Stormy Monday, 3/9/15

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StormyMondayMonday, the Department of Justice will begin notifying approximately a million federal workers of their eligibility to join a class action suit against the government for being forced to work without pay during the Republican-engineered shutdown in October 2013. Eligible employees will have 105 days to sign on; voters will have 610 days until the 2016 election to decide that throwing Republicans out of all federal offices is an urgent priority for the health of the nation.

By next weekend, or so, the United States will have again exhausted its ability to borrow money. Fear not, though. Mitch “Old Lightnin'” McConnell promised Face the Nation Sunday that “the debt ceiling will be handled over a period of months.” He added that “hopefully, it might carry some other important legislation that we can agree on in connection with it,” which, on Planet Mitch, presumably means the repeal of Obamacare or the gutting of Social Security. The White House has meanwhile implemented “emergency cash measures” to forestall a possible collision with the debt ceiling.

Speaking of dysfunctionality and debt, the Eurogroup convenes in Brussels tomorrow to “discuss next steps” related to debt assistance for Greece. Tensions ratcheted up considerably today with the threat by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis that Greece could hold an election or a referendum over what those “next steps” might entail.

Too bad Senator Inhofe won’t be in Fairbanks tomorrow for the competitive start of this year’s Iditarod. If he were, he’d learn that 350 dump-trucks’ worth of snow were needed to facilitate Saturday’s ceremonial start in Anchorage, where daytime temperatures flirted with 40 and the only thing falling from the late-winter sky was a thin rain.

Fires are still not totally extinguished following Thursday’s derailment of a crude-carrying BNSF train near Galena, Illinois. Ten more derailed cars remain to be cleared via a new temporary “haul road.” The railway says it anticipates the mainline to be back in operation Monday, which would clear the way – whew! – for the week’s usual 40 or 50 oil trains to run through the area. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 3/9/15

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Stormy Monday, 2/23/15

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StormyMondayIs it that time already? Sadly, yes. CPAC’s 2015 edition gets underway Wednesday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center just outside DC. This year’s roster of speakers looks remarkably similar to that of previous years, a cavalcade of crabbed conservative know-nothings preaching ignorance to the ignorant and hate to the hateful. Among them will be Rand Paul, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Sean Hannity, Bobby Jindal, and of course the Rick twins, Perry and Santorum.

In a clear sign that the world has slipped its moorings, debate continues to heat up over Bill O’Reilly’s credibility, which implies, fallaciously, that he ever had any to begin with. If nothing else, this all might provide a nice diversion for fellow liar Brian Williams as his suspension continues. In O’Reilly’s case, the issue is apparently him claiming to have single-handedly won the Falklands War with a falafel. Or something; I really can’t bring myself to care.

Speaking of liars, Chris Christie presents his sixth budget address to the New Jersey Legislature on Tuesday, with a court decision still pending as to whether he violated a 2011 deal on the public pensions he’ll apparently spend a lot of his address bleating about. Christie is still considering, apparently, whether he wants to try moving up to lying to people in all 50 states or whether he’ll content himself with just lying to New Jerseyans.

Chicago voters go to the polls Tuesday, with incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigning hard to avoid a possible April 7 runoff. The strongest of Emanuel’s four challengers, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, said over the weekend that he expects “a major upset.” If Emanuel does end up with a runoff on his hands, or loses outright, “major upset” won’t even begin to describe the tantrum he’ll throw.

The Department of Homeland Security faces having to furlough 30,000 employees and shut down many of its operations on Friday, because House Republicans – well, “because House Republicans” pretty much sums it up. Despite their own questionable maturity, efforts continue by some Republican Senators to mollify their crybaby colleagues in the lower house but avoid a shutdown. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 2/23/15

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Stormy Monday, 2/9/15

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StormyMondayFrantic efforts by the College Republicans chapter at Texas Tech continue as the little dweebs try to thwart Thursday’s scheduled speech by counterculture icon Angela Davis. The group has helpfully offered up alternative names like Condi Rice, Gwen Ifill and Mia Love. After all, they all look alike, right, College Republicans?

David Letterman’s producers are hunting down a fill-in for Thursday’s show following the announcement that scheduled guest Brian Williams has canceled. Williams previously shared with the Late Show audience his fanciful tale of taking ground fire while in a helicopter in Iraq, but of course is now taking time off from his NBC Nightly News gig to spend more time with the truth.

Nigeria’s presidential election was originally scheduled for next Saturday, but has been postponed until March 28 by the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission, which cited security concerns over continuing Boko Haram violence. John Kerry described the US government as “deeply disappointed” by the postponement.

The marriage license obtained last year by star-crossed lovebirds Charles Manson and Afton Elaine Burton expired last week, but cheer up, fans of true romance. According to James McGrath, a photo editor who knows Burton, she’s intending to apply for a 90-day license and will make a husband out of Charlie yet. Manson is eligible for parole once again in 2027, by which time he’ll be a mere 723 years old.

European finance ministers gather in Brussels on Wednesday to brainstorm the question: “How do you solve a problem like Greece?” Angela Merkel will do the same on Thursday when she sits down with new Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, who has emphatically rejected further austerity measures advocated by Germany and other EU members. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 2/9/15

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Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

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StormyMondayThe President wants to extend wilderness designation and concomitant environmental protections to millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move opposed by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans, who would prefer to drill the crap out of ANWR. Showcasing her famed policy chops and keen intellect, Murkowski commented, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.”

Speaking of negotiations with Iran, Republicans are hell-bent on screwing those up too. Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will conduct what it risibly describes as a “hearing” on the status of the negotiations. As Congress lurches toward additional sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the other day that such a move would “kill the joint plan of action that we adopted last year in Geneva.” In another odd development, Zarif has been summoned to explain to his nation’s parliament why he went for a “15-minute walk” with John Kerry in Geneva on January 14. Uh-oh…

“Winter Storm Juno” is bearing down on the Northeast, with blizzard conditions expected to affect up to 28 million people. Juno’s worst impact will last from Monday evening into Tuesday, with snowfall rates of two to four inches an hour and total accumulations of two feet or more forecast for some areas of New England. The suspiciously enthusiastic Henry Margusity, an Accuweather meteorologist, took to Twitter to announce, “It will be like a tidal wave of snow into New England tonight into Tuesday.”

Tuesday, the President will pass up a planned trip to the Taj Mahal and cut short his stay in India to head for Saudi Arabia for a meeting with its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, our latest staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East. Salman succeeds his recently deceased brother Adbullah, our previous staunch ally and wonderful, not at all duplicitous partner in the Middle East.

The legendary Ernie Banks will be honored by a public memorial Wednesday at Chicago’s Daley Plaza. The statue of “Mr. Cub” at Wrigley Field will be moved to Daley Plaza for the occasion. Banks, 83, died Friday following a heart attack. Funeral arrangements are still pending. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/26/15

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Stormy Monday, 1/12/15

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StormyMondayNew Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – man, it makes me queasy to type that – will try to move authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline forward today after last week’s House vote to approve it.

Tuesday, Chris Christie takes a time-out from mourning his beloved Dallas Cowboys to deliver his State of the State address. Spoiler alert: the state of the state is rife with corruption, with the worst of it centered around 354 Stockton Street in Princeton. Governor Christie will likely avoid that topic, though, to concentrate on lying and blustering, the two things he does best.

Senate Democrats will be in Baltimore Wednesday and Thursday for their annual policy retreat (and no, I will not go for a cheap laugh here). They’ll be doing so without Minority Leader Harry Reid, who’s still recovering from his recent injuries and remains in Washington on doctors’ orders. House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, will gather in Hershey, Pennsylvania for a joint two-day retreat, presumably to synch up their respective ideas for destroying the country as efficiently as possible.

Wednesday at noon, the Londonderry Fish and Game Club in Litchfield, New Hampshire hosts a one-hour “conversation” on the Second Amendment with crackpot Senator Rand Paul, followed by a Q&A session where it’s pretty much guaranteed Senator Paul will not be asked pertinent questions like “Why the hell do you think you’re qualified to be President?” and “Where’d you get that hair?”

The President kicks off his week with a visit to the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, followed by a Tuesday bipartisan confab with Congressional leaders to discuss what Reuters laughably describes as “common goals,” and a visit to the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. Wednesday he heads to Iowa for a speech about expanding broadband access for more Americans. He’s also expected to drop by the Democrats’ Baltimore get-together on Thursday. Thursday evening, he dines with British PM David Cameron; the two will confer at the White House on Friday. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/12/15

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Stormy Monday, 12/29/14

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StormyMondayIf you blinked and missed the announcement, US combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended yesterday, which won’t be much comfort to the next casualties among the 10,800 troops remaining there into the new year. Despite the President’s pro forma assertion that Afghanistan is “not going to be a source of terrorist attacks again,” it will probably be exactly that, in no small part due to six years of escalated American military presence there on his watch.

Former President George “Not the Really, Really Bad One” Bush remains at Houston Methodist Hospital, where he has been under observation since Tuesday night for shortness of breath. Fans of mediocre ex-Presidents can breathe a sigh of relief; he’s expected to be discharged soon.

After being suspended due to inclement weather, the search for AirAsia Flight 8501 resumes Monday morning. The plane disappeared from radar screens Sunday morning, roughly halfway between its departure point, Surabaya, Indonesia, and its intended destination, Singapore. It was carrying 162 people. Expect a surfeit of fanciful speculation about the plane’s disappearance, but none will be as doltish as that of Fox News’ Anna Kooiman, who mused on air yesterday that the metric system might be at fault. Co-host Charles Payne came close, however, noting that foreign pilots, such as those on Flight 8501, lack an American-style “cowboy attitude.”

Bad weather has also impacted rescue efforts in the Adriatic, where the ferry Norman Atlantic continues to burn. 150 people had been removed from the ship by nightfall Sunday, leaving almost 330 still awaiting rescue by Greek and Italian teams. One death has been reported.

Widespread monsoon-related flooding in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand has so far claimed 24 lives and forced the evacuation of 160,000 people. Another week of heavy rain is forecast. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/29/14

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Stormy Monday, 12/22/14

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StormyMondayFuneral services for Lowell Steward, a Tuskegee Airman, will be held Monday morning in Los Angeles. Steward earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Italy in 1944. He died of pneumonia last Wednesday, aged 95.

The World Health Organization reported last week that western Africa’s death toll from Ebola is approaching 7,400. Nearly half the deaths have occurred in Sierra Leone, where there are an estimated 8,800 active cases (6,900 confirmed). As an anti-contagion measure, Sierra Leone and Guinea have imposed bans on New Year’s Eve celebrations. In related medical news, those politicians who went into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy over the supposed threat of Ebola to Fortress America have apparently all been struck miraculously mute, though, sadly, only on this particular topic.

Friday, the Obama family arrived in Hawaii for a winter vacation, or, as the President characterized it, a “quiet time-out” before the fourth quarter of his tenure in office. The President is scheduled to return to Washington on January 4, two short days before Republican Congressional majorities start trying to legislate and deregulate the nation back to the 19th century.

Vacation notwithstanding, the President is expected to announce tomorrow that Sally Yates, US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, is his pick for next Deputy Attorney General, replacing James Cole.

The Satanic Temple’s “Snaketivity” holiday display went up yesterday outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, two days after state Senator Rick Jones erected a traditional nativity scene at the same venue. Jones boldly declared, “I’m not afraid of the snake people. I’m sure that Jesus Christ is not afraid.” Both displays have to be dismantled every night. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/22/14

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Stormy Monday, 12/8/14

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StormyMondayThe 113th Congress, having covered itself with neither dust nor glory, holds its last session Friday. Members have a whopping five days to try and figure out how to keep the government funded, along with all sorts of other pending measures that – darn the luck! – they were just too busy to get to sooner. Ironically, the only thing that might keep the 113th out of the history books as a singular national disgrace is the incoming 114th; with Republicans running the show in both chambers, nothing good can possibly come out of it.

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who recently made controversial remarks about the crafting of the Affordable Care Act (a process in which he participated as a consultant) will sit down with Darrell Issa and the rest of the House Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Committee Republicans are desperate to leverage Gruber’s remarks to prove that the White House used deception to win passage of the bill. And if that effort fails, they can just go back to squawking about Benghazi. To that end, the Select Committee on Benghazi holds its second hearing on Wednesday. Beats working, I guess.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will testify Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on efforts to halt the Ebola epidemic. Just in time, too. Come January when Republicans become the majority in the chamber, the loftiest discussion will probably be restricted to topics like whether to reintroduce Freedom Fries in the Capitol cafeterias.

Rain in New York City over the weekend temporarily quieted ongoing protests over police violence in the aftermath of a grand jury failing to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner. In contrast, weekend demonstrations in Berkeley and Seattle, goaded by the response of law enforcement officers, turned violently confrontational.

