Monday, August 29, 2005

Morning copy 8.29.2005

A strong, dangerous hurricane makes landfall this morning along the Gulf Coast. I strongly suggest you gas up your car in the morning and fill the tank all the way. You may save a few dollars compared to what you can expect to pay tonight or tomorrow. If you can spare some money, the Red Cross is accepting donations.

The NY Times pre-storm story, a recap of what you no doubt saw on Sunday, LINK.

The AP story on the Superdome as Supershelter, LA Times LINK.

Iraq and the constitution

Scaled back expectations in Steven R. Weisman's news analysis, NY Times LINK. It is interesting that a tired State Department official has deemed the vestige of a political process in Iraq as the Iraqis' problem.

This is similar to American generals floating the theory that a draw-down is the way to get Iraqis to address the security problem. Both are the beginnings of an exit justification -- we brought them to the river, now let's see if they'll drink. Both completely ignore our moral culpability and risk ceding a portion of Iraq to Iran, or worse.

An excerpt from Weisman's analysis:

It was not long ago that the administration was loath to be seen as interfering in internal Iraqi politics. Yet only on Thursday, in a last-minute effort to bring about a compromise, Mr. Bush telephoned Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to press him to be more accommodating to Sunni interests. The effort failed.

President Bush slighted the dissenting opinions of the 15 Sunnis working on the constitution, Washington Post LINK.

As Professor Cole articulated yesterday, this latest Bush evaluation of the war effort is criminally stupid, Juan Cole LINK. Excerpt:

These "colleagues" are the Sunni Arabs who risked their lives to cooperate with the Americans and the new government by serving on the constitution drafting committee. ... They are a small minority of a small minority. Most Sunni Arabs support the guerrilla movement. A minority has doubts about it and is more neutral. Sunni Arabs who are actively involved in negotiating with the Shiite/Kurdish/American government can be counted on the fingers of two hands. And even they reject this constitution.

So I think Sunni opposition to the constitution may be considered more or less unanimous. The division is between those who want to fight it at the ballot box and those who want to fight it with bombs.

It isn't just "some Sunnis" who are opposed.

The clear consensus in the MSM today is that Iraq will face more violence and an uncertain referendum in October.

In an odd sense, the fact that the Sunnis can defeat this constitution in a political process may encourage them to do so and not to side with the insurgency -- for now. What will matter then, and what matters now, is security and economic opportunity. Quality of life.

The Washington Post's article with Sunnis vowing to defeat the document, LINK. Excerpt:

"It was a nice show for the president of the United States as he wakes up now, but for us it was very bad," said Mishan Jabouri, one of four Sunni Arab assembly members among the dozens of lawmakers at the event. None of the Sunnis expressed support for the constitution.

Sheik Abdul Nasser al-Janabi, one of those few Sunnis willing to work on a deal, has been catapaulted to the front of the debate, NY Times LINK. Excerpt:

"We started our work on the principle of consensus," Mr. Janabi said in ringing tones, "but we faced ideologies that aim to divide Iraq, waste its wealth and dismiss its Arabic and Islamic identity."

"We have objections that we cannot overlook," Mr. Janabi said. "So we declare our rejection of those points and of the draft, on which we did not reach consensus." Because he was speaking for all of the 15 Sunnis on the constitutional committee, Mr. Janabi asserted, his declaration "makes the draft illegal."

One other political leader against this document is Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, Christian Science Monitor LINK. Excerpt:

Together the groups might convince two-thirds of voters in three provinces to vote down the document, prompting new elections for a national assembly that will draft another charter. A new vote would give both parties a chance to regain influence they lost when they boycotted last January's elections, leaving former exiled Shiite political parties and Kurds with a stronger hand.

The constitution divides, but remains vague, Christian Science Monitor LINK.

The complete text of the Iraqi constitution, LINK.

Iraq and war news

More journalists killed in Iraq than in Vietnam, according to Reporters Without Borders, CNN LINK.

The Army official who criticized noncompetitive contracts given to Halliburton has been demoted. NY Times (LINK) Excerpt:

Ms. Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq.

The WaPo's version of the same story, LINK. Excerpt:

The Army said last October that it would refer her complaints to the Defense Department's inspector general. The failure to abide by the agreement and the circumstances of the removal "are the hallmark of illegal retaliation," Kohn wrote to Rumsfeld. He said the review Strock cited to justify his action "was conducted by the very subjects" of Greenhouse's allegations, including the general.

And one question: Haliburton or Halliburton? Halliburton.

Republican John Warner says he will call Rumsfeld to testify on Iraq, NY Times LINK.

News analysis by Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post (LINK) on the limited degree of control a foreign occupier has. LINK. Excerpt:

But the actual implementation of Iraq's constitution and the viability of Gaza will now depend largely on forces beyond Washington's control -- and both face mounting challenges.

"The theme in this region is the reality of a foreign military power that comes in with great determination and overwhelming force, defeats people, subjugates a nation and then gets completely lost in the local maelstrom of interests and the irresistible force of indigenous identity -- religious, ethnic, sectarian, national. People act in a maniacal way when they assert these identities, which includes nurturing and protecting them," said Rami Khouri, a U.S.-educated Arab analyst and editor of Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper.

"Every single foreign power that has been in this region since Alexander the Great -- through the Romans, Greeks, Ottomans, British, French and now Americans -- has learned the same lesson," Khouri said.

Frank Rich's lede from the Sunday New York Times, LINK, Excerpt:

ANOTHER week in Iraq, another light at the end of the tunnel. On Monday President Bush saluted the Iraqis for "completing work on a democratic constitution" even as the process was breaking down yet again. But was anyone even listening to his latest premature celebration?

Other news

Jesse Jackson says Hugo Chavez is no threat, LA Times LINK.

Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post (LINK) writes the following:

The Census Bureau tomorrow will release the latest statistics on poverty in the United States, the income level of an average household and the number of Americans still lacking health insurance.

Don't believe the numbers.

A growing chorus of experts and politicians is raising questions about the data that frame Americans' understanding of their nation's well-being.

Cyber cafe casualties in the Los Angeles Times.

Daniel Dennett of Tufts University in Sunday's Times Op-Ed, LINK, Excerpt:

All it takes is a rare accident that gives one lucky animal a mutation that improves its vision over that of its siblings; if this helps it have more offspring than its rivals, this gives evolution an opportunity to raise the bar and ratchet up the design of the eye by one mindless step. And since these lucky improvements accumulate - this was Darwin's insight - eyes can automatically get better and better and better, without any intelligent designer.

Brilliant as the design of the eye is, it betrays its origin with a tell-tale flaw: the retina is inside out. The nerve fibers that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones (which sense light and color) lie on top of them, and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, creating the blind spot. No intelligent designer would put such a clumsy arrangement in a camcorder, and this is just one of hundreds of accidents frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the historical process.

So if you like intelligent design, then God is a screw-ball inventor.

Wait a minute. Weisman and Weisman?


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