Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Morning copy 01.31.2006

Coretta Scott King passed away Monday night, CNN.


As of 11:09 EST, Alito has enough votes to be confirmed.

The New York Times has a wonderful insider lede on the Alito nomination strategy:
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. e-mailed the text of his opening statement to the White House. It included very little about his legal thinking, dwelled at length on his family and opened with a tired and rambling joke about courtroom banter between a lawyer and a judge.

The response from the White House: "Perfect, don't change a word," according to an administration official who was granted anonymity because Judge Alito's preparation sessions were confidential.
The Boston Globe on the Massachusetts filibusters:
Several other Democrats who voted for the filibuster also did so with reluctance, saying that they had doubts about its wisdom but that they would go along with the effort.

Kerry and Kennedy, however, were unapologetic.
The nomination of Samuel Alito will be voted on around 11:00 a.m. today, Washington Post.

The court is set to reposition with Anthony Kennedy in the middle -- whatever that means, Washington Post. This month the Atlantic argued that it will be Stevens' court, for a time.

State of the Union

New York Times: "Bush Will Use Address to Focus on Alternative Fuels and Nuclear Plants"

The Denver Post says:
Washington - President Bush's attempt to jump-start a troubled second term with his State of the Union address tonight will be complicated by memories of the major initiatives he announced in last year's speech and failed to deliver.
The Chicago Tribune:
President Bush's expected push for health reform in Tuesday's State of the Union address could face significant political obstacles, but the president is counting on the public's deepening frustration with mounting medical costs to overcome the resistance.
The Democratic response will be delivered by newley elected Virginian Timothy M. Kaine, A.P.:
ARLINGTON, Va. – Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, tapped to deliver the State of the Union response for Democrats, has sharp words for both parties in Washington: Stop being so partisan, negative and irrelevant. “There's a better way,” he said Monday.
Let's get religious

The Boston Globe: "Democrats courting Catholics"

The Los Angeles Times: "Evangelicals Branch Out Politically"

The National Guard

A.P. report via the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (AP) — National Guard officials said Monday that recruiting had accelerated so much in recent months that they expected to expand the Guard even as the Bush administration proposes to shrink it.
Two polls

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has two polls today.

As political colors go, Illinois is bluer than ever. A strong majority of likely voters in Illinois appear dissatisfied with Republican President George W. Bush as well as with the Iraq war, the economy and the overall direction of the nation, according to a new Post-Dispatch/KMOV-TV (Channel 4) poll.

As a result, Missouri voters appear to be less enamored of President George W. Bush than they were in fall 2004, when Bush easily carried the state in his bid for re-election.

Iraqi poll

Knight Ridder via the Seattle Times:
WASHINGTON — A new poll found that nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and most favor setting a timetable for American troops to leave.

The poll also found that 80 percent of Iraqis think the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in the country even if the newly elected Iraqi government asks U.S. forces to leave. Researchers found a link between support for attacks and the belief among Iraqis that the U.S. intends to keep a permanent military presence in the country.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Worst savings rate since: Guess. Guess!

There are a number of unsustainable aspects to our economy right now. That probably means that we are heading for a correction. Maybe a recession. Today's New York Times online has the following to offer:
A negative savings rate means that Americans spent all their disposable income, the amount left over after paying taxes, and dipped into their past savings to finance their purchases. For the month, the savings rate fell to 0.7 percent, the largest one-month decline since a 3.4 percent drop in August.

The 0.5 percent negative savings rate for 2005 followed a 1.8 percent rate of savings in 2004. The last negative rates occurred in 1932, a drop of 0.9 percent, and a record 1.5 percent decline in 1933. In those years Americans exhausted their savings to try to meet expenses in the wake of the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

One major reason that consumers felt confident in spending all of their disposable incomes and dipping into savings last year was that a booming housing market made them feel more wealthy. As their home prices surged at double-digit rates, that created what economists call a ''wealth effect'' that supported greater spending.
Economists seldom impress me with their explanative powers. It seems likely, almost a certainty, that the reasons for a negative savings rate must also involve rising health care costs, stagnant wages (perhaps not stagnant real income as globalization and cheaper prices boost that) and higher fuel costs. A recent study reported that the rich are, per usual with a Republican administration, getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

In fact, only by considering the impact that these additional costs have on the citizenry can one explain a positive savings rate for 2004 and then a drastic cut in savings by 2.3 real percentage points. Oddly enough, that impact is within one point of the Consumer Price Index rise in the past year. A slowing economy, a raising set of prices, and less savings are the attributes of 2005. The underlying problems are energy and health care costs, and those show no sign of subsiding in 2006.

More of the same can be expected in the near term, reports the Congressional Budget Office (via the New York Times):
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — Millions of low-income people would have to pay more for health care under a bill worked out by Congress, and some of them would forgo care or drop out of Medicaid because of the higher co-payments and premiums, the Congressional Budget Office says in a new report.
An aggregate income crunch on the lower economic spectrum would show up in the savings rate. In all likelihood, the upper class in the economic spectrum -- I don't have the hard numbers -- can save just as much as before and enjoy an aggregate rise in income: from their real income, lesser taxes, and the society-wide flush of cheaper products from foreign markets.

This is the true situation we presently face in the American economy -- in spite of what the administration and their sycophants say. It is unfortunate that Bush will tout economic progress, even while the wheels of his Coolidgesque economic ride are shaking on the bumpy pavement.

Expect more of the same from 2006. Do not expect GOP plans to assist those in the income crunch. And, the less savings a person has today, the longer they will need to work.

Or, the more likely they are to vote in a number of progressives for a generation of taxing the rich and spending on the needy.

Frankly, bring it on, Mr. President.

Morning copy 01.30.2006

ABC News in Iraq

Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt sustained severe injuries from an improvised explosive device in Iraq, New York Times.

State of the Union

Boston Globe: Bush to address use of alternate energy sources.

Baltimore Sun: Familiar motifs, not bold policy, expected in Bush speech.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Health is likely the focus for Bush.

Bloomberg News: Bush Will Use `Bully Pulpit' in Bid to Recover From 2005 Damage.

Los Angeles Times: Bush Sets Sights Lower This Time.


