Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: WaPo (3-10-11)
Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have toppled their regimes. Unrest continues in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Algeria and Oman. Yet the host of the world's largest energy reserves and the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia, remains conspicuously quiet.
Saudi Arabia shares some characteristics that have been causes for unrest - such as high unemployment among its youth and public-sector corruption - but the kingdom has strengths its neighbors lack. Its strong economy and weak opposition are clear. Less understood in the West is another critical element: a nationalism that has been fostered by and is strongly linked to the monarchy. These qualities make it highly unlikely that the unrest in other Arab countries will spread to the kingdom....
Historically, Saudi Arabia has been dominated by allegiance to tribe and region. The most serious threat to Saudi leadership in the past decade may have been posed by al-Qaeda, but that group lost whatever public support it had after a series of bombings in Riyadh in 2003. A concerted counterterrorism effort, supported by the population, wiped out the group's network in the kingdom by 2006. Meanwhile, over the past two decades, a growing nationalist sentiment has been binding together Saudi society. External threats, such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and, more recently, the rise of Iran and its anti-Arab policies, coupled with internal crises such as the al-Qaeda bombings have bolstered this patriotism....
Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 14:17
SOURCE: CNN.com (3-10-11)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has won an important battle against public employees in his state, but the war -- and here we might justifiably call it the class war -- is far from over. By pushing through the state Legislature a bill stripping most public employees of their collective bargaining rights, Walker has become a hero to the Republican right.
But the outcome of this legislative melodrama is turning out to be of secondary import to the larger shift in political sentiment that the Wisconsin events have set in motion. The irony here is that as Republican officeholders attack public sector unions in Wisconsin and other Northern states that were once union bastions, including Ohio, Idaho, Indiana and Pennsylvania, public support for collective bargaining remains strong....
Right-wing assertions of a conspiracy between public employee unions and friendly officials represent a triumph of ideology over experience. Government officials, even those elected with union backing, have hardly been patsies when it comes to negotiations with state and municipal employees.
We've had plenty of union-management battles in the public sector, going all the way back to the strikes of teachers, garbage collectors, and social workers who led the way to the formation of municipal unions in the 1960s and 1970s. And in more recent years, tough bargaining sessions, full of layoff threats and midnight deadlines, have preceded the compromises that are embodied in virtually every public employee collective bargaining contract....
Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 14:13
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (3-9-11)
The 15th-century pope Pius II, who really initiated the modern discourse on "Europe", wrote a famous letter to Sultan Mohammad II, the conqueror of Constantinople, in which he celebrated the manifold powers of the old continent: "Spain so steadfast, France so warlike, Germany so populous, Britain so strong, Poland so daring, Hungary so active and Italy so rich, high-spirited and experienced in the art of war."
Now as then, Europe is unthinkable without its nations. To see Europe only as the European Union and its Brussels institutions is like describing a beautiful old house by reading out the instruction books for its plumbing, electrical system and central heating. To be sure, Europe is much more than the sum of its nations – but without them, it is nothing. So it is appropriate that when the Guardian launches a month of special European coverage on Monday, it will do so by looking in depth, week by week, at four nations mentioned by Pius II more than five centuries ago: Germany, France, Spain and Poland.
Meanwhile, let us consider Pius II's own nation, Italy, which celebrates the 150th anniversary of its supposed unification into a modern nation-state next Thursday – the Kingdom of Italy having been proclaimed on 17 March 1861. Italy is the ur-European country. Nowhere else can you find so many closely piled layers of European history. Only in Rome can you have lunch near the place where Julius Caesar was murdered, then pop over to hear St Peter's heir proclaim his 2,000-year-old message to the city and the world. Most of what made the traditional, early modern identity of Europe – especially the heritage of ancient Greece and Christianity – came to us through ancient Rome. Europe: from Julius Caesar to Silvio Berlusconi.
Every European country is unique, yet they all have much in common with each other and each part tells us something about the whole. Here are eight things that I think today's Italy tells us about today's Europe...
Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 04:16
SOURCE: CHE (3-6-11)
Recently, after an absence of many decades, I returned to the place of higher learning where I began studying physics. I hardly recognized the laboratories.
