Monday Reads: Is there Life on Mars?

blood moon

Did you see the Blood Super Moon last night?

Last night, one of the most amazing astronomical events happened.

 Sky-watchers from the Americas to western Europe enjoy a rare astronomical event in which the moon appears to redden in the night sky – a ‘blood moon’. It is the result

NASA has a site up with some fantastic pictures if you’d like to see what some great lens and photography can do for an event like this.  You can also read about NASA’s amazing find.  There is briny water on Mars which portends the finding of some kind of Martian life.  It’s actually flowing!

So the news is that there is flowing water on Mars. The evidence comes from dark streaks that appear on the surface of the Red Planet. These have been known about for many years because the landscape has been seen to change on successive images taken by spacecraft orbiting Mars. Although flowing water has always been a possibility for their creation, other ideas such as the movement of dry ice (carbon dioxide) or the action of the wind, could not be ruled out.

Now, however, strong evidence for them being driven by water has been collected by an instrument called CRISM on board Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It has seen the signature of salts known as perchlorates in the dark streaks. These indicate that flowing salty water is responsible for the markings.

In light of this discovery, the search is on for finding where this Mars water is coming from, how it finds its way to the surface and how much of it is down there? There is much we do not know: previous radar studies from Europe’s Mars Express spacecraft had come up empty handed when looking for underground aquifers of water. So where is the water hiding?

Down here on earth, intelligent life forms–the majority of America–do not want Planned Parenthood defunded.  15ec9643c5

Nearly seven in 10 Americans — 69 percent — oppose shutting down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood, according to the results of a new national Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.

Just 23 percent support closing the government over the dispute. Even among Republicans, a majority of 56 percent to 36 percent opposes a shutdown due to Planned Parenthood.

At the same time, 44 percent to 39 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, with a significant gender gap. Among women, 50 percent to 35 percent approve of the group, while men disapprove, 43 percent to 38 percent.

But as far as cutting off funding to the group, 52 percent said they would oppose doing so, compared with 41 percent who supported such an action. Women opposed such an action by a wide margin — 60 percent to 34 percent — while men responding to the survey supported an end to federal funding 49 percent to 44 percent.

Paul Krugman refers to the the scorched-earth policy of the Republicans as damaging to American credibility abroad and to the economy at home.  He also calls them the Blackmail Party.

In other words, despite all Mr. Boehner’s efforts to bring him down, Mr. Obama is looking more and more like a highly successful president. For the base, which has never considered Mr. Obama legitimate — polling suggests that many Republicans believe that he wasn’t even born here — this is a nightmare. And all too many ambitious Republican politicians are willing to tell the base that it’s Mr. Boehner’s fault, that he just didn’t try blackmail hard enough

This is nonsense, of course. In fact, the controversy over Planned Parenthood that probably triggered the Boehner exit — shut down the government in response to obviously doctored videos? — might have been custom-designed to illustrate just how crazy the G.O.P.’s extremists have become, how unrealistic they are about what confrontational politics can accomplish.

But Republican leaders who have encouraged the base to believe all kinds of untrue things are in no position to start preaching political rationality.

epa04691820 A lunar eclipse is seen from Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday, 04 April 2015. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon on its way around the Earth moves through the planet's shadow cast by the sun in opposing position. EPA/DAVID CROSLING AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Meanwhile, Boehner talks about the lesser angels–or perhaps more apt, larger demons--left to do the dirty work in the caucus.  He called them “false prophets” which far kinder than they deserve.

Visibly exasperated, Boehner said his top accomplishments as speaker – including the first major entitlement reform in decades, and deficit reduction – “all were voted against by my most conservative members because it wasn’t good enough. Really? This is the part I really don’t understand.

“Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted,” he added. “They wanted this long, slow process. And so change comes slowly. And obviously too slowly for some.”

Asked if his critics on the right are unrealistic, Boehner exclaimed, “Absolutely they’re unrealistic!”

So, will things get worse or better sans the Orange Dude?3500

Democrats in both chambers say Boehner’s resignation has given them a sinking feeling ahead of the hard negotiations slated for later this fall.

“I’m afraid that it may make things much worse. John Boehner is a good and decent man. I’ve known him since he’s been in the Congress and he’s trying to do his very, very best,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told MSNBC.

The outside groups that constantly attacked Boehner immediately said they expect more from his successor.

“We have a reset. Now the challenge is will whoever takes John Boehner’s job understand that dynamic and be aggressive in trying to put forth conservative policy and fighting for that conservative policy,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America.

No matter who is the next Speaker, he or she will face a difficult task in reaching deals with Obama on spending levels, the debt ceiling and a host of other issues.

Before Boehner’s announcement, some had faint hopes that a lame-duck president and Speaker might be able to work out a deal. Those hopes came crashing down on Friday.

“There’s a building sense among some in the administration and on the Hill that a bigger package could have been put together in a December, but now I don’t think anyone thinks that’s possible,” said Jim Manley, a former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

If Congress is able to agree to a short-term spending bill this week, its next challenge may be reaching an agreement on a measure to keep the government operating through the next fiscal year.

Democrats want to lift the spending ceilings agreed to as part of a 2011 budget deal, and some Republicans are interested in a deal if it increases defense spending.

Holler, however, said conservatives would put heavy pressure on Boehner’s successor to not agree to any such deal.

“I would certainly think that as members are meeting with folks who are interested in having that job, that’s going to be one of the questions they ask,” Holler said of proposals to break the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Even something supported by many centrist Republicans, such as extending expiring tax provisions, could be thrown into jeopardy.

One conservative aide called the package of tax provisions “cronyism,” adding, “It’s not a good image, bailing out Wall Street at Main Street’s expense.”

The Export-Import Bank’s authority lapsed over the summer. Boehner was a supporter of the bank, but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the favorite to succeed him, is not.

The GOP establishment has been troubled by Boehner’s rocky tenure in the House, and many elder Republicans said they are worried about the trend in their party.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cheered Boehner’s demise at a Values Voter Summit Friday in Washington, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who, like Cruz, is running for president, said McConnell should be next.

 Meanwhile, there are some pretty weird people lining up for the overall of Republican Leadership in the House.  Okay, weird is simply too nice.  There are all kinds of whackadoos lined up including “Check out my White Sheets” Scalise.

All manner of knuckle-draggers want be the next Speaker of the House. Where is Dennis Hastert now that you really need him? Oh, yeah, never mind.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is quietly locking down support to be the next House speaker, is privately assuring Republicans he’ll take a tougher stand against the White House — and also the Senate GOP leadership, according to people familiar with the talks.

Oh yeah, it can get worse. Even their “moderate candidate” wants blood on the floor.

Another funny name I saw mentioned is Pistol Pete Sessions from Texas. OhHoly Crap. The guy is also known asCaptain Stupid. But there’s also the possibility that he’ll be a hairdresser’s dream.Best Pete Sessions?

Just hours after federal agents charged banker Allen Stanford with fleecing investors of $7 billion, the disgraced financier received a message from one of Congress’ most powerful members, Pete Sessions.

“I love you and believe in you,” said the e-mail sent on Feb. 17. “If you want my ear/voice — e-mail,” it said, signed “Pete.”

He’s a crate of crazy, Honey.Oh yeah, pick him! Pick him!

Maybe I should consider signing up for the next Mars Mission.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Lazy Saturday Reads: Chaos, Turmoil, and Crazies

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

The Wave, by Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

We are living through chaotic times; and the way I see it, we can trace our problems back to Republicans. The drug war and the prison industrial complex began with Richard Nixon; our economic problems began with Ronald Reagan; and the turmoil in the Middle East began with George W. Bush.

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe

One of the cartoons (see right) that JJ posted last night says it all about Bush and his neocon buddies. The chaos on Capital Hill? That traces back to the Tea Party–a response to the election of a black President by the wingnuts and religious fundamentalists that Bush and Rove enabled.

Can order and harmony ever emerge from the chaos we’re living in right now? I don’t know, but my guess is it will take a very long time. It might require the destruction of the Republican Party as we know it.

Yesterday’s resignation by House Speaker John Boehner is likely to make things even worse in Washington. Josh Marshall’s take: Lord of the Flies on Capitol Hill.

While there are certainly internecine and factional rivalries in the Democratic party, it’s all but impossible to imagine the outpouring of celebration, schadenfreude and smackdowning that is greeting the retirement of Speaker John Boehner. Even a kind word on the day of his retirement appears beyond the ability of most of those he led. Yes, there’s been base clamoring against Nancy Pelosi and even more at certain times with Harry Reid. But it simply doesn’t compare to the angry joy we’re seeing now toward a quarter-century member of the House. The only analogue I can think of is the enmity that grew toward Joe Lieberman. But of course, by that time he wasn’t even a Democrat anymore, let alone one of the party’s top leaders.

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

An Order of Chaos, Richard Ricker

Of course the resemblance to Lord of the Flies stems from the juvenile behavior of the “crazies” in the House. Some of them–see Ted Cruz, for example–have even been able to destroy the traditional courtesy of the Senate.

AP via ABC News: Boehner’s Departure Raises Question: Can House GOP Be Led?

The gulf between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans has grown so wide that it just swallowed up the speaker of the House, and may threaten the entire Republican Party and Congress itself.

The question now is whether anyone can tame the House’s rabble-rousing faction, in the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign rather than face a possible vote to depose him. The stakes are sky-high, given the critical deadlines looming to keep the government running and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

With the GOP presidential contest riding an anti-establishment wave, it’s almost mandatory for the candidates to denounce Republican congressional leaders at the first sign of any potential compromise with Democrats. Dealmaking is that much tougher in Congress, even as some fear it could harm the party’s chances at the White House in 2016.

The long-running drama of establishment vs. insurgency played out anew Friday on Capitol Hill as tea party conservatives cheered Boehner’s announcement that he will leave his job at the end of October. The move will ensure that the government stays open into December because the 13-term Ohio lawmaker rejected conservative demands to dare President Barack Obama to veto a government spending bill that cuts money for Planned Parenthood.

But Boehner’s announcement only puts off that fight and others, and promises a chaotic leadership struggle that may result in new leaders facing the same fundamental problem: a core group of 30 or so conservative lawmakers repulsed by compromise and commanding enough votes to stymie leadership plans, despite the GOP’s immense majority.

Turmoil, Michael Lang

Turmoil, Michael Lang

The only possible solution is for the Democrats to retake the House.

Bobby Jindal used Boehner’s resignation to make another futile attempt to get support from the crazies. From Talking Points Memo:

“Mitch McConnell, it’s your turn,” Jindal said to loud applause.

The Louisiana governor said he was “actually angrier with the Republicans than with the Democrats” because they “don’t do the things they say they’re going to do.”

“It is time to fire these clowns and restore order once and for all,” he said.

This from the clown who destroyed Louisiana.

A few more reactions to the Boehner resignation:

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Back to Chaos, Aldo Tambellini

Politico: Resignation triggers all-out leadership scramble.

CNN: John Boehner’s resignation spells trouble for Jeb Bush.

John Avlon at The Daily Beast: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner.

Slate’s XX Factor: In the End, Maybe John Boehner Just Didn’t Love Fetuses Enough.

Mother Jones: Admit It: You’re Kinda Going to Miss John Boehner.

The latest crazy caucus obsession is their effort to defund Planned Parenthood–even to the point of shutting down the government if they don’t get their way. Here in the reality-based world real people will be badly hurt if this effort succeeds.

Crazy Obsession

Sarah Kliff at Vox:  Stat check: No, women couldn’t just “go somewhere else” if Planned Parenthood closed.

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

Chaos Theory, Erik von Ploennies

The “defund Planned Parenthood” movement has a standard response to the question of where women would go if their local clinic closed: somewhere else.

“There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country,” Jeb Bush said at last week’s Republican primary debate. “I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government.”

Other Republicans make a similar claim. A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that Planned Parenthood’s funding could be diverted to “community health centers and other entities providing health services without abortions.” And on paper, it sounds plausible that 13,000 clinics might be able to absorb Planned Parenthood’s 2.7 million patients who get government help paying for birth control and other reproductive health services.

But a Vox review of academic research, recent Planned Parenthood closures in Texas, and interviews with half a dozen health policy experts suggests the opposite. Historically, researchers have found that when Planned Parenthood clinics close, other clinics do not step up to fill the gap. Meanwhile, when there are fewer reproductive health clinics available, women get less reproductive health care — from birth control to cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment. Unintended pregnancies would likely increase, too.

So while many politicians like to assert that women can “go somewhere else,” the consensus in the literature shows a different picture. Higher-income women will find alternatives. But a sizable minority of Planned Parenthood’s patients, particularly low-income women, would lose access to medical services.

But Republicans couldn’t possibly care less about poor women–or women in general, for that matter.

Saudi Sex Crimes

Police in Los Angeles a Saudi prince for sexual assault a couple of days ago after a woman reported him for attacking her. From The Daily Mail:

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

Beverly Glen Compound where Saudi Prince Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, was arrested by LAPD

A Saudi Prince sexually abused and beat at least three women during a three-day party in his $37 million Beverly Hills home, a new lawsuit claims.

The graphic new allegations against Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 28, were filed by his alleged victims on Friday night.

It comes two days after the monarch, who does not have diplomatic immunity, was arrested on suspicion of forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him.

From the LA Times: More women accuse Saudi prince after his arrest on sex crime charge, LAPD says.

A Saudi prince who allegedly tried to force a female worker to perform a sex act on him inside a Beverly Glen residence has now been accused of attacking other women in the home, according to Los Angeles police and court records.

Majed Abdulaziz Al-Saud, 29, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of forced oral copulation of an adult.

Police said Friday that they are investigating claims that Al-Saud also preyed on other women on the estate.

Detectives “found more victims who were also alleging crimes against Mr. Al-Saud,” Officer Drake Madison said.

Al-Saud, 28, was detained by police for hours Wednesday afternoon as officers investigated a reported disturbance inside the 22,000-square-foot residence about 12:45 p.m., Madison said.

He was held on suspicion of false imprisonment, sexual assault and battery. He was booked on suspicion of forcing the oral copulation of a worker inside the residence, Madison said. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Three women have sued Al-Saud:

A civil lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court on Friday claims he attacked other women inside the home for several days.

The suit, filed by three women only identified as Jane Does, accuses him of “extreme,” “outrageous,” and “despicable” behavior that started Monday and ended in his arrest.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and claims Al-Saud inflicted emotional distress, assault and battery, sexual discrimination and retaliation against the workers, among other allegations. The attorneys who filed the suit did not return calls seeking comment.

Moon Happenings

Tomorrow night there will be a total eclipse of the moon at the same time as a blood moon or a supermoon or something.

Lunar eclipse of this year's supermoon (Boston Globe)

Lunar eclipse of this year’s supermoon (Boston Globe)

From Blood moon, harvest moon, supermoon: What’s the difference?

Sunday’s full moon has a lot going for it — almost too much.

Not only will it be 2015’s harvest moon, but it will also be a supermoon and a blood moon and coincide with a total lunar eclipse.

According to NASA it’s the first time in more than 30 years a supermoon has coincided with a lunar eclipse.

That’s a lot to pack in a night.

So what is the difference between a harvest moon, a blood moon and a supermoon?

Read all about it at the link.

And from The Boston Globe, meteorologist and horticulturist David Epstein explains Everything you need to know about the supermoon eclipse Sunday September 27th.

There is an eclipse Sunday evening and after so many days of clear skies and mild temperatures, it’s going to be a tough break if clouds disrupt us from seeing it. As of right now, there should be enough clear spots in the sky to see the eclipse quite well. I’ll be updating weather conditions on Twitter @growingwisdom. I put the details of the eclipse later in this entry. Let’s discuss the supermoon thing first.

Although words like “super moon” and “rare” are used in eye catching headlines. These terms aren’t what astronomical professionals will use to describe this event. While these phenomena don’t happen all the time, they have happened before and will certainly happen again. I enjoy teaching about astronomical events, and while meteorologists aren’t astronomers the cool occurances in the sky often fall to us to explain.

From Sky and Telescope

From Sky and Telescope

Epstein’s message is that this is an interesting event, but not as big a deal as the media is claiming.

Sunday’s moon is the closest encounter with Earth until November 14, 2016. The full moon on November 14, 2016, will be the closest full moon (356,509 kilometers) until November 25, 2034 (356,448 kilometers). So yes, these things are interesting, but not all that uncommon.

Not So Super
In a recent article in the Evening Sun, Ian Clarke, director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College told the newspaper the following, “Take a quarter and hold it 103 inches away from you. That’s the apparent size of the moon relative to us, as we see it. Take that same quarter, and bring it 5 inches closer, 98 inches away from you. That’s the effect of the Supermoon, he said.” As you can see, this isn’t the celestial event of the century.

What’s happening Sunday evening is an eclipse of the moon, in its full state, while making its closest approach of the year. The eclipse begin at 8:11 p.m. ET. The moon will be fully covered at at 10:11 p.m. ET, peaking at 10:47 p.m. ET. The moon stays covered until 11:23 p.m.ET, and the eclipse will end at 12:27 a.m ET.

You only need to look towards the east to watch this event. There aren’t any special glasses or special precautions to take. However, if you are driving, pay attention to the road, not the moon. During the time the Earth gets in the way of the Sun’s light from illuminating the moon, the moon will take on a reddish hue. This is why you are hearing the term “blood moon” associated with this eclipse.

