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Waltz With Bashar

Seymour Hersh recommends talks with Syria.

New Yorker, April 6 Seymour Hersh corresponds with Syrian President Bashar Assad and finds him willing to enter peace talks with Israel if the Obama administration mediates. Hersh warns Obama not to pass up such a chance, which could lead to a strategic realignment in the Middle East. “[A] deal on the Golan Heights could be a way to isolate Iran, one of Syria’s closest allies, and to moderate Syria’s support for Hamas and for Hezbollah,” Hersh writes. Assad may have another goal as well: to serve as an intermediary between the United States and Iran. Bearded billionaire heir David de Rothschild plans to sail across the Pacific this summer on Plastiki, a custom-built boat made entirely from recycled materials, an article finds. While de Rothschild has skied to both poles and is no stranger to adventure, this voyage is particularly treacherous. “Storms, sharks, isolation, injury, and illness are standard hazards attempting a Pacific crossing by sailboat, but de Rothschild is proposing to do it in an experimental craft made from materials that have never been tested against ocean waves.”

Newsweek, April 6 Nobel Prize in tow, Paul Krugman has emerged as Obama’s most visible liberal detractor, the cover story reports. At his perch at the New York Times, Krugman has been vocal in his distaste for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the administration’s attempts largely to preserve the status quo in the banking sector. Krugman has never met Obama and expressed annoyance that the president mispronounced his name at a press conference. “Krugman is not likely to show up in an administration job in part because he has a noble—but not government-career-enhancing—history of speaking truth to power.” One-quarter of all newspaper jobs could disappear this year, according to an article on the death of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Seattle was a two-newspaper town, leaving the Seattle Times to chronicle awkwardly the final gasps of its long-time rival. “The intense rivalry made it a tricky assignment. Imagine Barack Obama writing John McCain’s life story, or Goldman Sachs presiding at Lehman Brothers’ funeral.”

New Republic, April 15 Looking to previous Democratic administrations, Jonathan Chait predicts in the cover story that Obama will fail because the Democratic Party “remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege.” Democrats like Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson confuse business interests with the national interest and bring rot to the party, Chait writes. “It seems impossible to believe that this party, with the challenges before the country so great and the opportunity to address them so rare, would again follow the path to self-immolation. Yet, somehow, the Democrats can’t help themselves.” Jason Zengerle wonders why New York City stopped churning out basketball stars. A city that once stocked NBA all-star teams has turned to producing professional basketball’s “malcontents and underachievers.” One scout thinks that the city’s young talent is surrounded by a corrupting amount of hype. New York today would spoil even a young Michael Jordan. “[H]e would have had to have been Michael Jackson in addition to Michael Jordan. He would have become a performance artist, and he would have cared a lot less,” the scout says.

Weekly Standard, April 6 A reporter travels to the West Bank in search of a Palestinian leader who practices peaceful resistance in the vein of Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Suicide bombings and other forms of terror have failed to achieve Palestinian goals. “So why not adopt the strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience, the methods of Gandhi?” the author asks. “Sainthood can work,” he argues. “Britain abandoned India; Montgomery’s buses were desegregated.” While some argue that Islam is inherently violent, others say Hamas has politicized Islam to suit its needs. Religion “is a box where you can find all sorts of tools to legitimize your strategy,” says one scholar. An article carps about Obama’s budget and says the administration is underestimating the long-term effect it will have on the national debt. The administration is overestimating how many jobs will be created and is not taking into account that some of the stimulus spending will become permanent.

New York, April 6
Michael Osinski narrates how he helped bring about the financial crisis as the behind-the-scenes person who penned the widely used software that sliced mortgages into bonds. This practice, he said, is the equivalent of grinding up chicken and dubbing it steak. Osinski remains proud of his work but is still grappling with the results. “To know that a dozen years of diligent work somehow soured, and instead of benefitting society unhinged it, is humbling,” he writes. Osinski, something of a Renaissance man, worked as a shrimper and ditch digger before turning to programming. Since his retirement in 2001, he has been farming oysters off Long Island. The Obamas will be using their own funds and Steven Spielberg’s decorator to spruce up the White House, an item notes.