If 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
A 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
Labor Day in an election year. Enjoy it, because tomorrow the gloves come off. Hammer time. Time for the excrement to plot a course for the fan. Time for September call-ups of every last little shred of dubious opposition research that campaigns big and small, Democratic and Republican alike, focus-grouped unsuccessfully all summer. Time for pollsters – good, bad, indifferent, biased or unbiased – to line their spreadsheets up against the wall. Time for the kitchen sink and all who sail in her. Ain’t democracy grand? New season notwithstanding, this might be a very good time to turn off the TV.
Jurors in the trial of Smilin’ Bob McDonnell, who used to be Governor of Virginia, and his wife Maureen, who used to be its First Lady, will receive instruction from Judge James R. Spencer and begin deliberations this week. Jury morale has been kept admirably confidential, but I don’t see how the jurors can feel anything but relief at not having to listen to any more testimony from either of the accused.
On Wednesday, Vice President Biden heads to – gasp! – New Hampshire. He’s going as part of a continuing White House series of speeches and events focused on the economy, but the mainstream media will be crafting its own narrative for the visit. Expect 24 to 48 hours of asinine headlines like “Biden: Serious About ’16?” or “Veep Reads Granite State Tea Leaves” or “Clinton/Biden?” or “Biden/Clinton?” or “Hey, Who’s the Old Guy?” At some point midweek, I predict Wolf Blitzer will wet himself on the air, and he might not be the only one.
Tuesday in Corpus Christi, Texas’ voter ID law (or, more accurately described, Texas’ transparent attempt to suppress probable votes for Democrats by raising the bugaboo of “voter fraud” and invoking phony concern for “confidence in the system”) will go to court. One election law expert interviewed for the piece at the link believes the case could go all the way to the Supreme Court. Which, in these days of modern times, as the Firesign Theatre once put it, could be very unfortunate if that’s how things unfold.
The President goes to Europe this week, first to Estonia for a visit designed to reassure that nation it won’t be next on Vladimir Putin’s Back in the USSR Comeback Tour, and then to a NATO summit in Wales, the first time a sitting United States President has visited there. Nobody knows whether the notorious tan suit is being packed for the trip, but you can bet all the “news” networks have deployed “journalists” to the White House for the latest presidential wardrobe revelations. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 9/1/14
Among other heightened security precautions, helicopter flyovers were conducted over Boston as law enforcement officials scanned for signs of excessive radiation in advance of today’s marathon. If all goes well and the roughly 36,000 expected participants and many thousands of spectators remain safe, an added bonus is that Big Papi won’t have occasion to utter the F-word to a sold-out Fenway this year. Unless it’s regarding the inability of the Sox to play .500 ball through their first 19 games, of course.
Deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy continues to host dozens of heavily armed nimrods who apparently believe the Bill of Rights somehow guarantees freedom from grazing fees, or something. Compounding the nimrod factor, Nevada Senator Dean Heller, a – surprise! – Republican, recently described Bundy’s flea-bitten mob of sycophants as “patriots” and is now demanding a Senate hearing into the brouhaha.
The President heads to Asia on Tuesday for an eight-day junket including stops in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines. He’ll likely tout the supposed benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sprawling, dubious multilateral trade deal whose negotiations the Administration has admitted are currently at an impasse over a variety of issues. The trip was originally scheduled for last fall, but was postponed when Republicans decided to stamp their collective feet, hold their collective breath, and shut down the government.
Conveniently, perhaps too conveniently, the rescheduled trip comes on the heels of the Administration’s shocking refusal to respond to an online petition to deport Justin Bieber, a petition which garnered almost three times the signatures officially required to trigger a response. Really, Mr. President? Really? Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/21/14
You’re no doubt delighted that your hardworking Congressional representatives have begun their desperately needed two-week break to recharge their batteries, get a little spring sun on their overwhelmingly white and male faces, and mull over “new” legislative ideas that haven’t a prayer of becoming law (which of course is, mostly, a good thing). On the brighter side, Virginia Democrat Jim Moran’s notion of adding a new housing stipend to Congressional remuneration appears to be a non-starter, so at least they’ll be lollygagging at their existing undeserved rate of pay.
Meanwhile, 2.4 million unemployed Americans will spend the same two weeks tearing their hair out over unpaid bills, wondering how they’re going to feed their kids, and continuing not to matter worth a damn to Republicans.
John Boehner kicked off his spring break today with a surprise visit to Afghanistan, accompanied by seven senior House Republicans. He’s expected to hug anyone in uniform he sees, lurch aimlessly around the streets of Kabul in search of happy hour, and top off the junket with a tear-stained tribute to whatever the hell it is American troops are supposed to be accomplishing there.
Following the Bureau of Land Management’s weekend return of 400 confiscated head of cattle back to deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the ludicrous confrontation between the government and Bundy’s creepy nitwit militia buddies appears to be over, at least until the BLM attempts to pursue other remedies against the scofflaw and the nitwits get all riled up again. Stay tuned.
Today and tomorrow in New York, China and the United States will hold talks on dealing with North Korea, followed by a third session in Washington on Thursday. While I have no expertise in international relations, it seems to me the two nations could do worse than shipping 400 head of cattle Kim Jong-un’s way for starters. It might at least buy a little time. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 4/14/14
Nine West Virginia counties begin the week under state and federal emergency declarations after last Thursday’s spill of up to 7,500 gallons of toxic 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River. 300,000 West Virginians are without safe water and are expected to remain so for “several days,” according to area utility West Virginia American Water. The leak has prompted over a hundred people to make their way to hospitals for various symptoms, but the folks in charge at Freedom Industries, owners of the errant MCHM, probably feel just awful about the whole goshdarned thing, so there’s that.
Early in the week, the House and Senate are expected to approve a temporary spending measure to fund the government all the way until… Friday! Once a temporary measure is agreed on, both chambers will turn their collective attention to an omnibus spending bill. What could go wrong? Plenty, but there’s really no point in panicking yet. Best to wait until midweek.
The Senate will also go back to work on an emergency unemployment benefits extension, after Harry Reid backtracked on Republican insistence that the cost be offset. You were right the first time, Harry. The idea of an offset is indeed “foolishness.” Speaking of foolishness, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made the asinine claim last Friday that his party’s focus is “on employment, not unemployment.” Consider it an indication of what any Senate agreement on unemployment will face once Cantor and his fellow jackals in the House get hold of it.
It’s one of those delegated duties that have led countless politicians to refuse a position at the bottom of a presidential ticket. Vice President Biden will lead the Presidential Delegation to Monday’s memorial service for Ariel Sharon. Hey, maybe at least there’ll be a nice buffet afterward. Accompanying the Vice President will be Reps. Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Eliot Engel, plus US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and one of his predecessors, Daniel Kurtzer.
John Kerry will not be attending the memorial service. Instead, he’ll be in Paris for multilateral talks on Syria. Kerry is trying mightily to get the Syrian National Coalition to attend peace talks with the Assad regime.
Wednesday, the President heads to North Carolina for another in his series of addresses on the economy, this one focused on manufacturing. Expect common sense, some innovative proposals, and a giant shrug from Congressional Republicans. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 1/13/14
The President and First Lady will attend a national memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg Tuesday, but other details of the trip are still unannounced. Mandela’s state funeral will be held Sunday.
In the Obamas’ absence, Vice President and Dr. Biden will fill in today and tomorrow as hosts of the White House Congressional Holiday Balls. Presumably the Bidens have been warned to watch for untoward events like Michele Bachmann stealing silverware or Rand Paul peeing behind a potted palm.
The Bidens signed a condolence book at the South African Embassy, which has been hosting candlelight prayer vigils. The Vice President will speak at a National Cathedral memorial service on Wednesday morning, ending a week of mourning in Washington.
Others traveling to South Africa this week to honor Mandela’s memory include Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush the Lesser, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the prime ministers of the UK, Spain, Canada and Australia, the presidents of France, Brazil and India, and, from the non-political world, Pope Francis, Prince Charles, Peter Gabriel, Oprah and Bono.
The United States will also be represented by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have announced their intention to mar the week by “protesting” outside various events, while South Africans look on and marvel at how a nation could tolerate such hatemongering.
Phil Schiliro, former chief congressional liaison for the Obama White House, returns to Washington this week to help with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Described as a “short-term appointment,” the gig will keep Schiliro busy coordinating with various government departments and with Congress. Naturally, Republicans will impugn his moral fiber, condemn him as out of step with mainstream values, and accuse him of murdering Jimmy Hoffa, Vince Foster and Jesus. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 12/9/13
Will HHS Secretary Sebelius fall on her sword? Will Websitegate force Barack Obama from office? Will Republicans ever shut their damn mouths and concentrate, for once, on doing something positive, rather than devoting all their time and tons of public money to futile attempts at de-legitimizing this President? No, no, and hell no.
After initial refusals, followed by scheduling issues, it now appears that Secretary Sebelius will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Expect majority members on the Committee to grandstand vigorously, hoping to compile some tasty video clips they can use for next year’s reelection efforts when they try to convince their constituents to save them from having to go and earn an honest living for another two years.
Wednesday morning, the 29-member Conference Committee holds its first meeting on the budget. Can Democrats and Republicans agree on a way forward? Can anything actually get done? Well, one thing that might get done this week is the passage of a House resolution formally giving the President a wag of the finger for having the colossal temerity to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7. Laissez les bipartisan temps rouler! Continue reading Stormy Monday, 10/28/13