Friday, September 30, 2005

Morning copy 9.30.2005

More on the testimony by the Pentagon brass yesterday, New York Times:

In testimony before Congress on Thursday, the senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. of the Army, said the most recent analysis of intelligence from across the country supported the Bush administration's optimistic predictions that the referendum would pass.

But if the constitution is defeated, several officials said they feared that Iraq would descend into anarchy.


I wonder if General Casey will have a contradictory opinion -- on or off the record -- within the next seven days?

The Independent has the following to offer on Iraq, more brass but this time Iraqi:

It was meant to be a moment of reconciliation between the old regime and the new, a gathering of nearly 1,000 former Iraqi army officers and tribal leaders in Baghdad to voice their concerns over today's Iraq. But it did not go as planned.

General after general rose to his feet and raised his voice to shout at the way Iraq was being run and to express his fear of escalating war. "They were fools to break up our great army and form an army of thieves and criminals," said one senior officer. "They are traitors," added another.


News estimates are 80-100 dead in Balad bombings yesterday evening. Don't worry, we predicted this.

The Times of London:

The reasons behind the daily tit-for-tat murders are many, with sectarianism just one. Mr Rashid’s family are sure that he was targeted as part of a vicious Shia-Sunni turf war.


And in a quasi-related (everything is these days) story, Judy Miller is out of jail and she will testify.

Howard Kurtz this morning -- always a reliable source:

But now Miller is out, has cut a deal with the prosecutor, will testify today, and with her release comes a passel of questions.

Miller got a waiver to testify from Scooter Libby, Cheney's top staff guy. The strange thing is, she could have had that same deal months ago-- the very same deal taken by Time's Matt Cooper-- and stayed out of jail.

I asked her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, about this more than once. I knew and reported that Miller and Libby had had breakfast in 2003, days before Novak outed Plame as a CIA operative. Floyd wouldn't really discuss the details, but indicated that Miller wasn't convinced a Bush administration official could grant a voluntary waiver.

But Libby had specifically agreed, with Cooper's lawyer, that he was granting a waiver specifically for Cooper. Now Miller has talked to Libby, from jail, and gotten the same assurance.

Maybe, after her testimony, she can explain why the deal wasn't okay then and is okay now.

Plenty of folks will also want to know why she never wrote a story about Valerie Plame.

Miller's motivation was that prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald was making noises about either charging her with criminal contempt or impaneling another grand jury, which could have extended her stay in Alexandria. But I'm glad, for her sake, that she's out.

Of course, with this grand jury's term coming to an end, could Fitzgerald be ready to unload any indictments against an administration official or two? That would get Tom DeLay off the front page.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We will stand down when the Iraqis can stand up

Or something like that. AP story in the Guardian:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress Thursday, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.

More DeLay

I still can't think of better headlines to play on his last name...

But, in today's The Note:

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board slips in this: "Mr. Earle had indicted three other DeLay associates in the same case in September 2004, just six weeks before the last election. Followers of the case have speculated that, as he saw his legal bills mount, one of those three may have decided to testify against Mr. DeLay."


Now that I think of it: SCOTUS will happen tomorrow, maybe around 2 p.m. it is announced that there will be a nominee, name leaks around 7 p.m. and there is another (weird) meet and greet speech. But it is a Friday, that counts for something.

(Probably) Another SCOTUS nominee today

Of course, I thought during my morning drive to work. There will be another nominee today.

Not only did Liz Bumiller report that the White House is zeroing in on a nominee, but also John Roberts will be confirmed today, CNN. What better way to get some heat off DeLay and "Martha" Frist?

Morning copy 9.29.2005

Most of today's post will be a follow-up to the DeLay indictment.

Ronnie and Tom

Cragg Hines in the Houston Chronicle:

"Partisan fanatic" was about as light as DeLay's commentary got in trashing Democrat Earle.

Of course, there is some irony in DeLay hurling that phrase at anyone, particularly anyone in Austin. In the recent redistricting unpleasantness, DeLay personally and vindictively, for partisan advantage, oversaw the dismemberment of Travis County into four U.S. House seats, instead of being the focus of one district as it historically had been.


The Washington Post editorial, while waiting for the evidence, says that Republicans ought to ask if DeLay is the leader they want, even if innocent:

In his drive to consolidate Republican power, Mr. DeLay has consistently pushed, and at times stepped over, ethical boundaries.

He is, as we said last year, an ethical recidivist -- unabashed about using his legislative and political power to reward supporters and punish opponents, and brazen in how he links campaign contributions and political actions. Among the DeLay activities that have drawn disapproval from the House ethics committee: threatening a trade association for daring to hire a Democrat; enlisting federal aviation officials to hunt for Democratic state legislators trying to foil his Texas redistricting plan; and holding a golf fundraiser for energy companies just as the House was to consider energy legislation.


Robin Toner's news analysis in the New York Times has this from William Kristol:

"Even though DeLay has nothing to do with Frist, and Frist has nothing to do with Abramoff, how does it look? Not good," said William Kristol, a key conservative strategist and editor of The Weekly Standard.


Not too different from Hines' remark that turnabout is fair politics, we see this from the New York Times' editorial:

He is also loudly denouncing the prosecution as baldly political. But it might be easier to take that seriously if the Republican leadership in Congress had not staged such a baldly political response.


The USA Today editorial makes the 1994 link:

When Republicans won control of Congress in 1994, a key to their success was their pledge to end the arrogance, ethical lapses and scandals that had become a hallmark of the longtime Democratic majority.

Wednesday's indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is just the latest reminder that too many members of Washington's GOP establishment seem to have forgotten how they got there.


An attempt to pick a short-term successor that would not replace DeLay too well was foiled, Washington Post:

What he and Hastert wanted was a timeserver, someone to hold the job but with no ambitions to stay in it. And they had someone in mind. This week, an aide to the speaker approached Rep. David Dreier about his role in a post-DeLay caucus. Dreier, a congenial Californian who has loyally served the GOP leadership as Rules Committee chairman, expressed interest in helping Hastert.

There was one big problem: When DeLay's indictment was unsealed yesterday, conservatives in the GOP caucus immediately erupted in anger over rumors that the selection of Dreier, whom they regard as too moderate, was being presented as a fait accompli.


Dan Balz's news analysis in the WaPo:

"I think that the Democrats are unable to exploit issues like energy, taxes and Iraq because they have nothing to say," said Weber, who remains an important GOP strategist. "The problem with the issue of corruption is the opposition party doesn't have to have anything to say. All you've got to be is the other party, so it worries me."


Interesting "expert" opinion in the Houston Chronicle:

Most legal experts looking at the conspiracy indictment of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday that either an insider has turned against DeLay or the prosecutor may have gone too far.

"I can't imagine indicting a majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives without having a smoking gun, and that means someone who flipped on DeLay," said Buck Wood, an Austin lawyer who filed a related civil lawsuit on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates.


The Los Angeles Times portrays Ronnie Earle as taking shots at both sides of the aisle.

Ronnie Earle's reaction to DeLay's response that the DA was a fanatic and a zealot, New York Times:

"Mostly, I haven't had any lunch," said Mr. Earle, the Travis County prosecutor, speaking from his office in Austin. "I ate an energy bar. It helped a little. That stopped me from gnawing on people's heads."


