Political MoJo

In Solitaire Confinement With Donald Rumsfeld

| Mon Jan. 25, 2016 10:16 AM EST

At the ripe old age of 83, Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense under Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, just announced he's the architect of a whole new venture: a solitaire iOS game or, as he describes it in a fresh Medium post, an "incredibly devilish version" of the classic card game known as "Churchill Solitaire." He writes:

One of the best ways to stay young is to keep learning.

That's one of the reasons I've spent the better part of the past two years trying my hand at developing a mobile app. To be more precise, I've been working with a team of developers to bring into the digital age a card game that dates back to at least the Second World War, and perhaps earlier. Starting this week, I'm pleased that it is now going to have a new life thanks to modern technology.

According to Rumsfeld, the new game is a take on the version of solitaire Churchill taught his protégé André de Staercke during World War II.

Up until a few years ago, there were probably a dozen or so people in the entire world who knew how to play this game. These were mostly people I taught the game to — my wife, Joyce (the second best living Churchill Solitaire player I know), our children, and some assorted colleagues and friends. That was it. Winston Churchill was gone. André de Staercke, as well. And I knew I wouldn't be around forever. There was every chance the game Churchill so enjoyed could be lost to the ages.

Then I was approached about turning this game into an "app."

Rumsfeld himself did not contribute to any of the actual coding. Instead, he adopted his familiar role of mastermind, communicating his vision to a team of developers using "snowflake" memos—the infamous flurry of notes Rumsfeld was known for sending to his staff.  This was the same approach he employed when communicating with the Pentagon and the White House on such matters as the need to "keep elevating the threat" and "link Iraq to Iran."

Intrigued? Watch the video explainer he just released below:

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Videos of Excited Snow Dogs Are the Only Things Keeping Us Happy During this Historic Storm

| Sat Jan. 23, 2016 4:16 PM EST

Here in New York City, roads are now shut down to non-emergency traffic, and authorities are telling drivers they'll get fined if they don't comply. Above-ground parts of the subway system are about to close. The storm, stronger than forecast up here in New York, will continue until late into the night and dump even more snow—making it a storm likely to earn a place in the record books (though where it will rank for snowfall we won't know until it's all over). Slate is reporting that at the time of writing Washington, D.C.'s total snowfall stands at 14.9 inches. There's coastal flooding in New Jersey (watch the footage here.) CNN is reporting that 9000-plus flights have been canceled.

Even though it may be beautiful and exciting, all this nature gets old really fast. With so little to do right now but snack and surrender to television coverage, find some relief in these amazing Instagram videos of dogs having a wonderful time in the snow. Enjoy.

 

A video posted by Appa (@appathederpydog) on

 

A video posted by Nashy Grimm (@littlemannash) on

 

A video posted by siobhan_s_ (@siobhan_s_) on

 

A video posted by Trina (@crookedtailtrina) on

 

A video posted by Aimee (@aimeeinphilly) on

 

A video posted by FOX 5 DC (@fox5dc) on

 

A video posted by Ben Dimiero (@bendi84) on

PS: A little fact-checking note from my editor: “That poor little Bichon appears to be hating it. (I have one and he is suffering too!)"

There's One Big Problem With Sanders' Promise to Overturn Citizens United

| Fri Jan. 22, 2016 12:35 PM EST

Whoa, if true! On Thursday, Bernie Sanders declared that the Supreme Court would overturn Citizens United if he is elected president.

Except that's not how the Supreme Court works. Justices don't get to pick which issues or cases come their way. Only after a case is appealed to the Supreme Court can the justices decide to hear the case. There is no way for Sanders' Supreme Court picks to decide that overturning Citizens United, the 2010 campaign finance decision that fueled the rise of super-PACs, will be one of their first acts on the bench, even if they really, really want it to be.

Update: Sanders campaign spokeswoman Symone Sanders sent the following note explaining the tweet: "That tweet was worded oddly. The senator often speaks about appointing justices that believe in overturning citizens united and who would do so if the opportunity arose. That is what this was referring to."

Clinton Opens a New Front in Her Attacks on Sanders

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 5:51 PM EST

The Hillary Clinton campaign on Thursday unleashed a new line of attack against Bernie Sanders with a video critiquing the senator from Vermont's approach to handling ISIS. The move comes as poll numbers show him closing in on Clinton in Iowa and besting her in New Hampshire.

In the video, Clinton's top foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, speaks directly to the camera and explains that Clinton disagrees with Sanders when it comes to ISIS and Iran. "I have the greatest respect for Sen. Sanders," Sullivan says calmly. Then he adds that Sanders' ideas on national security matters "just don't make sense."

