The Iran Nuclear Agreement: A Tentative Thankfullness

Goin' to Iran

Goin’ to Iran (Photo credit: Örlygur Hnefill)

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I have been wracking my fraying brain for something to really be thankful for in regards to our national politics.  For example, there still seems a pulse in congressional negotiations over immigration reform, but not enough throbbing to feel a heartfelt thanks.   Not yet.

Half of me is thankful for the procedural rules change forced by the Democrat majority in the Senate which allows presidential appointments (except for Supreme Court judges) to be decided by 51 votes, not 60, releasing the stranglehold of the filibuster that the Republicans have placed on so many of President Obama’s appointments while setting new records in obstruction.

However, the other half is unnerved by the likelihood that this will give the winning side in whatever Senates are to come the power to pack the lower courts with judges even more ideologically extreme than they are now.  Also, after making this change, a future Senate could decide that the Supreme Court nominees would also be selected by a simple majority, allowing extremists on the right and left to be given life long terms…  Whoa, Nellie!   And we think we are polarized now?

Let’s save that to think about until after turkey day.

On the brighter side, I am thankful that we are drawing down our troops to low levels in Afghanistan, and perhaps no levels at all if the enigmatic  potentate, titled-president there, Hamid Karsai, continues to make demands we cannot accept, such as the prerogative to try our troops in Afghan courts (a demand made by Iraq that prompted the withdrawal of all of our troops from there).  But even if we leave a few thousand in country, ostensibly to train Afghanies and make strikes on nests of Al Kaida, who knows what support the central government can maintain once we are largely gone?

Might Al Kaida reestablish itself there?  Yesterday I heard that Karsai might be hoping that if we leave he can make a deal with the Taliban.  Though seemingly unlikely, who knows?   Let’s leave that riddle for after Thanksgiving, too.

That wasn’t so much brighter after all.  Was it.  I do continue to be thankful that progress is being made in the destruction of the killer chemicals in Syria, but always the “but-er”, even if that succeeds, which would be great, the civil war remains hot and  deadly with over 100,000 already dead and Assad’s strongest opposition seeming to stem from radical Muslim groups, who we wouldn’t want to prevail.

Meanwhile, in coming to terms with Assad, we have reduced pressure on changing the government because of its role in maintaining the chemical destruction program.   We’d like Assad gone, but not quite yet.

So, when it comes to giving thanks in terms of national issues, the best I can come up with is the agreement last week regarding Iran’s nuclear program.  Not that I’m all that thankful yet, given its limitations and the slippery nature of Iran’s government/religious nexus, and the friction level raised with our allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.  However, six months of further negotiations while essentially holding Iran’s nuclear program in momentary check seems good to me.  At least it seems better than any other alternatives I’ve heard mentioned. (*1)

And, though akin to a T-Day  dinner featuring processed turkey, I’m thankful for that.

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(*1).  By the way, while the deal is open to criticism from various angles, anyone who suggests there is an analogy between this deal and the one made with Hitler at Munich in 1938, is cherry picking facts to suit their purposes and leaving out key differences.   In short, they are being dishonest as Eugene Robinson suggests in this piece in the Washington Post.

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Is the K-Mart “Show Your Joe” Commercial Naughty or Nice?

(Occasionally I get as sick as most people about contemplating the nature of our national governmental gridlock, informational deformations and related horrifying topics and want to write about something more fun.   I haven’t done it often, but for the sake of my sanity, I want to do it more.  Harnessing the Power of Boobs, written months ago, is an example of that, and below is another.  They will be available under the Categories section to the left under:  Americana).

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“Naughty or nice” might not be exactly the right contrast, but if you’ve seen the K-Mart Show Your Joe commercial you get the point.   It has prompted an uproar by some while others, like myself, have seen it as uproarious, i. e. rollicking.   The ad has gone viral and it seems to me a majority find it clever and amusing rather than distasteful or disgusting.  It is shown at the bottom of this post, so you can decide for yourselves.

