A New Phase in Anti-Obama Attacks from the Editorial Board of the New York Times
"It is a peculiar, but unmistakable, phenomenon: As Barack Obama’s presidency heads into its twilight, the rage of the Republican establishment toward him is growing louder, angrier and more destructive. Republican lawmakers in Washington and around the country have been focused on blocking Mr. Obama’s agenda and denigrating him personally since the day he took office in 2009. But even against that backdrop, and even by the dismal standards of political discourse today, the tone of the current attacks is disturbing. So is their evident intent — to undermine not just Mr. Obama’s policies, but his very legitimacy as president."
An Intel Success: Tracking Iran's Nuclear Program (Joshua Rovner) from the National Interest
"For all the criticism of its performance, the intelligence community has done well to keep up with Iran’s nuclear activities over the last decade." Regular readers of this blog know that I have been arguing that US intelligence has been well aware of what has been going on inside Iran's nuclear program for some time. This item gives further support to that view. -- Nuggetsman
Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables from Bloomberg
"This is the beginning of the end. ... The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there's no going back. The shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels..."
Big Oil Is About to Lose Control of the Auto Industry: A pollution-free revolution is coming from Bloomberg
"While the U.S. pats itself on the back for the riches flowing from fracking wells, an upheaval in clean energy is quietly loosening the oil industry's grip on the automotive industry. Presentations by analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) this week pick away at the idea that supply alone is behind the plunge in crude prices to $50 a barrel. The presentation also shows that low-pollution cars are gaining ground, weakening the link between oil and driving. The result: Future transport is likely to look a lot different than what the major oil companies are fueling now."
Oil-Rich Nations Are Selling Off Their Petrodollar Assets at Record Pace (Javier Blas) from Bloomberg View
"In the heady days of the commodity boom, oil-rich nations accumulated billions of dollars in reserves they invested in U.S. debt and other securities. They also occasionally bought trophy assets, such as Manhattan skyscrapers, luxury homes in London or Paris Saint-Germain Football Club. Now that oil prices have dropped by half to $50 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and other commodity-rich nations are fast drawing down those “petrodollar” reserves. Some nations, such as Angola, are burning through their savings at a record pace, removing a source of liquidity from global markets."
When Cops Cry Wolf (Frank Serpico) from Politico
"I call it “testi-lying.” It has been a regular practice in police forces across the United States, at least since I served on the NYPD: official testimony that is made part of a police after-action report but is a pure lie, an invention. In the old days police would carry a “drop gun” or a “drop knife”—an inexpensive weapon cops would bring along on patrol to drop onto or next to a suspect they had taken out so they could say he had threatened them. Today you don’t even need to do that; all you have to do to justify the use of deadly force if you are a police officer is to say that you feared for your life, for whatever reason. If the victim dies, that just means there will be one less witness around to contradict the testi-lie."
What losing in 2008 taught Hillary about how to win in 2016 (Jonathan Allen) from Vox
"When Hillary Clinton launches her campaign Sunday, she’ll do something no other plausible presidential candidate – including Clinton herself – has done before: she’ll run like a woman. If she plays it right, it will be a feature, not a bug, of Hillary for President (2016 remix). The feminine motif will be fully integrated into her persona, her rhetoric, and her platform, according to interviews with a half-dozen sources close to Clinton. That’s a hell of a pivot from her 2008 campaign ..."
Why Hillary Clinton Is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"Unless the economy goes into a recession over the next year and a half, Hillary Clinton is probably going to win the presidential election. The United States has polarized into stable voting blocs, and the Democratic bloc is a bit larger and growing at a faster rate. ... Here are the basic reasons why Clinton should be considered a presumptive favorite:..."
2016 Ambitions Turn Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush Protégé, Into Rival from the New York Times
"As Marco Rubio debated whether to run for the United States Senate in 2010, he made a pledge steeped in loyalty and deference: He would never challenge his political mentor, Jeb Bush, if the former Florida governor wanted the job himself. This time around, Mr. Rubio is not asking for permission. Mr. Rubio’s plan to enter the presidential campaign here on Monday, upstaging Mr. Bush in his own backyard, signals a decisive, Shakespearean turn in a 15-year relationship so close, personal and enduring that friends describe the two men as almost family."
The Invisible Democratic Majority (Russell Berman) from the Atlantic
"The survey of more than 25,000 adults throughout 2014—a much broader sample than traditional opinion polls—found that Democrats retain a wide advantage among younger Americans. Fifty-one percent of Millennials (defined as people ages 18-33) either identify as Democrats or lean that way, compared to 35 percent who identify as or lean Republican. The gap isn't as wide as it was during Obama's first victory in 2008, but it is virtually unchanged from his re-election year of 2012. Democrats also expanded their edge with Generation X..."
Poll: Scott Walker Approval Underwater, Trails Hillary In Head-To-Head from Talking Points Memo
"The poll, released Thursday, found Walker's approval rating among registered voters at 41 percent while 56 percent said they disapproved of the job he's been doing. In October 2014, 49 percent said they approved of Walker's job performance while 47 percent said they disapproved."
The New 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Teaser Is Here & It's Amazing from the Huffington Post
"During the "Star Wars" Celebration panel on Thursday, J.J. Abrams introduced the new teaser trailer for the movie. There's more of Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron, Daisy Ridley's Rey, John Boyega's Finn and the reunion of Harrison Ford's Han Solo and Chewie. Watch the teaser above."
We Traveled Across China and Returned Terrified for the Economy from Bloomberg View
"China’s steel and metals markets, a barometer of the world’s second-biggest economy, are “a lot worse than you think,” according to a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst who just completed a tour of the country. What he saw: idle cranes, empty construction sites and half-finished, abandoned buildings in several cities. Conversations with executives reinforced the “gloomy” outlook.
“China’s metals demand is plummeting,” wrote Kenneth Hoffman... “There is a big fear this is going to get worse before it gets better,” Hoffman said in an interview. “It’s as bad as the data looks, if not worse.”"
The Iran Nuclear Deal: Munich or Reykjavik? from the Atlantic
"The debate over the Iranian nuclear deal is not just a fight about present and future policy, but also a battle over the past. Both supporters and critics of the deal wield competing historical analogies. The question is: Are any of these parallels accurate?"
Iran’s Establishment Closes Ranks in Support of Nuclear Accord from the New York Times
"It was perhaps the first time that conservatives — in this case mostly young people genuinely disappointed over the compromises Iran has made to reach a nuclear agreement — seemed disconnected from the power structure here."
The Nuclear Deal and a Multipolar World (Daniel Larison) from the American Conservative
"The U.S. has compromised with Iran on allowing some limited enrichment because Iran would never accept giving that up entirely, but it has also been forced to recognize that the other parties in the negotiations saw no need to insist on such harsh terms. This should also make clear how limited and temporary international support for pressuring Iran on this issue will be in the absence of a final deal."
Should America Really Fear China's Military? from the National Interest
"Many of Beijing’s defense investments over the last two decades are aimed at limiting Washington’s ability to intervene in areas that China describes as being of “core interest.” But just how much should Washington worry about it?"
One More Reason To Feel (Pretty) Good About Obamacare (Zach Carter) from the Huffington Post
"Millions of additional people now have health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the historic expansion of coverage it has made possible. But the nation’s total spending on medical care hasn’t exploded, as legions of “Obamacare” critics predicted it would. In fact, America’s health care bill is turning out to be a lot smaller than economists thought it would be by this point."
Clean Energy Revolution Is Ahead of Schedule (Noah Smith) from Bloomberg View
"A new study in Nature Climate Change, by Bjorn Nykvist and Mans Nilsson of the Stockholm Environment Institute, shows that electric vehicle batteries have been getting cheaper much faster than expected. From 2007 to 2011, average battery costs for battery-powered electric vehicles fell by about 14 percent a year."
