Thursday, March 31, 2011

News Nuggets 588

A kung-fu master at the Shaolin Monastery in Henan Province, China.  What a strkingly beautiful image.  From National Geographic.

Which is the bigger development here?
Retreat for Rebels; Libyan Foreign Minister Quits from the New York Times
"In a stunning setback for the Qaddafi government, however, one of its most senior officials, foreign minister Moussa Koussa ... The Obama administration has been making strenuous efforts to convince the leadership around Colonel Qaddafi to abandon their support for the dictator. In Mr. Koussa they seem to have met with their first success, as his defection sent shockwaves through Tripoli."
I would love to be a fly on the wall when this guy is interrogated.  You have to ask yourself: given Qaddafi's recent military successes, what tea leaves is this guy reading that he chooses NOW to jump ship?

C.I.A. Agents in Libya Aid Airstrikes and Meet Rebels from the New York Times

"The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and contact rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials. While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said"
There is so much that could be said about this development -- none of it good.

Obama Flirts with a Doctrine (Doyle McManus) from the Los Angeles Times
"President Obama and his aides insist the U.S.-led intervention in Libya isn't part of a grand doctrine for the Middle East. But his plans for democracy have the earmarks of one."

Grateful for Airstrikes, Advancing Libyan Rebels Face New Challenges from the Atlantic
"U.S. and European missions have cleared the rebels' way forward, but their next steps will require more than bombs"

Have We Got Arab Politics All Wrong? (Max Fisher) from the Atlantic

"We've long tended to assume that foreign policy drives Arab public opinion, but the uprisings in Egypt and Syria may show us otherwise."

Obama Wins Arab Respect (Kate Seelye) from the Daily Beast
"In the president’s speech on Libya, he laid out his moral argument for saving lives in defense of democracy, without boots on the ground—an American role that has won him support in the Arab world."

On Libya's Revolutionary Road (Robert Worth) from the New York Times Sunday Magazine
"The sudden, bloody transformation of normal citizens into rebels."
An interesting long-form story on what's been happening in Libya.

Good News: We're Beating bin Laden (David Case) from the Global Post

"The Obama administration is winning the war on terror, according to Al Qaeda expert Peter Bergen."

An interesting related item:
Signs of Strain as Taliban Gird for Renewed Fighting from the New York Times
"The Afghan Taliban are showing signs of increasing strain after a number of killings, arrests and internal disputes that have reached them even in their haven in Pakistan, Afghan security officials and Afghans with contacts in the Taliban say."

File this under the "you've got to be kidding" Israeli-Palestinian Peace plan: 
Israel Studies Plan to Build Island Off Gaza Strip from Al Arabiya [in English]
"Israel is studying plans to create an artificial island along the Gaza Strip with sea and air ports to be controlled by the Palestinian Authority, an Israeli television channel reported Tuesday.  The project, under development for three months by Transport Minister Yaakov Katz proposes building a man-made island four kilometers (2.5 miles) long and two kilometers (1.2 miles) wide, Israel's Channel 2 television reported."

Of course, this is happening at the same time as this:
Massive Jerusalem Settlement Project to be Approved from Al Arabiya [in English]
"A massive new construction project of at least 1,400 homes is about to be authorized in a settlement neighborhood in occupied east Jerusalem, Israeli military radio reported Sunday."
Ok - I GET IT!  The new Israeli peace plan is give the Israelis part of the West Bank in exchange for undeveloped "land" -- that really isn't even land yet -- out in the Mediterranean! But to make it especially SWEET for Palestinians, build it off of the Gaza Strip and give administration to the PA (instead of Hamas).  Thus leaving both of them too busy negotiating/fighting with each other to do any meaningful negotiating/fighting with Netanyahu.  Pretty impressive!

American Embarrassment (Joe Klein) from Time Magazine
"It is always an education to watch our American writhings from overseas. It is particularly excrutiating watching the Republican Party presidential candidates who, on a daily basis, pronounce some ignorant racist or irreligious twaddle...which--amazingly enough--manages to be heard around the world."
Y'know, I had long hoped that one the wing-nuts were sounding off the way they do every day that no one outside the US was actually watching.  Guess not. They must think this country is COMPLETELY insane.

Republican Freshmen in House Shut Down Compromise, and Possibly the Government (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"Watching the newbie lawmakers march up the Senate steps, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for House Speaker John Boehner. The Republican freshmen have put him a position where he cannot take yes for an answer."
There seems to be some deal in the works this morning -- we'll see if it comes off.

States Broke? Maybe They Cut Taxes Too Much (Tony Pugh) from the McClatchy News Service
"The measure was originally part of a sweeping 2005 tax overhaul that abolished the state corporate income tax and phased out a business property tax.  The tax cuts were supposed to stimulate Ohio's economy and create jobs. But that never happened once the economy tanked. Instead, the changes ended up costing Ohio more than $2 billion a year in lost tax revenue; money that would go a long way toward closing the state's $8 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2012."

What Happens To The Social Safety Net If The Government Shuts Down? from the Huffington Post
"Ron Haskins, a former White House and congressional adviser on welfare issues and current co-director of the Brookings Institution's Center on Children and Families, speculated that wide swaths of the safety net would remain intact. "I would think the agencies would determine many of these programs, especially safety net programs, are essential," Haskins said. Many experts agree with Haskins, citing what happened during the most recent government shutdown."

In MI, Gov. Snyder Signs Controversial Emergency Financial Managers Measures from the Associated Press via
"Gov. Rick Snyder ignored the protests of thousands of angry union members at the Capitol Wednesday and signed legislation giving broad new powers, including the ability to terminate union contracts, to emergency financial managers appointed by the state of Michigan to run struggling cities and school districts."

The GOP War on Labor Moves to Academia (Andrew Leonard) from Salon
"Instead of merely whining about how the left has taken over the ivory tower, conservatives are taking action."

GOP Wary of ‘Advice’ From Field (David M. Drucker) from Roll Call

"A political dynamic that features a restive Republican base and aggressive House and Senate freshman classes with tea party roots could present Congressional Republicans with unique challenges as the party’s presidential candidates become more vocal."

Poll: GOP Budget Cuts Backfiring in Swing Districts from the Democratic Strategist
"The Republicans' proposed budget cuts are in trouble in the 50 most competitive Republican-held Congressional districts - nearly all of which gave a majority to Obama in the last presidential election. Support drops dramatically after respondents hear balanced information and messages, and incumbents in these battleground seats find themselves even more endangered."

Why Liberals Are Loving the Birthers (Clarence Page) from the Chicago Tribune

"Donald Trump has joined the "birthers," the odd movement that questions President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth certificate. That's a good way for the celebrity billionaire to appear as though he's making a serious run for the Republican presidential nomination, which he says he is considering. It also makes him sound like a secret agent for the Democrats."

Special Needs: A Review of Sarah Palin's Alaska (Janet Malcolm) from the New York Review of Books
"...what we see on Palin's face belies her bright words. She is devastated by the look into the future that the impaired little cousin gives her. We see her breaking down and beginning to cry, and we cry with her. At this moment, she is not Sarah Palin the wicked witch of the right. She is a woman one pities and sympathizes with and, yes, even admires."
A fair, occasionally funny, and often insightful review of Palin's widely panned program.  Worth checking out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

News Nuggets 587

Tjome ("world's end") in eastern Norway.  From National Geographic.

