Tuesday Reads: The Latest Passenger in the GOP Clown Car

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Good Morning!!

The 2016 primaries are nearly a year away, and yet it’s beginning to feel as if the campaign has already begun. As Pat J said yesterday, following Bette Davis, “fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” At least we finally have something to be excited about.

Today big media has slowed down its attacks on Hillary in order to drool over newly announced candidate Marco Rubio.

Here’s the Washington Post’s adoring introduction to the new media darling, written by Mary Jordan.

A man in a hurry.’Wait your turn’ is not in Marco Rubio’s DNA.The 43-year-old GOP candidate is used to moving up fast.

You can see it in his bouncing leg, his restless energy, his rapid-fire answers. Marco Rubio wants things now, now, now.

He has just left the Senate floor, where he ripped President Obama’s Israel policy, and now, seated in his grand Capitol Hill office, he dives headlong into explaining why, at just 43, he is ready to run for president.

“I have never understood that ‘wait your turn,’ ” logic, the Florida Republican says. “The presidency is not like a bakery, where you take a number and wait for it to be called. You’re either compelled to run for it because you believe it’s the best place to serve your country” or you stay out of the race.

Never mind that his mentor, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, 62, is gearing up to run, too. Or that he has not even finished his first term as senator. Or that the GOP has a long tradition of picking older presidential nominees who have paid their dues.

Rubio is a man in a hurry, whose dizzying political ascent — he has never lost a race — is a testament to his quickness to spot openings and go for them. “If you told me seven or eight years ago I would be in the Senate, I wouldn’t believe it,” Rubio says. “Sometimes opportunities come up that you could never have anticipated.”

More Rubio love at the link. Be sure to have your barf bag close at hand.

Should Rubio actually get the GOP nod, voters will likely see a lot of this embarrassing video of the young “man in a hurry” giving the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2013.

And here’s The New York Times’ glowing profile of the first term Senator, written by Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin.

Stressing Youth, Marco Rubio Joins 2016 Field.

MIAMI — Senator Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, on Monday declared that it was time for his generation to lead the country, portraying himself as the youthful future of a Republican Party that has struggled to connect with an increasingly diverse electorate.

Formally declaring his candidacy for president, Mr. Rubio entered a contest so far dominated by two aging American political dynasties — the Bushes and the Clintons — and warned Republicans and Democrats alike that it was time to start fresh.

“The time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century,” he said.

“Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America,” Mr. Rubio told hundreds of supporters who crowded the lobby of the Freedom Tower, a historic building where many Cuban émigrés were processed on their arrival in the United States. “But we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.”

Ironically, Rubio and his party actually do want to go back to the past–way back to the 19th Century. A Rubio presidency would mean rolling back women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration reform, and handing Wall Street the keys to the White House. But never mind that. He’s a fresh face with surface charm.

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It certainly sounds like Rubio has been studying then Senator Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2008. But Rubio says he’s way more experienced than Obama was then.

Kasie Hunt writes at MSNBC:

MIAMI –Presidential candidate Marco Rubio says that he has more experience than President Barack Obama did when he won the White House in 2008, even though both launched presidential campaigns as first term senators.

“There are some significant differences between his biography and mine,” Rubio told msnbc in an interview early Tuesday morning before flying to Washington to attend a congressional hearing on Iran. “We both served in the state legislatures, he as a back-bencher in the minority, me as the Speaker of House in the third-largest state in the country.”

He pointed out he will have served six full years in the Senate if he’s elected in 2016; President Obama had served four years when he was elected in 2008.

Okay . . . . Not all that impressive though; and Obama was a hell of a lot more well known around the country in 2008 than Rubio is now. As Matthew Yglesias wrote at Vox yesterday, that’s really the problem with the entire GOP field–most normal Americans don’t know who they are. On the other hand it would be difficult to find an average vote who doesn’t know quite a bit about Hillary Clinton.

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There were a few dissenting voices on Rubio at smaller media outlets. At The New Republic, Brian Beutler has a devastating piece on Rubio.

Marco Rubio Is the Most Disingenuous Republican Running for President. He’s not a reformer. He’s a fraud.

Senator Marco Rubio…was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

Well, we all know that isn’t going to become Republican policy, and Rubio has already demonstrated that he won’t stand up for policies the party leaders dislike.

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.

More good insights at the link.

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Here’s Jonathan Chait on Rubio:

The presidential election is still a year and a half away, but Rubio’s campaign has already gone through three distinct stages. In the immediate wake of their 2012 debacle, Republican elites glommed onto Rubio as the cure for their demographic disease. Days after the election, Republican Über-pundit Charles Krauthammerostentantiously laid his hands upon the young, telegenic senator as the party’s new avatar. “Marco Rubio. So hot right now,” tweeted John Boehner’s press secretary. By the end of 2013, Rubio had crashed and burned. A conservative revolt forced him to repudiate the immigration reform plan he had carefully built. He desperately glommed on to the anti-Obamacare shutdown, alienating party elites without winning over the activists. But now Rubio has rebuilt his campaign and is showing signs of life, by repositioning himself to the right and eliminating his vulnerabilities.

The first and most dramatic such move was Rubio’s renunciation of immigration reform. Having championed a bipartisan plan for comprehensive reform, Rubio now insists that border security must come first. Fervent restrictionists may not fully trust his sincerity, but Rubio’s maneuver follows almost exactly the same script of apostasy and penance than John McCain used in 2008 to neutralize the issue.

The bigger shift has come on economic policy. Last year, Rubio positioned himself as a “reform conservative” who aspired to aim tax cuts at middle-class families rather than the rich. Instead, when he unveiled the plan, it consisted of a massive, debt-financed tax cut that would give its greatest benefit to the rich, not just in absolute terms, but also as a percentage of their income. Even that plan proved to be too stingy for Republican plutocrats, so Rubio revised his plan to make it far friendlier to the rich. The newest version took his old plan and added complete elimination of all taxes on inherited estates, capital gains, and interest income. Grover Norquist, guardian of the party’s anti-tax absolutism, cooed his approval.

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Rubio might be a bigger flip-flopper than Mitt Romney. But of course the corporate media fails to notice anything except the surface.

Fortunately for Rubio, much of the political media has covered his ideas as though they represent an important break from his party’s past. “Rubio appears to be hoping his plan will appeal to Republican voters concerned about rising economic inequality and tired of getting beaten up in the general election over plans that Democrats say would hand massive tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the middle class,” reports Politico.

This is not remotely accurate. Rubio’s original plan would have cut taxes by $2.4 trillion over a decade, making it quite similar to George W. Bush’s regressive, debt-financed tax-cut plan. It is true that Rubio would only cut the top tax rate to 35 percent, not as low as the fondest supply-side dreams would have it. But 35 percent would restore the Bush-era tax rate for the highest income earners. What’s more, Rubio’s elimination of the estate, interest, dividends, and capital gains taxes would go far beyond the Bush administration’s most plutocratic dreams. It is also true that Rubio plans to cut taxes for some middle-class families. But obviously that lost revenue has trade-offs, which he has failed to specify. The massive revenue hit would require very large cuts to existing programs. Given his party’s propensity to aim the bulk of its tax-cutting at the programs that direct their biggest benefits to Americans of modest incomes, there is no plausible way to imagine Rubio’s plan would do anything but engineer a massive upward redistribution of resources.

Read the rest at New York Magazine.

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Here’s Chait on Hillary Clinton:  Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election.

Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate.

Of course, not everybody who follows politics professionally believes this. Many pundits feel the Democrats’ advantage in presidential elections has disappeared, or never existed. “The 2016 campaign is starting on level ground,” argues David Brooks, echoing a similar analysis by John Judis. But the evidence for this is quite slim, and a closer look suggests instead that something serious would have to change in order to prevent a Clinton victory. Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite…

Check out Chait’s reasoning at the link.

So . . . What else is happening? Please posts your thoughts on this post and your links to recommended reads in the comment thread.

 


Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of News and Views

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Good Morning!!

I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.

Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.

The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.

President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:

Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….

There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.

The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.

Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.

David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.

The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.

The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.

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Pretty funny.

And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.

Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962.  The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.”  [….] 

even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.

According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections.  Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.

When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.

The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.

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From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.

The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.

The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.

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And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.

An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.

“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”

Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.

The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.

“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.

Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.

Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.

Xavier Morales

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Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.

WaPo: Secret Service manager put on leave during probe of alleged assault.

The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.

The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.

Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.

Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.

More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.

Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.

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More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.

NJ.com reports:  Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.

Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.

New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.

The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.

This could be very interesting.

I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.

What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.

 


Friday Reads: The Iran Deal

tumblr_mgybvytJ5h1qjtdngo1_500Good Afternoon!

I’m running late again!  My schedule is just upside down now and DST just double whammed me on the same weekend I started my late night work.  Still getting used to the weird hours.  I also wanted to spend some time on the negotiations with Iran over its nuke program so I had to catch up with the news.  I’m glad BB’s post was so good because I can see you’ve spent a lot of time commenting on what’s going on in Indiana with its so-called “religious freedom” bill.

Obviously, there are going to be several sides to the “deal” depending on your views and their connections to US/Israel policy. So, I thought I’d highlight a few. Max Fisher–writing for VOX–says the deal is “astonishingly good.”

When Aaron Stein was studying nuclear non-proliferation at Middlebury College’s Monterey graduate program, the students would sometimes construct what they thought would be the best possible nuclear inspection and monitoring regimes.

Years later, Stein is now a Middle East and nuclear proliferation expert with the Royal United Services Institute. And he says the Iran nuclear framework agreement, announced on Thursday, look an awful lot like those ideal hypotheticals he’d put together in grad school.

“When I was doing my non-proliferation training at Monterey, this is the type of inspection regime that we would dream up in our heads,” he said. “We would hope that this would be the way to actually verify all enrichment programs, but thought that would never be feasible.

“If these are the parameters by which the [final agreement] will be signed, then this is an excellent deal,” Stein concluded.

The framework nuclear deal establishes only the very basics; negotiators will continue to meet to try to turn them into a complete, detailed agreement by the end of June. Still, the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States.

Like many observers, I doubted in recent months that Iran and world powers would ever reach this stage; the setbacks and delays had simply been too many. Now, here we are, and the terms are far better than expected. There are a number of details still to be worked out, including one very big unresolved issue that could potentially sink everything. This is not over. But if this framework does indeed become a full nuclear deal in July, it would be a huge success and a great deal.

The NYT editorial board calls the deal “promising.”images

Iran would shut down roughly two-thirds of the 19,000 centrifuges producing uranium that could be used to fuel a bomb and agree not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent (a much lower level than is required for a bomb) for at least 15 years. The core of the reactor at Arak, which officials feared could produce plutonium, another key ingredient for making a weapon, would be dismantled and replaced, with the spent fuel shipped out of Iran.

Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House, insisted he was not relying on trust to ensure Iran’s compliance but on “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program.”

There is good reason for skepticism about Iran’s intentions. Although it pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons when it ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, it pursued a secret uranium enrichment program for two decades. By November 2013, when serious negotiations with the major powers began, Iran was enriching uranium at a level close to bomb-grade.

However, Iran has honored an interim agreement with the major powers, in place since January 2014, by curbing enrichment and other major activities.

By opening a dialogue between Iran and America, the negotiations have begun to ease more than 30 years of enmity. Over the long run, an agreement could make the Middle East safer and offer a path for Iran, the leading Shiite country, to rejoin the international community.

According to Reuters, Iranians were celebrating in the street as the deal was announced yesterday.  The country has been living under harsh embargoes which have obviously hurt ordinary people.

Iranians celebrated in the streets after negotiators reached a framework for a nuclear accord and U.S. President Barack Obama hailed an “historic understanding”, but senior global diplomats cautioned that hard work lies ahead to strike a final deal.

The tentative agreement, struck on Thursday after eight days of talks in Switzerland, clears the way for a settlement to allay Western fears that Iran could build an atomic bomb, with economic sanctions on Tehran being lifted in return.

It marks the most significant step toward rapprochement between Washington and Tehran since the 1979 Iranian revolution and could bring an end to decades of Iran’s international isolation.

But the deal still requires experts to work out difficult details before a self-imposed June deadline and diplomats said it could collapse at any time before then.

tumblr_n8ny4i9nX51txy642o1_500We have reaction to the deal from the GOP and from former SOS Hillary Clinton as reported by CNN.

The backlash from likely Republican presidential contenders to thepotential nuclear deal with Iran trumpeted Thursday by President Barack Obama came swift and hard. A more optimistic response came from likely 2016 Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said the deal — aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear capabilities — “will only legitimize those activities.”

“Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting U.S. and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort,” Bush said. “I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.”

Clinton, meanwhile, held up the tentative agreement as an “important step” in preventing a nuclear Iran.

“Getting the rest of the way to a final deal by June won’t be easy, but it is absolutely crucial. I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,” Clinton said in a statement. “The onus is on Iran and the bar must be set high. It can never be permitted to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

But the former secretary of state allowed leeway for herself in case things go awry in the coming months, stating, “There is much to do and much more to say in the months ahead, but for now diplomacy deserves a chance to succeed.”

The rest of the Republican field, however, coalesced around rejecting the deal.

Making his first trek to Iowa as an announced presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended the President must bring Congress into the process.

“The very first step for any deal, good or bad, should be submitting it to Congress, and the President making the case both to Congress and to the American people why this advances the national security interests of the United States,” Cruz told reporters after a town hall in Cedar Rapids. “Now everything President Obama has said up to this date has suggested that he is going to do everything he can to circumvent Congress.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the early details of the agreement as “very troubling” and said “this attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran.”

Obama pushed to quiet skeptics of the framework during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden Thursday, asking, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

69844c5ef8afa2721165c08a7842db7fPeter Baker–writing for the NYT–calls the deal a “foreign policy gamble”.

As Mr. Obama stepped into the Rose Garden to announce what he called a historic understanding, he seemed both relieved that it had come together and combative with those in Congress who would tear it apart. While its provisions must be translated into writing by June 30, he presented it as a breakthrough that would, if made final, make the world a safer place, the kind of legacy any president would like to leave. “This has been a long time coming,” he said.

Mr. Obama cited the same John F. Kennedy quote he referenced earlier in the week when visiting a new institute dedicated to the former president’s brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” The sense of celebration was captured by aides standing nearby in the Colonnade who exchanged fist bumps at the end of the president’s remarks.

But Mr. Obama will have a hard time convincing a skeptical Congress, where Republicans and many Democrats are deeply concerned that he has grown so desperate to reach a deal that he is trading away American and Israeli security. As he tries to reach finality with Iran, he will have to fend off legislative efforts, joined even by some of his friends, to force a tougher posture.

The WAPO Editorial Board was critical of the deal.

THE “KEY parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.

Mr. Obama argued forcefully — and sometimes combatively — Thursday that the United States and its partners had obtained “a good deal” and that it was preferable to the alternatives, which he described as a nearly inevitable slide toward war. He also said he welcomed a “robust debate.” We hope that, as that debate goes forward, the president and his aides will respond substantively to legitimate questions, rather than claim, as Mr. Obama did, that the “inevitable critics” who “sound off” prefer “the risk of another war in the Middle East.”

The proposed accord will provide Iran a huge economic boost that will allow it to wage more aggressively the wars it is already fighting or sponsoring across the region. Whether that concession is worthwhile will depend in part on details that have yet to be agreed upon, or at least publicly explained. For example, the guidance released by the White House is vague in saying that U.S. and European Union sanctions “will be suspended after” international inspectors have “verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear related steps.”

Obviously, Bibi is beside himself.images (1)

“I just came from a meeting of the Israeli cabinet. We discussed the proposed framework for a deal with Iran.

The cabinet is united in strongly opposing the proposed deal.

This deal would pose a grave danger to the region and to the world and would threaten the very survival of the State of Israel.

The deal would not shut down a single nuclear facility in Iran, would not destroy a single centrifuge in Iran and will not stop R&D on Iran’s advanced centrifuges.

On the contrary. The deal would legitimize Iran’s illegal nuclear program. It would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. A vast nuclear infrastructure remains in place.

The deal would lift sanctions almost immediately and this at the very time that Iran is stepping up its aggression and terror in the region and beyond the region.

In a few years, the deal would remove the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, enabling Iran to have a massive enrichment capacity that it could use to produce many nuclear bombs within a matter of months.

The deal would greatly bolster Iran’s economy. It would give Iran thereby tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East.

Such a deal does not block Iran’s path to the bomb.

Is he the little boy that has cried wolf too often?

Anyway, I hope you’ll read up on the situation since it stands to be one of the biggest foreign policy agreements for quite some time.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Zimmerman Speaks, Cruz Announces, and Hillary Clinton Prepares to Run

the-piano-lesson

Good Morning!!

Get your barf bags ready before you read the new “interview” with George Zimmerman. I put that word in quotes, because the so-called “interview” was with Zimmerman’s divorce lawyer Howard Iken, not an objective journalist who might have asked uncomfortable questions. I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing, but you can do so at the Ayo and Iken website. You can also watch the video if you can stomach it. I did read a couple of press reports:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, George Zimmerman: President Obama amped up racial tension against me.

In his first public comments since the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not prosecute him for violating Trayvon Martin‘s civil rights, George Zimmerman says he was victimized by President Obama….

In it, he faulted the media for portraying him as a racist and the criminal justice system for bringing him to trial but saved his harshest criticism for Obama, whom he accused of trying to prosecute “an innocent American.”

“For him to make incendiary comments as he did and direct the Department of Justice to pursue a baseless prosecution, he by far over-stretched, over-reached,” Zimmerman said.

The president, whom he referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” should have told the public, ” ‘Let’s not rush to judgment,’ ” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman told his attorney that he doesn’t feel guilty about killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed and walking to his father’s home after buying skittles and iced tea at a local convenience store.

He said he’s convinced there’s nothing he could have done differently that would have allowed both him and Trayvon to survive their confrontation that night.

“In all fairness, you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving,” he said.

Talking Points Memo: George Zimmerman Compares Himself To Anne Frank, Says Obama Victimized Him.

“I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous,” Zimmerman said. “Had I have had a fraction of a thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us would’ve survived then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders.”

His lawyer, Howard Iken, asked him whether he was the same man he was five years ago.

“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said. “I have to have my guard up significantly. … I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

189l

Apparently “God” actually wanted Trayvon dead and Zimmerman just happened to be the medium for “God’s” handiwork. Because, you know, “God” is a racist who hates black teenagers….

Don’t put away that barf bag just yet. The next topic is Ted Cruz’ announcement yesterday that he’s running for president. Cruz made the big announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, which was founded by Jerry Falwell. You can read the full transcript at Time Magazine. Cruze praised the “christian” college profusely, but please note that Cruz himself chose to get his education at Princeton and Harvard.

