I got about a foot of snow dumped on me by the latest storm, when the prediction the day before had been for about 3-5 inches. Boy were the predictions wrong for this one! Last night the Boston Globe weather blogger tried to explain “Why was there so much more snow than predicted?”
Now that the big storm is over, I am looking at why this was such a poor forecast. The basic reason was a bit more cold air than expected, more moisture and it lasted longer. No one expected so much snow to fall from 4 AM this morning until mid-afternoon. Storms usually need to be at roughly 40 degrees latitude and 70 degrees west longitude to give us a major snow event. Meteorologists around here call this the benchmark. If a storm passes near the benchmark, and it’s cold enough, we are often in for a good snowstorm. This storm passed hundreds of miles further east than that typical spot for a major snowstorm. One of the reasons I was confident in not seeing this size snowstorm, was the predicted distance of the storm from our area. That prediction by the models turned out to be pretty good. Temperatures were also forecast to be about 4 degrees milder. As it turn out, it’s sort of a good thing it ended up being colder because heavy wet snow of these amounts would have been catastrophic to the power situation.
I see . . . well, not really. Anyway, the stuff is melting already which is a good thing, because I wasn’t able to shovel my driveway out completely yesterday. We’re supposed to get temperatures in the 40s and 50s for the next few days, so I guess that will rescue me. Now what’s in the news today?
I see that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is really full of himself after his “talking filibuster” the other day.
He’s got an op-ed in the Washington Post bragging, “My filibuster was just the beginning.”
If I had planned to speak for 13 hours when I took the Senate floor Wednesday, I would’ve worn more comfortable shoes. I started my filibuster with the words, “I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s nomination for the CIA. I will speak until I can no longer speak” — and I meant it.
I wanted to sound an alarm bell from coast to coast. I wanted everybody to know that our Constitution is precious and that no American should be killed by a drone without first being charged with a crime. As Americans, we have fought long and hard for the Bill of Rights. The idea that no person shall be held without due process, and that no person shall be held for a capital offense without being indicted, is a founding American principle and a basic right.
I certainly agree that the president shouldn’t have the power to kill Americans without due process, but I’d be more impressed with Paul if he supported other constitutional rights like equal treatment under the law for minorities, women and LGBT people. I can’t take anyone seriously as a defender of the Constitution if he opposes civil rights and the right of a woman to control her own body.
According to Grace Wyler at Business Insider, Libertarians Believe Their Moment Has Finally Arrived. On the other hand, Chris Cillizza explains why Why the Rand Paul filibuster might not be such good news for the GOP.
Sequestration cuts, anyone?
While the Village media types focus on either fawning over or condemning Rand Paul’s performance, local journalists around the country are reporting on the damage being done by sequestration cuts.
The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?
It’s been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: “I think it’s silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own.”
Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.
Check out the many examples of real pain for localities at the link. And besides, according to Buzzfeed, Nobody Liked The White House Tours That Much Anyway. They’re only rated 3.5 on Yelp. Read the negative reviews at the link.
Interesting book review at The Daily Beast
They were the employees of the gigantic uranium-enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.—those who lived and toiled in this purpose-built secret city in the Appalachian Mountains, many of them young women, had only been told that their efforts would help bring home American soldiers. Then, when atomic power was deployed against an enemy nation for the first (and so far, last) time, Oak Ridge residents realized what they had been working toward, and why their every move had been monitored, their every utterance policed, and their every question stonewalled.
In The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, Denise Kiernan recreates, with cinematic vividness and clarity, the surreal Orwell-meets-Margaret Atwood environment of Oak Ridge as experienced by the women who were there. They were secretaries, technicians, a nurse, a statistician, a leak pipe inspector, a chemist, and a janitor. “Site X” began construction in late 1942, and was also known as the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) and the Reservation. Staff members were recruited from all over the U.S., but particularly from nearby Southern states, and were offered higher than average wages, on-site housing and cafeterias, and free buses.
More importantly, they were offered the chance to join the 400,000 or so American women performing non-combatant roles in the armed services, as well as those keeping vital industries afloat and helping the men on the front lines. But whereas a female Air Force pilot or munitions factory worker understood precisely her contributions to the war effort, the women at Oak Ridge were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their workplace, a mystery heightened by the apparent lack of anything ever leaving the site. Provided with “just enough detail to do their job well, and not an infinitesimal scrap more,” workers at all levels were forbidden from taking the slightest interest in anyone else’s duties. “Stick to your knitting,” in the words of Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, head of the Project.
That sounds like a fascinating book!
ABC News reports on a scary new virus–the coronaviris.
Health officials are warning of a new virus that has sickened at least 14 people worldwide, killing eight of them.
There are no known American cases of the coronavirus, known as hCoV-EMC, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is urging doctors with patients who have an unexplained respiratory illness after traveling to the Arabian peninsula or neighboring countries to report the cases to the CDC.
Doctors should also report patients with known diseases who don’t respond to appropriate treatment, the agency said its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Close contacts of a symptomatic patient should also be evaluated.
The novel virus, which is associated with severe respiratory illness with renal failure, was first recognized last September and caused alarm because it is genetically and clinically similar to the SARS virus, which caused hundreds of deaths worldwide.
Read more at the CDC website.
A new archaeological theory about Stonehenge
Centuries before the first massive sarsen stone was hauled into place at Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument may have begun life as a giant burial ground, according to a theory disclosed on Saturday.
More than 50,000 cremated bone fragments, of 63 individuals buried at Stonehenge, have been excavated and studied for the first time by a team led by archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who has been working at the site and on nearby monuments for decades. He now believes the earliest burials long predate the monument in its current form.
The first bluestones, the smaller standing stones, were brought from Wales and placed as grave markers around 3,000BC, and it remained a giant circular graveyard for at least 200 years, with sporadic burials after that, he claims.
It had been thought that almost all the Stonehenge burials, many originally excavated almost a century ago, but discarded as unimportant, were of adult men. However, new techniques have revealed for the first time that they include almost equal numbers of men and women, and children including a newborn baby.
I’ll end with this “chart of the day” from Business Insider:
I hope that’s enough to get you started on the day. Please share your recommended reads in the comments. I look forward to clicking on your links!
Have a great weekend!!
You have to wonder what kind of political insanity rules our world these days when Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell makes history for filibustering himself. I’m look for a word that’s a cross between immolation, masturbation, and the ultimate act of being an ass but I can’t come up with one. How can you self-abuse and fuck an entire country at the same time?
A move to embarrass Democrats backfired on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday as the Kentucky Republican proposed a vote on raising the nation’s debt ceiling — then filibustered it when the Democrats tried to take him up on the offer.
On Thursday morning McConnell had made a motion for the vote on legislation that would let the president extend the country’s borrowing limit on his own. Congress would then have the option to disapprove such hikes, in a fashion similar to one that McConnell first suggested during last year’s standoff over the debt ceiling.
The minority leader apparently did not think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would take him up on his offer, which would have allowed McConnell to portray President Barack Obama’s desire for such authority as something even Democrats opposed.
Reid objected at first, but told McConnell he thought it might be a good idea. After Senate staff reviewed the proposal, Reid came back to the floor and proposed a straight up-or-down vote on the idea.
McConnell was forced to say no.
“What we’re talking about here is a perpetual debt ceiling grant, in effect, to the president, ” McConnell said. “Matters of this level of controversy always require 60 votes.”
Sixty votes are required to end a filibuster during debate on a bill and hold a vote.
Democrats immediately seized on McConnell’s reversal, noting it was the sort of obstruction that they think warrants changes to the rules on filibusters.
“What we have here is a case of the Republicans here in the Senate once again not taking yes for an answer,” Reid said. “This morning the Republican leader asked consent to have a vote on his proposal. Just now I told everyone we’re willing to have that vote, an up-or-down vote, and now the Republican leader objects to his own idea, so I guess we have a filibuser of his own bill.”
Democrats piled on.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that McConnell thought he’d thrown Democrats for a loop. “It was a little too clever by half,” Schumer said, adding that it “would have been a great moment.”
It’s truly an amazing feat and it was all captured on CSPAN. Mitch McConnell has a much higher estimation of his political and strategy skills than he appears to be able to deliver on the floor of the senate.
It’s really difficult to understand the mind set of Republican politicians today. It appears that country is the last thing on their priority list.
One of the most frustrating things that’s happened in the last few years has been the overuse and misuse of the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid--see the morning post–has decided that one of his top priorities will be to pass legislation to tighten rules on the use of the filibuster in the legislative chamber. The overuse of the lazy Senator’s filibuster has stymied nearly every attempt to get Democratic legislation through the Senate.
