Sunday Reads: GOP Pigs and Spots in Space…Posted: December 2, 2012
It is the first Sunday in December, the year has gone by so damn fast. There has been all sorts of juicy items in the news, and I’ve got plenty of articles to share with you this morning.
Let us start of with several links on foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has been extremely busy in her final leg as Secretary of State.
The recent UN decision to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state has sparked another confrontational response from Israel. After the UN vote was announced an Israeli official made a statement that included the government backed settlement and construction of 3,000 new West Bank units.
The Daily Beast/Newsweek has a post up, Explaining Israel’s Reaction to the U.N.’s pro-Palestinian Vote
Israel’s leaders stayed surprisingly calm last week. In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s vote on upgrading the Palestinians’ U.N. membership, a few senior Israeli officials drafted a position paper focusing on how the government should respond. The U.N. move, the writers warned, threatened to “severely damage” Israel’s credibility and undermine the Jewish state’s position in future peace negotiations. But more than that, they added, the initiative could open the door to war-crimes prosecutions against Israelis at the International Criminal Court. The five-page paper, dated Nov. 12 and obtained by Newsweek, advised that if the vote went ahead, Israel should “exact a heavy price” from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—a price to include dismantling his Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. “A softer approach would amount to waving a white flag and admitting that the Israeli leadership is unable to rise to the challenge,” the writers concluded.
The upgrade, which the General Assembly approved last week by a huge majority, is a bitter pill for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It includes not only a boost in the Palestinians’ status from (U.N. jargon alert!) “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state,” but also a recognition of their right to all of the West Bank and Gaza, including territory that Israelis have settled since 1967. Even some dovish Israelis have problems with the resolution’s sweep. And yet Israel’s response—a dismissive statement from the prime minister and the floating of plans to build thousands of new housing units in the West Bank—fell well short of the threats to topple Abbas. “This is a meaningless resolution that won’t change anything on the ground,” Netanyahu said in a handout just before the vote.
Clinton has made it clear that she was not pleased with Israel’s decision to expand settlements further into the West Bank. New Israeli Settlements Set Back Peace, Clinton Says
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Israeli plans for new settlements near East Jerusalem do not help efforts to bring about a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis.
Clinton told Israeli officials in Washington that plans for new settlements abutting East Jerusalem “set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”
“We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can finally deliver on a two-state solution. That must remain our goal,” Clinton said.
Clinton continued her remarks,
“President Abbas took a step in the wrong direction this week,” Clinton said. “We opposed his resolution. But we also need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance.”
She says Palestinian Authority leaders deserve credit for real achievements on the ground — making their streets safe, overhauling governing institutions and cooperating with Israel to help enhance Israeli security.
“At a time when religious extremists claim to offer rewards in the hereafter, Israel needs to help those committed to peace deliver for their people in the here and now,” Clinton said.
When Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to return to direct negotiations, Secretary Clinton says President Barack Obama will be a full partner.
She says the United States stand ready to help Israel make more permanent its cease-fire with Hamas forces in Gaza. But that requires the continued cooperation of the new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
“We look to Egypt to intensify its efforts to crack down on weapons smuggling from Libya and Sudan into Gaza,” Clinton said. “I am convinced that if more rockets are allowed to enter Gaza through the tunnels, that will certainly pave the way for more fighting again soon.”
After Clinton made this statement she was joined in agreement by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague: Clinton and Hague attack Israel decision to build new settlements both,
…have launched attacks on an Israeli decision to build fresh settlements on occupied territory in the West Bank.
The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu‘s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes is widely seen as a response to the United Nations vote earlier this week that recognised a Palestinian bid to be a “non-member observer state”.
The US, with Israel, strongly opposed that move, while Britain abstained in the vote. But now both countries have criticised the Israeli settlement decision, saying it hurts the chances of a two-state solution and the search for peace in the troubled region.
Hague’s comments were the following.
