Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Summer of Surprises

1. There may be another Iran-style, popular uprising waiting in the eaves for the upcoming election in Afghanistan. People are fed up with the pervasive corruption of the Karzai administration, and it seems as if they, too, have been inspired by Obama's "change" platform and subsequent electoral victory in America. The surprising thing here is that other countries now want to find their own Obama equivalent.

2. Perhaps the biggest and most gratifying surprise of all (for me, anyway) was hearing Hillary Clinton singing Obama's praises to David Gregory on "Meet the Press" last Sunday. She was positively on fire when asked about him. This is the same Hillary who trashed Obama during the campaign in the worst way, saying that even John McCain would make a better president than him (!) Honestly, I never got over it--until I heard her saying loud and clear on Sunday that he was a dazzling leader, "very decisive, very disciplined." And you could tell she absolutely meant it. Hillary waxed so enthusiastic about their reconciled relationship that it has now become one of the most potent tools in her diplomatic arsenal. She claimed it shows the world how former adversaries can bury their differences and come together in common cause. She said this can be a teaching moment in discussions with other countries: demonstrating how old grudges and antipathies can be set aside 4-EVAH.

3. So listen up, Israel, Rabbi Pearlstein, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Surprise, Surprise: Israel isn't on board the SS Obama. Israelis have not joined the chorus Obama's international fan club and true believers. No standing ovations for the Prez there. In fact, Alluf Benn, an editor at large from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote from Tel Aviv to the New York Times (July 27):

"The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.

"This policy of ignoring Israel carries a price. Though Mr. Obama has succeeded in prodding Mr. Netanyahu to accept the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he has failed to induce Israel to impose a freeze on settlements. In fact, he has failed even to stir debate about the merits of one: no Israeli political figure has stood up to Mr. Netanyahu and begged him to support Mr. Obama; not even the Israeli left, desperate for a new agenda, has adopted Mr. Obama as its icon.

"As a result, Mr. Netanyahu enjoys a virtual domestic consensus over his rejection of the settlement freeze. Moreover, he has succeeded in portraying Mr. Obama as a shaky ally."

4. Sarah Palin had a big, explosive surprise for everyone on the 4th of July. She stuck it to Alaska and quit her job as Governor. She's a real firecracker, that one. Definitely knows which side her mooseburger's buttered on.

5. Robin Wright lists some SURPRISING new tactics by the green revolutionaries in Iran (cited on Andrew Sullivan's blog, "The Daily Dish"):

"It includes calls to switch on every electric appliance in the house just before the evening TV news to trip up Tehran's grid. It features quickie "blitz" street demonstrations, lasting just long enough to chant "Death to the dictator!" several times but short enough to evade security forces. It involves identifying paramilitary Basij vigilantes linked to the crackdown and putting marks in green — the opposition color — or pictures of protest victims in front of their homes. It is scribbled antiregime slogans on money. And it is defiant drivers honking horns, flashing headlights and waving V signs at security forces."

Meanwhile, Ahmadi has lost his chief deputy and a good part of his cabinet. Maybe we will still lose him, too? Stay tuned.

6. I saw my first-ever Kindle while at Starbuck's this morning. A woman at the next table was reading her book on it, and eagerly showed me its features. It is surprisingly handy and nice looking, even shuts itself off if you fall asleep while reading in bed. No surprise here though: old-fashioned girl that I am, I'll probably just stick with real books until there aren't any more.

7. The "disappeared" mental-health records of Seung-Hui Cho (author of the 2007 massacre on the campus of VA Tech) were found accidentally last week by a former VT professor among some papers he had stored in his house. A surprise new twist to a situation that is still looking very murky, and probably always will.

7. Did you know Henry David Thoreau's real name was actually David Henry Thoreau? It seems he switched the words around to conform to his preferred arrangement.

8. It turns out Barack Obama will be taking his family to CAPE COD in August for a two-week, much-needed, family vacation. The surprise: he has never been there before.

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