My sensibilities were formed as a kid in the 1950s, which makes me a comparative prude now.   For example, I find the prominence of the “F” word in almost every sentence uttered and all the “potty mouth” humor in comedies these days to be an irritatingly sad substitute for cleverness and wit, unless of course I laugh my ass off as was the case with:  Something About Mary, which was clever and witty in contrast, let’s say, to the Hangover movies, which lack much of either.   But I digress…

Now let me respond to a few of the negative comments found on the K-Mart site, which includes positive ones as well if you care to look.

Outraged respondent #1 “Swinging testicles in front of impressionable kids is not my idea of a family store. Goodbye Kmart and Sears.”

My Response:   Check the ad again below.  There are no testicles  shown a swinging, just as there are no lords a leaping.  You know they’re there, but the kids young enough to be really “impressionable” are not likely to think that way. They just see guys moving their hips in keeping with the music.  If they “get the joke” they are no longer  so impressionable.   Funny or not, it is no big deal.

Outraged respondent #2, a woman who saw the commercial with her 14 year old daughter:   “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and what you were implying,” she wrote. “Very disrespectful to your overall audiences, sad what you do for a sale or publicity. You lost my sales this year.”

My Response:  Just what were they implying?  That there are specifically male parts beneath those shorts that jiggle when not sufficiently strapped down?  That those parts might be playfully viewed as instruments to play Jingle Balls, er, Bells?  (*1)  You think that is a revelation or shock to your 14 year old daughter?  Are you Amish watching TV at a Mennonite friend’s house?

Has your daughter no access to the internet or to friends with access to the internet?  Clearly you have not gotten around to the birds and bees conversation.   You wouldn’t be so embarrassed if you had.   But bring it up with  your daughter and I’ll bet  she’ll say:  “I know, mom, I know.  Can we talk about something else?”  Again, no big deal, unless, mom, you want to press the point.

Really outraged respondent #3:   “Seriously DISGUSTING!!! MAKING a MOCKERY of a Holiday. Proof shows that retailers care nothing about the holiday & just the $ of the bottom line. Just close up shop now. Won’t be shopping neither here nor Sears.”

My Response:  I agree, there is much disgusting about the “holiday season” becoming essentially a matter of making money under a shallow veneer of traditional Christmas spirit.  Even the Black Friday dike holding back shopping frenzy to Thanksgiving night is almost completely eroded now.   And the Christmas creep of commercialism reaches us sooner each year.   I noticed traces of xmas paraphernalia in the stores in early October.   September can’t be too far away in the future of Christmas.

But in terms of the commercial, so what?  You are disgusted by what is going through your mind watching the commercial, not what is actually shown.  The commercial is like a double entendre in speech, with two meanings, one of them  sexual, albeit in this case barely so.  The title is a double entendre, adding to the list of names the penis has been given over the centuries.  To Dick, Peter and Willy, add Joe.   But as long as it is subtly so, it is part of a longstanding tradition of humor and OK by me.

Like beauty, bad taste is in the eye of the beholder.   The naughtiness you outraged sorts are feeling is a product of your own minds not what can be seen in the commercial.  My advice:

Get your minds out of the gutter.

And have a Merry Christmas.

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(*1) By the way, had they used rather than implied Jingle Balls”, had gone from implied to blatant, the ad would cross the line separating funny and offensive to me.).

The Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons: How’s it going?

The answer:  Surprisingly well it seems.  That’s why we hear little about it.   Problems with the roll out of Obamacare, on the other hand, receive hours of coverage each day by the mainstream media.   I recall the old expression “no news is good news.”  It also seems:  Good news is no news.

The Hague (the Netherlands) Organisation of th...

The Hague (the Netherlands) Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But back to those chemical weapons.  When they were big news a couple of months ago it was because it looked like the Assad government had used them and perhaps even worse, they seemed in danger of being grabbed by one or more of the extremist groups which make up much of his revolutionary  opposition.

Then if you recall (or if you don’t  check out this refresher post), through an odd series of events, the U. S. and Russia made a deal (with Assad’s acceptance) to destroy all of the chemical weapons and facilities to make them, a proposal whose chances of working seemed very “iffy” at best.

