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Agnosticsherbet's Journal
Agnosticsherbet's Journal
March 19, 2015

Netanyahu Will Make History

Netanyahu Will Make History
Well, it’s pretty clear now: Benjamin Netanyahu is going to be a major figure in Israeli history — not because he’s heading to become the longest-serving Israeli prime minister, but because he’s heading to be the most impactful. Having won the Israeli elections — in part by declaring that he will never permit a two state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians — it means Netanyahu will be the father of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.

Yes, sir, Bibi is going to make history. And the leader in the world who is most happy that Netanyahu ran on — and won on — a one-state solution is the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Oh, my goodness. They must have been doing high-fives and “Allahu akbars” all night in the ruling circles of Tehran when they saw how low Bibi sank to win. What better way to isolate Israel globally and deflect attention from Iran’s behavior?

The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center. When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses? Is Aipac, the Israel lobby, now going to push for a one-state solution on Capitol Hill? How many Democrats and Republicans would endorse that?

Warning: Real trouble ahead.

This sentence bears repeating: "And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy."
March 17, 2015

Election Committee bars PM’s press conference

Election Committee bars PM’s press conference
rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls a press conference for 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, just four hours before polls close on Election Day.

But the Yesh Atid and Zionist Union parties appeal to Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who heads the Central Election Committee, to forbid the press conference.

Good try, Bibi, but they got you.

No campaigning means no campaigning.
March 10, 2015

Why the White House Won’t Pursue GOP Senators’ Iran Letter As Logan Act Violation

Why the White House Won’t Pursue GOP Senators’ Iran Letter As Logan Act Violation

As Earnest pointed out, the language of the letter is ambiguous enough that a theoretical defense lawyer could argue it is simply a helpful list of (not accurate) facts, and the fact that it’s an open letter would make proving their intent somewhat more difficult. Of course, a theoretical prosecutor could also make the argument that the letter is essentially the Republicans’ way of saying “Nice nuclear deal you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” It is, at very least, a clear violation of the spirit of the law, and given the precedent being set, I’d be happy to take a chance on such a prosecution.

However, such an uphill fight would not be worth the gamble, politically, and under the current set of facts, the White House is getting the best of both words. Earnest and President Obama are going right up to the line with their criticism of the move, and people like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid are dancing right on it. The debate helps them more than leaning into the specific accusation ever would. If they say they’re looking into it, then they have to do something about it. If they say it’s not a violation, then it kills the story. Better to let everyone else talk about it.

And talk about it, they should, because this sets a dangerous precedent that could well leave us with little choice but another war.

As bad as it is, prosecution would not be a slam dunk, but it would set a precedent.

Very interesting article.
March 7, 2015

Republican House to block an administrative procedure within the Social Security

One of my faceoook friends, a disabled former Railroad employee, shared this with me. It appears that Republicans have tried to slip changes to Social Security into a bill that will directly harm the disabled.

From the Legislative Director for the National Association of Retired & Veteran Railway Empolyee's

Narvre Unit 59 Boone Iowa

From the Legislative Office:

As reported, the recent actions (Jan 6) of the Republican House to block an administrative procedure within the Social Security system is yet another veiled attempt to bring undue harm to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and it's beneficiaries, specifically, those in the disability program. This article (below) lays out yet another scheme that was discovered when the Republican leadership slipped a provision into a routine rules bill that will block an internal financial procedure (reallocation) between SSA trust funds. There will be legislation introduced soon in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that will serve to strengthen the Social Security system, and protect the benefits of millions of Americans that have paid into the system. It is a travesty that the GOP leadership in the House would set up the Social Security Disability program for benefit cuts projected to be at 20 percent in 2016. Railroad Retirement works with the Social Security Administration in many ways, and NARVRE will stand with millions of other retirees across America to ensure that Congress understands that we expect them to protect Social Security and Railroad Retirement and the benefits of it's beneficiaries. This latest action reminds us all that there are consequences to elections. The legislation referred to had no hearing and no discussion. The rules bill passed the House by a vote of 234-172, with all Democrats opposed and almost every Republican in favor. We will keep you advised, more information in the Feb Newsletter...

I don't have access to their Feb Newsletter, but this reveals that Republicans are more than willing to disassemble Social Security, no matter who it harms.
March 4, 2015

Lockheed Martin's new Compact Fusion Reactor might change humanity forever

Lockheed Martin's new Compact Fusion Reactor might change humanity forever
This is an invention that might possibly modify the civilization as we know it: A compact fusion reactor presented by Skunk Works, the stealth experimental technology section of Lockheed Martin. It's about the size of a jet engine and it can power airplanes, most likely spaceships, and cities. Skunk Works state that it will be operational in 10 years. Aviation Week had completeaccess to their stealthy workshops and spoke to Dr. Thomas McGuire, the leader of Skunk Work's Revolutionary Technology section. And ground-breaking it is, certainly: Instead of utilizing the similar strategy that everyone else is using— the Soviet-derived tokamak, a torus in which magnetic fields limit the fusion reaction with a enormous energy cost and thus tiny energy production abilities—Skunk Works' Compact Fusion Reactor has a fundamentally different methodology to anything people have tried before. Here are the two of those techniques for contrast:

The crucial point in the Skunk Works arrangement is their tube-like design, which permits them to avoid one of the boundaries of usual fusion reactor designs, which are very restricted in the sum of plasma they can sustain, which makes them giant in size—like the gigantic International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. According to McGuire:

“The traditional tokamak designs can only hold so much plasma, and we call that the beta limit. Their plasma ratio is 5% or so of the confining pressure. We should be able to go to 100% or beyond.”

This design lets it to be 10 times smaller at the same power output of somewhat like the ITER, which is anticipated to produce 500 MW in the 2020s. This is essential for the use of fusion in all kind of uses, not only in huge, costly power plants. Skunk Works is committed that their structure—which will be only the size of a jet engine—will be capable enough to power almost everything, from spacecraft to airplanes to vessels—and obviously scale up to a much bigger size. McGuire also claims that at the size of the ITER, it will be able to produce 10 times more energy.

The question remains, is it Great, or just too good to be true?
March 4, 2015

Antonin Scalia’s unintentional humor

Antonin Scalia’s unintentional humor
During oral arguments this morning in the King v. Burwell case, Justice Antonin Scalia heard Solicitor General Don Verrilli warn of dire consequences if the Supreme Court strips millions of families of their health care insurance subsides. The Republican jurist just didn’t believe the consequences would be ignored by the people’s representatives.

It led to an unintentionally amusing exchange:

SCALIA: What about Congress? You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue? I mean, how often have we come out with a decision such as the ­­ you know, the bankruptcy court decision? Congress adjusts, enacts a statute that takes care of the problem. It happens all the time. Why is that not going to happen here?

VERRILLI: Well, this Congress?

In spite of the title, this is not fucking joke.

This Congress will burn everything down. They are not responsive to the needs of the citizens of he country.
March 4, 2015

FCC got Net neutrality 'right,' but fight isn't over, Franken says

FCC got Net neutrality 'right,' but fight isn't over, Franken says

For years Franken -- comedy writer, author and talk radio host who became a Democratic US senator for Minnesota in 2009 -- has been calling for regulations that ensure all Internet traffic gets fair and equal treatment. "Let's not sell out," he exhorted Internet entrepreneurs at the 2011 South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Texas. "And let's not let the government sell us out. Let's fight for Net neutrality. Let's keep Austin weird. Let's keep the Internet weird. Let's keep the Internet free."

What does keeping the Internet free mean? Net neutrality is the idea that traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. That means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the Internet, can't block or slow down your ability to use services or applications or view websites. It also means your Internet service provider -- whether it's a cable company or telephone service -- can't create so-called "fast lanes" that force content companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to deliver their content to customers faster.

