Off With Their Heads!

That famous cry of the Red Queen should be ringing in Washington.  But you will be surprised at whose heads should roll.

This morning, CNN is reporting that the Supercommitte, that group of upstanding members of Congress that are supposed to be coming up with real cuts to the U.S. deficit have reached an impasse.  The issue?  Democratic members want $3B in cuts.  The Republican members only want the amount legally required, $1.2B.

Are these the same Republicans that have been belly aching for the better part of the last year that there is too much spending in Washington?  Are these the same Republicans that are accusing the President of being a socialist and forcing unfunded mandates on the country?  Are these the same Republicans that are expecting the United States to take them seriously?

Personhood Amendment

I used to think that Ireland was the most backwards of all the developed nations.  It only recently allowed birth control and certainly has issues with such common place things as divorce and homosexuality.  I say used to because the United States just passed them on the slide down the hill.

This morning in the New York Times, they were discussing the Personhood Amendment that is on the November ballot in Mississippi and gaining strength in Florida and Ohio.  Now you can argue that Ireland is probably more developed as a nation than Mississippi, but what really made my jaw hit the floor was this statement:

Mississippi Personhood is an initiative to define a person as a person from the time they are conceived. The initiative is a response to what some perceive as loosening abortion laws nationwide.  If this constitutional amendment passes, Mississippi will have one of the strongest pro life laws in the nation.

We all understand that this is nothing less than an end run around Roe vs. Wade and yet another attack on women, but what is leaving me scratching my head is the line strongest pro life laws in the nation.  Did I miss a memo?  Did they manage to repeal the Second Amendment in Mississippi?  Perhaps the people pushing this so-called Personhood should take a look at the number of children murdered by firearms in Mississippi than abortions conducted.

If this organization really is pro-life (and they are not, they are simply anti-abortion, which is a  different mind set entirely) they they would be lobbying for stronger gun laws, rather than criminalizing a medical procedure.

The Ghost of Events Yet To Come?

I was watching the footage of the police action in Oakland overnight with the Occupy movement and could not help but be reminded of events earlier this year in Tahrir Square in Egypt.  And I am not entirely sure that the motives are not similar.

More and more, people are beginning to realize that most politicians have almost no interest in the citizens that sent them to the various bodies to represent them.  They are instead more interested in staying in power, and the money that comes with that position.  It should not be a surprise that you have to be rich to get elected.  The last U.S. Presidential Election cost a billion dollars.  Money that we all agree could have been better spent on any number of things.  This was not federal money, government money, but private money, that very same money that the politicians are saying needs to be spent by companies on jobs.  Does this mean that we will have to wait for the current presidential campaign to really get serious before we will see jobs being created?  Since I cannot see money being spent for anything but politics.

I would suggest Washington pay attention, but that would mean they actually care.  And clearly, given the current mood of the country, they do not.

More on Replacing a Dictator…

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) - Libya's interim rulers have declared the country liberated after an 8-month civil war, launching the oil-rich nation on what is meant to be a two-year transition to democracy. But they laid out plans with an Islamist tone that could rattle their Western backers. (YahooNews)

On Friday, I pointed out that the change in government, from Gadhafi to parties unknown, might not be exactly what the West might have wanted.  So it is not much of a surprise that Libya, like Egypt and other Middle East countries, swept up in the mayhem of the Arab Spring are emerging, not as democracies, but as theocracies, or at the very least a nation that is more focused on the religious than on the secular.  We have seen what the Taliban, in the name of religion can do.  We have seen what the Ayatollahs have done to Iran, in the name of religion.

For all the protestations that Islam is about peace and harmony, these nations tend to highlight the worst of the religion, not the best.  And tends to further damn their religion in the eyes of those outside those countries.

Replacing a Dictator

News out of Libya is joyous.  Especially if you are a Libyan.  The death of Moammar Gadhafi is being celebrated by the people of Libya as it should be.  And like the removal, and death, of other dictators over the last few months, there is a certain sense of release and relief spreading around the globe.  But before we get too swept up in the euphoria, we should take a few moments and recognize that the downfall of a dictator, even if it is something that is desired, is not a panacea.

For the most part, I suspect that the people of Libya, or Egypt or Iraq are very much like those of us in the United States.  They get up, they go to work, they do their job and they come home.  Under a dictator, unlike us, there is the added fear of being picked up by the secret police for simple crimes, like thinking or trying to better themselves without paying off the right people, or just because their neighbour does not like the colour they painted their house.  These are very real fears.  Fears that hopefully now they are able to put behind them.  We will see how that pans out over the next 8 to 10 months as these countries move towards free and open elections.  You will note that I am not convinced that these elections will be either free nor open.  Time will tell.  I certainly hope that they will.  But as we have seen, many of these nations have been rebelling against western ideas for years, and I am afraid that now that their leaders are less western, in both education and vision, will revert to more religious mannerisms for rule.

