Having some familiarity in the area of international diplomacy, I can tell you from first hand experience that it is a delicate dance of nuance. One must be clear about objectives and often, phrasing is parsed within an inch to best put foward the interests of the country one is representing.
Or you can just go to a country and watch some basketball.
Rodman said Kim told him that he would like for Obama to call him so they could talk and also noted that both men like basketball, suggesting it could be a conversation-starter.
At the end of the interview, Stephanopoulos presented Rodman with a study from Human Rights Watch about human rights abuses in North Korea.
Rodman responded: “Well either way, either way — guess what, though — guess what — thank you for the report. Guess what, guess what, don’t hate me. Don’t hate me. Guess what. Don’t hate me. Guess what. Don’t hate me.”
This morning on ABC News, Mitt Romney took a break from his reckless and self-destructive comments on foreign policy to discuss his tax policy.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But his study, which you’ve cited, says it can only work if you take away those deductions for everyone earning more than $100,000.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, it doesn’t necessarily show the same growth that we’re anticipating. And I haven’t seen his precise study. But I can tell you that we can lower our rates–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you cited the study, though.
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I said that there are five different studies that point out that we can get to a balanced budget without raising taxes on middle income people. Let me tell you, George, the fundamentals of my tax policy are these. Number one, reduce tax burdens on middle-income people. So no one can say my plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people, because principle number one is keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is $100,000 middle income?
MITT ROMNEY: No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less. So number one, don’t reduce– or excuse me, don’t raise taxes on middle-income people, lower them. Number two, don’t reduce the share of taxes paid by the wealthiest. The top 5% will still pay the same share of taxes they pay today. That’s principle one, principle two. Principle three is create incentives for growth, make it easier for businesses to start and to add jobs. And finally, simplify the code, make it easier for people to pay their taxes than the way they have to now.
Wow. Only someone worth $250M would say that someone making a quarter million dollars per year is in the "middle." In fact, people who earn between $200,000 and $250,000 per year earn more than 97-98% of the country.
If there was one factor that put Newt Gingrich over the top last week in South Carolina, it was his combative response to John King's opening salvo about ABC News' upcoming interview with Gingrich's ex-wife in last week's debate. Here is Newtie's specific accusation:
Let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period said the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren't interested because they would like to attack any Republican. They're attacking the governor. They're attacking me. I'm sure they'll presently get around to Senator Santorum and Congressman Paul.
Except, well, Newt didn't offer even one personal friend. When pressed on it by John King this week, he finally handed off the actual facts to his staff, who then had to come back and admit that yes, the only witnesses offered to ABC News were Newt's daughters. No personal friends. Now it's possible he has no personal friends. But to say such a thing would be mean, so instead I'll just conclude he lied. If ever there was a classic case of someone afflicted with a supreme case of unwarranted certitude, it is Newt Gingrich.
With such high unemployment numbers in the black community, this was inevitable -- especially given Obama's stated reluctance to target African Americans for specific help -- even though unemployment is hitting them twice as hard:
New cracks have begun to show in President Obama’s support amongst African Americans, who have been his strongest supporters. Five months ago, 83 percent of African Americans held “strongly favorable” views of Obama, but in a new Washington Post-ABC news poll that number has dropped to 58 percent. That drop is similar to slipping support for Obama among all groups.
“There is a certain amount of racial loyalty and party loyalty, but eventually that was going to have to weaken,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, who studies African Americans. “It’s understandable given the economy.”
African Americans have historically correlated approval ratings of the president to the unemployment rate, she said. The slip in the strongly favorable rating continues the decline Obama has seen among all groups, but black voters have been his staunchest supporters. Overall, they still hold a generally favorable view of the president with 86 percent saying they view him at least somewhat favorably.
Gillespie’s view that the decline is tied to the disproportionately high jobless rate faced by African Americans correlates with the drop in their view of Obama’s handling of the economy. In July, only 54 percent of blacks said they thought Obama’s policies were making the economy better compared with 77 percent the previous year.
Similarly, the White House has been sharply criticized in recent months by black political leaders, who argue that he has not done enough to help blacks. The unemployment rate for African Americans hit 16 percent this summer, the highest rate since 1984, and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus launched a jobs tour focused on the problem.
