Sunday Morning News Round-Up
I did my weekly Sunday news round-up over at Taylor Marsh and have cross-posted it here.
Here are some morning links:
~Remember that billion dollar, taxpayer-funded, high-tech security fence being built along the Arizona/N.M. border to keep people from entering illegally? Well, the Obama administration has canceled the project because it turns out it was yet one more taxpayer-funded boondoggle that wasn’t working as planned. The question is, what took so long to kill the project and do we get our money back?
~The U.S. government has slightly eased travel restrictions to Cuba. I wish they would completely rework our policy towards Cuba, it makes no sense to me given that we are more than happy to do business with oppressive communist governments when it suits our economic needs/desires.
~Sean Hannity has a brilliant foreign policy idea to help prevent rising gas prices: re-invade Iraq and Kuwait because those ungrateful sheiks need to repay us for their liberation, dammit!
~The balance of power has again shifted in Tunisia as Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a close ally of the former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (now in Saudi Arabia), stepped down and handed power to the current speaker of the Parliament, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Meanwhile, you can bet the farm that right now there is major anxiety in repressive regimes in the region as they watch the popular uprising unfold. Many are shocked and saying they didn’t think it was possible. The U.S. is also on shaky ground as we have long backed the repressive Tunisian regime for our own political expediency, a fact which has not gone unnoticed in the Arab world and the word they are using to describe our selective policy of democracy promotion in the Arab world (and even elsewhere): hypocrisy.
~Unbelievable! Bibi Netanyahu uses the events in Tunisia as yet another excuse for why a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is impossible. When are Secy Clinton and President Obama going to stop covering for Bibi’s intransigence? It’s obvious he doesn’t want a two-state solution and he’ll do everything to ensure it doesn’t happen, all the while blaming the Palestinians for the break down in talks while he ensures the further colonization of Palestinian land and territory. Why is international law only for other nations to follow?
~Ok, this is important– the Jets v. Patriots playoff today. As a Bostonian I am rooting for the Pats (naturally) and I want it on record that I am sick of the Jets’ Rex Ryan’s smack talk.
~Israel continues it’s long, slow, steady march away from democracy. Israeli peace activist Jonathan Pollak will go to jail for three months (or more) for riding a bike through Tel Aviv to protest the Occupation and the so-called “security fence.” Pollak is a well-known pro-Palestinian, left-wing peace activist who takes part in regular demonstrations against the Occupation and that has apparently made him the biggest threat to the security of the sovereign state of Israel since, ummm, Iran? The non-violent movement in Israel is growing and despite the US and Israel spending decades calling for just this- the use of nonviolence to achieve goals or get one’s message out, we have remained utterly silent in the face of the ongoing crack-down on the peace movement. Barack Obama called on the Palestinians to embrace non-violence and many of them have done just that. And what is our response? Now we call these activists “delegitimizers” and we seem to try to infer that they are as bad as the terrorists. Our hypocrisy knows no bounds.
~The Washington Note deconstructs the hype about China’s growing military might. It’s an interesting read.
~Never underestimate the power of the GOP to do everything in their power to stall progress. AmericaBlog Gay reported on Friday that Rep. Duncan Hunter plans to introduce legislation next week to stop the repeal of DADT and in so doing, undo the will of the American people.
~I really don’t think Charles Krauthammer gets it. It’s interesting how some on the right are so defensive and afraid of the implications of toning down the rhetoric. It probably has something to do with the fact that violent symbolism and reckless, irresponsible rhetoric has become their calling card, without which, their whole anti-government “brand” would be seriously diminished. Were some too quick to politicize the events in Arizona in the immediate aftermath? Yes. But lets keep in mind that part of the reason the debate instantly turned to the significance of the dangerous, gutter-level rhetoric that has become all too commonplace was because the Congresswoman who happened to have had an assassin’s bullet removed from her head had herself raised concerns over being a target on Sarah Palin’s infamous midterm hit-list. At the time, Giffords had called for more responsible debate and toning down the rhetoric. Is Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck or the Tea Party responsible for what the troubled Jared Loughner did? No. But is it really too much to ask to take this opportunity to step back and realize that our political opponents are not enemies or targets or traitors or evil?
~Robert Naiman makes an interesting comparison between the events in Tunisia and the potential for significant civil unrest in Haiti if their isn’t a new election there, one that actually reflects the will of the people.
~Sssshhhhh! We’re quietly extending the PATRIOT Act even though we know law enforcement is abusing it’s authority under the Act’s most controversial provisions. And yes, Obama will sign this one too despite campaign pledges to reform the Act so as to try to protect civil liberties.
~House Speaker Boehner turns down yet another Obama invite- this time to the State Dinner for China. So much for even the pretense of bipartisanship.
~In case you missed it, in a jaw-dropping editorial this week, the Washington Times defended Sarah Palin’s tone-deaf use of the phrase “blood libel” by saying “the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers.” Yes, they said pogrom. Here is the Wikipedia definition of pogrom with some historical context, specifically as it has been applied to Jewish people, resulting in horrific violence. So, what loaded, totally inappropriate term will be used next to describe the victimhood of poor Sarah Palin? Genocide? Holocaust?
~I was actually watching this Chris Mathews episode the other night when the word “crackers” escaped the motormouth and I found myself almost instinctively recoiling and thinking “no he didn’t.”
~Rachel Maddow did what I thought was a really great segment about how the conventional wisdom on gun control has become radicalized over the past 5 or so years. You can see the video here. As someone who was taught to respect, and responsibly handle, guns at a young age because we had my father and grandfather’s rifles and handguns in the house, I think that reasonable restrictions on high capacity magazines and assault weapons does not trample rough-shod over Second Amendment rights. Maddow also points out the disturbing and extreme rhetoric of many in the GOP/Tea Party who have expressed that the primary purpose of the right to bear arms (without any limitation) is for the overthrow of the democratically-elected U.S. government, should they deem that necessary. On the other side of the coin, John Meacham, a gun owner himself, makes the argument that the Assault Weapon’s Ban is a reasonable restriction on gun ownership.
~The stuxnet worm that infected Iran’s nuclear facilities appears to have been a joint US-Israeli project according to today’s NYT. The article is a fascinating look at the ins and outs of cyber warfare and of course the unasked question is “what if we get hit with something like stuxnet by our enemies?
~Congresswoman Gabby Giffords continues to make good progress in her recovery. Doctors performed a tracheotomy on Saturday and she has apparently been weaned off the ventilator and is able to breath on her own.
~The referendum in Sudan came to a close on Saturday and results will not be available for some time. But there is still one big question mark- how will the issue of Abyei be resolved?
~Meet the new head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen– she’s on the far right of the foreign policy political spectrum and she has no plan to play nice with the State Department or the White House. Her goal? To undo every bit of the administration’s foreign policy.
UPDATE:I’m watching the news and there is a story about the stuxnet worm/virus that is really troubling. Basically, stuxnet performed very well in all areas except one- it did not self-destruct and erase all evidence of it’s presence which means that it is now available for ANYONE to use against any nation, including the U.S. It can now be used, if tweaked by computer experts or hackers, to possibly wreak havoc on OUR nuclear processes, it can be used to take down our power grids etc. Imagine China or Iran or any country really using this against the U.S. That’s really terrifying. Bringing down power grids in the U.S. will have disastrous consequences. A NYT article from March 2010 about China publishing an academic paper about how to bring down smaller U.S. power grids:
It came as a surprise this month to Wang Jianwei, a graduate engineering student in Liaoning, China, that he had been described as a potential cyberwarrior before the United States Congress.
Larry M. Wortzel, a military strategist and China specialist, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 10 that it should be concerned because “Chinese researchers at the Institute of Systems Engineering of Dalian University of Technology published a paper on how to attack a small U.S. power grid sub-network in a way that would cause a cascading failure of the entire U.S.”
When reached by telephone, Mr. Wang said he and his professor had indeed published “Cascade-Based Attack Vulnerability on the U.S. Power Grid” in an international journal called Safety Science last spring. But Mr. Wang said he had simply been trying to find ways to enhance the stability of power grids by exploring potential vulnerabilities…
Now remember the attack against not only Google but over 20 major Silicone Valley businesses- we were never told about the full scale of the the actual harm that was caused but we now know that the suspicions that the Chinese government (as opposed to some random, lone-wolf Chinese hacker) was behind the attack, were true.
The upcoming State Dinner hosted by Barack Obama for the Communist Chinese leaders will be a great time, I’m sure. My invite must have got lost in the mail. By the way, George W. Bush had refused to provide China with all the honors of a State Dinner and instead only had a lunch for
Commandant President Hu. I have to say, Bush repeatedly held China’s feet to the fire over many issues including human rights.