The day that was: February 25 2016

Hi. It’s late, I know. Today was one of those days where I just didn’t feel like writing anything, but I made myself do it. For you. Message: I care.

Today we noted that some enterprising Egyptian tried to sell his or her president on eBay, and that somebody was willing to pay 6 figures for him despite the fact that he’s been pretty terrible.

We looked at the Darayya suburb of Damascus and why it alone might be enough to derail the Syrian ceasefire almost before it actually starts.

I wrote a primer on the Iranian elections and posted it at Medium, where you should definitely go read it ASAP please.

We talked a little about the shared roots of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban movements, and the responsibility that Pakistan’s intelligence service bears for the existence of both.

Last night I posted John Oliver’s bit on Hollywood whitewashing, but the highlight of Sunday’s show was his long, funny-but-serious piece on the evisceration of abortion rights around this country. Here it is:

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The day that was: February 24 2016

Today on the blog…

I explained why, in my humble opinion, even a crappy, doomed Syrian ceasefire is better than the alternative, which is people continuing to starve to death with no chance of humanitarian aid.

We visited Lebanon (which, full confession, would be my favorite Arab country if I weren’t such a sucker for Ancient Egypt), where there are still rivers of garbage in the streets and which has now become the latest target of a GCC diplomatic dog pile.

We commemorated the Battle of Karnal in 1739, the prelude to Nader Shah’s sack of Delhi and arguably the beginning of the end for India’s Mughal Empire.

Iran arrested Siamak Namazi’s 80 year old father Baquer for reasons that surpass any normal human comprehension.

And, finally, “Mitt” Romney popped his head out from one of his 263 (?) homes to spread scurrilous rumors about somebody else’s tax returns. Yeah, you read that right.

For your enjoyment, here’s Last Week Tonight on the subject of Hollywood whitewashing. I give them bonus points for mentioning John Wayne’s turn as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, which for my money may be the worst movie ever filmed.

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The day that was: February 23 2016

Today I dug in to the Syrian ceasefire agreement and was left thinking that it’s probably not going to last too long.

We looked at the recent uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian government’s inability to deal with its staggering corruption problem, and how those two things may be connected via Moscow’s strategizing.

I questioned recent moves by South Korea and the United States to further isolate North Korea, when isolating North Korea never seems to work.

And we tried to view the complete Republican refusal to acknowledge any potential Obama Supreme Court nominee through the lens of the insane levels of rage fueling Republican politics in the year 2016.

I leave you with a comedic bit that’s a lot more serious than funny, but it’s powerful and important. Here’s Samantha Bee on workplace harassment:

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The day that was: February 22 2016

I feel like the blog was a little light on original content today, and I do apologize for that. In my defense, I: a) tried checking out this thing called a “gym” for the first time in weeks, which probably means I’ll be mostly immobile tomorrow, and b) I got asked around lunchtime to appear on Alhurra’s “Free Hour” (from 3-4 PM here in Virginia) to discuss the Syrian cease-whatever deal that John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov have apparently cooked up (more on that tomorrow). Those two things ate up a big chunk of the day.

Anyway, as it was I suggested a few places you might want to direct your charity dollars toward helping Fiji recover from Cyclone Winston.

We discussed the insane scenario now happening in northern Syria, where two sets of American proxies are fighting each other, and where one set of proxies is sort of allied with Bashar al-Assad and the other is definitely allied with Jabhat al-Nusra (AKA al-Qaeda in Syria). There was also a little discussion of the Kerry-Lavrov deal here, but I’ll have more tomorrow since more details have since been released.

I pointed you toward a radio interview I did with Scott Horton about Bernie Sanders a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly that’s been somewhat overtaken by events, but you should still go check it out if for no other reason than to support independent media.

We looked at the political fallout from this weekend’s primary and caucus and wondered why it’s so hard to find a pundit-type who is willing to come out and say that Donald Trump is now the favorite to win the GOP nomination.

And I sent you to Suzanne Maloney’s righteous call for the release of Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American who has been held by Tehran on bogus charges in October and is, since last month’s big prisoner release, the only Iranian-American still in Iranian custody.

Today’s bit of funny comes from ClickHole, “This Speech Was Written For President Nixon To Deliver If The Astronauts Didn’t Make It To The Moon”:

I knew Buzz Aldrin too. He was brave and noisy. He would often boast that when he got to the moon, he would jam a Japanese flag into the soil “just to make NASA shriek and holler.” I often told him, “Buzz, do not cram a flag of Japan into the soil of the moon. Do the American flag instead,”  and Buzz would say, “With all due respect, Mr. President, fuck you. I’m going to bring nine Japanese flags to cover the surface of the moon in Japanese flags, and then when aliens see the moon through their binoculars, they will say, ‘I guess that thing belongs to Japan.'” Buzz was a great man.

The less that is said about Michael Collins, the better.

Thanks for reading!

