Steve Coll on Democracy in the Muslim World In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Steve Coll takes a look at the recent Tunisian "revolution," how it started, and where it will go. "The Tunisian case is striking less for its origins than for its outcome," Coll clarifies. "It presents a rare triumph of people power in the Arab world." Coll worries about the effect the country's inherent corruption may have on its progress, but is encouraged by the example set by peaceful Muslim countries like Turkey and Indonesia. He acknowledges that imposing American-style government, as in Iraq, has proven misguided in the the Middle East. What has been successful is "external investments in civil society--programs launched by the United States, European governments, and independent foundations, which were peaceful, gradual, and unrelated to war or invasion." Despite the uncertainty and risks involved in "promoting democracy in Arab societies... it is the right strategy--in principle and pursuit of America's national interests."
Niall Stanage on Keith Olbermann's Ousting Stanage writes in Salon that despite being "basically simpatico with Olbermann's worldview," ideological synchronicity wasn't enough to keep him from cheering Olbermann's last MSNBC broadcast. Stanage says it was time for Olbermann to go, not just because of "the glibness, the pomposity, the narcissism," but for a far greater crime: failing to maintain the edge Countdown owned when it launched in 2003. Stanage says that in its early days, Countdown was an exciting and necessary counterpoint to a media industry that "appeared to have been cowed--not just by the Bush administration per se but by a jingoistic atmosphere," the show quickly morphed into a run-of-the-mill platform for a host more concerned with confirming his belief system than poking holes in party lines and political gambits. Olbermann's time, Stanage writes, has more than certainly passed.
Paul Krugman on Competition and Corporations Obama is likely to emphasize "competitiveness" in his State of the Union speech tomorrow, guesses the New York Times columnist. This may be good politics, but it is ultimately misleading. The idea that what is good for corporations is good for Americans is inherently false, he says. "A corporate leader who increases profits by slashing his work force is thought to be successful ... That's more or less what has happened in America recently: employment is way down, but profits are hitting new records." Krugman points to the recent federal appointment of Jeffrey Immelt--CEO of GE, a corporation with fewer than 50 percent of its workforce and production based in the United States--as a sign that "Mr. Obama and his advisers really believe that the economy is ailing because they've been too tough on business, and that what America needs now is corporate tax cuts and across-the-board deregulation." Krugman doesn't mince words: "The ideology that brought economic disaster in 2008 is back on top--and seems likely to stay there until it brings disaster again."
Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens on Making More Representatives The problem with Congress is that it needs more elbow room, say the authors, a pair of professors writing in the New York Times. With a current count of 435 seats in the House of Representatives, the authors write that Congress isn't just hamstrung, it's depriving citizens of the very thing the House was intended to provide: a voice to constituents. We've got a 21st-century population with representation based on a 1910 census. The result, they write, is inexcusable, because "Americans today are numerically the worst-represented group of citizens in the country's history." The fallout of this shortcoming? Lobbyists and special interests need only court a few people in order to wield influence over far too many. Increase the number of Reps to actually match the current population, the authors write, and special interests won't just be diluted, but representatives will be freed up to actually do the work that comes with the office, rather than farm it out to "unaccountable staffers" or committees.
Deepak Chopra on the Crumbling Wall Between Science and Spirituality When a Nobel laureate announced last week that water had appeared to "teleport" DNA, it underscored the changes taking places in the very foundations of the scientific world, Chopra declares in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The solid, material world vanished a hundred years ago," he writes, "and almost all the quantum pioneers, such as Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Erwin Schroedinger, either became outright mystics or remained baffled by the radical discovery that the universe emerged from a void." Chopra asserts that consciousness is now a viable topic of study, as the connection between science and spirituality is increasingly explored. "Everything in existence is experienced through our consciousness, including subatomic particles and distant galaxies. The universe exists in our consciousness. There is no proof of an objective universe, which is taken on faith, as pure assumption," he writes. "Is the universe conscious? ... Does the mind exist outside the brain? Once preposterous, these questions seem to hold the key to the future, in both physics and biology."