Monday, March 30, 2009

News Nuggets 108

Syria Calling (Seymour Hersh) from the New Yorker
Today's MUST-Read about Obama's efforts in the Middle East and their special impacts on Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Terry Gross interviewed Hersh today on Fresh Air on NPR.
"The Obama transition team helped persuade Israel to end the bombing of Gaza and to withdraw its ground troops before the Inauguration."

"Mr. Biden has settled into a role of what Mr. Obama compares to a basketball player “who does a bunch of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” the president said in an interview Friday."

Obama's Fine Print on Security (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"The Obama team agrees with Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson that the Constitution isn't "a suicide pact," and it understands that there are extreme situations where the rules on interrogation might have to be stretched. But it doesn't want to make the Bush mistake of opening the door to lawless actions."

A FASCINATING look at the behind-the-scenes conversations that have been going on between the WH and the Auto companies and WHY the WH views these companies as not viable.  The WH's assessment is, in my view, on the money.

"GM and Chrysler faced a Tuesday deadline for the government to approve plans they'd submitted weeks ago in hopes of persuading the Obama administration that they could remain in business and deserved additional money.  But the decision from Obama was no."

"President Barack Obama may or may not be able to save the U.S. auto industry, but his dramatic restricting plan is already having some effect: It’s sent the highly disciplined GOP message machine careening out of control."

How the World Sees the G20 Summit - Fear, Apathy, and Barack Obama from the Guardian [of London]

A good examination of the 20 countries and what they each will be looking for at the summit.

"From Moscow to Baghdad - what politicians want from the G20."

"With an entourage of 500 staff, an armour-plated limousine and a fleet of decoy helicopters, America's new president will arrive for his first visit to Britain amid huge razzmatazz on Tuesday for the G20 summit. But it will be his closed-door meetings with world leaders that are likely to prove the most significant of the trip."

"With every picture she’s putting middle-aged women on the fashion map. And black women on the glamour spreads. And mothers in a new sassy spotlight. Oh, and curtailing anorexia in the process: each time she beams from a glossy, the broader broad wins the day."

"The first couple’s trip to Europe Tuesday takes Michelle Obama to a land that likes her husband but seems positively fascinated by her."

Obama's Marriage Lessons for Men from the Standard [of Kenya]

An, at times, poignant commentary on the state of Kenyan marriage these days.

"Women say that all men are the same. Someone even declared that men are dogs. But if you ask any woman about US president Barack Obama, she will tell you that ‘Obama is different’."


"Did You Know..."

A wonderfully thoughtful and engaging extended clip showcasing how FAST global change and technological change are occurring -- this went viral on YouTube last year.  It finally caught up to me this weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

News Nuggets 107

"President Obama takes the world stage this week as a wildly popular figure among the people of Europe, but one who faces a difficult task in selling his plans to the continent's leaders."

"President Barack Obama will use a pair of campaign-style events to present a fresh view of America to youth around the globe ... during his G-20 and NATO travels next week. "

The Price of Realism from the Editorial Board of the Washington Post
"President Obama's plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan is ambitious and expensive. It is also hard-headed."

"The policy overhaul announced by Barack Obama yesterday received a warm welcome from the Afghan government, diplomats and aid workers, many of whom have lobbied for years for a change of strategy."

Why Washington Worries (Fareed Zakaria) from Newsweek
An EXCELLENT analysis of Obama's foreign policy and the hopelessly insular views of the foreign policy punditocracy in DC.
"The problem with American foreign policy goes beyond George Bush. It includes a Washington establishment that has gotten comfortable with the exercise of American hegemony and treats compromise as treason and negotiations as appeasement. "

The Persistence of Vision (Eleanor Clift) from Newsweek
"Despite hurdles from Congress and the economy, Obama is slowly getting things done."

Caught in the Act of Thinking (Jonathan Alter) from Newsweek
"Obama is following Roosevelt's approach of making early down payments on big ideas."

"There are good reasons for taking the resurgence of populism in the US seriously."

After the Laughter, Grim GOP Numbers from the Washington Monthly
"Citizen’s for Tax Justice crunched the numbers (PDF). They conclude that a quarter of all households, most of them poor, would pay more taxes under the GOP plan, while the richest one percent would pay $100,000 less."

"For the nation’s black magazines, newspapers, and television and radio stations, the arrival of the Obama administration has ushered in an era of unprecedented access to the White House."

Obama Sets New Standard for Managing the Media from the McClatchy News Service
"His White House is working to push and control his message through new and old media, and in some innovative ways. In short, Obama has the most multifaceted communications strategy in presidential history."

