Why Gaza Now?

November 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Enemies of Freedom | Leave a comment
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Map of Gaza Strip, Stand December 2008 (SVG version of File:Gaza Strip map.png by Lencer, adapted by Gringer)

Map of Gaza Strip, Stand December 2008 (SVG version of File:Gaza Strip map.png by Lencer, adapted by Gringer)

Why Gaza Now?

The timing is suspicious.

Israel had done nothing new to provoke Hamas.

Yet suddenly Hamas started firing rockets into Israel.  Hamas seems to be asking for a violent defensive reaction by Israel.

Why Gaza now?

Here is a guess: the primary instigators reside well north of Gaza.

Very large demonstration in Homs, Syria against Al Assad regime in the Syrian Uprising, 18 April 2011, photgraphed by Bo Yaser.

Very large demonstration in Homs, Syria against Al Assad regime in the Syrian Uprising, 18 April 2011, photgraphed by Bo Yaser.

The civil war in Syria has stressed Hezbollah and Iran, as well as Syria.  Hezbollah has developed a split between those within it who side with Assad and those within it who side with the rebellion.  Also, because Hezbollah had previously wholeheartedly sided with Assad, it has lost the support of large parts of the public in Lebanon, as well as elsewhere in the Arab world.  For the same reason, Iran has lost a lot of outside sympathy.

So the guess is that Hezbollah and Iran told Hamas to heat things up.

The goal was to divert attention away from Syria, Iran, and Lebanon, by drawing the world’s gaze towards Gaza and Israel.

The goal was also to reunite Hezbollah, by re-focusing on its traditional enemy.  The hope was also to thereby win back for Hezbollah some of the support of  the Lebanese public.

Evidence for this guess is contained in a headline to an article by Annne Gearan on page A9 in the November 20, 2012 print edition of the Washington Post: “Israel-Hamas fighting put U.S. at odds with Turkey, Egypt”.  (That was the headline in the print edition.  The headline in the online edition always differs from that in the print edition.)

Russia and China, too, must be delighted by the sucess of this new ploy.

Willard Whines Again, but this time America is Safely Out of Range

November 15, 2012 at 9:49 am | Posted in Conceited, Presidential election | Leave a comment
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Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voter Summit (Omni Shoreham Hotel) in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011.  Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voter Summit (Omni Shoreham Hotel) in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

According to an article by Jerry Markon and Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post, “Mitt Romney is blaming his loss in the presidential election on “Obamacare” and other “gifts” he says President Obama handed out to African Americans, Hispanics and other core supporters, according to news reports Wednesday.”

This is perfectly in accord with Romney’s remarks about the 47%.  As President, he would have despised almost half of the citizens he was sworn to serve.

Equally important, it conforms to his lifelong pattern of refusing to acknowledge errors and faults.  The main issue here is not his refusal to accept blame, nor his eargerness to blame others for his mistakes, it is his inability to learn from his mistakes.  You can’t learn from a mistake if you cannot admit, even to yourself, that you made a mistake.

Finally, his excuse reveals once again his swollen sense of entitlement.

America was so lucky not to have elected whiny Willard “Mitt” Romney.

November 13, 2012 at 10:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is the best statement I’ve ever seen on the need to face facts, and to debate constructively.

koshersamurai

All Americans, ESPECIALLY Republicans and those who belong to what used to be The Tea Party Movement, need to listen to this…

The Rachel Maddow Show: November 8, 2012.

“Ohio really did go to President Obama last night. And he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately President of the United States. Again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to ‘over-sample’ Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing! And Benghazi was an attack ON…

View original post 446 more words

An Effective US Senate

November 12, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics | 1 Comment
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The gavel of the United States Senate, used by the presiding officer (Vice President or President Pro Tempore, usually). This gavel dates from 1954, and was a gift from India. It replaced a nearly identical earlier version which had been in use since at least 1831 and maybe 1789, but which had come apart earlier in 1954.

The gavel of the United States Senate, used by the presiding officier (Vice President or President Pro Tempore, usually). This gavel dates from 1954, and was a gift from India. It replaced a nearly identical earlier version which had been in use since at least 1831 and maybe 1789, but which had come apart earlier in 1954.

When Congress convenes next year, there will be a new Senate: the 113th.  It will run for two years.

There is a brief window of opportunity at the opening session of each new Senate to revise the rules under which that Senate will operate.

Harry Reid has been the Senate Majority Leader since 2007.  That period spans the 110th, 111th, and 112th Senates.  He is presently most likely to be chosen as the Majority Leader of the new Senate, as well.

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate, official portrait, 2009

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate, official portrait, 2009

Historians will lay at Harry Reid’s doorstep his failure to see and fix, at the beginnings of at least three Senates, the structural problems that have allowed uncompromising political partisans to turn the Senate into an ineffective body.  Those structural problems derive from the rules and traditions of the Senate.  Both the rules and the traditions can and should be changed.

The symptoms of the constipation of the Senate include
– delayed and prevented appointments of qualified, honorable nominees
for positions that need to be filled for effective government,
– delayed and prevented votes on important legislation,
– cynicsm and disgust by the American public,
– reduced appreciation worldwide for the advantages of an open society.

Harry Reid appears to be too uncritically attached to the Senate’s traditions to recognize the full extent of the changes needed to rescue the Senate from irrelevance.  His focus on the Senate’s traditions is destroying the Senate.

Even if he did come to understand what changes were needed, he probably lacks the spine to insist on them.  An invertebrate Senate Majority Leader is not what the Senate needs right now.

Ocypode quadrata crab on Martinique

Ocypode quadrata crab on Martinique

(The invertebrates include the crustaceans.  A crustacean has a shell, but no spine.)

Harry Reid should not be re-elected as the Majority Leader of the Senate unless he first guarantees that the Senate’s first order of business will be to revise its rules to eliminate all of the stalling mechanisms that now tie it in knots, so that it becomes an effective body.

The guiding principles of the revisions should be as follows:

(1) No individual or group can, without an immediately publicly stated reason by a publicly named Senator, delay voting on legislation or on an appointment.
Immediacy is required to prevent secret and anonymous holds, which use the present two-day delay to create de facto indefinite secret holds.  Each hold must be associated with an individual Senator, not with a party’s spokesman in the Senate, nor with a party’s delegation as a whole.

(2) The plausibility and validity of the claimed reason for delay should itself be subject to immediate vote, with the outcome to be decided by a simple majority.  Supermajorities should not be required, even to prevent a filibuster.

(3) Filibusters should be restored to their original form by enacting the changes advocated by the bipartisan organization No Labels.

The Senate’s job is to reach decisions by voting.  Discussion is a means to that end, but it cannot be allowed to become endless.

Here is a poll on these issues:

Should Harry Reid remain the Senate Majority leader if he doesn’t push at the beginning of the next Senate for changes to end the Senate’s constipation?

Should every hold or other delay in voting require a publicly announced reason for the delay?

Should it require sponsorship by an immediately publicly named individual Senator?

Should the claimed reason for delay be subject to being validated as being substantive, by an immediate vote by the Senate?

Should that vote be decided by a simple majority?

Should the Senate adopt the changes advocated by No Labels to the rules for filibusters?

Please feel free to submit in the comment box your suggestions for making the Senate an effective body.  The best submissions will be added to this blog post.

Practical ways of fixing the US Congress

November 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics | Leave a comment
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U.S. House Committee on Financial Services

U.S. House Committee on Financial Services

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Almost everyone considers the current US Congress to be utterly dysfunctional.  The House of Representatives is dedicated to political posturing and to preventing the Executive Branch from accomplishing anything useful, and the Senate works under rules which make it too easy for individual Senators to prevent items from being voted upon.

Encouragingly, the disgust with Congress has become bipartisan.

A new bipartisan organization, No Labels, has come up with twelve practical measures for making Congress effective again.  They have good arguments why these twelve measures would work.

This link connects to a good example: returning the filibuster process to its original purpose.

Visit that site, and see what you think.

Second committee room upstairs in Congress Hall, Philadelphia, PA, photographed by Ben Franske, August 2008.

Second committee room upstairs in Congress Hall, Philadelphia, PA, photographed by Ben Franske, August 2008.

Meningitis, Mortgages, Hurricane Sandy, and Romney

November 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Climate change, Fairness, Global warming, Presidential election | Leave a comment
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Hurricane Sandy: Flooded Avenue C at East 6th Street in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood of Loisaida, moments before the Con Edison power substation on 14th Street and Avenue C blew up.  30 October 2012.  Photographed by David Shankbone.

Hurricane Sandy: Flooded Avenue C at East 6th Street in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood of Loisaida, moments before the Con Edison power substation on 14th Street and Avenue C blew up. 30 October 2012. Photographed by David Shankbone.

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A valuable analysis by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post points out that Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are opposed to Federal disaster relief by FEMA, and to regulation and to inspections by the Federal government.  They want to transfer these functions to the states, or – whenever possible – to the private sector.

I urge you to read Eugene Robinson’s article.  It makes many important points that I will not repeat here.  I will only add a few comments.

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Patient with menigitiis and menigism (neck stiffness), original caption: Patient violently ill with acute epidemic meningitis. Markedly stuporous and delirious; head retracted and very stiff, 1913, Source: Sophian, Abraham: Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis (1913), St. Louis, C.V Mosby (Scan from archive.org). Author L.A. Marty, M.D, Kansas City.

Patient with menigitiis and menigism (neck stiffness), original caption: Patient violently ill with acute epidemic meningitis. Markedly stuporous and delirious; head retracted and very stiff, 1913, Source: Sophian, Abraham: Epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis (1913), St. Louis, C.V Mosby (Scan from archive.org).
Author L.A. Marty, M.D, Kansas City.

Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman with meningococcal disease, June 2004, Source: http://www.babycharlotte.co.nz/photos6-12mths.html, Author: Pam Cleverley, Perry Bisman, http://babycharlotte.co.nz

Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman with meningococcal disease, June 2004, Source: http://www.babycharlotte.co.nz/photos6-12mths.html, Author: Pam Cleverley, Perry Bisman, http://babycharlotte.co.nz

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The meningitis outbreak spans more than once state.  The same is true of most problems with contaminated foods, contaminated drugs, outbreaks of disease, natural disasters, oil spills, abuses by banks or other financial companies, etc.

The individual states do not have the funds or the expertise or the scope to collate the data to discover that there is a new problem, to figure out its nature and source, and to fight the problem.  If they tried to do those things, having fifty times as many agencies trying to do what the Federal agencies now do would represent a tremedous duplication of effort – a huge waste of funds.  Even with that, the states would fall short of what FEMA, the CDC, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture can presently do.  At present, the state agencies complement what the Federal agencies do, and they benefit from the information provided to them by the Federal agencies.  As for the costs, we all benefit from the economies of scale provided by the Federal agencies.

If a problem is caused by a farm in Texas or a company in Massachussetts, other states have no authority to force the responsible party to do anything quick and dramatic.  Only the Federal government has the Constitutional authority to due that, via the ‘commerce clause’.

As for the private sector, almost every recent man-made disaster – meningitis, contaminated food, oil spills, the financial meltdown caused by the granting and selling of risky mortgages – shows that industries cannot monitor themselves.  The conflict of interest is too strong.

Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would destroy most of the protections we now have, because they just do not understand, and they do not want to understand.  Would you really want to lose FEMA, or the CDC?

Hurricane Sandy: The FDR Drive flooded next to the East Village neighborhoon in Manhattan.  30 October 2012.  Photographer: David Shankbone.

Hurricane Sandy: The FDR Drive flooded next to the East Village neighborhood in Manhattan. 30 October 2012. Photographer: David Shankbone.

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. 2008-02-13, photographed by Brendel at en.wikipedia.org .

Half million dollar house in Salinas, California under foreclosure. 2008-02-13, photographed by Brendel at en.wikipedia.org .

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