Cruz led off the speech with a lengthy and sentimental description of his and his wife’s family history. Then he launched into his dream for the future of America.

I want to talk to you this morning about reigniting the promise of America: 240 years ago on this very day, a 38-year-old lawyer named Patrick Henry stood up just a hundred miles from here in Richmond, Virginia, and said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison “we demand our liberty.”

Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting. They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

Piano player and still life

That’s not too specific, but I’m pretty sure that by “liberty” Cruz means taking away freedom of choice from women, taking away health care from millions of Americans, blocking immigration reform, and increasing income inequality through tax cuts and removal of government regulations that protect the environment and the health and safety of workers.

Cruz went on to provide some specifics:

Five years ago today, the president signed Obamacare into law. Within hours, Liberty University went to court filing a lawsuit to stop that failed law. Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

Yes, you’ll just have to imagine that, because you won’t get it with a Republican president.

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard.

Imagine abolishing the IRS.

So taxes would get paid on the honor system? And with a flat tax, the burden would fall mostly on lower wage earners. Again, it’s about “freedom” for the rich and the rest of us can pay for it.

Woman at the piano matisse

Women  and LGBT people can forget about their freedom under a Ted Cruz presidency.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

There’s much more of Cruz’s “freedom” talk at the link.

Some reactions to the speech:

Think Progress: Ted Cruz Just Laid Out The Most Anti-Woman Agenda Yet.

FactCheck.org: FactChecking Ted Cruz

The Week: The Obama-like rhetoric, record, and divisiveness of Ted Cruz.

Mediaite: Jon Stewart Mocks Ted Cruz’s Televangelist-Like Big Speech.

SFGate: The Ten Best Things About Ted Cruz Running for President.

woman-at-tbe-piano

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting close to announcing her own run for president. Yesterday she had a private meeting with President Obama.

From Politico: Hillary Clinton meets Barack Obama at the White House.

Clinton was in Washington for an event about the future of urban policy hosted by the Center for American Progress in the morning and the presentation of the Toner Award at a dinner in the evening.

In between, the all-but-declared Democratic presidential candidate swung by to see her old boss in the building she’s hoping to move into.

The White House wouldn’t comment about whether a meeting was going to happen earlier in the day, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest confirmed afterward that it had happened — though he provided few details.

“President Obama and Secretary Clinton enjoy catching up in person when their schedules permit,” Earnest said. “This afternoon they met privately for about an hour at the White House and discussed a range of topics.”

I wonder if they talked about Clinton’s announcement and what Obama would do to back her up?

Music lesson

Also at Politico, Gabriel DeBenedetti wrote that Clinton and other Democrats are thrilled that Ted Cruz will be running for the GOP nomination.

Ted Cruz: Hillary Clinton’s wrecking ball.

Democrats from both inside and outside the Clinton camp have groused for months that the all-but-certain candidate was moving too slowly in formulating and projecting a rationale for running for the White House outside of her gender and the dreaded “it’s my time” argument. She was relying too much on a platform of inevitability, they said — the same platform that doomed her bid in 2008. But those closest to the former secretary of state have counseled patience, arguing that a core element of Clinton’s plan was to get out of the way and let the dueling wings of the Republican Party savage each other while she floats above it all.

Cruz, they say, is Hillary’s wrecking ball.

People close to Clinton smiled at the sight of the first-term senator wandering alone on stage at Liberty University, implicitly threatening a civil war with the “mushy” establishment of his party that he loves to decry — while at the exact same time Clinton sat comfortably alongside heavyweights from her own party’s progressive and labor elements, who have thus far entirely declined to challenge her.

Meanwhile the clamoring of some liberal groups to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the progressive darling, was entirely unheard in downtown Washington as Clinton spent her morning discussing domestic policy at the headquarters of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by her allies. The presumptive Democratic front-runner sat near a pair of union bosses and current and former urban mayors, making sure to throw in some love for liberal hero Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor, as she previewed pieces of her likely domestic policy platform.

She touched all corners of the Democratic Party in the morning performance before meeting with President Barack Obama in the White House and speaking at an award ceremony for political reporters in the evening, dogged only by barbs from her Republican critics.

So for Clinton, Monday was smooth sailing. For Republicans, her camp figures, it signaled the beginning of a wild and messy primary contest that will let Clinton appear to be the adult in the room before she takes on a bloodied GOP nominee.

Could the GOP clown car be even more packed with loonies in 2016 than it was in 2012?

What are you hearing? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great day.

NOTE: The paintings of piano players by Matisse are meant as a tribute to our fearless leader Dakinikat and her new moneymaking enterprise.


Sunday Reads: I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do

e0f3c331ce18ab009f8553da817ad441Good Afternoon

Yesterday, Boston Boomer posted pictures of baby animals, in honor of spring. Today I post pictures (vintage ones) of Brides and Grooms, in honor of Dakinikat’s youngest…who got engaged last night.

So to E. and her Man:

Congrats girl, we wish you both the best of everything!

Now for the linkage, in basic dump form because I am moving so damn slow this morning, we’ll be celebrating the harvest before this thread gets posted.

For starters, a few choice headlines. I am not linking to them because I don’t want to deal with the trolls.

50f52d5ec3d9543f8053aa494b3f2995Dems want to empower Boehner | TheHill –

Israel: Beware of Obama By Michael Goodwin | New York Post

Ted Cruz to announce presidential bid Monday

Hey, Gays: Leave Aaron Schock Alone – The Daily Beast

The Dangerous Chaos of Barack Obama
By Larry Johnson

LOYAL TO LIBERTY- Glenn Beck leaves the GOP

That is some frightening stuff.

3ed23256331e2b781c676fdab34194e8But for a little more perspective…how about links to articles that won’t draw out the trolls.

Racism’s sinister word games: What a white-supremacist talking point tells us about modern politics – Salon.com

All-white Fox News panel demands apology for school’s Black History Month event – Salon.com

Black girl’s parents banned from school after complaining about racist threats warning, ‘N****rs don’t belong’

What are my chances of going to prison? – Metro – The Boston Globe

Supreme Court to decide case over Confederate flag license plate – CSMonitor.com

Mayoral Candidate Apologizes For Performing In Black Face

Oklahoma politician dressed up in black face, drag named ‘Pollyester Kotton’ | theGrio

Screen grab

An Elk City mayoral candidate is now in some hot water after several YouTube videos were shared around town. In the videos, Bill Helton, an Elk City commissioner and mayoral candidate, is seen dressing up as a black woman called “Pollyester Kotton.”

a5e923cb6d593398e62a7da7c7dc7680His critics say the character he plays is offensive, buy Helton who owns a salon says it was playfully inspired by a woman who frequents his shop.

