Pages

Monday, March 31, 2014

News Nuggets 1419


The Alma Array in Chile's Atacama Desert.  From National Geographic.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Authoritarianism Masking as Anti-Westernism?

Russia is Remaking Itself as the Leader of the Anti-Western World (Masha Gessen) from the Washington Post
"Over the past two years, a new ideology has taken shape at the Kremlin. Insistently pushed out over the airwaves of state-controlled television, it has taken hold as Russia’s national idea — and is the driving force behind its newly aggressive international posture. Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world."
On one level -- it's great to see the MSM begin to say now what we've been saying here at the News Nuggets for years: that authoritarian and anti-western regimes have been coalescing into some type of still inchoate alliance or common cause -- simply to take pressure off their usually badly failing regimes.  
It will be interesting to see if Putin can somehow "firm up" these states into anything more situationally meaningful.  The biggest challenge faced by these kleptocracies is that most of them are, simply stated, economic "boat anchors" (my favorite term of art lately for this crowd).  Putin now seems set on not just accepting that this will be Russia's fate but actually accelerating Russia's pace into the economic dumper.  

But we will have to see.  This week, Europe seems to be backing off the pressure they were talking about applying last week.  Bad move on their part.

Ah, The Good Old Soviet Days!

Why Russians Long for the Soviet Union (Victor Davidoff) from the Moscow Times [in English]
"Almost everyone who supports using force against Ukraine sees it primarily as a path to resurrecting the Soviet Union. This may be explained by the fact that the majority of these people never lived in the U.S.S.R. and do not remember it. For them, it is just a mythical golden age of a great power that could provide stability to several generations of Russians. ... Despite all this, attitudes toward Ukraine are not so simple."

Sources of France's Move to the Right?

France Has Given Up on its Politicians – and Can You Blame It? (Daniel Hannan) from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"Although the Front National fell short of expectations, the raw data are none the less striking: from 60 elected councillors in 2008, the party now has more than 12,000. ... What we are seeing is a Gallic shrug on a shuddering scale: a cynical, bitter, grumpy and yet faintly bored rejection of the entire political class. ... Can you blame them? Unemployment is over three million and there is no prospect of an economic recovery."
This story pulls together SO MANY of the trends we've been tracking here at the News Nuggets: indifference to the unemployed, getting out of the recession, the rise of the far right, and the growing resignation (and even despair) over democracy's seeming inability to deal with these crises.  

I think Hannen is dead wrong on his characterization of the recent French elections as somehow a reflection of a distinctly French version of indifference or, worse, boredom with the political class in France.  No.  What he is describing is a Europe-wide phenomenon and even crosses the Atlantic when you consider the paralyzing impact of the Tea Party in the US.  

As Today's Big Nugget suggests, Russia is also part of this larger picture of the return of hard-right political movements in some of the most important economies in the world.  It's no accident that some of the biggest admirers of Putin are right-wing Tea Partiers and Neocons in the US.  It is a style of anti-democratic governance that blooms when democracy fails to address fundamental needs, and it transcends national and political boundaries as they have defined the geo-political landscape for the last 20 years.

China-US Relations and Future Prospects for War?

China-U.S. Relations: The Myth of the 'Thucydides Trap' (Wei Zongyou) from The Diplomat
"The fear is that as its power increases, China will eventually choose to challenge or even overturn the existing international order that has contributed so much to its rapid rise, making a war between China and the U.S. likely. ... Still, for all the rationales for the Thucydides trap argument, I would offer at least three reasons for optimism."

Torture Provided No Key Evidence In Bin Laden Hunt

Senate Report Said To Conclude That Torture Provided No Key Evidence In Bin Laden Hunt from the Associated Press
"A hotly disputed Senate torture report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the investigation. The CIA still disputes that conclusion."
I guess Dick Cheney will be doing the rounds AGAIN this next weekend, declaring how wrong this report is.  One more reason (if one was needed) to tune out the Sunday Morning talk shows.

For the Unemployed, Gaps in the "Skills Gap"

Jobs and Skills and Zombies (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times 
"... the belief that America suffers from a severe “skills gap” is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die."

Really Useful and AVAILABLE Robots ... for Consumers

Rise of the Robots from the Economist [of London]
"... they are very useful in bits of manufacturing. But reliable robots—especially ones required to work beyond the safety cages of a factory floor—have proved hard to make, and robots are still pretty stupid. So although they fascinate people, they have not yet made much of a mark on the world. That seems about to change."

ANALYSIS: Obamacare Reaches a Landmark

Obamacare Crosses the Finish Line (Michael Tomasky) from the Daily Beast 
"As the final figures roll in, the conventional wisdom still calls it a disaster. Yet far more people say they can live with the law than back repeal. How dare they!"

Record Volume of Enrollment Over the Weekend

Record Volume for O-Care Exchanges (Justin Sink) from The Hill
"The federal health insurance marketplace saw record volume for a Saturday, and operators at the federal call centers struggled to keep up with the volume of calls as consumers flooded the ObamaCare exchanges ahead of Monday’s enrollment deadline. According to the Obama administration, HealthCare.Gov saw two million visits this weekend, while the call centers received 380,000 phone calls."

Health Coverage for Millions

Obamacare Has Led to Health Coverage for Millions More People from the Los Angeles Times
"At least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started, surveys and reports show."

Dems Will Need Big Turnout in 2014 ... Like For Real!

Democratic Turnout Seen as Key to Party's Retaining Senate Control from the Los Angeles Times
"The Democratic Party is tackling a historical weakness: the failure of Democratic voters to show up for midterm elections. ... The Democratic National Committee has begun to make the sophisticated data analysis tools developed to target voters in the 2012 presidential campaign available to all the party's candidates. And from President Obama on down, influential Democrats have hammered away at the need for candidates to start now to work on reducing the number of so-called drop-off voters."
They are exactly correct!  And the Dems MUST have a breakthrough here if this coming election isn't going to spell really bad news for them (and Obama especially).  

MEDICAL VIDEO NUGGET!!

‘Wow Moment’: Deaf Woman Hears for First Time in 39 Years (VIDEO) from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"A 39-year-old Englishwoman who was born deaf has undergone “the most emotional and overwhelming experience” of her life, she tells The Journal. Last month, Jo Milne finally had surgery for cochlear implants, and then had to wait until this week for them to be turned on. At last she can hear."

ENVIRONMENTAL NUGGET!!

Japan's Controversial Whaling Program Suspended By World Court from the Associated Press 
"The International Court of Justice on Monday ordered a temporary halt to Japan's Antarctic whaling program, ruling that it is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese government had claimed."

