Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just How Long Can Ted Cruz Stand?

"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand," vowed Ted Cruz as he took the floor at the U.S. Senate floor today at 2:42 p.m.

The U.S. Senator from Texas, 2016 Republican Presidential hopeful, and former Canadian will need to stand for at least 13 hours by my calculation.

That's because Wendy Davis went on for almost 11 hours in the Texas Senate this summer, before her filibuster was ruled out of order for straying off the topic of the abortion legislation before the emergency session of the Texas Senate. Rand Paul droned on against drone strikes for almost 13 hours in the U.S. Senate this past spring.

So Ted needs a full 13 hours for bragging rights in Texas and the Tea Party. Anything less would make Ted look lame relative to Rand and Wendy.

Still, seeing how long you can talk without stopping is not very much of a challenge as endurance feats go. Diana Nyad took nearly 53 hours to swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida earlier this month. That's something to brag about.

Not unlike the Nyad feat, where the downplayers were quick to jump on various alleged minor technicalities, Ted Cruz already has his naysayers. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says this is no filibuster as the budget vote scheduled for tomorrow will not be delayed. Of course, he might have held the vote this afternoon if he hadn't made allowance for Ted Cruz speaking.

The current record for filibusters in the U.S. Senate is held by Strom Thurmond who spoke against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes. That means the magic moment will come if Ted Cruz is still speaking at 3:01 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

Will Ted Cruz set the new record or will Harry Reid prevent him from wiping Strom Thurmond out of the record books? You can watch live on C-Span.

Update: Strom's record stands as Ted clocks out at 21 hours and 19 minutes. Ted edged out the 1908 effort of 18 hours and 23 minutes by Robert La Follette of Wisconsin to take the #4 slot on the all-time list of windy Senate gasbags. Take that, Wendy and Rand.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Masse Hardware Going Out of Business

Masse Hardware at the corner of Sherman St. and Walden St. in Cambridge is closing. The Boston Globe, Wicked Local, and Cambridge Day have the details. In short, the third-generation owner is retiring and his son doesn't want to take over.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Putinized and Atheistized Pledge of Allegiance

With Vladimir Putin twerking America ideals in The New York Times and atheists suing the state of Massachusetts, it's time to revise the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Here's the rewrite:
I begrudgingly acknowledge the existence of the flag of the United States of America, and the putative republic for which it sometimes stands, one nation still suffering in many precincts under the god delusion, unexceptional and indivisible from all the other nations in the United Nations, with illiberty and injustice all too often. Void if I flee to Canada or Russia. All rights reserved.
Have a happy Friday the 13th. E pluribus unum!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cattle Commentary on Current Events in Syria

You can't just yell "hike" a few times from the sidelines to break up a fight. The fight isn't necessarily over even if the winning side lets up.

Even when you just all you want to do is chew the cud with your true love, there's always someone wanting to bellow in who is best ignored.

We can all agree, whether it was the regime or the rebels, that death is a very unfortunate and inevitable result of war, and reason to best avoid it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Red Line Disappearing into the Syrian Sand

Here's how President Obama drew the red line back in August 2012:
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
Was Syria tacitly given a pass to use chemical weapons as long as it did not use "a whole bunch"? Just how much is "a whole bunch"?

I'm hearing a lot being said about "credibility" and I would guess that means those people think a whole bunch of credibility is at stake. Credibility is the cousin of legitimacy, which also came up in the President's remarks on Syria a year ago:
"I have indicated repeatedly that President al-Assad has lost legitimacy, that he needs to step down. So far, he hasn’t gotten the message, and instead has double downed in violence on his own people. The international community has sent a clear message that rather than drag his country into civil war he should move in the direction of a political transition."
I imagine that message was just as clear as the red line. Unfortunately, at the same time the President was drawing his red line he was also prematurely measuring the drapes for the Syrian opposition to take over the Syrian palaces:
"We said that we would provide, in consultation with the international community, some assistance to the opposition in thinking about how would a political transition take place, and what are the principles that should be upheld in terms of looking out for minority rights and human rights. And that consultation is taking place.
The New York Times has a video of Syrian rebels executing prisoners so apparently those consultations weren't especially persuasive. That's a war crime too, for those keeping track of international norms.

Note: The New York Times has suffered its own credibility problem as it has issued a correction indicating the execution video was made in the spring of 2012, not April 2013 as it first reported.

I'd suggest the better way to respond is to issue international warrants for the Syrian officers who can be shown to have been involved in using chemical weapons. We have the rest of their lives to extract them from Syria and put them on trial for war crimes, along with any Al Qaeda we can find and extract from among the rebels.

Can we still bring the war criminals to justice if the U.S. bombs Syria, or would that violate the principle of double jeopardy, and cross another red line?