Stormy Monday, 10/13/14

StormyMondayLiberian nurses and physician’s assistants intend to go on strike Monday over insufficient hazard pay, an action that could deal a terrible setback to the country’s efforts to get on top of the Ebola epidemic. During a weekend tour of treatment facilities in Monrovia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf personally appealed to health care workers to stay on the job.

Now that a Texas health care worker, despite wearing protective gear, has tested positive for Ebola after “extensive contact” with victim Thomas Duncan before his death last Wednesday, the mainstream media can really get to work fanning the doomsday hysteria with even less regard for scientific accuracy or pesky fact-based caveats such as CDC Director Tom Frieden’s insistence that the new case resulted from “a breach in protocol.”

And if End Times Ebolamania doesn’t gain traction with the audience, at least the media has ISILW (Islamic State in, Like, Wherever) to fall back on. Sunday’s announcement by Defense Department officials that Turkey will make bases available to US and coalition forces conducting air strikes against Islamic State forces is sure to set off another wave of talking heads eager to explain how this move is a complete vindication of the President’s surefooted IS policy, or how it’s sad confirmation of a flailing, rudderless White House.

John McCain, meanwhile, is getting increasingly shrill in his calls for ground troops to be deployed against IS. Scoff if you must, but after destroying five planes himself, the Senator is at least something of an expert on aircraft vulnerability.

You’ll be happy (or maybe not) to hear that Dr. Brian Monahan, attending physician of Congress, posted a reassuring eight-minute video on an internal website last week, explaining special protocols developed to ensure that even in the event of a catastrophic epidemic affecting huge numbers of Americans, Congress will be able, disease-free, to continue doing not much of anything. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/13/14

Friday Talking Points [323] -- Is There Anybody Out There?

FTP3I address this desperate attempt at communication to any remaining survivors in America of the apocalyptic scourge that is Ebola. Is there anybody still out there? Because, according to my television for the past few weeks, the death rates have been climbing so high that hundreds of millions of Americans should be pushing up the daisies by now. So, with full sorrow for the uncounted lives lost over the past few weeks, I humbly wonder whether anyone is left on the internet to read this lonely missive.

What’s that? There’s only been one death? No… wait, that can’t be right….

The American news media, already a shadow of its former self, has discovered once again that there is simply no reason not to operate in full-blown panic mode, all the time. Instead of “the apocalyptic scourge that is Ebola,” we have “the scourge that is media hyperventilating over Ebola in apocalyptic tones.” Panic draws eyeballs to the screen. Panic sells. This spills over into the world of politics on an even more primitive level, one that harkens back to Machiavelli: “fear works.” It is easier for politicians to get the populace to fear than it is to love. ‘Twas always thus.

In a week filled with pearl-clutching, there will always be one Republican who stands above the pack in fear-mongering. This week, that dubious prize goes to the executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, who tweeted the following suggestions for a rational response to Ebola:

People with Ebola in the US need to be humanely put down immediately.

The protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole area. That will save lives.

Ready for the delicious irony? This is a guy who calls himself pro-life. This is one small step away from Monty Python’s famous “Bring out your dead” sketch, in fact. Nothing like “compassionate conservatism,” is there?

Phyllis Schlafly, who is apparently still around, was quick to identify the real problem:

Obama doesn’t want America to believe that we’re exceptional. He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude.

Other Republicans were quick to jump on board a conspiracy theory making the rounds in Rightwingistan: that ISIS fighters are already streaming across America’s southern border. Haven’t heard this one? Here’s Tom Cotton, Republican running for the Senate in Arkansas:

The problem is with Mark Pryor and Barack Obama refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and refusing to secure our border. I’ll change that when I’m in the United States Senate. And I would add, it’s not just an immigration problem. We now know that it’s a security problem. Groups like the Islamic State collaborate with drug cartels in Mexico who have clearly shown they’re willing to expand outside the drug trade into human trafficking and potentially even terrorism. They could infiltrate our defenseless border and attack us right here in places like Arkansas.

