Hair of the Dog: Meet our new Egypt policy, same as the old Egypt policy, and join Christiane Amanpour on her excellent Egyptian adventure.
Bonus: Tom Friedman says the Dumbest Thing of the Week.™
From the text of Judge Roger Vinson’s ObamaCare decision:
Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, theentire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and Iam aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there isvirtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
Actually, it should be almost effortless to strike down a statues titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” because it is and does nothing of the sort. Instead, I’d like to propose a new amendment to the Constitution:
Any Law or Act of Congress which does not achieve the aims of its title, shall be null and void for all intents and purposes.
Hey, if Congress can tell manufacturers what they may and may not put on their labels…
Samsung has sold two million Galaxy Tab tablet computer — just not to you know, to actual people. The Wall Street Journal‘s Evan Ramstad has the story:
during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Friday, a Samsung executive revealed those figures don’t represent actual sales to consumers. Instead, they are the number of Galaxy Tab devices that Samsung has shipped to wireless companies and retailers around the world since product’s formal introduction in late September.
Pressed by an analyst at an investment bank, the Samsung executive, Lee Young-hee, acknowledged that sales to consumers were “quite small,” though she didn’t give a specific number.
A quick Google Shopping search shows that the Galaxy Tab can be found for well under the MSRP — not a good sign for Samsung.
President Obama spoke to the world Saturday night, saying that “the people of Egypt have rights that are universal, and the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” As I said on Sunday, those words were “far better” than Secretary Clinton’s milquetoast speech the day before. So, how’s that fine talk being turned into actions? Not very well, I’m afraid.
On Sunday, with the protests turning into a conflagration, the only word from the White House was that Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, was heading to Haiti to “mediate the political crisis.” That’s right, Haiti.
Clinton also appeared on at least three of the big Sunday morning chat shows, where she reiterated time and again that she and the President were encouraging Mubarak to “begin to take concrete steps” towards reform — any day now, after three decades. Clinton also cited the installation as Vice President — after 30 years of the office remaining vacant — of a military-intelligence chief, as a sign Cairo was making progress.
The GOP response hasn’t been any bolder. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said he doesn’t “have any criticism of President Obama or Secretary Clinton at this point.” House Speaker John Boehner told Fox News Sunday that the Administration “has handled this tense situation pretty well.”
Obama also rang up Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the two men issued a statement proclaiming “that violence should not be used against people and voiced the hope that the developments in the regional countries would not lead to deep and fundamental instabilities.” Statements defending the wholesomeness of milk and the vileness of puppy smoothies are sure to follow.
So what’s going on behind the scenes? Well, it’s difficult even to guess. We have three big players for Middle East affairs — Clinton, George Mitchell, and Richard Holbrooke. Clinton is in Haiti with her eye totally on the ball, Holbrooke has died, and Mitchell hasn’t received a Google News hit since Saturday. Even that was nothing more than a TPM Café piece comparing him to Egypt’s new Veep, Omar Suleiman. Our Special Envoy to the Middle East appears to have gone AWOL.
Message: Obama doesn’t care what happens in Egypt.
Now I don’t know if that’s true or not, but that’s the message being sent. And you’d better believe they’re receiving loud and clear in the streets of Cairo.
UPDATE: Clinton has hit the panic button.
What’s a superpower to do with a unsavory and unstable ally? Here’s Gary Sick at Foreign Policy:
You may try to carefully maintain your ties with the current ruler (see Biden above), while offering rhetorical support to freedom of expression, democracy, and human rights. Regrettably, as the Carter administration can attest, that may produce the worst of both worlds. If the ruler falls, he and his supporters will accuse you of being so lukewarm in your support that it was perceived as disavowal; whereas the opposition will dismiss your pious expressions as cynical and ineffectual.
And what is this superpower doing? Here’s Richard Fernandez:
But Washington will not be hurried. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that President Obama will review his Middle Eastern policy after the unrest in Egypt subsides. The future, in whose spaces the administration believed its glories to lie, plans to review its past failures in the same expansive place. Yet time and oil wait for no one. Crude oil prices surged as the markets took the rapid developments in. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu observed that any disruption to Middle East oil supplies “could actually bring real harm.”
But then the President made the call to Mubarak. Here’s Newsweek‘s report from John Barry:
It was an intervention that dramatically—and publicly—escalated the American involvement in the Egyptian crisis. In an address from the White House, Obama outlined what he had told Mubarak, putting the administration unequivocally behind the demonstrators’ demands. “The people of Egypt have rights that are universal,” Obama said in his speech. “And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.” The president also warned both sides against violence but his message was clear: “When President Mubarak addressed the Egyptian people tonight, he pledged a better democracy and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech, and I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.” And, said Obama, “we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people—all quarters—to achieve” those goals.
That’s something — and far better than Secretary Clinton’s wan words earlier in the week.
But the fact remains that we wouldn’t be in this predicament if we weren’t so unserious about our energy needs. We prevent and curtail and demonize domestic production, while bribing people with money we don’t have into buying cars they don’t want.
It’s almost enough to make you think folks in Egypt have it relatively easy this week.
Al Jazeera reporting that police in Alexandria are “targets” for protestors.
On the Tony Katz Radio Spectacular yesterday, I said the next 72 hour would determine if Mubarak stays or goes — on his feet, or feet first. That prediction might have been too optimistic. From here, it looks like the regime might not last the weekend.
The most telling aspect of the anti-regime demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world is what they are not about: They are not about the existential plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; nor are they at least overtly anti-Western or even anti-American. The demonstrators have directed their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own societies. This constitutes a sea change in modern Middle Eastern history.
