Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Two of Hometown's Usual Topics

Sorry Matt, you didn't make the cut today. First up, more on the Iran deal. This is Josh Marshall with a post on something I've mentioned here from time to time.

It's not so much surprising, if you've been paying attention. But it confirms a basic reality, which is that the hysteria from Benjamin Netanyahu, much of the Israeli political establishment, purportedly 'pro-Israel' conservatives in the US, and others, was never shared by the Israeli defense establishment and, in a real sense, was manufactured BS meant to leverage the U.S. political climate.

I've been paying attention and it's therefore no surprise, but I never get tired of seeing it verified. Since Marshall links to a piece on Benny Gantz, I'll include the hysteria link

“I refuse to get hysterical” about the nuclear deal, he told a gathering of policymakers and analysts in Washington DC Friday morning, in likely reference to official Israel’s excoriation of the agreement.

While Gantz, who ended his tenure as IDF chief in February, said a better deal may have been possible, he also acknowledged the final agreement’s success in putting off a nuclear-armed Iran for at least 10-15 years. Diplomacy, he said, had prevented war from breaking out.

Thanks Josh. Thanks Benny. And thanks John Cole for bringing me some gunwingnuttery that's been missing from the blog lately. Here's the latest victim of political correctness directed at the poor misunderstood gun owner

Over the weekend, a soldier with the National Guard was told to leave his gun outside of the Nicholasville Waffle House or he wouldn’t be served. The situation is now getting national attention.
Billy Welch said that he stopped at the Waffle House Sunday morning for breakfast. He was in his 

Army National Guard uniform and had his gun holstered to his side. After ordering his food, Welch said that a waitress signaled for him to come over.

"I got up and I walked over to them, asked them how they were doing and stuff, and they said I'd have to take my firearm outside,” said Welch. "I don't feel comfortable taking my firearm away from me. I always keep it with me and they said, ‘it's one of our policies.’"

In fairness, it was not the soldier who made a big deal of it. He seemed cool about it all. One of his fellow diners is the one that sent it viral. I can see the logic of not leaving a weapon in your vehicle. But I can see not walking around with one strapped to your hip everywhere you go, as well. I am relieved to know that if I want waffles in Kentucky I can dine in a gun-free establishment. 

The Iranian Tea Party

Yes, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz would feel right at home in the Iranian Parliament. Extremism is extremism.

 The Iranian foreign minister's reported handshake with US President Barack Obama triggered chants of "Death to America" in Tehran's parliament Wednesday and a warning against "another kind of spying".

The foreign ministry has confirmed a "completely accidental" encounter between Obama and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, without denying there was a handshake as reported by Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency.

But hardline lawmakers went on the offensive against Zarif.

C'mon, isn't that "Death to America" thing just so 1980's?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Russia Can't Make Things Worse

That may be overly optimistic thinking. Whatever the Russians are doing in Syria almost has to cause an improvement. Please!

Up to now, a key stumbling block for the US and Russia has been their disagreement over the future of Assad, with Russia insisting he must be part of any political resolution and the US saying he must go. Russia does not appear to have budged, but the US and some other Western powers, including Germany, appear to be considering the idea that Assad might have to figure temporarily in an internationally brokered political transition.

The signs of an apparent Western shift in thinking on Assad comes from the stalled efforts to weaken and destroy the Islamic State, as well as the lack of a viable alternative to Assad. Obama will hold a summit of the anti-Islamic State collation countries on Tuesday, but his update on the campaign against the group will not be bright.

Since the European countries are being overrun with immigrants from Syria I can understand how they are ready to settle for Assad. My feelings for awhile now have been that asshole though he may be, we don't have much of an alternative, at least in the short run. And in the long run we're all dead anyway. Imposing democracy on the countries of the Middle East hasn't been a great success. Here's hoping there's a way to kind of slowly back away. 

Yeah, But That Doesn't Scare the Hoi-Polloi

So, there's a new report that says immigration is slowing. Don't anyone tell Trump.

In the face of heated rhetoric about undocumented immigrants from Latin America, a new report has noted that their influx into the United States is slowing – and that a broader demographic shift is taking place within the nation’s immigrant population.

The largest number of new immigrants are Asian as opposed to the Hispanic horde that the wall with the big, beautiful door is going to stop. Gonna need another wall on the western coast apparently. 

Leaders should instead hone in on policies that boost immigrants’ contribution to the US labor market, such as training and English-language programs, and bring in foreign-born nationals who can have a positive impact on the American economy, says Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute.

Sorry, but that sounds like nuance to me. 

“The problem is perception hasn’t matched the reality,” he says. As a result, “we haven’t been able to get a rational immigration reform law passed that improves things ... so that we’re using immigration both to get skilled, talented migrants from abroad and as a tool to fill labor shortages.”

Blah, blah. More nuance. 

The focus on unauthorized immigrants has also drawn attention away from Asian Americans’ growing political potential. About 47 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don’t identify with either Republicans or Democrats, which leaves “a sizable portion of the AAPI electorate up for grabs for both parties,” according to the Center for American Progress.

