Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Short Takes

Unimaginable: The death toll from the earthquake in Nepal passes 4,000.

Protests in Baltimore turned violent Monday afternoon.

A second police official in Tulsa, Oklahoma has resigned over the accidental shooting of a black man by a reserve cop.

Loretta Lynch was sworn in as the Attorney General.

The Tigers beat the Twins 5-4.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Short Takes

Aftershocks hit Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake; death count at over 3,200.

Israel says it launched airstrike along Syrian border.

Two dead, five missing after storm hits Alabama regatta.

Hawaii passes bill to raise smoking age to 21.

R.I.P. William Price Fox, author of Southern novels.

The Tigers wrapped up a series against Cleveland, winning 8-4.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Short Takes

President Obama apologizes for drone strike in Pakistan that killed two hostages.

France: Police say they’ve foiled five terror attacks since Charlie Hebdo.

Finally: Loretta Lynch confirmed as Attorney General.

The Deal’s Off: Comcast walks away from Time Warner merger.

The Tigers lost to the Yankees again 2-1.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Short Takes

Yemen: More Saudi airstrikes after the coalition said they would stop.

Oklahoma concedes that fracking causes earthquakes.

Millions of chickens may have to be destroyed because of bird flu.

The Senate voted 99-0 on the human trafficking bill, clearing the way for Loretta Lynch to be confirmed as Attorney General.

The Tigers lost to the Yankees 13-4.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Short Takes

Standoff in the Gulf between the U.S. and Iran continues.

Saudi Arabia is ending its airstrikes in Yemen.

Over 850 reported dead in the Mediterranean after immigrant-smuggling ship capsizes.

The Senate will finally get to vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be Attorney General.

A real Monkey Trial: Chimpanzees are granted the right to sue for unlawful imprisonment.

The Tigers lost to the Yankees 5-2.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short Takes

American warships plan to intercept Iranian vessels carrying war material to Yemen.

ISIS released another horrific video.

Supreme Court tosses North Carolina redistricting plan.

Wisconsin declares bird flu emergency.

Blue Bell ice cream withdrawn after listeria scare.

The Tigers beat the Yankees 2-1.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Short Takes

Iran scoffs at Congress’s attempt to horn in on the nuclear deal.

A man in a one-person auto-giro landed on the west lawn of the Capitol.

Arizona cop rams suspect with patrol car.  (Hey, at least he didn’t shoot him.)

Airbus adding more seats to planes.  Comfy?

The Tigers beat the Pirates 1-0.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Short Takes

Cuba is off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The UN voted to slap sanctions on Yemen.

Senate committee votes out legislation to give Congress a say in the Iran nuclear agreement.

Atlanta educators get prison time for cheating scandal.

Neo-Nazi charged in hate-crime murder of gay North Carolina community college staff member.

The Tigers shut out the Pirates, 2-0.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Short Takes

Iraq security forces launched another attack against ISIS.

Four former Blackwater guards were sentenced for their part in murdering people in Iraq.

A Tulsa, Oklahoma reserve deputy sheriff was charged with manslaughter in the shooting of black man over the weekend.

The Tennessee Supreme Court is halting capital punishment in the state for the rest of the year.

Good move: Indiana is hiring a P.R. firm to help restore its image.

All good things… The Tigers finally lose a game, 5-4, to the Pirates.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Short Takes

Handshake between Presidents Obama and Castro.

President Obama: Partisanship over Iran deal has gone “too far.”

Pope calls 1915 Armenian massacre “genocide.”

Gander sauce for anti-gay legislators in North Dakota coffee shop.

Jordan Spieth wins the Masters.

The Tigers swept the Indians this weekend, and the Perfect Season continues.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Short Takes

Iran’s supreme leader has some tough conditions for the nuclear agreement.

Canada conducted its first strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Cuba’s status on the state-sponsored terrorist list may be decided soon.

New video released in South Carolina shooting.

The Tigers sweep the Twins 7-1.  The Perfect Season goes on.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Short Takes

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev found guilty on all counts in Boston Marathon bombing.

The police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott in Charleston, S.C. has been fired and charged with murder.

An Afghan soldier opened fire at a group of U.S. troops in the city of Jalalabad

Indictments near in George Washington Bridge scandal.

The Tigers shut out the Twins 11-0.  The Perfect Season continues.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Short Takes

The Saudis like the Iran nuclear framework.

California agriculture is exempt from water restrictions.

Closing arguments in the Boston bombing trial.

Carbon monoxide kills eight in Maryland family.

Duke beat Wisconsin.

The Tigers won their Opening Day game against the Twins 4-0.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday Reading

The Iran Nuclear Deal by the Numbers — Graham Allison at The Atlantic explains it all for you.

To assess the impact of the accord that the United States and its partners reached with Iran on Thursday, it is useful to start with five bottom lines. To what questions are 15,000, 12,000, 10, 5, and 0 the answers?

  • 15,000 is the number of pounds of low-enriched uranium that would be neutralized.
  • 12,000 is the number of centrifuges that would be decommissioned.
  • 10 is the number of months by which Iran’s “breakout” timeline to a bomb would be extended.
  • 5 is the number of bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium that would be neutralized.
  • 0 is the number of bombs’ worth of plutonium that Iran would be able to produce.

Of course, the framework accord still has to be translated into a more specific, binding agreement. And even more important, assuming that is done, the agreement has to be implemented. But if this happens, a state that currently has seven bombs’ worth of enriched uranium and 19,000 centrifuges, and is six weeks away from breaking out to produce the core of a bomb, will have been pushed back materially on each of these fronts. Moreover, the route to a bomb using plutonium rather than uranium, which Iran has pursued for over a decade at its Arak facility, will have been abandoned.

[…]

By eliminating 12,000 centrifuges and five bombs’ worth of low-enriched uranium, the accord extends the breakout timeline for Iran to produce the highly enriched uranium core of a bomb to one year. By requiring the reconfiguration of Iran’s planned plutonium-producing reactor at Arak, the accord essentially closes this door to a bomb. And by agreeing to establish a new mechanism that will allow unprecedented access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to suspicious nuclear sites anywhere in Iran, the accord makes it much more difficult for Iran to cheat.

Between this framework accord and a final agreement lie many difficult negotiations. On literally hundreds of specific items, there are countless devils in the details. From my personal analysis of the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, many of these details matter more than the announced constraints on Iran’s enrichment activity at its declared facilities. Most important for me will be requirements for transparency and verification that maximize the likelihood that if Iran attempts to develop nuclear weapons at a covert facility, intelligence communities in the United States and other nations will discover that fact before Iran reaches its goals.

In sum, the Obama administration and its indefatigable secretary of state deserve a hearty round of applause for what has been achieved at this point. What remains to be done will be even more difficult, and in the longer run more significant, in stopping Iran short of a nuclear bomb.

Pence Agonisties — Charlie Pierce on the loneliness of the governor of Indiana.

Suddenly, Mike Pence, the bag of hammers who is for the moment governor of Indiana, wakes on a lovely day in Indianapolis and discovers that he’s pretty much the sole occupant of the Bigot Archipelago.

Georgia’s version of this law likely has breathed its last. And, for a while, it looked like Arkansas was going to follow Indiana into the gorge of eternal peril. But then the CEO of Walmart announced that these religious liberty restoratives were inconsistent with Walmart’s social conscience. (Apparently, he owns an electron microscope.) Then, in what I am certain is purely coincidental, Governor Asa Hutchinson not only came out in opposition to the Arkansas law, he threw it back into the legislature whence it had come to his desk.

To ensure that the state is “a place of tolerance,” Mr. Hutchinson said, he was considering using an executive order that would seek to balance the “competing constitutional obligations” if the legislature declined to make changes to the bill. “What is important from an Arkansas standpoint is one, we get the right balance,” he said, “and secondly, we make sure that we communicate we’re not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future.”

Translation from the original WeaselSpeak: Good god, Pence is an idiot. Bring yo’ bidness to Arkansas!

And, for those of you keeping score at home, the following is a partial list of the institutions that are more progressive and that make more sense on this issue than Mike Pence does.

The NCAA.

Dan Quayle’s Old Family Newspaper

NASCAR

Walmart

The state of Arkansas

But, to be entirely fair, Pence still does have some allies out there.

In the last twenty-four hours, much of the mainstream media has shown itself perfectly willing to serve as agents of Satan (or should I use Moloch to make you feel better?). Most of the news anchors, reporters, and opinion writers of the press are perfectly fine forcing you to violate your conscience as long as they do not have to. They have suddenly discovered Jesus dined with sinners. They just ignore that he said “go and sin no more.” There is no evidence Jesus baked a cake to celebrate sin, but the media wants you to think he did. Just pay no attention to the guy in the Bible who spoke the most about hell fire. Oh wait, that would be the very same Jesus.

…and the greatest of these is charity.

When even Walmart’s figured that out, it’s time to wonder where your soul went.

The New Ball Game — Jay Martel at The New Yorker has some suggestions on how to speed up the game.

Once a hitter enters the batter’s box, he will be required to keep at least one foot in the box until the end of his at-bat. The foot cannot be prosthetic; it must be attached by musculature to the hitter’s body. Hitters may leave the box under certain circumstances, including a wild pitch, a play on the bases, or catching on fire. In the event of an at-bat that lasts for more than three hours, the player can be brought water and snacks. If a hitter dies of natural causes, he may be removed, headfirst.

Three timers will be placed in all Major League stadiums. The first will count down the number of seconds that have elapsed between pitches; a second will track the minutes between innings; and a third will tally the hours of game-watching that the fans will never get back as they march inexorably toward death.

Relief pitchers will be encouraged to warm up at home.

Hitters may adjust their athletic cups only as they approach the batter’s box. Once in the box, they can touch themselves only to swat at an insect or to punctuate a sentence such as “You know who likes pizza? This guy!” Pitchers will be allowed to pick up the rosin bag only fifteen times between batters. They may, however, absolutely go to town on the bills of their caps, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Managers can no longer rush onto the field to challenge a call. Instead, robots with painted frowning faces loosely based on the managers’ actual faces will roll onto the field to confront umpires with angry whirring noises. These robots will all be programmed to return to the dugout within two minutes.

A batter who hits ten foul balls in a single at-bat is allowed to take first base. The team in the field will then have five minutes to chase him down and try to get first base back from him. If it fails, the batter’s team wins the game.

Only the Chipmunks’ version of “We Will Rock You” will be permitted at Major League stadiums. The organ music leading up to the crowd shouting “Charge!” will be scaled down from six notes to four. The lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” will now be “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks/At a reasonable hour I’d like to get back.” There are no other lyrics.

The instant-replay system will be streamlined as follows: the manager will signal to the umpire that the play is being challenged. (A written form is no longer necessary.) The umpire will then relay the request to the replay booth by firing a track pistol three times into the air. The replay official will then rewind the game tape using state-of-the-art beta technology. Assuming that there are no snags or threading issues, the official will promptly watch the play and decide whether to uphold the call or change it. After a document is prepared verifying the official decision and this document is signed, sealed, and sent via pneumatic tubing to the office of the commissioner, a semaphore signal will be given to the umpire, who will make the appropriate call. If this process takes longer than thirty-five minutes, the challenge is automatically rescinded.

If a game lasts more than twelve innings, sabres will be supplied to twenty fans from each side. The team with the most surviving members after the ensuing melee wins. All feet must be cleared from the batter’s box before the next game.

The Tigers’ home opener is Tuesday.

 Doonesbury — Is the caller there?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Friday, March 6, 2015

Short Takes

Keeping it classy: North Korea says attack on U.S. ambassador “punishment.”

Minor injuries reported as plane skids off runway at La Guardia.

Iraq says ISIS destroyed archaeological sites near Mosul.

Harrison Ford reported in fair condition after small plane crash.