The European Union is calling for Hamas to "embrace peace efforts," Guardian. Israel seeks to isolate Hamas leaders, Washington Post. Condoleezza Rice says the United States will not send financial aid to a Hamas government, Boston Globe.

Sunday talk shows

Senator Chuck Hagel says that Bush should explain the domestic spying to program, A.P. via ABC News. For a q&a breakdown of this policy, see today's Houston Chronicle.

There was a noteworthy consensus that Bush should just release the Abramoff photos, Los Angeles Times.

Senator(s) Obama (and Biden) were critical of John Kerry's filibuster tactic, A.P. via Chicago Tribune.

Hugo Chavez

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (Democrat) has contacted Hugo Chavez about low cost oil for New Hampshire's poor, Manchester Union Leader.


More FEMA woes, resulting in hundreds of trucks not used and search teams not deployed, A.P. via the Boston Globe.


The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Struggling to retain enough officers to lead its forces, the Army has begun to dramatically increase the number of soldiers it promotes, raising fears within the service that wartime strains are diluting the quality of the officer corps.

Last year, the Army promoted 97% of all eligible captains to the rank of major, Pentagon data show. That was up from a historical average of 70% to 80%
Morality votes

The Christian Science Monitor:
It's unusual for a controversial economic issue to be fought on moral grounds. But ACORN, a public advocacy group, has been winning a higher "living wage" for workers in state after state, city after city, by appealing to voters' sense of justice.

"It's probably the best [argument] we have," says Jen Kern, director of ACORN's Living Wage Resource Center. A decent income is a moral matter of "fairness," she says. Those who "play by the rules of the game should be able to support themselves by their work."
Dick Armey

John Fund from OpinionJournal:
Mr. Armey, a former economics professor, vividly recalls the House leadership meeting in late 2001 that prompted his decision to retire. Afterwards he returned to his office and wrote down his summary of how he saw the GOP Congress behaving: "We come to this town and we do things we ought not to be doing in order to stay in the majority so we can do things we ought to be doing that we never get around to doing." A few weeks later the man who was a chief drafter of the 1994 Contract with America announced he was leaving office.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sleepwalking toward the next disaster?

In the tragic event of a nuclear strike on a major American city, hundreds of thousands of people could be saved by a highly successful drug, Neumune. 60 Minutes just aired the story, which you can read about here. It concludes with former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton placing the blame squarely on the low priority this administration has placed on keeping Americans safe.

(CBS) The chairman of the House committee overseeing Project Bioshield — the government’s project to create drugs to respond to possible terrorist attacks — wants the program’s director taken off the project.

Rep. Tom Davis, R.-Va., tells 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley that Assistant Secretary Stewart Simonson, a political appointee who is in charge of Project Bioshield at the Department of Health and Human Services, shows the same kind of "arrogance" and "lack of experience" as former FEMA director Michael Brown.

Davis talks to Bradley about a possible radiation sickness drug the Pentagon endorses and deems worth developing, but that critics say Simonson has now slow tracked, this Sunday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Bioshield was created to prepare the United States for terrorism by developing and stockpiling drugs to treat the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.

"I would transfer (Simonson) out of (Bioshield). I wouldn’t have him handling this program," Davis tells Bradley. "This is a serious job at this point and I think we need to have a professional filling it, not political appointees."

Davis likens Simonson, a lawyer who previously worked at Amtrak, the national railroad, to Brown.
Read the drug companies results. Mortality rates drop by 22 percent with a full dose of this drug. Mortality rates drop from more than 32 percent to 10 percent. In an affected population of 100,000, that could mean 20,000 lives.

This administration, however, is more interested in half measures and good fortune than smart, life-saving precautions.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Prof. Cole highlights an important fault in Bush's logic

Prof. Cole today on Salon.com:
Jan. 27, 2006 | The stunning victory of the militant Muslim fundamentalist Hamas Party in the Palestinian elections underlines the central contradictions in the Bush administration's policies toward the Middle East. Bush pushes for elections, confusing them with democracy, but seems blind to the dangers of right-wing populism. At the same time, he continually undermines the moderate and secular forces in the region by acting high-handedly or allowing his clients to do so. As a result, Sunni fundamentalist parties, some with ties to violent cells, have emerged as key players in Iraq, Egypt and Palestine.

Democracy depends not just on elections but on a rule of law, on stable institutions, on basic economic security for the population, and on checks and balances that forestall a tyranny of the majority. Elections in the absence of this key societal context can produce authoritarian regimes and abuses as easily as they can produce genuine people power. Bush is on the whole unwilling to invest sufficiently in these key institutions and practices abroad. And by either creating or failing to deal with hated foreign occupations, he has sown the seeds for militant Islamist movements that gain popularity because of their nationalist credentials.
The professor goes on to demonstrate that the intrinsic good that Bush perceives in democracy, at least as shown in the president's rhetoric, contradicts the outcome of many "democratic" processes in the Middle East. This is a strong point -- showing both the limits of the president's strategy and the potential for more catastrophic success.

Morning copy 01.27.2006


The New York Times has news analysis advancing the story in the same a.m. printing cycle. Experts say:
They said Israel — whose own elections in two months could be heavily influenced by the Palestinian results — was likely to focus on speeding up construction of the separation barrier, which runs along and through parts of the West Bank. After more than three years of building, it remains less than half finished, but Israeli officials say it has contributed enormously to the reduction of suicide bombings and other attacks. Palestinians, on the other hand, say the barrier takes land they want for a future state.

The great(er) powers seem to have a consensus on how to proceed with Iran, namely a policy of face-saving concession. The lede from this New York Times story neglects Iran's response, this proposal is not sufficient in Iran's point of view:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — President Bush and the Chinese government both declared their full support on Thursday for a Russian proposal to allow Iran to operate civilian nuclear facilities as long as Russia and international nuclear inspectors are in full control of the fuel.

Mr. Bush's explicit public endorsement puts all of the major powers on record supporting the proposal, even as most acknowledge that it is a significant concession to Iran and runs the risk that the country will drag out the negotiations while continuing to produce nuclear material. Yet officials say they believe it is the best face-saving strategy to pursue a negotiated settlement with Iran.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran's Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.
U.S. Forces

The Boston Globe has General Casey's (public) analysis:
DIWANIYAH, Iraq -- The top US commander in Iraq acknowledged yesterday that the US Army was stretched, but insisted that forces here were capable of accomplishing their mission and that any recommendation to reduce troops further would be dictated by the situation on the battlefield.
Kerry's already ill fated filibuster

An on-the-record quote like this, via the New York Times, shows how dumb the junior Senator from Massachusetts really is:
"God bless John Kerry," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "He just cinched this whole nomination. With Senator Kerry, it is Christmas every day."
The Washington Post story shows that Senator Frist is going to tolerate a little chit chat and then Alito will get confirmed:
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said the Senate will vote Monday afternoon to end debate and vote Tuesday morning on whether to confirm Alito to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. At least three Democratic senators -- Ben Nelson (Neb.), Robert C. Byrd Jr. (W.Va.) and Tim Johnson (S.D.) -- have said they will vote for Alito. Others have said they would not support a filibuster, regardless how they vote on confirmation.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) repeatedly told colleagues this week that he wanted to avoid a filibuster, party members said. He looked frustrated in the Senate chamber yesterday as he told Frist he could not avert the parliamentary tactic. Shrugging his shoulders, Reid said he hoped "this matter will be resolved without too much more talking, but . . . everyone has the right to talk."
Remember that big GOP boon from Medicare?

The Los Angeles Times ledes:
WASHINGTON — The new Medicare drug program is denying supplies that seriously ill patients need to administer intravenous antibiotics and other medications at home. As a result, some patients are being referred to nursing homes, and others have had to go into hospitals.

Senators McCain and Coburn are today's parliamentary tacticians of the day, Washington Times:
Two Republican senators say they will force their colleagues to vote on the Senate floor on each so-called pork-barrel spending project this year, and President Bush also called for reforms to rein in the projects.

The battle over earmarks -- the line-item projects that members of Congress insert into spending bills to benefit their districts -- has ballooned as Republicans debate congressional reforms and budget deficits.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hamas' victory

Liberal bloggers would be (and shall be) foolish to call this anything but troubling news. This is not about George W. Bush -- who has mismanaged foreign policy in dangerous ways. This is about a crucial peace process coming unglued before our eyes.

My hope is that majority status will sober Hamas, New York Times story. My fear is that the secret/not-so-secret U.S. aide to Fatah will weaken diplomatic efforts to the contrary.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A few more news stories of note...

These caught my eye for one reason or another. I would like to bring Morning Copy back, perhaps as early as next week. Not certain yet.

A.P., "Iran Blames Bombings on U.S., Britain":
State television said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a decree ordering his foreign minister and intelligence minister to investigate the possibility that "foreign hands" were responsible for Tuesday's blasts inside a bank and outside a state environmental agency building. Forty-six people were wounded, the official Islamic Republic News Agency has reported.
Washington Post, "The Realities of Exporting Democracy":
In the year since Bush redefined U.S. foreign policy in his second inaugural address to make the spread of democracy the nation's primary mission, the clarion-call language has resonated in the dungeons and desolate corners of the world. But soaring rhetoric has often clashed with geopolitical reality and competing U.S. priorities.
New York Times, "White House Declines to Provide Storm Papers":
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.

Pentagon study on "the thin green line"

A.P. via CNN:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The historical view of George W. Bush

For biographies and historians, the devil is in the documents.

Now, I do not believe the previous administration will do well in the light of history -- when partisanship fades and cold analysis is wrought. However, if you believe this president stands even a snowball's chance in hell of ranking among the finer presidents, you need to lay off the paint thinner.

The administration now conceeds that reconstruction in Iraq was and is crucial to undermining the insurgency's appeal. On Iraq, today's New York Times:
"It almost looks like a spoils system between various agencies," said Steve Ellis, a vice president and an authority on the Army corps at Taxpayers for Common Sense, an organization in Washington, who read a copy of the document. "You had various fiefdoms established in the contracting process."

One authority on reconstruction who attended the session last month, John J. Hamre, said the report was an unblinking and unbiased look at the program.

"It's gutsy and it's honest," said Mr. Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a public policy group based in Washington. He was not the source of the leaked document. Even in the early stages of writing the draft, Mr. Hamre said, one central message on the reconstruction program was already fairly clear, that "it didn't go particularly well."

"The impression you get is of an organization that had too little structure on the ground over there, that it had conflicting guidance from the United States," Mr. Hamre said. "It had a very difficult environment and pressures by that environment to quickly move things."
The administration has spun its way out of the electoral purgatory it deserves for Katrina, yet the documents will damn them in the final analysis. Also from today's Times:
A Homeland Security Department report submitted to the White House at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the storm hit, said, "Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching."

The internal department documents, which were forwarded to the White House, contradict statements by President Bush and the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, that no one expected the storm protection system in New Orleans to be breached.

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," Mr. Bush said in a television interview on Sept. 1. "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The most annoying question the press insists on asking

Will you run at blah-blah-blah? Who cares? If a politician says in 2006 that he or she does not intend to run, and then changes his or her mind two years later, does it matter? It was a particularly meaningless Meet the Press, but here is the non-news in reference:
MR. RUSSERT: There’s been enormous speculation about your political future, Senator. The man you succeeded in the Senate, Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican, said this recently. “I think there’s a very good chance that Senator Obama is on the Democratic ticket in 2008 as the vice presidential nominee.” Do you agree?

SEN. OBAMA: No. I can’t speculate on those kinds of things. What I have said is that, you know, I’m not focused on running for higher office, I’m focused on doing the job that the people of Illinois sent me to do.

MR. RUSSERT: But there seems to be an evolution in your thinking. This is what you told the Chicago Tribune last month: “Have you ruled out running for another office before your term is up?” Obama answered, “It’s not something I anticipate doing.” But when we talked back in November of ‘04 after your election I said, “There’s been enormous speculation about your political future. Will you serve your six-year term as United States senator from Illinois?” Obama, “Absolutely.”

SEN. OBAMA: I will serve out my full six-year term. You know, Tim, if you get asked enough, sooner or later you’re going to get weary and you start looking for new ways of saying things. But my thinking has not changed.