But the newly approved rules also reclassify broadband as a Title II service under the 1934 Communications Act, which basically means the FCC can regulate the Internet the same way it does telephone service. That reclassification has raised the ire of broadband providers, who say the FCC could now impose new taxes and tariffs and force them to share their networks with competitors. Republicans, who also disapprove, are dubbing the new regulation "Obamacare for the Internet."

Franken and other Net neutrality supporters scoff at that. "No, no, no, no!" FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Tuesday during a fireside chat at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Wheeler said the Net neutrality rules wouldn't dictate rates, impose tariffs, open up carriers' networks to competitors or meddle with their business.

The fight isn't over yet.
March 4, 2015

Burial Pods Could Turn Cemeteries Into Forests

Burial Pods Could Turn Cemeteries Into Forests
Cemeteries take up a lot of space, and cremating one person can take as much energy as that person used in a month back when they were alive.
Now, two Italian designers want to transform tombstone-filled cemeteries into memorial forests. According to the Capsula Mundi website, the idea is to place the body in fetal position into an egg-shaped capsule made of starch plastic. Once the pod is buried (like a seed), a tree is planted on top and subsequently cared for by relatives and friends.
“As designers we have asked ourselves what is our role in front of a society distant from nature, satisfied and over loaded with objects,” Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel write. “No designer ever thinks of a coffin but this becomes a way of reflecting on how distant we are from mother nature.”


Several decomposable coffins and biodegradable urns that allow you to return to the earth are already available. Depending on the cemetery’s restrictions, you can pick from paper, wicker, or coconut shells with compacted peat and cellulose. You can even be buried wearing fabric embroidered with mushroom spores. For more ideas about what to do with yourself when you’re dead—from artificial reefs to diamonds—make sure to check out our handy guide here.

We all have to go sometime. As much a I like visiting old graveyards, this is the way I think I would like to go. Instead of a million graves topped with granite, we have a million trees. It also saves the energy of cremating a million people.

Flesh to trees is green.
March 2, 2015

Law Requiring California Parents To Vaccinate Their Children Likely To Pass

Law Requiring California Parents To Vaccinate Their Children Likely To Pass
(CBS SF) — Last Thursday, a state law was introduced that, if passed, will eliminate the “personal belief” exception to California’s vaccination law.
Right now, under California law there are two ways to get out of having a child vaccinated: one is if you have a medical reason, and two is if you have a “personal belief” that prevents vaccination. The law proposed last week would leave that medical exception in place and get rid of that “personal belief” part.
The lawmaker who authored the bill is State Senator Richard Pan, who is also a doctor. He’s concerned about the outbreak of measles in California since December and the high numbers of people opting out of vaccines using the personal belief exemption.
The law as it is written so far does not have any religious exemption. And one might not be required. According to a 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case, “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.” In fact, West Virginia and Mississippi do not have religious exemptions.

An important law wends its way through the California Congress. It looks like it has a good chance of passing and the religous, anti-intelectual anti-vax immunity will go away in california.

Very, very good.
March 2, 2015

House GOP Leader Endorses 'Nuclear Option' In Senate (VIDEO)

House GOP Leader Endorses 'Nuclear Option' In Senate (VIDEO)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Sunday said that Senate Republicans should change the filibuster rules.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd asked if he would support a rules change in the Senate eliminating the filibuster for legislation.

McCarthy said it's not "nuclear" when "57 percent of the Senate voted for the Collins amendment that would take away the president's action."

"That's not nuclear, when 57 percent of the American representation says it's wrong. That's not in the Constitution. I think they should change the rule," he said.

I am not surprised, though some may welcome it, this is actually very dangerous to our Democracy. The founding fathers feared the tyranny of majority, where 50% + one voter could run roughshod over minorities. The filibuster rules when they worked as conceived, were a check on a runaway majority.

If Republicans do this then a majority can pass whatever they want, and only a president willing to wield the veto pen can hold them at bay. If we extend these rules past 2016, which I expect, and they hold the Senate, then the minority party will have no power except to complain. Should we lose the White House then there will be no check on the majority at all.

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