“The character came about from one of my clients, who was African-American, from Texas,” Helton said. He also pointed out that she helped him transform into his alter ego, who he dresses up as mostly when emceeing charity events.

Republicans Vote To Hide Costs Of Repealing Obamacare In Budget

Trillion Dollar Fraudsters – NYTimes.com

cb5c75989bf028ef568f0dedd0bc6d36Georgia getting federal funds to get people off of food stamps | www.wsbtv.com

The state of Georgia is getting $15 million in federal money to try to reduce the number of able-bodied Georgians who are drawing food stamps every month.

About 200,000 Georgians fit into the target category: healthy adults with no dependents and on food stamps.

The requirement to work or go to a school was eased during the recent recession, but the requirement is back.

5 Signs Your Fingernails Are Trying To Warn You About Your HealthHigher Perspective

House Medicare Deal Hits Senate Turbulence Over Abortion – NYTimes.com

Republicans Vote To Hide Costs Of Repealing Obamacare In Budget

704ed19921700dc262685087add6a198‘How Totally Wrong Was I’: Prosecutor Publicly Apologizes for Putting Innocent Man on Death Row | Mediaite

10 episodes that show how Maude debated American culture in the ’70s · TV Club 10 · The A.V. Club

Department Of Education Study Finds Teaching These Little Shits No Longer Worth It | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

5 Horrific Things Fraternities Have Done in Just the Last Week | Alternet

That should be more than enough links to get you going this morning.

Have a great day and enjoy the rest of the post:

 

 

 

Wedding pictures found on…Pinterest

Other fun pictures here:

41 Insanely Cool Vintage Celebrity Wedding Photos

12 Beautiful Vintage Photos Of Brides From 1850-1920s

60 Adorable Real Vintage Wedding Photos From The ’60s

Slide show of additional images at bottom of the thread.

Lets end this post with the full Abba song, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do:

Can you believe this song is 40 years old this year?

 

 

“I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do”
Love me or leave me, make your choice but believe me
I love you
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do
I can’t conceal it, don’t you see, can’t you feel it?
Don’t you too?
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

Oh, I’ve been dreaming through my lonely past
Now I just made it, I found you at last

So come on, now let’s try it, I love you, can’t deny it
‘Cos it’s true
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

Oh, no hard feelings between you and me
If we can’t make it, but just wait and see

So come on, now let’s try it, I love you, can’t deny it
‘Cos it’s true
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do
So love me or leave me, make your choice but believe me
I love you
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do
I can’t conceal it, don’t you see, can’t you feel it?
Don’t you too?
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

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Tuesday Reads: Are Republicans Alien Beings?

Pascal Pensees

 

Good Morning!!

I’m beginning with this lovely painting by Matisse, because I’m trying to calm myself. I’ve been sitting here pondering what makes today’s Republicans so strange. I sometimes feel as if they are another species. They see the world completely differently than the people I grew up with and the people I have known as an adult. Many of my family members were Republicans, and their political views were annoying; but generally I could get along with them as long as we didn’t talk about politics. They didn’t seem like alien beings.

My grandparents were conservative Republicans and so were some of my uncles and aunts. Others in the family were liberals. Yet we all got along by just avoiding touch subjects when we were together. The Republicans in our family were just like the rest of us–they may have thought differently about some things, but that didn’t keep them from being loving and caring people, and they didn’t look different from the rest of us.

My parents’ closest friends were a couple who came from the South. They had Southern accents and they were conservative Republicans. They were even kind of eccentric in some ways–the husband was extremely thrifty and didn’t believe in buying anything on credit; they paid cash for everything–even houses and cars. But they were also intelligent, caring, friendly people and they didn’t look weird like so many GOP politicians do today.

Many of today’s Republican politicians seem hateful and angry, and many of them appear ignorant of how the U.S. government operates and the Constitution on which it is based. As we all know by now, many of these people–mostly men–are also ignorant about female anatomy and how birth control works, and quite frankly, they often appear to hate and fear women generally. They are also ignorant of basic scientific facts.

What is wrong with these people, and where do they come from? Why do so many of Tea Party-style Republicans actually look weird?

Take South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, who has been going around ranting and raving about Hillary Clinton’s emails  Who is this guy? Tell me he’s not weird-looking.

Harold Watson "Trey" Gowdy III

Harold Watson “Trey” Gowdy III

Here’s a profile shot.

Trey Gowdy

Does his head really come to a point at the top? If not, what’s with the hair? Like many of his Southern Republican colleagues, he looks sickly, pale, and washed out like the banjo player in Deliverance.

Gowdy apparently never heard the old saying about people in glass houses not throwing stones, because he got himself in a little trouble yesterday. From the Washington Post: Rep. Trey Gowdy retreats from Benghazi event.

In May, just after he was picked to lead the House select committee on Benghazi, Rep. Trey Gowdy pledged not to raise money off the 2012 attacks in Libya, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

But it was revealed Monday that the South Carolina Republican was scheduled to help a group raise funds at an event called “Beyond Benghazi.”

After The Washington Post inquired about the event, a committee spokesman said that the subject of the fundraiser hadn’t been cleared with the congressman’s office and that Gowdy was pulling out.

Yeah, right. Gowdy had no clue what a fund-raising event called “Beyond Benghazi” was all about.

“He has not raised money using Benghazi, and will not speak about Benghazi at fundraising events. Having been made aware of this group’s plan, he no longer will be participating in the event,” the spokesman, Jamal Ware, said by e-mail.

Later Monday, the event was canceled.

 The Republican Party of Virginia planned to host Gowdy at a $75-a-head reception that was called “Beyond Benghazi.” You could buy a table for 10 for $1,250 or co-chair the event for $5,000, which includes the table, a “VIP” at your table and a special shout-out.

LOL

Now look at Tom Cotton, the organizer of the bizarre GOP open letter to the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas)

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas)

 

To me he looks a lot like Gomer Pyle.

Gomer Pyle

 

The strange and borderline treasonous letter signed by 47 GOP Senators actually misstated the way treaties are described in the Constitution and how they are to be handled by the Senate. Ishaan Tharoor at The Washington Post: The misguided, condescending letter from Republican senators to Iran.

As first reported by Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, a group of 47 Republican senators signed a letter addressed to “the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” warning them not to be too optimistic about ongoing negotiations with the Obama administration over Tehran’s nuclear program. It was organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and advised the Iranian leadership that “anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.”

The letter is brief, and can be read in full here. Republican lawmakers are opposed to the Obama administration’s current overtures to Iran, a disagreement that was put into stark relief last week by the polarizing speech delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a joint meeting of Congress. This is yet another tactic to scupper a potential deal.

It starts with the patronizing premise that “you may not fully understand our Constitutional system” and goes on to explain, first, that any international treaty will need to be ratified by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and that, unlike the president of the United States, senators “may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms.” The message to the mullahs: don’t get comfortable with any deal, because we’re going to scrap it as soon as we can.

tom-cottonWTF?!!

Whatever its effects in Washington, the letter is almost farcically condescending in word and tone. Iran’s leaders are well aware of how the United States works. The country’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spent the better part of a decade as the Iranian envoy to the United Nations; like many others in the Iranian cabinet, he was partly educated in the United States.

It reflects the willful ignorance on the part of many hawks in Washington who insist on seeing Iran purely as an irrational actor and a permanent regional threat. As WorldViews discussed earlier, Iran is problematic in many ways, and its regime plays a role in fueling proxy wars in parts of the Middle East. But one can argue that the same is true of Washington’s chief Arab ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.

At the Lawfare blog, Jack Goldsmith wrote that Tom Cotton and his Senate colleagues made an “embarrassing” mistake in their strange letter.

The Error in the Senators’ Letter to the Leaders of Iran.

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.”  But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis).  Or, as this outstanding  2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117):  “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.”  Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane.  Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States.  As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

Even more embarrassing, Iran’s U.S. educated foreign minister responded to the GOP letter and proceeded to school the Senators on how international law works. From The Tehran Times: Zarif to U.S. senators: You are ignorant of international law.

Mohammad Javad Zarif said the letter lacks “legal validity” and shows that the signatories of the letter are “ignorant of international law”
“In our view this letter has no legal validity and is just a propaganda scheme,” Zarif noted.
Zarif said it is surprising that while nuclear talks have not reached a result yet pressure groups in the U.S. have become so “worried” that they have resorted to any “unconventional way” to kill it.
The letter proved that “like” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu these senators “are opposed to any deal”.
Expressing surprise on how it is possible that the legislators of a country write a letter against their own president and government to the leaders of another country, Zarif said, “The letter by the senators show that not only they are alien to international law but even not familiar with the details of the their own constitution about the authority of the president” in implementing foreign agreements.

Many of Iran’s leaders were educated in the U.S. But where did Tom Cotton and his buddies learn about the Constitution, separation of powers, and how foreign policy is handled in the U.S.? Amazingly, he graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School and did more graduate work at Claremont Graduate University. Was he just not paying attention?

Ted Cruz at Princeton

Ted Cruz at Princeton

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) also graduated from Harvard Law and got his undergraduate degree from Princeton. He also signed the letter and seems confused about the Constitutional duties of the President. He actually wrote an op-ed for Politico in which he claimed Obama was “acting like a monarch.”

From Politifact in May 2014: Ted Cruz says Barack Obama is first president ‘who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore’.

Critics of President Barack Obama have charged that he has regularly exceeded the powers of his office in selectively enforcing the law. Their examples include making recess appointments, issuing executive orders, delaying provisions of his health care law, refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court and declining to deport certain categories of young illegal immigrants.

At the 2014 CPAC conference, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reiterated this point to the audience of conservative activists.

Referring to Obama, Cruz said, “This president of the United States is the first president we’ve ever had who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore.”

Politifact concluded, based on interviews with historians that several presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have “ignored specific laws or constitutional protections,” but they don’t actually offer any specific examples of Obama doing so.

Are these Republicans simply blinded by ideology or are they willfully ignorant, despite attention top U.S. Universities? I honestly don’t know the answer. I know it’s rude of me to call attention to how they look, but I can’t help wondering why so many of the GOP “young turks” look like their parents were cousins. For example, Louisiana’s recently elected Senator “crazy eyes” Bill Cassidy, who looks a lot like Frankenstein’s monster. Cassidy also signed Cotton’s letter to Iran.

Cassidy eyes

 

Bill Cassidy campaigning in Baton Rouge, LA.

Bill Cassidy campaigning in Baton Rouge, LA.

Even some of the older GOP Senators who signed the letter have that crazy look:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama)

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

 

Am I nuts? I don’t even know if this post makes any sense. Lately I feel as if this country is falling apart. And more and more I get the feeling that Republicans just aren’t like you and me. Where do these people come from and what is wrong with them?

This is an open thread. You can discuss this post or anything else you like. Have a nice Tuesday, everyone!


Sunday Reads: International Women’s Day and More

tumblr_mk8lqycUJm1qavmuuo1_1280Good Afternoon

Another International Women’s Day has rolled around, and again we are inundated with news outlets quoting famous people’s thoughts on Women’s Rights to inspire us…

I thought to myself, fuck that. We have enough inspiration right here in our own stories of survival to inspire us.(I am talking to the women reading this, and those of you men who are “men” enough to call yourself feminist.)

What I wanted to do today is highlight some of the shit women are currently dealing with,  as in the last 48 hours or so…just to put some of the importance of International Women’s Day into perspective.

Israeli forces fire on International Women’s Day demonstrators | Al Bawaba

More than 30 Palestinians, mostly women, were injured as Israeli troops forcibly dispersed a peaceful march marking International Women’s Day at Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on Friday.

Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas canisters, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets, and pepper spray at hundreds of women to prevent them from reaching the checkpoint. Fourteen of the 30 injured were evacuated to hospitals.

The rally began at Qalandiya refugee camp and marched toward the nearby checkpoint. Witnesses say more than 1,000 women joined the rally along with Palestinian political leaders.

When the rally neared the checkpoint, Israeli soldiers barricaded themselves behind the steel gates and attacked female participants in the face with pepper spray as they approached.

As defiant women refused to move back, Israeli soldiers showered them with tear gas and stun grenades, forcing them to move.

The demonstration was organized by two women’s groups, one from Palestine and one from Israel.