With a professorial tone, Sullivan analyzes three statements that Sanders has made: that there should be more Iranian ground troops in Syria, that Iran and Saudi Arabia should form a coalition to fight ISIS, and that the United States should seek to "agressively…normalize relations with Iran." Sullivan asserts, "When you look at all of these ideas, it's pretty clear that he just hasn't thought it through."

This measured attack is a shift from the campaign's recent slam on Sanders' "Medicare-for-all" health care plan. That assault, which led Chelsea Clinton to allege that Sanders would leave millions of people without coverage, was widely criticized within the political press. Vox's Ezra Klein wrote that the Clinton campaign was "indulging its worst instincts" and had "blundered into a dumb attack." (Klein has also criticized Sanders' health care plan as policy.)

By putting Sullivan in front of the camera—and on a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon to discuss the video—the campaign frees Clinton from mounting this attack herself and coming across as excessively critical of her popular opponent. The video also plays up Clinton's strengths (her foreign policy experience and readiness for office) while zeroing in on one of Sanders' presumed weaknesses (his lack of focus on foreign policy). It also seeks to focus the foreign policy conversation on topics other than the one where she's received the most criticism from Democrats: her 2003 vote in favor of the Iraq invasion.

Up to now, the Clinton campaign's anti-Sanders efforts have focused on differences between Sanders and Clinton on health care and gun safety issues. Now, in the home stretch before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Clinton appears to be adding foreign policy to her core critique.

Little Did These Adorable Kids Know That Carly Fiorina Was Using Them as Anti-Abortion Props

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 3:24 PM EST

Carly Fiorina has upset some Iowa parents, who say the presidential candidate "ambushed" their children and used them as the backdrop of an anti-abortion rally.

On Wednesday, the former Hewlett-Packard executive was attending an anti-abortion rally at the Greater Des Moines botanical garden as part of a campaign stop in Iowa. After entering the gardens, she passed a group of preschoolers on a field trip. According to the Des Moines Register, Fiorina "headed straight for a group of giggling 4- and 5-year-olds," and ushered them onto the rally's stage and beneath a giant picture of a fetus.

"We're being told to sit down and be quiet about our God, about our guns, and about the sanctity of life," Fiorina told the crowd. "No one is going to tell me to sit down and be quiet, not on this issue, not on any issue. And the more we talk [about abortion], the more people learn, the more we find common ground."

The presidential candidate has made her opposition to abortion a central part of her campaign. During the second GOP primary debate in September, Fiorina claimed she'd seen video of a "fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." (As Mother Jones reported soon after, the footage she described was fabricated by Carly for America, the super-PAC backing her candidacy.) Fiorina also recently told Fox News that she believes most Americans agree with her that abortion should be banned "for any reason at all after five months." Nearly 20 states ban abortion after about 20 weeks, or five months, of pregnancy, but most allow exceptions for the life and health of the pregnant woman.

But Fiorina's spontaneous inclusion of the children at her pro-life rally on Wednesday has upset at least one parent, who says the candidate did not get permission to use the children during the event. "The kids went there to see the plants," Chris Beck, the father of a four-year-old at the event, told the Guardian. "She ambushed my son's field trip"

"Taking them into a pro-life/abortion discussion [was] very poor taste and judgment," Beck continued, adding, "I would not want my four-year-old going to that forum—he can't fully comprehend that stuff. He likes dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers."

Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina's deputy campaign manager, refuted the claim that Fiorina forced the children to attend her event, saying that the group followed her onto the stage. "I guess the kids must have thought she was pretty neat," Flores said, "because then their teachers and parents and the kids all followed Carly into the event complete with Carly stickers."

Report: Putin "Probably" Ordered the Murder of Kremlin Critic

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 10:26 AM EST

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely approved the murder of Alexander Litvineko, a former KGB agent who died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with poison, a British inquiry released on Thursday found.

The report accused two men, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, of acting under the orders of Russia's FSB security service to kill Litvineko by slipping radioactive polonium-210 into his tea when the three men met in a London hotel.

"Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev and also by President Putin," Judge Robert Owen, the chairman of the inquiry, wrote in the highly anticipated report.

Prior to his murder, Litvineko had been a vocal critic of Putin, accusing the Russian leader of everything from organized crime to having sex with underage boys. On his deathbed in a London hospital, Litvineko told detectives that Putin was directly responsible for his killing.

Russia dismissed the report's conclusion. "We regret that a purely criminal case has been politicized and has darkened the general atmosphere of bilateral relations," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zhakarova said in a statement.

