All posts in Politics

Who Decides To Use Military Force – Or, The Wind Up Monkey Needs To Go Back To Work

from: speaker.gov

House Speaker John Boehner released a video yesterday of him and his new toy wind up monkey, a gift given to him by his staff. In the video Mr. Boehner is playing with his cute granddaughters, what’s the big deal?  The coincidental timing of the video release on the same day President Obama announced that reconnaissance military flights have begun over Syria, make the month long vacation that Congress is on a crucial national issue, as the U.S. is at this very moment must decide whether to expand our military presence in the Middle East from just Iraq, to Syria, and perhaps elsewhere. In the video Mr. Boehner sounds like he’s making a joke to his staff when he says, “this is what I do all day.” Our leaders need to postpone their vacations to help make this decision. Will we restrict our involvement to air strikes, just in Iraq, or will we send additional military to Iraq, and send them to Syria, engaged in a war with the IS terrorist army. to begin bombing over Syria and send more troops to Iraq.

Democrats and some in the media have tried to wound Boehner politically by making fun of the toy monkey video, in which he explains why his staff gave him the gift; because he feels like when he’s working long hours, his staff winds him up and sends him back to work. I don’t believe people are saying that the Speaker playing toys with his granddaughter is a problem. But the visual plays up the issue of whether Congress should be on vacation right at this moment, and should they authorize President Obama to continue military actions in the Middle East. The Monkey In The Room needs to go back to Washington D.C., perhaps along with the monkey and his grandchildren. At the very least the House and Senate should be debating this issue now, not a month from now.

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The stakes are high. Will IS (or ISIS) draw us into a full scale, long term military conflict and who will decide? Many have already called for a special emergency session of Congress, immediately or  very soon. To complicate matters, it sounds like House and Senate members both Republican and Democrat, who’ve been asked so far don’t seem to see the need for an emergency session. Some don’t think the President doesn’t need congressional approval at all. Still other of our elected officials are calling President Obama “weak” and says he lacks a clear strategy in the Middle East. I wonder how much of a grasp on the subject that many of those same people in Congress say they don’t want or need to be involved in.

The historical issue of how to apply the Constitution to a declaration of war is complicated and there has been disagreement ongoing for over 40 years, with Presidents both Democratic and Republican at various times, acting on their own and seeking Congressional authority. Democrats have started military actions without congressional approval. President Carter in Iran and President Clinton in Kosovo. Former President George Bush was given approval to declare war on Iraq, after the U.S. began the invasion. While many people think a President should not act alone and seek House and Senate approval, which President Obama has said he wants participation from our elected represents, to me somewhat incredibly, Republican leaders in Congress have been saying Mr. Obama should not only make the decision himself, some have said that he’s weak for not already having done so.

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In recent months that has been the predominant Republican stance not only in the Middle Eeast, but along our borders and dealing with immigration reform as well. At the same time, Mr. Boehner has filed a lawsuit against the President for making too many decisions on his own!!!

What if we’re about the launch into another long protracted war in the Middle East? We all must urge our elected officials in the strongest possible terms that we expect leadership in our military decisions, in deciding whether homeless illegal immigrants will be sent home or allowed to stay, whether to help the ongoing increase of states now accepting instead of illegally refusing to accept Medicaid money approved in the Affordable Care Act. Congress should return to work immediately as we decide whether to declare another war. The Monkeys in the Room needs to stop playing those cymbals, and go back to work.

 

Mark Gould

The Change in San Francisco is Good, So Just Accept It and other fables

I usually take my sweet time to write, but today I’m writing a fairly hasty response to an article I just read online by Gary Kamiya for San Francisco Magazine/Modern Luxury: San Francisco is Dead. Long Live San Francisco. Gary is a longtime resident of the city and while he’s both a former tenant and landlord, and feels strongly about the current plight faced by the fading middle class, the poor, the disabled, artists, activists, mentors and anyone else who can’t afford $3,000/month studio apartment. He doesn’t see the argument as black and white and writes intelligently about the many issues at play here now, and feels very strongly about the city’s ethnic diversity and maverick progressive tradition. He even wrote a book about it (Cool Gray City of Love.)

As do I, Gary does not approach the argument monolithically, which isn’t realistic and hardly useful in the end, I agree. Yes things have heated up to an extreme; it’s easy these days for politicians, activists and corporations to all engage in street theatre designed to attract ultimate media attention. And with a few proud exceptions, it’s hard to rely on the media to provide you with a sensible examination of all the issues. Kamiya’s article is thought provoking, well written, and attempts to suggest that the current “cultural, political and class war that has erupted in San Francisco – call it The Change – strikes me as wrongheaded to the point of surreality.” He argues that more of that surreality comes from the left, that there is no enemy and that there is confusion in making the argument about hi-tech companies and employees, new construction and city policies when the reality is about capitalism, pure and simple.

For the record I was part of the dot-com boom, an employee of high tech companies that collapsed when the first tech bubble collapsed in 2001 and was laid off twice. I became unemployed, then disabled, then broke. The circumstances then were not nearly this extreme, but still, many residents didn’t appreciate the new tech workers and their high salaries. That lack of appreciation was palpable and I didn’t like it. Today I rely on Social Security and am semi-retired, a transformed struggling artist and writer trying to survive and feeling very blessed to still be living in the city in my tiny and too expensive rent-controlled studio apartment. So like, Gary, I can see and relate to both sides too. Certain aspects of “The Change,” are about undeniable economic forces that are at play and may not be able to be stopped. And I agree it’s wrong to blankly blame or attack anyone, in this case tech workers, for being the sole cause of the problem. But I think that’s where I stop agreeing with him.

I don’t agree that that city elected officials can’t do anything to navigate and regulate this issue. To say only that “City Hall is in the business of stoking new business, welcoming new people and attracting new capital.” While Kamiya is also right to have us remember what an economic slump the city was in just a few years ago, and that we should appreciate the influx of new business and investment, I think that City Hall is in, or should be in, the business of a lot more than that. City Hall also enacts laws to protect its residents, to control development and to preserve culture here. While most cities do take the “Chamber of Commerce” approach to welcoming any business or investment at almost any cost, this is San Francisco, and the writer says he knows that.

I don’t think anyone knows at this point how all of this will play out. The city has enacted an affordable housing plan to build 30,000 new homes in a few years – we need more like 100,000 and that seems unlikely. As it has always been, city activism has it’s place, as do “we” artists, writers, activists, mentors, middle-class or low-income residents. As do many residents who grew up here and have been here longer than I, I agree that not only is city preservation important, and so is sound planning and development, sufficient affordable housing.  San Francisco should continue to be a supporter and voice for diversity, the disenfranchised,  low and middle income residents. I don’t want to see more artists forced out of the city. Including me. Now I’m going to continue to think about it all, and write about it some more.

Mark Gould

 

 

Mark Gould is an artist, writer and editor following trends in art, culture, technology and digital media.

San Francisco Eviction March – April 13, 2014

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It could be said that housing activists, political street artists and big corporate technology companies are all fluent in the use of different tools to raise media and public attention. No cynicism intended; I’ve been wondering when the seemingly dormant political and social action establishment in San Francisco would emerge to leave its imprint on the ongoing developments concerning the lack of affordable housing in the city, the fallout on some tenants being forced out of  their quarters by the current frenzied demand ongoing during the grab for almost any rental property, at almost any price.

via Mission Local
Mission Local reports that an estimated group of 200 people walked to and protested against the conversion of a seven-unit rental apartment building on Guerrero St. that was bought and converted to a private residence, owned by a Google lawyer, Jack Halprin, two years ago. Several signs in the crowd read “Google, don’t be evil. Make Jack Halprin stop evicting teachers,”

 

Teachers Ask Google Why a Google Lawyer Is Evicting Tenants

 

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I don’t have an idea when or if the protests will continue, grow in numbers or get more media attention. I do know there are many forces for change in San Francisco who have had an important role to play in building the city’s future and have long made a difference in what happens during critical times in the city.

 

 

 

 

Acrobats and a GMuni Director Block Google Bus

Mission Local video April 1, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Ukraine: Technology for Transparent Elections

(via Global Voices - English Edition, by Tetyana Bohdanova)

On October 28, Ukrainians will elect their parliament. With the current president‘s main political opponent in jail, the upcoming elections come under increasing attention from the international community.

Amidst mounting allegations of the ruling party’s use of administrative resource during election campaign, the current Ukrainian government has pledged to keep the elections free and fair and accommodated over 3,700 international observers.

Ukraine’s Ministry of the Interior has decided to utilize crowdmapping and set up an Ushahidi-based map of registered violations [uk]. According to the officials, the aim of their initiative is to “help society form an objective opinion about the course of the 2012 election-related events” [uk].

To ensure electoral transparency and to check the government’s pledges for themselves, local election monitoring groups, too, have been using new technology.

The full article is published here ->

 

Global Voices: The World is Talking, Are You Listening?

China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’



China artist Ai Weiwei says travel a ‘human right’ (via AFP)

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has a metaphor for the travel ban that will prevent him attending the growing number of exhibitions of his work being held around the world as his renown increases. “I can swim, but not far,” Ai told AFP of the ban on leaving China imposed last week despite the…

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EFF Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency



Sunshine Week: Forecast Looks Cloudy for PATRIOT Act Transparency (via EFF)

As we noted in an earlier post, EFF received the first batch of records from the DOJ in our FOIA lawsuit related to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act yesterday. The government released approximately 300 pages of records to EFF, but (not surprisingly) none of those records shed any light on the information…

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FCC Announces Probe into BART Wireless Service Interruptions



FCC Studying Government Wireless Service Interruptions (via redOrbit)

In response to an August 2011 shutdown of wireless service by public transportation officials in San Francisco, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to review whether or not they need to establish rules to govern when law enforcement and other public service agencies can…

Continue reading “FCC Announces Probe into BART Wireless Service Interruptions” »

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