Monday, July 27, 2015

Iran, Iran So Far Away

Mike Huckabee is no idiot. Neither is Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, or any of the other candidates vying to be the Republican Party's 2016 presidential candidate.

It's easy to rip on them for some of their outlandish comments on air, in print, and online. And it's easy to shake our heads - individually and collectively - and wonder if this is really the best we have as options from the conservative side of the political aisle.

Today's (well, yesterday's) eyebrow-raising campaign headline comes to us from the Huckabee camp, thanks to the former Arkansas governor's postulate that President Barack Obama is marching Israel “to the door of the oven” with the United States' proposed nuclear program development deal with Iran.

Here's Huckabee's full quote, said in an interview with Breitbart News' editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow:
"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It's got to be stopped."
The statement may have been nothing more than a calculated ploy to boost Huckabee's position among a large group of GOP candidates currently languishing in the polls, and at risk of not being included in the first Republican primary debate on August 6. Currently, only three of the 16 candidates (former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Trump) seem a lock to participate (only the Top 10 qualify to be on the Fox News-sponsored event). After all, Huckabee has been opposed to the deal since its inception, repeatedly slamming it as dangerous for the U.S. and Israel since even before the deal was forged.

If headlines - and a chance to thrust himself into the public eye, dispensing Trump from the honors - was what Huckabee wanted, he sure got them.

But at what cost?

The Democratic National Committee (among others, such as myself) took issue with Huckabee’s analogy to the Holocaust, saying such rhetoric “has no place in American politics.”

“Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable,” said DNC chair and Democratic Party Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida. “Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement.” And the National Jewish Democratic Council immediately called on members of the Republican Party to denounce Huckabee’s comments, saying it is “not only disgustingly offensive to the President and the White House, but shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today.”

For the record, I am not expecting such denouncement to take place, given the number of GOP candidates who disagree vehemently with the terms of the Iran proposal. Nor do I disagree with his assessment that this may very well be a horrible deal.

For a number of reasons, I don't like this agreement, even though several high-ranking former Israeli security officials seem to think it could be worse (the general consensus being that this is the best agreement out of a lot of bad possibilities)Two weeks ago, I wrote about my many concerns about this topic, which is now in the hands of the United States Congress. I don't feel it goes far enough; the agreement does not include "anytime, anywhere" inspections to verify compliance, which is something I think really needs to be part of any potential compact, and which many in Congress seemed to believe would be part of any such deal. Sans such inspections, which give instant access to all possible nuclear sites in Iran, the world can't verify whether Iran is actually complying with the deal. Right now, the terms of this proposal allow for a 24-day window for U.N. inspectors to examine sites suspected of nuclear activity.

Let me tell you, a lot of things can happen in 3 1/2 weeks. I can teach Macbeth or The Crucible to high school students in that time span. I can run through an entire order of my meal replacement shakes. Heck, just last summer, I spent that much time on a 5,000-mile-long road trip that included stays in Savannah, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Twenty-four days is plenty of time for things to "go missing" when it comes to suspected nuclear components that might not be in compliance with international mandates.

According to Think Progress,
The deal reached between world powers and Iran offers the proverbial carrot of lifted sanctions, which unfreezes $100 billion in Iranian assets. Should Iran violate the deal, however, those sanctions go right back in place. After five years of compliance, Iran could buy and sell conventional arms on the international market, and the same for ballistic missiles in eight years. 
The stick has to do with Iran’s nuclear capability - it agrees to curb the amount of time it takes to produce a nuclear weapon from a few months to over 10 years. Iran agreed to sell or dilute all enriched uranium it has, and also not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years. The agreement would cut the amount of Iranian low-enriched uranium from about 7,500 kilograms to 300 kilograms - a 96 percent drop. This is well below the level of concern displayed by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the U.N. in 2012.
So yeah, there's a lot to be concerned about.