Hague said he was “extremely concerned” at the plans, which have been reported in the Israeli press as including a four-square-mile area just east of Jerusalem that is seen as vital to keeping open a viable land corridor between the city and any future Palestinian state.
Hague asked Israel to reverse the decision and said the prospect of a successful two solution was receding. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” he said in comments Saturday. “If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve.”
Hague added: “They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.”
Sticking with Foreign Policy, I thought this was an interesting piece written by Stephen M. Walt. Never underestimate the power of confusion
If you read this blog, you’ve probably heard about the various “isms” in the field of international relations. There’s realism, of course, but also liberalism, idealism, and social constructivism. And don’t forget Marxism, even though hardly anybody claims to believe it anymore. These “isms” are essentially families of theory that share certain common assumptions. For example, realists see power and fear as the main drivers of world affairs, while liberals place more weight on human acquisitiveness and the power of institutions.
But there’s another major force in world affairs, and sometimes I think it deserves an “ism” all its own. With tongue in cheek and apologies to a famous Chinese sage, I’ll call it “Confusionism.” For Confusians, ignorance and stupidity are the real key to understanding state behavior, not fear, greed, ideals, class interests, or any of those other things that people think drive world affairs. When Confusians seek to explain why states act as they do, they start by assuming that leaders do not understand the problems they face, have only a vague sense of where they want to go, and no idea at all about how to get there. Instead of starting with the rational actor assumption beloved by economists, realists, and most liberals, Confusians hone in on all the reasons why humans typically get things wrong.
Hmmm, “isms” (aren’t those the things right-wing southern secessionist dislike?)
Confusionism is the opposite of the assorted conspiracy theories that you often read about. Some people believe that the world is run by a shadowy network of elites (e.g., the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, etc.). Other people think everything is ultimately the product of some secret Zionist conspiracy, or the machinations of oil companies and the military-industrial complex. Islamophobes are convinced there is some sort of well-oiled Muslim plot to infiltrate Europe and America, impose Sharia law, and stick all our young women in harems. If you read enough Robert Ludlum, watch The Matrix too often, or spend enough time patrolling the nether regions of the blogosphere, you might find yourself thinking along similar lines. If that happens, get help.
Okay, that is the first three paragraphs, just go read the whole thing will ya?
There is one thing I am grateful for these last four years, and that is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I will miss her tremendously when she retires at the start of Obama’s second term, and personally, I would feel more comfortable with John Kerry as SoS…but that is another story. Anyway, Clinton’s replacement will reveal new US foreign policy direction
With the imminent retirement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, much speculation has arisen in Washington concerning her replacement. No matter whom the president chooses to nominate for the post, the political process of confirmation by the US Senate is sure to reveal much about the mindset of Republicans and Democrats entering Obama’s second term, and will certainly indicate the direction of US foreign policy in coming years.
Following President Barack Obama’s reelection, it was widely believed that US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice would be the president’s nominee to succeed Clinton.
With impeccable academic credentials, and experience as an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton White House, Rice is more than qualified. Rice is known for her direct and idealistic style of negotiation, and her less conciliatory, more confrontational style would likely take the practice of US foreign policy in a different direction than that charted by Clinton’s more pragmatic approach.
A greater and more direct US role in Middle Eastern affairs, and more emphasis on the role of foreign governments in human rights abuses and issues of social justice would likely mark the tenure of Rice.
Supposedly, there are rumors that Hillary is not thrilled with the prospect of Susan Rice replacing her at the Department of State. According to Michael Sneed: Hillary Clinton no fan of Susan Rice, prefers Kerry for State
The big question: Who would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton like to get her job?
It ain’t embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is dealing with the way she handled the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Sneed is told if Hillary had to choose between Rice and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who is head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, she would prefer Kerry.
“Hillary is not close to Rice, who is tough — but is not the friendliest person,” said a top White House source. “And Hillary’s brief comment recently that Rice had done ‘a great job’ was considered underwhelming and tepid,” the source added.
