Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What qualifies as news on a slow news day?

By Carol Gee

This is news -- "Death Toll surpasses 350 in Fourth Day of Conflict," at Memeorandum from the New York Times. Twenty-one different stories follow the site's same Middle East theme. This disturbing conflict broke out, hundreds are dead and our future and current presidents remain on vacation, "getting regular briefings" as they say. So far, President-elect Obama has deferred to President Bush, not commenting directly on the outbreak of violence. Transition/vacation/holiday time in the USA appears to be the perfect period for the protagonists. All of us are waiting for THE CHANGE except the Israelis and the Palestinians. They are in predictable sync after decades of THE SAME, unable to think new thoughts or try new solutions. And it will not be over by January 20, as Steve Benen wisely reminds us.

What about Congress and this issue? Congress is also on vacation, and that usual Tuesday theme is almost devoid of any meaningful items these days. However, Congressional Quarterly yesterday reported on what various legislators are saying about the conflict between Hamas and Israel. Predictably, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), up for reelection in 2010, Reps Howard Berman, D-CA) and Illeana Ross-Lehtinen, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, all come down on the side of Israel. In contrast Rep. Dennis Kucinich is calling for a UN inquiry into the Gaza situation. To quote:

“Israel is leveling Gaza to strike at Hamas, just as they pulverized south Lebanon to strike at Hezbollah,” Kucinich said. “Yet in both cases civilian populations were attacked, countless innocents killed or injured, infrastructure targeted and destroyed, and civil law enforcement negated. All this was, and is, disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence in violation of international law. Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable. It is time for the UN to not just call for a cease-fire, but for an inquiry as to Israel’s actions.”

The Palestinian death toll from the Israeli air strikes has reached 300 so far, and Israeli officials said they were expecting a lengthy campaign to destroy Hamas’ military capacity. Israel has called up 6,500 reservists for a possible ground assault on the Gaza Strip.

So far, Hamas rockets have killed two Israelis and wounded scores of others.

Any other news about Congress? Rep. Rahm Emanuel will resign his House seat on January 2 to become President-elect Obama's Chief of Staff. A special election in the spring will fill the vacancy, the WaPo's Anne Kornblut reports. Senator Norm Coleman and would-be senator Al Franken are still in a tussle over counting rejected ballots, the count stalled by their lawyers, and facing a court imposed deadline to finish. And because the Illinois seat of Barack Obama will remain vacant for a time, the Senate will have 57 Democrats, a majority short of being able to break a Republican filibuster. What would the Congressional Republican opposition target? Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) are already signalling that they intend to slow down any early passage of an economic stimulus package by demanding "a more methodical process that might delay the legislation's passage will into February," according to the Washington Post. Ironically, they are now calling for fiscal responsibility and opposing "more pork-barrel spending." Why are we not surprised that bipartisanship has not broken out all over the Hill? Watch and take notes, as this minority tactic will be a model for the 111th Congress starting January 6, 2009.

This is not news -- Also at Memeorandum from People.com: "Bristol Palin welcomes a son." A couple more stories follow along, including sites named appropriately, The Dish Rag and The Swamp, along with the predictable Anchorage Daily News. So what else is new? I admit that I am doing here what I hate in the MSM -- repeating inane gossip. So Sarah Palin is a grandma; so am I (six times). You know it is a slow news day when I join the chattering class to once again discuss Sarah Palin.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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  • A special election in the spring will fill the vacancy, the WaPo's Anne Kornblut reports. Senator Norm Coleman and would-be senator Al Franken are still in a tussle over counting rejected ballots.

    By Anonymous Wrought Iron Furniture, at 3:23 PM  

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