Self-Destruct Sequence — Andrew O’Hehir in Salon on how the GOP will wipe itself out.
Through the magical kismet produced by blending their stupidity with Netanyahu’s, the GOP has managed to make the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran look reasonable, which is quite a feat. In fact, Iranian officials are behaving more reasonably than their histrionic enemies on the Israeli and American right, as virtually the entire world has noticed. One should never treat nuclear weapons lightly, and an agreement to restrict them is always a good thing. But I have never felt remotely convinced by the argument that a nuclear-armed Iran will lead to the end of the world, or the destruction of Israel.
North Korea has the Bomb (despite our repeated efforts to stop them). Pakistan has the Bomb (ditto). Those places are several orders of magnitude crazier and less stable than Iran, a nation that has been incrementally if unsteadily moving toward more democracy and more engagement with the outside world over the last two decades. To offer the obvious rebuttal, Israel has had a nuclear weapons program since the mid-1960s, one of the most poorly kept secrets in world affairs. (There are two known gag orders that prevent U.S. officials from discussing Israel’s nukes, an especially bizarre symptom of the Frankenstein-monster relationship between the two nations.) Facing an Israeli arsenal variously estimated at 75 to 400 nuclear warheads, the Iranians would literally have to be insane and suicidal to launch a first strike. You don’t need to endorse Iran’s recent actions in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere to conclude that they appear calculated and strategic, and reflect no such apocalyptic delusions.
That may seem like an inflammatory side argument, but it’s important because the real current of delusional, apocalyptic thinking is not found in Tehran. All those dire pronouncements made by Likudniks and Republicans about how a nuclear-armed Iran will bring the end of civilization are a form of psychological displacement. They have almost nothing to do with Iran or civilization, and everything to do with the Republican Party’s continuing decline and the perilous, self-inflicted predicament that Israel now faces. If the American right and the Israeli right had sealed their love with a suicide pact, vowing to destroy each other so they can be together in the hereafter, they could hardly be fulfilling it more perfectly.
Cuba WiFi — Matt Schiavenza in The Atlantic logs into the internet in Havana.
It’s an image that’s familiar around the world: A group of young people, glued to their laptops or smart phones, lounging around a public space and taking advantage of free, wireless Internet. But in Cuba, this scene is far from ordinary. When the famed artist Kcho provided wi-fi at his cultural center some weeks ago, he established the first such venue in the country’s history. Now, in a rapidly changing Cuba, milestones like this have become more commonplace.
To its beneficiaries, free wi-fi is about more than gaining access to computer games and social media. It also involves establishing contact with the outside world. One 20-year-old at the cultural center was using wi-fi to chat with his father, who lives in the United States.
“Thanks to this service I can talk to him,” the man, Adonis Ortiz, told the Washington Post.
These unprecedented commercial ties—some bank restrictions are also being lifted—have outpaced the political reconciliation between the two countries. The U.S. government still enforces a trade embargo of Cuba, and the two have yet to open embassies in their respective capitals. Nevertheless, President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, are scheduled to meet at the Summit of the Americas next month in Panama City.
Three months after President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would normalize relations, the island’s long period of isolation appears to be coming to an end—and telecommunications is just one dimension of the change. On Saturday, a group of 80 civic and business leaders will travel from New Orleans to Havana to attend a conference, marking the first direct flight between the two cities in 57 years. And next week, a New York-based tour operator will launch a weekly charter flight between the Cuban capital and New York’s JFK airport.
Still, Cuba’s antiquated communications infrastructure presents an obstacle to economic development. In anticipation of restored U.S-Cuban ties, Havana is seeking billions of dollars in foreign direct investment across a range of sectors, but the lack of IT resources hampers these relationships. Nine out of 10 Cubans lack access to a mobile phone, and Internet connections are slow and subject to government censorship. State-run Internet cafes in the country charge $4.50 an hour for online access, a huge sum where the average monthly salary is about $20. Broadband Internet connections in Cuban homes are virtually unheard of.
The transition to a modern, Internet-driven economy won’t happen overnight. Nor is it certain to force political change.
The Instrument Has Yet To Be Invented — Andy Borowitz tries to measure Congress’s approval rating.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – After a challenging week for the legislative body, the approval rating of the United States Congress has shrunk to a point where it is no longer detectable by the technology currently available, a leading pollster said on Friday.
Davis Logsdon, who heads the highly regarded Opinion Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, said that his polling unit has developed highly sensitive measurement technology in recent years to gauge Congress’s popularity as it fell into the single digits, but added that “as of this week, Congress is basically flatlining.”
“At the beginning of the week, you could still see a slight flicker of approval for Congress,” he said. “Then—bam!—the lights went out.”
Logsdon said, however, that people should resist drawing the conclusion that Congress’s approval rating now stands at zero. “They may have support in the range of .0001 per cent or, say, .0000001 per cent,” he said. “Our equipment just isn’t advanced enough to measure it.”
Doonesbury — The fog of memory.