May 18, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM

ANYBODY GOT A GOOD FRIDAY AFTERNOON SONG?:


Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM

THE WAR ON BUREAUCRACY IS A POLITICAL WINNER:

Wisconsin recall slipping away from Democrats (Aaron Blake, 05/18/2012, Washington Post)

All three polls out this week show Walker leading Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) by between 5 percent and 9 percent. 

Perhaps more illustrative, though, are the candidate's personal favorability and approval numbers.

Despite all the attempts by Democrats and organized labor to turn him into the bogeyman, Walker's job approval and favorable rating both remain in positive territory, at right around 50 percent.

Barrett, meanwhile, has no such luxury. The latest Marquette University Law School poll of this race showed his favorable rating at just 37 percent, compared to 45 percent who view him unfavorably.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM

THE LUTHERAN NORTH:

Wealthy Sweden spending too little: policy adviser (Niklas Pollard and Johan Sennero, 5/14/12, Reuters) 

Sweden's centre-right coalition government is being too tight-fisted with public finances that are likely to remain strong for years to come, a think tank charged with evaluating policy said on Monday.

The Swedish Fiscal Policy Council, a state agency that evaluates government policy, said it saw little risk the country would breach spending ceiling rules in the coming years and instead urged the government to slacken spending constraints.

Unlike most countries in Europe, strong export revenues and firm domestic demand have helped Sweden rapidly shrink its debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) over the past decade, leading to rising net wealth for the public sector. [...]

While relentless austerity measures are driving debt-laden countries in the euro zone into recession, the government forecasts Swedish public debt to fall to 37.7 percent of GDP this year and a mere 22.5 percent in 2016.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM

BECAUSE NO ONE PAID ATTENTION TO THE PRIMARIES:

Gallup poll: Romney's 'favorable' rating jumps (Holly Bailey, May 17, 2012, ABC News)

A new Gallup poll finds 50 percent of Americans polled have a "favorable" view of the presumptive Republican nominee--an 11-point jump since February. According to Gallup, that's the highest favorable rating the poll has recorded since they began tracking opinions about Romney in 2006.

Romney's favorable rating is two points lower than that of President Obama--which currently sits at 52 percent. But more Americans view Obama unfavorably: 46 percent, compared to Romney's 41 percent.

He's still Governor Romney.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 AM

A CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE:

Israel in Peril: a review of The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart  (David Shulman, 6/07/12, NYRB)


Buried somewhere inside all this is a bad Israeli conscience about the treatment of Palestinians since 1948--a conscience repressed but still somehow alive (not, perhaps, in Netanyahu). The rationalizing vision pasted over that bad conscience, a vision simple-minded, self-righteous, dangerous, and immoral, underlies the dilemma that Peter Beinart has eloquently and bravely stated in The Crisis of Zionism. He articulates it as a conflict, very familiar by now, between liberal, democratic values and a proto-racist, atavistic nationalism. This conflict has created two Jewish states in the Middle East. As Beinart says, "To the west [of the Green Line, the pre-1967 border], Israel is a flawed but genuine democracy. To the east, it is an ethnocracy."

By "ethnocracy" he means "a place where Jews enjoy citizenship and Palestinians do not"; it is a mini-state run by settlers, some of them violent and fanatical, that disenfranchises a huge Palestinian population and continually appropriates Palestinian land in the interests of expanding and further entrenching the colonial project of the settlements. Inevitably, the ethos of the occupation, now in its forty-fifth year, spills westward over the Green Line: "Illiberal Zionism beyond the green line destroys the possibility of liberal Zionism inside it."

The evidence for this observation is overwhelming; Beinart discusses recent research that shows a dangerous erosion in the commitment by ordinary Israelis to basic democratic values and the concomitant rise of hypernationalist, racist, and totalitarian tendencies, some of them well represented in the ultra-right parties in the Knesset and in the current Israeli cabinet. In the last year or so, we've seen a spate of antidemocratic, "ethnocratic" legislation all too reminiscent of dark precedents in the history of the last century.

We could also describe what is happening, more simply, as a takeover by the settler mini-state of the central institutions of the Israeli state system as a whole. By now, Israeli policy is almost entirely mortgaged to the settler enterprise; almost every day brings some new, inventive scheme to legalize existing "illegal outposts" in the territories and to facilitate the appropriation of more and more Palestinian land.2 The inevitable result of such policies is the imminent demise of the so-called "two-state solution," which would put a Palestinian state by the side of pre-1967 Israel (with whatever minor revisions of the old boundary the two sides would agree upon in negotiations). By now, a huge portion of the West Bank has, in effect, been annexed, perhaps irreversibly, to Israel. No state can be constituted on the little that remains. I will return to this question.

Even apart from the disastrous political consequences of current Israeli policy, it is critical to recognize that what goes on in the territories is not a matter of episodic abuse of basic human rights, something that could be corrected by relatively minor, ad hoc actions of protest and redress. Nothing could be further from the truth. The occupation is systemic in every sense of the word. The various agencies involved--government bureaucrats and their ministries and budgets, the army, the blue-uniformed civilian police, the border police, the civil administration (that is, the official Occupation Authority), the courts (in particular, the military courts in the territories, but also Israeli civil courts inside the Green Line), the host of media commentators who toe the government line and perpetuate its regnant mythologies, and so on--are all inextricably woven into a system whose logic is apparent to anyone with firsthand experience of it. That logic is one of protecting the settlement project and taking the land. The security aspect of the occupation is, in my view, close to trivial; were it a primary goal, the situation on the ground would look very different.[...] 

Analysts like Meron Benvenisti, the former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, have been saying for years that the idea of the two-state solution is no more than a fig leaf, to which both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships pay lip service, hiding the recalcitrant reality of what is already a single state between the Jordan River and the sea. At the moment, this single state, seen as a whole, fits Beinart's term--a coercive "ethnocracy." Those who recoil at the term "apartheid" are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as "Bantustans."

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they're anything remotely like a "solution" to Israel's Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down. In an optimistic version of the future, we may be left with some sort of confederated model that is more than one state but somehow less than two--and in which the Jews will soon become a minority. I do not see how that can happen without a struggle, hopefully nonviolent at least to some degree, in which Palestinians claim for themselves the rights that other peoples have achieved.

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Posted by orrinj at 5:47 AM

...AND GLORY:

Meet the GUTS: The West isn't declining. Here are four world powers enjoying an astonishing renaissance. (BRUCE JONES AND THOMAS WRIGHT, MAY 17, 2012, Foreign Policy)

Ironically, America's obituary as a great power has repeatedly been written over the past three years even as it has grown stronger on multiple fronts. U.S. influence in Asia has risen at a rapid clip since 2008, driven largely by regional anxiety about Chinese assertiveness. The United States deepened its traditional alliances with Australia, Japan, and South Korea. It developed strategic partnerships, including with the Philippines, Vietnam, and others in ways that were previously unthinkable. Paradoxically, Chinese economic growth has weakened its own geopolitical position and benefited the United States. Such are the ways of world politics.

The United States is rising in other areas too. On national security, the U.S. position is also stronger than it has been in many years. The U.S. military and intelligence services have shown impressive dynamism in bringing al Qaeda to the brink of total defeat, something many analysts believed unlikely only a few years ago. The Pentagon has been at the forefront of the drone and robotics revolution, which may give it an edge in 21st-century conflicts. Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats have developed innovative new means of international cooperation, notably with the Nuclear Security Summit and the Open Government Partnership.

America's greatest vulnerability remains its weak economy. Significant challenges lie ahead, but it is worth noting that the United States has significantly outperformed the eurozone and has better prospects for growth than most other Western states. It remains a hub of innovation: Just consider the rise of social media and the technology-driven exploration for shale gas. Over the long term, the fiscal challenges confronting the United States must be weighed against the very real -- and very underestimated -- internal strains on the Chinese and Indian economies.


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Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM

THERE ARE NO rEALISTS HERE:

The Arab Spring and American Ideals (GEORGE W. BUSH, 5/17/12, WSJ)

This is the inbuilt crisis of tyranny. It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility. Dictators can maintain power for a time by feeding resentments toward enemies--internal or external, real or imagined. But eventually, in societies of scarcity and mediocrity, their failure becomes evident.

America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.

The day when a dictator falls or yields to a democratic movement is glorious. The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight. From time to time, there has been corruption, backsliding and nostalgia for the communist past. Essential economic reforms have sometimes proved painful and unpopular.

It takes courage to ignite a freedom revolution. But it also takes courage to secure a freedom revolution through structural reform. And both types of bravery deserve our support.

This is now the challenge in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. After the euphoria, nations must deal with questions of tremendous complexity: What effect will majority rule have on the rights of women and religious minorities? How can militias be incorporated into a national army? What should be the relationship between a central government and regional authorities?

Problems once kept submerged by force must now be resolved by politics and consensus. But political institutions and traditions are often weak.