Thursday, February 11, 2016

Short Takes

Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina quit the GOP race.

U.S. will sue Ferguson for rejecting policing agreement.

Fed chief Janet Yellen is being cautious about raising interest rates.

Senate votes to sanction North Korea.

NTSB calls for tougher lithium battery regulations due to fire risk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Short Takes

Sanders and Trump win their respective New Hampshire primaries.

Supreme Court places hold on EPA carbon rules while trial proceeds.

Mercedes-Benz recalling over 700,000 cars over faulty airbags.

GOP pronounces President Obama’s last budget D.O.A.

Director of Intelligence chief James Clapper says the threats are diverse.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Short Takes

Kerry: ISIS pushed back in Iraq but threatens Libya.

Scary: Zika virus in Texas was transmitted by sex.

North Korea prepares long-range missile launch.

Flint’s former manager resigns as emergency manager of Detroit schools.

Snow and high winds hit Plains and Midwest.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Short Takes

Voters in Iowa get the last earfuls from the candidates.

Bomb kills 60 near shrine in Syria.

At least 65 killed in Boko Haram attack in Nigeria.

Cartoonist arrested in Egypt as government cracks down on critics.

Check your bagged salad; listeria outbreak reported in Dole brands.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016

Short Takes

Heavy winter storm bearing down on the Mid-Atlantic.

British court says Vladimir Putin was behind the assassination of a Russian dissident.

E.P.A. official quits as the agency slams response to the water crisis in Flint.

Russia and U.S. jockey for position in Syria.

Drop in oil prices don’t help the U.S. economy this time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

He Is Rather Untoward

A committee of the British Parliament debated whether or not to ban Donald Trump from entering the country after over 570,000 people signed a petition requesting the action.

  • The Home Office has said Donald Trump must live up to his promise of investing in Britain, after British MPs branded the Republican candidate a ‘buffoon, demagogue and wazzock’.
  • The three-hour debate this afternoon was sparked by a petition which gained 570,000 signatures, following Mr Trump’s call to ban all Muslims from entering America.
  • There will be no direct action as a result of the debate and there was no vote on the isssue, but MPs agreed they ‘duly considered’ the petition.

The government responded to the debate:

James Brokenshire, the Immigration Minister is responding to the debate on behalf of the government.

He says Trump’s suggestion to ban Muslims ignores the fact Muslims themselves are victims of terrorism.

He said: “We’ve also had comments in relation to Donald Trump’s comments in respect of investment in Scotland- the UK government has never given Mr Trump awards or appointments.

“Mr Trump has threatened to withhold investment in Scotland in response to the calls to ban him from the UK. Over the years Mr Trump has made a number of statements about the different scale of his investment in the UK and his willingness to maintain them.

“The UK is the number one destination in European Union for inward investment, the World Bank has ranked the UK as the sixth easiest place in he world to do business, so any organisation that makes promises about investment in the UK should live up to those promises.”

Echoing David Cameron’s comments earlier, he says Britain must work together to fight radicalisation and calls the county a “successful multi-racial, multi-ethnic” democracy.

He says the US remains our most important bilateral partner and it remains within our interests to engage with all US presidential candidates.

Mr Brokenshire tells MPs the Home Secretary considers a person’s right under article 10 of the European convention on human rights and thier freedom of speech.

But added: “We do not comment on individual matters”, for “sound legal reasons”.

Paul Flynn, who led today’s debate, says he hopes today’s conclusion will enhance our relationship with America.

I have no idea what a “wazzock” is, but I’m sure that Donald Trump is one.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Reading

The Iran Deal — Matt Ford in The Atlantic on the diplomacy that ended Iran’s sanctions and freed Americans held captive.

The United States and the European Union lifted a broad swath of economic sanctions against Iran on Saturday as the International Atomic Energy Agency certified it had dismantled most of its nuclear program, opening a new, cautious chapter in relations between Tehran and the West.

“Today marks the first day of a safer world, one we hope will remain safer for many years to come,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at a press conference in Vienna.

Diplomats gathered Saturday in the Austrian capital for the implementation of last year’s historic nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers—the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. IAEA inspectors formally certified that Iran had taken concrete steps to scale back its nuclear infrastructure over the past three months—literally, in one case, when the country poured cement into the nuclear reactor core at Arak.

