Bon Voyage!

Posted in Administrative on 29 January 2009 by theempireofthemind

Due to my travel today to Amman to begin a semester abroad, my posting on The Empire of the Mind will be suspended for the time being. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to write a follow-up entry to my “Coming Up” post, but maybe I’ll get a chance to once I get to Jordan. I hope to continue posting once I do, and to start my “Empire in Jordan” segment as soon as possible. Until then, iepoch and ftfuchs will be around to answer your questions by e-mail and keep you spellbound and entertained.

Iepoch will serve as Acting Moderator until I establish a reliable internet connection. I’ll see you then. Stay safe and stay informed!

Coming Soon…

Posted in Administrative on 23 January 2009 by theempireofthemind

Sorry for the extended break – I’ve been away for the last week. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a sneak preview of what you’ll be finding here at Empire over the next few days, or whenever I get some time to post:

-A recap of the inauguration – mixed-up oath and all – and, of course, an analysis of Barack Obama’s speech

-An assessment of the goings-on in Gaza.

-News and analysis regarding the new Obama Administration

-Updates on Congress’s activities, including the stimulus package.

Until then, keep checking back!

Senate Dems Reverse on Burris

Posted in Commentary, National on 12 January 2009 by theempireofthemind

The Washington Post is reporting this afternoon that Senate Democrats will probably seat Roland Burris later this week, after meeting with his lawyers today and deciding that his paperwork is sufficient. In hindsight, Democratic leaders probably handled this situation about as well as they could have. No one can blame Harry Reid (and Barack Obama) for expressing strong reservations about seating a Senate¬† appointee of an indicted (and now, impeached) governor, who didn’t even have the signature of the Illinois secretary of state to verify his selection. Although I think Burris should not have accepted the nomination (although his reported mausoleum decorated with his accomplishments makes one think that this guy might occassionally let his ambition get the better of him), he handled the situation with grace, acknowledging that neither he nor his race were an issue, but the governor who appointed him. This gave Harry Reid wiggle room to change his objection to the lack of a verification signature, which now appears to be in order, all the while making sure that Burris was in no way tainted by the Blagojevich scandal. The people of Illinois win the day.

What’s on the Horizon?

Posted in Commentary, International, National on 11 January 2009 by theempireofthemind

Hey, gang. Sorry for being silent for so long. I’ve had much more on my plate recently than I expected to have. Luckily I’m snowed in today, so I don’t have many excuses not to write. Here’s my list of possible surprises that could be among the headlines in 2009, in no particular order:

1. The Defeat of Ahmadinejad – Yes, he may actually lose this June’s presidential election. He’s been targeted for much of the blame behind Iran’s economic woes. Plus, most of the populace isn’t nearly as anti-American as he is, and they’re concerned that his antics could seriously damage Iran’s future prospects. However, while there are several candidates who could plausibly beat Ahmadinejad, including reformer Mehdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami, opposition is not much united. Also, Ahmadinejad enjoys the support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei – at least for the time being.

2. Progress Toward Peace in Israel and Palestine – Don’t fall off your chairs, now. I know this sounds unlikely, given the recent escalation of violence in Gaza. But 2009 has only just begun. Israel will not stop wanting to get rid of Hamas anytime soon (nor will they stop having good reason to do so), but elections in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority could relax tension if moderates gain ground (Tzipi Livni’s Kadima in Israel and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in Palestine). Plus, sources keep hinting at a possible Israel-Syria peace treaty; this would be pretty Earth-shattering, given the historical animosity between the two, and the fact that it could change the balance of the region, given that Syria would be stretching its ties with ally Iran.

3. A Minor Meltdown in China – Most people have been touting China’s economic strength recently, and rightly so. However, with GDP growth rates possibly falling below the “magic number” 7% mark this fiscal year, unrest could grow, particularly among already struggling farmers. Also, soaring loan default rates, partially due to loans to failing state-owned enterprises, could cause China’s financial system to collapse. This would put a strain on a Communist Party already stressed by devolution of power to the provinces and minority groups. This may be a trying year for them.

