Jan 212016
 

Yesterday stayed busy.  After my shower-aide left, Safeway.com delivered groceries, which I put away.  Then my helper friend came.  We did laundry, and I tried on everything in my closet to determine what to keep and what to throw away.  The goal is to make the clothes I wear more accessible.  This morning I spent a couple hours doing volunteer work, researching two potential appointees to the Parole Board.  We want thee board to diversify.  A Board consisting only of Prosecutors, Parole Officers, and Victims’ Rights Advocates insures bias against prisoners, rather than a fair hearing.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:00 (average 4:44).  To do it, click here.  How did you do.

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: In a clip from her upcoming special "Marriage Material," Esposito tackles gun culture.

 

This is a big take-down of Republican Ammosexuals.

From Daily Kos: Rachel Maddow points out the inconvenient truths about Ronald Reagan as GOP candidates attempt to live vicariously through a misremembered idol. It has been the modus operandi of Republican candidates as they wrap themselves in their parties icon. It is no different than Hillary Clinton wrapping herself in President Obama during the 4th Democratic Debate.

Recently GOP candidates have been attacking President Obama on the deal he made to bring the hostages home from Iran. Marco Rubio told Chuck Todd he would be like Ronald Reagan in dealing with Iran. Unfortunately Rubio is severely misremembering a Ronald Reagan who traded arms for hostages in Iran. He admitted it on national TV. Many of his National Security team were indicted. It was known as the Iran Contra scandal.

 

This is Rachel’s original video, as the clip included with the article did not embed. Today’s Republicans prefer not to remember either the crimes or the “librul” tax increases perpetrated by Saint Ronnie Ray Gun.

From NY Times: Scientists reported Wednesday that 2015 was the hottest year in the historical record by far, breaking a mark set only the year before — a burst of heat that has continued into the new year and is roiling weather patterns all over the world.

In the contiguous United States, the year was the second-warmest on record, punctuated by a December that was both the hottest and the wettest since record-keeping began. One result has been a wave of unusual winter floods coursing down the Mississippi River watershed.

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El Niño weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The whole system is warming up, relentlessly,” said Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

The faster we convert top green energy, the less catastrophic the effects will be.

The faster we convert top green energy, the less catastrophic the effects will be.

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Jan 172016
 

Today is another high holy day in the Church of the Ellipsoid Orb.  Congrats to the Patriots and the Cardinals who the Orb blessed yesterday.  The later game was a nail biter, but I have to say, as a disinterested party, that the Cardinals had extraordinary assistance from the Zebras on more than one occasion.  Today I suspect that the Panthers will dine on Fricassee of Seachicken.  My Broncos can beet the Steelers, if the right Broncos show up and stay for all 60 minutes.  I don’t have to tell you my plans for the day.

Jig Zoned Puzzle:

Today’s took me 4:43 (average 6:03).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: A fact checker who has vetted all of the 2016 Republican Presidential debates was hospitalized for exhaustion during the sixth G.O.P. forum in Charleston on Thursday evening.

Martin Slessky, a former journalist who works for HonestyWatch, a Minnesota-based fact-checking organization, was resting comfortably after suffering what his doctors called a “total physical and mental collapse” during Thursday’s debate.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of HonestyWatch, said he first became concerned about Slessky’s health when the fact checker started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath every time Texas senator Ted Cruz spoke.

“I turned to Martin and said, ‘Are you all right? Are you going to be able to make it through this?’ ” Dorrinson said. “And he said, ‘I’ll be fine. Ben Carson is starting to talk now, that’ll be soothing.’ ”

But moments later, when New Jersey governor Chris Christie falsely claimed that he never supported the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Slessky experienced acute dizziness and blurry vision, and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

Andy, I’m amazed his job didn’t kill him.

From Daily Kos: Charles Carter and Vincent Smith were right-wing extremists planning a "Paul Revere 2016 Final March to Restore America" [Republican Ammosexuals Delinked] — a cross-country caravan to “remove the corrupt leadership that has taken over our beloved country and ousted her God and constitution.“

On Monday, police in Grayson County, Texas reported one person was dead as the result of a gunshot wound to the head. Although they didn’t name the victim or the suspect, Raw Story​ notes that right-wingers on Facebook were quick to identify the victim as Charles Carter and the shooter as Vincent Smith: [Republicans delinked]

Posthumous Barf Bag Alert!!

 

Throw the book at the Republican murderer. I shall not mourn the victim.

From NY Times: The United States and European nations lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran and released roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program.

So far diplomacy has worked, and Iran has taken steps that Republicans predicted would never happen. Nevertheless, Republicans are still beating the drums of war.

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Jan 032016
 

Well I spent yesterday doing laundry and the Politics Plus Monthly Report so I pooped out before doing an Open Thread.  Today, the end of the laundry!  As I sit here, I can hear the fog horn blowing out in the inlet.  Tomorrow is physio, teaching, and a doctor's appointment so it will be a long day.

Short Takes

Huffington Post — But 2016 Republican candidate Carly Fiorina dismissed Iran’s reaction to the death of the leading anti-government protester.

“I take the Iranian condemnation with a huge grain of salt,” Fiorina told CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday. “This is a regime that tortures citizens routinely, that thinks nothing of executions, that still holds four Americans in jail.”  

