Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
SOURCE: Independent (UK) (11-18-12)
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown MBE is a Ugandan-born British journalist and author.
You've seen the pictures, read about the bloodshed, heard the accusations. The military head of Hamas in Gaza, pictured, was assassinated by Israel. Rockets fired in retaliation killed three Israelis and Israel then went into overkill. It is 95 years this month since the Balfour Declaration. Lord Balfour who was Foreign Secretary in 1917, informed Baron Rothschild that Britain would back a new Jewish state on Palestinian territory as demanded by Zionists, some of them terrorists.
Britain had no legal right to the land it breezily handed over and has never apologised for its disastrous decision. Palestinians paid for Europe's massive, anti-Semitic killing project.
Thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians were dispossessed and, since then, it's been a story of endless conflict. And so here again is another horrendous conflagration...
SOURCE: WSJ (11-18-12)
Ms. Kissel is a member of the Journal's editorial board.
In one of those gems that reveal the Obama administration's penchant for taking credit for the work of others, a senior State Department official on a plane to Perth last week for a U.S.-Australia confab spoke to reporters about the president's trip to Burma Monday. The "enormously significant" visit, he said, will highlight what "clearly stacks up as a major early success of the Obama administration."
On the surface, that sounds right. Burma was driven into misery for decades after Gen. Ne Win implemented the "Burmese Way to Socialism" in 1962, but the country of about 55 million has experienced a remarkable transformation in the past two years. The former general now in charge has welcomed more foreign investment, lifted the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, held elections that brought opposition party candidates into parliament, released political prisoners, relaxed press restrictions, and moved to make peace with some of the country's ethnic minorities.
President Obama will surely laud these reforms, enjoying a rare moment of foreign-policy success, when he visits Rangoon as part of a three-day Southeast Asia tour. Yet Burma's political calculations had little to do with Mr. Obama or with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The country's change instead was prompted by—steady yourself, Foggy Bottom—the administration of George W. Bush, who put in place a diplomatic framework that nudged Burma in the right direction when the generals were finally ready to embrace reform...
SOURCE: National Interest (11-19-12)
John Mueller is senior fellow at the Cato Institute and professor of political science at Ohio State University. He is the author of Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda; together with Mark Stewart, he wrote Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Costs, and Benefits of Homeland Security.
Some decades ago, Columbia University’s Warner Schilling observed that "at the summit of foreign policy, one always finds simplicity and spook."
I was reminded of this observation when I came across a passage in George F. Kennan, the excellent Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the prominent foreign-policy intellectual by John Lewis Gaddis. In 1950, notes Gaddis, no one anticipated most of the major international developments that were to take place in the next half-century, among them "that there would be no World War" and that the United States and the USSR, "soon to have tens of thousands of thermonuclear weapons pointed at one another, would agree tacitly never to use any of them."
But the absence of further world war, whether nuclear or not, was compatible with a fairly obvious observation: those running world affairs after World War II were the same people or the intellectual heirs of the people who had tried desperately to prevent that cataclysm. It was entirely plausible that such people, despite their huge differences on many issues, would manage to avoid plunging into a self-destructive repeat performance.
Thus, it could have been reasonably argued at the time that major war was simply not in the cards...
SOURCE: NYT (11-18-12)
Paul Krugman is an economist at Princeton University and an op-ed columnist for the New York Times.
The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.
Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich....
...[I]n the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today....
SOURCE: TomDispatch (11-18-12)
Ellen Cantarow first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. A TomDispatch regular, her writing has been published in The Village Voice, Grand Street, Mother Jones, Alternet, Counterpunch, and ZNet, and anthologized by the South End Press. She is also lead author and general editor of an oral-history trilogy, Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change, published in 1981 by The Feminist Press/McGraw-Hill, widely anthologized, and still in print.
There’s a war going on that you know nothing about between a coalition of great powers and a small insurgent movement. It’s a secret war being waged in the shadows while you go about your everyday life.
In the end, this conflict may matter more than those in Iraq and Afghanistan ever did. And yet it’s taking place far from newspaper front pages and with hardly a notice on the nightly news. Nor is it being fought in Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia, but in small hamlets in upstate New York. There, a loose network of activists is waging a guerrilla campaign not with improvised explosive devices or rocket-propelled grenades, but with zoning ordinances and petitions.