In my time, they were given over to model experiments, such as a ballistic pendulum (in which a rifle delivered a bullet into a block of wood, verifying action-and-reaction), Kater's pendulum (for measuring the acceleration resulting from gravity), or the stroboscopic trajectory of a projectile (the parabolic arc). Senior students were encouraged to redesign classic experiments with minor updates. A friend and I built an apparatus for detecting electron spin; we designed a special magnetic pole face, and fabricating it cost us a great deal of time with a Bridgeport milling machine. There were unexpected and prosaic hazards, such as the time I watched a future Nobel laureate sorting hundreds of resistors that he had knocked off their rack.
But all that is a world apart from the original experimental work now expected of undergraduates with their sophisticated, prefabricated gadgets. Now undergraduates design original experiments, like simulating the magnetic fields in the sun's corona....
My generation is the last to have been educated by the genetic method. That is to say, we learned science by repeating stages of science past, beginning with Newton's and Boyle's laws, on to Lavoisier's chemistry, then 19th-century wave phenomena, and finally 20th-century nuclear physics. To reinforce a sense of the past, our textbooks featured vignettes of people in odd costumes who first carried out the investigations we were repeating. The general idea was that science developed immanently from a community of truth-seekers. We joined the community by tracing the development of their ideas from the somewhat remote past. Our task was to recover, insofar as possible, the way that old knowledge had emerged....
My recent tour of an undergraduate physics laboratory persuades me that the genetic method of instruction is gone, a casualty of the passing of the Modern Age. In place of model experiments based on historical examples, we now encourage students to explore particular situations using a variety of techniques. Rather than emphasizing the development of one discipline, we ask students to look everywhere for solutions to problems—in effect promoting the deconstruction of disciplinary knowledge and welcoming the classical, virtuosic breadth of Newton and Leibniz....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 22:42
SOURCE: Calgary Herald (3-8-11)
Acute observers in China know the resources of the Canadian Arctic and its Northwest Passage will continue to guarantee Canada's status as a wealthy and developed country well into the 21st century. Not all of them are happy about this, given Canada's tiny population and the burgeoning and resource-hungry populations of the world's non-Arctic countries (of which China sees itself as chief). China feels entitled to a share of the Arctic's natural resource wealth and wants to see as much of the Arctic as possible remain international territory....
Some Chinese analysts want to see Canada's sovereignty over the Northwest Passage watered down or defined into meaninglessness, largely on the Svalbard Islands model. China and several other major countries that have no Arctic coastline of their own have set up Arctic research stations in the Svalbard Islands, an Arctic archipelago which, supposedly and technically, is controlled by Norway.
But not really. In 1920 Norway signed an international agreement giving Norway "full and absolute sovereignty" over the Svalbards, but granting the citizens of each signatory state "equal liberty of access and entry for any reason or object whatever." Hence today, the Chinese and anybody else whose country signed the agreement can pretty much come and go as they like in the Svalbards.
Could, or should, Canadian "sovereignty" over the Northwest Passage suffer a similar fate? Some Chinese academics seem to think so. If they had their way, Canada would have token "full and absolute sovereignty" over the Northwest Passage, but would be able to do the square root of squat about anything happening there....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 19:02
SOURCE: CNN.com (3-7-11)
Republicans are looking ahead -- some with glee and others with fear -- to the presidential election in 2012....
But Republicans have also expressed a significant amount of hesitation about jumping into the race. Christie still says he is not planning to run. Gingrich has been going back and forth. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has delayed a decision and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota has already dropped out....
Most of them, even the optimists, realize that there is a rough road ahead. With all the challenges that President Obama confronts, he won't be easy to beat.
The fact is that it has been extremely difficult in recent history to defeat presidential incumbents who decide to run for a second term. Since Herbert Hoover lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, only three incumbents have been defeated in their re-election bid -- Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson announced they would not run in the middle of the primaries....
History should give Republicans some pause as they start to think about their choice. None of this means Obama is a lock for re-election. After all, conditions can change and new voices can rapidly emerge in today's media. But it's going to take a special candidate and a change in the political environment for a Republican to win.