Kings County DA Kenneth Thompson has started the process of impaneling a grand jury to weigh charges against rookie NYPD officer Peter Liang, who killed Akai Gurley, another unarmed African-American man, on November 20. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/8/14

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Stormy Monday, 12/1/14

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StormyMondayThe Wall Street Journal CEO Council convenes for its annual meeting today and tomorrow in Washington, giving people noteworthy for having been promoted beyond their level of competence an opportunity to hear and applaud people noteworthy for having fleeced a majority of their constituents. This year’s scintillating guests include Jeb Bush, Mitch McConnell, Rob Portman and Rand Paul. National Security Adviser Susan Rice will also be there; perhaps the organizers got her confused with Condoleezza.

An NAACP protest march from Ferguson to Jefferson City, Missouri got underway on the weekend and is expected to reach the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday. Whatever time of day marchers arrive, I’m sure they’ll find Jay Nixon seriously out to lunch. Demonstrations continue in cities across the nation, while things have taken a turn for the better back in Ferguson: Darren Wilson tendered his resignation over the weekend.

The White House will announce badly needed changes to the disbursal of military surplus equipment to law enforcement agencies today, along with $263 million in new funding for body cameras and officer training. The President and Vice President will spend the afternoon in meetings with the Cabinet, civil rights leaders, politicians, clerics and law enforcement officials to seek ways to improve cooperation and communication between police departments and communities.

Will the least productive Congress in history use its lame duck session to get anything accomplished? Of course not, but they’re already pretending very hard that they want to. Keeping the government funded past December 11 is a nominal priority, with House and Senate Appropriations Committees aiming at having a spending bill ready by December 8, leaving up to three days for so-called legislators to preen in front of TV cameras while dispensing empty platitudes. Business tax break extensions will also be debated, though the President has signaled he’ll veto them for lacking cost offsets and failing to include renewed tax credits for low-income Americans. Also on the agenda is renewal of the NDAA, a once-routine matter that became litigious as soon as the President wasn’t a white guy. Both parties are still happy to confer obscene amounts of money on the Pentagon, of course, the only difference being the preferred degree of obscenity.

Time’s up for Mary Landrieu on Saturday, when the runoff between the incumbent Governor and her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy will finally answer the question: Does Louisiana prefer to be governed by a bad Democrat or a bad Republican? Early voting is already pointing strongly to the latter choice. As much as it pains me to see Democrats lose another Senate seat on top of last month’s eight, and while there’s no doubt Cassidy will be far worse than the incumbent, I’m going to accentuate the positive and just enjoy Landrieu’s heave-ho from public life. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/1/14

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Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

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StormyMondayRacist, sexist, homophobic jackass and Speaker-designee of the Nevada Assembly Ira Hansen, a – surprise! – Republican, will resign his speakership, presumably this week, after excerpts of controversial (meaning astoundingly stupid and deeply objectionable) columns he wrote for the Sparks Tribune between 1994 and 2010 were reprinted by Reno News & Review, an alternative weekly. It’s not clear whether he will also resign his seat. Like any self-respecting member of the Party of Personal Responsibility, Hansen blamed his troubles on “a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in State government.” For good measure, his official statement included a baleful reference to “deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction.” Uh-huh.

Michael Brown Sr. and a group of supporters went door to door in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, handing out turkeys to surprised residents, as the community and the nation await a grand jury decision on charges against Darren Wilson. “Everyone is suffering over this… I came back to make sure that people have a nice Thanksgiving,” Brown told reporters. The grand jury will reconvene Monday, according to an e-mail circulated to members of St. Louis business advocacy group Downtown STL Inc. Ferguson remains under a state of emergency declared by Governor Jay Nixon last week, when the grand jury was originally expected to announce its findings.

Speaking of free turkeys, DC’s annual Ward 8 Turkey Giveaway, scheduled for Tuesday, will have to go ahead without its founder, Councilman and former Mayor Marion Berry, who died early Sunday morning after returning home from a brief hospital stay. A family announcement regarding funeral arrangements is still pending.

The President heads home to Chicago on Tuesday as part of the administration ‘s continuing sales pitch for newly announced executive actions on immigration. He’ll speak at the Copernicus Center after participating in an immigration roundtable at the city’s Polish American Association.

Buffalo and area residents begin the week braced for flooding as a warm front encounters last week’s enormous snow accumulations. As of this writing, Monday’s high temperature is predicted to be 61, with sustained winds of 25 miles an hour and gusts up to 55 also forecast. Rain began Saturday, greatly adding to the likelihood of more collapsing roofs. Tuesday’s forecast is for six more inches of lake effect snow, as temperatures again approach whatever it is that passes for seasonal norms these days. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/24/14

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