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The weekend that was: February 20-21 2016

Some weekends are quiet around here, but this one wasn’t, so in case you missed anything:

Yesterday we commemorated the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, which took place from February 19-25, 1943 and was a technical, though fleeting, Axis success.

Also I sent you off to read Buzzfeed’s excellent look inside Boko Haram, per interviews it conducted with a few of the group’s former captives.

For our Saturday Night Tunes feature we listened to the 1954 Roy Eldridge-Dizzy Gillespie collaboration, Roy and Diz.

And finally, today we marked the anniversary of the 1921 Iranian coup, which installed a government that included Reza Khan, the man who would wind up overthrowing the Qajar dynasty and being crowed shah himself in 1925.

Today I’d like to leave you with a sobering glimpse of the world of the Bernie Sanders supporter, courtesy of Cafe.com‘s veteran Beltway sage Carl “the Dig” Diggler. Carl went undercover to suss these freaks out, and what he found was frankly terrifying:

I worked my way into the inner sanctum, where a man in a repulsive shirt that simply read “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Like A Boss” was holding court. During a break in conversation, I made my way in.

“Hello, I’m Cal Dunkler, entitled Millennial, and I don’t think women should necessarily feel safe online.”

“Uh, I don’t know about that,” he replied.

Sensing I hadn’t earned his trust yet and would have to butter him up to find out more about the harassment farm, I sidestepped.

“Well, whatevs man. I’m just happy about free college. I haven’t seen a candidate this exciting since Gary Hart, definitely,” I said.

“Gary Hart, he ran in uh, 1988?”

“And ‘84, totes. I remember posting about his comeback on Compuserv. Yeah, been a long strange ride, like Pink Floyd said.”

I could feel him softening. He was ready to fall into my web and tell me everything about the dark campaign of terror he helps run.

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The day that was: February 19 2016

This was a busier-than-usual day around here. I hope you all enjoyed it. We started out commemorating the shortest presidency in the history of presidencies, Pedro Lascuráin’s shorter-than-an-hour term as Mexican president in 1913.

We checked in on Uganda’s presidential election, where incumbent and inevitable winner Yoweri Museveni adopted the interesting tactic of having his top opponent arrested while the votes were being counted.

We looked at the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons’ (TAK) claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Ankara, Turkey, which killed 28 people and is the reason why I didn’t make a single joke about their name.

We made a note of today’s US airstrike on an ISIS encampment in Libya, which may have killed the prime suspect in two terrorist attacks in neighboring Tunisia and may also be the first of many such strikes to come.

I asked whether anybody ever actually  believed that Donald Trump was vocally opposed to the Iraq War, as he insists he was.

Last but not least I made an appeal for your generosity to support the work I’m doing here. This is going to be a regular Friday thing moving forward.

Now here’s your daily bit of humor. Slate’s international affairs writer, Joshua Keating, sometimes writes about American news in the same tenor that American reporters often write about international news. Those columns are usually pretty funny, but I got a real kick out of his story earlier this week about the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “Death of Hard-Line Jurist Throws Regime Into Chaos”:

WASHINGTON, United States—The unexpected death of a hard-line conservative jurist on America’s constitutional court has exposed deep fissures within the ruling regime and threatens to throw the country’s fragile political system into months of chaos.

The nine unelected justices who sit for lifetime terms on the Supreme Court are tasked with ensuring that laws passed by the democratically elected government don’t violate the ancient juridical texts upon which the country’s laws are based. As such, they wield immense powers and have the ability to overrule even the president himself. The aged, scholarly jurists, cloaked in long black robes, conduct their deliberations behind closed doors, shielded from the scrutiny of the media, and their most important decisions are often released to the public with great drama but little warning.

Respected by both allies and enemies, Antonin Scalia was a religious fundamentalist and fierce ideologue known for his stylish and original readings of the ancient texts. He led a movement within the court that supported adhering closely to the principles of the nation’s founding revolution, even as many laws have appeared out of step with the values of the modern world. He and his acolytes have often stood in the way of dissidents’ efforts to use the American legal system to seek increased rights for women, gays, and ethnic minorities.

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The day that was: February 18 2016

Today we looked at the troubling precedent at stake in the fight between Apple and the FBI over Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone.

I gave Pope Francis a pat on the back (I’m sure it was the highlight of his day) for relaxing the Church’s proscription on artificial birth control for women in Latin America who are at risk of contracting the birth defect-causing Zika virus.

I wondered if anybody is ever going to ask Marco Rubio what the hell he’s talking about when he says that Barack Obama is “gutting our military.”

We looked at the aftermath of yesterday’s car bombing in Ankara and what implications it might have for US plans in Syria.

Last but not least, although I almost forgot about it and that’s why I posted it so late, we commemorated the end of the Sixth Crusade, on this date in 1229.

Writing about the Crusades made me thing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail for some reason, so here’s my favorite scene from that movie to play you out for the night:

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