I'm sure once the Donald takes notice of them, they'll be swayed by his charm just as the Hispanic community has been. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kevin vs. Kevin

So, there's a letter up at my local paper dissing the Democratic contender for Congresswoman Stefanik's job. I realize it's over a year to the election, but I don't take kindly to wingnuts with tea and toast in the morning paper. I realize Canton is in the 21st district, but it's a long way for this guy to be writing from. Anyway, my response:

     I'm writing in response to Kevin Wells' letter criticizing Mike Derrick's support for the Iran nuclear agreement. Want to point out that the deal is designed to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Most of the people who are qualified to pass judgment say it will do that. Therefore, it will reduce, not increase, the danger to Fort Drum soldiers. Iranian funding of Hezbollah and Hamas is an important issue, but it's a different issue.
     Speaking of terrorist groups, though: the U.S. and Iran do have common enemies in ISIS and al-Qaeda. A little rapprochement here and there, as on nukes, might be helpful toward cooperation in that area. Iran offered help to the Bush Administration in Afghanistan in 2001. As one in a long list of errors, they turned it down. Anything that leads to less chaos in Syria and Iraq would be welcome now.
     It's hard to believe that a lot of the American deaths in Iraq would have come from Iranian backed Shia, if Mr. Wells was suggesting that. The insurgency was Sunni Muslim and received funding from private Saudi donors and other Sunni countries in the region. The Shia were in control and would have had no reason to attack our troops. We were even training them.
     Good on Derrick for speaking out in support when he could have taken an easy out and opposed it or ducked the question. It's always easy to take a pro-war, pro-aggression stance. That's the one for those folks for whom the Cuban missile crisis is the good old days. It gives me hope for his campaign that he had the courage to take a pro-peace, pro-reconciliation position.

I was afraid Derrick might turn out to be a blue dog. Hadn't seen where he had taken that position, but I am grateful to Kevin Wells for pointing it out to me. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Fare Thee Well Kim, We'll Miss You

Actually, I hadn't followed the story very closely, so I didn't know Kim Davis was a Democrat. I'm thinking it may have been in order to get the government job or some such reason. In any case, the GOP is certainly welcome to her.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, a longtime Democrat, says she is switching to the Republican Party because she feels abandoned by Democrats in her crusade against same-sex marriage.

Davis made the announcement while in Washington, D.C., to attend the Family Research Council's Value Voters Summit, said Charla Bansley, a spokeswoman for Liberty Counsel, which represents Davis in her legal battles.

"I've always been a Democrat, but the party left me," Davis said, according to Bansley.

Yes, the party certainly did leave you and is all the better for it.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Uncommon Sense Works Backward

The idea of the Democrats deferring to Funiciello's candidacy and not running a candidate is closer to the meaning of "begs the question" than  his use of it.

This Harper's poll has me at 13% before I've even (officially) announced.
It begs the question ... Why are the Democrats setting out to ruin the working class' chances to win meaningful representation in congress by, once again, running a candidate in a district that has no interest in their corporate representation and shoddy political theater?

So, Matt has already run for the office once and has kind of been running since that election, I guess, with "presence" on the radio. Despite that, he's polling at 13% and Mike Derrick is polling at 17% without having campaigned at all. I believe I'll just wait and see what Derrick has to say. It is possible he's a blue dog. Very possible. If that's the case, I'll be forced to write in Aaron Woolf. Because, fuck Matt Funiciello and the Green Party.

corporate representation and shoddy political theater

What the fuck does that even mean?

Oh yeah, begs the question does not mean the same as raises the question. 

To beg a question means to assume the conclusion of an argument—a type of circular reasoning. This is an informal fallacy, in which an arguer includes the conclusion to be proven within a premise of the argument, often in an indirect way such that its presence within a premise is hidden or at least not easily apparent.

Matt's a walking, talking fallacy machine, though. He specializes in ad hominem attacks and red herrings. And then there's the ever present hasty generalization that Democrats and Republicans are the same. That's been gone over enough here without rehashing it now. I will just add, though. Even if they were the same, that does not automatically make Funiciello better than they are.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

While the Hometown Blog Does Not Condone Violence

It does make an exception for cartoon biffing and Quentin Tarantino.

Don't know if the Day of the Dead is a piñata holiday, but what the hell.

Donald Trump Piñatas for Sale in Mexico After Inflammatory Immigrant Remarks 

Oh yeah, there are other countries that think he's an asshole, too. 

Our Allies in Saudi Arabia

The pope might not be welcome in Saudi Arabia anytime soon. At least magazine covers of him are not.

Riyadh authorities have censored the Arabic version of the August issue of National Geographic, which featured a cover photo of Pope Francis. Although officially there has been no explanation of the ban, the leaders of the Islamic country are reportedly  "offended" by the of the head of the Catholic Church presence in the prestigious journal.

With friends like them and the Israelis is it any wonder we're re-engaging with Cuba and Iran. 

Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, which imposes the "death penalty" in cases of "murder, rape, drug trafficking and sorcery." In the ultra-conservative Sunni Wahhabi kingdom, women are forbidden to drive and must always be accompanied by a man with whom they have close ties of kinship.

Moreover, these days, the Pope continues to promote a policy of welcome and support for refugees fleeing from the wars in the Middle East, particularly the Syrians (mostly Muslims), opening the doors of the Vatican and inviting priests to do the same in parishes; compared to a Saudi Arabia that has never accepted any refugees in four years of conflict, and who have effectively sealed their borders.