Retired neurosurgeon and presidential hopeful Ben Carson went further, suggesting that the nuclear deal struck last July between Iran, the U.S. and five world powers pushed Saudi Arabia to violently repress its Shiite population.

“The Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and I think it’s unfortunate that we put them in the position we have by showing the support to Iran that we have with this foolish deal,” Carson told ABC’s “This Week." 

These Republicans call Saudi Arabia an ally of the US yet Saudi Arabia, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2015. continues to "… try, convict, and imprison political dissidents and human rights activists solely on account of their peaceful activities. Systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities continued. … subjected hundreds of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. New anti-terrorism regulations that took effect in 2014 can be used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities as terrorism."  In addition, Saudi Arabia is the world's #1 importer of arms as at 2014.  What does it do with all these arms when it only has a standing armed forces of 239,000?  The Saudi's have not assisted in the placement of refugees from anything I have heard, and in the past were thought to be supporting ISIS in various ways.

The US is seen as the "boogeyman" in the Middle East, contributing substantially to the instability in the region.  But Saudi Arabia is destabilising force as well.  By executing Shiite dissident cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Saudi Arabia has upped the ante.  The Iranian response has not helped either, but it is a direct response to Saudi Arabia's provocative action.

Count on Republicans to throw gasoline on a fire.

The Guardian — Speaking in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Republican presidential hopeful implied that the Obama administration should have heeded his call for the US to seize oil assets controlled by Isis but had instead allowed the terror group to prosper.

“I’ve predicted a lot of things, you have to say, including, ‘Get the oil, take the oil, keep the oil.’ Right? I’ve been saying that for three years, and everybody said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I mean, this is a sovereign country. There is no country!” Trump said.

They’ve created Isis. Hillary Clinton created Isis with Obama,” Trump said.

As I understand, ISIS was "created" by Baby Bush and Cheney when they invaded Iraq for oil, toppled Sadam Hussein and left a vacuum in Iraq.  Out of the sectarian violence came ISIS to fill the vacuum.  And leave it to Trump not to acknowledge the role his inflamatory rhetoric has played in recruitment videos.  He probably wants an OSCAR nomination for his work.

Alternet — "Fear," a great Jedi master named Yoda once said, "leads to anger," which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, which, of course, leads to the Dark Side.  

In other words, it went down exactly the way Republicans wanted it to go down. They've always used fear to win elections.

Whether it's fear of same-sex couples getting married, fear of the government taking away the people's guns or fear of Black men, they've always understood that fear works to motivate their white base.

IMO, Thom Hartmann is spot on.  Time to get the progressive vote out and talk down the fear.

My Universe — 

10683509"Please sir, might I have more?"

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Dec 312015
 

Today started on the rough side with a morning blood sugar low but the day culminated in some fun at the movies — I saw the new Star Wars movie finally.  The theatre was packed, but pleasantly, the seats were new and so very comfortable.  I haven't been to a movie in over a year.  I did manage to nap about 12:30 am as I was trying to finish this post . . . I was cold.  So now I am warm and finishing what I started.

The Guardian — Donald Trump, billionaire Republican presidential frontrunner, has changed his mind about wages: Americans aren’t earning enough. He’s also not keen on Wall Street. The shift has Trump on a collision course with Democrat Bernie Sanders – while oddly agreeing with many of his points.

“Wages in are [sic] country are too low, good jobs are too few, and people have lost faith in our leaders. We need smart and strong leadership now!” Trump tweeted on Monday.

flip flops 3  flip flops 2

The opinion appeared to reverse what the Republican frontrunner said in November during the fourth Republican debate. Asked if he was sympathetic to the protesters demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage, Trump said: “I can’t be.”

Flip-flops!  No matter how Trump tries to dress them, patriotic stars and stripes, or oh the horror, a diversity of colours, flip-flops are still just flip-flops.  For someone who says he means what he says, and says what he means, Trump has a great stock of flip-flops!

Huffington Post — “Is this light ever going to turn green, or are we stuck here forever?” he says at one intersection.

While he waits, the Kmart across the street sparks a memory. Fischer used to shoot up heroin in the parking lot. “This is all my old stomping grounds,” he says half in awe, half in anger at his former self. “I used to drive up and down this road a thousand times a night.”  

Fischer is going to an opioid addiction treatment clinic. In Fort Collins, a doctor will meet with him for a half hour and write him a prescription for a month’s supply of buprenorphine, a medication that blunts his cravings for heroin and other short-acting opioids. Fischer has spent a dozen or so years dealing with his addiction. He’d tried 12-step and abstinence-only programs three times, but each attempt at recovery had ended in relapse.

The public health establishment, including the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the World Health Organization, has said that medications like buprenorphine (and methadone), when coupled with counseling, give people with opioid addiction the best odds for recovery. Buprenorphine is also more difficult to misuse than heroin. The synthetic opioid is what’s known as a partial agonist — meaning there’s a limit to how much the medication can affect people who use it.  

Fischer credits the trips to Colorado with saving his life. With the help of his medication, he has been in recovery for 13 months. He stopped hiding from family members and settled down with his girlfriend. The recent birth of his son, Fischer says, has given him a new sense of purpose.  

There’s a reason why Fischer and his mother must wake up before dawn, share road space with 18-wheelers and mule deer, and waste a day off from work. Addiction medicine is still not mainstream medicine. The federal government has helped to keep it that way.

In Squatch’s Open Thread 29/12/2015, I presented an article about how Portugal had decriminalised drugs and began treating drug addiction as a healthcare issue rather than a punitive issue.  Perhaps this is a step towards seeing addiction in the US for what it is . . . a healthcare issue. But lawmakers and government administration must see addiction for what it is . . . a healthcare issue.

Foreign Policy — Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s last reformist president, and another figure close to Khomeini, is less likely to be seen in public as the elections approach. Exemplifying the tension at the top of the political system, Khatami’s image is banned by the authorities, after being cast aside and dubbed a “seditionist” by the regime ever since the pro-democracy protests of 2009. However, the former president has shown he still has political influence: It was he who urged Mohammad Reza Aref, a reformist, to withdraw in the 2013 presidential election, which allowed Rouhani to win by consolidating the support of moderate voters.

But there are other members of Iran’s political system who want Khomeini to stay out of public life. His potential adversaries know him as a moderate cleric, similar to Rouhani, but much younger and with reformist instincts. Already weakened and angry at Rouhani’s nuclear deal, Iran’s conservative political faction is anxious that the Feb. 26 elections for the Assembly of Experts and the parliament could see their influence reduced further. If things go really badly for the conservatives, they could even be reduced to third place in parliament — lagging behind moderates backed by the president and a quiet but potentially reinvigorated reformist faction.

And we thought American politics were filled with twists and turns.  If the US, including its citizenry, is going to call Iran an enemy, then it pays to know what or who it is standing against.  Interesting too, Iran has a conservative faction, "Republicans" if you like, that want to stand in the way of progress and peace.  Click through for the rest of the article.

My Universe — 

ATT530856

And all he wants to do is order some take-out kibble!

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Dec 232015
 

The eyes are good today and no longer subject to the drops used in the eye exam, so I am good for another year!  It has rained most of the day, and it is particularly hard right now . . . I can hear it on the roof.  I sure hope Santa has swim trunks because he is likely to need them!  My post may be very brief tomorrow as I have Christmas dinner with friends and I am incharge of the roast yams in honey.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:02 (average 5:25). To do it, click here. How did you do?

Short Takes

Huffington Post — When government officials came to collect children from Jean Marie River for residential school, residents of the remote village in the Northwest Territories said they'd keep their kids at home, thanks very much. 

In what may have been unique among Canadian First Nations, they decided to build their own school. And now, as Canadians grapple with the legacy of residential schools, Jean Marie River is trying to commemorate the fact it doesn't have to.  

Shingle Point Residential School & Home For Boys, Mackenzie District, N.W.T. in 1930

The Alert Bay Mission School in British Columbia in 1885

The school only taught the first six grades, but that was enough to ground kids before they went to Fort Simpson.

"It gave us a good, solid base as compared to people that went to residential schools that didn't have a nurturing mother, that didn't have a model of how to become a caring mother," Gladys Norwegian said.

"I think it helped me to become comfortable with who I am. I didn't really need to explain to anybody what being an aboriginal person means. I was comfortable in my skin."

For the people of Jean Marie River, saying no to the residential school system made for a stronger community, confident and proud.  I will make no apologies for strongly disliking former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative harlots.  Only with a new government lead by Justin Trudeau has there been a commitment to Canadian Aboriginal peoples, a commitment to work in partnership and respect.  Here is Trudeau's commitment, a renewal of the relationship between the government and Aboriginal peoples.  

Politico — But there is a far bigger problem with Cruz: Donald Trump is not the most self-absorbed Republican running for president—Cruz is. Whether you like Trump or not (and I don’t), at least Trump makes no effort to hide his narcissism. In that sense, Trump is oddly genuine.

Cruz, on the other hand, takes great pains to be whatever he thinks you want him to be. And the troubling thing is he’s really good at it.

I sure am glad that this Republican is all yours!  And if this conservative's view is not completely convincing of Cruz's narcissism, have a look at a Cruz campaign rally that turned into a prayer revival.

Global News — An Idaho lunch lady has been fired after she gave a hungry student a free meal.

Dalene Bowden, a former server at Irving Middle School in Pocatello, Idaho, was terminated from her position on Dec. 15 for “theft” when she gave a 12-year-old student free lunch because the young girl couldn’t afford the meal.

“I handed her the food and said ‘here we’ll take care of it in a minute,’” told Bowden to KPVI News.

How Republican of the school district and the supervisor.

Politico — As Iran prepares to announce it has dismantled its nuclear program and thus should have its sanctions lifted on what will be known as “Implementation Day,” probably in January, sniping is growing on all sides. Opponents of the nuclear deal in Congress are urging President Barack Obama not to go easy on Iran for its recent ballistic missile tests and other non-nuclear activities just to try to save the agreement. Iranian officials, meanwhile, are pointing to recent changes in U.S. visa laws as a potential violation of the deal, saying the new rules will damage Iran's economy by penalizing legitimate business travelers and innocent Iranian dual nationals.

If Implementation Day comes and goes without a problem, it will bolster Obama's theory that diplomacy is worth trying even with a longstanding U.S. nemesis. If it is delayed significantly or scuttled completely, it will damage a major piece of the president's foreign policy legacy.  

