Here and Now, Fri., Feb. 25.
You can't say that!
Gorby - in a press conference in Moscow, no less - excoriates both Medvedev and Putin for running a Potemkin democracy rife with corruption, an inferior version, if you can believe it, of the autocracy Gorby once ran, as bad as he acknowledges that to have been. (Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor) Gorby rightly calls out the current Russian president and prime minister for discussing quietly between themselves which of them will run for president in the next election. Seems no one else is allowed to apply for the job. Medvedev and Putin are, uh, almost struck by Mikhail's effrontery.
The dismal science
The global food crisis isn't knocking on our door - yet. (Ben Arnoldy, Christian Science Monitor) But it's further impoverishing the world's poor and endangering their health. It's also driving the upheavals in North Africa. (Normally that's expressed as "North Africa and the Middle East," but my map shows Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to be in North Africa. The contagion of street protests has spread elsewhere, but it's been tepid and easily suppressed in the likes of Damascus, Tehran and Amman. We'll see about the mass protest planned for Baghdad today. Though even then, it will be in a country with a government that lost or never had its grip, as was the case in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli.)
More on why home ownership can be such a lousy investment. (Felix Salmon, Reuters) Salmon deserves credit for developing this theme. Which isn't, obviously, that residential real estate always and forever is money down the drain. Nor is that in light of the U.S. housing crisis, you can find yourself in big trouble if you're not careful - overturning a long-held myth that you can't go wrong buying the property you live in. It's that other investment classes outperform housing, an unpopular notion for hundreds of millions of homeowners and the industries - from builders to Home Depot to Pottery Barn- that caters to them.
As lower-court decisions go, it's now 3 to 1 in favor of Obamacare. (Andrew Cohen, Atlantic) Latest federal judge, in harsh rebuke of previous court decision, says mandates must be part of universal healthcare or you'll have "free riders." Which of course is true. Healthy younger people who don't ask much of them system especially have to buy health insurance in order to subsidize older, higher-health maintanance folks, or the whole thing goes bankrupt in a month without those "mandates." In the 2008 election, Obama won a mandate not only for Obamacare but for a legal requirement, with penalties, to buy insurance. Indeed, Hillary Clinton had a promising issue against Obama in the primaries when it seemed his requirement for mandates was more lax than hers.
How did "Obamacare" become an epithet? (Kiran Moodley, Atlantic) I guess that's an obvious outcome, but you'll have noticed on this site that I like the term. We once talked of "Reaganomics" rather than "supply-side economics" just for short-form's sake. Why let Tea Partiers appropriate Obamacare as a term of derision? Can't it also be a term of pride for progressives? Sure beats the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" (ARRA), a.k.a. Mr. O's 2009 legislative triumph with the $789 billion stimulus.
War of Wisconsin: How did everyone in Madison become obsessed with the Koch brothers? (David Weigel, Slate)
Here's your #$%&*@! new mayor, Chicago. (James Warren, Atlantic) That's been the standard headline for Rahm Emanuel's easy mayoralty win in the city of broad shoulders. I think too much is made of Emanuel's supposed potty mouth and street-fighter ways, but it's a rep he seems to like. In the Clinton and Obama administrations, and as a congressman, Emanuel has been more a voice of sweet reason backed by threats if necessary. Sort of like LBJ, who began by tellin' ya a winsome story before allowing that he had your grandmother locked up in a barn somewhere. Atlantic delves into what Emanuel must do to reinvent Chicago, a dubious premise, I think, assuming America's #3 city needs reinventing. It needs cleaner municipal government, sure, but it needs to retain outgoing Daley Jr.'s ability to conceive and execute big ideas like Millennium Park - by dispatching City bulldozers to destroy Miegs Field in the dead of night, if necessary, because it's in the way and the decision-making about its future is simply taking too long. Yes, Haussmann and Robert Moses overdid it, but they were on to something essential that cities have suffered from the lack of for decades.
Neo-cons are falling out among themselves over the meaning of the meaning of the North Africa upheavals. (Jacob Heilbrunn, Foreign Policy) Basically they're trying to take credit, of course, for the bungled Bush Mideast meddling they put America up to. Which might even hold water, except that a long eight years passed between the Iraq invasion and the ouster of Tunisia's leader, kicking off the current season of discontent. And the chaos of postwar Iraq isn't the role model of full-employment craved by the protesters from Rabat to Alexandria.
What it was like to work for Donald Rumsfeld. (Alexis Madrigal, Atlantic). A Rummy memo to his chief underling, Doug Feith, reveals Rummy's scant knowledge of, er, foreign affairs. Given that Feith was described by the general who led the U.S. invasion of Iraq as the most block-headed civilian order-passer he'd ever dealt with, that's one dangerous combination running the world's biggest military. You actually get the idea, as bungled as the Iraq invasion was, that things could have been much, much worse. Remember, these neo-cons wanted to invade Iran next, then maybe North Korea and Pakistan...
What it was like to work with Don Rumsfeld. (Tom Hicks, Foreign Policy) H.R. Haldeman, Nixon top confidante, found Rummy difficult when the erstwhile Chicago congressman was the youngest defense secretary in U.S. history. (Under Bush II, Rummy earned the unique distinction of having been both the youngest and oldest person appointed to that post.)
Chinese kids are not gaining a competitive edge on X-Box-addicted, iPhone-toting, school-play acting, playdate taking, young American slackers. (Ben Wildavsky, Foreign Policy) So there, Tiger Mom.
10 takeaways from Obama's DOMA reversal. (Andrew Cohen, Atlantic) The first of which, for me, is that a president who campaigned as someone uneasy with gay rights turns out to have already advanced gay rights more than any of his predecessors - starting with having the U.S. join the rest of the industrialized world in ending the odious discrimination against gays in the military. (Canada stopped doing so in 1992, Britain a year later, and the EU before them.)
So, how's that remarkable, intentionally chauvinistic "Imported from Detroit" ad playing for Chrysler dealers in Canada? (Jeremy Cato, auto critic, Toronto Star)
A committee I didn't know existed has decided Toronto's new motto is, uhhh, "El Toro." (Curtis Rush, Toronto Star) I've read its rationale several times and still don't get it. My boss was on said committee, so I'll have to talk with him about it. Certainly it seems to have the same quixotic feel of the previous failed "Toronto Unlimited" campaign. Replaces "Toronto the Good," the committee says. (Which, actually, hasn't been widely used for decades, deriving from Toronto boasting more churches per capita than any NA city at the dawn of the 20th century. Llately the surfeit of abandoned churches has been converted into condos with peculiar religious facades in the name of architectural restoration.) El Toro is also intended to replace "Hogtown," which I'm perfectly content with. That dates from when Toronto was the biggest pork processor in the British Commonwealth and there were stinky slaughterhouses all over town, including a campus of them just up the street from where I live. Put it this way: if like Cincinnati, we were stuck for a time with "Porkopolis" for that city's own Toronto-like mastery of turning pigs into bacon, I could see the urgency of a nickname change. (I think "WKRP" solved that problem.) This much for sure, Torontonians outside the GTA will go on calling us Hogtown - which is to say, go on resenting "El Toro" - as the burgh perceived to hog all the nation's goodies. As former PM Joe Clark said, there's no easier way to unite Canadians than in their hatred of Toronto. (Clark is a native of Alberta, one of the hotbeds of anti-Torontoism. For Albertans, "fat-cat Ontario" or even "the East" will do in a pinch.