Read more at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.

Thursday Reads


Good Morning!!

Pope Francis is currently visiting Washington DC, and he will address Congress this morning. Yesterday he said a mass and canonized a questionable new saint. From NPR:

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Canonization of Junipero Serra at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., today. You can watch the proceedings in The Washington Post video above.

Serra, the first Hispanic American saint and the first saint to be canonized in the U.S., helped Spain colonize California in the late 1700s, converting tens of thousands of Native Americans to Catholicism in the process. Some Native American groups objected to the canonization of a priest who converted indigenous people to Christianity using force.

The pontiff addressed Serra’s history in his homily.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it. Mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they cause in the lives of many people.”

After the mass, Francis met with Native Americans at the basilica to speak with them privately about the controversy.

At the link, you can read tweets from people who noticed that Francis fell asleep at one point during the mass.

CIRCA 1930: Fray Junipero Serra Postcard. ca. 1915-1925, Fray Junipero Serra Postcard (Photo by LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

CIRCA 1930: Fray Junipero Serra Postcard. ca. 1915-1925, Fray Junipero Serra Postcard (Photo by LCDM Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

NPR tried to soft-pedal the controversy over Serra’s canonization. NBC has more details:

Saint or Sinner? Pope Courts Controversy With Canonization of Junipero Serra.

…to some Native Americans, Serra’s achievements are nothing to celebrate. They say he created a military-backed mission system that thrived on brutality and resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

“It is very offensive to canonize the person who actually enslaved, whipped, tortured and separated families and destroyed our cultural and spiritual beliefs,” said Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “How can that behavior be recognized as saintly behavior?” ….

Robert Senkewicz, a professor of history at Santa Clara University who has written a book about Serra, said it’s probably no accident that a pope who hails from Latin America, where the missionaries were seen as protectors, would support Serra.

He said he understands both sides of the debate: there’s evidence that Serra supported the flogging of the California Indians as punishment; he had women and girls locked away at night to keep them safe from rapists; and the crowded missions helped breed the disease that killed many.

“Serra, by his own right, really loved the Indians,” Senkewicz said. “But he thought of them as children. Like 99 percent of the people of the day, he thought Europeans were superior to the native people.”

Lopez said he was stunned by the pope’s elevation of Serra given that the pontiff has championed the downtrodden and even apologized in July for the church’s “grave sins” against the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Statue of Junipero Serra on Highway 280 south of San Francisco

Statue of Junipero Serra on Highway 280 south of San Francisco

Like most of what the Vatican does, conferring sainthood is a political process. Frankly, to me it’s meaningless; but I can certainly understand why many Catholics would be up in arms about it.

The Washington Post on Francis’ speech to Congress this morning:

Pope Francis, a symbol of unity for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, will address Congress Thursday morning, marking the first time a pope has bridged the church-state divide to speak to America’s elected representatives.

The pope is scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill at 9:20 a.m. Hours earlier, hundreds people began lining up outside the Capitol grounds, waiting to pass through security checkpoints and stake out a place to see him….

At 10:01 a.m., the House sergeant-at-arms is scheduled to announce: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.” His words will formally launch an event that would have been politically impossible through much of American history, when Catholics — especially waves of immigrants from Italy, Ireland and central Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — suffered widespread discrimination.

That began to change with the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency in 1960, according to the article.

In speaking before Congress, the pope was to take the central position in a tableau reflecting a wholesale shift in Catholics’ place in the United States. Vice President Joe Biden (D), who is also Catholic, will sit behind him, next to Boehner. In front of him will be four justices of the Supreme Court — including three of the six Catholics who currently sit on the nine-member court.

There are 164 Catholics in this Congress, or 31 percent of the members. That’s a higher proportion than in the overall U.S. population, which is 22 percent Catholic. Despite those numbers, it seems doubtful that even a pope who has admonished world leaders to argue less and accomplish more can break the bitter, years-long political paralysis in the U.S. legislature.

Pope Francis meets with John Boehner before the historic speech to Congress.

Pope Francis meets with John Boehner before the historic speech to Congress.

Unfortunately, many of the “Catholics” in this Congress and the Supreme Court do not subscribe to actual Catholic values such as humility, helping the poor, protecting the environment, and making peace, not war.

Pope Francis also held a meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor to “quietly” support their battle against birth control being covered by Obamacare. USA Today:

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis made an unscheduled stop to visit the Little Sisters of the Poor Wednesday, a move that Vatican officials said was intended to send a message of support in the nuns’ battle against Obamacare.

The religious order of Catholic sisters is suing theObama administration over a provision of the Affordable Care Act that the administration has interpreted as requiring the sisters to purchase health insurance with birth control coverage.

Catholic teaching opposes the use of birth control. The sisters can request a waiver, but their lawsuit argues that requiring that paperwork infringes on their religious freedom. The sisters are suing under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a Clinton-era law that prohibits the government from placing a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion.

Last August, an appeals court sided with the government, but an unusual dissent by five judges this month called that decision “clearly and gravely wrong — on an issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty.” The question now goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sigh . . .

News From the Clown Car

Donald Trump is once again feuding with Fox News.

From Politico: Trump says he won’t appear on Fox News. The Republican front-runner says Fox has been treating him unfairly, while Fox says it dumped Trump first.

Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly before the feud

Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly before the feud

Citing unfair treatment, Donald Trump said Wednesday that he is not going to appear on any Fox News shows “for the forseeable future,” reigniting a feud that has heated up and cooled throughout the summer.

“.@FoxNews has been treating me very unfairly & I have therefore decided that I won’t be doing any more Fox shows for the foreseeable future,” Trump tweeted at mid-day on Wednesday.

Fox News fired back a couple hours later, saying Trump had it all wrong, and that it was Fox who dumped Trump. A spokesman issued a statement, condeming Trump’s attacks on Fox’s journalists.

“At 11:45am today, we canceled Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday, which resulted in Mr. Trump’s subsequent tweet about his ‘boycott’ of FOX News,” the statement reads. “The press predictably jumped to cover his tweet, creating yet another distraction from any real issues that Mr. Trump might be questioned about. When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome. He doesn’t seem to grasp that candidates telling journalists what to ask is not how the media works in this country.”

The Republican presidential candidate had devoted Monday and Tuesday nights this week to blasting the network’s coverage of him on Twitter, tweeting and retweeting criticism.

More details at the link. Ugh.

Donald Trump at the South Carolina Freedom Summit

Donald Trump at the South Carolina Freedom Summit

Also from Politico: Trump: I’m so tired of this politically correct crap.

A seemingly exasperated Donald Trump announced on Wednesday, “I’m so tired of this politically correct crap,” telling a crowd of South Carolina business leaders that he’s still the straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy that surged to the top of the polls this summer.

The Republican presidential candidate is suffering a bit of a slump, due to some slippage in the polls, a lackluster debate performance, and another round of negative headlines due to his refusal to apologize for not correcting a questioner at a New Hampshire town hall who insisted President Obama is a Muslim and not an American.

On Wednesday, he tried to reclaim his mojo,  launching another Twitter-based attack on Fox News before taking the stage in South Carolina to blast his rivals. In the case of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, Trump remarked that both candidates “hate each other … but they can’t say it.” Rubio was state senator while Bush was governor of Florida.

Trump, addressing the Greater Charleston Business Association and the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce, detailed his grievances with the way politicians act.

“This is what bothers me about politicians. He announces he’s gonna run and they go to Jeb, ‘what do you think of Marco Rubio?’ ‘He’s my dear, dear friend, he’s wonderful, he’s a wonderful person, I’m so happy that he’s running.’ Give me a break,” Trump said. “That’s called politicians’ speak. Then they go to Marco, what do you think of Jeb Bush? ‘Ohh, he’s great, he’s brought me along.”

Rubio and Bush “hate each other,” Trump said, blasting Rubio as “overly ambitious, too young, and I have better hair than he does, right?”

What Donald Trump refers to “political correctness” is behavior that normal people call common courtesy.

Jeb Bush had another stumble a couple of days ago.

CNN reports: Jeb Bush weighs in on ‘multiculturalism.’

Jeb Bush in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Jeb Bush in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Jeb Bush argued Tuesday that the United States is “creeping toward multiculturalism” and described it as “the wrong approach.”

His answer came in response to a question at an Iowa diner Tuesday from a woman who wanted to know how the former Florida governor would help refugees and immigrants integrate into U.S. society and “empower them to become Americans.”

“We should not have a multicultural society,” the Republican presidential candidate responded.

But Bush, who’s a self-admitted policy wonk and tends to use nuanced language, was referring to “multicultural” in the literal sense — a social model in which cultures live in “isolated pockets,” as he described them, rather than assimilating into society.

“America is so much better than every other country because of the values that people share — it defines our national identity. Not race or ethnicity, not where you come from,” he said. “When you create pockets of isolation — and in some cases the assimilation process is retarded because it’s slowed down — it’s wrong. It limits peoples’ aspirations.”

He added that people who aren’t “fully engaged” in a broader community will struggle to get the best education and argued that learning English would better accelerate access to opportunities.

Personally, I think it’s entirely possible for ethnic groups in the U.S. to hold onto their languages and cultures, while at the same time fitting in to American society. The children of immigrants usually assimilate; at the same time, I think they should be encouraged to understand their ethnic and cultural history and be able to speak their native language with older family members.

In The News

BBC News: Hajj stampede: At least 717 killed in Saudi Arabia.

Quora discussion: Why do Americans think helping even the less fortunate next-door neighbour is ‘socialism’?

The Boston Globe: Apple bans walk-in purchases of the new iPhone 6s in New Hampshire, three other states.

ABC News: Texas HS Football Assistant Coach Admits to Telling Players to Hit Referee, Principal Says.

ABC News: Pope Francis Cites Victims From Church’s ‘Difficult Moments.’

The Telegraph: Angela Merkel’s ministers ‘ignored warning over Volkswagen emissions rigging.’

The New York Times: Hackers Took Fingerprints of 5.6 Million U.S. Workers, Government Says.

Some Interesting Longer Reads

Foreign Policy: ‘Close Your Eyes and Pretend to Be Dead’ What really happened two years ago in the bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

Scientific American: Why the Human Brain Project Went Wrong–and How to Fix It.

The New Republic: Down the Rabbit Hole. The rise, and rise, of literary annotation.

Slate: Yogi Berra Wasn’t Trying to Be Witty. And he wasn’t dumb either. How did the narrative of the wise buffoon come to dominate his life?

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?




Live Blog: Netanyahu Speech to Congress


This morning at 10:45, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress. You can watch it on C-Span. I might try watching for awhile to see what kind of reaction he gets.

I plan to put up another post a little later. There’s another far more significant event happening tomorrow. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in King vs. Burwell, a lawsuit based on a ludicrous misreading of the ACA law. It will be up to John Roberts to decide if he wants to throw 8,000,000 people off their health care plans, and that’s exactly what Republicans are hoping for.

The other “issues” in the news are a tempest in a teapot over Hillary Clinton using private e-mail when she was Secretary of State and another fuss over when the State Department properly vetted contributions to Bill Clinton’s foundation. If we want Hillary to run for president, we are going to have to get used to this garbage.

For now, here are some quick links on the Netnyahu speech and the negotiations with Iran.

CNN: White House warns Netanyahu not to reveal Iran details.

The Obama administration is bracing for Benjamin Netanyahu to spill secret details of Iran nuclear talks, as both camps traded last-minute political jabs ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s controversial address to Congress Tuesday.

The White House is uncertain what precise details may come out but aides spent Monday frantically mobilizing after Israeli officials said that the prime minister planned to disclose sensitive details of an agreement taking shape in talks between six world powers and Iran, which has entered a delicate final stage.

Concern and anger among American officials about the nature of what Netanyahu might expose heightened already roiling tensions between the two countries. Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned about the damage such revelations might have on the negotiations and President Barack Obama himself attacked Netanyahu’s judgment.

Netanyahu is expected to use the details to bolster his argument before Congress that the deal under discussion will not prevent Iran from getting a bomb and could therefore threaten the Jewish state’s existence.


From the AP via Kerry working on Iran nuke deal, Netanyahu to criticize in speech to Congress.

As Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams sought to hammer out an agreement at a luxury hotel in the Swiss resort of Montreux, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to make his case against one 4,090 miles away in Washington.

The U.S. and Iranian sides met for two hours on Tuesday morning before taking a break, according to U.S. officials. The officials said they expected the talks would resume later and likely continue through Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, which will be delivered in the late afternoon local time in Montreux.

“We’re working away, productively,” Kerry told reporters.

“We are moving and we are talking to be able to make progress,” said Zarif. “There are issues and we want to address them. But there is a seriousness that we need to move forward. As we have said all along we need the necessary political will to understand that the only way to move forward is to negotiate.”

However, in a sign that Netanyahu’s speech is resonating outside Washington, Zarif decried comments that President Barack Obama made on Monday — as part of an administration-wide effort to push back on the Israeli’s criticism — in which he said that Iran would have to suspend its nuclear activities for at least a decade as part of any final agreement.

“It is clear that Obama’s stance is aimed at confronting propaganda by Zionist regime’s prime minister and other extremist opponents of the negotiations,” Zarif told Iranian reporters, calling it “unacceptable and threatening.” Zarif’s remarks were carried by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

This speech that John Boehner and Netanyahu cooked up is causing all kinds of mischief.


According to John Ferziger at Bloomberg Politics, Netanyahu Risks Diplomatic, Political Pain If Speech Is Flat.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Congress on Tuesday gambling that disclosing compromises the U.S. made in trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran will delay or derail any agreement.

Netanyahu, a former Israeli army commando, has further damaged his frayed relationship with the White House by ignoring administration warnings and trying to undermine President Barack Obama’s effort to resurrect ties with the Islamic Republic. If his speech to a joint meeting of the House and Senate proves unpersuasive, Israelis may vote him out of office.

The Israeli leader, running for his fourth term in a March 17 election, will seek to “reinforce doubts that people have” and raise congressional pressure to better answer “the legitimate questions that are out there,” said Dennis Ross, a former special adviser to Obama on Iran and the Middle East.

However, said Yoram Meital, a political scientist at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, Israel: “If he doesn’t reveal something significant or provides little hard evidence for his claims, it could affect the vote. Israelis are, by and large, afraid of Iran’s nuclear program, but they are ready to punish Netanyahu if he doesn’t deliver in this speech.”

Netanyahu will reveal details of the agreement being negotiated with Iran against a late March deadline by the U.S. and five other world powers that will show why he’s afraid it could lead to Israel’s nuclear annihilation, an official who asked not to be named because of the trip’s diplomatic sensitivity told reporters aboard the prime minister’s flight to the U.S.

Isn’t that just ducky? Boehner’s decision to invite a foreign leader to speak to Congress without informing the White House is unprecedented in U.S. history. The next time Republicans control the White House, Democrats could now feel invite a foreign leader to speak against that president’s policies. It’s a terrible precedent.


Two days ago Diane Feinstein called Netanyahu “arrogant” and added that “he doesn’t speak for her.” CNN reported:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “arrogant” for asserting that he speaks for all Jews — and that he doesn’t speak for her.

The California Democrat’s comments to CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday’s “State of the Union” come days ahead of Netanyahu’s high-profile speech to Congress, in which he’s set to lobby against a deal to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“My responsibility is to worry not only about the state of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said Saturday in Jerusalem. “And for that reason, we are strongly opposed to the agreement being formulated between the world powers and Iran that could endanger Israel’s very existence.”

Feinstein said she’ll attend Netanyahu’s speech — which President Barack Obama’s administration has heavily criticized. But she wasn’t happy with those comments.

“He doesn’t speak for me on this,” she said. “I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.”

From the Boston Herald: U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern blasts Netanyahu for ‘disrespectful’ speech.

Congressman Jim McGovern, one of a growing number of Democrats refusing to attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech before Congress tomorrow, ripped the foreign leader for turning Capitol Hill into a campaign “rally” point just weeks before his own county’s election.

“Joint sessions of Congress are not supposed to be political speeches … This is not a place for a foreign leader to do a re-election rally,” the Democrat said today in an interview on Boston Herald Radio’s “Morning Meeting” with hosts Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman.

“With joint session so close to his own reelection campaign and before we have reached a (nuclear) deal with negotiators with Iran, I think it’s disrespectful to our president, I think it’s disrespectful to our foreign policy leaders who are trying … to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” he added. “I don’t feel like I want to be a prop in a campaign ad for Prime Minster Netanyahu.”

McGovern, who called the speech’s timing “unprecedented” given the March 17 vote in Israel, also echoed Democratic slams of Speaker John Boehner, who has been criticized, including by the White House, for inviting Netanyahu to speak to the joint session of Congress without consulting the president.

The Worcester Democrat said Netanyahu should have sought a different avenue to speak with members of Congress, noting attempts by some Senate Democrats to arrange a separate meeting with him.

Fellow Bay State Congresswoman Katherine Clark has said she also plans to skip the speech, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren last month called on officials to postpone it, saying she sides with the Anti-Defamation League’s stance on the address.


From Slate’s Joshua Keating: What Does it Mean for the Leader of a Foreign Country to Be a Republican?