Palestinian and Israeli women protest occupation on Intl Women’s Day – Region – World – Ahram Online

72986ae214f272ebb166ff5e62515db7On the occasion of International Women’s Day, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli women demonstrated the Israeli occupation on both sides of the Kalandia checkpoint that separates Ramallah and Jerusalem, France 24 reported on Sunday.

The Movement of Democratic Women in Israel organised the protest alongside the General Union of Palestinian Women under the slogan “Palestinian and Israeli women break the wall.”

However, the Palestinian women, who were attempting to reach the Israeli side of the checkpoint, were stopped by Israeli occupation forces who fired tear gas in order to break up the demonstration.

The movement that includes women from both Jewish and Arab backgrounds was established in 1948.

It lamented in a statement “How are we supposed to remain silent when our Palestinian brothers and sisters have been suffering year after year from the Israeli occupation that deprives them of their basic human and civil rights?”

The statement that was distributed in Arabic, English and Hebrew went on to criticise Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer.

“How can we ignore the suffering of Palestinian women and their exposure to repression, violence discrimination, oppression and murder.”

This is something isn’t it?

Yukhefit Ghonin, an 85-year-old Jewish peace activist, said that she came from Haifa in Israel to meet Palestinian women who are barred from traveling because of the wall.

“We have to break these boundaries and walls,” she said.

On the Palestinian side of the wall, hundreds of women wearing the black and white traditional Palestinian Kifeya held their national flag.

The Palestinian Authority considers Sunday the 8th of March an official holiday in a show of solidarity with women.

The United Nations commemorates the day as a celebration of women’s achievements throughout history.

More on the story here:

Marking International Women’s Day, Eight Palestinian Women Injured Near Ramallah – International Middle East Media Center

Palestinian and Israeli Women Demonstrate for the Same Cause, but On Different Sides of the Wall

In other IWD around the world news:

5b577fd241823420d90c229461655065China detains five rights campaigners who planned Women’s Day protest | Reuters

China is holding at least five women’s rights activists in detention after they planned a demonstration ahead of International Women’s Day, which falls on Sunday, rights lawyers said.

Lawyers for two of the activists told Reuters the five women, who are from three cities, were detained by police on March 6. They were organizing demonstrations in several cities over the weekend against sexual harassment on public buses.

 

Iraqi women: ‘Things were so much better before’ – Al Jazeera English

In light of International Women’s Day as well as the recent appointment of Baghdad’s first female mayor, civil engineer Zekra Alwach, it’s an opportune moment to remember the many “firsts” enjoyed by Iraqi women.

The nation produced the first female judge, ambassador, and government minister in the Arab world. Iraqi women benefited from state subsidised childcare and education; they once formed about half the public sector workforce and 50 percent of the country’s doctors.

Sadly, as the 12th anniversary of a disastrous invasion and occupation looms, there is another rather grim “first” to ponder.

Iraqi women are arguably the first to see their status go from one of the highest in the region to one of the lowest, in less than two decades. (Now followed closely by their sisters in neighbouring Syria.)

From Great Britain:

45 years after the Equal Pay Act, there’s still a long way to go | Comment is free | The Guardian

0194400c0c609b470d95a4db3335e62dBritish spy agencies urged to recruit middle-aged women to counter ‘traditional male mentality’

itch the preconceptions about Bond girls — the British intelligence agencies should be recruiting middle-age mothers to expand their talent pool, a parliamentary report said on Thursday.

It urged MI5, MI6 and communications monitoring agency GCHQ to use online forum Mumsnet among other mediums to boost the number of women, who currently make up just 37 percent of the workforce, many of them in junior roles.

“Women or mothers in middle-age or mid-career have valuable life experience and may offer an untapped recruitment pool,” said parliament’s intelligence and security committee.

The report comes after French foreign intelligence agency DGSE opened its doors to a glossy magazine for a story last week about the lives of its female spies, in a clear effort to recruit more women.

 

Give girls career advice before the age of 10, says shadow Education Secretary – Education News – Education – The Independent

And over in Indonesia: Sportswear company apologises after washing instructions to ‘give it to a woman. It’s her job’ – Asia – World – The Independent

Hey what about Africa? Celebrating the woman who discovered Nigeria’s Ebola patient zero and curbed an outbreak – Africa – World – The Independent

Few people have heard of Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, but many have her to thank for curbing the outbreak of Ebola in Nigeria and preventing an epidemic of the disease in Africa’s most populous country.

Dr Adadevoh is widely praised as the woman who spotted Ebola when it first came to Nigeria.

While here in our own country: Lawyer Arguing Against Obamacare: Statute Written By ‘White Women And Minorities’

Texas parents rip ‘toxic’ school that shamed educator for ‘female bleeding’ caused by IUD

58d006ee1dfb8892ac0c0ad3859464c8For a general look at women around the world:

International Women’s Day 2015: How far have the rights of females progressed?

International Women’s Day: 9 charts that prove women are still treated like second-class citizens – Home News – UK – The Independent

From Eve to Pandora: How fear of women haunts our earliest myths

But it all comes down to:

What women want – Al Jazeera English

Feminism – it has its celebrity champions, media missionaries and vitriolic detractors. But have the voices of those who most need representation been lost in the discourse, and is the movement at risk of losing touch with the issues that define the lives of the majority of the world’s women?

In the March issue of the Al Jazeera Magazine, we ask women across the world what one thing would improve their lives and the lives of those around them. When combined, their answers create a feminist manifesto of sorts; their stories a reminder of the work still to be done.

They come from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, subscribe to different religious and political creeds and represent a range of racial and sexual identities. Some define as feminists; others shun the label. But whether they want an end to FGM or the right to dress as they please, more women in boardrooms or more in the temple, this is what empowerment looks and feels like to them.

Go to the link to find out.

Then you have the funny side of all this, in that funny is not so funny, like that scene in Goodfellas. No, it does not mean funny as in it is supposed to amuse us.

VIDEO: Watch College Students Sign Petition To End Women’s Suffrage In The Name Of Women’s Rights | The Hayride-  thehayride . com/2015/03/  video-watch-college-students-sign-petition-to-end-womens-suffrage-in-the-name-of-womens-rights/

(Reason for broken link above.) BTW, this is coming from a conservative site…so the slant is obvious, as it starts out saying college students will sign petitions for anything. Anyway, check it out.