In the main, Sarah Palin stories are SO six-months ago -- but this one actually may have some bearing on her political future with the GOP.
"A seemingly unending series of public relations gaffes has Sarah Palin loyalists frustrated and worried she is diminishing her stature. And they blame an inner circle they say is composed of not-ready-for-primetime players. "

A Maker of History: John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009 from the Editorial Board of the Washington Post.  See also this article from the New York Times Week in Review Section
"Among scholars of the American past, John Hope Franklin, who died Wednesday at 94, was a rarity: He not only studied history; he made it."

Check out the brief talk she gives here to young women at a White House Women's History Month Event!
"She’s become the spokeswoman for all sorts of issues and topics — from fitness, parenting, the environment and women’s rights, to redefining images of black women in American culture and promoting self-esteem for young girls."


'Specials' Push Obama Agenda on Hill from Politico

This story may be too Inside-the-Beltway/Inside Baseball for some, but I think it suggests one reason why Obama has been able to move SO QUICKLY on SO MANY FRONTS and his Congressional critics can't seem to effectively focus their attacks.  Like the media stories above suggest, in so many subtle ways Obama's people have SPEEDED UP the process in ways that they can still keep pace -- whereas the Republicans can't.
"The legislative liaisons — or “specials,” as they’re called — share their information with each other in real time. If someone catches wind that a member of Congress has concerns or is leaning in one direction, the news is relayed instantly to other legislative affairs staffers and senior administration officials.  At the end of each week, the specials’ intelligence is distilled into a report for Obama and his senior aides, who use it as a sort of insider’s guide to finessing the president’s agenda through Congress."


Black History's Future: Grand Plans Unveiled for African American Museum on the Mall from The Root

Take a look at the design of the last museum planned for the national mall!

"The future National Museum of African American History and Culture -- as envisioned by competing teams of architects -- will most likely include water features and music halls, evocations of slave ships and the African past, and vistas acknowledging its important, monumental neighbors."

Dispatches from the Bush Posse #12

Bush Torture Lawyers Targeted in Criminal Probe from Harper's Magazine
The posse is closing some ground.  Check out WHO they are targeting in the article text!
"Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo."

"One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected."

House Gets Files on US Attorneys Firings from Politico

AGAIN, the posse is slowly closing the distance.

"The review of the documents is a precursor to testimony Rove and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers are to give to the House committee under an agreement reached earlier this month."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

News Nuggets 106

Look who's out and about in DC?  See the NYT piece at the end of today's posting.

Will Iran be to Obama what China was to Nixon from Le Monde [from France in English]
"American diplomacy seems poised to take a great turn, breaking with the Bush team's 2002 decision to classify Iran as part of an 'Axis of Evil.'"

"In terms of the things that matter most -- output, income, wealth, profits, foreclosures and job growth -- the fourth quarter was a disaster.  If you look at each of those categories in isolation, we may have seen worse on rare occasions, but when you examine the big picture, it was the worst since the Depression."

A Target Rich Environment (Marc Ambinder) from the Atlantic
"One of the reasons why Barack Obama's political team is so confident -- "arrogant," as Rove would say today, in their success is that even while some of Obama's signature policies are viewed with healthy skepticism, Republicans are still splashing around in a fetid wading pool."

"The argument, coming a week before the full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the budget, underscores the minority party's woes in a mounting unified opposition to President Obama's $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget proposal."

A Quick Explanation for the GOP Seppuku Today from John Cole's Balloon Juice
There is SO MUCH at his particular site today -- see Marshall's theory and, even though I rarely find much of value in any site's comments' section, the comments to this particular posting are hilarious!!  Especially check out the posting that lays out a theory about the "Underpants Gnome Budget."
"That must have taken a lot of work to get together. They had to have spent at least… minutes. So why did they rush out in front of cameras to make fools of themselves? For that, we must look to Josh Marshall’s Bitch Slap Theory from the 2004 election."  

Taking the Bait? and The Party of No (Ideas) from the Washington Monthly

From Bait: "There's two parts to this. The first is that Republicans defending their agenda have less time to attack the Democratic agenda. The second is that the Republican agenda is a series of old and ineffective cliches -- tax cuts, entitlement cuts, and drilling American coasts for oil. The Democratic plan looks pretty good, but it'll look especially good when compared to the GOP's proposal." From Ideas: "Republicans are not only playing by the White House's rules, they're doing it badly."

"Let’s be honest: Yesterday’s House Republican budget rollout was a P.R. disaster for the GOP."

Dick Cheney Was Right (Joe Conason) from Salon
Interesting -- if not entirely convincing.
"Deficits don't matter -- and Republicans who are complaining about Barack Obama's spending are hypocrites."

The Dirty Dozen from Rolling Stone Magazine
Some of the cartoons that go with this article are priceless!
"Meet the bankers and brokers responsible for the financial crisis - and the officials who let them get away with it."

"The Missouri Department of Public Safety has retracted a controversial profiling memo which linked libertarian activists, Christians, constitutionalists, supporters of Congressman Ron Paul and other traditionally conservative groups to underground militias.  It also specifically cautioned police to be on the lookout for bumper stickers advertising third party candidates, or people with copies of the United States Constitution."

"During the Bush years, Washington got used to a homebody president who preferred bringing friends into the Executive Mansion to venturing outside it. But these days, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, are popping up all over this city."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

News Nuggets 105

Light playing off a river bottom in Canada from National Geographic

Obama and the Tyranny of the Now from the Guardian [of London]Font size
"The president is right to ignore the daily barbs from the media and emphasise patience and persistence on the economy."

The End of Excess (Kurt Andersen) from Time Magazine
"The present decade, which we've never even agreed what to call — the 2000s? the aughts? — has acquired its permanent character as a historical pivot defined by the nightmares of 9/11 and the Panic of 2008-09. Those of us old enough to remember life before the 26-year-long spree began will probably spend the rest of our lives dealing with its consequences — in economics, foreign policy, culture, politics, the warp and woof of our daily lives. During the '80s and '90s, we were Wile E. Coyote racing heedlessly across the endless American landscape at maximum speed and then spent the beginning of the 21st century suspended in midair just past the end of the cliff; gravity reasserted itself, and we plummeted."

"Turns out, Americans actually wanted to watch Barack Obama address the nation."

"Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns."

Obama on the World Stage: What Power Means (Joe Klein) from Time Magazine
Interesting analysis that I hope makes it into Obama's IN box.
""Obama is a big improvement on Bush across the board, but he hasn't faced any test that measures his ability to use power," Leslie Gelb says. Indeed, Obama's approach to Iran comes straight out of Gelb's chapter on "stage-setting" — preparing the field for successful diplomacy."

Obama's European Listening Tour from the Guardian [of London]
"As Obama gears up for his first official trip to Europe, there is an opportunity for Europe to change the current narrative in which the US asks for assistance and our European partners decide what they can (and more often cannot) do."

Why Washington Worries (Fareed Zakaria) from Newsweek
"Obama has made striking moves to fix U.S. foreign policy—and that has set off a chorus of criticism."

"Over the past week, Obama activated his grass-roots campaign apparatus, Organizing for America, and its almost 14 million e-mail address list to put pressure on Congress to back his budget proposal. And, now, the party's standard-bearer is jumping with both feet into the game, largely out of necessity."


Of Bailouts and Bonuses: Scrutinizing AIG Spending from Fresh Air on NPR

Terry Gross's interview here was a GREAT primer about what happened at AIG.  Very compelling listening!

"Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson discusses the latest news in bailouts and banking"

ELEPHANT NUGGET!! [I didn't know what else to call this]

An elephant painting in a YouTube clip.

When I first saw this, my response was "NO WAY!!"  If there is some gimmick here I'm missing, please tell me.  As is, it's amazing and leaves one wondering what's going on in the heads of these elephants.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

News Nuggets 104

A newborn clouded leopard cub -- see the SCIENCE NUGGET below.

AIG Execs Resign from Controversial Unit from CNN
Oh Dear!  What a SHAME!!
"A handful of senior executives working within American International Group Inc's controversial financial products unit have resigned, said a company spokeswoman late on Monday."

The Very Face of Victory (Tom Shales) from the Washington Post

"Most of the facets of President Obama's personality that have made him intensely popular were on display last night during his second prime-time news conference, and so he emerged from it still every inch "President Wonderful," as it were, untouched and intact."

Obama Back in Control (Walter Shapiro) from the New Republic

"How Barack came out on top after the most challenging week of his presidency."

Obama Shoots Back and Scores (Mike Madden) from Salon

"Let the pundits wail and gnash their teeth about federally funded fat cat bonuses. Let the columnists dissect the stimulus package, explaining, with scholarly harrumphs, why it is or isn't the return of the New Deal, why the new administration is hewing dangerously left, perilously right or just altogether lost. President Barack Obama is not a product of media opinion or analysis; he's a child of television, and although he's not above writing a widely distributed op-ed piece rallying all nations to the G-20 summit, it is in television he trusts."

