Tuesday, June 30, 2009

News Nuggets 191

Cats on the bed and on the counter -- no problem!  My kitties do it all the time.  See the Big Kitty Nugget below from the London Daily Mail

The Mullahs' Secret Battle (Reza Aslan) from the Daily Beast

"The uprising's power struggle has shifted from the streets to the backrooms of the government. But The Daily Beast's Reza Aslan writes that, despite rumors, demonstrators are hardly giving up."

Ahmadinejad Won the Battle But Lost the War (Walter Shapiro) from Politics Daily

"In the short run, the theocrats and the Iranian hardliners may derive short-term benefits as the American military option becomes even more unsustainable and implausible. But there will come a time -- hopefully sooner than later -- when June 2009 will be commemorated as the moment when the old order began to crumble as millions of Iranians bravely embraced the 21st century."

Why Iran Hates Britain So Much from the [London] Telegraph

"Britain has taken America's place as Tehran's most loathed nation. The antipathy goes back centuries."

Radio Free Iran from the National Interest

"While the Obama administration and the “Zionists” have attracted the usual opprobrium, it is Britain that has been singled out for special treatment. ...  The Iranian autocrats are especially irate over the growing popularity of the new BBC Persian service, which has only been operating for six months, yet already has an audience of between 7 and 8 million."

Vince Lombardi Politics (David Brooks) from the New York Times

"Leaders in Congress and in the administration seem open to nearly any idea so long as it will lead to passing legislation. ... It will do what it takes to pass a bill. All of this has produced a ruthlessly pragmatic victory machine."

How Long is Long Enough? (Bob Herbert) from the New York Times

"No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12."

The more we know about Guantanamo the more appalling it gets.

Betraying the Planet (paul Krugman) from the New York Times

"As I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet."

While I share Krugman's sense of urgency around this issue, I think this demonizing hyperbole does more harm than good.  Moreover, if I were him, I'd worry more about Blue Dog Democrats and other moderates in Congress (the Senate especially) who accept the fact of global warming and that we need to act -- as long as it doesn't cost too much!  Obama's climate bill is far more threatened by these folks than the Republican deniers out there.

INTENSE NARCISSISM NUGGET #2!! [following on yesterday's Narcissism Nugget]

Sanford: Staying is Part of God's Plan from Politico

"In a written message to supporters Monday, Mark Sanford asserted that God’s plan for him includes finishing his term as South Carolina governor."

Does it include running for president in 2012?  Or keeping your Latin honey?  Hungry minds want to know!!


It Came from Wasilla (Todd Purdum) from Vanity Fair

Great long-form article on Sarah Palin and John McCain's relationship as it evolved last year.


Club-for-Growth Targets Republicans After Climate Bill Vote from Politics Daily

"The Club for Growth is a fiscally conservative organization, known for its willingness to support conservatives who challenge liberal Republicans in primary campaigns."

YOU GO!!  That was good work you did against Arlen Specter -- let's replicate that against the 8 Republicans who voted for the Climate Bill -- especially that worthless Mark Kirk guy whose running for Senate next year in Illinois.  TAKE HIM DOWN!  

GOP Poised to Eat its Own from the Huffington Post expands on the same story.


I Share My Home with 11 Cats: Four Cheetahs, Five Lions and Two Tigers from the [London] Daily Mail

'I love them all. But they're a handful.'

Amazing video, photos ... and understatements!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

News Nuggets 190

From the Natural Resources Defense Fund, this is what "mountain topping" looks like in West Virginia.  See the item from the Washington Independent below.


Are Senior Clerics as Divided as Iran? from NPR's Morning Edition Sunday

A GREAT summary of the religious/political situation in Qom right now.

"Qom is Iran's holiest city and a central point of the electoral crisis in the country. Islamic scholar Reza Aslan, author of How To Win A Cosmic War, discusses what's happening in Qom and with the Ayatollahs, and how the country might move forward."

The Iran Chessboard, as Seen by Team Obama from Foreign Policy Magazine

"Recent administration assessments and conversations with outside government Iran watchers and nonproliferation experts offer a different view -- one in which Obama's hand may actually have been strengthened and Iran's weakened by some overlooked recent events."

Iran Escalates Its Fight with Britain; New Clashes Erupt from the New York Times

"In the past, international pressure was enough to rally the nation behind its leaders and silence critics. But this time, that did not seem to be the case. Instead, the government’s actions, coupled with renewed calls for national unity, added to a growing sense of uncertainty over where Iran was headed as its leaders tried to pull out of a crisis that has undermined its legitimacy and divided the political and clerical elite."

