Wednesday, December 28, 2011

News Nuggets 838

DAYLEE PICTURE: Windswept Summit Lake in California.  From National Geographic.
Postings will still not be daily again until the 1st at the earliest -- but this one will help the addicts!
Next Year's Wars: Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2012 (Louise Arbour) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"What conflict situations are most at risk of deteriorating further in 2012? When Foreign Policy asked the International Crisis Group to evaluate which manmade disasters could explode in the coming year, we put our heads together and came up with 10 crisis areas that warrant particular concern."

Putin Ejects Kremlin 'Puppet Master' After Protests from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Vladislav Surkov, the architect of Russia's tightly controlled political system, has become one its most senior victims."

Under Obama, an Emerging Global Apparatus for Drone Killing from the Washington Post
"The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential. In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries."
Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic comments on this piece HERE.

America's Dirty Little Housing Secret Is Rocking The Suburbs from the Fiscal Times
"For years, the food pantry in Crystal Lake, Ill., a bedroom community 50 miles west of Chicago, has catered to the suburban area's poor, homeless and unemployed.  But Cate Williams, the head of the pantry, has noticed a striking change in the makeup of the needy in the past year or two. Some families that once pulled down six-figure incomes and drove flashy cars are now turning to the pantry for help."

The 10 Worst Economic Ideas of 2011 (Jeff Madrick) from New Deal 2.0 of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute
"... it has been a year in which some of the worst economic ideas ever have gained support and are being applied around the world. So here’s my list of the 10 worst economic ideas of 2011:"

Why Are TVs So Cheap? (Derek Thompson) from the Atlantic
"Three reasons: (1) You know they'll keep getting cheaper; (2) Electronics manufacturers are getting more efficient ; (3) All TVs are (basically) alike."

Obama’s Surprisingly Good 2011 (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post 
"Politically, this has been, in many ways, a bad year for the White House, as a quick look at the polls will show. Economically, it’s been rough, as a look at the jobs numbers will show. But as far as the administration’s bitter, high-stakes negotiations with the Republicans in Congress go, it’s really been a surprisingly good year for the White House."

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Again Top Most Admired List: Clinton Most Admired Woman a Record 16th Time from Gallup
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama continue to be named by Americans as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living today in any part of the world."

The GOP's Christmas Gift to the President (Clive Cook) from the Atlantic 
"The president will have a more relaxed Christmas, I imagine, than the one he was expecting a month ago. "

For GOP Candidates, Worries About the Party’s Brand (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post
"For Republicans, the coming presidential election should be presented as mostly a referendum on the record and performance of President Obama. If it is, the president will be genuinely vulnerable, given the weak economy. Instead, Republicans have wound up making their party the focus of the campaign, to their detriment."

Boehner's Self-Destruction (Bill Press) from the National Memo
"OK, enough already. I don't want to hear any more whining from Democrats about how hard it's going to be for President Obama to win re-election in 2012. Because the political landscape has just shifted dramatically."

A slightly different take at TPM:
Boehner Takes Strong Hand With House GOP After Payroll Tax Meltdown from Talking Points Memo via the Reid Report
"That’s called “losing.” Or to use Washington’s favorite word:
capitulation… and for the president, it’s called winning:"

How Newt Gingrich Crashed and Burned When He Was House Speaker (Howard Kurtz and Lois Romano) from the Daily Beast
"Gingrich led a conservative revolution in the House—until his own congressional troops turned on him. Howard Kurtz and Lois Romano have the inside story on why he failed."

Why Mitt Romney’s Opportunity Tack Won’t Work (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"Mitt’s new opportunity shtick is a familiar trick from the GOP’s well-thumbed playbook. Michael Tomasky on why it won’t work in 2012."

Seven Reasons Why Mitt Romney's Electability Is A Myth (John Hawkins) from
"Mitt Romney is supposed to be "the most electable" candidate. This is a baffling argument because many people just seem to assume it's true, despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary: 1) People just don't like Mitt ..."

'The Hobbit' Production Diary (Kate Ward) from Entertainment Weekly 
I really loved the Lord of the Rings movies and anxiously await the Hobbit two-fer that is scheduled for release in December 2012.
"When the DVDs were first released, I remember sitting in front of my television for hours, devouring the behind-the-scenes footage like it was a piece of lembas. (And it was just as satisfying, too!) So what a treat to be able to be able to go behind the scenes of The Hobbit before the film even hits the big screen."

Cheetah Dead: Chimpanzee Sidekick From 1930s Tarzan Flicks Dies At 80 from the Tampa Tribune
There's something almost freakish about this news.  I had no idea chimps could live this long!! Amazing!  
"Cheetah acted in the 1932-34 Tarzan movies, Cobb said. Movies filmed during that timeframe starred Johnny Weissmuller and include "Tarzan and His Mate" and "Tarzan the Ape Man," ..."

Description of The Obamas by Jodi Kantor from
"In the Obamas, Jodi Kantor takes us deep inside the White House as they try to grapple with their new roles, change the country, raise children, maintain friendships, and figure out what it means to be the first black President and First Lady. Filled with riveting detail and insight into their partnership, emotions and personalities, and written with a keen eye for the ironies of public life, The Obamas is an intimate portrait that will surprise even readers who thought they knew the President and First Lady."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

News Nuggets 837

DAYLEE PICTURE:  A girl flying a kite in India.  From National Geographic.
The Nuggetsman is off for a holiday break -- so postings will be intermittent at best.  Regular Daylee News will resume around the 31st.

The Media's Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Campaign Coverage (Bob Garfield) from the Atlantic
"The most powerful segment of the political right has moved into fringe territory. Why has the press been largely silent on this?"

In the Middle East: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There! (F. Gregory Gause III) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"What should America do about the Arab Spring? Not much."

European Central Bank Will Loan $640 Billion to Debt-Laden Banks from the Washington Post
"The European Central Bank announced Wednesday that it is loaning about $640 billion to European banks for an unusual three-year term as part of its effort to free up credit tightened by the euro zone’s government debt crisis."

Will China Break? (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on the Chinese situation, in part because it’s so hard to know what’s really happening. All economic statistics are best seen as a peculiarly boring form of science fiction, but China’s numbers are more fictional than most. I’d turn to real China experts for guidance, but no two experts seem to be telling the same story. Still, even the official data are troubling — and recent news is sufficiently dramatic to ring alarm bells."

A Foreign Correspondent Reflects On The Arab Spring (AUDIO) (Terry Gross & Anthony Shadid) from NPR's Fresh Air program
"Veteran war correspondent Anthony Shadid spent much of the past decade in Baghdad covering the Iraq war, first for The Washington Post and then for The New York Times. Last December, Shadid left Baghdad for his home in Beirut, Lebanon, where he's been based for more than a decade."

Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for President Obama on Ending War in Iraq (Jed Lewison) from Daily Kos
"Most Americans said they believed the war in Iraq was a mistake, and a majority called it a "dumb" war—the same word Barack Obama used when he opposed it from the very beginning. Moreover, slightly more then 70% said they believed money spent on the war was "one reason for economic problems" facing the nation today."

President Obama’s Middle-Class Momentum (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"President Obama’s resurgence in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll — his 49 percent job approval rating is as high as its been since May — is built in no small part on a growing sentiment in the electorate that he is fighting for the middle class."

The Ongoing Republican Plan to Shame the Poor (Jamelle Bouie) from the Nation
"Drug tests and GED classes are the new requirements for anyone who dares to collect unemployment insurance."

The GOP’s Dangerous Divide (Robert Reich) from Salon
"White Southern radicals are threatening to take over the party once and for all."

The Point at which Mitt Romney Loses his Mind (Steve Benen) from Washington Monthly
"Confident that his Republican primarily rivals simply won’t (or can’t) catch him, the former one-term governor ignored the other GOP candidates in his speech, and focused exclusively on attacking President Obama. Unfortunately for those who have even a passing interest in reality or a civil discourse, Romney, allegedly the responsible one in the Republican field, has been reduced to lying uncontrollably."

Newt Gingrich is an Overly-Ambitious 'Pig' (Patrik Eschemeyer) from the News [of Switzerland in English]
"Gingrich, who wanted to bring down Bill Clinton because of his affair with an intern while he himself was cheating on his wife, is one political animal who in a matter of minutes can change his political opinion by 180 degrees if it suits him - and he will let go the full force of his wrath on anyone who points this out."

Three Reasons the House GOP Won't Win this Fight (Chuck Todd et al.,) from MSNBC
"there are three reasons why the House GOP probably won’t win this fight, PR-wise, especially if the tax cut expires. Reason #1: House Republicans allowed the Senate to break for the Christmas holiday without explicit orders it would need to come back. In fact, Politico notes that the silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is deafening. ..."

Michael Tomasky on the GOP’s Christmas Gift to Obama (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"President Obama has had an awful year. But thanks to the politically asinine miscalculations of House Republicans, he’s ending 2011 with a bang, says Michael Tomasky."

Capitol Stand-off: Republicans Caving? (Jonathan Karl) from ABC News
"My prediction: House Republicans will eventually cave in and accept the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed last week by the Senate. I base this on conversations with House Republicans who know they are losing the public relations battle and losing it badly. They know they are taking the blame for a stand-off that threatens to raise taxes on 160 million Americans. And they cannot let that happen."

Behind John Boehner’s Debacle on the Payroll Tax Cut Battle (Patricia Murphy) from the Daily Beast
"Democrats pummel the House speaker as he loses control of his caucus, which voted down the bipartisan payroll tax-cut compromise forged in the Senate. Patricia Murphy on how the latest deal came undone—and how long Boehner can survive as leader."

How Dare The WSJ Blame The House GOP? (David Frum) from the Frum Forum
"The Journal is blaming House Republicans for believing things the Journal itself taught them to believe. ... the Journal does not come with clean hands. If the payroll tax holiday is not a sufficient answer of itself, it remains a huge improvement over the various remedies proposed by the Journal, which would actively deepen and prolong the slump: tighter money and large, immediate cuts in government spending."

Pornstar Aurora Snow on the Sasha Grey School Controversy (Aurora Snow) from the Daily Beast
"After two recent controversies involving former adult stars and school kids, pornstar Aurora Snow issues a polemic about equating work in porn with bad morals."

Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (VIDEO) from YouTube via AmericaBlog
"An amazing chance encounter with a troop of wild mountain gorillas near Bwindi National Park, Uganda."
An astounding must-see video clip!! You can completely get how YOU DO NOT want to mess with a full-grown male silverback gorilla.  At the same time, it's amazing how non-chalant the whole troop was!  Check it out!

Obama Goes Christmas Shopping in Virginia (VIDEO) from the Washington Post
"President Obama and the first dog Bo, visited a PetSmart in Virginia on Wednesday. The President then headed to Best Buy to pick up a few gifts for Sasha and Malia. On the last stop of his trip, Obama picked up three pizzas from Del Ray Pizzeria."

Boys Ask Santa for their Soldier Mom Home from Iraq...and he Delivers on the Spot (VIDEO) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Tyson, sat on his father Scott's lap, was stunned and burst into tears, before the whole family embraced in the emotional reunion watched by their family and friends in Pittsburgh, reports"

News Nuggets 836

DAYLEE PICTURE: A torrential monsoon rain in Bhaktapur, Nepal.  From National Geographic. 

Not-for-Profit Hospitals? (Gregory Warner) from PRI's Marketplace Program
"Last summer, Holly Lang did an experiment. She took uninsured people to 34 not-for-profit hospitals in Philadelphia and asked about financial assistance. And they were just shut down. Only two hospitals gave her info required by law."
There's more.  If this is going on in Philly, it's a bet it's happening in the 'Burgh as well!

Wukan: Protests Across South China as Riot Police Take on Demonstrators in Haimen from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"Riot police fired tear-gas and beat demonstrators who stormed government buildings in Haimen, a major town in southern China on Tuesday – just 75 miles from the rebel village of Wukan."

A Crisis of Confidence in Russia (Vladimir Ryzhkov) from the Moscow Times
"t is already clear that Russia will experience a systemic political crisis in 2012. The country's leaders and institutions will completely lose the people's trust by next summer. The authorities will become vacillating and weak and will flounder from one crisis to another."

Was Iraq “Worth It”? (David Sirota) from Salon
"The same cost-benefit analyses deployed against social programs should be applied to our military misadventures."

The Economic Crisis: The Book of Jobs (Joseph E. Stiglitz) from Vanity Fair
Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.  ... A banking system is supposed to serve society, not the other way."

The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty And The American Warehouse (Dave Jamieson) from the Huffington Post
""I don't think people know what the people in those warehouses have to go through to get them their stuff in those stores," Dickerson says. "If you don't work in a warehouse, you don't know." Dickerson quickly discovered that the work wasn't easy, if there was any work at all. Each morning she showed up at her warehouse, she wasn't sure whether she'd be assigned a trailer and earn a day's pay."

Modernizing Conservatism (Steven F. Hayward) from Breakthrough Journal
"... it should quickly become apparent that we badly need to take stock of our position. Conservatism, despite these impressive electoral victories, is failing on its own terms."

The College Order of Things (Malcolm Gladwell) from the New Yorker [from February]
"What college rankings really tell us"

Is Obama’s Political Offensive Paying Off? (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"This suggests current GOP conduct is paying big dividends to Obama. And in a sane universe, these numbers would put to rest the nonstop talk about how Obama’s emphasis on inequality, Wall Street lack of accountability, economic fairness and the need for the rich to pay more in taxes is only about playing to the Dem base, and risks alienating the “class warfare” averse middle of the country."

On Tap: Radical Republican Winterfest (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"So Boehner has his finger on the American pulse because his deceased father owned a saloon? What strange brew have they been pouring in the speaker’s office? ... This new position, essentially reversing the one Boehner voiced a mere three days earlier, proves anew that the old-school speaker is less a leader of his caucus than a servant of his radical backbenchers. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say he’s their barkeep."

How The Payroll Tax Fight Descended Into Chaos (Brian Beutler) from Talking Points Memo
"Lost in the gamesmanship and the arguments about process, hypocrisy, and leadership are the issues at stake. So let’s review."
A GOOD review of how we got to this point.

How Congress Can End the Payroll Tax Impasse (John Batchelor) from the Daily Beast
"Republican House leaders have defeated a two-month extension of the payroll tax, throwing Capitol Hill into chaos. John Batchelor on how the deal went off track—and the scenarios for saving face by Christmas."

The GOP's Payroll Tax Fiasco from the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal
"How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama? GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest."
Some big-time belly-aching happening here from the WSJ.  The contempt evinced for Obama in this editorial reminds me of the middle years of the Clinton administration.  The GOP held Clinton in such low regard (they basically bought into too many of their daily talking points) that they drastically underestimated how formidable an opponent he was.  Not until after the impeachment hearings did it really begin to dawn on them how skilled a pol he was.  Wouldn't be surprised if they do it all over again with Obama.

A Blue Christmas for John Boehner (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"President Obama's poll numbers rise as he fights for jobs while the House speaker winds up hostage to the Tea Party."

Tax Cut Fight Ends Ugly Year for Boehner from the Associated Press
"An uncompromising band of conservatives, led by GOP freshmen to whom Boehner owes his speakership, has repeatedly forced him to back away from deals with President Barack Obama, Democrats and, this week, even one struck by Senate Republicans. Gridlock, again and again, has defined Congress in the Boehner era even as Americans fume and the economy continues to wobble."

Obama vs. Republican Nominee - With or Without Paul Running (Andrew Sullivan) from the Daily Beast
Thew table here is the key item.

Dubious Right Recalls Gingrich’s Day in Power from the New York Times
"Newt Gingrich’s years as a House Republican leader created distrust among some conservatives who view him as too much of a pragmatist."

In Iowa, Gingrich Lashes Back after Attacks from Rivals from the Los Angeles Times
"Facing slipping poll numbers, an angry Newt Gingrich lashed out at his Republican presidential rivals Monday, calling their criticism of him "reprehensible" and helpful only to President Obama's reelection."

Callista Gingrich: A Laura or a Hillary? (Kathleen Parker) from the Washington Post
"So the question is, what prompted Callista Gingrich to abandon the relatively safe role of admiring sidekick and take up arms on Twitter against Mitt Romney? And what might we infer by her actions?"

17 Films to Look Forward to in 2012 from the Atlantic
"... brighter cinematic days seem to be on the horizon. Judging by what's been announced, 2012 will be refreshingly light on lazy franchise cash-ins (like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was), revivals of cartoons from the ‘80s (like The Smurfs), and the rare movie that manages to be both (hello, Transformers: Dark of the Moon)."
Based on the descriptions, 2012 DOES look more promising -- speaking as someone how saw nothing in 2011 worth going out to a cineplex to see.

Powerful Portraits Capture China's Empress Dowager (AUDIO) (Susan Stamberg) from NPR's Morning Edition
"Intrigue! Riches! Sex! Some violence! Not the latest movie plot, but a story that lurks in the background of some 100-year-old photographs of The Empress Dowager — once the most powerful woman in Asia. The mostly black-and-white photos languished for decades in the archives of the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now, they are on display and give a glimpse of Old China at a time when today's China is the picture of modern power."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

News Nuggets 835

The Hotel Inntel Zaandam in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  What a wonderfully creative and fanciful building!  From the Huffington Post.   

My Trip to Kosovo: They’re Still Thanking America. A Lot (Mark Fonseca Rendeiro) from AmericaBlog
"If you arrive via land as I first did, entering from the south on a bus from Macedonia, one thing you'll notice is how often you see an American Flag. ... It doesn't mean there's an American working in this building, or that the business are owned by American company, there is no official tie-in to the US needed - it is just a way to show what country people feel an affinity towards."

"What the U.S. really knows about the changeover in Pyongyang—and why Obama is hanging back and hoping."

Inside North Korea’s First Family: Rivals to Kim Jong-un’s Power (Philip Shenon) from the Daily Beast
"The hermit kingdom’s untested new leader may have to grapple for power with his powerful aunt and uncle. Philip Shenon on what Kim Jong-un is up against."

A New Hamas in the Making? (Bilal Saab) from the National Interest
"Reports claim Hamas is ready to renounce violence. This one dramatic move could transform the entire Middle East."
I hope -- but I'll believe it when I see it!

Which Candidate Should Answer that 3 a.m. Phone Call? (Eugene Robinson) form the Washington Post
"It’s possible that Romney understands what his responsibility would be if he faced a similar circumstance as president. But if you take his words seriously, the former Massachusetts governor sounds like a dangerous hothead. That’s nothing compared to Gingrich, whose past statements about North Korea have been shot from the hip."

Joe Biden On Iraq, Iran, China and the Taliban (Leslie Gelb) fromt he Daily Beast
The United States won't spend a dime to bail out Europe. The Taliban is not our enemy. And nobody's easing up on Iran's nukes. The vice president lets fly."

