DAYEE PICTURE: Sulfer gases rise in Ijen Crater on Bali in Indonesia. From the Smithsonian.
Is Israel the Only U.S. Ally in the Middle East? An Answer in Map Form (Max Fisher) from the Washington Post
"Sen. Joe Manchin made a curious assertion. Israel, he said, is the United States’ only ally in “that part of the world,” presumably meaning the Middle East. Above, I’ve tossed together a map of the countries that we might fairly label U.S. allies in the region (with a couple of caveats)."
American Nuns Hope For Sister-Friendly New Pope (Barbie Latza Nadeau) from the Daily Beast
"American nuns—fiercely condemned under Pope Benedict for being too “radical”—are looking forward to a fresh start with a new pontiff."
Chuck Hagel Survives, Now Faces Full Senate from Politico
"... if Hagel is confirmed, lawmakers — especially in the House — have as much of an incentive to mend fences with Hagel as he does with them. “The reason I think there may be some hard feelings — but not hard actions — is that the members of Congress will be calling him a lot more than he calls them,”"
The Hagel Flail (Markos Moulitsas) from Daily Kos
"In other words, Obama can choose whoever he wants, but I won't expend an iota of energy defending Hagel other than to note that if Republicans really wanted to pick the secretary of defense, they should've won the election last November. What this all means is that I don't care about the outcome of this battle, so I can truly view it dispassionately, and here's why I find it awesome:"
Grand Strategy and the Dominant Paranoia (Paul R. Pillar) from the National Interest
"...this subject isn't anything like the challenge from the USSR and communism during the Cold War, and “radical Islam” really does involve a lot of paranoia on our part. There is nothing remotely comparable to a superpower armed with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons."
Are the Republicans Beyond Saving? (Elizabeth Drew) from the New York Review of Books
"This government-by-crisis has threatened to define the Republicans in Washington as the party of green eyeshaded accountants with nary a thought for the well-being of the middle class, not to mention the poor. ... That it was considered progress that House leaders persuaded the most radical members that shutting down the government was a more reasonable approach than risking another government default—and a second lowering of the US’s credit rating—was a sign of the extent to which the idea of governing has lost its moorings."
The Moderate's GOP Survival Guide (Jonathan Bernstein) from the American Prospect
"Republicans want to take their party back from "The Crazy." Here's how they should do it. ..."
The Problem Runs a Lot Deeper Than Ted Nugent (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"The problem is the perpetual winking and nodding to The Crazy that is deemed marginally acceptable – the hints about creeping socialism, the claim that modest Obama executive actions amount to tyranny, the suggestions that Obama’s values are vaguely un-American and that Obama is transforming the country and the economy into something no longer recognizably American, and so on..."
Where Were Marco Rubio’s New Ideas? (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post
"After an election, the winning party typically tries to pass the policies it campaigned on while the losers go back to the drawing board to try to work up a more appealing agenda. But last night’s dueling speeches revealed, strangely, the reverse. President Obama’s agenda has become much more ambitious since the election, ranging from universal pre-kindergarten to raising the minimum wage to gun control to immigration reform. But neither the Republican Party’s agenda nor its rhetoric has changed a whit."
The Disappearing Republicans (Jeffrey Toobin) from the New Yorker
"The Republican nominees in five of the past six Presidential elections have disappeared from the face of the earth. Not literally, of course; Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H. W. Bush are all still alive. But all of them are gone from the political scene, absent at conventions, even the most recent inauguration. This is not a coincidence or a generational quirk. Rather, it reflects a fundamental problem with the contemporary Republican Party."
Poll Shows A Dismal Approval Rating For Bobby Jindal from Talking Points Memo
"Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has emerged as a national voice for the Republican Party, but a poll released Wednesday suggested that his star has may have severely diminished at home. According to findings from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, a mere 37 percent of Louisiana voters approve of the job Jindal is doing compared with a majority of 57 percent who disapprove."
I think Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and any number of other "serious" GOP contenders for 2016 will face the same problem Jindal is now facing: once you try to look like a leader and to look presidential, you start to lose the base of the GOP as it is constituted now. These folks (especially the tea party crowd) are simply not interested in actual problem solving, in making deals to pass legislation -- and God help the prospective candidate who tries to have a "Sister Souljah" moment with base voters! They don't want to hear it! They want someone who looks presidential (like Fred Thompson), can spout their ideological talking points convincingly (like Paul Ryan), but most importantly (and this is the problem) someone who will demonize in no uncertain or measured terms Obama and the Democrats -- in other words like Rush Limbau or Ann Coulter. No such individual exists among the party pantheon!
New Star at CMU: The Incoming President Shares its Global Ambitions from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"... as the university is right to say, these days it is a global leader in research and ideas.
In addition to Pittsburgh, it has campuses in Qatar and Silicon Valley, California, and it offers degree programs to students in Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Approximately 35 percent of Carnegie Mellon's students come from 115 nations outside the United States, marking the student body as one of the 10 most international among four-year U.S. institutions. While it ranks among America's best schools, it also competes as one of the best on the planet."
MORE RICHARD III
Unraveling King Richard III’s Secrets from the Daily Beast
"Was Richard a hunchback? Did he murder his nephews? Following the sensational discovery of the king’s skeleton under a British parking lot, Bert Fields revisits the centuries-old mysteries."
One of the most interesting aspects of this whole Richard III story is how much it has opened up for discussion SO MANY unanswered questions from this pivotal time in British history. In 1674, the skeletons of two children were found beneath a stairwell in the Tower of London and it has long been thought that they were the "princes in the tower" and that they were murdered by Richard III. Given the state of forensics these days and DNA analysis, I think it is high time that those skeletons (which are now interred in Westminster Abbey) were reexamined to see if indeed they were the young princes and to get a clearer sense of how they died. Now that they accused murderer is in custody (so to speak) it seems to me like a good time to get more definitive answers rather than let Shakespeare have the final say. It is definitely the ultimate "cold case."