July 31, 2007 § Leave a comment
The day’s catch
NOT SO FAST… – The Boston Globe
They’ve got the money, the momentum, and what looks like history on their side. But a Democratic victory in 2008 is no sure thing.
By David Greenberg
Such a strategy may help win the party’s nomination. But in the fall of 2008, with war, terrorism, and national security still looming as critical issues, the burden will be on the Democratic nominee to prove that he or she will offer stronger leadership than a Republican — especially a Republican who isn’t George W. Bush.
Votescam: Comment: The New Yorker
by Hendrik Hertzberg August 6, 2007
California Initiative No. 07-0032 is an audacious power play packaged as a step forward for democratic fairness. It’s the lotusland equivalent of Tom DeLay’s 2003 midterm redistricting in Texas, except with a sweeter smell, a better disguise, and larger stakes. And the only way Californians will reject it is if they have a chance to think about it first
Polls and Polling – Iraq – U.S. Invasion – New York Times
A Polling Mystery
By JANET ELDER
THE war in Iraq is the single most important continuing news issue right now
The Times and CBS News conducted a poll from July 9 to July 17
Forty-two percent of those polled said the United States did the right thing, and 54 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. The last time the question was asked, in May, 35 percent said taking military action against Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.
The July numbers represented a change. It was counterintuitive. None of the other war-related questions showed change. Mr. Bush’s approval rating had not changed. Nor had approval of his handling of Iraq. The level of support for Mr. Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq — the “surge” — was about the same as it had been in past polls. Support for the decision to go to war had risen modestly and nothing else in the poll could explain it.
Polls and Polling – Iraq – U.S. Invasion – New York Times
There was also a drop in the number of people who said the war was going badly. In the latest poll, 66 percent of Americans said things were going badly for the United States in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq. That is down from 76 percent who said the same thing in May
My guess is that the pain of withdrawal begins to dawn. Same Old Question, Different Answer. Hmmm.
The least bad plan for leaving Iraq. – By Fred Kaplan – Slate Magazine
Note created July 30, 2007
Defeat Without DisasterThe least bad plan for leaving Iraq.
By Fred Kaplan
Peter Galbraith’s article in the current New York Review of Books, “Iraq: The Way to Go,” is one of the most bracing essays written on the subject lately
“The Iraq war is lost,” Galbraith starkly declares in his new article. “Defeat,” he continues, “is defined by America’s failure to accomplish its objective of a self-sustaining, democratic, and unified Iraq. And that failure has already taken place.”
He has now abandoned his plan for a partitioned federation, regarding the southern two-thirds of Iraq—the areas dominated by Shiite and Sunni Arabs—as hopeless. Instead, he calls for withdrawing U.S. troops from those areas and redeploying some of them to the northern sector, in order to protect the Kurds.
It’s extremely discomfiting to abet ethnic segregation—but less so when the alternative might open the gates to mass murder.
DC: Is there a regional conference that could use larger sphere money (Japan, China, India Russia)to create real hope in the Iraq people have come to know? Think of the original good will on the part of many towards a liberation that never came. Money and international legitimacy, and a regional conference for yet more legitimacy, seems more humane.
Iraq – Exit Strategy – Washington – Military Forces – New York Times
Note created July 30, 2007
How Fast Can the Troops Leave?
Can Departing Soldiers Be Shielded From Attack?
What to Take? What to Leave? What to Destroy?
With individual missiles costing $100,000 or more and armored Humvees about $380,000, the staggering value of materiél demands a longer, more complete withdrawal, Mr. Cordesman said. “You can leave an awful lot of things behind. But that borders on the insane.”
How Long to Repair and Ship Vital Equipment?
Who Stays Behind?
There are up to 100,000 Iraqi contractors, perhaps more, working for the United States. After a pullout, many of them could be at risk from reprisals by anti-American forces.
DC: obvious, but a good list. The numbers are staggering. And the costs to be incurred.
Bush’s folly – Los Angeles Times
His fixation on Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq reveals the shallowness of his thinking — and of the U.S. strategy on fighting terrorism.
