Monday, February 28, 2011

News Nuggets 559

A surprisingly beautiful mandrill at the Melbourne Zoo.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Lessons from Iraq's 'Day of Rage' (Paul Pillar) from the National Interest

"The Iraqi nightmare continues.  Eight long years and this is what America has to show for its democratization effort.  A sign of what's to come."

UK Officials Tell Gaddafi Loyalists to Defect or Face War Crimes Trial from the Guardian [of the UK]
"British officials are contacting senior Libyan regime figures directly to persuade them to desert Muammar Gaddafi or face trial alongside him for crimes against humanity, the Guardian has learned. With SAS troops and paratroopers on standby to rescue an estimated 150 Britons at workplaces in the Libyan desert, contingency measures were being drawn up to close the British embassy in Tripoli to pre-empt possible reprisals."

Friday a Day of Protests in the Middle East (VIDEO) from the Global Post
"Residents of other Middle Eastern capitals took to the streets, claiming solidarity with Libyans in their stand against Muammar Gaddafi and voicing complaints against their own leaders."

Mideast Policy: The Case for Sitting on Our Hands (Peter Beinart) from the Daily Beast

"Dear world, sorry about the last 10 years. Peter Beinart on how the new wave of Mideast revolts may finally be ending America’s wasteful war on terror—and why it would have been smarter not to intervene in the first place."
Our on-the-money pundit-of-the-day!!

The Obama Doctrine At Last? (Andrew Roberts) from the Daily Beast

"After two years in office it seems that President Obama has finally found a foreign policy doctrine says Andrew Roberts, but the trick will be sticking to it when the going gets tough like in Libya."
Given the extraordinary inconstancy of the 'Bush Doctrine', it's worth questioning the value of this kind of foreign policy "short-hand."

Oman Joins Protest Wave, and 2 Die in Clashes with Police from the New York Times
"Oman, the normally quiet sultanate along the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, joined the wave of two-month-old political protests shaking the Arab world on Sunday, as hundreds of demonstrators clashed with the riot police in the northeast port city of Sohar. Oman’s state news agency, ONA, said two protesters were killed."

For those like me who had no idea even where Oman was, here is this aid:

As Regimes Fall in Arab World, Al Qaeda Sees History Fly By from the New York Times

"For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role."
These folks, their day is done.  Suicide bombing is what people do when they feel they have NO CHOICE.  It is now clear with anyone with eyes that there ARE other choices -- ones that may actually be WAY MORE EFFECTIVE!

In Lebanon, Hezbollah is Watching, and Waiting Out, the Arab Uprisings (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"Hezbollah appears to realize that the revolt sweeping the Middle East has subtly changed the game for them. Officials see the Arab world moving into a more democratic and pluralistic politics with the fall of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and perhaps Libya. In this new environment, Hezbollah doesn't want to be seen as a sectarian militia or a wrecker, but as a democratic partner (albeit a potent one that has thousands of missiles pointed at Israel)."

Understanding Saudi Stability and Instability: A Very Different Nation (Anthony Cordesman) from the Center for Strategic and International Studies

"More secular Saudi intellectuals and youth are already calling for more rapid reform. In today’s Middle East, some demonstrations seem inevitable in every country, and no one can guarantee Saudi Arabia’s future stability in a time of turmoil. At the same time, there good reasons to hope that Saudi Arabia will continue on the path to peaceful reform and change."

The Islamic Republic of Talibanistan (Saleem Ali) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Why the West should stop fighting with the Taliban for hearts and minds, and start letting the Islamists try their hand at governing."
This is quite risky -- but I think this author is on to something.  If the Middle East and east of the Persian Gulf are experiencing a wave of democratic revolutions AND given that we have not been able to materially improve the climate for better governance in Afghanistan or Pakistan, perhaps the best we can hope for is for the Taliban and their crowd to be the ones that have to deal with this democratic wave.  On the other hand, it is my sense that, as inspired as many average Afghanis are by what has happened in Egypt, all they want at this point is stability and an end to the wanton killing.  My suspicion is that (ultimately) we will have little choice in the matter concerning whether the Taliban will have a big role in governing or not. 

Is North Korea Next? (Lee Byong-Chul) from The Diplomat

"Kim Jong-il’s regime has been censoring reports of unrest in the Arab world. It’s a sign of how worried his regime is about its survival."
I doubt if they have anything genuine to worry about (at least in the short or medium term).  I've been reading the national book award nominee, Nothing to Envy about life in North Korea (an EXCELLENT read on the subject!).  The North Korean population is in no shape to SERIOUSLY oppose the regime there.

An in-case-you-missed-it nugget:
Barak: Assad Ready to Consider Israel-Syria Peace Deal from Al Haaretz [of Israel in English]
"Defense minister says that if Syrian president will reach out to Israel, he will find a willing partner, also says Israel must strengthen peace efforts with Palestinians."
Now -- what stars does Barak think have suddenly aligned to cause this pronouncement?  Why does he think Syria would suddenly be receptive to these overtures after so many decades of dithering?  Hmmm.

America Primed (Robert D. Kaplan, Stephen S. Kaplan) from the National Interest
"To write America’s great-power obituary is beyond premature. Herein lies a grand strategy for maintaining US power—from the Anglosphere to the Middle East."

Cyberspace Wars (Joseph Nye) from the New York Times
"The cyber-domain is a volatile manmade environment. As an advisory panel of defense scientists explained, “people built all the pieces,” but “the cyber-universe is complex well beyond anyone’s understanding and exhibits behavior that no one predicted, and sometimes can’t even be explained well.”"

Public Employees Not Such an Easy Scapegoat After All (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"As the Wisconsin standoff continues, it's worth stepping back and considering an underappreciated but heartening aspect of this whole affair: Public employees are turning out to be far harder to scapegoat in the public mind than many predicted. This was anything but assured."

States’ Right: Republican Governors are Leading a Frontal Assault on President Obama’s Agenda (Ronald Brownstein) from National Journal
"Whatever the governors’ motivations (one man’s posturing, after all, is another man’s principle), their unreserved enlistment into Washington’s wars marks a milestone. It creates a second line of defense for conservatives to contest Obama even after he wins battles in Congress. It tears another hole in the fraying conviction that state capitals are less partisan than Washington. And it creates a precedent that is likely to encourage more guerrilla warfare between Democratic governors and a future Republican president. American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war in which each party mobilizes every conceivable asset at its disposal against the other. Most governors were once conscientious objectors in that struggle. No more. "

Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down? (Frank Rich) from the New York Times
"NO one remembers anything in America, especially in Washington, so the history of the Great Government Shutdown of 1995 is being rewritten with impunity by Republicans flirting with a Great Government Shutdown of 2011. The bottom line of the revisionist spin is this: that 2011 is no 1995. Should the unthinkable occur on some coming budget D-Day — or perhaps when the deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling arrives this spring — the G.O.P. is cocksure that it can pin the debacle on the Democrats"

DNC Chairman: 'We're Going to Play for the Big Win' in 2012 Election from The Hill
"Kaine, speaking to party members in Washington at the DNC's Winter Meeting, said that the president's reelection would kick off sometime in the second quarter of 2011. That campaign wouldn't be looking, though, to eke out just enough electoral votes to put Obama over the top. "We're going to play for the big win," Kaine told DNC members, to cheers. "We're going to play in every corner of this country.""

Saturday, February 26, 2011

News Nuggets 558

Thank God -- it's a rental!  A 5-ton bull elephant taking a little rest at the Pilansberg Game Reserve in Johannesburg, South Africa.  See the Elephant Nugget below.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Hundreds of Thousands Protest Across the Mideast from the New York Times

"Protesters in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt demanded accountability from their leaders and expressed solidarity with Libya’s uprising on Friday."

The Last Days of a Desert Despot (Doug Saunders) from the Globe and Mail [of Toronto]
"As the circle of political and military support around him dwindles to an increasingly small and desperate rump and protesters take control of a growing swath of Libya, dictator Moammar Gadhafi has become increasingly erratic and unpredictable, alternating between brutal attacks and attempts at appeasement and co-operation."

Qaddafi's Collapsible Military (Robert Haddick) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Libya's army has completely disintegrated in recent days. It was supposed to."

Where are the Emerging Powers on Libya? (David Bosco) from Foreign Policy Magazine

"The Western powers still feel interventionist even if the economic and strategic foundations of that interventionism have eroded. What's more, the West feels comfortable working the levers of international institutions like the Security Council in a way that Moscow, Beijing, Delhi and Brasília still don't."
I think Bosco misses some key pieces here.  Given the alliance structures of western powers and other aspects of great power global politics, the pressure is on for SOMEONE to do SOMETHING -- and entities both in the Middle East and elsewhere look to western powers to act.  Tell the truth: no one expects the BRIC countries to do anything -- no matter that they all have substantive relations with Libya and interests there worth defending.  And given the extraordinary complexities and unknowns involved, I suspect BRIC country leaders are quite ambivalent about getting involved -- even behind the scenes.

In the Cradle of Libya’s Uprising, the Rebels Learn to Govern Themselves from the New York Times

"In the city where the Libyan uprising began, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and average citizens who oppose the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are adjusting to unfamiliar roles: they are keepers both of an evolving rebellion, as well as law and order in Libya’s second largest city."

A Peek at the Inner Workings of Gadhafi's Dictatorship from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"Moammar Gadhafi's grip on power has loosened, allowing the world a glimpse into the brutal methods he has long used to oppress his own people. Former prisoners tell stories of torture, army bases are open to the public and residents of Tobruk show the videos they made during last week's bloody uprising."

Ferry with Americans Aboard Finally Reaches Malta. Describe Ordeal from the New York Times

"After three days of delays, a U.S.-chartered ferry carrying Americans and other foreigners out of the chaos of Libya has finally arrived at the Mediterranean island of Malta."
For those who have been screaming that the US needed to intervene in Libya to stop the carnage, it was for the sake of THESE FOLKS that Obama was so silent -- along with the same folks from our NATO allies who are also trying to escape from Tripoli.  Can you imagine the reaming Obama would have received (from many of the same "all-critical-all-the-time" talking heads) if he had declared a no-fly zone -- only to see Gadhafi promptly seize out embassy staff and other nationals.

Think I'm wrong?  Now that the evac is largely complete, here is today's headline:
U.S. ratchets up pressure on Gaddafi from the Washington Post

"Moments after a charter aircraft departed Libya with all remaining U.S. diplomats there Friday, the Obama administration shuttered the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and moved to freeze assets in this country belonging to leader Moammar Gaddafi, his family and his government."

In Yemen, a Wary Alliance of Students and Tribes (Haley Edwards) from the Atlantic
"Tribal support is needed for a revolution, but it could be fatal for democracy"

The Great Arab Revolt (Juan Cole) from the Nation
"Is the Middle East swinging back into a new liberal period?"

Arab Democracy and the Return of the Mediterranean World (Robert Kaplan) from the Washington Post
"With the toppling of autocratic regimes in Egypt and Tunisia - and other Arab dictators, such as Libya's, on the ropes - some have euphorically announced the arrival of democracy in the Middle East. But something more subtle may develop. The regimes that emerge may call themselves democracies and the world may go along with the lie, but the test of a system is how the power relationships work behind the scenes."

Egypt Isn’t Turkey (Norman Stone) from Newsweek
"If history is any guide, there will not be an Atatürk in Cairo."
FYI: Norman Stone is one of the better historians of World War I and should know about what he speaks.

Le Scandal (Eric Pape) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"The Arab world's revolutions have exposed the moral bankruptcy of France's foreign policy."
France's?  I don't know that any of the big western powers come out of this Libya crisis with anything but major egg on their faces.

Revolutions Mark Setback for Terror Group from Der Spiegel [of Germany in English]
"Ben Ali has fled, Mubarak has been overthrown and Gadhafi is faltering, but al-Qaida is frustrated, because jihadists have played no role whatsoever in the great revolution in the Arab world. The terrorist organization has repeatedly tried to use propaganda to take credit for the revolts, but no one is listening."

Iran Reports a Major Setback at a Nuclear Power Plant from the New York Times
"Iran told atomic inspectors this week that it had run into a serious problem at a newly completed nuclear reactor that was supposed to start feeding electricity into the national grid this month, raising questions about whether the trouble was sabotage, a startup problem, or possibly the beginning of the project’s end."

Chinese Activists Continue Calls for Protests from the New York Times
"The push for quiet protests began last weekend and elicited only a tiny response, with a few dozen demonstrators in front of a McDonald’s in central Beijing. But this week, organizers — who seem to be based primarily overseas — have called for protests in 23 cities on Sunday, eliciting a relatively strong reaction from the Chinese government."

The New Virology (David Hoffman) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"From Stuxnet to biobombs, the future of war by other means."

Turning Tides in WI (Andrew Sullivan) from the Atlantic
"It may be that high water-mark of the GOP tide has been reached in Wisconsin.  …  Increasingly, it seems to me, Scott Walker's political gamesmanship is discrediting the vital cause of tackling deficits and debt in the states. It's a classic case of over-reach."

Democratic Governor To Walker: 'You Are Cutting Your Own Throat' (Sam Stein) from the Huffington Post
"As for Walker's management style, "Every governor has to use his own model. But I don't know how this one ends in a good way," Schweitzer said. "How long do you think that CEO would keep his job and how successful do you think that business will be?" Other governors offered similar sentiments, though with a little less bravado than the outspoken Montanan."

The Real Political Math In Wisconsin (Howard Fineman) from the Huffington Post
"The real political math in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget or the collective-bargaining rights of public employees there. It is about which party controls governorships and, with them, the balance of power on the ground in the 2012 elections."

