Saturday, January 26, 2013

Former anti-GMO activist changes his tune

Mark Lynas discovered science:

Full transcript is here.

Obama's foreign policy realpolitik: Mali and elsewhere

From the Times of India:
According to interviews with officials from both sides, the French have privately complained about what they see as paltry and belated American military support for their troop deployment, aimed at stopping the advance of militants allied with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). 
US support has been "minimal" in practice, one US official acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Washington, this official said, gave France a "hard time" when they asked for increased support, and the French will "remember us for that." 
Obama, who took office when the United States was mired in two costly wars, has shown himself to be cautious — too cautious, mostly Republican critics say — about foreign military interventions. He limited the US role in the campaign that helped oust Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and has resisted months of pressure for more muscular support for rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
There are disagreements within the White House and Congress about US support for the Mali mission, said Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the house intelligence committee. 
Even before Hollande acted, the United States had been reluctant for months about supporting international intervention in Mali, causing French-US frictions at the United Nations
Remembering that it took the Americans weeks to decide on their level of support for the aerial mission over Libya in 2011, France decided to act immediately when Islamist forces in Mali began moving south, the French officials said. 
One French official described Obama's policy as almost "isolationist" — very reluctant to intervene, especially without a clear, easily sellable US strategic interest at stake. 

I realize that right-wingers would never give the President any benefit and many on the left will minimize the importance of these occurrences and still lump all US politicians into the warmonger category, but I would argue that such news items demonstrate the stark difference between current US leadership and the opposition party that had led us into disastrously expensive and immoral wars over the previous decade.  Also remarkable, the US policy is currently to the pacifist side of France!

One presidential term does not make a trend, however, I find the current events heartening. If Obama had been any more outspoken and manifestly pacifist he would surely not have been elected in the first place. My feeling is that he has threaded this needle of engagement and non-interventionism with aplomb-- in fact perfectly-- and he has been unbelievably better than the alternative choices (McCain and Romney) on this issue. Frankly, he has been better than my wildest dreams.   

Presidents don't operate in a vacuum, they are held to previous standards and have pressures from the world community and business interests.  These are not small matters, and losing face among these daunting powers can be devastating to a presidency-- just ask Jimmy Carter.  Obama has sought real justice by killing Osama bin Laden which has given him the credibility to be taken seriously against anyone who has challenged his leadership, and he has had the wherewithal to say 'fuck you' to even our staunchest allies when asked to act against our national interests and morals.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Baby Got Back

An impression of a dramatic monologue by Sir Ian McKellen:

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Downton Abbey

Normally I wouldn't be attracted to Masterpiece Theatre or any British drama set a hundred years ago, but Downton Abbey is perhaps the most entertaining television I've seen in a while. The writing is superb, the history is enlightening, the acting is stellar, the set design is outstanding and the dialogue is witty.

Sure, I can find some faults, e.g., the acting of Elizabeth McGovern as Cora is sub-par, or at least pales in comparison to the rest of the troupe, but overall the series extremely well-done.  The Season 3 premiere begins this evening and my DVR is set.

Some highlights of the Dowager Countess played by Dame Maggie Smith: