Tuesday Reads: McCain Plays “Pretend President,” Pressure Cookers, Upcoming Zimmerman Trial, and Other News

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Last night Josh Rogin reported that warmongering Senator John McCain had sneaked across the Syrian border from Turkey and talked to Gen. Idris Salem, head of the “Free Syrian Army.”

McCain, one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria.

Idris praised the McCain visit and criticized the Obama administration’s Syria policy in an exclusive interview Monday with The Daily Beast.

“The visit of Senator McCain to Syria is very important and very useful especially at this time,” he said. “We need American help to have change on the ground; we are now in a very critical situation.”

Apparently McCain decided to play Pretend President to celebrate Memorial Day. I haven’t been paying close attention to the news for the past few days, but I think I would have seen any reports that the White House or the State Department had requested Senator McNasty’s help in reaching out to opposition forces in Syria.

Prior to his visit inside Syria, McCain and Idris had separate meetings with two groups of FSA commanders and their Civil Revolutionary Council counterparts in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Rebel military and civilian leaders from all over Syria came to see McCain, including from Homs, Qusayr, Idlib, Damascus, and Aleppo. Idris led all the meetings.

The entire trip was coordinated with the help of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American nonprofit organization that works in support of the Syrian opposition.

john_mccain_syria_visit

More from Dan Roberts of The Guardian:

McCain’s office confirmed to the Guardian that he had slipped into the country in recent days but declined to comment on the outcome of his talks with the rebel groups or whether it had hardened his views on arming them.

The Arizona senator has been leading efforts in Congress in recent weeks to force Barack Obama to intervene in Syria following reports of alleged chemical weapons use by forces loyal to Assad.

As the most senior US politician to have visited Syria, his intervention is likely to strengthen the hand of hawks in Washington at a time when parallel efforts are being made by the French and British governments to persuade the European Union to lift the arms embargo.

At the same time, actual US Secretary of State John Kerry was working toward a different goal than loud-mouthed Obama critic McCain.

Meanwhile the US State Department continues to pursue diplomatic efforts to bring the civil war to an end, successfully encouraging the Russians to persuade Assad to take part in peace talks in Geneva next month.

Capping off an eight-day trip to the Middle East and Africa, secretary of state John Kerry flew into Paris on Monday to see Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and exchange updates on their respective diplomatic efforts.

No word yet on any reactions from the Obama administration to McCain’s attempt to influence its foreign policy decisions.

The EU is also pushing for intervention in Syria. CNN reports:

The EU lifted its arms embargo on Syrian rebels Monday, a move that could level the playing field and alter the course of Syria’s gruesome civil war.

While there are no immediate plans to ship weapons to rebels, the move sends a strong message to Syria’s defiant president: Negotiate or face consequences.

“It was a difficult decision for some countries, but it was necessary and right to reinforce international efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a written statement.

“It was important for Europe to send a clear signal to the Assad regime that it has to negotiate seriously, and that all options remain on the table if it refuses to do so.”

SCOTUS

In domestic news, CNN calls attention to the important rulings that could come from the Supreme Court in June.

Four weeks. Four major legal rulings. What the Supreme Court decides by the end of June could fundamentally change lives and legacies on a range of politically explosive issues.
The justices will meet in at least five public sessions to release opinions in its remaining 30 cases, among them some the most strongly-contested legal and social issues they have confronted in decades:

— Same-sex marriage: A pair of appeals testing whether gays and lesbian couples have a fundamental constitutional right to wed.

— Affirmative action: May race continue to be used as a factor in college admissions, to achieve classroom diversity?

— Voting rights: The future of the Voting Rights Act, and continued federal oversight of elections in states with a past history of discrimination.

— Gene patents: Can “products of nature” like isolated parts of the human genome be held as the exclusive intellectual property of individuals and companies, through government-issued patents?

For more detailed summaries of these cases from CNN, click here.

“It’s almost unimaginable the number of things that the Supreme Court is going to decide that will affect all Americans in the next month,” said Thomas Goldstein, a top Washington attorney and publisher of SCOTUSblog.com.

“What would surprise me this term is if the court upheld use of affirmative action or the (enforcement tool behind the) Voting Rights Act. And I think it would be a big surprise if the court did anything radical when it came to same-sex marriage — either saying there was a constitutional right to it, or rejecting that claim outright and forever. I think that’s something they’re going to try and tread that middle ground path.”

Meanwhile, two Democratic Congressmen, Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Keith Ellison of Minnesota are proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would establish a right to vote for every American citizen.

“Most people believe that there already is something in the Constitution that gives people the right to vote, but unfortunately … there is no affirmative right to vote in the Constitution. We have a number of amendments that protect against discrimination in voting, but we don’t have an affirmative right,” Pocan told TPM last week. “Especially in an era … you know, in the last decade especially we’ve just seen a number of these measures to restrict access to voting rights in so many states. … There’s just so many of these that are out there, that it shows the real need that we have.”

The brief amendment would stipulate that “every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” It would also give Congress “the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”

After investigating the issue, Pocan said he and Ellison decided this type of amendment was the best way to combat measures to restrict voting access.

“Essentially, what it would do is it would put the burden on any of these states that try to make laws that are more restrictive that they would have to prove that they’re not disenfranchising a voter. Rather than, currently, where a voter has to prove they’ve somehow been wronged by a state measure,” said Pocan.

Of course that’s pretty much pie in the sky considering how difficult it is to pass a Constitutional amendment and get it approved by three-quarters of state legislatures.

California Senator Barbara Boxer is calling for the Justice Department to investigate whether Southern California Edison

deceived federal regulators about an equipment swap at the San Onofre nuclear power plant that eventually led to a radiation leak, The Associated Press has learned.

The California Democrat obtained a 2004 internal letter written by a senior Southern California Edison executive that she said “leads me to believe that Edison intentionally misled the public and regulators” to avoid a potentially long and costly review of four replacement steam generators before they went into service.

The twin-domed plant between Los Angeles and San Diego hasn’t produced electricity since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusually rapid wear inside hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water in the nearly new generators….

The letter [to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which manufactured the generators] goes to a central issue at San Onofre, where Edison is seeking federal permission to restart the Unit 2 reactor and run it at reduced power in an effort to halt tube damage.

The replacement generators were different than the originals — they were far heavier and hundreds of additional tubes were added as part of design changes, for example. Edison installed the equipment in a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010 without an extended NRC review after concluding the new machines met a federal test to qualify as largely the same as the ones they replaced, requiring little or no changes to safety systems or components in the plant.

Just one more reminder that we have potential Fukushima disasters right here in the USA.

pressure-cooker

Police in Michigan are still freaking out over random pressure cookers after the common cooking utensils were used to make two bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon in April.

Police in Dearborn are trying to understand why a pressure cooker was left in the restroom of the Adoba Hotel, forcing the evacuation of guests until the early morning hours.

The evacuation also canceled Sunday night’s banquet of the University of Muslim Association of America….

The pressure cooker discovered at the hotel was detonated by police as a precaution, but contained no explosives.

Dearborn officers have determined that the pressure cooker had not been converted into any type of explosive device.

Meanwhile a Saudi man, Hussain Al Khawahir, is still in jail after being arrested at the Detroit airport for having a pressure cooker in his luggage–reportedly a gift for his nephew whom he planned to visit in the US. Al Khwahir is scheduled to be in court today.

A lawyer for Hussain Al Khawahir, arrested at Detroit Metro Airport on May 11 after a pressure cooker was found in his baggage, filed a request for release on bond Monday.
Al Khawahir was arrested by federal agents on suspicion of carrying an altered passport and making conflicting statements to Customs and Border Patrol agents about the pressure cooker….

Defense attorney James Howarth in the request for bond claimed Al Khawahir, a 33-year-old citizen of Saudi Arabia, was carrying one valid passport and one expired passport that contained a visa stamp for his entry to the U.S.

He also argued that the two statements Al Khawahir made about the pressure cooker were not much different.

(Read the motion here .)

“The passport that was purportedly ‘altered’ was the expired document,” Howarth wrote.

Zimmerman

We’re getting closer to the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. From The Orlando Sentinel:

SANFORD – With just two weeks remaining before his trial, George Zimmerman’s attorneys returned to court this morning for what may be his last pre-trial hearing, a session that could turn into a marathon with his attorneys asking for a trial delay and that an especially-damaging state audio expert be banned from testifying.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson will be asked to decide a long list of other issues, things that will determine how the trial plays out and what jurors will see and hear.