In other news...

The last time this reporter reported that Bush was close to a Supreme Court nominee it happened that night, New York Times' ELISABETH BUMILLER:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 - President Bush is close to naming a successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and could announce his choice this week, Republicans close to the White House said Wednesday.


Jim Hoagland calls for a Clark Clifford to sit down with the president and tell him what is actually happening in the world:

A Clifford-like message to Bush should include suggestions for a one-time federal tax surcharge, of perhaps 1 percent, to help a carefully controlled rebuilding effort after Katrina and Rita; a bold stripping out of the additional layers of bureaucracy added in post-Sept. 11 panic to the Department of Homeland Security and the national intelligence community; and an ironclad commitment to rid the administration of cronies and contracting shortcuts that destroy confidence in government.


Perhaps when Karen Hughes returns from this stupid, pathetic "if we listen they might like us" tour she'll have a different perspective on Iraq. New York Times:

It was the second day in a row that Ms. Hughes found herself at odds with groups of women on her "public diplomacy" tour, aimed at improving the American image in the Middle East. On Tuesday, she told Saudi Arabian women she would support efforts to raise their status but was taken aback when some of them responded that Americans misunderstand their embrace of traditions.


An amazing and tragic Katrina diaspora graphic in the (you guessed it) USA Today.

The military resists the idea of using the military in disaster response, Christian Science Monitor:

It is a reluctance born of a martial ethos - the insistence that the military exists to fight the nation's wars, not to act as police. The fact that America remains at war in Iraq and Afghanistan has only deepened those reservations. So far, the Department of Defense has not taken a public stance on the president's idea, yet among many in the military community, there is concern that any major revision of the military's homeland mission could be both unnecessary and counterproductive.

"The military needs to focus on its core competencies - fighting wars," says Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. "If we load the military with every mission that other cabinet agencies don't do well, then it won't be able to do its job well."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Without DeLay?

Tom "The Hammer" DeLay is blaming a "fanatic" partisan District Attorney, Ronnie Earle, and also insinuating (perhaps more) that there is a Democratic effort to get back at him for redistricting Texas, Houston Chronicle.

Reax in the Chronicle:

"Congressman DeLay is a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people. I think the president's view is that we need to let the legal process work." — White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

"I believe that there are good, honest members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. It's time for them to make a clear break with Mr. DeLay's style and tactics." — Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

"Tom DeLay is a tremendous public servant. It is our sincere hope that justice will remain blind to politics." — Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman.


Tom DeLay's remarks also in the Chronicle:

This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history.


Ronnie Earle was interviewed on 60 Minutes in March of this year. Excerpts:

"Being called vindictive and partisan by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog," says Earle. "It sort of comes with the territory. But that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do."


AND

"The fact is he is worried. Republicans in the house are worried that this could be a huge flameout for Tom DeLay," says Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a recent critic of Tom DeLay.

Ornstein says the Republicans are worried because DeLay has already been admonished by the House Ethics Committee for questionable conduct.

"Tom DeLay was rebuked on three separate matters by the House Ethics Committee in the last Congress, an extraordinary slap at the leader," says Ornstein. "But they left open pending a fourth issue, which was the Ronnie Earle case in Texas. So what did the House Republicans do? They fire the chairman of the Ethics Committee. They removed two members."

Tom DeLay

Has been indicted in a campaign finance scheme, CNN.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Tom DeLay said Wednesday he will step aside as House majority leader following his indictment by a Texas grand jury on conspiracy charges.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.


Print out the indictment and have it framed!!

Morning copy 9.28.2005

Mike "Brownie" Brown testified that he is no "superhero" when it comes to Emergency Management. I am left to wonder if there was a Katrina sequel DVD for President Bush to shift from "heck of a job" to resignation. And, perhaps there is a DVD box set in the works on Iraq.

Brownie

A graf from the Washington Post:

Brown admitted that FEMA's ability to move life-sustaining supplies was flawed and "easily overwhelmed" by Katrina's scale. He said that emergency communications broke down because the country made little "real progress" in learning from the 2001 terrorist attacks, and he warned that if U.S. authorities remain focused on preparing for terrorism instead of natural disasters, "then we're going to fail."


The New York Times has a scathing editorial, it concludes:

Mr. Brown, in exculpating himself, did lay one hand on the Bush administration, when he blamed unspecified superiors at the Homeland Security Department for the gradual "emaciation" of FEMA as it was subsumed by an agency preoccupied with the threat of terrorism. Scores of millions of dollars have been quietly shuffled from the FEMA budget to other needs, leaving personnel and programs stretched, he told lawmakers. But the committee was clearly unwilling to seize on this as a symptom of the need for an independent inquiry into the government's lack of preparedness.


Iraq

At the Labour conference in Brighton, Tony Blair says the UK will remain in Iraq, New York Times.

U.S. able to kill Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders with intelligence breaks, Christian Science Monitor. Of course, the iconic leaders remain and the underlying problems generating AQ recruits remain.

Fred Kaplan in Slate says that Iraqis should vote no on this constitution because "passage of this parchment will almost certainly make things worse—and for much longer still."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Morning copy 9.27.2005

Katrinarita

CNN's story on Posse Comitatus:

Critics argue that putting active-duty troops on American streets would violate a long-standing tradition that keeps the military out of domestic law enforcement.

But Bush said he wanted to improve the federal response to a "catastrophic" event like Katrina, which left more than 1,000 people dead after it struck last month.


Washington Post: "FEMA Plans to Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid":

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


"Brownie" is still on the FEMA payroll and has a big day before the Congress today.

The New York Times reports that tougher bankruptcy laws are likely to hit Katrina victims hard:

"Six to nine months from now, FEMA will be gone, the church groups will be gone and creditors will once more be demanding their money," said Bradford W. Botes, a bankruptcy lawyer whose firm represented victims of Hurricane Ivan, which struck Florida a year ago.


GOP v. Conservatives

The Washington Post's lede really says it all:

Squeezed between a conservative clamor for spending cuts and the rising cost of hurricane relief, Republican congressional leaders will respond this week with a public relations offensive to win over angry conservatives -- but no substantive changes in budget policy.


War on terror

Top Zarqawi aide killed, WaPo.

A Baghdad neighborhood's troubles in the WaPo as well:

Like the rest of Baghdad, Karrada is messier, more beat up than it was before the invasion. Merchants leave some damage from bombings unrepaired, anticipating more violence. Rubbish tends to pile up in once-tidy streets, neglected by a weak, cobbled-together government.


The emerging Iraqi army in Slate:

Juwad's battalion—the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade—has been stationed in Fallujah for eight months, arriving after the main battle. At first, they were reluctant to venture out from their base except in huge numbers. The nearby Marines—Battalion 1/6—took an interest in the jundis and invited them on joint patrols. As the months passed, the jundis learned patrolling techniques and gained self-confidence. By September, they were patrolling on their own, sometimes accompanied by a few advisers. Battalion 1/6 had stepped back to a supporting role. Operations were laid out in a weekly joint meeting, with the Iraqis submitting, in Arabic, their operational orders, using the standard template employed by all U.S. Army and Marine infantry battalions.