Christopher Hitchens and the Protocol for Public Figure Deaths (Glenn Greenwald) from Salon
"’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal. But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writings but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent."
I have not posted anything on the death of Christopher Hitchens.  The reasons can be found in this excellent lengthy discussion by Glenn Greenwald, a commentator who has not been showcased here in years (literally).  I have been appalled by how little accountability there has been for those pundits who cheer-led the war in Iraq and, in Hitchins' case, who for way too long poo-pooed US waterboarding of terror suspects. George Packer of the New Yorker looks at Hitchins' 'evolving' views on Iraq.  From William Kristol to Thomas Friedman to, yes, Christopher Hitchins, there are scores of seven-figure-a-year big mouths out there who successfully washed their hands of their catastrophic, misguided pronouncements on Iraq in 2003 and 2004.  It is my observation that in death Hitchins' trumpet blasts on Iraq have been largely glossed over.  There is one other factor that Greenwald doesn't bring up that bears on this issue: the many pundits and commentators from those years who DID oppose the Iraq war and tagged it CORRECTLY as a historically bad mistake.  Where are they now?  The dirty little secret is that, in the exhilarating rush of flag-waving shock-and-awe, most of them were booted from the airwaves.  Is Phil Donahue even still living?

Assessing Obama's Reelection Chances (Robert W. Merry) from the National Interest
"Obama is in much better shape than his opponents and detractors profess to believe."

Voters To Obama: We Like You Better Than The Other Guys from the National Memo
"Could it be that Barack Obama's new populist tone, rolled out with much fanfare and symbolism in Kansas just a few weeks ago, is already paying dividends with the public?"

Barack Obama and the Myth of the Progressive ‘Majorities’ from the Reid Report
"Given the situational unreliability of much of the Democratic caucus (who, in fairness, represent more conservative constituencies and interest groups in their states than Senators from New York or Vermont or Massachusetts), it’s a wonder the president, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi got anything done at all, let alone the incredible volume of work they did. "
A lengthy MUST-READ for those Democrats who denigrate Obama's legislative accomplishments for not being "progressive" enough or for not pursuing many progressive wish-list items!!  Bottom line: as I have argued, Obama never had anything resembling a progressive majority in the Senate.  Here's the proof.

Obama on Offense in Tax-Cut Battle (Alex Roarty) from the National Journal
"President Barack Obama speaks to troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., this month.
The president and the Democrats have a golden opportunity to tar the GOP as the party of the tea party."

GOPers Feel Their Side Got Rolled on the Temporary Payroll Tax Extension from the Reid Report
"Take it from the folks at The Republicans and their hapless leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell lost the December budget showdown …  — their second December fail in two years. And so, RedStater Daniel Horowitz writes:"
The right-wing commentary on their own lawmakers is really harsh!!

Payroll Tax Cut: Democrats See House GOP Opposition To Senate Deal As A Gift from the Huffington Post
"Many Democrats think House Republicans have given them an early political Christmas present by opposing the Senate deal to extend the middle-class payroll tax cut for two months. "Without a doubt, this is a gift," a senior Democratic aide told HuffPost, predicting that if the House GOP kills the compromise, Democrats will hammer them relentlessly through the holidays and beyond for hurting the middle class."

GOP Goes To War With Itself Over Payroll Cut from Talking Points Memo
"A civil war between House Republicans and their Senate counterparts had gone public over the possibility that the GOP will be held to blame if the current payroll tax cut expires on January 1. ... GOP Leaders on both sides of the Capitol are trying to contain the fallout, but with vulnerable Senate Republicans exposed, and the payroll tax cut set to lapse in less than two weeks, that’s a tall order."

Newt Gingrich and the Revenge of the Base (E.J. Dionne) from the Washington Post
"The right-wing faithful knows Gingrich pioneered this style of politics, and they laugh at efforts to cast the former House speaker as something other than a “true conservative.” They know better. The establishment was happy to use Gingrich’s tactics to win elections, but it never expected to lose control of the party to the voters it rallied with such grandiose negativity. Now, the joke is on those who manipulated the base. The base is striking back, and Newt is their weapon."

The Gingrich Dichotomy: Those Who Know Him Best Like Him Least (James Warren) from the Atlantic
"He appears unable to even govern himself"

Draft Jeb! (Charles P. Pierce) from Esquire Magazine
"now, in the widening gyre, slouching toward Manchester to be born, our moment of... Jeb (!) Make no mistake. You don't write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal at this point in the Republican primary process unless somebody, somewhere wants to make people think you're an legitimate option."

I (Almost) Got Callista Gingrich’s Hair (Holly Allen) from Slate
"How four hours in a D.C. salon gave me a new appreciation for Callista’s helmet head. ... Another salon customer, overhearing our conversation, confided that she’s a neighbor of the Gingriches and that Callista’s hair looks perfectly done all the time. All. The. Time. Can you imagine? It’s like she’s a prisoner in her own hair."
After my rant the other day about Calista Gingrich's "look," I wasn't surprised that other folks like this author felt compelled to comment.

The Sidney Awards, Part I (David Brooks) from the New York Times
Brooks discusses the best magazine essays of 2011.

How Charles Dickens Saw London from the Smithsonian Magazine
"Sketches by Boz, the volume of newspaper columns that became Dickens’ first book, invokes a colorful view of 19th-century England."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

News Nuggets 834

DAYLEE PICTURE: Inkeeping with the death of Kim Jong-il today, here is a recent photo of central Pyongyang, the bleak capital city he leaves behind.  From the Atlantic.

Osama Bin Laden Death Top News Story Of 2011 from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"The killing of Osama bin Laden during a raid by Navy SEALs on his hideout in Pakistan was the top news story of 2011, followed by Japan's earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors."

Obama’s Win-Win on Iraq (Christopher A. Preble) from the National Interest
"The end of the Iraq war is a rare win-win situation for President Obama. So far, he has played his hand skillfully. And it is a fair bet that he will continue to do so."
I'm not nearly so optimistic as this author.  I suspect Iraq is going to go to hell in a hand basket very quickly.  How that collapse gets spun will dictate whether it's a win or not.  Whether Iraq goes off a cliff or not, I suspect a majority of Americans stopped caring about what was happening there years ago -- and thus, sad to say, it won't matter in the world of US domestic politics.

Taking Leave of Iraq from the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times
"It takes nothing away from the heroism of U.S. forces to observe that the war in Iraq was the ultimate war of choice, and the choice was a bad one. "

Why the Arab Spring Is Here to Stay (by Christopher Dickey) from the Daily Beast
"No matter how desperately the remnants of the old regimes may try, the arab awakening cannot be reversed. Here’s why."

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Dies from the BBC
"Mr Kim, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said. He suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.  His designated successor is believed to be his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s."
Hang onto your seats.  God only knows how the struggle for power is going to play out.  Just what the world needs right now -- more instability.  Check out the Atlantic's amazing photo collection of recent scenes from North Korea.

Help Wanted Around the Globe (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"We are present again at one of those great unravelings — just like after World War I, World War II and the cold war. But this time there was no war. All of these states have been pulled down from within — without warning. Why?"

Economic Lessons from Europe (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"Basically, European experience is very consistent with a Keynesian view of the world, and radically inconsistent with various anti-Keynesian notions of expansionary austerity and flexible prices. ... The crisis really has settled some major issues in economics. Unfortunately, too many people — including many economists — won’t accept the answers."

Republican Candidates Can’t Run From Iraq War (Jonathan Alter) from Bloomberg News Service
"All U.S. ground troops will be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, and soon this sorry conflict will fade quietly into the past, the second-dumbest war in American history. Yet the Iraq War has been missing in action during the Republican presidential campaign."

Pope Benedict XVI Seen As Tired, Weak from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"Pope Benedict XVI seems worn out.  People who have spent time with him recently say they found him weaker than they'd ever seen him, seemingly too tired to engage with what they were saying. He no longer meets individually with visiting bishops. A few weeks ago he started using a moving platform to spare him the long walk down St. Peter's Basilica."
He looks terrible.  Not surprising given how much tumult his papacy has gone through in just a few short years.

The Next Roe v. Wade?: Jennie McCormack's Abortion Battle (Nancy Haas) from the Daily Beast
"Jennie McCormack was arrested for terminating her pregnancy with an abortion pill. The case that could transform the reproduction wars."

The Faith (and Doubts) of Our Fathers from the Economist [of London]
"What did the makers of America believe about God and religion? The subject is stirring the very rancor they wanted to avoid."

Worst Year in Washington (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"A four-part series (all printed today) on the winners and runners-up for the most lamentable 12 months inside the Beltway."

Obama Hasn't Forgotten Iowa (Mark Z. Barabak) from the Los Angeles Times
"The campaign operation that launched his path to the White House four years ago never really shut down. An extensive volunteer network and paid staffers are working phone banks, hosting house parties and urging voters to show up at the caucuses."

Interview: Newt Gingrich's Activist Sister (Molly Ball) from the Atlantic
"The GOP front-runner's gay younger sister has defined her life and career in opposition to Gingrich's politics -- but they still love each other like family."

Callista Gingrich: A Force Behind the Scenes for Newt from Politico
"Often seen but rarely heard from, she occupies a central position on the Gingrich team. The former House speaker credits her with saving him from the dog days of summer, when his campaign was on the skids and roughly $1 million in debt."

The Glorious History of Handel's Messiah (Jonathan Kandell) from Smithsonian Magazine
"A musical rite of the holiday season, the Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners 250 years after the composer's death."

Escape into Whiteness: A Review of The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White by Daniel J. Sharfstein from the New York Review of Books
"The Invisible Line constructs a nuanced history of racial crossing—carrying the reader from the pre-Revolutionary period to the present day—through the stories of three families."

In Holland, Santa Doesn’t Have Elves. He Has Slaves (Jessica Olien) from Slate
"The racist Christmastime tradition Dutch people have begun fighting about."
As some of you I'm sure know, the comic David Sedaris did a ripping send-up of this odd Dutch tradition several years back.

Vivid New 'Battle of the Bulge' Photos Offer Never-before-seen Look at the War-weary Soldiers Braving the Frigid Weather as They Fight Off Nazi Germany's Last Major Offensive of World War II from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Breathtaking new photographs, including several vivid full-color images, offer a never-before-seen look at the war-weary soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge who fought through the frozen Ardennes Forest in a mountainous region of Belgium in the dead of winter. "

Smallest Frogs Found—Each Tinier Than an M&M (PHOTO) from National Geographic News
"Two new species discovered in Papua New Guinea forest."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

News Nuggets 833

DAYLEE PICTURE: The west coast of Mallorca, an island in the Mediterranean not far from the northeast coast of Spain. From National Geographic.
1.  The Restoration Doctrine (Richard Haas) from the American Interest
"More broadly, 21st-century international relations will be characterized by nonpolarity: a world dominated not by one, two or even several states but rather by dozens of states and other actors possessing and exercising military, economic, diplomatic and cultural power. This is not your father’s world dominated by the United States, Western Europe and Japan. Nor is it a world dominated by two superpowers, as it was during the Cold War, or by one, as it was for a brief moment in the aftermath of the Cold War. Power will increasingly be found in many hands in many places. The result will be a world where power diffuses, not concentrates."

2.  Next Year, in Review (David Rothkopf) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"From the fall of Ahmadinejad, Assad, Castro, and Chavez to the rise of cyberattacks -- the top 13 stories that could dominate the headlines in 2012."

3.  Iraq Syndrome (Leonard Pitts) from the Chicago Tribune
"...there's little doubt we lost this war -- by every rational measure. ... Whatever "syndrome" does coalesce around this disastrous mistake must develop an intelligence that transcends the machinations that brought it on. For this to happen, we must stare deeply into the heart of the war's consequences."

4.  What's Up in China: Hint, It's Not War With the U.S. (James Fallows) from the Atlantic
"The outright rebellion that has erupted in the southern coastal town of Wukan is a powerful illustration of the economic, political, environmental, and social tensions that have built up inside China during the recent boom decade -- and that, if anything, may intensify as the boom slows down."

5.  A New World Order for India (Minhaz Merchant) from the Times of India [in English]
"India needs to think and act like a major power. It must fix governance at home, build a strategic foreign policy and leverage its demographic and economic assets. In the emerging world order, the India-US partnership will be as pivotal as the Anglo-US axis was for most of the 20th century. China will play the role of the old Soviet Union with economic satellites in an arc curving down from central Asia to Africa where China is now the world's biggest investor."

6.  Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War? (Ta-Nehisi Coates) from the Atlantic
"The belief that the Civil War wasn’t for us was the result of the country’s long search for a narrative that could reconcile white people with each other, one that avoided what professional historians now know to be true: that one group of Americans attempted to raise a country wholly premised on property in Negroes, and that another group of Americans, including many Negroes, stopped them."

