Saturday, November 30, 2013


The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion:

So Harry Reid finally did it. Frankly, I didn’t think he had the gumption. But it seems he’d finally had enough of the Republicans’ extended temper tantrum and took away their favorite toy — the filibuster of Obama administration nominees.
Now judicial and Cabinet nominees will need to be confirmed only by the simple “up or down vote” the Republicans were so fond of demanding during the years when it was Democrats filibustering Bush nominees.
The reaction was predictable, as the party that originally came up with the idea of the so-called “nuclear option” went into the usual hysterics. “Dictatorial,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Sessions. “A raw power grab by Senate Democrats and President Obama,” whined Lindsey Graham.
Right-wing pundits joined in as well. Rush Limbaugh referred to the rules change as “total statist authoritarianism” and compared it to a law allowing women to be raped. (Classy as always, Rush. How’s that Republican outreach to women voters going?) Charles Krauthammer went on Faux News and called the move “an example of the lawless way Obama has run the government.”
All of this might be more persuasive if they didn’t say the same thing about pretty much everything the president of the United States does.
It might also be more persuasive if there wasn’t so much footage of Republicans calling for exactly the same filibuster reform they just got. Limbaugh, for example, once called the filibuster “unconstitutional” and said a rules change like the one that just happened should properly be called the “constitutional option,” not the “nuclear” one. And you know what? He was right. Then, not now.
Accusations of hypocrisy aside, the way the filibuster’s been done for the past few years is a travesty, and it should have been done away with years ago. If we’d had an actual Jimmy Stewart-type filibuster, where you had to stand there and talk, it wouldn’t be such a problem, because there’d be some sort of limit to it.
It would end with some compromise, or withdrawal of the bill or nomination in question, or because the filibusterer gave up. That would delay action by the Senate, which in some cases is a good thing.
But the way it’s been done in the past few years, someone just had to say they’re going to filibuster and the bill or nomination died right then and there for lack of a super-majority. The traditional filibuster would help make the Senate, in words attributed to George Washington, the “cooling saucer” for legislation; the current rule stopped the tea from getting made in the first place.
And stop it the Republicans did, at an unprecedented and abusive rate. Sen. Reid presented a chart showing that 82 nominees had been blocked under President Obama, but 86 had been blocked under all the other presidents combined. The online fact checker Politifact weighed in and said that Sen. Reid’s graphic was wrong. The situation was actually worse.
“There were actually 68 individual nominees blocked prior to Obama taking office,” they calculated, “and 79 (so far) during Obama’s term, for a total of 147.” That means that so far, “blockages under Obama actually accounted for more than half of the total, not less than half. Either way, it’s disproportionate by historical standards.”
The Republicans made no bones about the fact that their obstructionism had nothing to do with nominees’ actual qualifications. For example, when a “60 Minutes” story about the Benghazi murders came out, Graham threatened to block every Obama nominee if he didn’t get another hearing to interrogate the survivors of the attack. When the story turned out to be a hoax, Graham said it didn’t matter, he was going to block the nominations anyway.
When the filibuster proves to be a tactic of extortion, spite and payback rather than an actual reflection on qualifications, then it needs to go, no matter who’s in power. Like every other privilege, when you abuse it, you lose it.
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the filibuster of nominees is a vital part of the Senate and of democracy itself.
Let’s also assume, purely for the sake of argument, that the Republicans are going to retake the Senate next year as they claim. In that case, I call upon all Republican candidates to swear that they’ll reinstate the old filibuster rules on Day One, and every Republican to hold them to the promise.

Think they’ll do it?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Little Word Salad For Thanksgiving From the Half-Term Half- Wit.

The Quitta From Wassilla weighs in on the change in filibuster rules, and the results are something to behold: 

In case you missed that, she said: 

“As for this rule change that some people are calling the nuclear option under Senate rules, you know, I guarantee, this week, Thanksgiving Dinner, people sitting around their tables were not going to be talking about the president blessing this thwarting of a balance of power in Congress with new Senate rules. People are going to be talking about our failed big government policies that will bankrupt this country. So, this distraction, this new talking point in the media and with Congress and with Senators and with the president blessing this action, it’s a distraction and it’s a lot of, you know, double standard and Democrat hypocrisy because just a few years ago they were so anti, anti-nuclear option. So, American people, they don’t care about distractions like that. They’re not in the inside baseball Senate rules stuff. They want government to be back on our side. They want it to get out of our lives… So, this new rule change, it stinks.”

The scary thing is, I've dealt with people like her in person and online. To her followers, she actually makes sense. They apparently actually think and talk in this kind of blizzard of disjointed gibberish,  spewing a veritable santorum of buzzwords: "Failed big government", "bankrupt this country"  "double standard", etc. As long as they hit the buzzwords and convey the proper sense of frustrated resentment. , it doesn't really matter to them what comes in between or whether or not the whole makes any sense. 

We may be headed for the post-linear-thinking society. 

It's the End of the World As We Know It. Again.

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Oh, dear. It looks like the world’s ending again. This time, it’s the Vikings who are telling us that the End of All Things is right around the corner. February, actually.
You may remember last year when the end was nigh, according to some scholars, if by “scholars” you mean “crackpots, grifters, and people desperate for some sort of headline.” The terminal date was supposed to be Dec. 21, 2012, because, according to these “experts,” the “Long Count” Mayan calendar ended on that date.
Now, it might have occurred to some people that maybe this was because some ancient Mayan calendar maker looked up from his carving and calculations and said, “Wait a minute. The market for calendars that go 2100 years into the future is probably a pretty small one. Enough’s enough,” after which he quit the calendar business, found a nice Mayan girl and settled down to a life of quiet farming, raising children, and cutting the living hearts out of virgins.
But that explanation wasn’t nearly as fun as predicting that the Earth was going to collide with a mysterious rogue planet, or that a massive solar flare was going to wipe us all out, or that an alignment of the planets was going to cause earthquakes and devastation on a massive scale.
As we all know (at least I hope we all do), 2012 came and went with the usual crop of fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters, but the world in general didn’t end on Dec. 21. We all woke up on Dec. 22, sighed, and went back to work, just as we did back in 2000, when the Y2K bug failed to spell the end of civilization.
Now, however, a group called the Jorvik Viking Center in York, England, assures us that their reading of Viking poetry and prophecy indicates that Ragnarok, the final battle, will begin on Feb. 22, 2014. To announce this, on Nov. 15, the JVC had a fellow stand on a rooftop and blow the “Horn of Heimdall,” which starts the countdown until the end begins.

As end-of-the-world stories go, the Viking Apocalypse of Ragnarok is a doozy. Winter will cover the Earth for three years. The enormous Midgard Serpent, which has grown in size and malice over the years until it encircles the entire world, will uncoil itself, spew poison over lands and seas, and create tidal waves with its thrashing.
Hel, the Queen of the Underworld, will arrive with an army of undead, sailing in a ship made of the fingernails of dead men. (How such a vessel would be remotely seaworthy, especially with a continent-sized snake flailing around and roiling up the water, is not explained.)
Odin, Father and King of the Gods, will die fighting the wolf Fenrir, who’s still cranky because Odin had some Dwarves chain him up in the backyard. Odin’s son Vidar will avenge his father by ripping Fenrir apart with his bare hands. Fenrir’s children will eat the sun and the moon. Thor will die fighting the aforementioned Midgard Serpent.

To make a long and bloody story short, everybody in the Norse pantheon will kill everyone else, and the Fire Giants will burn Asgard, home of the gods, to the ground.  Meanwhile, here on Earth, one prophecy foretells: “Brothers will fight and kill each other. Sisters’ children will defile kinship … an ax age, a sword age. Shields are riven. A wind age, a wolf age, before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another.”
All in all, it’ll be pretty insane, although likely not as chaotic as a barbecue at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s house.
All will not be lost, however. Two humans will survive, a man and a woman, huddled in the gargantuan roots of the World Tree Yggdrasil. They’ll come forth into a new dawn and … well, you can guess the rest.
Scary stuff. It’s important to remember, however, that our records of Viking songs, stories and poetry come to us from various sources, some of them contradictory to others, and all of them composed by people who were raging drunk a lot of the time.
It’s also important to remember that Feb. 22, 2014, is the last day of the Jorvik Viking Center’s annual Viking Festival.

So I’m thinking that, once again, predictions of the coming doom are more promotional gimmick than prophecy.