Friday, February 28, 2014

News Nuggets 1395

DAYLEE PICTURE: The National Library of China in Beijing thronged with students.  From National Geographic.

It's been a while, but Friedman actually has some very interesting propositions he's put forward.  An extended excerpt is in order.
Don’t Just Do Something. Sit There. (Thomas Friedman) from the New York Times
"What we have today is the combination of an older game and a newer game. The biggest geopolitical divide in the world today “is between those countries who want their states to be powerful and those countries who want their people to be prosperous,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins. ... But there is also now a third and growing category of countries, which can’t project power or build prosperity. They constitute the world of “disorder.” They are actually power and prosperity sinks because they are consumed in internal fights over primal questions ... the states that are more focused on building prosperity are trying to avoid getting too involved in the world of disorder. Though ready to help mitigate humanitarian tragedies there, they know that when you “win” one of these countries in today’s geopolitical game, all you win is a bill."
Read the whole column.  This understandable reluctance on the part of the US, western Europeans and others is a critical weakness in standoffs with countries operating from the traditional "power politics" framework (such as China, Russia et al.).  As in the lead up to World War II (where western powers were more concerned about recovering from the Great Depression and were incapable of rousing themselves in the face of Japanese and German aggression) will we see a similar pattern of handwringing as China asserts influence in the Pacific and Russia meddles in the Ukraine and elsewhere?  My suspicion is that both China and Russia have concluded that this is the case.  You will see US hawks try to use these developments to challenge Obama's proposed defense cuts.  And yet, I am not convinced that throwing more money at the US military will make any difference here.  As a precondition to doing anything, in the US and western Europe and elsewhere, average people need to care about what's happening In Eastern Europe and in the Pacific, and stop tolerating the escalating domestic politicization of foreign policy (more Benghazi anyone?).  What I see emerging now is a growing convergence of interest for Russia and China where they tag team each other in keeping the western alliance distracted -- as each in turn asserts new claims and makes more provocative hegemonic moves.  

Latest case in point: the already mentioned Ukraine:
Ukraine: Pro-Russia Gunmen Seize Government Buildings In Crimea from the Associated Press
"Dozens of heavily armed gunmen seized control of local government buildings in Ukraine's Crimea region early Thursday and raised the Russian flag, mirroring the three-month protest movement that drove Ukraine's pro-Russian president into hiding last week. The moves escalated tensions in Ukraine, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West."

Can Ukraine Avoid Partition? (Daniel Hannan) from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
Hannan's analysis and maps are definitely worth looking over here as the situation in Ukraine seems to be deteriorating.
"Alexander Solzhenitsyn grumpily accepted that western Ukrainians, after the horrors of the Soviet era, had been permanently alienated from Mother Russia; but he insisted that the frontiers were arbitrarily drawn under Lenin. If Ukrainians claimed independence on grounds of having a separate national identity, he argued, they must extend their own logic to the Russian-speakers east of the Dnieper."

Spotlight on Crimea (Eric Lohr, Anya Schmemann) from the National Interest 
"Crimea, a majority-Russian-speaking peninsula in the south of Ukraine on the Black Sea coast, could become the next flashpoint in the Ukrainian crisis. History is a big part of the problem."

Rising Tensions in the Pacific (David Ignatius) from Real Clear World  
"It is a sign of the times that delegates here talked openly about the danger of war in the Pacific. That's a big change from the tone of similar gatherings just a few years ago, when Chinese officials often tried to reassure foreign experts that a rising China wasn't on a collision course with the U.S. or regional powers. Now, in the East and South China seas, the collision seems all too possible."
In my view, the policies of Putin and the new generation of Chinese leaders in the last ten years have dramatically increased the chances of another big war.  I hope I am wrong.

Poll: It’s Time to Normalize Relations With Cuba (Charlie Cooke) from the National Journal
"In all but possibly a handful of congressional districts in Florida and New Jersey—if even there—this is a nothing-burger issue. Few voters would have any problem with it. Like the missile silos in North Dakota, our policy toward Cuba is a Cold War relic that has long since passed its time. A new bipartisan national survey points to strong and broad-based support for a major change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, even among Republicans."

Americans Know There’s No GOP ‘Alternative’ to Obamacare (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"Obamacare is a disaster for Democrats, and a certain winner for Republicans. That’s what we keep hearing, anyway. So why does it look as if the percentage of Americans who favor repeal may have actually shrunk since its rollout problems began? That’s what the February tracking poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests."

Republicans Too Focused on Health-Care Law, Some in GOP Warn (Karen Tumulty) from the Washington Post
"The Republicans’ “fixation on repealing the ACA comes at their own peril, as the political landscape around the Affordable Care Act has shifted in Democrats’ favor,” Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in a memo that the House
Democrats’ campaign organization blasted to its e-mail list Wednesday."

Holds Lose Their Power in Senate (Niels Lesniewski) from Roll Call 
"In a post-nuclear Senate, holds on nominees aren’t what they used to be. And Republicans’ newfound powerlessness to stop President Barack Obama’s picks is starting to get to the GOP."

Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas’ Ban on Same-Sex Marriage from the New York Times
"A federal judge in Texas struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage on Wednesday, ruling that the laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution and handing gay-rights advocates a major legal victory in one of the nation’s biggest and most conservative states."

Judge: Final Order Requiring Ky. to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages Expected Thursday from the Lexington Herald-Leader
"A federal judge said Wednesday afternoon that he would issue a final order within 24 hours requiring Kentucky to immediately recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the state. In response, lawyers for the attorney general's office told U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II at a hearing that the state would "very promptly" decide whether to appeal the order."

No Country for Old Mores (Charles Blow) from the New York Times
"The Arizona bill, which has been copied by Republicans in several other states, would have allowed businesses to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers on religious grounds. ... History doesn’t look kindly on those who stand against equality. Yet, that’s where conservatives have chosen to stand, much to my dismay and their detriment. The pace of Americans’ changing attitudes has been breathtakingly swift and shows no signs of abating."

Cruz Angers GOP Colleagues - Again (Ted Barrett and Dana Bash) from CNN 
"Several Republican senators said Wednesday they were surprised and angered after a news report revealed that their GOP colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, made a recent fundraising appeal for a tea party group that is trying to defeat GOP incumbents it doesn't believe are conservative enough."

Why I Left the GOP (Jeremiah Goulka) from Salon [from 2012]
"I grew up in a rich, Republican household, but after Katrina and Iraq, I realized my priorities were out of order."

I Lost My Dad to Fox News: How a Generation was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria (Edwin Lyngar) from Salon 
"Old white people are drowning in despair and rage. Here's how my father lost his mind -- thanks to his cable diet."

The Mammoth Cometh (Nathaniel Rich) from the New York Times
"Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad."

Giving Richard III a Reburial Fit for a Medieval King (Sean Coughlan) from the BBC
"The first glimpse of how Richard III could be reburied has been revealed, with the service to be shaped by the scholarly detective work of an Oxford University academic."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

News Nuggets 1394

DAYLEE PICTURE:  Lake Towada in Aomori, Japan.  From the National Geographic.

