A Blast from the Past

phil_donahues_liberal_oasisI’d forgotten that Phil Donahue was fired from MSNBC in 2003 for his anti-Iraq views.  If you haven’t watched Juan Gonzlez interview Donahue on Democracy Now, you really should.  It’s a good reminder of the complicity of the media in the march to war and that there were a brave few that wouldn’t shut up.

In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says.

You definitely need to read the transcript at least to catch the exchange between Amy Goodman and Chris Matthews who always acts like his bathroom never smells when he’s in it.  He reminds me a lot of Schultzie in the old TV sitcom Hogan’s Heros.  “I know nothing, nothing!”

AMY GOODMAN: I want to congratulate you, Chris, on 10 years of MSNBC, but I wish standing with you was Phil Donahue. He shouldn’t have been fired for expressing an antiwar point of view on the eve of the election. His point of view and the people brought on were also important.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don’t know what the reasons were, but I doubt it was that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have the MS—the NBC memo, that was a secret memo—
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, good.

Just a great reminder of the fake meme of liberal bias in our media.  Also, more hubris by the press who refuses to admit they really could’ve done something other than be mouthpieces of propaganda.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I”m finally getting over this sinus infection so I’ve had a chance to actually read a few interesting things.  First up, is yet another one of those folks that insists that baby boomers are parasites.    I really hate generational warfare, don’t you?  However, this one is interesting.  It’s put in terms of a conversation between baby boomer son and ‘greatest generation’ father and the arguments are backed up by interesting anecdotes and statistics. Still, why do have to keep score on who’s screwed up the country more in terms of age groups?

The boomers haven’t been a total disaster, of course. They did indeed blaze huge social and economic trails for women, minorities, and people with disabilities. Those groups have gained rights that, as long as the rest of us remain vigilant, will never be reversed: Young women can grow up to be lawyers or scientists. African-Americans can grow up to be president. Boomers gave us Apple and Microsoft. They made the Star Wars movies. They grew the economy for a bit. Once, for a couple of years in the late 1990s, they balanced the federal budget.

But the numbers on the laptop remind me how fleeting much of that progress was—and how boomers chose short-term gratification when they had opportunities to secure a better future for generations to follow. Classic example: Instead of devoting the budget surpluses of the late ’90s to social programs that desperately needed them, they voted themselves tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and an expanded Medicare benefit shortly after—a move a Congressional Budget Office study from that era suggests raised the expected tax rate on future generations from 29 percent to 53 percent. They borrowed heavily to cope with the economic sluggishness of the 2000s and, in so doing, inflated a housing bubble that, when it popped, triggered the Great Recession.

Median-income growth has stagnated for women and minorities over the past decade. The typical African-American today has less wealth than his or her parents did, according to Pew. Labor-force participation for women this year hit its lowest level since 1991.

So, the Brits pile on boomers too.  Here’s something from The Economist on “Sponging Boomers” and how that relates to the next crisis.

These boomers have lived a charmed life, easily topping previous generations in income earned at every age. The sheer heft of the generation created a demographic dividend: a rise in labour supply, reinforced by a surge in the number of working women. Social change favoured it too. Households became smaller, populated with more earners and fewer children. And boomers enjoyed the distinction of being among the best-educated of American generations at a time when the return on education was soaring.

Yet these gains were one-offs. Retirements will reverse the earlier labour-force surge, and younger generations cannot benefit from more women working. There is room to raise educational levels, but it is harder and less lucrative to improve the lot of disadvantaged students than to establish a university degree as the norm for good ones, as was the case after the war. In short, boomer income growth relied on a number of one-off gains.

Young workers also cannot expect decades of rising asset prices like those that enriched the boomers. Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found in 2011 that movements in the price-earnings ratio of equities closely track changes in the ratio of middle-aged to old workers, meaning that the p/e ratio is likely to fall. Having lived through a spectacular bull market, boomers now sell off assets to finance retirement, putting pressure on equity prices and denying young workers an easy route to wealth. Boomers have weathered the economic crisis reasonably well. Thanks largely to the rapid recovery in stockmarkets, those aged between 53 and 58 saw a net decline in wealth of just 2.8% between 2006 and 2010.

More worrying is that this generation seems to be able to leverage its size into favourable policy. Governments slashed tax rates in the 1980s to revitalise lagging economies, just as boomers approached their prime earning years. The average federal tax rate for a median American household, including income and payroll taxes, dropped from more than 18% in 1981 to just over 11% in 2011. Yet sensible tax reforms left less revenue for the generous benefits boomers have continued to vote themselves, such as a prescription-drug benefit paired with inadequate premiums. Deficits exploded.

Yes. So, all of us should just head to the ice floes.  La-ti-da.

So, here’s my weekly update on interesting historical graves.  Archaeologists believe they have found the tomb of an ancient queen in Guatamala.  A tiny jar has given them some key clues.

Glyphs carved into a tiny alabaster jar have led archaeologists to conclude that the tomb in Guatemala where the jar was found belonged to one of the greatest queens of the Classic Maya civilization, known as Lady K’abel.

“She was not only a queen, but a supreme warlord, and that made her the most powerful person in the kingdom during her lifetime,” David Freidel, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a report released today. That description would put Lady K’abel in the same class as other ruling women of the ancient world, ranging from the biblical Queen of Sheba to Egypt’sHatshepsut and Cleopatra.

That’s some heady company for Lady K’abel.

Some of the most bizarre comments made by Mitt Romney was his dislike of shipping jobs to China or having China fund our lifestyle as compared to funding their own. It takes brass ones to suggest that he’s not been in favor of shipping jobs to China given this Bain Capital investment in a Chinese factory that is quite shocking.  The word sweatshop is so inadequate.  No wonder he thinks all of us are freeloaders if he thinks this situation constitutes a normal working conditions. Romney discussed the working conditions so he was well aware of where his money was going.

Economist Paul Davidson recently pointed out the truth on AlterNet : “Romney has spent his career offshoring and outsourcing American production processes — and associated jobs — to countries like China where human labor is valued in the market at a very low wage rate.” The sub-human conditions at these production facilities represent things that Americans are strongly opposed to: child abuse, squalor, forced overtime, and peanuts for pay.

Romney’s penchant for bragging about his business activities at fundraisers helps underscore just how vile his brand of capitalism really is. While CEO of Bain, Romney invested in a Chinese sweatshop which he appears to be describing in detail at the very same Boca Raton fundraising event where he made his infamous case that nearly half of all Americans are freeloaders.

A report recently released by the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights reveals that while Romney was deeply invested at a firm called Global-Tech, low pay and horrific conditions were status quo at its Chinese appliance factory.

Here are some really horrifying details from the same article.

From April 1998 through August 2000, Romney and his Brookside Capital Partners Fund, a Bain affiliate, poured around $23 million into the Global-Tech sweatshop in Dongguan, China. Among the details outlined in the report were the following:

  • Factory workers made 24 cents an hour in 1998 and less than $2 a day. Wages in Global-Tech were less than 2 percent of U.S. wages.
  • As CEO, Romney appears to have been uninterested in calling for improvements at the facility. Today, the sweatshop is still a horror where starvation wages prevail and workers’ rights are nonexistent. Overcrowded, filthy dormitories; rotten food; routine 15- to 16-hour shifts; and backbreaking 105- to 112-hour, seven-day workweeks are the norm.
  • The appliance factory has 800 student “interns” — 16-years-olds forced to work repetitive, exhausting 15- to 16-hour shifts on assembly lines with no overtime pay.

There’s a story in Vanity Fair on Jamie Dimon that’s also an eye-opener.

… Dimon’s sanguinity is somewhat belied by the formidable lobbying machine that he’s built in Washington. JPMorgan’s shop is much bigger than that of other banks, and it is chock-full of politically connected former congressional staffers. The firm has become known for the regularity with which its top people show up in Washington.

Dimon has put himself front, center, and uncensored in the debate about tougher oversight. He’s lambasted regulators for failing to recognize that, while some companies were “too big to fail,” others were “ports in the storm,” and for making “hundreds of rules, many of which are uncoordinated and inconsistent with each other.”

