Sock gremlins, goats, pollen, & some more serious stuff.

It’s actually been kind of a quiet day news-wise. Relatively, y’know. Like, we’re probably going to war and the president’s getting impeached, but there’s not a lot of news to report about all that, so it’s quiet.

Since it’s quiet, I want to point out this story at NPR: California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires. This story makes me happy. California cities are hiring companies who bring in big herds of goats to mow down underbrush and limit the fuel for wildfires. You look up on the hill and there are goats, munching away, stopping wildfires. It’s sustainable, it works, and for some reason the goats are drawn to invasive plant species in the area, so it’s doing good things on multiple levels. That’s awesome.

Here’s another fun story I want to show you, this time from a Scientific American blog: Botanical Sexism Cultivates Home-Grown Allergies. So, for decades we’ve seen a huge increase in people with allergies and asthma. Like, it’s a problem. An epidemic. And for awhile we didn’t know why. Turns out, it’s because after Dutch Elm Disease decimated city trees, we replanted with male trees because they didn’t drop seeds and cause litter. And since all the plantings and trees were all male, and there were no female plants to soak up all their pollen, cities were suddenly jam-packed full of pollen. Like ridiculous amounts of pollen. And the overdose gave us all allergies and asthma. Your allergies were caused by horny boy trees who couldn’t find girl trees to get it on with.

Okay, on to the serious stuff now, I guess.

Impeachment

  • Mitch McConnell claims he has the votes to proceed with an impeachment trial without having to call any new witnesses. (Washington Post)

To recap, the House voted to impeach Trump, but Nancy Pelosi hasn’t sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate yet. Without those, the Senate can’t start an impeachment trial. The popular thought is that she was withholding the articles in an attempt to force Mitch McConnell to hold a trial where the Senate will call witnesses and allow new testimony. McConnell is saying he has the votes to start the trial without promising witnesses and new evidence.

Iran

  • Iran claims to have several scenarios for revenge against the US for assassinating Soleimani, and that their revenge will be “proportional,” unlike our actions. (Reuters)
  • Yesterday the Pentagon sent notice to Iraq that the US would withdraw their troops from Iraq. Then they claimed that notice was an accident, that the letter sent was an “unfinished draft” that shouldn’t have been released. Before they got to that story, though, there was a whole bunch of confusion and conflicting statements and explanations, so… 🤷 (Washington Post)

Glad to see the guys in charge of war have all their ducks in a row and definitely aren’t running around in a befuddled panic trying to figure out WTF is going on or anything.

I’ll wrap this up by sharing this rare video of a North American Sock Gremlin. Be warned: it’s pretty graphic.

ETA: Goddammit, I just said it was a quiet news day.

“At least 10 rockets hit al-Asad airbase in Iraq, which houses US forces, a Sunni commander of the paramilitary forces in a nearby town told CNN.”

CNN: Iranians take credit for rocket attack on base housing US troops

Iran & Impeachment

So, yeah, we assassinated an Iranian general Friday, and that went well.

  • Trump threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites, which is a war crime. (New York Times)
  • Iran announced they were flushing all the remaining restrictions from the Iran Nuclear Deal on developing nukes, Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops (it was a non-binding resolution, but still, not good), our European allies are all “WE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT,” we’ve temporarily halted fighting ISIS, and other bad consequences of Trump’s idiot decision to kill Soleimani. (CNN)
  • Oil prices shot up. (CNN)
  • Even Israel’s Netanyahu is like, “THIS WASN’T OUR IDEA.” (Twitter)

The Trump administration claims there was an imminent attack that assassinating Soleimani prevented, but there’s exactly no proof of that and of course you can’t believe a word the Trump administration says because they’re pathological liars.

Meanwhile…

NPR: Bolton Says He Would Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial If Subpoenaed

John Bolton announced this morning via Twitter (because I guess that’s how we do now) that if the Senate subpoenas him for the impeachment trial, he’ll testify.

Which, yeah, obviously, if you get a subpoena you testify, that’s how the law works. Or how it’s supposed to work, at any rate. I guess it doesn’t apply if you kiss Trump’s ass enough.

But also, this is a largely meaningless announcement because the Senate isn’t going to call any witnesses. So, y’know. Thanks John.

TPM: Iranian-Americans Are Being Detained At The Border, Muslim Advocacy Group Alleges

CAIR (Washington state chapter) did a press release this weekend saying that Iranian-Americans were being held at the Canadian border for 10+ hours. To be clear, these are American citizens not being allowed into America because they’re of Iranian descent.

NPR: House To Vote On Measure Limiting Trump’s Military Actions In Iran

House Democrats are whipping up a resolution to curtail Trump’s ability to wage military actions in Iran, and it’ll probably pass the House, but that’s about it. It would have to pass the Senate, too, which obviously isn’t going to happen. In fact, the Senate brought a similar resolution up last year and it failed.

