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Hits of the Day
The single most important thing Barack Obama needs to do about Ukraine is not to panic. The single most important thing anyone else in the United States can do about Ukraine is not to panic Barack Obama. Developments in the Crimea are extremely dangerous, and that's exactly why everybody needs to calm down.
I have no idea whether or not Obama is handling this situation well or badly. Neither does anybody else who's not party to what he's telling other international leaders on private lines. How Obama is handling things is about what he's saying to people like Angela Merkel and about how those people responding. I don't think there will be any way to measure his success or failure for a while.
One of the most startling things about the terrible events in Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the great-granddaddy of all Islamist movements, has blown its shot at governing the country, a chance the Brotherhood spent decades waiting and planning for. That does not excuse the military coup, and the Brotherhood isn't the only party to blame. But there's no point in pretending that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been defenders of constitutional democracy either, and their refusal to share power or respect civil process helped create the mess their country is in tonight. Those protesters in Tahrir Square are real, and their anger is real, and it's the Brotherhood that made them angry. [Read more]
Five weeks after a terrorist attack on Boston, President Obama has declared that the War on Terror, "like all wars, must end." If I had told you a year ago that he would make such a speech a month and a half after a high-profile terrorist attack on a major American city, neither you nor I would have believed me. But the lessons of Boston drive home the wisdom of the President's decision. It showed us that a terrorist attack is meant to be lived through and that Americans are ready to live through one. And it showed us an excellent civilian response to a terrorist attack paired with a decidedly mixed paramilitary response.
Over in North Korea, Kim Jong-Un has spent the better part of the month threatening to vaporize South Korea, the United States, and anyone else who wants a little vaporization. Now, generally, when a leader of a nation with nuclear capabilities makes wild, outlandish threats, the rest of the world pays attention, for reasons of vaporization avoidance. [Read more]
The decision to bring "democracy" to Iraq displayed a deep and obvious contempt for democracy itself. George W. Bush considered the decision to begin a war his personal prerogative, and both the political establishment and the media establishment treated it that way. The war was inevitable; the decision had already been made. Not supporting the war was treated as foolish (because futile) and unpatriotic (because patriotism was defined as supporting the President's decisions). [Read more]
Brazilian actor/filmmaker Ariel Goldemberg was born with two things – Down Syndrome and a love of cinema. The cinemaphile has finished his first movie, which combines these things – the critically acclaimed “Colega” – and is now after the finishing touch for his movie – to have his hero Sean Penn watch the movie with him. [Read more]
When Justin Sisely announced that he planned to film a “Virgin Sells Virginity” porn, the media went wild, endlessly repeating a story based on nothing.
Now, that’s not a big surprise. What is a surprise is that after the announcement – heck, even before it – random dudes with lots of walking-around money started hurling incredible bids at Sisely, asking to be the male lead in said porno. [Read more]
One of the latest growing crimes in Brazil is to rig explosives to ATMs, blow them up and get away with the loot. Here’s an ATM from my bank here in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil. This happened last week:
Forget about Benghazi. The whole imbroglio was little more than an election gambit gone sour. Republican leaders, frustrated that their charges failed to wound Obama in November, have vented their fury on his choice for Secretary of State.
But Susan Rice's record as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. raises other more serious concerns. The New York Times published two articles today, a news story and an op-ed, which question Rice's judgment concerning several African dictators. [Read more]
"We must be vigilant," proclaimed Xi Jinping, China's new paramount leader. In his inaugural speech to the 25-person Politburo, he warned that rampant graft and corruption would "doom the party and the state" if it continued unchecked.
He has a point. From petty graft in far-flung villages to the regime-shaking Bo Xilai scandal, rampant corruption has fueled the social unrest that the long-toothed oligarchs fear so much. Payoffs have bumped China's vaunted high-speed trains off their shoddy tracks. Graft has nibbled away the roots of its famously fertile economy. [Read more]
So tonight Mitt Romney is going to try to outflank President Obama on foreign policy. Romney doesn't know much about foreign policy, but both Romney and Obama represent long-standing traditions of American thought on international security. The President represents the practical tradition designed to guide policy by the party in office, whichever party that is. Romney speaks for the strand that is designed only for opposition figures. Romney's tradition was developed not to protect America from foreign enemies but to attack domestic political opponents, and it has no other genuine value.
A quick bit of history on where these two strands of thoughts come from:
Iran's government condemned the suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria yesterday.
"The Islamic republic, the biggest victim of terrorism, believes terrorism endangers the lives of innocents," stated Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.
But Israel's leaders blame Iran for the attack. They say that the bomber was a Hezbollah agent acting at Iran's behest.
PBS is running a BBC show centered around an English town called Kibworth. History of England's host narrator Michael Woods flits between an archeological dig, nearby fields and local archives to illustrate stories about British history. It's informative, but also funny to watch, because when an archivist or archaeologist pulls out some old parchment or bit of bone, Woods' enthusiastic gushing sounds much like the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. "That's a really nice tibia, dear." It is also clear that Brit reenactors have a lot more history, and costumes, to work with than Americans.
In Episode Four, Woods talked about Henry V putting down an insurrection of Lollards — heretic peasants led by Henry's old friend Sir John Oldcastle (a probable model for Falstaff). Henry's forces were alerted, dispersed and executed the insurgents forthwith, and years later Oldcastle was slowly burned at stake, but Woods blithely reassures the audience that the government eventually granted the religious freedoms they and their predecessors who followed Wat Tyler had wanted. So it was all good. [Read more]
I've come back from a month overseas in time for the Glorious Fourth. I'm happy to have spent it back in my native land, in my own back yard, grilling a holiday meal. It would have felt a bit odd to extend my European adventure past Independence Day, or to celebrate it outside America. There's only one day a year when cooking a burger feels like an act of national solidarity, and only one day when listening to John Philip Sousa feels like a pleasure. I like spending that day in the States. And spending it anywhere else feels slightly unpatriotic.
I've spent the last month or so in Rome; our last night in the city happily coincides with the 2012 Euro Cup final, with the hometown Italia Azzuri taking on defending champion Spain. (And that's a happy coincidence, too: a rematch of each team's first game of the tournament.) Naturally, we're going out to watch the match. And just as naturally, I bought a game jersey (from a pile at my neighborhood supermarket). Tonight I'll be wearing Mario Balotelli's number.
I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning: [Read more]
One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.
He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
You know who I really, really wouldn't run against on a national-security platform? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who killed Osama bin Laden.
But that's just me. Last week Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, in an extended and generally thoughtful interview with President Obama, asked the following question:
When will the Israelis attack? That's what the world has wondered ever since 1984, when an anonymous source predicted that Iran would develop a nuclear bomb within two years.
Twenty-eight years later, Israeli may have finally set a date for its long-awaited assault according to United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Panetta reportedly told David Ignatius of the Washington Post that Israel is likely to strike Iran sometime in April, May, or June of this year.
According to Panetta, the Israelis believe that Iran will soon enter what they call the "zone of immunity," which sounds like either a science fiction episode or a game of tag. Soon after the Post reported Panetta's remarks, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that the Israelis were very concerned about Iran's imminent arrival in the Immunity Zone.
But the report raises an intriguing question:
Why did Leon Panetta announce the schedule for Israeli's surprise attack? [Read more]
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