Part of the explanation is purely pragmatic: Dimon is trying to preserve his firm’s profits—and maybe the firm itself. But it’s hard not to hear something more emotional when you listen to Dimon. “This country would be flying if we had gotten stuff right and all worked together, but we haven’t,” he says. He frequently says that banks and bankers are being “scapegoated” for their role in the crisis, and he is full of righteous indignation. He often invokes Abraham Lincoln: “I’m a Democrat, and I tell Democrats and Republicans, you guys are busy simplifying and scapegoating—well, Abe Lincoln wouldn’t do it.” He says he’s heard the story of a young officer telling Lincoln during the Civil War, “We’re going to win because God is on our side.” Lincoln responded, “Son, let’s hope that we’re on God’s side.”

I watched Amy Goodman on Democracy Now after the end of the Debates.  She did a great segment on the difficulty of getting outsider candidates into the presidential debate.  You may want to watch it if you get a chance.

President Obama made a good point in late 2011, when he told “60 Minutes,” “Don’t judge me against the Almighty; judge me against the alternative.” If only the public had a full range of alternatives against which to judge. In fact, most people do. They just don’t know it. The reason they don’t know it is because the media don’t report on third-party politics or campaigns. These campaigns also lack the funds to purchase television airtime, or to compete against the Democratic and Republican campaign fundraising juggernauts. This leads to less diversity of voices, and far fewer alternatives on the ballot.

It hasn’t always been this way. In 1980, the League of Women Voters ran the debates, and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson was allowed to participate (President Jimmy Carter opposed his participation and boycotted the event). In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot used his personal funds to overcome the media blockade of his presidential campaign. His successful debate performance temporarily propelled him ahead of both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in the polls.

Since then, no third-party candidate has been allowed into the presidential debates. The debates are run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization described by George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates, as “a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters.”

Farah told me that in 1988, “you have the Michael Dukakis and the George Bush campaigns drafting the first-ever 12-page secret debate contract. They gave it to the League of Women Voters and said please implement this. The League said, Are you kidding me? We are not going to implement a secret contract that dictates the terms of the format. Instead, they release the contract to the public and they held a press conference accusing the candidates of ‘perpetrating a fraud on the American people’ and refusing to be ‘an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.’”

The Democratic and Republican parties wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters, and have controlled them since.

So, I love Japanese woodcut prints and had quite a collection of them prior to the divorce.   Fortunately, older daughter has been ensuring they don’t disappear to E-bay and into her step mother’s casino fund.  The one above is called Beauty and Violence.  I wanted to end with a really interesting and inspiring story about the elderly in Japan.  Japan has an extremely large population of long-lived seniors.  This story is about them and their participation in athletics. Notice that Japan is not promoting the ice floes like Paul Ryan and a lot of Republican leaders even though Japan’s debt is substantially more worrisome than ours.

Saddled with record public debt, Japan is promoting social interaction to curb the cost of caring for the 32 percent its people older than 60 — the highest proportion globally. By 2050, one in five people worldwide will be over 60, from one in nine now, according to the United Nations. Japan’s approach may help other countries also facing rising numbers of elderly.

“It enables them to participate quite actively in community life,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, secretary general of the UN’s Population Fund, which is leading UN efforts on aging. People with strong social networks “will probably not fall ill as frequently,” he said in an interview in Tokyo, where the UN released a report on aging this week.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released policies on health and aging that focus on strengthening seniors’ community involvement in July, a shift from previous approaches that centered only on individual behavior.

Finding cost-effective ways to promote healthy aging will be critical for countries trying to reconcile rising welfare costs and a shrinking tax base. By 2050, 42 percent of Japan’s population will be at least 60 years old, according to Global AgeWatch.

Read on about Japan’s 10 point plan for Healthy Aging. It includes subsidizing exercise for seniors and rewarding them for doing civic and group activities with coupons.

In Tokyo’s Suginami ward, where Doi lives, authorities award points in the form of stickers to seniors who participate in government-approved activities from picking up litter, to attending health and sporting events, to cultural activities. Each point has a value of 50 yen (64 cents) and can be exchanged for grocery coupons. The Suginami local government has allocated 80 million yen for the project this year, according to its website.

“People who are disadvantaged socially and economically have more health problems,” the health ministry in Tokyo said in July.

Each year since 1988, the ministry has hosted the “Nenrinpic” carnival in which seniors compete at a national level in sports such as tennis, petanque and croquet. Doi’s petanque team has represented Tokyo five times, been a finalist three times and won the championship in 1999, she said.

Health clubs are benefiting from a growing enthusiasm for exercise among seniors. Koshidaka Holdings Co., which operates 1,200 women-only fitness centers in Japan, says 50- and 60-year- olds make up more than 60 percent of its 500,000 members.

“The core customers have never really exercised in their adult life before, so they feel the benefits from an easy, 30- minutes of weight training,” Hiroshi Koshidaka, the company’s president, said in an interview. “Many come three times a week, feel improvement, make friends, encourage others to join, and stop people from quitting.”

The purpose of the plan is to end the isolation that many seniors feel and support them in a healthy, connected life style.  Wow.  Imagine that.

So, I’ve gone way past my usual length and MABlue always gives me a hard time about that so, I’ll leave the rest of the day’s news reporting to you.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! Let’s see what’s in the news today.

Mitt Romney has been whining about the “liberal media” giving him a hard time, but a new Pew survey has found that the “liberal media” are friendlier to Mitt Romney than President Obama. Adam Serwer at Mother Jones:

The Liberal Media has consistently given more positive coverage to likely Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared to President Barack Obama, according to a new survey of media coverage from the Pew Research Center’s Excellence in Journalism Project.

During the early weeks of 2012, Romney’s media coverage was slightly negative—between January 2 and February 26, 33 percent of the stories about the ex-Massachusetts governor were positive and 37 percent were negative, according to Pew’s analysis. But Romney has received mostly positive coverage since then (47 percent positive to 24 percent negative). By contrast, according to the report, President Barack Obama “did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage.”

Check out the full report at the Pew link.

Florida Rep. Allen West was booted from an NAACP fund-raiser because of his claim that around 80 Democrats in the House of Representatives are card-carrying members of the Communist Party.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was supposed to be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for his district chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) this past Saturday. But days before the event, the group canceled the gathering and asked West not to come back when they rescheduled. Why?

“There’s a certain statement he made about Communists,” Jerry Gore, president of the Martin County NAACP, told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. “That statement alone … we do not represent that type of atmosphere.”

But that didn’t keep West from making more ludicrous remarks. Yesterday, he claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is “being allowed to influence strategy.”

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) criticized the FBI on Monday for removing nearly 900 pages of training material it deemed to be offensive, saying it showed extremist Muslim groups were influencing national strategy.

The FBI made the move after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) complained about some passages, including one that advised agents to “never attempt to shake hands with an Asian” and another that said agents should expect “outbursts” from Arab minds.

West said that by removing such passages, the FBI was committing “cultural suicide” and allowing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood to influence U.S. policy.

“We have to understand that when tolerance becomes a one-way street it leads to cultural suicide,” West told “Fox and Friends” on Monday. “We should not allow the Muslim Brotherhood or associated groups to be influencing our national strategy.”

When asked if he believed those groups were influencing U.S. strategy, West responded, “Oh, absolutely,” and cited the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting report that didn’t mention the suspect’s Muslim faith as a potential motive for the killings.

In another throwback to the McCarthy era, a few days ago Bill O’Reilly accused Robert Reich of being a communist.

Yesterday, Reich responded: Communist Accusations Matter.

For the record, I’m not a communist and I don’t secretly adore Karl Marx.

Ordinarily I don’t bother repeating anything Bill O’Reilly says. But this particular whopper is significant because it represents what O’Reilly and Fox News, among others, are doing to the national dialogue….

O’Reilly based his claim on an interview I did last week with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, in which I argued that because America’s big corporations were now global we could no longer rely on them to make necessary investments in human capital or to lobby for public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D. So, logically, government has to step in.

Since when does an argument for public investment in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D make someone a communist or a secret adorer of Karl Marx?

Since the Tea Party crazies crawled out from under their rocks and took over the Republican Party, I guess. I sure wish they’d crawl back where they came from.

Now this is refreshing. Sen. Tom Harken defended Social Security in the Huffington Post yesterday, and proposed some solutions to future problems:

To strengthen America’s retirement system, my proposal would increase Social Security benefits and greatly improve the financial stability of the program. It does so by:

• Increasing the amount of earnings covered by higher replacement rates in order to increase benefits by approximately $60-70 per month
• Changing the way the COLA is calculated so that it better corresponds to the typical expenses of seniors
• Removing the cap, currently $110,100, that unfairly protects the highest earning Americans from paying into Social Security like the majority of hardworking Americans.

All told, according to the Social Security Actuary, this proposal would extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund to 2052 while cutting the long term funding deficit in half.

I’m sure Mitt Romney will explain to Senator Harkin why it would be wrong to try to raise payroll taxes on high income “job creators.”

Speaking of Willard, the LA Times had an interesting story on Romney’s health care plan–they call it “revolutionary,” and not in a good way.

In public, Romney has only sketched the outlines of a plan, and aides have declined to answer questions about the details. But his public statements and interviews with advisors make clear that Romney has embraced a strategy that in crucial ways is more revolutionary — and potentially more disruptive — than the law Obama signed two years ago.

The centerpiece of Romney’s plan would overhaul the way most Americans get their health coverage: at work. He would do so by giving Americans a tax break to buy their own health plans. That would give consumers more choices, but also more risk.

Critics and independent analysts say the impact would probably leave a larger number of Americans without insurance.

In addition,

While offering consumers more choices, Romney’s plan would give companies strong incentives to stop providing insurance to workers. It also would overhaul the 46-year-old Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

The plan could swell the federal deficit; a similar plan backed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 presidential campaign would have cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, on par with the price tag for the Obama healthcare law.

Romney keeps claiming he’s going to cut the deficit. Somehow I don’t think privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will do that. Maybe he thinks he can end those programs completely.

Democracy Now has been running a series on NSA spying. A good starting point is this article at Alternet: Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying — The U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States.

While you’re at Alternet, here’s another article you should read: How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare

When Barack Obama took office, he was the civil liberties communities’ great hope. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, pledged to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and run a transparent and open government. But he has become a civil libertarian’s nightmare: a supposedly liberal president who instead has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration’s worst policies, lending bipartisan support for a more intrusive and authoritarian federal government.

Please go read the whole thing and then check out Glenn Greenwald’s take on the story.

As I’m sure everyone here knows, we don’t live in a democracy anymore.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?


Glenn Greenwald on Presidential Assassinations

Glenn Greenwald:

“To say that the President has the right to kill citizens without due process is really to take the constitution and to tear it up into as many little pieces as you can and then burn it and step on it.”

From Greenwald’s blog at Salon:

What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process. Remember all that? Yet now, here’s Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President — even Barack Obama — vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process.

As Dakinikat posted in the comments to Minx’s evening post, a second U.S. citizen who was not on Obama’s assassination list was also murdered along with al-Awlaki. From bmaz at Emptywheel:

Awlaki was killed by a drone delivered Hellfire missile, via a joint CIA and JSOC operation, in the town of Kashef, in Yemen’s Jawf province, approximately 140 kilometres east of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. But not only Awlaki was killed, at least three others, including yet another American citizen, Samir Khan, were killed in the strike.

That’s right, not just one, but two, Americans were summarily and extrajudicially executed by their own government today, at the direct order of the President of the United States. No trial, no verdict, just off with their heads. Heck, there were not even charges filed against either Awlaki or Khan. And it is not that the government did not try either, there was a grand jury convened on Khan, but no charges. Awlaki too was investigated for charges at least twice by the DOJ, but non were found.

But at least Awlaki was on Barrack Obama’s “Americans That Are Cool to Kill List”. Not so with Samir Khan. Not only is there no evidence whatsoever Khan is on the classified list for killing (actually two different lists) my survey of people knowledgeable in the field today revealed not one who believed khan was on any such list, either by DOD or CIA.

So, the US has been tracking scrupulously Awlaki for an extended period and knew with certainty where he was and when, and knew with certainty immediately they had killed Awlaki and Khan. This means the US also knew, with certainty, they were going to execute Samir Khan.

I can’t even begin to describe how sickened I am by these murders of American citizens. President Obama is a murderer and a tyrant who is destroying the last vestiges of the Constitution of the United States. At least I don’t have to live with the horror of having voted for this evil man.


Thursday Reads

The view from my front door

Good Morning!! Isn’t it fun to look out your window and see a coating of ice all over everything? Especially when you already have mountains of snow out there. I plan to spend much of the day throwing ice pellets around and trying to chip the pile of ice that a snowplow left at the end of my driveway. Oh joy!

So what’s in the news this morning? Let me see….. I thought I’d post some video of Noam Chomsky discussing the Egyptian protests on Democracy Now.

NOTE: There are more parts to the Chomsky interview that you can watch at Democracy Now.

That’s the view from a real leftist. Have you heard what Tony Blair had to say about the situation?

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair explained Tuesday that the embattled Egyptian president was “immensely courageous and a force for good.”

Appearing on CNN, Blair praised Mubarak’s role in brokering peace between Israel and Palestine. The former prime minister is now an envoy to the peace process….

…where you stand on him depends on whether you’ve worked with him from the outside or on the inside,” Blair replied. “And for those of us who worked with him over the — particularly now I worked with him on the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians, so this is somebody I’m constantly in contact with and working with.”

George Soros expressed his ideas about Egypt in today’s Washington Post.

President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America’s leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. As regards contagion, it is more likely to endanger the enemies of the United States – Syria and Iran – than our allies, provided that they are willing to move out ahead of the avalanche.

The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.

I am, as a general rule, wary of revolutions. But in the case of Egypt, I see a good chance of success. As a committed advocate of democracy and open society, I cannot help but share in the enthusiasm that is sweeping across the Middle East. I hope President Obama will expeditiously support the people of Egypt.

Here’s an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about why both the U.S. and Egyptian government were unprepared for the Egyptian uprising.

A close look at how Egypt’s seemingly stable surface cracked in so short a time shows how Egypt’s rulers and their Western allies were caught almost completely off guard as the revolution unfolded, despite deep concerns about where Egypt’s authoritarian government was leading the country.

From the moment demonstrators began pouring into the street, those leaders have been scrambling to keep up, often responding in ways that have accelerated the crisis.

[....]

…last week, tens of thousands of Egyptians began taking to the streets, flooding into the central Tahrir Square after pitched battles with thousands of riot police. It became the largest popular protest in Egypt since the so-called Bread Riots against rising prices in 1977.

Mr. Mubarak’s regime was stunned. “No one expected those numbers that showed up to Tahrir square,” said Ali Shamseddin, a senior official with the National Democratic Party in Cairo.

In faraway Washington, the demonstrations were only starting to register. Last Tuesday’s State of the Union address, delivered the day the protests started, had only a short section on foreign policy. President Barack Obama planned to nod to the democratic movement that swept away the ruler of Tunisia, a place “where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator,” the speech read.

After that, it’s kind of embarrassing that Obama is clearly more concerned about “stability” (oil?) in Egypt than the “will of the people.”

Trees uprooted by Cyclone Yasi

We had a gigantic storm here in the U.S., but the one in Australia might have been worse. From the Daily Telegraph: Cyclone Yasi: Queensland wakes to widespread devastation

As the winds dropped on the coast and locals emerged from cyclone bunkers and evacuation centres, they found widespread damage, especially in the coastal communities of Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell.

Driving winds of 180mph had uprooted trees and torn roofs and walls from homes and businesses.

During the morning, dangerous storm surges were causing flooding in low-lying urban areas in the cities of Cairns and Townsville and the authorities urged residents to stay indoors.

[....]

In total, 170,000 properties were without power and thousands of people were likely to be left homeless after their homes were severely damaged by the worst cylone to hit Australia since 1918. Storm surges and flooding were also rolling into low-lying areas and inundating homes throughout the morning. Compounding the crisis, saltwater crocodiles had been spotted in floodwater.

Yikes! At least my power didn’t go out, and there aren’t any crocodiles out there.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about this morning?