As part of the nuclear deal, the U.S. committed to refrain from policies that are “specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.” But Iranian officials view the new visa laws as damaging to their economy because they could scare off investors. Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif has called the new restrictions "absurd." Some European officials also have warned that the changes could violate the nuclear deal.  

But Iranian leaders haven't been mollified. Some suggested Monday that lobbying by Israel — a staunch foe of Iran and the nuclear deal — prompted the new visa rules. Many Iranians aren't buying that their country isn't being singled out, asking why Congress targeted Iran but not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan in a law ostensibly aimed at stopping terrorism.

It would seem that the Republican dominated Congress is just itching to go to war with Iran.  Personally, I think Iran has a point about the US targetting Iran.  The halls of power are too often filled with political intrigue to which we are never made privy.

My Universe

cat-5“I like to refer to it as aging gracefully, but whatever.”

cat-7

"Did you just fart?"

Via Giphy

“You’re getting sleepy. Very sleepy….”

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Oct 132015
 

Well today was turkey day!  I say "was" because I have already consumed a wonderfully moist turkey dinner with all the trimmings and a piece of pumpkin pie.  I am satiated!  I can still smell that turkey! So now to finish up with that smell firmly planted in my mind. 

Puzzle — Today’s took me 4:40 (average 5:51). To do it, click here. How did you do? For those that don't know, we always do the 48 piece classic.

Short Takes

Upworthy — Kids try to tell us things all the time that they don't know how to describe.

They don't have the words to say it. Or they're embarrassed, or terrified, like the child in this video. (And while the stat at the end of the video is specifically about India, I've included a look at other countries and here at home below.)

It pays to be very aware of what is going on with kids.  Listen to what theysay, and don't say.

Alternet — Why is Ryan likely to take the bait and become the next speaker? As he wrote in 2012, grousing about compromise after compromise that he had to vote for, “Taken together, these experiences taught me valuable lessons about how the House and Senate operate, and I came away with an even deeper appreciation for the role of congressional leadership. Who holds the top post really matters because the decisions they make at the outset determine the votes that ever member has to take and how much good we can achieve for the country and our fellow citizens.”

What follows are six examples of the “good we can achieve” if Ryan becomes speaker.

Read the entire Alternet article to get a flavour of Ryan's “good we can achieve”.  I don't think that there will much of any good coming out Washington with a severely conservative Congress. November 2015 is the time to make some changes at the state and local levels.  2016 is the time to make big changes in the Congress for a more balanced Congress, a progressive Congress. 

Huffington Post — Iran's parliament passed a bill on Tuesday supporting a nuclear deal with world powers, signaling a victory for the government over conservative opponents of the agreement and clearing the way for it to be implemented.

Athena Image

Many lawmakers strongly opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that President Hassan Rouhani's government reached with world powers on July 14, and Tuesday's vote removes an obstacle to putting the agreement into practice.

The article goes on to state that if sanctions are not removed as per the agreement, Iran will resume its nuclear activities.  With saber rattling by Sunni Saudi Arabia towards Shite Iran and Russia, there is more chance of a bigger war in the Middle East.  All parties must stick to the deal.  Spend some time reading The Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon .

My Universe — 

 

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Oct 022015
 

It has been a fairly relaxing day, although most of it has been spent at the computer working on Friday's and Saturday's articles.  That means tonnes of reading and other research.  Tomorrow I have physio, closely followed by teaching ESL so time is short.  Thanks to Lona for the supply of cat naps to which I avail myself from time to time.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:24 (average 5:23). To do it, click here. How did you do? For those that don't know, we always do the 48 piece classic.

Upworthy — h/t JL — Cats. We love them, but do they love us? We may never know. But there's one thing we know … cats hate patriarchy.

If you've ever tried to make a cat live up to your expectations of cat behavior, you probably already know this. They despise ALL systems of unequal power and expectations. Cats are over patriarchy.

Of course cats are so over patriarchy!  Check it out.  They are fully into catriarchy!

The New Yorker — After the stunning ISIS blitz in June, 2014, that captured tremendous territory in Syria and Iraq, Washington employed a so-called “Iraq First” strategy. The U.S.-led coalition committed to using air power to contain ISIS in Syria but gave preference to restoring Iraqi sovereignty. Priorities are now shifting, as Syria’s war spreads across continents. The United States would like to replicate the success of the Iran nuclear deal to press for coöperation among China, Russia, Iran, and the European powers, while also enlisting Turkey and the Arab countries that are heavily invested in Syria’s future. At the U.N., on Wednesday, Kerry warned Russia against striking targets beyond ISIS or Al Qaeda’s local affiliate. But, Kerry told the Security Council, “The United States supports any genuine effort to fight ISIL and Al Qaeda affiliated groups, especially Al Nusra.” If Russia has a “genuine commitment” to defeat ISIS, he said, “we welcome that effort” and will work to “deconflict” the respective American and Russian air campaigns in Syria. The bigger question is whether Iran’s interest in coöperation was maxed out with the nuclear deal—or whether old enemies could become unlikely partners in determining Syria’s future.