URBAN ENVIRONMENTAL NUGGET!!

In The Not So Distant Future, Bioluminescent Trees Could Replace Street Lights from the Huffington Post
"Roosegaarde is hoping to employ biomimicry to transform your average street-side trees into beacons of light for passersby. Like the luminescent abilities of jellyfish, mushrooms or fireflies, Roosegaarde, scientist Alexander Krichevsky and the State University of New York are all on the case, splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria with the chloroplast of a houseplant."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

News Nuggets 1418


DAYLEE PICTURE: Young Galapagos Sharks near islands between Madagascar and Mozambique.  From National Geographic. 

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Going After Michelle Obama

Lighten Up on the First Lady (Kathleen Parker) from the Washington Post 
"The past couple of weeks have marked a turning point in American ugliness as the mob has turned its full fury on first lady Michelle Obama. ... the harsh barrage against Obama, often in the most personal terms, is in a class of its own. To what do we owe this fresh venom? ... How better to hurt him than to attack his family?"
I think Parker is on to something here.  Beating up on Michelle has become just one more way for off-the-charts wing nuts to express their visceral hatred for this president.

Ukraine Prepares for War

Ukraine Prepares for War (Alexander J. Motyl) from CNN
"... even if Putin and Shoigu were being sincere, Moscow has lost all credibility among most Ukrainians and the international community. After three weeks of aggressive Russian behavior and the possibility of existential annihilation, Ukrainians, like Israelis, prefer to think in terms of worst-case scenarios"

Even Russian Ukrainians Are Fearful

Donetsk Fearful of Russian Military Might on Ukraine’s Border from the Washington Post
"Some people are making sure their cars stay gassed up, in case their families need to flee advancing tanks. Others are stockpiling food so they can dig in if there is an invasion. A few talk about learning to shoot. Nearly everyone is worried. ... few here know what to believe. This is a Russian-speaking region that has long been well disposed toward its neighbor."

Learning from Yugoslavia's Experience ... Before It's Too Late

What Putin Could Learn from Yugoslavia (Matt Stevenson) from New Geography 
"By invading or partitioning the Ukraine, Russia sets itself up as the Yugoslavia of the 21st century—Russoslavia? Like Slobodan Milosevic before him, Putin is a former Communist war horse who champions the nationalist cause of disenfranchised Russians cut adrift after the dissolution of the Soviet Union — Yugoslavia on a grander scale, with the same hodgepodge ethnicity. Ukraine becomes the Bosnia of the 21st century."

A Look Inside the '1 Percent'!

How You, Me and Everyone Got the Top 1 Percent All Wrong (Derek Thompson) from the Atlantic
"Unveiling the real story behind the richest of the rich. ... when you look inside the 1 percent, you see clearly that most of them aren't growing their share of wealth at all. In fact, the gain in wealth share is all about the top 0.1 percent of the country. While nine-tenths of the top percentile hasn't seen much change at all since 1960, the 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country's wealth in half a century."

The Big Picture for Iraq War Veterans

A Legacy of Pain and Pride (Rajiv Chandrasekaran) from the Washington Post 
"A nationwide poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans reveals the profound and enduring effects of war on the 2.6 million who have served."

Measuring Human Dignity by the Supremes

Dignity Is a Constitutional Principle (Bruce Ackerman) from the New York Times
"With gay marriage litigation moving forward at warp speed — federal judges have struck down five state bans on same-sex marriage since December — we may soon witness one of the worst shouting matches in Supreme Court history. ... Writing for the five justices in the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy countered that the assault on human dignity should be decisive in condemning the statute as unconstitutional."

Obamacare's Accomplishments So Far

Health Caring (Jeffrey Toobin) from the New Yorker
"... the core of the law is the guarantee of health care to the people who need it most. As the story of Medicaid illustrates, the hardest thing about programs to aid the poor is getting them started in the first place. Obamacare has now passed that hurdle"

What Courage Looks Like ... in Today's Political World

George H.W. Bush Honored for Breaking 'No New Taxes' Pledge from The Week 
"Former President George H.W. Bush is set to receive the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's prestigious Profile in Courage Award for breaking his "read my lips" pledge not to raise taxes — and for being "pilloried by conservatives for doing so.""

Drafting Jeb for 2016

Influential Republicans Working to Draft Jeb Bush into 2016 Presidential Race from the Huffington Post
"Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy."
Yeah -- this'll be hard.

WALL STREET BOOK NUGGET!!

Out Next Week: Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire
"Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post-financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets."

PUBLIC RADIO NUGGET!!

Radiolab Live: Apocalyptical from PRI
In case you missed it, this week's Radio Lab program describing the day a massive asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs is AMAZING!!

TV DOCUMENTARY NUGGET!!

Ken Burns Eyes the Roosevelts (Eleanor Clift) from the Daily Beast 
"Readying a seven-part PBS documentary on the Roosevelts, the filmmaker takes time to talk about Teddy, Franklin and especially Eleanor on his way to Women in the World."

HISTORY NUGGET!!

Here's How The World's Most Brilliant People Scheduled Their Days from the Huffington Post
"Using the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, RJ Andrews at Info We Trust designed some enlightening visualizations of how history's most creative and influential figures structured their days. Unfortunately, there is no common prescription for the perfect schedule, and each person had a very different set of rituals."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

News Nuggets 1417


The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: The Fragility of Democracy

Is American Democracy Headed to Extinction? (Stein Ringen) from the Washington Post
"Democracy is not the default. It is a form of government that must be created with determination and that will disintegrate unless nurtured. In the United States and Britain, democracy is disintegrating when it should be nurtured by leadership. If the lights go out in the model democracies, they will not stay on elsewhere. ... the United States is not getting the governance it needs. Here, the link between inequality and inability is on sharp display. Power has been sucked out of the constitutional system and usurped by actors such as PACs, think tanks, media and lobbying organizations."

Ineffective NATO? Maybe Not.

The NATO Panic: The Alarmist Claims that the Alliance Can’t Defend Europe from Russia are Preposterous (Fred Kaplan) from Slate
"Granted, the crisis in Ukraine is worrisome, Vladimir Putin’s behavior is unpredictable, and the 30,000 Russian troops amassed on the Ukrainian border arouse a sense of dread and danger unfelt since the Cold War. That said, the alarmism is getting out of hand. Legitimate concerns are spiraling into war chants and trembling, a weird mix of paranoia and nostalgia, needlessly inflating tensions and severely distorting the true picture."

Obama's Foreign Policy and the World It Lives In

Obama’s 21st-Century Power Politics (Fareed Zakaria) from the Washington Post
"Many aspects of international life remain nasty and brutish, and it is easy to sound tough and suggest that you understand the hard realities of power politics. But the most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945."

Why Losing Crimea Could be the Making of Ukraine

Let Putin Have Crimea – and It Will Destroy Him: Why Losing This Province Could be the Making of Ukraine (Owen Matthews) from the Spectator [of the UK]
"Crimea is a gangrenous limb on Ukraine’s body politic. It will never be governable from Kiev again. What Ukraine needs now, after two decades of thievery and mismanagement, is a kamikaze government that will implement unpopular reforms — including amputating the Crimea. The good news is that, thanks to Putin’s aggression, there is no shortage of wealthy western benefactors willing to nurse the amputee back to health."

US and Russia in Talks

United States and Russia to Hold Talks on Ukraine Crisis from the New York Times
"In a phone call initiated by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Obama told Mr. Putin that the United States would like to see Russia pull back its troops from Crimea and not take any further steps into Ukraine."

Is a Bipartisan Foreign Policy Possible?

Is Bipartisan Foreign Policy Making a Comeback? (Bill Scher) from The Week 
"... aid to Ukraine won a big bipartisan vote this week. Reid jettisoned a provision reforming the International Monetary Fund resisted by Republicans, and in return, Republicans are buttressing President Obama's approach to Russia instead of undermining it."

Putin's Aggression will Backfire

Four Reasons Why Putin's Crimea Grab Will Backfire (Michael Bohm) from the Moscow Times [in English]
"Following the initial euphoria, however, ­Putin’s popularity will likely dip as quickly as it rose, just like with Bush. When Russians see that the high economic costs of the Crimea annexation outweigh the benefits, Putin’s victory will surely turn hollow. One inherent problem was the haste with which the “Annex Crimea” operation was executed."

LGBT ... and "Western" Values

Russia’s Anti-Western Ideology has Global Consequences (Anne Applebaum) from the Washington Post
"Not conservative enough. Not traditional enough. Too much of a modernizer, a reformer, a European. In the past, such a critic might have called Saakashvili a “rootless cosmopolitan.” But today the insulting code word for that sort of person in the former Soviet space — regardless of what he or she thinks about homosexuals — is LGBT."

The Changing Politics of Taxation

America’s Taxation Tradition (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times 
"... public policy should seek to limit inequality for political as well as economic reasons, that great wealth posed a danger to democracy. So how did such views not only get pushed out of the mainstream, but come to be considered illegitimate?"

What's Wrong with Hobby Lobby...

Companies Are Not Churches, And Must Conform To Modern Laws (Cynthia Tucker) from the National Memo
"There are plenty of businesses and institutions that believe they have the right to fire gays and lesbians because homosexuality violates their religious beliefs. Some religious groups would keep outdated practices toward women, banning them from most high-powered jobs. While many people genuinely believe their God requires that, our civil society puts a premium on promoting equality. If the two values are in conflict, individuals’ right to equality ought to win out."

Growing Ties Between Dems and Young People

Young Americans' Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown (Jeffrey Jones) from Gallup
"Majority have consistently aligned with Democratic Party since 2006. ... A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today's young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic."

Reflections on Three-Mile Island

Three Mile Island: Measuring The Impact 35 Years Later from State Impact PA 
"The decommissioning of the plant and restoration of the site is still decades away. The license for the Unit 1 reactor expires in 20 years. At that point, both reactors will be dismantled together, over a 10 year period. Plans call for a full restoration of the site by 2054 — 75 years after the accident."
At Raw Story, TBogg's commentary "The worst about us is how we treat the least among us," ties this NH story with a broader trend -- check it out.

Homeless: "Where Are the We Supposed to Go?"

As N.H. Shelters Close, One Question: ‘Where are We Supposed to Go?’ from the Concord Monitor [of New Hampshire]
"On Wednesday night, Locke slept in one of 68 beds available at one of two winter homeless shelters in Concord. When those shelters closed for the season yesterday morning, she joined a homeless population that doesn’t have a bed, or money to rent an apartment, or even a sanctioned place to pitch a tent."

Christie Ally Resigns

Chris Christie Ally David Samson Resigns From Port Authority In Wake Of Bridgegate Scandal from the Huffington Post
"Questions about the extent of Samson's involvement continue to swirl, with emails showing that he was more concerned about leaks to the media than the effects the lane closures were having on commuters."

Friday, March 28, 2014

News Nuggets 1416


A pair of frogs in Indonesia.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Obama's Not-Another-Cold-War Vision

Don't Hate the Players – Play the Game (Michael Cohen) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Is he a realist? An internationalist? Maybe his foreign policy can be both, while throwing Putin shade and hugging Europe. ...  rarely has Obama so effectively navigated the middle ground between them – or quite so lovingly embraced Europe as he cast a distinctly icy glare at Vladimir Putin. In the process, the American president offered perhaps the clearest sense of his own vision on international relations: one that upholds the international system for its role in creating a world of greater peace and security – and explaining why, in an era of retrenchment, that system matters more than ever."

How Many Carriers Does the US Really Need!?

America's Navy Needs 12 Carriers & Three Hubs (Mackenzie Eaglen and Bryan McGrath) from Real Clear Defense
Twelve ... instead of Obama's proposed nine.  Ok.  Why?!
"Congress must now decide if America’s single-digit carrier fleet is enough to meet the global demands of a superpower. The short answer is no. ... Part of its value is that it is an asset in constant demand. Last year, Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Moore said it best, noting “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” ... This would provide the president and the next with credible options in each of the three areas of broad U.S. strategic interest. 12 carriers would provide those who wish to disturb the peace with a powerful, persistent and present reason to reconsider."
Regular readers know that we've been tracking this critical (and expensive) measure of defense policy and budgeting for a long time.  Now, as we noted the other day, there is more pushback then ever on not just the cost of carriers ... but their military vulnerability against new high-tech weapons.  As I noted the other day, for most of the purposes the US has right now, carriers are still a critical way for the US to project power around the globe?  Do we need twelve!?  I am skeptical -- and this author doesn't make a strong case.

Taking Away REAL Benefits vs. hypothetical benefits

Poll: Americans Show Strong Support for Obamacare Provisions, including Medicaid Expansion (David Ramsey) from the Arkansas Times
For those conservatives out there cheering about the latest court decision threatening the individual mandate element of Obamacare, be CAREFUL what you cheer for!  There is election year dynamite here -- and if the court rules against the individual mandate, what's going to happen to the 6 million (and counting) people who are enrolled in the program?!  Are they going to go quietly into the night?  Doubt it!  
"A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll out today continues to show that most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act enjoy strong popularity, even as a plurality of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of the federal health care law overall."

Latest Court Challenge to Obamacare

The Lawsuit That Could Still Destroy Obamacare from Talking Points Memo 
"If the three-judge panel rules against the law, the administration can still appeal for an en banc ruling, in which each of the 11 active judges votes. That could be friendlier to President Barack Obama because Democrats have a 7-4 split on the active bench -- four of the judges were appointed by Obama himself. The challengers haven't won anywhere yet. ..."

Enrolling Latinos into Obamacare!

Univision Works Overtime To Get Latinos Enrolled In Obamacare from Buzzfeed
"The Spanish-language network has embarked on a company-wide initiative — through news and special programming — to get Latinos to sign up for health insurance. “[The law] has an outsized impact on our audience because of the statistics on uninsured Latinos,” said program director Stephen Keppel."

How Dems can REALLY Target the Right Voters!

State to Send Voter Registration Cards to Obamacare Applicants from the Los Angeles Times
"Facing legal action from the ACLU and rights groups over federal voter registration laws, California will send applications to about 3.8 million residents who applied under the Affordable Care Act."
BRILLIANT!! Do it everywhere!  Watch Republicans' heads explode!

The Media and How Reporters Use Data

Data as Slogan, Data as Substance (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times 
"Noah Smith has the definitive piece on what’s wrong, so far, with the new FiveThirtyEight. For all the big talk about data-driven analysis,what it actually delivers is sloppy and casual opining with a bit of data used, as the old saying goes, the way a drunkard uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination. ... when you read news reports on Obamacare, you can tell right away which reporters have been reading Gaba and know what’s happening and which reporters are relying solely on official announcements — or, worse, dueling political spin."

RELIGIOUS EXEMPTION COMEDY NUGGET!!

Hobby Lobby Case Explained ... by Jon Stewart from Comedy Central



Fewer Drugs in Food!!

25 Drug Companies to Phase out Animal Antibiotics from ABC
"Citing a potential threat to public health, the agency in December asked 26 companies to voluntarily stop labeling drugs important for treating human infection as acceptable for animal growth promotion. The FDA did not name the one company that has not agreed to withdraw or revise its drugs. The companies will either withdraw the drugs from animal use completely or revise them so they would only be able to be used with a veterinarian's prescription."
Wow -- some genuinely interesting original reporting from one of the networks.  How novel.  Oops, sorry. The story is actually from the Associated Press.

Cool But Creepy Tech Nugget!!

Experts Forecast 'Cool but Creepy' Future of Digital Age from the Pitt News [of the University of Pittsburgh]
"Though Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan intended for the the move to silence allegations of state corruption, Christin said more than 10,000 Turks have started using a program that hides their physical locations, making the ban effectively useless. “Prime Minister Erdogan has done more education for information security than all of us combined,” Christin joked."

DEMOGRAPHIC NUGGET!!
Why African-Americans are Moving Back to the South from the Christian Science Monitor
"After decades of moving north, thousands of blacks are returning to their Southern roots for economic and cultural reasons."
As with so many meaningful demographic shifts like this, there will be important political consequences to this one, especially for those deep red states of the old confederacy.

2014 Election Cycle Could Mask Deep GOP Problems

How 2014 Could Give the GOP False Hope to Republicans (Charlie Cook) from the National Journal
"They worry that success in 2014 will mask the real, structural problems that Republicans need to fix before 2016. Namely, that the party doesn't stand for much more than standing against President Obama. As important, the GOP heads into 2016 with a brand that has been deeply tarnished and not easily repaired."
This is the most likely way this election year will play out -- at least as I see it now.

MED TECH NUGGET!!

Google Glass Is Helping Doctors Save Lives (Valerie Vande Panne) from the Daily Beast 
"Google glass has a new, happy home: the emergency room. Should we reconsider it as medical technology?"

ARAB CULTURE NUGGET!!

Saudi Arabia's Comic Book Fatwa (Christopher Dickey) from the Daily Beast 
"The president should confront Saudi leaders over the ludicrous fatwa against ‘The 99’ a ground-breaking Muslim superhero comic."

WEB NUGGET!!

Amazon Considers Streaming Media Service from the Wall Street Journal 
"Amazon.com Inc. is considering an advertising-supported streaming television and music-video service, a departure from its strategy of linking video to its $99-a-year Prime subscription service, according to people close to the company. The proposed service, as Amazon has outlined it to potential partners, could launch in the coming months and could feature original and licensed content, these people said."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

News Nuggets 1415


DAYLEE PICTURE: The Hang En and Hang Son Doong caves in Vietnam.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

The Nuggetsman is on the road today.  To satisfy News Nuggets fiends, you can hear my appearance on Wednesday's Lynn Cullen Live! program.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

News Nuggets 1414


DAYLEE PICTURE: The beaches of Haast in southwestern New Zealand.  From National Geographic

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: The New View of Russia

A Turn in History (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"Putin’s putsch in Crimea has had one profoundly positive effect on Obama and the West. It has produced what NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, last weekend called a “paradigm shift” in perceptions of the Russian leader."

The Dilemma of Responding Appropriately to Putin

The War of Words Over Ukraine Plays into Putin’s Hands (Anne-Marie Slaughter) from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Meanwhile, elevating Russia to global enemy No. 1 feeds the hard-liner narrative in Moscow just as it does in Iran. A better strategy would be to tone down the rhetoric and let Europe take the lead, while making clear that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would be met with the strongest possible economic response. Ultimately, the absence of that invasion is the most striking event of the past month."
Normally, I find myself in agreement with Anne-Marie Slaughter, but not here.  Given Putin's control of the Russian media, the US could remain deadly silent on Crimea -- and it would STILL be demonized and demagogued to the Russian people.  There would be very little upside.  

More importantly, since the end of the Bush years if not earlier, the U.S. HAS toned down the rhetoric, for the most part HAS let the Europeans take the lead, and HAS let economic carrots and sticks be the preferred method of dealing with Putin.  I find it odd that Slaughter doesn't seem to see that, to the extent that there has been a "pause" in Putin's aggressive policies, it has been due PRECISELY to the verbal attacks Putin has endured along side a range of both economic, diplomatic and other forms of direct pressure.  

Now, as regular readers know, I oppose ANY use of military force in Ukraine or the region -- but Obama's and the Europeans' response must (in my view) be unambiguous, direct, and forcefully targeted.  He and his regime need to face REAL consequences for their actions, not a lot of inconclusive posturing or behind-the-scenes verbal 'back-and'forth'.

Just to be clear -- I think Putin is engaging in a strategic "pause" as Russia digests Crimea.  All of Ukraine is (in my view) still on the menu.

Assessing Good and Bad Reasons to Intervene...

Kosovo, Crimea, and Precedents (Daniel Larison) from the American Conservative
"Just as the U.S. and NATO can’t stop other governments from invoking Kosovo to justify their illegal actions, Russia has no say in who might invoke their action in Crimea in the future in ways that they didn’t envision or approve. Those that choose to use the Kosovo “precedent” for their own purposes will probably come to regret it later."
The question this column raises is ... is it EVER legitimate for other countries to intervene when thousands or tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, like for real?  Putin invokes Kosovo to defend his actions in Crimea -- but there was little if no persecution going on in Crimea of ethnic Russians (like in the real world) whereas the Kosovars were facing brutal ethnic cleansing.  

Gas Turnoffs to Europe? Just Try It

Russia’s Dull Weapon (Robert Samuelson) from the Washington Post
"In a study, the consultancy IHS CERA doubted that “any [gas] disruption to Europe is likely.” This skepticism is well-founded. Russia may squeeze Ukraine by raising natural gas prices, but the scarier notion that Europe is held hostage by its need for Russian gas is a huge exaggeration." 

The "Putin Youth"

Vladimir Putin Revives Soviet-Era Fitness Program from the Huffington Post 
"Russian President Vladimir Putin is turning to history for fitness inspiration. On Monday, Putin officially announced he will revive the 1930s Stalinist fitness regime known as GTO, the Russian acronym for “Ready for Labor and Defense," Reuters reports. The program, which Putin brought up in 2013, will use funds left over from the Sochi Winter Olympics."

International Trade and Responding to Putin

It's the Geoeconomy, Stupid (Peter S. Rashish) from the National Interest 
"As the current crisis in Ukraine demonstrates, the more economically united the U.S. and the EU are, the more weight they carry on crucial foreign-policy challenges. Unless globalization is reversed, international economic forces will play an increasing role in U.S. security. TTIP will be an important test of whether the U.S. can modernize its relationship with Europe to keep up with this evolution."

Sochi: Deserted and Already Falling Apart

Winter Olympics Seem a Lifetime Ago as Photographs Reveal £31bn Sochi Ghost Town from the Daily Mail [of the UK] 
"Just a few weeks ago it was the centre of the sporting world, home to some 6,000 athletes, buzzing with excitement, the shining showpiece of Vladimir Putin's £31billion Winter Olympics extravaganza.   But today the Russian resort of Sochi resembles little more than a ghost town with deserted buildings, empty streets and a few stray dogs basking in the sunshine the only signs of life."
I guess Sochi was a Potempkin "Olympic Village."  How appropriate.  Given the tens of billions Putin spent on the Olympics, one has to wonder if he got anything like the payoff in legitimacy and prestige he had hoped for?  I doubt it.

The Future of Aircraft Carriers?

Are Aircraft Carriers the New West Berlin? (Jake A. Douglas) from the National Interest
“... carriers are far less likely to operate at such close ranges in the future,” and “the wisdom of deploying carriers within range of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles… is doubtful at best.” Yet strangely, policymakers still plan on using them. ... How do we explain this? I would suggest that a very fruitful debate over US military strategy has missed something crucial: Washington might try to use carriers for deterrence despite or even because of their vulnerability. ..."
There has been a substantial crosscurrent within defense policy circles arguing that US reliance on aircraft carriers is obsolete and destined for a brutal wake-up call when it confronts China's anti-carrier missiles discussed above.  The problem I have with this assessment is that the vast majority of global adversaries the US confronts DO NOT involve China -- and against most of the rest of the world, the US carriers are more than adequate ... for now.

W's 'Tough Response' to Russia?

George W. Bush Was Tough on Russia? Give Me a Break (Steven Pifer) from Politico Magazine
"The sanctions Washington applied at the time had little resonance in Moscow. In recent days, however, former Bush administration officials have described a forceful and effective U.S. response in Georgia. ... “After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, the United States sent ships into the Black Sea, airlifted Georgian military forces from Iraq back to their home bases and sent humanitarian aid. Russia was denied its ultimate goal of overthrowing the democratically elected government.” Really? These statements do not match well with the history of the conflict."
Bottom line: Nothing Bush did made any difference in altering Putin's behavior.  

Republicans NOT Happy Over Obamacare Enrollments

Republicans Losing it Over New Obamacare Data: Why Their Position is Collapsing (Brian Buetler) from Salon
"Obamacare enrollment could hit 7 million before the midterms; meanwhile, GOP still has no answer for beneficiaries."

Declining Interest in Repealing Obamacare?

Is Obamacare Repeal Fatigue Setting In? (Greg Sargent) from the Washington Post
Will Obamacare deliver Republicans the Senate in elections seven months away, or will the health law recede as an issue, while other factors (candidates, the economy, the terrible map for Dems) come to the fore? Today’s new Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll — the gold standard in health care polling — offers clues as to why the latter may be more likely."

The Reality of Being a Wal-Mart 'Associate'

Exclusive: Wal-Mart Manager Speaks Out About His Store’s Ugly Reality (Josh Eidelson) from Salon
"From no time off, to working multiple roles at once, here's what's really going on at the mega-chain."

The Myths of Persistent Poverty

What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong? (Stephanie Mencimer) from Mother Jones Magazine
"Edin spent the next six years taking a deep dive into welfare home economics, pestering poor mothers in Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, and Charleston about how they managed to survive on benefits that averaged $370 a month."

The Illusions of Rich Conservatives

Revealed: The Insane Delusions Fueling Rich Conservatives’ Temper Tantrums (Michael Winship) from Salon
"Comparing slightly higher taxes to Naziism is just scratching the surface..."

Why Are Workers Stressed Out. It's a Deep Mystery

America's Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted (Rebecca Rosen) from the Atlantic
"... you’re beginning to see the conversation change—even conservatives now are looking at birth-rate declines and work like Stewart D. Friedman’s Baby Bust showing that more young people don’t see a way to combine work and family in a rational way, so are choosing not to have families. That’s huge. That’s when work-life issues become the problem of society, especially one that purports to value families and that wants to survive into the future. ... when they ask CEOs and top managers at companies around the world who they think the best employees are, more than three-fourths have said: the worker without any family or caregiving responsibilities."
It takes the interviewee a while -- but eventually she gets to the heart of it: it's the economy.  For most young couples, to simply tread water economically, they both need to work full time jobs, those jobs routinely demand more than 40 hours a week, the costs of key middle-class amenities and needs, everything as mundane as utility bills to college education for the kids has rocketed up even as wages have remained flat.  And if that wasn't enough, the Great Recession has showcased for most people that falling out of the middle class can happen really fast.  

The "Wonders" of For-Profit Colleges!

Will a For-Profit Degree Help You Get a Job? (Sophie Quinton) from the Atlantic
"Education Department data show associate- and certificate-program graduates face low salaries and high debt."

OBAMA WHITE HOUSE NUGGET!!

President Obama's West Wing Power Trio from Politico
'The photograph occupied one of the most prominent spots in the White House this winter, drawing double takes: President Barack Obama, papers in hand, sitting on an Oval Office couch flanked by his three top West Wing advisers on national security. The notable part: All three were women."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

News Nuggets 1413


DAYLEE PICTURE: The first snow at Dal Lake in Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley in India.  From National Geographic.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Russia's Actions - The Big Picture!

Confronting Putin’s Russia (Michael McFaul) from the New York Times 
"... similar to the last century, the ideological struggle between autocracy and democracy has returned to Europe. Because democratic institutions never fully took root in Russia, this battle never fully disappeared. But now, democratic societies need to recognize Mr. Putin’s rule for what it is — autocracy — and embrace the intellectual and normative struggle against this system with the same vigor we summoned during previous struggles in Europe against anti-democratic governments."
Great big-picture analysis here.  Unlike the 1990s or even ten years ago, I think Putin will find authoritarian soul mates aplenty, not just around the world (China, North Korea, Syria, Africa, etc.) but in Europe itself.  Too many central and eastern European states have been flirting (if not outright embracing) neo-fascist ruling styles in the last ten years (Hungary, some former Yugoslav states, and, to a lesser extent, Italy).  See the article on France below.  

Look for Putin to begin organizing these and similar states into anti-western and/or anti-US coalitions designed primarily (if for no other purpose) to "make the world safe for autocracy".  All of these states have felt under siege for decades as democracy has surged around the world.  They have felt on the defensive, looking for some kind of justification for their existence.  Loud harangues against the US accompanied by lots of flag-waving will provide some cover both for Putin and these potential allies.  We're clearly entering a new, much more dangerous time in global affairs.

Putin and the Neocons: Birds of a Feather

Vladimir Putin, Russian Neocon (Peter Beinart) from the Atlantic
"How Russia's president resembles the American hawks who hate him most." 

Wing Nuttery & Aid for Ukraine

Ukraine Aid Stalls As Congress Spars Over IMF Reform from the Huffington Post
"Senate legislation that includes Ukraine aid and sanctions against Russia cleared a procedural vote Monday by a vote of 78-17. But the bill also would boost the U.S. contribution to the IMF. That provision faces stiff opposition from Republicans -- a factor that could derail the bill's chance of passing the House of Representatives and reaching President Barack Obama's desk."
And why do these nuts oppose the IMF?  Because it smacks of global One-World-Government-ism.  The nuts are still in charge of the peanut gallery.

The Power of Institutions for Democracy to Succeed

The Republic of Fear (David Brooks) from the New York Times
"For Americans, security is fundamental. But people in places without our inherited institutions live where the primary realities include violence, theft and radical uncertainty."

Right-wing Power Continues to Stir in Western Europe

Far-Right Party Stirs Municipal Elections in France from the New York Times
"The far right National Front party was poised to make a strong showing in the first round of French municipal elections held on Sunday, showing that the party is thriving on France’s moribund economy and broad dissatisfaction with the two main parties."

Big Nuclear Weapons Deal!

Japan, U.S. Announce Landmark Nuclear Deal from the Associated Press 
"Japan will hand over to the United States more than 315 kilograms (700 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium and a supply of highly enriched uranium — a victory for President Barack Obama's efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world. American and Japanese officials announced the deal Monday at a two-day nuclear security summit in The Hague — the meeting's first major breakthrough."

Gay Bishop Speaks Out on Hobby Case

Hobby Lobby Case Fuels Bigotry (Gene Robinson) from USA Today
"In 2003, I prepared for my consecration as a bishop by donning a bulletproof vest beneath my religious robes because of death threats from "good, religious people" who still believed that homosexual people are despicable in the eyes of God. As an openly gay man, elected as an Episcopal bishop, I was reviled even by other bishops in my own church. I know something about religion-based discrimination. A decade later, I am watching a remarkable phenomenon..."

Dems Waiting, Not Leading, on ACA

Four Years Later, Democrats Wait for ObamaCare Popularity Bounce from The Hill
"Democrats have been waiting for ObamaCare to become popular for four years. And counting. Congressional leaders and senior White House advisers have been saying since 2010 that public opinion will turn their way sometime soon. Be patient, they have told anxious members of their party again and again."
They are "waiting" themselves right out of a Senate majority.  This is why their election boat is listing so badly right now.  They have more than enough facts-on-the-ground to whole-heartedly defend this program -- and yet they remain largely silent.  Dumb.

Bush Looking at 2016 -- Not Decided Yet?

Possible 2016 Race Hangs in the Air as Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton Share Billing from the Washington Post
"People close to Bush said he has not formally begun to consider a presidential campaign but plans to decide no later than early 2015. He chose not to run in 2012. “People who thought he was not looking at this race six months ago were underestimating his interest, and people who think he’s made a decision and is moving forward to run right now are exaggerating where his thinking is,” said Sally Bradshaw, a top Bush adviser."

A Bush-Clinton Race in 2016: History in the Making?

Why We Can’t Quit Bush and Clinton (Eleanor Clift) from the Daily Beast 
"What’s in a name, you ask? Proof that a 2016 presidential campaign in which two family dynasties face off once again may be one for the history books."

Monday, March 24, 2014

News Nuggets 1412


DAYLEE PICTURE: Storm clouds and lightening over the Grand Canyon.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Looking Back on Imperialism's Better Side

In Defense of Empire (Robert Kaplan) from Slate
"It can ensure stability and protect minorities better than any other form of order. The case for a tempered American imperialism. ... imperialism is now seen by global elites as altogether evil, despite empires’ having offered the most benign form of order for thousands of years, keeping the anarchy of ethnic, tribal, and sectarian war bands to a reasonable minimum. Compared with imperialism, democracy is a new and uncertain phenomenon."
A very provocative set of arguments forwarded here.  It raises for me the critical question: can Woodrow Wilson's vision of "self-determination of peoples" EVER work -- really?  It was viewed by Wilson's European leader-colleagues at Versailles in 1918 as utopian, wholly unrealistic, and a recipe for chaos.  Were they right?!

The EU's "Foreign Policy" in Disarray

A related issue:
Ukraine Fiasco Marks End of the EU’s Imperial Dream (Christopher Booker) from the Daily Telegraph [of the UK]
"The EU, dedicated to eliminating national identity, has finally run up against the rock of a national interest that will not give way."

Putin's Promises to Newly Occupied Territories

What people in Crimea (and probably the rest of Russia) will be experiencing soon enough...
The Party's Over for Crimea, but the Hangover Will Linger for a Long Time from the New Republic
"[In Georgia] the locals left for Russia to seek work, or sat at home and lived off those who did. Independence, the revellers of 2008 had hoped—just as Simferopol's celebrants do today—would bring not just security but also prosperity. It didn’t, and the euphoria of 2008 has turned very sour."
What this and many other articles suggest is that Putin is an excellent judge of how far he can go with his global competitors -- but profoundly ignorant (or simply indifferent0 about economics.  He not only collects economic boat anchors, he turns what he collects INTO boar anchors given enough time.

Clinton, Bush and Obama ... and Putin

3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin (Peter Baker) from the New York Times
"Looking back now, aides to all three presidents offer roughly similar takes: Their man was hardly naïve about Mr. Putin and saw him for what he was, but felt there was little choice other than to try to establish a better relationship."

Republicans' Response to Crimea? All Over the Map

What Would a Republican President Do About Ukraine? (Doyle McManus) from the Los Angeles Times
Answer: Use it to bash the Democrats -- everything else would be secondary.
"At this point, the GOP is split among hawks, realists and libertarians."

Merit and Effort = Success? Not So Much

Wealth Over Work (Paul Krugman) from the New York Times
"It seems safe to say that “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the magnum opus of the French economist Thomas Piketty, will be the most important economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade. .. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent."

The Geography of Inequality!

Where Inequality Is Worst In The United States (Joel Kotkin) from Forbes Magazine
"An extensive examination by University of Washington geographer Richard Morrill found that the worst economic inequality is largely in the country’s biggest cities, as well as in isolated rural stretches in places like Appalachia, the Rio Grande Valley and parts of the desert Southwest. Morrill’s findings puncture the mythology espoused by some urban boosters that packing people together makes for a more productive and “creative” economy, as well as a better environment for upward mobility."

Age Discrimination in High Tech!

The Brutal Ageism of Tech (Noam Scheiber) from the New Republic
And high-tech is going to be what saves so many regional economies ...
"Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete
. ... Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007."

Culture Wars Not So Easy to Wage These Days

The GOP’s Identity Politics Conundrum (Paul Waldman) from the Washington Post
"If the Republicans are having trouble playing identity politics nationally, it isn't because they don't realize it. It's because they can't."

Young People and the GOP!

Republicans’ Young-People Problem (Chris Cillizza) from the Washington Post
"... dig slightly deeper into the numbers, and it’s clear that the Democratic tendencies among millennials extend far beyond Obama. ,,, More important — and ultimately more impactful, politically speaking — is how millennials feel about issues in the national conversation. Time and again, they come down on the more liberal side of those arguments." 

A Bush Run in 2016?

Another Bush Run for the White House? Jeb May Be Up for It from Reuters 
"... several other people close to him say that now more than ever, there are signs he might look past several potential hurdles - including polls that suggest Americans are not exactly enthralled with the idea of another President Bush - and seriously consider stepping into the fray."
I'm shocked ... shocked!  Jeb Bush possibly running for president in '16.  Who'd a thought it!?  

The Good Legacy of an Extreme Homophobe!

Thank You, Fred Phelps, for Everything (Peter Z. Scheer) from Truthdig 
"Now that the godfather of the hyper-homophobic Westboro Baptist Church is dead, it’s time to thank him for his years of service to the gay rights movement. It’s not often one is handed an enemy so committed and tone-deaf that he makes all those even slightly inclined to his worldview squirm in their hate-by-association."

MEDICAL TECH NUGGET!!

The Future of Artificial Limbs: The Past Decade has seen Huge Leaps in Prosthetics. How Far Will the Technology Take Us? from The Week
"They are getting closer and closer to approximating the function of human limbs. "Myoelectric" hands have movable fingers that grip and gesture naturally, and move in two dozen ways in response to tiny muscular movements in the residual limb."

OBAMA NUGGET!!

The Catholic Roots of Obama’s Activism from the New York Times
"When Barack Obama arrived in Chicago in 1985 as a community organizer, he held meetings in what was then Holy Rosary Church and is now New Day Ministries. In an often-overlooked period of President Obama’s life, he had a small office in a Chicago parish and became steeped in the social justice wing of the Catholic Church."

HISTORY BOOK NUGGET!!

Rick Atkinson to Write Trilogy about the American Revolution from the New York Times
"Having conquered the best-seller lists with his trilogy about World War II, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Atkinson will be taking three-book aim at another conflict: the American Revolution. Henry Holt and Company announced on Thursday that Mr. Atkinson, a former Washington Post editor and reporter, will be writing a trilogy covering the years 1775-1781."
For history buffs, this is AWESOME!  Atkinson's World War II trilogy is outstanding in its depth and readability!  Can't wait to see this next set!

DOG RESCUE VIDEO NUGGET!!

From some organizations associated with Hope-for-Paws in LA.
A Sick Homeless Pit Bull Gets Rescued & Makes Transformation!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

News Nuggets 1411


DAYLEE PICTURE:  More rice paddies in China.  From the Daily Mail of the UK.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET: Russia Feeling the Economic Pressure!

Russia Begins to Feel Pressure on Economy From Sanctions from the New York Times
"American and European sanctions rattled Russia’s economy on Friday, with Moscow’s stock indexes opening sharply lower and rating agencies threatening to reduce the country’s creditworthiness."
It will be interesting to see how fast the west's sanctions regime impacts the Russian economy and key actors and sectors within it.  It's one thing to target relatively inconsequential economic players such as North Korea or even Iran.  Russia is a HUGE economic fish in its own right -- but, as we've been tracking here, it has a lot of economic vulnerabilities!

The Longings of Old Sovietniks and Young Radicals

Ukraine: Donetsk's Old Soviet Faithful and Young Radicals Look to Moscow from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Loyalty to the old regime and Russian propaganda have inspired protests against Kiev 'fascists'. But is this really the next Crimea? ... "Donetsk is not Crimea. We don't have an autonomous parliament. People here are not so energised by Russia.""

Taking More of Ukraine?