7.  Rick Perry's Bay of Pigs Moment (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast
"For the Texas governor, it seems, even defeat in war is better than no war at all. Peter Beinart on the clueless call for a new ‘Monroe Doctrine’ for Latin America."

8.  Rick Perry’s Presidential Candidacy a Bitter Pill for Texans (Evan Smith) from the Daily Beast
"All the governor’s “oops” moments have again saddled his state with unwanted stereotypes, says Evan Smith."

9.  Blocks, a Tiny Racecar, and a Flying Shark: Five of the Most Innovative Toys of 2011 from Slate
"I’m going to focus on the year’s five most innovative items—the toys I thought offered new twists on old forms of play. If you’re shopping for kids this year, you won’t go wrong with any of these."

10.  Dancer in a Hideous Festive Jumper Takes Gleeful Spin Around Mall to Mariah Carey on his iPod (VIDEO) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"The expression 'dance like no one is watching' could have been written for him. But frankly everyone was after this young man's interpretative dance video to Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You went viral on YouTube, receiving almost 800,000 hits."

Now -- back to our regular nuggets!!
Iraq, a War Obama Didn’t Want, Shaped His Foreign Policy (Mark Landler) from the New York Times
"The war that Mr. Obama never wanted to fight has weighed on internal debates, dictated priorities and often narrowed options for the United States, according to current and former administration officials."

Without Iraq 'Arab Spring May Have Broken Out Earlier' (Editorial) from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"The US has officially declared the war in Iraq to be over with a flag-casing ceremony in Baghdad. President Barack Obama said that America was leaving behind a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq." On Friday, German commentators take a look at the end of the Iraq war."

The Anxious Generation ((Ronald Brownstein) from the National Journal
"Stressed-out Americans over 50 wonder if they’re ever going to be able to retire. They worry that the Great Recession will have a lasting impact on their security."

The Republican Whitewash of the Iraq War to Come (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"No one may yet be bold enough to call the just-concluded war a win now, but wait a few years for a big book from a conservative publisher calling Iraq a victory—for Bush, of course, not Obama, says Michael Tomasky."
LOOK FOR IT!  The sad truth is, over the long term, Americans DON'T learn from big-time military misadventures.  Just ask yourself, what were the big cautionary take-aways from the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War of 1845-46, or the Spanish-American War of 1897-1898 (particularly the five-year insurgency to quell the Filipinos that lasted until 1903)?  The only reason cautionary lessons seem to resonate for the Korean and Vietnam Wars is because there are still so many people who lived through them.  Ah, but wait.  Once these conflicts drift into a past laid out largely in history books, they will sit themselves down next to these nineteenth century conflicts notable largely for their lack of any meaning whatsoever to the average person.

Let's Face It: It's the Radical Right, Not Islam, that is the Greatest Threat to the American Way (Ahmed Rehab) from the Huffington Post
"Imagine if a major American advertiser were to pull its ads off of Jersey Shore because they received objections that the show while portraying a group of Italian-Americans, made the glaring error of excluding Mafiosi."

Public Doesn't Buy 'False Equivalency' in Blame for Economy, Gridlock (J.P. Greene) from the Democratic Strategist
"Timothy Noah's "Poll: It Isn't Both Sides' Fault" at The New Republic provides a strong validation Of James Vega's December 5 TDS post about the folly and fraud of 'false equivalence' in assigning blame to both political parties for legislative gridlock and economic decline."

For GOP Presidential Candidates, Rules to Love By from the Washington Post
"What we accept from our politicians in their personal lives is inconsistent with how our own personal lives work. The contradictions reflect our difficulty in coming to terms with the great changes in sex and marriage since our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. We value marriage, but we also value the right to pursue personal happiness."
A VERY interesting list!

Republican Presidential Primaries: Iowa No GOP Crystal Ball (Mark McKinnon) from the Daily Beast
"Newt Gingrich has peaked, Ron Paul is surging. Is it showtime for Jon Huntsman? Mark McKinnon and George Caudill on the jumble that's likely to come after the caucuses."

Apologizer and Chief?: The Truth Squad Reports On The GOP Debates (Bill Adair & Scott Simon) from NPR's Morning Edition Saturday
One to keep in your wallet for future reference!
"Romney: 'A few minutes into office, Obama travelled around the globe to apologize for America. He went around the world and apologized for America.'.... Truth-checkers: ... we've rated it pants on fire. And we did that after doing some very thorough research. We read Romney's book and we went to the specific speeches that he was referring to. And Obama wasn't apologizing. What Obama was doing, when you really look at the text, he was explaining what his foreign policy would be like and how it would be different from President Bush's. He never said I'm sorry. There was nothing that could be considered an apology. And we showed this to experts, including someone who has written a book about apologies. And the conclusion was he was not apologizing."

Self-Adoration Reaches Newt Heights (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"MARVELING over a presidential candidate’s arrogance is like noting that a hockey player wears skates. It states not just the obvious but the necessary. ... But what flavor? And what measure? That’s where candidates — and the presidents that some of them become — differ, in ways that shape the sorts of messes they’re likely to make. And that’s where Newt Gingrich provokes real concern. "

The Year in Volcanic Activity (PHOTOS) from the Atlantic
"Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes around the world, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava. ... Collected below are scenes from the wide variety of volcanic activity on Earth over the past year. "

Friday, December 16, 2011

News Nuggets 832

DAYLEE PICTURE: Lower Manhattan -- from the 80th floor of the unfinished One World Trade Center.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

The Restoration Doctrine (Richard Haas) from the American Interest
"More broadly, 21st-century international relations will be characterized by nonpolarity: a world dominated not by one, two or even several states but rather by dozens of states and other actors possessing and exercising military, economic, diplomatic and cultural power. This is not your father’s world dominated by the United States, Western Europe and Japan. Nor is it a world dominated by two superpowers, as it was during the Cold War, or by one, as it was for a brief moment in the aftermath of the Cold War. Power will increasingly be found in many hands in many places. The result will be a world where power diffuses, not concentrates."

'Stubborn' Iraqis Mistaken to Demand American Withdrawal (Amran Al-Obaidi) from Sotal Iraq [from Iraq in English] 
 "I do not intend to justify the Americans' remaining, nor do I wish to underestimate the capacity of Iraqis. But I mean to say that the way this issue has been handled was overshadowed by the media. That has led to political stubbornness and an insistence on a complete American withdrawal, despite very pressing matters that suggest they should remain."