Allies Count on Defiant Streak in Libya to Drive Out Qaddafi from the New York Times
"In the allies’ shadow war in Libya, airstrikes are aimed not only at Colonel Qaddafi’s tanks and artillery, but also at the elite of his remaining armed forces in an effort to persuade them to turn against their embattled leader. He may be able to hold out against Western warplanes, but he cannot long survive without the loyalty of certain tribes."

Looking for Luck in Libya (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times

"When an entire region that has been living outside the biggest global trends of free politics and free markets for half a century suddenly, from the bottom up, decides to join history — and each one of these states has a different ethnic, tribal, sectarian and political orientation and a loose coalition of Western and Arab states with mixed motives trying to figure out how to help them — well, folks, you’re going to end up with some very strange-looking policy animals. And Libya is just the first of many hard choices we’re going to face in the “new” Middle East."

Obama Speech Offers Clarity on Libya Policy (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post

"Obama offered a formula that’s similar to what I heard last week traveling with Defense Secretary Bob Gates: The United States should use military force unilaterally only when it involves core U.S. national interests; in other cases, such as Libya, the United States should act militarily only with the support of its allies. America won’t act as the world’s policeman, in other words. But it’s ready to act as “police chief,” in organizing international peacekeeping operations."

Why Obama Had to Act in Libya (Marc Lynch) from Foreign Policy Magazine
""We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi – a city nearly the size of Charlotte – could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen."  This was the blunt, powerful heart of President Obama's speech last night explaining American intervention in Libya: had the international community not acted when it did, thousands would have been slaughtered as the world watched.   The effects of that decision would have been felt across the Middle East, where America would have been deemed to have abandoned the people struggling for freedom in the Arab world."

Obama's Cautious Approach (Dana Milbank) from RealClearPolitics
"Those who were hoping for a rejoinder to "bring it on" were disappointed: The Obama doctrine he presented Monday night was frustratingly nondoctrinal. Where Bush was all bright lines and absolute morality, Obama dwelled in the gray area, outlining a foreign policy that is ad hoc and situational."

By Leaving Regime Change to the Libyans, Obama Aligns U.S. and Arab Goals (Tony Karon) from Time Magazine

"...the takeaway, from Obama's message to the Libyan rebels was that it was up to them to change their country -- the coalition was ready to help and protect but not to deliver the killer blow to Gaddafi and his regime. ... It's worth remembering that at the outset of their uprising, Libya's rebels were fiercely opposed to foreign intervention. They wanted to own their struggle, just as their neighbors in Egypt and Tunisia have done..."

Burying the Bush Doctrine from the Editorial Board of the Arab News [of Saudi Arabia in English]

"Emphasizing that the ouster of Qaddafi or the “regime change” in Libya is not the US or Western goal, he said: “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq.” This is something the world has wanted to hear for some time, especially from this president who had vehemently opposed the unjust and unreasonable war against Iraq. Perhaps, this is the best burial Obama could have given his predecessor’s toxic legacy, the so-called Bush doctrine."

Barack Obama Takes a Back Seat from the Editorial Board of the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"The president has signalled a new role for the US in the world, one not welcomed by us... the US will not be in the driving seat. Many in Europe will welcome this; we do not. For the reality is that when the going gets tough, only the US has the muscle to make a difference. How long before it is asked to ride to the West's rescue once again?"

Bashar al-Assad Stages His Own Coup (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post

"Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is attempting a new survival tactic in this Arab Spring — organizing what looks like a coup against his own government. Over the next 48 hours, it should become clear whether he has the political muscle and dexterity to pull off this unusual maneuver."

Syria's Assad May be a Mad Dog, but He Differs from Libyan Leader (Jonathan Manthorpe) from the Vancouver Sun [of Canada]

"Assad, in contrast, is an important player with allies and supporters in the most finely balanced region of the Middle East where the delicate and volatile games of strategy and tactics are played out between Israel, Lebanon, Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan. Even among those who loath and despise Assad, such as many Israeli politicians, there is little wish to see him ousted."
He "differs from Qaddafi" -- we'll see.

Japan May Have Lost Race to Save Nuclear Reactor from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site."

Tokyo's Fatalism: Courage in the Face of Disaster from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]

"Many foreigners have fled Tokyo. But the Japanese are facing the ongoing threat posed by the Fukushima nuclear power plant with a mixture of concern and equanimity. Their faith in the country's ability to overcome is unfazed."

Report: EU Working to Ban Gas and Diesel-powered Cars by 2050 from Autoblog
"According to new reports, the European Union will announce plans to ban all fossil fuel-powered cars in Europe by 2050. The detailed plan will be outlined in the European Union's Roadmap on Transport, which will come out on Monday. By 2030, the EU plans to have reduced fossil fuel traffic by half, particularly in urban areas."
This is the difference between a society that takes global warming seriously and one, like the US, that doesn't.  Eventually, this will get auto-makers (even American ones) off their butts and manufacturing clean fuel alternatives to the combustion engine. 

Will Realism Make A Comeback in the GOP? (Jacob Heilbrunn) form the National Interest
"If the GOP wants to attack Obama in 2012 on foreign policy, it can't split the difference with him, arguing that that he should be even more vigorous abroad."
My answer: No.

Tax the Super Rich Now or Face a Revolution: A ‘Super-Rich Delusion’ is Leading Us to Ruin (Paul B. Farrell) from the Wall Street Journal
"Yes, tax the Super Rich. Tax them now. Before the other 99% rise up, trigger a new American Revolution, a meltdown and the Great Depression 2."

10 College Admissions Trends from the Daily Beast
"At 5 p.m. today, Ivy League schools will notify their lucky applicants—the precious few admitted in the toughest admissions year ever. From soaring waitlists to a Southern boom, Kristina Dell on 10 trends."
Several trends I've noted here are especially disturbing, such as: 1) 2011 Was the Hardest Year to Get into College—Ever; ... 3) International Student Applications Are Surging ... 10) Public Universities Are Accepting More Out-of-State Students.

House Republican Leaders Turn to Moderate Democrats for Budget Deal from the Washington Post
"Having difficulty finding consensus within their own ranks, House Republican leaders have begun courting moderate Democrats on several key fiscal issues, including a deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of next week."
I can't find the appropriate expletive to describe Boehner and his leadership right now.  He spent TWO years leading the party of "NO" when the Dems were in charge -- and he has the GALL to go to them now looking to bail out his ass because 50+ members of his OWN CAUCUS won't follow his leadership.  I would love to think that the Dems will drive a hard bargain -- but experience says he will get enough Dem votes to give him cover while conceding little of substance.

GOP Insiders Say Romney’s Still Number One (James A. Barnes) from National Journal
"Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues to be seen as the favorite for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination according to a special National Journal Political Insiders Poll released on Tuesday."