The weaponry may be humdrum, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. Ultimately, the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.
All summer long, the climate-change nightmares came on fast and furious. Once-fertile swathes of American heartland baked into an aridity reminiscent of sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of thousands of fish dead in overheated streams. Six million acres in the West consumed by wildfires. In September, a report commissioned by 20 governments predicted that as many as 100 million people across the world could die by 2030 if fossil-fuel consumption isn’t reduced. And all of this was before superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the New York metropolitan area and the Jersey shore.
Washington’s leadership, when it comes to climate change, is already mired in failure. President Obama permitted oil giant BP to resume drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, while Shell was allowed to begin drilling tests in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. At the moment, the best hope for placing restraints on climate change lies with grassroots movements.
In January, I chronicled upstate New York’s homegrown resistance to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, an extreme-energy technology that extracts methane (“natural gas”) from the Earth’s deepest regions. Since then, local opposition has continued to face off against the energy industry and state government in a way that may set the tone for the rest of the country in the decades ahead. In small hamlets and tiny towns you’ve never heard of, grassroots activists are making a stand in what could be the beginning of a final showdown for Earth’s future.
Frack Fight 2012
New York isn’t just another state. Its largest city is the world’s financial capital. Six of its former governors have gone on to the presidency and Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to have his sights set on a run for the White House, possibly in 2016. It also has a history of movements, from abolition and women’s suffrage in the nineteenth century to Occupy in the twenty-first. Its environmental campaigns have included the watershed Storm King Mountain case, in which activists defeated Con Edison’s plan to carve a giant facility into the face of that Hudson River landmark. The decision established the right of anyone to litigate on behalf of the environment.
Today, that activist legacy is evident in a grassroots insurgency in upstate New York, a struggle by ordinary Americans to protect what remains of their democracy and the Earth’s fragile environment from giant corporations intent on wrecking both. On one side stands New York’s anti-fracking community; on the other, the natural gas industry, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, and New York’s industry-allied Joint Landowners Coalition.
As for Governor Cuomo, he has managed to anger both sides. He seemed to bow to industry this past June by hinting that he would end a 2010 moratorium on fracking introduced by his predecessor David Paterson and open the state to the process; then, in October, he appeared to retreat after furious protests staged in Washington D.C., as well as Albany, Binghamton, and other upstate towns.
“I have never seen [an environmental movement] spread with such wildfire as this,” says Robert Boyle, a legendary environmental activist and journalist who was central in the Storm King case and founded Riverkeeper, the prototype for all later river-guardian organizations. “It took me 13 or 14 years to get the first Riverkeeper going. Fracking isn’t like that. It’s like lighting a train of powder.”
Developed in 2008 and vastly more expansive in its infrastructure than the purely vertical form of fracking invented by Halliburton Corporation in the 1940s, high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is a land-devouring, water-squandering technology with a greenhouse gas footprint greater than that of coal. The process begins by propelling one to nine million gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water at hyperbaric bomb-like pressures a mile or more beneath Earth's surface. Most of that fluid stays underground. Of the remainder, next to nothing is ever again available for irrigation or drinking. A recent report by the independent, nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded that fracking poses serious risks to health and the environment.
New York State’s grassroots resistance to fracking began about four years ago around kitchen tables and in living rooms as neighbors started talking about this frightening technology. Shallow drilling for easily obtainable gas had been done for decades in the state, but this gargantuan industrial effort represented something else again.
Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University’s Department of Engineering, co-author of a study that established the global warming footprint of the industry, calls this new form of fracking an unparalleled danger to the environment and human health. “There’s much more land clearing, much more devastation of forests and fields. . . thousands of miles of pipelines. . . many compressor stations [that] require burning enormous quantities of diesel. . . [emitting] hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.” He adds that it’s a case of “the health of many versus the wealth of a few.”
Against that wealth stands a movement of the 99% -- farmers, physicists, journalists, teachers, librarians, innkeepers, brewery owners, and engineers. “In Middlefield we’re nothing special,” says Kelly Branigan, a realtor who last year founded a group called Middlefield Neighbors. “We’re just regular people who got together and learned, and reached in our pockets to go to work on this. It’s inspiring, it’s awesome, and it’s America -- its own little revolution.”
Last year, Middlefield became one of New York’s first towns to use the humblest of tools, zoning ordinances, to beat back fracking. Previously, that had seemed like an impossible task for ordinary people. In 1981, the state had exempted gas corporations from New York’s constitutionally guaranteed home rule under which town ordinances trump state law. In 2011, however, Ithaca-based lawyers Helen and David Slottje overturned that gas-cozy law by establishing that, while the state regulates industry, towns can use their zoning powers to keep it out. Since then, a cascade of bans and moratoria -- more than 140 in all -- have protected towns all over New York from high-volume frack drilling.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Caroline, a small hamlet in Tompkins County (population 3,282), is the second town in the state to get 100% of its electricity through wind power and one of the most recent to pass a fracking ban. Its residents typify the grassroots resistance of upstate New York.
“I’m very skeptical that multinational corporations have the best interests of communities at heart,” Don Barber, Caroline’s Supervisor, told me recently. “The federal government sold [Americans] out when they exempted fracking from the Clean Water and Air Acts,” he added. “Federal and state governments are not advocating for the civil society. There’s only one level left. That’s the local government, and it puts a tremendous load on our shoulders.”
Caroline’s Deputy Supervisor, Dominic Frongillo, sees local resistance in global terms. “We’re unexpectedly finding ourselves in the ground zero for climate change,” he says. “It used to be somewhere else, mountaintop removal in West Virginia, deep-sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, tar sands in Alberta, Canada. But now...it’s right here under our feet in upstate New York. The line is drawn here. We can’t keep escaping the fossil fuel industry. You can’t move other places, you just have to dig in where you are.”
Two years of pre-ban work in Caroline included an election that replaced pro-drilling members of the town board with fracking opponents, public education forums, and a six-month petition drive. “We knocked on every single door two or three times,” recalls Bill Podulka, a retired physicist who co-founded the town’s resistance organization, ROUSE (Residents Opposed to Unsafe Shale Gas Extraction). “Many people were opposed to gas-drilling but were afraid to speak out, not realizing that the folks concerned were a silent majority.” In the end, 71% of those approached signed the petition, which requested a ban.
On September 11th, a final debate between drilling opponents and proponents took place, after which Barber called for the vote. A ban was overwhelmingly endorsed. “For the first time,” he told the crowd gathered in Caroline’s white clapboard town hall, “I will be voting to change the balance of rights between individuals and civil society. This is because of the impacts of fracking on health and the environment. And the majority of our citizens have voted to pass the ban.” The board then ruled 4 to 1 in favor.
About a year and a half ago, as Caroline and other towns were moving to protect their land from the industry, XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil Corporation, began preparing for a possible fracking future in the state. It eyed tree-shaded, Oquaga Creek, a trout-laden Delaware tributary in upper New York State’s Sanford County, leased the land, and applied to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) for a water-withdrawal permit. XTO required, it said, a quarter of a million gallons of water from the creek every day for its hydraulic fracturing operations.
Delaware Riverkeeper, an environmental organization, found out about the XTO application and spread the word. Within days, the DRBC received 7,900 letters of outrage. On June 1, 2011, hundreds of citizens, organized by grassroots anti-frackers, packed a hearing in Deposit, a village in Sanford Township that lies at the confluence of the creek and the western branch of the Delaware River. Only two people spoke at the meeting in favor of XTO. One was the Supervisor (mayor) of Sanford, Dewey Decker. He applauded the XTO application and denounced protestors as “outsiders.” He is among a group of landowners who have leased land to XTO for hundreds of millions of dollars. (Decker refused to be interviewed for this article.) The rest of the crowd spoke up for the creek, its fish, and its wildlife. The Delaware River Basin Commission indefinitely tabled the XTO application.
While a grassroots victory, the episode also served as a warning about how determined the industry is to move forward with fracking plans despite the state-enforced moratorium still in place. As a result, Caroline and other towns are continuing to develop local anti-fracking measures, since they know that the 2010 ban on the process will end whenever Governor Cuomo okays rules currently being written by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
When it comes to those rules and fracking more generally, the DEC has a conflict of interest. While it is supposed to protect the environment, it is also tasked with regulating the very industries that exploit it through the agency’s Mineral Resources Division. Last year, the DEC received over 80,000 written comments on the latest draft of its guidelines for the industry, the 1,500-page “SGEIS” (which stands for “Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement"). Drilling opponents outnumbered proponents 10 to 1. The deluge was a record in the agency’s history.
Activists weren’t the only ones with a keen interest in the SGEIS, however. Documents obtained through New York’s Freedom of Information Law indicate that, in mid-August 2011, six weeks before the DEC made its statement public, the agency shared detailed summaries of it with gas corporation representatives, giving the industry a chance to influence the final document before it went public.
Two days before the SGEIS was opened to public scrutiny, an attorney for the Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation and other companies asked regulators to “reduce or eliminate” a requirement for the sophisticated testing of fracking fluids. Such fluids are laden with toxins, including carcinogens, which storms could wash away from drilling sites -- an especially grim prospect given the catastrophic flooding experienced in the state over the last three years.
At the same time, two upstate New York journalists revealed that Bradley Field, the head of the DEC’s Mineral Resources Division, had signed a petition that denied the existence of climate change. Formerly of Getty Oil and Marathon Oil, Field also serves as the state’s representative to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council, both industry fronts which maintain that fracking is benign. As this was coming to light, state officials anonymously leaked word of a plan to open five counties on New York’s border with Pennsylvania to fracking as long as communities there supported the technology.
This is What Autocracy Looks Like
In May 2012, Dewey Decker and his board passed a resolution pledging that the town of Sanford would take no action against fracking, while awaiting the decision of the DEC. There was no prior notice. Citizens were left to read about it in their local papers. “You wake up the next morning and say, ‘What happened?’” commented Doug Vitarious, a retired Sanford elementary school teacher.
In June, a headline in the Deposit Courier, a Sanford paper, read “Local Officials in Eligible Communities Approve Pro-Drilling Resolutions.” Accompanying the piece was a map of towns that had passed such resolutions. The subscript under the map read: “Joint Landowners Coalition of N.Y.” The JLCNY is the state’s grassroots gas industry ally, whose stated mission is to “foster... the common interest... as it pertains to natural gas development.” Decker represents the organization in Sanford.
During the summer, Vitarious and other citizens asked their town board where the resolution had originated, but were met with silence. They requested that the board rescind the resolution and conduct a referendum. Decker refused.
By the end of August, 43 towns in the region had passed resolutions modeled on one appearing at the JLCNY website. It stipulates that at the local level “no moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will be put in place before the state of New York has made it’s [sic] decision.” Under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and the National Resources Defense Council obtained records from Sanford and two other towns about how they achieved their objectives. The records, says Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, “detail contacts between gas industry operatives and officials.”
Two months before superstorm Sandy swamped parts of the state, Sue Rapp, a psychotherapist from the town of Vestal, told me that flooding worries her as much as anything else about fracking. Upper New York State suffered flooding in 2010 and 2011. And then came Sandy. Floods turn millions of gallons of fracking waste-water for which there is no safe storage into streams of poisons that wash into waterways.
Unlike Sanford’s board, Vestal’s has not formally blocked debate. It has heard arguments for a moratorium by Rapp and an organization she co-founded, Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VERSE), as well as pleas for a moratorium by physicians and academics. Its reaction, however, has simply been to sit on its hands, waiting for the DEC and Cuomo to make a final decision. This amounts to adopting the JLCNY position in all but formal vote. “What is happening?” asked Rapp rhetorically at a demonstration in Binghamton this past September. “They are trying to shut us down. But we do vote and we will vote. We do not constitute [what pro-drillers call] the tyranny of the majority, but simply the majority. That is called democracy.”
Demonstrations against Cuomo’s frack plan, which drew thousands to Washington D.C., Albany, and elsewhere in New York, included pledges to commit sustained acts of civil disobedience should the governor carry out plans to open the Pennsylvania border area of the state to fracking. At the end of September, the New York Times announced that Cuomo had retreated from his June stance. The report credited the state’s grassroots movement for his change of mind. Legendary for his toughness and political smarts, the governor will confront a political challenge in the coming months. Either he will please gas-industry supporters or his Democratic base. Whichever way he goes, it could affect his chances for the White House.
The stakes, however, are far larger than Cuomo’s presidential aspirations. Opening any part of the state to fracking will certainly damage the local environment. More importantly, a grassroots win in New York State could open the door to a nationwide anti-fracking surge. A loss might, in the long run, result in a cascade of environmental degradation beyond the planet’s ability to cope. As unlikely as it sounds, the fate of the Earth may rest with the residents of Middlefield, Caroline, Vestal, and scores of tiny villages and small towns you’ve never heard of.
“All eyes are on New York,” says Chris Burger, a former Broome County legislator and one of a small group who persuaded New York’s last governor, David Paterson, to pass the state’s moratorium on fracking. “This is the biggest environmental issue New York has ever faced [and not just] New York, the nation, and the world. If it’s going to be stopped, it will be stopped here.”
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SOURCE: NYT (11-18-12)
FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House....
THE problem was that he hadn’t led his own Army to win anything even approximating a victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not just General Petraeus. The fact is that none of our generals have led us to a victory since men like Patton and my grandfather, Lucian King Truscott Jr., stormed the beaches of North Africa and southern France with blood in their eyes and military murder on their minds.
Those generals, in my humble opinion, were nearly psychotic in their drive to kill enemy soldiers and subjugate enemy nations. Thankfully, we will probably never have cause to go back to those blood-soaked days. But we still shouldn’t allow our military establishment to give us one generation after another of imitation generals who pretend to greatness on talk shows and photo spreads, jetting around the world in military-spec business jets....
SOURCE: Telegraph (UK) (11-14-12)
Con Coughlin is an expert on international terrorism and the Middle East.
One of the many consequences of the spectacular implosion of General David Petraeus’s career – which include the humiliation of Holly Petraeus, his wife of 37 years – is that he can kiss goodbye to any hopes he may still have entertained of one day running for the White House.
America has a long and distinguished history of its generals turning their swords into election manifestos, which dates back to the Republic’s founding father, George Washington. Consequently, following a heroic effort to turn around the fortunes of the US’s traumatic experience in post-Saddam Iraq, Gen Petraeus was seen by many of his countrymen more as a leader of the American people than simply the leader of those in uniform. Though less well known, General John Allen might have had ambitions to be seen in the same way, until he too became embroiled in the scandal engrossing America.
Until his mistress Paula Broadwell demolished one of the most distinguished military careers of modern times, Gen Petraeus was regarded as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for the next presidential election in 2016.
The Obama administration certainly saw him in those terms, which is one of the reasons he was sent to head the CIA in the first place, rather than being given the job he really wanted, to be appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of America’s armed forces.
Having saved Iraq with his "surge" strategy, and then been parachuted into Afghanistan to try a similar feat with the Nato mission in the summer of 2010, Gen Petraeus made no secret of his view that, as a reward, he should be made Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. As the highest ranking US military officer, the holder of this coveted position is a constant presence in the White House and acts as the principal adviser to the President in his capacity as commander-in-chief, as well as all the other government departments and agencies involved with national security issues...
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-15-12)
The writer is a co-founder of Oxford Investment Partners.
If Karl Marx had been alive in 2007, he would have been working for a bank. Banks had reached a state of communist perfection. The workers took home everything; the capital holders were left with nothing. Shareholders of banks were raped by the staff, who paid themselves extravagant sums out of illusory profits. Labour had found a far more effective device than trade unions for destroying capitalists, by duping the shareholders that higher pay was essential to retain Talent. They were assisted by the accountants, who allowed them to declare profits before they received any cash. Marx would have been laughing all the way from the bank.
We should hardly be surprised that the beneficiaries of the communist banking system are squealing. There are many siren warnings of the consequences of more regulation. Don’t kill the golden goose, they say. Many in banking seem not to have noticed that they recently brought the world economy to its knees.
To be fair, the banks were not alone in their mistakes. Central banks set interest rates too low for too long; politicians believed they had abolished the business cycle and that a permanently higher level of public expenditure could be justified; too many citizens borrowed money they could never afford to repay. This type of mass self-delusion has characterised most booms in history. But it is the bankers who seem most reluctant to accept that change is necessary. They need rescuing from themselves. Counterintuitively, it is regulation that can reimpose a capitalist system on the banks...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (11-14-12)
You wouldn't think, judging by the horrific news coming out of Syria, that President Bashar al-Assad would have many defenders. But there are some. Many are Syrians who are close to his regime. Others are foreign well-wishers who have their own reasons for lending him their support. And some are even comparing the embattled Syrian president to Abraham Lincoln. Seriously.
One of the most interesting arguments that I've heard so far comes from the the president of the Institute for the Middle East in Moscow, a man with the evocative name of Yevgeny Satanovsky. In his article, Satanovsky assails the West for its alleged hypocrisy in condemning Assad:
Abraham Lincoln was lucky to have lived when he did. Surely he would have appeared a vicious tyrant had Twitter, Facebook, Al Jazeera, NATO and the UN existed when he encouraged the efforts of Union forces to suppress Confederate separatists. But Lincoln is an American national hero, a bastion of democracy and a martyr. It is quite possible that in the future these very same words will be used, at least in the Arab world, to describe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is now widely reviled by the international community. History is full of surprises.
In other words, according to Satanovsky, Assad is getting a bum rap. When Abraham Lincoln launched his effort to prevent the southern states of the Confederacy from seceding from the Union, he was just doing what the Syrian president is doing today: preventing rebels from tearing his country apart.
Satanovsky isn't the only one to have drawn this comparison...
SOURCE: The European (11-14-12)
Stefano Casertano is an international politics expert, author and journalist residing in Berlin, with a focus on global economics and energy affairs.
Barack Obama has been reelected by concentrating on domestic issues. A look beyond US borders would have been unbearable to American voters anyways. That isn’t Obama’s fault: Foreign policy problems usually come with a long history, and we certainly can’t blame the president for not forecasting global turmoil.
Yet we can admit that the global panorama resembles a painting of apocalyptic proportions. The four horsemen: Iranian nuclear frenzy, Islamic revolts, Eurozone breakdown and Chinese slowdown. There’s also a fifth horseman of US domestic origin: the federal deficit. "The Economist" believes that this might indeed be the most powerful threat – an opinion that is shared by the "New York Times" (which published an article right after the presidential election titled Back to Work, Obama Is Greeted by Looming Fiscal Crisis).
The claim is that the US cannot pursue small-state taxation levels and big-state spending at the same time. And there’s the additional worry that the US would feel the consequences of international turmoil as soon as any of the four global horsemen rears its head.
US president are seldom reelected on foreign affairs – but elections can surely be lost on them...
SOURCE: The New Yorker (11-14-12)
Amy Davidson is a senior editor at The New Yorker.
There are plenty of reasons for women, generally, to be discouraged by both the fact and the coverage of the Petraeus scandal. It began with the comparison of the looks of Paula Broadwell, his lover, and Holly Petraeus, his wife, who are twenty years apart in age—as if older women could have no expectation of fidelity—and an almost gleeful cataloging of Broadwell’s wardrobe, body, and, as a Petraeus associate put it anonymously, the “claws” that she got into the General. (“You’re a 60 year-old man and an attractive woman almost half your age makes herself available to you—that would be a test for anyone.”) She wore tight clothes in Afghanistan; she wore a halter at the Pentagon. As Frank Bruni of the Times noted, the odd detail from her life—“her long-ago coronation as homecoming queen, her six-minute mile”—was “presented not merely as a matter of accomplishment, but as something a bit titillating, perhaps a part of the trap she laid.” Then, before one had time to brood much on the foolishness of powerful men, attention shifted to side-by-side analyses of Broadwell and Jill Kelley, the “Tampa socialite,” whose interactions were described as a “cat-fight.”...
SOURCE: Foreign Policy (11-13-12)
Mark Perry is a Washington-based author and reporter. His most recent book is Partners in Command. His forthcoming book (Basic Books, 2013) is a study of the relationship between President Franklin Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur.
In May 1934, reporters Drew Pearson and Robert Allen published a column in the Washington Herald accusing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur of "dictatorial, insubordinate, disloyal, mutinous and disrespectful" actions during the Bonus March, a peaceful veterans demonstration. MacArthur had broken up the protest by force -- using tanks commanded by Gen. George Patton -- back in July of 1932, an action that forever stained his reputation. Enraged by Pearson and Allen's claims, MacArthur sued them for $1.75 million. That scared the hell out of the columnists, who knew they'd have trouble proving their allegations. Here comes the good part.
Among MacArthur's enemies was Rep. Ross Collins, a powerful Mississippi Democrat -- drawl, jowls, slicked hair, the whole bit -- who controlled military appropriations and lived in the Chastleton Apartments on 16th Street and had seen MacArthur often in his building. Collins disliked MacArthur, and when he found out that Pearson and Allen were looking for something to hold against the general, he told them about the visits. Pearson and Allen followed up on Collins's tip and discovered that the 55-year old MacArthur was visiting Isabel Rosario Cooper, a 19-year old Filipino film star whom he'd brought with him from his last command in Manila and with whom he was having an affair.
Isabel was young and beautiful, and MacArthur showered her with gifts -- visiting her every day during his long lunches while he was chief of staff. But Isabel grew tired of the general and found his attention stifling, so she went to live with her brother in Baltimore, which is where Pearson and Allen found her. She then shared with the reporters what MacArthur had told her about Herbert Hoover (a "weakling," he said), and Franklin Roosevelt ("that cripple in the White House")....
SOURCE: NYT (11-14-12)
Nathaniel Persily is a professor of law and political science at Columbia.
DOES the re-election of the first black president mean the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unnecessary and perhaps unconstitutional? The Supreme Court’s decision last week to consider a constitutional challenge to a key section of the act suggests that a perverse outcome of the 2012 campaign may be that President Obama’s victory spells doom for the civil rights law most responsible for African-American enfranchisement.
The central question in the constitutional debate is whether times have changed enough in the nearly five decades since the act’s passage to suggest that the law has outlived its usefulness. The unprecedented flexing of racial minorities’ political muscle on Nov. 6 does make it clear how much times have changed. But a campaign marred by charges of voter suppression and Election Day mishaps also makes the need for federal protection of voting rights clearer than ever....
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (11-12-12)
The writer is a professor of government at Harvard.
The moment of succession is the midnight of the state, a period of maximum danger, the hour when power passes from incumbent to novice, when experience gives way to uncertainty. To preserve stability, traditional states used to insist on a speedy succession: "The king is dead; long live the king." In modern democracies, speed has been sacrificed to legitimation by popular mandate. But in China today, speed has been sacrificed, but without legitimation, for there is no longer an accepted procedure by which an heir apparent is chosen.
In Mao Zedong’s day the Chairman chose or dispensed with putative successors as he saw fit. After 20 years in the No 2 slot, Liu Shaoqi was purged in 1966. Five years later his successor, Marshal Lin Biao, was hounded into fleeing the country, dying when his plane crashed in Mongolia. The young Shanghai revolutionary Wang Hongwen was helicoptered into Beijing to take Lin’s place, but Mao soon found he was not up to the job.
Finally, Mao chose the unremarkable Hua Guofeng, who did succeed him. But Hua declared loyalty to his patron’s disastrous Cultural Revolution policies and, within five years, Deng Xiaoping was able to deprive him of all his posts...
SOURCE: National Interest (11-13-12)
Robert A. Manning is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He previously served in the State Department as a senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific (1989-93) and on the Secretary’s policy planning staff (2004-08).
It just won’t go away—and it may be Asia’s contemporary equivalent to Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked World War I.
In recent weeks, a nearly daily occurrence near the disputed rocks are visits by Chinese ships. Carefully chosen maritime-surveillance or fisheries-agency (not military) ships have hovered on waters just outside the twelve-mile territorial limits (but inside the two-hundred-mile economic zone) of the Senkaku islands, which Japan controls and China calls the Diaoyu. These five lonely islets jutting out of the East China Sea are inhabited by a few dozen goats.
But the Sino-Japanese dispute has heated up in recent months. Nationalist sentiments are coming to a boil and crippling relations between two of the world’s largest economies. These tensions are emblematic of larger trends in East Asia. South Korea and Japan are also in the midst of a similar dispute over even smaller and more inconsequential rocks, Dokdo, which are called Takeshima by Japan. So spun up are the Koreans (not coincidentally in an election year) that their President Lee Myung-bak became the first Korean leader to ever visit the rocks last August. The Korean government, at public expense, supports a single couple living there so they can say it is inhabited. Lee called the tiny specks of land "a place worth staking our lives to defend."
And it doesn’t end there...
SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald (11-13-12)
Peter Hartcher is the international editor.
China's political leaders put stability above all else. So it's a remarkable sign of the times that they could be passing around well-thumbed copies of a book about the sudden, bloody outbreak of the French Revolution two-and-a-quarter centuries ago.
Why would China's modern rulers, preoccupied with the leadership handover under way in Beijing this week, be interested in Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution?
They are ''fascinated by the French thinker's writings because of what his observations say about conditions in their times,'' says a visiting professor at China's Sun Yat-sen University, Nailene Chou Wiest.
Since the Communist Party seized power in 1949 in a violent revolution, its highest priority has been to guard against what it calls ''counter-revolution''.
Yet the popularity of Tocqueville's work suggests that this is precisely what it now fears. ''Is China ripe for another revolution?'' poses Wiest...
SOURCE: Guardian (UK) (11-11-12)
Geoffrey Wheatcroft is a British journalist and writer.
It could have been much worse. Most Europeans, even conservatives, were dreading the prospect of President Mitt Romney, an obvious fraud whose voters are angry ageing white men and whose sponsors are half nasty and half crazy. And there was an almost worse prospect, of a rerun of 2000 and the grotesque farce in Florida – or alternatively of Barack Obama winning a majority in the preposterous electoral college but not a majority of the popular vote, and having his legitimacy challenged by the Republican for the next four years.
Even as it is, the situation in Washington is bad enough, as the re-elected Obama faces a bitterly hostile House of Representatives, yet again a dismal reflection of the American political system. No doubt anti-Americanism can take odious forms, but pro-Americanism is almost more curious. Not only the Anglo-neocons infesting the Tory party but some Labour politicians – Gordon Brown as well as Tony Blair – and liberal pundits are infatuated by all things American, including their written constitution, and a political culture which we are told we should emulate. To the contrary, without being complacent or excessively patriotic, I suggest we have nothing at all to learn about politics from across the Atlantic.
In their way, the founding documents of the American republic are very remarkable. The Declaration of Independence, the constitution and the Bill of Rights are written in limpid Augustan prose which can be read for literary pleasure, a contrast indeed to the equivalent documents of the European Union, from the Treaty of Rome to the abortive constitution, with their rebarbative bureaucratese. And never mind the fact that the declaration demands a free hand to deal with "merciless Indian savages" or that the constitution implicitly recognises the institution of slavery.
The trouble was that the constitution was set in stone, or at least on parchment...
SOURCE: WaPo (11-13-12)
Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:
Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.
After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy....
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-12-12)
Nate Cohn writes the Electionate blog for The New Republic.
From the moment political reporters armed with leaked internal polls wrote that Obama led by mid-to-upper single digits in Ohio, the Buckeye State was widely regarded as Romney’s Achilles heel. As early as mid-August, the conventional wisdom held that some combination of attacks on Romney’s tenure at Bain, the auto bailout, the shale gas boom, and a strong local economy was allowing Obama to overcome his national weakness with white working class voters in a traditionally Republican state.
When Obama’s national standing faltered after the first presidential debate, polls showed Obama falling behind in the “new coalition” states while maintaining a slight but consistent lead in the key Midwestern battlegrounds, including Ohio. The president seemed to be defying gravity, and the Obama campaign told reporters that Ohio was the crux of the “midwestern firewall” that provided the president with a critical and durable advantage in the Electoral College. With the polls showing Obama ahead by 3 points with more than 49 percent of the vote, the state appeared poised to provide the president with reelection....
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-12-12)
Lydia DePillis is a staff writer for The New Republic.
...CONSERVATIVES, BY NOW, should be very comfortable with adapting to changing demographics. They've done it before. Back in the 1960s, inner cities were on the decline, their white residents high-tailing it for the urban fringe. Democrats responded with a war on poverty. Richard Nixon, by contrast, saw an opening.
"[Republicans] recognized the same problems. They didn’t see them as something to be solved, but something to be exploited," explains Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse. Kevin Phillips' seminal 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority outlined a "southern strategy" to wrest white people away from the Democrats—by demonizing the black inner cities. "If you look at who he's talking to, it's a 'suburban strategy,'" says Kruse.
In the 1970s, Nixon followed up with a battery of policies designed to re-segregate the American landscape, most effectively through Supreme Court nominees who ruled against busing for educational diversity and upheld discriminatory zoning ordinances. The approach was validated in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the presidency without carrying a single major city. From then on, the GOP and cities seemed to be antithetical: A party that believes government is the problem won't find support where people rely on government for everyday services....