Friday, January 2, 2009

Link dump

This edition is going to be NYT-heavy. I got my daily headlines last night and wanted to read basically everything.

Eesh. Incredible story from the NYT about unbelievably widespread and blatant corruption in the Afghani government.

Control of the Green Zone in Baghdad was handed off from U.S. to Iraqi control yesterday, although apparently no one cared.

The ash spill in Tennessee just keeps getting worse. I can't figure out why the state or doesn't seem to be moved to do anything about it. They haven't even made public the results of tests of the water supply. Luckily, other groups are doing it anyway.

Originally under the TARP bailout plan, Treasury was supposed to buy up bad mortgages; Paulson decided to just give the banks the money instead. So the Fed has gone ahead and done what Treasury has not, and TPM's Josh Marshall revealed the other day that they've hired four major financial firms to purchase and manage about $400 billion worth of toxic assets. Today, we learn that all four firms--some of which have already received TARP money--refuse to discuss how much they're being paid for the gig.

U.S. manufacturing is at its lowest level in 28 years. For an in-depth look, check out this NYT piece about the domestic steel industry.

The Department of the Interior is in a sorry state post-Bushies, like, it seems, every other department.

The now-familiar move by Russia to cut off Ukraine's gas supply is playing out in a more subtle and interesting dance than usual. It will be very interesting to see how Russia's policies evolve as it becomes more and more cash-strapped as a result of low energy prices.

Where did this obsession with Iran come from? Apparently there are still people in the U.S. political world who think that now would be a great time to go to war with Iran. Unfortunately, those people include former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton in their ranks.

On a fluffier note as we head into the opinion pieces, I had to hand it to Blago: the Burris appointment was politically brilliant if what you want to do is thumb your nose at the world. Unfortunately, it seems to have prompted some backlash: IL lawmakers have moved up their plans for impeachment proceedings. Also at that link: if appointee Roland Burris tries to enter the Senate floor, armed police officers will detain him. This political drama is so delicious it must be bad for me.

The lefty blogosphere and intellectual infrastructurecontinues to pwn the right-wing equivalents.

Krugman on how the Republican Party built a strategy, a party, and a platform out of racial divisions, and (FINALLY, THANK YOU DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS AND PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION) backed themselves into a corner with it.
Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

Larison is still discussing Israel-Palestine at his place, and today he takes on the notion of collective responsibility--that the Palestinians are responsible for the last few years and must take the consequences because they voted Hamas in democratically. Larison completely implodes this idea in its stupidity, and the piece is important reading in its entirety. The thing that bothers me, though, is this: Hamas won a legislative election. They formed a government, yes, but the President was still Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah. While the embargo on Gaza had already begun, what kicked it into its present high gear was the ARMED COUP Hamas perpetrated to completely take over Gaza. Why does no one remember that--or are all Gazans responsible for that too?

I wouldn't say this David Brooks piece is particularly worth reading in its entirety--it's a bit disjointed and I'm not entirely sure what the point is, if he has one--but this bit at the end (paraphrasing someone else, natch) caught my eye--it's been something I've been conceptually groping around for nine months or so.
In the March 12 issue of The New Republic, John Judis gave us an early, brilliant explanation of the Barack Obama phenomenon. America has always had an Adamic tradition, Judis noted, a desire to begin anew. As D. H. Lawrence wrote, America “starts old, old, wrinkled and writhing in an old skin. And there is a gradual sloughing of the old skin, towards a new youth.”

Judis showed how this desire has played out in American literature, from Melville’s Billy Budd to Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, and in politics, from Jackson to Kennedy to Obama. He showed how Obama unconsciously played on the Adamic chords. He concluded on a hopeful but nervous note: “The American instinct to continuously remake ourselves in the image of Adam — to achieve a decisive and final break with history — has periodically proven seductive to voters. And, sometimes, this instinct can produce important, transformative results. Yet the past — in the form of race or war or deeply held partisan animosities — has a way of lingering around.”

Phew. So much to share, so little time.

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