LAKE URMIA, Iran — After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find. Just an hour earlier, on a cold winter day here in western Iran, the official, Hamid Ranaghadr, had recalled how as recently as a decade ago, cruise ships filled with tourists plied the lake’s waters in search of flocks of migrating flamingos.
Now, the ships are rusting in the mud and the flamingos fly over the remains of the lake on their way to more hospitable locales. According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains.
Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue, and in public speeches in areas struck hardest by the shortage he is promising to “bring the water back.”
Put this in perspective, too, with other environmental/water events here in the US: --Texas has been in drought for years and is experiencing severe shrinking of their reservoirs for their major cities, including Austin; --California has been experiencing the same long-term drought with shrinking reservoirs and, making things far worse, this year, to date, the dry spell has accelerated. Governor Jerry Brown has had to finally declare an emergency and ration water; --Utah's Salt Lake has been famously shrinking for years. So the question: At what point does humankind start paying attention and doing something about our environment?
Here’s a list of just some of the bills that Republicans have blocked or attempted to block, since President Obama became President: - Tax on Companies that ship jobs overseas- would have eliminated a tax break that companies get when they ship jobs overseas. (Unless you're owned by a corporation, how do you vote against that?) - Political Ad disclosure bill- Would have required all donors to political campaigns to reveal themselves. Republicans blocked this, not once but twice. - Subpoena Power for the Committee investigating the BP Oil Spill – Give subpoena power to the independent committee responsible for investigating BP’s roll in the oil spill. - The Small Business Jobs Act -would give local, community banks access to billions of dollars to loan to small businesses. Republicans blocked this twice, then failed to block it a third time. - The DREAM Act- Gives immigrant youth who were brought here as children a path to citizenship by earning a college degree or serving the military for 2 years. Republicans blocked this. - Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” - The filibuster against the DREAM Act and repeal of DADT also blocked other blocked provisions: - No permanent military bases in Afghanistan. - Protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces - Improvements to Department of Defense domestic violence programs. - Enhancements to the Troops-to-Teachers Program. - Fiscal year 2011 increase in military basic pay. - Comprehensive policy on neurocognitive assessment by the military health care system. - Funds to modify or construct facilities to house detainees transferred from GITMO Anti-Rape Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill - Benefits for Homeless Veterans- and homeless veterans with children. Republicans blocked this. - Affordable Health Care For America Act- Prevents insurance companies from discriminating against you on the basis of “pre-existing conditions”. Requires that insurance companies spend 85 cents of every dollar that you pay on your actual health care. Limits health insurance companies profit margins. Republicans blocked this for months before it finally passed and have vowed to repeal it if they are elected. - Health Care for the 9/11 First Responders who got sick from being at Ground Zero- Would provide billions of dollars in health care to help the 9/11 First Responders who were at Ground Zero on 9/11 and are now sick because of it. Republicans blocked this. - The Jobs Bill- Offsets the payroll tax for 1 year for companies that hire new employees, or people receiving unemployment insurance. Also gives other tax incentives to companies hiring new employees. Republicans attempted to block this. - Wall Street Reform- Puts stricter regulations on the banks, preventing them from becoming “too big to fail”. Curbs reckless spending practices that caused the banking crisis. Republicans attempted to block this. - American Recovery and Reinvestment Act- Pumped billions of dollars into state and local Governments to prevent us from sinking into a second Great Depression. Republicans opposed this but now want to take credit for the parts of it that we know are successful. - Oil Spill Liability- Raises the liability on what companies can be made to pay to clean up after an oil spill. Republicans blocked this. - Immigration Reform- Republican suggested comprehensive immigration reform until Obama supported it. Now they’re rabidly opposed to it and even voted against their own legislation. - Unemployment extension bill HR-4213- Would provide additional aid to the millions of Americans still on unemployment who are just trying to support themselves and their families. Republicans blocked this bill for 8 weeks before it finally passed. Republicans blocked this for 8 weeks before it finally passed. - Fair Pay Act of 2009- Also called the Lily Ledbetter bill. Requires that women receive equal compensation to men for doing the same work. Republicans attempted to block this. Finally, they never once created, proposed or tried to pass a jobs/infrastructure bill since 2008 in spite of the fact that the nation and people have been suffering through the worst economic downturn and market in 80 years, since the Great Depression. So, anyone think these people, the Republican Party, is for the people and not for corporate America and the wealthy of the country?
All the calls for this president to be---I saw it yesterday---"empeached."
It's so ridiculous.
He's a Constitutional scholar, for pity's sake. I think he knows what is and is not "Constitutional."
And now, today, after the State of the Union speech last night and after President Obama's desperate but necessary threat to issue more Executive Orders since, after all, he's dealing with one of the most truly "do-nothing" Congresses in our nation's history, it seems a little history lesson is in order. Here's the truth, kiddos:
We've crunched the numbers, and as you can see in our handy graph, above, Obama has issued fewer executive orders per day in office than conservative heroes like George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Calvin Coolidge. In fact, you have to go all the way back to Grover Cleveland in the nineteenth century to find a president who has issued executive orders at a lower rate than Obama.
And yet, we have the following lately:
Kentucky senator Rand Paul has accused Obama of acting "like a king or a monarch." South Carolina congressman Jeff Duncan declared last week, "We live in a republic, not a dictatorship." Mike Huckabee proclaimed that the White House has "nothing but contempt for the Constitution" and seeks to "trump ... the checks and balances of power in which no branch could act unilaterally." Texas congressman Steve Stockman has already threatened impeachment.
Way to put things in perspective, guys. Congress won't and doesn't do their job so they blame someone else for going forward, doing something, getting things done--for the people--and doing some work.