Oh yeah, that's where 17 of the hijackers on 9/11 were from, too. 

North Country Gun Nuts (and What'd I Say)

Yes, the Oathkeepers are here.

"We have families, firemen, concerned citizens, along with several groups like the Oathkeepers attending to show their support for our police," Stokes said.

They didn't show a lot of support for police at the Bundy Ranch.

What else did I say:

Start it back up.

Steffie editorial.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Hold Your Nose and Back Assad

Reality is sinking in on the situation in Syria. Assad is a son of a bitch, but he has to be our son of a bitch.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to go – but the timing is negotiable, Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday.  

Speaking after talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Kerry called on Russia and Iran to use their influence to bring President Assad to the table, Reuters reports.

The Crazy Republican in the Attic Problem

Yes, there is a spectrum of Republicans that runs from somewhat sane to batshit crazy.

Fundamentally at issue in both the new shutdown talk and in the insurgent candidacies of Trump and Carson is a tension that has driven Republican politics since the tea party revolution of 2010.

Establishment Republicans want to win elections, Republican voters want to feel they are being heard.

Recent evidence suggests that, at crucial times and in important ways, the two goals have been mutually exclusive. But they are clashing dramatically on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress this week.

I'd like to feel a little more empathy.

To give many Republican voters what they want on several key issues is a recipe to win House races in safe, localized districts, but to risk losing broader races for the Senate and White House. Indeed, Republicans’ success in the 2014 Senate elections began with rigorously weeding out antiestablishment tea party candidates.

Now, Trump and Carson are giving frustrated rank-and-file Republicans their voice again. And in doing so, they are forcing the Republican Party to come to terms with its own contradictions – an uncomfortable discussion the party has hoped to avoid for years.

The thought of a President Cruz, Trump, Palin, etc. for infinity it seems, prevents empathy, tho.

Recently, the Republican establishment had also sought to tamp down potentially inflammatory talk on abortion. Comments about abortion likely lost Republicans Senate seats in Missouri andIndiana in 2012 and fed Democratic claims of a Republican “war on women.”

But a video from an antiabortion group has stirred the issue again, leading to calls for shutting down the government if Planned Parenthood is not defunded.


The deeper concern is that there is no obvious “solution” to the disconnect between the Republican Party and many of its voters. The party cannot abandon its most passionate, partisan supporters, who can be reliably counted on to go to the polls, even in low-turnout midterm elections. But direction of the country appears to be inexorably away from the worldview of these voters.

Latino voters were not a decisive voting bloc in the 2012 presidential election, an analysis by The New York Times found, but they tipped several key states into Obama’s column. And their influence is growing.

Meanwhile, Millennials, now the largest generation in the country, are significantly left of Republican orthodoxy on immigration, gay rights, business profits, and environmentalism, one Pew Research Center study finds. Another suggests that such differences might be culturally ingrained and persist even as Millennials age.

Does that mean we might get the House back someday? Dare to dream. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I'm Sure the Pope Will Be So Disappointed

Rep. Gosar will not be at his speech.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) on his plans to boycott Pope Francis' speech to Congress: "[W]hen the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one."

Special bonus quote: "If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time."

Do pope's have "personal time?"

Feel the Jeb!mentum!

Or not!

Twenty-four hours after his debate performance in front of an audience of 23 million Wednesday night, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush appeared in front of a more humbling number: about 100.

As the Washington Post’s David Weigal and Ed O’Keefe reported, Mr. Bush’s first post-debate rally took place in a half-full Las Vegas rec center room.

Oh my!

Stefanik Votes in Favor of Edited Propaganda Video

Having worked in the Bush White House, I suppose she knows a thing or two about propaganda and can relate to it. So, our congresswoman voted with the rest of he man women haters club in the House to defund Planned Parenthood.

The GOP outrage is sparked by secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how to take tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. While Planned Parenthood say they have acted legally and the tapes were edited, the videos have launched abortion into a prominent issue for the coming presidential election.

That's these tapes

Several Republican presidential candidates have claimed that Planned Parenthood is “profiting” from abortions. But the full, unedited video they cite as evidence shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly saying its clinics want to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research.

Four experts in the field of human tissue procurement told us the price range discussed in the video — $30 to $100 per patient — represents a reasonable fee. “There’s no way there’s a profit at that price,” said Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s “biorepository.”

Thanks for voting against science and medical research, Elise. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Matt's Reading My Blog?

Matt Funiciello announced on his radio show today that he is now eating a vegan diet and gave many of the reasons put forth on this blog for doing so. It's nice to see him working hard to secure the all-important Hometown endorsement and vote. Now all he has to do is work on the gun nuttery, the 9/11 Truth nuttery and the Trump-like ad hominen attacks.

Seriously on the wingnut style name-calling. Try Jay Heinrichs' "Thank You for Arguing." You're welcome for the Hometown plug, Jay.

Link to the Bullshit of Carly Fiorina

Not that it makes any difference to Republican voters:

Or take her biggest applause line of the night: a riff on the Planned Parenthood tapes that set conservative Twitter afire. "I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."

The only problem? Nothing like that happens in the Planned Parenthood tapes. As Sarah Kliff, who has watched all the tapes, wrote, "either Fiorina hasn't watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage."

Yes, the applause has been long and loud for that.

More Carly fact checking with a good link to a Fortune article:

Thus, apples to apples, revenue growth went from 7 percent before she started to 3 percent when she left — not from 2 to 9.

For instance. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fraidy Christians

Mostly just putting this up as a bookmark because it's a little long and I don't want to hack and paste parts of it. The article is called "Fear" and is by Marilynne Robinson talking about something I've thought a bit about: Why are many Christians so scared that they need to be armed?

My thesis is always the same, and it is very simply stated, though it has two parts: first, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind. As children we learn to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” 

Maybe they remember to claim to be Christian, but forget about God who's behind the scenes. 

Those who forget God, the single assurance of our safety however that word may be defined, can be recognized in the fact that they make irrational responses to irrational fears.

They certainly are irrational. 

Granting the perils of the world, it is potentially a very costly indulgence to fear indiscriminately, and to try to stimulate fear in others, just for the excitement of it, or because to do so channels anxiety or loneliness or prejudice or resentment into an emotion that can seem to those who indulge it like shrewdness or courage or patriotism. But no one seems to have an unkind word to say about fear these days, un-Christian as it surely is.

She points out that we may be right in fearing the Russians.

I have read that Americans are now buying Kalashnikovs in numbers sufficient to help subsidize Russian rearmament, to help their manufacturers achieve economies of scale. In the old days these famous weapons were made with the thought that they would be used in a land war between great powers, that is, that they would kill Americans. Now, since they are being brought into this country, the odds are great that they will indeed kill Americans. But only those scary ones who want to destroy all we hold dear. Or, more likely, assorted adolescents in a classroom or a movie theater. 

Crafty devils! Oh yeah, second amendment; blah, blah, blah.

I know that hunting is sacrosanct in this country. This is beside the point, since hunting rifles are not the problem. And the conversation around this issue never stays long with hunting. It goes instead to the Second Amendment. Any literalist reading would notice the founders’ words “well-regulated” on one hand, and on the other the alarm that arises among the pro-gun people at the slightest mention of anything that resembles regulation, and their constant efforts to erode what little regulation there is.

I love this thought that follows. I do my best to understand parables I come across from the Bible. 

I take very seriously Jesus’s teachings, in this case his saying that those who live by the sword will also die by the sword. Something called Christianity has become entangled in exactly the strain of nationalism that is militaristic, ready to spend away the lives of our young, and that can only understand dissent from its views as a threat or a defection, a heresy in the most alienating and stigmatizing sense of the word. We are not the first country where this has happened. The fact that it was the usual thing in Europe, and had been for many centuries, was one great reason for attempting to separate church and state here.

Jesus’s aphorism may be taken to mean simply that those who deal in violence are especially liable to suffer violence. True enough. But death is no simple thing when Jesus speaks of it. His thoughts are not our thoughts, the limits of our perceptions are not limits he shares. We must imagine him seeing the whole of our existence, our being beyond mortality, beyond time. There is that other death he can foresee, the one that really matters. When Christians abandon Christian standards of behavior in the defense of Christianity, when Americans abandon American standards of conduct in the name of America, they inflict harm that would not be in the power of any enemy. As Christians they risk the kind of harm to themselves to which the Bible applies adjectives like “everlasting.”

So, is it the soul that will perish "by the sword?" Is it worth taking a chance on in order to protect your physical body? That seems like it would be pertinent question for true believers. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Making Sense of the TPP

So, I had hoped there was a good reason for the president to push so hard for TPP. All I heard was the kvetching of my own folks on the Left on why it was evil. And it still may be. This is a wonderful article by Alfred McCoy that at least outlines a purpose to it. Besides costing Americans jobs and all that.

Moving from repair to revival, from past to future, President Obama has been using America’s status as the planet’s number one consumer nation to create a new version of dollar diplomacy. His strategy is aimed at drawing China’s Eurasian trading partners back into Washington’s orbit. While Beijing has beenmoving to bring parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe into a unified “world island” with China at its epicenter, Obama has countered with a bold geopolitics that would trisect that vast land mass by redirecting its trade towards the United States.


In his six years in office, Obama has invested diplomatic and political capital in advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a prospective treaty that carefully excludes China from membership in an apparent bid to split its would-be world island right down its Pacific littoral. Surpassing any other economic alliance except the European Union, this treaty will bind the U.S. and 11 nations around the Pacific basin, including Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, and Vietnam, that represent $28 trillion in combined GDP or 40% of gross world product and a third of all global trade. By sweeping up areas like agriculture, data flows, and service industries, this treaty aspires to a Pacific economic integration unparalleled in any existing trade pact. In the process, it would draw these highly productive nations away from China and into America’s orbit.

Wanted to point this out as well. Mostly for my own edification. 

Obama’s diplomats have, for instance, pursued reconciliation with three “rogue” states -- Burma, Iran, and Cuba -- whose seemingly implacable opposition to the U.S. sprang from some of the most disastrous CIA covert interventions of the Cold War.

In 1951, as that “war” gripped the globe, Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the CIA to arm some 12,000 Nationalist Chinese soldiers who had been driven out of their country by communist forces and had taken refuge in northern Burma.  The result: three disastrous attempts to invade their former homeland. After being slapped back across the border by mere provincial militia, the Nationalist troops, again with covert CIA support, occupied Burma’s northeast, prompting Rangoon to lodge a formal complaint at the U.N. and the U.S. ambassador to Burma to resign in protest.

