At home & abroad: Links & comments 11/21/13

The Wahhabi-Likudnik war of terror by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Sandbagging Negotiations between U.S. and Iran by M.J. Rosenberg for the Washington Spectator.

The Coming Drone Wars: Iran Unveils Its Own Drone, With a 1,200-Mile Range by Juan Cole.

President Obama deserves credit for responding to Iranian peace overtures, but he faces greater obstacles both at home and abroad than did Presidents Reagan and Nixon did in making peace with the USSR and China.

Iran embassy bombing scene

Iran embassy bombing scene in Beirut

Foreign correspondent Pepe Escobar speculates on who was behind the suicide bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut, an act of terrorism that left 170 wounded and at least 23 dead.  M.J. Rosenberg discusses the forces in Washington that oppose U.S.-Iran peace negotiations.  And Juan Cole notes that Iran is developing its own flying killer drones, probably based on reverse-engineering a U.S. surveillance drone that was captured in Iranian air space.

U.S.-Afghan Security Pact in Doubt After Hamid Karzai Rejects Provision by Reuters.  Hat tip to Psychopolitik.

Kerry, Karzai put pact before jirga by Radio Free Europe.  [added later]

Kerry, Karzai reach Afghan security agreement by the Deutsche Welle broadcasting network.  [added later]

The U.S. government won agreement of Afghan President Hamad Karzai to allow 13,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely, without being subject to the jurisdiction of Afghan courts.  Their mission will be to advise and assist Afghan forces in resisting a Taliban return to power.  Before the agreement goes into effect, it must receive approval from the loya jirga, a traditional Afghan council, for approval, and then ratification by the official Afghan parliament.  [rewritten to reflect the Kerry Karzai agreement].

Obama Meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki as Terror Rages Across Country by Stephen Collinson of Agence France Presse.

Two years after the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, Prime Minister Al-Maliki asks for U.S. high-tech armaments to put down an insurgency which he says is led by Al Qaeda.  What will happen if his request is turned down?  Will he get the weaponry he wants from Russia or China?  From the U.S. standpoint, there are no good options, except to try to minimize U.S. involvement in other nations’ conflicts to begin with.  Getting-out-of is always harder than getting-into.  [revised]

Why Vancouver’s Ban on Doorknobs Makes Complete Sense by Adam Taylor for Business Insider.  Hat tip for this to Jack Clontz.

door-leverVancouver’s building code will require, starting in March 2014, that any new doors have levers rather than knobs, because they are easier to work for people who are physically handicapped, sick or just old.  The code also will require that electrical switches be lower and electrical outlets be higher.  The intent is to make buildings in Vancouver more universally accessible.

There are two questions here.  One is whether these innovations are good ideas.  The other (a separate question) is whether it is a good idea to require them by law.  My guess is that the answer to both questions is “yes,” but that is only a guess.   It will be interesting to see how this works out.

Warner Brothers Admits to Bogus Copyright Violation Takedowns; Gloats to Court How There Is Nothing Anybody Can Do About That on TechDirt.

Warner Brothers argues that, under current law, it is immune from any legal liability for ordering take-downs from the Internet of material for which it does not, in fact, own the copyright.  Executives say their company should not be penalized for honest mistakes, but what about the losses to law-abiding business owners under the takedown orders?

Harry Reid is set to go nuclear by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post.

The End of Filibuster Abuse by Lou Debose for the Washington Spectator. [added later]

The Republican position appears to be that President Obama should not have authority to appoint anybody to anything unless the appointment has the support of 60 Senators.  If that is the position, then the filibuster, which once was rarely used, needed to be abolished so that government can function normally.

And it was abolished, for executive and most judicial nominations.  And I still will think this was the right thing to do even when the Republicans regain control of the Senate, as they are bound to do someday.  [revised to reflect Senate approval of rule change]

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