Monday, August 08, 2005

Morning copy 8/8/2005

Peter Jennings

Jenning's death was confirmed last night by ABC News. The 67 year-old-anchor was battling lung cancer, which likely resulted from his smoking habbit rekindled after 9/11. ABC News LINK (Main page).

Fark.com's Drew Curtis has a brief appearance on CNN this morning to discuss how this story broke first on the Internet. Fark.com thread of that developing story, LINK. It should be noted that in this story's development, we witnessed a major website draw attention to the tragic death of one of broadcast news' most recognizeable faces. Then a brief recap on CNN's a.m. show.

Jenning's NY Times obit, LINK.

Washington Post's story, LINK.

LA Times' account, using "urbane" in the headline as did the NY Times in an early graf, LINK.

Iraq

Evaluation of the bloody week last week continues. In the Atlanta Journal Consitution, apparent improvements are noted in the insurgency, LINK. Excerpt:

Disturbing as that attack was, Monday's ambush of six Marine snipers raised questions more troubling still. How, for instance, did a crack team of elite fighters on a covert mission wind up surrounded and unable to defend themselves long enough to summon help?


An AP story, from Sunday's Boston.com, recounts Condi Rice's optimism that the insurgency is losing "steam". Boston.com/AP LINK.

The Time Magazine story that this AP story is based upon can be found here, LINK. Excerpt:

The trouble is, neither Rice nor anyone else in the Administration knows exactly where its policy is heading. The push by Rice and Khalilzad to get the Iraqis to meet next Monday's deadline at all costs has meant that many of the major issues that still divide Iraqis have merely been kicked down the road. Equally unclear is how long the Administration plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. Even as Khalilzad suggested last week that the U.S. is discussing with the Iraqis the possibility of a partial withdrawal as early as next year, Bush said that "it makes no sense" to set any timetable for leaving. Rice told TIME she believes the insurgents are "losing steam" as a political force, even though their ability to kill and maim at will appears undiminished. When Rice points to "rather quiet political progress" while the country remains embroiled in chaos, even some of her backers cringe. Says a Republican elder statesman: "I don't have any sense of where she thinks she's going on Iraq."


James Janega of the Chicago Tribune has a story on morale woes for the Illinois Guard deployed in Iraq, and questions the readiness of the fighting force. Tribune LINK.

Kurdistan's automony: "Most signs are only in Kurdish, the mobile phone network is a distinct Kurdish one that doesn't connect to Baghdad, and locals warn the newly arrived not to utter a word of Arabic." Boston.com LINK, Reuters story.

Al Anbar has an insurgency, but Basra has a developing corrupt system. A reference is made to the violent end of journalist Steven Vincent. Boston.com LINK.

More on Vincent, in the Sunday Times (of London). Vincent's death now looks like a politically inspired assasination, perhaps with police involvement. London Times LINK. Excerpt:

It was a scathing critique of British policy in Basra, including incendiary claims that local police were carrying out assassinations using a so-called "death car . . . a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignmen".

Two days later, Vincent was visiting a money-changer with Nooriya Tuaiz, an unusual 31-year-old Iraqi woman who had become both his Basra interpreter and close friend, when a white car with police markings pulled up beside them.

According to witnesses, at least two men in police uniforms grabbed Vincent and Tuaiz and bundled them into the car.

"One said to bystanders, ‘Don’t interfere, we’re the police, this is our duty’," his wife, Lisa Ramaci, said last week.


The Marine unit from Ohio that has sustained heavy casualties in al Anbar requested more troops. LINK. Excerpt:

By Kimberly Johnson

HADITHAH, Iraq — A Marine regiment that took heavy casualties last week in western Iraq — including 19 killed from a Reserve unit headquartered in Ohio — had repeatedly asked for about 1,000 more troops. Those requests were not granted.
Regimental Combat Team 2 began asking for additional troops to police its volatile 24,000-square-mile territory before most of its Marines deployed in February, said operations officer Lt. Col. Christopher Starling, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C.

Starling said the unit could "optimally" use one more battalion, about 1,000 troops, to take some of the pressure off the Reserve unit, which is spearheading an offensive in the region. "With a fourth battalion, I wouldn't have to play pick-up ball," Starling said.


Fallujah, once the hotbed of the insurgency, may be the target for an insurgent renewal. LA Times LINK. Excerpt:

American commanders in Baghdad and Fallouja say they control the city so completely that the guerrillas cannot regain a foothold. But they acknowledge that Fallouja remains a powerful icon to an insurgency that is keen to stop Sunni Muslim Arabs in western Al Anbar province from participating in an October referendum on Iraq's proposed constitution.

"In their minds, I think it's got significance because a lot of insurgents were killed there," Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said in Baghdad.

"This was a resounding defeat for them," added Brig. Gen. Peter Vangjel, who oversees analysis of operations, "and they want it back."


GlobalSecurity.org's background information on Fallujah, LINK.

One week to break the impasse on the constitution in Iraq before he 8/15 deadline, NY Times LINK.

Bad luck with a sandstorm: "BAGHDAD, Iraq --A meeting of Iraq's political leaders to discuss issues blocking agreement on a new constitution was postponed for a day Monday because of a severe sandstorm, President Jalal Talabani's office announced."Boston.com LINK.

On Sunday, Senator Biden said there were insufficient US troops in Iraq to defeat the insurgency, and Senator Lugar said the sophisticated weaponry of the insurgency was "confounding" the American military. Bloomberg.com LINK.

An isolated, middle-class Sunni district in Baghdad enjoyes peace. Boston.com LINK.

Homeland security

Military devises plans to quickly respond, domestically, to potential terror attacks, Washington Post LINK.

Iran

Iran and Syria have a high level meeting, seeking a "united front". Al Jazeera LINK.

Crisis in Niger

A serving of some much needed good news, NY Times LINK:

The prescription given to mothers here is simple: give one baby two packets of Plumpy'nut each day. Watch him wolf them down. Wait for him to grow. Which he will, almost immediately: badly malnourished babies can gain one to two pounds a week eating Plumpy'nut.

"This product, it's beyond opinion - it's documented, it's scientific fact," Dr. Milton Tectonidis, a Paris-based nutrition specialist for Doctors Without Borders, said in an interview here. "We've seen it working. With this one product, we can treat three-quarters of children on an outpatient basis. Before, we had to hospitalize them all and give them fortified milk."


Now some random stories

Supreme Court Justice Stevens sees problems in the death penalty, LINK.

Housing markets slowing down, LINK.

Creationism Lite remains in the press, LINK.

Debate over the postal system in Japan may lead to elections, LINK.

New Mexico's Bill Richardson is sitting pretty unopposed in New Mexico. The Clinton era Dem. is profiled at Salon.com, LINK. Excerpt:

No governor in little New Mexico's history has come to dominate the political landscape quite like Richardson has. He is a larger-than-life character to New Mexicans, who swooned at the polls when he ran in 2002, against Albuquerque businessman John Sanchez, and elected him by one of the largest margins the state had ever seen. This in a state that swung hard for President Bush's reelection in 2004 after splitting its vote in 2000.

Now, with his reelection campaign looming in 2006, Richardson has already raised as much as $3 million. Yet he is the only one in the race; no serious candidates have emerged.

"It's hard to want to run a race when you know you're going to get whomped," says Lonna Atkeson, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.


Someone, actually Jonathan Chait in the LA Times, has FINALLY linked Raffy Palmeiro's potential perjury and Vladdy Putin's soul! LINK. Excerpt:

No excerpt! I'm just going to post the whole damned thing, it's that good. (And this blog is that below the radar...)

How Bush thinks: intuition over intellect
Jonathan Chait

August 5, 2005

AS SOMEBODY WHO doesn't have the slightest feeling one way or another about baseball star Rafael Palmeiro, I have to say that it seems pretty clear Palmeiro has used steroids. Palmeiro recently tested positive for steroid use. And then there's former teammate Jose Canseco's allegation that he and Palmeiro both used steroids, which is impossible to verify but would seem to explain why Palmeiro's annual home run total nearly doubled after Canseco joined him on the Texas Rangers. None of this is ironclad proof, but it seems the simplest way to reconcile the available data.

President Bush, though, doesn't see it this way at all. When asked about Palmeiro's positive steroid test, Bush — who knew Palmeiro when the president owned the Rangers — replied, "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the Klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him."

This statement perfectly crystallizes Bush's thinking. Facts don't matter to him. What matters is how he feels about the person in question. In 2001, for instance, Bush met with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and the two hit it off. As Bush later told Peggy Noonan, Putin recounted to him a story involving a cross given to him by his mother.

"I said to him, 'You know, I found that story very interesting. You see, President Putin, I think you judge a person on something other than just politics. I think it's important for me and for you to look for the depth of a person's soul and character. I was touched by the fact your mother gave you the cross.' " Bush publicly testified of Putin, "I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Personally, I put less weight on the fact that Putin got a cross from his mother, and more on the fact that Putin has smothered Russian democracy by outlawing opposition parties, shut down any remotely skeptical media outlet and subjected his critics to political show trials. Yet this sort of evidence has had barely any effect on Bush. Two years later, he was still praising Putin's desire for "a country in which democracy and freedom and rule of law thrive."

Bush is even apt to apply this particular brand of illogic to his own character. In one of the 2000 presidential debates, Al Gore pointed out that Bush as governor of Texas opposed a measure to expand children's healthcare and instead used the money for a tax cut. The debate moderator then asked Bush, "Are those numbers correct? Are his charges correct?" To which Bush replied, "If he's trying to allege that I'm a hardhearted person and I don't care about children, he's absolutely wrong."

The style of Bush's reply is telling. Gore was trying to make a point about Bush's moral priorities by establishing a series of facts about Bush's behavior. Rather than deny having chosen tax cuts over children's healthcare, or explain his rationale for having done so, Bush changed the subject to more comfortable ground: judging people's hearts. He asked the audience to intuit, based on the way he carries himself, that he is a warmhearted person, and thus to reject out of hand any facts that might clash with this impression.

The point isn't just that Bush refuses to engage with facts he finds inconvenient. (Many fail that test.) It's that Bush rejects reason itself. Reason is a process by which we draw our broader conclusions from an accumulation of specific evidence. When the evidence changes ("Hey, this Putin guy seems to be squelching dissent"), our conclusions can also ("Perhaps he doesn't love democracy as much as he said he did!"). Bush, on the other hand, arrives at his beliefs through intuition. His supporters marvel at the unshakeable certainty of his convictions. Well, no wonder.

2 Comments:

Anonymous walt clyde frazier said...

i am shocked. i never believed the president couldn't think rationally.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous walt clyde frazier said...

am i the only one who wonders if the shuttle landing was delayed because it would play better in the press a day after the world knew peter jennings was dead?

9:47 AM  

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