Today's photo is from Iraq.Stephen Colbert takes a photo op with servicemembers at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq on June 5. (Photo courtesy army.mil)

Haiku Review: The Inheritance, by David Sanger

David Sanger, a 26-year veteran of the New York Times, and the paper's chief Washington correspondent, has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes. His eye-opening book on the state of the world that Obama inherits was published in January by Random House. It retails for $26.95 ($32 in Canada). Book length: 464 pages. Review length: 74 words.

Part I
Bush was distracted
Iran took full advantage
Got all they needed

Part II
A false Marshall Plan
Jihadists without borders
Pray for the Afghans

 

 

Part III
Prez backed the wrong horse
Are their nukes under control?
Musharraf played us

Part IV
Kim won't use his bombs
He sells to the Syrians
"Let's Eat Two Meals!"

Part V
Partner or rival?
Chinese talk green, export smog
We're reasonably screwed

Part VI
Three scenarios
Loose nukes, germs, cyber attacks
Defenses feeble

Takeaway Message
These are scary times
Can Obama save us all?
Shit or get off pot

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This Week In Frog: Name Results/Our Foreclosed Palace

In case you missed it, last week we interns started a Frog Blog to compete with Kevin Drum's catblogging. This week, we decided to overhaul our little fellow's tank. One side effect of the Great Recession is that people are realizing how expensive it is to be pet owners. Thus, we were able to find a ten gallon tank complete with filter, a castle, artificial plants, eight pounds of gravel, a piece of driftwood, large rocks, a net, cleaning solution, food, and six fish that needed adopting—all for $30 on Craigslist. 

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Yesterday, we added six snails to the mix to keep the tank squeaky clean. Only after introducing the snails to their new frog neighbor did we realize that we'd accidentally acquired a stowaway fish as well in the water-filled pet store bag, bringing our grand tank total to seven.

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As for the long-awaited naming results...After much consideration, we decided to stick with the traditional "Smart, Fearless Journalism" theme...With that, we introduce MUDRAKER.

It's not every day you get a chance to go on television and call Rush Limbaugh a fool. But on Thursday night, I was asked on Hardball to comment on the big-mouth's claim that James von Brunn is a "leftist." So what choice did I have?

Caribou Numbers Decline Steeply Worldwide

The first ever worldwide census analysis of caribou/reindeer numbers reveals a nearly 60 percent decline worldwide in the last three decades.

This dramatic decline across the circumpolar world is a result of a bad intersection between global warming and industrial development, according to the data published in Global Change Biology.

Global warming is affecting the herds in three of four season. The spring green-up in the Arctic now arrives earlier—before the migrating herds arrive, depriving mothers and calves of quality feeding. Warmer summers cause more intense insect blooms that harass the herds and affect their ability to feed. Winters produce more freezing rains that ice over and make inaccessible the lichens the animals feed on during the dark months. I wrote about a particularly bad freezing rain event a year ago.

Meanwhile industrial development in the boreal forest has driven the decline of many herds.

The analysis raises serious concerns not only for the animals but also for people in northern latitudes who depend on caribou/reindeer for their livelihood.

For all of us, really.

Digital Transition Eco-Challenge: Repurpose Your Rabbit Ears

We're just hours away from saying goodbye to rabbit ears for good. Are you one of the nearly 3 million that isn't ready? Will tomorrow begin a new era in hi-tech government surveillance? Could you care less? Well, however you feel about the boob tube, the consequences of such a massive switchover are significant, particularly for all the parts we'll no longer use.

Hopefully all those government-subsidized converter boxes will keep millions of old-fashioned sets out of electronic wasteland, but what of the beloved antennae? Ever thought of designing a use out of the elegant, retractable numbers? Maybe we could all donate them to music schools to be repurposed as batons. Would they work on drums? As pointers for teachers? Tomato cages?

Toss me your bright ideas in the comments.

Quote of the Day

From New York governor David Paterson, explaining to legislators why they should settle their leadership fight and get back to business:

“Think of the lobbyists who have invested in themselves to try to persuade legislative leaders and legislators on issues.”

Give him credit for thinking outside the box, anyway.

Homeland Security High

Back in 2007, Mother Jones reported on Maryland’s Joppatowne High School, the first school in the country to offer a homeland security curriculum. Today, the L.A. Times reports on nearby Meade High School, which started a similar four-year program this year. According to the article, areas of study include Islamic jihadism, nuclear arms, cyber-crime, and domestic militias. But that’s not all:

New themes even were added to their science, social studies and English classes.

"There's a lot of homeland security issues in 'Romeo and Juliet,' " said Bill Sheppard, the program coordinator. "Like, how do you deal with infiltration in your own family?"

Cringe. Aside from these tortured efforts to give everything a security spin, here’s what bugs me: The L.A. Times describes Meade as a “long-troubled public high school.” According to the website Public School Review, almost a third of Meade’s 2,150 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and its graduation rate is just 82 percent, lower than the district average. The program’s website says part of its mission is to give students skills they need to “seek employment and/or postsecondary education in the homeland security career field.” I just can’t imagine a well-off school justifying what is essentially a political agenda with the promise of jobs. And it’s working. To wit:

"This course will help me get a top-secret security clearance," said Darryl Bagley, an eager 15-year-old. "That way I can always get a job."

Sort of chilling, right?

Bailout Watchdogs to the Rescue?

What’s worrisome about the bailout repayments is that banks might buy back their government-held warrants on the cheap. If the ten big banks that have been in the headlines this week after the Treasury announced they could pay their way out of TARP get discounts like multiple smaller banks before them, taxpayers will be on the losing end...again.

But there's good news: Two bailout watchdogs, the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and the Congressional Oversight Panel, announced today in a letter to the Senate that they intend to zero in on the sale of warrants in order to protect taxpayers and shed some much needed light on these transactions.

 

The biggest applause that President Barack Obama received on Thursday, while speaking about health care reform at Southwest High School in Green Bay, came when he said that health care coverage should not be denied due to pre-existing conditions, that there ought to be a public health insurance option for all, and that taxes should be raised on the well-to-do to finance changes in the health care system. In other words, some of the most progressive elements of his speech drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd.

Here are those excerpts: