Sunday, March 20, 2011

Strange Things Happening

Does it seem like there is more going on than usual these days? Somebody commented that the revolutions across the Arab world are like the Berlin Wall coming down. Suppressed people are revolting against tyrants and it puts the US in an odd position, of course, because we have supported those tyrants, even created them in some instances, but we claim to stand for freedom. Now, eight years after our in initial attack on Iraq, American weapons have been unleashed on Libya. Ghadafi was massacring his own people, putting down a popular rebellion, and I have the feeling most of us feel the intervention was justified, if it doesn't drag on forever like Iraq has. (And BTW did you read THIS interesting op-ed piece about living conditions for US military in Baghdad?)

They voted in Egypt yesterday. American newspapers didn't feel obligated to show propagandistic photos of purple fingers, it was a step forward for a country that may be moving into the modern world. The people there organized and overthrew a dictator. It might be tough for a while, they won't elect people that favor the US necessarily, but the people are taking over their country and if we live by our stated standards that will all work out for everyone, we can have new friends in the Middle East. This, it seems to me, is how it ought to work.

Japan is a mess. We don't really know what's happening with those nuclear reactors, the reports are exaggerated both ways. The Japanese government right now is saying they're getting a grip on the radiation leaks, but there is reason to be skeptical of their reports. At any rate, even without a nuclear disaster the country is a wreck, damage exceeds our ability to imagine. Tens of thousands dead, entire towns wiped out. Our sympathies are with those poor people as Americans watch the video and follow news reports obsessively.

Meanwhile, in the United States, newly elected conservatives are trying to crack down on the working class, stripping away collective bargaining rights in a number of states. They are also passing laws aimed at curbing the rights of women, especially laws that offer assistance for reproductive health and child care. Immigrants also find themselves in the crosshairs, the crackdown is comprehensive and vile. People are rebelling in many states, with huge demonstrations and recall campaigns, but it might be too little too late, they shouldn't have elected those guys in the first place.

In Washington, a government shutdown seems inevitable, as the Republican majority in the House keeps putting things into the appropriations bills that the Senate will never approve and the President will never sign. I saw a poll recently that showed that most citizens believe the Democrats will be responsible if the government shuts down. It just goes to show you.

President Obama recently implicitly claimed ownership of the torture of Bradley Manning, the whistleblower who is being tortured in a Marine brig in Quantico without a trial. Demonstrations are beginning to appear around the country, there is one today at Quantico. When a veterans group wanted to place a bouquet at the Iwo Jima Memorial to honor Manning, the Marines shut the memorial down.

It hasn't gotten as much publicity, but the Internet's security infrastructure took several fatal blows this week. A PHP vulnerability has exposed data around the world, RSA security certificates are compromised, and there was some question of accountability for why TOR, the identity-hiding platform, was so easily disabled by Iran recently. These are not sexy stories, but if you buy things online you are affected.

Our Maryland Democrats let marriage equality slip away from them. They brought it to the House of Delegates before they had a firm majority of votes, and it got picked apart when members started wondering if maybe civil unions wouldn't be enough, and certain preachers started twisting arms. I'll say it: it was a shameful display of political ineptitude. Maryland, of all places, shouldn't have a problem with this. But who's surprised?

And in our area, a bloody murder in Bethesda has everybody shaking their heads. I don't shop at Lululemon myself but I've been in the Apple store next door to it. You were surprised to learn there had been a brutal double rape and murder there, and then were more surprised to find out that a young woman had killed her co-employee and tried to fake an alibi. They sell what, yoga clothing? Oh yeah, there you go, leads directly to horrible bloody murder.

And on that note, I leave you with this beautiful video of Sleepy LaBeef doing a gospel song, first recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, on Conan O'Brien's show (the sound isn't very good, you might have to turn it up a little but it's worth it):


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you forgot one, Jim

on Friday, the CBO revised its budget numbers and figured out that Obama's current budget policies will generate TWO TRILLION more in debt than the already astronomical amount it had previously estimated

the cost of Obamacare alone went up 100 billion

meanwhile, 64 Senators, evenly divided between the parties, sent a letter to Obama urging him to stop playing politics and support the work of his bipartisan commission to reduce the debt

oh, and Costa Mesa, California had to lay off half its public employees because their benfits are so generous they can't afford them

their union had gotten them the right to retire at 50 with 90% of their regular salary

and despite the fall of the unemployment rate, the percentage of Americans with a job is lower than at any time since Jimmy Carter was President

and Hillary Clinton, disgusted by the current amateur hour in the oval office, announced that, under no circumstance, will she continue to serve in Obama's administration for a second term

wonder what she has in mind....