Rhetoric aside, Huckabee's position appears to differ from what he wrote seven years ago; he certainly seemed to indicate he was not opposed to using diplomacy to work things out with Iran in a January/February 2008 Foreign Affairs article entitled "America's Priorities in the War on Terror":
Another way to contain Iran is through diplomacy. We must be as aggressive diplomatically as we have been militarily since 9/11. We must intensify our diplomatic efforts with China, India, Russia, South Korea, and European states and persuade them to put more economic pressure on Iran. These countries have been far more interested in pursuing profit than preventing proliferation. They must realize that if the United States does end up taking military action, they will bear some responsibility for having failed to maximize peaceful options. …
Sun-tzu's ancient wisdom is relevant today: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Yet we have not had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years; the U.S. government usually communicates with the Iranian government through the Swiss embassy in Tehran. When one stops talking to a parent or a friend, differences cannot be resolved and relationships cannot move forward. The same is true for countries. The reestablishment of diplomatic ties will not occur automatically or without the Iranians' making concessions that serve to create a less hostile relationship. …
Whereas there can be no rational dealings with al Qaeda, Iran is a nation-state seeking regional clout and playing the game of power politics we understand and can skillfully pursue. We cannot live with al Qaeda, but we might be able to live with a contained Iran. Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons on my watch. But before I look parents in the eye to explain why I put their son's or daughter's life at risk, I want to do everything possible to avoid conflict. We have substantive issues to discuss with Tehran. Recent direct negotiations about Iraq have not been productive because they have not explored the full range of issues. We have valuable incentives to offer Iran: trade and economic assistance, full diplomatic relations, and security guarantees.
Don't get me wrong; the threat of a nuclear Iran is real, regardless of the language incorporated, according to American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Director Mitchell Bard. In a statement to MSNBC, he noted, "[Huckabee's] remark about marching the Israelis to the door of the oven was a poor choice of words, but reflects his understanding that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel and this deal could give them the means to carry out that threat."

A poor choice, indeed. The use of incredibly insensitive language by Huckabee crossed a line, and not in a good way. It’s one thing to oppose the deal; it’s quite another to evoke the image of Jews being incinerated to try to express what I believe to be a politically-motivated objection to that deal. And as I stated earlier in this commentary, if publicity was what he wanted (and he's been languishing around the 3 percent mark among GOP voters), boy, did it work. And there's no debate about that fact.


CAMPAIGN 2016 NEWS OF THE DAY:

FACEPALM NEWS OF THE DAY:

FLORIDA NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Independent Journal Review: "Check Out What One Man Did to Get Himself Banned From Starbucks…For Life" - Time to switch to Sanka.

WEIRD NEWS OF THE DAY:

SPORTS NEWS OF THE DAY:

VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Missiles. Russian missiles. Drunken Russian missiles.


MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Queen & David Bowie, "Under Pressure"


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Huckabee and the Jewish Vote

THE FINE FIVE:

(1) Holding out hope for the two 14-year-olds from Jupiter, Florida, who have been missing for several days and whose boat was found near Jacksonville earlier today. A vigil took place this evening. Not looking good; hoping for better news soon.

(2) Yesterday, one of the most impressive sports streaks came to a crashing end, when the Chicago Cubs were no-hit by Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the first time the Cubs had been no-hit since Sandy Koufax's perfect game in September 1965. The streak was 7,920 games long. Given the futility of the Cubs over the years, the streak is even more impressive. The Cincinnati Reds now own the longest regular-season streak without being no-hit, with just over 7,000 games. The Reds haven't been no-hit during the regular season since June 1972.

(3) Several long-time friends of mine have posted photos of their children on Facebook. Nothing unusual about that. The photos of their kids were taken at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, which I attended several times during my high school orchestra years. And the shirts are the same light blue polos that were our fashion statement in the early 1980s. Good to see some things never change.

(4) Tigers vs Boston on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Given their current records, this probably wasn't what the network's brass expected. Pretty sure it's not what the management of either team, or their fan bases, expected either.

(5) Don't count on GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee getting much of the Jewish vote. I recognize that the majority of Jews in the United States vote Democrat, and that there are likely better options than Huckabee on the Republican side of things for Jews who vote on the right, but any hope he had just blew up in his face.

In discussing a variety of topics during an interview with Breitbart News, Huckabee oped his mouth and brought the Holocaust into the mix. "[President Barack Obama's] foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven." Idiot. The full link to the story is in the next item.

CAMPAIGN 2016 NEWS OF THE DAY:
The National Jewish Democratic Council today denounced comments made by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in the strongest possible terms after the Republican presidential candidate stated that President Obama is leading Israelis “to the door of the oven.” The organization called on the numerous Republican presidential candidates to denounce the offensive remarks at once, noting that the field had no such qualms about doing so when Donald Trump launched a personal attack at fellow Republican Sen. John McCain.
Far, far too often, this organization has found itself forced to denounce politicians for invoking the Holocaust in inappropriate and offensive ways. These comments by Gov. Mike Huckabee, however, may be the most inexcusable we've encountered in recent memory. To state that President Obama is leading Israelis 'to the door of the oven' is not only disgustingly offensive to the President and the White House, but shows utter, callous disregard for the millions of lives lost in the Shoah and to the pain still felt by their descendants today.
In our eyes, it is almost pointless to demand Gov. Huckabee apologize for his remarks, although he certainly should. This was not a random, off-the-cuff remark, and the Jewish community deserves better than to hear a false apology that we doubt will stop the former Governor from offending again in the future. What we do demand is that Gov. Huckabee's fellow Republican presidential candidates denounce his offensive statement at once. Republicans have fallen over themselves to speak out against Donald Trump's outrageous rhetoric on immigration and veterans. Will they now do the same and speak out against this unacceptable attack against President Obama that smears the memory of Holocaust victims, as they did when Trump attacked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)? Or will they stand by in silence and implicit approval? We call on every candidate to condemn Gov. Huckabee's disgusting statement and to show where they truly stand.
FACEPALM NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The Hill: "Senate's ObamaCare repeal effort falls short" - That's 58, or one for each 2016 GOP presidential candidate.

FLORIDA NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The Tampa Bay Times: "Pinellas Park man charged with arson - on his own house" - He was cleaning the motorcycle and acting erratically and indifferent to the fact that his house was on fire, authorities said.

WEIRD NEWS OF THE DAY:

SPORTS NEWS OF THE DAY:
From ESPN: "Mets discover baby raccoon in clubhouse weight room" - No word on when he will undergo Tommy John surgery.

VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Train 1, Limo 0.


MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
The Rolling Stones, "Waiting On A Friend"


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hell's Grannies

THE FINE FIVE: MONTY PYTHON SCENES:

These are five wonderful Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches and scenes from the comedy troupe's vast library of such skits and sketches. Choosing a "top five" is like selecting a "top five" Bruce Springsteen songs: incredibly difficult, and subject to how one feels that day. I could just have easily included Whizzo's Chocolate Assortment, Bruces Philosopher Song, Spam, Killer Rabbit, Killer Cars, Upper Class Twit of the Year, French Taunters, We Have Found A Witch, Mr. Neutron, Argument Clinic, or Penguin on the Telly. Or any of a dozen more from each of their movies!

So this may be a "top five" list, but it doesn't mean it's the top five. And this list could change on a daily basis.

The five presented here are in no particular order.

(1) The Dead Parrot Sketch & The Lumberjack Song


(2) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life


(3) Hell's Grannies (note: this was probably my father's favorite sketch of all time)


(4) The Philosopher's World Cup


(5) The Black Knight


CAMPAIGN 2016 NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Texas Public radio: "Texas Nationalist Movement Wants Issue On TX-GOP Ballot" - If you need to ask what the "issue" is ...

FACEPALM NEWS OF THE DAY:
From WCAX: "Car crashes into home in Plattsburgh" - Headline is longer than the story. So was that sentence. So is this sentence!

FLORIDA NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Infowars: "Florida Man Ordered by City to Keep BBQ Smell From Leaving His Property" - If there were only some way to control the weather ... 

WEIRD NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Hill Now: "Robber Armed With Toy Bat Strikes in Northeast Capitol Hill" - Police described the suspect as a bald, 50-year-old man. He had no shirt on and was wearing blue shorts and white sneakers. And he wielded a toy bat.

SPORTS NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Deadspin: "Junior Seau's Family Banned From Speaking At His Hall Of Fame Induction" - Another wonderful professional football PR move.

VIDEO OF THE DAY:
The Steve Irwin Tribute


MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome" 


Friday, July 24, 2015

Crunchy Frog?

THE FINE FIVE:

(1) Had a surprise phone call this morning from Trigg's Upholstery, letting me know the six dining room chairs I brought in Monday for a major re-do were finished. Picked them up in the afternoon. They look and feel great!

I went in to this project not really knowing how it would finish. Initially, I was told by a number of individuals that this was essentially a DIY project. I would agree; however, there were a few minor chinks in the idea. After going to the local Jo-Ann Fabric to estimate the cost of buying new padding and fabric, I brought the set in to Trigg's (recommended by Fawn Tenenbaum, who had used their services before, and whose father was an upholsterer) for a professional estimate. Turns out the situation was actually worse than I had realized; the padding in at least three seats was deteriorating, and replacing it would cause the seat fabric to look horrible. Additionally, the fabric design is no longer available, and the backs of the chairs are still in pretty good condition, so there is no reason to re-do them. Further, one of the chairs needed major repairs (it broke several years ago; it needed re-gluing, new screws, the works) to put it back together.

The end of it is that I am had the entire set re-done professionally. We found a fabric that worked well enough, color-wise and design-wise, to match fairly nicely with the chair backs. It ended up costing $437.81, or $72.97 per chair; this included repairing the broken chair and additional reinforcement of the other five, 2" foam for all six, the replacement seat fabric, etc. (I'm not sure, but I think they originally had 1" or 1 1/2" foam padding; after 40 years of use, it is hard to know exactly how much was there when my parents bought the set.) They did a far superior job than I could have, and much quicker. I highly recommend them for others in the area.

(2) Next on the agenda: finding a reputable furniture restoration company. I have two Mahogany end tables, a server table, a dining room table, and a china cabinet that need to be cleaned up, restained, and in some cases repaired, over the next few years. (I need to pace this, because finances.) A former student of mine from my days teaching at South Fork High School flagged me down; her father is an expert in woodwork and furniture repair. I sent her photos of the other items to get an initial estimate.

(3) Am I the only one who thinks, regardless of his ideas on bettering the nation (and some of them might even be legitimate), Donald Trump - for all of his media attention - is not the type of professional leader the United States of America deserves? He's brash, bossy, combative, and abusive. He's a boorish blowhard who is alienating so many people. I can understand, to a degree, the spoken word aspect of this; sometimes, the filter inside our brain doesn't catch everything, and we end up with egg on our faces. But it's a lot different when writing and posting something, whether in the newspaper or on the Internet. We have more time to stop, pause, and ponder, before hitting "send." Whether on Twitter, Facebook or other social media, there is always time to do this before publishing whatever your thoughts or arguments might be. Which is why I wonder, who the hell is running Trump's Twitter feed? An intern? A hired professional? Trump himself? The Democratic Party?

Yes, I realize this posted Tweet was from March 2013. But it's just a reminder that what you post online doesn't just disappear, no matter how hard you try or how badly you might wish it to happen. And your past can come back to haunt you.

(4) Tomorrow, Goodwill visits the condo to pick up a very large CD rack - the one given to me by Pete Bowers during my employment at WBFH-FM. It stands about seven feet tall, holds around 500 CDs, and is amazingly wonderful to have ... if you have a large CD collection. Which I don't anymore, since I donated about 350 to the Palm Beach County Library a few weeks ago, and only have about 150 left. And since I don't need something so large in my condo, it's better to donate and let someone else enjoy its usage.

(5) Next weekend, I head to Tampa to donate the bulk of my record album collection to my cousin's son. He collects albums; I'm sure he will get a kick out of the additional vinyl in his collection.

CAMPAIGN 2016 NEWS OF THE DAY:
From Politico: "Dennis Rodman endorses Donald Trump for president" - Your 2016 Secretary of State, everyone!

FACEPALM NEWS OF THE DAY:
From ESPN: "Colin Cowherd no longer on ESPN air after comments about Dominicans" - Featuring the most non-apology apology ever. He should do PR for Trump, who also doesn't apologize.

FLORIDA NEWS OF THE DAY:

WEIRD NEWS OF THE DAY:
From CP World: "Pastor Commands Congregation to Eat Live Snake That Allegedly Turns Into Chocolate; Gets Arrested for Animal Cruelty" - The Whizzo Chocolate Company's Quality Assortment just got more assorted.


SPORTS NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The Mirror: "Has Hulk Hogan been booted out of WWE after racist rant? Sex tape wrestler pulled from official website" - A sex tape wrestler? What in the world is that?

VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Photobomb? How about videobomb?


MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Missy Elliott, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Island of Misfit Toys

Donald Trump, overtly displeased with the Republican National Committee's persecution of His Royal Toupeeness, is threatening to quit the GOP and run as a third-party candidate for President of The Island of Misfit Toys.

Or is that quit The Island of Misfit Toys and run as a third-party candidate for POTUS?

What would King Moonracer think?

