Out of California

And so begins my first full day in Dallas, Texas. After having lived in Southern California all my life, here I am. Phase II, as it were.

The journey–in a Ford Fiesta that probably won’t be mine for long–began early Saturday morning and ended Sunday evening. Fortunately the trip was without problems as far as the car went.

Highlights of the trip, in no particular order:

It being over.

Hank FM, which appears to be out of Ft. Worth, played some great old school country (including Buck Owens, no less) during one of the prettier parts of the trip, the stretch of I-20 being I-10 and I-30.

The generosity and hospitality of Breck and his daughter.

Remarkably organized drivers who generally made it a habit, per signs indicating that they should do so, to keep to the right unless passing. Far more civilized than California, for the most part.


My usual equilibrium problems, which made much of the trip unpleasant.

A combination of an inadequate radio (and no iPod, CD player, or suchlike), and a dearth of radio stations. There was simply no radio signals to be had for parts of the trip.

An overnight stop in an crappy Motel 6 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The put me in a room that was already inhabited by quite a few mosquitoes. Had to ask for another room. Schlepped my stuff to the other room, at which time the COPD kicked in with a vengence. Then there were the bikers a few doors down, who partied until about 2:00 in the morning. Worst motel I’ve ever stayed in.

Closed rest areas. Oodles.

Other notable aspects:

Briefly surveying the charming vista that is Ciudad Juarez, from I-10 driving through El Paso.

The sheer labyrinthine chaos of getting from Point A to Point B, in and around DFW. Lots and lots of construction. Somehow I only got lost once, for a half block, before I made an illegal U-turn and got back on course.

Lots of 75 MPH speed limits in Texas–some even 80 MPH.

And so begins Phase II. No idea what to expect.

Squeeze Me?

O’er the land of the freeeeeeee…

Mandatory Voting? Obama Says It Would Be ‘Transformative’

They say the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. President Barack Obama wants to add one more: voting.

Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting in the U.S. while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland on Wednesday. Asked about the corrosive influence of money in U.S. elections, Obama digressed into the related topic of voting rights and said the U.S. should be making it easier — not harder— for people to vote.

Just ask Australia, where citizens have no choice but to vote, the president said.

“If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country,” Obama said, calling it potentially transformative. Not only that, Obama said, but universal voting would “counteract money more than anything.”

Disproportionately, Americans who skip the polls on Election Day are younger, lower-income and more likely to be immigrants or minorities, Obama said. “There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls,” he said in a veiled reference to efforts in a number of Republican-led states to make it harder for people to vote.

Statistically speaking, Obama is correct. Less than 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterms, according to the United States Election Project. And a Pew Research Center study found that those avoiding the polls in 2014 tended to be younger, poorer, less educated and more racially diverse.

At least two dozen countries have some form of compulsory voting, including Belgium, Brazil and Argentina. In many systems, absconders must provide a valid excuse or face a fine, although a few countries have laws on the books that allow for potential imprisonment.

At issue, Obama said, is the outsize influence that those with money can have on U.S. elections, where low overall turnout often gives an advantage to the party best able to turn out its base. Obama has opposed Citizens United and other court rulings that cleared the way for super PACs and unlimited campaign spending, but embraced such groups in his 2012 re-election campaign out of fear he’d be outspent.

Obama said he thought it would be “fun” for the U.S. to consider amending the Constitution to change the role that money plays in the electoral system. But don’t hold your breath.

“Realistically, given the requirements of that process, that would be a long-term proposition,” he said.

I have no words.

Deconstructing AP on Iran

This is hilarious. Horn broke, watch for sarcasm.

US, Iran press for nuke pact; lesser announcement on table?

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The United States and Iran plunged back into negotiation Sunday, hoping to end once and for all a decades-long standoff that has raised the specter of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, a new atomic arms race in the Middle East and even a U.S. or Israeli military intervention. Two weeks out from a deadline for a framework accord, some officials said the awesomeness of the diplomatic task meant negotiators would likely settle for an announcement that they’ve made enough progress to justify further talks.

Two weeks, eh? Must be time for a Manage Your Expectations trial balloon.

Bonus points for using “awesomeness” in a context unrelated to the San Fernando Valley.

We’re announcing that we missed the deadline, and will ergo ignore the deadline, with a smiley at the end. That has a nice logical, geopolitical heft to it.

Such a declaration would hardly satisfy American critics of the Obama administration’s diplomatic outreach to Iran and hardliners in the Islamic Republic, whose rumblings have grown more vociferous and threatening as the parties have narrowed many of their differences. And, officially, the United States and its partners insist their eyes are on a much bigger prize: “A deal that would protect the world,” Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized this weekend, “from the threat that a nuclear-armed Iran could pose.”

We conservatives get more and more like the 12th Imam In The Well folks all the time, I take it from that first sentence, don’t we?

Cue Captain Beefeart, “gophers rumbling.”

Eyes on the prize, suckas. A non-nuclear Iran in our time.

Yet as Kerry arrived in Switzerland for several days of discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, no one was promising the breakthrough. One diplomat said new differences surfaced only in the last negotiating round of what has been a 15-month process, including a sudden Iranian demand that a nuclear facility buried deep underground be allowed to keep hundreds of centrifuges that are used for enriching uranium — material that can be used in a nuclear warhead. Previously, the Iranians had accepted the plant would be transformed into one solely for scientific research, that diplomat and others have said.

That would be a feature of, not a bug in, the Iranian negotiating-posture app as it were. It’s called bait-and-switch. LMGTFY.

The deal that had been taking shape would see Iran freeze its nuclear program for at least a decade, with restrictions then gradually lifted over a period of perhaps the following five years. Washington and other world powers would similarly scale back sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy in several phases. Iran says it is only interested in peaceful energy generation and medical research, but much of the world has suspected it of maintaining covert nuclear weapons ambitions. And the U.S. and its ally Israel have at various times threatened military action if Iran’s program advances too far.

The writers neglect to note that many economic sanctions against Iran, as well as US support for UN enrichment prohibitions, were proactively dropped by the Obama Administration before the negotiations began. Good faith money, as it were, was the argument. That turned out well.

Speaking Sunday on CBS News, Kerry said most of the differences between Iran and the negotiating group of the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia were “political,” not technical. He didn’t elaborate, but political matters tend to include levels of inspections, Iran’s past military work linked to its nuclear program and how quickly to scale back sanctions. Technical matters refer, for example, to how many centrifuges Iran can maintain, what types of those machines and how much plutonium it would be allowed to produce from a planned heavy water reactor.

Apparently, then, the plutonium issue has been addressed to everybody’s satisfaction? We may need to back up a bit here. I would think the idea of Iran being allowed to possess and/or enrich plutonium might work against non-preliferation in the Middle East, yes?

At some point in these Iran narratives I inevitably think, If only Israel had told the US: Love ya guys, but we need to take care of this. BRB.

Less than four months ago, senior officials talked optimistically about reaching a preliminary agreement by March, with three months of additional talks only for any remaining technical work. Back then, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he expected “an agreement on substance” by March 31. Top Western and Iranian negotiators issued a joint statement vowing to use the time until June 30 only “if necessary … to finalize any possible remaining technical and drafting work.”

At least Chamberlain didn’t waste a lot of time and paper. (Although he did help buy Great Britain time to re-arm, it can be argued.)

An Agreement Of Substance would make a grand parody video theme for all this.

But two diplomats said ahead of this week’s talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne that persistent differences at the negotiating table had diminished the chances of such a substantial agreement. Instead, they said, the sides were more likely to restrict themselves to a vague oral statement indicating that enough headway had been made to continue negotiations. They weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive talks and demanded anonymity.

I saw Vague Oral Argument open for The Nattering Nabobs in ’82.

A senior U.S. official rejected that assessment. “We are working toward a framework of substance,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing similar constraints. Top diplomats and technical experts from the U.S. and Iran met Sunday. Kerry and Zarif were to hold their first discussion Monday.

No no no, Framework Of Substance is sooooo much better. We have created the framework for an agreement which we hope will be substantive.

Anything short of a written agreement will only encourage congressional critics of the Iran diplomacy, who’ve seized on various pieces that have leaked from the negotiation to press their case that the Obama administration is conceding too much. Republicans and some Democrats believe a deal would be insufficient and unenforceable, allowing Iran to eventually become a nuclear-armed state. And to that end, they’ve made a series of proposals to undercut or block an agreement, from requiring Senate say-so on a deal to ordering new sanctions against Iran while negotiations are ongoing.

They have seized on various pieces. What a marvelous way to put it. Seized, like an mustache-twirling oligarch grabbing a lolipop from a blind child.

Various pieces subtext: They don’t know what’s in the agreement; or why it is so awesome in its awesomeness; or why we should trust the Iranians in spite of the fact that they have been killing American soldiers, often by proxy, since the Islamic Revolution of the Carter era; nor do the Senate 47 realize the treasonous irrationality of their blah blah woof woof. Basically, Republicans just like to bitch and moan at Democrats, who do a perfectly fine job of statecraft and suchlike.

At least the writers didn’t throw Republicans and the Iranian Endtimes Well Boy in the same bucket in that paragraph. Although it pretty much sets up the concluding sentence of the paragraph, which could be said more briefly as follows: Fucking obstructionist conservatives. We oppose any deal, because we want to go to war with Iran. Uh, no. What we oppose is Iran having nuclear weapons, until quite a few years after it rejoins the civilized world–if it ever does.

Last week, 47 of the Senate’s 54 Republicans signed an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning that any nuclear pact they cut with President Barack Obama could expire the day he leaves office. The action prompted fierce criticism from top administration officials, who declared it an unprecedented interference in the president’s conduct of U.S. foreign policy.

Although–there was nothing unprecedented about it, and the argument that it was unprecidented was motivated by the Administration’s desire to change the subject from the Bad Deal That Let’s Iran Have Nukes, to Those Bad Nasty Evil Obstructionist Republicans, smh.

Appearing on CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended the letter Sunday, accusing Democrats of selective outrage and predicting the emergence of a “very bad” nuclear deal. Its author, freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas added that he had no regrets, saying the blowback only underscored that Obama wasn’t negotiating for “the hardest deal possible.”

I wonder if Mitch gave counter-examples that the writers ignored for the second time in this article?

Four quoted words from the author of The Worst Insult A President Has Ever Endured? Must have been getting close to your word count, dear authors?

In his interview, Kerry said Tehran “to its credit” has entirely lived up to an interim agreement reached in November 2013.

Wait, so there are inspections going on already? If that were the case, what’s to negotiate on the “political” end–the end the writers said deals with inspection regimes and the like? Or are the authors just coming out and calling Kerry a liar when he says the Iranians have complied entirely with an inspections regime they have not yet signed onto?

But that understanding was only a stopgap measure, not doing nearly enough to satisfy the long-term concerns of Israel or Iran’s Sunni Arab rivals in the Middle East, or the United States. Experts say the combination of limits on Iran’s uranium program only gives the world two to three months to react if the country tries to surreptitiously “break out” toward nuclear weapons development. The U.S. says it needs at least a year of cushion time, lasting for at least a decade, in a comprehensive agreement.

That was dangerously close to an accurate paragraph–although it ignores that as time goes on, Iranian nuclear facilities will be further hardened and hidden, as has gone on for quite a few years now.

It’s unclear if negotiators will reach that point, putting the United States in a difficult spot. Fearful Iran could be playing for time, Obama, Kerry and various officials have vowed to walk away from the talks if they show no sign of pointing toward a satisfactory agreement. And they’ve repeatedly stressed that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” But none of them have spelled out what the U.S. strategy for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran would be then.

No, really, they are fearful that the Iranians are playing for time? They are playing for time.

The Obama Administration won’t walk away. That is an absurd assertion.

As to the last sentence, the writers should engage in anatomically-impossible acts. It is a lie from stem to stern. Cartoon stuff, actually.

See, I’m just writing on my stupid little blog here. I am not, like, yunno, AP an’ shit. If I engage in cartoonery, it’s no harm no foul–nobody reads it.

The penultimate paragraph of the piece unraveled the many paragraphs that preceded it. And then the 100% prevarication of the last sentence of the article. Remarkable douchehattery.

What if Hillary were a member of the U.S. Military?

Marine Corps Times, December, 2013:

A Marine Corps officer…faces the end of his military career for transmitting classified information over an unsecured network….

The case against Maj. Jason Brezler…stems from a warning he sent last year to U.S. troops in Afghanistan about a shady Afghan police chief whose teenage “tea boy” is accused of killing three Marines at at joint base in Helmand province. Shortly after he sent the warning, his colleague expressed concern that Brezler had shared classified information through improper channels. Both officers self-reported, and an investigation ensued.

Brezler also is accused of mishandling more than 100 other classified documents by keeping them on a personal hard drive. He says his team was not issued computers and resorted to working on their personal laptops and sharing documents on thumb drives.

Brezler has been ordered to an administrative hearing, called a board of inquiry, at which he will face accusations of substandard performance and misconduct, or moral or professional dereliction. The hearing is scheduled for December in New Orleans, headquarters of Marine Forces Reserve.

Washington Post, March, 2000:

Justice Department officials say they generally do not prosecute civilians at the CIA, Pentagon, State Department or other federal agencies who mishandle secret documents, as long as there is no evidence of criminal intent, the information is not divulged to a third party, and the employees are disciplined administratively by their agencies….

Military personnel often are treated more severely. Jail sentences or stiff administrative penalties, such as demotions and discharges, are common for service members caught removing classified material without authorization.

“If I had top-secret information on my home computer” while on active duty, “I would be investigated by the criminal investigative division, I would lose my clearance forever, and if it were top-secret or above, as it was in the Deutch case, I cannot imagine not being court-martialed–with jail time,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, an author and military analyst.




Woe unto he who misattributes


Comment would be redundant


But if I have to explain it, see the President’s comments today re “voter suppression” vis. photo IDs.


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