A year was frittered away in training the Iraqi army because the administration violated unity of wartime command. The administration created a Coalition Provisional Authority that set policy and allocated money for the Iraqi security forces, while the U.S. military remained responsible for security on the ground until the Iraqis could take care of it themselves. That separation between authority and responsibility was corrected about a year ago. Currently, when an Iraqi battalion is finished with basic training and assigned to an area, it is linked to an American battalion for mentoring and to ensure it will not disintegrate when first experiencing combat.


Page A16 in the Washington Post:

ROME, Sept. 26 -- An Internet video newscast called the Voice of the Caliphate was broadcast for the first time on Monday, purporting to be a production of al Qaeda and featuring an anchorman who wore a black ski mask and an ammunition belt.

The anchorman, who said the report would appear once a week, presented news about the Gaza Strip and Iraq and expressed happiness about recent hurricanes in the United States. A copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, was placed by his right hand and a rifle affixed to a tripod was pointed at the camera.


Scotland on Sunday has this about the Basra police force:

DEFENCE Secretary John Reid is planning to scrap the 25,000-strong police force in southern Iraq and replace it with a new military-style unit capable of maintaining law and order.


That did not work well when Bremer stood down the Iraqi army.

Tony Blair

Tony Blair will not announce an end to his tenure as PM, Guardian. Thus resulting in a rift:

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were again at odds last night over the timing of the "orderly transition" which will see the Labour leadership and the premiership pass between the two men at an undetermined point in the next three years.

After the chancellor had used his annual keynote speech to Labour's Brighton conference to set out his vision of what a "renewed" New Labour administration might be like, Blair aides signalled that the prime minister's own speech today show he has no intention of handing over the reins in the next 18 months, as the Brown camp wants.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Martha Frist, Czars, Patrick Tillman, Charlie Weis

A Google Blog search (can anyone detect my new schtick?) finds 348 hits for "Martha Stewart" Frist.

CNN/AP reports that Senator Bill Frist knew that his blind trust held his family's hospital company. Excerpt:

Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said the senator received approval from the Senate Ethics Committee before he initiated the stock sale. All the information Frist received complied with federal law and Senate ethics rules, Stevenson added.

The stock was in HCA Inc., a chain of hospitals founded in the late 1960s by Frist's father and brother. At the time of the sale, insiders also were selling. Shortly after that sale, the stock price dipped because of a warning that earnings would not meet Wall Street expectations.

"If, in fact, Frist was actively involved in this decision, he certainly has to supply an explanation of how that's consistent with a blind trust," said Bob Bauer, a Washington attorney who has set up blind trusts for Democratic members of Congress.


TIME magazine reported last week that Dick Cheney stopped the appointing of a "reconstruction czar" in the Hurricane(s) region. Well, today Bush changes course, maybe, AP:

He also implied he will likely name a federal czar-like official to oversee the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. But he said that local officials must first produce a vision for how they want their rebuilt communities to look.

"I'm considering how best to balance the need for local vision and federal involvement," he said. "The vision and the element of reconstruction is just beginning and there may be a need for an interface with a particular person to help to make sure that the vision becomes reality."


The Cunning Realist has an important post on Pat Tillman's tragic death. His launching point is a weekend story in the San Francisco Gate. CR excerpt:

The extent of the disgrace defies belief: the initial coverup of the way Tillman died, the harvesting of that death for political expedience as the Abu Ghraib story broke, the predictable promotions of those arguably responsible for what happened on the ground that day, the changing of crucial testimony, the destruction of physical evidence, and the willful, flat-out lies our political and military leadership told to Tillman's family and the American public.

In the context of Tillman's strong and openly-stated opinions about Bush and the war in Iraq, it's all more than a bit interesting.


A touching story about Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis and a dying boy, CNN/SI.

On the Loose

Divers in the Gulf of Mexico should be careful of Naval attack "persons. Guardian-Observer link" released during Katrina's strike:

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Morning copy 9.26.2005

Iraq

Perhaps today's best written line comes from James Carroll's story in the Boston Globe:

In this first home of the new world order, the burdens of idealized violence are all too real.


And with that: Violence continues to kill scores of innocents in Iraq, Washington Post.

Oil woes in the Los Angeles Times:

QARMAT ALI, Iraq — The failure to rebuild key components of Iraq's petroleum industry has impeded oil production and may have permanently damaged the largest of the country's vast oil fields, American and Iraqi experts say.

The deficiencies have deprived Iraq of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue needed for national rebuilding efforts and kept millions of barrels of oil off the world market at a time of growing demand.


The Washington Post editorial page offers the following as the "real" problem in Iraq:

The fundamental source of trouble is not the Islamic extremists President Bush usually speaks about; nor is it the presence of American soldiers. If the protesters visiting Washington this weekend succeeded in forcing a quick U.S. troop withdrawal, the bloodshed in Iraq, and the damage to the United States, would grow far worse. That is because the real problem is the absence of an agreement about Iraq's future between the majority Shiite and Kurd communities and the minority Sunnis, who ruled the country from the time of its establishment until the fall of Saddam Hussein. That disconnect is expressed in the overwhelming rejection by Sunni leaders of the constitutional draft.


Assorted stories in no particular order

At this hour, there are 95 hits on Google News for "kabuki dance". The Nevada Appeal leads the list with this paragraph:

Roberts' political kabuki dance before the Judiciary Committee was a scene-setter for the next battle over a Supreme Court nominee, which will occur when President Bush nominates someone to replace moderate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been the court's "swing vote" on many 5-4 decisions.


TIME magazine asks the question "are there more Michael "Brownie" Browns?

The Office of Personnel Management's Plum Book, published at the start of each presidential Administration, shows that there are more than 3,000 positions a President can fill without consideration for civil service rules. And Bush has gone further than most Presidents to put political stalwarts in some of the most important government jobs you've never heard of, and to give them genuine power over the bureaucracy. "These folks are really good at using the instruments of government to promote the President's political agenda," says Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and a well-known expert on the machinery of government. "And I think that takes you well into the gray zone where few Presidents have dared to go in the past. It's the coordination and centralization that's important here."


Bureaucratic foul-ups keep FEMA reservists from helping, Washington Post.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney tacks right in South Carolina, "making [Massachusetts] the butt of his jokes". Someone ought to remind the Governor, who may be reading from Santorum's playbook, that you have to win your reelection before you go into the presidential race. Washington Post:

"Being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts," he told a GOP audience in South Carolina, "is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."


"Borrow and spend" now generates with Google 111,000 pages, up from 108,000 last week. Google's blog search now has 261 pages for "borrow and spend", though this blog is no longer the most relevant. Last week there were 218 entries for this search.

A must read in the Christian Science Monitor:

By Scott Baldauf and Ashraf Khan

KHOST, AFGHANISTAN; AND CHAMAN, PAKISTAN – An internal debate within the Taliban - whether to launch increasingly aggressive attacks against the US-led coalition or to allow the insurgency to bleed the Afghan government over time - has been settled this year, according to a rebel commander and Afghan security officials.

In the most violent year of their insurgency to date, the Taliban have gone on the offensive, launching more pitched battles in an effort to persuade the international community and Afghans that this remains very much a nation at war, says Mullah Gul Mohammad, a front-line commander for Jaish-e Muslimeen, a recently reconciled Taliban splinter group.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Morning copy 9.23.2005

Breaking news on CNN, a levee has been overtopped in New Orleans.