Not only was this operation one of the great disasters in a tangled history of such CIA interventions, forcing a major shake-up inside the Agency, but it also produced a lasting breach in bilateral relations with Burma, contributing to that country’s sense of isolation from the international community. Even at the Cold War’s close 40 years later, Burma’s military junta persisted in its international isolation while retaining a close dependency relationship with China, thereby giving Beijing a special claim to its rich resources and strategic access to the Indian Ocean.

Gotta confess to not being good on the history of Burma. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Well Regulated Extremist Militia

Fresh off their appearance in Ferguson and their defense of racist, scofflaw, squatter Cliven Bundy the Oath Keepers are offering their services to Kim Davis. Stewart Rhodes is apparently Supreme Appellate Judge of the United States now.

Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, issued a written statement saying in part, "We believe Federal District Court Judge David Bunning grossly overstepped his bounds and violated Mrs Davis’ due process rights, and in particular her right to a jury trial.... [W]e see the rise of an imperial judiciary that not only legislates from the bench but is attempting to expand their 'contempt' power to likewise swallow up our Bill of Rights and circumvent jury trial."

I do hope the government is keeping close watch on these nuts. At least SPLC is.

(C)entral is the group’s list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey,” a compendium of much-feared but entirely imaginary threats from the government — orders, for instance, to force Americans into concentration camps, confiscate their guns, or cooperate with foreign troops in the United States. These supposed threats are, in fact, part of the central conspiracy theory advocated by the antigovernment “Patriot” movement of which the Oath Keepers is a part — the baseless claim that the federal government plans to impose martial law, seize Americans’ weapons, force those who resist into concentration camps, and, ultimately, push the country into a one-world socialistic government known as the “New World Order.” In 2013, the group took on a more aggressive stance, announcing the planned formation of “Citizen Preservation” militias meant to defend Americans against the New World Order.

They sound kind of like the Green Party, or at least it's NY 21st incarnation. Lots more interesting stuff at the Southern Poverty link. 

Letters I've Written, Never Meaning to Send

So, having been taken to task by this nice Latvian lady, I feel the need to respond. I'll satisfy myself with responding to my blog, though. I don't feel like quite such a crank doing that. Thanks to the Moody Blues for such a great line to use for a post title.

     I'd like to thank Ms. Voutyras for her gracious response to my letter. She is correct in noting my limited knowledge of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and I appreciate the information she shared on her home country. Regarding my lack of concern for these nations though, my letter did state, "the countries of Eastern Europe have my sympathy if they are truly in danger of being annexed by their neighbor."
     I'll reiterate my regard for their welfare and also my resistance to the idea of NATO bases being installed in these countries to serve as "tripwires." The main purpose of my letter was to point out my opposition to the neoconservative approach to foreign policy espoused by pundits such as Charles Krauthammer. I don't find much that is conservative in their methods. They seem closer to the supposed liberalism of the "best and brightest" in the Kennedy Administration who involved us in Vietnam for a decade. 
     That, in my opinion, did not do the people of Vietnam any good. Neither did the Iraq invasion instigated by neoconservatives leave Iraqis better off. Both were misuses of our nation's military and financial resources. These misadventures give me reason to doubt that adopting the ideas of the right wing pundit class would benefit the folks in the Baltic countries. 

In my initial letter, I mentioned the loss of tens of millions by the Russians fighting the Nazis in WWII and how the thought of the U.S. going to war against them, on their own turf (not Red Dawn), would probably be a bad idea. There's a book I read some years ago by Antony Beevor about the siege at Stalingrad. Hopefully anyone considering this idea would take a look at the determination shown by those Russians in defending that city and think twice. Thrice, if necessary.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

First a Bigger and Better Stonehenge, Now the Missing Link

It's been a big week for archaeology. Hometown shout-out to the women who recovered these fossils.

Getting into Dinaledi required a steep climb up a sharp limestone block called "the Dragon's Back" and then down a narrow crack only 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide. A global call for researchers who could fit through this chute resulted in six women chosen to serve as what the researchers called "underground astronauts."

"They risked their lives on a daily basis to recover these extraordinary fossils," study lead author Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told Live Science. 

There seems to be disagreement over whether they are to be classified as being in the genus Homo and whether the find represented a burial spot for the 15 members of this group. And they have yet to take DNA samples because of the work doing reconstruction.

The scientists recovered more than 1,550 bones and bone fragments, a small fraction of the fossils believed to remain in the chamber. These represent at least 15 different individuals, including infant, child, adult and elderly specimens. This is the single largest fossil hominin find made yet in Africa. (Hominins include the human lineage and its relatives dating from after the split from the chimpanzee lineage.)

It's all too good to pick and choose from. Fascinating stuff. So consider this a bookmark. 

The Saudis Look to Have a Vietnam

The Saudis and the members of their coalition in Yemen aren't so experienced the whole intervention in other countries thing. They're likely to get experienced fast.

Saudi Arabia’s newfound military prowess and interventionist policy is being put to the test in the battle for central Yemen, with rising casualties posing a challenge to public support for the war.

For Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab Gulf allies, the military campaign in Yemen’s central province of Marib is their largest in more than 80 years and for some members of the coalition, their first real taste of war.

The fact that former President Hadi of Yemen is a guest of the Saudis and is kicking back waiting to be re-installed in his former job suggests to me this ain't gonna go well. 

And casualties have risen. Shortly before the ground invasion, a Houthi rocket attack on a military base outside Marib on Sept. 4 killed 60 Gulf troops, including 45 Emirati soldiers, according to official news agencies in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“I think the biggest question is the sustainability of casualties – UAE, Kuwait and Qatar – these societies really haven’t suffered casualties in foreign wars in the living memory of anyone,” Mr. Gause said.

Hearts and minds still matter.

“The public debate in the Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain is very simple: action in Yemen is not only to save Yemen from the hand of Houthi militia control, it is rather an important part of an overdue regional, Arab confrontation with Iran,” says Mustafa Alani, director of national security at the Jeddah-based Gulf Research Center

“Winning in Yemen is a key battlefield in the wide war against Iran aggressive policy,” he says. “Coalition forces understand the cost of this confrontation, and the possibility of high causalities in certain areas.”

Yes, well if they truly want to take on Iran, they better get used to casualties. The Iranians already know about suffering them

The death toll, overall, was an estimated 1 million for Iran and 250,000-500,000 for Iraq.

I suspect none of these coalition countries are prepared to sacrifice numbers like that. 

Look, But Don't Listen

The GOP candidates for president want to be seen with Pope Francis, but have their fingers firmly in their ears and be chanting, "la,la,la,la."

The pope supports the Iran nuclear deal, which many GOP candidates pledge to tear up if they are elected president. As Republicans debate the place of immigrants in the U.S., the pope has urged countries to welcome those seeking refuge and has decried the "inhuman" conditions facing people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Francis was also instrumental in secret talks to restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a rapprochement the GOP views as a premature reward for the island's repressive government.

In a heated primary where any break from party orthodoxy is a political risk, Republican candidates have stepped gingerly around their differences with Francis.

When Francis issued an encyclical this year calling for aggressive international action to combat climate change, most Republicans made clear they had no problem with pope taking a position on the matter. But they suggested his stance would have little influence on their own views.

No beating of swords into plowshares or any of that happy peace horseshit for the goopers. 

And from the expected to the unexpected:

A recent study shows that Harvard Business School alumni, many of whom are wealthy and major players in the financial industry, are more concerned about inequality and more equitable distribution of wealth than economic growth.

The new study, released Tuesday, asked 2716 randomly sampled graduates of the prestigious school where they stood on various issues facing the economy. The results showed that 66 percent of respondents chose inequality, middle-class stagnation, poverty, and economic mobility as a more pressing issue than boosting overall economic growth.

And Gordon Gekko weeps. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

There Have to Be Clowns

I went looking for this knowing that Trump and Cruz were involved. What a bonus to find that La Palin is also getting into the act. Will she never go away?

Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz will join forces Wednesday afternoon with Sarah Palin and others at a rally against the Iran nuclear deal.

The rally is expected to draw thousands of anti-Iran, anti-Obama protestors, though White House allies on Tuesday secured enough votes to protect the deal from a congressional backlash.

And despite that star power:

On Tuesday, three more Democratic senators announced support. That brought the tally to 41 — far more than the 34 needed to back a presidential veto if Congress sends Obama a resolution disapproving the deal.

That’s also enough to block such a resolution from coming to a vote at all.

Oh, in case those three leading lights of the GOP weren't enough, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and Louie Gohmert will also be there. Sets my heart aflutter. 

They've Found Stonehenge's Daddy

It's so cool that this was just laying around and no one noticed.

University of Birmingham archaeologists announced on Monday their discovery of a "super-henge," a vast prehistoric stone monument believed to be as old as or even older than Stonehenge.

Don't miss the video, as well.

Yeah, Another Fuck the Guns Post

Not that this column by Leonard Pitts wasn't worth linking to anyway, but I want to keep track of the comment thread. It's my little homage to Reppy's "What'd I Say" blog.

You frequently find fortune cookie aphorisms, yes, but it’s not often that you find searing insight within Twitter’s 140-character confines. Which is why a June tweet from one Dan Hodges — his profile describes him as a British political commentator — stood out.

“In retrospect,” wrote Hodges, “Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.” 

Sadly, probably true. Here's why I love Andrew Cuomo even though he's pretty frequently a dick.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo renewed calls for national gun-control legislation on Tuesday, after one of his aides was critically injured by a stray bullet in crossfire between two rival gangs in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

Following the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., Governor Cuomo oversaw passage of the state's sweeping gun control laws that are considered the strictest in the United States. At the time, President Obama launched an aggressive gun-control push, but his efforts failed in Congress. Gun rights activists have maintained that such legislation would violate the right to bear arms that is enshrined in the the Second Amendment.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview on CNN on Tuesday, called for a renewed effort to pass a national policy, saying it is key to stopping the flow of weapons into New York from other states.

This piece, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gotcha Questions on Fox News?

In addition to taking out Iran's chief rival and screwing up the balance of power:

At the time, in response to Iran’s nuclear program, the Bush/Cheney administration did nothing – except, of course, strengthen Iran’s regional power by invading Iraq.

