World Beat

Secret SOTU

I’ve never met President Obama, never been invited to any White House confabs. I’ve never even been able to sit through one of his speeches. But my office is about six blocks away from the White House. So, like any good Washington pundit who imagines that proximity translates into perceptiveness, I feel entirely qualified to look into the president’s eyes to get a sense of his soul. Here’s what I believe President Obama will be thinking as he reads off the teleprompter.

read more

Arab Democracy Now!

The campaign against dictatorship in the Arab world has brought together some strange bedfellows. The Bush administration’s neoconservatives darkly dreamed of democracy promotion in the Middle East before the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires became the stuff of nightmares. Sharing the same bed, but dreaming different dreams, have been the Muslim Brotherhood and its fellow Islamists who have long railed against the injustices of authoritarian regimes in locales such as Egypt, Syria, and the Gulf States. And now, of course, the predominantly young protestors of Tunisia have turned dream into reality by ousting their dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years at the helm.

read more

Gun Crazy

The Pentagon and the National Rifle Association have a lot in common these days. They’re in love with guns. They maintain powerful lobbies. They refuse to acknowledge the dangerous consequences of their policies.

And they’re both on the defensive.

read more

Negotiating with Evil

Given the title of this week’s World Beat, perhaps you expected an essay on North Korea or another vilified U.S. adversary and violator of all human decency.

Actually, I was referring to Jon Kyl. Those who dismiss the value of negotiating with North Korea insist that the country makes unreasonable demands, never has any intention of compromising, and violates any agreement that it ultimately signs. Funny, this sounds a lot like the hard-line Republicans in the last Congress.

read more

The Baby Trade

When Ok Chin was a child, her mother brought her to an orphanage. The family was poor, and her mother heard that the girl would get fed and clothed.  Ok Chin would get an education. Maybe if the family’s fortunes improved, she could rejoin her brothers and sisters.

What happened next was unexpected.

read more

Lighting the Terrorist Fuse

Terrorist plots are suddenly everywhere. In Baltimore last week, a 21-year-old construction worker tried to blow up a military recruitment center. In late November, federal law enforcement officials arrested a Somalia-born teenager for plotting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. In October, a jury found the Newburgh Four guilty of planning to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx.

In all three cases, the major accomplice was not al-Qaeda or the Taliban. It was the FBI.

read more

Transparency Fundamentalists

WikiLeaks puts the government through a full body scanner to reveal many dirty secrets. U.S. officials, not surprisingly, have responded with anger. They don’t want their “junk” exposed or touched. No one, from emperors to excursionists, likes to be naked in public. And the latest revelations are the most intrusive yet.

read more

China: Already on Top?

“The Communists have taken over the World Bank!” So far, this phrase hasn’t appeared on Glenn Beck’s infamous chalkboard. I’m still waiting for Beck or Rush Limbaugh to make a big stink that the World Bank’s chief economist is from Mainland China. Justin Yifu Lin has been in his position for more than two years and the right-wing crazies have been largely silent. Maybe they’re too busy attacking their fantasy version of President Barack Obama – the Muslim/elitist/socialist-in-chief – to pay much attention to what’s going on in the real world.

read more

Cruising for a Bruising

They had to eat spam and Pop-Tarts. They had to shower in the dark with cold water. The toilets overflowed. When the Carnival Cruise ship finally docked in San Diego last week after three days on the high seas without electricity, CNN interviewed two of the youngest passengers in an attempt to play up the drama of the ordeal. Frankly, the kids didn’t look particularly discomfited by the 72-hour experience. They got bored playing board games. They didn’t like the smelly toilets. The cheese sandwiches really sucked. Still, if given another opportunity, they would go on a cruise again.

read more

Tea Party at the Pentagon?

It’s a cold morning in January 2011. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rand Paul (R-KY) wake up early to put on their Revolutionary War costumes. They’re joined by a miscellaneous group of anti-government protestors, libertarian activists, and all-around hotheads. With their supporters in tow, the tea party movement’s Adam and Eve drive to the Pentagon and use their congressional passes to get into the building. They proceed to the office of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, where the Pentagon plans the future of the huge weapons systems that dominate military spending.

read more