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 18:46
SOURCE: OneNewsNow (3-9-11)
In the 1980s, when it was President Reagan's challenge to face down the mad dictator of Libya, he referred to Colonel Muamar Gaddafi as both a "mad dog" and "Looney tunes," a Warner Brothers cartoon series with a cast of nutty and humorous character. But in today's situation in Libya, the movie analogy should be changed to Goldfinger, the deranged and super-rich villain of a James Bond movie who deployed his billions to pay off a retinue of mercenary thugs.
Today, Libya contains the Arab world's Blofeld, the Goldfinger villain, a megalomaniac tyrant apparently willing to murder hundreds of his own people to demonstrate the point that his people "love" him. One of his Western-educated sons, Saif, alternately winked at the camera or ranted in public that "rivers of blood" would be shed as his father took the needed measures to suppress political opposition. Of course, Muammar Gaddafi had already insisted in public that his political opponents had probably all been deluded into criticizing him by hallucinogenic drugs slipped by agents of al-Qaeda into their instant Nescafe when they weren't watching.
If ordinary Libyans weren't being beaten and murdered by the Gaddafi regime for their actions, it would all be almost funny: political unrest in the Arab world metastasizing into murderous mayhem in the one Arab country whose ruling tyrant is manifestly delusional and has been in power for more than four decades. But it isn't funny. No matter how you look at it, the situation in Libya is a tragedy for the Arab world and a slap in the face of all human beings who aspire to orderliness and decency in government....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 18:19
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (3-9-11)
Muammar Qaddafi is still trying to play the al-Qaeda card, arguing that his murderous regime is what stands between Europe and the emigration to it of thousands of Muslim extremists. He told Turkish television that his regime is a key element of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, and its fall would bring chaos there, including to Israel.
So, who knew? Qaddafi is the guarantor of Israel’s security and that of Europe? It is a desperate attempt to induce caution with regard the growing move in the West toward some sort of military intervention to prevent Tripoli from massacring the rebels.
Interestingly, Qaddafi’s language seems calculated to appeal to the far right in Europe and Israel, which views all Muslims as potential terrorists. It is an attempt to build a Qaddafi-National Front-Likud-Peter King front against the democracy movement in the Middle East. Qaddafi also sent an envoy Wednesday to the military council that is running Egypt. Since the pro-rebel tribe Awlad Ali dominates Salloum, the Egyptian city on the Libyan border, the rebels presumably are getting some supplies from their Egyptian allies. Qaddafi is probably keen to cut them off. His fear-mongering about al-Qaeda might have some purchase with right wing officers such as Omar Suleiman.
Aljazeera Arabic points out that the rebel forces, far from being “al-Qaeda,” are mostly disgruntled youth from major Libyan tribes such as Zintan. The keywords preferred by statements from such tribes are secular ones– the nation, the people, the army. Muslim fundamentalists speak of the “umma” or the ‘community of believers’ when they talk about the nation, whereas those imbued with civil discourse use terms like the ‘watan’ (originally a translation of the French ‘patrie’ or fatherland), and speak of ‘the people’ (sha’b) rather than ‘the believers.’ It is this civil language that the rebels speak, in all the communiques I’ve seen....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 13:24
SOURCE: National Review (3-9-11)
Beyond the political posturing over state and federal budgets, there looms an age-old philosophical divide over human nature, perhaps defined as the therapeutic versus the tragic view of our existence. The therapeutic view — thanks to the bounty and affluence brought about by modern technology — has largely triumphed. The tragic view is deemed the domain of the embittered, the selfish, and the downright mean.
There are several tenets of the modern therapeutic view. In such a utopian mindset, compensation is and should be based on what the employee considers necessary for the good life. The public employees in Wisconsin reject the three classical requisites for perpetually improved compensation: The employer has plentiful capital; the employee’s productivity creates new wealth or improves the efficiency of services; and the employee has market value and will go elsewhere should the employer be foolish enough to lose him.