The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much (Paul Campos) from the New York Times
"... administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions. Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase."
Jeb Bush as Inevitable Choice? Republicans Say Not So Fast from the New York Times
"Jeb Bush has raised millions of dollars for a presidential run, but some major Republican donors have declined to commit to him. Three months into what allies once confidently described as a “shock and awe” drive to overcome his rivals and dominate the Republican presidential field, Jeb Bush’s early campaigning looks like the juggernaut that wasn’t."
Trail To The Chief (Howard Fineman et al) from the Huffington Post
"The candidates this year need all the socialization they can get, for different reasons. Hillary Clinton wants to convert all those Obama lists and all that Obama energy into something of her own. The others just desire some momentum any way they can get it."
Iran gives up the bulk of its nuclear program in these terms (Max Fisher) from Vox
"... the terms in the framework, unveiled to the world after a series of late- and all-night sessions, are remarkably detailed and almost astoundingly favorable to the United States. ... The framework deal requires Iran to surrender some crucial components of its nuclear program, in part or even in whole. Here are the highlights: ... Iran would simply not have much of its nuclear program left after all this."
The Deal of a Lifetime (Fred Kaplan) from Slate
"There are still questions to be answered, but the nuclear agreement with Iran is very good news. ... The Iranian nuclear deal reached in Switzerland on Thursday is a significant breakthrough. ... this framework turns out to be far more detailed, quantitative, and restrictive than anyone had expected."
A better-than-expected nuclear deal with Iran (David Ignatius) from the Washington Post
"Perhaps the most important part of the framework involves inspection and verification plans. Here, too, the United States seems to have obtained most of what it wanted."
What The Iran Deal Means For Obama's Foreign Policy Legacy (Howard Fineman) from the Huffington Post
"His hair almost fully gray now, his tone somber but earnestly hopeful, President Barack Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden Thursday and made a case for the centerpiece of his second term, for his vision of how to handle dangerous enemies, and for his own role in history. This was Obama at his own personal summit, carrying out what he views as his destiny: a coolly practical peacemaker."
'This will bring hope to our life' from the Guardian [of the UK]
"Tehran residents rejoice and drivers honk their horns after the announcement of a landmark deal that will lift sanctions and avert the threat of war."
Breakthrough: Iran’s Nuclear Concessions Vindicate Obama’s Diplomatic Strategy (Joe Conason) from the National Memo
"As the president said with his usual lucidity, these negotiations — and their ultimate success — are an opportunity of historic significance to reduce the risks of war and proliferation. But the Iran talks also represent a chance to promote peaceful change in that unfortunate country, whose people desperately hope that the Rouhani government can progress toward normal relationships with Western countries, especially the United States."
Conservatives Hate the Iran Deal Because They Hate All Deals (Jonathan Chait) from New York Magazine
"... the conservative case against the Iran deal is hard to take seriously because the right has made the same case against every major negotiation with an American adversary since World War II. If there is such a thing as a deal with an enemy state strong enough to satisfy conservatives, no American president, Democratic or Republican, has ever been shrewd or tough enough to strike it."
Are U.S. Aircraft Carriers About to Become Obsolete? from the National Interest
"Let’s be clear: stealth is not dead, scale is not dead, and 2016 will not be the year of the swarming mechanical insect. But the ubiquity of precision weaponry and the miniaturization of sensors has brought much greater striking power to even existing aircraft and ships."
The Solar Price Revolution (Klaus Topfer) from Project Syndicate
"As Patrick Graichen, Agora’s executive director, points out, most forecasts of the world’s future energy supply fail to take into account solar power’s looming victory over its fossil-fuel competitors. Updating them would paint a realistic picture of the costs and impact of our energy production and consumption on the world’s climate, reveal the importance of renewable energy to economic development, and enable better planning of energy infrastructure."