Goodbye to All That - Leaving the Academy (Josh Marshall) from Talking Points Memo
"I wanted to write about the great issues of the day, about politics and the culture at large. I was pretty sure I had something to say and I wanted to be part of that world. The only problem was I had no idea how to do it. And I also wasn't sure I had the courage to cut my ties to my plan for my own life. ... even though I was realizing I'd probably just chosen the wrong career, it is important to understand that every incentive in academic life is geared against engagement with the world outside of academics. There's no other way to put it."

Don't Blame President Obama for Deaths in Syria (Ryan Cooper) from The Week
"Obama's greatest strength in foreign policy is his palpable reluctance to commit the U.S. to ground wars. ... On the specific points Ferguson is laughably wrong. Furthermore, the mindset underpinning his worldview betrays the misguided nature of the interventionist project. ... I have almost no trust in Western institutions to intervene and guide these places to security and democracy. After all, the last time we listened to Niall Ferguson and his ilk it was a bloody catastrophe — and continues to be so."

Hegemonists and the Dishonest Charge of “Retreat” (Daniel Larison) from the American Conservative
"... the U.S. cannot be blamed for the consequences of armed conflict in which it has not been directly involved. The U.S. is responsible for what it does and for the policies that it supports, but it cannot conceivably be held responsible for things it has not done."

Seven Reasons Putin Won't Give Up Ukraine (Peter Coy) from Businessweek 
"... as much as the situation seems to be slipping out of control, it’s hard to imagine that Putin will just walk away and leave Ukraine to its own devices. Here are seven reasons why: ..."
I share Coy's pessimism here.  Putin has too much at stake to simply walk away.

An opposing point of view:
Putin Options Dwindle in Ukraine as EU Takes Lead in Peace (Henry Meyer) from Bloomberg
"Sending the military into Ukraine would be “extremely dangerous” for both Russia and Europe, which depends on Russian gas for a quarter of its consumption, Pavlovky said. The risk is that Russia may be drawn into a direct military confrontation with its Cold War opponent NATO, according to Markov."

Supreme Court Declines Challenges To Gun Laws from Reuters
Some good news on the guns front!
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to wade into the politically volatile issue of gun control by leaving intact three court rulings rejecting challenges to federal and state laws. The court's decision not to hear the cases represents a loss for gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, which was behind two of the challenges. "

Hillary Clinton Emerged as Top Obama Ally on Health: Book from the Bloomberg News Service
"Hillary Clinton, once President Barack Obama’s political foe, emerged as his top ally on what would become his signature policy achievement: revamping the U.S. health-care system."

Governors: Obamacare Is Here To Stay from the Associated Press
"The explosive politics of health care have divided the nation, but America's governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, suggest that President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is here to stay. While governors from Connecticut to Louisiana sparred on Sunday over how best to improve the nation's economy, governors of both parties shared a far more pragmatic outlook on the controversial program known as "Obamacare" as millions of their constituents begin to be covered."

Health Care Horror Hooey (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"The whole “death tax” campaign has rested on eliciting human sympathy for purely imaginary victims. And now they’re trying a similar campaign against health reform."

Republicans Are Officially Out Of Obamacare Attacks from National Memo 
"Republicans have two huge problems: They can’t say how they’d replace Obamacare, but they have said how they would ruin Medicare."

Republican Scramble to Distance Themselves from Arizona Discrimination Bill Begins (Laura Clawson) from Daily Kos
"Arizona state Sen. Steve Pierce, a Republican, voted for the okay-to-discriminate bill awaiting action by Gov. Jan Brewer. But—talk about buyer's remorse—he now hopes Brewer will veto the bill: ..."

Ohio GOP Makes Voting Harder for Elderly People, City Dwellers, and Military Members (Travis Gettys) from Raw Story
"Both measures were sponsored and passed by Republican lawmakers, including one who wondered aloud why the state should “cater to” voters who are unwilling or unable to get to a polling place unless someone drives them there “after church on Sunday.”"

Stability and Chaos, Hallmarks of Presidential Races, Swap Parties (Jonathan Martin) from the New York Times
"Democrats are playing the part of the royalists seeking a smooth succession. At the same time, the Republicans are acting like the Democrats of yore, anticipating a free-for-all primary that highlights the competing and at times fractious constituencies in their coalition."

Those Sounds You Hear? They Are the Death Pangs of the Religious Right (David Harris Gershon) from Daily Kos
"What we are seeing right now are the last gasps of religious fundamentalism and its normative influence on the national stage. Just as an individual on his deathbed experiences a momentary flurry of energy and clarity before descending into his final end, we are witnessing the religious right's final flailing on the national stage."

Federal Judge Voids Texas’ Gay Marriage Ban, Though He Delays Order from Taking Effect Immediately from the Dallas News
"A federal judge in San Antonio ruled Wednesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutionally deprives some citizens of due process and equal protection under the law by stigmatizing their relationships and treating them differently from opposite-sex couples."

Jeb Bush Phones Key Funders (Mike Allen) from Politico
"“A lot of people think [Jeb’s] not serious [about 2016], that he just likes the spotlight … But … I spoke to several Republican fundraisers this past week, who got phone calls from Jeb Bush, … who hasn't said he's going to run, but is starting to ask some serious questions.  So people think that at least he's giving it a very serious look.”"

Scott Walker on Fox News Dodges Question on Secret Emails: Investigation is 'Old News,' Governor Says from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Gov. Scott Walker declined again Sunday to answer whether he knew of the existence of a secret email system in his Milwaukee County executive office. Instead, during the appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Walker called the controversy over the release of thousands of emails "old news" and said Democrats were trying to switch the subject from his budget successes."
If Walker is even considering running in 2016 he'll have to come up with something better than this.

Code Blue for Dr. Milton Wolf (Jennifer Rubin) from the Washington Post 
"A Kansas race shows that the GOP needs to think more seriously about candidates they support."

Audiobooks and the Return of Storytelling (T.M. Luhrmann) from the New York Times
"We shouldn’t regard reading a book as more serious than hearing it out loud."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

News Nuggets 1393

DAYLEE PICTURE: Palouse grasslands in rural Washington State.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Obama Threatens Karzai With Full U.S. Withdrawal from the Associated Press 
"Frustrated with his Afghan counterpart, President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. But Obama is also holding out hope that Afghanistan's next president may eventually sign a stalled security agreement that could prevent the U.S. from having to take that step."

Russia Denounces Ukraine 'Terrorists' and West over Yanukovich Ousting from the Guardian [of the UK]
"The Russian foreign ministry statement pressed all the buttons that will have the west and Kiev alarmed about ethnic and religious strife fracturing the country in two."

Ukraine’s Parliament May have Just Saved the Country from its Crisis (Max Fisher) from the Washington Post
"... what’s happening right now in Kiev is being driven by procedural, by-the-letter votes in the country’s own parliament. In many ways, it’s a victory not just for but by democracy and the rule of law."

