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Thursday, June 27, 2013

News Nuggets 1258

DAYLEE PICTURE: The Summer Palace at dawn in China.  From National Geographic.

He’s The President, Not An Action-Movie Hero (Gene Lyons) from the National Memo
"Sometimes it appears that everybody in Washington yearns for an action-hero president to make them feel important. That’s never more apparent than during a crisis like the Syrian civil war President Obama stands accused of “dithering” about."

The Errors of Edward Snowden and His Global Hypocrisy Tour (Kurt Eichenwald) from Vanity Fair
"My tolerance for Edward Snowden has run out. ... what, exactly, is Snowden attempting to prove with his China revelations? That countries engage in espionage? That the United States listens in on communications of countries with which it maintains often tense and occasionally volatile relations? The existence of electronic espionage seems to be his beef."
I actually think Eichenwald is being fairly charitable here.  From the beginning of this affair, I have paid most attention to what Snowden has done and very little attention to the reasons he gives for why.  His stated reasoning makes no sense.  He says he has leaked this massive amount of national security information to selflessly alert the American people about how their civil liberties are being violated -- and yet in 2009 he said leakers should be "shot in the balls."  If it's about American civil liberties, why is he chatting it up with the Chinese and the Russians?  If it is the case that contractors like him had direct access to people's personal email and phone conversations (as he implies) where's the evidence?  Rather than giving spying program specifics to foreign countries, why doesn't he give us one example of actual content from emails or phone calls from Billy Bob American or average Mary Jane Citizen?  Answer: all the civil liberties outrage is simply a gaseous smoke screen designed to mask what was really going on.  He loved the well-funded and well-womaned high life of an NSA hacking nerd (which he clearly did love) and was going for a huge payday by scoring several months worth of NSA data working for Booz Allen which (in my view) he was looking to sell.  But something went wrong.  Maybe his cover was blown.  Maybe the NSA were on to him.  And in an effort to cover his flight he let loose this tremendous fog of NSA data all the while singing the national anthem.  Is he this unprincipled?  Probably not.  But I do not believe that he is at all the martyr for principle he's made out in many circles.  Look to his actions, not his words.

Supreme Court Decision Triggers Massive Overhaul of Regulations (Ben Goad and Julian Hattem) from The Hill
"The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ban on federal benefits for gay couples is sure to trigger a mammoth effort to change hundreds of regulations and laws across the breadth of government. The scope of the high court’s ruling goes far beyond Social Security checks and joint tax returns."

Court Underscores Political Shift on Same-sex Marriage (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post
"Sometimes the court makes history outright, as it did when it outlawed segregated schools in 1954 or legalized abortion in 1973. Other times, it moves more deliberately, facilitating changes already underway. That was the case on Wednesday. The justices carefully provided a historic push to the same-sex-marriage movement ..."

IG: Audit of IRS Actions Limited to Tea Party Groups at GOP Request from The Hill
"The Treasury inspector general (IG) whose report helped drive the IRS targeting controversy says it limited its examination to conservative groups because of a request from House Republicans. A spokesman for Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said they were asked by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “to narrowly focus on Tea Party organizations.”"

Pentagon Aims to Make Benefits Available to Same-sex Spouses from Politico 
"Working with the Justice Department and other executive branch agencies, the Pentagon "intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses -- regardless of sexual orientation -- as soon as possible," Hagel said in a written statement. "That is now the law and it is the right thing to do.""

IRS Scandal: Gimme Your Read on This (Josh Marshall) from Talking Points Memo
"As one of the people from a progressive group is quoted saying in the piece, “This is kind of what you expect. You expect it to take a year or more to get your status because that’s just what the IRS goes through to do it.” In other words, rather than feeling persecuted their response was more like, Yeah, that’s just how it is."
Said another way: the IRS has always targeted progressive political groups.

Here's How Darrell Issa Manufactured the IRS 'Scandal' (Jed Lewison) from Daily Kos
"If the IRS was targeting political groups from across the ideological spectrum, where did the original narrative about tea party targeting come from? The answer makes Darrell Issa and his fellow House Republicans look even worse than they did on Monday: ..."

Democrats Want You to Watch Republicans Talk about Marriage Equality from Raw Story
"Democrats have a new strategy to use against their Republicans opponents: Just let them speak."

Armey in Exile (Luke Mullins) from the Washingtonian
"The 2012 election was supposed to be the culmination of Dick Armey’s life’s work—his chance to harness tea party fervor and bring about sweeping reform. So when it all fell apart amid a feud with his
comrade-in-arms, not even an $8-million payout could console him."

It’s a Wendy Davis Nation, Now (Irin Carmon) from Salon
"For years, Democrats' pro-choice stance was blamed for losing "values" voters. Today, that's all changing fast."

Antonin Scalia’s Self-Pitying, Angry Nostalgia from Salon
"Supreme Court's arch-conservative says legalizing same-sex marriage discriminates against people who don't want it."

Pro-Hillary Group Meeting with Top Democratic Donors from CNN
"Some two dozen leading Democratic donors meet for breakfast in New York City Thursday morning with some top Clinton allies to discuss funding an independent political action committee that's urging Clinton to run, according to Democratic sources with knowledge of the event. The breakfast follows lunch held Wednesday with the same mission, to support the Ready for Hillary PAC."

NARNIA NUGGET!!
C. S. Lewis, Evangelical Rock Star (T.M. Luhrmann) from the New York Times 
"C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” offers theological complexity, not simplicity — a chance to hang on to God in a secular age of doubt."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

News Nuggets 1257

DAYLEE PICTURE:  Iron ore processing plants in Hunedoara, Romania in the 1970s.  From National Geographic.

Has the Chinese Bubble Burst? Asia's Main Stock Markets Continue to Tumble Amid Fears Over Credit Reforms from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Shanghai Composite Index suffered biggest percentage loss in four years.  Investors fear measures to curb 'shadow banking' will hurt business.  Trouble in credit system could harm world's second biggest economy."

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Leaker (Roger Simon) from Politico 
"I don’t know what he expects to find at the end of his rainbow, but I think he will learn that once his secrets are used up, he will be just another fugitive, eager to recount to anyone who will still listen what a big deal he used to be. He is not Wolfking Awesomefox. And he eventually will come to the realization that America is about more than sex and doughnuts. It is the country that gave him everything. And I think he is going to miss it very much."

Edward Snowden In 2009: Leakers Should Be 'Shot In The Balls' from the Huffington Post
"NSA leaker Edward Snowden despised classified leaks in 2009, illustrating that the former Booz Allen Hamilton employee was not always the champion of transparency that he has become. The technology website ArsTechnica published IRC chats where he railed against a New York Times story about the U.S. rejecting an Israeli request for aid to attack an Iranian nuclear site and the United States' covert efforts to sabotage Iran's nuclear program."

Supreme Court DOMA Decision Rules Federal Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional from the Huffington Post
"The Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states, is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday by a 5-4 vote."

Supreme Court Rules On Prop 8, Lets Gay Marriage Resume In California from the Huffington Post
"The Supreme Court on Wednesday left for dead California's same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, but the question of gay and lesbian couples' constitutional right to marry remains very much alive."

On Twitter, It's a Very Sad Day for the Haters (Ben Blackman) from the Daily Beast
"A lot of people are really, really happy about Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling squashing the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Prop 8. And then there are some others, who are really, really sad that gay people now have some rights."

The Supreme Court's Voting Rights Decision Is a Poison Chalice for the GOP (Joshua Green) from the Bloomberg News Service
"On its face, this looks like a big victory for Republicans. Is it really? I suspect it will turn out to be a poisoned chalice. Many of the GOP’s current problems stem from the fact that it is overly beholden to its white, Southern base at a time when the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse."

I Believe (Andrew Sullivan) from The Dish
"So to those who are often tempted to write off America’s ability to perfect its union still further, to lead the world in the clarity of its moral and political discourse, and to resist the pull of fundamentalism when it conflicts with human dignity, let me just say: I believe. Because I have seen."

Conservatives at Crossroads on Gay Marriage from Politico
"... they have time – at least through the 2016 election – to press their case in the court of public opinion, and to lean on the Republican Party in Congress and the states to dig in for the same long fight. They may have to lean hard,..."

Wendy Davis: The State Senator Who Killed the Texas Abortion Bill (Brandy Zadrozny) from the Daily Beast
"One woman stood up against Texas Republicans’ anti-abortion bill. Brandy Zadrozny on the state senator’s filibuster, her past clashes, and the time Rick Perry called her a ‘show horse.’"
It is highly visible demonstrations of principle from women leaders like Ms. Davis that will continue to have the women of our country continue to vote in disproportionate numbers for Democrats.  Good for you, Wendy!!

How’s the Rick Perry National Political Rehabilitation Tour Going? (Wayne Slater) from the Dallas Morning News
"If the Texas governor's highly publicized, job-poaching trips to California and Illinois weren't evidence that Perry is setting the stage for another run for president, last week's trip to New York offered a blueprint how he hopes to fix his damaged political image."
NO WAY!  Boy -- the 2016 GOP presidential field is shaping up great -- for the Democrats!  Let's see, that gives us Donald Trump (who was stumping in Iowa yesterday); Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker.  For sane people looking at running like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, their only chance is if this list of clowns divides the wingnut majority that makes up GOP voters in primary season.

PIRATE NUGGET!!
Treasure Hunters Salvage Cannons Used by Notorious Pirate Blackbeard from Wreckage of Ship he Stole to Wreak Terror on High Seas from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Deep sea divers recovered two cannons from Queen Anne's Revenge.  They salvaged them from the ocean bed off the coast of North Carolina.  Dive carried out as part of $450,000 scheme to remove all of the artefacts."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

News Nuggets 1256

DAYLEE PICTURE: A sunset in Reykjavik Harbor in Iceland reflected in the windows of an office building.  From National Geographic.

Snowden Sought Booz Allen Job to Gather Evidence on NSA Surveillance from the South China Morning Post [from Hong Kong]
"Fugitive whistle-blower reveals for first time he took job at US government contractor with the sole aim of collecting proof of spying activities."

Edward Snowden and the Strongmen Who Love Him (Michael Moynihan) from the Daily Beast
"The notorious leaker slams America for its lack of transparency and sham democracy—then takes shelter with our undemocratic enemies. Michael Moynihan on the leaker’s fatal flaw."

Lost Generations? Wealth Building among Young Americans from the Urban Institute
"Despite the Great Recession and slow recovery, the American dream of working hard, saving more, and becoming wealthier than one's parents holds true for many. Unless you're under 40. Stagnant wages, diminishing job opportunities, and lost home values may be painting a vastly different future for Gen X and Gen Y."

IRS Targeted Progressive Groups, Too, Documents Reveal (Sam Stein) from the Huffington Post
"Republicans in particular argued the finding proved the IRS was trying to tip the scales of the election during the heat of the campaign. Now it appears the agency's BOLOs were applied to organizations across the ideological spectrum."
Pinch me if I'm missing something -- but if the groups from across the ideological spectrum were targeted -- then where's the scandal!?

Ah, looks like it's ... disappearing!
The IRS Non-Scandal ‘Scandal’ (Beverly Bandler) from the Daily Banter via the Daily Beast
"The Internal Revenue “scandal” has turned out not to be a scandal. ... Even the mainstream media – after much initial sloppy, knee-jerk reporting – finally realized that they and the American public were being played by the Republican Party."

Mitch McConnell Realizes IRS Scandal Is Over (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"Mitch McConnell delivered a speech today at the American Enterprise Institute to officially signal that the IRS scandal has entered its post-fact phase. ... McConnell’s speech is an attempt to reframe the issue in a way that it can survive the utter absence of incriminating facts."

The Obama IRS Scandal Retreats to the Fever Swamps (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"GOP scandal overreach really did produce a media backlash of sorts, with the press doing a good job of picking apart the various stories and separating the scandal wheat from the chaff. (Those who remember the 1990s should be heartened by what we’ve seen. So far, at least.)"

House GOP Must Do the Math to Avoid the Red Faces (David Hawkings) from Roll Call
"Forgetting this one lesson next time, on the immigration bill, will almost surely prove fatal to the most sweeping domestic policy overhaul of this decade. It will very likely lead to the dismissal of all three men at the helm of the majority caucus. And it could well poison the Republican Party for years in the eyes of the nation's fastest-expanding demographic group."

Immigration Reform Foes Down to Just One Argument (Jay Bookman) from the Atlanta Journal Constitution
"If you oppose the Senate bill, even after all this, you oppose it because you oppose a path to legitimacy for the 11 million or so illegal immigrants in this country. Period. If you oppose the Senate bill, you cast your lot with Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and other hardliners who offer no solution to the problem other than keeping those people in the shadows as a permanent underclass for the rest of their lives."

The Senate GOP’s Primary Problem (Charlie Cook) from the National Journal 
"As both parties prepare for 2014, primaries may again threaten the Republicans’ ability to win a majority."

When Journalists Attack (Jon Favreau) from the Daily Beast
"With its rush to compare Obama to Nixon and to overhype any and all scandals, the media is ruining America’s ability to engage in nuanced debate, says Jon Favreau."

Trump's Iowa Trip Sparks Speculation on Presidential Bid from the Des Moines Register
"Two-time-almost-but-not-quite presidential candidate Donald Trump will make his very first trip to Iowa in August to speak to religious conservative activists sizing up a lineup of possible 2016 candidates."
PERFECT!!  The more clowns the merrier!!  

NAVAL HISTORY NUGGET!!
Mahan, the Forgotten Grand Strategist (Benjamin Armstrong) from National Interest
"Over a hundred years ago there was a strategist, historian and former naval officer who recognized and wrote on these subjects. He developed U.S. strategic approaches to difficult times and laid the foundation for what some have termed “The American Century.” Today, that thinker is all but forgotten in strategic discussions of modern day challenges. Yet the work of Alfred Thayer Mahan is a relevant source and should be considered in realist solutions for twenty-first century international relations."
I mention this guy all the time in many of my courses.

HOLLYWOOD MOVIE NUGGET!!
Jim Carrey’s Rant Against ‘Kick-Ass 2’ and 13 Other Stars Who Hate Their Own Films from the Daily Beast
"Jim Carrey ripped his upcoming film Kick-Ass 2. From Clooney to Theron, stars who hate their own movies."
Interesting.  Virtually none of them come right out and say: "Yeah, I did that dog of a film for the money!"

PAULA DEEN NUGGETS!!
Usually I avoid commenting on the day-in-and-day-out nutiness that comes out of the mouths of cultural figures such as Paula Deen.  However, today we have two VERY INTERESTING, thoughtful, diametrically opposed views on Paula Deen's travails -- each of which I find quite compelling.
Paula’s Worst Ingredients (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"... people can change, growing past wrongful ways in the name of what’s right. We pass new laws. We adopt new language. That’s the recipe for progress: putting justice ahead of habit, principle over precedent. It’s not one that’s been mastered by Deen, whose worst ingredient isn’t corn syrup or Crisco but willful obtuseness."

In Defense of Paula Deen (Charles C. W. Cooke) from National Journal 
"According to the New York Times, in the course of denying that she had “told racial jokes,” Deen, stated that “most jokes” are about Jews, gay people, black people and “rednecks.” “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person,” she said. Indeed, she cannot. Nor can I, and nor can you. Therein lies the problem with elevating “offense” above all considerations."

Monday, June 24, 2013

News Nuggets 1255

DAYLEE PICTURE: The Palouse region of Washington state. From National Geographic.

UP-FRONT BIG-PICTURE FOREIGN POLICY NUGGET!!
America Can Take a Breather. And It Should (Richard Haas) from the New York Times
"Today, there are threats, but they tend to be regional, years away or limited in scale. None rises to the level of being global, immediate and existential. The United States faces no great-power rival. And this is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The biggest strategic question facing America is how to extend this respite rather than squander it."

The Revolt of the Global Middle Class (David Rohde) from the Atlantic 
"Here's what protests in Turkey and Brazil have in common."

The Scary Reality of China’s Debt Crisis (Gwynn Guilford) from Quartz 
"China’s massive stimulus from 2009 to 2011 sunk money into projects that are generating little or no returns. The continuing gush of credit allowed companies to paper over these losses by covering their bad debt with new loans. That combined with the fact that in the last two years, much of those loans haven’t appeared on bank balance sheets, and have instead been issued through shadow lending, has obscured the scale of China’s indebtedness."

How Obama Learned to Deal with the Taliban from National Journal
"The militants' willingness to talk signals weakness—and is the most hopeful sign for the U.S. in Afghanistan in years."

U.S. Charges Snowden with Espionage from the Washington Post
"Snowden was charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint. The last two charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act."

Edward Snowden Leaves Hong Kong: Plane Believed To Be Carrying Leaker Lands In Moscow from the Huffington Post
"An Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong believed to be carrying Edward Snowden landed in Moscow. Russia's state ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unnamed Aeroflot airline official as saying Snowden was on Flight SU213, which landed on Sunday afternoon in Moscow. The report said he intended to fly to Cuba on Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela."
Ah, from one great respecter of civil liberties to another!  I guess Hong Kong wasn't quite the human rights mecca Snowden thought it was.  And what, prey, was the price for the tickets for this dictatorship world tour one might ask?  At each stop, perhaps a rigorous debrief in the airport executive lounge over an extended round of martinis?  Once the authorities in Venezuela are done with him, where next for the intrepid Mr. Snowden?  Shall we finish the tour with Iran and North Korea?  Why not?  Oh, I forgot.  This was all about how threatened our civil liberties are (which they are!) -- it has nothing to do with national security.  My mistake.

Obama to Take Sweeping Action on Climate (Juliet Eilperin) from the Washington Post
"President Obama will announce his intention to limit greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, increase appliance efficiency standards and promote renewable energy development on public lands in a speech Tuesday outlining his plan to use executive powers to address climate change."

Supreme Court Decisions: 3 Blockbusters Among Last Cases from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"The Supreme Court has 11 cases, including the term's highest profile matters, to resolve before the justices take off for summer vacations, teaching assignments and international travel.  The court is meeting Monday for its last scheduled session, but will add days until all the cases are disposed of.  A look at some of the cases:..."

Young and Isolated from the New York Times
"Young working-class men and women like Diana are trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs and shrinking social support networks. Today, only 20 percent of men and women between 18 and 29 are married. They live at home longer, spend more years in college, change jobs more frequently and start families later."

The Decline and Fall of the English Major (Verlyn Klinkenborg) from the New York Times
"The teaching of the humanities has fallen on hard times. So says a new report on the state of the humanities by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and so says the experience of nearly everyone who teaches at a college or university. ,,, Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences. But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your
conversation with the world around you. No one has found a way to put a dollar sign on this kind of literacy ..."

The counterpoint to Klinkenborg's piece:
8 College Degrees with the Worst Return on Investment from Salaries.com 
"These Careers Might Make You Happy, But Fail the Tuition ROI (Return on Investment) Test
Amazing.  History is not on the list!

Conservatives Pledge To Defy Any Marriage Equality Ruling The Supreme Court Reaches from the Huffington Post
"In a letter released Thursday, more than 200 conservative activists -- ranging from the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue to Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (R) -- vowed to ignore any ruling in favor of same-sex couples. The group of endorsers, signing under the moniker of Freedom Federation, is composed of anti-LGBT Christian conservatives, many of whom have fallen from prominence in recent years."

Republicans Face a Choice: Expand or Expire (Charlie Cook) from National Journal
"Conservatives who think their party can prosper by opposing immigration reform are kidding themselves. ... Implicit in both arguments is the notion that Republicans will remain a competitive party nationally and stay dominant in certain states if they can prevent Hispanic immigrants from becoming citizens and gaining voting rights. But that position ignores the fact that the 45.5 million Hispanics already in this country legally are registering to vote and are seeing the Republican Party as distinctly hostile"

Border Surge Meets Bluster Surge (Charles Blow) from the New York Times 
"McCain is hinting at something that I’ll say outright: opposition to a path to citizenship among many Republicans isn’t about border security; it’s about complexions and elections. Many see a pathway to citizenship as a poison pill for the party. No amount of “surging” can sugarcoat it."

The GOP’s Kamikazes Are Back (Eleanor Clift) from the Daily Beast
"The House GOP rump is once again running the show, leaving John Boehner scrambling and donors increasingly exasperated. Eleanor Clift on how the far right is derailing Republican reform efforts."

The House GOP Revolts: John Boehner Officially has No Control Over his Caucus The Speaker Suffers Another Embarrassing Defeat at the Hands of his Own Party (Jon Terbush) from The Week
"The embarrassing defeat for Boehner comes one year after he opted to not even bring the massive, $940 billion measure to the floor for a vote because of Republican objections. ... Many pundits pointed to the defeat as further evidence that Boehner is a singularly ineffective speaker who cannot control the far right wing of his caucus."

For John Boehner, it’s Job Security vs. Legacy (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"In all instances, Boehner faces a choice: his job or his legacy. He can enact landmark compromises but lose his job in a conservative coup. Or he can keep his job but get nothing much done. With a few exceptions — the “fiscal cliff” deal, Hurricane Sandy aid — Boehner has chosen job security over achievement. ... Boehner’s stance blocking an immigration compromise may preserve his speakership, but it would keep his party on what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) calls a “demographic death spiral” as Latino voters shun the GOP."

Who had the Worst Week in Washington? House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"Coming on the heels of a quixotic vote forced by social conservatives who want to ban abortion after 20 weeks, the problem is obvious: Republican leaders are leaders in name only. They lack the ability to lead their fractious conference anywhere."

2016 Election: GOP Basic Strategy Looks Deeply Unsettled (Charles Babington) from the Associated Press via the Huffington Post
"The Republican Party's road map for winning presidential elections looks hazier than ever as GOP lawmakers and others reject what many considered obvious lessons from Mitt Romney's loss last year. House Republicans are rebelling against the key recommendation of a party-sanctioned post-mortem: embrace "comprehensive immigration reform" or suffer crippling losses among Hispanic voters in 2016 and beyond."

Demographic Winter? Republicans Ensuring their Own Demise (Dante Atkins) from Daily Kos
"It was expected that at some point in the next 10 years, the baby boomers whose generational progress has shaped our nation's concerns and culture would pass away in numbers too great for the existing birthrate to replace them. What was future, however, is now present. ... And while the
sociocultural consequences of America's continuing color shift are certainly up for debate, the political consequences are far less so."

Can Democrats Win Back the Deep South? (Molly Ball) from the Atlantic 
"It may be less far-fetched than you think, at least according to a new crop of activists who are trying to turn back the Republican tide in America's reddest region."

AMUSEMENT PARK NUGGET!!
When the Fun Stops: Inside the Scores of Abandoned Theme Parks Across America from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Amusement parks are supposed to be the scene of some your happiest memories: whether it be the speed of the roller-coasters or the serenity of a Ferris wheel, there really is 'fun for all the family' at many of these attractions around the world. But when the people don't come and these fantasy lands are left to fall into rack and ruin, they appear to take an other-worldliness unto themselves."

BIG RODENT NUGGET!!
'It's No Different to Having a Dog or Cat': The Texas Couple who Share their Home with an EIGHT-STONE Capybara Named Gary... and Even Let Him Sleep in their Bed from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Melanie Typaldos, 57, shares her home with a giant rodent named Gary.  Pet capybara sleeps in her bed and enjoys dips in backyard pool.  Eight-stone creature, similar to a giant guinea pig, is 'part of the family'."
This reminds me of the Bill Peet classic from the 1960s, Cappy Boppy -- with a happier ending!

POVERTY PHOTO NUGGET!!
The Faces of Homelessness, Beyond Stereotypes (David Rosenberg) from Slate 
"Dutch photographer Jan Banning’s interest in social and political subjects and his skill as a portrait photographer seemed the perfect fit for a story on the American South’s homeless population. In 2010, Banning was invited to be an artist-in-residence at the 701 Center for
Contemporary Art in Columbia, S.C., where they suggested he focus on homelessness for a photography series."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

News Nuggets 1254

DAYLEE PICTURE: The rare Theloderma Corticale frog from Northern Vietnam and China.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

A Nation Divided Against Itself (Charles Blow) from the New York Times 
"America is quickly splitting itself into two separate countries, regional enclaves of rigid politics."

Food Stamp Cuts Derail Farm Bill from the Huffington Post
"The bill's stunning failure sets back for a second year progress on the country's agricultural policies and gives House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) a fresh black eye after his chamber failed to move a farm bill last year. The Senate has passed its version twice, with large majorities."

Farm Bill’s Failure Poisons Well in House (Emma Dumain and Steven Dennis) from Roll Call
"“It shows [Boehner] can’t pass anything with his own votes,” a Democratic leadership aide said. “The progress with immigration needs to be bipartisan … the only answer is, they gotta work with Democrats. They don’t have a choice.” ... Most Democrats opposed the bill, unhappy with a $20.5 billion, 10-year cut to food stamps and backed by a White House veto threat, while Republicans split into competing factions, with a sizable group egged on by a host of conservative interest groups opposed the bill over concerns it did not cut deeply enough."

The Failure of the Farm Bill — and Why House Republicans Can’t be Led (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"The big takeaway from the failure of the farm bill is that House Republicans simply cannot be led by anyone at the moment. That means you should be wary of predictions about the fate of the immigration bill in the House, among others pieces of pending legislation."

Tea Party Scalds Marco Rubio (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post 
"The speed with which the tea party turned on Rubio is stunning, beginning earlier this year with complaints from conservative commentators and now open mockery at a Capitol Hill rally."

The Hillary Bandwagon (A.B. Stoddard) from The Hill
"Ready for Hillary? You better be. ... Clinton herself is endorsing the effort by actively engaging in presidential foreplay as well. ... Democrats are not wondering what Hillary’s plans are, but working out when they should jump on the bandwagon."

Illinois GOP Official Pens Allegedly Racist Attack on Black GOP Candidate from the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch
"A county Republican Party chairman in central Illinois called a black female congressional candidate the “love child” of the Democratic party; a “street walker” whose “pimps” are party leaders; and suggested that after the election, she will be “working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires.” And it's a Republican candidate he's talking about."

Has Jeb's Time Come? (Jon Meacham) from Time Magazine
"Genes, family history and shifting demographics explain why another Bush may run in 2016."

Data You Can Believe In from the New York Times
"The Obama Campaign’s Digital Masterminds Cash In."

HOPE-FOR-PAWS NUGGET!!
Community Building Heroes from Dogheirs

CMU HISTORY GRAD NUGGET!!
Department of Energy’s Crusade Against Leaks of a Potent Greenhouse Gas Yields Results from the New York Times
"... By tightening valves, replacing worn gaskets and such, Josh Silverman and the department’s engineers have managed to cut the annual leaks of one gas by about 35,000 pounds. ... Which would seem a pittance. Except that this gas is sulfur hexafluoride, the most potent greenhouse gas in existence..."

ABANDONED PLACES NUGGET!!
Beneath the Waves, Lost to the Desert Sands, or Simply Reclaimed by Nature, These are Some of the World’s Most Beautiful Locations that Civilisation Abandoned from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"From disused fairgrounds to neglected cliff-top hotels, these atmospheric pictures of urban decay and abandoned buildings show just how rapid decline can be without human attention."
British army's old World War II anti-aircraft towers at Redsands in Kent.  From the Daily Mail.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

News Nuggets 1253

DAYEE PICTURE: A chilled-out kangaroo.  From National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.  See the last nugget in today's posting for more spectacular images!!

UP-FRONT FOOD & POLITICS NUGGET!!
GOP Aide Goes on Popsicle-fueled Right-wing Publicity Stunt in Favor of Cutting Food Stamps (Laura Clawson) from Daily Kos
All in one, this is hilarious, deeply disturbing, and quite revealing! 
"Where two dozen Democratic members of the House did a SNAP challenge themselves, eating on the average food stamp budget for a week, Stockman had an aide do the challenge and then announce that it's a breeze, no problem, we can totally cut the program. ... Well, let's take a look at what Stockman communications director and master of the universe Donny Ferguson bought as his entire food supply for a week:..."

The Dilemmas of Cold Fish Diplomacy (Daniel W. Drezner) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"In practice, of course, it's worth remembering that Tony Blair was both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush's closest friend on the global stage.  Those friendships produced... mixed results.  So maybe, in the end, this is a big bunch of nothing."

IRS Scandal’s Origins Become Clearer Amid Other Questions (Richard Rubin) from Bloomberg News
"The origin of the U.S. tax agency’s scrutiny of small-government groups is becoming clearer as lawmakers release transcribed interviews with IRS workers."

On Glenn Greenwald and His Fans (Rick Perlstein) from the Nation
"Here’s the thing: I suspect Perlstein, Charles Pierce, Dave Niewert and I—to mention the commenters here I’ve actually met—could have a spirited exchange about these issues, maybe even change each others’ minds somewhat. That can’t happen with Greenwald, whom I’ve never met, becuase the FIRST thing he does out of the box is accuse anyody who disagrees with him of bad faith. That not only makes him a poor advocate, it weakens one’s trust in his reporting.” He’s losing friends. Soon, his friends, and his luck, may run out."
I think Perlstein is WAY too harsh on Obama in this piece, (Ah, it is so easy being president!) -- but he's on the money when it comes to Greenwald.

Silver vs Politico (Andrew Sullivan) from The Dish
"The distortive effect of Politico actually corrodes democracy, in my view, because it constantly prioritizes the 6-hour news cycle and the higher inside-bullshit to tell us allegedly what is happening in
Washington. We can mistake that for what matters in Washington for the 300 million people it’s supposed to represent."
Politico is not alone in this -- I see all the news cable networks as the worst offenders in this area.

Autopsy On GOP Social Issues Is ‘Grossly Overstated’ Say GOP Lawmakers from Talking Points Memo
"Republican lawmakers have a message for those who want the party to soften its emphasis on social conservatism in hopes of reaching a wider national audience: Not so fast. ...  The actions reflect a roiling debate among Republicans over why they lost two elections to President Barack Obama, and how best to rebuild a winning formula."

The GOP's Clueless Caucus from Politico
"No matter what the party leadership is up to in a given month, there’s almost invariably a back-bencher in the House of Representatives or a C-list player out in the states who’s only too eager to take the wind out of a conservative comeback with some incendiary comment that seizes national attention."

Today’s GOP vs. Tomorrow’s GOP on Immigration (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"As the immigration vote nears, writes Michael Tomasky, Republicans face a stark choice: between the present-day wishes of GOP legislators and the party’s future national hopes."

Phil Gingrey, In DOMA Speech, Says Children Should Take Classes On Traditional Gender Roles from the Huffington Post
"Gingrey is also the latest of several prominent Republicans to suggest that children suffer when their mothers don't fit traditional gender roles. Fox News pundit Erick Erickson recently lamented the fact that many women are the primary breadwinners in their households and said that "kids most likely will do best in households where they have a mom at home nurturing them while dad is out bringing home the bacon.""
Believe it or not, I actually do agree with at least element of what Gingrey is arguing here: that boys and young men need to get the message to take their "father" roles very seriously and with a long-term, deep commitment. Erikson's sputtering is just the latest form of Eisenhower-era mis-rememberance.  

CRIMINAL JUSTICE NUGGET!!
The Guilty Man (Pamela Colloff) from Texas Monthly
"The jury regarded him with what appeared to be both sympathy and
fascination. One of the many strange aspects of The State of Texas v. Mark Alan Norwood was that at no point during the eight-day trial would the jurors hear that Michael himself had previously been found guilty of the crime, or that he had spent nearly 25 years behind bars."

DOMESTIC ABUSE NUGGET!!
My Mom was an Underground Railroad for Abused Women: What She Taught Me About Feminism and Fear (Haley Elkins) from XOJane
Once, my mom spotted a bruised woman with three children holding a cardboard sign in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It was pouring down rain. I was seven. “Stay in the car,” she said, locking me in."

URBAN DECLINE NUGGET!!
The Indiana Town that May be Cut in HALF to Save it From Destitution from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Ghost town of Gary plans to demolish neighborhoods and sell decaying homes for $1 to combat crippling depression.  Gary was once the centre of the country's booming steel industry .  Mayor is now trying to come up with a drastic solution to save the city.  Economic competition from abroad forced a 90 percent job cut."

NATURE PHOTO NUGGET!!
The Most Spectacular Wildlife Photos From The National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest from Buzz Feed Animals
"The world is amazing. You can see all the entries over at National Geographic."
The Galactic Squid

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

News Nuggets 1252

DAYEE PICTURE: Jökulsárlón Beach in Iceland.  From National Geographic.

Iran President-Elect Wants to Ease Strains With U.S., but Sees No Direct Talks from the New York Times
"In his first news conference after winning Friday’s presidential election promising more freedoms and better relations with the outside world, Mr. Rowhani called the issue of nonexistent relations between Iran and the United States “an old wound, which must be healed.”"

The U.S.-Russian Information Gap (Paul J. Saunders) from the National Interest
"Spats on Syria at the G-8 highlighted how the Western and Russian media have different interpretations of the same world."

After Slow Start, Obama Administration Finds its Voice on Surveillance (Michael Crowley) from Time Magazine
"After a stunned, fumbling response to Edward Snowden’s leaks, a clearer defense of NSA and FBI programs."