In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected charges that he is injecting partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship. “The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue, and I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that,” he said. “Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue.”

It’s a little late for that, Bibi. Tuesday, Netanyahu is giving what was billed from the moment it was announced as a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Much of the controversy surrounding the visit has been over the perceived mutual snubbing and sniping between Netanyahu’s office and the White House and what it says about the relationship between the two leaders. (Nothing good.) But the bigger story is Netanyahu firmly aligning himself in the camp of one of America’s political parties to the exclusion of the other one—a strategy that could, in the long term, be extremely detrimental to Israel’s interests.

Given the “very real difference” between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli leader’s decision to accept John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress made some tactical sense. Netanyahu believes Obama is on the verge of making a historically dangerous deal with Iran and doesn’t see any prospect for changing his mind. Given that his officials say he’s “written off” Obama and doesn’t see any chance of changing his mind, why not reach out to Congress, the “last brake” to stop the deal, diplomatic niceties be damned?


But even if he’s not particularly interested in what the White House thinks of him at this point, what’s harder to understand is the cold shoulder Netanyahu has given congressional Democrats, some of whom have been willing in the past to push back against the White House on the Iran issue. The most striking moment in this whole mess was not so much Netanyahu accepting Boehner’s invitation, though that could certainly have been handled more deftly. It was when Netanyahu declined a closed-door meeting with congressional Democrats. This would seem to have been a welcome opportunity for some fence-mending given that a number of prominent members of Congress, including the most senior senator, Patrick Leahy, and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are skipping his speech over the perceived insult to Obama. Instead, Netanyahu dug in deeper, making the long-standing joke about Netanyahu being the “Republican senator” from Israel seeming not really like a joke anymore.

It’s certainly troubling. What kind of precedent is this going to set? What do you think? If you’re planning to watch the speech, I hope you’ll post comments about it with me below. And please check back later for a regular Tuesday post.


Tuesday Reads: Epiphany Edition

Ethiopian Magi, by Patrick Comerford

Ethiopian Magi, by Patrick Comerford

Good Morning!!

Looking at the news that’s breaking this morning, I’m finally getting the feeling that “the holiday season” is coming to an end. After all, today is the Epiphany–also known as Twelfth Night–the day the three Maji supposedly arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to pay tribute to the baby Jesus with gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh. From The Guardian:

It’s a significant day in many countries, particularly Catholic ones, where Twelfth Night parties and celebrations are commonplace and usually involve the selection of a king, and sometimes a queen and other characters. In France, for example, the galette des rois (“cake of kings”) has a token baked into it; patisseries sell it along with a gold paper crown for the recipient of the token, who becomes the party’s ruler.

Some Epiphany celebrations from British literature:

Samuel Pepys celebrated the feast – always on 6 January, which he says marks the end of Christmas – and in 1663 goes to see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The drama is “acted well, though it be but a silly play, and not related at all to the name or day” – which it isn’t, apart from a general air of misrule. Pepys usually has or attends a party, with dancing and merriment, and always a “brave” or “excellent” cake. There are other tokens baked into it: one year he gets the clove, which indicates he is a knave, but he smuggles it into someone else’s slice. In 1669 he mentions a new fashion, which is to draw paper lots for king and queen of the party, rather than finding a bean, so as not to spoil the cake (and perhaps to avoid the cheating just mentioned).

In Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol, there is a reference to “immense Twelfth-cakes”, and Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present visit a “children’s Twelfth Night party”. Dickens’s letters show that in his household there was a party every year: the date is his son Charley’s birthday, but it’s clear he thinks a Twelfth Night party is quite normal.

In James Joyce’s short story The Dead, from his collection Dubliners (1914), Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta go every year to an important party held by the Misses Morkan. There is dinner, dancing and singing, but alongside the festivities we see darkness and contemplation: snow falls over Ireland, and Gabriel looks through it as he thinks about his own shortcomings and about the wife whom he thought he knew. The idea of a character having a metaphorical epiphany, a moment of revelation or realisation, comes directly from Joyce, and each story in Dubliners features one.

More examples at the link.

This is a tar sands plant Alberta, Canada. Republicans can't wait to bring this to the US.

This is a tar sands plant Alberta, Canada. Republicans can’t wait to bring this to the US.

The new Republican-controlled Congress begins “work” today. The AP reports, via Huffington Post: New Congress Getting Sworn In With GOP In Charge.

Republicans are assuming full control of Congress for the first time in eight years in a day of pomp, circumstance and raw politics beneath the Capitol Dome.

They planned to move swiftly Tuesday toward a veto showdown with President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline, summoning unity despite a tea party-backed effort to unseat House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

As mandated by the Constitution, Congress was to convene at noon.

In the Senate, with Vice President Joe Biden presiding, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was to automatically ascend to majority leader following his approval by rank-and-file Republicans last year.

McConnell and Boehner both were to deliver remarks on their chamber’s floors as they positioned themselves for two years of clashes with Obama.

First, Boehner had to survive his election as speaker — the main event on any opening day’s agenda. Tea party-backed Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida put themselves forward as challengers to Boehner, and at least 10 Republicans announced they would oppose Boehner.

The challenges to Boehner won’t go anywhere, but they could provide some brief entertainment. From Politico: Boehner likely to survive another squeaker for speaker.

John Boehner could lose the support of as many as 20 Republicans on his way to a near-certain reelection as House speaker, his allies concede — a political embarrassment for a GOP leader who narrowly survived a conservative rebellion two years ago.

The Ohio Republican needs votes from 217 lawmakers Tuesday to win a third term as speaker, meaning that opposition from 29 House Republicans could cost him the gavel. Boehner retained the speakership by a surprisingly narrow margin in January 2013, losing the support of 11 Republicans at a time when the GOP had a smaller majority.

This time, Boehner’s supporters say, he could lose anywhere from 12 to 20 GOP votes under a backlash from conservative members angry about their leaders’ reluctance to wage a frontal attack on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Losing that many votes won’t prove fatal for Boehner or even have a long-term impact on his speakership, but it could still prove embarrassing for a GOP leadership that faces a spate of difficult legislative deadlines and is under pressure to prove it can govern during the Republican-controlled 114th Congress.

The speaker’s allies believe they have the opposition under control, and as of Monday, the anti-Boehner crowd was far from having the numbers to force a second-ballot vote, let alone deny him a new term. But the dissenters and their allies in conservative media are fanning the flames.


Politico says that Boehner is looking forward to a “new reality” in which he triumphs over the wingnuts who have made his life miserable since he became Speaker in 2010.

For years, Boehner has had to stroke the egos of his House Republican Conference’s far-right fringe, the hardline conservatives who had an outsized voice in every legislative debate and often dragged the entire party with them, even when he implored them to ease up.

Sure, Boehner’s “brand” will be tarnished by the right wing challenges to his leadership, but

the GOP leadership thinks that Boehner’s almost-certain victory, plus the biggest House Republican majority in decades, gives him the legislative latitude he’s desperately sought since 2010.

No more shutdowns, no more mindless face-offs with President Barack Obama and the Democrats, they hope. Boehner and House Republicans will be able to push a conservative agenda, but they will pick their fights more carefully, choosing battles they can win on issues where they have the upper hand over the White House.

Top Republicans blare that they’re plainly sick of the chaos of the last few years, when Boehner was under pressure to deliver to hardliners in order to keep his job.

“I think a lot of members just want to get through this and get onto the business they got elected to do,” said a GOP lawmaker loyal to Boehner.

Good luck with that.


It won’t happen, but just for a moment, imagine Louie Gohmert as Speaker of the House (and third in line to assume the presidency if Obama and Biden were unable to continue for some reason!). Bob Cesca thought about the possibilities yesterday: Louie Gohmert for House Speaker Because Comedy.

I’m deadly serious about this. Contrary to popular opinion dictating that fringe political weirdos and radicals should be ignored until they somehow magically vanish (they don’t), I’ve always believed that the more they’re exposed as the weirdos and radicals they are, the faster they’ll be ejector-seated off the national bus. So, along those lines, the best thing to ever happen to the universe would be if Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) were to succeed in his mission to be elected Speaker of the House.

If you’re a Democrat and you want there to be more Democrats in Congress, you too should endorse the idea of this talking honeydew melon — this marble-mouthed gomer to ascend to the highest congressional post in the land where the entire nation will get a close-up view of his lobotomized gibberish. Of course he’ll never get there but, you know, dare to dream. While it’s fun to have a speaker who’s a weepy drunk, what we need is Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel. We need a Republican who’s been repeatedly kicked in the skull by a mule. On purpose.

Why Gohmert? For the comedy, obviously. The nation deserves to laugh at crap like this:

“We need to start eliminating money for any agency, including the White House, that is not following the law. And then you get their attention. That’s what the Founders anticipated.”

Yes, a sitting member of Congress clearly doesn’t realize that any spending bill passed by Congress, including the de-funding of the White House, would have to be signed by the president before actually becoming a law. And no, the Founders didn’t anticipate the House passing legislation that automatically becomes law.

Read several more examples of Gohmert’s wit and wisdom at The Daily Banter link.

And check this out at Raw Story, Gohmert warns America: ‘It’s going to devastate this country’ if I’m not elected Speaker of the House.

In an interview with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Gohmert explained that he had announced over the weekend that he was running for the job of House Speaker because Boehner had not fought “tooth and nail” to stop a recent budget bill.

“What we do in the next two years, it’s likely going to determine whether we get a Republican or not in 2016,” the Texas congressman insisted. “For the Speaker to run in and pass the [budget bill] that totally funds Obamacare for all next year — we took the hostage of the Homeland Security — that was a huge mistake.”

“For Boehner to rush in when we had the control of the Senate coming into our hands this month, this week, and to make a deal with [Obama] that funds everything that Obama wanted for the year except Homeland Security is like [General] Custer saying, ‘Come on boys, let’s attack now before help gets here.’”

Read more and watch the video at the link.


According to The Hill, President Obama isn’t going to lie down and let crazy Republicans walk all over him: Bolder Obama ready to take on GOP.

White House officials feel emboldened headed into what Obama has described as the “fourth quarter” of his presidency.

Promising economic news, declining gas prices, and a flurry of executive actions that energized his liberal base have provided him with his best poll numbers in more than a year.

Aides and strategists believe this provides opportunity for him, even with Republicans taking control of both the House and Senate on Tuesday for the first time since 2006.

“Really for the first time in his time in office, the president has the economic winds at his back — and not in his face,” Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said.

If the winds continue to blow in Obama’s direction — no sure thing, as evidenced by the 300-point drop Monday in the Dow Jones industrial average — Obama’s White House will be able to stay on offense, Lehane said.

The administration is planning new executive actions and legislative proposals in the buildup to his State of the Union address at the end of the month. It is also staking out areas where the president will aggressively use his veto authority. 

Finally, in the spirit of the holiday, did you know there’s a TV show called Black Jesus?

You can watch the first season at Adult Swim.

In other news . . .

Christian Science Monitor: Boston Marathon bombing trial begins with high-stakes jury selection.

New York Magazine: Bess Meyerson Dead at 90 — Remembering her three lives.

Time Magazine: White House Turns the Screw on Steve Scalise.

Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast: Rand Paul’s Passive-Aggressive Trolling Campaign.

Seattle PI: Another police shooting in San Francisco. Man shot by San Francisco officers left suicide notes

Christian Science Monitor: After police turn back on mayor again, where does New York go from here?

Yahoo News: Police union pushes for cop killings to be included in federal hate crimes law.

Fox News: 2 dead, 12 injured in North Dakota school bus-train collision.

The Daily Beast: Pediatrician: Vaccinate Your Kids—Or Get Out of My Office.

ABC News: Son of Slain Hedge Fund Founder Thomas Gilbert Sr. Charged With Homicide. His dad was going to stop paying his rent and reduce his allowance.

SF Gate: Mark Zuckerberg starts Facebook book club. Some of the books Zuckerberg has read are “Andre Agassi’s memoir “Open,” Walter Isaacson’s biography “Einstein” and Shel Silverstein’s children’s picture book “The Giving Tree.”” He also likes Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I think I’ll pass on having this guy tell me what books I should read.

The Telegraph: Prince Andrew’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein in 60 seconds.

The Telegraph: What are the challenges facing Prince Andrew and the Queen over sex abuse claims?

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday.


Monday Reads: Democracy Vanquished

Good Morning!

1f4eac68289b0a3409fa3306c470147aWell, Republicans feel empowered to up the crazy so they are certainly doing it.  Boehner will be challenged by two of the more insane teabillies.  Insane teabilly number one challenging Boehner for speaker is Texas Republican Louis Gohmert.  Florida nutter Ted Yoho has also said he can’t support Boehner.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) on Saturday announced that he would not support Boehner for Speaker.

“This is not a personal attack against Mr. Boehner, however, the people desire and deserve a choice,” Yoho said in a Facebook post. “In November, they resoundingly rejected the status quo.”

“Eventually, the goal is second, third, fourth round, we have enough people that say ‘you know what, it really is time for a change,’ ” Gohmert said Sunday. “’You deceived us when you went to Obama and Pelosi to get your votes for the cromnibus. You said you’d fight amnesty tooth an nail. You didn’t, you funded it.’ ”

Gohmert said, if elected, he would ”fight amnesty tooth and nail. We’ll use the powers of the purse. We’ll have better oversight. We’ll fight to defund ObamaCare.”

“In 2010, Boehner and other leaders said if you put us in the majority, we will have time to read the bills,” Gohmert said. “That hasn’t happened. We saw that with the cromnibus, again.”

“We’ll get back to appropriating and we will go through regular committee process, so every representative from both parties will have a chance to participate in the process and not have a dictator running things,” he added.

“With a growing Republican majority in the House and a historically high number of liberty-voting fiscal conservatives within it, there is an urgent need replace Speaker Boehner with fresh, bold leadership that better represents the views of the whole caucus,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement on Sunday.

“Speaker Boehner has kicked fiscal conservatives off committee positions for voting against his wishes, caved on numerous massive spending bills at the eleventh hour, and abused the legislative process to stomp out opposition by holding surprise votes and giving members little time to actually read the bills before they vote,” Kibbe added.

These are just two of the states that send representative after representative that really wants to destroy the country’s economy, not being satisfied with having their own crazy ass issues in their own crazy ass states.  Every time I think Louisiana hitsea808108a85f54e3d7cd2a136d3a7630 the low in politics, Texas and Florida always step up to take the title of bottom feeders away.

Utah seems out to prove a point these days as a black Republican woman seems to think that everything is just hunky-dory with Steve Scalise chatting up virulently anti-Semitic white supremacists.  It is going to be an awful few years.

Incoming Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) on Sunday said that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) should remain in Republican leadership despite recent reports that he spoke at an event for a white nationalist group in 2002.

“These groups are awful. And the last thing I want to do is give them any sort of publicity or credibility, and I can say, as far as I’m concerned, with Representative Scalise, he has been absolutely wonderful to work with,” Love said on ABC’s “This Week.”

When asked if Scalise should remain as GOP whip, Love indicated that his apology was enough.

“There’s one quality that he has that I think is very important in leadership and that’s humility. And he’s actually shown that in this case. And he’s apologized, and I think that we need to move on and get the work of the American people done,” she said.

As you can see, Love didn’t specify what “people” she and others were going to work for but then we know it’s pretty obviously going to be a few rich white christians who can’t seem to get past the Civil War and modern science and economics.

1aee802fea74274d99f1422520e26f7fHowever, it seems even some folks at Fox News find Scalise’s story and apology to be outrageous. Greta Van Susteran joins Hannity in calling for Scalise’s resignation.

It’s rare for a Fox News employee to openly call out a Republican, but when it happens, it’s epic. And that’s exactly what Greta Van Susteran did on Sunday when she slammed GOP Rep. Steve Scalise.

During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Van Susteran called out Scalise for not having the “moral courage” to resign after it was revealed that the Louisiana congressman had been the keynote speaker at a white supremacist convention in 2002. Scalise agreed to be the guest of honor after KKK Grand Wizard David Duke reached out to him through aides.

In response, Scalise feigned ignorance, claiming that he had no idea to whom he was speaking to at the event even though the convention was widely covered by local media because it was so controversial. Many Republicans, including Steve King and John Boehner, stood by Scalise. So far, he has refused to resign his post as House Majority Whip, and will be the third most powerful Republican in the House when the new Congress convenes this month. And this might make the KKK very happy.

But Van Susteran completely disagreed with the way Scalise and the Republican Party handled the damning revelations and not only skewered Scalise for being a coward, she also blasted the GOP for dropping the ball in their effort to appeal to minority voters ahead of 2016.

What’s amazing to me is that Democrats captured 20 million more votes in the 2014 election and still lost. What kind of democracy causes that?  Why are Republican votes more valuable?9a519249ef3848d9bcd6f9fe0e7f6542

This one was shocking. It does not matter how one cuts it. The United States constitution is severely flawed when more often than not in the last few elections the majority of people voting  for a particular party did not receive their relative representation. Democrats received 20 million more votes in the Senate than Republicans in 2014, yet Republicans won big.

The same occurred in the House of Representatives in 2012.

House Democrats out-earned their Republican counterparts by 1.17 million votes. Read another way, Democrats won 50.59 percent of the two-party vote. Still, they won just 46.21 percent of seats, leaving the Republicans with 234 seats and Democrats with 201.