Ahmadinejad Regime Plots Purge After Iran Election Protests from the Times [of London]

NOT a good sign.

"Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, are bracing themselves for a purge if, as expected, he returns to office following the country’s bitterly disputed presidential election."

Understanding Iran - Repression 101 (David Sanger) from the New York Times

"When the rallying cry on the streets of Tehran turned from “Death to America!” to the stranger-sounding “Death to the Dictator!” there was a great temptation to conclude that the days of the mullahs were numbered.  Maybe they are and maybe not."

What Can Obama Do In Iran? from Slate

"Six nonmilitary ways the president can influence Iran."

The Wall Isn't Falling: Historical Parallels Don't Work in Iran (Fareed Zakaria) from Newsweek

"While the regime's legitimacy has cracked—a fatal wound in the long run—for now it will probably be able to use its guns and money to consolidate power. And it has plenty of both.  ...  President Obama is quite right to tread cautiously, extend his moral support to Iranian protesters, but not get politically involved. The United States has always underestimated the raw power of nationalism across the world."

Pullout Deadline Stirs Anxiety and Pride in Iraq from the Washington Post

Anxiety ... pride ... what about GRATITUDE!  Those ingrates!!

"The 30th of June will be like a wedding," said Maj. Gen. Abdel Amir al-Zaidi, commander of the Iraqi army's 11th Division, currently in the northern city of Kirkuk. "It is a victory for all Iraqis, a national holiday."

They didn't welcome us as liberators and, guess what, they're not seeing us off as liberators either.  More like, "Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!"

They Say Obama is Starting to Stumble - The Hell He Is from the [Manchester] Guardian

"On Iran, gay marriage and the economy, the president is taking flak. But critics ignore the profound changes he is delivering."

Israel Reportedly Open to West Bank Settlement Freeze from the Boston Globe

"Israel would be open to a complete freeze of settlement building in the West Bank for three to six months as part of a broad Middle East peace endeavor that included a Palestinian agreement to negotiate an end to the conflict and confidence-building steps by major Arab nations, senior Israeli officials said yesterday."

Now, I wonder what behind-the-scenes arm-twisting and threats Obama had to do to get THIS to happen?

Democrats Increasingly Confident They'll Enact Health-Care Reform from the McClatchy News Service.

"Despite the strains of sky-high costs and public skepticism, the government is moving steadily toward a vast health care overhaul that would at least partly fulfill a six-decade quest for universal coverage and could rein in soaring costs for everyone else."

Well, it's good SOMEONE is confident about this.  Eleanor certainly remains skeptical:

Short of the Magic: Democrats Don't Have 60 Voters (Eleanor Clift) from Newsweek

"It's clear to many Democrats that they'll need Republican support to enact President Obama's health-care reform. With Senators Kennedy and Byrd sidelined by illness, Al Franken not yet seated, and two more Democrats on record publicly opposing the public option that the president supports, the majority currently has about 55 votes—short of the magic 60 needed."

Against 'Government-Run' Health Care (Mark Shields) from Creators Syndicate

"Brown, you see, from the first time he ran successfully for the House of Representatives in 1992, has declined to accept the first-class health insurance coverage available to all the members of Congress and generously underwritten by the nation's citizens. His reasoning was and remains very simple: He would not take the congressional health plan until every Ohioan has health care coverage."

The Climate Dividing Lines from the National Journal

"In their razor-thin victory on climate change legislation Friday, House Democrats prevailed by holding just enough votes from members in coal states to offset substantial defections from colleagues in Republican-leaning districts, a National Journal analysis of the vote shows."

The Price of Climate Change (Op-Ed) from the [Manchester] Guardian

"The US climate change bill in Congress won't just save the environment – it will save us money in the long run."

Congress Takes on Mountaintop Mining from the Washington Independent

"America’s oldest mountains are being decimated, and after decades of abetment, Congress is finally watching with more critical eyes."

Mark Sanford's Pain is the President's Gain (Jonathan Alter) from Newsweek

The benefits of integrity and clean living!

"South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is smart, handsome, principled—and no longer a political threat to President Obama in 2012. ... By my count, Sanford is no less than the 10th horndog whose comeuppance has benefited Obama. This happily married president always seems to get a piece of the action."


Sanford: King David Didn't Resign, So Why Should I? from TalkingPointsMemo

"When all this came out -- thanks to an intrepid reporter from the Bethlehem-based State, who was tipped to emails exchanged between David and Bathsheba, then staked out David at the Jerusalem airport -- David refused to resign as king of Judea. His presidential hopes also took a hit."


Nixon: Holding Forth on Clout and How to Use it from the New York Times

"While much of the attention to the newly disclosed material focused on Mr. Nixon’s expressing his prejudices and discussing the cease-fire in Vietnam, other conversations offer a glimpse of his thinking about presidential decision making and the exercise of power."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

News Nuggets 189

Space blobs!  Scientists have made a major breakthrough in figuring out what they are.  See the Science Nugget below.

TWO important developments in Iran:

ONE: Iran Arrests UK Embassy Staff from the [Manchester] Guardian

"In the latest in a series of spats between the two countries, Iran detained eight or nine local embassy staff for playing a "significant role" in the unrest, which has seen serious clashes between demonstrators and security forces."

To me, this reflects how truly desperate Khomenei and Ahmadinejad are.  This is designed to reinvent a "great enemy" and to shore up their support among hard-liners in Qom.  This brings us to the second development.

TWO: Battle for Iran Shifts From Streets to the Heart of Power from the [Manchester] Guardian

"Ayatollah Khamenei's support for President Ahmadinejad has led both moderates and hard-liners to start plotting against him."

I'm not so sure this story will end any happier in the back halls of power than it ended up in the streets of Tehran.  My sense here is that both sides are NOT messing around and would gladly line up their political rivals and have them mowed down.  Several of the articles below follow other aspects of this same story.

The Second Islamic Revolution (David Horovitz) from the Jerusalem Post

"The watching world well understands the young, pro-Western aspect of the ruthlessly countered post-election revolt in Iran. But what makes this outburst different, says The Jerusalem Post's Sabina Amidi, just returned from Teheran, is that many pro-Islamists have turned on the regime as well."

For Radical Islam, the End Begins (Op-Ed) from the Washington Post

"Much as the hammers that leveled the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the end of the Cold War, so might the protests rocking Iran signal the death of radical Islam and the challenges it poses to the West."

In a similar vein:

Mideast Hawks, Take Wing (Jim Hoagland) from the Washington Post

""President" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brutal clampdown on his opponents is a tragedy for Iranians. But the shredding of Iran's pretensions of being a stable, democratic state may offer positive change in the Middle East in the longer term."

Iran and the Syrian Gambit from the Huffington Post

"The U.S. has three key interests with respect to Iran: containing its nuclear program, limiting its reach in the Middle East and, quite possibly, extending Iranian influence in Afghanistan in cooperation with the U.S. These three interests have to be pursued against the ever-shifting backdrop of the protests."

The Crowds Have Gone But Tehran Has Changed Forever (Karim Sadjadpour) from the Independent [of London]

"The large crowds that we witnessed last week in Tehran may have subsided for now, but the uneasy calm is misleading. ... What is significant ... is that Khamenei's normally trusted servants have begun publicly expressing their misgivings."

US Announces Shift in Afghanistan Drug Policy from Reuters News Service

Woo Woo!  Further evidence that grey matter exists in some abundance in the West Wing.

"The United States has announced a new drug policy for opium-rich Afghanistan, saying it was phasing out funding for eradication programs while significantly increasing its funding for alternate crop and drug interdiction efforts."

Energy Vote: Rolling the Dice Pays Off for Obama, Pelosi from Politics Daily

"For months now, everyone from Obama on down has been involved in a noisy debate over how to fix the nation's health care system. Meanwhile, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) was making its stealth journey on the House side. It's now in line to give Obama his first victory -- or defeat -- on a major campaign pledge."

Obama and Sanford: Being and Nothingness from the Atlantic

"It was my first look at the President at close quarters. I came away with the impression that the President was possibly the most knowledgeable person in the room when it came to the current health care crisis. That's no small thing given the people who were there."

House Passes Landmark Climate Change Bill from Reuters News Service

"President Barack Obama scored a major victory on Friday when the House of Representatives passed legislation to slash industrial pollution that is blamed for global warming."

Republican Reckoning (Jacob Heilbrunn) from the National Interest

A very interesting long-from article looking at how 9/11 really twisted the Republicans' basic approach to foreign policy.

"After 9/11, Robert F. Ellsworth and Dimitri K. Simes warned, “Continuing to follow the prescriptions of the neoconservative faction in the Republican party may damage President Bush’s legacy, imperil the country’s fiscal stability and complicate America’s ability to exercise global leadership.” Since then, all three have come to pass. Bush’s tenure has become a byword for incompetence. America’s economy is in shambles. And its ability to exercise leadership has indeed been seriously compromised.  ...  Obama, you could say, does not have a GOP problem, but the GOP has an Obama problem."

