If ever one needed proof that the US media are incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, the coverage of the current government shutdown in America proves it. Late into the night, the cable news channels were interviewing, analyzing and jabbering about the most minute details of what is, simply, a government unable to govern and constitutionally unable to call new elections, Meanwhile, the world kept turning, and the US press failed to do its duty on other stories.
First off, one may recall not that many days ago, the world was on the edge of war over Syrian chemical weapons. The US and Russia managed to find a face-saving way for everyone to back down just a bit, and the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on taking Syrian chemical weapons and destroying them. Well, Syria handed over loads of information about its chemical arsenal, and the inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have arrived in Syria to start their work. Diplomats are trying to set a date to begin peace talks. A rather important story one would have thought.
In Greece, the government arrested the leaders of the Golden Dawn Party for being members of a criminal organization and intending to commit crimes. With 18 members in parliament, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party is a threat to the democratic government in Greece. Given the economic and financial mess the country is in, it is no surprise that fascists come out of the woodwork and appeal to the frustrations of some of the people. At the same time, the democratic government has had the good sense to enforce the law and protect Europe from what might have been the beginning of some very ugly times.
The first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report came out with a headline, “Human influence extremely likely to be the dominant cause of observed warming since the middle of the last century.” Extremely likely, in the IPCC’s view, is a 95-100% correlation. In the physical sciences, that is usually considered definite proof. The climate change deniers are probably glad that this was undercovered, but America should have been told.
On President Rouhani’s return to Iran from his visit to the US, he was greeted by a small number of supporters and an even smaller number of protesters. The message is that there are forces in Iran whose very livelihood depends on making sure the US stays the Great Satan in the minds of the people. At the same time, they don’t appear to be a majority, merely loud. The negotiations ahead are, therefore, probably best handled quietly at the ambassadorial level at most. Iran is as divided over its relationship with the US as Americans are over their relationship with Iran. One wouldn’t be able to tell given the press coverage in the USA.
And if one wants truly ineffective government, there was Silvio Berlusconi pulling his party out of the ruling coalition in Italy. This is likely to force a vote of confidence tomorrow, and should the government fall, new elections are likely to produce a parliament that is more or less identical to the one currently in office. The reason for the resignations had nothing to do with policy differences but rather occurred over whether Mr. Berlusconi would keep his seat in the Senate after a tax-fraud conviction last month. He used a pretext of a 1% increase in the value-added tax, but in Italy, everyone knows the difference between reasons and pretexts.
So, while America engages in Washington navel-gazing, the world continues to spin (and heat up), and other countries carry on with their own problems. Of course, if one watches only the American media, that would be news.