There is nothing illegal here. There is simply a very designed undemocratic flaw in the US Constitution that must be fixed lest the legislative branch of the American government will continue to be disassociated from the real wants of society. reported the following relative to the 2014 Senate race.

As a body designed to represent states rather than citizens, the Senate’s partisan makeup tends to bear a fairly loose relationship to the raw numbers of votes that were cast to elect its members. With the final election results in hand, let’s take a look at how votes cast for Senate candidates translate to seats in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

In all, Americans cast 202.5 million votes to elect the current Senate, spread across three election cycles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Of these, 49% were cast for Democratic candidates and 46.6% for Republicans. …

In the aggregate, Democratic voters are underrepresented in the Senate and Republican voters are overrepresented compared to their respective strengths in the electorate, although Democrats outperformed their raw vote totals in two of the past four individual elections.

As for the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.

It’s going to be hard for Democrats to regain the Senate even though far more people vote for Democratic Senators than Republicans.  That’s because Republicans still get two senators from states that have less people than any of the country’sc6babad8a711245aac68f701ef29e705largest cities.

On Tuesday, 33 US senators elected in November will be sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden — including 12 who are new to the chamber. The class includes 22 Republicans and 11 Democrats, a big reason why the GOP has a 54-46 majority in the Senate overall.

But here’s a crazy fact: those 46 Democrats got more votes than the 54 Republicans across the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections. According to Nathan Nicholson, a researcher at the voting reform advocacy group FairVote, “the 46 Democratic caucus members in the 114th Congress received a total of 67.8 million votes in winning their seats, while the 54 Republican caucus members received 47.1 million votes.”

There is something definitely wrong with the outcomes in governance, given that our ruling class appears to be severely crazy and greedy. For one, they make everyone believe that our money is spent on public welfare when it’s definitely corporate welfare that steals tax dollars. Robert Reich explains their priorities very well.

Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.

 Consider the new spending bill Congress and the President agreed to a few weeks ago.

It’s not especially large by historic standards. Under the $1.1 trillion measure, government spending doesn’t rise as a percent of the total economy. In fact, if the economy grows as expected, government spending will actually shrink over the next year.

The problem with the legislation is who gets the goodies and who’s stuck with the tab.

For example, it repeals part of the Dodd-Frank Act designed to stop Wall Street from using other peoples’ money to support its gambling addiction, as the Street did before the near-meltdown of 2008.

Dodd-Frank had barred banks from using commercial deposits that belong to you and me and other people, and which are insured by the government, to make the kind of risky bets that got the Street into trouble and forced taxpayers to bail it out.

But Dodd-Frank put a crimp on Wall Street’s profits. So the Street’s lobbyists have been pushing to roll it back.

The new legislation, incorporating language drafted by lobbyists for Wall Street’s biggest bank, Citigroup, does just this.

It reopens the casino. This increases the likelihood you and I and other taxpayers will once again be left holding the bag.

Wall Street isn’t the only big winner from the new legislation. Health insurance companies get to keep their special tax breaks. Tourist destinations like Las Vegas get their travel promotion subsidies.

In a victory for food companies, the legislation even makes federally subsidized school lunches less healthy by allowing companies that provide them to include fewer whole grains. This boosts their profits because junkier food is less expensive to make.

Major defense contractors also win big. They get tens of billions of dollars for the new warplanes, missiles, and submarines they’ve been lobbying for.

Conservatives like to portray government as a welfare machine doling out benefits to the poor, some of whom are too lazy to work.

In reality, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, only about 12 percent of federal spending goes to individuals and families, most of whom are in dire need.

6af01fad000784c83d09f84034c40072 In a critique of Piketty’s book “Capital in the Twenty First Century” at Project Syndicate, Joseph Stiglitz explains how are productive capital gets sucked into speculative, financial capital and asset bubbles.  This is something I’ve been writing about for years here.  This section of his critique is particularly compelling.

Piketty also sheds new light on the “reforms” sold by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s as growth enhancers from which all would benefit. Their reforms were followed by slower growth and heightened global instability, and what growth did occur benefited mostly those at the top.

But Piketty’s work raises fundamental issues concerning both economic theory and the future of capitalism. He documents large increases in the wealth/output ratio. In standard theory, such increases would be associated with a fall in the return to capital and an increase in wages. But today the return to capital does not seem to have diminished, though wages have. (In the US, for example, average wages have stagnated over the past four decades.)

The most obvious explanation is that the increase in measured wealth does not correspond to an increase in productive capital – and the data seem consistent with this interpretation. Much of the increase in wealth stemmed from an increase in the value of real estate. Before the 2008 financial crisis, a real-estate bubble was evident in many countries; even now, there may not have been a full “correction.” The rise in value also can represent competition among the rich for “positional” goods – a house on the beach or an apartment on New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

Sometimes an increase in measured financial wealth corresponds to little more than a shift from “unmeasured” wealth to measured wealth – shifts that can actually reflect deterioration in overall economic performance. If monopoly power increases, or firms (like banks) develop better methods of exploiting ordinary consumers, it will show up as higher profits and, when capitalized, as an increase in financial wealth.

But when this happens, of course, societal wellbeing and economic efficiency fall, even as officially measured wealth rises. We simply do not take into account the corresponding diminution of the value of human capital – the wealth of workers.

Moreover, if banks succeed in using their political influence to socialize losses and retain more and more of their ill-gotten gains, the measured wealth in the financial sector increases. We do not measure the corresponding diminution of taxpayers’ wealth. Likewise, if corporations convince the government to overpay for their products (as the major drug companies have succeeded in doing), or are given access to public resources at below-market prices (as mining companies have succeeded in doing), reported financial wealth increases, though the wealth of ordinary citizens does not.

What we have been observing – wage stagnation and rising inequality, even as wealth increases – does not reflect the workings of a normal market economy, but of what I call “ersatz capitalism.” The problem may not be with how markets should or do work, but with our political system, which has failed to ensure that markets are competitive, and has designed rules that sustain distorted markets in which corporations and the rich can (and unfortunately do) exploit everyone else.

Markets, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. There have to be rules of the game, and these are established through political processes. High levels of economic inequality in countries like the US and, increasingly, those that have followed its economic model, lead to political inequality. In such a system, opportunities for economic advancement become unequal as well, reinforcing low levels of social mobility.

There are more warnings each year that we’ve traded our democracy for a plutocracy and that many of the folks that fall for these mistaken memes are the worst hurt by the changes.  I’m never sure what we should do about it, but at least on social media there are many of us who can realize what’s going on and share our observations and discontent.

So this is the situation, we’re being ruled by a minority, extremist party that has managed to gerrymander its way into to controlling Congress and can have over-representation in the Senate by its very design.  Since the Reagan years, they have managed to coalesce into a party of business interests, neoconfederates, and religious extremists. As a result, we have laws and programs that enrich the wealthiest at the cost of the rest of us.  We have institutions where racism and sexism have been allowed to fester and where Supreme Court justices have allowed their ideology to trump the constitution and previous law to further the oppression of minorities–with the exception of the LGBT community, where some strides have been made. Undoubtedly, this has happened because some of the biggest business interests want it, not from any desire to do the right thing by the people.  We’ve used a fake war to extend a police state where we’re all subjected to law enforcement officers that are out of control and institutionally encouraged to be so.

I have to say the challenges are huge.  I’m just hoping that the dog and pony show that will start with this new Congress will scare the shit out of people.  Given, some of this background information however, I doubt there’s much we can do about it short of a major increase in voter participation or a revolution.  The fact that so many really poorly governed states have re-elected their Republicans and continue to suffer shows me that it’s not going to be over anytime soon.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: A Historic Agreement Between the U.S. and Cuba



Good Morning!!

Finally we have some good news to discuss, if Republicans can somehow be prevented from ruining it. The U.S. and Cuba have reached an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries after 50 years of hostilities and sanctions. In celebration of this long-overdue step forward, I’m going to illustrate this post with the work of Cuban artists. You can read about the above painting of Marilyn Monroe superimposed on a photo of Che Guevara and the artist Adrian Rumbaut at the Cuban Art blog. Here’s a bit of background:

In the work, Adrian Rumbaut has reproduced Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 photograph of Che Guevara, and he  inserts his vision of American Richard Avedon’s iconic photo of Marilyn Monroe as well.  In the letters on the side of the painting, Rumbaut gives credit to both Korda and Avedon for their images, and provides the date of his painting.

Interestingly, Korda had worked as a fashion photographer as a young man, and he wanted very  much to be the Richard Avedon of Cuba. He photographed the “beautiful people” of the Batista era before the revolution, and models lined up in front of his studio to have their picture taken. Taken by surprise by the “triumph of the revolution” in 1959, he worked subsequently with Raul Corrales, Castro’s official photographer, to capture the excitement of the revolution. In his image of Che, something survives of his earlier experience with beautiful women.