Why Eastern Ukraine Will Not Follow Crimea to Moscow (Sabra Ayres) from the Christian Science Monitor
"The gravitational pull of Russia is being challenged amid generational change and a renewed sense that Ukraine is home."
Yeah?  We'll see.  I'm still betting that Putin is after all of Ukraine, not just the Crimea or just the eastern region of Ukraine.  In the world of long-term geo-strategic thinking, Russia (as back in the old Soviet days) insisted on having buffer states between Russia proper and European states and alliances.  If Ukraine solidifies its ties with Europe (which it has been doing this week) it runs against this central tenant.  If I were Putin, I would view this as my big chance to make sure Russia keeps some buffer zones in place.

China's Opportunity in Ukraine!

China's Ukrainian Opportunity -- Killing A Few Birds Without Throwing A Single Stone (Eric Li) from the Huffington Post
"One of China's overriding strategic objectives is to foster the development of a multi-polar world in which American hegemony is checked and China gradually gains the space to reclaim its leadership role in the Asia Pacific. Russia's reemergence as a great power 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union is conducive to this objective."

The Papacy and the Mafia

Pope Francis Denounces 'Evil, Blood-Stained' Mafia from the BBC
"Pope Francis has launched a stinging attack on the mafia, warning gangsters that they will go to hell unless they repent and stop doing evil."
Well, where has the papacy been on this subject all this time?!  I had never really thought about it -- but historically what has been the papacy's position on the Mafia for the last century and a half?  I've seen Godfather III which implicated the Pope in all kinds of dirty dealings -- but what does the historical record say?

What is Happening to the Long-Term Jobless?

The Most Frightening Result of the Great Recession: Jobless Americans Who Have Given Up from the New Republic
" One group argues that the current unemployment rate, currently at 6.7 percent, is unrepresentative of the labor market because it doesn’t include the millions of long-term unemployed: discouraged workers who have left the labor market. The other side argues that the labor market has segmented—that those with jobs and the short-term unemployed compete for work in one labor market that is tightening, while the long-term unemployed compete in another where jobs are scarce. ... They found no evidence that the long-term unemployed have a better chance of finding a job in states with lower unemployment rates. In other words, an improving economy doesn’t help."

Dems STILL on the 'On-Ramp' with Obamacare Messaging

Dems Ramp Up Offense on ObamaCare from The Hill
"Senate Democrats, who have spent recent weeks on the defensive as polling suggests the Affordable Care Act is damaging their chances to retain a majority, will organize their events around the theme “before and after the ACA,” according to a Senate aide. “For a long time it was frankly just the White House pushing the positive aspects of this,” said an aide."
I have been reading some version of this headline for more than a year now -- either from Obama's people, the DCCC or the DNSC -- and, y'know what, the "ramp" on this "ramping up" is coming too late to make much difference now.  The Dems have made a huge mess for themselves by waiting so late in the day to take a firm position touting the benefits of Obamacare.  For most of the last four years, Congressional Dems happily left Obama hanging out there by himself to take all the pre-program flack -- and then Obama sent them tripping into the orchestra pit with the terrible website rollout.  The challenge they face is that (in my view) the opinions of the larger public are (unfortunately) pretty set right now and to substantively alter them between now and November will be QUITE difficult.  The article says they are "ramping up" their messaging on this -- well, God damn it, it is simply WAY TOO LATE to be ramping something up!  

'Bridge'-gate Figures Looking to Cut a Deal!

Lawyers For 2 Ex-Christie Aides Call For Immunity from the Associated Press
"Lawyers for two former underlings of Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in separate court filings Friday that a legislative committee should be able to offer their clients immunity from prosecution in exchange for providing information for the committee's investigation of possible political payback."
This could be bad news for Christie. But he had to know that this was coming -- someone was going to cut a deal eventually.

Abuse by Fundamentalists Revealed!

‘Survivor’ Bloggers Join Forces to Reveal Christian Fundamentalist Abuses (Alissa Harris) from the Daily Beast
"They collect documents, interview sources, and get thousands of Facebook shares. Meet the army of ex-fundamentalists exposing the misdeeds of the organizations they left."
Wow. I'll have to say, as critical as I am on evangelicals and their politics, I had no idea there was this kind of "backlash" going on among-ex-believers.

The Real Threat to Religious Freedom!

Crying Wolf on Religious Liberty from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"... the owners say they are victims of an assault on religious liberty because they personally disapprove of certain contraceptives. They are wrong, and the Supreme Court’s task is to issue a decisive ruling saying so. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the owners trying to impose their religious beliefs on thousands of employees."

WOMEN'S HISTORY NUGGET!!

A Women’s History Museum, at Last? from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"An long-foiled proposal for a national institution suddenly gains traction."

ANOTHER WOMEN'S HISTORY NUGGET!!

Beaten, Starved and Threatened with a Gun: Harrowing Story of a 17th Century Battered Wife Uncovered in 1684 Pamphlet from the Daily Mail [of the UK]
"Mary Hampson's harrowing story appears in a pamphlet published in 1684.  Charts abuse at hands of her husband, including beatings and starvation.  It has been turned into a book called The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

News Nuggets 1410



DAYLEE PICTURE: A view of the Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon in Canada.  From National Geographic.

TODAY'S BIG NUGGET! Putin Needed a War

Putin Invaded Crimea Because Putin Needs a War (Anne Applebaum) from the Washington Post via the National Post [of Canada]
"... the most important lines in Putin’s annexation speech this week were largely overlooked: his reference to the fifth columnists and the Western-funded Russian “traitors” who will now have to be silenced. Putin invaded Crimea because Putin needs a war. In a time of slower growth, and with a more restive middle class, he may need some more wars too. ... In many European capitals, the Crimean events have been a real jolt. For the first time, many are beginning to understand that the narrative is wrong: Russia is not a flawed Western power. Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics."

West Works Out Division of Labor on Russia

West Works Out Division of Labor on Russia from the Los Angeles Times 
"In their response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, Western officials are working out a division of labor: Washington is taking the lead on tough sanctions, while Europe focuses on drawing Ukraine away from Moscow’s political orbit."

Obama Opens Door to Russian Energy Sanctions

U.S., Russia Impose Dueling Travel Bans; Obama Opens Door to Russian Energy Sanctions from the McClatchy News Service
"Significantly, the president’s executive order was broad enough to potentially target the heads of natural gas giant Gazprom and oil conglomerates Rosneft and Lukoil."

Bill for Putin's Adventurism May be Expensive!

President Vladimir Putin Made Russia's Taking of Crimea Official on Friday, but Now the Bill for the Acquisition May be Steep from USA Today 
"Boosting pensions and rebuilding the infrastructure on this dilapidated Black Sea peninsula were among the promises dangled by Moscow before the local population voted to join Russia and leave Ukraine."
As I noted the other day, Putin's long-term plan is becoming clear: see how many former Soviet-satellite economic boat anchors he can collect.