Bush repeated his tendentious trope: “A key lesson of September the 11th is that the best way to protect America is to go on the offense, to fight the terrorists overseas so we don’t have to face them here at home.” This led directly to the unstated conclusion that the United States must stay in Iraq for as long as it takes to conquer evil. The speech leaves little doubt that the president intends to keep fighting in Iraq until Jan. 20, 2009 — if Congress will let him.
So here are the real questions, Mr. President: How do we degrade Al Qaeda’s ability to replace the leaders we manage to kill? How do we dry up its source of recruits? Who can convince young radicals that killing themselves and scores of innocents won’t serve Islam or improve Muslim life in Iraq, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, New York or anywhere else? What political, social and religious progress, what kind of education, what kind of economic development will weaken the appeal of the fanatical Islamist message?
Not until an American president gives the world meaningful answers to these questions can we have a “global war on terrorism” worthy of the name
OK. Are the Democrats on track to do this?
Iraq: More than an American Problem
The rest of the world also has a stake in how the US emerges from Iraq. There is a real danger that a widely-perceived failure in Iraq could lead to a serious weakening of American domestic political support for an active international role, particularly difficult but necessary deployments of military force.
The alternative to a world shaped by a strong, confident, and engaged US is not likely to be a world that is peaceful, prosperous, and free. In strategic terms, no other country or group of countries has the capacity to replace the US. The alternative to a US-led global order is disorder, in which terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and economic protectionism are increasingly the norm.
The reality is that Iraq’s future is not assured even if these and similar measures are taken. Still, there is a big difference between an Iraq that struggles and one that implodes; between an Iraq that contributes to global energy security rather than undermining it; between a civil war and a regional war. It may be too late for the US to succeed in Iraq, but it is not too late for others to increase the odds that the US does not fail.
Richard N. Haass is President of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Opportunity: America’s Moment to Alter History’s Course.
DC: Seems to me very weak. Correct as far as it goes, but his earlier point that the world is taking some pleasure in US failure means it will not act to make the US look better. To get there the US must apologize, which it won’t do.
FT.com / Books / Non-Fiction – Gherkins and turnips
Review By Edwin Heathcote
Published: July 28 2007 01:15 | Last updated: July 28 2007 01:15
New York 2000 should be one of the dullest architecture books available. It covers the period between 1980 and 2000, a time that was the undisputed nadir in the history of a city that has otherwise defined itself through its gorgeously attenuated architecture. It was the period of corporate glass boxes – the moment when business found the formula for extruding architecture to create maximum floorspace for minimum art
To the core. yes.
In fact, it is New York 2000 that is brilliant – the most engrossing, comprehensive and thoughtful book on architecture I have read in a long while. This monumental fifth instalment in a series that has covered New York’s architecture since 1880 is made up of essays that look at general themes as well as each region of the city. It is an astonishing achievement, neither guide nor coffee-table book, but rather a cocktail of social and architectural history, of the movement of capital and fashion, local politics and global aesthetics.
Ann Patchett talks about writing, friendship, and defending her work against censorious detractors.
If stories about girls who are disfigured by cancer, humiliated by strangers, and turn to sex and drugs to escape from their enormous pain are too disgusting, too pornographic, then I have to tell you, friends, the Holocaust is off-limits. The Russian Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, the war in Vietnam, the Crusades, all represent such staggering acts of human depravity and perversion that I could see the virtue of never looking at them at all.
Absolutely not. My experience at Clemson was so much about me catching up with what was going on. And while I shouldn’t have been blindsided by what happened there—as it had been clearly laid out for me well in advance—I just never thought things were going to be as bad as they were
As the crow flies | By genre | Guardian Unlimited Books
Andrew Motion finds poetry in Crow Country, Mark Cocker’s attempt to rehabilitate one of nature’s most maligned birds
Why the sudden surge of interest? It’s partly a response to our increasingly urbanised lives: wings over a city, let alone across the countryside, remind us of ancient freedoms and connections.
Cocker’s title suggests a narrow beam of attention. In fact his book has interesting things to say about all seven breeding representatives of the corvid family that exist in Britain, and celebrates rooks in particular. His opening chapter lets us understand why. Watching “a long ellipse” of several thousand rooks and jackdaws head for their evening roost, he is lifted into ecstatic delight – entranced not just by the mass of the birds themselves, but by their power to “act like ink-blot tests drawing images out of [his] unconscious”. In other words, the flocks plunge him deeply into himself while seeming marvellously other than himself, compelling him to ask questions about how language can contain a sight so amazing, and also to wonder how the birds articulate elements in his deep un- or sub-conscious.
He quotes Thomas Browne and Andrew Young, John Clare and Edward Thomas – a small anthology, in fact, of kindred spirits. Puzzlingly, there’s no mention of Ted Hughes, whose Crow poems feed so greedily – and famously – on the violent mythic associations of the birds.
DC: Well, I like to see more GardenWorld relevant books.
How newspapers can thrive on the World Wide Web
Commentary: An online journalism pioneer examines the state of the industry through the example of his hometown Florida newspapers.
the most recoginizable media brands in their communities, and should be able to translate that brand recognition into local online information dominance. Here’s how they can do it.
DC: ah, so go local! Who does the big stories?
NewsWire | The Agonist
Nowhere has this flat tax caught on more swiftly than in Central and Eastern Europe, where nine of world’s 13 countries to have adopted the system are located. It’s a reform movement that started in 1994 with Estonia, gained momentum when Russia saw a 25-percent increase in state revenue from personal income tax after implementing a 13-percent flat tax in 2001, and culminated with Slovakia’s much-lauded adoption of a single 19-percent rate on income, corporate, and valued added tax
Doesn’t seem progressive. In fact each taxes more or less the same thing, and he rae is high. There has to be oher cutnerbalancing elements to keep from run-away concentration of wealth, gien he effeciency of the modern info based corpoation to do so.
July 28, 2007 § Leave a comment
The dems need to propose what a full diplomacy and security strategy would look like, and who could do it. Do we have the skilled and knowledgeable staff?
The upside of this latest tiff between Senators Clinton and Obama is that it is starting to force candidates, and hopefully the broader public, to start thinking about what a new foreign policy should look like, and further, if we support diplomacy, what the sound byte of “vigorous diplomacy” should contain.
July 27, 2007 § Leave a comment
The LA Times reports that Baghdadis are down to one or two hours of electricity a day, but that the Bush administration will no longer be measuring or reporting on that sort of local data. It will give Congress only the general statistic for the entire country. But obviously whether the capital has electricity would help you know whether the current policies are working.
The statistical problem af assessment of trends in Baghdad is made worse because so many have fled or already dead. If the number dying in a day is about the same as a year ago, the reality is then much worse (if it could be worse). I would guess that the current population of Baghdad is less than half of what it was in say 2004.
July 26, 2007 § Leave a comment
In a new letter to Sen. Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologizes for Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman’s recent attacks on her. He writes, “I emphatically assure you that [the Defense Department does] not claim, suggest, or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone’s motives in this regard.” The AP reports:
“I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intention,” Gates wrote.
“I agree with you that planning concerning the future of U.S. forces in Iraq — including the drawdown of those forces at the right time — is not only appropriate but essential,” Gates wrote, adding that Edelman also agrees with that point.
“You may rest assured that such planning is indeed taking place with my active involvement,” he wrote in the letter.
July 25, 2007 § Leave a comment
Corrupt and undemocratic practices by the CIA have prevailed since it was created in 1947. However, US citizens have now, for the first time, been given a striking range of critical information necessary to understand how this situation came about and why it has been impossible to remedy. We have a long, richly documented history of the CIA from its post-World War II origins to its failure to supply even the most elementary information about Iraq before the 2003 invasion of that country.
Declassified CIA records
Tim Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes is important for many reasons, but certainly one is that it brings back from the dead the possibility that journalism can actually help citizens perform elementary oversight on the US government.
Until Weiner’s magnificent effort, I would have agreed with Seymour Hersh that, in the current crisis of US governance and foreign policy, the failure of the press has been almost complete. American journalists have generally not even tried to penetrate the layers of secrecy that the executive branch throws up to ward off scrutiny of its often illegal and incompetent activities. This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that documents its very important assertions in a way that goes well beyond asking readers merely to trust the reporter.
Weiner, a New York Times correspondent, has been working on Legacy of Ashes for 20 years. He has read more than 50,000 government documents, mostly from the CIA, the White House and the State Department. He was instrumental in causing the CIA Records Search Technology (CREST) program of the National Archives to declassify many of them, particularly in 2005 and 2006. He has read more than 2,000 oral histories of American intelligence officers, soldiers and diplomats and has himself conducted more than 300 on-the-record interviews with current and past CIA officers, including 10 former directors of central intelligence. Truly exceptional among authors of books on the CIA, he makes the following claim: “This book is on the record – no anonymous sources, no blind quotations, no hearsay.”
Weiner’s history contains 154 pages of endnotes keyed to comments in the text. (Numbered notes and standard scholarly citations would have been preferable, as well as an annotated bibliography providing information on where documents could be found; but what he has done is still light-years ahead of competing works.) These notes contain extensive verbatim quotations from documents, interviews and oral histories. Weiner also observes: “The CIA has reneged on pledges made by three consecutive directors of central intelligence – [Robert] Gates, [James] Woolsey, and [John] Deutch – to declassify records on nine major covert actions: France and Italy in the 1940s and 1950s; North Korea in the 1950s; Iran in 1953; Indonesia in 1958; Tibet in the 1950s and 1960s; and the Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Laos in the 1960s.” He is nonetheless able to supply key details on each of these operations from unofficial, but fully identified, sources.
July 24, 2007 § Leave a comment
Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: “Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. . . .
“[B]y a large margin, Americans trust Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. . . .
“Many would like Congress to assert itself on Iraq, and about half of poll respondents said congressional Democrats have done ‘too little’ to get Bush to change his war policy. . . .
The problem is that the administration lacks competenece at strategy and diplomacy. I think the situation we are in is as follows:
1. We were very wrong to go into Iraq
2. We might have been wrong to go into Afghanistan earlier. Afghanistan represents the same imperial power denying reality (our support of the Taliban against the Soviets)
3. We have stirred up a massive reaction against us, not only from within Islam, but all our Allies: Europe, Japan, Latin America.
4. To pull out of Iraq now would leave a much stronger Islamic fundamentalism and secular Islamic hatred of the US in place and entrenched. It would also probably lead to increased cross border violence in the Middle East.
5. This logic should lead to the conclusion that we should stay.
6. But the reality is the U.S. does not have the diplomatic skill to participate in and help create the necessary multilateral relationships to carry out this policy.
7. Further, the U.S. goals for oil and bases in the Middle East would not be let go off by this administration and hence a modest strategy of trying to win friends and stabilize the Middle East is undermined by these closely held goals of the administration.
8. The result is we lack all credibility that in fact requires a change of heart and perspective towards the deeper dilemmas of the Middle East and to abandon our narrow support of economic interests and our support of Israel in its current belligerent form.
9. It follows that the only viable path is to announce that we give up the bases and the embassy and start withdrawing troops.
10. Since the White House will not agree to this Congress must take stronger steps to withdraw authorization and to fund only a drawdown of the troops and equipment.
11. This leaves to a later date the issue of the reorientation of American policies at the strategic level. That puts great pressure on whoever wins the next presidential election. Problems with Afghanistan and Pakistan are too likely to lead the next administration to find continuity in policy and not do the necessary reorientation.
July 24, 2007 § Leave a comment
A change of US plan for Pakistan
The Pakistani Supreme Court standing up to President General Pervez Musharraf was not a part of the US-envisaged plan, and Washington has quickly had to rewrite the script. Ideas of a united “moderate center” with a former premier at the core are in the bin. Expect a US military raid into Pakistan, followed by the declaration of a state of emergency. – M K Bhadrakumar
and, same source
US lawmakers unite to demonize Iran
While they may quibble and occasionally outright quarrel over defense funding and a timetable for exiting Iraq, there is one issue that draws whole-hearted support from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill: confronting Iran.