Why Putin Hates Fracking (Christopher Dickey) from the Daily Beast 
"Hint: It’s not about the environment. Vladimir Putin just hates fracking—at least, he hates it when other countries do it. As the Russian president told an economic conference last year, in places where companies are fracking to extract natural gas, they turn on the faucet and “black stuff comes out of the tap.” Consider the environment, he begged his audience. While you’re at it, consider the many European countries that depend on Russia for their natural gas or might compete with it as suppliers. Think of Bulgaria, Romania, Poland; and think, especially, of Ukraine."

Obama Should End America’s Stupidest Foreign Policy: Isolating Cuba (Robert Shrum) from the Daily Beast
"What rational basis is there for punishing the Castro regime when the U.S. will trade with China, talk to Iran, or deal with Vietnam? It’s time to end the cold war that outlasted the Cold War."
I completely agree with Shrum on this -- and I believe it is high on Obama's to-do list before he leaves office.  It's only a suspicion -- but I think he's waiting until after this year's elections and/or for his own favorability numbers to move up before making a substantive move here.  

The Winners and Losers of Next Year's Defense Budget: What was Cut and What was Spared in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Budget-Request Preview from the National Journal
"The blade hasn't fallen yet, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel raised the ax Monday when he offered a sneak peek of the Pentagon's planned budget for next year. The Pentagon is asking Congress for $496 billion, $45 billion less than it originally expected. Tucked inside that budget trimming are a host of winners—programs and priorities that the department kept safe from cuts—and losers who will not be spared."

Funding the Future With Fracking: North Dakota is Socking Away Billions from its Shale-Oil Boom from National Journal
"At less than 3 percent, unemployment is lower in North Dakota than anywhere else in the nation. But the state has been on a miniature version of this ride before, and its officials know that the boom-and-bust nature of energy development makes it a fickle economic mainstay."

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index from Gallup
"State of American Well-Being: 2013 State Rankings and Analysis” "The full “State of American Well-Being: 2013 State, Community and Congressional District Analysis,” as well as state-level reports, will be available online in April. Look for the “State of Global Well-Being” reports this summer."

Pro-Medicaid GOP Governors Well Placed for Reelection from Politico 
"Conservative activists threatened revenge for Republican governors who boosted Obamacare. Now it looks like they were mostly blowing smoke. Around the country, Republicans who defied the base and embraced Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid are better positioned for reelection than those who did not. None has garnered a serious primary challenge so far, and even Democrats have struggled to field strong contenders to take them on."

Obesity Rate for Young Children Plummets 43% in a Decade from the New York Times
"Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke."

Nine Out of 10 'Most Miserable' States are Red, Surprising No One (Markos Moulitsas) from Daily Kos
"Mississippi is thrilled that it didn't top this list. West Virginia topped it by just being absolutely despondent about their future. And really, can't say I blame them when water in Mexico is safer than the stuff coming out of their own tap."

The Cost-Benefit Guide to Choosing a College Major: The Lone Star State Wants You to Know Just How Much that Anthropology Degree Will be Worth from the National Journal
"The picture can be unsettling. For example, anthropology majors who graduated in 2002 make an average of only $46,000 after 10 years on the job. Economics majors from 2002, by contrast, earn about $100,000, according to Texas CREWS, a state-run Web tool that uses the data set to provide information to the public."

Democrats Try to Build on Technology Lead from the Wall Street Journal 
"President Barack Obama‘s re-election effort revolutionized how campaigns locate and persuade likely supporters. The Democratic National Committee now wants to offer those tools to candidates much lower down the ballot."

The 15 Governorships Most Likely to Flip from the National Journal
"1-Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) SEEKING REELECTION -- Corbett is the most unpopular governor in the country. Education cuts, slow job growth, and Corbett’s handling of the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky scandal are among the issues contributing to his sagging first-term poll numbers. His weak approval ratings have spurred an array of eager Democrats to jump into the race, and Corbett trails even the least well-known of them in the polls. "

Weak Tea (David Weigel) from Slate
"In Texas, the Tea Party doesn’t have much beyond Sen. Ted Cruz’s name and a long shot for Congress."

GOV-PA: Wolf Tops Corbett By 19 Points In Pennsylvania Gov Race, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Gov Gets Low Grades On Top Priority - Economy/Jobs from Quinnipiac University
"Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has a negative 36 - 52 percent approval rating, nearly matching his worst net score ever, and trails several possible Democratic challengers, especially York County businessman Tom Wolf, who tops the Republican incumbent 52 - 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. "

Monday, February 24, 2014

News Nuggets 1392

DAYLEE PICTURE: The Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge in Tasmania, Australia.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Ukraine Parliament Votes To Oust Yanukovich, Sets May Election from Reuters
"Ukraine's parliament voted on Saturday to remove President Viktor Yanukovich from office, hours after he abandoned his Kiev office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup. The apparent toppling of the pro-Russian leader looks likely to dramatically alter the future of the former Soviet republic of 46 million people, pulling it closer to Europe and away from Moscow's orbit."

Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called from the New York Times
"Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph."

Will Ukraine's Protests Swallow Putin, Too? (Leonid Bershidsky) from Bloomberg
"Two events that took place on Friday highlighted the enormous difference between Ukraine and Russia, two large, neighboring, corrupt, misgoverned East European nations whose peoples understand each other's language and share cultural references."

The Games Putin Plays (Ross Douthat) from the New York Times
"The events in Ukraine offer a lesson in the limits of Russia's grand strategy."

The Era of Big Deficit Concerns Is Over (Alex Seitz-Wald) from National Journal
"With spending down and only the hardest choices left, deficit reduction has lost steam."

When Even the Starting Line Is Out of Reach (Nicholas Kristof) from the New York Times
"One little boy’s story illuminates how we can build opportunity for all.  Johnny Weethee, a beautiful and beaming child who at the age of 3 still struggles to speak, encapsulates the shortcomings of our approach to poverty."

How to Get a Job at Google (Thomas L. Friedman) from the New York Times 
"Hint: Getting hired is not about your G.P.A. It’s about what you can do and what you know."

When Millenials Can't Move Out of Their Parents' Basements the Entire Economy Suffers (David Dayen) from the New Republic
"The recent explosion in student debt—now held by one in five U.S. households—coincided with the Great Recession’s awful job market. Millennials have come of age amid stagnant wages, high unemployment, a lack of quality jobs (44 percent of recent graduates work in positions that don’t require a college degree), and, for those fortunate enough to attend college, an average of nearly $30,000 in debt.  All this has led to what we can call the Great Delay."

UAW Asks Labor Board For New Volkswagen Election, Citing 'Threats' By GOP Lawmakers from the Huffington Post
"After a narrow and devastating loss at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant last week, the United Auto Workers union has asked the federal labor board to set aside the election results because of "a firestorm of interference" from outside groups and politicians, including Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn)."

Painting Dixie Blue: Can Democrats Retake the South? Yes, and Here’s How (Scott Arceneaux) from Politico
"The American South has a unique political culture, and as we approach the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, there is no better time to chart where that culture is heading."

Barack Obama is a Smart Dude. Democrats Should Listen to Him (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"Attempts by Democratic operatives in past midterm elections to build outside organizations to battle conservative groups on the airwaves fizzled for lack of interest. And so on and so forth. That lack of focus/interest has hurt Democrats nationally far more than the average person -- or even the average political junkie -- understands."

Ted Cruz Despised, Again (Jennifer Rubin) from the Washington Post 
"He makes far too many enemies for too little positive result."

Issa’s ‘Suspicions’ that Hillary Clinton Told Panetta to ‘Stand Down’ on Benghazi from the Washington Post
"So, contrary to Issa’s claim that “not one order” was given to deploy one DOD asset, there were plenty of orders. Meanwhile, there appears to be no evidence that Clinton spoke directly with Panetta, in an apparent effort to override Obama’s instructions. So what is Issa talking about?"

How the GOP Sabotaged Marco Rubio, the Man Who Was Once Its Savior (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"The Rubio Plan sounded awfully appealing to Republicans, not least of them Rubio himself, who set about constructing the fund-raising and advisory apparatus of a top-tier presidential contender. For a few months, the plan proceeded to near perfection. Then everything started falling apart, and it has kept falling apart ever since."

Cruz Control (Erica Greider) from Politico Magazine
"The junior senator from Texas is a smart political operator—so why can’t he resist picking so many losing fights with members of his own party?"

The GOP’s Real Ted Nugent Problem (James Poulus) from the Daily Beast 
"If conservatives want to be media stars tomorrow, they’ve got to get to work today."

18 Hilariously Terrible Sex Tips that All Men Should Ignore from Salon 
"From the ridiculous to the downright sexist and condescending, this advice isn't doing your sex life any favors."

Overlooked No More (Scott Wilson) from the Washington Post
"President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to 19 Hispanic, Jewish, and African American veterans who were discriminated against because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds."

'I'm Worth $1 and You STILL Lose me?' from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Abandoned objects on New York City streets are given a witty voice thanks to new art project.  Inanimate objects are aimlessly lost in city streets every day without much thought, so New York City-based art student Yoonjin Lee decided to give them a voice."

Photos Of Nude Dancers Show A Very Different Side Of The Human Body (NSFW) from the Huffington Post
"There is no denying the natural beauty of a dancer's body. Like finely tuned mechanisms programmed to seamlessly bend, twist and twirl, the contortionists' bodies taken on positions that may not be innately appealing. Neatly stacked flaps of skin overlap, toes curl as the muscles of a leg bulge and limbs protrude forward in ways we didn't think possible, yet these feats of flexibility amount to something inexplicably gorgeous."

Legendary Nibelung Treasure May Have Been Found By A Guy With A Metal Detector from the Huffington Post
"A long-lost treasure may have finally been found. An amateur archaeologist recently unearthed a trove of gold and silver in a wooded area in western Germany. The finding, estimated to be worth more than 1 million euros (about $1.37 million), has some wondering whether the jewels are part of the legendary Nibelung treasure, Germany's The Local reports."

Friday, February 21, 2014

News Nuggets 1391

DAYLEE PICTURE: The Towers of Bologna in Bologna, Italy.  Form the Daily Mail of the UK.

See my guest appearance on the Lynn Cullen Live program from last week.

Kiev Unrest Rallies Thousands (Simon Shuster) from Time Magazine
"The bloodiest day yet in Ukraine's three-month-long political crisis saw volunteers rush to makeshift hospitals in churches and hotels as the protesters' anger and commitment grew."

Ukraine Is On the Verge Of War And Putin Is To Blame (Michael Weiss) from the Daily Beast
"Corpses littered the streets of Kiev today and the man to blame for Ukraine’s crisis is none other than the king of Sochi himself."

Can Yanukovych Rely on His Own Military? (Joshua Keating) from Slate 
"... the question then becomes whether the military would obey orders to fire on Ukrainian protesters. Valentyn Badrak, director of the Kiev-based Centre for Army Conversion and Disarmament Studies, tells the Financial Times that  “The core of the army does not support Yanukovich and will not execute an order” to use arms against ordinary people.”"
So what's going to happen here?  It's hard to see how Yanukovych can hang on much longer -- but then what?  Russian paramilitaries and regular army folks are already "advising" the Ukrainian leader.  Some analysts have suggested that Putin will do a Cold War-style Hungary or Czechoslovakia intervention using the Russian army.  IF he does that, what then?  Ukraine has a NATO-lite agreement with the US and our European partners.  Dicey.  Based on their post-Cold War behavior, Putin would be amply justified in thinking that there is no way Germany, France, the UK etc. will left a finger to stop him.  But...

Venezuela: The Game Changed Last Night (Francisco Toro) from the Caracas Chronicles
"Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden. What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood. Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting."

With 2015 Budget Request, Obama will Call for an End to Era of Austerity (Zachary Goldfarb) from the Washington Post
"With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections."

Obama is Done even Pretending to Work with Republicans (Jon Terbush) from The Week
"If you can't beat 'em, ignore 'em.  President Obama is going solo. Having seen his ambitious agenda run aground against Republican recalcitrance, Obama is pivoting to a more unilateral approach to achieve his goals. And when he must go through Congress, Obama has shown he's willing to eschew bipartisanship when it seems like an impossibility."

How the Affordable Care Act is working in Michigan (Don Hazaert) from the Detroit Free Press
"Recently released federal data also show that 88% of the health insurance plans purchased by Michigan consumers on are the more expensive silver, gold and platinum level plans, rather than the less expensive bronze plans. If consumers were finding the plans unaffordable, as critics hypothesized, we would expect to see much higher numbers of consumers selecting bronze level plans. Consumers are buying up in their coverage instead because they are finding the plans so affordable."

Has Anyone in America Actually Been Harmed by Obamacare? (Kevin Drum) from Mother Jones Magazine
"I'm beginning to think there's not actually a single person in America who's been harmed by Obamacare. ... I'm a diehard defender of Obamacare, and even I concede that there ought to be at least hundreds of thousands of people who are truly worse off than they were with their old plans. But if that's the case, why is it that every single hard luck story like this falls apart under the barest scrutiny?"

The Moral Case for Immigration Reform (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
"... today, evangelical writer Jim Wallis makes that moral case by painting a vivid picture of the dilemma the country currently faces:..."

Oregon Joins Five States in Refusing to Defend Gay-Marriage Ban from Businessweek
"The law “cannot withstand a federal constitutional challenge under any standard of review,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a federal court filing yesterday in Eugene. She said the state will continue to enforce the ban unless it’s overturned by a court. Rosenblum followed fellow Democratic attorneys general Kamala Harris of California, Mark Herring of Virginia, Lisa Madigan of Illinois, Kathleen Kane of Pennsylvania and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada in refusing to defend lawsuits challenging gay-marriage bans."

Nixon Still Runs the GOP: How the White South Dominates the Party (Robert Slayton) from Salon
"Many believe that Reagan or Goldwater founded modern conservatism. But it's Nixon whose legacy truly lives on."

Repeal Stand-Your-Ground Laws (E.J. Dionne) from the Washington Post 
"By all these measures, “stand your ground” laws are a failure. These statutes make the already difficult task of jurors even harder. They aggravate mistrust across racial lines. They appear to increase, rather than decrease, crime."

In 2014 Midterms, Parties see Different Issues and States as Path to Senate Majority from the Washington Post
"At the headquarters where Republicans are plotting their takeover of the Senate, camouflage netting hangs from the ceiling and walls. Military surplus sandbags are piled up around operatives’ desks. ... “Our mentality is that we are at war every day,” said Baker, who as political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is helping command the 2014 midterm campaigns. “We’re here for one reason: to win the majority. Anything else is a failure.”"
This kind of existential mentality is what drives both the Tea Party and the profound polarization of our politics.  When one party literally sees themselves "at war" with the other, desperate measures and desperate rhetoric become the norm -- as it has.

The GOP's Talent Gap (Alex Roarty) from the National Journal
"Republicans who run campaigns gripe they lose races because of candidates and ideology. ... But those same Republicans who have shepherded countless Senate, House, and presidential candidates should add one more culprit to their list: themselves. Because there's mounting evidence that the party's political class simply isn't good at running campaigns anymore. They're certainly not as good as the Democrats."
I completely agree with Roarty here -- the Romney campaign showcased countless unforced errors (such as "unskewing" the polls) that demonstrated extraordinary incompetence -- and only passed for competent due to the widespread dumbness of the GOP political class generally.

Clinton Tops Christie, Other GOP Rivals in Crucial Ohio (David Lightman) from the McClatchy News Service
"Ohio doesn't look much like a swing state these days. A new Quinnipiac University poll, released Thursday, found former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton far ahead of her potential rivals for the presidency in 2016."

Is Yet Another GOP 2016 Contender Flaming Out? (Jon Terbush) from The Week 
"Move over, Chris Christie. Scott Walker has his own messy political scandal."

Scott Walker’s Pathetic Fall: Another One Bites the Dust! (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"A secret email system set up by his staff finally focuses the national media on the governor's ethics woes. Whoops."
As with Christie, I never took Walker seriously as a 2016 prospect.  Polarizing flame-throwers (both on the left and on the right) have never received their party's nomination -- and efforts to re-caste Walker as a blue-state winning moderate simply move the goal posts defining what moderate even means in the current GOP.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

News Nuggets 1390

DAYLEE PICTURE: Novices at a pagoda in Mandalay in Myanmar.  From National Geographic.

You can't make this stuff up.
China’s Deceptively Weak (and Dangerous) Military (Ian Easton) from The Diplomat
Yes -- dangerous if you are a member of the Chinese military.
"In April 2003, the Chinese Navy decided to put a large group of its best submarine talent on the same boat as part of an experiment to synergize its naval elite. The result? Within hours of leaving port, the Type 035 Ming III class submarine sank with all hands lost. Never having fully recovered from this maritime disaster, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council never to have conducted an operational patrol with a nuclear missile submarine. China is also the only member of the UN’s “Big Five” never to have built and operated an aircraft carrier. "
People who STILL think the Chinese Military is going to challenge the US someday soon, read the rest of this story.

China and Japan's Deteriorating Relationship (Shannon Tiessi) from The Diplomat
"The Diplomat speaks with Michael Green about the root cause of the tensions, the possibility for conflict, and strategies for repairing relations."

Under the Cross in China (Xiao-bo Yuan) from the Boston Review
"While Christian ceremonies in China are still a rare sight, they have become common enough to warrant the specialized services of Christian wedding planners. “Daniel” Shao, orchestrator of this particular wedding and dozens like it every year in Nanjing, began his business while still a college student."

What's Happening in Kiev Right Now Is Vladimir Putin's Worst Nightmare (Julia Ioffe) from the New Republic
"One day people are camping out in a snowy fountain in Moscow, the next they've set up camp and put up barricades in the center of town, bringing traffic to a halt, sowing chaos, and toppling the government. It is the authoritarian take on the broken windows theory, turned upside-down.  What's been happening in Kiev this winter is a textbook case."

Why We Need a Bank at the Post Office (John Nichols) from the Nation 
"Senator Elizabeth Warren points out that reviving this old institution would provide basic services to millions of underserved Americans."

Turns Out Anti-Union Volkswagen Workers May Have Screwed Themselves And The South from the Huffington Post 
"Volkswagen employees may have made a huge mistake when they rejected union membership on Friday. ... The German "co-determination" model mandates works councils, which connect employees to management, at all large German companies. Following the union vote, the head of Volkswagen's works council told German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the automaker would hesitate to expand in the U.S. South."

Health-Care Jobs Are Getting Squeezed, Finally (Peter Orszag) from Bloomberg
"Would allowing health-care workers to perform more tasks lower costs? Evidence is spreading that health-care costs are growing much more slowly than before. Now, it's not just a flattening in Medicare spending; the deceleration has spread to employment, too."

History: Get Me Rewrite! (Maureen Dowd) from the New York Times
"With the help of his own personal librarian, Laura, W. has been trying to reframe his legacy to take the focus off his botched wars, just like L.B.J.’s family. His presidential library highlights his work on AIDS in Africa, belatedly tapering the roles of his sulfurous regents, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld."

The Future Looks Dull From Here (Ezra Klein) from Bloomberg
"Washington seems likely to be a lot less important over the next few years than it was over the past few years. The capital just isn’t where the action is. Which isn’t to say that Americans don’t live in interesting times."
I disagree with Klein here -- in part.  I think what's happening in DC right now is critically important.  I could be way wrong on this, but I believe we're seeing (in slow motion) the death throws of the current iteration of one of our major political parties.  For the GOP, most of the roads ahead lead to a cliff and, rather than endless gridlock (which most beltway critters are predicting) I think that change (when it comes) it will be neither subtle nor gradual -- it will be like going off a cliff.

California Exceeds 2014 Exchange Enrollment Goals from USA Today
""These enrollment numbers mean that with six weeks to go, California has already exceeded its projected base enrollment for the 2014 open-enrollment period," said Covered California executive director Peter Lee. "While this is a strong showing, our goal is not pinned to meeting projections, but to making sure every Californian gets covered.""

Nevada Congressional Candidate Says Non-discrimination Laws Amount to 'Segregation' from Daily Kos
"You have to admire, just a little bit, the dedication the conservative movement brings to Orwellian speech. Shooting first prevents violence! Following your own religious convictions instead of my own is stifling religious freedom! Non-discrimination is discrimination!"

Remember when Reapportionment Would Help Republicans? (Markos Moulitsas) from Daily Kos
"Republicans should learn from this: If you celebrate population growth as a means to electoral dominance, make sure your policies are in line with the people who make up that population growth. So, you know, don't stand in the way of immigration reform or minimum wage hikes or Obamacare."

A Blue Georgia (Markos Moulitsas) from The Hill
"Demographic changes are inevitably driving Texas and Arizona into purple — and eventually blue — territory. The growth of the Latino population is poised to overwhelm predominantly conservative white voters in both states, absent a genuine and successful rebranding by the Republican Party. But another red state will reach that status sooner: Georgia."

How Chris Christie Ruled the New Jersey Machine (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"“If he's [just] found guilty of being from New Jersey, that won't hurt him at all.” But of course, being from New Jersey is exactly the problem. The state itself is filled with wonderful, honest people, one of whom is married to me. But its political class is relentlessly corrupt."

Unsealed Email Ties Scott Walker to Secret Email System from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"Court documents have previously showed Walker's aides set up a secret wireless router in the county executive's office and traded emails that mixed county and campaign business on Gmail and Yahoo accounts. The email from Archer made public Wednesday is the closet link yet between that system and Walker."
Sure, GOP.  If Christie doesn't work out, nominate this guy in 2016.

Scott Walker, Eyeing 2016, Faces Fallout from Probes as Ex-aide’s E-mails are Released from the Washington Post
"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has been eyeing a 2016 presidential run since his battles with labor unions made him a Republican star, is in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations at home that could complicate his move to the national stage."

This Could Be the Start of Scott Walker’s Bridgegate (Emma Roller) from Slate
"... for the first time, Walker has been directly tied to a secret email system that members of his staff used to coordinate his gubernatorial campaign while Walker was Milwaukee County executive. Among the pile of emails, it was found that Walker also used his campaign email to conduct county executive business."

The Right’s Hopes are Dashed: Why There’s No Civil War Among Democrats (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"Hacks and pundits are desperately seeking conflict between the Warren and Clinton “camps.” Democrats shouldn't help."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

News Nuggets 1389

DAYLEE PICTURE: A soldier surveying the community sitting below the erupting volcano in Sinabung, Indonesia.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Why Is China Really Provoking Its Neighbors? (Robert Kaplan) from Real Clear World
A lengthy excerpt is in order here.
"... what if the Chinese regime merely wants to raise tensions with the United States for the sake of a domestic audience, while avoiding actual conflict with it? That is a risky proposition, but it does explain China's behavior. ... In almost all cases the Chinese are not fundamentally altering strategic realities, for they cannot. Preponderant Chinese naval and air ability is not yet there. ... What we are seeing, therefore, is mainly a managed set of confrontations that serve domestically in China to keep the nationalistic spirit at a high volume in order to reinforce the sense of rising Chinese power -- something particularly necessary for the leadership during a time of slowing economic growth."
This is what I've been saying for years.  Chinese authorities have played on their citizens' sense of inferiority and historical grievance to maintain the threadbare legitimacy they currently enjoy -- but of course the danger for them is backing themselves into a rhetorical corner where, spurred on by hyper-nationalists at home, they will feel compelled to act to save face.

Five Years Later, the Obama Stimulus has Proved its Value (Jay Bookman) from the Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Initial government statistics badly underestimated the impact on the nation's gross domestic product; at an 8 percent decline, it turned out to be twice as bad as anyone understood at the moment. Without the stimulus, the situation would have been much much worse. It's important to document that success, so that the option will still be available to the next president faced with an economic crisis."

Filthy Rich But Quietly Scared (Joan Walsh) from Salon
"Why are the super-rich whining so much? They rigged the game for themselves, but are terrified of being discovered."

Unemployment The Number 1 Problem For Americans, Gallup Poll Says from the Huffington Post 
"Unemployment has retaken its place in Americans' minds as the country's biggest problem, according to a new Gallup poll published Monday. 23 percent now consider unemployment the greatest challenge facing the nation, while only 16 percent said the same in January."

Seriously, What Is Wrong With Kansas? (Mary Sanchez) from National Memo 
"What’s really happening — what’s threatening the religious conservatives of Kansas — is that the general public’s views on homosexuality are shifting. Rapidly."

Growing Student Debt May Hurt Housing Recovery (Dina El Boghdady) from the Washington Post
"Loans may keep some first-time buyers, the bedrock of the market, from saving for a down payment or obtaining a mortgage."

Obamacare's Winners Include Older Americans from CBS News
"For many older Americans who lost jobs during the recession, the quest for health care has been one obstacle after another. They're unwanted by employers, rejected by insurers, struggling to cover rising medical costs and praying to reach Medicare age before a health crisis. These luckless people, most in their 50s and 60s, have emerged this month as early winners under the nation's new health insurance system."

"The Strongest Evidence We Have that Background Checks Really Matter" (Nora Caplan-Bricker) from the New Republic
"A new study makes the case for gun control."

Bobby Jindal Relaunches Himself One More Time from Talking Points Memo   
"... for all of his credentials and the symbolic freight he carries, his every step towards the Ultimate Prize has been frustrated from the get-go by false starts and the pesky folks back home in Louisiana (including many in his own party) who aren’t real enthused by his performance there."

Voting Against John Boehner Just Became The Tea Party's Litmus Test from Talking Points Memo
"House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is quickly becoming a new litmus test for whether a Republican is conservative. Outside tea party groups have begun targeting Boehner and those who vote with him in recent days."

Rand Paul’s Republican Revolution from Politico
"On an early February political swing through his native Texas, where Paul was joined by a POLITICO reporter, the contradictions and challenges that would define such a run were on vivid display — as was Paul’s belief that his blend of libertarian-infused conservatism could forge an entirely new path to the White House."

Why a Clinton Candidacy May Hurt Democrats in Long Term (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"The positives are clear. The negatives are less obvious but have both a symbolic and logistical component."

The Monica Moratorium (John Dickerson) from Slate
"It’s in nobody’s interest to talk about Hillary Clinton’s marriage."

Infighting: McConnell-Cruz Feud Intensifies Ahead Of 2014 Election from Talking Points Memo
"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was forced to spend the long weekend defending his debt limit vote and talking up the importance of compromise to being a good leader. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did the exact opposite: he publicly torched his own party's leadership for walking the plank and portrayed Republican senators a bunch of liars and cowards who think Americans are "rubes.""

Tea Party Takes on Boehner (Patricia Murphy) from the Daily Beast
"Conservative groups like the Madison Project are using a candidate’s support for House leaders as a litmus test in the mid-term elections."

Angry at Ted Cruz, Republicans Should Remember What He Represents (Byron York) from the Washington Examiner
"... the episode did remind the Republican leadership, as if it needs any reminding, that there are conservatives around the country who are deeply frustrated by the GOP and want it to show some fight. To them, Cruz represents that fight. Maybe they've been misled. Maybe they're living in a fantasy land. But that's what they believe. Republican leaders have to keep them in mind as November approaches."
York's column has been kicking around in my mind for several days now.  It so perfectly captures the dilemma of the GOP "establishment" -- especially where he says "Maybe they've been misled. Maybe they're living in a fantasy land. But that's what they believe. Republican leaders have to keep them in mind as November approaches."  They "have to keep them in mind..."?!  And why is that, prey??  Part of the problem here is that too many GOP lawmakers have ridden into office pandering to the paranoia and delusions of this segment of the electorate -- and now they're STUCK.  Most of them really know what's going on -- but to actually speak the truth is impossible.  While (God knows) I am not a conservative Republican, I suspect that this is one of the deep sources of conservative rage with the GOP: the Tea Partiers and others KNOW their party is lying to them.  Those voters can't bring themselves to accept some myth-destroying truths and their lawmakers can't bring themselves to speak the truth.  Lawmakers have to constantly prove that they really ARE the ideological firebrands that they campaigned on.  

