Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Short List - April 27, 2011

  • A major shake-up is expected at the top rungs of President Obama's national security team this week.  Of note, CIA Director, Leon Panetta, is in the lead position to take over from SecDef Gates.  Ambassador Crocker will likely come back to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, reuniting Amb. Crocker with Gen. Petraeus, who could find himself soon appointed CIA Director.

  • Syria's violent crackdown continues with lots of condemnation, but little action from the rest of the world. Britain's foreign secretary believes there is still time(NYT) for the Syrian government to change, but also believes Qaddafi's time is limited.

  • An Afghan pilot opened fire on NATO forces inside a base in Kabul today killing nine.

  • Federal Reserve Chairman will make history today as he becomes the first Fed Chairman to take on-the-record questions from the media.

  • The Indian government is facing some backlash(NYT) from recently released internet rules that would compel sites people find offensive to be taken down.

  • Republican senators have sent President Obama a letter, urging him not to sign an executive order that would require government contractors to disclose their contributions to political organizations.

  • Donald Trump, a potential Republican candidate for president, has given 54% of his campaign contributions to Democrats.  In a not entirely unrelated story, CNN traveled to Hawaii to confirm...again...that President Obama was born in the U.S.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Short List - April 26, 2011

  • 49% of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the war in Afghanistan, marking the first time disapproval outpaced approval (44%) for this president.

  • Syria's brutal repression of dissent in the south continues, as Americans are advised to leave the country immediately.

  • Two of the three hikers who mistakenly wandered into Iran in June 2009 will appear in court(NYT) in May for a third time since being arrested.  They have spent the last 19 months in Iran's infamous Evin prison.

  • Islamist militants in Pakistan bombed two navy buses in Karachi, killing four.

  • China's security forces reportedly beat two Tibetan monks, in their 60s, to death last week.

  • The Pew Research Center has conducted the first survey of Egyptians since the ouster of Mubarak.  The survey finds the country in an optimistic mood.

  • The Congressional Progressive Caucus says they can balance the budget by 2021, largely through tax hikes and defense spending cuts.  No one has called their proposal heroic, despite the thought you can't run on a platform of raising taxes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Short List - April 25, 2011

  • NATO has bombed Qaddafi's compound in Tripoli.  Senators McCain and Graham believe the U.S. should take a stronger leadership roll in the Libyan conflict.

  • Violent repression continues in Syria, as security forces there have gone on the offensive to stymie the protests in Daraa.

  • The Taliban dug a 1,000 foot tunnel and freed more then 450 prisoners from a jail outside Khandahar.  The jail break was another black eye to US-Afghan efforts to enforce rule of law.

  • A new study by the British Defense Ministry questions the use of drones in combat on several front, including asking if the ability to use drones will make war or state-based violence more frequent.  The study also questioned the consequences if drones were able to fire on targets based on programming, not specific human commands.

  • Even after Gbagbo, governance is tenuous(NYT) in the Ivory Coast.

  • Nigeria held elections last week, and Goodluck Jonathan is the likely winner, however protests broke out in northern Nigeria.  The Economist reminds us what true polarization looks like.

  • The Economist discusses the rise of Singapore.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Short List - April 21, 2011

We're back at it folks.  Been a crazy week, but we return this morning with a very internationally minded Short List.  Enjoy.

  • Western forces have sent advisors to directly liaise with Libyan rebel, in an effort to try and break Qaddafi's resilient grip on the country.  In Misurata, Tim Hetherington, director of the documentary Restrepo, and Chris Hondros, a Pulitzer Prize nominated photo journalist were killed yesterday.  Two other journalists were injured as well, as Qaddafi forces rain down mortars on the rebel held city.  **Editorial Note: If you haven't seen Restrepo go do it now.  Incredibly intimate film making that brings the war in Afghanistan home.  It's a terrible loss that the director of such a great film won't have the opportunity to share another story.**

  • The Arab League has delayed a planned summit in Baghdad, citing civil unrest.  Many analysts believe Arab leaders are afraid to leave their countries at this time.

  • In the face of perceived corruption in the Western organized modern judicial system in Afghanistan, people have turned to traditional elder councils to resolve disputes.  The U.S. government, initially skeptical of such informal courts, have begun to embrace the idea.  These informal courts are the norm for the country, and it is unsurprising to see the system taking hold again.

  • The Chinese faces calls of colonialism in Africa from Africans, even as China continues to actively do business on the continent.

  • The European Commission has asked for a bigger budget in 2012, drawing a rebuke from members of the ruling Conservative party in the UK.

  • Congressional Republicans have invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress.  Inside the Obama administration, this is leading to diplomatic gamesmanship as to who can release the next Israel-Palestine peace plan first.

  • BP has sued two companies in connection to the Deepwater Horizon incident, hoping to defray the cost the company will incur in the face of the disaster.  One year after the incident, many people aren't yet whole.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Programming Note

Your DCExile editors will be on the road tomorrow, so their won't be a Short List or What Kind Of Day Has It Been tomorrow.  Thanks.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Budget Bollocks

From this week's Economist:

The budget Mr Ryan proposed on April 5th seemed to herald the return of supply-side economics, the notion that cutting taxes can generate so much more work and investment that tax revenues rise.
. . . Perhaps that is why Mr Ryan turned to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, to produce a wildly optimistic analysis of his budget's economic impact. . . . [I]t projected an investment boom that would lift output and drive unemployment down to 2.8% a rate not seen for 57 years. Few economists dispute that lower tax rates boost labour supply and investment. But Menzie Chinn, an economist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reckons the Heritage Foundation assumes a boost five to eight times more powerful than conventional models.
. . . 
. . . Republicans may have found intellectual satisfaction in their opposition to fiscal and monetary stimulus. . . . The danger is that, when interest rates are stuck near zero, austerity is more likely to hurt growth than help.
(emphasis added).

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Short List - April 15, 2011

  • The deal is done as Congress passed the budget for FY 2011, but the debate over raising the debt ceiling is on the horizon.  Wall Street executives are warning Speaker Boehner about using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip.

  • Several journalists are missing in Libya, as they try to report what's going on inside the country.

  • Human rights activists have started to question, in earnest, the muted U.S. response to the crushing of dissent in Bahrain.  A reminder there is no Obama Doctrine, and as we posted previously, that's okay.

  • In Nigeria, a move toward a more free and fair, if expensive, election process.

  • The Economist considers Gbagbo's arrest and the future of the Ivory Coast.

  • Arizona is again at the forefront of asonine legislation, as the "birther bill" passed through the state house last night.  If signed into law by Gov. Brewer, the legislation would require all presidential candidates to prove their citizenship, before having their name placed on the ballot.  Despite objections to the contrary, the legislation is a not-so veiled attempt to discredit President Obama, who 51% of polled Republican primary voters believe was not born in the United States.  Washington Post's Fact Checker on this malarkey.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Short List - April 13, 2011

  • As Britain and France criticize(NYT) the lack of intensity in the NATO reaction to the situation in Libya, the rebels new  field commander discusses his two decades in Northern Virginia and hoping for the U.S. to take a larger role.  There seems a growing feeling that the U.S. should be making a more active, direct role in the situation.

  • Libya's defected foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, has warned a civil war would make Libya "a new Somalia."  Meanwhile, NPR has the first in a three part series about the efforts of Somaliland to fight piracy off its shores.  Despite functioning as a country, the U.S. does not recognize Somaliland.  DCExile makes the case for recognition here.

  • The heads of the CIA and Pakistan's ISI met for over four hours yesterday in Langley trying to repair the damaged relationship between the two agencies.  At the blog Abu Muqawama, Andrew Exum believes the U.S. should stand firm.  Meanwhile, the CIA can't retain talent as the allure of defense contracting has drained the leadership of the agency since 9/11.

  • Obama's national security advisor, Thomas E. Donilon, hand delivered a letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The two countries have had strained relations recently as KSA works to cool the Arab Spring, seeing Iranian plots on all sides, while the U.S. tries to thread the needle in supporting democracy, but keeping its key ally in the region.

  • Authorities in Belarus have arrested a suspect in connection to the subway bombing there on Monday.  Early reports indicate authorities believe opposition groups conducted the bombing.

  • The UN has announced a team of human rights experts that will explore the recent violence in the Ivory Coast during the presidential election stand off.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Short List - April 12, 2011

  • The budget compromise that averted a government shutdown last week would cut $38 billion from the federal budget, with over half of those cuts coming to education, labor, and health programs.  All parties to the budget showdown share blame, according to a new CNN poll, but President Obama came out slightly ahead.  Meanwhile, DC Mayor Vincent Gray and several council members were arrested outside the Capitol yesterday, protesting congressional meddling in the affairs of the District.

  • No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Minsk subway system yesterday that killed 12.

