Flashing Right

John McCain lost the 2008 election for three basic reasons.  He ran an incompetent campaign, the global banking market crashed on the Republican’s watch, and no one knew who the heck Barack Obama was. These three facts conspired to drive many center and center-left independents toward the Democrat nominee.  Obama’s call for hope and change was exactly what many war weary folks wanted to hear, and he rolled over the McCain camp like an Abrams tank on cruise control.  Put bluntly, it was ugly.

During his campaign, Obama used a lofty rhetoric that inspired even his most devout adversaries at times.  People voted for him in droves because he was different, an unknown quantity, and everyone was pretty much burned out with who they knew.

This anonymity was arguably Barack Obama’s greatest asset.  Folks did not know what his politics would end up being, but they liked him.  Sure he seemed a bit left, but all candidates campaign for their their core constituents and then move to the center once elected.  How bad could this guy be after all?  With that, our nation made a calculated hard left turn. The destination was a mystery, but everyone hoped for a smoother ride.

The bad news for Barack is that the anonymity that he had enjoyed in 2008, is no longer his ally.  Left leaning voters that put him in office are now looking back at the change that was promised, and wondering what happened. Unemployment is still 9.1% officially, but in reality it is much higher.  In fact, many US cities are still well over 10%. African-American voters, who pulled the lever for Obama 96% of the time, have actually seen modest increases in unemployment numbers since his election and are also starting to ponder their decision. Pacifists have also been let down.  Three years after his election, Guantanamo Bay is still open for business and the US is still involved in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As wide as the chasms are getting between factions on the left, they are even wider between Obama’s camp and the right.  Unlike the 2008 election where Obama was able to steal McCain’s platform and make it his own; in 2012 he has set himself apart as a hard core liberal in bed with environmentalists, big labor, and big government ideologues.

Three years after Obama’s election, we can look at Republican presidential hopefuls like (this blog’s favorite) Herman Cain, and see clear cut differences in vision and direction for our nation. We see a new focus on individual responsibility and liberty vice government nanny-ism. Republicans are offering new and innovative “free market” friendly solutions like Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan for Prosperity, and the polls show folks are taking notice.

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be a potential landslide for conservative values.  Contrary to the opinion of many currently camping out on Wall Street, this is not because “greedy corporations” are controlling our minds with chemicals in our Big Mac patties, but rather because Americans are no longer buying all the big government Utopian BS.  Like 2008, our nation is at a fork in the road.  Utopia at the left and the real world to the right.  Americans are tired of the left’s empty promises and class warfare laden hyperbole, and just want to go to work and pay their mortgages…like in the old days. They are tired of not being able to do so, while at the same time being asked to pay the freight of others. Make no mistake about it dear friends (and others) the fork is approaching fast and, to the chagrin of the current administration, the nation’s blinker is flashing right.

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How Green is Your Job?

Over the past year, we have heard a lot from the current administration on the development of “green jobs.”  In a recent article on the Planet Green website, Brian Merchant points out that President Obama has set aside approximately 2.3 billion dollars for the development of these jobs.  Despite this sizable investment however, there is still quite a bit of discussion taking place on what a “green job” actually is.  Even Newsweek Magazine, appears to be confused about the definition when they write:

“In large part, the very idea behind a green job ensures there will never be a full definition, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics agreed in April to start measuring data on them. (Critics, in response, quickly suspected that the BLS, an agency supposed to measure objective data, could soon help carry water for an administration eager to show the stimulus is working.) Several environmental advocates polled by NEWSWEEK defined green jobs the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously defined obscenity: I’ll know it when I see it.”

The popular definition promoted by the current administration has always been jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. This would include solar cell and wind turbine manufacturers as well as a number of energy efficiency companies such as window and insulation manufacturers.   This conventional definition however, seems to leave out many “other” green jobs,  such as the nuclear power and clean coal industries.  By all accounts it seems that, despite the billions Obama is investing in them,  there is still no widely accepted definition for green jobs.  In fact, Head Muscle contends that a job’s greenness is not a binary attribute, and that there are already many jobs out there operating at varying shades of green.  All considered, to one extent or another, many of us may already be unsung green heroes!