4. The “American Century” Continues – Some claim that America’s time at the top has come to a close, and the vasty majority of foreign policy thinkers believe America will at least lose relative power. While it would be naive to think that the United States must always be the lone superpower it has been since the fall of the Soviet Union, a potential downfall may not be near in the offing. Though the doom-sayers have proclaimed a coming Great Depression, many economists believe 2009 could in fact see a recovery in the U.S. economy, aided by current government fiscal policy. Many of America’s competitors, however, could falter. China may be entering rough waters (see above). The Middle East is coming to grips with a plunge in oil prices and a resumption of violence in Palestine. Russia’s economy is plagued with potential pitfalls and its government is moving back towards repression and isolation from the rest of Europe, which is struggling just to ratify an EU constitution.

5. Readers’ Choice – Do you foresee any big suprises that I missed? Disagree with any that I mentioned? Comment, and tell me what your list would look like.

Until next time!

Empire in ’09

Posted in Administrative on 3 January 2009 by theempireofthemind

Greetings, y’all. I hope you’re all starting off the New Year well. I’m not quite ready for my promised post on potential bright spots in 2009, but I wanted to update you with where things are going here at Empire.

2008 was a great year for Empire. I got the politics-writing bug while working in D.C., resurrected a dormant blog and actually kept at it. While I’m not posting once a day like I was in the summer, I think I’ve settled into a regular pattern. And I’m thrilled that we have several fantastic contributors who have been and will continue to post despite their busy lives. I’m hoping to add one or two more contributors in 2009. Once again, a big thanks to iepoch and ftfuchs for their help and their interest in continuing to write for Empire. On a personal note, I’m planning to start up a personal blog in the next few days (it’s really about time). I don’t expect to post a link on Empire, so send an email to theempireofthemind@yahoo.com if you’d like me to send you the link.

As I’ve mentioned before, at the end of January I’ll be leaving for a semester in Amman, Jordan. That will entail a short break in my posting. But after I settle in and determine how much access I can get to an internet source, I hope to give you my take on what’s going on in the Middle East. That should be all the more interesting considering the events going on in Gaza and a potential visit to the region by Pope Benedict in May, among other things. In the summer, I’m hoping to be either back down in D.C. or working for a member of Congress in a local office and I’ll try to incorporate that into my posts on Empire.

So what will I personally be doing differently in 2009? Glad you asked! Well, I’ve tacked on more than a few extra pounds in 2008 that I’d like to bid farewell to, and I want to in general practice healthier eating. I used to do some really cool hiking and backpacking in my Boy Scout days; there are ample opportunities where I live to do that, so I’d really like to get out and be in the wilderness every once in a while. If I could in Jordan, that would be awesome. I’ve committed myself to learning at least three new facts about the world each day (and not just in politics) and at least one new thing about a friend each week. I’m planning to start keeping a journal and to supplement it by carrying a camera around to take pictures of my life (important and mundane events alike). I’d like to try my hand at writing music (just got some software for that very purpose). In addition, I’ve resolved to listen to at least two new songs from various genres every day – my musical knowledge is not what it should be. I’ve resolved to read more fiction and to watch more movies as well (who said New Years resolutions can’t be fun?). I’d also like to revive my French abilities and expand my skills in Spanish and Italian. Adding more Arabic is a given since I’ll be doing at least three hours a day in class alone while I’m in Amman. I also feel I don’t do enough for others, so I’d like to carve out some time in my schedule for volunteering, and to get involved again in some local events I used to do, like Race for the Cure, that help good causes.

That’s all material for my aforementioned personal blog, of course, but I’ll try to work in a few relevant bits here and there on my Empire posts as well. This is part of my most important goal for Empire in 2009: I will make this blog more fun! So many of my friends (our own iepoch included) have blog-writing styles that make their blogs really enjoyable to read, while I tend to write almost journalistically (made-up word?). This is strange because it’s not at all the way I think about politics. I see politics as an adventurous game which yields strong emotions that range from depressing (e.g., Zimbabwe and Gaza) to truly amusing (e.g., Blago and the Minnesota Senate race). I promise that I’ll still be informative and detailed with my analysis, but I’ll try to due justice to the colorful nature of the subject.