MR. RUSSERT: So you will not run for president or vice-president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Break time should be made of sterner stuff.

Pantoum During Work

Emotionally bid such sweet Friday adieu.
Now, hurry to work, but be wary of the cops.
Who’d be fool enough to ask whether you want to?
Skulking past a desk so as to avoid your boss

Now, hurry to work, but be wary of the cops.
That tall stack of papers should come as no surprise.
Skulking past a desk so as to avoid your boss
Desperate sips of coffee jolt sleep from your eyes.

That tall stack of papers should come as no surprise.
Monotonous and tepid work makes your mind lag.
Desperate sips of coffee jolt sleep from your eyes.
Minutes, as an army, struggle, making days drag.

Monotonous and tepid work makes your mind lag.
Mark each and every hour of this journeyman’s plight
Minutes, as an army, struggle, making days drag.
At the close of day, celebrate the too brief night

Mark each and every hour of this journeyman’s plight
Who’d be fool enough to ask whether you want to?
At the close of day, celebrate the too brief night
Emotionally bid such sweet Friday adieu.

What are the Sox and Theo doing now?

Even the Sox's owner, the Boston Globe, does not seem to know. They have the same baffling A.P. story up tonight. Theo Epstein (Just "Theo" inside and around the 128 belt) is coming back:
Even though his new job description has yet to be defined, some fans assumed that it will be in some sort of advisory capacity to the team's co-general managers, Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer, where he will have input on trades and free agent signings.
Co-general managers (is it like attorneys general and actually generals manager?) would be a stupid enough management structure, but co-GMs alongside the man who won the 2004 World Series? Another bright move from the team fielding no-name 20somethings.

Though Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling (if healthy) and that bullpen are nice.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I completely disagree with Hillary Clinton

From the New York Times:
In a speech at Princeton University, Mrs. Clinton, a New York Democrat, joined the Bush administration's call for sanctions against Iran, and also said that the threat of military action against nuclear sites should not be ruled out.

But she was critical of the administration for letting European nations take the lead in negotiations over the last several years.

"I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations," Ms. Clinton said, according to a transcript of the speech published by The Daily Princetonian. "I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines."
Clinton is way off base on this one. Letting the European powers take the lead on Iranian negotiations was a smart move on a number of levels. First, Iran has a long standing antipathy toward America. Placing the EU3 in the lead was a smart move JUST for this reason. More, if one approaches Iran with a level of mistrust, as the Bush administration does, then it is beneficial to have those more prone to trust the adversary deal with their b.s. Lastly, our military situation is not favorable for any unilateral military action. The Neo-Con ilk in the blogosphere that state a limited air strike as an option act moronic. That strike would result in a counter attack on U.S. forces in Iraq and perhaps elsewhere. The U.S. must work with the EU3, and those two groups have been remarkably cooperative.

This is the most serious of threats. Hillary needs to zip it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The latest from Fidel, A.P.:
HAVANA (AP) -- Fidel Castro suggested the United States doesn't want to play Cuba in the World Baseball Classic, which is awaiting word on whether the U.S. government will let the island's players take part.

"We aren't afraid of anything," Castro said in a wide-ranging speech late Tuesday. "It's very difficult to compete against us in any area ... not even in baseball do they want to compete with Cuba."

Influence and politics

Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reports in the Washington Post that the Republican measures to curtail unethical lobbyist influence could be sidestepped easily:
The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.

"That's a big hole if they don't address campaign finance," said Joel Jankowsky, the lobbying chief of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, one of the capital's largest lobbying outfits.
Rick Klein in the Boston Globe shows an interesting "Freudian" slip from the speaker of the House:
Hastert also tried to separate himself from Abramoff yesterday, and even mispronounced his name at the press conference: ''A year ago most people around Congress couldn't tell you who Jack Abrahamoff [sic] was and didn't know who his associates were or what connections there are."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Alito charade

Indeed, as Jeffrey Toobin argues in this week's New Yorker, the nominating process has been a charade since the late 80s. An excerpt:
Republican nominees have been particularly cagey about expressing a view on the fate of Roe v. Wade. Their reluctance may be as strategic as it is prudential: a recent poll shows that almost seventy per cent of the public would oppose Alito’s confirmation if he were committed to overturning Roe. (The last two Democratic nominees, Ginsburg and Breyer, made plain that they would protect a woman’s right to choose.) Politically, Alito’s silence may be golden, but it is absurd that it is tolerated. Like most candidates for public office, the eighteen senators on the Judiciary Committee went before the voters of their states with public stands on the issue of legalized abortion. Indeed, virtually all politicians in the country are expected to have a view on Roe, yet the nine individuals who can actually decide its fate are not.

Of course, the job of Justice is more than politics alone, and Alito’s career, as well as his testimony, shows him to be a man of intelligence and integrity. He’ll master the craft with ease. But it is disheartening that a matter of such importance as confirming a Supreme Court Justice is a charade—about the nature of the job, about the character of the nominee, and about a process that tells us everything except what we need to know.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Soccer sanctions (Football sanctions)

This is an older story, but an interesting one. FIFA has resisted calls for soccer sanctions on Iran. The idea dates back to at least 1994, when Yugoslavia was prevented from the FIFA World Cup. Here's the story:
FRANKFURT, Germany - Soccer‘s governing body will allow Iran to play in next year‘s World Cup despite calls from German politicians for the Islamic nation to be banned because the country‘s president denies the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad‘s comments were denounced in Germany, which is sensitive to its Nazi past. Hitler‘s Nazi regime was responsible for the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

"We‘re not going to enter into any political declarations," Blatter told The Associated Press on Friday in Tokyo, where he‘s attending the Club World Championship.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

SCIRI and the Iraqi charter

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iran's proxy SCIRI, has had the following to say, via the New York Times:
"This constitution was endorsed by the Iraqi people," he said, during a speech in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Mr. Hakim appeared to rule out in particular any change in the constitution's provisions allowing the creation of strong regional provinces, a point that had angered many Sunnis.

"It is our responsibility to form Baghdad provinces and southern Iraq provinces," Mr. Hakim said.
The period for changing the charter is the next four months after a government forms. That would mean the intentions of Iraq's Shiite leaders will be known before the summer. Some of them, at least, do not appear willing to make the compromises necessary to attract sufficient Sunni support.

Though this may just be tough talk.

Sanctions for Iran?

Tony Blair has said that sanctions are possibly and may in fact be likely. Reuters reports:
"I think the first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to the Security Council, if that is indeed what the allies jointly decide, as I think seems likely," Blair told the House of Commons, adding that he was in close contact with Washington on the issue.

"We obviously don't rule out any measures at all," Blair said when asked about possible sanctions. "It's important Iran recognizes how seriously the international community treats it."
Iran's response (same story):
"If they cause any disturbance, they will ultimately regret it," he warned.

"Keeping the Third World and the Islamic world several steps behind has been the West's traditional colonial policy," he said in a speech for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha broadcast live on state television.

"Even if (the Westerners) destroy our scientists, their successors would continue the job," he said. "It would not be easy for them to solve the (nuclear) case by imposing sanctions or anything like that."

Rafsanjani, who was president of Iran in the 1990s, was the moderate candidate who lost to the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the run-off elections last June.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

He actually told us to be grateful for Lipitor

Anya Kamenetz wrote this book. Daniel Gross wrote a snippy review in Slate. Daniel Drezner quotes from the review extensively in his blog, as he and Gross speak the same language of the economic intelligentsia. Meanwhile, Kamenetz is irate about the review and has posted a dialogue between her and Gross in her blog.

I have yet to read Kamenetz's book, but her blog calls out for young people that "feel screwed by the economics of daily life." Is it any surprise that people vested within the economics of daily life would find her points to be uninspiring? Note this impassioned comment from one reader of Drezner's blog:
One of two things happens: Either people are going to more expensive universities because it will increase their lifetime earnings by enough to pay for tuition, or they're making bad calculations and costing themselves money. In the former case, I don't see how they have so much room to complain. If university is going to increase your salary by over $15,000 per year for the rest of your life, should you really be so upset about paying $15,000 per year for tuition? In the latter, perhaps people should start paying attention to cost and going to public universities.
Here is Gross' economic explanation for the genesis of Kamenetz's book:
The economic jeremiad written by a twentysomething is a cyclical phenomenon. People who graduate into a recessionary/post-bubble economy inevitably find the going tough, which compounds the usual postgraduate angst.
Gross justifies this opinion with an allusion to his own experience, yet he gets into greater detail in his reponse to Kamenetz's response:
My first job in journalism, which I took with my stellar degrees and experience at TNR was the ultimate crap job – coming in at 4:00 a.m. to Bloomberg news to summarize newspaper articles for the wire service and living in a shitty apartment. Of course, like everybody else, there were times when I was miserable and full of self-pity, and I even wrote about it sometimes.

I quit Bloomberg after nine months, and have been self-employed ever since, writing for magazines, writing books, etc. The point is not to impress you with my up from the bootstraps tale, or to look back wistfully to my youth. The point is that if you want to make it big, or relatively big, in New York journalism at a young age you have to take an awful lot of risks – which is precisely what you’re doing.
It is fortunate for the debate that we now have this personal backstory for Gross. What is missing from this story, however, is the realization that no doubt a number of other Grosses failed in the very rat race that Gross accepts as "the cyclical phenomenon" of "economic jeremiad."

What is also missing, more importantly, is that the younger Gross had the potential for his failure as a reality while he was slugging his way through inane copy for Bloomberg News.

There are two sentences that explain Gross' ironic lack of sympathy with Kamenetz:
It's not that the authors misdiagnose ills that affect our society. It's just that they lack the perspective to add any great insight.
Here you see the assertion that additional experience will bring about a perspective that grants more insight. That insight, according to Gross, seems to be the following:
The larger point is this, which people in their early 20s generally fail to realize. Getting married, or forming a long-term relationship, is economically advantageous for a whole host of reasons, whether your partner works at Google or not. You save on rent, overhead, and taxes; you pay less for car insurance; and for those who lack benefits, you increase your access to health care benefits. And although people may be marrying later, most people do wind up getting married.

Also, I don’t know quite what to make of the people who have chosen to consume when they had no capacity to consume, like Stella, who maxed out her Citibank Visa by taking a trip to San Diego on her semester break from college, or Kyle, the Cornell grad who chose to have a car in college and hence took our more loans.
I suppose Gross means that maturity will bring about an economically beneficial long-term relationship and better management of one's credit. That, he believes, will reveal the truth that young people live in a world of youthful anxiety that diminishes over time and with good economic conditions. That some youths feel the need to make poor credit decisions, or that some people may not decide to join in an economically beneficial long-term relationship do not seem to factor into Gross' understanding of the world.

Gross has decided his path in life and has had his world view reaffirmed by a population of like-minded people. For this reason, he no longer understands that angst he claims as natural -- that he once had. It is interesting that once his assault on Kamenetz's point of view lost its heat, he tries to find "common ground" in their shared pasts.

He forgot all that anxiety, however, and that common ground is a "bootstrap" story he tells himself about himself.

Yet, maybe Daniel Gross is right, and we twentysomethings are not sufficiently grateful for the gifts of Wal Mart, Chinese made televisions and Lipitor. Yes, he actually told us to be grateful for Lipitor.

Morning copy 01.10.2006

Samuel Alito

The hearings kick off now, but here's the link to his openning statement yesterday, Houston Chronicle.

By the way, Arlen Specter just hit the big question, Griswold vs. Connecticut. Alito does not seem like one that would overturn the underlying logic of the abortion ruling.

Jill Zuckman, of the Chicago Tribune, clears the dust off the newspeg that the Democrats need to show their special interests that the lesser party has some teeth. The GOP would find itself in the same position where the anti-Roberts proposed by an anti-Bush. The journalists would be dusting off the newspeg in that logically possible world as well.


The Washington Times reports on China's increasing influence:
BEIJING -- Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales yesterday met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and called China an "ideological ally," a day after he invited the communist country to develop Bolivia's vast gas reserves.
The A.P. reports on China's efforts to modernize its military:
SHANGHAI -- China has cut the size of its military, the world's biggest, by 200,000 soldiers in an effort to create a stronger, more high-tech fighting force, the military said yesterday.
Iran's nuclear program

Iran is set to begin research at its nuclear facitlity, BBC News.