Here’s Duncan Hunter, House member from California, who has a list right there in his hand of ten ISIS fighters who have already been detained at the border:

If you really want to protect Americans from ISIS, you secure the southern border — it’s that simple. They caught them at the border, therefore we know that ISIS is coming across the border. If they catch five or ten of them then you know there’s going to be dozens more that did not get caught by the border patrol. ISIS doesn’t have a navy, they don’t have an air force, they don’t have nuclear weapons. The only way that ISIS is going to harm Americans is by coming through the southern border — which they already have.

This led the Department of Homeland Security to try to interject some reality into this dark world of paranoid Republican fantasy, by issuing a complete denial:

The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border.

But, you know, that doesn’t mean Republicans can’t go out and campaign on the non-existent threat. Hey, it’s a free country, right? Salon had some fun with this, plus the three other “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” themes that seem to be the sum total of the Republican Party’s campaign playbook:

You don’t have to use all four. It’s more like ordering a combo platter at a restaurant: mix-and-match a plate of two or three different items out of a possible total of four.

You can say that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that Ebola-stricken ISIS members are trying to infiltrate the country through its porous border; that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter; that Ebola-stricken Africans are trying to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter, etc. All of these things are happening, or they’re not, but they could.

President Obama, most generously, is too incompetent to stop any of these things from happening; more likely, he wants them to happen and is abetting their happening, since his end-game is and has always been destruction of the country from the inside.

We don’t think that any Republican Senate candidate has threaded the needle between all four yet — as in, “Ebola-stricken Africans are teaming up with ISIS in Mexico, crossing the porous border, and marching to Washington to infiltrate the White House and its vulnerable security perimeter.” Has any candidate said this yet? If not, first one one [sic] wins a combo platter at Sizzler.

You know what might help in this crisis-to-end-all-crises? Having a Surgeon General in office. President Obama nominated someone for the job last November, but his confirmation has been blocked ever since. For purely ideological reasons. This needs a little more attention from the media, especially considering their absolute obsession with Ebola right now. Continue reading Friday Talking Points [323] — Is There Anybody Out There?

What Is Happening to the Children

DDWhat’s happening to the children? I bet your first thought is which children? The kidnapped girls in Nigeria who captured the interest of the world, gaining commitments from international governments to send troops to pursue their return—but suddenly vanished from our imaginations, or at least our television screens and social media accounts?  Or the 40,000 children massed along the US southern border with Mexico, whose 1,000-mile pilgrimages were met with protests, demanding their immediate return to countries and communities where they would be met by death and rape, the violence of  promised threats from criminal gangs? Or maybe the uncounted and silent thousands of children who suffer from hunger because food assistance was cut by the Congress to “help” the balance sheet of federal deficits driven by Wall Street and tax giveaways to corporations, who are leaving the country in a huff because they want more even as we give the children less.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

The Lost Boys of the Sudan. Duane Romanell photo.

Thousands of children are refugees, displaced by conflict violence, whose only hope is to abandon their homes with their families and flee into the unknown. They live on the edge of civilization, marginalized as temporaries, their lives suspended from education and the security of a society rooting for them to find a future of success. As refugees, they live in a world in which hope is denied.

What’s happening to the education of US children? Why are states and communities resisting a national standard that allows any methodology and curriculum to meet the new standard?

Why is there a virus that suddenly emerges in 47 states that is sending hundreds of children to hospitals and has registered more US deaths than Ebola, with only miniscule public outcry?

Why are teachers engaging in sex with students, according to reports from Louisiana where two female teachers are alleged to have had a threesome with a male high school student; in Virginia where a married female teacher admits to having sex with four high school students; in Red Bank, NJ where a male substitute teacher is accused of having an ongoing sexual relationship with a student; in Bucks County, PA where a female middle school band teacher is accused of having sex with a student inside her vehicle; in Maplewood, NJ where a female teacher is charged with having oral sex with 15-year-olds on school property; in Brooklyn, NY where a male math and science teacher at one of the city’s elite high schools is charged with having sex with at least six female students, supported by evidence from videos and texts; in New Hampshire, where a male teacher is accused of having sex with a student in his classroom and encouraged the student to cover it up in an e-mail; in El Paso, TX which has reported four incidents so far in 2014; in South Carolina, where among multiple incidents involving multiple students, a female Berkeley County teacher is alleged to have had sex with a three students during a house party? Continue reading What Is Happening to the Children