This week the caucus is holding its annual legislative caucus in Washington, and the focus of a series of morning panels Wednesday was the lack of progress on jobs. Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been pushing Obama and publicly chided an administration official during the jobs tour to say the word “black” and directly address the needs of the community, said she would “continue to push the president and the Congress to adopt targeted policies to address the need.”
Waters, who heads the CBC’s jobs initiative, said she saw the frustration that is registering in the president’s polls at the jobs fairs she attended. “I saw the kind of hopelessness that is setting in. People were not only discouraged, they came to try to get a job, but they didn’t really believe that something substantive was going to happen,” she said.
Clyde McQueen, who is African American and runs a job placement firm in Kansas City, agreed. “The masses of young people and the first-time voter and entry-level workers are being so adversely impacted through downsizing at all levels,” said McQueen, who is attending the CBC meetings this week. “They are looking at the head of the government. When you are at the top, you take the blame.”
And yet, MSNBC talking head and Nation writer Melissa Harris-Perry seems to think Obama's dropping poll numbers are based on a more insidious form of racism:
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation. His record is, at the very least, comparable to that of President Clinton, who was enthusiastically re-elected. The 2012 election is a test of whether Obama will be held to standards never before imposed on an incumbent. If he is, it may be possible to read that result as the triumph of a more subtle form of racism.
Once again, a member of the media/academic Village misses the obvious: We didn't have all these people struggling to find work during the Clinton administration. In fact, unemployment was at 4.7 percent - not like the double-digit, long-term unemployment we have now. Not this sense of hopelessness.
It's still the economy. Racism didn't magically disappear, but the economy still matters more than anything else.
And now, for a more realistic assessment of the situation at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant than what you'll hear on Fox News, here's physicist Michio Kaku this morning on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos, talking about the lame effort to pour water on the melting reactor cores from helicopters:
KAKU: It's like a squirt gun, using a squirt gun against a raging forest fire. They're overwhelmed, they're floundering, they just don't know what to do. They're clueless.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And ironically, U.S. officials are most concerned about the spent fuel in Reactor No. 4 -- that's fuel that had been taken out of the reactors back in November. Now originally, officials thought that it had been out for some time, but this is relatively fresh fuel, which is why they're so concerned.
KAKU: Very concerned. Hollywood likes to focus in on the meltdown, the melted core's exposed uranium. But old fuel is actually more dangerous than the meltdown, because there's more radiation in an unguarded spent-fuel pond than the reactor itself.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So it could ignite, that's the concern?
KAKU: That's right. You could have a fire -- it would be like fireworks -- go off like roman candles. Zirconium will oxidize with air, releasing hydrogen gas. So that when someone lights a cigarette, or lights a light switch, you have a roman candle gas bomb.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that just makes the rest of the situation that much worse, because no one can get close enough then to try and contain the damage in Reactors 1, 2 and 3. And that's where the longer-term dangers are.
KAKU: That's right. At a certain point, they're going to have to abandon ship, it will be a suicide mission to go in there. The radiation levels are near lethal right now. You're committing suicide to spend large amounts of time there.
On Nightline last night, Kaku warned that "we are very close now to something that is even bigger than Chernobyl". He explained this morning:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the worst case -- if they can't get No. 4 under control, then that leads to further meltdowns. Is an explosion possible, like we saw at Chernobyl?
KAKU: An explosion, or a melt-through -- we're talking about radiation being released into the larger environment. At Chernobyl, it was an uncontrolled release -- 25, 30 percent of the core just shot into the air.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That can't happen here, because it hasn't been active, right?
KAKU: Well, it can happen in the sense you have hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas can ignite -- not just from the containment, but in the vessel itself, and rip the vessel to pieces.
BARBARA WALTERS: And Sarah Palin, for the third year, we have had Sarah Palin. Because every year, she does something fascinating. And you know, the Katie Couric question that caused her so much trouble? What do you read?
ROBIN ROBERTS: Sure.
WALTERS: Okay. I gave her another chance. And here's the answer.