Poll: Americans Cooling on Tea Party from Politico

"The approval rating for the 2-year-old movement fell to 32 percent in a CNN/Opinion Research corporation poll released Wednesday, the lowest it’s been since CNN first polled on the tea party in January 2010. Forty-seven percent of Americans, meanwhile, said they have an unfavorable view of the movement, a higher negative percentage than ever."
Thank goodness.  This poll showcases how timely it is for the GOP to more securely hitch their wagon to the Tea Party express, timely that is for the Democrats.

Wisconsin Judge Halts Further Implementation Of Union Law from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
""Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of (the law) was enjoined," Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said during a hearing. "That is what I now want to make crystal clear.""
There seemed to be the suggestion over at TalkingPointsMemo this morning that the Walker & company might still ignore this injunction.  Investigating.

Freaky sand storm in Kuwait engulfs neighborhood from Americablog

At least visually, this gives you some sense as to what the Dust Bowl looked like during the Great Depression.  The winds and dust of those 1930s storms would have been much more severe.

Man Charged With Trying To Sell Military Spy Plane On EBay from TalkingPointsNugget!!

"A foreign national was indicted yesterday for allegedly illegally importing an unmanned spy plane into the U.S., and then trying to resell it on eBay."
WHAT DO YOU MEAN I can't sell my nuclear weapon on e-bay!?  What about the 2nd Amendment!!?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

News Nuggets 586

Sunrise at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  From National Geographic.

Libya Action in U.S. National Interest (Shibley Telhami) from Politico
"U.S. foreign military intervention shouldn’t be taken lightly, and the current one in Libya deserves a full debate. But Libya’s case is exceptional — in more ways than one. Both U.S. national interests and its values come together here, and Arab support is unprecedented. In addition, the interests at stake extend far beyond Libya’s borders."

A Late but Lucky Obama Speech (Eleanor Clift) from the Daily Beast
"The president refused to be rushed into giving a speech on Libya, though the country needed to hear from him earlier. But Monday night was a fortuitous moment for such an address, says Eleanor Clift."

Obama on Libya: Watch Out, Saudi Arabia (Thomas E. Ricks) from Foreign Policy Magazine

"It reminded me that about three years ago, when I read a transcript of an interview Fareed Zakaria did about foreign affairs with Barack Obama, then running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The message I took away from that exchange was that if this guy is elected, he will have little time for dictators, despots and the like."

Obama and American Power (John B. Judis) from the New Republic

"In justifying America’s armed intervention in Libya, President Barack Obama left some loose ends and unspoken subtexts on the teleprompter, but all in all, he came pretty close to giving an argument for intervention that had a lot to do with why he decided to send American warships and planes."

The Timeliness Paradox: Why Isn’t Obama Getting Credit for Stopping an Atrocity? (Tom Malinowski) from the New Republic
"Here is one lesson we can draw from the mostly negative media commentary about the Obama administration’s actions in Libya: Presidents get more credit for stopping atrocities after they begin than for preventing them before they get out of hand."

Lone, Brave Woman Exposes Truth of Libya (Charles Clover) from the Financial Times [of the UK]

"For most foreign journalists the price of working from Tripoli is staying at the Rixos, tended by government minders and fed a steady diet of propaganda. ... On Saturday morning, however, a little piece of the real world, named Eman el-Obeidi, came crashing into our surreal existence."

Syria Unrest 'Cannot Be Contained' (Kate Seelye) from the Daily Beast
"Syrian dissidents tell Kate Seelye that even if the anti-government demonstrations fail to topple the Assad regime, things will never be the same in the country—and the no-fly zone over Libya is helping their cause."

Arabs Will Be Free (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times

"Three Middle Eastern countries have been conspicuous for their stability in the storm. They are Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. An odd mix, you might say, but they have in common that they are places where people vote. Democracy is a messy all-or-nothing business."

Venezuela's Chávez 'Near the Breaking Point' Over Libya (Editorial) from El Mundo [of El Salvador in English]
"The most nervous of the left-wing Latin American leaders since the North African uprisings began is, without a doubt, Hugo Chávez, who sees his end on the horizon and has begun to launch wild accusations about how the United States aims to steal Libyan and Venezuelan oil."
The latest twist in the "Dictators of the World UNITE!" movement.

Rising Concern about China's Increasing Power: Global Poll from World Public Opinion
"The poll conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA among 28,619 people in 27 countries reveals that the numbers who say that China becoming more powerful economically is a bad thing have increased substantially across a number of China's key trading partners--and especially in G7 countries."

Worse is Better (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"Wow. The GOP prescription for higher employment is actually quite spectacular — it’s a thing of many levels, an ignorance wrapped in a fallacy. The idea is this: we’ll lay off government workers; this will raise unemployment, putting downward pressure on wages; and lower wages will lead to higher employment."

States Broke? Maybe They Cut Taxes Too Much from the McClatchy News Service

"The tax cuts were supposed to stimulate Ohio's economy and create jobs. But that never happened once the economy tanked. Instead, the changes ended up costing Ohio more than $2 billion a year in lost tax revenue; money that would go a long way toward closing the state's $8 billion budget gap for fiscal year 2012."

An Opportunity to Defend 'Government" Schools (Ed Kilgore) from the Democratic Strategist
"The belief that public education is an illegitimate exercise was until recently a rare fringe phenomenon mainly confined to the more tedious of libertarians, to home-schoolers angry at having to pay school taxes, and to occasional outbursts from Jim DeMint. Now hostility to public schools is breaking out all over:"

Are Tea Party Conservatives Different from Other Conservatives? from the University of Washington's Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality
"Asked if they subscribed to the proposition that "Barack Obama is destroying the country," 71% of Tea Party Conservatives said "yes" while only 6% of other conservatives agreed."
Ed Kilgore of the Democratic Strategist has a comment on this research here.

Radio Chain Dropping Beck Because His Rants Hurt Ratings (Joe Strupp) from Media Matters for America
""He bounces around pretty radically, I think he confuses people, they're not sure where he is coming from," said Rick Buckley, president of Buckley Radio of Greenwich, Conn., who spoke with Media Matters."

Obama a Socialist? Fox News Exec Said So, but Didn't Believe It (Howard Kurtz) from the Daily Beast
"Bill Sammon, who’s responsible for the network’s Washington coverage, linked Obama to socialism many times during the 2008 campaign, but didn’t believe the allegation, he acknowledged."
This kind of sh-- just drives me nuts!  The BS gets on the TV equivalent of page 1.  The confessions of the equivalent of journalistic malpractice get stuck away in some remote media corner. 

Where the Ancient Past Is Palpably Present from the Wall Street Journal

"I read: "The body of Julius Caesar was brought to the Forum after the Ides of March in 44 B.C., and here his body was probably cremated." I doubt that the low, dirt-covered mound in front of me, the supposed remains of Caesar's cremation altar, could have thrilled me more had I been the first to unearth it since antiquity. All of a sudden, an event of colossal importance both historic and mythic—which I knew about from boyhood stories, movies, Latin lessons, Plutarch and Shakespeare—acquired a new reality."

Wheels of Change: How the Bicycle Empowered Women from the Atlantic

"Speed for escaping chaperones. Less burdensome clothes for riding. The bicycle's little-known role in equal rights."