As said in The Nation "Similarly, each of Kissinger’s Middle East initiatives has been disastrous in the long run. Just think about them from the vantage point of 2015: … emboldening Pakistan’s intelligence service, nurturing Islamic fundamentalism, playing Iran and the Kurds off against Iraq, and then Iraq and Iran off against the Kurds, and committing Washington to defending Israel’s occupation of Arab lands."

Will Iran coöperate on Syria?  It is hard to say.  Russia is backing Assad and bombing Syrian rebel forces which also include ISIS fighters.  As well, Russia has supplied weapons and materiel to Iran. But the US has nurtured Islamic fundamentalism which it now wants to defeat.  It seems that the various countries are doing what is right for them while ignoring the people of Syria.

Huffington Post — Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and an occasional Huffington Post blogger, says that instead, Snyder and other supporters of these names and mascots are denying Native Americans a simple request to be seen as equals in the eyes of their non-Native peers.

"They're so desensitized, they think Indian people are not real people; our children and our concerns are not real to them," Halbritter told HuffPost last year. "They don't think [the debate] is even real, they don't even think it's even worth bringing up or talking about. We're not human beings, we're not even part of humanity. And that's the problem. They think of us as just something to entertain them, or mascots — relics out of a museum."

Jeb: “But again, I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”

Ah, rich white privilege at it's finest with a rich white male Republican at the helm!  Bush is reprehensible (I wanted to use some other nouns and adjectives but thought better of it since this is TC's blog) as is Snyder.  I wonder where Jeb obtained his information about what Native American tribes find offensive, or not?

My Universe — I could not resist sharing this video with you.  I don't know if it's just flip-flops that engenders this reaction or more.  My cats like to use my shoes for sleeping on when they're not on the bed.  Enjoy!

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Oct 012015
 

I have been a student of history for many years, so when I came across this article in The Nation, I wanted to share it with you.  I remember many of the events and details enumerated, but the author puts them in context and shows the progression to today's US foreign policy in the Middle East.

We’re still paying the price of Henry Kissinger’s “grand strategies.”

The only person Henry Kissinger flattered more than President Richard Nixon was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Iran. In the early 1970s, the shah, sitting atop an enormous reserve of increasingly expensive oil and a key figure in Nixon and Kissinger’s move into the Middle East, wanted to be dealt with as a serious person. He expected his country to be treated with the same respect Washington showed other key Cold War allies like West Germany and Great Britain. As Nixon’s national security adviser and, after 1973, secretary of state, Kissinger’s job was to pump up the shah, to make him feel like he truly was the “king of kings.”

Kissinger_1968_ap_img

Less well known is the way in which Kissinger’s policies toward Iran and Saudi Arabia accelerated the radicalization in the region, how step by catastrophic step he laid the groundwork for the region’s spiraling crises of the present moment.    

What the shah wanted most of all were weapons of every variety—and American military trainers, and a navy, and an air force. It was Kissinger who overrode State Department and Pentagon objections and gave the shah what no other country had: the ability to buy anything he wanted from US weapons makers.

“We are looking for a navy,” the shah told Kissinger in 1973, “we have a large shopping list.” And so Kissinger let him buy a navy.

By 1976, Kissinger’s last full year in office, Iran had become the largest purchaser of American weaponry and housed the largest contingent of US military advisers anywhere on the planet. By 1977, the historian Ervand Abrahamian notes, “the shah had the largest navy in the Persian Gulf, the largest air force in Western Asia, and the fifth-largest army in the whole world.” That meant, just to begin a list, thousands of modern tanks, hundreds of helicopters, F-4 and F-5 fighter jets, dozens of hovercraft, long-range artillery pieces, and Maverick missiles. The next year, the shah bought another $12 billion worth of equipment.

After Kissinger left office, the special relationship he had worked so hard to establish blew up with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the flight of the shah, the coming to power of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the taking of the US Embassy in Tehran (and its occupants as hostages) by student protesters.

Read the rest of this very interesting, albeit long article.  It certainly casts a brighter light on US foreign policy in the Middle East.

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Sep 282015
 

Pope Francis has just concluded his first visit to the United States.  I am sure that the analysis will go on for weeks as American politicians and pundits try to grapple with, in my opinion, the admonitions of this Pope.

You can read thePope's speech HERE and read The 10 Most Important Lines From Pope Francis' Historic Speech to Congress which forms the template for this article.

Pope Francis in Congress

On climate change: "…to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play. …"

From Alternet:  In response to a question during an interview,

"[Robert F Jr] Kennedy replied, “The public and press and corporate America begin recognizing that this is a moral imperative, that we can no longer lie to each other and lie to the public about global warming, that that’s a sin. A sin is an injury to a relationship, an injury to another person, and we are injuring whole generations of humanity as well as the rest of God’s creation. We need to start looking at it that way rather than looking at it as a political battle, or Republicans vs. Democrats, we have to understand that this is a moral issue.”

Kennedy is a Catholic so he speaks in somewhat religious terms but he is absolutely right in my opinion.  Climate change IS a moral issue, and a moral issue is not necessarily a religious issue. Likewise, a moral issue is not a political issue, but in the US, and elsewhere, politicians, our elected representatives, must embrace climate change and find workable comprehensive strategies to save the planet, future generations, animals etc.  Rape is morally wrong, yet that is what we are doing to the planet.

Also read The Nation for further commentary.

On abolishing the death penalty: "…every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. …a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation."

From The Nation "… Harry Blackmun, wrote in 1994 that he would no longer “tinker with the machinery of death.” And in 2008, John Paul Stevens wrote that his review of hundreds of cases had persuaded him that the penalty is both profoundly unworkable and unconstitutional.

What has Breyer learned to put him in such company? Plenty. In his dissent, he argued that the death penalty is seriously unreliable and arbitrary in application; he believes the long delays undermine its penological purpose; and he is convinced that we have executed the innocent."

I do not agree with capital punishment, which in my opinion is state sponsored murder.  Look at the costs outlined in The Nation article: $3 million average cost to execute a death row prisoner versus $1.1 million to keep a prisoner incarcerated for life.  Too many prosecutors amp up their conviction rates for political and career gain.  And as Justice Breyer related "…we have executed the innocent."   Once a person is executed, there is no going back, guilty or innocent.

On abortion: "The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development." (This was his only direct reference to abortion in the speech.)

As Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times notes:

"Francis talks of the “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage” but then instead of continuing on to talk about the need to end abortion, he pivots to the death penalty."

When I think about the intersection of various issues, how can a society endorse the death penalty but take a very staunch conservative stance on banning abortion, even in the direst of circumstances like rape, incest or the imperiled life of the mother?  To take the intersection further, how can a society then ignore children living in dire poverty where there is not enough food and social assistance (SNAP benefits) are cut back?  I could link other things in like a living wage, but I think you get my point.

On same-sex marriage: The closest he came to addressing same-sex marriage was in a passage about the importance of family. "I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, …"

What is FAMILY anyway?  Wikipedia defines family as follows:

"In the context of human society, a family (from Latin: familia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity (by recognized birth), affinity (by marriage), or co-residence and/or shared consumption (see Nurture kinship). "

Family is about commitment, love and nurture.  There is no reference to the absolute imperative of "one man and one women" as conservatives espouse.  The saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" is so true. But in the cloistered hall of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Francis did say more. Read more at Huffington Post.

On Iran and Cuba: "…This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces."

From The Nation

 Both sides, however, acknowledge that normal diplomatic relations have created a new framework for engagement—and a bilateral mechanism to conduct a dialogue about the issues that will need to be resolved before relations are fully normalized. … 

From Alternet — The last American that the Pope named, the theologian Thomas Merton, was cited as a direct call on Congress stop partisan bickering and start showing constructive results. He called Merton “a man of dialogue and promoter of peace for people and religions” and then reminded Congress what statesmanship consisted of.

With regard to Cuba, Republicans are caught in the McCarthy era looking for communist boogiemen behind every door.  But I also think that Republicans don't like having a defiant yet small nation just 90 miles off its shore. 

As to Iran, in the 20th century, it was a large producer of oil and natural gas.  There was heavy foreign investment in the oil and gas industry.  But then in 1951, the new prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, nationalised all oil and gas works including US operations.  In 1953, the US and Britain engineered a coup d'état taking back their oil and gas interests.  But the nationist Islamic revolution of 1979 put Iran back in control.  Is it any wonder then that such emnity should exist?  Republicans however, hawks that they are, will never give up that which they think was theirs, but never was theirs.  And Iran is not going to give up their sovreignty.

On the refugee crisis: "Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. … thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? …"

Much like today's refugees, many of our ancestors from the 17th and 18th centuries were refugees fleeing religious persecution in Europe.  Others were political refugees.  Why do we balk at providing the same opportunities that we received?

On immigration: "We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal solidarity, in a constant effort to do our best. …"

From Damien Cave at the New York Times:

"Francis is clearly reminding his audience that the United States is part of a larger whole — one America in the Americas, where immigration is a deeply rooted part of history. He offers guidance on how to respond to the world's latest migrant crisis, urging lawmakers to treat migrants “with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated."

In his article in The Nation, George Zornick commented:

He continued: “We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”

Jeb Bush commented on immigration as seen in The Daily Kos 

We should not have a muticultural society … America has done immigration so much better than the other countries because it's a set of values that people share, that defines our national identity—not race or ethnicity or where you come from. And when you create pockets of isolation—and in some cases, the assimilation process has been retarded because they slowed down—it's wrong … So I think across the board, education, English—being able to speak English—a common language is important. We need to get back to that. We're creeping toward multiculturalism and that's the wrong approach.

The Pope would be apalled at this xenophobic attitudes towards immigrants.

Lucia, who is my ESL student, fled Sudan with her husband because of the civil war.  She fled to Uganda where she lived in poverty for about 8 years. During those 8 years, she gave birth to her oldest 2 children.  There were unspeakable crimes committed against her and her family.  They escaped Uganda and came to Canada.  Here she has been welcomed and supported by myself and other members of my church.  ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

On poverty: "I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. …"

A petition at Daily Kos says (follow the link to sign):

Government programs that feed the hungry and heal the sick must struggle for funding, while billions of our tax dollars are still being sent to Big Oil in the form of tax subsidies and other special interest giveaways.

Now, we need to send Congress a message about the social spending we need and the corporate handouts we don’t.

Getting the Republican dominated Congress to stand by programmes such as SNAP, social security, Medicare/Medicaid, a living wage and more is like asking the sun to go away or the stars not to shine in the night sky. But all must continue to push and push hard for a more compassionate society.