Well, according to several articles I have read, despite the ongoing civil war, considerable progress has been made in dismantling those weapons sites in Syria and the biggest challenge now seems to be finding a nation that is willing to take the deadly chemicals and destroy them.   Albania seemed a good prospect, but demonstrations against the idea changed its government’s mind and no other European nation is willing to take on that role.

At least Norway has offered a ship and several escort vessels to tote that evil stuff somewhere to be destroyed should there be any takers.  Over the last few days there has been talk of bringing the means to destroy the chemicals to Syria itself instead of the other way around, but we’ll have to wait and see.

The point is that despite the huge difficulties, the The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (which has been tasked with the job), has said that ‘the most critical chemicals’ would be removed from Syria by the end of 2013″…..(and the)….”destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons facilities would take place between December 15 and March 15 “according to a risk-based criterion.”

This according to a recent article in CNN on line, which you should click if you want more information than given in this thumbnail sketch.

If those chemical weapons wind up destroyed, that will be great news, but not likely to garner as much attention as would the whole plan falling apart and Muslim extremists grabbing a goodly supply of killer chemicals with which to terrorize the region and perhaps the world.

Now that’s  a story our news people could sink their teeth into.

Obamacarelessness: Matt Miller Gets to the Heart of the Matter

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t care to write about Obamacare, but Matt Miller does and has.  Mr. Miller is what I would call a compassionate pragmatist, but he must look radically liberal to those on the right as he believes higher taxes and greater government investment in education is necessary if this country is to turn itself around.   If this post prompts further interest, you can learn a lot more about him if you check out his web site.

I mention Miller because in a recent editorial in the Washington Post he gets to the heart of what basically separates the world views of Republicans and Democrats, especially the Republican power brokers of today.   It is the differing significance each gives to the role of luck in life.  Democrats tend to think of themselves as fortunate to be where they are, while Republicans tend to think of themselves as deserving.  In turn,  Democrats tend to look at less successful people as less fortunate, while Republicans tend to see them as undeserving, or at least far less deserving then they are.

As such, despite being one of the richest men on the planet and a perfect poster child for the self-made man, Warren Buffett leans Democratic as he sees himself as having had a lot of luck in life, beginning with his being born a man in 1930s America and the automatic advantages that conveyed.  Need I add, especially for a white man.  Such advantages a Republican would take for granted.

The Republican answer to Obamacare is no Obamacare and then maybe we’ll agree to make some changes in the health care system that will somewhat benefit perhaps a million or two, rather than the 20 million Obamacare aims to aid a great deal.  And don’t remind us that the roots of Obamacare grew out of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, because we never really thought that was a good idea to begin with.

Despite its now looking like Obamacarelessness, given the lack of a real alternative, if you are well insured but relate strongly to:  “There but for fortune go I….”  it is Obamacare or nothing, for the Republicans don’t feel a need to offer anything  comparable as suggested in Miller’s piece:  Obama’s Well Insured Critics.

The Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons: A Real News Topic

These days a rediculous amount of time is being spent by news media covering the struggling roll out of Obamacare, or officially the Affordable Care Act (in case an on-the-street  interviewer tries to trick you with the question:  Which health plan do you prefer?  ….as you are walking along contemplating what to have for dinner).

WTVD News Vehicle

WTVD News Vehicle (Photo credit: Donald Lee Pardue)

The perils of Obamacare are so talked about by the mainstream media that it is hard to resist saying something myself, but I will restrict it to this:  It is an important issue, but let’s wait awhile longer to see how things sort out.

Whatever mishmash is happening now is not real news, unlike the typhoon in the Philippines.   O. K. there is a little news there, but it is mostly filler like in many processed foods.   It is filled by the primary commitment of both parties to make the other party look bad and newscasters, especially the cable kind, who need to have something to talk about that they can make seem important enough for us to listen.   Those relatively few of us who actually do listen to any of them.