That Wild and Wacky Senate: An Overview of 2010 Races (Larry Sabato) from the VA Center for Politics

"So much has happened recently in many of the 2010 Senate contests that you would think we were in the middle of the election year. We're still seventeen months out from Election Day, yet the battles are turning white hot in many states."


Telescope Finds Space Blobs Are Pubescent Galaxies from the [Manchester] Guardian

"Mysterious space blobs aren't infant galaxies as astronomers once thought. Scientists say they mostly consist of galaxies going through puberty, all hot and bothered."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

News Nuggets 188

An AMAZING view of an erupting volcano as seen from the international space station from NASA.  See yesterday's special geology/photography nugget.

Two Weeks After - Iran Protests Fade But Elite Split from the International Business Times [of the UK]

"Iran's leadership has quelled mass protests over a disputed presidential poll two weeks ago, but the battle has moved off the street into a behind-the-scenes struggle splitting the clerical establishment into two camps."

It should be noted that some sources have questioned the accuracy of this particular story.  See HERE.

Clash of the Clerics from Slate

"The options for change in Iran should not be understood as a choice between democratic Western-style secularism on one hand and a military dictatorship in the name of Islam on the other. There are many options on the table, and most Iranians seek evolutionary rather than revolutionary change."

Why Iran's Supreme Leader Could Be the Protests' Ultimate Victim from the Telegraph [of the UK]

"Forget the threat posed to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the political unrest that has swept Iran this week. It is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the regime's Supreme Leader, who should really be sweating about his future."

Fear, Danger, and a Coming Doom: My Return to Iran from the [Manchester] Guardian

"'We have our countrymen's blood on our batons,' a policeman tells Sogol Baharan, an Iranian student in the UK who describes her return to Tehran in the aftermath of the disputed election."

Arab Activists Watch Iran And Wonder: 'Why Not Us?' from the New York Times

"Watching tens of thousands of Iranians take to the streets of Tehran this month, the 27-year-old pro-democracy activist has grown disillusioned. In 10 days, he said, the Iranians have achieved far more than his movement has ever accomplished in Egypt.

"We sacrificed a lot, but we have gotten nowhere," Sharkawy said."

Iran's Second Sex (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times

"From Day 1, Iran’s women stood in the vanguard. Their voices from rooftops were loudest, and their defiance in the streets boldest. “Stand, don’t run,” Nazanine told me as the baton-wielding police charged up handsome Vali Asr avenue on the day after the fraudulent election. She stood."

The War on Obama's Realism (Editorial) from RealClearWorld

"While it makes sense that neoconservatives would fight hard to salvage their legacy, it's less clear why Republicans would want to join them at the barricades. The public, to date, has been supportive of President Obama's handling of foreign policy in general, and of Iran in particular."

How Quarreling Ayatollahs Affect Iran's Crisis from Time Magazine

"The conflict between two regime insiders, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has created the most profound political crisis in the Islamic Republic's 30-year history. ...  The fact that such discord is possible among factions who all claim allegiance to the principle of guidance by the clergy is rooted in the distinct nature of Shi'ite Islam."

Leave Iran to the Iranians (Leslie Gelb) from the Daily Beast

This was from early in the week.

"Iranian hardliners just can’t wait for President Barack Obama to raise high the protesters’ green banner so they can turn it red, white, and blue and unleash a bloodbath against “American agents.” And American hardliners and foreign-policy gurus just keep pushing Obama toward precisely that rhetorical abyss."

Fixing the Odds (Op-Ed) from the New York Times

"If, as Iran’s opposition has alleged, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has rigged the country’s presidential election, he will join a long roster of autocrats who have tried to preserve their power through fraudulent means. But election-stealing is a risky gamble. Although the perpetrators have sometimes succeeded, typically by deploying brutal force, they have seldom evaded justice when their ploy failed."

Europe Must Respond to Obama on Middle East (Editorial) from the [Manchester] Guardian

"President Obama is setting forth on an entirely new path in the Middle East with great courage (Leaders, 25 June). He has broken with the previous policies and is engaging in an effort to build for the future. ... It is clear to us that Europe should help him in every way it can to pursue his efforts, in spite of the inevitable obstacles that will emerge."

Rahm Emanuel Redefines Bipartisanship from the Christian Science Monitor

"Obama's chief of staff says the final vote on a bill is not the only yardstick. Presidential outreach and incorporating GOP ideas count, too."

Making Climate Change History from the [Manchester] Guardian

"Passing the US climate change bill would go down in history as America's first significant step toward curbing carbon emissions."

America's Greenest States from Forbes Magazine

Very interesting look at many states.  The full list with appropriate state links is HERE, and Michael Tomasky of the [Manchester] Guardian has some thoughts about it HERE.

"When you think "green," you think New Jersey, right? OK, maybe not. But perhaps you should."

Obama Putting His Approval Numbers to Work from the Cook Political Report

Lot's of truth to Cook's conclusion here.

"It has long been said that high job approval ratings are not like trophies to be put on a shelf and admired. High approval numbers mean political capital, capital that is to be accumulated and eventually used, to help accomplish tough tasks."

Mockery (Sally Quinn) from the Washington Post

She is RIGHT ON THE MONEY here concerning the latest spate of philandering lawmaker that have been in the news.

"One day we'll see a woman politician standing at the same public confessional I suppose you would have to call that an advance in women's rights. Let's just hope she has the decency not to invoke religion in her defense.  And let's hope that some day moralizing Christians will wake up and see that these politicians they support and defend are making a mockery of everything they purport to believe in and cherish." 


Sasha Obama - and Dad - Sink Rahm Emanuel from the Washington Post

Politics Daily has coverage of the same event HERE.

"Sasha Obama was the star of the first-ever White House luau, wowing the crowd with a pitch so tough that the 8-year-old sank her dad's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in the dunking booth, according to Sleuth informants who were there."

WHAT a howl!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

News Nuggets 187

An Amazon River Dolphin from the National Geographic


A Deal to Save Iran? (Reza Aslan) from the Daily Beast

"Iran’s clerics may be close to forcing a compromise from the Supreme Leader—one that would entail a run-off election between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad."

An Iranian Revolution That's Not Over Yet from Forbes

"The ruling elite are at each other's throats. Divisions within the armed forces are visible. Millions of people are ecstatically participating and bravely confronting the armed forces with nonviolent tactics. And finally, the U.S. media and academics, the so-called Iran experts, refuse to call it a revolution--this is how you know you're having one!"

Iran Election Row Set to Rage On from the BBC

"But any idea that the opposition is about to go gently into the good night is probably an illusion. There is still a depth of feeling in this argument, on both sides, that suggests the dispute could rage for weeks or even months."

Secret Voices of the New Iran (John Simpson) of the BBC

The disenchantment of the Revolutionary Guard is a story that has been rumbling beneath the surface for some days now.

"I had to leave Iran last Sunday, when the authorities refused to renew my visa. But before I left, another former senior Revolutionary Guard came to our hotel to see us.  "Remember me," he pleaded. "Remember that I helped the BBC."  I realised that even a person so intimately linked to the Islamic Revolution thinks that something will soon change in Iran."

Iran's Election: Economic Fears and Discontents Will Only Increase from the Brookings Institution

VERY interesting analysis here -- sounds like the Mullahs will have a hard time keeping a lid on things.

"The sudden surge of support for Mr. Moussavi, the reformist candidate who has come to lead the protest movement, owes a lot to the desperate search of Iran’s youth for meaning in their lives. This new generation is highly educated and has ambitions for a middle class life that neither the economic nor the social system is able to fulfill."

Arab States Aligned with US Savor Turmoil in Iran from the New York Times

"The rancorous dispute over Iran's presidential election could turn into a win-win for Arab leaders aligned with Washington who in the past have complained bitterly that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was destabilizing the region and meddling in Arab affairs, political analysts and former officials around the region said."

Bush Admin Leaks Bolstered Republican's Reelection Bid from the Hill

With Bush's DOJ, no surprise here.  Just wait a few days -- there'll be more.

"In the fall of 2006, one day after the Justice Department granted permission to a U.S. attorney to place a wiretap on a Republican congressman suspected of corruption, existence of the investigation was leaked to the press — not only compromising the sensitive criminal probe but tipping the lawmaker off to the wiretap."

Lawyer: Spanish Prosecution of 'Bush 6' Will Proceed from RawStory

"The Spanish lawyer working to indict six former Bush administration attorneys for their roles in the US’s torture program says the case will go ahead in Spanish courts."

Democrats Pass Health Reform -- or Else (Joe Conason) from RealClearPolitics

When I look at the wishy-washy wavering that many Dems seem to be doing these days, this is exactly my sentiment.

"If Congress fails to enact health care reform this year -- or if it enacts a sham reform designed to bail out corporate medicine while excluding the "public option" -- then the public will rightly blame Democrats, who have no excuse for failure except their own cowardice and corruption. The punishment inflicted by angry voters is likely to be reduced majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives -- or even the restoration of Republican rule on Capitol Hill."

Democrats Confident as US Climate Change Bill Vote Looms from the [Manchester] Guardian

"Sweeping energy and climate change bill would deliver key Obama administration promise to cut US carbon emissions."

Obama's Climate Change Bill Will Change the Face of US Industry (Jonathan Lash - a long-time environmental writer/leader in DC)

"The US House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on a bill that would change the face of America's factories, power sources, buildings, landscapes and working patterns. I have been involved in a dozen pieces of landmark US environmental legislation over the last 30 years. None has been more important than this."

Conservatives Write Off Sanford as a National Leader from the Washington Independent

"He really was a guy who united ... or unites the different wings of the Republican Party. Economic conservatives, social conservatives, national security conservatives. After today? No way.”"

Sanford Confession is More Bad News for the Republicans from the New York Times

"His confession on Wednesday that he had been in Argentina with a woman not his wife — and not hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had said Monday — was another jolt of bad news for a party that has struggled to get off the ropes all year."

With Sanford's Scandal, GOP's Long Winter Gets Longer from the Washington Post

"For a Republican Party down on its luck, the governor's disappearance and subsequent rambling apology to his wife, his family, his close friends and all the people of South Carolina draw more unwelcome publicity to a party that needs but cannot seem to get any good news."

Republican Lawmaker: GOP Needs to 'Lose Stinking Rot of Self-Righteousness' from the Wall Street Journal

But ... but they like their 'stinking rot.'  Nice sentiment.  Good luck in selling it.

"With his governor now felled by similar temptations, Bob Inglis (R) sees an opening for the Republican Party, a chance to “lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness” and “to understand we are all in need of some grace.”"

Debating Health Care with Congressman Blunt from the Reader Advisory Panel of the Kansas City Star

To think this guy has ANY SAY in the matter is both funny and scary.

"He said, anecdotally, that he has had serious medical problems and that he was very satisfied with his health care.  The response revealed two major areas of confusion. First, a patient's satisfaction level with his/her health care is not the same as satisfaction with the health care payment system. The first could be great, the second awful.  More significantly, Mr. Blunt has the finest health care insurance money can buy, and he's a member of Congress. Does he really think the insurance company (or the health care provider) would do anything but treat him as a VIP?"

First Lady Demands Substance from the Washington Post

"The West Wing of the White House -- the fulcrum of power and policy -- had not fully integrated her into its agenda. She wanted more.  So, earlier this month, she changed her chief of staff, and now she's changing her role."

I wondered what that shake-up was about.


Volcano Blows a 'Hole in the Sky' from the [London] Daily Mail

TRULY spectacular images from the space station.

"Stunning pictures of the volcano that blew a hole in the sky as astronauts witness eruption from International Space Station."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

News Nuggets 186

Wheat fields in Stratford Saye, Hampshire, in the UK -- from the [London] Daily Telegraph


Amid Iran Protests, Rumors of Power Struggle (Mary Louise Kelly) from NPR's All Things Considered.

"Rumors are swirling of a power struggle unfolding within Iran's ruling elite, amounting to a direct and unprecedented challenge to the authority of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

Lights Out: Why the Decrease in Demonstrations in Iran? from the National Interest

Many different views as to what's happening now in Iran.

"Why are the Iranian protestors scaling back their demonstrations? And how will their actions impact the greater Middle East?"

Crisis Rocks Mideast Power Balance from the Wall Street Journal

"The turmoil in Iran is threatening to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East, denting the Islamic Republic's regional standing and spooking some Arab regimes with the specter of similar people-power uprisings."

The Opposition Movement Weighs Its Options from the Associated Press

"The violence of the authorities puts opposition leaders in a bind: they need to maintain the momentum of their protest movement, but they are aware that they're unlikely to win on the streets and that confrontation could bring massive bloodshed that could also kill off the prospects for near-term change."

Khamenei's Regime is Breaking Apart (Editorial) from the [Manchester] Guardian

"The regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamanei and the religious conservatives who support him has begun to break apart. The conflict between Khamenei and the opposition led by Mir Hossein Mousavi has broken out into the open with the alleged arrest of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's daughter."  History tells us that this type of conflict among a ruling elite is very unstable."

A bit premature after yesterday's events -- but a lot of his points are valid.

What the Arab World is Saying -- and Isn't Saying about Protests from the New Republic

"As Western media outlets obsessively cover the protests in Iran, the Arab press has been approaching the events with mixed emotions. Since much of the media in the Middle East is state-controlled, press coverage provides an interesting window into the complex relationship between Iran and the Arab world."