With Obama to Iran from the Editorial Board of Haaretz [of Israel]
"The new government should give Obama's diplomatic initiative a chance; it must not come out against it or portray it as tacit acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran or as American abandonment of Israel's security. "

"President Barack Obama's conciliatory and nuanced approach towards Iran confronts its leaders with their greatest foreign policy dilemma since the end of the war with Iraq almost 21 years ago."

"Even though Obama unsurprisingly and understandably remain generally popular with Democrats and liberals alike, there is ample progressive criticism of Obama in a way that is quite healthy and that reflects a meaningful difference between the “conservative movement” and many progressives."

New President Meets New Media (Charlie Cook) from the National Journal
"Obama's unconventional trio of television appearances seems to have paid off."

Another McCain Throws Down a Challenge (Kathleen Parker) from the Washington Post
"The GOP's identity crisis just got more interesting with the media splash of Meghan McCain, daughter of the senator who did not become president."


Endangered and Adorable: Zoo Research Center Celebrates Leopard Cubs from the Washington Post

"Early yesterday, despite murderous tendencies in the captive species, two newborn clouded leopard cubs were found alive, well and squealing at the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

News Nuggets 103

Obama's Global Op-Ed: "A Time for Global Action" from Huffington Post
"More than 30 papers around the world ran an op-ed today by President Obama arguing for "the urgent need for global economic cooperation.""

Obama People "Forced to Play Ball" with Wall Street from the Wall Street Journal with analysis from Talking Points Memo and OpenLeft.
This smells of what FDR ranted against during the middle years of the 1930s, what was then called a "capital strike," (an effort by Wall Street to undercut the New Deal by withholding money & credit from the economy).  Back then, FDR's evidence for this was thin, but he was convinced of it, and it actually compelled Roosevelt to move dramatically to the left near the end of the decade.
"Far from being a side issue or a petty amount of money, the message of the banking industry to the Obama administration was clear: give us our bonuses, or we will blow up the economy."

"The public rage we're finally seeing is long, long overdue, and appears to be the only force with both the ability and will to impose meaningful checks on continued kleptocratic pillaging and deep-seated corruption in virtually every branch of our establishment institutions."

"A great migration of young black politicos is under way. As the Obama administration takes shape, high-energy, highly skilled organizers from the campaign are now rolling up their sleeves in Washington. Meet The Root’s Talented Ten."

After Banking Fix, US Takes on Regulatory Reform from Agence France-Presse via RawStory
"After taking on US banks' toxic assets, President Barack Obama is readying a regulatory revamp to attack the underlying problem of titanic companies that become too big to fail."

Way COOL!  Numbers well deserved!!
"At a time when newspapers, magazines and TV news continue to lose readers and viewers, at least one part of the traditional media has continued to grow robustly: National Public Radio."

The Repairman's Burden (Eugene Robinson) from the Washington Post
"Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a repairman, not a revolutionary. Contrary to the impression he sometimes gives, he does understand why the Sun King excesses of Wall Street's pampered executives make people so angry. Essentially, though, he blames the players, not the game."

"Congressional Republicans are telling Dick Cheney to go back to his undisclosed location and leave them alone to rebuild the Republican Party without his input."

As I rule, I do not traffic in the excesses of right wing talk radio -- but this one below struck me as unusually off-the-charts reprehensible.  Do not listen to this unless you've taken some SERIOUS blood pressure medication!

Tammy Bruce Calls the Obamas "Trash in the White House." from the Huffington Post

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dispatches from the Bush Posse #11

Coming Soon: Declassified Bush-era Torture Memos from Newsweek
"Over objections from the U.S. intelligence community, the White House is moving to declassify—and publicly release—three internal memos that will lay out, for the first time, details of the "enhanced" interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration for use against "high value" Qaeda detainees."

"Cheney is nervous about calls for investigations into the Bush adminstration and is going on the offensive."

US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites (Mark Danner) from the New York Review of Books
"The decisions that that president [Bush] made, especially the monumental decisions taken after the attacks of September 11, 2001—decisions about rendition, surveillance, interrogation—lie strewn about us still, unclaimed and unburied, like corpses freshly dead."

News Nuggets 102

Another home run from the fashion geniuses in Milan!

Obama's New Message to Iran (Glenn Greenwald) from Salon
"It's true that, ultimately, this will only be meaningful if followed up by action, but this video -- sent by Obama to Iran, and to Iranians, for Nowruz, a major national holiday, and released this morning -- is, after 30 years of nothing but threats and hateful rhetoric exchanged between the two countries, a palpably different message not only in tone but also in content."