As though demanding a more livable, fair, minimum wage is somehow a horrible thing.
So as of yesterday, here's John Boehner's and the Republican Party's response to this "outrage":
On Tuesday morning, at a breakfast discussing the State of the Union address later in the evening, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters that President Obama is on dangerous ground on his use of executive orders. Essentially, Boehner issued a veiled threat stating that if the President thinks he can enact more change by circumventing Congress and utilizing executive orders, then Obama could be facing a backlash from Congressional Republicans. While he did not overtly state it, it seemed pretty clear he was talking about impeachment.
“We’re just not going to sit here and let the President trample all over us. This idea that he’s just going to go it alone, I have to remind him we do have a constitution. And the Congress writes the laws, and the President’s job is to execute the laws faithfully. And if he tries to ignore this he’s going to run into a brick wall.”
Actually, Mr. Boehner, given how little Congress did in the last session of your up-to-now august body, we expect that's precisely what you'll do. That is, sit there and do nothing.
You scheduled 97 total days of "work" this year in Congress.
Yesterday in 1945, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was liberated by the Russian army. The Nazis had abandoned the camp 10 days earlier, forcing most of the prisoners into a death march that killed thousands. Those deemed too weak for the march were left behind, including these children.
They did not know their ordeal was over until the 322nd Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army arrived.
Since 2005, January 27th is known as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people along with countless members of other minorities.
Still photograph of the children from the Soviet Film of the liberation of Auschwitz, taken by the film unit of the First Ukrainian Front, shot over a period of several months beginning on January 27, 1945 by Alexander Voronzow and others in his group. Child survivors of Auschwitz, wearing adult-size prisoner jackets, stand behind a barbed wire fence. Among those pictured are Tomasz Szwarz; Alicja Gruenbaum; Solomon Rozalin; Gita Sztrauss; Wiera Sadler; Marta Wiess; Boro Eksztein; Josef Rozenwaser; Rafael Szlezinger; Gabriel Nejman; Gugiel Appelbaum; Mark Berkowitz (a twin); Pesa Balter; Rut Muszkies (later Webber); Miriam Friedman; and twins Miriam Mozes and Eva Mozes wearing knitted hats.
For any Republican member of Congress to be railing on about what this president should be doing, coming out of last year's truly "do-nothing" Congressional session, especially when Congress didn't once send to the president and nation a jobs bill, first, and second, followed, now, by the fact that they scheduled themselves a 97 day calendar year for work this year has got to be the height of sheer, blatant and very ugly hypocrisy.
The ignorance of any population of a country I can kind of understand, sure. Ignorance is a bit like air, it's all around you. I was reminded of our nation's ignorance by an article in The New York Times today:
WASHINGTON — President Obamawill pronounce on the state of the union for the fifth time on Tuesday, and never during his time in office has the state of the economy been better — yet rarely has he gotten such low marks from the public for his handling of it.
Not only have economic indicators shown progress toward pre-recession health, but many forecasters are predicting what one called “a breakout year” for growth. A new study from a Federal Reserve economist even put a more benign spin on a negative trend, the shrinking labor force, by attributing the decline not to discouraged unemployed workers who have quit looking for jobs, but to the first baby-boomer retirements.
Demand for labor is up and the unemployment rate is below 7 percent for the first time since November 2008. Consumers, buoyed by rising home prices and stock values, are spending more; so are businesses. Exports are growing as Europe regains health. The fiscal drag from state and federal spending cuts has abated. And contrary to Republicans’ claims, many forecasters do not see the health care law as “a job-killer.”
Not only does this president get little or no credit for the good and growing economy, but the vitriol and ugliness that one can hear, read and see in this country towards this man is not just negative but at least a few people have publicly called for him to be not just impeached but killed. One said, on Facebook, he should be lynched. It's outrageous.
It reminds me of the saying that minorities have to work twice as hard yet they get half the credit of a white man. There's no better example of this than to examine the presidencies of President Obama and his predecessor, for one very easy, pertinent and extremely recent proof of that. It became an all-too-true meme, showing our collective hypocrisy, if not stupidity:
Now if we could just get a Congress that would a) work and b) send a good jobs/infrastructure bill to him this year, as soon as possible.
For a proclaimed fiscal conservative, Gov. Brownback has a weird way of showing it. First he rammed through a radical tax plan that has been called the worst tax plan in America (http://bit.ly/1bkytN1) and now he's proposing a two-year budget with a $457 million deficit in an attempt to trick voters into thinking he supports education. (http://bit.ly/1eAaMEa) From Kansas Democratic Party
Yes, indeed, many congratulations to the border/sister/brother states of Missouri and Kansas. According to research done with data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, these two states are among a short list of those where homelessness is getting worse. Additionally, to make things worse, Kansas is one of the top worst, being one of the 7 states with the worst situations. (click on picture for larger, easier viewing).
Governor Brownback must be so proud.
And if not proud, then certainly happy. He and his political party cohorts, both.
Missouri Republicans have drafted a bill that would allow parents to pull their children from science classes that are teaching the theory of evolution. According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Missouri’s House Bill 1472 would effectively “eviscerate” the teaching of biology in the state.
Remember when the nation was all for and about education and science and math and, well, honestly, intelligence?
Yeah, I sure do.
And then we started getting these demagogues who not only want to pander to their own small, small-minded voting base but also want to throw religion into our government and politics.
What gets me is not just that it's not smart--truly stupid--but that it's so irresponsible. Let's not condemn our children to mere ignorance, let's foist religion and non-science on them, too.
Then, as if that weren't enough, as if that didn't condemn Missourians enough, they came up with yet more and truly outdid themselves: