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Sunday Morning News Round-Up

January 16, 2011

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.

The End.

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.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. HillaryFan permalink
    January 16, 2011 10:01 am

    Great round-up! Now I have all my morning news in one place :). I’m glad Rep. Giffords is continuing to show improvement.

    I had watched the Maddow piece when it aired and she did a good job of making the point about how unreasonable some are about gun control. The idea that some people think they have a right to possibly take up arms against our country really is radical and I think it shows just how extreme the GOP has become.

  2. Thain permalink
    January 16, 2011 10:16 am

    Great round-up Stacy, thanks.

    Question- if the US and Israel are behind stuxmet and if we are also behind the death of nuclear scientists in Iran, how then can we claim the moral high-ground with respect to cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations that look an awful lot like terror attacks? I mean, blowing up scientists on the streets of Tehran? I know there is no proof of US or Israeli involvement but aren’t we the two countries obsessed with stopping Iran’s nuclear program by any means necessary.

    Also, given that Iran currently has no nuclear weapons and may not even have had the capability to create them any time in the near future, didn’t stuxnet also wreak havoc on their civilian nuclear energy program? What are the implications for that? They have a LEGAL right to a civilian program as Hillary keeps reminding us.

    Ironic that Israel is likely doing this when they have over 200 nuclear weapons that they refuse to acknowledge and they refuse to let anyone inspect them and they refuse to sign on to any international agreements to ensure the safety and non-proliferation of such weapons. More special rules for our special friend Israel.

  3. Ali Hassan-Aziz permalink
    January 16, 2011 10:58 am

    May God bless Jonathan Pollak and all the Israeli Jews who have endangered their own lives to help us become free. I only hope that Madame Secretary Clinton will see us not as terrorists or anti Jewish people but as people who want peace and the right to save our homes and our land. I wish she would come visit us.

    Facebook has removed Jonathan Pollak’s page. they remove many of our postings but allow the IDF to smear us and don’t remove them.

    Jonathan Pollak will be happy to receive letters!

    His address:

    Jonathan Pollak

    Hermon Prison, NS Wing

    P.O Box 4011

    Maghar 14930


    • January 16, 2011 12:37 pm

      Wow, thanks for the info. Ali.

      I agree that Jewish human rights groups/individuals are playing a huge role in bringing issues related to the Occupation to a wider audience. I believe this is why Israel is being so heavy-handed in their treatment of these activists. If you look at the law that is being used to arrest and imprisonment it essentially covers any speech the govt deems to be a “security threat”- such a law would never be found Constitutional in this country because it’s too vague and obviously too prone to abuse. Israel is really crossing the line in it’s efforts to prevent speech/activities that question the Occupation and govt actions. Democracy is more than showing up at polls- democracy depends on checks and balances and accountability and that is being whittled away in Israel under the guise of security.

  4. Steve permalink
    January 16, 2011 11:11 am

    Thanks for the info. Ali- it’s always nice to hear other perspectives. The case of Pollak has even captured the interest, albeit in a passing manner, of our own MSM. Much is being made of the fact that Pollak is a self-described “anarchist” as though that makes him violent and a acceptable target for imprisonment. What people don’t seem to realize is that Pollak is totally non-violent, he’s what’s known as “straight edge” (no drugs, alcohol, caffeine, he’s vegan and very pro-environment)- hardly the picture of someone who wants to smash up the place.

    The MSM here in the US has been ignoring Israel’s crack down on Jewish human rights activists. It goes without saying they have long ignored the deplorable treatment of non-violent Palestinians who are murdered almost every week. But this issue of Jews against the occupation might hit a chord with the American Jewish community and I can’t help but wonder if there is pressure on the MSM (NYT, WaPo, LA Times, CNN etc.) to not cover these stories for that reason. It’s hard to reconcile what is happening over there with any rationale construct of democracy. What the hell was the judge thinking? Pollak did absolutely nothing wrong but he was thrown in jail anyway to “send a message” to other anti-occupation activists. Pollak hadn’t even disrupted traffic and even if he had, so what?

    I’ll send a letter to Pollak and offer words of support. I have a feeling the guards will be none too kind to him.

  5. discourseincsharpminor permalink
    January 16, 2011 11:57 am

    A pogrom? Really? We’re comparing some name-calling to extremely violent, government condoned rioting and hate crimes again a cultural minority? Man, you tell people to ease off the “come the revolution” talk and they get really touchy about it. Civility must’ve been deemed too “elitist”. I’m waiting to see who finally gets called Nazis over this by the Palin crew – the NYT, democrats, or just the vague “left”, or simply anyone and everyone who ever infers that Sarah Palin is now or has at one time been wrong about something.

  6. January 16, 2011 12:49 pm

    FYI- the conservative Weekly Standard has an interesting article about the role that Secretary Clinton may have played in the fall of the Tunisian dictator:

    While there is part of me that wants to give credit to Hillary for this, I think the WS analysis is a bit oversimplified. I think Secretary Clinton’s words about the danger of unemployment and civil unrest in creating fertile ground for extremism was right on the mark. I think her calling out of Arab regimes for their repressive policies and her call for reform was also right on the mark. But I think what really brought down the Tunisian dictatorship was the people of Tunisia. I don’t think that it serves any positive political purpose for the US to stand up and take credit for this irrespective of what went on behind the scenes because it would just reinforce the Arab world’s suspicions that the U.S. has it’s hand in every pot so-to-speak.

    That said, what happened in Tunisia did perfectly exemplify what Secretary Clinton was warning about- repression, economic uncertainty, unemployment leading to unrest. So hats off to her for her warning being so timely.

    Also, the administration’s initial reaction to the crisis there, which has been going on for over a month, has been very cautious- at least until it became obvious that the sh*t really was hitting the fan. Tunisia has been an ally of the U.S. as I noted in my news round-up and this relationship put us in an awkward position- just as our relationship with other undemocratic, repressive governments is a bit, well, inconvenient.

    I can’t help but think that the US doesn’t want the Arab street rising up against the shackles of oppression all at once. Yes, we’d love that in Iran but in Palestine? Egypt? Jordan? Saudi Arabia? We may wish those countries were more democratic but we know that authoritarian regimes also provide some measure of stability. So long as Egypt plays nice with Israel, plays a constructive role in the peace process and cracks down on Islamic extremism, we are willing to tolerate Mubarak’s dictatorship. That’s why our selective concern about Iranian reformers is, well, a tad politically disingenuous in my opinion.

  7. January 16, 2011 1:10 pm

    Great news summary! Major demonstration by the public in Tel Aviv. Here’s a link.

    I agree that the events in Tunisia are the result of the desires of the Tunisian people and the oppression of their government, not one speech from the US.

    And thanks for the update on our involvement in Iran…

    • Tovah permalink
      January 17, 2011 7:43 am

      That rally is interesting. I can’t find anything in the US media about it. I’ll be honest- if you had said three or four years ago that there was a pro-Israel media bias I would have said “no way” but I’ve gradually come to see that the bias is not just in what our media says, but more importantly what they DON’T say. Also, the words they use to describe events is important. As someone here noted a while ago they don’t tend to use the words illegal, occupation, etc. We give Israel the benefit of the doubt as though their lone interpretation of international law has as much weight as the rest of the world’s interpretation. It’s the false equivalency thing that the media loves so much.

      It’s ironic that the Israeli media is so much more honest than the US media about what is going on.

  8. March 24, 2013 11:09 am

    I love the painting of all the mugs.

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