Finally, a great big thank you to everyone who reads or has read The Empire of the Mind, whether you visited once or, in the case of the truly insane, every day. Watching that little ticker on the right that counts Empire’s hits go up means a great deal to me because it means that someone is checking out our experiments in political and news analysis. Whether you love us, hate us, or feel passionate indifference, we appreciate the fact that you’re stopping by, and hope that you’ll continue to do so in 2009.

BREAKING NEWS: Blago to Appoint Replacement; Reid: Burris “Not Acceptable”

Posted in Commentary, National on 30 December 2008 by theempireofthemind

Just when you thought the Rod Blagojevich scandal couldn’t get any more bizarre, news broke within the last hour that the troubled Illinois governor will reportedly appoint former state attorney general Roland W. Burris to fill Barack Obama’s senate seat this afternoon. While Blago is fully within his rights to make this appointment, the fact that the governor was recently arrested for allegedly trying to sell this same senate seat, and is also in the midst of impeachment proceedings against him, makes this a politically shocking move.

But wait, there’s more! Two political crises for the price of one! MSNBC reports that word from sources close to Harry Reid indicates that Senate Democrats will attempt to stick to their pledge that no Blago appointment would be acceptable to fill the vacant seat. Constitutionally, they may be limited in their options to oppose move, but could go as far as taking a rare vote to actually prevent Burris from taking his seat in the Senate.

I can’t wait to see how this mess plays out. Keep checking back with Empire for updates, and also for my upcoming piece on potential bright spots in 2009 politics, which I should get around to posting shortly after New Year’s.

Peace Collapses in Gaza

Posted in Commentary, International on 28 December 2008 by theempireofthemind

The wake of Christmas has not brought much cheer to the Middle East, or the incoming Obama administration, as Israel responded to Hamas’ uptick in rocket attacks with devastating air strikes of its own in Gaza and prepared for a potential ground invasion. Hundreds have been killed and wounded and the shaky cease-fire between the two sides has come to an abrupt end. This recent violence complicates an already muddled situation; both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are due for elections in the coming months which will determine their leadership. In Israel, the moderate Kadima Party led by Tzipi Livni is facing renewed challenges from the right-leaning Likud Party led by Benjamin Netanyahu. If the hardline Likud, who have been less likely to cede land to the Palestinians and have been less open to a partition of Jerusalem, regain leadership, prospects for peace could be stalled. In Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas must call an election early next year or risk creating a leadership vacuum which could be capitalized on by Hamas.

The Arab world has, unsurprisingly, roundly condemned the Israeli attacks. It’s no secret that there has been no love lost between Arabs and Jews since the creation of Israel in 1948. However, recent denunciations could have a more lasting impact. Syria’s rebuke places in doubt a much hoped-for agreement between Syria and Israel, which would have dramatically shifted power in the region away from Iran and its Hezbollah puppets in Syria. Instead, leaders of Hezbollah have now begun to call for a third intifada, or rebellion, against Israel, which would likely mean a resumption of suicide bombings for the first time since 2005.

The recent violence only cements the fact that 2009 could be a make or break year for the Middle East peace process. There have been promising signs in the region recently: the potential Syria-Israel agreement that I mentioned, willingness on the part of Saudi Arabia to take a lead in negotiations, and unrest that could topple Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a stumbling block to regional security in his own right, in his 2009 presidential election. It’s distressing to think that instead 2009 could see a total reversal. The incoming administration will have yet another tough balancing act to manage. Obama will need to restore faith in the 1994 Oslo Accords, in which¬† both sides affirmed the need for a Palestinian state and Arab recognition of Israel, and deal with the questions of partitioning Jerusalem and how to resettle Palestinian refugees.

Sorry to be the bearer of gloomy predictions and rain on your jolly holiday parade. To make it up to you, I’m going to come up with a list of possible successes on the political horizon in 2009. Keep a lookout for that post in the next couple days.

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