For example, let’s accept for the sake of argument that  a solar cell manufacturer is green by Obama’s definition, and that the renewable energy company that uses the cells is green as well.  What then about the trucking company that transports the new solar cells across the country from the manufacturer to the customer?  Certainly the diesel truck pollutes, but without it the cells would never be distributed and utilized.  So, one could logically say that the trucking company, though polluting, is somewhat green in nature…maybe something in the “olive” category.

Through this example, it is easy to see that the definition of a green job has become somewhat restricted and that a more holistic, progressive-minded, assessment is in order. So, in an effort to help frame this new industry a bit more analytically, Head Muscle has come up with an Obama-friendly questionnaire designed to help readers determine whether or not their job is green:

Instructions for Questionnaire:

1. Read each question thoroughly and answer True or False to the best of your ability.

2. For every question that you answer as “True” add or deduct the number of points specified at the end of the question.

3. Your starting score will be -100 due to the fact that breathing introduces CO2 into the workplace.

4. Have fun!

Green Job Questionnaire (Starting Score -100)

1. I work for “big oil.”  (-1000)

2. I work at a conventional power plant. (-500)

3. I work at a gas station or any facility which distributes petroleum products. (-300)

4. Sandwiches from the vending machine at work give me gas. (-100)

5. I am a polluter but belong to a union. (+200)

6. My company donated to Obama’s presidential campaign. (+300)

7. One or more of the following are true about my place of work:

a. They built their office building out of old car tires, glass bottles, and dried cow poop. (+300)

b. They buy their windows from Serious Materials. (+300)

c. Al Gore is on the board of  directors. (+500)

d. They make a nice profit. (-500)

8.  My company transports its products to other locations for resale. (-500)

9. My company produces nothing tangible [ie. Government Agency] so no transportation is required. (+500)

10. My company subcontracts to other “polluting” countries in order to lower costs to consumers. (-500)

11. My company makes overpriced “eco-friendly” consumer products which do not work. (+500)

12. My company builds buildings and highways that support our nation’s infrastructure. (-500)

13. My company operates a land trust designed to prevent progress. (+500)

14. My company uses GM Hybrid vehicles to reduce pollutants (+500)

15.  My company uses Ford Hybrid vehicles to reduce pollutants (-500)

16. My company’s CEO drives an SUV (-300)

17. My company is a Nuclear Power Plant (-1000)

18. My company takes subsidies to grow corn for ethanol and other useless unsustainable bio-fuels (+500)

19. My company built Yucca Mountain (-1000)

20. My company is Fannie Mae and/or Freddie Mac (+500)

Scoring:

1. If you scored 1000 or higher your job is emerald green and you are serving both the godess Gaia and Al Gore well. Congratulations!

2. If you scored between 0 and 1000, your job is “greenish” but you need to take the next step and sell your Ford Hybrid for a better quality GM.

3. If you scored between -1000 and 0, your job is still part of the problem and you need to consider either taking a government position, or unionizing.

4. If you scored below -1000 you are  a greedy, earth-killing, profit-oriented, conservative Neanderthal .  Your job is as brown as it gets, and you should really consider having a fatal accident with your lawnmower.  Your only hope is that, on the day of great judgement, Al Gore will have mercy on your wretched soul.

Even though we have gone to great effort to ensure that the above questionnaire incorporates current progressive values to the fullest extent possible, we admit that green jobs are still somewhat subjective.  It is our hope that, by using the above questionnaire, readers will better understand where they are on the spectrum of green jobs, and use it as a guidepost for ensuring that they are living their lives in accordance with the current administration’s vision for our country.  It is our hope that, over time, most people will move from olives to teals and into deep forest green jobs.  If not for yourselves, do it for Al and Gaia.

