Sunday, April 17, 2005

Today's Miscellany

Marburg Virus: The New York Times has an excellent article on the outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Angola caused by the Marburg virus, one of the most deadly, infectious, and frightening viruses known. So far about 90 percent of the people infected with Marburg have died horribly. Efforts to fight the outbreak by international organizations have been difficult and not very effective, mostly because of the primitive culture they are forced to work in. It's easy to dismiss this as just another tragedy on a continent beset by tragedies of many kinds, most of which have claimed many more lives than Marburg has so far. But this is a small world, and it isn't far-fetched to envision an infected person on an airliner headed for New York, London, or Hong Kong. Read the article.

Genocide in Darfur: Another African tragedy, the genocide in Darfur, continues. Nicholas Kristof is one of the few consistent voices on this outrage. World leaders who have it in their power to stop it are doing little beyond treating a few of the symptoms. As Kristof observes:

President Bush seems paralyzed in the face of the slaughter. He has done a fine job of providing humanitarian relief, but he has refused to confront Sudan forcefully or raise the issue himself before the world. Incredibly, Mr. Bush managed to get through recent meetings with Vladimir Putin, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair and the entire NATO leadership without any public mention of Darfur.

There's no perfect solution, but there are steps we can take. Mr. Bush could impose a no-fly zone, provide logistical support to a larger African or U.N. force, send Condoleezza Rice to Darfur to show that it's a priority, consult with Egypt and other allies - and above all speak out forcefully.

How many more human beings will be slaughtered before the U.S. and others in the civilized world take action? And where is the UN?

Filibustering in the Senate: Two columns in the Washington Post address the issue of filibusters in the Senate as a means of denying votes on judicial nominees that are supported by a majority of senators. Senator Rick Santorum favors changing the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters in the Senate's "advise and consent" role. Wade Henderson and Stephen Moore are against changing the rules. At the moment, the Republican majority in the Senate is threatening to change the rules, and the Democratic minority is threatening to shut down the Senate if they do. Why can't the children playing in the Washington sandbox just get along?

In my opinion, the Senate rules should be changed because the embittered minority refuse to honor long-standing tradition. There is no direct constitutional issue here. The framers made no reference to filibusters and apparently didn't even think about it. Where they wanted super-majorities in Congress they said so explicitly. Filibustering judicial nominees is no more than an abuse of Senate rules and practices, and it should be stopped. If Democrats want to control the selection of federal judges, then they should win back the presidency and a majority in the Senate. Perverting the principle of majority rule is not the answer to failure at the polls.

What's a Neoconservative?: Michael Kinsley does a service for those, like me, who often wonder what a neoconservative really is. These days it seems to be little more than an epithet thrown around by liberals who don't like a particular policy or a particular policy maker. As Kinsley shows, the term has been used over the years in different ways with different meanings. His opening paragraph:

The term "neoconservative" started out as an insult, and it is still used that way. When people say that the selection of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank marks the triumph of neocons in Bush administration foreign policy, they are generally not indicating pleasure. Some cynics even say the "neocon" label is anti-Semitic: Doesn't it just refer to a Jewish intellectual you disagree with?


Blogger Esther said...

"Some cynics even say the "neocon" label is anti-Semitic: Doesn't it just refer to a Jewish intellectual you disagree with?"

It sure does feel that way when they only list the Jews in the govt and not the many neocons who share that view who aren't Jewish.

Welcome back, Tom!

7:22 PM, April 18, 2005  
Blogger carla said...

Welcome back, Tom.

I've missed you. :)

1:36 AM, April 19, 2005  

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