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Palin Stumps for Trump, and It Gets Weird

| Wed Jan. 20, 2016 5:42 PM EST

Fresh off her endorsement of the real estate mogul, Sarah Palin teamed up with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump for a campaign rally Wednesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma (or, according to press credentials provided by the Trump campaign, "Tusla," Oklahoma). In her signature rambling style, the former Alaska governor delivered sweeping attacks of President Barack Obama, accusing him of wearing political correctness "like a suicide vest." 

Trump, not to be outdone by his opening act, hammered Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for being "a socialist, a communist," repeatedly berated the camera crews for not panning to see how huge the crowd was, threw out several protesters, and, before leaving the stage, made his boldest promise yet of just how much winning America would experience under the leadership of a Trump administration.

"You people are going to get sick and tired of winning," Trump said. "You're going to say, 'Please, please, President Trump, we can't take this much victory. Please stop, we don't want any more wins.' And I'm going to say to you, 'We're going to win, I don't care what you say.'"

Palin, meanwhile, appeared to use the Monday night arrest of her son Track, after he allegedly punched his girlfriend and child's mother in the face and then threatened to shoot himself with an AR-15, to attack Obama. Palin slammed Obama for his alleged disregard for veterans like Track, who often experience difficulty after they return from combat.

"I can speak personally about this, I guess it's the elephant in the room because my own family, going through what we're going through today with my son, a combat vet in a striker brigade fighting for you all, America, in the war zone," Palin said, to cheers. "But my son, like so many others, they come back a bit different, they come back hardened...and it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America's finest that we have that commander in chief who will respect them, and honor them."

The Time Gloria Steinem Made Bernie Sanders an "Honorary Woman"

| Wed Jan. 20, 2016 5:32 PM EST

In the fall of 1996, locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican Susan Sweetser, then-Rep. Sanders got a big boost when feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem came to Burlington. At the time, Sweetser was running negative ads attacking Sanders' liberal positions, and so the Sanders campaign held an event to highlight his support among progressive women. An opening act, a former state senator, told the audience that "a feminist is a person who challenges the power structure of our country" and "Bernie Sanders is that kind of feminist." When it was Steinem's turn, she started off with an announcement: "I'm only here today to make Bernie Sanders an honorary woman."

In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Sanders, who went on to beat Sweetser comfortably, called the event "the nicest moment of the campaign."

Watch:

Sanders won't be able to count on a repeat performance this time around. Steinem, supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008 and is back in her corner again.

Nerdy GOP Candidate Desperate for Media Attention Compares Donald Trump to Gollum

| Wed Jan. 20, 2016 11:14 AM EST

On Wednesday morning, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) penned a Lord of the Rings-inspired Facebook post that likened Donald Trump to Gollum. He wrote:

One candidate on this national stage wants you to give him power. He tells you he is rich, so he must be smart.
 
If you give him power he claims he will fix America, but there is another tradition in America. A tradition that believes that power corrupts, and that our goal should be not to gain power but to contain power or limit Presidential power. Our founding fathers feared centralization of power.
 
...This race should not be about who can grasp the ring. Electing Gollum should not be our objective. This race should be about which candidate will best protect you from an overbearing government. I am the only one on this national stage who really doesn't want power or dominion over you. I want to set you free, I want to leave you alone, and I want a government so small you can barely see it.

In this scenario, does that make Rand Paul Frodo?

This South Carolina Republican Wants to Create a "Registry" for Responsible Journalists

| Tue Jan. 19, 2016 4:04 PM EST

Perhaps inspired by Donald Trump's recent call for a Muslim database, one South Carolina representative just introduced a measure to create a different kind of strange registry—this time to track journalists deemed "responsible" by the state.

The bill, proposed by Republican state lawmaker Mike Pitts, would establish vague requirements for journalists to submit to a registration process by the state. Journalists found in violation of the registry, by either not registering or breaking his rules, would be subjected to monetary fines and even criminal penalties—a lighter version of how the Kremlin treats its own pesky champions of free speech. As the Post and Courier reports, quoting Pitts, the Secretary of State’s Office would maintain a "responsible journalism registry" and create the criteria, with the help of a panel, on what qualifies a person to be a journalist—similar to the licensing for doctors and lawyers.

More from the very real "South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law" proposal:

When asked if the proposal was retribution for some unflattering press coverage directed towards Pitts—the lawmaker has been repeatedly cited for some of his more eyebrow-raising spending habits—he told the Post and Courier it was actually aimed to combat stories he believes have been unfairly targeting gun ownership.

"It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms," Pitts, a lifetime NRA member, said. "With this statement I'm talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the six o'clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership."