Sunday, January 31, 2010

News Nuggets 280

A jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea - from US News and World Report

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Breakthrough (Michael Tomasky) from the [Manchester] Guardian

"The Pentagon is unveiling its plan to repeal don't ask, don't tell next week."

Likelihood of passage is not good.

Two Cheers for Obama on Foreign Affairs (Robert Dreyfuss) from the Nation

"It was a pleasure to listen to a State of the Union address, especially after eight years of his predecessor's alarmist warnings and warlike thundering, in which war, terrorism, and "rogue states" went almost unmentioned."

Who Will Be the Next Secretary of State? from Foreign Policy Magazine

"Now that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she can't imagine herself serving another four years after 2012, the obvious question becomes: Who might replace her?"

The President Obama We Voted For (Joan Walsh) from Salon

Obama's Q&A with House Republicans on Friday may end up being the more important talk he gave this last week.

"Like a lot of people in both parties -- especially the House GOP aides who set it up and let the TV cameras roll -- I was honstly blown away by Obama's performance. Like a lot of Democrats, I was very happy to see him engage and question and answer -- and at times kick some ill-informed and obstreperous GOP ass."

Obama vs. the House: Best TV Ever (Mike Madden) from Salon

"[The pamphlet] had a catchy title: "Better Solutions." The pamphlet may not be an ideal blueprint for governing -- it only takes 30 pages to wrap up everything from economic stimulus to national security to financial reform -- but, as it turned out, it did make for a pretty good prop. Which Obama demonstrated about an hour into what was easily the most entertaining program C-SPAN (or any cable news network, really) has aired in a long time."

The Obama I Remember (Melissa Harris-Lacewell) from the Nation

Some interesting insight into the Obama during his days in Chicago.

"I remember the first time I saw him campaign. He was running against Bobby Rush for a congressional seat on the Southside of Chicago. He could barely fill a community center room with 25 people. Hardly the teeming crowds who now stand in lines for hours in inclement weather to hear him speak or who braved bitter cold to see him inaugurated."

A Change in Attitude After the '08 Election from the Washington Post

"Adults kept telling them: "There is finally a man in the White House who looks like you." ¶ Their parents emphasized repeatedly: The election of Barack Obama was "historic! Historic! HISTORIC!" The comments seemed too enormous to grasp for young people who hadn't lived through segregation, the civil rights movement, the black-is-beautiful movement and the start of affirmative action. ¶ But a year after the inauguration, there is evidence that the election has had an effect. "

Economy in US Grew at 5.7% Pace, Most in Six Years from the Bloomberg News Service

"The 5.7 percent increase in gross domestic product, which exceeded the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, marked the best performance since the third quarter of 2003."

A Very Productive Congress, Despite What the Approval Ratings Say (Norman Ornstein) from the Washington Post

"There seems to be little to endear citizens to their legislature or to the president trying to influence it. It's too bad, because ... this Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. "

HERE, HERE!! I suspected that this was going on! It simply showcases how terrible the Dems' and Obama's political messaging has been.

Obama's Banking Proposals Are a Good First Step (Joseph Stiglitz) from the Washington Post

"In the last two weeks, President Obama finally proposed tough new restrictions on the big banks, and then he underlined them in his State of the Union speech. It's a start."

Obama Sticks Firmly to His Guns from the Editorial Board of the Financial Times [of London]

"In many ways this show of resilience was admirable, and should have been expected. Mr Obama has shown coolness under fire before. And politically it may turn out to be wise."

Poll: Obama's Speech Resonates with Swing Voters from Democracy Corps

"Obama’s strong words for the banks clearly resonated and generated some of the strongest scores on our dials of the night from Democrats, Republicans and independents."

Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Huge Wave of Good-Government Efforts from the Huffington Post

"On the Hill, there are currently at least seven separate pieces of legislation in the works to prevent an unprecedented flood of corporate money in the upcoming midterm elections. And in his State of the Union address on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama jumped on the bandwagon, making the unusual move to scold the Supreme Court to its face."

Obama Gets His Grove Back (Robert Shrum) from The Week

"In his State of the Union address, Obama offers no retreat on his agenda, and no place to hide for the Republicans."