  • Japan has raised the nuclear crisis in that country to the highest possible level, seven, a level not seen since Chernobyl.  The change in the level does not reflect a change in the immediate situation, but rather a better understanding of the contamination over the past month.

  • In other bad nuclear news, Iran has announced a major breakthrough in their nuclear program.  The country claims to be one month away from a commercial nuclear reactor.

  • Following the arrest of Gbagbo yesterday, President Ouattara has asked all fighters to lay down their arms.  Ouattara has moved quickly to declare that Gbagbo, his wife, and his entourage will be tried in the Ivory Coast, not at the International Criminal Court.  Additionally, Ouattara indicated he will set up a truth and reconciliation panel to address the violence.

  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower judge ruling that blocks implementation of the most controversial parts of Arizona's immigration law.  Specifically, the ruling blocks the requirement that immigration status be confirmed if someone is stopped by police.

  • Student loan debt outpaced(NYT) credit card debt for the first time last year.

  • Once more with feeling, the birther claim is ludicrous and those that peddle to it, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Palin, are facilitating a lie.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

  • Laurent Gbagbo's claims to the presidency of Ivory Coast met an ignoble end today, as he was arrested after French forces intervened. 

  • The strain in U.S.-Pakistan relations increased today as Pakistan requested the United States scale back CIA activity in Pakistan (NYT). Until recently, despite rhetorical disapproval of the drone campaign, it had been clear that Pakistan was cooperating with the United States in its war in Northwest Pakistan. 

  • Libyan rebels rejected outright the AU cease-fire proposal already accepted by Qaddafi. Despite claiming a willingness to accept the cease-fire, Qaddafi pressed the attack in Misurata

  • A likely bomb was detonated in the Minsk subway, killing 11 so far

  • Without much fanfare, Mitt Romney is officially running for President (NYT).

  • And the uncompromising wing of the GOP will apparently occupy the 2012 Senate field.

The Short List - April 11, 2011

  • The federal government shutdown was averted late Friday, and so now, before the complete FY2011 budget compromise is passed talk turns to the FY2012 budget.  President Obama will announce his plan to deal with the deficit this week, following the release of Rep. Ryan and House Republicans' "Path to Prosperity" budget plan which would fundamentally change Medicare and Medicaid as well as lowering the highest tax bracket by 10%.

  • The African Union has said Qaddafi has accepted a cease-fire and the AU's roadmap to peace.  Stops along that roadmap remain unknown and rebels were understandably skeptical of the roadmap.  Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, will present the roadmap to the rebel leadership today.  Meanwhile, Qaddafi's attempts at PR with the journalists in the country are amateurish(NYT), poking further holes in his anemic credibility.

  • Violence continues(NYT) in the Ivory Coast, as French forces seek to oust deposed president Gbagbo from the bunker he has been hiding in for over a week.

  • A moderate Wahhabi leader was killed in Kashmir on Friday.

  • Women were detained in Paris today, protesting the France's veil ban.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Short List - April 8, 2011

  • A government shutdown looms over DC, as no agreement has been reached so far this morning.  A major point of contention has little to do with money and lots to do with ideology, as Republicans continue to insist on so-called riders.  Among them is a rider that will prevent the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act.  One potential money related point of negotiation is cutting the salaries of federal employees.  The economic impact of the shutdown would be dependent on its duration, but could stifle an already weak recovery and create uncertainty in the markets.  **Editorial Notes:  Public service through federal employment should, more often then not, be considered an honorable thing.  That we're still chasing after their salaries bodes poorly for the government's ability to attract and retain great talent.  Also, I've not been a DC statehood supporter, but if my trash piles up because Congress can't reach a budget deal, I may have to reconsider my position.**

  • Japan experienced a 7.4 magnitude aftershock(NYT) Thursday night, leaving hundreds or thousands without power in a country that can't seem to catch a break.

  • NATO forces accidentally bombed Libyan rebel forces and have blamed the rebels for using Libyan army tanks.  

  • People are getting a look inside Libya's Revolutionary Committee headquarters.

  • As Gbagbo holds on(NYT) in the Ivory Coast, violence escalates.

  • Less than two years ago, U.S. diplomats were made aware of the tenuous nature of President Salah's rule in Yemen.

  • SecDef Gates is in Iraq today noting the progress the country has made since he took the job in late 2006.

  • Fox News has decided to pull Glenn Beck's daily program, Dana Milbank reacts.  All sane people realize John Stewart and Stephen Colbert have risen victorious over Beck.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Kind Of Day Has It Been

The Short List - April 6, 2011

Sorry for the slacking Short List fans, but I've got a laundry list of links for you this morning.
  • Libyan rebels contemplate a de facto two state stalemate after recent military defeats.

  • Gbagbo "on the brink" of yielding power in the Ivory Coast albeit from a bunker.  In case he has second thoughts, forces loyal to Ouatara have launched an attack(NYT) against Mr. Gbagbo's bunker.

  • Yemeni president Saleh continues to look for an exit, but is adamant about departing his way.

  • SecDef Gates is in Saudi Arabia today to meet with King Abduallah.  Reportedly on the agenda is a discussion of a US-KSA arms deal.  Decidely not on the agenda, is a discussion of KSA's military intervention in Bahrain last month.

  • Michel "Sweet Mickey" Martelly has been declared the winner of the presidential election in Haiti.  His election is a watershed moment in Haiti's political movement, but Haiti remains a country with a broken infrastructure, if filled with resilient people.

  • The federal government careens toward a shutdown as a summit at the White House yesterday yielded nothing, except Speaker Boehner suggesting he'll pursue another $7 billion in cuts past the $33 billion that had been floated around a week ago.

  • Even as the budget fight over FY2011 rages, the fight over FY2012 begins.  Rep. Paul Ryan has unveiled the Republican budget proposal for 2012, but it goes way beyond that as the proposal seeks to end Medicare and Medicaid as people have known them for year.  Here are articles from The Washington Post and The Economist, as well as, Rep. Ryan's op-ed in WSJ.  Ezra Klein breaks down the key points of the proposal.  Fact Checker explores if Rep. Ryan's rhetoric matches the facts.  The CBO has a preliminary analysis that indicates seniors would pay more under Ryan's plan versus existing Medicare and Medicaid recipients would simply receive less aid.  Paul Krugman considers the Heritage Foundation's employment projections if Ryan's plan is implemented.  Matt Yglesias on why we should question promises made by the Heritage Foundation.

  • Finally, this is a MUST READ article on the role Islamist fundamentalism in the context of the Arab Spring from The Economist.  If you know next to nothing on this subject, you should read this.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Short List - April 4, 2011

  • The situation in Libya muddles on as the rebels try to find a leader or three(NYT), while their military effort has stalled.  However, the rebellion may be having some effect as emissaries for Qaddafi have met with leaders in Greece and plan to meet leaders in Turkey.

  • In the Ivory Coast, the UN has decided to relocate 200 civilian workers after days of sniper fire and harassment by pro-Gbagbo forces.  Meanwhile, French forces have locked down the airport in Abidjan.

  • In an apparent shift, the Obama administration is quietly seeking the removal(NYT) of President Saleh in Yemen.

  • Protests entered their third day in Afghanistan, after people took to the streets to protest a Florida pastor's burning of the Koran.  As if further evidence was necessary, the pastor appears to be an egomanical leader requiring cult like obedience from his followers, the number of which have dwindled since the Koran incident.

  • A government shutdown is looming for Friday unless a budget deal can be worked out, but Congress remains publicly divided even as the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees seek compromise, continuing the Kabuki theater of Washington, where admitting to seek compromise is tantamount to defeat.

  • President Obama, almost a little surprisingly (snark intended), has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2012.  Though widely expected, what's unexpected is that President Obama would officially declare his candidacy before any major Republican candidate would do the same.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Short List - April 1, 2011

  • In Yemen, the fate of the country could rest on the wrangling between two men.

  • Nasdaq and ICE have joined forces to make a counter bid for NYSE Euronext, which is $1.3 billion more then the previous bid by Duestche Boerse.

  • It appears Gbago reign is reaching it's end(NYT) in the Ivory Coast, as fighters loyal to Ouattara descend upon Abidjan after facing limited resistance and often a warm welcome in other cities.

  • House Republican freshmen continue to balk at a compromise over the 2011 federal budget.  The current, prominent compromise on the table would cut $30 billion dollars from the the budget, the largest single year reduction in history.

  • Michael Gerson sees the Bush Doctrine in Obama's actions.  DCExile on the dangers of doctrines.

  • The claim that climate change isn't real took another hit Thursday, as research was presented to the House.  Meanwhile, likely presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, says he was wrong to support cap and trade.

  • Newt Gingrich is bummed out by the prospect of his own presidential candidacy.  He reportedly said, "People are actually getting excited about the guy who engineered the 1995 government shutdown? I'm sorry, but that's just sad."