Iran also shipped 98 percent of its nuclear fuel to Russia and dismantled two-thirds of the centrifuges it used to enrich uranium. If the Iranian government renounced the deal and reactivated its program, Kerry estimated that it would take more than a year for the country to race towards a nuclear bomb.

[…]

Hours before the announcement in Vienna, Iranian news outlets reported that Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian had been released from Iranian custody on Saturday morning after 543 days in captivity, along with three other American prisoners as part of a prisoner swap with the United States, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Also freed on Saturday were Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine sentenced to death for espionage in 2012; Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor held by Iran since 2012; and Nosratollah Khosrawi.

As part of the swap, President Obama granted clemency to seven Iranians convicted of or awaiting trial for violating the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. The U.S. also dropped its cases against 14 other Iranians it sought to extradite from other countries.

Iran also released a fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, on Saturday; CNN reported that U.S. officials claimed his release was not part of the prisoner swap. Trevithick is a student and researcher specializing in the Middle East who was detained while studying at a foreign-language center in Tehran, according to a statement from his family. His 40-day captivity was not publicly known prior to Saturday’s announcement.

Iranian officials arrested Rezaian on July 22, 2014 and charged him with espionage nine months later. An Iranian court found him guilty on October 15 last year and sentenced him to prison for an indeterminate length of time. Marty Baron, the Post’s executive editor, strongly condemned his sentence and treatment.

“The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong,” Baron wrote. “Jason is a victim — arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis.”

His Own Worst Enemy — Jeb Lund in The Guardian on Ted Cruz’s birther troubles.

… Interestingly enough (as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted on Friday) it seems as if, in retrospect, the birther movement was following a goofy script designed to set someone like Ted Cruz up for failure in a quest for the presidency. In addition to Cruz actually being born outside of the United States – in the Canadian city of Calgary – all those imagined (and some perhaps less so) constitutional eligibility standards about a parent who was not a citizen or another parent who might have in some way renounced or suspended her citizenship actually describe Cruz’s family history far more than they ever did the Hawaiian-born Obama’s.

And most of Congress already hates Ted Cruz for his grandstanding, camera-hogging, obstreperous non-collegial ways, which is why so many Republican Party members seem to be having fun with his predicament.

Rand Paul suggested that Ted Cruz was absolutely qualified to become Prime Minister of Canada. Mike Huckabee is compelled and convinced! Arizona Senator John McCain, who had to fend off his own birther questions by pointing out that he was born on a US military base in Panama, has despised Cruz since the man’s early days in the Senate, when Cruz implied that McCain buddy Chuck Hagel might have accepted money from North Korea. McCain was probably rolling the words around his mouth like they were stolen sweets when he told a radio host that he “didn’t know the answer” as to whether Cruz was eligible to be president.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who probably wishes Ted Cruz would go try to make toaster strudel in a full bathtub, initially refused to comment definitively on his eligibility, stating, “I’ll let all these folks argue about this stuff, and I’m going to stay out of it.”

Now, there’s a school of thought that people shouldn’t be enjoying this newest strain of birtherism; that, after deploring the conduct of conservatives asserting Obama’s illegitimacy, teasing and tweaking the Cruz birther phenomenon only retroactively legitimizes what was clearly a broadly racist movement to undo the Obama presidency without having to count actual votes.

But that generous impulse conflates two distinct issues. Obama birtherism was the result of a lot of people who refused to recognize a lawfully elected public official because of what he looked like or the theory of government he espoused. It was a malignant extension of a frame of thought that says certain people are not allowed power over “Americans”.

Cruz birtherism is just trolling an unbearable prick.

It’s doubtful that any non-crazy people truly believe that Ted Cruz is disqualified to become president. Even the person pushing that narrative now the most (and who once himself rode the tide of Obama birther sentiment), Donald Trump, likely doesn’t believe a word of it. Trump, after all, is an opportunist who will believe whatever closes the deal.

Cruz birtherism is a fake issue that couldn’t find a better target: a Princeton and Harvard educated white-shoe litigator married to a Goldman Sachs executive who likes to fire weapons covered in bacon and LARP as a good ol’ boy with that Duck Dynasty yahoo, who clerked for the US supreme court but acts as if the NRA’s faux-academic flunkies are the last word on Second Amendment jurisprudence, who paraphrases Molon Labe in fundraising emails and pretends that the president will confiscate all our guns and who studied American history and yet claims with a straight face that Barack Obama is the most left-wing president in history.