AP: Homeland Security Will Share Citizenship Data with Census

You might remember Trump wanted a citizenship question on the 2020 census, which, no, bad idea, do not. This idea got shot down, and it should have, because it’ll kill responses to the 2020 census, particularly in areas that are generally blue, which will harm government aid, voting, representation, and just generally all kinds of things.

But hey, don’t worry, because Homeland Security will be sharing their citizenship information with the census, so everyone can get screwed that way, instead.

Image credit: Newspapers, JonS on Flickr.

Soleimani, Iraq, & Iran

Welp. Guess we’re going to war.

But not really, probably. Congress declares a war, and I kind of don’t think this Congress is going to outright declare war.

Instead the Trump administration will pretend that the Authorised Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2002 allows him to direct military actions in the upcoming conflict. And the Republican Congress will go along with it, because it saves them having to buck their president or vote for what is going to be a messy, expensive, bloody, unpopular and protracted military action in Iran and/or with Iranian proxies in the region.

But let’s back up some and look at how we got here a little bit, because, as I may have mentioned, I was on vacation for a week and we were all having holidays for the last couple of weeks, and most of us had checked out on the news.

Yesterday evening, about 8:30-9pm my time (midnight-ish on the East Coast), news broke that the US had hit Baghdad International Airport with a drone strike, killing Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force and generally recognized #2 guy in Iran; and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sponsored group of Iranian militias; as well as a bunch of civilians.

Baghdad International Airport is a civilian airport. They have a military airport there, too, but mainly it’s a civilian airport, if I’m understanding things right. It doesn’t get as much traffic as it used to due to sanctions, but it seems like it still gets civilian traffic.

“‘It would be akin to Iran assassinating the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,’ [Hamid Mousavi, a political science professor at the University of Tehran] told NPR. ‘Essentially, it’s an act of war.'”

NPR: U.S. Kills Top Iranian Military Leader In Airstrike

On Dec. 27, Iraqi militias backed by Iran fired a rocket at an Iraqi military base in northern Iraq, where US military personnel and US contractors were stationed, killing a US contractor. (These rocket attacks from militias had been going on for a few weeks, fyi.)

Meanwhile, Iraq has been dealing with widespread protests by Iraqi people, against the Iraqi government. These protests were unrelated to the militias and rocket attacks.

After the rocket attack that killed the US contractor, the US responded with airstrikes in Iran and Syria, hitting compounds belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia group the US claims is responsible for the rocket attacks.

In response to those airstrikes, affiliated militia members attacked the US embassy in Iraq. The militia seems to have used the ongoing protests as cover, and there was some initial confusion conflating the two. That happened Dec. 31.

Late last night, the US responded by basically assassinating Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone airstrike on Baghdad International Airport. And today, Iran is fucking-A mad about it.

Some sources:

“Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the killing ‘an act of international terrorism,’ saying the U.S. ‘bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.’

“Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on Iranian state TV that a ‘harsh retaliation is waiting’ for the U.S.

“Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was just as forceful, describing the strike as a ‘heinous crime’ for which Iran will seek revenge.”

NPR

So, just to be clear, Soleimani was a bad guy. He was in charge of militia groups who were attacking US interests. However, he also helped in the fight against ISIS.

I’m pointing that out so you can see that nothing is ever clear cut or black and white. It’s always a cost-benefit analysis with these situations.

Soleimani was an occasionally useful bad guy, whom we had not taken action against prior to this because he was very powerful and respected in Iran, and killing him would set off a chain-reaction of events that would probably lead us into a… let’s see, what did I call it up there… “a messy, expensive, bloody, unpopular and protracted military action in Iran and/or with Iranian proxies in the region.”

Except Trump just got impeached, and he’s facing a trial in the Senate, and we just got our hands on shit-ton of emails and memos that make his Russian and Ukrainian scandals look even worse, plus rumors started circulating yesterday that Trump’s loans through Deutsche Bank were backed by a Russian state bank.

I’ll point out now that we don’t currently have a working State Department to help sort this Iranian/Iraqi mess Trump just made out, nor does Trump have a working National Security Council to advise him in these matters.

So. Yeah. Trump just assassinated a couple of Iranian guys and we’re probably (unofficially) going to war over it.

Now would be a great time to call your electeds and demand a few things. I dunno if it’ll help, but it sure won’t hurt. Please read Celeste Pewter’s morning email about what’s going on, why it’s important, what to ask your congressfolks for, and a script for when you make your calls.

One last quick reminder: Three years ago, before Trump took power, we were mostly at peace with Iran due to sanctions and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Happy New Year, folks.

Image credit: Qasem Soleimani. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Impeachment, Mueller memos, Ukraine emails, Australia, & more.

Congress was technically back in session today, but they won’t really start doing much until next week, so things have been mighty quiet on the impeachment front. The news has been quiet in general, too, thanks to the holidays, but there are a few things going on.

Washington Post: 4 ways the McConnell-Pelosi impasse over a Senate trial could end

You might remember we impeached the president last year. Instead of sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate right away, Speaker Pelosi is sandbagging them and trying to use that as leverage to force the Senate to hold a fair trial. Not sure that’s gonna work, but I’m glad to see the House trying something.