Again, in the therapeutic mindset, perceived need is what matters, and all else must adjust accordingly. Teachers in Wisconsin rarely argue that their students’ test scores have increased or graduation rates have improved, or that their school districts are flush with cash, or that they themselves can always move to a parochial school or private academy if their talents are not better appreciated. Instead, in almost every contemporary discussion of budgetary discipline, from pensions and benefits to compensation, the argument is based on what one needs, in the teenage fashion of reminding a now unemployed parent that he once promised to buy the graduating senior a car....
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 12:55
SOURCE: CHE (3-6-11)
When he was still President Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now mayor-elect of Chicago, famously quipped: "Never allow a crisis to go to waste."
Republican governors in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, and other states have certainly taken that advice to heart. By emphasizing, and in some cases manipulating, the red ink flowing through so many state budgets, they have leveraged the crisis to strike a body blow at the public-sector unions that represent so many teachers, professors, social workers, and municipal employees. The collective-bargaining rights of the police and firefighters, often a privileged caste, are also being threatened in some states.
Unionists and Democrats denounce this as opportunism, and in Wisconsin they have made the case that there is hardly a fiscal crisis at all, that public-employee wages and pensions are not out of line with those in the private sector, and that collective bargaining works pretty well. Neither the Wisconsin Counties Association nor the League of Wisconsin Municipalities was consulted by Gov. Scott Walker when he drew up the anti-union legislation that he claims is necessary for the solvency of his state's counties, towns, and cities. Nor do officials of either group support the governor's initiative.
But it would be a mistake to see the contemporary GOP offensive against the unions as some kind of hasty and ill-planned gambit. Walker's rhetoric and his legislative program reflect and refract a multidecade barrage by conservatives—in politics, academe, think tanks, and corporate management—designed to eviscerate trade unionism so that it will, in effect, simply wither away. Their assault, both ideological and political, has depended neither upon the presence or absence of a fiscal crisis at the state level nor, for that matter, upon the profitability or competitiveness of those American companies threatened by global competition. The collective organization of workers, private or public, stands athwart their vision of how markets should work and the polity should function....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 15:59
SOURCE: CHE (3-7-11)
What would it take to elicit servility from an intellectual? Money would help, of course. Just ask the Harvard professors who founded the Monitor Group—which for a time shilled for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in return for a quarter of a million dollars a month. And query the administration at the London School of Economics, recipient of a £1.5-million pledge from a foundation run by Seif, the tyrant's notably generous, charming, and debonair son and presumed heir, who earned a Ph.D. at the school with a dissertation alleged by some to have been at least partly plagiarized (LSE is investigating those allegations).
But money is certainly not the only coin in which the modern intellectual likes to be paid. There is, after all, nothing quite like celebrity, and proximity to power can easily become for an intellectual in search of renown what a candle is for a moth. If, as they say, power corrupts, then lack of power corrupts absolutely.
The allure of the tyrant is, to be sure, nothing new. Long before Lincoln Steffens traveled to the Soviet Union and returned to say, "I have been over into the future, and it works"; long before Mussolini and Hitler, Stalin and Mao, Castro and Hugo Chávez attracted intellectual acolytes from abroad; the poets of late archaic Greece flocked to the court of the tyrant Peisistratus of Athens at the behest of his free-spending sons. Plato advised Dionysius of Syracuse. Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great. The humanists of Italy flocked around Cosimo de' Medici and Lorenzo the Magnificent. Erasmus and Machiavelli wrote famous tracts with an eye to becoming counselors to princes. To the same end, Voltaire sojourned with Prussia's Frederick the Great, and Diderot spent time at the court of Russia's Catherine the Great....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 15:58
SOURCE: The Nation (3-3-11)
Suddenly, to be an Arab has become a good thing. People all over the Arab world feel a sense of pride in shaking off decades of cowed passivity under dictatorships that ruled with no deference to popular wishes. And it has become respectable in the West as well. Egypt is now thought of as an exciting and progressive place; its people’s expressions of solidarity are welcomed by demonstrators in Madison, Wisconsin; and its bright young activists are seen as models for a new kind of twenty-first-century mobilization. Events in the Arab world are being covered by the Western media more extensively than ever before and are being talked about positively in a fashion that is unprecedented. Before, when anything Muslim or Middle Eastern or Arab was reported on, it was almost always with a heavy negative connotation. Now, during this Arab spring, this has ceased to be the case. An area that was a byword for political stagnation is witnessing a rapid transformation that has caught the attention of the world.
Three things should be said about this sea change in perceptions about Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners. The first is that it shows how superficial, and how false, were most Western media images of this region. Virtually all we heard about were the ubiquitous terrorists, the omnipresent bearded radicals and their veiled companions trying to impose Sharia and the corrupt, brutal despots who were the only option for control of such undesirables. In US government-speak, faithfully repeated by the mainstream media, most of that corruption and brutality was airbrushed out through the use of mendacious terms like “moderates” (i.e., those who do and say what we want). That locution, and the one used to denigrate the people of the region, “the Arab street,” should now be permanently retired....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 14:12
SOURCE: openDemocracy (3-8-11)
The epic events across the Arab world in the first months of 2011, diverse and many-sided as they are, can be understood as a single episode: the latest phase in the worldwide democratic revolution which has been remaking the world since the 1980s.
The process that began in Tunisia in mid-December 2010 and led to the overthrow of the country’s president a month later, achieved a similar outcome in Egypt following over two weeks of mass mobilisations there, and has spread from Yemen in the east to Morocco in the west.
True, the very different experiences of Arab countries - including the continuing strife in Libya, the protests in Bahrain, and the elite concessions in Jordan and Saudi Arabia - underline how variegated the process is and how uncertain the precise outcome in each case. And it is too early to say whether the changes in Tunisia and Egypt (and the results elsewhere) will lead to the creation of recognisably democratic states, let alone what the regional and global impact of the events will be.
But everywhere, the unifying thread is opposition to authoritarianism and aspiration to democratic rule; and the sense of a psychological break with the dictatorial past is unmistakable.
The immense movement in Egypt in particular - the middle-east’s largest and most influential country - has opened the space for politics, in a way that has ramifications far beyond the region. It is notable in this respect that authoritarian regimes from Tehran to Beijing have curtailed access to information about the Egyptian and other dramas. Their fear is a tribute to the achievement of this “Arab awakening”, however provisional the achievement remains in practical terms....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 14:00
SOURCE: Dissent Magazine (3-4-11)
WHEN EGYPTIANS entered the streets, Barack Obama began to flirt with a shift in a long-standing American policy, before events overtook him and forced his hand.
Nearly two years ago, revolts had broken out after a stolen election in Iran, but Obama didn’t claim “human rights” were being violated. Instead, he said that while the United States could not interfere, it “bore witness” to the Iranian insurgents and the repression they might face.
In fact, as several observers have noted, all through his presidency Obama had soft-pedaled the common American notion that U.S. interests and humanity’s aspirations coincide. And no wonder, given the global consensus that Obama’s predecessor had confused the two, especially after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction led George W. Bush to prioritize the goal of democracy and the “freedom agenda” as a rationale for war.
But when it came to Egypt, Obama turned the page. He clearly announced: “The universal rights of the Egyptian people must be respected, and their aspirations must be met.”
Because he came to link himself with a thirty-year wave of international human rights, Obama’s message—like the Tunisian, Egyptian, and now Libyan events themselves—has so far been interpreted in ways that fit recent historical parallels. Neoconservatives have already begun to claim that Bush was right; the Middle Eastern earthquake, they say, vindicates their view that democracy defined and shepherded by the West, if necessary at gunpoint, is how the end of history comes about. Liberals respond that it only shows the need for a multilateral and internationalist renaissance of human rights, after Bush’s betrayal of the idea....
Posted on: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 13:46
SOURCE: Newsweek (3-6-11)
In 1927, Ernest Hemingway published a collection of short stories titled Men Without Women. Today, less than a century later, it sums up the predicament of a rising proportion of mankind.
According to the United Nations, there are far more men than women on the planet. The gender gap is especially pronounced in Asia, where there are 100 million more guys than girls. This may come as a surprise to people in the Western world, where women outnumber men because—other things being equal—the mortality rate for women is lower than for men in all age groups. Nobel Prize–winning economist Amartya Sen calls it the mystery of Asia’s “missing women.”
The mystery is partly explicable in terms of economics. In many Asian societies, girls are less well looked after than boys because they are economically undervalued. The kind of domestic work they typically do is seen as less important than paid work done by men. And, of course, early marriage and minimal birth control together expose them to the risks of multiple pregnancies.
When Sen first added up the missing women—women who would exist today if it were not for selective abortion, infanticide, and economic discrimination—he put the number at 100 million. It is surely higher now. For, even as living standards in Asian countries have soared, the gender gap has widened. That’s because a cultural preference for sons over daughters leads to selective abortion of female fetuses, a practice made possible by ultrasound scanning, and engaged in despite legal prohibitions. The American feminist Mary Anne Warren called it “gendercide.” Notoriously common in northwestern India, it’s also rampant in the world’s most populous country: China...
Posted on: Monday, March 7, 2011 - 14:22
SOURCE: The Nation (3-5-11)
Joseph Nye of Harvard’s Kennedy School wrote in the New Republic in 2007 that Muammar Qaddafi was interested in discussing “direct democracy.”
Anthony Giddens of the London School of Economics wrote in the Guardian the same year that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the Norway of North Africa.”
Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University wrote in the Washington Post, also in 2007, that Libya under Qaddafi could become “the first Arab state to transition peacefully and without overt Western intervention to a stable, non-autocratic government.”
Great minds think alike? Actually, no: all were being paid by Libyan money, under a $3 million per year contract with a consulting group which promised to “enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Quadhafi” in Britain and the US.
One more thing: none of them said in the New Republic, the Guardian, or the Washington Post that they were being paid by Libyan money. That seems to be a clear violation of journalistic ethics – at least that’s what the then-editor of the New Republic, Franklin Foer, told David Corn of Mother Jones about Nye: “If we had known that he was consulting for a firm paid by the government, we wouldn’t have run the piece.”...
Posted on: Sunday, March 6, 2011 - 00:08
SOURCE: Truthdig (3-4-11)
The tea-party-enabled Wisconsin Legislature is working overtime to protect its governor. On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that protests at military funerals are protected speech, two of the more benighted majority Republican state legislators offered their version of protected speech. They introduced a bill to prohibit telephone callers from lying about their identity as well as giving a false number, subject to a $10,000 fine. The Wisconsin legislators said that “while the use of spoofing is said to have some legitimate uses, it could also be used to frighten, harass and potentially defraud.”
The bill’s authors predictably insisted the proposal was unrelated to last week’s now-viral prank call to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in which the governor, believing he was talking to David Koch, the prominent moneyman for conservative causes, bragged about his unwillingness to budge in his stand against public employees. “I would be willing to sit down and talk to the [Democratic and Republican legislative] leaders. ... [T]alk, not negotiate,” he emphasized. The governor is not reticent about his anti-union credentials. He thanked “Koch”—“one of us”—for “all the support,” and added that “it’s all about getting our freedoms back.” There we have Scott Walker unplugged, defrocked just as the Wizard of Oz.
Walker also urged the “Koch” brother to urge other newly elected Republican governors to advance similar agendas for “our freedoms.” This is their moment. “You start down the list,” he said, and “there’s a lot of new governors that got elected to do something big.”
Elected “to do something big,” Walker said. How interesting. Are we now to believe that Walker campaigned in 2010 to destroy public employee unions; that he would have public employees contribute more to their pension and health insurance plans; that he would “take” $28 million from the Group Health Insurance fund, a $1.1 billion segregated fund used to pay state employees’ insurance premiums, in order to meet the state’s obligations for its share of insurance premiums through June 30; that he would privatize state-owned power and heating plants, without requiring public bidding; that he would launch a study to essentially privatize the state’s healthy pension plan? No, indeed—Walker simply never offered such fare as an electoral platform....
Posted on: Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 13:56
SOURCE: Pajamas Media (3-4-11)
Two enormous appetites have suddenly arrived at the Middle East’s table: democracy and consumerism. Ravished from years of famine and abuse, the people revolted and opened the doors to the well-stocked pantry and kitchen. Yet despite having overthrown tyrants, they are not now unruled. Two strict overseers are watching: Islamists and the military. Crowded with tribes, Sunnis and Shiites, and colonialist operators who function like combinations of parasites and predators, the well-laden table is still a game of who gets full plates and who survives.
Revolutions taking place in countries that have been ruled by dictators and exploited by foreigners are breathtaking in the possibilities that they offer. But they can, like so many others before, become hideous monsters of abuse and destruction.
Americans and Europeans have dined at this table for years, supplying abundant feasts for tyrants who served their interests. A mild rebuke here and there, but the weapons kept pouring in; good for business was the polite mannered morality that determined the menu.
And now, having watched this partying from the window, the youngsters have come in for their share. A demographic necessity, they want education, decent jobs, freedom to express themselves, gender equality, and all the other things they see on TV. Their weapons are small: communication devices they hold in their hands, videos and computers, promising that dreams come true....
Western foreign policies, guided by maintaining political and economic hegemony, have ignored the social and moral content of their assistance and funds. As long as there is no connection between the money and what it does, the West will contribute to future disasters. Economic interests that exploit natural resources should promote nation-building, not private portfolios; that should direct Western foreign policy. There needs to be synergy that is sympathetic to social needs and problems.
Recent uprisings have opened the table to many new guests. It would be a terrible waste to make people scramble for crumbs, when they could eat with dignity and self-respect....
Posted on: Friday, March 4, 2011 - 09:38
SOURCE: Ricochet (2-28-11)
Intellectuals have a tendency to become whores. They are not especially well paid, and they resent the fact. But modest compensation is not the thing that bothers them the most. What they really crave is recognition, and in its pursuit they are apt to become slaves to fashion. But pursuing the latest intellectual fad is not the greatest of the sins that they are inclined to commit – for they are even more apt to adopt a servile and submissive posture when in the presence of political power. Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all had an intellectual claque in the West. Fidel Castro still does. Even Kim Jong-il and Muamar Gaddafi have had such admirers.
As it happens, I am acquainted with the most prominent of those who cozied up to Gaddafi. I came across his name this morning in this connection when I googled Gadaffi, and on the website of my acquaintance, I read the following announcement – which was posted last Tuesday:
Dr. Benjamin R. Barber, the internationally renowned political theorist and Distinguished Fellow at the policy center Demos, released the following statement announcing his resignation from the governing board of the Qadaffi Foundation.
Most professors are prone to vanity. None of us are immune. But some are off the charts, and Ben was among these. When I encountered him in later years, I always found him genial. But, if truth be told, though I profited from one or two of the articles that he had written as a young scholar, I never found his books of any interest at all. I remember being amused when I read that he had become an advisor to Bill Clinton and was going to DC every week to conduct a tutorial for the President. That was his dream....
Posted on: Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 20:16
SOURCE: The Daily Beast (3-2-11)
Watching Colonel Gaddafi’s public statements over the past two weeks, especially his long rants comparing his political role with that of Queen Elizabeth II and his TV interview claiming that all Libyans love him except those given hallucinogenic drugs by al Qaeda, one might be forgiven for assuming that the looming prospect of death or exile has sent him mad. Comparisons with Bruno Ganz’s superb portrayal of Adolf Hitler in the movie Downfall, as the Red army closes in on the Fuhrerbunker in April 1945, are unavoidable. Yet in fact utter irrationality has long been the leitmotif of Gaddafi’s thought, as is proved by his 1975 work of political and social philosophy, The Green Book.
Like Chairman Mao’s little red book, Gaddafi encapsulated his most profound thoughts in a short book that was to be required reading—enforced required reading—for all his people. I had the misfortune of having nothing else to read due to a baggage mix-up during a trip to Libya two years ago, and so am one of the few non-Libyans to have read The Green Book. After resigning the premiership of Libya in 1972, and taking on the catchy official title of “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,” Gaddafi wrote The Green Book....
The Top 10 Quotes From Gaddafi’s Green Book:
1. “Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do. She breastfeeds for nearly two years.”...
Posted on: Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 18:07