Sunday, March 15, 2009

March 15

"I adore Catherine the Great ... Now she was a great leader."

--Maria Sergeyeva, who dreams of leading Russia, "finds adventures" while drunk and wearing nothing but a Cuban flag; from “Putin's poster girl: Pin-up politician who hates the West... but loves Thatcher,” Daily Mail; Catherine image from

“The Queen won't be getting any DVDs."

--A White House source, on President Obama’s upcoming visit to Great Britain

“anti-Zionism is in many ways more dangerous than anti-Semitism.”

--Judea Pearl, a professor at UCLA and the president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation

WORSE THAN THE RECESSION?: PSP Existential Crisis - Life without Condoleezza Rice


Barack Obama's aides admit errors are making him less popular: Senior aides of US President Barack Obama privately admit that a series of presentational errors have contributed to falling popularity with voters and pundits alike – Tim Shipman, Daily Telegraph:

“[A]llies of Mr Obama have begun breaking cover to question his performance and leadership on the economic meltdown and public diplomacy.” Image from

Using Persuasion to Effectively LeadNina Keim blog: “For public diplomacy initiatives, persuasion is a necessary tool to strategically influence others, promote ideas, and shape perceptions. The same is true for documentary films advocating for social issues and aiming at increasing civic engagement. In both contexts, persuasive leaders are helpful.”

Obituary Notice: Edwin (ed) Pancoast – e-mail from Len Baldyga: “Ed (Edwin) Pancoast passed away March 13 at Suburban Hospital. … He entered the State Department in 1949 and initially served in Germany, including as an America House director in Bremen. In 1955, Ed was transferred to Naples as cultural affairs officer and subsequently served in Trieste as PAO. In 1961 he was transferred to USIA in Washington, and in 1965 returned to Germany, to Bonn as information specialist and then to Duesseldorf as branch public affair officer. He was assigned to the National War College in 1970 and became Country PAO in Accra, Ghana in 1971, where he served with Ambassador Shirley Temple Black. In 1974, Ed returned to Washington and became head of the policy office of the Voice of America. In 1984 he transferred to Germany and was branch public affairs officer in Munich. He retired in 1986 and lived in Chevy Chase, MD. Ed is survived by his wife, Eunice Billings and three children, his son Lawrence, and his daughters, Karen and Joanne.”


Don't Close It: There Are No Good Alternatives to Guantanamo -

Mitch McConnell, Washington Post. The writer is Senate Republican leader. Image from

Cuban Americans can go home more easily under Obama rules: 'People are celebrating' and travel agents are preparing for more business, though the change stops short of Obama's campaign promise to remove travel limits altogether for Cuban Americans - William E. Gibson, Los Angeles Times

Time to Quit Afghanistan - Eric Margolis, Toronto Star/Common Dreams: Plans by the U.S. to arm tribes on Pakistan's North-West Frontier are sure to bring even more violence and chaos.

A 'back channel' appeal to Iran: Obama hopes that reaching out to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will open the door to negotiations
- Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times:

During last year's presidential campaign, Obama was criticized by opponents (including Hillary Rodham Clinton) for offering to negotiate with Iran without preconditions. It's now clear that he was right all along. But Obama's real test may be this: If the talks don't make progress, is he willing to walk away from the table? Image from

AIPAC Takes Another Scalp: What the Chas Freeman Fight Was Really About - Peter Lee, CounterPunch: Consider l’affaire Freeman the first conspicuous salvo in the effort to sabotage the Obama administration’s outreach to Tehran.

Full-Spectrum Penetration: Israeli Spying in the United States - Christopher Ketcham, CounterPunch

Rethinking Europe - - James Poulos, Boston Globe: At a time when US alliances outside of Europe remain embryonic, fragile, or lopsided, rethinking the Europe we know and the Europe it may become is paramount to rebuilding a successful grand strategy in the wake of the Bush years. Treating the future of Europe as a safely settled question will guarantee bad surprises and worse misfortune for global American leadership. Image from

Azeri Propaganda Backfires in European ParliamentThe Armenian Weekly: Azerbaijan’s latest attempt at misinformation backfired this week when Gisela Kallenbach (Germany), a Member of the European Parliament, distanced herself from an exhibition sponsored by the Aliyev Foundation to “commemorate the Khojaly events.”

Relaunching NATO-Russia ties - Karl-Heinz Kamp, Washington Times: Russia has a right to be taken seriously. At the same time, Russia will be measured by its deeds rather than by its words. Cooperation with Russia is possible as long it is not based on wishful thinking but on pragmatic steps and concrete projects. Karl-Heinz Kamp is the research director of the NATO Defense College in Rome. The views expressed in this article are his own.

Burma's Bullies: They're always ready with fresh examples of ruthlessness. U.S. engagement must be conditional – Editorial, Washington Post: The United States has been frustrated in its efforts to promote democratization in Burma, a nation of about 50 million, so Ms. Clinton's policy review is well timed. Image from

U.S. in a quandary over policy on Myanmar - Seth Mydans, International Herald Tribune

Pentagon Rethinking Old Doctrine on 2 Wars - Thom Shanker, New York Times: The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

Libya Complains – Editorial, New York Times: We hope that other countries, notably Iran, eventually follow Libya’s example and give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. The United States and its allies have plenty of valuable economic, diplomatic and security incentives they should be offering in good faith. If accepted, those commitments must be fulfilled. But even grand bargains do not require blank checks or silence on human rights abuses.

The Bad Old Days [review of Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East by Rashid Khalidi] - James Traub, New York Times: Had the White House aides who scripted Barack Obama’s remarks to Al Arabiya television in January consulted Rashid Khalidi’s latest work beforehand, the president might not have so blithely vowed to restore the “respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.” In “Sowing Crisis,” Khalidi, who holds the Edward Said chair of Arab studies at Columbia and is a major pro-Palestinian voice in American scholarship, argues that Washington’s drive for hegemonic control over the geostrategic and oil-rich axis of the Middle East stretches back three-quarters of a century, and has continued unabated to this day. Image from

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