Morning News Roundup

First let me note that though I might make another post or two today, tonight also marks my departure from the country until 10 May. I will post sporadically RE: my travels and if a news story is really REALLY necessary to comment upon, but otherwise, annoy Degs, Rinn and Styer if you want content.

Now, on to the day's news.

-The Op-Ed pages are again brimming with indignation (and rightly so) over the GOP smear machine's campaign against John Kerry's war record. Harold Meyerson has a column, "Prince Hal vs. King Henry," that puts into pretty stark relief the ridiculousness of Kerry v. Bush on war records. First two grafs:

In the course of the past week an odd double standard has emerged in the presidential campaign. Every sentence and gesture of the young John Kerry has been scrutinized -- and often deliberately misinterpreted -- for signs of insincerity, self-promotion, lack of patriotism and fledgling Francophilia.

The sentences and gestures of the young George W. Bush, on the other hand, remain shrouded in obscurity. You don't build a record if you don't show up, and that's exactly what Bush did during the Vietnam War.

Wes Clark has a straightforward but effective column in the NYT, with one brutal dig:

I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve — often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism.

-"South Park" has, in its own way, jumped the shark, though in this case it's by gaining respectability. The front page of the NYT features a picture of Cartman, and there is a guffaw-inducing Arts profile of the show and "Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone."

-Terrorist attack in Syria followed by a gun battle between state security forces (and this is Syria - those state security forces don't fuck around) and the terrorists. Follow this story - Syria is an odd duck, a real Stalinist security state with a minority ethnic population brutally ruling over a multi-ethnic society (hmmm...sound familiar...?). Syria, however, is in an interesting spot - as the article notes,

Syria permits radical groups like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to operate offices in the capital and has in the past provided sanctuary to Kurdish militants, it also maintains a network of overlapping security and intelligence agencies to monitor them.

Its facade of calm, however, began to show cracks recently as restive Kurds in northern Syria clashed with the police, leaving at least eight people dead. The unrest spread briefly to Damascus last month, and Kurdish sources have said dozens of people have been caught up in a sweep of arrests.

Syria has strongly supported Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations, and allows Hezbollah to occupy strategic parts of Lebanon to carry on a proxy war with Israel, coordinating with Iran to supply Hezbollah.

At the same time, Syria is strongly secular in its government and leadership - the Ba'th party is in control (remember them?), and subscribes to an Arab nationalist, not Islamic, worldview. But Syria differs from Iraq in several key ways, the chiefest of which seems to be that whereas Iraq's presence on the world stage was one characterized by bluster, overstatement/outright lies and antagonism, Syria has been remarkably nimble diplomatically. They fought with coalition forces in the first Gulf War; they have shared intelligence with the U.S. on al-Qaida; and were even able to talk down the foaming-at-the-mouth neocons from invading. Not to mention their curious relationship with fundamentalism Iran.

For almost two decades, Syria has been able to maintain internal security by playing the external chaos of the rest of the Middle East expertly; now, this may signal a change in that. I'm not sure. It certainly seems that Syria would be one of several nations especially riled up were there to be an independent (or very autonomous) Kurdish state.

-Arlen Specter held on to beat wingnut Jim Toomey in the PA Senate primary. dKos coverage here. I agree especially with Kos' assesment that,

And, in my estimation, it's a victory for Joe Hoeffel, who now gets to face a bloodied and poorer sitting senator representing a bitterly divided party (the latest Q-poll indicated that 48 percent of Toomey voters would not vote for Specter in the general).

That shows you just how polarized things are - Specter was endorsed by Bush and Santorum (who's apparently now the former holiest of holies for wingnuts), and still he's not conservative enough for almost half of Toomey's voters. Whoo boy.

That's all for now.

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