Yes, that bit of gossip is followed by a story on Kate Middleton, but it does go along the lines of how I think many of us perceive the situation…that Kerry would be a better fit after Clinton.
Okay, enough on Foreign Affairs and Policy, before we go on to other stories…take a quick look at this from Tommy Christopher: Persistent Romnesia: Former Mitt Romney Chief Strategist Says ‘Nobody Liked Romney Except Voters’
If the recent fiscal cliff/Susan Rice piñata party news doldrums have got you down, take a break with what has to be the first published example of a resignation letter from every future job. Former Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens has penned the most deluded piece of writing since Norma Desmond filled out an order for new headshots. In a hilarious op-ed for The Washington Post, Stevens explains, among other things, that “Nobody liked Romney except voters.”
I know that BB wrote a great post on the “delusions” of the GOP and Romney’s camp, but anything that can make a reference to Sunset Blvd is too good to ignore.
And when it comes to the GOP, not only are they delusional…they are cruel. How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless
Homelessness in New York has skyrocketed, thanks in part to years of conservative policy predicated on right-wing ideology.
There are 20,000 kids sleeping in homeless shelters in New York City, according to the city’s latest estimate, a number that does not include homeless kids who are not sleeping in shelters because their families have been turned away. Up to 65 percent of families who apply for shelter don’t get in , and their options can be grim.
“Some end up sleeping in subway trains,” Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, tells AlterNet. “Some go to hospital emergency rooms or laundromats. Women are going back to their batterers or staying in unsafe apartments.”
Families that make it into shelters are taking longer to leave and move into stable, permanent housing. Asked by reporters why families were staying 30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “… it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
“Is it great?” He elaborated a day later in response to outcry over his comments. “No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel … but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”
The above alternet story has many pages, it is important that you read them all. I have one more story related to the homeless. Winter problem: More homeless are living in cars
Phil Bell sleeps under three sleeping bags and two blankets in the back seat of his 1998 Buick. He parks outside truck stops and stores that are open 24 hours and rarely turns on his engine.
“You can’t leave the car running because it calls attention to you and burns too much gas,” he explains. “Being in the car is better than being outside or in a tent, but it gets really cold.”
Bell, 39, has been homeless since September. He was laid off by a Detroit auto parts maker and couldn’t pay his rent. He loaded his possessions into his car and took off. He made it this far and is looking for work here.
“I’m lucky,” Bell says. “At least I’ve got the car. Most people out here on the streets don’t have anything.”
I know these are long reads…if you can’t read them all in one shot, book mark them for later.
Now let’s get on with the easy Sunday reads, after the jump.
The night skies will be something to savor this month. A marvelous month for moon dances
Consider it dancing derring-do: No wallflower the moon, as our lunar neighbor lights up the September sky by waltzing with Jupiter, Venus and Mars.
Take a look at that link for a quick run down on what heavenly bodies you can spy in the sky…more on this magical night-time show here: See Mercury at Dawn and Jupiter in Night Sky | Space.com
On the morning of Tuesday December 4, Mercury will be at its greatest distance from the sun, best viewed about an hour before sunrise. Use Saturn and Venus to point the way to Mercury.
CREDIT: Starry Night Software
First we have Mercury:
This is a great week for planetary observers. Mercury is in its best position as a “morning star” for observers in the Northern Hemisphere while Jupiter is at its biggest and brightest for nighttime observers all over the world.
…take a look at Mercury’s dawn sky performance. Because Mercury never strays far from the sun, it is usually a challenging object to observe.
Only rarely does Mercury reach maximum elongation when the ecliptic is at a steep angle to the horizon, so that it can be spotted against a fairly dark sky. Each year this happens once in the evening and once in the morning, and this is the week to look for Mercury in the morning sky for northern observers. As a bonus, the brighter planets Saturn and Venus point the way to find Mercury’s tiny disk against the glow of dawn.
Next up is Jupiter:
On the nights around opposition, it is in the sky all night long, rising in the east as the sun sets in the west, and setting in the west as the sun rises in the east. When opposition happens this close to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, Jupiter is above the horizon for a full 15 hours.
If you have a telescope good enough to show you the details of Jupiter’s cloud belts, you can watch a full rotation of the planet, which takes a little under 10 hours. You should be able to see the Great Red Spot at some point during any night, and might even see it twice in one night.
More on Jupiter and it’s spots, both Red and Pink, at the link…
This next article is an interview with one of my favorite stars, actor Christopher Walken: ‘No matter who I play, it’s me’
Christopher Walken. Photograph: Rex Features
It was Mickey Rourke who came closest to capturing Christopher Walken‘s singular aura. “You were always like this strange being from another place,” Rourke told Walken when the two came together recently for a feature in Interview magazine. “There was something ‘outer space’ about you.”
Though Walken, now 69, has mellowed somewhat since he first crossed paths with Rourke on Michael Cimino‘s ill-fated epic, Heaven’s Gate, in 1980, that description still seems apt. It’s to do with his sense of detachment: the odd mix of preternatural calm and underlying menace that he exudes onscreen. Like the late Dennis Hopper, but in a more understated way, Walken has spent the best part of his career playing extreme characters of one kind or another, while also seeming to play himself.
Enjoy it…I sure did.
Let’s end this rather long Sunday post with a couple of links, one historical and one cutting edge. First this gallery of images from the Civil War: Women of the Civil War Pictures
In remembrance of the Union and Confederate soldiers who served in the American Civil War, the Liljenquist Family donated their rare collection of over 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress. Most of the people are unidentified. If you recognize a face, a regiment, or a photographer’s painted studio backdrop, e-mail the Library of Congress at email@example.com.
There are just 22 images at that link, I picked the one that reveals a bit of the woman’s personality. Be sure to check out the rest and see more at the Flickr site here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157625520211184/
These fascinating photographs represent the impact of the war, which involved many young enlisted men and the deaths of more than 600,000 soldiers. The photos feature details that enhance their interest, including horses, drums, muskets, rifles, revolvers, hats and caps, canteens, and a guitar. Among the rarest images are African Americans in uniform, sailors, a Lincoln campaign button, and portraits with families, women, and girls and boys.
Group portraits also feature interesting poses, including soldiers with each others’ cigars.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why are these Civil War photographs important?
Many reasons! See Brandon Liljenquist’s eloquent essay about why the family collected these portraits.
Where can I see the original photographs?
Selected images appear in exhibitions at the Library. The major show was in April 2011, when “The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection,” commemorated the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. There’s an online version!
I can spend hours looking on those haunting images.
And lastly, here is a story on the cutting edge of medical science: Video appears to show twins fighting for space in womb
What really goes on when twins share a womb? If this video is any indication, it could be a similar to what happens once they’re young children — they fight.
The amazing images of twins in utero come from a study aimed at using MRI machines to diagnose a potentially deadly condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, Reuters reports.
The rare condition occurs only in identical twins, when blood from one twin moves into the other. That can significantly reduce the supply in the twin that loses the blood, causing him or her to be born smaller than their sibling, and with paleness, anemia and dehydration. The twin that receives the blood may be born larger than the other twin with increased blood pressure that may lead to heart failure.
The video was made at London’s Center for Fetal Care, according to Reuters, and the so-called cinematic-MRI the hospital used was able to pick up the pictures of what appears to be unborn twins fighting for space in mom’s womb.
A very serious condition, but fascinating to see the activity going on…video at the link.
Well, I hope you all enjoy your Sunday. I will be heading down to Atlanta, Christmas shopping…however, I am looking forward to it. It is a planned “coochie” day with my mom, daughter and her friend…no dingies aka ding-a-lings, allowed!