Porter Goss

Porter Goss' one-year anniversary as DCI is greeted with the following headline in the New York Times: "After a Year Leading C.I.A., Goss Is Struggling, Some Say". Excerpt:

Current and former intelligence officials say considerable turmoil remains within the agency, particularly within the directorate of operations, which is responsible for human spying around the world. The directorate's No. 2 official, Robert Richer, has become the most recent high-ranking official to announce his departure, and he has told officials at the White House and in the C.I.A. that he had lost confidence in Mr. Goss.

Mr. Goss's task was bound to be complicated, partly because the agency was reduced in power and stature by the reorganization of intelligence after its failures on terrorism and Iraq.


This is the headline in the Los Angeles Times: "Goss Cites 'Real Progress' in His Year as CIA Chief". Excerpt:

Despite the tumult, Goss said the CIA had made "real progress in all the areas that have called out for improvement." In particular, he said the agency has deployed more case officers overseas. "We opened new stations and bases, and we've reopened some old ones," he said.


And this quote, presumably about CIA officers posing as businessmen/women:

"Pinstripes work in some places," Goss said, "but not everywhere."


Katrinarita

Iraqis wonder what impact the hurricanes and recovery efforts will have, USA Today.

Christian Science Monitor has a news recap about the lack of Iraq war support after Hurricane Katrina.

Gasoline tanker trucks are assisting motorists stranded without fuel in the Houston area, Houston Chronicle.

Bush is front-and-center with this hurricane, New York Times.

Fascinating news analysis in the Los Angeles Times:

A similar struggle has occurred over how to provide healthcare to storm victims. White House officials are quietly working to derail a proposal by leading Republican and Democratic senators to temporarily expand Medicaid. Instead, the administration is pushing a narrower plan that would not commit the government to covering certain groups of evacuees.

As President Bush tackles the monumental task of easing the social problems wrought by Katrina, he is proving deeply reluctant to use some of the big-government tools at his disposal, apparently out of fear of permanently enlarging programs that he opposes or has sought to cut.


Iraq/Iran

IranMania has Sistani saying the following:

Concerning the western countries trouble making for Iran in its peaceful nuclear energy program, Ayatollah Sistani's envoy said, " the arrogant powers do not want a powerful and free Iran to emerge as a pattern for the whole Islamic world.


Sistani lends his sizeable support to the constitution, Reuters.

Western powers press for U.N. rebuke of Iran, New York Times.

What the Bush administration is hearing from someone outside their optimism bubble, New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 - Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he had been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq was hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war.

"There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together," he said in a meeting with reporters at the Saudi Embassy here. "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart." He said he was so concerned that he was carrying this message "to everyone who will listen" in the Bush administration.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Crazy Wall Street

A quick remark: I just saw on CNN that the Dow has bounced back into the black now that oil has dipped on Rita's downgrade. Rita now packs Max. sustained winds of 150 mph and is on course for Galveston -- an area vital to the oil market.

So the traders, in their finite wisdom, have dropped the price of oil because the storm is no longer unGodly powerful, it is just a catastrophe en route.

Of course, this dip was predicted and even watching Katrina 3 weeks ago would fuel that prediction further. Traders/Speculators are silly people. I think oil is going to bounce up a little soon -- I dunno, call it a hunch.

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.

KENNETH HERMAN
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."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Two stories in Basra, Loyal Opposition, Iran and Europe, Rita and on and on

Basra police station raid, and unrest in the South of Iraq

More on that baffling British raid in Basra on Iraqi police, and apparently militiamen -- though that distinction is tough to draw.

The police station raid was a diversion, reports the Times of London. The actual operation was an SAS push into a safe house for militia members. The action-adventure scene:

AN SAS team used the noise of armoured vehicles bulldozing their way through a nearby police compound to mask the raid that freed their comrades.
The rescuers, from the same squad as the captives, blew out the doors and windows of the smart suburban villa with plastic explosive and hurled stun grenades at the militiamen guarding the two undercover soldiers.

A short, intense burst of automatic gunfire was heard before the men were freed and their captors were seen being dragged away, hoods over their heads and their hands tied behind their backs.

Neighbours said the entire operation took only a couple of minutes while attention was focused a hundred yards away on the army’s invasion of the main Jamiat police compound.


And how the Iraqi police are portrayed in this report:

The soldiers had been beaten and rogue policemen had been touring the area with loudhailers urging demonstrators on to the streets to protest that the “British saboteurs” had been planning explosions in the city which would be blamed on followers of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric.


The Iraqi police protest the raid, New York Times. The protests in the streets scene:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 21 - Iraqi police officers led an angry demonstration today in the southern city of Basra to protest a British raid on an Iraqi police station earlier in the week, as Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari made a joint appearance in London with Britain's defense secretary to try to defuse tensions over the incident.

About 200 people, mostly officers who work in the police station that was damaged in the raid, rallied outside Basra's police headquarters, demanding an official apology from Britain and the resignation of Basra's police chief, Hassan Sawadi, Iraqi officials said.


The Iraqi police side of the story:

But the details of the raid and its origins remained murky, with British and Iraqi officials continuing to offer different accounts. British commanders have said the Iraqi police handed the men over to Shiite militia members, who largely control the Iraqi police and military in Basra.

On Wednesday, Iraq's Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, disputed that, telling the BBC that the British soldiers were never handed over. A spokesman for Muhammad al Waili, the governor of Basra province, said the same thing in a telephone interview, adding that the British "are claiming that to justify their illegal behavior."


The impact on British policy in Iraq will be drastic. Not only does it show how out of control the southern part of Iraq is, how volatile the situation remains, but it also undermines the appeasement strategy of the British forces. A heavier hand, however, may not be a viable option.

The lede in the Guardian:

For some at Westminster, the dramatic events in Basra on Monday were a sure sign that Iraq is sliding towards civil war. For other, more sanguine voices, it was no worse than a busy night in Belfast.

According to Mohammad al-Waili, the governor of Basra province, the British army mounted a "barbaric, savage and irresponsible" raid on a police station. On the contrary, said Brigadier John Lorimer, commander of British troops in the region, Iraqi police had flouted the law in an "unacceptable" fashion, and two captured soldiers needed to be rescued.


Wonderful, a Belfast analogy. How many eyes rolled on that one? And, look: more evidence of "dual sovereignty"

The article does afford some interesting reading. But, the soft-step approach of British military policy in the South has crumbled -- either that was deliberate or circumstances got out of British control. Who enjoys that control? The article hints at Moqtada al Sadr:

What was clear last night was that the trust between the British army and Iraqi police - whom the British helped to train - has largely broken down. Many of the 7,000 Iraqi police in Basra are now said to owe allegiance not to the state, but to the mosque. According to some estimates, at least half will take orders from Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shia cleric.


Sadr's forces in the region are the focus of an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

In a dramatic battle against British forces in Basra, Mr. Sadr quickly mobilized scores of supporters to descend on tanks, setting at least one alight and injuring three British soldiers on Monday.