Bloomberg has an excellent article on the changes that will be proposed and what impact this could have on an Obama second term. The bill is called “The Mr Smith” bill. It’s be reintroduced by Sen. Frank (D-NJ). The bill would require those who want to filibuster a nomination or a bill to appear on the floor and actually speak. This means that Republican senators can’t just scream filibuster and the go home to dinner and cocktails. The bill was first introduced in 2011.
“The filibuster is being abused to create gridlock and prevent the Senate from doing the people’s business. Instead of being a deliberative body, the Senate has become a deadlocked body,” Lautenberg said in a press release Wednesday. “The ‘Mr. Smith Bill’ would help break the obstruction in Washington, bring transparency to lawmaking and hold senators accountable for their actions. This bill will stop senators from launching a filibuster and then skipping off to dinner, leaving our work in a stalemate.”
The bill — co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York — also would require that the Senate move for an immediate vote once debate ends and those conducting the filibuster give up the floor.
“Right now, senators are allowed to filibuster and force the Senate to use up a week or more on a single nomination or bill, even if there is no debate occurring on the floor,” Lautenberg’s office said. “Under the Lautenberg proposal, that time could be reduced significantly.”
Typically, a Senate rule change requires a super majority of 67 yes votes, something that will be difficult for Democrats, with their narrow 53-seat majority, to achieve. However, on the first legislative day of a new Congress, a simple majority of senators, just 51 votes, can approve new rules.
According to Lautenberg’s office, 91 cloture votes were taken in the 111th Congress — almost “four times the 24 cloture votes taken 20 years ago and almost double the 54 cloture votes required in the 109th Congress (2005-2006), when Republicans were last in the majority.”
This is the first item that would reform the procedure that became infamous in the Jimmy Stewart movie. It has moved from being a true expression of frustration with a piece of legislation or a process to a systematic way to gridlock. It has increased the polarization that characterizes Congress these days. It isn’t used to either protect the rights of the minority or to force debate. It’s used for pure political gain. The Bloomberg article states that “there were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s combined”. This will give you an idea of what’s become of a symbol of democracy. It’s became a way for Mitch McConnell to hold back progress including help for the unemployed, veterans, victims of domestic abuse, and judicial appointments. Newly elected Senators appear to be on board for reform.
Chris Murphy, the incoming Democratic senator from Connecticut, couldn’t have been clearer: “The filibuster is in dire need of reform,” he told Talking Points Memo. “Whether or not it needs to go away, we need to reform the way the filibuster is used, so it is not used in the order of everyday policy, but is only used in exceptional circumstances.”
Angus King, the independent senator-elect from Maine, said, “My principal issue is the functioning of the Senate.” He backs a proposal advanced by the reform group No Labels that would end the filibuster on motions to debate, restricting filibusters to votes on actual legislation. The group also wants to require filibustering senators to physically hold the Senate floor and talk, rather than simply instigate a filibuster from the comfort of their offices.
And it’s not just the new guys. In an election-night interview on MSNBC, Senator Dick Durbin ofIllinois, the Democrats’ second-in-command, emphasized the importance of filibuster reform. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a committed guardian of institutional prerogatives who put the kibosh on filibuster reform in the previous Congress. But even he has given up protecting the practice. “We can’t go on like this anymore,” he told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. “I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster, but I have to tell you, I want to change the rules and make the filibuster meaningful.”
That doesn’t go nearly far enough. The problem with the filibuster isn’t that senators don’t have to stand and talk, or that they can filibuster the motion to debate as well as the vote itself. It’s that the Senate has become, with no discussion or debate, an effective 60-vote institution. If you don’t change that, you haven’t solved the problem.
Common Cause actually sued the US Senate this year to end the filibuster.
Enter Common Cause. It argues that a minority in the Senate has used the filibuster to hold up all manner of legislation, including (most importantly, for this suit), the DISCLOSE Act (to tighten electioneering disclosure requirements in the wake of Citizens United) and the DREAM Act (to create a path to U.S. citizenship for certain aliens). It argues that the 60-vote requirement in Senate Rule XXII violates the default parliamentary majority-takes-all rule, the careful balance of powers in the legislative branch and between the three branches, and the power of the Senate itself to changes its own rules (because along with Rule V (which continues the Senate rules from Senate to Senate) Rule XXII seems to require that 3/5 of Senators vote to change Rule XXII). In particular, Common Cause argues that the filibuster violates the Quorum Clause, the Presentment Clause, the power of the VP to break a Senate tie, the Advice and Consent Clause, and the equal representation of the states in the Senate–all of which in different ways assume majority rule. It also argues that the filibuster is in tension with the eight constitutional exceptions to majority rule.
