Friday, May 12, 2023

Dianne Feinstein is proof of the need for mandatory retirement

So Senator Dianne Feinstein is finally back in DC.  Makes me wonder if members of Congress too sick to come in for a month or more should have to forfeit their salary for that time period.  At any rate, she's back and already embarrassing.  Sarah Jones (Intelligencer) explains:

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California returned to the Senate on Wednesday, weeks shy of her 90th birthday. For nearly three months, she has been absent, the result of a serious case of shingles. Even now she can only work part time, she said in a statement released by her office. In photos that must double as proof of life, she looks fragile, stooped over in a wheelchair. That can hardly be how she’d like to be remembered. Yet as her long career in politics draws to a close, the senator is demolishing whatever legacy she’d hoped to leave. She has become a ghoulish spectacle and a warning: The system she represents is in trouble.

Feinstein’s fate condemns the very institutions to which she has dedicated herself. As Rebecca Traister noted in a 2022 profile, Feinstein participated enthusiastically in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for the conservative Amy Coney Barrett. “This is one of the best sets of hearings that I’ve participated in,” she told Senator Lindsey Graham at the time, and added, “It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions, and even some ideas, perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this great country even better. So thank you so much for your leadership.” Months later, Barrett would cast a vote in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Though Feinstein cited Roe as a reason to oppose Barrett’s nomination, and voted against confirming her to the Court, her chumminess with Graham was out of keeping with the moment. It was as if the stakes eluded Feinstein.

Much eludes Feinstein these days. But there are still traces of the politician she has always been. Feinstein is an Establishment Democrat to her core. She has dedicated her adult life to the system we have, and she believes that it works, ultimately, toward justice. The country “goes through different phases,” she told Traister. “The institutions handling some of these issues have changed for the better. They’ve become more progressive, and I think that’s important.” A storm gathered, and Feinstein could not or would not see it. Whatever the case, she failed: Though she couldn’t have stopped Barrett’s ascension, she could have put up more of a fight. Why show someone like Graham an ounce of civility at all? Her long career might have sharpened her instincts. Instead, it seemingly desensitized her to danger. Her duty as a public servant was to sound the alarm, even if that was all she could do.

Feinstein leaves us now with no choice but to assume the worst about her motivations. Her failure to retire — and before that, her decision to run for reelection despite her advanced age — can be chalked up to arrogance. She believes the system works because it first worked for her. She climbed the ranks, achieved high office, and stayed there. Lifted to such a vantage, a person has two choices. They can look outward, survey the American landscape in its full, broken reality, and act in accordance with what they see. Or they can disappear into the same institutions that elevated them to power. Feinstein chose the latter. The climate activists she once ridiculed tried to get her to choose another path, but she did not listen. Here we stand, then, in the ruins of Feinstein’s career, in what might also be the ruins of the American experiment itself.

We need term limits and a mandatory retirement age for all members of Congress and the Supreme Court.  Do you realize that right now the mandatory retirement age for a pilot is 65 (some are working to kick it up to 67).  If Dianne were a pilot, she would have been grounded over 20 years ago.  Instead, she's in charge of democracy and we're happy to let her destroy it to avoid offending her.   DiFi is offensive all on her own.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, May 11, 2023.  The bees in Iraq, democracy in the US -- what are things that suffer currently?

The American Taliban.  You think so many can't call it out because they're in bed with it?  Tucker Carlson defenders, for example, who call themselves post-left.  Nick Pemberton (COUNTERPUNCH) notes:

Upon Tucker Carlson’s firing the position of the post-left became even more clarifying. Consider these tweets from the Post-Left Watch: “These people went on Tucker Carlson: Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, Michael Tracey, Russell Brand, Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Oliver Stone, Matt Taibbi, Roger Waters, Lee Fang, Tara Reade, Jimmy Dore, Cornel West, Ro Khanna, Krystal Ball…. Other people who went on Tucker Carlson: Anya Parampil, Zaid Jilani, Stephen F. Cohen, Andrew Yang, Jill Stein, Matt Stoller, Angela Nagle, Rod Blagojevich.”

I'm sorry, who on that list is supposed to impress me?

Stephen F. Cohen is someone I knew and he went on there to get the word out on Ukraine.  He didn't do testimonials for Tucker.  As for the rest?  Where's the person that's supposed to impress me?  A bunch of do nothing self-promoters.

Glenn Greenwald -- libertarian, not left.  Dennis Kucinich?  He sold out his followers at the 2004 DNC convention.  It's not my fault that people don't know their history.  After that? He talked a big game about universal healthcare, said it's what we needed, said ObamaCare wasn't that (he was right) and swore he would never vote for it.  Then Barack got on that plane with him and explained how easy it would be to primary him and get him out of Congress.  When that plane landed, Dennis was all for ObamaCare.  Here's the joke -- well, Dennis is always the joke, here's the punchline: Barack forced Dennis to vote for it and in the next election cycle still had Dennis face a real primary challenge and Dennis was out of Congress.  Tulsi Gabbard -- homophobic, transphobic, cult member.  Cornel West?  Tavis Smiley is a friend, I don't care for people who stab my friends in the back.  Who on this list is supposed to impress me.  Rod Blagojevich?  The man who tried to sell Barack's Senate seat.  Rod went to prison, he's a corrupt politician.  Do these idiots -- these post-lefters -- not know a damn thing?  That would explain why they all cozy up to convicted pedophile Scott Ritter.  Tara Reade?  Tara may have been assaulted.  Didn't give her super powers, didn't make her a nice person and she's never was that left and ran to the right as soon as she could.  She pretends to believe all victims while promoting Scott Ritter, the registered sex offender that was sent to prison.  

It's the American Taliban that's threatening democracy and human rights.  And they can't call it out because they're too busy defending it.  Tara's gal pal, for example, is Marjorie Taylor Greene.  

And while they stay silent, the American Taliban destroys a little  bit more each day.

Here's her speech.


At JACOBIN, Matt McManus tackles hate merchant Matt Walsh:

A media commentator for the Daily Wire, Walsh tackles big questions like the scientificity of a black mermaid and the fertility of sixteen-year-old girls. But Walsh has become most well-known for the relentless bile he directs at the LGBTQ movement, particularly in his widely cited documentary What is a Woman? and its sister book.

While the competition has become stiff, Walsh’s truly obsessive fixation on what people do with their genitals has made him the US right’s homophobe and transphobe in chief. And he pairs this bizarre preoccupation with a crusading right-wing Christianity, on full display in Church of Cowards: A Wake-Up Call to Complacent Christians.

[. . .]

Adding to this, we can ask whether it should be an ethical norm to not misgender people. Some, like Walsh, insist that they will refuse to call anyone by their identified gender since it deviates from (crudely conceived) biology. But as Ben Burgis points out, this is an absurd claim that doesn’t even conform to already-existing social expectations. For instance, when someone describes their adopted child as “my daughter,” no one except Matt Walsh would take issue with it by saying “she wasn’t born that way and I’ll never call her your daughter!”

Turning to Iraq . . .

Saturday, Baghdad kicked off the three-day International Water Conference.  Let's note some Tweets.

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) reported:

Iraq on Saturday called for emergency assistance from the international community to help restore the flow of water in the country's two main rivers.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani made the plea for “urgent international intervention” at the start of the two-day Baghdad International Water conference.

“The issue of water has become a sensitive one not only in Iraq but in all countries,” Mr Al Sudani said.

Water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which account for more than 90 per cent of Iraq's freshwater reserves, have declined significantly over the years, partly as a result of the construction of dams and diversion of water upstream in Turkey and Iran.

The Prime Minister warned that a shortage of water compounded by climate change would have a substantial impact on Iraq's economic development and environment, with wider ramifications for regional stability.

KURDISTAN 24 adds:

The KRG Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Begard Dlshad, is heading the delegation to present the Region’s perspective on water issues such as drought, that has negatively impacted Iraq in recent years, the minister told Kurdistan 24.

The United Nations is also participating in the conference along with representatives of neighboring countries, including Iran and Turkey.

“The KRG’s dam construction project aims to reduce the reliance on water flow from neighboring countries,” the minister told Kurdistan 24 and added that 30 percent of Iraq’s water reserves are in the Kurdish region.

