Term limits are like ‘political junk food’

Reminding you why the Republicans came up with the idea

Anti-establishment candidates are capitalizing on widespread anti-incumbent fervor and proposing term limits as a way to bring the power back to the people. As political hopefuls try to persuade voters to send them to Congress, they’re also promising they won’t be there long.

It’s a message that polls well and gets applause at campaign rallies, but David King, director of Harvard’s program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress, said term limits do more harm than good.

It’s political junk food. It tastes good but hurts the body politic in the long run,” he said.

Advocates and opponents of term limits are after the same thing: keeping the power out of the hands of lobbyists and special interests.

King says term limits do the opposite by taking the business of lawmaking away from elected representatives and giving it to professional staff and lobbyists.

Instead, the elections process needs better campaign finance laws and a more engaged electorate, he said.

“That leads to a situation in which we reward politicians or statesmen or stateswoman who have been around for a long time and are terrific, while at the same time being able to get rid of the low-quality legislators at all levels,” King said.

Term limits are the perfect solution for lazy-ass whiners. Someone in office you disagree with – will be gone sooner rather than later. It’s about as undemocratic a solution as you might have. The voting electorate loses a choice.

Long favored by populists, it favors political machines over independent elected officials. The machines will be around forever, staffed by willing adherents to 2-party narrowness. An independent activist in office won’t have time enough to build a following, an interactive group of peers willing to fight beyond “safe” limits.

Lawyers open Zurich cache of unpublished Kafka manuscripts

Franz Kafka wanted all his manuscripts to be burned after his death, but his friend Max Brod disregarded the request, seeding a complex legal battle over thousands of manuscripts that has the literary world agog. That legal tussle takes a new twist today as four safety deposit boxes in a Zurich bank containing the manuscripts are opened.

The boxes are believed to contain thousands of manuscripts by Kafka and Brod, including letters, journals, sketches and drawings, some of which have never been published and could provide literary detetectives an insight into one of the 20th century’s greatest writers.

The move in Zurich follows similar action at two Tel Aviv banks, which were ordered by an Israeli tribunal to extract Kafka’s works from their vaults.

The documents form the heart of a dispute over ownership between the state of Israel and the Hoffe sisters who say they inherited Kafka’s estate from their mother Esther Hoffe – Brod’s secretary. Brod not only ignored Kafka’s wishes but published his work and bequeathed the originals to Esther Hoffe.

Israel, however, claims that Kafka’s documents are the property of the state as Brod migrated to Israel in 1939.

The body of work should belong to the world or be so guaranteed.

I might trust the courts in Switzerland.

Indonesian Muslims need a new compass for prayers

This way – no, that way – no, this way – no, that way

Indonesia’s highest Islamic body has been forced to apologise to the country’s Muslims after admitting they have been praying towards Kenya rather than Mecca.

Officials in the world’s most populous Muslim country admitted on Monday that they made a mistake when issuing an edict in March saying the holy city in Saudi Arabia was to the country’s west.

The Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, has since asked followers to shift direction slightly northward during their daily prayers.

“After a thorough study with some cosmography and astronomy experts, we learned they’ve been facing southern Somalia and Kenya,” said Ma’ruf Amin, a prominent cleric of the MUI.

“We’ve revised it now to the north-west.”

He said Indonesians need not worry, however.

“Allah understands that humans make mistakes,” he said. “Allah always hears their prayers.”

True Believers stand always ready to believe the latest correction of their previously infallible belief – now proven incorrect. It’s part of running your life based on faith instead of reality.

Keep this up and they’re liable to end up cracking their eggs on the big end.

Suicide note discovered on homing pigeon

Li Yong, a neighbourhood watch volunteer in the city, picked up the pigeon over the weekend in a suburban housing compound.

“We brought it back to the office, and I found some sweet corn to feed it,” he told the Zhengzhou Evening News. “When it flew down to eat, I saw a small scroll tied to its leg with a golden thread. Out of curiosity, my friend and I read the letter, and we were shocked to find it was a suicide note. I reported the matter immediately.”

The author of the note, who signed himself “Shiyazi” has not yet been found.

The note appeared to be addressed to his girlfriend, and read: “I really have not done anything to hurt you. We have been together for five years. Do you not know what kind of person I am by now?

“It is too bad that our ‘Little Grey’ is just a pigeon. It would be great if it could speak. It would be able to prove my innocence. I have no other choice. Is death the only way to prove it? Loving you is really hard! These are my last words.”

Ooh! That’s cold, folks.

A hidden – and largely unproductive – world

Crap! They finally noticed.

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

We speak often of unwinding the harm done by the years of the Bush/Cheney cabal. This may be the single largest example of profligate waste of taxpayer dollars. And Congressional cowardice in the face of Washington’s fear of being “soft” on whichever enemy rules the election hustings.

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Squirrel feeding deemed too risky for Berkeley Lake, Georgia

Mayor Lois Salter said the vote came at time of heightened anxiety in the city.

Berkeley Lake has outlawed the feeding of wildlife citywide, approving a controversial ordinance that likely is the first of its kind in Georgia.

The local law, approved unanimously by the City Council on Thursday night, would impose fines of up to $1,000 for willfully feeding animals, from chipmunks to vultures. The exceptions: fish and songbirds.

Mayor Lois Salter said the vote came at time of heightened anxiety in the city.

What an idiot.

It kind of makes you wonder what this crappy little town considers acceptable behavior.

Proud resident?

Swastika quilt disturbs an Old West utopia

One day two summers ago, an elderly couple walked into a local museum, shyly offering up the surprisingly well-preserved quilt for sale. The 90-year-old man, who had lived his whole life on the flat plains an hour north of Denver, was divvying up family heirlooms when he found the mysterious quilt.

The man didn’t remember seeing the quilt before and wasn’t sure who made it. His mother and sister had been avid quilters, as had so many women of his childhood. Maybe they made it together and it was tucked away when his mother died in 1934. His sister was also dead, so there was no one left to ask.

JoAnna Luth Stull, registrar at the museum, was working that day and gently explained that the museum didn’t buy items but suggested where the couple could get the quilt appraised. She was immediately transfixed by the workmanship as she smoothed the cloth across a table, not noticing the bold geometric pattern.

“Oh, wow,” said the museum superintendent as he happened by. “That’s a swastika quilt.”

Stull, 55, did a double take. Arranged across the quilt in shades of red, pink and beige were 27 swastikas. Her reaction was immediate and visceral. She saw an emblem of hate. “That’s what my generation sees,” she said.

So began an unlikely dilemma for the small museum in a city named for Horace Greeley, the New York newspaperman who famously cajoled all to “Go West.”

Could they display the quilt? Should they?

“Our mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Greeley. This is a cultural artifact,” said Erin Quinn, museum director. Greeley was founded in 1870 as a utopian community, with strict covenants requiring temperance and modest living. Quinn can imagine women only a generation or two removed from the city’s founders gathering to socialize and make something functional.

I had this discussion with a friend of mine, thirty years ago. She had a hatpin with a swastika on it – that had belonged to her grandmother – made before WW1. She wore it, once in a while, mostly to get discussions going to see where her neighbors really had their heads during the war with the Nazis.

Because most didn’t know she was a Jew who survived the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – the city where we had this conversation.

She was always willing to explain the differences – and ask questions.