Again, the Bloomberg article says it best and btw, it’s written by Ezra Klein.
Party polarization has turned the filibuster into a noxious obstacle. Filibusters are no longer used to allow minorities to be heard. They’re used to make the majority fail. In the process, they undermine democratic accountability, because voters are left to judge the rule of a majority party based on the undesirable outcomes created by a filibustering minority.
Ideally, a bipartisan majority of senators would end the filibuster — either immediately or with a delayed trigger six years after a deal is struck — so neither party would know which is poised to benefit. But doing away with the filibuster in the next Congress has some appeal, too. Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House; there will be no instant power grab leading to one-party dominance.
So, go Harry. If they’re going to cause gridlock, then at least make them stand on the Senate floor until they drop. The American people deserve explanations instead of secretive political maneuvers.
I had another week full of weird things to do. I completely forgot my driver’s license expired last month on my birthday and had to rush out to get it renewed. I really don’t keep track of my age at all any more so I forgot the entire divisible-by-four thing. I also have been rushing around doing odds and ends that have just been driving me nuts. It just seems life is just one complex set of paperwork to fill out for someone or another these days. This week I had to prove all kinds of things to all kinds of people. I guess no one takes you at face value any more. We’ve turned into a nation where you have to show every one your papers. It made the week a combination of something Kafkaesque and Stalinesque. I simultaneously wanted to laugh, cry, and slap people multiple times this week.
There’s an interesting article at The Atlantic on how the economic recovery is affecting women differently from men. The article is called “The Recession was Sexist (So is the Recovery)” and it’s worth a read. It’s written by Jordan Weissmann.
Since November 2010, 70% of new jobs have gone to men. At first blush that sounds reasonable. If men lost more jobs, they should also recoup more. The problem crops up when you look at the number of job gains as a fraction of losses. Men have regained about a third of the jobs they shed in the recession. Women have only regained about one in five.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a gender gap. And it’s not clear whether it will narrow. In November, female job gains actually outpaced males, 65,000 to 55,000. But going forward, women are going to have to contend with one of the most nastiest forces in job market: government budgets.
As the graphic to the left shows, women far outnumber men on state and local government payrolls, especially in public schools. Early in the recession, those employers were propped up by stimulus money. No longer. We live in an age of belt tightening, and government employees are being shown the door by the thousands. Last month, state and municipal payrolls shrank by 16,000 workers. There’s no sign of the trend letting up.
If you want to see the graphs that go with the discussion, you should check the article out. The trend is really noticeable.
There’s also continued filibusters from Mitch McConnell of anything that could remotely help the unemployed, families hurt by recession, and anything that looks like it might have gone near the President. I can’t believe all this belligerence is a winning strategy for them, but only time will tell. As much as I’ve had problems with Obama, McConnell’s got me so hopping mad and the clown set running for the Republican nomination have me more distressed. I’ve never seen a bunch of more mean-spirited, ignorant, hateful, religious fanatics in my life. In this situation, Obama is definitely the lesser of evils. This is an election that will bring the definition of evil to a new nadir. There’s not a woman- or child-friendly politician to be had any where.
The filibuster — a stall tactic that requires time-consuming motions and 60 votes to overcome — can be used on virtually all Senate business, including on whether to even bring up bills for debate.
Democrats say Republican tactics this week will come back to haunt them. On Thursday, Republicans are well-positioned to filibuster the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For weeks, the GOP has demanded several changes to the bureau to roll back its powers.
Democrats say it’s “the first time in history” that a nominee will be blocked because of the concerns over the agency that the person was selected by the president to head — rather than the qualifications of the nominee.
“I said to some of my Republican colleagues, ‘Do you want this to happen when someday there’ll be a Republican president?’” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s clearly a terrible precedent.”
en. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said he didn’t think any minority should adopt such tactics that he called “highly dangerous for the country.”
Republicans are highly dubious of the claims, saying there’s nothing unusual over holding up nominees until legitimate concerns over policy are addressed.
“This is the first time in history that I’m aware of that an agency of this kind has been created,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a member of the Senate Banking Committee.
The tit-for-tat has been going on since Tuesday when Republicans sustained a filibuster by a 54-45 vote on the Halligan nomination to the D.C. appellate court, accusing President Barack Obama of nominating an “activist judge” hostile to gun rights.