Since mid-December, Charles Krauthammer has called President Obama “The Comeback Kid.” He even argued that it took Obama a mere “five weeks” to “move to the center to win back the independents who had abandoned the party in November.”
So — how long does it take a wise columnist to recognize a mistake and call an ideologue and ideologue? Six weeks. Here’s Krauthammer today:
Perhaps this is all to be expected from Democrats – the party of government – and from a President who from his very first address to Congress has boldly displayed his zeal to fundamentally transform the American social contract and place it on a “New Foundation” (an Obama slogan that never took). He’s been chastened enough by the election of 2010 to make gestures toward the center. But the State of the Union address revealed a man ideologically unbowed and undeterred. He served up an insignificant spending cut, yet another (if more modest) stimulus and a promise to fight any Republican attempt to significantly shrink the size of government.
I called BS on the whole Comeback Kid thing the day Krauthammer’s piece was published. Which, if you add them all together, makes one time I was ahead of Charles Krauthammer.
If you need a quick intro to the similarities and differences between the revolution in Tunisia and the current revolt in Egypt, you should take a look at this article from CNNI’s Ben Wedeman. Especially this bit:
The protest movements in both nations have also been characterized by strong middle class elements. No surprise then that the dissent in Tunisia has inspired some demonstrators in Egypt.
Just because the middle class joins a revolt, doesn’t mean it will become a successful revolution. But I’m hard-pressed to think of a winning revolution where the middle class wasn’t participating.
RELATED: Is Mubarak ’11 going the way of Shah ’79?
Bill Clinton blamed the GOP Revolution of ’94 on two things. First, on his failure to get ClintonCare passed — which is exactly bass-ackwards. Voters gave Newt Gingrich the Speaker’s gavel to prevent any further such monkeying. And if you don’t believe me, I give you as Exhibit A the events of last year. But Clinton also blamed his gun control successes — and on that one, he was right on the money. The South and West went nuts over that law, and slaughtered the Democrats for it.
But — never one to pass up an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others — President Obama is set to unleash renewed gun control efforts. From Newsweek:
Tuesday night after the speech, Obama adviser David Plouffe said to NBC News that the president would not let the moment after the Arizona shootings pass without pushing for some change in the law, to prevent another similar incident. “It’s a very important issue, and one I know there’s going to be debate about on the Hill.”
The White House said that to avoid being accused of capitalizing on the Arizona shootings for political gain, Obama will address the gun issue in a separate speech, likely early next month. He’s also expected to use Arizona as a starting point, but make the case that America’s gun laws have been too loose for much longer than just the past few weeks.
If this is supposed to be an example of Obama’s new centrist agenda — forget it. He’s an ideologue, through and through.
ALTERNATE CLOSE : If this is supposed to be an example of Obama’s new pivot to the unemployment situation, he still doesn’t get it.
In the bad old days of the Cold War, military thinkers on both sides devoted lifetimes planning for World War III in Europe. The war, presumably quite short, would have shown the world a new level of devastation, as the Warsaw Pact plan was to overcome NATO’s generally-superior equipment and training with overwhelming numbers.
Now it seems that the Obama Administration is using similar thinking to put stranglehold on GOP investigations into ObamaCare. I mean, what else could possibly explain HHS’s grant of 500 more ObamaCare waivers, just today.
Android users aren’t app buyers, according to Forbes:
Google’s Android platform manager Eric Chu knows that though the number of Android smartphone users may be rising quickly, the number of purchases of paid apps in the Android Market is not doing nearly as well. In fact, Google is downright “not happy” about the purchases of paid apps, said Chu during a question-and-answer session with anxious app developers at the Inside Social Apps conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
And from Apple Insider:
The overall plan includes creating an in-app payments system like the one Apple created last year as part of iOS 4, enabling developers to sell episodic content or related virtual goods.
Google also hopes to negotiate carrier billing agreements with scores of regional mobile providers, allowing users to buy apps and bill them to their mobile account. Apple doesn’t need to do this because the iOS App Store in iTunes can bill users directly in most countries, far more than Google’s Android Marketplace.
Chu also wants to clean up Android Market, saying there is a team tasked with “weeding out apps that violate Android Market’s terms of service,” an indication that Google’s free-for-all market design is recognized to have serious drawbacks.
Apple trained iPhone buyers to pony up not-much money for pre-screened apps — much the way newspapers wished they had done with their readers when the web exploded in the ’90s. By the time the papers realized they needed to charge for content, readers were used to free, and for the most part refuse to pay.
It looks like Google has a similar problem with Android. Can they retrain users to buy stuff? Can they clean up the absolute mess that is the Android app-buying experience?
The problem is, Google doesn’t own the total Android experience, and different Android vendors have their own app stores, with not all apps available for all phones — even recent models. And it’s hard to see how Google can gain that kind of muscle over bunches of surly handset manufacturers and surlier wireless carriers.
Which leaves the question: Can Android app developers make enough money on the ad-revenue model to keep developing for Android? It hasn’t worked for the newspapers, but we’ll see.
A little something I came up with a while back, I call the French Inhale.
1.5 jiggers Hendrick’s gin
.75 jiggers Grey Goose vodka
A jar of cornichons (tiny French gherkins)
Lots of ice
Do a little swirl & toss action with some of the cornichon juice, just like you might with the gin in a very dry martini.
Next, put your booze in the shaker with plenty of ice, and shake it like you want to hurt it.
Pour into martini glass, garnish with a single cornichon, then enjoy while listening to our pseudo-French president give a longwinded speech.