For the first time in 30 years, unemployment fell in every state in 2014.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The tradition continues:  it’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

– Despite the terrible roll-out and start-up of Obamacare and the opportunity it handed the Republican campaign strategists, the healthcare law will not be as big an issue in the 2014 mid-terms that all the Villagers say it will be.  By the time the campaign hits the final stretch, the law will be so entrenched that even the people who claim they hate it — even though they support what it does — will have a hard time trying to run candidates who promise to repeal it.  Still, the GOP noise machine and Tea Party hard-core is locked in on re-electing their safe base and the morning after the 2014 mid-terms will show a House still in the hands of the GOP and the Senate closer to 50-50.

I got most of that right: Obamacare was not a campaign issue but I didn’t count on the Democrats running away from it like it was an Ebola-soaked sponge.  The Republicans didn’t win the Senate so much as the Democrats lost it.

– Immigration reform and gun control will go nowhere because it’s the same Congress we had in 2013 and they didn’t do jack-shit.

Too easy, more’s the pity.

– By December 31, 2014 it will be a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be running for president.  Joe Biden will play coy with the Villagers about running, but in the end he’ll demur to Ms. Clinton.  The Benghazi! non-scandal will be long gone except for the nutsery who still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  The GOP will be lining up its merry band that includes Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and just for laughs, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.  President Obama’s approval numbers will be back up in the 50% range.

Nailed that one.  Even the GOP House report says Benghazi! is a nothingburger, and President Obama’s approval numbers are going up.

– Florida Gov. Rick Scott will lose his re-election bid to Charlie Crist, the newly minted Democrat, and Marco Rubio’s star will be as faded in GOP national politics as Pauly Shore’s is among Oscar voters.  He’ll pick up a primary challenge from the far right, but he’ll be safe in 2016 because the Democrats have nobody to run against him.

– Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will all face tough re-election campaigns, but Mr. Kasich and Mr. Snyder will probably squeak by.  Mr. Corbett is out, and just for laughs, the people of Maine will toss their gaffe-prone Tea Party guv Paul LePage.

Still pissed that Florida and Maine re-elected those clowns.

– The national economy will continue to expand and the drive for the living wage movement will take hold.  The unemployment numbers will finally get below 7.0% and stay there.

Yeah, that was an easy call.  The minimum wage is going up all over the country.

– Marriage equality will spread to more states as more cases based on the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 are heard.  Indiana will vote on a ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014, and it will lose narrowly. But same-sex won’t be the law of the land yet, and I predict that unless the Supreme Court issues a sweeping ruling, Texas will be the last hold-out.

– The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Hobby Lobby or any for-profit non-religious corporation does not have the right “to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.”

Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that marriage equality would take hold like it did this year.  Thirty-five states now allow same-sex marriage, many based on rulings by courts that hold that banning marriage equality violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.  There are several cases that are making their way to the United States Supreme Court.  But the court may have tipped its hand.  In October the Court declined to take action on five cases submitted for hearing during the 2014-2015 session.  This allowed the lower court rulings that struck down the bans in those states to stand.

Feh on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

– This will be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Tigers now that Jim Leyland has retired.  They’ll do respectably well and may even win the division again, but it’s time for a breather.

Yep.

– Fidel Castro will finally hop the twig, and the slow thaw between the U.S. and Cuba will begin as the generation that is as old as Castro continues to fade away.

Fidel is still alive, but Alan Gross is free and diplomatic relations are being restored.  About time, too.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

Losing Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both by their own hand, made this year especially painful.

– Personally, life will continue at its gentle pace in good health and good spirits.  In September I will turn 62 and begin the first steps towards eventual retirement, but that won’t be for a long time yet.  I’ve already started on my paper for the William Inge Theatre Festival in March, and I continue to write and produce blog posts.  My parents are happily settled into their “life enrichment community,” and I hope to visit them this summer.  I might even get a smartphone this year, but don’t bet on it.

I’m already working on my paper for the William Inge Festival in April, and I had two one-act plays produced, including one entitled A Life Enriching Community, thanks to my visit to my folks in Cincinnati.  No, I don’t have a smartphone.

Now the predictions:

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

– And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  What do you predict will befall us in 2015?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014