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Hybrid Nation

After a five hour bumpy flight I landed at Dulles International Airport just west of Washington DC.  The wheels of my United flight hit ground about 11:45pm and by the time I rode the 1960’s vintage shuttle bus  to the terminal, got my bags, and arrived at my Hertz rental car it was well after midnight.  To put it mildly I was tired, grumpy, and feeling more or less asocial.  So, I loaded my bags into what appeared to be a perfectly nice Nissan Altima, wedged myself into the driver’s compartment, inserted the key, pushed the start button, and waited for something to happen.  The car’s dashboard lights flicked off and on a couple of times apparently attempting to communicate something to me in Morse Code.  So I tried again.  I ejected the key, reinserted it, and pressed the start button again – only a bit more decisively this time. Once again, as if on cue, the car’s dash lights flickered at me for a moment and came to rest in the lit position.  “OK, what in the heck am I doing wrong here,” I thought to myself.  “I am tired, and must just be missing some basic step.” So I checked the door to make sure it was shut, made sure the parking brake was disengaged, and double checked that the car was in park.  I went through my mental checklist with the precision of an airline pilot and everything looked right.  So I drew in a deep breath and pressed the start button a third time.  The car answered me with the same, now profane, dashboard blinks and then went silent.  “That’s it!” I yelled at the steering wheel. “I am a Hertz Five Star Gold member for crying out loud! You think they could give me a car that would start!”  I threw open the driver’s door just hard enough that it bounced back and smacked me in the head as I was leaning to get out. This succeeded in sending my frustration into apoplectic frenzy.  I popped the trunk, grabbed my bags, and drug all of my worldly possessions to the Hertz customer service counter.  I must have looked the way I felt because, when I stormed into the office,  the young counter clerk stared at me as if he had just seen Arnold Schwarzenegger with his titanium skull exposed holding a 40 watt plasma rifle.

“Can I help you sir?” he asked timidly.  “Yes you can,” I exclaimed making no effort whatsoever to hide my seething frustration.  “I just got off a 5 hour flight and want nothing more than to get to my hotel and go to sleep, but the crappy car you guys have rented me seems content with staying right where it is!” I blurted out.  The clerk looked at me somewhat bewildered and asked, “you mean it won’t start?”  I shook my head east to west not wanting to have to explain the entire ordeal. “Well I am very sorry for your trouble sir,” he politely continued. “Let me walk out to the car with you and, if we cannot get it started, I will get you a different car.  I grumbled something that I did not even fully understand and followed the young kid back out to my car.   He took my keys, hopped into the driver’s seat pushed the start button and watched as the dash lights flicked on and off.  “There you go sir,” he said with a confident smile, “she seems to be OK now.”   I was perplexed. “What do you mean she’s OK , the engine didn’t start,” I pointed out – just in case he had not noticed.  He gave me an embarrassed look and after a polite smile said,”sir this is a hybrid.”  I paused to let his words sink into my now completely atrophied mind.  “A what?” I pressed. “A hybrid sir, it is part of the new  Hertz ‘Green Line’ of rentals,” he proudly explained.  “Hertz is doing its part to combat climate change,” he gushed failing to contain his enthusiasm, “they are pretty cool cars.”

As I stood there growing my new donkey ears, I felt desperate.  I had to lash out in some final attempt save any vestige of my dignity.  “I ordered a car, not a golf cart,” I jabbed.  “Sir this is a great car,” he reiterated now showing a bit of frustration himself. “It is also the only mid-size I have left on the lot. If you want to switch cars you will either have to pay to upgrade or take an economy car.”  He had me and I knew it.  Score at the end of round two: 20 year old rental clerk 2 – 47 year old crabby renter 0.  “Never mind,” I conceded,  “I will just take it.”  The clerk smiled, tossed me the key, did a something of a victory lap around my newly adopted golf cart, and disappeared back into his office.  I was alone once again, just me and the car.  I cannot say for sure, but I think it was smiling.

If, like me, you are a child of the internal combustion age and have never driven a hybrid, the experience will trouble you from the start.  My personal vehicle is a Ford F-250 long bed crew cab pick up truck with a 5.0 liter turbo charged diesel engine.  When it starts, live squirrels get sucked into the air intake. I sit 3.5 feet off the ground in a fire breathing Detroit-made dragon and can feel gravity warp as I press the gas pedal.   It is a 350hp testosterone pump and I love it.  God help me – I love it so.   The hybrid experience on the other hand, is something completely different. When you push the start button you are greeted with nothing but a blinking dashboard and soft contemporary jazz on the radio. You know, the kind of jazz that makes you want to go out and buy a fern.  Your expectations of any type of mechanical affirmation are dashed and you are left feeling…well…green!

