Jon Friedman, a columnist for Marketwatch, frets in a piece titled "Are you smart enough to enjoy the Economist?" that the British newsweekly will have to dumb down its content in order to reach a wide U.S. audience. And he frames it, frankly, in an insulting way:
While Time Warner's HBO is a premium cable service purchased primarily by affluent subscribers, the Economist faces a different kind of limitation on its audience size. There are only so many Americans who are -- to put it bluntly -- smart enough to enjoy its articles. So much of the U.S. media focus on the celebrity culture and present news in bite-sized portions that the Economist's content may be too meaty for a country that once celebrated a show called "Beavis and Butthead."
Clearly, Friedman has never read the British press.
Since the beginning of the year, John McCain seems to have settled on a consistent set of closing remarks for his most important speeches. Whenever he talks about America, he refers to his favorite nation with the feminine pronoun, "her." But in three out of the last four primary and caucus victory speeches he's delivered, McCain has stepped up his invocation of Lady Liberty. Here are the last few lines of McCain's New Hampshire victory speech:
So, my friends, we celebrate one victory tonight and leave for Michigan tomorrow to win another. But let us remember that our purpose is not ours alone; our success is not an end in itself. America is our cause -- yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Her greatness is our hope; her strength is our protection; her ideals our greatest treasure; her prosperity the promise we keep to our children; her goodness the hope of mankind. That is the cause of our campaign and the platform of my party, and I will stay true to it so help me God.
This is hardly the first time anyone invoked America in the same way they might refer to a great ship, and it isn't even the first time for McCain. But the use of the word "her" seems to have taken on a greater frequency and urgency in his oratory since January. I tend to think that this subtle change in McCain’s language is calculated to establish two things.
First, using "her" shows McCain as a traditionalist. He talks about great causes the way a founding father might have spoken. And second, McCain establishes himself as a paternal figure: a man who has the power to protect, honor and provide for a woman -- when that woman just happens to be the USA. It's a subtle way to imply that a woman would not be able to do the same job as president as a man. Certainly, it would sound strange for Hillary Clinton to refer to America as "her." In this way, McCain can covertly raise the gender issue without ever sounding overtly sexist.
The Pentagon has banned Google Earth teams from making detailed street-level video maps of U.S. military bases.... Michael Kucharek, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the decision was made after crews were allowed access to at least one base. He said military officials were concerned that allowing the 360-degree, street-level video could provide sensitive information to potential adversaries and endanger base personnel."
Um, no duh. Considering that Google Earth is a favorite tool of terrorist groups -- including the Palestinian al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which uses it to target and kill Israeli civilians -- this strikes me as a pretty common sense decision.
And it begs the question: Who the heck allowed a team from Google Earth, presumably carrying all sorts of video and mapping equipment, access to a U.S. military base in the first place?
Here's a clip of Susan Rice, one of Barack Obama's foreign-policy advisors, discussing the infamous 3 a.m. phone call ad:
Clinton hasn't had to answer the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call."
(Hat tip: The Caucus)
UPDATE: MSNBC sends along the full clip, so that you can see the context and judge for yourself.
It's puzzling to me why it's so difficult for some to let go of the old 1990s formulation that the economy still matters most in elections.
"[I]t's really about the economy," declared a BusinessWeek headline yesterday morning. To be sure, the economy has played an important role in the campaign over the last couple weeks. But if Hillary Clinton's victories in Ohio and Texas last night prove anything, isn't it the opposite? Voters are still very much in a Sept. 11th mindset. Clinton won last night in large part by beating Barack Obama two to one among voters who made their decision within the last three days of the race. And she did that by attacking his preparedness to handle national security, not the subprime crisis. Most notably via the now-infamous, and apparently effective, "It's 3:00 A.M...." ad.
Why did that strategy work? Because, as Michael Gerson points out in today's Washington Post, this is really the only issue on which Obama is beatable. Clinton insiders have, it appears, finally grasped this fact. "His vulnerability is experience and judgment on national security," Harold Ickes and Mark Penn wrote in a memo last night.
I suspect foreign policy is now the issue on which Obama's political future will live or die. This morning, he told reporters aboard his campaign plane, "Over the coming weeks we will join [Clinton] in that argument. Was she negotiating treaties? Was she handling crisis? The answer is 'no.'"