But that scares me less than not knowing who is in charge.  Moammar Gadhafi was a nut job.  Flaky, I believe President Reagan called him.  But at least he was in charge.  You could follow the money in and the weapons out.  This was true of most of the dictatorships.  You only had to watch one person.  Maybe two.  With the over throw of the dictator, you have a much bigger problem.  Who do you watch?  Libya was described by the BBC yesterday and the weapons bazaar of the Middle East.  But with only one merchant minding the shop, it was easy to know who you were dealing with.  Now there is a very serious question about who is minding the store and more importantly, who is buying and selling the weapons that many believe are not only there, but will shortly be making their way to individuals that make Moammar Gadhafi look sane, grounded, and fun to work with.  And these individuals want nothing more than the complete annihilation of the West, and the modern way of doing things.

This is not a complaint against the people of Libya or those who have been crying out for their basic human rights since the Arab Spring began.  They are fully entitled to those rights and privileges enjoyed by many around the world.  But I am concerned that with the rapidity of change, and the lack of real leadership in any of these countries that if we take our eye off the ball now, we may be regretting it later.

Are you paying attention?

Transportation Woes

If you live outside of the United States, you probably think you have a long commute.  Even if you live in the United States, unless you live in New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles, you probably think you have a long commute.  If you live in Washington, DC, you know you have a long commute.  A couple of extra minutes?  On a good day, at 3 AM.  On a normal day, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes above normal and on a bad day.  Well, pack a lunch.

Today was a bad day.  Rain always complicates the commute.  As does sunshine, snow, and cell phones.  But today was a trifecta of  bad weather, accidents, and emergency construction.  People coming north on I-95 were advised to pack their patience and a snack.  Estimated commute times were upwards of 90 minutes along a ten mile stretch of the highway.

I have been tracking my commute since the last week of August.  I have a 15 mile commute, a straight shot up Route 28.  About a third of the commute is local in that there are stop lights, the other two-thirds are highway in that there are overpasses and flyways to keep the traffic moving.  According to Google, the trip should take 20 minutes.  According to my non-rush hour driving, it takes 15 minutes since the trip north of I-66 is officially 55 miles an hour.  Over the course of the last 10 weeks, my average commute time has been 40 minutes, or more than double.  Most days are in the 35-45 minute range and the high point has been 75 minutes.  I have only made the commute in 15 minutes once.  And that was when I was on the road at 5:00 AM.  And I will admit I have a very short, simple commute.

As the Presidential candidates (and even some of our local political hacks) go after each other over such things as Immigration or jobs, one question I have for all of them is what are you doing to reduce the time spent wasted commuting?

Now, before you trot out the normal stalking horses, like move closer to work or use public transit I will remind you that moving, especially moving a household, is not a trivial exercise.  If you are lucky enough to be able and pick up an move without a moment's thought or issue, good for you, but you are in the minority.  Moving a household is a big deal.  Even someone like me who moved every year for more than 10 years finds moving to be a pain.  Public transit is an even bigger joke.  In DC, public transit means moving people to DC.  Period.  And while I have used public transit when I worked in DC, where I work now does not have a viable public transit option, and that is assuming there was money in the coffers to support a public transit solution.

You might say I could work from home, and you would be right, if working from home was an option offered to me by my company.  In fact, in these days of increased austerity, you would think that companies would be encouraging people to work from home.  In fact, the opposite is happening as people are desperate to prove that they are valuable and useful and that mean presenting themselves to the office every day and ensuring the face time is achieved.  Since people are not clamouring for the ability to work from home, companies are not making it an option.

So the roads are congested and there we all sit, twice a day, with little option.  And they wonder why people are texting when they drive?  Is it any real surprise?

And in baseball news…

With the New York Yankees out of the post-season before it started and more attention being paid to the people crammed into parks around Wall Street than to the people that showed up at the ball parks, the World Series teams have been determined.  It will be the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.

And if your reaction  You are probably not alone.  In fact, of all the match ups I am sure Fox Sports did not want, it was St. Louis and Texas.  Even Tampa Bay would have been a bigger draw than Texas.  And while St. Louis has a following, it is still considerably less than even the San Francisco Giants.  But there you go.  St. Louis and Texas.  In the World Series.

If I am asking in March who won the 2011 World Series, please excuse me.  Even I have no real desire to watch the games.