On the arms trade: "Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? …"

There can only be one answer to this question: GREED!  Think of the NRA.  Why does it push the 2nd amendment right to bear arms?  Surely, with the numbers of deaths caused by guns in the US, it would back off. But it is ostensibly "owned and operated" by the weapons manufacturers who are in business to earn profits.  How do you change this without changing the mindset of a nation?

On religious fundamentalism: "We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. … But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners."

All fundamentalism, whether Christian, Judaic, Islamic or any other religion or rite such as atheism, leads to the exclusion and marginalisation of many.  As the Pope says, fundalmentalism is "the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners."  I doubt few of us, no matter what religion would see ourselves in such black and white terms.  We also see this in the way that the right wing Christians in the US refer to the country as having been established as a Christian nation.  Republican presidential candidate said that he had no problem with a Muslim becoming POTUS providing he recanted Islam, became a Christian, and took the oath of office on a bible.  That is closeminded fundamentalism.

 

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Aug 252015
 

After the stresses of the last few days, I am feeling quite tired.  Tomorrow is a grocery delivery day, and I have some extra cleaning to do for that.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today's took me 3:21 (average 4:37).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: They don’t pay taxes. They circumvent our laws. They get free stuff from the government. They are America’s billionaires, and many would like to see them gone.

According to a new survey by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, the American people hold the nation’s billionaires in lower esteem than ever before, and a majority would like to see new laws enacted to deport them.

“They come here, take thousands of our jobs, and export them overseas,” one respondent said, in an opinion echoed by many others in the survey.

“They are part of a shadow economy that sucks billions of dollars out of the United States every year and puts it in Switzerland and the Caymans,” another said.

Images of hedge-fund managers arriving via helicopter in the Hamptons this summer have only reinforced the impression that authorities have turned a blind eye to their movements.

“Many of these people should be in prison, and the government is looking the other way,” one respondent said.

Stirring even more controversy is the billionaires’ practice of having babies in the United States and using the nation’s porous estate-tax laws to pass down untold wealth to the next generation.

“They should leave and take their children with them,” one respondent said.

At times, Andy makes a brilliant suggestion. This is one of those times. Lets start with the nevermind brothers.

From Daily Kos: "Ted Cruz Criticizes Carter Day After Wrenching Talk on Cancer," says the Bloomberg headline, and so we are obliged to take another rubbernecking glance at the most repellent man in politics.

A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa.

"I think where we are today is very, very much like the late 1970s," the senator from Texas said on the Des Moines Register's political soapbox stage at the Iowa State Fair.

"I think the parallels between this administration and the Carter administration are uncanny: same failed domestic policies, same misery, stagnation and malaise, same feckless and naïve foreign policy," Cruz said. "In fact, the exact same countries—Russia and Iran—openly laughing and mocking at the president of the United States."

Uranus Inspector could not be further from the truth. The real similarities are that Carter and Obama both are decent men, doing their best, and were sabotaged by Republicans. Republicans even made a secret deal with Iran, giving them better terms on the hostage release, in return for KEEPING OUR HOSTAGE CITIZENS CAPTIVE, so they could win the election. I think that covering up proof of which individuals committed this treason is one of the reasons that Republicans oppose the Iran deal now.

From MoveOn: If you have friends who’ve been tricked, duped, or bamboozled by the war lobby into opposing the Iran nuclear deal, share this new ad with them from our friends at Americans United for Change:

 

Please click through to share this wherever you can.

Cartoon:

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…then buy my bridge from me!

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Aug 192015
 

It’s another very hot very humid day.  After today, we should get two temperate days, before the 90°+ weather returns on Saturday.  Yesterday afternoon, I learned that my friend with cancer was in recovery, after a successful mastectomy.  I feel quite relieved about that.  Store to Door delivered groceries early.  I have them put away.  Now, if I can just stay conscious until after my articles are up and out, it’s A/C hunker time again.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:21 (average 4:24).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker:

On the evening of August 6th, when the news broke that Senator Charles Schumer would vote against the Iran accord, the Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, was as stunned as the rest of his caucus. The two men are close friends. When Reid became the leader, in 2005, Schumer was a backbencher, who mused about running for governor of New York. Reid took an interest in him, came to rely on both his fund-raising prowess with Wall Street and his counsel on a range of matters, and always advised his ambitious protégé, “Be patient, be patient.” Last March, when Reid announced that he would retire at the end of 2016, he endorsed Schumer to succeed him and announced that another contender, Richard Durbin, the Democratic whip (and Schumer’s former roommate), would stand down. For those progressives who questioned whether Schumer should be leader, Reid said that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would keep the caucus honest. Now, because of Schumer’s position as presumptive leader, Reid felt that Schumer should have informed him of his decision on the Iran deal, given its importance, according to a Senate aide. Still, when a White House official called Reid that night to ask if he would announce his support of the deal to counter Schumer’s opposition, Reid refused, saying he wasn’t ready, a close associate said. (A spokesman for Senator Reid later issued a statement denying that Reid was surprised by Schumer’s announcement. “Their relationship is as close as ever. On Iran, Senator Reid respects the decision of conscience Senator Schumer made and he did not raise concerns with the announcement or the timing.”)*

