Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Environment) by Rashtrakut

The giant statutes at Easter Island have long stood mute witness to its ecological disaster two centuries ago.  Now the crush of tourists to see the same statutes is raising new fears and calls to curtail the number of tourists.  Tourist destinations often face a tricky balance between balancing revenue and making sure the crush of tourists does not ruin the tourist experience or the sites people want to visit.  After seeing the degradation of tourist sites in neighboring Nepal, the reclusive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan which opened up to foreign tourists only recently limits the number of permitted tourists a year.  With globalization increasing the number of people able to travel internationally, many other tourist hot spots will be faced with the choice Easter Island faces.

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Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Kevin Drum on the practical limitations the United States has on sanctioning Iran.  With Iran repeatedly backtracking on the recent nuclear deal, recent opinion pieces have touted harsh sanctions to change the regime’s behavior.   The problem with sanctions in recent years from Burma to Zimbabwe has been their limited utility in changing behavior.  But, Iran is more tied into the world, economically and culturally, than either of those two rogue states.   A smart sanction regime could have some effect.  But that is feasible only if Russia and China go along with them.  At present that does not seem likely.

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Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood yesterday brings to the forefront how to combat extremism domestically without alienating all other Muslims in a manner that would prevent them from cooperating with law enforcement.  Bracing for the inevitable backlash, most major Muslim organizations have already condemned the attack.  Inevitably the usual suspects on the right and on Fox News have giddily started tarring the entire Muslim community and suggesting solutions that would result in an alienation of the Muslim minority in the United States as is the case in Europe.  A link from Andrew Sullivan raising this point.

The Obama administration seems to understand this point.  Here’s hoping they stand up for their principles to avoid the counterproductive ethnic profiling of the past eight years to identify meaningful ways to separate the dangerous extremists from the rest.  To close this post out is an article about the thoughts of a Muslim soldier at Fort Hood who interacted with Major Hasan.

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Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In their continuing attempt to whip up inchoate rage (which looking at the demographics of the crowd, appears to be largely based on people upset at the decisive Obama win at the polls a year ago) at the administration’s policies, the Republican leadership joined congresswoman Michelle Bachmann at a so called spontaneous rally before the Capitol today (where the participants were bused in by a rich donor) to “scare” the Democratic leadership into abandoning the attempt at health care reform.  I suppose when your so called health care plan will provide access to only 3 million out the 40+ million uninsured and raise premiums for the unhealthy you have to stage media spectacles like this to pretend you are relevant.  If the spectacle of an elected official busing in a mob to intimidate her fellow elected officials was not offensive enough, you then have the signs displayed by the crowd.

Politicians can be cut some slack for the occasional nitwit holding a sign or saying something offensive at their rallies.  But it is time for the Republican Party to claim ownership of the spectacle their demagoguery helps create.  The signs were visible last year when Sarah Palin was delighting the Republican crowd by accusing Barack Obama of palling around with terrorists.  They were visible at the tea bag protests organized by Fox News earlier this year.  And they were very visible at the protests today, even if John Boehner feigned amnesia.  Possibly the most offensive of the signs on display was this (identified by the folks at ThinkProgress.org).

Comparing healthcare to Dachau

Way too many people have a tendency to casually toss in comparisons to the Nazis to cheap political points. But seriously? Offering universal health care is equivalent to the what the Nazis did at Dachau and the concentration camps?  I would be inclined to dismiss this again as an isolated nut job if the congresswoman organizing this mob did not have a history of stoking paranoia by suggesting that the census would be used to herd Obama opponents into internment camps and that other benign programs were examples of a reeducation campaign based at opponents,  if the Republican Party’s leading luminaries had not cheerfully used the so called “death panels” as a talking point against the health care bill, if Republican elected officials even today were not questioning Barack Obama’s citizenship and if these signs had not been all too evident at the many teabagger rallies this year (without any challenge from any Republican officials present).  Matt Yglesias is right. These are the wages of a conservative leadership and media that’s consistently tried to drum-up opposition to health care reform not by opposing things that are actually in the bill, but with demagogic opposition to completely fabricated provisions.

During the presidential campaign last year John McCain appeared genuinely shocked at the passions his acolytes helped whip up and even admonished an attendee at his rally who questioned Obama’s patriotism.  Today the entire Republican establishment has abandoned any such attempts and are attempting to surf the maelstrom their rhetoric has stoked up with no thought to the consequences to the social and political fabric of this country.  History shows the difficulty (if not the impossibility)  of doing so unscathed.

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