Obama's Plan to Split the GOP (Richard Wolffe) from the Daily Beast

"Friday’s showdown with House Republicans marked a new White House drive to force the GOP off the sidelines—and drive a wedge between fiscal conservatives and the Tea Party crowd."

We'll see -- execution has been a serious problem over the last year.

Pew Poll: Americans Pretty Clueless About Politics and the World from Raw Story

"Half of Americans don't even know that Stephen Colbert is a comedian."


The Race Against Race (Richard Posner) from the New Republic

Reviews of the books, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America by Peggy Pascoe; Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell by Paul A. Lombardo; on the complex history of miscegenation law.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

News Nuggets 279

A Muntjac deer in the UK. See the Special nugget at the bottom.

The Audacity of Nope (Joel Achenbach) from the Washington Post

Our UP-FRONT on-the-money pundit of the day!

"The state of the union is obstreperous. Dyspepsia is the new equilibrium. All the passion in American politics is oppositional. The American people know what they don't like, which is: everything. ... The orthodox view among pundits is that Americans have lost faith in government. That argument masks a deeper truth: Americans have also lost faith in pundits."

Americans 'Blind' to Extraordinary Progress Under Obama from the Estadao [of Brazil in English]

"The president hardly reacted to the vitriol of his detractors, which allowed them to gain advantage in the shaping of public opinion. Out of this emerge the negative assessments about his first year in power, leaving many Americans blind to the extraordinary progress that his government represents in comparison with his predecessor."

Sanction Tehran (Editorial) from the National Interest

This has been my view for some time.

"The Obama administration’s deadline for Iran to enter discussions on the nuclear issue has passed. As the White House and its allies weigh new policy options, Washington is still running with the old line that “all options are on the table.” Not really. Amid a global recession and double-digit unemployment, bombing Iran’s nuclear installations is out of the question."

McChrystal: Settle with the Taliban from the Financial Times [of London]

I have long thought it would (and should) go this way. For any kind of meaningful settlement, you can't ignore 10-15% of the population -- which is what (conservatively) the Taliban represents in Afghanistan.

"General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, has raised the prospect that his troop surge will lead to a negotiated peace with the Taliban."

In Iran, A Fight till the Bitter End from Forbes Magazine

"Speculation is mounting that Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may high-tail it from Iran if protests against his theocracy intensify. An Iranian government memorandum, purportedly leaked by dissidents within Iran's crumbling regime, allegedly states the Supreme Leader's aircraft is ready for a quick departure to Russia. Opposition sources claim the Supreme Leader and his cohorts have stashed ill-gotten financial gains there and other countries."

Interesting story line. I've suspected that something like this was going on -- but the evidence has pointed in all directions.

Murders at Gitmo? (Conor Friedersdorf) from the Daily Beast

"A new report alleges that the U.S. covered up the 2006 murders of three detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Conor Friedersdorf on why the GOP must reckon with the illegal, immoral acts of the Bush administration before mounting a return to power."

Personally I don't think the author fully grasps the magnitude of the criminality that has occurred at Gitmo -- and the unlikelihood of it ever coming to light before the GOP holds the reins again.

Obama's Evolution as Commander-in-Chief from Politico

"Obama will see anywhere from 20 to 30 patients on visits to Walter Reed or Bethesda. He'll ask where they're from, if they play basketball or have a favorite hometown team. “He’ll talk to them until they’re done talking,” said Matt Flavin, the director of the White House Office of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy, who accompanies Obama on these visits."

A surprisingly intimate look at Obama's interactions with soldiers.

Adults Only, Please (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times

"Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found the last few weeks in American politics particularly unnerving. Our economy is still very fragile, yet you would never know that by the way the political class is acting. We’re like a patient that just got out of intensive care and is sitting up in bed for the first time when, suddenly, all the doctors and nurses at bedside start bickering."

Speaking of adults, here's what might be the most portentous news of the day:

Oregon Voters Pass Tax Increasing Measures by Big Margin fromm the Oregonian

A TAX INCREASE!? What the @#$%! What are they thinking!? My grandchildren owe me money now! It's perfectly appropriate that they should pay the debts later. I shouldn't have to pay them now!!

"Oregon voters bucked decades of anti-tax and anti-Salem sentiment Tuesday, raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to prevent further erosion of public schools and other state services. "

Making Sense of the New Political Anger (Sam Tenenhaus) from the New York Times

"In such an environment, it is no surprise that neither party commands much loyalty. Populists are losing patience with Democrats even as purists wrangle with Republicans. Mr. Brown seems acutely aware of this. In his victory speech he credited the will of “the independent majority.” Whether such a majority exists is another question."

Tea Party Disputes Take Toll on Convention from the New York Times

"A Tea Party convention billed as the coming together of the grass-roots groups that began sprouting up around the country a year ago is unraveling as sponsors and participants pull out to protest its expense and express concerns about “profiteering.”"


After Mother Killed by Car, a Muntjac Fawn is Saved from the [London] Daily Mail

"He is growing up without a mother's love. But this tiny muntjac fawn appears to have a lucky streak nonetheless. He was born three weeks early after his mother was hit by a car."

While such stories are not that unusual, this breed of fawn is unusual -- and, MAN, is he CUTE! See the images above. From 2008.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

News Nuggets 278

Owachomo Bridge at the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah from National Geographic in late 2009.

Regardless of Criticism, Obama is Doing Fine (Editorial) from Der Standard [of Austria in English]

"Amid the cadences of disappointment expressed in excruciating detail, these days the unfortunate man in the Oval Office no longer seems able to get anything right … And in spite of all that: Barack Obama is doing a good job."

While I largely agree, what I see as missing from both Obama and the Dems are political messages that work. Both he and the Democratic Party will continue to fail as long as their political framing and counterpunching to Republican messaging continue to fall as flat as it has up to now. The Republicans have completely dominated the political narrative, especially sense June, while the Dems seem to excel in simply being their opponent's official punching bag.

CIA Deaths Prompt Surge in US Drone Strikes from the New York Times

I've been following what I believe to be increased activity prompted by the bombing of CIA agents several weeks ago. I suspect their activity includes a lot more than just drones. This article is intersting on a number of fronts - especially the note no complaints from authorities about civilian casualties.

"Beginning the day after the attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, Afghanistan, the agency has carried out 11 strikes that have killed about 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani news reports, which make almost no mention of civilian casualties."

Poll: Obama Still Most Trusted from Politico

"On the heels of being handed a brutal defeat in Massachusetts that could endanger his legislative agenda, a new poll released Thursday shows that President Obama is still viewed as the most trusted political figure to solve the nation’s problems. "

Obama and the Long View (Op-Ed) from the Nation

"While some changes have not occurred in a manner or at a speed that I would have liked, I profoundly disagree with the notion that "nothing has changed," that Obama is simply a more articulate version of George W. Bush."

Stay the Course: Reagan's Example for Obama (Lou Canon) from Politics Daily

"As Gallup divined in the depths of the recession, millions of Americans responded to Reagan's unflinching optimism and believed he would do the right thing. By that measure, if he can once again display the rousing audacity that marked his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama can make a similar comeback. Yes, he could."

Industry Leaders Call on Congress to Halt Corporate 'Bribery' from Raw Story

"Forty-one business leaders have co-signed letters sent to Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress voicing their opposition to Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that frees corporations to spend unlimited amounts on influencing elections."

I DO note that the 'leaders" are mostly from companies that are already on the ropes economically. Interesting nonetheless.

A Memo of What Happened in Mass., and How Dems Should Proceed from a memo sent out to all Senate Chiefs of Staff via Americablog

This memo makes COMPLETE SENSE to me and I think it shows some viable strategies for the Dems to follow, particularly in the area of becoming more populist and focused on voters rather than Wall Street, etc.

"On the economy, by 2 to 1 they think Democrats have put special interests ahead of folks like them -- and by large margins think stronger regulation of Wall Street is more important than cutting spending."

Now, FIGHT! (Andrew Sullivan) from the Atlantic

I'm totally with Mr. Sullivan here.