With this in mind, Fox News’ Chris Wallace reminded Cheney over the weekend that Iran “went from zero known [nuclear] centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.” The Republican’s response was extraordinary.

The Fox News host flashed that data on screen so no one could miss it, and added: “So in fairness, didn’t you leave – the Bush-Cheney administration – leave President Obama with a mess?” 

“Well, I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney countered. […] “But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed.

“Well, they may well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney replied.

That’s the exact opposite of the truth, as Wallace, to his credit, quickly reminded the former V.P. Iran’s nuclear program blossomed, not under President Obama, but during the Bush/Cheney era.

Nice work, Chris Wallace!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Cream Rises to the Top

Mostly just wanted to link to this article on why the Iran deal survived and maybe thrives if it gets to 41 votes. Trying not to listen to Charles Pierce on that one. Damn pessimist.

“I think what happened is that you had some very adamant opponents of the deal ready to go with big war chests and a big media campaign to sink the deal,” says Lawrence Korb, a defense policy expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington and a former Pentagon official.

“They came out of the gates and really did a great job for their side from Day 1,” he adds. “But that [mounting public opposition] prompted the supporters to say, ‘Wait a second here, there are good reasons to support this deal,’ and the review period gave them the time to put those arguments out there.”


“After a great national debate that has taken place over the past two months, rational argument, solid analysis, and sober reflection have won over wild exaggeration, scaremongering, and a flood of money,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a pro-Israel and pro-peace lobbying group in Washington, in a statement Wednesday after Senator Mikulski announced her support.

“Supporters of the agreement, including J Street, were vastly outspent by opponents,” he added, “but almost every lawmaker who began this debate undecided and was willing to listen to both sides ended up supporting the deal.”

I took the quiz and got one wrong, only because I gave blame to England for the coup in 1953.



This is such a great story to clear the air after having the Cheney's here.

Receiving the “gift of mobility” in the form of a PET (Personal Energy Transportation) – the sturdy three-wheeled, hand-pedaled wheelchair conceived of by a group of volunteers under the direction of the Rev. Mel West – has radically changed the lives of Ms. Thanh, Mr. Zohidov, Mr. Salguero, and tens of thousands of others around the world.

Mr. West has had a hand in founding or serving several notable faith-based nongovernmental organizations in a long career as a pastor and antipoverty activist, including several years on the international boards of Heifer International and Habitat for Humanity.

No sense in my cutting and pasting, it needs to be read in full. 

Giving Mario Hepp His Due

I posted John Siebrech's letter and neglected this one. I'm deeply sorry for that oversight. Take it away Mario:

Americans can agree or disagree on Donald Trump’s run for the presidency in 2016 and his political platform, "Make America Great Again," but the polls repeatedly show he is leading by double digits over his closest Republican competitor. The majority of Americans have been totally disgusted with President Obama and this left-wing administration. Donald Trump is the voice of the majority of Americans who are hesitant to speak out on the important issues facing our great nation for fear they would be labeled a racist under the "Left-Wing Blanket" of political correctness. Well, I say “to hell with political correctness, speak your mind!”

The issues facing America range from the flow of illegal aliens crossing our southern borders to the lack of a strong and aggressive foreign policy. Within these parameters are scandals, lies and cover-ups such as: Fast and Furious Gun Runner Operation, IRS scandal, V.A. scandal, Obama/Clinton Benghazi cover-up, the corrupt Clinton Foundation, the Muslim terrorist organization ISIS, Hillary Clinton email server scandal, and last but not least, this disgusting, threatening, Iranian Nuke Deal. America, let's not forget the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979; a leopard doesn't change his spots. Obama the community organizer has been a total disgrace to the presidency of the United States!

God bless America.

Let's not forget overthrowing the Iranian government in 1953 either then. Wonder if he's seen that Jeb! ad pointing out how Trump speaks with forked tongue. Who cares?

Nihilist of the Day

Haven't done one of these in awhile. I still don't really understand what a nihilist is, but I'm pretty sure Dick Cheney is one. Cheney and spawn of Cheney (aka one of 5 deferments) have a new book out decrying Obama for hating America and handing the keys to the nukes over to the Iranians. Since I'm not going to read that shit, here's Carlos Lozada to review it. You're a stronger man than I, Mr. Lozada.

History is written by the victors, and also by those who convince themselves that they won.

The Iraq experience adds an extra hurdle of credibility for the Cheneys’ warnings about Iran and the nuclear accord the United States and other powers recently reached with that country. “The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” they write. Obama’s successor must junk the deal, they argue — just one of many items a new president must get to right away.

Their list is a throwback. It features a massive military buildup, including new missile-defense systems, more nuclear weapons and a force prepared to wage war in multiple geographic locations simultaneously. The Cheneys also call for the restoration of National Security Agency’s surveillance authorities, the return of “enhanced” interrogation of terrorism suspects, the deployment of thousands of military “advisors” to battle the Islamic State and a halt to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. They also advocate aggressive actions against rival nations, such as sending troops to NATO countries that border Russia, in order to “signal American determination.”

Otherwise, the authors write, militant Islam will spread across the globe; Iran and other countries will go nuclear; China will dominate Asia and target America; and Russia will overpower Europe, enslaving free nations and destroying NATO.