Stormy Monday, 10/6/14

StormyMondayExisting inventories of Styrofoam food and beverage containers are now being exhausted as the House of Representatives begins transitioning to paper containers following last week’s official announcement. Rest assured that despite this modest green initiative, the House will continue to be a hotbed of climate change deniers, science-averse throwbacks and assorted bullet-headed regressive Tea Party know-nothings. Fun fact: under Nancy Pelosi’s speakership, the House had already switched to “compostable, corn-based products” as part of the “Green the Capitol Initiative,” before Republicans regained the majority and un-greened everything.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will, I suppose, wow ‘em at the American Enterprise Institute Monday morning, when he’ll take the podium for an hour to “[present] a plan to rebuild America’s military strength and reaffirm the United States as a force for freedom and stability around the world.” Meaning he’ll be mouthing a raft of stale clichés about the crying need to reverse every sensible foreign policy direction the Obama Administration has pursued and double down on those that weren’t very sensible. Emboldened by the worthlessness of his possible 2016 primary rivals, the worthless Jindal will repeat his speech the next day at the Citadel in South Carolina, something Republican presidential hopefuls do before moving on to obscurity.

Gregory Holt, a Muslim incarcerated in an Arkansas prison, might be allowed to grow a beard if the Supreme Court finds in his favor. Had Holt thought to commit his offenses (which included stabbing his girlfriend in the chest and cutting her throat) in any of 44 other state jurisdictions, or federally, he could already have grown one. Argument in the case begins Monday.

Has Thomas Duncan infected anyone else in the United States with the Ebola virus? Whether he has or not, US mainstream media will continue a torrent of poorly informed, embarrassingly hyperbolic, offensively America-centric coverage this week, even as it mostly ignores the situation in western Africa, where urgent efforts to staunch the epidemic continue. Among other recent developments, successful containment strategies in Nigeria and Senegal are now being studied for application in other countries.

Duncan ‘s condition was downgraded from serious to critical on Saturday, while further names were added to the list of those being monitored for possible infection after contact with him. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/6/14

Sunday Talks, 10/5/14

On ABC’s This Week, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Tom Frieden will discuss the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will discuss the current economy. CNN Crossfire . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 10/5/14

Friday Talking Points [322] -- Games the Whole Family Can Play

FTP3Since we devoted last week’s column to Eric Holder’s record, we’ve got two weeks worth of stuff to cover today, so we’re going to have to whip through things in a whirlwind fashion. But we have included not just one… not just two… but three reader-participation contests in this week’s edition, for those who want to join in the fun in the comments. Ready for all that? Buckle up, then, here we go.

We got some good economic news, as it was revealed that the American economy grew a whopping 4.6 percent in the last quarter, and the unemployment rate went down to 5.9 percent. This probably won’t make much of an impact in the midterms, but both represent continuing good news on the economic front.

The head of the Secret Service abruptly resigned, after she got grilled by Congress over several disconcerting lapses which happened on her watch. She fell on her sword immediately, to her credit, rather than drawing the story out day after day.

The air war continues against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which incidentally brings us to our first contest. Rather than “the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq,” why isn’t there a catchy name for this new war? All the Pentagon could come up with was “Operation Inherent Resolve,” which led Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post to suggest an impressive fifty of his own ideas for a war moniker. Can you do better (in quality, if not in quantity)? What would you suggest we call this new war? My only idea is the rather snarky “Operation Here We Go Again,” so let’s hear your ideas in the comments.

Also worth mentioning from Huffington Post was a great article from Bob Cesca to remind us all of what Republican blowhards were saying on the subject of criticizing the president during wartime, from a few years back when a different man sat in the Oval Office’s chair. A handy reference, when listening to Republicans these days. Another handy reference (and a more serious one) for wartime comes from the Washington Post, which ran a fantastic collection of nine ways to look at the mind-boggling “friend or enemy” complexities in the Middle East.

President Obama is getting a good response from the public in the polling on the war, which proves that even in a “war-weary public” there is still a “rally ’round the president” effect.

The Republican stance on the war can politely be called “incoherent.” And that’s me bending over backwards to be polite, mind you. For instance, Senate candidate Scott Brown has the answer to defeat the Islamic State — seal America’s southern border! No, really, that’s his answer. Marco Rubio is very annoyed at President Obama’s war plan, and has his own ideas about what to do:

To confront the Islamic State terrorists, we need a sustained air campaign targeting their leadership, sources of income and supply routes, wherever they exist. We must increase our efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria to fight the terrorist group. And we must arm and support forces in Iraq confronting it, including responsible Iraqi partners and the Kurds. In addition, we must persuade nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it.

The keener-eyed reader will immediately notice that Rubio’s plan is exactly what President Obama is already doing. One hundred percent the same. In other words, Rubio is annoyed at Obama for doing exactly what Rubio would do. “Incoherent” only begins to define such a stance.

Doug Lamborn, Republican House member from Colorado, does have a different idea about what should happen, but that certainly doesn’t make it a better idea. His plan? “A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation.’” That’s right, he wants a mass resignation of America’s generals, in the middle of a war. Lamborn calls on them to “go out in a blaze of glory.”

Now, for just one tiny moment, let’s imagine that, say, Nancy Pelosi had suggested such a thing, back in 2003 or so. Let’s all imagine what the Republican response would have been, shall we? Think the words “treasonous” or “aiding the enemy” or “traitor” would have been used? Yeah, me too.

In the world of politics, the midterm congressional elections loom over us, and the polling took a turn in the direction of Republicans in some key states this week. There was some good polling news for Democrats from Michigan, though, so things are still in flux. In Kansas, a judge ruled that the Democrat who dropped out of the Senate race will not appear on the ballot, which makes a defeat of Republican Pat Roberts a lot more possible.

Which brings us to our second contest. Sarah Palin was back in the news, first for her family getting into a public brawl (you just can’t make this stuff up, folks!), and then for winging in to Kansas in an effort to salvage Pat Roberts with Tea Party voters. Palin, in an appearance, coined a new “Palinism” that we are still scratching our heads over. Here’s the full quote, as Palin compares Roberts to Independent candidate Greg Orman:

He’s not wishy-washy on the fence like you know who, the other guy. I am so thankful because we need those with that stiff spine, with the principles that are so invicted [sic] within them, that they take a side.

“Invicted”? Um… what? Now, I have previously (gasp!) actually defended Sarah Palin when the point she was trying to make was misunderstood by pretty much everyone, but I have to admit, I have no freakin’ idea what she meant to say here. Any guesses? The closest I could even come up with was “invested” but that doesn’t really work. So our second contest is: What Was Sarah Really Trying To Say? Good luck. Serious answers and funny ones will both be appreciated.

In other news from outer space (how’s that for a segue?), America is apparently keeping old nuclear weapons around because we might need them to shoot down asteroids. That’s so cool they could make a movie about it… oh, wait.

And finally, our third contest for you to enjoy (got those entries in for the first two yet?). Because a Republican organization is actually (again, can’t make this up) running a campaign designed to get everyone to think warm and fuzzy thoughts about Republicans. No, really. The ad campaign is called “Republicans Are People, Too,” and features such thoughts as:

“Republicans read the New York Times”

“Republicans have tattoos and beards”

“Republicans enjoy gourmet cooking”

and, most amusingly:

“Republicans have feelings”

Awww… isn’t that cute? They have feelings, the poor dears. Let’s try to add to their list, shall we? How about “Republicans have mighty thin skins,” for starters? Or maybe “Republicans can dish it out, but sure can’t take it thrown back at them.” Or perhaps “Republicans are totally OK not caring about you,” to capture the full flavor of Republicanism. The possibilities are endless, folks, so please let me know what you’d add to the touchy-feely Republican ad campaign. Points will be awarded for snark, points for originality, and points for accuracy. A game the whole family can play! Continue reading Friday Talking Points [322] — Games the Whole Family Can Play

The Secret Service's Open Secrets

DDIt was clear she had been a dedicated agent and administrator, but Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was in over her head. She spent her years in the Service as a field agent in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, and except for four years from 1988 to 1992, she was never directly involved in Presidential Protections or White House duty except for oversight.

From her resumé:

In 1996, Ms. Pierson entered the agency’s supervisory ranks with her selection as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Protective Operations. Later that year, she was transferred to the Tampa Field Office where she served as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge and was responsible for directing Secret Service investigative and protective activities in western Florida. Ms. Pierson established an Electronic Crimes Task Force to investigate cyber crimes in the Tampa Bay area.

In 2005, Ms. Pierson returned to the Office of Protective Operations as Deputy Assistant Director. In this position, Ms. Pierson oversaw the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, Vice Presidential Protective Division, Special Services Division, as well as budgetary operations for 1,200 employees.

Since June 2006, she has held the position of Assistant Director of the Office of Human Resources and Training. As Assistant Director, she was responsible for all human resource programs and training for the Secret Service, including policy development and management of the agency’s Personnel Division, Security Clearance Division, Workforce Planning, Work-Life Programs, and the James J. Rowley Training Center.

Good jobs. But do any of them sound like the kind of hands-on innovation and knowledge of drills required of the world’s most important Master Chief or Sergeant Major, responsible for the daily details and lightning responses, piersonafter long, numbing periods of maudlin ennui, to thwart potential threats against a President from an ever-growing list of crazies?

Did her resumé really prepare her for a laser focus on carrying out the policies and standard of the performance, training and conduct of the Secret Service’s Presidential Protection Division?

One Congress member at Tuesday’s House hearing pointed out that protection detail agents had received no training in 2013 and only one class the year before. Pierson acknowledged different segments of the Service can’t communicate because they use different radio frequencies. But most telling was an inspector general’s report that indicated the rank and file had little trust (less than 50%!) in the bosses, a vital tell that signaled the problems that kept reoccurring and the reasons why they are not fixed.

The breach of the White House and the other recent failures in protection and agent misconduct begin with the loss of personal and professional integrity, apparently widespread among the Protection Division, according to an earlier Inspector General report. That 2012 report reviewed agents soliciting sex workers in Cartagena, Columbia ahead of a Presidential visit, and noted such incidents were numerous. Continue reading The Secret Service’s Open Secrets

A Good Year for the Poses

freehandThe 2014 Values Voter Summit wrapped up Sunday in Washington, and Omni Shoreham Hotel staff must be working hard to expunge the building of the heavy stench of gunpowder and cliché. Like previous editions, this year’s version was a consummate freak show with a gaggle of grotesques worthy of Todd Browning, but even speakers making their second, third or fourth appearance seemed to bring a little extra Republican bile, guile and vile to the festivities this time around.

The theme this year was “Defending the Dream, Defining the Future,” a phrase so vague it could be used for a corporate training seminar, a high school valedictory address, or a Shriners convention. But VVS organizers know what they’re defending and defining; they proudly state their intention is to “inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong.”

Yes, that’s right. The same snake oil they’ve been peddling since the first iteration of the conclave back in 2006. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s terse description of the VVS really summarizes it much better: “An annual political conference bringing together some of the most extreme groups on the religious right.” That includes host organization and lead sponsor, the Family Research Council (which the SPLC calls a hate group), along with other America-hating organizations like Liberty Counsel (shouldn’t that be “council”?) and the American Family Association (which wants to destroy your family, if you’re gay).

But of course the real, ahem, elephant in the room is, as always, the Republican Party, which coyly maintains no “official” connection to the VVS even as elected Republicans madly stampede to its podium year after year to pander, preen and pose. Why, there’s even a presidential straw poll conducted, which purulent demagogue Ted Cruz topped for a second consecutive year, with up-and-coming conservative clod Ben Carson a close second and perennial pious pseudo-Christian Mike Huckabee a distant third.

As always, though, the real “attraction” was the speechifying. The Values Voter Summit showcases more know-nothing arch-conservative blowhards than any venue outside the even bigger freak show known as the United States House of Representatives, and VVS speakers don’t even have to make a pretense of obeisance to parliamentary decorum. Nor do attendees, who seem to spend much of their time whooping like gibbons on nitrous oxide. Thanks to the event’s video archives, which get sadly more generous every year, we can all experience the horror of being at an event we wouldn’t actually be caught dead attending.

The “values voters” were thrilled by lame duck Congresswoman and future convicted felon Michele Bachmann, who described herself, unasked, as “a normal, real person.” She decried the bailout that saved the automobile industry as “gangster government,” said that the “trillion dollar” stimulus that prevented the economy from collapsing “didn’t work so well,” and bragged about introducing “the very first repeal bill” against Obamacare.

She waxed nostalgic about her “deep dive into the leading foreign policy and national security issues of our day.” She also griped about Benghazi, the Bergdahl prisoner swap, and Iran “racing toward completing nuclear weapons,” called Barack Obama “the first anti-Israel President in American history,” averred that Hillary Clinton will be defeated in 2016, and thundered that “it is never too late to save the country.” The fierce urgency of whenever, you might say.

Ted Cruz smirked more than anyone I’ve ever seen not named Bush. He called Obamacare a “disaster,” which I suppose it is if you hate seeing the number of Americans without health coverage drop by 26% and counting. He made a Cat in the Hat joke harking back to his ludicrous “faux-libuster” last year, to show how charmingly self-deprecating his handlers have coached him to be. He served up a tasteless quip about the White House fence-jumper (which he admitted he stole from Jimmy Fallon), and then added one of his own. He called for a debate between Hillary Clinton and the Little Sisters of the Poor. He called the Democratic Party an “extreme radical party.” In short, he said not a single truthful, worthwhile or remotely intelligent thing. Naturally, the crowd loved his speech.

Rick Santorum has appeared at every one of these things so far, and so most of his speech was heavily recycled from his previous heavily recycled speeches. He spent a little of his time hawking his upcoming book, Bella’s Gift, about raising a special needs child. (Will Bella’s gift be saving her old man from having to get a real job for yet another year? Probably not, but we’ll see.) Santorum called the President “a descendant of the French Revolution,” which – bien sûr – was a refreshing change from years of ridiculous allegations about Kenya. Mostly, though, he stuck with the self-evident and obvious, as in his observing at one point that: “You don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.” Continue reading A Good Year for the Poses

Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

StormyMondayA new round of baleful partisan bickering – business as usual, in other words – could get underway this week if the Obama Administration follows through on a trial balloon floated Friday by White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Earnest suggested a Senate confirmation vote to replace outgoing AG Eric Holder could be called in the upcoming lame duck session. If that doesn’t come to pass, I reckon it’ll take Republicans about three and a half minutes to find something else to be hyperbolically indignant about.

Deficit hawks will applaud the timing of this week’s visit to Washington by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In addition to an Oval Office summit focused on trade, energy and climate change, Modi is scheduled to have supper with the President and lunch with the Vice President, but he won’t be eating anything because he’s in the middle of a nine-day fast for Navratri, a religious festival honoring the goddess Durga. I don’t know if there’s some sort of penance aspect to Navratri, but I can’t think of any other reason why Modi will also be meeting with John Boehner. The Speaker’s office has commented that Modi will be offered “beverages.” Presumably, the PM’s polite “No, thank you” will be followed by a hearty “More for me, then” from Boehner, especially if the “beverages” have a measurable alcohol content.

Afghanistan’s new President, Ashraf Ghani, will be sworn in Monday, while his former electoral nemesis Abdullah Abdullah will become the country’s first “chief executive officer.” The two take office just days after the Afghan government’s announcement that thousands of civil servants will have to wait for their paychecks this month because the cupboard is bare, a sure sign that Afghanistan is moving from failed state to red state, American-style. John Podesta leads the US delegation at the inauguration.

One of Ghani’s first orders of business, at least as far as the White House is concerned, is to sign the new “Bilateral Security Agreement,” which outgoing Afghan President Karzai had refused to ratify. The agreement would permit 12,000 US and NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014. To what end, ultimately, I’m afraid I have no idea.

Literature & Law of American Slavery, a free non-credit online course offered by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, begins Tuesday. I recommend this because the eight-week course is taught by John Matteson, a too-rare example of a white man whose thoughts on the relationship of slavery to today’s race relations, and particularly to institutionalized violence against African-Americans, are well worth careful consideration. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/29/14

Sunday Talks, 9/28/14

ABC’s This Week will interview John “Hell no!” Boehner. About what, I don’t know, since he and the House Republicans haven’t done a damned thing except block things that would actually help people. Former FBI . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/28/14