The Botched Ballot: Why Even Failed Elections are Good for Democracy (James Traub) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Elections matter quite independently of who wins them. Elections don't make a democracy, but they can make a democratic citizenry."

Europe's Crisis Isn't About Debt, It's About Politics (Kathleen McNamara) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Europe is not suffering from a debt crisis. It is, rather, a political crisis. With the arguable exception of Greece, the EU countries under attack by financial markets are basically strong, wealthy, and productive. Yet from the early tepid responses when the crisis started in Greece two years ago to the most recent agreement German Chancellor Angela Merkel forced on EU member states, European leaders have been shockingly unwilling to face up to the political facts."
I totally agree with the author's assessment here.  The Europeans have actually made the US system look like a model of speed, action and political fortitude.

Now, several editorials on the end of the Iraq conflict:
A Formal End of the War from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"The Bush administration had no plan for governing the country once Saddam was deposed. The Iraqi economy still bears the scars from the first frenzied days of looting. The decision to disband the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Army helped unleash five years of sectarian strife that has not fully abated. Iraq’s political system remains deeply riven by ethnic and religious differences."

End of Iraq War Highlights Conflict's Tragic Cost from the Editorial Board of the Star-Ledger [of Newark]
"Defenders of the U.S. invasion of Iraq are right about one thing: The country is better off today than it was under Saddam Hussein. ... But with the end of American involvement after nearly nine years, it is clear those gains came at far too high a cost. This invasion was a tragic mistake."

Hopes and Prayers for Iraq from the Editorial Board of The Oregonian
"Ask Scott McCrae the question that Americans are grappling with as the last troops come home from Iraq -- was it worth the costs? -- and for a few moments the man who lost his son to the war doesn't answer."

To properly bookend these postmortems on Iraq see this revelatory editorial from Palestinian sources.
'Thank You Newt Gingrich …Your Insolence is Required!' (Abd Al Bari Atwan) from Samidoon [of the Palestinian Territories in English]
"This excessively stupid man doesn't realize that his nation's Arab-dictator friends are falling, one after the other, at the hands of the Arab youth rebels... In order for it to become a former empire, the United States needs another president like George Bush Jr. Undoubtedly, Gingrich is perfectly suited to the task."

G.O.P. Monetary Madness (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"Mr. Paul has maintained his consistency by ignoring reality, clinging to his ideology even as the facts have demonstrated that ideology’s wrongness. And, even more unfortunately, Paulist ideology now dominates a Republican Party that used to know better."

Obama's Campaign Isn't Worried About 2012 (Cynthia Gordy) from The Root
"Despite lows in polling and the economy, the president's re-election team is confident he'll win; here's why."

Behind the Primaries (Gary Hart) from the New York Times
"The current Republican contest has yet to reveal that kind of historical fault line. But something just like it could be opened up by a potential stop-Romney movement in which the adherents of all the other candidates coalesce around a candidate who promises to hold together a post-Reagan coalition that is highly religious, anti-government and anti-financial establishment."

Seven Key Facts That Will Be Ignored By the Media But Will Determine the Iowa Caucuses (William Galston) from the New Republic
"Over the next three weeks, the heat-to-light ratio in the press coverage of the Iowa caucuses will rise steadily. Here are a few basics to keep in mind."

Friendly Fire (Ronald Brownstein) from the National Journal
"Republicans are attacking each other with such gusto that it may be impossible to close the wounds."

Rick Perry's Bay of Pigs Moment (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast
"For the Texas governor, it seems, even defeat in war is better than no war at all. Peter Beinart on the clueless call for a new ‘Monroe Doctrine’ for Latin America."

The Mysterious Jeb Bush Poll (David Weigel) from Slate
"It started when the mayor of Merrifield, New Hampshire, tweeted that he'd gotten a robo-poll asking about a possible Jeb Bush presidential campaign. It's continued, with random granite state citizens getting the same calls. One of them sent over the gist of questions received last night."
This little squib came across my desk yesterday.  Now -- the Bush people are denying that they are doing any polling on this.  My guess: the GOP establishment is already ten steps ahead and looking for a Plan C where, if Gingrich looks like he might be the nominee and/or Romney implodes, someone like Jeb can ride to the rescue.  How could he do that?  If Gingrich is slimed enough or blackmailed enough with info on past misdeeds, he could easily be racking up his delegate count but then abruptly withdraw (remember Ross Perot?). Under such circumstances, it would be wide open for someone like Bush.  You have to ask yourself, can an un-annointed figure like Gingrich (or Cain or Paul) really buck their party's establishment and win the nomination?  I am highly skeptical.

How Vulgar! £1 Million 24-carat Gold Rolls-Royce is Unveiled (but Who on Earth Would Want to Buy It?) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"The Rolls-Royce has always had a history of elegance and class - until now. That prestigious reputation has been smashed by the world's most vulgar makeover of the company's iconic Ghost model. An Italian fashion design house has created a gold-covered monstrosity costing more than £1 million."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

News Nuggets 831

DAYLEE PICTURES: The once and future Mrs. Newt Gingrich.  At top, Calista, the normal person from 15+ years ago ... and, below, what she is today.  From the Daily Mail of the UK

The Rebranding of Mrs Gingrich: How Callista Transformed her Look from Young Professional to Aspiring First Lady (PHOTOS) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"She may be just 45, but with her penchant for boxy suits, pearls and that gleaming helmet of peroxide, Newt's wife is dressing way beyond her years."
She's ... 45?!  I had to look it up!  I thought she was pushing 60!  There are several things that are uniquely disturbing about the possibility of this person becoming First Lady.  She would be the first "home-wrecker (a term I dislike)" First Lady, the women who enabled the married Newt Gingrich in cheating on wife No. 2.  Second, stories suggest she is one of the driving, micro-managing forces behind Newt's bizarre presidential campaign up to now (which makes me seriously wonder about her judgment); and third, as this article and its photos chronicle, her physical transformation from a normal person to a tightly-wound GOP robo-wife are, to put it mildly, off-putting!  I long for the days when GOP candidate spouses looked like real human beings rather than sprayed-in-plastic, two-hours-a-day-with-the-beautician replicant women striving to achieve ... some kind of an effect!  It's getting to the point you can tell a male candidate's party affiliation just by looking at his spouse!  Plastic hair and a Doris Day dress = GOP; anything else = Democrat. What exactly IS the effect they are trying to achieve?  I know we've tracked here how the GOP wants nothing more than to turn the clock back to the Eisenhower years (or earlier) -- but does it extend to fashion as well!? And is it just for women? The thing that makes this trend even more strange is that what this retro-modeling presents us with (to my eyes anyway) is a caricature of a Kennedy/Eisenhower era woman.  Maimie and Jackie NEVER looked this artificial!  You almost expect to see electrical wires or battery packs protruding from underneath the zip-up-the-back dresses many of these women wear!  One final note: is she going to get the GOP "treatment" during what may shape up to be a nasty, pro-longed primary fight?  Will she be given a pass ... or the piranhas-vs-Bambi treatment?  If Romney and the GOP establishment get pushed all the way to the wall, will they go there?  I can't predict.  If she were the spouse of a Democratic candidate (try on Michelle Obama in '08) with a past like this, take it to the bank - she'd be getting the full piranha!

