Thursday, July 28, 2005

Morning copy 7/28/2005

A (very, very) narrow legislative victory for George W. Bush.

Not surprisingly, Bush has cast the CAFTA debate in grandiose terms (Reuters/ LINK.):

"The agreement is more than a trade bill: it is a commitment of freedom-loving nations to advance peace and prosperity throughout the Western Hemisphere," Bush said in a statement. The Senate approved CAFTA last month.

The real muscle behind the vote can be seen in this graf in the Washington Post (LINK.):

The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval.

How much did this stand against CAFTA really mean? Two grafs from the NY Times (LINK.):

All but a handful of Democrats, including many who voted in 1994 for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which covered the far bigger trading partners of Mexico and Canada, voted against the Central American agreement even though many issues are the same.

For the next half-hour, Republicans, mostly from textile states, jockeyed over who would be allowed to vote against the bill and save face back home. The final count came minutes after midnight.

So, the guys with worries about textile voters, and the Democrats that supported the much more sizeable NAFTA made this into a fuss.

Bush's next piece of legislation (baby steps, baby steps) is Energy/Transportation. NY Times LINK.

It is all a gradual demonstration of how much power Bush still has, as he combats his approach to lame duck status. CAFTA, Energy and John Roberts point toward power -- Iraq, the economy, Rove/CIA point to lame duck.

And there are bad poll numbers for Bush. ( Recap, LINK.)

As for Roberts:

The row over documents continues in the LA Times. LINK. My, do I love this quote:

"If a lawyer defends a client accused of stealing a chicken, it does not then follow that the lawyer is a chicken thief," said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate's No. 2 ranking Republican.

That is true, Senator, but it does make him a lawyer who defends chicken theifs! issues some stricken analysis on Roberts' scant judicial record, and it's well framed too. LINK.:

Yet earlier this month, coincidentally on the very day the president was interviewing Roberts at the White House for the Supreme Court post, Roberts joined an opinion issued by the D.C. Circuit that violated that cardinal principle. He did so, moreover, in a case raising fundamental questions about Roberts' views on presidential power and checks and balances in the war on terror. Few of Roberts' actions deserve more scrutiny by members of the Senate than his vote in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

The decision upheld the legality of President Bush's controversial military tribunals for enemy combatants held at the U.S. base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In doing so, Roberts and his colleagues reached out to decide a number of issues "not necessary to decide." And they decided every one in President Bush's favor, essentially granting him unchecked power to try, and to execute, enemy combatants.

Kyoto 2.0... hardly

A loose partnership on energy/climate change. SF Gate LINK.

"The signatories argue it complements, rather than weakens, the 1997 Kyoto agreement, which imposes targets on industrialised countries to cut their emissions." -- BBC News, LINK.


Transport police on "high alert", BBC News LINK. Nine held in second attempted terrorist attack on The Tube, Guardian LINK. A period in jail may have radicalized one of the attempted bombers, Guardian LINK.

US Muslim scholars to issue a fatwa against terrorism, Washington Post LINK.

The struggle for a British Islam, CS Monitor LINK.

Gee, a few more of those would be nice...

Translations remain slow at the FBI, LINK.

A secret memo leaked says soldiers are using excess force because they are ill-equipped: Washington Times LINK.

A former CIA officer is trying to publish a book on bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora. AP/ LINK.

An excerpt, of the interview:

"When I watched the presidential debates, it was clear to me ... the debate and discussions on Tora Bora were -- from both sides -- completely incorrect," said Berntsen, who won't provide details until the agency finishes declassifying his book. "It did not represent the reality of what happened on the ground."


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