But Democrats said she was a well-qualified nominee with an exemplary résumé, and that the standard set by the so-called Gang of 14 senators in 2005 to only filibuster judicial nominees in “extraordinary circumstances” had been effectively nullifed.
Ruemmler, the White House counsel, said she could “rattle off a litany of folks who would be on any Republican shortlist” that would be rejected under the new standard, like attorney Paul Clement who is representing Republicans in the House in defending the Defense of Marriage Act. But she said it would be “ridiculous” if Democrats did that over such an ideological dispute.
The White House points to 20 judicial nominees awaiting Senate action, several of whom would fill posts considered “emergency” vacancies, and officials complain that the chamber is moving at a much slower pace now than it was when Bush was in office.
Iran has been showing film of a captured US drone. There’s been confirmation now that the film is authentic and so is the drone. This confirms some of the rumors floating around earlier this week.
Iran’s Press TV said that the Iranian army’s “electronic warfare unit” brought down the drone on 4 December as it was flying over the city of Kashmar.
Brig General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace unit, told Iranian media that the drone “fell into the trap” of the unit “who then managed to land it with minimum damage”.
He said Iran was “well aware of what priceless technological information” could be gleaned from the aircraft.
Nato said at the weekend that an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week when its operators lost control of it.
Pentagon officials have said they are concerned about Iran possibly acquiring information about the technology.
I still haven’t gotten used to seeing armadillos all around the place since I moved down here. Looks like Kentucky is going to have to get used to them too as they are moving north and east. The move started in the 1980s and has been increasing since then. Like many local critters, they appear to be moving north with climates getting warmer.
“The first road-killed armadillo I encountered in Kentucky was in 2003, and the first live one I saw was in 2006,” said John MacGregor, a herpetologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
MacGregor said in recent years there have been several confirmed sightings by staff biologists in eastern and south central Kentucky.
Steve Bonney, northeastern region wildlife coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, encountered a road-killed armadillo in Rowan County in 2009 on the way to work. “I routinely record road kills. When I saw what I thought was an armadillo, my radar went off,” said Bonney. “It kind of shocked me.”
When Bonney arrived at work, he immediately drove back to the site of the road kill on Ky. 801 in Farmers, Kentucky to photograph and pick up the armadillo.
Of the 20 known species of armadillos, the nine-banded armadillo is the most widely distributed. It is the only armadillo species to have ventured north of Mexico. Today, the nine-banded armadillo is established as far east as South Carolina and as far west as southern Nebraska. Loughry said range expansion “has been consistent over the years, and is the continuation of a long-term trend.”
But what biologists can’t agree on is why range expansion is occurring so fast. Factors that may be fueling this expansion include: climate change, the armadillo’s general adaptability, its high reproductive rate and little desire on the part of humans to hunt or eat armadillos.
The two most likely things to cause armadillo mortality are getting run over by vehicles on roads or being eaten by coyotes.
If any of them amble up to a neighborhood near you, here’s some cajun recipes for those of you brave enough to try them.
Here’s an interesting interview with Bruce Judson on the Societal Dangers of income inequality. Judson is a professor of management that specializes in entrepreneurship at Yale School of Managment. He has a new e-book coming out on making capitalism work for the 99%. BC is Bryce Covert of ND 2.0.
BC: What does inequality mean for the middle class, which is the foundation of our country’s economy?
BJ: Early America lacked the class barriers then prevalent in Europe: Everyone mixed with each other. This led the more fortunate to have empathy and a visceral understanding for the problems of the less fortunate. As economic inequality has increased, we see far less mixing among people at different income levels. Now everyone has less of a sense that they are part of one large community and that we have a responsibility to each other.
Political theorists, going back to Aristotle, have all concluded that a vibrant middle class is essential for a vibrant democracy. The members of the middle class hope to move up, so they want mobility to remain a desirable option, but they also fear moving down, so they are more likely to support a social safety net. In essence, the middle is the group that ensures stability as a barrier to legislative extremes that unduly reward the wealthy or harm the poor.
Unfortunately, inequality that chips away at the middle class can lead to violence. There was violence that occurred in the Depression, with riots in the Midwest. People also started to take the law into their own hands. In penny auctions, after your farm was foreclosed on, you showed up at the courthouse with all of your friends — farmers who had their rifles with them — and took over the bidding and bought back your farm for penny. As income inequality increases, the dispossessed may start to feel they have been treated unfairly and things can get ugly.