Snowden’s Questionable New Turn (David Firestone) from the New York Times 
"In the last few days, however, Mr. Snowden’s leaks have taken a questionable turn. He told the South China Morning Post that the United States had hacked into many Chinese computer systems, including those at universities and businesses. And yesterday he showed documents to the Guardian revealing that the N.S.A. and its British counterpart had spied on politicians from around the world who attended the 2009 G-20 summit in London.  These documents are of a different and more dubious order than the first ones."
Another Julian Assange.

As I said...
Echoes of Julian Assange in Edward Snowden’s Latest Comments (Zeke J Miller) from Time Magazine
"Both men suggest that much, if not all, American spying abroad is wrong, including the spying on allies and foreign leaders that perhaps every government has practiced for decades, if not centuries."

Cummings Releases Full Transcript of IRS Screening Manager Interview (Jed Lewison) from Daily Kos
"So now we know why Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa didn't want to to release the full transcripts—they show everything he's been saying is bunk."

IRS Official: White House Was Not Involved In Targeting Of Conservative Groups from the Huffington Post
"Interviewers also asked Shafer if he told his screeners to specifically pull Tea Party cases. "Again, I was not asking them for those kind of cases," he said. "[I]f I would have directed them to pull our Tea Party cases, little Susie's Tea Party would have been pulled and it wasn't.""

Immigration Reform Seen Cutting Billions From Deficit from the New York Times
"A long-awaited analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that the benefits of an increase in legal residents would outweigh the costs."

The Need to Feed The Crazy will Cost the GOP (Jonathan Bernstein) from the Washington Post
"Could the Republican need to obsessively oppose Obamacare, even if the alternative is something that they themselves would regard as improving it, run smack into the priorities of their allies — and leave clergy, of all groups, paying the price?"

Mitch McConnell’s Not-Very-Threatening Filibuster Threat (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"McConnell’s counter-threat is notable for a couple reasons. First, he is not promising to respond in kind to Reid, but to escalate. ... Second the frightening specifics of McConnell’s threat turn out to be … not very frightening:"

Why Democrats Are Already Jumping Aboard the Hillary Clinton Bandwagon (Josh Kraushaar) from National Journal
"Claire McCaskill's endorsement was a bow to reality: Democrats don't want to challenge Clinton in 2016."

ACADEMIA NUGGET!!
Is There a “Liberal Bias” in Academia? from Salon
Sociologist Neil Gross dispels the myth that college campuses are overrun with lefty East Coast intellectuals."

Monday, June 17, 2013

News Nuggets 1251

DAYLEE PICTURE: An Eastern Screech Owl in Georgia.  From National Geographic.

Heavy Pressure Led to Decision by Obama on Syrian Arms from the New York Times
"...when Mr. Obama agreed this week for the first time to send small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebel forces, he had to be almost dragged into the decision at a time when critics, some advisers and even Bill Clinton were pressing for more action. Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement."

The Security-Industrial Complex: The Culture of Secrecy in Washington has Become Absurd (David Rohde) from the Atlantic
"An odd thing is happening in the world's self-declared pinnacle of democracy. No one -- except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors -- is allowed to know how America's surveillance leviathan works."

The U.S. Should Help Mideast Moderates (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"What is America’s strategy in the Middle East? That question is more urgent as the Obama administration finally moves to arm the Syrian opposition. The United States needs a framework that connects its policy in Syria with what’s happening in Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey and elsewhere in the region."

The Martyr’s Cause (Anne Applebaum) from Slate
"Edward Snowden wants to be seen as a martyr. But is he?"

What Sweden Can Tell Us About Obamacare (Robert Frank) from the New York Times
"They have spent their lives under a system in which most health care providers work directly for the government. Like economists in most other countries, they tend to be skeptical of large bureaucracies. So if extensive government involvement in health care is indeed a recipe for doom, they should have clear evidence of that by now. Yet none of them voiced the kinds of complaints about recalcitrant bureaucrats and runaway health costs that invariably surface in similar conversations with American colleagues."

When Work Disappears (Megan McArdle) from the Daily Beast
"It's impossible to look at what's happening to the bottom half of American society and not worry.  ...  Some of it is economic, the disappearance of steady employment that allows people to do the bourgeois work of planning for the future.  ... A community cannot insist that its members work hard and plan for the future if there are no jobs available; the resulting erosion of work and education ethics makes unemployment worse. "

On Civil Liberties, Comparing Obama With Bush Is Easy — And Mostly Wrong (Joe Conason) from National Memo
"... anyone paying attention has known about this program since 2006, when USA Today first disclosed its existence. The most important difference today is that Americans are no longer too frightened by the constant “terror alerts” of the Bush administration to consider the boundaries of surveillance and security.  Rather than hyping the terrorist threat, like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, President Obama has repeatedly framed a calmer — if equally resolute — attitude toward Islamist extremism."

Evangelicals to GOP: Don't Betray Us on Abortion from Politico
"...social conservatives in town this weekend for the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference said the GOP would be making a grave mistake to ignore the hot-button culture-war issue. To the contrary, they believe it’s key to the party’s fortunes in the 2014 midterms and beyond."

GOP’s John McCain Problem (Jonathan Bernstein) from Salon
"The reason he still speaks for them on foreign policy: They hate substance and literally have no other "experts""

Poll: America’s Confidence in Congress Falls to Record Low from Time Magazine
"A new Gallup poll shows that just 10% of Americans have confidence in Congress, the lowest among any institution since 1973."

From Fox News to Rush: Secrets of the Right’s Lie Machine from Salon  
"Conservative media plays by its rules, and bends truth to back whatever argument they’ve decided to make that day."

House GOP Revolt Against Immigration Reform Begins (George Zornick) from the Nation
"... lurking in the background is an even more difficult fight in the House, where the Republican caucus is much more hostile to reform. House members are beholden to smaller, more conservative districts, and there are no leaders calling for reform analogous to Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain in the Senate."

The Fringe Factor: Rape Still Won't Get You Pregnant (Caitlin Dickson) from the Daily Beast
"Rape still won't get you pregnant, Obama owes Oklahoma an apology for spending on climate change research, and other bold statements from our fearless political leaders this week."

The Grand Old Party is Stuck on Stupid (Crystal Wright) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"After losing the 2012 presidential election the "GOP establishment" from former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and every white man in between acknowledged that the party must make "the tent" more welcoming to minorities and women – where the votes increasingly are. So what does the GOP do? It keeps headlining white men behaving badly."

Speaking of "stuck on stupid" -- case in point:
W.Va. Backlash Emerging Over Education Standards from the Associated Press via the Intelligencer Wheeling News Register
"West Virginia is sticking with new standards for math, reading and writing in public schools, but faces opposition fueled by the tea party movement, which believes the benchmarks are part of an attempted federal takeover of local education authority."
This is nutty ON SO MANY LEVELS!!  God forbid that your kids should read at a certain level by the time they reach fourth grade!!  What do you mean trying to force my child to develop subversive skills like ... critical thinking!?