The Guardian has news analysis on Iran's recent activity:
Dr Ali Ansari, a lecturer in modern Iranian history at the University of Saint Andrews, takes an even bleaker view. "In light of what Iran has been saying over the last six weeks, the whole situation is made much more difficult."

Dr Ansari believes that Iran will not stop until it has the means to produce nuclear power.

He feels that for the last two years Tehran has been "accommodating" towards inspections but that "it has got them nowhere. Now they have decided to be bullish."
GOP leadership

Bloomberg News on the specter of Jack Abramoff with the race for majority leader in the Congress:
Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said concerns that the two men are too close to Washington's K Street lobbying corridor may encourage a dark-horse candidate to run against them. ``We have three weeks until this election, and a lot can happen between now and then,'' Flake said.

Reuters reports on an upcoming speech today from President Bush:
In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush will talk about building democracy, the importance of strengthening Iraqi security forces and reconstruction efforts, McClellan said.
Sago mine tragedy

Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports on the investigation into the disaster:
Yesterday, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III appointed J. Davitt McAteer, who was assistant secretary for MSHA during the Clinton administration, to lead the state's investigation. He currently is a vice president at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Bird Flu

The Times of London reports on HSBC's bird flu contingency plans:
HSBC, one of the world's biggest banks, has drawn up contingency plans to cope with the absence of up to half of its 253,000 staff in a bird flu pandemic, as fears grow of the virus spreading westward across Europe.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bremer wanted more troops

When TIME recently reported that battalion level commanders had asked for more troops, the implication was made by the Pentagon and top brass that those requests were common and often not enacted because higher ranking brass viewed the deployment as counterproductive.

With this A.P. report that none other than Proconsul Paul Bremer wanted more troops, it is clear that the Bush administration was more interested in winning in 2004 than winning in Iraq. The story reads (in part):
Bremer said in an NBC News interview Sunday that his memo to Rumsfeld suggested half a million troops were needed — more than three times the number there at the time. Bremer served as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority from May 2003, shortly after the fall of Baghdad, until June 2004 when Iraq's sovereignty was restored.

Di Rita said that after Bremer made his recommendation, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Gen. Richard B. Myers, consulted with senior military commanders to consider changes. They then told Rumsfeld that they preferred to stay at the existing level of 18 brigades, or about 145,000 troops, Di Rita said.

"And that was the end of the matter," the spokesman added.

Talented CSM report abducted

Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor has been abducted in Iraq, the Christian Science Monitor reported today:
BAGHDAD AND PARIS – Jill Carroll, a freelance journalist currently on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, was abducted by unknown gunmen in Baghdad Saturday morning. Her Iraqi interpreter was killed during the kidnapping.
More from this story:
The kidnapping occurred within 300 yards of the office of Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni politician, whom Carroll had been intending to interview at 10 a.m. Saturday local time, the driver said.

Mr. Dulaimi, however, turned out not to be at his office, and after 25 minutes, Carroll and her interpreter left. Their car was stopped as she drove away. "It was very obvious this was by design," said the driver. "The whole operation took no more than a quarter of a minute. It was very highly organized. It was a setup, a perfect ambush."
The Monitor's Statement, which reads in part:
Jill, 28, is an established journalist who has been reporting from the Middle East for Jordanian, Italian, and other news organizations over the past three years. In recent months, the Monitor has tapped into her professionalism, energy, and fair reporting on the Iraqi scene. It was her drive to gather direct and accurate views from political leaders that took her into western Baghdad's Adil neighborhood on Saturday morning.

Claims of responsibility

It is important to note which party claims responsibility for which attacks in Iraq. There has been an effort in recent weeks for Sunni nationalist (or Baathist) groups to distance themselves from civilian attacks. Juan Cole provides a translation of an Arabic media source (Al Hayat) in the professor's morning update:
Sources close to the guerrilla groups in Iraq told the pan-Arab, Saudi-backed London daily, al-Hayat that new disputes have exploded between it and the organization "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, after he carried out last Thursday's bombings in Karbala and Ramadi. Dozens of Shiite and Sunni civilians were killed. The Iraqi guerrilla groups told al-Hayat that they would not unite with the Zarqawi group, as a result.

The Iraqi guerrilla groups say that they only attack the Occupation forces and avoid attacks on civilians, whereas Zarqawi deliberately targets the latter, having adopted a policy of launching a war against the Shiites. His group rarely tangles with the Americans, al-Hayat says, whereas the Iraqi guerrillas killed 5 Americans over the weekend and shot down a Blackhawk helicopter near Tal Afar. [This is the first claim I know of by the ex-Baathists to have shot down the helicopter.]

Iraqi guerrillas were especially upset about the bombing of potential police recruits in Ramadi, since some of the men belonged to the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. The guerrillas had given them permission to enlist under a secret agreement they had reached with the Americans via the mediation of tribal chieftains, stipulating that the guerrillas would dominate the security services, the police and army in the Sunni Arab provinces, as an element in an over-all settlement. The guerrillas would be able to place their men in the security services of Anbar, Salahuddin and Ninevah provinces. In return for their accepting this deal, the Sunni Arab guerrillas would also get the release of their commanders from American prisons, along with the release of some Baathist prisoners from the former regime. (Saddam and some of his worst henchmen are excluded from this deal.)

If this agreement shows signs of working out, the two sides will sign a wide-ranging formal political agreement. The conference planned for Baghdad to continue the work of the Cairo conference last fall is part of the negotiating plann.
The increased desire of insurgents to bolster their legitimacy by attacking United States forces may explain the Blackhawk attack -- either the attack in itself or the claim of responsibility. This supposed agreement is quite interesting. It precludes al Qaeda, I believe, and today there was another al Qaeda attack on police forces, New York Times:
Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place near a checkpoint about half a mile from a ceremony, which was attended by the American ambassador and Iraq's interior and defense ministers. The blasts, which came about four minutes apart just before noon, were heard at the ceremony but did not interrupt it.
The interior ministry is not a popular organization in the Sunni Arab part of Iraq, so there may be few recriminations.