As the week progressed, I discovered many other hybridisms.  For instance, when you turn it on you have no way of really knowing it is on until you depress the gas pedal (if you can call it that).  The car rolls forward silently on battery and you feel as if you are having an out-of-auto experience.  How can a car move with no engine noise or rumble?  It is just plain wrong. Then as soon as you get comfortable with the silence, poof, an engine appears from nowhere and starts humming  in accordance with some complex software algorithm.  It gives you a few reassuring minutes of sound, and then without warning turns itself back off.  For those of us who grew up driving cars like the AMC Javelin, when the engine stops by itself,  it is time to pull over and flip the hood up. It truly makes one’s heart jump until you remember that you are  driving something that is half car and  half cart.   Another awkward hybrid moment occurs when you stop at a traffic signal on a busy 6 lane city interchange and the engine turns off.  Crazy thoughts race through your head.   Did it turn off on purpose, or did it break down?  When I press the gas pedal will it roll forward or will the hood fly open and one of those springy snakes leap out?  Then, just to add insult to injury, as you are sitting at the intersection fully immersed in your existential crisis, some dude in a Ford F-250 diesel pulls up next to you and guns it.  “What a jerk ,” you think for a moment as you look at your reflection in his shiny chrome hubcap.  Then you realize that the face looking back at you is no longer yours but that of  Stuart Smalley mouthing the words, “I am important” and “green is good.”  For those of us who like a little metal under the hood, it is a holistically horrible experience.  The only fun hybrid moment I had was when I realized that, in battery mode,  I could sneak up behind people walking in parking lots and follow about 12 inches behind them without giving myself away…until I blew the horn.  I have a court date scheduled for February.

Long story short, I kept my little hybrid for a week and, despite the overwhelming urge to buy a cat and go to an Indigo Girls concert, I got through it relatively unscathed.  The fact is, my little car got me from A to B just fine, and really did consume fuel from an eyedropper.  Still, it was a troubling experience for reasons more philosophical than practical.  In the days since my hybrid excursion, I have thought a lot about this little car and what it represents.  To understand my thoughts better I went to the dictionary. The first definition of “hybrid” on Dictionary.com is, “…the offspring of two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, species, or genera, esp. as produced through human manipulation for specific genetic characteristics.”  This definition seems a bit inapplicable and gives me a disturbing visual of the Nissan production process. The fourth definition however, is much more germane:

…anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of elements of different or incongruous kinds: a hybrid of the academic and business worlds.”

Basically, the way I read it, a hybrid is what you get when you cross something natural with something – else.  It makes a good car for a golf cart, and a pretty good golf cart for a car. It is, as the definition says,  incongruous. My F-250 may drink more gas going down my driveway than 12 Smart Cars in two months, but it is as natural to the American lifestyle as Bay Watch reruns on TV Land.  America is a wide-open land where freedom and self-determination rule, and one can drive their land yacht from one endless horizon to another and know that they will fit in and be accepted (except for maybe in Marin County California).  Waste and noise aside, my truck is a piece of Americana at its finest, something that sets us apart from self-righteous Vespa driving Europeans.   Yet like so many other pieces of Americana, the Detroit-made internal combustion engine is going the way of the western.  In fact it seems that we are loosing our cultural identity more quickly than ever.  Just look at the list –  freedom of speech (fairness doctrine), freedom of choice (public health care),  french fries (trans-fat warnings). It is all being changed right before our eyes. Your kid cannot even ride his bicycle on the sidewalk in some states without 10 pounds of protective gear.

Obama has also made it clear through his policy and speeches abroad that he intends to make us less American and more European.  We can no longer take pride in being loud mouthed, over opinionated, big car driving, jean wearing, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead Americans.  For some reason unknown to me, the popular sentiment is that we now have to be something else….something incongruous.  We are becoming a “hybrid nation.”  In hindsight,  my hybrid experience was not troubling because of the car, but rather because it was an omen of things to come, or should I say things to go.  “But aren’t you being a bit Glenn Beck-ish?” you ask.   “It is just a little car.”  Maybe so, but history shows us time and again, change can come in ways you least expect it…

“The Sioux warrior sat astride his Appaloosa stallion on the windswept hill, proud and confident.  Off in the distance he saw a curious thing.  It looked like a wooden box on wheels with a giant white hat.  It was  far away, but he could hear it as it rumbled over rocks and rivulets.  Was it alive?  He did not think so, because it appeared to be drawn by many long-eared horses.  He had never seen anything like it in his life, but was not too concerned. How could such a small awkward looking thing ever threaten the great Sioux Nation…” Anonymous

By the way, next time I am specifying a Lincoln Town Car.

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