• Anwar Ibrahim on Tunisia's Domino Effect  Malaysia's former deputy prime minister writes in The Wall Street Journal that Tunisia's upheaval is a warning shot for repressive governments and the countries that support them. Taking aim at a longstanding U.S. policy of allying itself with tyrannical regimes because "democratization will likely yield governments that tend to be less responsive to U.S. demands--particularly those governments regarded as Islamist," Ibrahim says the U.S. has ignored or helped quash legitimate pushes for Middle Eastern democracy. He adds that, as a rule of thumb, "government built on the suppression of its citizens is temporary," and with this in mind the U.S. should step aside and let "a new dawn for democracy" rise in the region. It would be foolhardy to write off Tunisia as a one-shot deal, Ibrahim says, because finding the parallel conditions in neighboring states--"political marginalization and economic impoverishment for the people and ill-gotten wealth for the ruling elite"--merely requires looking out the window.
  • Barbara Ehrenreich on the Difference Between Protest and Violence  "Why are Americans such wusses?" Barbara Ehrenreich wonders in today's Los Angeles Times. "Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over." Ehrenreich's piece comes in response to the violent threats faced by Frances Fox Piven, a professor and recent target of Glenn Beck's, due to an essay she recently wrote for The Nation that urged the jobless to take to the streets. Ehrenreich finds it strange that after Beck accused Piven of encouraging violence by advocating protest, his incensed listeners responded with... threats of violence. Why is idea of peaceful protest so extreme that it provokes death threats? Ehrenreich cites iPods, computer games, and anti-depressants as possible reasons for the decline of America's grassroots culture. But she also blames guns, arguing that the act of arming oneself, almost by definition, suggests an indifference to the democratic process.
  • Booth and Wiles on More Needless Deforestation  Mary Booth and Richard Wiles, founders of the Partnership for Policy Integrity, take to The Boston Globe to scold the EPA for its recent decision to exempt the nascent biomass industry from restricting their emissions of greenhouse gasses. "The EPA's capitulation clears the way for a boom in biomass power that threatens to consume millions of acres of forests, perpetuate coal use, and accelerate climate change," the authors assert, arguing that "fueling the more than 200 proposed biomass facilities and coal plants that plan to burn wood will require increased forest cutting on a potentially massive scale." Booth and Wiles also point out that the proposed biomass facilities "will cost taxpayers $30 million to $60 million even as ratepayers pay more to cover the cost of the 'renewable energy credits' that most states grant to biomass power." The political rationale for the surprising exemption is unclear, they note, but they do say that "there is no science" behind it.
  • Clarence Page on Race and Tiger Moms  Joining in on the "tiger mom" parenting debate, Page, a member of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, adds a new element to the discussion surrounding "Chinese mother" Amy Chua's style of motherhood. Page writes that parenting techniques mean nothing if the culture of achievement is lacking. Citing Eugene Robinson's book "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America," in which Robinson claims that American blacks are split along class lines according to how much they care about social advancement, Page notes that an individual parent can only have so much influence. Outside the home, the atmosphere the child is exposed to will have a non-trivial effect as well. Academic and social success have less to do with limiting TV, as Chua did, than with creating a cultural push to revive the "tiger-parent culture of achievement that helped past generations to succeed."
  • Jeffrey Goldberg and Hussein Ibish on the Case for Middle East Optimism  Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, and Ibish, a research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, team up at The New York Times today to offer a positive take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Goldberg and Ibish say much progress has been made by both sides; they cite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's condemnation of a movement led by rabbis to urge Jews not to sell or rent homes to non-Jews, and the Palestinian Authority's restoration of order in West Bank cities. Going forward, the authors propose several steps Israel and Palestine can take to further the peace process. Israel could offer more of the West Bank up to Palestinian control. "It is crucial that the Palestinian government be allowed to rule in areas that are generally understood to be part of the Palestinian state," they write. For its part, Palestine should promote the efforts of the "West Bank's public education system to combat religious and political fanaticism" and realize that boycotting Israeli products is counterproductive. Together, Israel and Palestine must "emphasize their commitment to a genuine two-state solution with an indpendent, sovereign Palestine living along Israel in peace and security." And finally, the authors call for "the softening of hearts," each side showing compassion for the other's struggle. This, they say, is key to achieving a peaceful solution.