DAYLEE PICTURE: A Jewel Beetle. From the Daily Mail of the UK.
Russia and China: Is the World Ready for Their Decline? (Lilia Shevtsova) from the American Interest
"Observing the authoritarian experiments of these two serious global actors (although one of them has been weakened), as well as their search for an appropriate international role, has made for interesting viewing, revealing several paradoxes: first, the paradox of stability covering up a deeper instability and impending upheavals; second, the paradox of economic growth that is most likely only a brief respite before a precipitous fall; third, the paradox of outward displays of force that conceal inner weakness and disorientation."
Seven Reasons China and Japan Won’t Go To War (Trefor Moss) from The Diplomat
"Even as tensions between Beijing and Tokyo grow by the day, there are good reasons to believe outright conflict can be avoided."
Iran's 'Fake' Fighter Jet Which Experts Say Can't Fly is Spotted in the Air (with a Little Help from Photoshop) from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Iran's freshly unveiled fighter jet has already been derided by aviation experts who likened the plane to a mock-up model and expressed serious doubts over whether it could actually fly. And a new picture of the domestically produced Qaher-313 apparently soaring over Iranian mountains has done little to curb scepticism, amid claims the plane never actually left the ground but was simply superimposed over the snow-capped peaks using Photoshop."
You HAVE to wonder about this regime and the transparent clownery they have been engaging in over the last year or so. In the international community, their efforts to look tough to the rest of the world are making them a laughing stock instead. My sense is that the US and the world are no longer the audience for these low-grade theatrics -- it's the Iranian people who for decades have been told what a big global power Iran is. Iran's nuclear program has been the centerpiece of this self-directed propaganda. Lately, their attention seems to have shifted to a thrown-together outer-space-and-missiles program -- and now we have their jet fighter program. I could be wrong in a big way -- but my suspicion is that all of this latest "innovation" is designed to cover up a basic reality: their nuclear program for most practical purposes has come to halt. Between compromised hardware, cyber-infected software, spies, leaks, assassinations of scientists, explosions, daily, nerve-grinding fear among the participants in the program, and the broader impact of sanctions, Iran's vaunted nuclear initiative has, for all intents and purposes, stopped.
Greece is Facing a Humanitarian Crisis (Alex Politaki) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The EU's own poverty standards show that Greece is in crisis. But member states won't admit their 'bailout' was to blame."
Good Riddance, Benedict! Why the Pope was a Moral Failure (Michael Moynihan) from the Daily Beast
"If the pope were a CEO he would have been fired years ago as he oversaw the decline of the Catholic Church and covered up its worst abuses. Michael C. Moynihan says good riddance to the failed pontiff."
Dismal Indeed: Why Dick Cheney Disdains The ‘Second-Rate’ Obama Team (Joe Conason) from the National Memo
"Like his old comrade and boss Cheney, Rumsfeld remained perfectly arrogant and absolutely rigid to the end and beyond, even as all his predictions and promises proved tragically hollow."
Wait, Harry Reid Can Ignore Holds? (George Zornick) from the Nation
"So why did Reid ignore the hold on Hagel, and not the others? ... Reid’s default is to let the holds stand, but this time was just too far."
Reid: I Won’t Honor Holds On Hagel Nomination from Talking Points Memo
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters Tuesday that he will not honor any holds placed on the nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. He said he intends to hold a vote this week if Hagel is cleared by the Armed Serices Committee."
Young, Liberal and Open to Big Government from the New York Times
"... young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day — the size and scope of the federal government — a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force, a point he intends to make in his State of the Union address on Tuesday."
SOTU Advice: Hammer the GOP (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"Republicans’ current strategy on the budget could conceivably fool Americans. Which is why Obama needs to clearly expose its dishonesty in his State of the Union, says Michael Tomasky."
Ezra Klein: The Wise Boy: A Tale of Striving and Success in Modern-Day Washington (Julia Ioffe) from the New Republic
"He placed particular blame on the media for latching onto trivial matters and overlooking the sticky, more complicated issues of how the government actually works. “I think the focus on gaffes is a deep embarrassment, like, a deep embarrassment, and a systemic failure on the media’s part,” he says. “And the danger of that is that, when you don’t tell people how a machine works, when it’s broke, they don’t know how to fix it. And I think that’s begun to happen.”"
Marco Rubio for 2016? Five Reasons I Wouldn't Bet On It (Harry Enten) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Recent prominence on the national stage leads some to tout Rubio as the Republican party's possible saviour. I doubt it."
Joe Scarborough Hates Moms, PowerPoint (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"What makes Joe Scarborough such an enjoyable figure is his combination of affability, good intentions, high self-regard, low self-awareness, and total lack of analytical reasoning skills. He is not remotely dislikable. He is Ron Burgundy come to life."
Ted Nugent Is an Eloquent Spokesman -- For Democrats (Robert Creamer) from the Huffington Post
"Even though many Republicans don't entirely agree with people like Nugent and Aiken, their comments are toxic for the Republican Party brand. They drive away women, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young people."
Nugent's comments really are appalling -- Creamer gives many examples.