"The truth is that these forces have also been so passionate, so extreme, and so energized that in a country reeling from a recession, the narrative - a false, paranoid, nutty narrative - has taken root in the minds of some independents. Obama, under-estimating the extremism of his opponents, has focused on actually addressing the problems we face. And the rest of us, crucially, have sat back and watched and complained and carped when we didn't get everything we want."

Well, ask and you shall receive!

A Sea Change in Obama's Demeanor (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post

"The president's rhetoric over the past week suggests he has decided to try to fight anger with anger. If Americans are fed up with bank bailouts and bonuses going to their top executives, Obama wants people to believe that he resents them just as much."

Plouffe Stepping Up Role as Adviser to White House (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post

Some of the best news I've heard all week!

"David Plouffe, the man who managed President Barack Obama 's campaign, will be taking on an expanded role as an outside adviser to the White House, according to sources familiar with the plan, a move that comes just days after a stunning defeat for Democrats in a Massachusetts Senate special election."

New Political Rumbling: An End to Old Ways of Fighting (Peggy Noonan) from the Wall Street Journal

While I think Peggy is off base in her characterization of the Dems, her larger point about "execution" is on the money.

"This feels like another era. Because America keeps moving, the plates keep shifting, and execution is everything. Everything."

Republicans Strain to Ride Tea Party Tiger from the New York Times

"As they look to make gains in statehouses and Congress this year, Republicans are trying to harness the Tea Party energy that helped make an unknown named Scott Brown the senator-elect from Massachusetts. But it may not be easy, as one Republican in Colorado learned the hard way."

Tea Party Talk Show Host WILL Run Against McCain in AZ from the Huffington Post

I'm sure McCain and the Republicans are JUST THRILLED about this!

"After months of speculation that popular talk show host and former Rep. JD Hayworth might challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his senate seat, Hayworth took the first concrete step by resigning from his talk radio show Friday night. Later, he told reporters that he is not ready to make a formal announcement but is "moving forward to challenge John McCain."

How the Enquirer Exposed the John Edwards Affair (David Perel) from the Wall Street Journal

I've been looking for deeper analysis of this exposure since it first broke at the end of 2007. I still think there is more to the story than Perel reveals here.

"The man who risked the fate of the Democratic Party to satisfy his political narcissism released a statement Thursday finally admitting paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter. In part, he said: "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry." His sincerity was as egocentrically superficial as his infamous $1,250 haircut during the 2004 presidential race. If this seems harsh, it's an analysis borne of two and a half years uncovering the former North Carolina senator's affair while I was editor in chief of the National Enquirer."


Jean Simmons, Actress, Dies at 80 from the New York Times

She was EXCELLENT in Great Expectations and Guys and Dolls!

"Jean Simmons, whose ethereal screen presence and starring roles with Hollywood's top actors made her a mid-century film icon, has died at age 80."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

News Nuggets 277

This is an amazing-looking type of mollusk called a nudibranch found in the Sulu Sea in the Phillipines - from the National Geographic.

Haiti response shows the difference between the EU and a superpower from the [London] Telegraph

"The earthquake in Haiti provoked prompt and effective action from the US, and waffle from the EU, says Christopher Booker"

The commentary here is really interesting -- and is probably exaggerated for effect in my view !

US Troops Patrol Haiti, Filling a Void from the New York Times

One can only hope that military authorities "contain themselves" and keep their eyes on why they are there.

"“There have been some reports and news stories out there that the U.S. is invading Haiti,” Colonel Kane said. “We’re not invading Haiti. That’s ludicrous. This is humanitarian relief.” Most Haitians seemed to see it that way, despite deep historic concerns about American troops in particular."

Bush is Gone: Let Us Not be Governed by Fear (Editorial) from the Frankfurter Rundschau [of Germany in English]

"Basically, Obama responded in the only a way government can, after a terror attack that failed only by luck: He has the mistakes analyzed, the security gaps investigated, and controls tightened. ... One cannot criticize Obama for blind vengeance. Unlike Bush, this U.S. president doesn't use fear to make policy."

Mysterious Assassination in Iran: Who Killed Masoud Ali Mohammadi? from Der Spiegal [of Germany in English]

This case continues to fascinate me!

"The recent assassination of physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi in Tehran was baffling even by Iranian standards. The regime claims he was murdered by foreign agents, while some observers think he may have been killed to warn other opposition supporters. There is even speculation that Hezbollah was involved."

On the Massachusetts Election from the Editorial Board of the New York Times

"There are many theories about the import of Scott Brown’s upset victory in the race for Edward Kennedy’s former Senate seat. To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama’s presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year."

How to Pass the Bill - Whatever Happens Tuesday (Jonathan Cohn) from the New Republic

"After a weekend of interviews with Democratic staff, officials, and operatives, I've come to the conclusion that health care reform is not dead even if Martha Coakley loses on Tuesday--unless, that is, the Democrats let it die."

Relieved (Josh Marshall & Capitol Hill staffer) from Talking Points Memo

Lots of sad truth in this letter from a capitol hill staffer!

"I believe President Clinton provided some crucial insight when he said, "people would rather be with someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right." It's not that people are uninterested in who's right or wrong, it's that people will only follow leaders who seem to actually believe in what they are doing. Democrats have missed this essential fact."

2010 as 1994? Relax, Democrats (Nancy Cohen) from the Los Angeles Times

I agree - although not entirely for the reasons she cites.

"This year's midterm elections won't be a repeat of the GOP's surge to power in 1994. Why? Because almost everything we think we know about that election is wrong."

Paul Volcker Prevails from the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post

"President Barack Obama on Thursday is expected to propose new limits on the size and risk taken by the country's biggest banks, marking the administration's latest assault on Wall Street in what could mark a return -- at least in spirit -- to some of the curbs on finance put in place

during the Great Depression."

Non-Stop News (Ken Auletta) from the New Yorker

"The news cycle is getting shorter -- to the point that there is no pause, only the constancy of the Web and the endless argument of cable. This creates pressure to entertain or perish, which has fed the press's dominant bias: not pro-liberal or pro-conservative but pro-conflict."

Louche Change: Trash Talk from the 2008 Campaign (Hendrik Hertzberg) from the New Yorker

"[Barack Obama] is the only principal whose aides do not experience moments of suspicion -- or, in the cases of Edwards and Palin, weeks of certainty -- that their candidate is unfit for the office that he or she seeks. Only the future President is exactly what he seemed to be: calm, determined, a little aloof, immune to the snares of anger or vengefulness. ... Game Change leaves one reassured that the voters, given the choices before them, chose well."

Connecticut GOP Primary Turns Into Smackdown in Fight for Dodd Seat from The Hill

"The Republicans running for Dodd’s seat, which Democrats have controlled since 1963, feel newly inspired by the tight Senate race just north in Massachusetts. The contest has turned nasty as Simmons and McMahon have exchanged a series of proverbial body slams, pile-drivers and elbows to the face"

I knew this was going to happen. This foreshadows what will be happening in many GOP primaries this year. In CT, one can only hope that they inflict as much damage on each other before they take on Blumenthal. My question: why do they look to MA and get inspired? Blumenthal is no Coakley. For either of them, he's going to eat them for lunch.

First Lady Asks Her Friends if They Still Recognize Her from the Associated Press via Huffington Post

"She has spent the past year giving the job of first lady a test run, settling her family into a new life in a new town, trying to avoid creating controversy for her already burdened husband and figuring out where to make her mark. ... Looking back, then, here are a few moments that help to sketch the portrait of a first lady who calls herself a "110-percenter," always looking to do more."


Stereo Speakers Can Levitate Dust for Mars Colonists from Wired Magazine

"Blasting a high-pitched noise from a tweeter into a pipe that focuses the sound waves can create enough pressure to lift troublesome alien dust from equipment, suits or vehicles, according to a study published January in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America."

See also Acoustic Levitation: Scientists Use Sound Make Objects Levitate from the Huffington Post

"Another group of researchers have developed another unusual application for sound: a method of "acoustic levitation" that could help maintain colonies on Mars or the moon by using high-pitched sound waves to remove alien dust."


Election Confidential: A Review of 'Game Change' (Jacob Heilbrunn) from the New York Times

Since this book seems to be sold out everywhere, might as well hear from someone who has read the darn thing.

"No doubt Obama, as Heilemann and Halperin emphasize, could also be a ruthless practitioner of political hardball and often benefited from a bedazzled press corps. But none of that fully explains his remarkable ascent. An incredulous Hillary Clinton, observing the political advantage Obama reaped from the financial meltdown in September 2008, was left to surmise, “God wants him to win.”"

If so, where's God been since?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

News Nuggets 276

Where is this? See the up-front nugget -- from the Huffington Post


Photos of Trees on Mars? from NASA via the Huffington Post

What the Hell. Look for yourself.

Views: What Happens if Democrats Lose in Massachusetts? from the Washington Post

"The Post asked political experts to explain the prospects for Democrats if Martha Coakley is defeated in Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts. Below are contributions from Norman J. Ornstein, Dan Schnur, Mary Beth Cahill, Ed Rogers, Robert J. Blendon and Martin Frost."

My own view: it would not surprise me to see Coakley lose on Tuesday. Even if she wins by a narrow margin, , there will be a lot of inflated rhetoric coming on Wednesday. There are several points which I hope the Democrats will not lose track of in the ensuing hullabaloo. First, one thing I'm clear about is that the Dem leadership on the state and federal levels have forgotten what got them their majorities in Congress in the first place: picking strong candidates! The record so far has been terrible. See the senate picks that have been made with Burris of Illinois (a joke by any standard in the face of many other stronger interested candidates); Gillibrand of New York (an inexplicable nonentity, again in the face of stronger folks who wanted the nod); Meeks running in Florida (a certain loser in November); their gubernatorial pick in Virginia (Creigh Deeds) who had all the traction of a bald tire; and now Martha "It's My Turn" Coakley. All of these picks have, so far, had quite predictable results. In Massachusetts, I'm convinced that Joe Kennedy, with determined courting, could have been wooed into the race. Kennedy is not a perfect candidate -- but he would have won it handily. Chuck Schumer, Senator of New York and former head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, made his kind of wooing a specialty. Win or lose, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, current head of DSCC, should get the axe!

Second point: Both Obama and the Dems seem to have put their formidable media operations on ice.Their strategy seems to have been to impress the voters with their capacity to endure flogging. It is long-past-due for them to be counter-attacking and to make the GOP pay for their reckless rhetoric. And yet, despite claims that they have a "plan for fighting back" ready to be sprung, they have been saying that for months. If they can't come up with winning counter-punches (and I mean ASAP) they are doomed.

Unified Field Theory: Google, China, Haiti (James Fallows) from the Atlantic

"At home, the Chinese are busy building for the future, but out in the world, China looks like an anachronism. Web-filtering software? Picking on Australian film festivals? Please. This is not the behavior of a mature world power but the actions of a teenager that thinks the world should conform to her demands."

I've been loving Fallows' takedowns of China since he returned to the US several months ago.

The Greening of Islam from the Nation

"The Green Movement (and the Ayatollah Khamenei’s clumsy response to it) has exacerbated a split with Shiism. It has accelerated the development of profound and potentially far-reaching doctrinal innovations. The course of the coming months will determine the extent to which these innovations will transform Shiism and Iran."

Ayatollahs Desert Iran's Besieged Regime from The Australian

"Undisputed authority, he thought, with a back-up from Allah, cannot be challenged. But as events in Iran unfold, it becomes clear this is no longer the case. Not only is the leader challenged but also his self-ascribed monopoly on God."

Yeman Says It Has Killed Possible Chief of Qaeda Cell from the New York Times

Boy, that didn't take long! I suspect Yemani authorities are anxious to get the US and other foreign gov'ts off their backs.

"Yemeni security forces killed a man suspected of leading a cell of Al Qaeda and captured four other militants on Wednesday morning, hours after two soldiers were killed by Qaeda members in a neighboring district, Yemeni officials said."

Accord Reached on Insurance Tax for Costly Plans from the New York Times

"The White House, Congressional leaders and labor unions said Thursday that they had reached agreement on a proposal to tax high-cost health insurance policies, resolving one of the major differences between the House and the Senate over far-reaching health legislation."

EXCLUSIVE: Obama Wins More Cuts in Spending Than Bush from (gasp!) the Washington Times

This is indeed a fist for this blog -- a Washington Times nugget!

"President Obama notched substantial successes in spending cuts last year, winning 60 percent of his proposed cuts and managing to get Congress to ax several programs that had bedeviled President George W. Bush for years."

Where's Our Sputnik? (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times

"Dick Cheney says President Obama is “trying to pretend that we are not at war” with terrorists. There is only one thing I have to say about that: I sure hope so."

Can Obama Stop the War on Science (Paul Waldman) from American Prospect

"A lot of practical good can be done by the administration in encouraging scientific advancement. But chances are that the next Republican administration will start Bush's war all over again."

Tea Party Convention: Imploding? from The Week

"A key sponsor of the protesters' first national gathering has pulled out, and some of activists are unhappy. Is the Tea Party ending early?"

Michelle Obama Reflects on First Year of Kids, Clothes, and Crashers from The Huffington Post

"Michelle Obama reflected on her first year in the White House on Wednesday and calmly claimed no need for any do-overs: Even the things that didn't go quite right were part of the learning curve, the first lady said, and that includes the November state dinner penetrated by three party-crashers."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

News Nuggets 275

A diver next to a bluefin tuna. What an enormous critter -- the tuna I mean! From the National Geographic.

How America Can Rise Again (James Fallows) from the Atlantic

"Through the entirety of my conscious life, America has been on the brink of ruination, or so we have heard, from the launch of Sputnik through whatever is the latest indication of national falling apart or falling behind. ... Just as the material bounty of America is more dramatic on return to the country, so are areas of backwardness or erosion you do not notice unless you’ve been somewhere else."

Majority Confident Obama Can Handle Terrorism from CNN

"In the wake of the Christmas day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, most Americans remain confident that the Obama administration can protect the country from terrorism, according to a new national poll."

The Christmas Day Bombing Wasn't an Intelligence Failure from Foreign Policy Magazine

"The CIA has pointed to the Christmas Day terrorist incident as evidence that the post-9/11 intelligence reform has failed. That self-serving diagnosis couldn't be further from the truth."

Iran Nuclear Physicist Killed by Bomb from the Associated Press via Huffington Post

"State media identified the victim as Masoud Ali Mohammadi, 50, a professor at Tehran University, which has been at the center of recent protests by student opposition supporters. Before the election, pro-reform Web sites published Ali Mohammadi's name among a list of 240 Tehran University teachers who supported Mousavi. Hard-line government supporters called at recent street rallies for the execution of opposition leaders. But Ali Mohammadi was not a well-known figure in Iran."

Now THIS is an interesting story. It's like something out of a John LeCarre novel. The bombers COULD be hard-line gov't loyalists (as this report suggest); they COULD be members of the revolutionary guard (because of his support for the opposition); or they COULD be US intelligence people such as the CIA (due to the victim's involvement in Iran's nuclear program). Tehran is putting out the third scenario. I don't discount it -- particularly on the heels of last week's bus full of terrorists who mysteriously blew themselves up. That is one of the professional hazards of being a suicide bomber y'know -- your target may pull the trigger while you're still with the rest of your terrorist buddies! I found the second possibility the most interesting and the most probable -- because it showcases new ways that oppressive regimes can deal with troublemakers. Simply blow them up and blame domestic terrorists or the Great Satin!

Dems Stiffen Spines on Health Bill from Politico

I hope this is correct.

"Through it all — and through what is expected to be multiple near-death experiences for the health care bill in coming weeks — White House and congressional leaders plan to beat back the temptation of “no” with a hardball argument: Democrats already voted “yes.” And it would be politically disastrous to flip-flop now."

White House Gets 'A' for Openness from Politico

"Under fire for backing away from a campaign promise to open up health care negotiations to C-SPAN cameras, the White House on Monday highlighted a report from a coalition of watchdog groups awarding the Obama administration an “A” for its openness."

Will this get anything close to the media coverage that the health care negotiations issue has received? NOT!

Poll: Feeling of Progress Rises Among African Americans from the Washington Post

"Despite being hit especially hard by the bad economy, job losses and the high rate of foreclosures, African Americans' assessment of race relations and prospects for the future has surged more dramatically during the past two years than at any time in the past quarter-century, according to a new poll."

Game Over: The Clintons Stand Alone from Politico

"What’s notable about the highly publicized release of “Game Change,” however, is the virtual silence from the Clinton camp. The lack of public outrage seems to mark the sputtering end of what was once known as the Clinton political machine and underlines a fact that onetime Clinton loyalists acknowledge: The book’s primary sources about the former candidate and current secretary of state are her own former staffers and intimates. "

White House Readies Aggressive Mid-term Push from the National Journal

"The White House strategy for contesting the midterm election is beginning to take shape."

LONG OVERDUE in my view. We're are definitely getting into "too late" land.

GOP Grief and Grieving (Charles Blow) from the New York Times

"The attack on the Republican establishment by the tea party folks grabs the gaze like a really bad horror flick — some version of “Hee Haw” meets “28 Days Later.” It’s fascinating. But it also raises a serious question: Are these the desperate thrashings of a dying movement or the labor pains of a new one?"

Huh, Maybe the Gummint's Not So Evil After All (Michael Tomasky) from the Guardian

"The Detroit Auto Show is taking place right now, and a Michigan branch of the tea party movement was putting together a demonstrate outside the venue to protest government aid to the auto industry. Two people showed up. ... Government intervention is evil, except when it's not, which is when it's for us. Lovely."

Threats (Steve Coll) from the New Yorker

"Apart from its construction on a false premise (“Now let me be clear: we are indeed at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Obama declared last May; “We are at war,” he said again last week), the statement, and the attention it received, suggested that American discourse on counterterrorism policy remains frozen in 2002. Fortunately, there is abundant evidence that the United States is entering a new era in its struggle against terrorists, one in which government and society are proving to be self-correcting, while Al Qaeda, like Dick Cheney, is proving to be self-isolating."

No Seat for Wall Street at Tea Party (Gerald Seib) from the Wall Street Journal

"The more searing heat, though, might come not from Washington's corridors of power but from the streets, where disjointed populist armies are starting to organize in the so-called tea-party movement. It's a movement dominated for the moment by mistrust of big government and big government health-care plans. But it's also animated by mistrust of big institutions in general, and a tendency to see those institutions secretly working in tandem to the detriment of the little guy."

An on-the-money set of observations from Mr. Seib.

Bias Against Pomposity (Op-ed) from the Washington Post

It's pretty hilarious (to me anyway) how many sacred cows get skewered in this item!

"You can tell how biased the media is against Christianity by the number of broadcasters who ridicule it and speak openly about how their lives improved after becoming atheists. Well, there's Bill Maher. And then there's Bill Maher. ... Hume said Tiger Woods would be better served if he were to convert to Christianity. In a way, I agree. Regardless of what Tiger believes, a good strategy to get back some of his lost sponsors might be to say, "I found Jesus, who washed away my sins. I gave myself to Jesus, and he turned my life around."

There are many other interesting commentaries on the subject of Media Biased Against Christians? at the Washington Post's "On Faith" webpage.


Best Products Of CES 2010: The Coolest New Tech From The Consumer Electronics Show (PHOTOS) from Huffington Post


1602 Map Unveiled, Shows China at the Center of the World from the Huffington Post

"A rarely seen 400-year-old map that identified Florida as "the Land of Flowers" and put China at the center of the world went on display Tuesday at the Library of Congress."


And the Nominee Should Be ... from the New York Times

A review of the New York Times movie critics and their picks as to which movies of 2009 should be nominated for the big awards.


Reviewing 'Reality' from Harvard Magazine

"New York Times columnist Frank Rich views political life through a theatrical lens."


Miep Gies, Who Helped Anne Frank, Dies at 100 from the Washington Post

"Miep Gies, the office secretary who defied the Nazi occupiers to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years and saved the teenager's diary, has died, the Anne Frank Museum said Tuesday. She was 100."

Nice, concise overview of this brave person's life.