More than a week has passed, and Reid still wonders why Schumer decided to announce his opposition when he did. Schumer was the first Democratic senator to oppose the deal. And it was his timing, perhaps even more than the substance of his decision, that has upset his pro-deal colleagues and, most unmistakably, the White House. Josh Earnest, the President’s press secretary, said he wouldn’t be surprised if some members of the Senate Democratic caucus “consider the voting record of those who say they would like to lead the caucus,” and he went on to liken Schumer’s decision to oppose the Iran deal to his support for the Iraq War, in 2003. It always seemed implausible that Schumer—an AIPAC stalwart who boasted that he is Benjamin Netanyahu’s best friend on Capitol Hill—would oppose AIPAC and Netanyahu on a deal they both claim is an existential threat to Israel. (I have written about AIPAC’s influence on politicians for the magazine.) “Chuck was always among the least likely Democrats to support the deal,” a longtime close friend of Schumer’s told me. And, after Schumer’s announcement, Durbin said, “I always expected him to be against the agreement.”…

Click through for the rest of this highly informative piece. If your Senator(s) are Democrats, call them regularly to tell them to strip this Bankster-bought traitor of any and all party leadership positions.

From NY Times: Russians are experiencing the first sustained decline in living standards in the 15 years since President Vladimir V. Putin [R-RU] came to power. The ruble has fallen by half against the dollar, driven by the plunging price of oil, the lifeblood of Russia’s economy. As a result, prices of imported goods have shot up, making tea, instant coffee, children’s clothes and back-to-school backpacks suddenly, jarringly expensive.

The Russian people are learning first hand the steep price they have to pay for putting a Republican in charge of their nation.

From Alternet: Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it may surprise you.

She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he’ll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.

You won’t hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.

If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.

And that’s because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.

I’ve seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.

Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.

Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives’ votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.

As much as I’d like to echo this author’s optimism, northern NH Republicans are more like the old time back woods Republicans that were somewhat progressive in their views and opposed to the old time Dixiecrats, that now hold the Republican Party in thrall. To get lots of Republican support, nationwide, Bernie would have to convince a lot of willfully ignorant voters, too lazy to want to learn, not to be afraid of media-hyped "Socialism". That’s a tall order, not because Bernie lacks skill, but because he would be trying to plow a swamp.

Cartoon:

0819Cartoon

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Aug 172015
 

It’s official.  The NWS has issued an excessive heat warning for Portland through Wednesday evening.  It’s a good thing I rescheduled those medical appointment, because I accidentally avoided the surprise heat wave.  On the other hand, I’m sure I rescheduled them to coincide with the next surprise heat wave.  ARGH!! I slept most of the evening, so I was up moist of the night.  I’ll need to hunker down under the A/C soon, but I have a ton of volunteer work to get done.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:20 (average 4:40).  To do it. click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: Living with a cat for the first time, you quickly pick up on its behavioral quirks, many of which are common among other cats. What you soon find out is that cats aren’t Republican. Here are 12 reasons why not:

1. Cats are curious about what you do in your bedroom, but they don’t try to legislate away your freedom to do it.

2. Cats may take away your cushion, but they’ll give it back to you with a gentle push.

3. Cats give you attention and sympathy when you’re sick.

4. Females are treated with importance in the cat world.

5. Cats make use of solar power, often all day long.

6. Cats lick their own problems and take care of other cats too.

What purrrrfect logic! I shared six reasons. Click through for the other six. Cat face

From TPM: As we move closer to next month’s vote on the Iran nuclear deal, I wanted to note some parts of the story that are not getting sufficient attention in the mainstream press. Even in Israel, where the the P5+1 deal is quite unpopular, there is increasing concern, at least among elites, at just how far Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to go in damaging US-Israel ties in his war against the Obama administration over the Iran deal. As JJ Goldberg aptly puts it, the campaign of incitement and maliciously phony charges of anti-Semitism against the White House are "effectively turning American Jews into Netanyahu’s cannon fodder" in war against Obama.

Too true.

As Goldberg notes, charges that the President is a crypto-Muslim or an anti-Semite have remained until now at the very fringes of American political discourse. But as the anti-deal forces have struggled to make their case on the merits, they have now resorted to pulling the anti-Semitism canard deep into the mainstream, with almost comically tendentious claims that the President is "dog whistling" or Jew-baiting in his campaign to win support for the deal in Congress.

The big irony here is that the same Republican Supply-side pseudo-Christians, who are screaming anti-Semitism loudest, are campaigning to bring about the "end times". They preach that 144,000 Jewish witnesses, 12,000 from each tribe, will be saved. Other that those, they preach that all Jews, everywhere, that had not converted to follow Republican Supply-side Jesus, prior to the big-poof, will become crispy critters!  It speaks volumes that “Butcher Bibi” (R-IS) is willing to ally himself with these Dominionist Republican hypocrites.

From Crooks ands Liars: [Jeb Bush keeps forgetting] That outside the wingnut bubble (and outside the Beltway Media bubble that enfolds it) not everyone has agreed to go along with the fairy tale that history began on January 20, 2009.

Kudos to Rachel! Believe it or not, I made today’s cartoon several hours before seeing this. With Strike Three having advisors like "Any Lie for War" Wolfowitz, I think I’m spot on!

Cartoon:

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