Monday, March 28, 2011

News Nuggets 585

A skunk clown fish and a sea anemone in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.  From National Geographic.

[Note to readers: the New York Times is putting up a subscribers wall today.  For those (like me) who LOVE the New York Times -- but are too strapped financially to afford their full subscription, you can get full access to their web content simply by subscribing to their Sunday paper.  They have a pretty decent discounted rate going right now.]

Libyan Rebels Advance on Muammar Gaddafi's Home Town from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Revolutionary forces move more west along Libya's coastal road, seizing several towns without resistance, as they get closer to Sirte."

Obama's Moral Case For War (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast
"In the President's Libya speech tonight, he'll have to deflect critics who ask why we're taking on Gaddafi--but not other murderous regimes. Peter Beinart on Why Consistency in Foreign Policy is Overrated."
I'll be curious to see if Obama bases his case on moral issues.  I'm actually skeptical that most Americans really care about the morality of our conflict with Qaddafi.  They're way too caught up in how much it costs, how long it will last, "why do we have to be the world's police?" types of concerns.  But then, I think Obama can be VERY persuasive!

Road to Damascus from the Economist [of London]
"AS RECENTLY as Thursday, few were willing to predict whether protests in Deraa would spread across the rest of Syria. ...but the protesters' demands have since grown to calls for freedom—though not, at this point, for an end to the presidency of Bashar Assad.  Yesterday their calls were joined."

Is this 1848? What History Can Teach Us About the Arab Revolutions (Leon Neyfakh) from the Boston Globe
"Since the start of the so-called Arab Spring, a chorus of historians and commentators has been arguing that the most fitting historical analogy to what’s happening in the region right now may be significantly less giddy-making. For them, the period we should be thinking about is not 1989, but rather 1848, when a cascade of revolutions engulfed Europe only to be extinguished by forces of the old order. While the 1848 analogy is a long way from perfect, the past several weeks have made it abundantly clear that the situation at hand cannot be seen as a triumphant repeat of 1989."
I agree with this author to the extent that I think happy or satisfying outcomes in ANY of the Arab states are unlikely. 

Then you have items like this:
Great Leaps Forward in Syria and Jordan (Rami G. Khouri) from the Daily Star [of Lebanon in English]
"Events in Jordan and Syria last week marked perhaps the most significant leap forward in the continuing Arab citizens’ revolt against the modern Arab security state since the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes."
Now, I have to say -- I like Rami Khouri a lot.  He is based in Lebanon and works VERY HARD to keep up with the public mood in many Arab countries -- but I have to say I am much more skeptical about how things will work out.

China’s Repression Undoes its Charm Offensive (Joseph Nye) from the Washington Post
"Over the past decade, China’s economic and military might have grown impressively. But that has frightened its neighbors into looking for allies to balance rising Chinese hard power. The key is that if a country can also increase its power of attraction, its neighbors feel less need to balance its power. Canada and Mexico, for example, do not seek alliances with China to balance American power the way Asian countries seek an American presence to balance China.  The result of this regional wariness is that China is spending billions on a charm offensive to increase its soft power."

The Return of Anarchism (Abe Greenwald) from Commentary Magazine
"What accounts for the new appeal of anarchism? There is one explanation for those attempting to blow up buildings and kill people and another one for those trying to muck about with the Internet. For the bricks-and-mortar anarchists, the 2008 financial collapse gave surprising currency to the idea that their seemingly anachronistic philosophy was actually the only left-wing alternative to an overweening European corporate statism that had failed so spectacularly."
SOURCE ALERT: Commentary is one of the leading neo-con magazines out there.  The author raises a very interesting question -- and one needs to be aware of this potential bias.

The Modern Presidency:‘Drinking From a Fire Hose’ (Dickey and Barry) from Newsweek
"In times of trouble, Obama often looks to his predecessors for guidance. But amid such a pileup of disasters, crises, and wars, who’s the best model?"

Give TARP a Break (Robert Samuelson) from the Washington Post
"Created in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, it helped stabilize the economy, used only $410 billion of its authorized $700 billion and will be repaid most of that. The Congressional Budget Office, which once projected TARP's ultimate cost at $356 billion, now says $19 billion. This could go lower.  You would hardly know.  Almost everyone loves to hate TARP."

How to Get Smart Again (Niall Ferguson) from Newsweek
"The way we teach our children history has undermined our chances for success. A leading Harvard historian and NEWSWEEK columnist offers three ways to make it fun."
While I agree VERY MUCH with Ferguson's concern about the teaching of US history and that it should be more interesting, I think he's off base with some of his solutions (a problem I often have with Ferguson's analysis).  Students have been forced to read textbooks for generations -- and those textbooks are no better or worse now than they were 20-30 years ago.  While I'm still very much in an inquiry about it, I think most schools don't give it any priority (especially in the face of annual testing, no-child-left-behind, etc.), teacher training about US history is perfunctory, and parents (many of whom were badly taught themselves) don't care whether their kids know it or not.  Rarely will it make any difference as to whether little Johnny gets a job or gets into MIT.

The Midwest’s New Class Politics (E.J.Dionne) from the Washington Post
"The battle for the Midwest is transforming American politics. Issues of class inequality and union influence, long dormant, have come back to life. And a part of the country that was integral to the Republican surge of 2010 is shifting away from the GOP just a few months later."
I have been observing this myself.  There's a counter-intuitive dimension to it: during a major economic downturn, at a time you would think that workers' desperation for a job would completely undercut organized labor's position, the exact opposite emerges when the downturn is pro-longed and severe-- as the current one is.  After years of uncertainty, unemployment, stagnant or declining wages, no mobility, pervasive bankruptcy, home foreclosure, and precipitously declining standards of living (see yesterday's CNN money item), Americans EXPECT the government to (at minimum) do no further harm.  Instead, in ways that are NOT SUBTLE and carry the hint of almost vindictiveness, the GOP is pushing workers off a cliff -- even as their governors are cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy.  For people with traditions of working class activism (such as the industrial Midwest), people don't just get mad -- rage begins to set in.

In WI, Walker’s 'Legacy' Off to a Sad, Small Start (Editorial) from the Wisconsin State Journal

"For all the trickery, the verbal venom and Square-clogging protests, the signage, the prank call, the white-hot national spotlight and the throaty promises of retribution, one emotion that is settling in as I recall Gaylord Nelson is just a profound sense of sadness.When, if ever, can Wisconsin recover from being an epicenter of politics as blood sport to return to something that Gaylord Nelson would recognize?"

He Dreamed He Saw Kim Jong-il from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"Mr. LePage has ordered that a 36-foot-wide mural depicting workers’ history in Maine be removed from the lobby of the state’s Labor Department. The reason? His office cited some complaints from offended business leaders and an anonymous fax declaring that the mural smacked of official brainwashing by North Korea’s dictator. This is what’s passing for democratic governance in a state with a noble workers’ history."

The Starting Line: Vice Presidential Speculation (Joel K. Goldstein) from the University of Virginia Center for Politics
"Without a Republican nominee, or even an absolutely clear frontrunner, it is pointless to come up with a list of likely possibilities. But it is never too early to call on the nation’s premiere scholar of vice presidents, Prof. Joel K. Goldstein, to give us a sense of what will shape this critical selection by the eventual GOP presidential candidate."