Cole also is doubtful that al Qaeda has been responsible for all recent civilian attacks:
Since there are too few foreign fighters under Zarqawi to account for all the attacks on civilians around the country, I conclude that a lot of them are actually carried out by the Neo-Baathists or Iraqi Salafis, who then blame them on Zarqawi. They thus get to pose as national heroes with clean hands. And Zarqawi gets to boast about being ubiquitous. And Dick Cheney gets to threaten us with al-Qaeda in Iraq (there was no al-Qaeda operating in Iraq before Cheney opened up the possibility by invading the country). So everyone is happy with this lie. But it isn't a plausible one. All this is not to say that there aren't tensions between Zarqawi's people and the ex-Baath captains in the provinces.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

You go to war with the administration you have

A stunning lede from Michael Moss in the NYT this morning:
A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

Granted this study is based on a sample of 93 fatal deaths, which is a relatively small sample, but the fact that over 70 of them could have been prevented by better body armor, according to the report, is simply unbelievable.

More from Moss:
Military officials and contractors said the Pentagon's procurement troubles had stemmed in part from miscalculations that underestimated the strength of the insurgency, and from years of cost-cutting that left some armoring companies on the brink of collapse as they waited for new orders.

Who knows what kind of legs this story will have--depressing as it is to say, is anyone really surprised by this report?--but with it breaking as all the Sunday D.C. shows prep for taping, it could be the talk of Washington next week.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tale told by an idiot?

President George W. Bush met with prominent dissenters about the Iraq war today. We shall see if this transcends from mere gesture to actual policy; or if this was full of sound and fury yet signified nothing. One excerpt from the Reuters' account is of note for the level of detail.:
Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state for Bush's father, said when talking to the president there is a tendency to be restrained in expressing opposing views.

"There was some criticism, but it was basically 'you haven't talked to the American people enough,' and it was very mild," he said to reporters after the meeting. "We're all has-beens anyway," he said, smoking a cigarette in front of the television cameras on the White House driveway.
Plus this is just plain hilarious. Something you'd expect from the Onion, yet in real life.


If Rep. Jane Harman's, D-Cal, interpretation of the National Security Act is correct, the administration of George W. Bush is in deep trouble, A.P.:
In a letter to Bush, Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said the National Security Act requires the heads of the various intelligence agencies to keep the entire House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States."

Only in the case of a highly classified covert action can the president choose to inform a narrower group of Congress members about his decision, Harman said. That action is defined in the law as an operation to influence political, economic or military conditions of another country.

"The NSA program does not qualify as a 'covert action,'" Harman wrote.
If Bob Novak is correct, in today's Sun Times column, Nancy Pelosi is in trouble:
Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with Pelosi's performance is pervasive across the ideological spectrum. Her colleagues grumble that under her leadership, the party lacks focus and a clear agenda necessary to take advantage of Republican disarray.

This deficiency is referred to by some House Democrats as ''the Nancy problem,'' but it really transcends failings of their party leader. They remain tied to obsolete practices that freeze in place aged committee leaders. Their rhetoric betrays inability to free themselves from New Deal tax-and-spend policies. The Republican majority looks divided, out of gas and threatened by serious scandals. But Democrats fear they are ill-equipped to seize their opportunity.
If what happened in Iraq today is an indication of what we can expect, there are serious problems with this insurgency, CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- In the deadliest day since the December 15 elections, at least 118 people were killed in Iraq and scores were wounded in separate insurgent-bomb attacks, authorities said Thursday.
If the medical reports are accurate, Ariel Sharon may not see the end of the week, CNN:
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will remain sedated until at least Friday, and remains in serious condition in intensive care following a major stroke, the director of Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital said Thursday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Morning copy 01.04.2006

Abramoff scandal

The plea agreement, via FindLaw.

The background vox populi, via CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About half of U.S. adults believe most members of Congress are corrupt, a poll released Tuesday suggests.

According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 49 percent of respondents said most members of Congress are corrupt. Although 46 percent of respondents said most aren't, the margin of sampling error -- plus or minus 4.5 percent -- makes it clear that the perception of congressional politicians is largely negative.
Newt Gingrich's reaction, via the Washington Post:
"I'm going to talk at length about the need for us to rethink not just lobbying but the whole process of elections, incumbency protection and the way in which the system has evolved," he said. "Which is very different from the way the American system is supposed to be like. I think Abramoff is just part of a large pattern that has got to be rethought."
An expert's opinion, via Bloomberg News:
"If I were DeLay, I would be very concerned," said Bill Mateja, a white-collar criminal-defense lawyer with Fish & Richardson PC in Dallas and formerly a senior counsel in the Justice Department's corporate criminal task force. "A staffer is certainly a subject of the investigation. Whether it takes them all the way to DeLay, we'll have to wait and see."
Excellent use of the subjunctive, expert.

Tom DeLay, via the Houston Chronicle:
But over the years, Abramoff cultivated political relationships with DeLay and his aides, took foreign trips with the congressman, boasted of his influence with the lawmaker and lured several DeLay staffers into his lucrative lobbying business.

A key accomplice of Abramoff's was former DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy, according to papers filed by the Justice Department in the Abramoff plea deal.

Rudy is not named, but Abramoff's plea agreement refers to staffer A, whose activities match those of Rudy. He left DeLay's staff in 2001 to work with Abramoff at the firm of Greenberg Traurig.
Remember Ronnie Earle, via the Houston Chronicle:
AUSTIN - The Travis County district attorney issued four subpoenas Tuesday in an attempt to find any links between discredited Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Congressman Tom DeLay's 2002 Texas fundraising.
K Street Konnection, via the Los Angeles Times:
GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front, and his tentacles of influence reached deep into the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush administration.
Irony noted for "Representative #1", via the Los Angeles Times:
Ironically, Ney won his first elective office by defeating a Democrat who had been tainted by scandal — Wayne Hays.

The Guardian has an exclusive:
The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes.

Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.
James Risen's book details the following, from the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — In a clumsy effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, the CIA in 2004 intentionally handed Tehran some top-secret bomb designs laced with a hidden flaw that U.S. officials hoped would doom any weapon made from them, according to a new book about the U.S. intelligence agency.

But the Iranians were tipped to the scheme by the Russian defector hired by the CIA to deliver the plans and may have gleaned scientific information useful for designing a bomb, writes New York Times reporter James Risen in "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."
The Christian Science Monitor's Scott Peterson reports on the Messianic movement in Iran:
QOM, IRAN – Have a quick question about when the Mahdi is coming to save mankind, according to Shiite Muslim adherents? Need to know the signs?

Just call the new messiah "hotline." Or log on to Bright Future News Agency to get the latest religious readout - all part of the effort by freshly rejuvenated true believers in Iran to spread their message of the imminent return of the Mahdi, the 12th Imam who is expected to return to impose justice and spread peace.
Energy and foreign policy

Hugo Chavez has struck a deal with Evo Morales, prsident-elect of Bolivia, to combat neoliberalism, imperialism and to trade energy, BBC News. Russia and Ukraine have agreed to a deal on gas prices, Reuters. Chavez's adroit use of energy and Russia's renationalization of the petroleum industry are clear examples of how the 21st Century is going to play out geopolitically.

The ban on torture

The Boston Globe reports:
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

Increased surveillance began before White House authorization, reports the Washington Post.

Tennessee's Senate race

The Tennessean reports almost $10 million in the combined war-chests of the leading Dem. and GOP canididates.

Steel curtain

A.P.: Lynn Swann is running for governor (not news):
Aides declined to confirm the purpose of the tour, but Swann’s political committee — Team 88, named after the number on the former wide receiver’s football jersey — has been raising money for 11 months. Swann also has billed himself as a prospective candidate as he has courted GOP activists across the state.

Dubai's ruler has died

From al Jazeera. He may have suffered from heart problems.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I have seen Paul E. Schroeder and "Augie" Schroeder's mother on CNN programs from time to time since their dark day in Haditha. Both have always maintained a respectful, thoughtful tone in their reaction to the Bush administration's decisions concerning Iraq. Paul Schroeder's tone remains that in his Op Ed in today's Washington Post:
Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

Morning copy 01.03.2006

The war over the war in Iraq

A major Sunni Arab group has met with the Shiite and Kurds, and agreed to the outline of a government, A.P. Professor Cole on this development:
The most likely explanation is that the the religious Shiites and the Kurds have managed to detach the National Accord Front from its former partners, who are anyway unacceptable to important Shiite and Kurdish constituencies. It is the religious Sunni parties with which the others feel they can do business, probably especially the Iraqi Islamic Party, which had a history of dissidence in the Baath period. Jalal Talabani is still arguing for including all 4 major parties in the national unity government, according to Al-Hayat-- the Shiite fundamentalist UIA, the Kurdistan Alliance, the National Accord Front, and the secular National Iraqiyah list of Allawi. But Talabani may not be able to convince the Sadrists to let Allawi's people into the cabinet. One follower of the nationalist young Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, said that the Allawi list's inclusion was a "red line" that must not be crossed.
James Risen, of the New York Times, has a book about the CIA's investigation on Saddam's nuclear program, A.P.:
Dr. Sawsan Alhaddad of Cleveland made the dangerous trip to Iraq on the CIA's behalf. The book said her brother was stunned by her questions about the nuclear program because he said it had been dead for a decade.
The Guardian, and indeed all British newspapers, gives lengthy coverage to the story first reported in yesterday's Washington Post: the Bush administration is cutting off reconstruction dollars to Iraq. The Guardian notes:
It marks a retreat from a promise by Mr Bush in 2003 to provide Iraq with the best infrastructure in the region.

Yesterday, however, a Pentagon official disavowed that ambition. "The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq," Brigadier General William McCoy, the Army Corps of Engineers commander overseeing the work, was quoted in the Post as saying. "This was just supposed to be a jump-start."
Jack Abramoff

The uberlobbyist appears close to a plea deal. Note the quotes.

Bloomberg News:
``When this is all over, this will be bigger than any (government scandal) in the last 50 years, both in the amount of people involved and the breadth to it,'' said Stan Brand, a former U.S. House counsel who specializes in representing public officials accused of wrongdoing. ``It will include high-ranking members of Congress and executive branch officials.''
Houston Chronicle:
"Mr. DeLay is not concerned about the potential of Mr. Abramoff cooperating with the government," Cullen said in a recent interview. "Mr. DeLay thinks everybody should be cooperating (with investigators) and telling the truth."
War on terror

Jon Carroll, of the San Francisco Chronicle, writes on one administration defender's logic:
Who has oversight over the actions of the president?

The president oversees his own actions. If at any time he determines that he is a danger to America, he has the right to wiretap himself, name himself an enemy combatant and spirit himself away to a secret prison in Egypt.
Homeland Security will announce changes in money distribution for anti-terror programs, New York Times.

From Russia with oil

News analysis, in the New York Times, about the Russia-Ukraine row over oil:
"Once again we are seeing that Gazprom is not a leading international company," said Dan Rapaport, managing director of CentreInvest, a Moscow-based investment firm, "but a tool of policy making for the Kremlin."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Retreating from Iraq

Cut and run is well underway.

First, let's begin with something directly from the White House's November strategy for winning in Iraq (their emphasis):
How will these efforts help the Iraqis -- with Coalition support -- defeat the enemy and achieve our larger goals?
The rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and the provision of essential services will increase the confidence of Iraqis in their government and help convince them that the government is offering them a brighter future. People will then be more likely to cooperate with the government, and provide intelligence against the enemy, creating a less hospitable environment for the terrorists and insurgents.

Efforts in the reconstruction realm have significant implications in the security realm when they focus on rebuilding post-conflict cities and towns. Compensation for civilians hurt by counterterrorism operations and the restoration of some economic vibrancy to areas formerly under terrorist control can help ease resentment and win over an otherwise suspicious population.

Today's Washington Post ledes with:
BAGHDAD -- The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
This may be the clearest sign yet that the Bush administration intends to leave but a skeleton force in Iraq. That force will probably be the highly technical and the highly trained -- bombers and special forces. This force would also work closely with the sectarian military and police formations of the Iraqi government, which could be a Shiite-Kurdish tyranny of the majority over the Sunnis.

This is how George Bush's Iraq war will end, with a bang and a whimper.