Thursday morning’s 9 remotely interesting things

1) Obama ‘confident’ of keeping to Afghan pullout plan - President Barack Obama said he was “confident” the United States could stick to its Afghan drawdown timetable despite a week of deadly unrest over the burning of the Koran at a US base. “I feel confident that we can stay on a path that by the end of 2014, our troops will be out and will not be in a combat role and Afghans will have capacity, just as Iraqis, to secure their own country,” Obama told ABC News. Obama, criticized by Republican opponents for apologizing to Afghan people after US troops sent copies of the Koran to an incinerator at Bagram airbase, defended his decision, saying it was necessary to try to quell the violence.

  • Bush apologized for soldiers shooting the Koran in 2008 - Bush’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam’s holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders. “He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.”

2) Obama’s Most Dangerous GOP Opponent: Netanyahu - Some new details on the Israeli prime minister’s recruitment of US senators to push back against their own president and chairman of the JCOS: Netanyahu and his advisers briefed a group of senators and senior congressmen during the past two weeks on the Iranian issue, and asked them to pressure Obama on the matter. Last week, Netanyahu met a group of five senior senators over lunch, headed by Sen. John McCain, who ran four years ago against Obama for president. Netanyahu reportedly told the senators he was not interfering in U.S. politics and expected U.S. officials not to interfere in Israeli politics either. So Netanyahu gets McCain – the president’s last electoral opponent – to make the following public statement: “There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the [Iranian] threat. Unfortunately there clearly is some.”

3) NPR’s NEW RULES — it says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report - NPR commits itself as an organization to avoid the worst excesses of “he said, she said” journalism. It says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report. It introduces a new and potentially powerful concept of fairness: being “fair to the truth,” which as we know is not always evenly distributed among the sides in a public dispute. Maintaining the “appearance of balance” isn’t good enough, NPR says. “If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side…” we have to say so. When we are spun, we don’t just report it. “We tell our audience…” This is spin! (The new policy is already having an effect.)

via: sandandglass

4) In case you didn’t believe that Romney will do / say anything and pander shamelessly to the far right for the GOP nomination - One day before a critical Senate vote that could loom large as a 2012 election issue, Mitt Romney came out for a congressional Republican measure designed to roll back the Obama administration’s requirement that employer health plans cover birth control. “Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told TPM. The Blunt amendment, which is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday, would permit employers to deny coverage of birth control or other services they deem morally objectionable.

  • Sen. Gillibrand blasts Blunt amendment: Employers shouldn’t dictate health decisions - Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Wednesday slammed legislation that would allow employers to refuse to pay for health insurance coverage of specific services if it would be contrary to their religious beliefs or “moral” convictions. “When will my colleagues understand this very non-debatable fact, that the decision of whether a woman takes one medicine or another or what type of health care she should have access to should not be the decision of her boss?” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor.
via: sandandglass

5) China welcomes North Korea nuclear moratorium - North Korea’s key ally China on Thursday welcomed Pyongyang’s announcement that it will suspend its nuclear tests and uranium enrichment programme in return for US food aid. The deal — which came less than three months after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il — follows talks held in Beijing last week between the United States and North Korean negotiators. [...] “We welcome the improvement in relations between North Korea and the United States and their contributions to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei in a statement. “China is willing to work with relevant parties to continue to push forward the six-party talks process, and play a constructive role to realise long-term peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia.”

6) Twilight Of The RINOs? - It’s kind of pathetic for politicians who have spent decades exploiting the far right for political gain to complain now when those forces are becoming dominant in their party. That’s what you get for playing with fire. James Joyner has expressed the hope in several recent posts here at OTB that the Republican Party will return to sanity at some point. Even if it takes an election cycle or two, I hope he’s right because the one thing this country needs desperately is a strong two-party system populated by opposing parties that at least accept the idea that compromise is necessary. Right now, one of those parties has rejected that idea entirely and the current state of Congress is testament to the results of that attitude. But the blame for the current state of the Republican Party doesn’t just lie with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum. It lies with the party leaders and conservative pundits who let them get away with what they’ve managed to do over the past five years.

7) We are not quite done yet with GOP “debates” - Mr. Huckabee will host his third presidential forum on Saturday, an executive for the Fox News Channel said on Tuesday.  Huckabee, Gasparino and Mrs. Mitch McConnell! I hope those unfortunate “Ohio residents” have their affairs in order, because if a just Judeo-Christian god is ever going to smite those among His followers who have profaned His honor, this event would seem a good place to start.

8) Good thing the issues of birth control, women’s healthcare coverage and abortion never came up this month - Only four women appearied as guests on the Sunday shows. Media Matters with the sad tally: A total of 56 guests were booked on the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men. (The newsmaker tally does not include guests invited to participate in roundtable discussions this month.) And of the four women booked this month, just one, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was associated with the Democratic Party, despite the fact Democrats currently control the White House and the Senate. “We complain about this all the time,” a Democratic aide told Media Matters.

9) YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: GOP lawmaker proposes tax breaks for mustaches - A mustachioed Republican congressman from Maryland is standing up for the rights of the men (and the women) who dare to have hair above their upper lip. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has introduced the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act — or STACHE Act — to give people with mustaches a $250 tax break each year. [...] “He sent it over to Ways and Means [committee] without any recommendation of any kind at all,” Wright told U.S. News and World Report on Tuesday. || Note: This is real. We have nothing at all going on right now, so why not fuck around, right? Doesn’t it cheer your heart to know that we pay the do-nothing GOP-led Congress a federal salary plus benefits – but NOW, better still, we’re paying this guy to actually tie up his time and the Ways and Means committee’s time with something like this? BOTH SIDES DO IT though, right?!?

Wednesday morning’s 9 vaguely interesting things

1) Michigan and Arizona voters choose a new oligarchy over a new theocracy! - Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had 41 percent to Santorum’s 38 percent, with 99 percent of the vote counted, according to the Associated Press. Romney won Arizona with 47 percent to Santorum’s 27 percent, with 89 percent of the vote counted.

Animation: Mitt loves Michigan

2) Too late Santorum: we already know you’re a religious nut || After big primary loss, Santorum retools message for must-win Ohio - In a speech on Tuesday after results were known, Santorum moved his message away from the social issues for which he is known and tightened his focus on themes dear to blue-collar voters who will have a big say when the race moves to Super Tuesday next week, which includes what is now the must-win state of Ohio. [...] Usually happy to speak for about 45 minutes about topics ranging from abortion to radical Islam, Santorum kept his speech brief after losing, making rising gas prices and revitalizing the manufacturing sector the core elements of his comments, saying “bureaucrats in Washington don’t care about flyover country.” “Are we a country that believes in big government, do we believe in the smart and elite in this country to manage us or do you believe in free people and a free economy and building a great America from the bottom up?” Santorum said.

3) Obama forcefully rebuts Mitt Romney in speech to auto workers union“Because I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these politicians completely rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet. These are the folks who said if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” Now they’re saying they were right all along. Or worse, they’re saying that the problem is that you, the workers, made out like bandits in all of this; that saving the American auto industry was just about paying back unions. Really? Even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you-know-what. About 700,000 retirees saw a reduction in the health care benefits they had earned. Many of you saw hours reduced, or pay and wages scaled back. You gave up some of your rights as workers. Promises were made to you over the years that you gave up for the sake and survival of this industry, its workers, and their families. You want to talk about values? Hard work – that’s a value. Looking out for one another – that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together – that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper – that is a value.” Watch:

4) Don’t worry fringe-right bigots who hate President Obama for apologizing for soldiers burning Korans in Afghanistan: your hero George W. Bush also hates America and freedom and liberty and the troops and Jesus05/21/2008: President Bush has apologized to Iraq’s prime minister for an American sniper’s shooting of a Quran, and the Iraqi government called on U.S. military commanders to educate their soldiers to respect local religious beliefs. Bush’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam’s holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders. “He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.” Oh Dana, shitting on Muslims is never wrong.

5) Gingrich: Santorum ‘Strongly Overreacted’ To JFK’s Religion Speech - Newt Gingrich chided fellow GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum today for saying he wanted to “throw up” when he heard a speech by President John Kennedy about the need for a separation of church and state. Santorum has walked back the comments a bit, but Gingrich told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that Santorum “strongly overreacted” to JFK’s speech (he also misrepresented it, as Salon’s Joan Walsh pointed out). “At the time it was seen as a brilliant and effective speech, and I think it was,” Gingrich said, comparing Kennedy to GOP icon Ronald Reagan.

6) Union of Concerned Scientists: U.S. nuclear oversight too lax – A study of safety lapses at nuclear power facilities in the United States found that owners of atomic plants too often either close an eye to problems or fail to adequately address them, a watchdog group said Tuesday. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in its study found 15 cases of safety equipment problems and security shortcomings at 13 nuclear plants last year, calling that number “high.” [...] The group said that lax NRC oversight has allowed some problems to fester for decades, and found that 47 nuclear reactors — nearly half of the 104 nuclear plants operating in the United States today — still do not comply with fire regulations established by the NRC in 1980 and amended in 2004. It also said that there are 27 reactors with inadequate protection against earthquakes.

7) Fukushima contamination ‘chronic and lasting’ – Radioactive contamination levels from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have fallen sharply since the accident but will be “chronic and lasting” for many years, a French watchdog said Tuesday. “The initial contamination linked to the accident has greatly declined,” Didier Champion, crisis manager at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), told reporters almost a year after the disaster. “That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more, far from it. Today, and for many years to come, we will have a situation of chronic and lasting contamination of the environment.”

8) Panetta: Iran Hasn’t ‘Made The Decision To Develop A Nuclear Weapon’ - LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear weapon? LEON PANETTA: I think they’re developing a nuclear capability [but] our intelligence makes clear that they haven’t made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon. Graham moved on and chose not to publicly disagree with the Secretary of Defense but the message from Panetta was clear. U.S. intelligence, at this time, does not conclude that Iran is in the process of building a nuclear weapon. These views are echoed by the the IAEA — the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency — which, just last week, reiterated its “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme,” but came short of concluding that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.

9) It is beyond batshittery that this is even up for discussion.

Monday morning’s 9 just barely interesting things

1) Mitt Romney and NASCAR — he’s just like us! (not) - Mitt Romney visited the Daytona 500 rally in Florida on Sunday, praising what he called a “quintiseentially American” sport. Asked whether the trip outside of Michigan was a sign of confidence that he would win the hotly-contested state, he replied, “No, it’s a sign of a guy who loves cars.” It’s what happened next, though, that has set the net ablaze. Here’s how CBS News described it: [...] Asked by the AP reporter if he follows NASCAR, Romney responded, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.”

2) Rick Santorum’s NASCAR car “The Frothy” (but where are the brown splat marks?) - GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum hopes the car his campaign is sponsoring in the Daytona 500 today can have the same come-from-behind success as his campaign. The Santorum campaign is sponsoring Front Row Motorsports’ Car #26, a Ford Fusion driven by veteran race car driver Tony Raines, in the premiere stock car event of the season taking place today in Daytona Beach, Florida.

3) Rick Santorum is a Dangerous Demagogue - Rick Santorum is dangerous. There’s no other way to put it. He’s now saying things that could literally lead to the deaths of more service members serving in Afghanistan right now. Speaking in Marquette, Michigan, Sunday, Rick Santorum addressed an incident Sunday in which 7 U.S. service members were injured in a protest in response to U.S. military members burning a Koran. Santorum called the protestors evil, using the word repeatedly. He also condemned President Obama’s apology over the Koran-burning incident, saying that apologies only incite more violence because they are a show of weakness. Let me get this straight — apologizing for burning Qurans is a sign of weakness and will somehow lead to more violence? And repeatedly calling those who were offended ‘evil’ is supposed to help?

  • Car bomb hits airport in eastern Afghanistan - The blast comes a day after demonstrators hurled grenades at a U.S. base in northern Afghanistan, and a gun battle left two Afghans dead and seven NATO troops injured Sunday in the escalating crisis over the burning of Muslim holy books at an American airfield. More than 30 people have been killed, including four U.S. troops, in six days of unrest. Still, the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan said the violence would not change Washington’s course.
  • Taliban: Blast was retaliation for burning

4) We Don’t Need No Education - “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum sniped. “What a snob!” [...] Yes, increased knowledge tends to generate a more liberal world view. But it’s not a wild sci-fi conspiracy. It’s just reality. When you learn more about important things you tend to realize that the world is more complex and diverse than a GOP bumper sticker. College students are taught to think critically and independently by default due to the difficulty of the material — not through some kind of mandate. And this kind of critical thinking tends to produce a more liberal perspective rather than a lockstep conformist perspective.

  • Flashback: In 2006, Rick Santorum Wanted To Send All Pennsylvanians To College

5) Studies Refute Santorum’s Claim That College Makes People Less Religious - “Contrary to our own and others’ expectations, however, young adults who never enrolled in college are presently the least religious young Americans,” the journal concluded, noting that “64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their attendance habits. Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.” Or Santorum may have been referring to a 2006 Harvard study in which 62 percent of college Republicans said “religion is losing its influence on American life.” But that study negates Santorum’s larger point: It found that “a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”

6) Sick man - So is the idea that the first Catholic president was sickening a big seller among Catholics these days? Who knew? I don’t think Ricky understands his history very well. Evidently, he was unaware that in 1960, conservatives thought of Catholics the same way think of Muslims today. He seems under the impression that America was a wonderful religiously tolerant nation until the horrible secularists came along and ruined everything. I guess he didn’t know about this, perpetuated, by the way, not by the secularists who didn’t give a damn, but by his favorite allies, the right wing protestants.

  • Does Ronald Reagan make Santorum want to ‘throw up’ too? - But I really wonder if Santorum is prepared to level the same accusation against Ronald Reagan: “We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.” Hear the retching? That’s Santorum. Just wait till he finds about Vatican II.
  • Rick Santorum’s tiny mental Jesus is telling him lies - Kennedy did not say that “people of faith have no role in the public square,” nor did he say that “faith is not allowed in the public square.”  Not even close. Kennedy said that all people and churches should be created equal.  That’s it.  It’s a simple concept, really—one that Republicans, the self-styled masters of the Constitution, should have grasped by now.  Frankly, I can’t even begin to understand what Santorum’s Brain was thinking when it interpreted Kennedy’s speech as some sort of attack on faith and the First Amendment. It is nutbaggery most foul, and I simply do not get it.

7) How the 2012 Primary Has Revealed a GOP on the Verge of Collapse - many Republicans are already looking past 2012. If either Romney or Santorum gains the nomination and then falls before Obama, flubbing an election that just months ago seemed eminently winnable, it will unleash a GOP apocalypse on November 7—followed by an epic struggle between the regulars and red-hots to refashion the party. And make no mistake: A loss is what the GOP’s political class now expects. “Six months before this thing got going, every Republican I know was saying, ‘We’re gonna win, we’re gonna beat Obama,’ ” says former Reagan strategist Ed Rollins. “Now even those who’ve endorsed Romney say, ‘My God, what a fucking mess.’ ”

8) Putin warns attack on Iran would have “truly catastrophic” consequences - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia is concerned about the “growing threat” of an attack on Iran over its nuclear program, warning that the consequences would be “truly catastrophic.” In an article on foreign policy for publication on Monday, six days before a March 4 presidential election he is almost certain to win, Putin also warned Western and Arab nations against military intervention in Syria. “I very much hope the United States and other countries … do not try to set a military scenario in motion in Syria without sanction from the U.N. Security Council,” Putin said, according to a transcript.

9) AP News: WWII vet says nobody helped after he was carjacked - Brantley told The Associated Press said several people passed by him as he crawled, unable to walk because his leg was broken in the attack. The carjacker knocked Brantley down, took his keys and drove off in his car about 10:40 a.m. “I was trying to go in … and see if somebody could call the police and an ambulance because I couldn’t stand. I had to crawl – I tried two or three times to get up,” Brantley said Saturday. He said he was on way home from Bible study when he stopped to put gas in his 2010 Chrysler 200, which he recently bought to replace another car that had been stolen. “People were passing me just like I wasn’t there. … I was crawling and they just walk by me like I’m not there,” he said.