The Not-So-Good Old Days (stephanie Coontz) from the New York Times 
"The idyllic 1950s and ’60s? Wages went further, but rights and opportunities for many were severely limited."

SUCCESSFUL LIFE NUGGET!!
A Call for a Movement to Redefine the Successful Life from the New York Times
I was intrigued when I was told that a conference was being held on the very issue of redefining success. And, separately, that American Express had recently released a study showing that Americans were thinking of success in different ways than in the past. “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power” was the conference presented last week ..."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

News Nuggets 1250


DAYLEE PICTURE: A Grey Squirrel in Saint James Park in London.  From the Atlantic.

As will sometimes be the case this summer, the Nuggetsman will be on the road Friday -- so the next posting will be on Monday.

UP-FRONT FOREIGN POLICY NUGGET!!
China is Not the World’s Other Superpower (Fareed Zakaria) from the Washington Post
"China is the world’s second-largest economy and, because of its size, will one day become the largest. (On a per-capita basis, it is a middle-income country, and it might never surpass the United States in that regard.) But power is defined along many dimensions, and by most political, military, strategic and cultural measures, China is a great but not global power. For now, it lacks the intellectual ambition to set the global agenda."

U.S., Citing Use of Chemical Weapons by Syria, to Provide Direct Military Support to Rebels from the Washington Post
"The United States has concluded that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in its fight against opposition forces, and President Obama has authorized direct U.S. military support to the rebels, the White House said Thursday."

My “Faith” In Obama (Andrew Sullivan) from The Dish
"... judging political events in real times does require some grip on the character of those in office, and the inevitable compromises that requires, and I remain an admirer of Obama’s temperament, pragmatism and small-c conservatism. And I don’t think that abstract ideological issues can ignore the role of human beings and their prudential judgments over time. A conservative will always recognize that there is no substitute for character in political leaders and that representative government requires some basic form of – sorry – minimal trust if it is to function at all."

The Tragic Fall of the White Race in America (Josh Marshall) from Talking Points Memo
"Let’s not mince words. It’s hard being a white person in America. I hadn’t noticed this but that’s what everyone seems to say. So I was struck when a group of stories came together today in what seemed like a serendipitous way. ... There are now enough non-white people in America and just as critically enough whites who are either at least comfortable or even welcome being in a multiracial party and country, that the electoral calculus has changed. And that’s a really good thing."

Some on the Right Going Too Far in NSA Criticism (Michael Gerson) from the Washington Post
"It is one thing to oppose the policies of the administration; it is another to call for resistance against a “regime” and a “police state.” It is the difference between skepticism about government and hatred for government. And it raises the question: How is it even possible to love such an Amerika?"
It is almost too late for any kind of rational conversation between sane GOP types like Gerson and the main Tea Party currents that represent the base opinion of the Republican Party.  Given the firestorms of partisan rhetoric that are blowing through the right-wing alternative universe right now, Gerson's admonitions will fall on deaf ears.  I have very little concern that either the Benghazi breakdowns, the IRS scandal, the AP press story, or now the NSA surveillance story will substantively impact the course Obama has set.  This is NOT because there aren' things to criticize or to find major fault with.  No -- it's because Obama's critics are more connected with their dark anti-gov't fantasies than they are with reality -- even at the highest levels of gov't.  It's like asking clowns in brightly-colored diapers to teach advanced calculus.  There's just way too much distraction in the space to take what they say seriously. See the following as a case in point.

Darrell Issa's IRS Investigation Is Falling Apart (Joshua Green) from Businessweek
"...after a burst of attention, Issa’s investigation appears to have stalled. ... The news this week that he won’t release the full transcripts of his interviews with IRS officials—interviews he selectively quoted from to imply White House complicity—suggests that what they contain may in fact exonerate the administration of the very charge Issa is laboring so hard to prosecute."

Edward Snowden’s Misplaced Idealism (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"... maybe he would argue that he’s answering to a higher moral code, or that Congress and the courts are wrongly interpreting the Constitution. These claims will be tested in the coming debate, but we should be wary about endorsing any contention that it’s okay to violate laws because you’re acting on higher authority."

Unpaid Internships on ‘Black Swan’ Violated the Law. So Are They Dead? (David Freedlander) from the Daily Beast
"A judge for the Southern District of New York ruled Wednesday that Fox Searchlight violated the law by not paying interns on ‘Black Swan.’ David Freedlander on whether unpaid internships are on their way out."

North Carolina Is the New Wisconsin (Ari Berman) from the Nation
"Like in Wisconsin, a homegrown grassroots resistance movement has emerged—and grown rapidly—to challenge the drastic right-wing agenda unveiled by Republicans in the state. Just like the Koch brothers backed Scott Walker, the Koch’s billionaire ally and close associate Art Pope funded North Carolina’s Republican takeover in 2010 and 2012."

Three Signs Republicans Haven't Learned Any Lessons From 2012 (Josh Kraushaar) from National Journal
"After last year's drubbing, Republicans vowed to change their ways. But as 2013 wears on, they’re sticking to the script that got them in trouble."

CLASSIC MOVIE NUGGET!!
Cruising Through Town He Put on the Map from the New York Times
"For the past hour, Mr. Lucas had served as the grand marshal of a classic-car parade, the highlight of this city’s annual three-day American Graffiti Car Show festival, which took place last weekend."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

News Nuggets 1249

DAYLEE PICTURE: A newly discovered species of Tree Frog in Mozambique.  From National Geographic.

Obama and Xi at Sunnylands: A Good Start from the Brooking Institution 
"... the two leaders appear to have genuinely connected in a positive way during their eight hours together. ... On specific issues, Obama and Xi appear to have had the most agreement on North Korea: on the strategic dangers posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, and on the need to fully enforce the resolutions of the UN Security Council to create pressure on the North ..."

Analyst Overstated Claims on NSA Leaks, Experts Say from the Los Angeles Times
"... analysts said that Snowden seems to have greatly exaggerated the amount of information available to him and people like him. Any NSA analyst "at any time can target anyone, any selector, anywhere," Snowden told the Guardian. "I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email." Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the NSA and CIA, called the claim a "complete and utter" falsehood.."

On the NSA, “This Is Bullshit” (Andrew Sullivan) from The Dish
"If you read one commentary on the meta-data gathering by the US government, do yourself a favor and read David Simon’s. The creator of “The Wire,” he is not exactly unversed in the intricacies of government power, police work and, er, surveillance. And he, even more than I, is baffled by the tsunami of self-righteous indignation."

The Civil-Liberties Freak-Out (Joe Klein) from Time Magazine
"Unaccustomed as I am to agreeing with Marc Thiessen, hell has frozen over and he’s on the right track about the National Security Agency–leaks nonscandal. First of all, we pretty much knew everything that has “broken” in the past week. The NSA has been involved in a legal data-mining operation for almost a decade."

