Features

Nota Bene #14

Appearing weekly, Nota Bene attempts to provide an overview of the week’s news. Meanwhile, in its appendix we cull trenchant comments to articles and posts, as well as those heard in person or emailed. Nota Bene was founded by Mike Sheehan.

“Obama opens up on Rezko, and it’s almost believable,” writes John Kass at the Chicago Tribune about sitting down with him Friday. Little noted, Obama also told Kass: “Unequivocally, that if elected president, he would keep U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald as the federal hammer in Chicago, no small announcement given that Rezko is on trial and Obama ally Mayor Richard Daley is feeling federal heat.”

Daniel Gross reports at Slate on how our economy is viewed overseas. “International financiers are unnerved by the toxic combination of ‘misplaced assumptions about housing, a lack of necessary regulation and irresponsible use of debt with sophisticated financial instruments,’ said Ashraf Laidi, currency strategist at CMC Markets.” In other words, it’s time to get used to our newfound status as the financial laughingstock of the world.

For an overseas view of the Spitzer affair, read the Economist’s oped, “Hypocrites Club“: “It is hardly surprising, then, that the country is enjoying a fit of Spitzenfreude. . . . But distaste for Mr Spitzer — or keen pleasure in seeing a hypocrite hoist with his own petard — should blind no one to the fact that the whole affair is a crock of nonsense. What business is it of the federal government what Mr Spitzer got up to in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC?” Thanks to our Oxford Scrogue, Whythawk for drawing that to our attention.

At SeattlePi, Monica Guzman compares Ashley Alexandra Dupre to Amanda Knox. The latter “was a good girl gone bad. The thrill was in her downfall. Dupre, on the other hand, is a high-priced prostitute. She’s bad already. For the people following her drama, the thrill will be in her rise.

At War in Context, one of our favorite sites, editor Paul Woodward writes, “What should we be talking about? Rev Wright’s intemperate rhetoric? Or some of the things he’s calling attention to — even if he calls so loudly he might be hard to hear?”

In another post, Woodward asks if, when he talked to Esquire, Admiral Fallon “was seeing himself as head of CENTCOM. . . or might he have had had some inkling that a larger brief lay ahead? Secretary of Defense, or Secretary of State, perhaps.” In other words, is Fallon positioning himself for an even more responsible role in a Democratic administration?

Jim Lobe also weighs in on Fallon’s firing. “The fact that the realists will no longer have an officer of Fallon’s stature ‘walking the point’ in the bureaucratic battles over U.S. strategy in the months before Bush leaves office is a potentially serious blow to their efforts to reduce the hawks’ influence on U.S. policy. . . . Cheney and his allies may be feeling their oats.”

Finally, at Global Research, Thierry Meyssen reports that we’ve got the admiral’s firing backwards. “Contrary to what has been written so far in the mainstream media, Admiral William Fallon was not removed because he was opposing President Bush on an attack against Iran. He resigned from [sic] his own initiative after the agreement he had negotiated and concluded with Tehran, Moscow and Peking was sabotaged by the White House.”

The US is painting decreased opium production in Afghanistan as a victory. But many farmers are switching to the cultivation of cannabis, which has become more profitable in the face of opium over-production, writes Barnett Rubin at Informed Comment: Global Affairs. What Afghans really want, though, but can hardly afford anymore due to rising wheat prices worldwide, is bread.

If you haven’t read it yet, catch up with Sara Robinson’s “Mythbusting Canadian Health Care” Parts I and II. All the fodder you need and more to answer those Americans who claim, “But in Canada, they have to wait for operations.”

How’s this for a profound insight? “Americans. . . routinely stay chained to jobs they hate. . . because they can’t afford to jeopardize their health care coverage. Our health care mess has reached a point where it jeopardizes not only our lives, but also our liberty and our ability to pursue happiness — as well as the long-term strength of the economy as a whole.”

In the words of nuclear pop culture historian Paul Brians, “almost everyone seems to feel adequately informed [about nuclear war] by reading one book about [it].” If you read only one article about this daunting subject, read the interview with Sam Nunn in the new Arms Control Today. Try this on for size: “I don’t think we have explored anywhere near adequately the danger of command and control [of nuclear weapons] being penetrated by people in the cyber world, whether it’s a third country or a very clever hacker.”

From the just-translated “The 36 Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts,” as reviewed in Asia Times Online: “Today’s [Chinese] officials, wary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, know they would lose an international public relations battle if they used violence against protesting citizens. [Today] savvy authorities [often] research each protest leader looking for exploitable weaknesses. Some agitators shut up if they get paid. Others go away if faced with a minor threat against a relative.”

Finally, in “Women of My Generation Have Clearly Lost Their Minds” (title of the year?), at Huffington Post, film producer Linda Obst asks, “What about my generation’s desperation that there will never be another female candidate? Why? Is our gender about to die out?”

Appendix:

According to my friend, Richard P., Hillary’s belief that she never met a policy that she’s not willing to bore her audience with casts her in a less-than-executive light. It makes her look more like a governor instead. When it comes to the executive branch, presidents lead by delegating the fine points of policy.

Regarding the Geraldine Ferraro saga, one Robin I. told me that, during integration decades ago, “I can see her throwing rocks at the buses coming into Levittown. She’s got it written all over her face.”