The Republicans’ Hispanic Problem (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"If demographics is destiny, then Republicans may have a major political problem on their hands. Why? Because numbers released by the Census Bureau late last week showed massive growth in the nation’s Hispanic population, a community that Republicans have struggled mightily to reach in recent years. The numbers are eye-opening."
Well, clearly the answer is to SHIP'EM ALL BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM -- even the legal ones and the naturalized ones!  Make no mistake -- for most GOP voters, this IS their solution.  Anything that isn't this gets labeled "amnesty."

Who'll Be the FBI's Next Director? (Tara McKelvey) from the Daily Beast

"With Robert Mueller finishing up as FBI director, President Obama needs to announce a successor to fill the crucial post soon for a seamless handover. From Raymond Kelly to Jane Harman, Tara McKelvey reports on the candidates."

Laid to Rest at Last: Eleven Servicemen Buried with Full Military Honors 68 Years After Their Plane Crashed in Papua New Guinea from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"Eleven airmen who died after their plane crashed over Papua New Guinea during the Second World War have finally been buried with full military honours."

Not Nice: Maurice Sendak and the Perils of Childhood from the New Yorker

"Sendak published his first work in 1947, an illustration for “Atomics for the Millions,” which was written by his high-school physics teacher. He drew molecules doing the Lindy Hop, and made a hundred dollars. Since then, he has illustrated more than a hundred books."

Detroit: A Dream Still Deferred (Thomas Sugrue) from the New York Times

"AT first glance, the numbers released by the Census Bureau last week showing a precipitous drop in Detroit’s population — 25 percent over the last decade — seem to bear a silver lining: most of those leaving the city are blacks headed to the suburbs, once the refuge of mid-century white flight. But a closer analysis of the data suggests that the story of housing discrimination that has dominated American urban life since the early 20th century is far from over."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

News Nuggets 584

A spadefish off the Bonin Islands of Japan.  From National Geographic.

Libyan Rebels Return to Ajdabiya (Babak Dehghanpisheh) from the Daily Beast
"Firing celebratory gunshots, rebels streamed back into Ajdabiya, a city wrested from Gaddafi with the help of coalition airstrikes. Babak Dehghanpisheh on why this could be a turning point."

Libyan Rebel Push Towards Tripoli Gathers Momentum from Agence France-Presse via Raw Story
"Libyan rebels' push westwards towards Tripoli gathered momentum on Sunday as their pursuit of Moamer Kadhafi's forces saw them wrest back control of key oil town Ras Lanuf."

Arab Hypocrisy on Libya from the Editorial Board of the Daily Star [of Lebanon in English]
A ripping critique of established Arab leadership in the face of Libya's crisis.
"If the issue was so clear to the various Arab heads of state that Gadhafi had to be stopped, then why didn’t they do anything about it themselves? If such a legitimate cause for military intervention arose in the Arab world, why couldn’t the Arab nations manage any significant part of that intervention on their own?  Alas, the military capabilities of Arab states represent just one more item on the list of failures of the Arab world’s largely tyrannical and corrupt leaders. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been wasted in the Middle East to fashion armies that can charitably be called impotent."

A related item:
Libya’s Friends from the Editorial Board of Arab News [of Saudi Arabia in English]
"The need of the hour is protecting civilians, not sterile arguments about sovereignty.  ... China has hardened its stance against the military action being undertaken by the US-led coalition, demanding an end to it. So too has Russia ... We believe them to be profoundly wrong in this instance. In the present circumstances, governments cannot say they support the Libyan people and want an end to the military campaign in the same breath. That is illogical."
I think in the Arab world (particularly among those under 40) there is very little of the hand-wringing and vitriol we hear among the western commentariate.  While I probably shouldn't be, I have been rather taken aback by the monday-morning quarter-backing that has surrounded Obama's Libya decision.
From Revolution to Revolution: How Egyptians View Libya from Yahoo News [from February]
"Despite the flight of the Egyptians back into their own country, there is a sense of solidarity. The Egyptians, returning to a homeland just emerging from its own revolution, clearly feel for the Libyans who are in the middle of their own fight. "The Libyans and the Egyptians are one," says an Egyptian worker named Reda, standing with people from both countries. "We protect each other.""

Egyptian Joins 'Jihad' on Libyan Front from Al Masry Al Youm [of Egypt in English]
"He eventually joined up with a group of young Libyans holding a position about 15km north of Ajdabiya, a city besieged and partly taken by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammer Qadhafi, which rebels hope to recapture."
As I suggested yesterday, activists from Egypt are booking across the border to assist the Libyan rebels.  They know (I suspect) that if Qaddafi wins, he will do whatever he can to undermine Egypt's recent revolution.  Increasingly, I think you will see the Middle East fall into (at least) two camps: a small set of emerging revolutionary gov'ts opposed to and opposed by the old long-entrenched regimes who will be sewing trouble for these new gov'ts.

And word from *another front* in this Middle East revolutionary cycle:
Hundreds of Saudi Shi'ites Protest in East from Reuters
"Hundreds of Saudi Shi'ites staged a protest in the kingdom's oil-producing Eastern Province Friday calling for prisoner releases and a withdrawal of Saudi forces from Bahrain, activists said."
Prediction: As these revolutionary forces develop in the Gulf states, look for these protests to get very ugly.  In this part of the Middle East, the Sunni-Shiite divisions have taken on Cold War-like dimensions with the Saudis/UAE on one side and Iran on the other -- and the Saudi leadership tends to view growing protests through this almost existential lens.  Not only are they NOT going to compromise, they will intervene in their neighbors' affairs to make sure these protests fail (See Bahrain).  Likewise, look for Iran to intervene on whichever sides are AGAINST the Saudis.

Doubt it?  See this long form analysis:
The Middle East Crisis Has Just Begun (Robert Kaplan) from the Wall Street Journal
"For the U.S., democracy's fate in the region matters much less than the struggle between the Saudis and Iran."

Germany's Stage Fright from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Just when Europe is in desperate need of a strong, forward-thinking leader, Germany is nowhere to be found."
With the global recession's impact on the EU (and the load that Germany has had to cary in that), Japan's nuclear problems and how Germans have reacted, and Merkel's sudden political downturn, I can understand why they've become so reticent.

Household Wealth Down 23% in 2 Years from CNN
"The average American family's household net worth declined 23% between 2007 and 2009, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.  A rare survey of U.S. households, first performed in 2007 but repeated in 2009 in order to gauge the effects of the recession, reveals the median net worth of households fell from $125,000 in 2007 to $96,000 in 2009."
Now, DON'T evade the real issue!  The real issue is cutting NPR funding and stopping gay marriage!!

Sorry, GOP: Tax Revenue Needs to Go Up (Editorial) from CNN Money
"The GOP is right about one thing: The country is spending more than it can afford. And economists on the left and right generally agree that big tax increases can hurt economic growth. (Fix budget before a crisis) But there is abundant evidence showing that taxes must be part of debt reduction, however distasteful the GOP finds them. Why? Because the looming debt problem is just too big."

GOP's Growing Overt Hostility to ... Public Schools (Steve Benen) from the Washington Monthly
"Just last week, Rick Santorum brought his presidential ambitions to New Hampshire, and after targeting the usual suspects, the former senator turned his fire on ... public schools.  "Just call them what they are," Santorum said. "Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools."  He's not alone."
In many ways, you don't have to look much further than here to locate why our public schools have been declining -- despite extraordinary interventions at seemingly all levels.  Increasingly, one party is becoming hostile to their very existence (I still think it is a minority view within the GOP).  Once you start looking at local and state ed policy through this lens, it will never look the same again.  What we've seen in Pittsburgh is a seemingly endless series of "reforms" and interventions by wealthy sugar-daddies, each layered one on top of the other, such that the dominant perception teachers, students, and administrators have is one of years-long chaos, upheaval, job insecurity, and (unless I'm mistaken) very little student improvement.  If you're one of these conservative "gov'ment school" critics, the chaos doesn't matter -- it actually helps to substantiate the underlying contention.  Who cares how bad it gets?  Your kids are either in private/charter schools or are home-schooled. HERE's a related story from Reuters.

WikiLosers: Julian Assange said WikiLeaks Would Change the World. At the Very Least, it Changed These People's Lives Forever from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Nearly four months after WikiLeaks dropped its first State Department cables, no one can say that Julian Assange's radical transparency project hasn't left a sizable mark on global politics. But whom exactly has he brought down? It's not necessarily the people we might have expected..."

How Obama Can Win the Budget Fight (Ed Kilgore) from the Daily Beast
"The president’s refusal to publicly attack the GOP over budget cuts has progressives terrified that he'll submit to their demands. But Ed Kilgore says Obama has no intention of caving."

New Kaiser Poll Shreds GOP Healthcare Myths (J.P. Greene) from the Democratic Strategist
"Asked, "What would you like to see Congress do when it comes to the health care law?," 30 percent agreed that "They should expand the law," while 20 percent said "They should keep the law as is.  Only 19 percent agreed that "They should repeal the law and replace it with a Republican-sponsored alternative and 20 percent said "they should repeal the law and not replace it." 10 percent selecting "don't know/refused." It gets worse for the repeal advocates."

Wisconsin's Most Dangerous Professor (Andrew Leonard) from Salon
"Why are Republicans desperate to see Bill Cronon's emails? Because ideas and history matter."

Wisconsin Universities Form Unions Despite Scott Walker's Union-busting from Daily Kos
"Wisconsin's workers haven't only fought back with protests and recall efforts. Since Scott Walker began his attack on Wisconsin's public employees, faculty at three University of Wisconsin campuses have voted to join the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)."

GOP Can't Ignore Wisconsin Recall Battle (Salena Zito) from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review via RealClearPolitics
"Democrats are wise to see more at stake than a single state Senate majority and a new political map that could unseat two freshmen Republican congressmen. They know this is the first battle of 2012 -- their version of 2010's surprise election of Scott Brown, R-Mass., who won a blue-state U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Ted Kennedy. ... Massachusetts Democrats got ambushed. Will Republicans let that happen to them in Wisconsin?"
I LOVE it!  This conservative columnist gives you a hint that the GOP is NOT doing much to help their folks in WI.  I'm surprised -- because Zito is DEAD-ON in her sense of how the Dems are approaching this fight!

The Talented Mr. Romney (Nate Silver) from the New York Times
"I think I’m still in the “buy” category on Romeny at this price. Part of this is because of weaknesses that exist with some of some of the other candidates. Mr. Romney seems to have several tactical advantages."

Minnesota's Bachmannization (John Avlon) from the Daily Beast
"As Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty flirt with 2012 presidential runs, their home state's GOP is increasingly radicalized. John Avlon on how the swing state became wingnut territory."
I've been wondering about this for some time!

Who Wins and Who Loses if Bachmann Runs in 2012? (Michael Shear) from the New York Times
"Ms. Bachmann may yet decide not to run for president this year. But Republican strategists for her potential rivals believe she is serious about mounting a run for the Republican nomination, and they are planning accordingly."

Looking Ahead to the 2012 Election Cycle by Looking Back from Daily Kos
"On the Obama vs. the GOP front, Democrats are probably most keen on the new numbers out this week from Pew, which gives the President a double-digit edge over that hallowed foe: Generic Republican. ..."

Because of Ferraro, Women Won (Beth Reinhard) from the National Journal

"In her 1985 campaign memoir, Geraldine Ferraro recalls her annoyance during an interview on “Meet the Press’’ when she was asked, “Are you strong enough to push the button?’’ ... Line up that moment in history against the trio of powerful women – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Office of Multilateral and Human Rights Director Samantha Power – recently making the case for air strikes against Libya."

Irish Village of Moneygall Gets Ready for Barack Obama's Visit from the Guardian [of the UK]

"Barack Obama's distant Irish cousin (eight times removed) helps village get spruced up as US president returns to his Irish roots."

Closer Look: Inside Obama's West Wing (Brian McGill) from National Journal

Saturday, March 26, 2011

News Nuggets 583

It was reported this week that the conservative commentator Glenn Beck may start his own cable channel when his contract with Fox News expires this year.  Here's a possible schedule.  For a better view, see it at the New York Times.

NATO Set to Take Full Command of Libyan Campaign from the New York Times
"Overcoming internal squabbles, NATO prepared on Friday to assume leadership from the United States of the military campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, senior NATO officials said, while the allied effort won a rare military commitment in the Arab world when the United Arab Emirates said it would send warplanes to join patrols with Western allies."

U.S., Allies Ponder Arming Libyan Rebels from the Washington Post
"The United States and its allies are considering whether to supply weapons to the Libyan opposition as coalition airstrikes fail to dislodge government forces from around key contested towns, according to U.S. and European officials."
From the moment of intervention, arms have (apparently) been streaming into Libya from Egypt.  More heavy duty arms I suspect are in order.

It Really is About Regime Change in Libya (Robert Shrum) from The Week

"Ignore the president's hysterical critics. Obama's aim is to topple Gadhafi — and he knows the stakes are high."

Is Obama A Wimpy Professor? (Jacob Heilbrunn) from the National Interest
"Krauthammer is addicted to the great man version of history. He has a constricted, static view of leadership that is pure neocon--Churchill or bust. In Krauthammer's dramaturgy, America must go it alone (except that Churchill, after all, needed an alliance with America). But why bother with pesky allies? America is an Atlas that can shoulder any burden."

The Political Perils of Pragmatism (Yoni Applebaum) from the Atlantic
"Why pragmatism works abroad but is unpopular at home."

In Defense of ‘Dithering’ (Timothy Egan) from the New York Times
"The politician took a thought breath before proceeding: “Obviously, most of the time it seems that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself, and 90 percent of it set by circumstance.”  Barack Obama: meet your 90 percent. The senator who so accurately predicted how events make the leader now finds himself a president trying to lead through those events.  In the process, despite a largely incoherent chorus of second-guessers, Obama has settled into a groove of reflective dithering before making his decisions. For the most part, it has served him well."

'Arab Spring' Drives Wedge Between U.S., Saudi Arabia (Warren P. Strobel) from the McClatchy News Service
"The United States and Saudi Arabia — whose conflicted relationship has survived oil shocks, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the U.S. invasion of Iraq — are drifting apart faster than at any time in recent history, according to diplomats, analysts and former U.S. officials."

Europe's Libya Intervention: A Special Report from Stratfor Global Intelligence (may be a subscription wall)
"This is the first installment in a four-part series that will examine the motives and mindset behind current European intervention in Libya."

Syria's Bashar al-Assad Has Been Struck by Freedom Flu (Simon Tisdall) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The fear factor that has kept Syrians in check is failing. Assad will have to move fast to avoid the circling political vultures."

The Despot of Khartoum [Sudan] and the Velvet Curtain (Editorial) from Asharq Al-Awsat [a pan-Arab newspaper out of London]
"It was obvious that the general was living in constant fear.
 He had been programmed to think that what might look like a small flame on a velvet curtain could be the start of a larger assassination plot. Next, the military dictator knew only one way of dealing with an emergency: calling in the troops.  He had come to power at the point of a gun and believed that he could live only under the shadow of a gun."

The Vetting: How the Republicans Cleared Elizabeth Warren's Path (Timothy Noah) from Slate
"I think Obama should nominate Warren. Partly that's because Warren, in her six months as de facto CFPB director (ahem, I mean "special adviser to the secretary of the treasury and assistant to the president") has demonstrated sufficient political and managerial skills (inasmuch as anyone can demonstrate such skills while running an agency that hasn't actually done anything yet). But mostly it's because Republicans have talked me into it."

In WI, Collective Bargaining Law Published Despite Restraining Order from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"In a stunning twist, Gov. Scott Walker's legislation limiting collective bargaining for public workers was published Friday despite a judge's hold on the measure, prompting a dispute over whether it takes effect Saturday."
Two predictions: When the Dems get control of the WI Senate after the recall elections [yes, I said when], they will instigate investigations into Walker's administration with an eye towards impeachment [or in a more partisan vein to lay the groundwork for Walker's own recall]. 

GOP’s Adult Deficit Disorder (Scot LeHigh) from the Boston Globe
"The Republican Party has a serious problem. Or rather, a seriousness problem.  Tough times elevate substantive people and cast pixilated partisans and juvenile jousters in an unflattering light.  Which is just what’s happened these last few weeks. Although the left sometimes chafes under President Obama’s measured and mild manner, grousing that he lacks the combativeness the political era requires, Obama understands something they don’t: Voters want a calm, reasonable adult, not a partisan warrior, in the Oval Office."

Bachmann Country: How Evangelicals Remade the Midwestern Right (Sean Scallon) from the American Conservative
A FIRST from this magazine at this blog.
"Her career has been shaped by Midwestern political and cultural forces bigger than herself. These confluences have evolved into an ideology and transformed the GOP in much of the region. If modern politics is a study in the power of narrative to influence voters, Bachmann’s story of how she came to Washington is compelling. It gives her something real to talk about, which is more than most presidential aspirants can say."

The Al Gore Surge (Brent Budowsky) from the Daily Beast

"Hot on the heels of his hiring of Keith Olbermann for Current TV and big book deal with Random House, Al Gore is rousing the Democratic base for a push to retake the House in 2012. Brent Budowsky on the prospects for Gore’s new campaign."

Mitt Romney’s Path: Victory by ‘Slog’ from Politico
"Mitt Romney is sketching a path to the GOP nomination that looks nothing like the one blazed by Republicans before him.  Romney’s plan, by necessity, more closely resembles the outline of the epic 2008 Democratic presidential primary than the GOP’s recent victory-by-early-knockout design."
I will have to say -- there is something remotely admirable about Romney's capacity for enduring years of internecine GOP punishment.  If winning the nomination were an endurance test at every level, he would win hands down!!

The GOP’s Census Problem (Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post

"While much of the shifting population is moving to red states, there is increasing evidence that it’s making those red states bluer, and most of the demographic trends are heading in Democrats’ direction."

GOP Sets Sights on AARP Over its Support for Healthcare Reform from The Hill
"Newly empowered House Republicans are getting ready to renew their attacks against AARP over its support for the healthcare reform law, The Hill has learned."

Poll: Obama in Michigan from Public Policy Polling
"Obama's not likely to win Michigan by his blowout margin of 16 points in 2008 again but if the state voted today he would have an easier time taking it than either John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000 did. ... How can Obama have such wide leads despite such tepid approval numbers?"

Protesters Erupt As New Hampshire GOPers Move Anti-Union Bill That Goes Farther Than Walker's from TalkingPointsMemo
"A labor fight has been brewing in New Hampshire, where Republicans have huge House and Senate majorities, for weeks. But this was the first legislative step toward actually undermining unions -- and the skewed 18-7 vote suggests it could ultimately land on the Democratic governor's desk, in some form."
The video of this raucous event is HERE.

Boomtown 2025: A Special Report from Foreign Policy Magazine

"By 2025, 136 new cities -- all from the developing world -- will take their place among the world's leading urban centers. But these new engines of global economic growth hold some surprises."

Texas Boys Discover 'Fossil Gold Mine' from FOX News

"We all got excited because I knew it was too big to be a cow bone, so we knew it was a dinosaur bone," Andrew said of himself and his Pottsboro Middle School classmate. What it was, once the Dallas Paleontological Society investigated. The bone was a pelvis of a Columbian mammoth, one of the two largest species of mammoth."

How George Washington, So Help Him God, Acquired His Many Myths: A Review of Inventing George Washington:America’s Founder, in Myth & Memory by Edward G. Lengel from the New York Times

"Like other iconic figures in history, whether Shakespeare or Leonardo, Napoleon or Lincoln, George Washington has been mythologized, psychoanalyzed and reimagined by successive generations, his reputation and image filtered through the prism of various eras’ and interest groups’ wildly disparate cultural and political ideals."

How Gandhi Became Gandhi: A Review of Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld from the New York Times

"Gandhi had many messages, some ignored, some misunderstood, some as relevant today as when first enunciated. Most Americans — many middle-class Indians, for that matter — know what they know about the Mahatma from Ben Kingsley’s Academy Award-winning screen portrayal. His was a mesmerizing performance, but the script barely hinted at the bewildering complexity of the real man..."

Friday, March 25, 2011

News Nuggets 582

A petrified tree floats off of Palmyra Atoll in Polynesia.  From National Geographic.

Gaddafi's Entourage Sends Out Secret Peace Feelers from Reuters
"Members of Muammar Gaddafi's entourage are putting out feelers to seek a ceasefire or safe passage from Libya, according to U.S. and European officials and a businessman close to the Libyan leadership."

Where Will It End? The Americans, the Europeans and the Arabs Must All Hold Their Nerve from the Editorial Board of the Economist [of London]
"The sceptics’ third complaint is that the West has entered this campaign without defining the mission. That is both unfair and true. It is unfair because dictators do not work to a diplomatic timetable. Colonel Qaddafi’s rapid advance to Benghazi meant that the outside world had to intervene within days or not at all."

The Libya Calculation from the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times
"Conservatives have criticized 'war by committee,' but in this conflict, consensus is the best course."
To me, this speaks to the inherent weaknesses of coalitions formed by democracies -- particularly when those coalitions are formed "on the fly" as they were here.  I've been reading Rick Atkinson's excellent book on the Italian campaign in World War II Day of Battle and one of the issues that Atkinson looks at is the key role played by Eisenhower's temperament, that one of his best abilities was soothing things between American and British military and elected officials.  Many wondered at the time if these two democracies could effectively wage war against the centralized power of Hitler's Germany.  For Atkinson, Eisenhower was an indispensable figure in having it work.  There has been a plethora of interesting books on Eisenhower recently (See Eisenhower: 1956) and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Obama hasn't been checking out one or two of them.  This is a good segue into the next nugget.

Obama: Like Ike (Ronald Brownstein) from the National Journal
"Barack Obama consistently takes an offstage approach to presidential leadership. Is it serving him well?"

Necessary and Sufficient: The Case Against Libyan Intervention is Philosophically Flawed (William Galston) from the New Republic
"Our massive, ongoing investment in military capacity has a range of consequences for defense and diplomacy. It also has moral consequences. Because we can act in ways that others can’t, we are not as free as they are to ignore threats that we have the power to abate."
A very interesting (if still flawed) observation with implications for those who have never said "no" to increases in our defense spending.

Is Libya Like Kosovo?: Let's Hope So (Fred Kaplan) from Slate
"On cable news, four days seems an eternity. Hence the vein-popping impatience for Qaddafi to crumble, the outrage that Obama isn't doing something more quickly (just what isn't quite clear), the heaving sighs over the coalition's failure (after hours of meetings) to work out the precise procedures of command and control. Yet as several Pentagon officials cautioned at the outset of this crisis, these things are complicated; they require coordination, which takes time. This fact of course inspired some of the more enthusiastic hawks to urge Obama to take action unilaterally—which might have been speedier in the short run but a disaster in the end."

In Yemen, See Ya, Saleh (Gregory Johnsen) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Yemen's embattled president struggles on the brink of collapse."

High Anxiety in Saudi Arabia (Toby Jones) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Saudi Arabia's nervous leaders might not have a creative way to quell dissent, but at least they're consistent. ... The Saudi royal family is nervous. They should be."

Unrest in Jordan from Le Monde diplomatique [of France in English]

"Like Yemen and Bahrain, Jordan recently has been shaken by popular protests stemming from rising food prices and high unemployment, especially among the young. But the upheaval also reflects a factor peculiar to Jordan – its delicate demographic balance between indigenous tribes, known as East Bankers, and Palestinians who have emigrated or fled to Jordan in the past six decades and received Jordanian citizenship."

Worldwide Approval of U.S. Leadership Tops Major Powers: U.S. Also Remains Top Desired Destination for Potential Migrants from Gallup
"The United States continues to achieve higher global approval ratings than China, Russia, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany."

Gates' Moscow Mission Highlights U.S.-Russia Thaw from World Politics Review
"Robert Gates has just completed his first and perhaps his last trip to Russia as secretary of defense under President Barack Obama. Although the two-day visit produced little of substance, some of Gates' public reflections help us understand how much the Russian-U.S. military relationship has improved during the last few years." 

Reactor Core At Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant May Have Been Breached from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"Japanese nuclear safety officials said Friday that they suspect that the reactor core at one unit of the troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may have breached, raising the possibility of more severe contamination to the environment."

The Awesome Unpredictability of Tsunamis from the Wall Street Journal
"Until we can forecast earthquakes, scientists can only give so much warning to threatened coastal residents."

Race and the 2012 Election (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post
"Far from marking the end of us-vs.-them elections associated with Richard Nixon's infamous Southern strategy, the 2008 election was arguably the beginning of its inverse: an electoral campaign where race, because of the skin color of the Democratic nominee, was a central issue, but this time, the 'racially progressive" coalition proved larger than the racially conservative coalition. Call it the Northern strategy."
An interesting hypothesis.

A Surprising Snapshot of the US Supreme Court (Linda Greenhouse) from the New York Times
"Among common impressions of the current Supreme Court are that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are joined at the hip and that the majority tilts reflexively in favor of corporations and employers. As the court heads into the current term’s final three months, I looked at the statistics. What I found surprised me."

Liberal Bias at NPR? (Steve Inskeep) from the Wall Street Journal
"Surveys show that millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio."

Buried Provision In House GOP Bill Would Cut Off Food Stamps To Entire Families If One Member Strikes from ThinkProgress
"Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer:"

Scott Walker's Proposed Budget Cuts To Schools Raise Doubts Among Some GOP Voters from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"Almost five months after the election, Feest and some other Republican voters are having doubts about their choices at the ballot box. Although they consider themselves fiscal conservatives, many of the same people who put Walker and other GOP leaders into office are now having second thoughts, largely because the cuts they are seeking could put the quality of their cherished local schools at risk."
Some buyers' remorse?  Too late now.

'Have You No Sense of Decency?' The Wm. Cronon Story (James Fallows) from the Atlantic

This is based on Cronon's editorial published the other day in the NY Times and that we posted two days ago.
"The Wisconsin Republican Party is launching a legal effort to look through his email archives to see if he has been involved in the recent protests in the state. The putative rationale is that Cronon's messages were sent on the University of Wisconsin's email system and therefore are covered by the state's open-records law. Cronon gives a very, very detailed description of the case here, with an impassioned and, to me, convincing argument about why this should be seen as a flat-out effort at personal intimidation"
As I said the other day, Cronon is a TOP-FLIGHT historian. I seriously doubt if his critics will get very far with these tactics.

What Wisconsin Says About Labor Unions' Clout in America from the Christian Science Monitor
"The clash that led Wisconsin to limit the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector unions was fed by a mix of a tea-party-backed Republican resurgence, the fiscal crisis facing state governments, and the unions’ fight to preserve power. Here are seven questions the Wisconsin union protest raised about the role of unions in the US."

Indiana Prosecutor Resigns Over Walker Email Suggesting Violence from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
"An Indiana deputy prosecutor and Republican activist resigned Thursday after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism uncovered an email to Gov. Scott Walker in which he suggested a fake attack on the governor to discredit union protesters."
It's like something out of the pre-Wagner Act 1920s!  It speaks volumes about the kind of people Walker hangs with that this guy felt so free to suggest this through an e-mail.

The GOP’s Ever-shifting Stance on Obama’s Leadership (E.J. Dionne) from the Washington Post
"They’re criticizing him not for the decisions he’s made but for the ones he hasn’t, and the ones he delayed. They are attacking him not as a liberal ideologue but as a man in full flight from any ideological definition. If they once said his plans were too big, they are now asking if he has any plans at all."

Tsunami Dolphin Rescued from Rice Paddy 1 Mile Inland from the Christian Science Monitor

"Taira and some friends wrapped the dolphin in wet towels and drove it back to the sea, where they set it free. The dolphin appeared to perk up when it was back in the Pacific, he said."