Tuesday :: November 10, 2015

Another Republican Debate: Christie and Huckabee on #B List

Yet another Republican debate tonight in Milwaukee. At least they are down to 8 candidates for the main event.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee — were bumped from the main stage to the undercard, after they failed to reach a threshold of 2.5 percent in national polls.

That leaves eight candidates left in the main event: billionaire Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), former Florida governor Jeb Bush, former tech executive Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.).

Jeb has some catching up to do. And Ben Carson still appears to be ahead of Trump. [More...]

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Obama to Appeal Adverse Ruling on DAPA Immigration Program

President Obama today announced the Administration will appeal the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision yesterday blocking the implementation of his executive order on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (“DAPA”). The opinion is here.

The Obama administration will ask the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court injunction that has held up a new program that potentially would shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The decision to take the case to the high court comes a day after a federal appeals panel ruled against the administration, keeping the new program on hold nearly a year after President Obama announced it.


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Indonesia Plans Drug Prison Guarded by Crocodiles

Indonesia wants to build a prison for condemned drug traffickers on an island surrounded and guarded by crocodiles.

The proposal is the pet project of anti-drugs chief Budi Waseso, who plans to visit various parts of the archipelago in his search for reptiles to guard the jail.

"We will place as many crocodiles as we can there. I will search for the most ferocious type of crocodile,” he was quoted as saying by local news website Tempo.

Waseso said that crocodiles would be better at preventing drug traffickers from escaping prison as they could not be bribed – unlike human guards. “You can’t bribe crocodiles. You can’t convince them to let inmates escape,” he said.


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Monday :: November 09, 2015

Monday Morning Open Thread

Open Thread.

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Saturday :: November 07, 2015

Saturday College Football Open Thread

Flooding the zone:

California @ Oregon -3, Arizona +20 @ USC, Navy @ Memphis -7, Iowa State @ Oklahoma -24 (4 units), UCLA @ Oregon State +18, Connecticut @ Tulane +7, South Carolina +18 @ Tennessee, Army +17 @ Air Force, Cincinnati @ Houston -9, Iowa -7 @ Indiana, Arizona State @ Washington State -2, TCU @ Oklahoma State +6, Arkansas +11 @ Mississippi, Wisconsin -10 @ Maryland, Florida State +11 (3 units) @ Clemson, Stanford @ Colorado +17, North Carolina State -3 @ Boston College, Syracuse +14 @ Louisville, Central Florida @ Tulsa -17, Illinois @ , Penn State Pick (3 units) @ Northwestern, Duke @ North Carolina -7 (4 units), Vanderbilt +22 @ Florida, Texas Tech +8 @ West Virginia, Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh +10 (3 units), Kentucky +16 @ Georgia, Florida Atlantic @ Western Kentucky -24, Charlotte @ Florida International -17.

Go Gators!

Open Thread.

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Bomb or No Bomb: ISIS Won This Round

[Photo by Gulf Online]

Pieter Van Ostaeyen, (Historian, Arabist, and Islamist) whose analysis and musings on international Jihadism and foreign fighters I have been following for over a year, initially doubted the claim of ISIS' Wilayat Sinai that it was responsible for the Russian airplane crash in Egypt, as did many other analysts and journalists, because of the mistaken assumption that the group claimed to have shot down the plane. (the "Manpad" issue.) Now he isn't sure, but he writes that bomb or no bomb, ISIS scored a major win with the claim.

Whether or not the plane was taken down by The Islamic State, they won anyway. In the strategic battle with the West and Russia IS made a winner strike. Several European countries are repatriating their nationals, thousands of people are supposed to be leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in the next few days. Several airline operators suspended flights to the airport of Sharm el-Sheikh. Flights leaving today, made a u-turn, … Belgian tour operators even sent in their own security personnel and bomb sniffing dogs.

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Friday :: November 06, 2015

Sharm el Sheikh: Home to Luxury Resorts

Why did ISIS choose Sharm el Sheikh as a target instead of another popular Russian tourist destination ? With all the photos we've seen of the plane's damage, we haven't seen many of the place itself, except on maps. From the maps, it seems like place in the middle of nowhere. Not so.

Just two weeks before the crash, the Four Seasons in Sharm el Sheikh posted on its website that it had just received two new awards, one from Conde Nast Traveler and one from New-Wealth.com (a publication that tracks the hotel usage and preferences of multi-millionaires -- those with a wealth of more than $10 million. [More...]

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eGhazi: IC Backs Down on "highly classified" claims

Josh Gerstein:

The U.S. intelligence community has retreated from claims that two emails in Hillary Clinton’s private account contained top secret information, a source familiar with the situation told POLITICO. The determination came from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s office and concluded that the two emails did not include highly classified intelligence secrets. Concerns about the emails' classification helped trigger an on-going FBI inquiry into Clinton's private email set-up.

Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III made the claim that two of the emails contained top secret information, the State Department publicly stated its disagreement and asked Clapper’s office to referee the dispute. Now, that disagreement has been resolved in State’s favor, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A top expert in classification procedures called the development" an astonishing turn of events."