The 45-year-old Begard Dlshad Shukralla has her degree in biology and has previously held the following posts: 2011 to 2013 head of the PUK's Office for Monitoring and Follow Up, 2013 to 2017 MP in the Kurdistan Parliament and, in 2017, Secretary of the Kurdistan Parliament.


Julian Bechocha (RUDAW) reports:                                                                             

Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the United Nations. It is facing a severe water shortage because of reduced precipitation and higher temperatures, and waste and mismanagement. The crisis is worsened by dams upstream in Turkey and Iran that have led to a significant decrease in the volume of water entering the country. 

A visit by Sudani to Turkey in March saw measurable success after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to double the water releases in the Tigris River for a period of one month, saying the decision was made “in order to relieve Iraq’s distress.”

“The government has set the water file as one of its priorities, and has taken many policies. And it was necessary to identify the problems with upstream countries so our meetings with the countries emphasized the need to give the full share of water,” Sudani said. 

During the conference, Sudani also pleaded for “the efforts of all friends” of the international community to “urgently” assist Iraq counter water insecurity.

In one of the latest stark warnings of the threats a heating climate poses to Iraq, a report by the Ministry of Water Resources late last year predicted that unless urgent action is taken to combat declining water levels, Iraq’s two main rivers will be entirely dry by 2040. 

The Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary General spoke at the conference.  Here's what Ghulam Isaczai stated:

Distinguished guests, good morning.

Today, I have the honor of speaking at the 3rd Baghdad International Water Conference, at the invitation of H.E. Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Prime Minister of Iraq, and H.E. Aoun Diab, Minister of Water Resources.

I would like to begin by highlighting some positive developments related to the water agenda that have taken place in recent months, thanks to the joint efforts of the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.

Specifically, I would like to congratulate Iraq for being the pioneer in the region to accede to the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. This accession will open new opportunities to enhance transboundary water cooperation, while strengthening national water policies and practices, and enhancing intersectoral cooperation and stakeholder participation.

From our side at the United Nations, we have established a Water Task Force comprising water experts from different international organizations and think tanks to provide technical assistance and advice to the Government of Iraq on water issues. Our advocacy and engagement on water challenges in Iraq have increased significantly, reflecting our commitment to supporting Iraq in addressing its looming water crisis.

At the national level, there is a need to:

  • Initiate a national dialogue on water and around SDG6 on Clean Water and Sanitation leading to development of a national Water Roadmap.
  • Make water resources management as a national priority, while allocating sufficient funds towards research, analysis, innovation, and transfer of efficient technologies for integrated water resources management.
  • Invest in national capacity building, water infrastructure including dams, irrigation systems, and wastewater treatment plants, to maximize water usage.
  • Promote water conservation measures: such as repairing leaky pipes, introduce water-saving technologies, and enforce regulations on water usage.
  • Revive traditional Rainwater harvesting practices such as building catchment systems, to collect and store rainwater for future use.
  • Establish water monitoring systems for river and ground water, and take regulatory, technological, and behavioral measures to prevent water pollution, while also investing in urban water recycling.
  • Combat desertification through integrated and adaptive land, water, and forest management.
  • Launch education and awareness campaigns to promote responsible water usage and conservation.

At the regional level there is a need to:

  • Strengthen regional cooperation to develop equitable and eco-friendly water use policies, while developing a negotiated strategy encouraging riparian countries to sign river-basin-management agreements based on a win-win approach.
  • Conduct regional water assessment of the economic, environmental, regional integration and political benefits costs of non-cooperation on water resources.
  • Actively leverage relevant global legal instruments on transboundary water.

To effectively address Iraq’s water challenges, we must work jointly and transparently. The cross-cutting nature of water means that challenges must be addressed through a whole of government and whole of society approach, and approach that is inclusive and engages the Iraqi people, that is those most directly affected by the water situation.  

On our side at the United Nations, we will continue to actively engage with our government counterparts, through the Water Task Force and the Inter-agency working group on climate and environment.

Let me close by saying that all technical solutions to the water problems are within our reach; what we need is effective policies, investments, incentive mechanisms, regulations, and enforcement actions.

The United Nations stands ready to support. I wish you all a fruitful conference.

Thank you.


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