The Arabs Watch Iran with Forlorn Envy from the Daily Star [of Lenanon in English]

"I'm in Amman, Jordan, and finished writing it Tuesday in Beirut, Lebanon - a short journey that captured how the dynamic events in Iran are playing out in very different ways in a largely passive and vulnerable Arab world."

Iran's in Turmoil. Good Thing McCain's Not President (Gene Lyons) from Salon

Isn't that the truth!  What a DOPE!  

"First, do no harm." Contrary to popular belief, the phrase doesn't appear in the Hippocratic oath taken by physicians. At times like the present, however, it's tempting to think it should be added to the presidential oath of office."

Tehran Dwellers Enter Twilight Zone from the Financial Times [of London]

"Now throngs of riot police are stationed around main crossroads and squares, and crowds of vigilantes from the basij , the pro-government militia, mill about, fiddling with their clubs."

What to Make of the Russian Media's Reaction to Iran? from the New Republic

"As we continue to pick apart the dubious Iranian election returns, it's worth considering their very different treatment in Russia, which has long sought to play the lion tamer in the nuclear tug-of-war with Tehran."

Iran in China (James Fallows) from the Atlantic

"In response to a number of requests for tips on how to judge the reaction of China's officialdom [to protests in Iran], media (controlled by officialdom), and populace, here are some guidelines."

Fallows follows up with another posting HERE.

Clerical Error: Can Iran's Reformers Exploit Fissures in the Regime? from Foreign Affairs Magazine

"As people demonstrate in the streets, a second, equally crucial battle is unfolding behind closed doors among the country's power brokers, who have splintered over the regime's decision to subvert the modest democratic guarantees that have helped sustain Iran's revolutionary system for the past 30 years."

Obama to Send Ambassador to Syria After Four-year Gap from the Washington Post

As I've noted before, it seems that US-Syria relations are on a fast-track for real improvement.

"President Obama has decided to return a U.S. ambassador to Syria after an absence of more than four years, marking a significant step toward engaging an influential Arab nation long at odds with the United States."

Pakistan-India: US Pressure to Thaw Relations from the World Politics Review

"Washington has suggested to New Delhi that the current situation provides a favorable opportunity for peace talks with Islamabad. According to this line of reasoning, with both the Pakistani military and its intelligence apparatus, the ISI, politically weakened by the loss of public faith in them, and with both militarily engaged with Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents along the Afghan border, they would not be able to interfere with talks between the two countries to stabilize the region."

Deja Vu on Health Care? (Ruth Marcus) from the Washington Post

"So the whole effort could well fall apart once again. But my money is on the side of a significant legislative accomplishment -- something short of immediate universal coverage but more than cosmetic change. In conversations with veterans of the Clinton effort, all said the turbulence was expected, inevitable and almost certainly not the last buckle-your-seatbelt moment. But most were cautiously optimistic about the final outcome."


Mousavi and Mossadeq: What the 1953 US-Backed Overthrow Has to do with Today from the Atlantic

"In the middle of the last century, the U.S. overthrew Iran's democratically elected leader, Muhammad Mossadeq. Some think it happened too long ago to be a major factor in today's protests; some disagree. But it's shaping how both the Iranian and U.S. governments react to what's happening in the streets of Tehran."


A Night Out in Riyadh from the [Manchester] Guardian

In a country like Saudi-Arabia, these folks were taking some SERIOUS risks.

"According to the paper, most of those arrested are "practitioners of sexual deviance" accustomed to renting guest houses at weekends for "shameless" parties where they "practise these disgraceful rituals". More than 580 comments from readers posted under the article show strong approval for the police action, coupled in some cases with expressions of xenophobia and racism."


Normally I don't post items dealing with this kind of stuff -- but this was pretty funny this morning.

The Love Party (Ruth Marcus) from the New York Times

"On behalf of the people of Illinois and New York, I’d like to thank South Carolina for giving us Mark (“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife”) Sanford. Finally, a governor who’s weirder than Rod Blagojevich and less responsible than Eliot Spitzer."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

News Nuggets 185

With the coming of summer, my mind drifts towards interesting destinations.  The caves shown above are in Alabama -- from National Geographic.

Splits at the Top of Iran's Islamic Regime Seem to be Reaching New Levels from Robert Tait's reporting at the 12:30PM time post at the Guardian's live-blogging of events in Iran.  

This has been getting a lot of play at the New York Times and other MSM sites.

