Keystone (cops) XL?

Keystone KL pipeline proposed route

The Keystone Pipeline: what a debacle. It has dominated the news for several weeks now, and has brought out a new round of partisan flame throwing, name-calling, and all kinds of other ugly things. Such has become the norm of American politics. I wonder what the next explosion will be about…

Anyway, I’ve been trying to figure this out from Keystone mess from the get go, and I haven’t had much luck.

On the surface we have a proposal to build an oil pipeline from oil sand basins in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Texas. OK, so far so good. But from what I’ve read, the crude oil coming from the Alberta oil sands is heavy in tar, sand and shale, and can therefore be very hard to transport and refine. Crude oil can be nasty stuff no matter how it’s packaged, but apparently this type of crude oil is particularly tricky, and there have been accidents involving pipelines moving this sludgy stuff before.

OK, but if the pipeline itself is built to precise specifications these problems can be avoided, yes? In theory, yes, but the track record for such constructions are mixed. Historically, pipelines never get the maintenance and servicing they should receive, and they frequently leak. Usually the leaks aren’t that big a deal, but sometimes they can be whoppers! You have to admit that constantly inspecting a 1600-mile length of pipe for inch-wide leaks or cracks is not easy, and mistakes are going to occur. But this time, the margin for error is, well, there isn’t one.

This is where the environmentalists came into the mix. A pipe that long will fail somewhere, sooner or later, and when it does, there would be an inland oil spill in the Midwest. That is to say, crude oil would be spilled all over some of the best farmland in the Northern Hemisphere. There is an old expression:

Don’t shit where you eat.

Granted, there are already oil pipelines snaking their way through the Midwestern breadbasket, so we’re already playing with toxic sludge. What’s the harm in another one? Again, this particular type of crude oil has some characteristics that make it inherently riskier than others. TransCanada keeps insisting that the safety measures for the proposed pipeline are more than adequate. But since this pipeline is largely their project, can we honestly expect them to say anything else? I mean seriously, of course they are going to say it’s all fine and good! Company policy requires them to say that even if it is patently untrue. A second opinion is warranted, and most federal and independent studies suggest that TransCanada’s projected failure rate (11%) is off by several orders of magnitude (versus up to 92%).

Another concern has been the proposed route of the pipeline. It would go through the Sandhills region of Nebraska, which is environmentally sensitive. A huge aquifer, one that irrigates several thousand squares miles of grassland in Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas, is heavily fed by rainfall to this area. If an oil pipeline in the Sandhills were to leak, and it’s safe to assume that eventually it would, all of that farmland, and the health of any human or animal living on it, would be in jeopardy.

I don’t consider myself a treehugger, but that little factoid kind of grabbed my attention. After considerable pressure, TransCanada proposed an alternate route through less sensitive areas. Smart move, but the new route poses a risk to parts of the Missouri River watershed. Any leak that occurs anywhere along the route is going to be a big environmental problem.

On a related note, this type of crude oil is reported to be harder to clean and refine. The process can produce as much as 17% more pollutants. Shale oil like this has been refined at other refineries worldwide, and even without the additional particulates, it is more expensive to refine. The increased energy needed to extract and refine the oil reduces the net yield of useable energy (gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel) at the end of the process. Less bang for the buck.

For comparison, one of the big problems with using hydrogen as a fuel is that the energy needed to extract hydrogen from the numerous compounds it is bound in,is almost as high as the final energy yield of the hydrogen itself. Usually it’s not worth the trouble! Tar oil can pose a similar problem.

So, let’s look at the score sheet so far:

  1. The oil going through this pipeline is among the most difficult to transport
  2. The pipeline poses a significant environmental risk along the entire route of the pipeline, and will produce more pollution during processing, and
  3. The resulting oil is ultimately not as cost-effective as other fossil fuels.

This isn’t shaping up very well. But let’s not call it yet.

We can all agree that the United States needs more sources of crude oil, so perhaps this is necessary, in spite of the risk. Proponents of the project say that it will create jobs within the United States, and will help reduce our dependency on oil from the Middle East. Most Americans seem to think that this Canadian oil will be fed directly into our domestic energy needs. If that were the case, then the pipeline would make some sense. But here’s a kicker. Much of this project is a sweetheart deal between TransCanada and a handful of oil firms (British Petroleum Canada and Valero for example) that would sell the oil to China and India! Very little, if any, of this Canadian oil would be used in the United States. We would continue to get most of our oil from the Middle East. I may be missing something here, but I don’t see how this pipeline will reduce American dependence on Middle Eastern oil, if none of the oil is staying in America!

As for the creation of jobs, the pipeline would create a large number of temporary jobs during the construction, some estimate as many as 5000. Fine and good, but once the pipeline is complete, those 5000 Americans would be under- or unemployed again, so this is little more than a temporary bandage. There is one estimate that the pipeline would only produce 35 permanent new jobs. That’s about the same number of jobs as a small department store.

So let’s look at the score board again. One the con side:

  1. Oil that is difficult and dangerous to transport and process
  2. Environmental risks throughout the process
  3. Not as cost-effective or efficient as other fossil fuels

And on the pro side:

  1. 5000 temporary and 35 permanent jobs.

…OK. But, let’s keep going. There are still some angles to consider.

Who, other than those 35 lucky Americans, is actually going to benefit from this thing?

TransCanada, and those companies tied to it, will make a fortune selling oil to a handful of American refineries. Those refineries will then, in turn, make a fortune selling oil to China and India, at prices that are competitive with oil from Saudi Arabia and other points in the Middle East. So the winner will be TransCanada, British Petroleum, Valero Oil, India, and China, and anyone who has strong investments in those companies or those areas.

I suspect that last group is the biggest pusher of this whole thing. It would include people like the Koch brothers, and other multi-millionaires, who are more loyal to themselves and the global economy than they are to any country or idea. Ned Beatty’s character in Network is a good example of this type, and they seem to be the ones calling all of the shots these days. God help us all.

Video: Ned Beatty – The World is a Business

Getting back on track, it looks like the real winners in this whole thing are a handful of oil companies (the largest of which are not based in the United States) and a bunch of investors. Sounds like another piece of pie for the infamous one percent.

OK, so we know who the winners are in this. Who appear to be the losers?

The Midwestern United States would bear the brunt of any ecological or environmental problem caused by this pipeline, or in the processing of this particularly filthy form of fossil fuel. And since the United States won’t be receiving much of the oil at the end of the day, we would be shouldering all of the burden, and the dangers, while enjoying almost none of the benefits. There is also the possible disruption to the already fragile agricultural industries in the area by slapping a dirty pipeline through the middle of prize farmland. That sounds inherently dangerous.

Saudi Arabia would also be a loser, because two of their primary customers for oil sales would be lost. Personally, I can’t get too upset about that one, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Creating an environmental catastrophe just to destabilize the economy of one nation? Nope, not worth it. But still, I know some people who consider that destabilization a top priority, and one that should be front and center on everyone’s mind. If Saudi Arabia suffers an economic hit, they say, their ability to finance the militant groups in the Middle East will be curtailed. That in turn will calm down the political mess over there. (Israel is particularly intrigued by that possibility.) That is a possible outcome, but I wouldn’t bank on it. The Saudi’s aren’t stupid. I think it’s more likely that Saudi Arabia would quickly find another buyer, or they would undersell the Canadian interlopers, before they cave. We may see a temporary upheaval, but things would quickly return to the status quo, or, we would see a new round of energy crunches. Saudi Arabia isn’t going to go down without some kind of fight, and economically, they have a strong arsenal. I do agree that reducing the demand for Middle Eastern oil will change the political climate over there, but the effect of this pipeline is likely to be minimal. In fact, I think the most effective way to calm down the Middle East would be for everyone to stop using oil. Hold that thought; I’ll be getting back to it.

So let’s look at the winners and losers, if this thing goes through:


  1. TransCanada, and it’s corporate partners
  2. British Petroleum, Valero Oil, and others who would refine and transport the Canadian oil
  3. Canada, for the influx to it’s economy
  4. China and India, for their lucrative new source of oil
  5. The Koch Brothers, and others who have investments in the various entities involved in the construction and operation of this pipeline


  1. The United States, for bearing all of the ecological and environmental risk of this thing, while gaining little or no long-term economic benefit
  2. Saudi Arabia, for losing two of their best customers

Since there are more winner and losers, some would say that this thing should happen. After all, it’s benefiting more people than it harms, correct? Some claim that the United States is being selfish by stopping what would be a boon to the world economy! To be honest, I think the global economy would be better served by something other than… this.

Let’s take one last step back and look at the even bigger picture.

The debate over global warming is ongoing, and there isn’t a consensus on it, so I won’t go too far into that. I do know that fossil fuels release particulates into the atmosphere that cause problems for crop production, create acid rain, and cause or exacerbate health problems for large numbers of people in many regions of the world. Global warming may indeed turn out to be a load of noise, but those other problems are not. This pipeline would make these problems worse.

It can be argued that in these times of economic hardship, deluded dreamers like me I don’t have the luxury of considering grand sweeping issues like the global environment and humanities place in it. We need income producing jobs and we need them now! Yes, that is true. But I firmly believe that we should be getting off the “Petroleum Standard.” The way I see it, we have technology available that could take us away from fossil fuels, or at the very least start pulling us away from it. If we would just spend the time developing it! That would generate jobs as well, if we play our cards right.

Bio-diesel is perhaps the best short-term option at the moment. Solar is another. The core technologies for these alternate forms of energy have been around for a while, but until recently there hasn’t been an interest in developing them. People would rather stick with what they know. Or, people with money in the old technologies are doing everything they can to discourage change. Change would only hurt their purses.

Now I’m going to call it.

Building this pipeline would be a collective step backwards, further into a dependence on fossil fuels. As a United States citizen, I have absolutely no reason to support it. As a member of the human race, I really really have no reason to support it. Apologies to Canada, China, and India, but we’re all riding on the same rock, and if we mess up one part of it, the rest will eventually follow. Then what? For the good of this world, we need to eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) our dependency on fossil fuels. Yes, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to be difficult, and a lot of rich people are going to lose their fortunes. Sorry guys, but you’ve got to take one for team humanity.

Or diversify your financial portfolios to include these emerging energy sources. It’s your call.

And finally, the Middle East would get very quiet if oil ceased to be such an important commodity. Taking away the money train would change the dynamic over there very quickly.

In short, fossil fuels are something we should be moving away from, all of us, and this pipeline will do nothing for that. Instead of looking into new sources of fossil fuels, why aren’t we looking into new forms of sustainable energy? We have the core technologies; we need only refine and perfect them. What’s the hold up? What are we waiting for? Don’t shit where you eat! As a species we’ve been doing that for almost 200 years, and sooner or later it has to stop. Why not today?

President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL bill on February 25, 2015. To that I say, good for him. If the Congress can’t override the veto by March 5th, then this project is likely to die. At the very least this will tie the project up in discussions for several more months.

The bulk of my information, and the image at the top, comes from the Wikipedia article on the Keystone Pipeline and the sources cited on it.

An Incident on Minnesota Avenue

May, 1999

The stage for this little drama.

Since the debacle in Ferguson, Missouri, racial tensions have returned to public prominence, and many stories have come to light. This is one such story.

It was May of 1999. I was driving on Minnesota Avenue, in the northeast quadrant of Washington, DC. My ultimate destination was a business on East Capitol Street SE: a local business that sold vintage and refurbished stereo equipment (among other things). Those of you who are familiar with the District know that Minnesota Avenue and East Capital Street (later Central Avenue) go through some high crime areas. When I started out, I wasn’t thinking about that. After all, I was going to be in a moving car for most of my trip, my goal was a well-lit and busy commercial area, and it was in the middle of the day.

Since it’s been well over ten years, I’m probably blurring some details. But this is how I remember the situation.

I was driving south on Minnesota Avenue, having just gotten off Kenilworth Avenue. The interchange between Minnesota Avenue and East Capitol Street is a type of clover-leaf, as these can both be very busy streets at different times of the week. I stopped at a traffic light, about a block short of the clover leaf. Minnesota Avenue turns into a two-lane boulevard near this point, like many major District streets do, and the resulting islands are common locations for Metrobus stops.

I was next to one of these bus platforms, waiting for the light to change, when from out of nowhere, there was a very loud tap on my car window. Startled, I looked to my left, to see what I can only describe as a very dangerous-looking young man glaring at me. I must point out that his appearance put me on the defensive. He was wearing a black leather jacket, a black knit cap, and sporting a goatee. He was also African-American. A group of three or four similar young men were a short distance away, and they were giving me similar glares. I opened my window just a crack and asked, as innocently as I could, “Can I help you?”

His response was alarming: “What are you doing here, honkie?”

I was suddenly very frightened.

“I’m simply passing through,” I answered carefully.

“Well, get the hell out!” he shouted. “You’re not wanted!”

This is where, I suspect, I messed up. I hadn’t been looking for trouble; I was looking for a local address, and still had a few blocks to go. The look on this man’s face, and those of his companions a few yards away, put me in what I can only describe as mortal terror.

“I’ll leave when the light changes,” I managed.

“Good!” he snapped.

The light turned green, and my tires made a screech worthy of a Hollywood car chase as I sped away. Instead of turning onto East Capitol and resuming my mission, I made my way to the nearest on-ramp for the local expressway, and started back home as quickly as the speed limit allowed.

By the time I got to my apartment my pulse had returned to normal. I had wanted to see the store in person. I was curious about what other products they might have had, and I could have found something else of interest. But I never made it there. Still, I called the store and inquired about the stereo component I was looking for. As it turns out they didn’t have it. I said “thanks anyway,” then informed the gentleman about what had happened just a few blocks from his place of business.

He was furious. He asked me if I could describe the kids in question, which I did as best I could. He then said he would speak with some other businesses in his block to see what could be done. I can’t imagine any business owner would be happy if a group of kids were scaring away potential customers.

I guess I did the understandable thing, but did I do the right thing? What could I have done instead? Should I have told the man at the bus stop that I was looking to patronize a local business, and didn’t want any trouble? Should I have shrugged, ignored his threat, and continued on my way?

People have told me that what I did could be considered self-defense, or self-preservation, and that no one can blame me for that. But at the same time, I can’t help but think that by allowing myself to be frightened away like that, and by paying more attention to “profiling” (remember how the men were dressed), I ended up aiding and abetting the problem of inter-racial tension, and help to perpetuate the existing cycle of violence.

I, perhaps unwittingly, became part of the problem.

What would you, gentle readers, have done in my place?

Some months later I mail-ordered something form the stereo vendor, so I did ultimately give them some business. But I never visited the store in person. In fact, I avoided that part of the District from that point on.

By 2005, that store had closed. I understand the owner retired.

Clowns to the left, jokers to the right

Earlier this month, the United States had something that passed for an election. Given that there was an average voter turnout of about %40 per district, I’m not sure how much of an election it really was. My initial response was “whiskey tango foxtrot?!?” But looking back, I should have seen this coming.

I’m not surprised that the Democrats lost their simple majority in Congress, because they have been acting like a bunch of moping sad-sacks lately. Instead of celebrating the achievements they have managed to pull off in the last few years, they were apologizing for them! Did they really think such talk would bring in swing voters? Did they consider that they would be alienating their core voters? And when did they decide that alienating the President – a sitting Democratic president who has some good victories to his credit – would be a good thing? Apparently someone spiked the DNC’s cool-aid! The Democrats screwed up big time, and arguably got what they deserved.

I’m also not surprised that the Republicans failed to get the overwhelming majority they were hoping for, because they’ve been sounding like a bunch of paranoid lunatics lately. They managed a simple majority, but not the crucial two-thirds majority. Seriously guys, did you think that ranting and raving about immigration or the Affordable Health Care act, or of constantly bringing up images of death, destruction, doom and gloom was going to give you a mandate? Apparently they did, and a lot of people fell for it, but not quite enough.

But, having a simple majority isn’t enough to instantly override a VETO, which may be a good thing, because it means those few good things that got through the system during the last few years will be hard to remove. But it also means we’re going to get another two years of gridlock, partisan bickering and unrestrained vitriol thrown at the President and who knows who else, and perhaps another furlough or two.

Personally, I lean Democrat, so naturally I was disappointed at the outcome. But I think what bothers me most of all is just how politically divided this country has become. Both sides of the political aisle have ideas on how to run the country, or how to solve it’s problems. For most of our history, the two sides would debate issues until a some type of consensus was reached, that met some of the objectives of each side. Constructive discourse generally got good results. But that seems to have ended!

Now there seems to be a growing belief that the only way to deal with the opposing side it to shut them out completely, and keep them shut out until they unconditionally cave. The objective has not become achieving a consensus, but at destroying the opposition. When did the political climate change to the point that destroying an opposing party became the primary objective of each political faction? Whatever happened to actually debating, finding common ground, and coming up with a compromise solution? In a country as large and diverse as the USA, no political party is ever going to get an unrestricted mandate. I personally can’t wrap my head around what is happening any more. Every attempt at a logical analysis leaves me scratching my head, so much so that it’s starting to bother my sinuses. But, I have become aware of two things.

First, the Republican Party leadership (and many other conservatives) are jerks. They are greedy, short sighted, jingoistic, anti-intellectual, and paranoid about anything new or different. Sorry guys, but the good ole’ days weren’t always so good, and some old ideas and practices need to fall into history. The country and the world have changed, but they still seem to be pining for the GOP heyday of the 1950’s, or even seeming utopia of the 1920’s! Anyone who has studied history knows that both of those periods ended badly, but they don’t seem concerned. And their general contempt for education makes me downright angry. They seem to have this notion that people don’t need to think, or that they should only learn what they really need, and be done with it. Sorry guys, but the ability to think and learn beyond our needs is one of the things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and to write that off as unnecessary is unforgivable. They also talk a good talk about traditional values and making lives better for everyone, but in practice they only thing they consistently do is send more money to the extreme upper class. But somehow they have managed to do the Pied Piper thing and got a lot of people following their agenda. I just don’t get it.

Second, the Democratic Party leadership (and many other liberals) are jerks. They have many unrealistic ideals, are self-righteous to a fault, and are exceedingly arrogant. They have this notion that if the general population would just listen to them for a few moments, and allow themselves to be educated (heh…), then they will ultimately see things the same way liberals do. Here too is the notion that their way is the only way. Do liberals really expect the general population to have some sort of epiphany where suddenly everything becomes clear and everyone realizes that the liberals were right about everything all along? Sorry guys, but some liberal ideas are not all that good. And, some people aren’t going to agree with you no matter how much you educate them. People don’t all think alike. After the reality check of the 1970’s, the liberals should remember that.

(There is some mia culpa in that last paragraph. I’m working on that personal flaw.)

So where does this leave us? In a lot of trouble, I suspect. I don’t expect the nation to implode within the next 24 months, so I’m not going to lose much sleep over it. I mean, it’s statistically possible that the nation’s infrastructure and social fabric will come apart, and that there will soon be rioting in the streets. (The Republicans seem to think that was imminent, but now that they have a simple majority, they would say we’ve dodged that bullet. Heh…) It’s also statistically possible that I’ll be struck by lightning on a clear day, or find a winning Powerball ticket in front of the local supermarket. If anything, one of those two events is more likely than the doomsday talk from either of the major parties. Elephant shit… donkey shit… it’s still shit and it still stinks.

A pox on both your houses!

In all honesty, I should probably keep a healthy distance from political topics, because I tend to get frustrated, loud, and irrational when discussing politics. But keeping quiet can be very difficult at times.

Anyway, both of the major parties seem to have shifted to their respective fringes, and historically that has never ended well. Each side seems to think that this time it will be different, which is exactly what they said last time. A one party system doesn’t work, so why both sides ultimately seem to want one is beyond me. Doesn’t anyone study history any more?


Recall the old historian’s adage:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

This quote has been around since the days of Herodotis, perhaps longer, and has variations that stress different facets of historiography. American historian and philosopher George Santayana is credited with bringing the notion into (or perhaps back into) the mainstream consciousness through his various writings. But again, the sentiment has been around since ancient times.

But even so, the modern leadership of the United States doesn’t seem to remember it. Or worse, they don’t care. Those on the political right are too anti-intellectual to study history in the first place. They are so certain that everything will go their way no matter what happens, that reading history is considered a waste of time. Meanwhile, those on the left are too iconoclastic to put any value on what happened in the past, because they are all about the future and don’t want to cloud their vision with images from the past. Especially when it involves dead, privileged white guys.

Clowns [Democrats] to the left of me,
Jokers [Republicans] to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle…


Regarding the title of this article, I’m paraphrasing the Stealer’s Wheel song Stuck in the Middle, written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. The line has also been associated with Thomas Nagel’s book The View from nowhere. There could be a connection between the two, though if there is, the song came first. Stuck in the Middle first charted in 1972, while Nagel’s book was published in 1989.

Also, if anyone can provide me with a citation for the political cartoon, I would appreciate it. I don’t recognize the signature of the artist, and the metadata for my copy of the image has gotten mangled. That’s a librarian’s nightmare.

My (open) letter to President Obama, 11/7/2012

tardis_by_homemadezombieIt’s flashback time!

This is something that appeared on my original blog, which I wrote the day after the elections of 2012. It has proven rather interesting reading after the 2014 elections.

November 7th, 2012
Mr. President,

Allow me to congratulate you on winning your second term!  Yes, I did vote for you this time as well.  However, unlike 2008, this time it was a very difficult decision for me, and I came very close to voting for one of your competitors.  Allow me to elaborate.