John McCain is already signaling that he intends to make November a referendum on national security. Like it or not, it's a foreign-policy election.
The U.S. Air Force has rolled out new slick ads as part of its effort to defeat its most deeply entrenched foes: the Army and the Navy. Each of the three services usually gets about a third of the defense pie each year, regardless of the changing threat environment. That's Pentagon politics. But with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan taking a huge toll on the Army, the other services have had to fight to stay relevant. I've transcribed several of the videos the Air Force is using as part of its campaign, "A Changing World," below. Here's one of the first clips:
This building [the Pentagon] will be attacked 3 million times today. Who is going to protect it? Meet Staff Sergeant Lee Jones, Air Force Cyber Command, a member of America's only cyber command, protecting us from millions of cyber threats every day. It takes Air Force technology to defend America in a changing world.
Video #2, on "air dominance":
To see how fast our world is changing, you only have to turn on the nightly news. New rogue leaders are emerging. Conflicts are erupting. Sudden disasters are striking our neighbors around the globe. The need for immediate, decisive response is greater than ever. In an uncertain world, how can we keep an upper hand? The U.S. Air Force is answering the call at twice the speed of sound. No modern war has been won without air dominance, so our ability to respond quickly and with precision accuracy to threats is key to our national defense. With our unmanned surveillance aircraft, we can feed critical information to ground troops and keep a watchful eye on enemies who hide among innocent. Our air power allows us to lead among nations by delivering literally tons of relief when our neighbors need it most. In an increasingly volatile world, air dominance is essential to America's strength. Thanks to the U.S. Air Force, our reach can truly span the globe. It takes Air Force power to defend America in a changing world.
Video #3, on "space dominance":
If you had to predict where the next war might be waged, would you pick someplace like here [mountainous terrain], here [rolling farmland], or here [space]? The world has changed. As more and more countries develop a presence in outer space, the possibility of a space battle is no longer science fiction. America has over 300 satellites in orbit. The question is, how will we protect our assets in space that we rely on here at home? Our new world requires new solutions. Meet U.S. Air Force space command. This elite force is America's eye in the sky, keeping watch over our interests high above the ground. The U.S. Air Force has long been a leader in space innovation. In fact, we invented GPS, the global positioning system. It's no exaggeration to say, the technology we're developing today will help shape the future. It takes Air Force vision to defend America in a changing world.
Video #4, on "cyber dominance," which we wrote about here:
You used to need an army to wage a war. Today, all you need is an Internet connection. Because we're more connected, we're also more vulnerable to new threats than ever. As a nation, how can we defend ourselves on a virtual battlefield? Welcome to Air Force Cyber Command, the only military unit of its kind. The U.S. Air Force developed an elite force that now defends us from 3 million cyber threats every day. Our national security is only as solid as our ability to see further and change faster than our enemies. It takes Air Force technology to defend America in a changing world.
Beginning tomorrow morning, John McCain has to grab the bull by the horns and get serious about his vice presidential pick. I generally think too much hubbub surrounds the whole process. Historically, VP running mates have had little impact on a candidate's performance in November. But given McCain's age and intraparty troubles, the decision could be disproportionately important for him.
It was more or less a foregone conclusion back in 2000 that, had he won the nomination, McCain would have asked Sen. Chuck Hagel to join the ticket. But Barack Obama's staff is now openly floating Hagel, the Republican Party's most prominent Iraq war critic, as a possible running mate for the Illinois senator. So, this time around, Hagel seems an unlikely choice for McCain. Early last month, I argued that the Arizona senator ought to take a long hard look at Newt Gingrich. Other names floating around at the time included Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman, and Sens. Tom Coburn, Sam Brownback, and Richard Burr, as well as Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. They all remain contenders.
In recent days, Condoleezza Rice's name has been appearing with increasing frequency. But, as Condi herself is prone to reminding people, she's never run for anything and has no desire to do so. Not to mention the fact that she carries with her all of the baggage of the Bush administration and has yet to stake out positions on the economy and the social issues about which conservatives care most.
In a conversation with Reuters, Douglas Brinkley puts Colin Powell's name on the table. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is reported to be on the shortlist by his home state newspaper. Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who certainly would have been on McCain's shortlist and is campaigning hard for him, now says she won't accept an invitation to run with McCain and, instead, is considering her own bid for the nomination in 2010.
One person who's getting only a little attention, but perhaps should get more, is Chris Cox. The former California congressman and China hawk is a poster boy for conservatives and currently heads the Securities and Exchange Commission. He would both bring California into play and bring some much needed economic acumen to McCain's camp. That could make things interesting.
Americans may occassionally have some good-natured fun at the expense of Canadians, but it's not because they dislike their neighbors to the north. In fact, Americans love Canadians. Deeply. A new Gallup survey of Americans' Most and Least Favored Nations finds that Canada is the country Americans view most favorably, which comes as no surprise because the country has occupied one of the top two spots since Gallup first conducted the survey in 1989.
Not far behind are Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, all enjoying a rating of "very" or "mostly" favorable by more than 4 in 5 U.S. citizens. Least-favorite nations include the usual suspects: Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, North Korea, and Iran all drew favorable ratings from fewer than a fifth of respondents.
The survey reveals some noteworthy differences within groups of Americans. Self-described Republicans tend to see Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel more favorably, while Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, China, and France are more likely to be viewed positively by Democrats. On the whole, young Americans are more likely to view Russia and China favorably, with 60 percent of those aged 18 to 34 responding favorably, while only a third of Americans 55 or older have positive feelings about those countries.
Interestingly, two countries -- Russia and Kenya -- received a roughly equal amount of favorable and unfavorable grades. Perhaps the survey serves as a snapshot of Americans' views about recent news. Both nations are in a state of flux right now, with Russia entering an uncertain post-Putin era and Kenya's image as one of Africa's most-stable countries taking a beating due to post-election violence. Depending on how the respective situations pan out, we could see a lot of movement in the numbers next time around. It's just not clear in which direction things will go.
Russian chessmaster turned opposition leader (and FP contributor) Garry Kasparov doesn't seem too broken up about Dmitry Medvedev's landslide election victory in his latest Wall Street Journal column, but then again, his attention may have been elsewhere:
It is election season again and the interest of the Russian people in the candidates has been high. There has been regular TV coverage, including debates. There is a tangible atmosphere of impending change. The election to which I'm referring is the U.S. presidential race. There is far more curiosity here in the Hillary/Obama debates than in the shuffling that is taking place in the Kremlin.
Kasparov laments that Russia has fallen off the radar screen in American politics and that none of the candidates are calling to eject Russia's government from the G7. He also makes his candidate preferences pretty clear:
The Russian ruling elite is rooting for Hillary Clinton, who represents a known and predictable entity compared to Barack Obama. John McCain has been outspoken on behalf of democratic rights abroad, including Russia. Regardless of the doubts about Mr. McCain's conservative credentials at home, the thought of him in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere.
Given Kasparov's overall political leanings, it's not shocking that he's a McCain man. The senator from Arizona has indeed been strident in criticizing Medvedev's coronation as a "tragedy of history." But Kasparov's assertion that Clinton is somehow the Kremlin's pick is a little bizarre. If anything, Clinton has gone somewhat overboard in attacking Russia on the campaign trail, saying that Vladimir Putin "doesn't have a soul" and immediately dismissing his successor as a puppet before completely mangling his name. Kasparov seems unsure about Barack Obama -- who also talks a big game on Russia -- describing him as an "unknown quantity."
Personally, I'm inclined to put this one in the "things that won't change" category. The Russian menace plays well on the campaign trail, but the two countries have enough issues of mutual concern that the next U.S. president will have to deal with Medvedev and Putin, even while lamenting Russia's democratic backsliding. I can't see any of the current candidates disturbing the status quo to create the kind of change Kasparov is hoping for.
Barack Obama's campaign has been fighting reports that one of its economic advisors, University of Chicago Professor Austan Goolsbee (above), told Canadian officials what we all know anyway -- that Obama's rhetoric on NAFTA won't amount to much if the candidate wins in November. Goolsbee says a memo about his conversation with the Canadians mischaracterized what he said, but he agrees he told them this:
On NAFTA, Goolsbee suggested that Obama is less about fundamentally changing the agreement and more in favour of strengthening/clarifying language on labour mobility and environment and trying to establish these as more 'core' principles of the agreement."
So, is the Obama campaign now claiming that this "strengthening/clarifying language" is going to bring manufacturing jobs back to Ohio? Give me a break.
Q: Who was Adolf Hitler?
If you answered "C," congratulations! You are now as smart as one quarter of 17-year-olds in the United States.
A new survey released by the non-profit group Common Core found that teenagers in the United States live in "stunning ignorance" about history and literature. That's something we could have told you awhile ago. In "Lost in America," a feature story in the May/June 2006 issue of FP, Douglas McGray wrote:
[S]urrounded by foreign languages, cultures, and goods, [young Americans] remain hopelessly uninformed, and misinformed, about the world beyond U.S. borders."
In his piece, he writes that we hear all the time about how America's youth lags behind in science and math tests. But they lag equally, if not more, in the liberal arts and social sciences. And it's just as dangerous. As the world becomes more and more globalized, it's crucial that our citizens today and tomorrow have a deeper understanding of history and culture.
Thankfully, Common Core has taken on this cause. The organization is composed of both Democrats and Republicans, who may not agree with each other about education reform policy. But they do agree on one thing: America's schools need to teach more about the liberal arts. Right on.
Last year, FP's "Top 10 Stories You Missed" highlighted an issue that hadn't yet gotten a lot of attention in the press -- the fact that nearly half of the 700 miles of fence being built along the U.S.-Mexico border was actually slated to be "virtual" fence. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have said they prefer virtual to more conventional fencing. But it might be time for both campaigns to go back to the drawing board. After evaluating a virtual fence pilot project, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has thrown cold water on the notion that such fences can be relied upon to secure the border any time soon:
The pilot virtual fence included nine mobile towers, radar, cameras, and vehicles retrofitted with laptops and satellite phones or handheld devices. They were to be linked to a near-real-time, maplike projection of the frontier that agents could use to track targets and direct law enforcement resources. GAO investigators said that [the virtual fence] could not process large amounts of sensor data. The resulting delays made it hard for operators in a Tucson command center 65 miles to the north to lock cameras on targets. Radar systems were also triggered inadvertently by rain and other environmental factors. Cameras had trouble resolving images at five kilometers when they were expected to work at twice that distance...."
The initial phase of the virtual fence -- covering approximately 100 miles near Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas -- was supposed to be completed by the end of 2008. But the GAO now estimates that it will take until the end of 2011 to complete that initial 100 miles of virtual fence. That means it will take until nearly the end of the next president's first term to deploy a virtual fence along a tiny 100-mile stretch of the border. After that, friends, there's just 1,900 miles to go. I figure we can get the whole thing "virtually secured" sometime around the turn of the century.
Listening to the Democrats talk about using science to secure the southern border is like listening to Republicans talk about using technology to solve climate change. Technology, we are assured, will solve all of America's problems without us having to make any real changes. Sadly, in both cases, that's just cover for not having a real policy to address the problem.
Launched as a cheap, safe alternative to illicit home brews, a beer nicknamed "Obama" (real name Senator Keg Lager) has proven popular in Kenya, the country where U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama's father came from.
Meanwhile, when asked by Us Weekly about whether he wears boxers or briefs—the same question asked of Bill Clinton when he was a candidate in 1992—Obama decided to keep his undies a secret, responding:
I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in 'em!
With the race for the Democratic presidential nomination entering the homestretch, more and more people are talking about superdelegates, who may be crucial in determining whether the party's choice will be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But what are these superdelegates? Who gets to be one? Are you as confused about them as I am?
Rick Klau, an employee at Google, took on a personal project to help clarify things. He set up SuperDelegates.org, a wiki-style Web site that not only tells you how the Democratic Party's superdelegate system was developed, but also lists who all 795 of them are and whether or not they've pledged their vote to Clinton or Obama. Even cooler, Klau has done an overlay on Google Maps, so you can see where they're from and whether they're still undecided or are leaning toward one of the candidates. Check it out here.
William F. Buckley, man of letters and somewhat proud Yale alumnus, died Wednesday at the age of 82.
Buckley was a towering figure in the conservative movement, and he was erudite, witty, and lovable -- even if you didn't share his worldview. As writer Joan Didion put it, "I was very fond of him... Everyone was, even if they didn't agree with him." Perhaps the best tribute, then, is to watch Buckley himself in action. Here's a retrospective put together by the Charlie Rose show last year:
You can also check out the reflections of staffers at the National Review, the magazine he founded in 1955.
(Hat tip: The Weekly Standard)
Likewise, Barack Obama who voted along with Clinton for recent trade agreements with Peru and Oman is also outraged by NAFTA. Please.
Cooper is comparing apples and watermelons. The Peru deal, as noted here, is a miniscule agreement that is primarily about lowering Peruvian trade barriers to U.S. goods. Similarly, the Oman deal includes a lot of language about opening the financial sector there to U.S. firms. Annual bilateral trade between the United States and Oman is not much more than $1 billion, and the two countries are not major trading partners. In both cases, the stated rationale for the deal was primarily geopolitical, not economic. So, it might be perfectly consistent to see the far larger NAFTA as a bad deal and yet support Peru and Oman.
Of course, neither Obama nor Clinton want to actually repeal NAFTA, mind you. They just want to "renegotiate" it -- a promise you can safely file in the same category as "closing tax loopholes" and "cracking down on wasteful government spending."
The Public Policy Institute of California has just issued a surprising new report finding that immigrants to the Golden State are far less likely to commit serious crimes than those who are native-born. The study finds that even though foreign-born residents make up 35 percent of California's population, they make up only 17 percent of those incarcerated. Among men aged 18-40, the most likely to commit crimes, immigrants make up an even lower percentage. Native-born Americans in that age group who were born in the Untied States are 10 times more likely to be in county or state prison than immigrants. Hopefully, the study will put some xenophobia to rest.
Noting the gripes and second-guessing coming from Hillary Clinton's campaign, Berkeley economist and blogger Brad DeLong evinces a dim view of political advisors:
There are two kinds of people who get involved in politics--those who care about the substance of policy, and those who want to get White House Mess privileges, or as a consolation prize become media celebrities. The first kind--the policy people--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is trying his or her best to achieve the shared policy goals. The second kind--the spinmasters--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is a winner who favors them. If a politician stops looking like a winner, or if a politician starts favoring others for what they hoped would be their west wing job, they will jump ship as fast as they can--and you will start seeing the "infighting" stories.
The moral? A politician with an ideological policy compass is best off not hiring spinmasters as his or her senior aides. Hire people who care about the substance of policy instead.
(Hat tip: Daniel Drezner)
The Politico's Ben Smith blogs about the above anti-Obama mailer that's making the rounds and makes a good point:
The odd thing here is that both Clinton and Obama come from the pro-trade wing of the party. Both have, in less heated moments, defended free trade in theory, and neither wants to repeal Nafta.
But when in Ohio, you argue about who hates trade more.
Politicians pandering to voters? Shocking.
The U.S. Army is paying Disney $800,000 to turn frowns upside down at Walter Reed Hospital. Can it be long before Disney is helping to win hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan, too?
We've finally gotten to the point where it's entirely plausible that the next U.S. president will have had a black father, a white mother, and a half-Asian sister. America has finally moved beyond race, right?
Not so fast. All you have to do is look to my hometown, "liberal" Boulder, Colorado, as this week's Exhibit A of how screwed up the United States still is when it comes to race. At the University of Colorado, a columnist for a student newspaper wrote that Asians should be rounded up with an "extra-large butterfly net," "hog-tied," forced to drink and eat sushi with a fork, and ordered to dance until their spirits are broken. Lovely, eh?
The university has issued an apology. So have the editors of the paper. They claim the column was meant to be a satire and a commentary on racism. But the column was never clearly labelled as a satire, and the columnist's writing skills are so poor, that... well, let's just say he will be getting employment at neither a reputable paper nor at The Onion. He may not even be really racist. But he's a total and complete idiot. I hesitate to bring his column to your attention because he's pulled immature, stupid, controversial stunts like this before.
But the bottom line is, there's a very real danger that readers of his column will take him seriously. It wasn't that long ago that 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps in this country. The Jena Six incident, where nooses were hung on trees at a high school in Louisiana, took place only a few months ago. There are no excuses: Racial violence is not something to be taken lightly, whether you're a college student or not.
Increasing global demand for food along with biofuels production has meant that rising food prices have been hitting our paychecks hard. But the news will likely only get worse.
In a recently released National Bureau of Economic Research paper, Wolfram Schlenker of Columbia University and Michael J. Roberts of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveal the effects of climate change on crop yields in the United States. The results are alarming: According to Schlenker and Roberts's model, which employs data on crop yields in the United States between 1950 and 2004 along with a matching weather/temperature data set, yields are likely to diminish significantly by the end of the century.
Although yields for corn and soybeans increase until temperatures reach about 29° Celcius and yields for cotton increase until about 33° Celcius, temperatures above these thresholds result in a rapid and steep decline thereafter. Global warming is expected to shift temperatures upward and produce more damaging heatwaves. As a result, Schlenker and Roberts predict that corn yields will decrease by 44 percent, soybean yields will drop by 33-34 percent, and cotton yields will decline by 26 to 31 percent -- and that's just under the "slow warming" scenario of the model. If the model assumes "quick warming," the news is even more dire. Corn, soybean, and cotton yields will plummet by 79-80 percent, 71 to 72 percent, and 60 to 78 percent respectively.
To make matters worse, "hotter southern [U.S.] states exhibit the same threshold as cooler states in the north, suggesting there is limited potential for adaptations." In other words, the prospect of crops evolving quickly to adapt to a warmer environment looks slim. Technology, too, appears unlikely to save the day just yet. The authors conclude, "[W]e find no evidence that technological progress increased heat tolerance over the last 55 years: while average yields have gone up almost threefold, the breakpoint where temperatures become harmful is the same in later periods as it is in earlier periods." As the Earth gets hotter, expect inflation to soar. Time to stock up on corn, soybean, and cotton products.
Via FP contributor Benjamin H. Friedman, now with the Cato Institute, an astonishing gambit by the U.S. Air Force:
This week’s Air Force Times reports that the Air Force wants an extra $59 million of your tax dollars next year to pay for a campaign to win tens of billions more of your tax dollars.
You see, the Air Force's research shows that the American public does not appreciate the Air Force as much as the Air Force thinks it should. Air Force generals worry that Americans may conclude that our current wars, which are relatively low-tech, ground power-centric affairs, are a reasonable basis for making procurement decisions. That conclusion may produce budgets that favor the ground forces, thwarting the Air Force’s plan to become the service that runs future wars. And the administration has already refused the Air Force an extra $20 billion for its annual budget.
So the defense budget submitted recently to Congress would more than double the Air Force’s advertising spending to insure that the public doesn’t figure out that platforms like the F-22 are white elephants.
Over the weekend, a vanity license plate with the single digit "1" (mentioned by Passport two weeks ago) sold for a record $14 million at an Abu Dhabi charity auction to raise money for traffic-accident victims.
Meanwhile, in Delaware, where the law lets people transfer license plates, the tag with the single digit "6" was just auctioned off for a relatively paltry $675,000 to the family that bought "9" in 1993 for $185,000. (The number "1" is reserved for the state's governor.)
I've blogged before about the U.S. State Department's bizarre daily appointments e-mail for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The e-mail often arrives after the events noted therein have already taken place, rendering it all but useless. Today was no different in that regard, except that whoever mailed it out seemed especially eager to inform me of Ms. Rice's morning meeting with defense ministers from Adriatic Charter states.
Today must be an especially an important day for Ms. Rice, so I'll reprint the e-mail below. Here's what flooded my inbox at 2:11 p.m. today:
SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: ON FOREIGN TRAVEL WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE: MORNING PRESS GAGGLE: 10:15 a.m. with Tom Casey DAILY PRESS BRIEFING:
9:45 a.m. Meeting with the Adriatic Charter (Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia) Defense Ministers.
(CAMERA SPRAY IN TREATY ROOM / EDITORIAL PRESENCE WELCOME / NO Q&A)
Pick up time for all press: 9:15 a.m. from the
Pick up time for all press: 10:10 a.m. from room 2310 / no late escort
**(at approximately 12:00 p.m. with Sean McCormack)**
SECRETARY OF STATE RICE:
ON FOREIGN TRAVEL WITH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE NEGROPONTE:
MORNING PRESS GAGGLE:
10:15 a.m. with Tom Casey
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING:
Ever wonder what happened to all those preprinted Super Bowl T-shirts proclaiming the New England Patriots as the champs? Turns out, poor kids in Nicaragua are wearing them:
Back in September, the experts surveyed for FP's Terrorism Index ranked Pakistan as the country "most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists." With 74 percent of the vote, this clearly wasn't a tough call. But according to two Pakistani military officers, it's the United States that has the problem with nuke security. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reports on a press conference in Islamabad from a few days back:
... Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons."
Iqhman also said the Pakistani government would be willing to provide assistance and advice on nuclear handling and security. U.S. officials, unsurprisingly, had no comment. While there may be legitimate concerns about the hair-trigger launching procedure for American nukes, it's doubtful U.S. military officials have much to learn from A.Q. Khan's homeland on this issue. Or do they? Iqhman's deputy, Colonel Bom Zhalot, added this twist:
We also worry that the U.S. commander-in-chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"
Definitely read the whole article for Col. Zhalot's thoughts on religion, Hiroshima, and the sanctity of life. It only gets better.
Update: Looks like I was taken by those pranksters at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The article turns out to be a satire, and a brilliant one at that. In retrospect, the MSNBC reporter named "Jay Keuse" probably should have tipped me off. In my defense, this sort of pushback seems totally plausible coming from the Pakistani military, which has been adamant that its nukes are secure.
First, he accused her of not being American. Now, he's trying to recruit her to run for president!
Comedian Stephen Colbert has long had a (fake) antagonistic relationship with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, DC's representative in Congress. Last year, he accused her of not being a citizen of the United States, because she was born and lives in the District of Columbia. He accused her of being ineffectual because as the representative of D.C., she's not allowed to vote on the final passage of legislation in Congress. You can watch the hilarious segment here:
But Colbert has changed his tune. Last night, he interviewed Norton on his show and suggested that she run for president. After all, she's black AND she's a woman AND she doesn't have a voting record that anyone can hold against her. But here's the rub: If she wasn't born in the United States, since she was born in a district, then she's not eligible. Sorry, Colbert. You're going to have to find another candidate to support.
As Blake pointed out earlier, Barack Obama has taken aim at free trade in the run-up to the upcoming blue-collar-dominated primaries in Ohio and Wisconsin. The attack that began in earnest last night in Obama's Potomac Primary victory speech will continue at noon today in Janesville, Wisconsin, where Obama is promising to deliver a detailed speech on economic policy. The Illinois senator, who is big on hopes and dreams but not so big on details, apparently plans to tell suffering Americans that globalization is to blame for their plight. Here's a sneak preview:
The fallout from the housing crisis that's cost jobs and wiped out savings was... the culmination of decades of decisions that were made or put off without regard to the realities of a global economy and the growing inequality it's produced...
[D]ecades of trade deals like NAFTA and China have been signed with plenty of protections for corporations and their profits, but none for our environment or our workers who've seen factories shut their doors and millions of jobs disappear...
I also won't stand here and accept an America where we do nothing to help American workers who have lost jobs and opportunities because of these trade agreements...
I will not sign another trade agreement unless it has protections for... American workers."
This is the same guy who keeps promising to heal America's relationship with the world, right? Maybe it's just me, but forcing protectionist agreements down our trading partners' throats doesn't sound like such a good start. Neither does blaming them for America's subprime fiasco, a home-grown crisis fueled by Alan Greenspan and the Fed, which now threatens to wreak havoc on many of the globe's biggest economies. Good luck with that line, Barack.
Anyone in the D.C. area yesterday evening can tell you that there was some kind of incredibly slippery, impossible-to-detect robo-ice on the ground -- the perfect conditions for major falls and car accidents. The freezing rain caused so much havoc in neighboring Maryland that a judge allowed the polls for the presidential primary to stay open there until 9:30 p.m., 90 minutes after they were due to close. I saw plenty of people slipping and sliding on my walk home, which made my own fall only slightly less embarrassing.
Even the man in charge of the world's most powerful military wasn't immune to the perils of robo-ice. Pentagon chief Bob Gates slipped on the ice outside his D.C. home last night and fractured his right shoulder. He's apparently back at work, though he's not attending this morning's Senate hearing on the mammoth defense budget. He -- and his ego -- are no doubt feeling a little bruised.
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