Korda’s image of Che — snapped in 1960 and also known as Guerrillero Heroico — has been repeatedly reproduced worldwide, serving as both a symbol of protest and as a fashion accessory.

The iconic photo has taken on increasingly exotic forms, each created with different intentions and evoking varied responses. Along with Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Madonna, and Princess Diana have all had their pictures adapted and inserted under Che’s familiar red star beret. It isn’t an exaggeration to note that Che the icon has overtaken Che the revolutionary.

The original “Che” photograph was taken at a dangerous moment, a time when the new revolutionary government was preparing for imminent US invasion. It was at the start of the Cuban Revolution’s second year, and Castro’s government  had ordered a boatload of weapons and ammunition — mostly rifles and grenades — from Belgium. The armaments were loaded onto a French ship, La Coubre which, unfortunately, exploded upon arrival in Havana Harbor in March 1960. The crew and 75 Cuban dockers were killed. More than 200 were injured.

Here’s a wonderful example of Cuban street art that I found at a Cuban travel site, Insight Cuba.


See more examples of Cuban “graffiti” at the link.

Some background on what’s happening from CNN yesterday: Cuba releases American Alan Gross, paves way for historic easing of American sanctions.

Washington (CNN)U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.

President Barack Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro Tuesday in a phone call that lasted about an hour and reflected the first communication at the presidential level with Cuba since the Cuban revolution, according to White House officials. Obama announced Gross’ release and the new diplomatic stance at noon in Washington. At around the same time, Cuban president Raul Castro was set to speak in Havana.

President Obama announced a major loosening of travel and economic restrictions on the country. And the two nations are set to re-open embassies, with preliminary discussions on that next step in normalizing diplomatic relations beginning in the coming weeks, a senior administration official tells CNN.

Talks between the U.S. and Cuba have been ongoing since June of 2013 and were facilitated by the Canadians and the Vatican in brokering the deal. Pope Francis — the first pope from Latin America — encouraged Obama in a letter and in their meeting this year to renew talks with Cuba on pursuing a closer relationship.

Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

The developments constitute what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since 1961, when the embassy closed and the embargo was imposed.

Read much more at the link. It’s a good article that provides quite a bit of background on the historic agreement.


More details on the secret negotiations from William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh, authors of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, published in October of this year.

Secret meetings with Cuba finally pay off.

Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.

When the mere act of talking to an adversary is too politically sensitive, presidents can resort to private emissaries, despite the risks created by relying on amateur diplomats. Obama had help from both Canada and the Vatican in reaching these new agreements.

In our recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana, we uncovered literally dozens of secret diplomatic contacts and negotiations. Despite what Kissinger called the “perpetual antagonism” between the United States and Cuba, there is a rich and colorful history of dialogue between these two nations over the last 50 years.

There are lessons to be learned from this half-century of back-channel talks about what works and what doesn’t when conducting secret negotiations.

First, a history of animosity makes adversaries wary. Neither wants to appear weak by making concessions too easily. Goodwill gestures may go unrequited and the apparent obstinacy of one side or the other can doom a diplomatic process before it gets off the ground. When Fidel Castro was in power, for example, he worried constantly that any concession to U.S. demands would be read as weakness and lead to a redoubling of U.S. efforts to overthrow him.

Read all about it at the Reuters link.

From the Masters of Cuban Art Image Gallery“La Conga” by Evelio Garcia Mata.

“Garcia Mata plays the rhythm of the conga in the body of the mulatto dancer, who lifts her left arm as she does the kick-step. She wears a sensual typical dress and is accompanied by a group of six musicians. The painting beautifully represents when Afro-Cuban music became main-stream, and a representative of Cuban culture at large.”

– Alfredo Triff, Musician and Art Critic


Isn’t it amazing that Pope Francis–the first Latin American to lead the Church–was instrumental in making this happen? As a long-lapsed Catholic, I’m truly surprised and pleased. After years of regressive Popes, this guy seems to be a throwback to the days of Pope John the XXIII when it seemed that the Church might move into the 20th century.

From The Atlantic: How the Pope Helped End the Cuba Embargo.

On Wednesday, a senior Obama administration officials spoke of an “extraordinary letter” written by the pope to President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro over the summer in which he urged the two men to mend the relationship between their countries.

As one official noted, the correspondence “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, which also happens to be the pope’s 78th birthday, President Obama credited Francis for his influential “personal plea” and thanked him for his “moral example.”

In particular, I want to thank his Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.

According to officials, Pope Francis brought up Cuba several times during his meeting with the president in March and, given Francis’ significance as the first pope from Latin America, it’s fair to assume that his clout likely helped bring Castro to the table as well.

Vatican officials were also said to have been present during the negotiations between the United States and Cuba, marking them the only other country to directly participate in the talks. While Canada reportedly hosted the majority of the secret meetings of the two sides, according to a Vatican statement, the pope also hosted Cuban and American representatives together earlier this year during the final deal was struck.

Some reactions to Obama’s great achievement.

From the LA Times, Miami reacts to Obama’s Cuba move: Tears of joy, cries of ‘traitor’.

A tale of two restaurants unfolded in South Florida on Wednesday.

In Miami’s Little Havana, Versailles Restaurant hosted hard-line Cuban exiles railing against President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic ties with the Cuban government. They waved placards and hurled insults bilingually, putting on the show they’ve been rehearsing and staging for half a century.

The show at Versailles involved megaphones and pickup trucks, national news outlets parked in front of a spot that serves tasty espresso, and a handful of outspoken Cuban Americans who yell loud enough to scare viewers in Nebraska. Whenever major news breaks about Cuba, the media flocks to Versailles to take the pulse of the Cuban community.

Meanwhile in Hialeah, a city with a far larger number of Cubans and Cuban Americans than Little Havana, Tropical Restaurant served cafeteria-style meals to a quieter, more sanguine crowd. Here, many welcomed Obama’s decision.

“It’s going to be better for the Cuban people. It’s going to be better for the United States,” said ReinierOropeza, 33, an accountant who to came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1998.

Many Cubans here are young, or came to the United States more recently, or have closer ties with their families in Cuba.

Oropeza said many older Cubans are stuck in the past.  “They are old and they stand back and blame Castro. They already did what they had to do. So young people have to take over now.”

Once again, read much more at the link.

Read more about this mural by 100 Cuban artists at The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2008: It’s Not Politics. It’s Just Cuba.

Courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts “Cuba Colectiva,” a 1967 mural by 100 artists for the Salon de Mai exhibition in Havana, on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
“Cuba Colectiva,” a 1967 mural by 100 artists for the Salon de Mai exhibition in Havana, on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


More reactions from Republican politicians:

Drunken party-pooper John Boehner is not happy. 

(Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker John Boehner sharply criticized President Barack Obama’s policy change toward Cuba, calling it “another in a long line of mindless concessions” to a brutal dictatorship.

“Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner,” Boehner said in a statement.

Cry me a river, a$$hole. At least Cubans have free health care.

Marco Rubio, who is supposedly a Catholic after transitioning through the Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, had the temerity to “call out the Pope on Cuba” according to Politico.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, criticized Pope Francis on Wednesday after the pontiff played a key role in helping the United States and Cuba forge an agreement that resulted in the release of American Alan Gross from Cuba.

Rubio said he would “ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.”

The Florida Republican said he didn’t criticize Francis’ personal appeals to help facilitate Gross’ release, but was speaking in response to the White House’s announcement about talks to normalize relations with Cuba after a nearly 50-year embargo with the country.

Rubio is set to play a major role in Cuba policy as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Western Affairs, and he noted Wednesday some of Congress’ leverage points, such as funding for embassies and nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio said.

More from Huffington Post: Marco Rubio Fires Back On Cuba: Obama Is The ‘Worst Negotiator’ In My Lifetime.

President Barack Obama will get no money for his Cuba policy, no ambassador will be confirmed and the embargo will never be lifted, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) vowed in a blistering press conference on Wednesday.

In a historic move earlier in the day, Obama announced that the United States will begin talks with Cuba to normalize full diplomatic relations, marking the most significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba in 50 years. The president’s remarks followed the release on Wednesday morning of American Alan Gross, who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross’ release was negotiated in exchange for the freeing of three Cubans who had been jailed in the U.S. for spying.

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, based on a lie,” Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The White House has conceded everything and gained little.”

“I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” he added.

Why is this moron in the U.S. Senate? Obama will have more battles ahead with the Republican Congress, but he seems determined to move ahead with the changes he wants to make anyway. I’m rooting for him.

What do you think? What other stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday!