The House, the Middle East, & One Athlete

A Varied Mix to Ponder This Week – Much in the Balance, Everywhere

The House of Representatives

That seems an odd title of late: it’s not much of a House, and it seems to represent few of us. As if all the ongoing tensions in that small zoo where not enough, now we have a Speaker fired by 8 of his members, no clear replacement or plan to get one possibly worthy of the title, only about 30 days before the US Government goes broke, and Ukraine held hostage by a pouting few.

October is going to be an interesting month, to say the least.

I admit I worried a bit when the Democrats decided not to save McCarthy, given the debt timelines, but it was a dice roll they were right to take. That their decision made it easier for the 8 Republicans who voted to ouster is not their doing – McCarthy set that process in motion.

A speaker needs at least 2 of 3 standings among the House and one qualifying factor. The standings are (1) Be trusted by most, (2) Be liked by most OR, (3) Be feared by a lot, ideally most.

McCarthy managed to lose the trifecta. Absolutely no one trusted him, no one feared him, and only a few even liked him.

The qualifying factor is an understanding of how the House works. McCarthy surely understood much of that but proved over and over again that he could not count votes in his own delegation. He kept getting surprised.

Hard to believe that Nancy Pelosi had the same kind of margin, yet got so much done, always knew exactly what the vote count was, and kept a fragmented majority together. McCarthy never came close on any of that. Good riddance.

The man made it clear that he would do anything to get and keep the job. In the end, he came through twice with legislation to keep the government running, but he also left everyone doubting if he would stick with this latest plan, since he had already turned his back on the earlier debt servicing deal.

And to get the job in the first place, he made it almost casually easy to get himself fired. The shortest Speakership in history, the first fired by his own party. Maybe AMWAY could use a new salesman….

Who Will Be the Next Speaker?

Some pretty fine calls have gone out from both sides of the aisle for a coalition speaker and an approach to make the House operate that most reasonable people could support. I doubt it will happen, unfortunately, but who knows. I do know Jim Jordan would be a bad joke; surely even the current House Republicans get that.

The man has zero legislative accomplishments, watching his two committees in public sessions shows he has no idea how legislation happens, and we may yet hear more about his JAN 6 involvement, which appears substantial.

There are reasonable names out there, but they are not getting any media play. All this could actually get worse. Let’s hope not.

Israel and Hamas

It is way too soon to sort out this latest conflict, but it looks like terrible outcomes for everyone in all directions, except for those who like to fan hatred and chaos. What Hamas launched was unconscionable on every count.

That so large and complex an operation was planned, put together, and executed with no apparent hint to Israeli or US intelligence is remarkable. Lots of internal reviews and accountability is called for.

I simply cannot imagine that no one had a clue this was coming. It is as big an intelligence shortcoming as I can remember looking back decades.

That Netanyahu is again in power and has built an extreme, hateful group to run his government likely gave Hamas the idea that they could get away with this, as Palestinians increasingly see no hope for anything with this government.

Beware of hopeless people who feel they have nothing to lose and nowhere to go.

There is some talk of a national unity government in Israel, making it possible to get rid of the extremists in the government. That could be one small glimmer of good to come out of all this, but at some point, Netanyahu will again prioritize his own legal woes and stripping the courts of power.

The enhanced national unity will focus on the threat but will not give Netanyahu a blank check for long.

As for Gaza, I don’t see anyone ready or able to govern and replace Hamas. Israel hopes to completely decapitate Hamas now. I understand that fully, but do not think it likely.

Contemplating reoccupying Gaza or an extended ground war in that crowded area is almost too grim to imagine. Military power will be applied by both sides in this; it will be necessary, but not sufficient.

Once again, the Middle East – a place where just about all the people loose badly and they are all served by terrible leadership.

One Athlete

Let’s end today on a happier note. To watch Simone Biles reconquer the world has been an amazing, inspiring thing to observe. Last week, we talked a lot about performance in special fields (a symphony orchestra) and what that demanded of those who would perform at that level.

This week we have seen a similar model of focus, determination, and skill at a global level, in athletics. It is a thing to behold.

Athletics at this level is hard for the rest of us to understand. I remember years ago when professional baseball went on strike. I thought that we are only talking about a couple of hundred people playing a game.

How hard could it be to replace them at a decent level? The answer was that it was impossible to replace these people at this level of performance.

That so few can perform at this level has lots of causes. Physical fitness, personal genetics, training, and much more come into play. But in the end, I think it is mostly mental and psychological.  

We have seen others at this apex level hit some sort of wall and never make it back. Golf is full of such stories, led in this era by Tiger Woods. Those who reach the Olympics or world championships also fold under the pressure.

Biles had mental, emotional, and organizational challenges of the highest order. She stepped back and regrouped. Most of us thought she would never reach the top again. Until this past week.

Hats off to her. That is one talented, tough lady. And she offers lessons to the rest of us way beyond athletics.

See You Next Week

Unless events break that break the plan du jour, next week we are taking on book banning (having just completed National Read Banned Books Week), why people do it (more reasons than one might think), and why it is completely unacceptable in a thinking democracy. Ignore or lose this fight at terrible costs.

Bill Clontz

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