Ted Cruz Isn’t Planning to be in the Senate for Very Long (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"On Wednesday, Ted Cruz did something you almost never see in the Senate: He purposefully made political life harder for his Republican colleagues. ... He may well run for a second term but if he decides at some point between now and then -- or even after he is re-elected -- to go the Jim DeMint route and simply walk away from the Senate, don't be surprised. Cruz won't be climbing the leadership ladder. Ever."

The Fix’s List of Best Presidential Biographies (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
Cillizza gets a three-fer today!
"In late 2012, we put together a list of the best presidential biographies for each of the 43 presidents -- based almost exclusively on reader submissions. That list is below. Enjoy!"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

News Nuggets 1388

DAYLEE PICTURE: Azure Lake in Canada.  From National Geographic.

The Real Primary Fight of 2016 (and it's Not an Alternative to Hillary) (Markos Moulitsas) from Daily Kos
"Some people have to come to terms. And I'm looking at you, people desperate to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016. ... To reiterate, leads like 45-25 in 2007 didn't make Hillary "inevitable". Numbers like 73-11 in 2014 absolutely do. And you know what? Those are not irrational numbers. Hillary will be a great president."
This posting contains much to ponder.  In the main, I agree with Moulitsas's view on Clinton's inevitability as the Dem candidate in 2016.  But as regular readers know, I don't discount the Clinton's capacity to cripple themselves -- thus I don't have a problem if some Democrats of substance choose to throw their hats in the ring just to make it competitive.  If Clinton worst-case-scenarios on us, someone credible needs to be there to pick up the pieces.  See Zelizer's commentary near the bottom of today's posting.

East Asia's Dangerous History Wars (Rajan Menon) from the National Interest
"Abe likened the polemics and gunboat diplomacy (he did not characterize it thus) that China and Japan have been using against each other of late to the rivalry between Germany and Great Britain in the run-up to World War I."

Islam, the American Way (Lee Lawrence) from the Christian Science Monitor 
"Islam in America: A new generation of Muslim Americans separate what is cultural, what is religious, and what is American, finding that the 'straight path' isn't the same path for all."

Rescuing a Vietnam Casualty: Johnson’s Legacy (Adam Nagourney) from the New York Times
"They are seeking a reconsideration of Johnson’s legacy as president, arguing that it has been overwhelmed by the tragedy of the Vietnam War, and has failed to take into account the blizzard of domestic legislation enacted in the five years Johnson was in the White House."

The Changing Face of Christian Politics (Michael Wear) from the Atlantic 
"Looking back, 2013 is likely to be remembered as the final collapse of the old, confrontational Religious Right in favor of a less partisan, more pragmatic approach."

ObamaCare is Finally in the Clear (Jon Terbush) from The Week
"ObamaCare, we were told in October, had proven itself to be an unworkable train wreck. Four months later though, the health care law is chugging right along. ... January was the first month in which enrollments outpaced the administration's projections. ... the enrollment totals dispel the biggest concern about ObamaCare: that it would collapse due to low participation."

Barack Obama: You Can Call it ‘Obamacare’ from Politico
"It may not be polling well, but President Barack Obama isn’t too worried about the Affordable Care Act’s nickname, Obamacare, or the health care law’s impact on his legacy. “I like it. I don’t mind,"

A New Populism? (Michael Tomasky) from the New York Review of Books 
"Confidence is appropriately near zero on matters like that. Rather, it’s about the widely held perception that the Democratic Party, after years of, in the argot, “moving to the right,” is finally soft-shoeing its way leftward, away from economic centrism and toward a populism that the party as a whole has not embraced for years or even decades."

Last Call for State Parties? from Politico
"The effect is that candidates can be more beholden to national organizations or single-issue groups rather than state party leaders. That’s leading to a change in candidates and their beliefs and the issues that come up in elections and statehouses."

Why Lewinsky Shouldn't Be a GOP Talking Point (Ron Fournier) from National Journal
"Clinton-bashing makes the Republican Party look desperate and out of control."
It's a message that will only play with people who will never vote for Hillary in the first place. Moreover, I just don't believe the GOP spinmeisters and their candidate clients are clever or subtle enough to ever have this message land with anything but a resounding thud.

Republican Leaders Must Keep Tea Party on the Run (Juan Williams) from The Hill
"Having successfully defied the Tea Party on the debt ceiling, now it is time for Boehner and McConnell to use that momentum to pass three bills: An extension of unemployment benefits for people suffering long-term joblessness; a minimum wage hike; and, most important of all, immigration reform."
More Beltway BS -- I'm not sure how you keep Tea Partiers "on the run" when you're hiding in your foxholes.  Ted Cruz demonstrated for all to see the underlying weakness of the establishment GOP.  How many Republican lawmakers actually "defied" the Tea Party wing?  Five in the Senate.  17 in the House.  Pretty thin numbers to be hanging a sea change on.

The Matter with Kansas Now: The Tea Party, the 1 Percent and Delusional Democrats (Thomas Frank) from Salon
"Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: To the right, to the right, farther to the right. Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society."

Ted Cruz Just Doomed the GOP — but Not in the Way You Think (Brian Buetler) from Salon
"He won a small battle with his debt limit gambit, but also made the GOP's extortion tactics much harder. Here's why."

The Party Of George W. Bush Or Ted Cruz? from National Memo
"Republicans will face a clear choice in 2016: Are they members of the party that destroys the economy accidentally, or on purpose? In the corner of unintentional destruction, we have the George W. Bush Republicans, represented by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). This week during a fundraising trip in Chicago, the governor seemed to reassure donors that unless he’s in jail or asleep with the fishes, he’s running for president. And he’ll be doing it as a George W. Bush Republican."

Yes, Pundits, Hillary Has the 2016 Nomination in the Bag (Robert Shrum) from the Daily Beast
"Unable to tolerate the idea of a one-woman race, political pundits are pretending Hillary Clinton isn’t the inevitable 2016 Democratic nominee. They couldn’t be more wrong."
I am not as sanguine about this as Mr. Shrum.

Why am I not as smug as Shrum?  See Zelizer's column.  He is spot-on with his many caveates:
Clinton, Biden and a Post-Obama Democratic Party? (Julian Zelizer) from CNN
"...if they are to be successful, they will need to look outside the beltway to learn about the kinds of issues that are animating voters outside of Washington. They would do well to draw on some of the ideas that have been percolating in recent months from newer voices in the party. And at a time when politicians can suffer quick downfalls, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is learning, Democrats would do well to make sure that they have other potential candidates who can compete on the national stage, should Clinton or Biden fail to materialize as 2016 candidates."

Nudging News Producers and Consumers Toward More Thoughtful, Less Polarized Discourse (Darrell M. West and Beth Stone) from the Brookings Institute
"Too often, journalists follow a “Noah’s Ark” approach to coverage in which a strong liberal is paired with a vocal conservative in an ideological food fight.  The result is polarization of discourse and “false equivalence” in reporting."

The Presidents on the Presidents: How They Judge One Another (Jon Meacham) from Time Magazine
"A look at how residents of the Oval Office consider their predecessors."