"President Obama’s plea is more abstract and more nuanced; less of a call to revolution than food to fuel the growing doubts of the Iranian people about their proud isolation."

The Brutal Truth (Andrew Sullivan) from the Atlantic"The pent-up frustrations behind conservatism's collapse under Republicans were trumped, however, by the fruits of power, partisan hatred of "the left", defensiveness over the Iraq war and torture, and, above all religious devotion to the Leader. Now that Bush has been removed, the massive damage done, and a pragmatic liberal is trying to sort out the mess in a sane, orderly fashion, they've gone nuts."

Upbeat Down Under (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
""What's been a breath of fresh air has been the return of U.S. global leadership on the financial crisis," says Rudd. He notes that America's embrace of the G-20 "was noticed by people around the world.""

From Tehran to Tel-Aviv (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times
"With his bold message to Iran’s leaders, President Obama achieved four things essential to any rapprochement."

Report on the Obama Generation from Democracy Corps.
"Republicans struggle among young people for a very specific reason. At a time when young people are paying close attention to politics and when so many are struggling economically, even more so than older generations, the Republicans simply do not speak to the reality of their lives or to the issues important to them. "

"President Barack Obama’s ambitious early agenda has freed him from a typical obligation of presidents: Keeping the party's organized interest groups happy."

"There’s a reservoir of good will for Obama with the public that’s deeper than with the pundits and talking heads."

What a HOWL!  Michelle is very funny in this article.

"The interview, which started out on the subject of the new White House vegetable garden, ended up ranging over a variety of household topics, which Mrs. Obama addressed with substantial fun-poking at her husband, her mother and herself."

Friday, March 20, 2009

News Nuggets 101

MUST SEE Nugget!

"Iran today hailed an unprecedented direct appeal by the US president,Barack Obama, for better relations between the two countries, but urged the US to "realise its previous mistakes" as well as end sanctions and drop its support for Israel."

Thorns and All, Obama's Dialogue with Europe has Begun from Le Figaro [in France in English]
"The Americans are hearing the laments of Europeans, who reproach them for being at the root of the global banking crisis and not wanting to alter the rules of capitalism to prevent it from happening again. Obama and his advisors retort that their urgency is elsewhere and that above all, the economy must be revived before reform is addressed."

Fix the Country Already! (Walter Shapiro) from the Daily Beast
"Fifty days into Bamalot and we still have war, recession, unemployment. Walter Shapiro wonders if the media’s hyperactive coverage give the president a chance to, you know, do something."

A Continent Adrift (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"I’m concerned about Europe. Actually, I’m concerned about the whole world — there are no safe havens from the global economic storm. But the situation in Europe worries me even more than the situation in America."

"America has turned the page on George Bush and opened another era with the first measures of Barack Obama. Mired in an outdated ideology, the France of Nicolas Sarkozy is likely to be out of the game for a long time to come."

Team Obama Runs the Offense from BusinessWeek
"Welcome to Barack Obama's second Presidential campaign—this time, for his economic policy."

Obama Leaves Chavez Fumbling from the Guardian of London
"Hugo's anti-Americanism worked in his favour during the Bush years, but Obama's appeal in Venezuela has left him fumbling."

Ten Ideas that are Changing the World Right Now from Time Magazine

Normally I despise these type of articles -- but this one actually had several items that were QUITE interesting.

Regarding Michelle Obama: The Many Meanings of a New American Icon from New York Magazine

"Michelle declared that her primary role in the Obama administration would be “mom-in-chief,” it had the ring of total plausibility, drawing far less contempt than Hillary received when she offered America her chocolate-chip-cookie recipe. The question is: Why?"

Michelle Obama Comic Book to be Released in April from the Chicago Tribune

"She's not faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive.  Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Hardly.  But the First Lady is poised to become a superhero next month when a biographical comic book hits the stands."


A truly INSPIRING portrait of an elderly Obama volunteer done during the campaign.


"The crappiest generation of spoiled idiots!" from the Conan O'Brian Show

Another piece of MUST-SEE T.V.!


The Interpreter from the Washington Post

Fascinating story!

"As the Nazis killed her parents, friends and neighbors, a teenage girl talked circles around the enemy to survive."


The Fall and Rise of the Right Whale from the New York Times

"“It’s a bumper year for calves,” Richard Merrick, an oceanographer for NOAA’s fisheries service, said in an interview. “That’s a good sign.”  Actually, it’s one of so many good signs that researchers are beginning to hope that for the first time in centuries things are looking up for the right whale. "