So it turns out the IC doesn't agree with the IC IG. Charles McCullough it turns out, is a hack.

Told you so.

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Project Runway Finale

Project Runway's finale was so bad on so many levels. The show's judges were so proud it was trending on Twitter -- clearly, they didn't get that the likely reason was that fans were outraged.

First complaint: Half of the show was taken up by a new show that is starting next week, Project Runway Juniors. I was constantly hitting the mute button so as not to have to listen to it. (Especially since one of the judges will be Kelly Osborne, who never ceases to evoke a "nails on a chalkboard" reaction.)

Second, the amount of commercial time was absurd. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they had some guy from Lexus (one of their sponsors) come on during the show, not to award the contestants cars like other shows do, but just to show off the cars-- the guy actually tells the contestants they will each get one to ride in one time -- on the way to the finale. How lame.

Third, the winner, who designed a plus size collection, had the worst collection, was in the bottom several weeks, and often called out by the judges for her mistakes in the fitting of her garments and for her overly matronly designs. She said her inspiration for her final collection was Mexico City in the 1950's. (not exactly fashion-forward.) I doubt anyone, plus size or not, would wear her designs (crop tops with see though bottoms and big girl underpants in various Easter egg colors, almost all with flower-topped headresses.)

But don't take my word for it. Here's a sampling from Twitter: [More...]

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Thursday :: November 05, 2015

Viktor Bout: 90 days in Solitary for Making Kombucha in Cell

Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout is serving his 25 year sentence at Marion, IL. He's in the highly restrictive Communications Management Unit. Having already lost his appeal, he sought a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The Court denied it on October 26. (Case 08-cr-00365-SAS, SDNY, Document 124.)

His lawyer says he has been put in the hole for 90 days for making alcohol in his cell -- but it wasn't alcohol, it was Kombucha (a probiotic digestive aid drink.) He also lost 40 days of good time.

In other Bout news, the documentary The Notorious Mr. Bout, which the film's makers say is "the ultimate rags-to-riches-to-prison memoir" is now available online, and through iTunes and Amazon. It contradicts his image as the Merchant of Death as portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the earlier film "Lord of War." [More....]

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Thursday Open Thread

I'm mostly following ISIS and El Chapo in my spare time. On the plane crash:

Egypt and Russia say no one has shared information with them showing a bomb brought down the metrojet.

From Charlie Winter in the Guardian, urging caution, but nonetheless expounding on what it would mean if ISIS did down the plane. Shorter version: Move over al Qaida, you're no match for ISIS.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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GHW Bush Book: Snipes at Cheney and Rumsfeld

I have no intention of reading a book about George Herbert Walker Bush, but some of the quotes in media reviews are interesting:

On Dick Cheney, who served under Bush for 4 years:

“He just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” Bush reportedly told Meacham, speculating that 9/11 had affected Cheney’s views. “Just iron-a*s. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East.”

Bush said Cheney, pushed to be more conservative by his wife and daughter, “had his own empire and marched to his own drummer.” Whose fault was this?


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Mexico Supreme Court Opens Door to Legal Marijuana

In an 88 page opinion based on principles of human rights, Justice Arturo Zaldívara of the Mexican Supreme Court has paved the way for legal marijuana in Mexico.

The vote by the court’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for their personal use. While the ruling does not strike down current drug laws, it lays the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.

Justice Zaldívar writes: "...[T]he state recognizes an individual’s autonomy to engage in recreational activities that do not harm others.


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Wednesday :: November 04, 2015

Consensus Emerging Russian Plane Crash Likely a Bomb

Intelligence experts in the U.S. and elswhere are now saying a bomb brought down the Russian airplane in Egypt. The U.K. and Ireland have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Wilayat Sinai released another audio message today taking credit. Here's the last part according to one translation: (dashes inserted by me)

"To the skeptics and decriers we say: die in your rage! We downed it by the grace of G-d, but we are not required to explain how we did it.

So, inspect the wreckage of the aircraft, analyze your black box, make your conclusions based on your expertise, and prove that we did not down nor else prove how it fell. Eat your hearts out! We downed it by the grace of G-d. G-d willing, we will explain how we did it at a time and manner of our own choosing.


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Tuesday :: November 03, 2015

Tuesday Open Thread

It's Election day. Don't forget to vote.

Ahmed Chalabi, who urged the U.S. to invade Iraq, has died of a heart attack.

In other news, Rafael Amaya-Nunez, lead actor of Senor de los Cielos, apparently took his role too much to heart last week. He was admitted to the hospital for a drug overdose. Telemundo and his office did not deny the report. After several hours in intensive care, he was able to move around and recovered. He's now on a well-deserved vacation, according to Telemundo.

Season 4 has been filming for a few months, and is almost done. There will be a season 5 as well. I just wish they wouldn't kill off so many good characters. (My recap of Season 3 is here. I describe Season 1 here.)

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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