Thursday, September 22, 2005

History, domestic politics and vanity

Hurricanes, Power, Vanity, Ambition and Politics

Hurricane Rita has as much, if not more, punch than Katrina -- and that may remain the case until landfall. The political results of these hurricanes will be massive. News analysis in the Washington Post begins with the brief celebrity status of the hurricane's poor evacuees, followed by the big political question:

How far this compassion should extend -- and what it should look like over time -- is looming as the next great social policy debate. What began as a response to the most devastating hurricane in the country's history is segueing to a grander discussion about the treatment of those who live on the margins. Will the Chris Lawrences now be able to improve their lives? Or will they return to their previous status as forgotten Americans with little hold on the attention or sympathies of politicians? And what of those already on the edge of poverty -- or worse -- who do not share the celebrityhood of those displaced by the ravaging floods of Katrina?

THAT is the big, MASSIVE question now. Leadership is necessary from both parties.

And from the right there is Peggy Noonan of Opinion Journal, with some very good observations:

In his Katrina policy the president is telling Democrats, "You can't possibly outspend me. Go ahead, try. By the time this is over Dennis Kucinich will be crying uncle, Bernie Sanders will be screaming about pork."

That's what's behind Mr. Bush's huge, comforting and boondogglish plan to spend $200 billion or $100 billion or whatever--"whatever it takes"--on Katrina's aftermath. And, I suppose, tomorrow's hurricane aftermath.

She is correct, and her caution at the end -- the "conclusion" as they call it in the biz -- is important. BUT, what I liked was this quick comment that I think perfectly sums this White House up:

The great Bush spending spree is about an arguably shrewd but ultimately unhelpful reading of history, domestic politics, Iraq and, I believe, vanity.

I'm going to link to Bob Novak (The Note made me do it):

ASPEN, Colo. -- For two full days, President Bush was bashed. He was taken to task on his handling of stem cell research, population control, the Iraq war and, especially, Hurricane Katrina. The critics were no left-wing bloggers. They were rich, mainly Republican and presumably Bush voters in the last two presidential elections.

Not every day that you see Dateline: Aspen

Basra, Brits, The Tractatus Logico Philosophicus and so on

Back room deals dominate Iraqi politics. They're learning well. Christian Science Monitor:

The country's most vital decisions - naming a president, picking ministers, and writing the draft constitution - were taken out their hands and given to only a few powerful leaders, say several members from different parties who were interviewed by the Monitor.

Assembly members say that more often than not they are told to go along with what party leaders want, whether they like it or not. This, coupled with the fact that many members rarely attend meetings - some worry about the threat of assassination - has largely neutralized the country's legislative body of any real power.

Professor Juan Cole refers us to the protests of Basra officials against the British incursion to free SAS operatives, The Herald:

BASRA's governor last night withdrew all co-operation with UK forces until the British government apologises for the clashes between its troops and Iraqi police.

And Professor Cole declines to speculate on the actions of those SAS operatives, citing the Tractatus:

Some kind readers have been asking me if it is possible that the British SAS operatives captured by the Iraqi police on Monday were agents provocateurs planning to blow things up and blame some Iraqi group. My answer is that while it cannot be absolutely ruled out, the theory has almost no facts behind it. It is not even clear if the British agents had a bomb in their car, and they may not after all have killed Iraqi police who came to grab them. Wittgenstein said that about that which we do not know, we must be silent. That's my policy, anyway. I'd need way more evidence than now exists to charge the British military with such a dastardly policy.

When the Professor paraphrases Heidegger, I'll retire from the blogosphere -- no, I won't.

Those brave Brits who booked out of that tank share their story with the Times of London:

“There was a hell of a lot of flame. It was Catch-22: do I stay and go up in flames or get out? There was burning fuel seeping through my turret on to my gunner and me. The vehicle was stalled. The radio was jammed. We were getting hammered by petrol bombs and burning tyres. I thought I had a fighting chance. So I jumped.”

Two letters also in the Times of London supporting the Basra action:

To be opposed to the war in Iraq and the subsequent occupation is understandable and legitimate. To close your eyes to the whole scenario is in my view prejudiced and dishonest.

Somerton, Somerset

Iraqi forces show progress in the Tall Afar offensive, WaPo.

Senator Martha Frist

Bill Frist's stock dump in the New York Times:

"Good fortune, isn't it?" asked Prof. John C. Coffee, an authority on securities law at Columbia.

Professor Coffee said such well-timed sales in the families of top executives were a red flag of possible insider trading and often drew regulatory inquiries, although just a small fraction of such instances lead to formal investigations.

The question, Professor Coffee said, is whether Mr. Frist received private information about the company performance from his brother or other insiders.

"There is no prohibition against a family member's dumping his stock in a company, unless it can be shown that the family member was tipped as to material nonpublic information," he said. "That seems to be the missing link."


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