"The splits at the top of the Islamic regime seem to be reaching new levels. Vatan-e Emrouz, a newspaper owned by Mehrdad Bazrpash - a renowned hardliner and close aide to Ahmadinejad - has today attacked Larijani, the conservative speaker who is nominally on the side of the status quo and against the protesters."

Clerics Join Iran's Anti-government Protests from CNN

"In a blatant act of defiance, a group of Mullahs took to the streets of Tehran, to protest election results that returned incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power."

On the face of it, this would seem to be significant -- but I have to say I'm skeptical of it.  How representative is it? Moreover, it could be more an indicator of things going on behind the scenes among the political elites.


He's been doing a very good job this last week in Iran.

Life and Death in Tehran (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times

"As the sound of the prayer rose, the regular city police joined in. This was too much for the Basij militia, the regime’s plainclothes shock troops, who arrived on motorbikes and, wielding sticks, broke up the gathering of about 60 people"

The End of the Beginning (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times

"Iran’s 1979 revolution took a full year to gestate. The uprising of 2009 has now ended its first phase. But the volatility ushered in by the June 12 ballot-box putsch of Iran’s New Right is certain to endure over the coming year. The Islamic Republic has been weakened."

What Does Khamenei Have Against Little Old Britain? (Editorial) from the Telegraph [of London]

"There is a good reason why the ayatollah bashed Britain with such singular ferocity, and it is to do with the Iranians' changing view of America. We have been co-opted to play the role of Great Satan, because America is now led by Barack Obama, or Barack Hussein Obama, as Fox News always calls him, and it is obvious that the mullahs don't know quite how to handle him."

This piece is interesting both for its observations about the US and about what it indicates about the average mindset of the post-colonial British.

President Cool Plays it Right (Richard Cohen) from the Washington Post

"The current policy, much criticized by prominent Republicans, vindicated Barack Obama's boast in his Cairo speech that he is a "student of history." The student in him knows that the worst thing the United States could do at the moment is provide the supreme leader and the less supreme leaders with the words to paint the opposition as American stooges -- or, even worse, suggest to the protesters that some sort of help is on its way from Washington."

The Green Revolution(s) (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times

"Iranian reformers don’t need our praise. They need the one thing we could do, without firing a shot, that would truly weaken the Iranian theocrats and force them to unshackle their people. What’s that? End our addiction to the oil that funds Iran’s Islamic dictatorship. Launching a real Green Revolution in America would be the best way to support the “Green Revolution” in Iran."

During the last couple of weeks, Friedman has been really ON TARGET.  I sense that events have wandered into an area Friedman has been dwelling and perhaps preparing another book.

Obama's Subtle Diplomacy (Eleanor Clift) from Newsweek

"President Obama hasn't gotten enough credit for the small-d democratic stirrings he set in motion when he became the first American president to speak directly to the Muslim world. He was criticized for apologizing too much for past U.S. actions, but religious teachings say you must first remove the plank from your own eye before commenting on the sawdust in your brother's. Acknowledging actions broadly recognized as mistakes confers legitimacy, not weakness."


Nation Editor: 'Virulent Strain' of Neocons Want to Meddle in Iran from RawStory

“You know, I read that post and I thought it was very smart also and I agree. I mean, I think that there is this very virulent strain of neocon ideology that has kind of manifested itself.”

Israel Stunned by Obama's Tough Love from the Asia Times

"Israel is no longer more equal than others, the Palestinians no longer a mere backdrop and all evil does not emanate from the Arab world. Obama has changed language and tone to break through the tough mythologies of the region, calcified in years of failure to make peace. "

Russia, US Resume Landmark Nuclear Talks from Agence France-Presse

"Restarting the US-Russian nuclear arms control process will help repair frayed US-Russian relations, open the way for dramatic reductions in the overall number of nuclear weapons, and improve global cooperation to help meet other nuclear threats," said US disarmament analyst Daryl Kimball.

Democrats Cut Deal on Climate Bill from Politico

"House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has overcome one of the last big obstacles standing in the path of his landmark climate-change bill, cutting a deal with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who sought greater protections in the bill for farmers and other rural interests. Their agreement sets the stage for a vote Friday in the House."


On Nixon Tapes, Ambivalence Over Abortion from the New York Times

"Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases — like interracial pregnancies, he said."

How to Shore Up GOP in 1973? Get 'Attractive Women,' Nixon Says from CNN

"President Richard Nixon believed one way to shore up the GOP in 1973 was by recruiting "attractive" women, but not because he was "for women," according to audio tapes released Tuesday."

Is this supposed to be different from the GOP today?  How many conservative blogs have whole sub-categories devoted to Sarah Palin's 'gams'?