2011 - %3, December

Your Daily Newt: A Bay of Pigs for Bosnia

| Thu Dec. 29, 2011 7:00 AM EST
This is a painting of Newt Gingrich.

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich put his foot squarely in his mouth last March when he condemned the enactment of a no-fly-zone in Libya just two weeks after calling for a no-fly-zone in Libya. It was an obvious reversal—but not without precedent.

In November 1994, Gingrich balked at a $5 billion aid package for Bosnia, calling the conflict in Yugoslavia "a European problem" that should be resolved by America's European allies. Just one month later, though, he'd had a change of heart. That December, Gingrich called for the complete removal of European peacekeepers, to be followed by a stepped-up American air presence leading up to a Bay of Pigs-style exile invasion (again with American air support). The idea, as reported by the New York Times' Elaine Sciolino, was as follows:

After the peacekeepers withdrew, "You would say to the Serbs, 'We insist on a general cease-fire and we are telling you right now we reserve the right to hit every target in every part of the country simultaneously if you don't stand down,'" he said. "We're not going to play games. We're going to take out your command and control. We're going to take out all of your inventory. We're going to take anything that moves on your roads. We're going to take down every bridge in your part of the country. We're going to break you, and we're going to do it in three days."

Meanwhile, the United States would mount a covert operation to airlift part of the Bosnian Government Army to a friendly country such as Egypt, Israel or Morocco for training and arming by the Americans.

And Mr. Gingrich would do that even though, as he told the town meeting, "I don't think the Bosnians are any angels either."

"If they were winning, they'd be about as brutal as the Serbs."

Gingrich's reasoning was simple. Although he now considers the UN to be a "corrupt, inept, bureaucratic machine" that infringes on American sovereignty, Gingrich felt that the Serbs had disrepected the international body and needed to be taught a lesson. It was a dramatic reversal—one that made the conservative foreign policy establishment more than a little uneasy.

But at least Gingrich had an exit strategy. As he told Sciolino, "If they can't win, we should surrender."

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Iowa Occupiers Bring a Mic-Check to Ron Paul

| Thu Dec. 29, 2011 7:00 AM EST

Following an afternoon of protests outside both a Wells Fargo branch and Mitt Romney's Des Moines headquarters on Wednesday, 15 or so Occupy Iowa demonstrators regrouped at their headquarters. Nathan Adeyemi, a member of Occupy Cedar Rapids hailing from eastern Iowa, called for volunteers to help disrupt a Ron Paul campaign appearance set to begin a half hour later. "I've been looking forward to it all day," Adeyemi told me on the short car ride to the State Fairgrounds.

But when the handful of protesters arrived at the building in which Paul would speak, it was clear that a last-minute mic check effort would be difficult to pull off. More than 500 people, many of them avid Paul supporters, were waiting out a series of endorsement speeches and patriotic sing-alongs that felt a bit like the opening act of a rock show.

Paul soon took the stage, and as Adeyemi started shouting for the mic-check he was quickly surrounded by Paul supporters. Many began cheering to drown out Adeyemi's recitation of the script he'd brought, which criticized Paul for opposing abortion rights and supporting the elimination of social programs. One Paul supporter escorted him out of the building while members of the media crowded around Heather Ryan and her 16-year-old daughter Heaven Chamberlain, two of about 12 protesters left in the building (another four had yet to arrive). The mother and daughter linked arms with the other protesters and were forced to the back of the auditorium as Paul supporters yelled at them. The small group had barely been able to disrupt Paul's speech, with just a brief chuckle coming from the candidate when he heard Adeyemi's initial "mic-check!" call.

Despite the tension between the protesters and Paul supporters, they shared some common ground. Occupier Clarke Davidson carried an "End the Fed" sign, echoing a key demand of many Paul supporters. But Davidson said he refuses to support Paul because he isn't running as an independent and remains a participant in a broken political system.

For some of the protesters, the thwarted mic-check was still a worthy effort to call attention to what they see as the candidate's pseudo-populism. "I particularly dislike Ron Paul because of his use of popular language to try to make himself appear to be a person who represents the interests of the poor and the middle class," Adeyemi explained. "He's trying to basically co-opt the vote of people who are frustrated with the establishment."

Ryan, a veteran of the Gulf War, said that although she is a peace activist she considers Paul's non-interventionist foreign policy to be "naive."

Other protesters were plainly frustrated with the lackluster results of their effort to disrupt the event. "It was bad, it was a bust," said Katie Coyle, of Coralville, Iowa. "They out-shouted us." Still, she said, "we did get a lot of cameras on us."

UPDATE, Thursday, December 29: On Thursday morning, five Occupy Iowa protesters were arrested for blocking the entrance to Ron Paul's campaign headquarters in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. They protested Paul's opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency, and among those arrested was Clarke Davidson, who reportedly said that he was a Paul precinct captain as police cuffed him. "But I’m here in solidarity," he said. "I don’t support every single position Ron Paul holds."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for December 29, 2011

Thu Dec. 29, 2011 6:57 AM EST

US Army Spc. Devon Boxa, 7-158th Aviation Regiment, admires the Afghanistan landscape out the back door of her CH-47D Chinook helicopter as another Chinook follows. The choppers were flying from Kabul to Jalalabad December 17, 2011. US Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar, 7th MPAD.

Warren Buffett Gets Gamed at His Own Meeting

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 9:23 PM EST

The Sage of Omaha is annoyed:

Among investors, there are few prizes more coveted than the opportunity to ask Warren Buffett a question at Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholders meeting. But this year, Fidelity Investments mysteriously claimed more than its fair share.

Turns out, it was no accident—and the Oracle of Omaha is none too pleased about being outfoxed on his own turf. Now he is turning the tables. "There's no question they figured out how to game the system," Mr. Buffett says. He said he didn't like Fidelity's ploy because "it's not in the spirit of the meeting."

Hey, guess what, Warren? You could solve this problem by making yourself available for questions more often than once a year. You're the one who created the incentive for this mess. You can uncreate it any time you want.

Public Service Announcement

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 8:47 PM EST

Rick Santorum will not be the next president of the United States. That is all. 

Occupy Protesters Arrested Outside Romney's Iowa Headquarters

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 7:00 PM EST

Occupy activists kicked off their first day of direct actions in the week leading up to Iowa's January 3 caucuses with a protest outside Mitt Romney's Des Moines headquarters, where seven protesters were arrested on criminal trespassing charges on Wednesday. About 70 others chanted familiar occupy slogans and protested Romney's ties to Wells Fargo. (Employees and executives of the San Francisco-based banking giant have given $61,500 to Romney thus far in the 2012 election cycle.)

Before the protest, several dozen occupy activists met at their own headquarters near the State Capitol, where they decided to protest outside Romney's campaign office because of its vicinity to a Wells Fargo just a few doors down the same street. The occupiers were joined by about a half-dozen police officers from the Des Moines area, who were invited in the interest of open communication.

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Orcs for Romney!

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 5:13 PM EST

This is political correctness run amok. CNN and Time should be ashamed of themselves.

But if you really must know, apparently Iowa's orc community prefers Mitt Romney over Ron Paul, 25%-22%.

A Quarter of All Burgers Tainted With Drug-Resistant Bacteria

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 5:00 PM EST

Responding to the same FDA cave-in to the meat industry I flagged earlier today, Mark Bittman points to a damning study I missed when it came out in April.

In it (press release; full text), researchers gathered 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork, and turkey from supermarkets in five US cities and tested them for staph aureus, a common food-poisoning bacteria that causes everything from from minor skin infections to serious diseases like pneumonia, endocarditis and sepsis.

The results: 47 percent of the samples contained the staph; and of those, fully half were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. This suggests that a quarter of the meat in US supermarket shelves are tainted with multi-drug-resistant strains of this potentially deadly pathogen.

Happy Birthday Endangered Species Act!

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 4:59 PM EST
Grizzly Bear hunting salmon at Katmai National Park, Alaska.

On this day 38 years ago Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a landmark moment in human development when we formally recognized that animals and plants—imperiled as "a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation"—deserved to survive... and need our protection in order to survive.

The ESA has been embattled since its birth. But so is every advance in human thinking that expands the rights and humane treatment of nonhuman others.

Currently, there are ~1,990 species listed under the ESA. Some 1,380 of these inhabit the US and its waters. The rest are foreign species.

Here's a list of some species whose populations have grown since getting their ESA listing (HT Wikipedia):

  • Bald eagle (from 417 to 11,040 pairs, 1963-2007); removed from list 2007
  • Whooping crane (from 54 to 436 birds, 1967-2003)
  • Kirtland's warbler (from 210 to 1,415 pairs, 1971-2005)
  • Peregrine falcon (from 324 to 1,700 pairs, 1975-2000); removed from list
  • Gray wolf (dramatical population increase in northern Rockies, Southwest, and Great Lakes)
  • Gray whale (from 13,095 to 26,635, 1968-1998); removed from list
  • Grizzly bear (from about 271 to over 580 in Yellowstone area, 1975-2005); removed from list 3/22/07
  • Southern sea otter (from 1,789 to 2,735, 1976-2005)
  • San Clemente Indian paintbrush (from 500 to >3,500, 1979-1997)
  • Red wolf (from 17 to 257, 1980-2003)
  • Florida's key deer (from 200 to 750, 1971-2001)
  • Big Bend gambusia (from ~24 to >50,000)
  • Hawaiian goose (from 400 to 1,275, 1980-2003)
  • Virginia big-eared bat (from 3,500 to 18,442, 1979-2004)
  • Black-footed ferret (from 18 to 600, 1986-2006)

There are a lot of unsung heroes behind the reversals of fortune embodied in this list. Thanks to all of you.

RARE from Joel Sartore on Vimeo.

Perry's Abortion Stance Gets Even More Extreme

| Wed Dec. 28, 2011 4:44 PM EST
2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum have all endorsed Personhood USA's pledge to grant full rights to fertilized eggs if they are elected president. And in a radio forum sponsored by the group in Iowa this week, Perry elaborated more fully on how far he'd go to limit abortion.

Perry previously said that he thought there should be exceptions to an all-out ban on abortion for rape, incest, or cases where the life of the mother is at risk. But now he says he's changed his mind; even women who are raped should be forced to carry to term. He says he underwent a "transformation" after seeing a film about a woman who was conceived by rape:

[Pastor Joshua] Verwers asked Perry about his signature on a pledge from the anti-abortion group Personhood USA that requires candidates to oppose abortion for any reason. Verwers said Perry told him at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner in October that he did support abortion in certain cases.
What brought about the change? Perry said he was moved by a woman he met who appeared in former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's movie, "The Gift of Life," which he screened in Des Moines on Dec. 14. The woman has been conceived during a rape, and Perry said she told him, "My life has worth."
He described the moment as "powerful." The next day, he signed the Personhood USA pledge. Perry specifically said the film made him rethink the exceptions for rape and incest, though in his conversation with Verwers he did not mention the life of the mother, the traditional third exception that many who oppose abortion will allow.

Perry also said he would defy the Supreme Court if it struck down a law giving full rights to zygotes under the 14th Amendment if it were deemed unconstitutional.

If Perry's poll numbers are any indication, at least we won't have to worry about him making good on that promise anytime soon.