The Ted Cruz birther conspiracy is a fatuous gimmick, but, come on, so is the candidate. It’s nice when these people find each other.

Fact-Checker Burn-Out — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

CHARLESTON (The Borowitz Report)—A fact checker who has vetted all of the 2016 Republican Presidential debates was hospitalized for exhaustion during the sixth G.O.P. forum in Charleston on Thursday evening.

Martin Slessky, a former journalist who works for HonestyWatch, a Minnesota-based fact-checking organization, was resting comfortably after suffering what his doctors called a “total physical and mental collapse” during Thursday’s debate.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of HonestyWatch, said he first became concerned about Slessky’s health when the fact checker started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath every time Texas senator Ted Cruz spoke.

“I turned to Martin and said, ‘Are you all right? Are you going to be able to make it through this?’ ” Dorrinson said. “And he said, ‘I’ll be fine. Ben Carson is starting to talk now, that’ll be soothing.’ ”

But moments later, when New Jersey governor Chris Christie falsely claimed that he never supported the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Slessky experienced acute dizziness and blurry vision, and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

HonestyWatch’s Dorrinson said it was unlikely that he would ask Slessky or any of his other fact checkers to work future Republican debates. “I care about these people,” he said. “Many of them have families.”

Speaking from his hospital bed on Friday, Slessky still seemed blindsided by his sudden disintegration. “Going into the debate, I actually believed that the volume of falsehoods was going to be more manageable this time,” he said. “I thought Carly Fiorina not being there would help.”

Doonesbury — Correcting the record.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Short Takes

Attacks in Jakarta leave 4 dead.

Iran’s swift release of sailors indicates change in ties with U.S.

South Korea fires warning shots over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Ted Cruz did not report a low-interest loan from Goldman Sachs.

Al Jazeera America cable channel to shut down by April.

MH370 hunt turns up 19th century shipwreck.

Happy birthday, LWM.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Short Takes

Iran is holding crews of two U.S. Navy boats for straying into Iranian waters. — UPDATE: Iran says they have been released after “trespassing.”

Ten people killed by suicide bombing in tourist area in Istanbul.

Louisiana governor signs order to expand Medicaid.

Oregon sheriff accuses “occupiers” of harassment.

Taliban free Canadian captive held for five years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Short Takes

Relief aid reaches starving towns in Syria.

The Supreme Court sounds like it might deal a big setback to public employee unions.

Millions of ISIS cash destroyed by U.S. air strikes.

The Koch brothers’ dad helped build an oil refinery for the Third Reich, according to a new book.

William Del Monte, the last-known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, dies at 109.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Friday, January 8, 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Marco Rubio Bombs Out

Marco Rubio is blaming the Obama administration for North Korea’s attempt to set off a hydrogen bomb.

I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by. If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama’s weakness.

Yeah, except for the fact that up until the George W. Bush administration, the United States had done a pretty good job of containing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  It was under the Clinton administration that we had worked out an agreement with North Korea to keep the genie in the bottle.  And as Steve Benen relates, it was the Bush administration that scuttled the agreement and branded North Korea as a part of the “axis of evil.”  That’s the way to keep them in check, right?  North Korea set off their first nuke in 2006 — during the Bush administration.

By 2002, North Korea had unlocked its fuel rods, kicked out international weapons inspectors, and become more aggressive in pursuing a nuclear weapons program. In response, Bush did nothing, instead focusing his energies on selling the United States on the need for a disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Indeed, Bush argued at the time that the U.S. had to hurry up and invade Iraq before it could acquire nuclear weapons, effectively telling North Korea that the way to avoid an invasion was to advance its nuclear program as quickly as possible – which it did.

As a result, North Korea became a nuclear state on Bush’s watch, and paid no price for its actions. The world is left with an isolated dictatorship, craving attention, and playing with the most dangerous weapons the world has ever known.

Marco Rubio touts his foreign policy chops as one of his qualifications to be president.  If his startling ignorance of recent history is any guide, he really should look for something else as a selling point.

Short Takes

U.S. and South Korea doubt that North Korea set off an H-bomb.

El Niño brings a lot of rain to California and around the world.

Texas trooper who arrested Sandra Bland indicted for perjury.

Alabama Chief Justice defies the U.S. Supreme Court on marriage equality.

Florida university fires Sandy Hook-doubting professor.

Ken Griffey, Jr. elected to the Hall of Fame with highest vote percentage (99.3%) ever.  (So who didn’t vote for him?)