Snowden is No Hero (Jeffrey Toobin) from the New Yorker
"These were legally authorized programs; in the case of Verizon Business’s phone records, Snowden certainly knew this, because he leaked the very court order that approved the continuation of the project. So he wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done."

Edward Snowden’s Grandiosity (Matt Miller) from the Washington Post 
"... has the history of abuse of power, and the special danger from such abuses in an age in which privacy seems to be vanishing, leave you hailing any exposure of secret government methods as grounds for sainthood? There are people I respect who say Snowden is a hero. I think they’re dead wrong."

Russia Says It Would Consider Asylum For Edward Snowden from the Huffington Post
Another great civil liberties bastion heard from!
"Russia would consider granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday. ... Snowden has not made any requests for asylum yet, but Peskov told Russian newspaper Kommersant, "If such an appeal is given, it will be
considered.""

Obama's Immigration Dilemma: Leading While Following (Frank James) from NPR's It's All Politics
"His challenge is to show just enough presidential leadership on an issue he campaigned on but not so much that he fires up those opposed to him on general principle, the Senate immigration legislation or both."

Making History: President Obama’s Female Judicial Nominees from the Alliance for Justice
"President Obama has the best record of any President in appointing women to the federal judiciary.
His historic firsts include: * President Obama is the first President to appoint two women to the Supreme Court. Because of those appointments, three women sit on  the Supreme Court for the first time in its history. * Forty-two percent of his appointees have been women – a rate almost double that of President George W. Bush (22%) and almost fifty percent greater than that of President Clinton (29%).  * President Obama already has appointed more female federal judges that President George W. Bush did in his entire presidency (80 to 71)."

North Carolina Punishes Owners of Gas Efficient Cars (Daniel Gross) from the Daily Beast
"It’s hard to see why else the state would propose a measure to lay a special tax on owners of hybrid and electric cars, writes Daniel Gross."
Breath-taking.   It is this kind of in-your-face irrational nihilism that almost guarantees that young people (who as a group are deeply concerned about global warming) will continue to turn away from the GOP.

Michelle Obama Is Reveling in Her Lame-Duck Status as First Lady (Michelle Cottle) from the Daily Beast
"She’s out confronting hecklers, showing off new moves with Jimmy Fallon, skipping Chinese summits—Michelle Obama, ambivalent and buttoned up in her first term, is finally free, says Michelle Cottle."

SAD PUNDIT NUGGET!!
All Good Things... (David Frum) from the Daily Beast
"Unfortunately, family and personal matters must claim my attention for some time to come. ... Yet as I dim the lights here at the FrumBlog, I note that the intellectual project of conservative reform remains still at very early days. Here are five essential tasks to commence before conservative reform truly rolls forward."
Just what the world doesn't need right now -- one less highly intelligent, pragmatic THINKING conservative.  I will miss his voice for as long as he is away.

MOVIE NUGGET!!
Hannah Arendt On The Big Screen from NPR's On Point program
"Hannah Arendt’s political theory rocked the 20th century with “the banality of evil.” A new movie looks at the life and mind of Hannah Arendt."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

News Nuggets 1248


DAYLEE PICTURE: The Sanduki region in the Khakassia Republic in Russia.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Inside the NSA's Ultra-Secret China Hacking Group (Matthew Aid) from Foreign Policy Magazine
"Deep within the National Security Agency, an elite, rarely discussed team of hackers and spies is targeting America's enemies abroad."

PRISM Program: Obama Administration Held 22 Briefings For Congress On Key FISA Law from the Huffington Post
"Obama administration officials held 22 separate briefings or meetings for members of Congress on the law that has been used to justify the National Security Agency's controversial email monitoring program, according to data provided by a senior administration official."

Snowden and the Right (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast
"Conservatives may lionize Edward Snowden now, says Michael Tomasky, but ultimately his actions are going to tear apart the GOP."
Concerning the NSA leaker, rarely have I seen so much misguided media hype!!  So many now seem to be hailing Snowden as one of the great "whistle-blowers" of all time!  He says he became "disenchanted" with the scale and depth of NSA data-gathering.  Am I missing something?  The man just did a massive data dump and fled to ... Hong Kong!?  Not Switzerland.  Not Paris or some other established haven for civil libertarians.  Why Hong Kong?  You have to ask yourself: why would the Chinese grant protection to an intelligence leaking martyr?  Answer: they wouldn't.  The LAST thing Chinese authorities would want is for anyone on their side to do what Snowden has done.  However, they WOULD grant protection to one of their own spies.  I do not know if Snowden is a spy -- but I find it interesting that virtually no one seems to be bringing more skepticism to Snowden's story!

I am in error.  There are a few looking deeper:
NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate (Bob Cesca) from the Daily Banter
"It turns out, the NSA PRISM story isn’t quite the bombshell that everyone said it was. Yes, there continues to be a serious cause for concern when it comes to government spying and overreach with its counter-terrorism efforts. But the reporting from Glenn Greenwald and the Washington Post has been shoddy and misleading."

Inside the ‘Q Group,’ the Directorate Hunting Down Edward Snowden (Eli Lake) from the Daily Beast
"The top-secret ‘Q Group’ has been chasing Edward Snowden since he disappeared in May. Eli Lake on the intel community’s internal police—and why the agency is in ‘complete freakout mode.’"

Edward Snowden’s Employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, Has a Huge PR Problem (Daniel Gross) from the Daily Beast
"The NSA leaker might have been a rogue Booz Allen Hamilton employee. But he made the company’s biggest client, the U.S. government, look terrible—and that can’t be good for business, says Daniel Gross."

The Big Shrug (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"while insiders no longer seem determined to worry about the wrong things, that’s not enough; they also need to start worrying about the right things — namely, the plight of the jobless and the immense continuing waste from a depressed economy. And that’s not happening."

Once Strident, College Republicans Now Seek Moderate Tone For the GOP (Alex Rogers) from Time Magazine 
"The once-activist arm of the Republican party, a breeding ground for the next generation of conservative consultants and politicians, has joined the long-term effort to distance itself from the grassroots’ occasionally controversial rhetoric. TIME spoke this week with Alex Smith, the National Chair of the CRNC, to discuss the study’s findings."

Elijah Cummings Outplays Darrell Issa (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"The unidentified man told investigators that workers in that office instigated the reviews on their own, that he was unaware of a political motivation behind the extra scrutiny to conservative groups’ applying for tax-exempt status, and that there was no evidence of any White House involvement."

Christie, Paul Offer Models for How GOP Can Compete in Blue States (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post 
"In the six elections beginning with 1992, the Republicans’ Electoral College base has shrunk by nearly half, while Democrats have built an even bigger bulwark than the GOP enjoyed in its presidential heyday."

GRATITUDE NUGGET!!