Monday, February 17, 2014

News Nuggets 1387

DAYLEE PICTURE: An antique auto graveyard in Bastnas, Sweden.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

Is This the End of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela? (Juan Nagel) from the Daily Beast
"In the midst of runaway violence, inflation, and shortages of basic goods, Venezuela’s youth have taken to the streets—to take on its Orwellian government."

Bull in China’s Shop (Michael Sorkin) from the Nation
"The urbanization of China and infusion of Western forms amounts to a second Cultural Revolution."

‘The Upside Of Down: Why The Rise Of The Rest Is Good For The West’ from the National Memo
"Being born today in the West is like winning the birth lottery for the human species. And nothing that has happened over the last few years—the global recession, tensions between the United States and Iran or North Korea—has changed that. There are fears, however, that the quality of life in the West has reached a peak. That China or India will soon overtake Europe and America, leaving them in decline."

It’s Over: Gay Marriage Can’t Lose in the Courts: A Perfect Record for Equality Post-Windsor (David S. Cohen and Dahlia Lithwick) from Slate 
"o Scalia, this was conclusive evidence that the majority opinion was wrong. To the rest of us, it was conclusive evidence that Windsor might mean what Scalia thought it meant. Insofar as there was confusion about what Windsor meant at the time it was decided, the lower courts across the country have now effectively settled it."

Billionaires' Wealth Is Skyrocketing. Their Philanthropy Is Not (Nick Summers) from Bloomberg
"This puts the 4 percent increase the Chronicle of Philanthropy hails in context. At a time when the richest Americans’ wealth is skyrocketing, it’s appropriate to ask whether their giving is skyrocketing as well. The country’s non-billionaires are giving their share. As the New Yorker noted on Feb. 10, total annual giving by all Americans stands at about $230 billion, dwarfing the top 50’s $7.7 billion."

The Case for Deficit Optimism (Ezra Klein) from the Washington Post 
"Here’s a secret: For all the sound and fury, Washington’s actually making real progress on debt. ... Together, that’s slightly more than $3 trillion in deficit reduction. After accounting for reduced interest payments -- as there’s now less debt to pay interest on -- it’s more like $3.6 trillion. That’s real money!"

Obamacare Attacks Failing. Health Insurance Marketplace Exceeding Expectations (Egberto Willies) from Daily Kos
"Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to lie about Obamacare (Affordable Care Act). Millions have been sent to discourage Americans from enrolling in Obamacare. Yet, Americans are still signing up in droves. Even with the latest lie about the CBO Report saying Obamacare causes job losses, Americans will continue to enroll. Why? The need for affordable health insurance and the security of not going bankrupt is personal. It is real."

Why I’m Running for Congress (Matt Miller) from the Washington Post 
"The timing seemed fated to test my values. The reason I was in New York when the Waxman news broke was to meet with a publisher about a book proposal. Its working title is “Making Victory Matter: Why Democrats Need to Think Big Again.” "

For Democrats Looking to Post-Obama Era, How Populist a Future? (Dan Balz) from the Washington Post
"With three years remaining in the presidency of Barack Obama, the party he has led since mesmerizing members with his 2008 campaign has begun debating a post-Obama future. Though more united than Republicans, Democrats nevertheless face simmering tensions between the establishment and a newly energized populist wing, led by the unabashed liberalism of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the fiery rhetoric of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren."

The Party of Gridlock (Fareed Zakaria) from the Washington Post
"I have been described as a centrist. And I freely admit to believing that neither side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on wisdom or virtue. But sometimes, reality points firmly in one direction. Watching the machinations in Washington over the past two weeks, it is now impossible to talk about how both political parties are to blame for the country’s gridlock."

Let Our Lawmakers Hide! (Frank Bruni) from the New York Times
"... many members of that caucus wanted the measure to succeed, recognizing that this was in the nation’s interest, but wanted at the same time to vote no, so as not to draw attacks from party extremists. In Congress, this isn’t considered a contradiction. It’s not even considered undignified. It’s considered canny self-preservation. (You serve, above all, to get re-elected.)"

Cruz Calls Out GOP Leaders as Dishonest on Debt Issue (Humberto Sanchez) from Roll Call
"Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ripped his fellow GOP senators on conservative talk radio, taking a bit of a victory lap for forcing a politically tough vote to lift the debt ceiling and avoid a default. “Why is Congress at a 13 percent approval rating?” Cruz asked on the “Mark Levin Show” Thursday. “Because people don’t like to be lied to.”
This guy is more dangerous to the GOP than he will ever be to the Dems.

Someone who agrees with me:
Cost of an Ego Trip (Dana Milbank) from the Washington Post
"The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page dubbed Cruz “the Minority Maker” for making his GOP colleagues “walk the plank” on a “meaningless debt ceiling vote.” But Cruz doesn’t care about all that. Leaving the chamber, he told reporters McConnell’s fate would be “ultimately a decision . . . for the voters in Kentucky.” His actions suggest Cruz has put himself before his party and even the nation’s solvency."

Ted Cruz's Imperialist Fantasy (Colin Elliott) from Salon
"When Cruz says we're living under an "imperial presidency," his ignorance and hypocrisy are staggering. Here's why."

Why Hillary Clinton Won't Pay for Disparaging Her Husband's Accusers (Conor Friedersdorf) from the Atlantic
"Without endorsing any of Hillary Clinton's behavior, or minimizing any unfairness experienced by her husband's sex partners or alleged victims, it seems to me that asking a man or woman to react rationally and sympathetically to a person just as they're revealed to be having an affair with their spouse, or accusing their spouse of a crime, is to demand superhuman self-control and circumspection. Few could do it."
I agree with Friedersdorf here -- and the feminist critique of Hillary vis a vis Lewinsky is mind-boggling!  I can't imagine that any meaningful percent of the electorate will buy it or (more importantly) that conservatives could effectively make any such case against Hillary in the first place.

Recycling For Fun And Profit: The Imminent Return Of The ‘Clinton Scandals’ (Joe Conason) from National Memo
"Hillary Clinton may well run for president in 2016. Or she may not. But while the nation awaits her decision, both jittery Republican politicians and titillated political journalists – often in concert – will seize upon any excuse to recycle those old “Clinton scandals.”"

36 Hours On The Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump (Macay Coppins) from Buzzfeed
"Over the course of 25 years, he’s repeatedly toyed with the idea of running for president and now, maybe, governor of New York. With all but his closest apostles finally tired of the charade, even the Donald himself has to ask, what’s the point? On the plane and by the pool with the man who will not be king."
How is it that ANYONE ever took Trump seriously -- especially a reporter?!  

The Uffizi’s Secret Mass Grave from the Daily Beast
"Construction workers have unearthed dozens of ancient skeletons hidden beneath Florence’s famous art gallery—and their bones could hold clues to one of the darkest periods in the city’s history."

The Know Nothings were Right on Mass Immigration: For Better or Worse, America Will Change (Michael Brendan Dougherty) from The Week
"No one laments mass Irish immigration to America anymore because assimilation runs two ways. Immigrant groups become Americanized, and America is transformed, too. History and the democratic political process reconciles us. But in the meantime the fear of diminished political influence in today's restrictionists is very real — and plainly justified by history."