The Loyal Opposition

Howard Kurtz' "notes" today provide some segue from Iraq-heavy news to U.S. politics:

What's emerging is a Democratic critique of the Bush years that uses the hurricane as a metaphor for other administration shortcomings. Ordinarily, I'd say, the danger is that the Dems will propose so many expensive programs that they'll be Velcro'd with the old tax-and-spend label. But with the president making clear he'll spend whatever it takes in the Gulf region--make that both Gulf regions--the borrow-and-spend Republicans are giving them plenty of competition.


One reason for this remark, or one excerpt, comes from John Kerry:

"Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'"


Of course, the problem with the Democrats remains their unwillingness to seize on the vulnerability of the president and the uneasiness of fiscal conservatives to actually propose something progressive and positive. There are, much like in the initial stages of a primary campaign, fits and starts. But, the Dems are not presenting a compelling or united message.

What you see from Kerry -- God forbid he tries to run again in 2008 -- is clever stump speech that feeds (only) the party base delicious political meats and cheeses. However, the Dems are not providing policy ideas; we just see clever little quips about the past -- some involving former administration members, as if they are relevant moving forward! Notice how those names are MoveOn's Most Hated as well.

Pitiful.

The Democrats couldn't even get much momentum behind Reid's odd opposition to Roberts -- Reid is from a Red State and he is pro-life. Leahy comes out in support of Roberts and that leads the Roberts' coverage on the nightly news (at least on ABC).

There is more momentum behind a Katrina Kommission, reports the Christian Science Monitor. That is something that ought to worry the administration, unless of course they pause and remember that it is up to the Democrats to force this.

Allan Sloan of Newsweek uses the same phrase that Howard Kurtz does: Borrow and Spend.

Not so in Washington, where Republicans' borrow and spend has replaced Democrats' tax and spend.

The fact that Congress is preparing to cut a variety of taxes by up to $90 billion over five years at the same time Katrina is going to send spending to the moon is living proof of that. What are the government's priorities? Who can say, given that Congress is planning to help pay for those cuts by trimming social programs like Medicaid and food stamps by $35 billion over five years, even as President Bush is pledging to spend what it takes to help poor people affected by Katrina.


Hey, Democrats, they're giving you a clever line!

Beyond that line, which has 108,000 Google hits as of now, there is an upsetting note: social programs will be cut in Bush's quick-fix policies that probably won't help the poor of the Gulf region anyway. THAT could fill a whole post, but I must move on tonight.

Europe and Iran

The young, quixotic European Union faces a big moment. Tonight's Financial Times:

The European Union has 48 hours to decide one of the biggest foreign policy issues confronting it: whether to report Iran to the United Nations over its nuclear programme and risk an increase in Tehran's nuclear activities; or delay and face charges of a climb-down on nuclear proliferation.


Rita approaches

The oil infrastructure may be under a larger threat with Rita than it was with Katrina. $5.00 a gallon gasoline, says some (alarmists), CNN.

Hurricane Hunters at 8 p.m. report a pressure of 899 mb in the center of Rita. That is more powerful than Katrina's pressure ever was. Weather.com. If you wonder why the shower curtains blow inward with running water, or why planes fly, it's for the same reason that Rita shows such low pressure.

One story completely knocked off the news.

Tragically, Niger is not getting any better.

Bill Frist pulls a Martha Stewart

Reported by Business Week:

SEP. 20 8:43 P.M. ET Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.


Conservativism today

Check out It Affects You. Who references Andrew Ferguson.

But something more corrosive is also at work. Marshall McLuhan was righter than anyone ever would have guessed. The medium really is the message. Conservatism nowadays is increasingly a creature of its technology. It is shaped--if I were a Marxist I might even say determined--by cable television and talk radio, with their absurd promotion of caricature and conflict, and by blogs, where the content ranges from Jesuitical disputes among hollow-cheeked obsessives to feats of self-advertisement and professional narcissism (Everyone's been asking what I think about . . . You won't want to miss my appearance tonight on . . . Be sure to click here for my latest . . . ) that would have been unthinkable in polite company as recently as a decade ago.


North Korea and diplomacy

A fine point by Foreign Policy Watch:

Pyongyang did not agree to give up its nuclear arms ambitions just because its diplomats were treated decently, of course. But it's interesting how much it appears to have made a difference in reaching an agreement.

Serious negotiation and constructive dialogue was what the United States' top negotiator with North Korea, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, a smooth talking appointee of Condoleezza Rice, brought to the table.


--------------------------------------------

10 PM Eastern Update: This blog is the 218th blog entry to use "borrow and spend" and as of this moment is the most relevant entry on Google's new Blog search. It's the small things in life, you know?

Quick Iraq update

Professor Juan Cole's exhaustive analysis, as always, provides clarity:

An internet posting that represented itself as coming from the organization supposedly led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, variously called Monotheism and Holy War and "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia", said Tuesday that its war on the Shiites made an exception for those Shiite groups that opposed US and British occupation of Iraq. These included the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, Shaikh Jawad al-Khalisi, and Shaikh Mahmud al-Hassani.

Al-Hayat: The Sadr movement responded to the announcement, saying that it was an attempt to divide the Shiites.


So, Zarqawi made an offer to try to undermine the Western powers in Iraq...

More fall out from the British Basra raid, CNN:

Iraq's National Security Adviser, Dr Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said he did not know how far security forces had been undermined by insurgents.

"It is a serious violation of sovereignty if MNF has raided a police station," National security adviser Mowafak al-Rubaie told CNN in a phone interview, referring to the multinational forces.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Zarqawi's surprising move

It is now clear that the Iraqi Police in Basra (were they Sadrist? Badrists? Both?) engaged in a shootout with British troops. Today, an adviser to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari condemned the rescue operations conducted by the British to get their soldiers back from Iraqi police capture, Reuters.

That condemnation is even more fuel for this point raised by Professor Cole in his morning post:

The entire episode reeks of "dual sovereignty," in which there are two distinct sources of government authority. Social historian Charles Tilly says that dual sovereignty signals a revolutionary situation.


"Sovereignty" may be far more complex than just a question of two political poles. Followers of Moqtada al Sadr have battled both the United States' Marines and the Badr Brigade -- backed by Iran and a substantial faction of the current Iraqi government.

Yesterday, Abu Musab al Zarqawi drastically ended his call for jihad on all Shiites, now allowing for Sadrists to be protected Shiites.

That is correct: Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia will not intentionally attack Sadrists.

Is that because Sadrists have fought against the Western occupiers and the government that works and benefits -- to a certain extent -- from an alliance with the West?

Is that because the Sadrists have protested against the Iraqi constitution?

Is that because more secular Sunnis have been working with Zarqawi -- perhaps exerting a more pragmatic political/military set of objectives and alliances?

What does UBL think about Zarqawi's truce?

Was this a temporary truce or an alliance to disrupt the elections?

I do not believe the United States military anticipated this, nor did the government. I do not believe either American institution knows what is motivating this alliance. Our decision makers remain, as they have always been, in the dark about Iraq. That has not served us well in the past.

A chilling paragraph near the bottom...

Professor Juan Cole is right to focus on Basra and that hectic, violent incident. But my jaw dropped when I read this in the New York Times article that the Professor references:

In a statement on an Internet site on Monday, the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia modified a declaration of war made last week by its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The statement said followers of Mr. Sadr, the Shiite cleric, who has twice ordered his group to fight against American troops, would not be directly attacked.

Something is rotten in the state of Basra

You have got to read the timeline supplied/posited by Juan Cole on the Basra flare-up between the Brits and Shiite factions:

Two British undercover men seem to have seen something suspicious and intervened. But somehow they got involved in a firefight with Iraqi government police. The two Britons were slightly wounded and were captured by Iraqi police (which seems to be penetrated by the Badr Corps, the Sadrists and other Shiite paramilitaries.)

Then a Sadrist crowd tried to storm the jail where the two British special forces operatives were being held by the provincial government. The Shiite crowds appear to have intended to hold them as hostages to be traded for Fartusi et al.

It was at that point that the British tanks rolled against the jail.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Raise Bill Clinton's taxes!

There is a developing leadership vacuum in D.C.

George W. Bush's poll numbers remain at the 40 percent line, with majorities disapproving of his Iraq and Katrina responses, CNN.

Bush has ruled out a tax increase to fund the massive rebuilding effort for Katrina. His predecessor does not agree (From CNN). Bill Clinton thinks Democrats need to make this an issue in 2006 and 2008. He also mentions the impact that tax cuts have on foreign policy:

"[W]e're pressing the Chinese now, a country not nearly as rich as America per capita, to keep loaning us money with low interest to cover my tax cut ... Iraq, Afghanistan, and Katrina. And at the same time to raise the value of their currency so their imports into our country will become more expensive, and our exports to them will become less expensive."


But, unless Clinton eyes an open Senate seat, there is little reason to believe that the Democrats will seize upon this strange deficit spending and call for more prudent government. As the Note notes:

Nearly every Democrat in Congress is still on the merits in favor of not just stopping the extension of some of the Bush tax cuts, but is in favor of rolling many others back — but they are still afraid to say so and unable to make their case, despite the fact that polls (continue to) show public opinion on their side.


Instead of taxes, Bush wants to cut spending. Mike Allen, writing in TIME, outlines how hard a sell massive spending and budget cuts will be in the Republican Congress:

This aide said that the “conservatives were extremely hesitant about the initial jackpot, and they are even more worried about another” installment of Katrina spending. So what to do? Pence picked up the suggestion by several conservative commentators of forswearing the 6,000 pork projects in the highway bill passed this summer. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has suggested individual lawmakers offer to give up their own projects, known as earmarks. Pence also said he thinks the house “ought to take a really hard look at delaying implementation of the new prescription drug entitlement” for Medicare recipients.

One of the House leadership aides was extremely skeptical of the idea. “How do you stop a freight train?” But another top aide said it would be discussed, showing just how direly the fiscal situation is regarded in the Republican conference.


Blended in the pork and the momentum of massive legislation, you also see the rising tide of Conservative angst over the deficit. From the Economist:

It also seems to have turned him into something resembling a big-government Democrat. In his speech he mentioned “deep, persistent poverty” with “roots in a history of racial discrimination”, and said that money will go to encourage minority-owned businesses. There will also be “worker recovery accounts” for training and education. None of these programmes will come cheap.


And their conclusion:

Though many Americans, black and white, greeted Mr Bush’s address from New Orleans warmly, if he wants to avoid becoming a lame duck in his second term he will need to claw back the conservative support that won him two elections.


With weak approval ratings, a mid-term election that may swing on the economy or Iraq -- two danger points for the president and therefore his party and his legacy -- the most baffling vacuum in leadership has got to be among the Democrats.

I suppose that they do not want to hint at more taxes, lest they be called a "tax and spend liberal", but Katrina would provide ample political cover (and God forbid there be any more) to redefine a lot of government programs in a more progressive way.

Why do you think George W. Bush is drafting "personal accounts" into social progress for the poor? Why do you think he is grasping at the conservative arsenal of social programs, like school vouchers, tax cuts, a Homestead Act (WOW!) and low interest loans?

When there is a natural disaster the populus demands more from government -- demands more government. No doubt, a lot of people have an uncomfortable feeling in their gut about the reaction from FEMA, Homeland Security, Bush, Blanco and Nagin.

There is an opportunity to blend classic progressive measures with that grab bag to which Bush has resorted. In addition to personal accounts for job training and to support businesses, let's add federal rebuilding efforts to give good paying jobs to union workers. David Brooks' made the analogy that this could be Bush's Tennessee Valley Authority -- which was more of a metaphor than any policy analysis. Well, Mr. Brooks, Bush is going to need some votes from the left to make this happen.

Let's force a Gulf Coast Authority on him. Let's make the president add some true progressive government opportunity to his Opportunity Zone. If Bush's ideas are not managed well, they could lead to opportunity only for the well-established upon their return: vouchers to take a few grand off your son's prep. school, or a business break to buy a few SUVs for your "fleet" that serves joint-duty at weekend Little League games.

Progressive ideas work from the bottom up, in reality not just in rhetoric. Augment those initiatives with opportunity for the lower- and upper- Middle class -- perhaps even grow the middle class. I know how we can pay for it too, we can raise Bill Clinton's taxes.

Oh, and one more thing. Recall what William Safire said as he neared the end of his stint as a New York Times' columnist:

This imbalance will ultimately trigger Rayburn's law: "When you get too big a majority," said Speaker Sam Rayburn, a Democrat, after F.D.R.'s 1936 landslide, "you're immediately in trouble."

Reports: British soldiers clash with Iraqi police

Troubling story in the Washington Post.

BASRA, Iraq, Sept. 19 -- Heavy clashes erupted Monday between Iraqi police and British soldiers based in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, witnesses said.

The clashes are the latest in surging tensions in Basra, a Shiite-dominated city that had long been one of Iraq's calmest. Attacks have targeted British and Americans there.


More...

"There is public disorder going on," the official said. "We are aware that Iraqi authorities are holding U.K. service personnel, and we are liaising with Iraqi authorities on the matter," the official said.



British personnel held hostage?

This latest conflict brings to mind the death of Steven Vincent. Reports stated that police in Basra were involved and Vincent had admonished British forces for allowing a Shiite dominated, sectarian police force to form.

Two civilian dressed men have been shown in Basra police custody. The following is from the Guardian:


British troops exchanged gunfire with protesters as two tanks were reportedly set on fire. Four civilians are said to have been wounded in the clashes.

The fighting broke out after two British soldiers, allegedly dressed as Arabs, opened fire on a police patrol killing one officer and wounding another.

A little Note on Katrina relief

Right now, my Katrina thoughts are still a poorly organized, warm-core system in the mid-Atlantic. But, here's something from today's Note:

Democrats still have the same quality of leadership and political acumen from Leaders Pelosi and Reid (and Chairman Dean) and the same number of positive, clear agenda items to offer the American people.

Nearly every Democrat in Congress is still on the merits in favor of not just stopping the extension of some of the Bush tax cuts, but is in favor of rolling many others back — but they are still afraid to say so and unable to make their case, despite the fact that polls (continue to) show public opinion on their side.

Morning copy 9.19.2005

North Korea vows to quit arms program, Washington Post. What is the over-under for Condi using this will be used as an Iraqi success story?

Divided German elections might leave Schroeder in charge, Washington Post.

Afghan voters defy insurgents, New York Times.

Both insurgents and U.S. claim upper-hand in Iraq conflict, Washington Post. Excerpt:

The fact that American forces still attack entire cities and towns in the west is a sign of how much territory remains out of U.S. and Iraqi government control, said Abu Hatem Dulaimi, a member of the Zarqawi-allied Ansar al-Sunna Army.

"I can say that the legend of the undefeated U.S. Army is gone, owing to our rockets and mines, which are separating them from it day after day," Dulaimi said in a telephone interview. "If they bet that time will be the way to end the resistance, they are wrong, because we are stronger since a year ago or maybe more."


The Shiite angle is explored in the New York Times, endurance versus violence. LINK.

Olde Tyme Newspaper nostalgia, Slate.

Barack Obama is emerging on a national platform with his efforts on Katrina relief, Harvard Crimson. Carlos Watson said on CNN yesterday that perhaps Obama would ally with Bush to get Katrina relief through the Congress.

I can't think of a time where Democratic support was as necessary for the president in this Congress. It is interesting that Bush's plan is to create more Republicans. (More on that tonight.)

Quick hit in the Boston Globe on Obama's fundraising, LINK.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday news

Lots and lots of weekend news.

Katrina

David Brooks provides a good starting point to this issue. The federal response to Katrina will be an opportunity to apply the economic and political theories of George W. Bush:

But in policy terms, the speech pushed the journey toward Bushian conservatism into high gear. The Gulf Coast will be a laboratory for the Bushian vision of energetic but not domineering government.

Bush proposed an Urban Homestead Act, which will draw enterprising people to the area, giving them an opportunity to own property so long as they're willing to work with private agencies to put up their own homes. He proposed individual job training accounts, so much of the rebuilding work can be done by former residents. Children who have left flooded areas will find themselves in a proto-school-choice program, with education dollars strapped to each individual child.

This is an effort to transform the gulf region, which had become a disaster zone of urban liberalism.


That in and of itself could fill numerous blog entries.

Also, the issues of race and poverty could fuel many entries. The NY Times has the following:

One of the most striking developments, they said, was that while Mr. Bush still calls himself a "compassionate conservative" who sees the problems of blacks as largely economic, in the last three days he embraced civil rights language from the 1960's about "the legacy of inequality" and pledged billions of dollars to rebuild one of the poorest urban areas in America.


Cuts in spending will fund the relief effort, LA Times.

The delivery mechanisms at FEMA are a huge problem, LA Times, hampering relief efforts. This is another reason why we need a Katrina Commission. The NY Times account has the following:

Federal officials are often unable to give local governments permission to proceed with fundamental tasks to get their towns running again. Most areas in the region still lack federal help centers, the one-stop shopping sites for residents in need of aid for their homes or families. Officials say that they are uncertain whether they can meet the president's goal of providing housing for 100,000 people who are now in shelters by the middle of next month.


A similar story also leads the Washington Post. Excerpt:

President Bush has promised a range of new initiatives to help the evacuees, including $5,000 grants to help the unemployed find jobs, a voucher program for students and more money for state Medicaid programs. But while Bush's promises of additional help have been welcomed, the initial efforts to provide for the evacuees has sometimes been disjointed, confusing and ineffective, local officials said...


How effective will this opportunity zone actually be? Salon.com raises questions:

"The federal government over the last 15 years has tried to use zones where they have tax relief to promote economic development. It hardly ever works," says Alexander von Hoffman, a senior fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, citing failed experiments in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. That said, he stresses that the tax incentives may help small businesses that were already established in the area get back on their feet.


Katrina could and will fuel many entries, but there is also

Afghanistan

Violence in the nationwide legislative elections, but no substantial disruptions, al Jazeera. Excerpt:

But Aljazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, Wali Allah Shahin, reporting from Kandahar, said the voter turnout in the city was poor.

He also cited sources as saying that turnout was even poorer in outlying districts.

Residents told Shahin that they felt the parliamentary elections were not as decisive as the presidential polls last October, and the Taliban's threats had forced some people to stay at home.


Foreign Policy's Afghan story:

Far more than last year’s election of President Hamid Karzai, Sunday’s polls will be a gauge of the country's democratic will. The results will have a tremendous impact on Afghanistan’s short-term stability and its democratic future. With a persistent security threat, logistical challenges, and a voting system that favors vote buying and bullying, the outcome of these elections will be a crapshoot at best, and at worst could be a Trojan horse of chaos.

Friday, September 16, 2005

J.E. Bush Arrested

In on a Friday night? I bet this guy won't be out at the bars tonight: John Ellis Bush

More details will be forthcoming from various news outlets that aren't this blog. If there weren't important things going this story would be a real 'political' issue. As of now, it will be a triva answer or a funny story for the fourth President Bush to tell- you know, about the time he got arrested back in '05.

Prediction: BC over FSU by 6.

Zarqawi's Day

Before George W. Bush was completely aware of the impact of Hurricane Katrina, Wednesday Aug. 31, he made a speech comparing the war in Iraq to World War Two. Both conflicts were existential in nature; the American and civilized ways of life -- note the plural -- were endangered. Bush said:

Now, as then, they are trying to intimidate free people and break our will, and now, as then, they will fail.. They will fail, because the terrorists of our century are making the same mistake that the followers of other totalitarian ideologies made in the last century. They believe that democracies are inherently weak and corrupt and can be brought to their knees. America will not run in defeat, and we will not forget our responsibilities.


However, today in the Christian Science Monitor there is a report about lowered expectations, and this is not the first report of such. The meat of the story, by Mark Sappenfield:

The increasingly bracing tone from the White House and Pentagon, however, points to a new calculus. The persistence of the attacks, as well as their undiminished capacity - witnessed by Wednesday's bombings in Baghdad, which killed more than 150 Iraqis - seems to have confirmed that the insurgency will probably outlast the American occupation.

Indeed, the inability of American forces to defeat the insurgency through strikes such as the current offensive in Tal Afar raises doubts about the possibility of any clear victory for the administration. And it could leave the Iraqis with a years-long task that many planners had not anticipated.

"There has been a clear realization that this war is not winnable in the short term," says Seth Jones, a terrorism expert at RAND Corp. in Arlington, Va.


This new tone from the administration is in direct contradiction to Bush's rhetoric and undermines his analogy between the terrorists in Iraq and the Axis powers*. That analogy needs support, not the contradictions inherent in toned down expectations to save political capital for a brief period of time.

As Senator Chuck Hagel wrote last year, the conflict in Iraq and the broader war on terror is an existential conflict. And, based on published reports and blood in the streets, this is Zarqawi's day.

The brutal man's CV, outlined in the Times of London, is as follows:

He is responsible for making large areas of central Iraq ungovernable. His insurgent campaign has successfully challenged the might of the US military. He has persuaded his militant followers that it is possible to stop a democratic Shia-led government ruling Iraq and to replace it by a Sunni Islamic caliphate in Baghdad that would resemble Afghanistan under the Taleban.


Zarqawi is also pressing for a sectarian gulf that will destabilize the entire region. The threat, recently reiterated, carries weight, so says Richard Beeston of the Times:

Al-Zarqawi’s threats carry more weight than ever. Only two years ago his group was a fringe organisation that attracted a handful of fanatic Islamic militants.

Today it is the richest, best organised, best armed and most powerful insurgent force in Iraq, with thousands of volunteers, including some from around the Middle East and beyond, prepared to fight and die for their cause. His slick propaganda department can record a suicide attack, release it within an hour on the internet and relay it into the homes of Muslim sympathisers around the world.


Further, also in the Times, the leader of the Iraqi insurgency is growing the brand, so to speak, and moving into a broader region:

Jean-Charles Brisard, the author of Zarqawi: The New Face of al-Qaeda, said that last month’s failed rocket attacks by al-Zarqawi’s fighters against US warships docked off the Jordanian coast at Aqaba should serve as a warning to the region. “I believe that his fight will not stop in Iraq. There is intelligence that his people were travelling in Europe a few weeks ago.”


Unlike what senior U.S. government and military leaders say, Guardian story, these are not the "predictable" up-ticks of irrational, reactionary violence opposite a progression toward democracy. These are the dangerous machinations of a politically and militarily sophisticated network bent on the destruction of modernity in their perceived Muslim caliphate. And, while they are at it, they'll also kill Shiite apostates.

This organization will, as long as it crawls upon the earth, seek the total capitulation of U.S. and European -- as well as Russian and Chinese -- interests in the Middle East and the caliphates in Africa, Spain and the Far East. Their legacy will be loss of life, liberty and economic ruin wherever they are allowed to fester. Bush, for all his slippery leaps of reason and deceptive diction, is right to liken this conflict to World War Two -- even if only in its existential nature.

The threat is real and growing. Much of the blame will lie with George W. Bush when history evaluates his presidency. But there is plenty of blame and pain left to be dealt if we do not realize the true nature of the gruesome foe we cannot but confront.

* The analogy of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an Axis of Evil in the famous State of the Union Address was in error. Bush's policies have moved the axis into Iraq.

Morning copy or not to morning copy...

Waking up before sunrise and reading many news stories is no longer an enjoyable venture. I think the structure of my subsequent posts will be more frequent commenting about a narrower topic.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Arggghh

Yes, we all know an increase in violence will occur before the election. But, almost 200 dead is not a "predictable" event, it is a sign of a resilient insurgency significantly increasing military action -- even if the evil insurgents kill the innocent. AP/Guardian story. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Brutal insurgent bombings that killed nearly 200 people in Baghdad over the past two days were a ``predictable spike in violence'' tied to the coming referendum on Iraq's new constitution, the U.S. military said Thursday.

As suicide bombers kept up their campaign for a second day, at least 31 people were killed - 23 of them Iraqi police and Interior Ministry commandos, now targets of choice for the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

At least seven of 570 people wounded in Wednesday's attacks have died, hospital officials said, raising the toll to at least 167 in the worst day of killing to hit the capital since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

``These spikes of violence are predictable around certain critical events that highlight the progress of democracy,'' said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the chief American military spokesman.


Just because an increase in violence occurs, and we expected it, does not mean that it was necessarily predicted. That may seem counterintuitive, but did the US military say that in the middle of September we'd see back-to-back days of multi-pronged attacks -- 12 on Wednesday? Maybe they thought that possible, but, calling it "predictable" makes it seem under control. More, it's part of the progress in Iraq, right?

Bullshit.

Morning copy 9.15.2005

Iraq

Two dozen Iraqi police are killed in a second bloody day in Iraq, al Jazeera.

Roberts

Los Angeles Times on Judge Roberts:

Despite Roberts' reticence on several fronts, a somewhat more complete portrait of the 50-year-old federal appeals court judge and former Reagan administration lawyer emerged. At times, his newly expressed views seemed at odds with those contained in the thousands of pages of memos and musings he wrote as a government lawyer two decades ago.


The lede in the New York Times, and the subsequent grafs, paint the process in more contentious tones. But:

But Judge Roberts, by the end of a second long day of careful, unflappable testimony, appeared in comfortable position for a confirmation vote next Thursday in the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and, many Republicans predicted, a strong vote the following week in the full Senate, where Republicans have a 10-vote majority.


The Washington Post paints Roberts as conservative, but not to the point of Scalia, LINK and also has an article on the combativeness of Democrats, LINK.

New York Times analysis on Arlen Specter's ire:

In a series of decisions, many written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist himself, the court declared unconstitutional acts of Congress that had been passed by broad bipartisan majorities.

Laws permitting public employees to sue state employers for discrimination on the basis of disability and age, and also giving women access to federal court to sue rapists for damages, ran up against the court's new definition of the limits on Congress's power and the justices' insistence that they alone have the final word in interpreting the Constitution.

"I take umbrage at what the court has said, and so do my colleagues," Senator Specter told Judge Roberts.


How John Roberts is following precedent and crafting his own for the second nominee, New York Times.

United Nations

One more Bush administration sea-change -- OK, not really -- this week, the tone with the United Nations. Washington Post:

"We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists," Bush said.

Bush then ticked off a series of U.N.-sponsored initiatives to help promote human dignity and prosperity, saying the United States has a "moral duty" to join in the effort. In effect, Bush used the speech to marry the United Nations' goals of defeating poverty and disease with his vision of fighting terrorism by promoting democracy.

Since the start of his second term, Bush has tried hard to reach out to a world that has been dismayed with the foreign-policy choices and actions of his first term. He has traveled four times this year to Europe, the heart of anti-Bush attitudes, though polling by the German Marshall Fund has indicated that the charm offensive thus far has failed to resonate with many Europeans.


Katrina

A major presidential address tonight, calling for more spending. Washington Post:

The president will call on Washington to resist spending money unwisely, but some in his own party are already starting to recoil at a price tag expected to exceed $200 billion -- about the cost of the Iraq war and reconstruction efforts.


The New York Times report:

[T]he president's first major speech on the hurricane, would not be a State of the Union "laundry list" of proposals. Instead, they said, it would focus more generally on Mr. Bush's vision for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, with the federal government playing a supportive role to what White House officials are calling a "home-grown" plan that must be created by city and state authorities.


San Francisco Gate's article on the forgotten parish of St. Benard's:

"I guess nobody knew we were here," said St. Bernard Parish Councilwoman Judy Hoffmeister, who on Wednesday recalled being trapped on the roof of a building, awaiting rescue, on the night of the storm. "Why wouldn't somebody say, 'Where's St. Bernard.' "

At first, the only rescuers on hand were the residents and officials of St. Bernard Parish. Two days after Katrina hit, a team of Canadian Mounties from Vancouver showed up to help, and a sprinkling of officials from neighboring parishes paid visits, but it would be days before there was any sign of assistance from the United States government.

Yes, Vancouver Mounties were more aware of the Mississippi river's towns than the Federal Government.

The environmental impact in the Houston Chronicle:

"This is the largest natural disaster that we believe the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and nation has faced," EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said during a media briefing Wednesday.


One more link...

Germany's pre-election woes in The Guardian:

Germany's postwar economic miracle is a distant memory. Its unquestioned economic, educational and sporting superiority over Britain, and so many other countries, belongs to a previous, more confident generation of Germans. The numbers suggest that it is low-unemployment, low-tax, post-industrial Britain, with its job-hopping, free-spending citizens and penny-pinching Treasury that is the success story now; high-unemployment, high-tax industrial Germany, with its rigid labour market, parsimonious populace and free-spending government, that is the failure. "Oh, you're still building your own cars?" the 40-year-old Mini seems to say. "Yes, we used to do that. Now we just make them for other people."