Yeah, it's not good bed-time reading. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I Really Try to Avoid Trump

This was too good, though. This back and forth between The Donald and Jeb! is becoming priceless.

Donald Trump took another swipe at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by criticizing his use of Spanish on the campaign trail.

“I like Jeb,” Trump said in an interview with Breitbart. “He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.”

Yeah, speak English pendejo!

Since I have the post started. Why is George Pataki running for president? Of course, there was another guy who got in that was a former gov from somewhere. I think his name was Jim something. He's not even listed. 

A Reasoned, Thoughtful Letter From a Wingnut

No, I'm just kidding. This is the type of thing I don't bother to respond to anymore. There's no changing this guy's mind or anyone that thinks the way he does. And hopefully, his nasty tone is going to turn off anyone even considering thinking that way. John Siebrecht is an old Hometown favorite. Take it, John.

So these past couple of weeks, we've heard from all kinds of liberals, spewing all kinds of nonsense. For instance, about the ridiculous non-deal this administration of clowns says they’ve gotten for us. The argument by the cowardly left is "Even a weak deal is better than no deal." Really? Tell this to your grandchildren as they go up in flames.                        

Let me remind you spineless individuals that we are the United States of America, and before you liberals made us the laughing stock of the world, before you turned our allies against us, we were respected and feared. This is why countries build a strong military. There is no better deterrent to war. So again, your liar-in-chief has lied to us.

Then we have the Democrats who showed the Republicans pushing grandma over the cliff. But it is the Democrats who are standing by while babies are being sliced and diced, while innocent Americans are being murdered, shot down by the same type of cowards who are raping, killing, burning and beheading women and children in other parts of the world.

Keep advocating the murder of the police, liberals and when you finally figure out that the police are the only ones keeping them from you, it will be too late.

Write us another mindless essay about your children going off to college Doolittle, ignore what’s going on in our country advocated by the likes of you.

Here’s a hint for all you liberals ... all lives matter.

If only the Post Star would allow him to use the term libtard, it would read so much better. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Trump

Don't worry I got Pink Floyd all cued up, too. No Robert Frost. The Republican candidates seem to be competing over who can build the longest wall on our borders with the most beautiful door.

If he were to occupy the Oval Office, Donald Trump promises to build a “beautiful” wall along the entire US-Mexican border. Not to be outdone as a fellow GOP presidential hopeful, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is willing to “look at” putting a wall on the US-Canadian border – the longest border between countries in the world.

It may be rude to point out that you can go around or over a wall. So, I'm rude.

Many politicians like Mr. Trump are responding with promises of impenetrable borders.

Is raising such a hope realistic? Experts say that walls – whose history goes back nearly 4,000 years – have a dubious record. They often merely divert migration elsewhere and make it more dangerous. 

Well, he's raising the hopes of dolts, so anything is probably realistic to them. Sorry. That really is rude. 

Border barriers can have unintended consequences. They may forestall peacebuilding and reinforce differences. By enclosing a country, they are a signal of fear of the other and a symbol of mutual distrust and defined differences.

Border walls can serve as a symbol for a country by collectively sharpening its identity and create the impression of a sanctuary. But they also may prevent a country from dealing with the root causes of illegal migration, such as poverty and war. The best long-range solution is for countries to work with each other in tackling core problems and share information on potential threats, such as drug cartels or terrorist suspects.

More Letters to Chuckles the Neocon

Just dashed off a letter to the Post Star in response to a recent Krauthammer column. I'll just link to his nastiness. It's not worth cutting and pasting any of it here. It leaves a slime trail. Anyway:

I'd like to respond to Charles Krauthammer's latest column in which he has the heebie-jeebies over Russia. He states, "Eastern Europe has been begging NATO to station permanent bases on its territory as a tripwire guaranteeing a powerful NATO/U.S. response to any Russian aggression." He points out that our allies in NATO are not willing to put these bases in. Then he states that Russia knows, "what stands in the way of westward expansion was not Europe, living happily in decadent repose, but the U.S. as guarantor of Western security."
The countries of Eastern Europe have my sympathy if they are truly in danger of being annexed by their neighbor. I'd bet that not one in a million Americans (including me) can find Lithuania or Estonia on a map, though. And if it doesn't concern the West Europeans enough to get them to set down their Beaujolais and respond, then I don't know why the residents of upstate New York should get excited.
The Russians died by the tens of millions fighting the Nazis, so I'd like to think that even if Donald Trump or Ted Cruz get elected, we're not going to get into a real war against them. So, maybe his problem is that we're not making enough empty threats. Congrats to him on making it through a column without mentioning Adolph Hitler, Munich or Neville Chamberlain. One day at a time.
As for the snide remark about the president's library being located in Havana, I'll just say hats off to Obama for putting an end to that foolishness with Cuba. Maybe Doctor Krauthammer can prescribe himself some Prozac if nightmares of Cubans attacking have him as jittery as the fear of a second world nation like Russia. 

I don't like wingnuts in my morning paper. I've tried them and I don't like them one bit.

I'm going to tack this on as well. Pretty sure I'm going to see this "political legitimacy" thing come up. already seen the "people are against it 2 to 1" meme from Chuckles himself.