Syria’s Civil War is Bigger than Syria Itself (Jim Hoagland) from the Washington Post
"Syria’s burgeoning civil war involves forces and stakes that reach far beyond that country. Unlike the upheaval that ousted entrenched leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and (it seems) Yemen, the outcome in Syria will shift the balance of power in a larger civil war within Islam that has raged for three decades."

What's Up in China: Hint, It's Not War With the U.S. (James Fallows) from the Atlantic
"The outright rebellion that has erupted in the southern coastal town of Wukan is a powerful illustration of the economic, political, environmental, and social tensions that have built up inside China during the recent boom decade -- and that, if anything, may intensify as the boom slows down."

In Japan, a Long Decline Accelerates from the Washington Post
"For two decades now, Japan has endured its economic downturn largely because the slope felt so gentle. But in recent months, with a record-strong yen cutting profits of Japan’s major exporters, the world’s third-largest economy is seeing the first signs of a nastier drop."

Russian Internet Revolution Fuels Protest from the Washington Post
"Today’s young Russians connect with the world on their laptops instead of around the fabled kitchen table, where their parents sat in Soviet times, the only place they could speak openly and safely. ... Informed and motivated by blogs and social networks so far unfettered by government limits, they have emerged with the potential to confront the authorities and demand change. The months and years ahead will reveal whether they will achieve this promise."

Drone-Ethics Briefing: What a Leading Robot Expert Told the CIA (Patrick Lin) from the Atlantic
"Robots are replacing humans in battle. But could they also be used to interrogate and torture suspects?"

So When Should You Default on Your Mortgage? (Megan McArdle) from the Atlantic
""Can I afford this mortgage?" is, of course, a subjective question, one that only you can answer.  But I think it's probably worth outlining the questions I would ask myself before I defaulted on my mortgage:"

What's the Difference Between a Religion and a Cult? And where Does Mormonism Fit In? (Brian Palmer) from Slate
"...  the word eventually gained currency outside the ivory tower, and professors lost control of its meaning. In the early 1970s, Americans were curious about many of the emerging religious groups without fully condemning them."
This item doesn't really provide a deep discussion -- but it is an interesting question -- especially when applied to several modern evangelical movements.

Pew Research Poll: Anti-Incumbent Fever Could Hurt Republicans (Mark Blumenthal) from the Huffington Post
"Results from a new national survey from the Pew Research Center should strike fear into the hearts of incumbents in Congress, especially those who are members of the Republican Party. A record number of respondents want to vote sitting lawmakers out of office, and Republicans take more of the blame than Democrats for perceptions of a do-nothing Congress."

National Review Must be Too Embarrassed to Endorse Mitt Romney from Daily Kos
"To put it another way, the candidates they think Republicans should consider are Mitt Romney (who they endorsed in 2008 and say would "make a fine president"), a pair of one-percenters (when it comes to the polls), and a magic pony (who has yet to make an appearance). I can't imagine a weaker vote of confidence in Romney..."

Huntsman Posts Surprisingly Strong Showing in N.H. Poll from Slate
"The long-time afterthought creeps up into third place in the Granite State."
Given how oddly the GOP merry-go-round has spun this year, you had to figure his horse would get some attention eventually.

Rick Perry’s Presidential Candidacy a Bitter Pill for Texans (Evan Smith) from the Daily Beast
"All the governor’s “oops” moments have again saddled his state with unwanted stereotypes, says Evan Smith."
"Unwanted" but well-deserved.  Any state that could elect George W. Bush for governor twice and, having learned nothing from that experience, then gone on to elect Perry governor THREE TIMES, deserves mockery and ample helpings of opprobrium.  I place a substantial amount of blame on the local media who have (with a couple of exceptions) simply knuckled under to GOP and conservative dominance of the state.  They stopped asking the challenging questions -- and demanding answers.  Politicians like W and Perry became accustomed to a flaccid media environment where reporters pretended to ask "tough questions" and politicians pretended to answer them in an elaborate co-dependent relationship that produced good ratings and virtually no real information for voters.  Sadly, after a decade+ of reporter softballs and lax treatment, Texas's state and local government is now chocked full of Perry, Bush, Rove and DeLay wannabes, men and women with similar abilities, predilections and ambitions who have been repeatedly rewarded with reelection -- despite all the failings (and more) that they share with Perry.  Don't hold your breath waiting for an LBJ or even an Ann Richards to come out of this environment any time soon.  They've all largely been burned out by years of electoral losses.  It's a textbook case of what happens to a democracy when a supposedly "free and independent media" fails to take its responsibilities to inform the public seriously.

Dancer in a Hideous Festive Jumper Takes Gleeful Spin Around Mall to Mariah Carey on his iPod (VIDEO) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"The expression 'dance like no one is watching' could have been written for him. But frankly everyone was after this young man's interpretative dance video to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" went viral on YouTube, receiving almost 800,000 hits."
You can hear the mall security guys now: "Food Court. Level two.  We've got a live one!"  You've got to give the guy some credit though -- there was some pretty ballsy, uninhibited self expression going on there!

“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”: At Long Last, the Year’s Best Action Flick from Salon
"Don't count out the star or the franchise! The latest "Mission: Impossible" is a terrific holiday surprise."
I have to confess, while no fan of Mr. Cruise, I AM a fan of the Mission Impossible movie franchise -- so I'm glad to hear this one might be good.