Buzzfeed News: Robert Mueller’s Secret Memos, Part 3: The Documents The Justice Department Didn’t Want Congress To See

Buzzfeed News filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Robert Mueller’s memos, from his investigation, and they’ve been printing them as they received them. The latest installment includes bits about Stephen Miller’s involvement in firing Comey, deputy national security adviser (under Michael Flynn) KT McFarland talking to the FBI under the type of agreement people under criminal investigation usually have, more about how bad at his job Michael Cohen was, and more.

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Vox: A deceptively edited video of Joe Biden illustrates a big problem in 2020

Twitter lit up with a video of Joe Biden sounding racist and white supremacist the other day, and it turns out that the video was deliberately edited to sound that way in an attempt to make Biden look bad, and basically everyone, including a bunch of reporters, fell for it.

Everyone’s sweating bullets about deepfakes and whatnot, and no one’s paying attention to the fact that you can do just as much damage with real video edited deceptively. Consider this your “You’ve Been Warned” for the election year, folks.

Lifehacker: How to Help Those Affected By the Australian Wildfires

Australia is burning down. Lifehacker has a list of places you can donate to help out.

JustSecurity.org: Exclusive: Unredacted Ukraine Documents Reveal Extent of Pentagon’s Legal Concerns

Last month the Center for Public Integrity sued under the Freedom of Information Act to get their hands on emails relating to the Ukraine scandal. They got the emails, but they’d been heavily redacted. JustSecurity.org (“an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy”) got their hands on the unredacted emails, and they’re pretty interesting. Basically a blow-by-blow of people warning Trump that he was doing something illegal, him ignoring that, and his administration going ahead with it anyway.

TPM: Trump Lists Vets Bill As 2019 Accomplishment. But Obama Signed It Into Law.

Trump keeps taking credit for the Veterans Choice Act, which was signed into law by President Obama during his second term.

Image credit: Newspapers, JonS on Flickr.

New Year’s Resolutions: 2020

Last year’s resolutions were, in no particular order:

  • Read more new books.
  • Start an actual exercise program and stick with it.
  • Lose weight and keep it off.
  • Get finances in order. No, for real this time.

I also said,

I have a few other bad habits I’d like to work on – reading Twitter all morning, lazy blogging habits, that sort of thing. I have a few good habits I’d like to add, like sleeping more, eating better, getting my anxiety issues sorted out. I’m not going to make any of that official resolutions, though. That’s just stuff I want to work on.

From here.

I didn’t keep a list this year, but I did keep count, and I read 58 books this year, many of which were new. So we’ll call that one a win.

I did not start an exercise program and stick with it, and I did not lose weight and keep it off. So, that’s a nope.

I did make some headway on my finances, though. Got a lot of debts paid off, but I added a new one in buying a computer. So we’ll call that one a wash.

I still read Twitter too much first thing in the morning, and I have definitely been a lazy blogger this past year.

I did pretty well at sleeping more, eating more healthfully, and working on my anxiety issues, though. I’m averaging 7+ hours of sleep a night now, and my meals are not entirely made of garbage. And I saw a therapist at the beginning of last year to work on better mental health habits and coping skills for my relatively mild anxiety problems, which helped a lot.

Overall, I think I did pretty well at last year’s resolutions.

Here’s my resolutions for 2020:

  1. Make vegetables the main part of evening meals, instead of carbs or meat.
  2. Exercise daily. (I’ll settle for 5 days a week, but I’d like to make it a daily habit.)
  3. Read more books.
  4. Blog more (and better).
  5. Do one household chore a day.

The first resolution is a continuation of “eat more healthfully.” Our meals tend to be pretty carb and/or meat heavy – pastas, meat-based dishes, etc. I’d like to make vegetables the main course, and meat and carbs the side dishes, instead. This one might be tricky – I don’t actually do the cooking in my house, my boyfriend does. And I think it’s rude for me to be like “Hey, you do all the cooking, and make sure you cook exactly as I say,” so I’m pretty sure this means he’s going to either have to sign on to this idea, or I’m going to have to start cooking more.

Exercise is hard because I am so lazy, you guys. SO lazy. Like, I will happily sit here in this chair literally all day. And that’s no good. I’d like to make exercise a daily habit – at least be hitting that “150 minutes per week” minimum they claim you should be getting. Which is 20 minutes per day, or 30 minutes for five days. We’ll work on that. There’s a brand new Planet Fitness opening here soon, and I know Planet Fitness is a shitty company (can’t remember why at the moment, but I remember reading about it), but it’s also $10/month, and might make exercising easier in the winter. We’ll see.

I want to read more, and blog more and better, and write more.

My boyfriend and I agreed to do one household chore a day, the idea being that in a month or so we’ll be scrounging for chores because we’ll be caught up, so we won’t have to do one chore a day. That sounds good, right?

And those are my New Year’s resolutions, the goals I want to work on this year.

Happy New Year, y’all.