March 20, 2011 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, it costs a lot to run a government and Obama should have pushed to recapture some of the tons of cash being drained off by the rich. It is obviously time for a tax increase for those at the top.

March 20, 2011 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, they are already paying far more than their share

if you truly hate the rich that much, however, one idea that Republicans are mostly going along with is to make Social Security benefits need-based

to tell the truth, most wealthy people just laugh at the Social Security check they receive

they won't complain, and may not even notice if they don't get it

that step and raising retirement age to 70 are a couple of easy steps that will mostly fix a big problem and Obama won't show the leadership to stop playing politics and get behind

seriously, guys, get behind Hillary for 2012

America can't take much more of this

March 20, 2011 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, we just went to war in a third Muslim country, legislators on both sides of the aisle are urging Obama to take leadership in the fight against the deficit, we still haven't settled on a budget for the year we're in, and one of our closest allies is reeling from a catastrophe on a previously unimaginable scope and scale

so, what does Obama do?

takes a trip to Brazil

I guess consistent incompetency is a type of consistency, right?

we can work with this, right?

yeah, right

March 21, 2011 7:43 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

The number one priority these days is jobs. I'm glad Obama is in South America seeking agreements with nations with strong economies so we might sell more American made products overseas and improve our job market at home.

FOX News reports:

"After an early morning arrival in Brazil's capital, Obama held meetings with newly elected President Dilma Rousseff, then addressed a joint meeting of U.S. and Brazilian business leaders. He praised Brazil's economic ascent, and said American workers stood to benefit from increased ties with the world's seventh-largest economy.

"As the United States looks to Brazil, we see the chance to sell more goods and services to a rapidly-growing market of around 200 million consumers," Obama said. "For us, this is a jobs strategy."

Executives from a number of American corporations, including International Paper, Cargill, Citigroup and Coca-Cola, participated in the CEO session."

Our economy is melting down and the House GOP decides to fall for excessively edited videotapes and then to fiddle with NPR's minuscule funding, while in contrast, our President goes out seeking business partners to spur growth in markets for American companies and American-made products.

Obama's effort has my support over the House GOP's stunt.

March 21, 2011 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Socialism for the rich said...

Of course the CBO had to revise the budget numbers. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been extended since the last time the CBO made its calculations and those tax cuts for the rich have thrown all the recovery numbers way off. These tax cuts for millionaires continue the GOP plan to redistribute wealth from the working class to the richest among us.

March 21, 2011 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Robert said...

How are people who can laugh at their social security check paying more than their fair share in taxes?

March 21, 2011 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your world, Robert, what do you see as income equality? If you make $85,000 and have one child and your neighbor has four kids and makes $100,000, who should pay more taxes?

If your neighbor makes $50,000, drives an old car and sends $500 every month to a food kitchen, and you make $50,000 and spend $500 a month on a car payment, who should pay more taxes?

March 21, 2011 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How are people who can laugh at their social security check paying more than their fair share in taxes?"

Robert, you can't get over the idea that if someone doesn't need their material possessions, they must belong to you.

People shouldn't be obligated to pay for any more than the services they get are worth.

March 21, 2011 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More than a half-century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation ruling, we are still trying as a country to validate and justify the discredited concept of separate but equal schools — the very idea supposedly overturned by Brown v. Board when it declared, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Schools are no longer legally segregated, but because of residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom, they most emphatically are in reality.

“Ninety-five percent of education reform is about trying to make separate schools for rich and poor work, but there is very little evidence that you can have success when you pack all the low-income students into one particular school,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who specializes in education issues.

The current obsession with firing teachers, attacking unions and creating ever more charter schools has done very little to improve the academic outcomes of poor black and Latino students. Nothing has brought about gains on the scale that is needed.

If you really want to improve the education of poor children, you have to get them away from learning environments that are smothered by poverty. This is being done in some places, with impressive results. An important study conducted by the Century Foundation in Montgomery County, Md., showed that low-income students who happened to be enrolled in affluent elementary schools did much better than similarly low-income students in higher-poverty schools in the county.

The study, released last October, found that “over a period of five to seven years, children in public housing who attended the school district’s most advantaged schools (as measured by either subsidized lunch status or the district’s own criteria) far outperformed in math and reading those children in public housing who attended the district’s least-advantaged public schools.”

Studies have shown that it is not the race of the students that is significant, but rather the improved all-around environment of schools with better teachers, fewer classroom disruptions, pupils who are more engaged academically, parents who are more involved, and so on. The poorer students benefit from the more affluent environment. “It’s a much more effective way of closing the achievement gap,” said Mr. Kahlenberg."

March 22, 2011 10:42 AM  

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