BC: Your work also predicted revolution. What’s your current take?
BJ: The book did not predict revolution. The book said that if we allow income inequality to continue growing unchecked, then we would face a high risk of political instability or revolution. We discussed earlier how the book detailed a series of stages, or a narrative, for how growing economic inequality can lead to social upheaval. Unfortunately the narrative I detailed seems to be happening.
My best estimate is we have now passed through 60 percent of the narrative. A lot needs to happen before the risk of political instability becomes a reality. I am hopeful that with inequality now on the national agenda, we will see the reforms needed.
So, there’s a lot of juicy stuff in that interview including Judson’s take on the Occupy movement.
BC: Does the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement make you more or less hopeful for the nation’s future?
BJ: It absolutely makes me hopeful that we will start to see some meaningful reforms. The Occupy movement is casting a bright and unforgiving light on some of the unacceptable practices in our society that, sadly, have become commonplace.
I believe the Occupy movement is not going away. The reason it grew so quickly is that it was the flashpoint for the country’s anger and widespread feelings of unfairness. It’s almost inevitable that in some way it will expand to include people who feel they’ve been unfairly foreclosed on, the record numbers of Americans experiencing long-term unemployment, and many of the unemployed in general who feel they’ve been cheated out of the opportunity to work – mainstream America.
The danger is that if the Occupy movement does not succeed, and nothing takes its place, we will move further along the narrative I described.
So, that’s my offerings this morning. I have a few more paper chases to do today before I settle in for the weekend. I’m thinking I’ll end this week with a nice long soak in the tub, some read wine, and the new Vanity Fair with the Gaga in red pic on the cover. I’m going to read about the romance between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and look at all those really old photos. I’d say that out to put reality out of my mind for awhile. Okay, I’m going to read the Stiglitz article first (Fix the Economy? What Obama and the GOP won’t tell you). Then, I’m going to read Christopher Hitchens on Nietzsche, then I’ll do the Queen’s young romance. So, okay, I”ll give you one taste.
Hitchens describes chemotherapy. This is something I know well. I also know what it’s like to kiss death and know that it hovers over your bed waiting for you to move closer to its embrace.
I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it’s true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking.
These are progressive weaknesses that in a more “normal” life might have taken decades to catch up with me. But, as with the normal life, one finds that every passing day represents more and more relentlessly subtracted from less and less. In other words, the process both etiolates you and moves you nearer toward death. How could it be otherwise? Just as I was beginning to reflect along these lines, I came across an article on the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. We now know, from dearly bought experience, much more about this malady than we used to. Apparently, one of the symptoms by which it is made known is that a tough veteran will say, seeking to make light of his experience, that “what didn’t kill me made me stronger.” This is one of the manifestations that “denial” takes.
I am attracted to the German etymology of the word “stark,” and its relative used by Nietzsche, stärker, which means “stronger.” In Yiddish, to call someone a shtarker is to credit him with being a militant, a tough guy, a hard worker. So far, I have decided to take whatever my disease can throw at me, and to stay combative even while taking the measure of my inevitable decline. I repeat, this is no more than what a healthy person has to do in slower motion. It is our common fate. In either case, though, one can dispense with facile maxims that don’t live up to their apparent billing.
It is definitely the silly season! You can tell that an election count down is nearing in the District. A judge of Chinese descent was successfully blocked by Republican Senators and Ben NelSOB for sounding like a communist. Did we go back to the McCarthy era and I missed it?
Six years ago, Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Goodwin Liu published an op-ed in which he made the utterly banal point that a conservative interest group used the terms “free enterprise,”‘ “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” as “code words for an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections.” In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, however, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) somehow managed to interpret this op-ed as proof that Liu wants to turn America into “Communist-run China”:
GRASSLEY: Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place.
Republicans appear to be pulling out all the bells and dogwhistles for this one. This is the first time a judicial nominee has been blocked since 2005.
Liu also drew Republican ire over his criticism of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in testimony when the conservative judge was nominated to the court.
“His outrageous attack on Judge Alito convinced me that Goodwin Liu is an ideologue,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said before Thursday’s vote. “His statement showed he has nothing but disdain for those who disagree with him. Goodwin Liu should run for elected office, not serve as a judge.”
Imagine that! Some one with an opinion! Does that mean a person isn’t capable of honest judgement?
