in the areas I never visit - I would be cool with that. Maybe it would take more? I really don't have access to that kind of information - please correct me if necessary. But I have trouble envisioning a scenario where I would be against such a thing.

Oh...and I suppose the extra jobs wouldn't hurt, either.