[Cut to interview]
WALTERS: Well, you know, governor, many people find the thought of you as president a little scary. You hear, 'Oh, she's very charming, but she's uninformed.' Would you like to tell us what newspapers, magazines or books you are reading right now?
SARAH PALIN: I read a lot of C.S. Lewis when I want some divine inspiration. I read Newsmax and Wall Street Journal. I read all of our local papers, of course, in Alaska because that's where my heart is. I read anything and everything that I can get my hands on, as I have since I was a little girl. And that's one of those things, Barbara, where that issue that I don't read or I'm not informed, it's one of those questions where I like to turn that around and ask the reporters, why would it be that there is that perception that I don't read?
Ummmm ... I dunno ... how about the fact that you don't even seem to realize that this sort of question is a stock interview item for politicians?
Palin has a journalism degree and would know this if she had bothered to pay attention while attending class. (I certainly know it, and I attended the same school as Palin. Her appeal to claims of supposed media elitism here don't exactly wash.)
Perhaps even more to the point, the fact that Palin was caught flat-footed with such an obvious, stock question when Katie Couric asked it demonstrated to millions of discerning viewers that she is in fact horribly uninformed -- not to mention incurious and intellectually rigid and limited. Not the kind of person you want occupying the White House.
ABC News sends over the letter that Andrew Morse, the chief of their digital division, has sent to Andrew Breitbart, pulling the plug on their much-discussed, widely-parsed-over invitation for him to join in their election night coverage:
Dear Mr. Breitbart,
We have spent the past several days trying to make clear to you your limited role as a participant in our digital town hall to be streamed on ABCNews.com and Facebook. The post on your blog last Friday created a widespread impression that you would be analyzing the election on ABC News. We made it as clear as possible as quickly as possible that you had been invited along with numerous others to participate in our digital town hall. Instead of clarifying your role, you posted a blog on Sunday evening in which you continued to claim a bigger role in our coverage. As we are still unable to agree on your role, we feel it best for you not to participate.
A press release from Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle today goes after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for voting in favor of the economic stimulus package. The release features the headline: "Harry Reid's Plan to Save the Nevada Economy: Coked-up Stimulus Monkeys."
The release cites a Republican Senate report that details some of the more attention-grabbing line-items in the stimulus bill:
Harry Reid says 'no one can do more' for Nevada. We had no idea Harry's plan of 'more' meant spending millions on coked-up monkeys and exotic ants while our state is ravaged by the worst foreclosure rate and highest unemployment rate in the nation," said Jerry Stacy, spokesman for U.S. Senatorial [candidate] Sharron Angle.
The release cites reports from ABC News and CNBC, The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Reid's own website.
A full read of the ABC News report features a quote from the recipient of the 'coked-up stimulus monkeys' grant. Bonnie Davis, a spokeswoman for The Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, told ABC the "small grant has helped protect very important research that will have significant impact on public health in regards to cocaine addiction and the issue of relapse."
Nevada journalist Jon Ralston unearths an interview that Sharron Angle did with Christian radio that is perhaps her most eyebrow-raising contribution to the conversation yet. In it, she says that government expansion under Obama and Dems is an effort to make government into our "God."
In case you're tempted to dismiss this as a figure of speech, Angle makes it clear that she's being literal, adding that our dependence on government is "idolatry" and that this is a "violation of the First Commandment." Here's the key bit:
"And these programs that you mentioned -- that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward -- are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that's really what's happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We're supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government."
Oy vey. Seriously, there's no cure for that level of teh stupid.
SHORTER Marc Thiessen: "We need Obama to use the CheneyBush national security toolchest to put a hit out on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It's the only responsible thing to do."
Marc Thiessen is furious, simply furious that the Obama adminstration hasn't put Julian Assange on the top of the "Most Wanted" list. In his WaPo op-ed, he calls for the full force of the federal government to stop Assange - a "clear and present danger to the national security of the United States" - before he kills again.
Assange claims to be in possession of 15,000 even more sensitive documents, which he is reportedly preparing to release. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told ABC News that Assange had a "moral culpability" for the harm he has caused. Well, the Obama administration has a moral responsibility to stop him from wreaking even more damage.
Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States. This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.
Arresting Assange would be a major blow to his organization. But taking him off the streets is not enough; we must also recover the documents he unlawfully possesses and disable the system he has built to illegally disseminate classified information.
Chalk this up as another screeching editoral by the community of people who still believe that there was nothing wrong with how the CheneyBush administration ran the country's security infrastructure. Despite losing elections in 2006 and 2008, they still think that the only way to run the federal government is by unilaterally strong-arming other nations, evesdropping on US citizens, and rewriting the Constitution.
But as much as Thiessen reveals himself to be a foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic, you have to wonder if there are any limits in place at the Washington Post for conservative pundits. Obviously there are not.
That's how Phillipe Cousteau, Jr. described the situation under water in the Gulf. He and ABC reporter Sam Champion shot the footage above about 25 miles off the Louisiana coast in the center of the oil slick that has reached the surface.
One of the reasons for the dive was to see if BP's application of the dispersant Corexit was effective or more harmful. I'm not sure that question was answered, but there's no doubt left about the toxicity of the area. It's dangerously toxic to any living thing. Cousteau and Champion had to be hosed off and "degreased" before removing their hazmat suits. Lucky them. Unfortunately, marine life and birds don't have a similar option.
The Corexit website claims the dispersant works by breaking the oil into tiny droplets. From their front page:
When the COREXIT dispersants are deployed on the spilled oil, the oil is broken up into tiny bio-degradable droplets that immediately sink below the surface where they continue to disperse and bio-degrade. This quickly removes the spilled oil from surface drift…reducing direct exposure to birds, fish and sea animals in the spill environment. By keeping the oil from adhering to wildlife COREXIT dispersants effectively protect the environment.
Oil clearly adhered to Champion and Cousteau, so I'm a little confused about that claim, even though they had hazmat suits and not feathers. But even more than that, Cousteau has a point when he says that breaking up the oil into droplets means it has more points of entry into the fish and other wildlife than it might otherwise.
Nalco, the manufacturer of Corexit, has responded to claims of environmental Armaggedon with a special statement about the properties of their dispersant. In the long run, history will prove the truth of their claims, I expect.
Top Kill: Working or not?
As I write this at 4:30pm, BP has stopped their Top Kill effort because more mud is escaping along with oil than they expected.
The more I read, the less optimistic I am about this technique working.
A 2004 Texas A&M Study (PDF) commissioned by the MMS looked at the problem of a deep water blowout where oil is flowing outside of the blowout preventers. It's interesting to note that they didn't even consider a catastrophic failure of the blowout preventer itself, as is the case here. They're not very optimistic, at least in their intro:
In failure scenarios where there has been a catastrophic failure either of the surface equipment, the wellhead system or high casing, or at almost any point where influx is flowing outside of the blowout preventers, options become very rapidly non-existent. Even higher-horsepower ROVs can do little but stay outside an area of turbulence, and visibility could well be reduced anyway. Mudline mechanical intervention becomes an impossibility at this point with present tools and techniques. Specifically, there are no tools available which can hold station in a blowout with influx moving through the desired intervention area. ROVs also do not possess the horsepower required to consider some of the work tasks involved in a given scenario, particularly when affecting repairs on damaged blowout preventers.
The authors have a pretty dim view of the "Top Kill" technique, calling it the "least desirable of the blowout control alternatives (p.195). If the mixture isn't set in the right place, it won't be effective and the only solution will be to drill a relief well to relieve the pressure, which would take months.
We're all locked in a battle where fear fights to overtake hope. It's a horrible situation, and BP is looking worse than ever.
At the end of the Texas A&M report section on blowout simulation, there's a blunt reality for BP.
Causes for blowouts vary widely, however there is a constant. The majority of blowouts can be attributed to complacent, careless drilling practices.
Careless drilling practices. Outdated technologies. Drilling on the edge of the precipice of the Continental Shelf. Arrogant regulators working in a system where regulation was something to scoff at, not take seriously. As usual, the victims are many, from dolphins to the humans who lost their lives on that rig.
It is, indeed a nightmare. I just hope it's not a recurrent nightmare.