Obama gave a speech yesterday at the State Department indicating support for the Arab Spring and suggesting that a dialogue between Israel and Palestine is possible but must meet certain ground rules. One of these is controversial because it breaks with a speech given by President Bush that more or less accepted the reality of some Israel colonies in the occupied territories. That is that the negotiations be based on the 1967 agreement which would reverse Israeli colonization of territories that occurred after the agreement. Israel has already rejected the idea.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama also made it clear that Hamas’ failure to recognize the state of Israel was a huge problem.
Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
The President said that US commitment to Israel is unshakeable but the status quo is unsustainable. The Israeli/Palestinian situation continues to the most vexing problem on the planet. If you’re going to venture an opinion, be aware that the topic creates such tension that its discussion is actually banned on many blogs. I’d prefer not to relive past experience myself but I thought it needed mentioning.
Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute says “We’re not broke nor will we be”. It seems more and more economists are fighting back on the weird suggestion that a country with a huge economy, rich people, and tons of assets can’t invest in its own future because it’s broke. Here’s the link to the briefing paper. This is good explanation of why we are not Greece and will not go down the Greek Road. There are tons of nifty graphs so go check it out!!
Despite the rhetoric, it is clear that “we” as a nation are not broke. While the recession has led to job loss and shrinking incomes in recent years, the economy has produced substantial gains in average incomes and wealth over the last three decades, and economists agree that we can expect comparable growth over the next three decades as well. Between 1980 and 2010, income per capita grew 66.4%, and wealth per capita grew 73.2%. Over the next 30 years, per capita income is projected to grow by a comparable 60.6%. In other words, “we” are much richer as a nation than we used to be and can expect those riches to rise substantially in the future. So who is the we in the “we’re broke” mantra? The recession has certainly been a rough patch of road for many families, but the output produced by corporations in the private sector has already recovered to pre-recession levels, and these firms’ profi ts were 21.7% higher overall, driven largely by the 60% jump in pre-tax profi ts enjoyed by fi rms in the fi nancial sector.
Here’s why we can actually afford to invest in America and Americans!
Despite the fact that average incomes have increased substantially over the past 30 years, the federal government is currently running a projected defi cit of 9.8% of gross domestic product. As noted above, many use the deficit to support the “we’re broke” theme. But how can that be the case? How can the country have much more income, collectively, onwhich to draw, yet all levels of government are “broke” and unable to aff ord anything?
The answer is that revenue has declined substantially due to the recession and due to the Bush-era tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Offi ce projects federal revenues will be just 14.8% of GDP in the fi scal year ending September 30, 2011—by far the lowest revenue intake relative to GDP since 1951. In contrast, federal revenues totaled over 18% of GDP at the end of the last recovery (fi scal year 2007) and were roughly 20% at the end of the 1990s recovery. A largepart of the revenue shortfall can be attributed to legislated changes in taxes under George W. Bush, which lowered the revenue share by 2.1%.
As the economy recovers, the defi cit will fall as unemployment declines, as incomes and associated revenues increase, and as recession-sensitive expenditures automatically decline (expenditures for food stamps, unemployment benefits, Medicaid and other programs rise with the economic distress in a recession and fade as unemployment declines). This expected decrease in the defi cit is refl ected in CBO projections showing the defi cit declining from 9.8% of GDP in 2011 to just 3.0% in fi scal year 2015. Some of this decline can be attributed to the assumed expiration of the Bush tax cuts extended in 2010 and the inheritance tax change in 2010 (plus the R&D, ethanol, and fi rst-year depreciation tax breaks), which would total 2.9 percentage points of GDP that year. Even so, that still leaves the defi cit falling by 4.0 percentage points due to the recovery.
Texas officially joins the war on women by mandating sonograms before terminations. This is just more harassment and costs to women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights to privacy and self-determination. Ridiculous!
Texas Governor Rick Perry Thursday signed into law a measure requiring women seeking an abortion in the state to first get a sonogram.
Texas is one of several U.S. states with strong Republican legislative majorities proposing new restrictions on abortion this year. The Republican governor had designated the bill as an emergency legislative priority, putting it on a fast track.
Under the law, women will have to wait 24 hours after the sonogram before having an abortion, though the waiting time is two hours for those who live more than 100 miles from an abortion provider.
So, like I said, it’s the silly season which means there’s plenty of news out there that’s bound to upset people! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?