Wisconsin Police Association Urges Members to Join Sleep-in at Capitol from Raw Story
"The new restrictions on items and sleeping areas within the Capitol were to go into effect at 4 PM on Friday, and the protesters were to be removed from state offices and hearing rooms after business hours on Saturday. The head of Wisconsin's Professional Police Association, however, not only opposes the plan but has called on police to join the sleep-in."
Can the communication be any loader or clearer?  Don't even THINK about using us to do your dirty work!  We will JOIN the protesters, not evict them.  With each passing day, the class warfare aspects of what's happening in WI are becoming more transparent. 

The Politics of Obama's DOMA Decision (Erik Hayden) from the Atlantic
"The Obama administration is calculating that it will receive little political backlash for its decision to tell the Justice Department to stop prosecuting cases related to the Defense of Marriage Act. ... Here's an overview of political implications of the decision."

Should the GOP Pin Hopes on 2016? Some Contenders Wait from The Hill
"The GOP presidential field has weakened in recent weeks as Republicans seem to conclude they’d stand a better chance of winning the White House in 2016."

Roger Ailes' Sex-and-Lies Tale: There Is Something Different About Fox (David Corn) from Politics Daily
"If a television anchor were caught -- on tape! -- encouraging a colleague to lie to federal investigators in order to protect a high-profile friend, do you think he or she would still have a job? Probably not. But if you run a network and if it's Fox, well, then . . ."

Chernobyl, My Primeval, Teeming, Irradiated Eden from Outside Magazine

"Twenty-five years after the Soviet-era meltdown drove 60,000 people from their homes in the Ukraine, a rebirth is taking place inside the exclusion zone. With Geiger counter in hand, the author explores Europe's strangest wildlife refuge, an enchanted postapocalyptic forest from which entirely new species may soon emerge."

Thunderbolt: Next Big Thing or No Big Deal? from the Atlantic

"With a transfer rate of ten gigabits per second (fast enough to exchange a full length HD movie in under 30 seconds), Intel's new Thunderbolt connection port seemingly has the potential to send USB and FireWire the way of the floppy disk."

Mugged: The Deal for WDUQ Could Leave Employees and Jazz Fans Feeling Robbed (Chris Young) from the [Pittsburgh] City Paper

"Once WDUQ officially changes hands later this year, the station will lose its call letters and be relocated to WYEP's South Side headquarters. It also seems likely to downplay jazz programming in favor of stepped-up local-news coverage."

Angry Elephant Rams Car into Ditch (PHOTOS) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"At first the massive mammal, named Amarula, went trunk-to-trunk with the grey car, before resting his weight right down on top of it. The boystrous elephant then flipped the vehicle over into a ditch like a toy car as the terrified occupants hung on for dear life."

Behind Every King: A Review of She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor from the New York Times Book Review

"Helen Castor examines the lives of four plucky royal consorts who struggled over the throne of England."

Friday, February 25, 2011

News Nuggets 557

Beartooth Lake in Wyoming last year.  From National Geographic.

Libya Rebels Tighten Noose from the Wall Street Journal
"Insurgent Commander Vows Assault on Capitol; Desperate Foreigners Try to Flee"

So who's next in the revolutionary sweepstakes?  Syria…
Syria Clamps Down on Dissent with Beatings and Arrests from the Guardian [of the UK]
Nervous regime breaks up protests and sends intelligence agents round to warn civil rights activists against taking action."

Or maybe Iraq?
Five Killed in Iraq's 'Day of Rage' Protests from the Washington Post
"At least five people were killed in Iraq on Friday as tens of thousands defied an official curfew and gathered for a "Day of Rage" demonstration, echoing protests that have been held across the Middle East and North Africa for more than a month."
A fine demonstration of the fruits of Bush's 'Freedom Agenda"!  So -- what do we do now?  Stand with the "democratically elected" government -- that seems intent on crushing peaceful public demonstrations?  Or do we stand with those jihadist protesters who want (God forbid) an end to corruption and (GASP) electricity and, in so doing, stand against the government we've spent close to a trillion dollars, thousands of American lives and 100s of thousands of Iraqi lives and eight years propping up!!  Ah, but what was I thinking?  Of course it's Obama's fault!

Can Al Qaeda Survive the Revolts? (Bruce Reidel) from the Daily Beast
Dictators weren’t the only ones caught off guard by the sweep of revolts across the Middle East—so was Al Qaeda. Bruce Riedel on how the revolutions will affect the future of global jihad."

The Still-Vital Center: Moderates, Democrats, and the Renewal of American Politics (Galston and Kamarck) from Third Way
"Political polarization—the loss of moderates from the political and policy process—is the root cause of the current crises in governance and politics. Galston and Kamarck argue that few causes are more important to America’s future than the embrace of political process reforms that will diminish the hyper-partisanship now disfiguring our nation’s politics."
Some analysis of this report is HERE from the Democratic Strategist.

Gay Marriage Decision: a Blow to the Enemies of Equality (Fred Karger) from the Guardian [of the UK]
Discrimination based on sexual orientation has no place in the US. Welcome, President Obama, to the right side of history."

Public Union Battles Spread Across U.S. from CNN
"The fight over public union benefits and collective bargaining is spreading across the United States. Here is a state-by-state breakdown:"
Personally, if I were betting, I'd say that this issue is a TOTAL LOSER for the GOP.  Two reasons: FIRST, most Americans are deeply concerned about jobs right now -- not budget cutting.  Implicitly (and explicitly in Wisconsin) what's right behind the union-busting aspects of much of this legislation are waves of lay-offs awaiting state workers.  Thus, even those state workers who may be ambivalent or even hostile to unions UNDERSTAND that if these laws pass, their job may FOR REAL be on the line.  The legislation is not just an existential threat to organized labor, it's an existential threat to state workers' jobs -- this at a time when any sane worker would rightly conclude that there are virtually NO JOBS waiting for them in the private sector.  SECOND, I think most GOP lawmakers have missed the DOWN SIDE to nationalizing this conflict the way they have (I suspect that Mitch Daniels in Indiana gets it).  No matter what nuances GOP state lawmakers may throw in in, say, New Jersey or Florida, they will pay for being associated with how it goes down in Wisconsin.  MORE IMPORTANTLY, and I think this is an implication few people have seen, at the federal level House Republicans seem inclined to allow for a federal gov't shutdown starting next Friday.  Speaker Boehner has been trying to position Obama and the Dems to shoulder at least some of the blame for it should that happen.  His efforts will be COMPLETELY nullified by these union-busting shenanigans at the state level.  The meme is already pervasive that the GOP is only interested in ramming through their anti-worker, anti-gov't agenda, damn the opposition.  Given that most moderate and independent voters don't pay close attention to the wide differences in these various stories, I feel pretty certain they will all get mashed together in an undifferentiated

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A. (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times

"Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence."

For Walker, Cause and Celebrity Don't Necessarily Mean Cause Celebre (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, less than two months into his first term as the state's chief executive, may already be the most well-known governor in the country. But even as the protests over the Republican's budget cuts rage and Democratic lawmakers continue to be AWOL to avoid voting on them, the GOP's rally effect has been somewhat ... well ... uninspiring."

The Cook Report: Sunny-Side Up (Charlie Cook) from National Journal
"Economic indicators are heading to a place where President Obama could win reelection."

Run Mitch, Run (David Brooks) from the New York Times
"This is the G.O.P. quandary. The man who would be the party’s strongest candidate for the presidency is seriously thinking about not running. The country could use a serious, competent manager, which Governor Daniels has been, and still he’s thinking about not running."

Even GOP Activists are Turning Against Sarah Palin from the McClatchy News Service
"As Sarah Palin wonders whether to run for president, she might want to talk to people in places such as South Carolina. She'd find her star fading, and her prospects daunting. Republicans still like her, but now they openly question whether she could or should be nominated for president, let alone elected."
Mark Jared's words: The more GOP establishment folks (of which many activists are) try to dissuade Palin from running, the more LIKELY she is to run.  As the Alaska staffer's memoir recently revealed (news supported by many other sources), (1) Palin has it in for the GOP establishment and (2) political payback is mother's milk to her.  If she runs, it will be for personal (probably vindictive) reasons, NOT because she has a vision for the country or thinks she could do better than Obama or Romney or anyone else.  She will run to pay back Newt, Boehner, McConnell and other GOP 'insiders' who have spent the last two years dissing her.

Town Hall Question: "Who's Going to Shoot Obama?" (Justin Elliott) from Salon

"Perhaps more significant than the question was the response of the crowd and Broun, who is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and one of the most right-wing members of Congress. The question prompted a "big laugh" from the crowd, in Oglethorpe County, Ga., according to the Banner-Herald. Broun, for his part, did not object to the question."
Both the questioner and the lawmaker should get a probing Q&A visit from the Secret Service.

Three Cheers for the Man Who Did Nothing (Thomas de Waal) from the National Interest

"Sometimes history should recognize the magnificence of politicians who, confronted with a difficult situation, decide to do nothing. The best exponent of this monumental restraint is Mikhail Gorbachev."

Polar Bear Cubs Emerge From Their Den (PHOTOS, VIDEO) from Huffington Post

"With the cubs weighing about twenty-five pounds and with the right weather conditions, the polar bear mother will break the den. Heading out on her own initially, mum will enjoy the shining sun, open space and fresh snow that she has been without throughout this entire process. And then it's time for the cubs."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

News Nuggets 556

A pelican over Walvis Bay in Namibia in Africa.  From National Geographic.

Libya: Anti-Gaddafi Forces Surround Tripoli; More Cities Fall (UPDATES) (VIDEO) from Global Post
"Libyan capital was a ghost town as defections of military officers multiply and anti-government protesters declare victory in Libya's third largest city and beyond."

Libya Rebels Isolate Gaddafi, Seizing Cities and Oilfields from the Guardian [of the UK]
Dictator hemmed in by popular protests and unable to extend his rule beyond Tripoli as local committees take charge."

In the Middle East Protests, a Seismic Shift (Fareed Zakaria) from the Washington Post

"Because so many of Bush's policies were unpopular in the region, and seen by many Arabs as "anti-Arab," it became easy to discredit democracy as an imperial plot. … Obama has had a quieter approach, supporting freedom but insisting that the United States did not intend to impose it on anyone. As unsatisfying as this might have been as public rhetoric, it has had the effect of allowing the Arab revolts of 2011 to be wholly owned by Arabs. This is no small matter, because the success of these protests hinges on whether they will be seen as organic, indigenous, national movements."

Ghosts of Fascists Past (Ian Kershaw) from the National Interest

"Engulfed by bank failures and street protests not seen since the Great Depression, Europe appears ripe for a fascist renaissance. This century's scapegoat: Muslim immigrants. Is the Continent ripe for a fascist renaissance?"

Egypt's Revolt is Closer to East Europe's than Iran's from Chunichi Shimbun [of Japan in English]
"Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in a symbol of East European democratization, weekly public meetings at Leipzig's churches in Germany played a major role. The popular revolt in the Middle East follow in the footsteps of its predecessor with huge rallies held after Friday prayer services. Every sermon expanded the scale of the 18-days of Egyptian protest."

Foreign Policy Incoherence Limits China's Power in Asia (Iain Mills) from World Politics Review
"Following a period of considerable success and strategic evolution, China's foreign policy has been marked by a less coherent and less constructive approach to international relations over the past year. Nowhere has this shift been more pronounced than on the Asian littoral, a key arena in the country's international rise, where China's opaque naval expansion and increasingly abrasive behavior have begun to undermine previous strategic gains."

Goldman Sachs: House Spending Cuts Will Hurt Economic Growth from ABC News
"A confidential new report prepared by Goldman Sachs for its clients says spending cuts passed by the House of Representatives last week would be a drag on the economy, cutting economic growth by about two percent of GDP. "

President Obama's Risky Rejection of the Defense of Marriage Act from the Editorial Board of the Washington Post
"PRESIDENT OBAMA and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared on Wednesday that the Justice Department would no longer be an advocate for the indefensible - a law that relegates the nation's gay and lesbian citizens to second-class status.  It was a decision as bold as it was risky."

Four Possible Endgames in Wisconsin (Andy Kroll) from Mother Jones Magazine
"Will the massive labor protests in Madison end with a union victory, Republican trickery, or a stalemate?"

Andy Stern [of SEIU]: 'It May Not End Beautifully in Wisconsin.' (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post
"A week ago, everyone I spoke to in the labor movement was convinced that Walker’s initiative was the worst thing to happen to them in a generation. Now I talk to them and they say it may be the best thing to happen to them in a generation. Where do you come down?"

So This is the Tea Party's Endgame. No Government (Michael Tomasky) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"In 1995 Clinton and Gingrich were always going to deal. But these economic fundamentalists don't want compromise."

People With Low Self-Esteem Show More Signs of Prejudice from the Association for Psychological Science

"When people are feeling badly about themselves, they’re more likely to show bias against people who are different. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, examines how that works."

Cats Adore, Manipulate Women from Discovery News

"Cats attach to humans, and particularly women, as social partners, and it's not just for the sake of obtaining food."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

News Nuggets 555

A view from last year of the gardens at Middleton Place Plantations in South Carolina.  From National Geographic. 

Gaddafi's Final Days from the Daily Beast
"Libyan protesters are celebrating the impending end of Gaddafi's control and troops are abandoning the strongman, with one general saying the regime "will fall in the coming days.""

Dictator Loses Grip in Desert from Wall Street Journal
"With Col. Gadhafi inciting more clashes and the streets around Tripoli still heavily patrolled by uniformed security forces, many Libyans feared that the nation could fracture on tribal or regional lines."

The Dogs of War: Mercenaries in the Middle East from Time Magazine
"While the protests convulsing Bahrain and Libya this past week occurred in vastly different contexts — and will likely produce very different results — both were met with conspicuously swift crackdowns. And in both cases, reports suggest the Libyan and Bahraini regimes deployed foreign fighters and mercenaries against their own citizens, lethal clashes that left scores wounded and many dead."

WikiLeaks Cables Detail Qaddafi Family’s Exploits from the New York Times
"As the Qaddafi clan conducts a bloody struggle to hold onto power in Libya, cables obtained by WikiLeaks offer a vivid account of the lavish spending, rampant nepotism and bitter rivalries that have defined what a 2006 cable called “Qadhafi Incorporated,” using the State Department’s preference from the multiple spellings for Libya’s troubled first family."

And a new quarter heard from:
Oman Protesters Call for Political Reform, Pay Rise from RealClearWorld
"MUSCAT (Reuters) - About 300 people demanded political reforms and better pay in a peaceful protest in Oman on Friday as unrest in other Middle East countries and North Africa turned increasingly violent."

If Not Now, When? (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"What’s unfolding in the Arab world today is the mother of all wake-up calls. And what the voice on the other end of the line is telling us is clear as a bell: “America, you have built your house at the foot of a volcano. That volcano is now spewing lava from different cracks and is rumbling like it’s going to blow. Move your house!” In this case, “move your house” means “end your addiction to oil.”"

Watch Out, Mr. President (Leslie Gelb) from the Daily Beast
"With Libya's regime crumbling and protests spreading across the Middle East, neither Obama nor the experts really know whether America should now cheer or cringe."

Obama's Complicated Mideast Multitasking (Brian Katulis) from the Center for American Progress via RealClearPolitics
"The Obama administration will need to multitask as it responds to fast-moving events in multiple countries and works to help these societies deal with overwhelming political, economic, social, and demographic problems. In addition to the new uprisings, the administration will need to continue dealing with the other major challenges that existed long before the uprisings-the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran's nuclear program, Iraq's reintegration into the Middle East, and ongoing threats from terrorist groups based in the region."

Berlusconi’s Arab Dancer (Roger Cohen) from the New York Times
"All manner of worthy things may be wished for Arabs just across the Mediterranean — and they were by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s fatuous brainchild, the 43-member Union for the Mediterranean — but of course democracy and freedom are not among them."

Iran's Repressive Regime Cannot Last (Meir Javedanfar) from the Guardian [of the UK]

"Not only is the green movement alive, it is also showing resilience and stamina and making progress."

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter from the New York Times
"Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills."

Obama Recruits an Army of Community Organizers to Carry his 'Movement Forward for Years to Come' from the Los Angeles Times
"The community organizer who became president has launched a massive pre-reelection year campaign to assemble and train an army of new community organizers to carry Obama's "movement forward for years to come." Strengthening "our democracy" presumably has something to do with reelecting the revered leader in 2012."

GOP Acts Out Revenge Fantasy (Bill Schnieder) from Politico
"The orgy of budget cutting on the House floor last week was not about the deficit. It was about ideology. The House Republican majority acted out a revenge fantasy against President Barack Obama and the Democrats in retaliation for what they see as the left-wing ideological aggression of the last two years. They are the counterrevolution."

Thousands March on State Capitols as Union Fight Spreads from the New York Times
"First Wisconsin. Now Ohio and Indiana. Battles with public employees’ unions spread on Tuesday, with Republican-dominated Legislatures pressing bills that would weaken collective bargaining and thousands of pro-union protesters marching on Capitol buildings in Columbus and Indianapolis."

Wisconsin Power Play (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times

"On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions."

John Nichols: Democracy Does Not End on Election Day from the Cap Times [from Wisconsin]
"When the leader of the governing party stumbles so badly that he cannot advance his legislative agenda, that is the point at which new elections are called in order to get a clear read from the voters about whether the agenda has popular support.
The lack of popular support for Walker’s proposal is evident by now."

Has Wisconsin's Governor Overreached? (Steve Kornacki) from Salon

"…there is a new survey making the rounds that suggests a backlash may be stirring, with 52 percent of respondents opposing Walker's plan and 61 percent expressing a favorable view of public employees (compared with just 39 percent for the governor)."

Poll: Americans Favor Union Bargaining Rights from USA Today
"Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law."

Mitch Daniels Calls On State GOP To Abandon Union-Busting Bill from TalkingPointsMemo
"Members of the Democratic state House caucus in Indiana have found an unlikely ally in their quest to stop the GOP majority from pushing through a bill that critics say would destroy union organizing in the state. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) took to the airwaves today to call on members of his party to drop the controversial "right to work" bill that led to Democrats going AWOL."
Still some sane heads within the GOP.

'Joyland' Blizzard Theme Park Being Built In China (PHOTOS) from Huffington Post
"So geek fantasies do come true. At least they do In Wunjin district, China. Reported way back on February 7, 2011 by a French gaming blog, the videogame studio Blizzard's World of Warcraft and StarCraft themed amusement park appears to be more than just rumor after recent photos of the construction surfaced along with a Chinese news report."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

News Nuggets 554

Ocelot cubs in a zoo in Berlin.  From Zooborns.

It's Time for China to Exert More Influence on Middle East Nations from the Global Times [of the People's Republic of China in English]

"Is it time for Beijing to start trying harder to 'shape' the future in the Middle East? According to this editorial from China's state-controlled Global Times, while Beijing has in the past followed a course of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, the ongoing series of uprisings in the Middle East may call for a whole new strategy."
Ok -- this is China's regime giving a hint of things to come: as the US refuses to stand four-square behind the dictatorships in the Middle East, here's the Chinese leadership tipping its hand.  If the US isn't willing to "buck them up," they should dump the US and look to China.  They don't give a rat's @#$ if these authoritarian regimes shoot their citizens or not.  Look for the Saudis and others to make the move. 

The Secret Politburo Meeting Behind China’s New Democracy Crackdown (Perry Link) from the New York Review of Books

"I have now received news that resolves much of that speculation and that may also help explain the unusual show of force by Chinese security officials this weekend in response to a call for street protests to support a “Jasmine Revolution” in several Chinese cities.  On Saturday, February 12, the day after Hosni Mubarak resigned in Egypt, some of the members of the politburo of the Communist Party of China held a special meeting in Beijing to discuss the events in the Middle East. News of this meeting came via a democracy activist in Beijing, who said that a secretary who was present had leaked a summary of its contents."

Libya Protests: Muammar Gaddafi's Leadership Vacuum (Eliza Griswold) from the Daily Beast

""I am still in Tripoli, and not in Venezuela,” Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi announced in a brief speech, slamming rumors about his whereabouts. Libya’s ambassador to India resigned Monday and confirmed that Gaddafi’s government has used fighter jets against civilian protesters. Hundreds of demonstrators have reportedly been killed. Gaddafi is also believed to have hired foreign mercenaries for protection and is believed to have lost control of the eastern part of Libya, where the military has sided with the protesters. The Daily Beast’s Eliza Griswold reports on Gaddafi’s downfall and why Libya isn’t Egypt."

Chaos Grows in Libya as Strife in Tripoli Intensifies from the New York Times

"Libya appeared to slip further into chaos on Tuesday, as clashes intensified between rebels and forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Tripoli and opposition forces moved to consolidate their hold in eastern Libya."

Gaddafi Gives Rambling Speech as Top Officials Abandon Regime from the Washington Post

"Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi appeared on state television Tuesday to offer a ranting defense of his embattled regime, as the opposition seized control in some areas and top officials resigned to protest attacks on civilians."

Libya Primer: How the North African Nation Resembles Egypt (Justin Spees) from Salon
"Protests erupt, and the rich, at-times-terrorist regime and now U.S. ally could see its fortunes change -- fast."

Saleh Falls in Yemen? (Ibrahim Sharqieh) from the National Interest
"Once people are in the streets there will be no going back—Yemen is no exception."

Why Are Middle East Dictators So Bad at Media? (Daniel Drezner) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"… one problem is that most of these leaders have simply fallen out of practice (if they were ever in practice) at personally using the media to assuage discontent.  I've been on enough shows on enough different media platforms to appreciate that there is an art, or at least a tradecraft, to presenting a convincing message in the mediasphere."

Catching a Whiff of Jasmine in Kashgar, China from the Economist [of the UK]
"Today the government perhaps had reason to be a little more jittery than usual. Calls had been circulating on the internet for Chinese to gather in central areas of 13 major cities (none in Xinjiang were named) on February 20th to stage a "jasmine revolution"—in reference to the upheavals that have are convulsing the Arab world."

Freedom Train: A Journey Through Egypt After the Revolution from Newsweek
"To see firsthand how the momentous changes in Egypt are playing out, a NEWSWEEK writer and a photographer traveled by train from Alexandria to Aswan, a journey of roughly 1,100 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea through the Sahara."

Blowing the Whistle on Assange: A Former Aide Gives an Insider’s View of WikiLeaks from the Boston Globe
"The embattled Assange has trouble coming at him from his inner circle. Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a close aide whom Assange suspended in August, vents about him in “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.’’ The book is a searing, if somewhat self-serving, account of Domscheit-Berg’s three years as WikiLeaks’ most visible public face after Assange."

The Stimulus Turns Two: How Obama Quietly Changed Washington from Time Magazine

"President Obama is often mocked for failing to change Washington, and clearly, his lofty campaign vision of post-partisan cooperation hasn't come true. But behind the scenes of the Beltway perpetual-conflict machine, Obama has made quiet progress toward reforming Washington — not politically, but bureaucratically. The most important reform, launched two years ago on Thursday, was tucked inside his unpopular stimulus package, and inside his new budget, he's trying to expand it. The reform is a simple concept that certainly ought to be post-partisan: harnessing the power of competition in the spending of taxpayer dollars."

As Obama's Staff Shifts, One Aide Holds Fast from the Chicago Tribune

"Valerie Jarrett has long been the president's closest confidant, but she's steadily becoming more visible at his side – even as a new chief of staff comes on board."

Troopers Would ‘Absolutely’ Use Force on Wisc. Protesters if Ordered, Police Union President Tells Raw from Raw Story

"Amid the largest protests Madison, Wisconsin has seen in decades, newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker last week issued a stark message to public labor unions occupying the capitol building: we have options, and using the National Guard against protesters is among them."

Ending Collective Bargaining Would Risk Return to Teacher Strikes from the Wisconsin State Journal
"For Bauman, a former teacher in the Madison School District, the sound took her back to one of the most difficult times of her life — the city’s bitter 1976 teacher strike. … Bauman and others now fear Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public employees will lead to gut-wrenching strikes and workplaces where uncertainty over everything from sick days to the timing of breaks will fundamentally change a day on the job."

For Nervous AWOL Dems In WI, The Pressure's Off... for Now from TalkingPointsMemo

"In a pair of new AP reports, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach's (D) fears that the GOP would make an end-runn the AWOL Democrats and destroy collective bargaining rights for millions of state workers law appear to have been alleviated. Republican Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald said the majority won't end collective bargaining while the Democrats are in town -- highlighting a potential weakness in Walker's GOP coalition."

Indiana Union Workers Rally at Statehouse to Protest Bills from the Indianapolis Star
"Committee votes 8-5 to send right-to-work bill to House: Over the protests of thousands of labor union members who filled the Statehouse, a House committee voted on party lines today to send a bill that would bar unions and companies from negotiating contracts that require all employees to pay fees for representation."

Wisconsin Labor Unrest Spills Across Lake Michigan from the Christian Science Monitor
The AFL-CIO is planning a protest Tuesday in Lansing, Michigan. This follows ongoing labor unrest in Wisconsin and Ohio over plans to reform public sector collective bargaining rules."

Buildings that Break the Box from Salon

"Slide show: From Beijing to Minneapolis, the breathtaking structures that change how we think of architecture."

George Clooney: A 21st-Century Statesman from Newsweek

"In the age of Twitter-shortened attention spans, fame is an increasingly powerful weapon of diplomacy. How George Clooney is helping to bring change—and a hefty dose of hope—to Sudan."

1.  Halt of Japan's Whaling Mission Provides Food for Thought from the Editorial Board of the Mainichi Daily News [of Japan in English]

"From both a medium- and long-term perspective, Japan should improve its protection of marine resources to a level meeting international standards. Japan has come under mounting criticism from the international community not only over its whaling program but also over tuna fishing. In order to avoid unjustifiable criticism from overseas, Japan should improve its whole policy on marine resource protection."

2.  Thank You Message from Sea Shepherd from Sea Shepherd News
"This week, we drove the entire Japanese whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. They are on their way home! But we did not do it alone. We did it with you! Sea Shepherd is more than the ships and crew that operate them."

Monday, February 21, 2011

News Nuggets 553

A field of cotton grass in Iceland.  From National Geographic.

"Is Wisconsin the Tunisia of collective bargaining rights?"  
- New York Times [see item below]

Now, I had assumed that the Libyan protests would top the blog today -- but this protest story (very modest as it is in its end results) caught my attention.  Even at this modest level, I am stunned that Chinese dissidents have gotten even this far.  Regular readers know I've been tracking the growing economic instability of China (inflation, a budding real estate bubble, etc.) -- but this story makes me wonder if the regime there isn't in store for a lot more trouble than most analysts are now predicting. 
Call for Protests Unnerves Beijing from the Wall Street Journal
"Chinese authorities detained dozens of political activists after an anonymous online call for people to start a "Jasmine Revolution" in China by protesting in 13 cities—just a day after President Hu Jintao called for tighter Internet controls to help prevent social unrest.  Only a handful of people appeared to have responded to the call to protest in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other cities at 2 p.m. Sunday, a call first posted on the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website and circulated mainly on Twitter, which is blocked in China. A man was arrested by police in front of the Peace Cinema, where online social networks were calling readers to join in a 'Jasmine Revolution' protest, in downtown Shanghai on Sunday.  But Chinese authorities seemed to take it seriously…"

Libyan Protesters Rise Up in Capital (Mike Giglio) from the Daily Beast
"Protests in Libya intensified Sunday, spreading toward the nation’s capital for the first time. Hoping to tamp down the uprising, a son of leader Muammar Qaddafi spoke on national television and warned of a civil war if demonstrations against his dictator father continue. “Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt,” Saif Qaddafi said, adding that the regime would fight “until the last bullet.” Witnesses reported heavy gunfire in Tripoli following the speech Sunday night, as well as tear gas and live bullets from security forces."
Qaddafi thought he was being smart by bringing in foreign mercenaries to gun down his own citizens.  Looks now like all he did was piss off the professional Libyan army.  They've turned on him in Benghazi and the protests have moved to Tripoli.  Given what his son said on state TV, the regime's situation has DRAMATICALLY declined in the last 48 hours.  I think all they can do now is simply shoot it out until Qaddafi and his sons are no longer standing. 

This point is reinforced here:
Libya Protests Analysis: 'For Muammar Gaddafi it's Kill or be Killed' (Ian Black) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Libya's leader faces the worst unrest since he seized power, but no-one expects him to give up peacefully."

To follow events in Libya, see the live updates and live blogging at Al Jazeera English HERE.

Watching Protesters Risk It All in Bahrain (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"As democracy protests spread across the Middle East, we as journalists struggle to convey the sights and sounds, the religion and politics. But there’s one central element that we can’t even begin to capture: the raw courage of men and women — some of them just teenagers — who risk torture, beatings and even death because they want freedoms that we take for granted."

In Sudan, Bashir 'Will Not Seek Re-election" from Al Jazeera English

"Sudan's president will not stand at next polls, reports say, as his party denies move is reaction to regional protests."
Yeah, right.  The heat must be building in Khartoum.  Such statements are now like the first bell ringing in the fire station that tells you that the big fire is now touching a new neighborhood.

The Real Losers In A Government Shutdown (Howard Fineman) from the Huffington Post
"The likelihood is that the Republicans will lose politically if there is a shutdown. First, it's clear that many of them want one, whatever their leaders say. Some of them will celebrate it on the floor of the House if it happens. They won't be able to help themselves. The 80 or so first-year Tea Party types in the House are as eager as college protesters taking over the Ad Building a generation ago."
Yup.  They can't help themselves.

In Budget Wars, Tough Talk Hasn’t Often Led to Political Victory (John Harwood) from the New York Times

"Is it really different this time? That’s what Republican political strategists are asking as party leaders and presidential prospects keep raising the bar in their quest to curb government deficits. As thrilling as that process feels for Tea Party members and conservative intellectuals, its merit as an electoral formula remains unproven at best."

Democratic Strategy In Wisconsin: Kill The Bill, Then Recall Republicans From Office (Amanda Terkel) from the Huffington Post

"According to Wisconsin law, voters can recall any elected official in the state, as long as they've been in office for at least a year. This process involves collecting signatures for a recall position and then holding an election with the incumbent against any other candidates who jump in. As ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser has reported, there are eight Republicans who could currently be recalled."
You betcha'.  If the roles were reversed, the GOP wouldn't hesitate for a mili-second.

Moderate Wisconsin Republicans Offer Compromise from the Wall Street Journal
"The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions to be eliminated – per Mr. Walker's bill – but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultzs's chief of staff Todd Allbaugh."
Oh RIGHT!  But all along they've been saying that eliminating bargaining rights was a strategy to control budget costs over the LONG-TERM.  What's so special about 2013?  Oh -- the so-called moderate Republicans -- could THEY be the eight facing the recall noted in the previous item?  Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Wisconsin Leads Way as Workers Fight State Cuts from the New York Times

"The unrest in Wisconsin this week over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to cut the bargaining rights and benefits of public workers is spreading to other states. Already, protests erupted in Ohio this week, where another newly elected Republican governor, John Kasich, has been seeking to take away collective bargaining rights from unions. … Is Wisconsin the Tunisia of collective bargaining rights?"

The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder (Frank Rich) from the New York Times
"In the aftermath of President Obama’s Tucson sermon, civility has had a mini-restoration in Washington. And some of the most combative national figures in our politics have been losing altitude ever since …"
I've been seeing signs of the same phenomenon.

For Presidential Hopefuls, a Game of Posturing and Positioning (Howard Kurtz) from the Daily Beast
"GOP 2012 presidential contenders from ex-lobbyist Haley Barbour to polarizing Sarah Palin to acid-tongued Michele Bachmann made their auditions at CPAC. But none yet has the stature to take on Obama, writes Howard Kurtz."
Howard's on the money here.  Moreover, all indications are right now that all the candidates (with the exception of Huntsman and possibly Romney) are positioning themselves as if 2012 will be a re-play of the 2010 cycle -- a CRITICAL mistake!  In light of the Tucson shooting (see the Frank Rich piece above) and what we're seeing now in Wisconsin, the landscape will be very different.  While the specific issue set is still unclear, I think moderates will be swinging away from the GOP and Democrats are going to be MUCH MORE motivated!

Reinforcing this view is the following item:
As Republicans See a Mandate on Budget Cuts, Others See Risk from the New York Times
"But in the view of officials from both major political parties, Republicans may be risking the same kind of electoral backlash Democrats suffered after they were perceived as overreaching. Public surveys suggest that most voters do not share the Republicans’ fervor for the deep cuts adopted by the House, or for drastically slashing the power of public-sector unions. And independent voters have historically been averse to displays of political partisanship that have been played out over the last week."

CPAC Immigration Panel: Readying the Fight to Save the GOP and White America from Right Wing Watch
"If there is one message to take away from CPAC’s panel on immigration, it’s that White America is in serious jeopardy and may soon succumb to immigration, multiculturalism, and socialism. … “No more of this multiculturalism garbage,” Tancredo said, adding that “the cult of multiculturalism has captured the world” and is “the dagger in the heart” of civilization."
Almost every line from this article is jaw-dropping.  What's above is only a sample.

The Best-Read Presidents from the Daily Beast

"In honor of Presidents' Day, The Daily Beast ranks the top 19 presidents who were the most avid readers and book collectors, from James Buchanan to Theodore Roosevelt. Plus, find out what books they read."

The Foot Comes Down (Ted Widmer) from the New York Times

"Lincoln quiets the raucous New Jersey Legislature with one of his most powerful speeches yet."

Americans Say Reagan Is Greatest President, Poll Finds (Christopher Weber) from Politics Daily

"Gallup said respondents are more likely to mention recent office-holders because "the average American constantly hears about and from presidents in office during their lifetime, and comparatively little about historical presidents long dead.""
Translation: respondents don't know @#$% about past US presidents or US History generally.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

News Nuggets 552

A kitty who likes small spaces.  See the Kitten Nugget below.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

US-Taliban Talks (Steve Coll) from the New Yorker
"The Obama Administration has now entered into direct, secret talks with senior leaders of the group, several people briefed about them told me…"
This could be a very important development.  Obama (and just about everyone else) is keen to find an exit strategy from this scene.

Delirious Joy in Bahrain (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"There’s delirious joy in the center of Bahrain right now. People power has prevailed, at least temporarily, over a regime that repeatedly used deadly force to try to crush a democracy movement. Pro-democracy protesters have retaken the Pearl Roundabout – the local version of Tahrir Square – from the government"

The Awakening from The Economist [of London]
"As change sweeps through the Middle East, the world has many reasons to fear. But it also has one great hope."

Islamism Has Lost its Monopoly on Dissent (Richard Phelps) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The uprisings in the Middle East have shown that viable political opposition is no longer the preserve of Islamists alone."

Egypt's Likely Impact on the Middle East (Rami Khouri) from the Daily Star [of Lebanon in English]
"We’re likely to see a free and broadly democratic Egypt develop that elusive prize denied Arabs for the past century: a stable, self-defined governance system, credible and legitimate because it is based on fair representation and real accountability."
Khouri is a pretty savvy analyst -- so I hope he is right.

New World Order: Egypt, the Information Revolution, and the Struggle for Power in the Twenty-first Century (Joseph Nye) from the New Republic
"Beyond the euphoria and uncertainties of the moment, the revolt in Egypt has sparked a debate about how much technology and information matter in a revolutionary context."

The 'Cold Peace', Israel, and Arab Democracy from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Mazel tov Egypt: Three takes on what the revolution means for Israel"

A Look At The Youth Of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (Charles Sennott & Terry Gross) from NPR's Fresh Air
"Veteran journalist Charles Sennott recently returned from Tahrir Square, where he filmed material for a documentary on the Egyptian revolution. In Revolution in Cairo, which will air on PBS's Frontline on Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST, Sennott examines what role the Muslim Brotherhood will play in the future of Egypt and how it may influence the political future of the country."

The Wind that Will Not Subside from the Economist
Hearing Egyptian echoes, China’s autocrats cling to the hope that they are different."

How Obama Handled Egypt from the Economist

"Crossed wires, close calls but a good result—until the next friend wobbles. … The first thing to be said about such criticisms, of which the foregoing is a mere sampling, is that they cannot all be right. Mr Obama stands accused both of dumping an ally prematurely and also of having hesitated too long before coming out for the demonstrators. Well, it might be one or the other but it can hardly be both."

The Sabotaging of Iran from the Financial Times [of the UK]

"Iran has pointed the finger at its enemies in the US and Israel, claiming the assassinations are part of a broader campaign to derail their nuclear programme. ... But in the west, another possible explanation has been offered: perhaps the Iranian regime instigated the killings, taking revenge on men whom it had started to regard as suspect and politically dubious?"
WHO CALLED IT!!  Yours truly right here, that's who!  It's been obvious for some time that Iran's nuclear program has been leaking intelligence like a sieve and it was inevitable that Iranian authorities would get wise to the fact that some of the leaks came from their own scientists.

A related item here:
Stuxnet Malware and Natanz: Update of ISIS December 22, 2010 Report (David Albright et al.) from the Institute for Science and International Security
"A report issued on Wednesday by David Albright, an expert on Iran's nuclear program who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, said it is increasingly accepted that a successful Stuxnet attack in late 2009 or early 2010 destroyed about 1,000 Iranian centrifuges out of about 9,000 at the site.  "The effect of this attack was significant," Mr. Albright said in the report. "It rattled the Iranians, who were unlikely to know what caused the breakage, delayed the expected expansion of the plant, and further consumed a limited supply of centrifuges to replace those destroyed.""

Borderland: China's 14,000 Mile Struggle from Global Post
"From North Korea to its Muslim west and beyond, Beijing has its hands full."

Deficit Plan Details Emerge from the Wall Street Journal
"Bipartisan Senate Group Mulls Spending Caps That Could Trigger Tax Increases."
This could be quite important.

In Budget Fight, House G.O.P. Meets Limits of Its Power from the New York Times

"The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. … The proposal builds on the work of President Barack Obama's deficit commission, according to aides working on it."

Democrats Turn 'Where Are The Jobs?' Chant On Republicans from the Associated Press via Huffington Post
"Republicans won sweeping victories last November by taunting Democrats with "Where are the jobs?" Democrats are now throwing those taunts back, saying it's Republicans who will knock thousands of Americans out of work with their demands for deep cuts in federal spending. The attacks have caught Republicans at an awkward moment…"

Gov. Walker's Overreach in WI (E.J.Dionne) from the Washington Post

"If this were just about normal budget cutbacks, the political earthquake we're seeing in Wisconsin would not have happened. This is an effort by a temporary majority -- I use the term because in a democracy, all majorities are, in principle, temporary -- to rush a bill through the legislature designed to alter the balance of political power in the state."
Ezra Klein has further analysis HERE.

The Standoff in Madison and the Fallout for 2012 (Craig Gilbert) from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"One obvious consequence of Gov. Scott Walker’s push to curtail bargaining rights for public employees is the fire he has lighted under Democrats, labor and the left.  While there are many ways the issue could play out over the coming months, this fact alone has significance for 2012, since by any measure Democratic voters were less motivated in 2010 than their GOP counterparts."

Gov. Scott Blasted on High-speed Rail Funds. Gov. Brown Says Money 'Welcome Here' from Daily Kos
"Florida editorial writers and some fellow Republicans are giving newly elected Gov. Rick Scott a thrashing over what can only fairly be described as his loony rejection of federal funding for the first leg of a high-speed rail line that backers hoped would eventually connect Tampa with Miami via Orlando."

Census Shows Minorities Outnumber Whites in Texas from National Journal
"New numbers could complicate GOP redistricting hopes."

The Playful Kitten Who Just Loves Getting in a Tight Spot from the Daily Mail [of the UK]

"Some cats love cuddles but this kitten loves nothing more than a tight squeeze. Her ability to get in and out of seemingly impossible situations harks back to the comedy capers seen in classic kids' cartoon Tom & Jerry."

Bear Hibernation Study Finds Surprises in Search for Clues to Help Human Health from the Washington Post

"These scientific stars performed perfectly, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the secrets of hibernation.  It turns out that Ursus americanus hibernates in a manner unlike that of the dozens of other hibernating mammals."
A really fascinating story with big human health implications!  National Geographic has more on the topic HERE.

VSO Day: Victory in the Southern Ocean Day for the Whales from Sea Shepherd News

"It’s official – the Japanese whaling fleet has called it quits in the Southern Ocean, at least for this season. And if they return next season, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be ready to resume their efforts to obstruct and disable illegal Japanese whaling operations."

Altar of the Twelve Gods Sees the Light from Ekathimerini [of Greece in English]

"Archaeologists believe that remnants found during construction in the area of the Ancient Agora, on the northwestern slope of the Acropolis, belong to the famed Altar of the Twelve Gods, one of Athens’s most ancient monuments and a landmark that marked the very center of ancient city."