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Today, long-time journalist Dan Smith, who has stepped back from his regular reporting beat, begins a twice-monthly column in Ark Valley Voice. We don’t know what to call this column yet, but Smith might be open to suggestions.

Some observations: the world seems to be ever more embroiled in violence and political chaos as we look to a holiday season ‘just around the corner.’

Senior Reporter and AVV Editorial Advisory Board member Dan Smith covers the Colorado Democrats’ “Get Out The Vote” rally in Riverside Park, Oct. 29, 2022. Merrell Bergin photo

The bloody and horrific war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas following the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas now threatens to spread into a broader war between radical Muslim groups and the Jewish state, and its attacks on Gaza have turned into a dire humanitarian crisis affecting millions of Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.

The death of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians has been a nightmare to witness and has tragically exacerbated the long frustrating effort to find a solution to the existential issues affecting both, with no military or diplomatic solution that seems realistic at this point.

Eliminating Hamas as a ruling entity after its terror attack on innocent Israelis has international support, except for similar groups who also want to eliminate Israel as a nation.

The plight of the Palestinian people could not be worse, as they are helpless to remedy being in an occupied territory under the thumb of a seemingly hostile government under Benjamin Netanyahu.

It’s good to remember the near-agreement back in the Clinton Administration with the Oslo proposals that could have moved Israel and the Palestinian Authority closer to a real two-state future. But in the end, Yasser Arafat rejected such a deal.

What happens after the Israel-Hamas war, even if it doesn’t spread in the region, is the Gordian knot no one has an answer to currently.

And President Biden faces pressure from some in his own party as he calls for a pause in the hostilities to try to solve the hostage issue.

Biden and other have called for a pause in the hostilities to allow for Palestinian refugees to flee and for a chance at a release of more than 200 hostages of Hamas, perhaps in exchange for release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

In the U.S., the bloody conflict has revealed how divided our government is over this and other critical issues at a time when cooperation and compromise would seem imperative.

New hard-right House Speaker Mike Johnson reflects some of the mindset of House Republicans who want things their way – consequences be damned.

Johnson proposes a $14.2 billion dollar aid package for Israel pairing that with a cut in Internal Revenue Service funding by the same amount.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects such a nonsensical move would only increase the budget deficit by $26.8 billion over the next decade, impacting the IRS’s ability to catch big-time tax cheats and collect as much government revenue.

It should be noted that ramping up IRS enforcement this year has already collected about $160 million in back taxes. So why do they want to hamper the IRS in these efforts?

What’s worse, the MAGA-leaning GOP members have put forward the aid package for Israel without combining it with continuing aid for Ukraine, which Biden proposes under a measure to provide more than $100 billion for Ukraine to continue its fight against Russia’s unprovoked invasion and war against its independent neighbor.

Both aid efforts could well be delayed as the political battles wage between House and Senate versions in the coming weeks.

Difficult enough, but on top of all of this, the specter of a potential government shutdown looms in just over two weeks if an even more contentious overall funding bill cannot be agreed upon.

Some observers say Johnson, as a rookie speaker, may be unable to handle his role with the widening schism in the GOP between MAGA hardliners and more middle-of-the-road Republicans. He may well need the help of Democrats to pass Ukraine funding; an approach that of course cost former Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job.

None of this bodes well for the immediate future of U.S. foreign policy status in the world, nor the prospects for getting our own legislative house in order. Some lawmakers seemingly like the opportunity to create more chaos as a ludicrous strategy to ‘getting their way.’

Then there’s election issues and the Donald Trump prosecution legal soap opera yet to come …