When you look at the popular vote, your margin of victory was very small.  A lot of your supporters should keep that in mind while they run about being sore winners.  You made a lot of promises in 2008 which you, shall we say, haven’t finished delivering yet.  That’s the phrasing I’ll use; your opponents will make other, far more colorful word choices.  You’ve been saying that you would need another term to complete the work you started, and apparently I and several million others were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  But we’re going to hold you to that, so you had better start delivering better results.  And I suggest you do it sooner than later, because your narrow victory suggests that things may be direr than you think. If you don’t deliver some results, then I suspect the mid-term elections in 2014 are going to more painful than anything you could possibly imagine.

To wit, the economy is recovering, I’ll grant that.  Considering the situation you inherited, that is no small achievement.  But, the economic recovery has been very slow.  For a lot of people it is proving to be too slow.  You need to get more aggressive in your economic recovery agenda.  If that means playing nice with the Republicans, or alienating your own party, then do it.  You no longer need the DNC.  You are no longer shackled by the political system, and you no longer owe anything to anyone.  So do what’s right for the country and not your career.

On foreign policy issues, perhaps you should decide exactly where you stand.  Or rather, you should make it very clear where you stand.  If you are indeed anti-colonial, or anti-Imperialist or anti-whatever, then please stop hedging or prevaricating and say so.  I suggest you use small words when you do.  Your reforms to the educational system haven’t taken hold yet, so a lot of people won’t understand you if you’re subtle.

I also don’t like some of the stances you’ve taken on moral issues.  I won’t elaborate on that because I tend to loose my cool when discussing such things and that won’t achieve anything.  Just suffice it to say that I’m displeased, and I’ve got my eye on you.

In 2008 you presented yourself as a moderate.  Personally, I was very pleased with that, because I consider myself to ultimately be a moderate.  (Yes, I lean liberal, but only slightly and only on certain issues.)  However, when one looks are your record, you are not a moderate.  I’m not sure what you are, but you’re not a moderate.  Please stop insulting those of us who are.  This more than anything else almost cost you my vote.

You may be wondering why, if I’m being so critical of you, that I didn’t vote for Romney.  That’s a little complicated, actually.  I’ve never been a keen supporter of the RNC, and I especially dislike the so called neo-cons that have been controlling it for the last 15 years.  But I did look at Romney’s platform and I did my best to make an informed decision, using logic instead of emotion.  From my perspective, the only thing Romney ever consistently said was that he wasn’t going to do the same things you did.  That’s fine and good, but he never really said what he would do.  Romney kept asserting who he isn’t while never really saying who he is.  You at least provided some information on that, by detailing some of your economic plans, though it was lacking in many ways.  Still, some information is better than none.  Everything I saw from Romney was either vague or so simplistic that it was of little use.  I didn’t vote for Romney because he struck me as a cipher, who was even less consistent and less transparent than you are.  You were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils.

In all seriousness, I almost voted for Jill Stein!  I didn’t because I live in a battleground district, within a battleground state.  I didn’t feel I could afford to spend my vote on a third party candidate.  This time.  Depending on what happens over the next 24 months, I may end up painting my voting card Green.

I’m sorry to have to end this letter with a veiled threat.  But it’s ultimately an empty one, since I’m only one voter out of millions.  But I suspect there are many, many more like me out there, and combined, we’re probably worth a few electoral votes.  Congratulations again on your second term.  I hope, for your sake and that of the United States of America, that it’s a successful one.
Richard J. Pugh
Registered Democrat (for the moment),
Culpeper, Virginia
As it turns out, I could have voted for Jill Stein and it wouldn’t have made much difference.  Romney won my district by a very comfortable margin, though he didn’t win my state.

Looking back after the 2014 elections:

I said that the 2014 midterm elections might be painful for the President, and apparently I was right!

I think it’s safe to say that the nation is in the throws of some sort of backlash. The Republican party has full control of Congress, which means the Koch brothers and their like are in control of the government. Is this a good thing? No. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around the collective willful ignorance this represents. Are we, as a nation, really that stupid? Perhaps not, but a lot of us are either gullible fools, or quick to bury our heads in the sand.

To be fair, President Obama has handled some thing badly. Benghazi, for example, was the biggest display of ineptitude in recent history. How much of that is Obama’s fault, and how much fault belongs to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will be a something that historians and political analysts will be squabbling over for some time to come.

I don’t know what to make of the recent elections. I suspect, however, that next October I will be out of work for a week or two. Another furlough, brought on by partisan bickering, is almost certainly going to occur. The Chinese have a saying: “May you live in interesting times.” It’s intended as a curse. An “interesting time” suggests chaos, disorder, and uncertainty.

It looks like it’s going to be an “interesting” two years.