 

Turning Point USA. They sent one of their Iowa Field Coordinator, Jake Dagel, to Iowa State University with a petition to end women’s suffrage, or ending the right to vote for women. Dagel started by pointing out that Sunday is International Women’s Day and he wanted to see if students understood something as simple as women’s suffrage.

Dagel went around campus asking students to end “the suffraging of women in society.” While the students signed the petition, Dagel said that women should be empowered and the students who were signing the petition agreed with him. Even better, many of the students were talking about how they talking about women’s rights in their classes.

According to the video, Dagel’s stunt was caught only twice. One of the students who knew what Dagel’s petition was about was asked about what she thought of the fact that students signed a petition to take away her right to vote and she said, “I’m pretty pissed off about it.” If I was a woman, I’m sure I would be pissed off.

Dagel got two pages worth of signatures for his petition.

The stupidity…is it that bad? Or are these students just naive?

Here’s the press release sent out by Turning Point USA:

Despite this Sunday, March 8th being International Women’s Day, students at Iowa State University eagerly signed a petition to end women’s suffrage, also known as a woman’s right to vote. Jake Dagel, Iowa Field Coordinator for a non-partisan youth organization called Turning Point USA, secretly filmed his encounters as he asked students to sign the petition.

In a video posted to YouTube, students are shown saying “I feel like I should do this… I’ve got to tell my professor about this!”

The petition garnered over 2 pages of signature in a matter of just a few hours.

“Students who often demand equal rights for women don’t understand the history of the movement,” said Jake Dagel. “These students failed to recognize that they were signing a petition to end a woman’s right to vote,” he continued.

The video location is particularly interesting because Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, who attended Iowa State University, was an instrumental leader in the movement for women’s suffrage, which lead to the 19th amendment.

“Most students at Iowa State don’t know the history of their own university, let alone the entire women’s rights movement,” said Dagel.

Now most of the students thought that suffrage = suffering and they did women a favor. But this video shows that many of these people, who claim to support social justice, have no clue what they’re talking about. This is the fault of a failed education system that’s not teaching our kids our history or much of anything.

fd6797273dea0953c5941639553d57caI don’t know, perhaps it is the failed state of the shitty textbooks these conservatives are sticking in the schools, coupled with budget cuts and other things….like revisionism. I don’t know, it does show the dumbing down of society. These students should consider getting a law degree from Costco…

Joe and Frito are walking through a Costco, much bigger than what was in Joe’s time
Greeter: Hi, welcome to Costco. I love you.
Frito: Yeah, I know this place pretty good. I went to law school here.
Joe: You went to law school at Costco?
Frito: I know! I couldn’t believe it either but luckily my dad was an alumnus so he pulled some strings.
-Idiocracy 2006

And that leads me to this next link: Can hipsters save the world? | UK news | The Guardian

Okay now for the other news stories of the day:

Cop who killed unarmed 19-year-old Tony Robinson was cleared in a 2007 shooting death | theGrio

Iraqi immigrant shot and killed in Texas as he watched his first snow – Americas – World – The Independent

African-Americans still struggle for Full Citizenship Rights, Voting Rights | Informed Comment

Fox News regular upset Google will rank by accuracy: ‘Let the public decide what’s the truth’

David Duke Talks to Ray Suarez | Al Jazeera America

Charlie Murphy’s story about Prince in ‘Chappelle’s Show’ just got a lot more plausible – ESPN

Prince Plans ‘Hit and Run Tour’ in the United States

850 DNA Matches Found as Houston Clears Rape Kit Backlog

The next few links are disturbing, so take note:

Arkansas State Rep Probably Had Good Reason For Giving Adopted Daughter To Guy Who Raped Her | Wonkette

Let’s Meet Justin Harris, The Arkansas House’s Godly Child-Abandoner | Wonkette

Arkansas horror story: Republican lawmaker gave up adopted 6-year-old to man who then raped her

Arkansas rep who gave his adopted six-year-old to rapist is lying: former foster family

Geez I hate this fucking GOP religious hypocrite assholes.

In connection with that statement, the same goes for journalist who don’t do their jobs…and report the full story:

Times “Not Without Fault” Says Public Editor | Blog | Media Matters for America

New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is right that the Times story last week, which falsely charged that Hillary Clinton might have broken federal rules regarding her email practices was “not without fault.” According to Sullivan, “the story should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated, and when they took effect.”

But Sullivan misses the main point, and in doing so continues to leave the wrong and unfair impression that Clinton might have violated federal rules when she plainly didn’t.

Homer-Simpson_Catholic_Birth-TractObama has made his usual statement in these kinds of matters. I call it his Homer Simpson Defense:

“Three little sentences will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here.” Homer Simpson

Obama has his own take on that…

I heard about it the same time as everybody else, through news reports.

Obama Says He Heard About Hillay’s Emails “Through News Reports” | Video | RealClearPolitics

Ugh…

Okay enough of all that shit. On to something good, about a dog.

BBC News – Frankie the dog ‘sniffs out thyroid cancer’

A dog has been used to sniff out thyroid cancer in people who had not yet been diagnosed, US researchers say.

Tests on 34 patients showed an 88% success rate in finding tumours.

The team, presenting their findings at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, said the animal had an “unbelievable” sense of smell.

Cancer Research UK said using dogs would be impractical, but discovering the chemicals the dogs can smell could lead to new tests.

[…]

Frankie the dog
Frankie gave the correct diagnosis in 30 out of 34 cases

The next step was to see if it could be used as a diagnostic test.

Frankie the German Shepherd was trained to lie down when he could smell thyroid cancer in a sample and turn away if the urine was clean.

Thirty-four patients, who were going to hospital for conventional testing, took part in the trial.

Frankie gave the correct diagnosis in 30 out of 34 cases. There were two false positives and two patients who would have been incorrectly given the all-clear.

Wow…

I will end with a fish tale, a huge one:

Enormous 20-stone catfish caught with fishing rod in Italy after 40-minute boat battle – Europe – World – The Independent

The picture is all you need to see:

Enormous 20-stone catfish caught with fishing rod in Italy after 40-minute boat battle - Europe - World - The Independent 2015-03-08 12-13-34

Enormous 20-stone catfish caught with fishing rod in Italy after 40-minute boat battle – Europe – World – The Independent 2015-03-08 12-13-34

 

 

Hope you have a good Sunday evening, what are you all reading about today?