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?
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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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
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.
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
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.
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
The only possible solution is for the Democrats to retake the House.
Presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) cheered House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) decision to resign during his speech at the Values Voter Summit on Friday. But he said other congressional leaders should follow suit, starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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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)
NPR tried to soft-pedal the controversy over Serra’s canonization. NBC has more details:
…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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.’”
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?
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 Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.