In an interview with The Hill earlier today, Trump said that, while in the past the RNC had been more than happy to accept his money, the GOP has "not been supportive" of his 2016 candidacy. Consequently, even though he currently leads all 87 (give or take a few) Republican candidates in poll numbers - something that has not taken a huge hit, even after the flack last weekend over his comments about John McCain's "hero" status - he is mulling a third-party presidential run.

The Republican businessman is under attack from many leaders in his own party who view his candidacy as a sideshow that could harm the GOP brand. The McCain flap didn't help matters in that regard; there's already been threats to try and keep him from participating in GOP candidate debates on Fox News during the campaign season. Trump says the chances of him launching a third-party run would increase if he believes the committee treats him unfairly during the primaries.

"I'm not in the gang. I'm not in the group where the group does whatever it's supposed to do," Trump told The Hill, explaining why he believes he's unpopular with the GOP establishment.

A Washington Post/ABC poll finds a hypothetical three-way race would result in Hillary Clinton getting 46%, Jeb Bush getting 30%, and Trump 20% among registered voters. That 20 percent would be really, really close to what billionaire Ross Perot received as a third-party candidate in 1992.

In a separate Washington Examiner article, Trump was asked if he believed Perot's candidacy threw the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton:
"Totally. I think every single vote that went to Ross Perot came from Bush. Virtually every one of his 19 percentage points came from the Republicans. If Ross Perot didn't run, you have never heard of Bill Clinton.”
There’s a lot to compare between Perot and Trump: Both are "off the chain" billionaires willing to speak "hard truths" to a political establishment that has grown increasingly out-of-touch with average voters. But Trump is missing the mark on this one; Perot was far more of a centrist than Trump, or any of the current GOP candidates, are. Perot didn’t draw votes disproportionately from Republicans.

But Trump would.

As The New York Times reported earlier this month, some party higher-ups fear Trump launching a third-party campaign could pull more votes from the Republican nominee than the Democrat in the general election next November. And that has Democratic Party leaders thrilled beyond belief. They believe they can defeat Trump if he's the GOP candidate; that belief is even stronger if he splits the Republican voting bloc.

Or, as NBC News pointed out:
The RNC has a choice to make: Does it bite its tongue and hold back on future criticism? Or does it let him go? It isn't an easy decision. On the one hand, the threat is credible - Trump has enough money (to get on the ballot) and enough name ID to affect a D-vs.-R presidential contest. On the other hand, he's held the GOP and its candidates hostage. And when you're dealing with a hostage-taker, sometimes the best approach is taking him out. But here's another question: Even if the RNC did want him to go, how does it go about doing that? After all, the RNC's job isn't to take people off the ballot. Voters - not the RNC - will decide who the GOP nominee will be.
So, is Trump is now the 2015 personification of Hermey, Rudolph, Edward Scissorhands, Rick Deckard, Willy Wonka, Jay Gatsby, Walt Kowalski, John Rambo, Travis Bickle, Jim Stark, and Pee-wee Herman searching for the basement of The Alamo? Regardless of his decision, one thing is for sure: Trump's a rebel, Dottie; a loner.


Yukon Cornelius would approve.

CAMPAIGN 2016 NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The Intercept: "Lobbyists Fundraising for Clinton, Bush, Rubio and Kasich Are Coworkers" - Politics makes strange bedfellows, indeed.

FACEPALM NEWS OF THE DAY:
From the The Milton Keynes Citizen: "Yule must be kidding! Harvester puts up Christmas tree FIVE MONTHS early" - The Unified Field Theory of Creep (the general trend of pushing events earlier and earlier) continues.

FLORIDA NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The Sun-Sentinel: "Rescuers free man with head stuck in hotel exercise machine" - A new training technique?

WEIRD NEWS OF THE DAY:
From International Business Times: "Fukushima mutant daisies: Deformed flowers spotted at Japan's disaster site" - Still waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse.

SPORTS NEWS OF THE DAY:
From The New York Post: "Jeff Bagwell gets excited by Astros, feels up girlfriend" - He's rounding first and really turning it on now; he’s not letting up at all, he's gonna try for second. The ball is bobbled out in the center, and here comes the throw, and what a throw! He’s gonna slide in head first! Here he comes, he's out - no, wait, safe, safe at second base!

VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Sharknado? OH HELL NO!


MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Meat Loaf, "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"