It is not news they report but steps forward in a narrative with a minor climax being the 2014 congressional elections and then the major climax being the 2016 presidential one.   These news junkies wish us to become addicted to politics as if we had money on a horserace (Chuck Todd and Chris Matthews of MSNBC come to mind in particular).

Here’s my prediction:  Within three days after the 2016  election, no matter who wins, Chuck and Chris et al will be speculating on the 2020 presidential election, and so it will go.   Doesn’t it seem a little crazy, all this attention upon who will win political races, when there seems such a disparity between winning elections and creating a government that works? (*1)

Oh….  Syria?  Remember how important it was a couple of months ago, what with the chemical weapons they have and the surprising deal to dismantle them?   (check out this post for a refresher).  I for one have been curious as to how that has been going, so I did a little Googling and was going to give you an update today, but figure this post is long enough as it is.  (I’ve noticed my posts have gotten longer of late).

So, I employ the popular news hook:

Is the Syrian chemical weapons deal about to explode?  Tune in to news at 11:00?

Er I mean, read my next post in a couple of days (or you could do some Google searching yourself if you’re impatient.)

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(*1) “Works” here is meant in two ways, working together and just plain working.   Check out the House calendar  (scroll to bottom) for this month and next.  It shows a combined number of days in session as 16 over the two months.   Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has raised that issue on her show, but if some reporter has directly asked Speaker Boehner (R.) to explain that lowly figure, I have missed it.

The Republican and Syrian Civil Wars, the Never Ending Budget Battle, the Ubiquitous NSA, Obamacareless, or…? OR the Chris Christie and Cory Booker Show?

I heard testerday that the President’s approval rating is down to an all time low, around 42%, though the ray of sunshine for him is that the approval of the GOP is a lowlier 22%.  We have little confidence in our national future and almost no confidence in our government, which is commonly seen as a big part of the problem, not the solution.  It’s depressing.

Where is Ronald Reagan when we need him?  No, he’s not a presidential hero of mine, but he was excellent as a cheer leader for America.   He made Americans feel good about America at a time when, like today, most of us didn’t.   Confidence or the lack of it creates its own reality.  The relationship between consumer confidence and a growing economy is a case in point.   Student success or failure in schools is another.

I have heard this expression a few times of late:   The Democrats can’t  govern and the Republicans don’t want to.   Of course, the two are closely tied, as the main Republican mission since the President was elected and re-elected has been to stymie his plans, whatever they may be.   That is what not wanting to govern has meant.  On the other hand, the President and his administration has raised numerous doubts as to their ability to govern, receiving barely passing grades on most fronts, and an ‘F’ on the Obamacare roll out, a grade hopefully raised through a series of make up tests.   Hopefully, if you lean Democratic and hopefully not if you lean Republican.

Significantly, the hope of both sides is not for anything good anytime soon, but with an eye to 2014 and 2016, seeming to assume that nothing much can be done to break the gridlock until there are changes in the cast of characters.   As if those mid-term elections in 2014 and then the one for President in 2016, will radically alter the dynamics of stagnation that have become our governmental stamp.   I can imagine it happening, but it feels more like a fantasy than a likelihood.

Now we are so busy concentrating on our mess at home that we, I mean our main stream media and most of us, pay little attention to the world at large, as if we are incapable of a world vision that goes beyond a constant examination of our collective navel.  It is less and less an American world and dealing with those changes should be our central focus, not tripping each other up.

Hmm…. I guess I just needed to vent, my way of saying I don’t feel like dealing with all of this today.  I  can use a laugh or two, and maybe you can as well, so I dug out the video below made in 2012 staring New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and then Newark Mayor, now brand new Senator, Cory Booker.   If you can recall way back then, Booker was receiving a lot of national attention for a surprising number of heroic feats saving lives or at least shoveling someone out of a snow bank.

So, despite disagreeing on most things political, Republican Christie and Democrat Booker made this video, and I imagine had fun doing it.   So, today let’s put some of that “fun”  back into dysfunctional.  (You hearty band of regular blog followers will have to go to the main site to see the video.)