For example, defense attorney Mark O’Mara has asked that she take jurors to the scene of the shooting, a middle- to working-class gated townhouse community on Sanford’s west side where Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, Feb. 26, 2012.

Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense. His second-degree murder trial is to begin June 10.

Defense attorneys on Tuesday also will ask the judge to keep jurors’ names a secret, something prosecutors are not expected to oppose.

Read more at the link. I guess we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming weeks. I can’t say I’m really looking forward to the publicly expressed racism that is likely to be unleashed during the trial.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Please post your recommended reads in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!


Time for Governor Goodhair to Go

I’m having a difficult time understanding why Rick Perry is still allowed into the debates.  He’s shown himself to be pretty damned ignorant on a lot of things.  Plus, he shoots his mouth off with gusto.   I think you might remember his comments on Fed Chair Bernanke.  Back in August, he implied that the central banker was guilty of treason and was basically “treacherous”.  He’s also had the “oops” moment when he forget which government agencies he’d eliminate.  Then, there were the giddy moments and the sleepy moments. Rick Perry is what we’d call a horse’s patoot where I come from.

Rick Perry’s antics have just gone international. He has truly earned a top place in the annals of stupidity.

Turkey’s foreign ministry condemned Texas Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday for saying that Turkey was a “country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.”

Perry made the statement during a spirited debated between Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina Monday night.

Most of Turkey was fast asleep during the live broadcast, and Turkish newspapers had already gone to print by the time Perry declared that Turkey had moved “far away from the country I lived in back in the 1970s United States Air Force. That was our ally that worked with us, but today we don’t see that.”

The Texas governor also argued that it was time for Washington to cut foreign aid to Ankara.

A spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry fired back Tuesday, accusing Perry of making “baseless and improper claims.”

In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Selcuk Unal said presidential candidates should “be more informed about the world and be more careful their statements.”

Turkey is a member of NATO and as such is our ally. They play a key role in our anti-ballistic missile defense that shields many of our allies from Irani attacks. I just had to love this official Turkish statement.

While the United States recently deployed four Predator drones to Turkey from Iraq to aid Ankara in its fight against the autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels, Turkey does not receive U.S. foreign aid.

The Turkish statement said Turkey’s leaders were “personalities respected not only in the United States, but in our region and in the world and whose opinions are strongly relied on.”

The Turkish statement said Perry’s low standings in polls were proof that the Republicans in the U.S. do not endorse his opinions.

“Figures who are candidates for positions that require responsibility, such as the U.S. presidency, should be more knowledgeable about the world and exert more care with their statement,” the Turkish statement said.

The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Namik Tan, said: “We do hope this episode in last night’s debate leads to a better informed foreign policy discussion among the Republican Party candidates, one where long-standing allies are treated with respect not disdain.”

All he needs to do is announce that he can see Turkey from his front porch and I’d think this was an SNL skit.


Wednesday Night Turkey Trot

So, tis the night before thanksgiving and all through the house …

Let’s TALK TURKEY!!!


Turkey Nightmare:
Turkey Porn:

Turkey Leftovers Recipe:
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained
  • 3 cups turkey stock
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onions, chopped (divided)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, stem and most seeds removed, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies
  • 2 cups diced cooked turkey
  • Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon)
Garnishes and extras
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup (loose) chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped (or guacamole)
  • Chopped tomatoes or salsa
  • Corn tortilla chips and/or fresh warmed flour tortillas
Method

1 Combine beans, turkey stock, garlic and half the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 1 to 3 hours or more. (Depending on the type of white beans you are using. Cannelli beans are tender and tend to cook rather quickly. Navy beans take longer.) Add additional water (or watered-down stock), if necessary.

2 Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, cook chopped jalapeno (if using) and remaining onions in oil until tender. Add green chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixture. Add turkey and salt to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes or more (up to an hour) until the beans are thoroughly soft and the stew has thickened.

3 Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped green onions, and/or avocados. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.

Serves 4 to 5.

Political Turkey:

It’s an open thread because I’ve been refereeing papers all day and I’m pooped!!!