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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Monday, 19 September 2005

Topic: Race

Race: The Fire Next Time, Again

Okay, there are a few. Fox News has them on all the time to show that the president is a fine fellow. That's the Murdoch-Ailes mission. Everyone else rags on the president, and, to make things fair and balanced, their news operation will do the opposite. So they trot out these guys, the black, pro-Bush Republicans. Yes, there are a few. They're one of the Fox News weapons in their war to take back the national narrative from the liberal, Jewish, pro-Democrat, probably socialist, clearly anti-Christian and irresponsible New York media, those guys who want Saddam back in power and would kill hundreds of millions of our embryo citizens and force teenage girls to have abortions even of they're not pregnant, and all the rest. But is the administration screwing over our black citizens? Have they been systematically doing that? Bring out the black Bush supporter. Prove it isn't so. These guys love George.

But what happens when one of them reaches his limit? Consider Robert A. George of the National Review, William F. Buckley's flagship magazine of the conservative movement. It seems he has, as he writes this -
First came House Speaker Dennis Hastert openly considering "bulldozing" parts of New Orleans - at a point when the city was still 80 percent under water, bodies were still being fished out and people were still stranded in the convention center...

Then, former First Lady Barbara Bush uttered words in a radio interview which will unfortunately haunt her remaining years: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Those that heard the contents state that she notably "chuckled" during the last phrase.

Now, for some, Katrina may present new opportunity. But if poor children lost their parents and were adopted by a wealthy couple, would one chuckle that things were "working well for them"?
And then, to complete the hat trick, an actual Louisiana congressman pops up telling lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Baker claimed that he was misquoted or misheard or something...

Honestly, I might be inclined to give Baker the benefit of the doubt, if it didn't seem like this disaster has given Republicans the opportunity to "share" how they really feel. Similarly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't include Barbara Bush's comments. But, not this time. It just happens too often to ignore them anymore.

Ironically, the concern uttered here is not that the statements are necessarily racist or suggest some animus toward minorities. That's not the point. It is that the speakers seem unable to see those suffering as actual people.
Of course, this is on his web log, not in the National Review, nor on Fox. The title is "Why Am I Still a Republican?"

Good question, and don't expect Hannity or O'Reilly to interview you on the topic. But welcome aboard the reality express.

It is fascinating to watch the thoughtful conservatives deal with their party in its current turmoil, like Andrews Sullivan here:
One of the more irritating aspects of the post-Katrina debate has been the assertion by some liberals that the failure to provide emergency assistance for citizens hit by a natural disaster is a function of conservatism. The notion is that conservatives hate government so much that they do not even think the government has an obligation to act in a natural disaster. In fact, the opposite is true. Real conservatives (I'm not referring to the crew now in the White House) favor energetic executive action where only it can do the job: police, war, disaster relief, a basic social welfare net. What we're against is social engineering, redistributive taxation, over-regulation of private activity, etc. What conservatives want is a smaller yet stronger government. And getting smaller helps government focus on what it really should do, not on all the illusory goals that some liberals believe in, like, er, ending human inequality.
Yep, ending human inequality, like working for world peace, is best left to the Miss America Pageant. The sweet young things, when asked for their deep thoughts, always wish for that. Whatever. But note the argument here - "the crew now in the White House" aren't "real" conservatives. There's been some kind of bait-and-switch? These guys are sleepers - liberal radicals from the sixties planted in the Republican Party long ago to destroy it from within?

Possibly. One of the odder conspiracy theories, of course.

Friedrich Hayek is one of the heroes of the conservative movement and Sullivan notes he is quoted here:
There can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody...

Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance...the case for the state's helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong....

To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state's rendering assistance to the victims of such "acts of God" as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.
Sullivan's conclusion ? "What has happened under Bush is not a function of conservatism. It's a function of abandoning conservatism."

And here he issues a challenge to other "real" conservatives regarding this blog effort to get some Republicans to cut "pork" out of the federal budget.
I'm as eager as the next guy to prevent pork-barrel spending, and I'd definitely support this effort. But the blogosphere campaign to battle pork in the face of Katrina, however admirable, still strikes me as too easy. The truth is: even if we got rid of all the pork, we'd still be in deep fiscal doo-doo. People like me who want to find the money to pay for Iraq and Katrina should be asked what we'd cut. Here's my basic list: postpone or repeal or radically scale back the Medicare drug benefit so it only affects the truly needy; restore the estate tax in full; phase in the means-testing of social security; end agricultural subsidies; kill off all corporate tax relief and the mortgage deduction and move toward a flat tax. That's a start. How many fiscal conservatives will bite these bullets?
Not many.

But is Fox News right? Is everyone picking on Bush, and now the "real" conservatives?

Consider the Monday polling data from Survey USA:
Three polling days after George W. Bush's prime-time speech to the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans, a "can't win" dynamic is unfolding for the President, according to exclusive SurveyUSA data gathered Friday 9/16, Saturday 9/17 and Sunday 9/18. The number of Americans who now approve of the President's response to Hurricane Katrina is down: 40% today compared to 42% before he announced the Gulf Opportunity Zone. The number of Americans who disapprove of the President's response to Katrina is up: 56% today compared to 52% before the speech. Bush went from "Minus 10" on his Response to Katrina before the speech to "Minus 16" today.
Guess the speech didn't work. His opponents didn't see much to cheer, only a little, and he ticked off his conservative base:
One way to make sense of these numbers is to look at the number of Americans who today say the Federal Government is doing "too much" for Katrina victims. That's up to 16% today, more than triple what the number has been on 7 of the 19 days that SurveyUSA has conducted daily tracking since the storm. The more cash President Bush throws on the fire, as compensation for what some see as an inadequate initial response, the more it antagonizes his core supporters.
Heck, all he was trying to do was buy better polling numbers using two hundred billion dollars of taxpayer money, or money borrowed from the Chinese and Japanese in long-term treasuries. Sometimes you can't win for losing.

But at least he avoided a racial uprising by offering something. See Katrina stirs memories of Watts by Diane McWhorter in USA Today, Monday, September 19 ? she won a Pulitzer for Carry Me Home and wrote A Dream of Freedom, one of those "young-adult" books, a history of the civil rights movement.

She asks you to remember this:
In the late-summer doldrums, a peerless American city at the continent's edge suffered complete social breakdown. Black citizens rose up in arms against the institutions of civilization and commerce. Marauders commandeered the streets, looting guns from abandoned stores. By the time the National Guard restored peace, a major part of the city lay in ruin, and America had been shaken to the very core of its national identity.

The scene was Los Angeles, 40 years before Hurricane Katrina spun New Orleans into anarchy.
And she ends with this:
On the Tuesday the levees broke in New Orleans, the U.S. Census reported that, despite economic growth in 2004, the poverty rate had increased and income had stagnated. In Watts, the poverty rate today - 46% - is higher than it was in 1965. In the reallocation of national priorities since the country waged war on poverty, it is the rich who are now receiving "handouts," while nearly 30% of residents of a city dedicated to les bon temps live below the poverty line and beneath dignity, as the recent events so gruesomely demonstrated.

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign," goes the old Negro spiritual. "No more water, the fire next time." The omen from this flood, as the president acknowledged in his speech from New Orleans last week, is that the ark is off course.

And the forsaking of those in direst need of its shelter has fired the moral imagination of the rest of us.
So go read the middle. We're at the edge.

Okay, you remember your Langston Hughes - the "Dream Deferred" thing (here). Read the last line again.

And too, read some of the current folks on the right who are angry with Bush for mentioning "racial inequality" may have been a problem and we should do something about it. Read this guy:
His statement is the standard apology for disproportionate black poverty, disproportionate black crime, and disproportionate black underachievement in America. It is the bread and butter of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the standard "Get out the vote" cry of the Democratic Party in the inner cities of America.

And it is simply hogwash. If you were poor and black in 1955, you could offer this explanation for failure truthfully. It no longer is very relevant. No one has been cut off from the opportunity of America by external impediments for forty years.
We fixed all that stuff:
The doors have been thrown open, the way lighted and the government has spent several trillion dollars attempting to guide poor blacks through the door. Yet many remain inside the prison of poverty. Racial discrimination, even if prevalent, cannot injure a people without other assistance. Neither can simply being born into poverty.
Yep, it's their own damned fault.

Jesse Taylor here - "I somehow find myself wanting to fall asleep and wake up to discover that all of my favorite 'racism doesn't exist' conservatives find themselves poor, black, and trying to find someplace to live in Georgia."

Oh heck, it's not racism. These guys are thinking of other things, as this Reuters item explains:
Hurricane Katrina will hurt the U.S. economy in the short run but bright long-term prospects mean the Bush administration can push ahead with its reform agenda, a top White House economic adviser said on Thursday.

"In the shorter term, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina will have a palpable effect on the national economy," White House economic adviser Ben Bernanke said in prepared remarks for delivery at the National Press Club. But he said private-sector forecasts were for healthy long-run growth.

Bernanke said the White House intends to continue pursuing policies that have make the economy able to withstand shocks and that will keep growth on track.

"These policies include making tax relief permanent, reducing the budget deficit by limiting spending, strengthening retirement and health security through efforts like Social Security reform ...and enhancing energy security," Bernanke said.
They're busy. Things are looking up. They're not thinking about race at all. It's not an issue.

Of course little things keep getting in the way. Note this from Josh Marshall, Monday, September 19 -
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy handles procurement policy for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

Until Friday the Administrator of the office was David Hossein Safavian.

Today he was arrested on a three-count indictment.

This, from the DOJ press release ...

"David Hossein Safavian was arrested today based on a three- count criminal complaint filed at federal court in Washington, D.C. The complaint charges Safavian with making false statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG, along with obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

"The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that from May 16, 2002 until January 10, 2004, Safavian served as Chief of Staff at the GSA. During that time he allegedly aided a Washington D.C. lobbyist in the lobbyist's attempts to acquire GSA-controlled property in and around Washington, D.C. In August 2002, this lobbyist allegedly took Safavian and others on a golf trip to Scotland.

"The false statement and obstruction of the investigation charges relate to Safavian's statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG that the lobbyist had no business with GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip. According to the affidavit, Safavian concealed the fact that the lobbyist had business before GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip, and that Safavian was aiding the lobbyist in his attempts to do business with GSA."

Did I mention that before he signed on with the Bush administration Safavian worked for Jack Abramoff at Preston Gates?

Well, he did. Now reread those three grafs and see if they read any different. Golf trip to Scotland? Right. Small world.

He's also a former business partner of Grover Norquist.
The original item has links to all the appropriate news stories. This one will need to be cleaned up before anyone even thinks about black folks.

From the Washington Post, Friday, January 21, 2005, page A15, this -
The law that created Safavian's position - administrator for federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget - does not allow Safavian to intervene in ongoing procurement actions, but he can use the OMB's budget clout to call agencies on the carpet.

"We do have a responsibility to make sure that we have our policies correct," he said in a recent interview. "I view my job as helping to identify policies that are either good for the system or bad for the system, and act accordingly."

Safavian was nominated by President Bush for the OMB post on Jan. 22, 2004, and was confirmed just before Thanksgiving.

... During part of his wait for confirmation, Safavian served as counselor to Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the OMB. Safavian had previously served as chief of staff at the GSA, where he picked up experience in federal contracting issues.

He started his career as a lawyer and worked on Capitol Hill for three House members. He also has worked as a consultant and lobbyist on telecommunications, Indian gambling, tax policy and other matters. In his free time on weekends, he serves as a volunteer police officer in the District and in Dumfries, Va.
Whatever. The man who headed FEMA, Michael Brown, had to resign because he was incompetent, and had no qualifications. The man who was to watch over all the billions in contracts to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? Led away in handcuffs.

What a world, what a world?

This calls for some major spin. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes have their work cut out for them. Our friend, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, worked for Ailes a number of times. Maybe he can tell us all how Ailes will spin this. Our Just Above Sunset columnist Bob Patterson (the World's Laziest Journalist and the Book Wrangler if you head over there) listens to Rush and Hugh Hewitt and all the right side talk radio shows. I'm sure he will report on the spin there.

But what are you going to do with stuff like this in the major media?

Leaders Who Won't Choose
In Washington, it's business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe.
Fareed Zakaria - Newsweek - Sept. 26, 2005 issue

Zakaria is their suave international editor, with his own interview show now, and often a guest on other television panels. He knows his stuff. And he's a bit shrill now.

He opens with this:
Adversity builds character," goes the old adage. Except that in America today we seem to be following the opposite principle. The worse things get, the more frivolous our response. President Bush explains that he will spend hundreds of billions of dollars rebuilding the Gulf Coast without raising any new revenues. Republican leader Tom DeLay declines any spending cuts because "there is no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

This would be funny if it weren't so depressing. What is happening in Washington today is business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe. The scariest part is that we've been here before. After 9/11 we have created a new government agency, massively increased domestic spending and fought two wars. And the president did all this without rolling back any of his tax cuts - in fact, he expanded them - and refused to veto a single congressional spending bill. This was possible because Bush inherited a huge budget surplus in 2000. But that's all gone. The cupboard is now bare.

Whatever his other accomplishments, Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history.
Yipes!

And this:
Today's Republicans believe in pork, but they don't believe in government. So we have the largest government in history but one that is weak and dysfunctional. Public spending is a cynical game of buying votes or campaign contributions, an utterly corrupt process run by lobbyists and special interests with no concern for the national interest. So we shovel out billions on "Homeland Security" to stave off nonexistent threats to Wisconsin, Wyoming and Montana while New York and Los Angeles remain unprotected. We mismanage crises with a crazy-quilt patchwork of federal, local and state authorities - and sing paeans to federalism to explain our incompetence. We denounce sensible leadership and pragmatism because they mean compromise and loss of ideological purity. Better to be right than to get Iraq right.
The idea here is Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call and it's time to get serious. Maybe work on the basics: "secure the homeland, fight terrorism and have an effective foreign policy to advance our interests and our ideals. We also need a world-class education system, a great infrastructure and advancement in science and technology."

So what else is new? The current crew has other ideas, ideas about how the world ought to be. Privatized, free market, and run by loyal friends (the "right sort of people"), even if they have no concept of how to do the job they've been handed. Maybe they'll learn on the job. (Brown didn't) Maybe they'll be arrested. But they are true believers.

The issue here is some folks see racism. It's not. It's just incompetence.

__

Footnote:

Monday, September 19, the New York Times and its European sister publication, the International Herald Tribune, put all of the columnists who write for them behind a "wall." If you want to read them or quote them it will cost you around fifty dollars a year. You can see this is an attempt to recoup the cost of publishing a major newspaper, or an attempt to severely limit the influence of those who write for them. Your choice. The Independent (UK) did this a year or two ago, and they are seldom cited now. Why bother? There's lots of good stuff all over the web available for free.

In any event, this site offers some geeky tricks for getting around the Times' wall - security holes not yet plugged. And there you will find Paul Krugman's Monday New York Times column in the relationship of race and incompetence in full. In relation to matters above, this is just one of his observations:
... in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.

Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.

And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.

By all accounts Ronald Reagan, who declared in his Inaugural Address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem," wasn't personally racist. But he repeatedly used a bogus tale about a Cadillac-driving Chicago "welfare queen" to bash big government. And he launched his 1980 campaign with a pro-states'-rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., a small town whose only claim to fame was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers.

Under George W. Bush - who, like Mr. Reagan, isn't personally racist but relies on the support of racists - the anti-government right has reached a new pinnacle of power. And the incompetent response to Katrina was the direct result of his political philosophy. ...
That seems about right - Bush is not personally racist but relies on the support of racists. The effect is the same.

Posted by Alan at 21:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005 11:43 PDT home


Topic: Iraq

Iraq: The 'Other' Story

The week began with my nephew flying back to Baghdad from Southern California. His leave is over and he won't be back until his tour ends, probably at the end of December. You've seen his photos here - Mosul and Baghdad - and read his words, most recently here. Back to the Green Zone - but we had some good talks, off the record of course. He knows what's up. After all, he briefs the senior command twice a day on what's going on in a sector I probably shouldn't mention. He knows what is happening operationally, day in and day out. It's his job to know that, and report it to the decision makers.

All the talk stateside has been about the hurricane, and the one that follows, and presumably the one that follows that, and on the White House and the federal response and matters of race and class. But there is this war. And Bill Montgomery over at Whiskey Bar provides a useful reminder that the Cheney administration is still losing it.

The Cheney administration? Montgomery sees Bush as cipher, it seems. Perhaps so. Maybe it doesn't matter. The net effect is the same.

Montgomery reminds us that the death toll, in Iraqis, was more than two hundred and fifty in the last week, and reminds us of the incident on the bridge where more than a thousand died, two days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Not good. And there are the daily suicide bombing deaths - ten here, thirty there. It goes on and on -
The latest carnage is part of an escalated campaign by Al-Zarqawi (or whoever is actually behind the communiqués issued in his name) to upgrade the low-grade sectarian war already being fought in Iraq, probably in hopes of disrupting next month's constitutional referendum.

This is being accompanied by a massive show of insurgent force in Baghdad - as a kind of propaganda-of-the-deed response to the futile U.S. sweep through Tal Afar last week.
As mentioned previously, Juan Cole, the professor of Middle East studies at the University of Michigan, argued Tal Afar marked the start of a civil war. Is that what my nephew returns to? Cole has contacts in Baghdad and one of the says this, Monday, September 19 -
The situation has deteriorated in Baghdad dramatically today. Five neighborhoods (hay) in Baghdad are controlled by insurgents, and they are Amiraya, Ghazilya, Shurta, Yarmouk and Doura. It is very bad. My guys there report that cars have come into these neighborhoods and blocked off the streets. Masked gunmen with AKs and other weapons are roaming these areas, announcing that people should stay home. One of my drivers in Amiraya reports that his neighborhood is shut down totally, and even those who need food or provisions are warned not to go out.

The government will respond feebly. It will go into a contested neighborhood, and then just like Fallujah, Ramadi, Tel Afar, the insurgents will flee to take over another area on another day. Bit by bit they are taking over the main parts of Baghdad. The only place we are sure they cannot control is Sadr City, unless of course they want to take on Jaish Mahdy [Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army], and that would be bloody.

A few minutes ago Jaafari came on television to tell everyone in Baghdad to stay home. Can't wait for his next bold move.

There are flyers in public areas of Baghdad warning people not to gather in large numbers because they will thereby become targets. I am trying to get a copy of the flyer ...
There's more of course.

Can it be this bad? Should I worry about my nephew, or worry more now?

Well, he's in the Green Zone, not out in the neighborhoods, and Montgomery notes there seems to have been a shift over there. The bad guys do not seem to be working very hard to kill our soldiers at the moment, or even the Iraqi soldiers. The priority seems to be wiping out Shiite civilians - men, women and children. As many as possible.

He points to this article from Martin Sieff, UPI, on casualty trends and sayd "this may reflect the finite operational capabilities of the insurgency, the temporary impact of recent U.S. sweeps in western Iraq or it may just mean the insurgents don't see much value added in killing the sad sack recruits of the new Iraqi army." Sieff - "It could even be that the insurgents judge the security forces now so demoralized, infiltrated and cowed by their successive attacks that [they] do not feel the need to target them for the moment."

As Montgomery puts it, "the insurgents don't see much value added in killing the sad sack recruits of the new Iraqi army." And my nephew is probably fairly safe.

He also reports the site Defense and the National Interest reposts an article from Inside the Pentagon with the title Officers Worry Iraqi Army Will Disintegrate After U.S. Draws Down containing this:
Newly trained forces generally exhibit "a lack of willingness to fight for something," says retired Army Col. Gerry Schumacher, a former Green Beret who was recently in Iraq. More than two years of insurgent violence and a U.S.-led occupation have left Iraqi troops with "a lack of a cause to believe in," says Schumacher, who anticipates a civil war may break out between tribal and ethnic groups when American forces leave ...
Montgomery is a better researcher than most, and adds this:
The article runs through the same list of weaknesses that other reports have highlighted: the lack of training (the average Iraqi recruit gets three weeks) the rampant corruption, the AWOLs and desertions, the defective weapons, the shortages of ammunition and supplies - and most of all, the fact that most Iraqi soldiers are simply there to draw a paycheck, or are loyal only to their tribe, ethnic group or party militia.

Only this time, you can hear it from the mouths of the American officers who are trying desperately to turn things around, instead of from a bunch of "liberal" reporters.
Go read it. There are embedded links, and he is not kind to the whole effort now being in the hands of Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey and he give some background on what he considers Dempsey's "previous contributions to the sum of human stupidity."

But wait! There's more!
The failure of Iraqification is bad enough. How the commanders in Baghdad are coping with that failure is even worse. To keep up their sweeps in the Sunni Triangle (and sustain the fiction that the Iraqis are gradually learning how to conduct such operations on their own) the brass is relying heavily on Shi'a units and the Kurdish peshmerga - particularly the latter, which is probably the only significant combat effective Iraqi force (on our side, anyway).

This means sending Shi'a troops to bust down doors, search women and arrest men in the Sunni heartland or - as was the case in Tal Afar - sending Kurdish militiamen to kill ethnic Turks. It's hard to imagine a better way to fuel sectarian hatreds and push Iraq closer to civil war (and/or trigger a Turkish intervention in Kurdistan.) You read about stuff like this and you have to wonder: Is FEMA secretly running the war in Iraq?

But the unreliability of the new Iraqi Army - and the likelihood that its Sunni units have been penetrated by the insurgents - may have had more direct lethal consequences for the U.S. military.

You may recall that in early August six Marine snipers were ambushed and wiped out in Anbar province, near the insurgent-infested city of Haditha. It was a humiliating blow - Marine snipers are supposed to hunt, not be hunted - although it was quickly overshadowed by an even bigger humiliation when 14 Marines riding in an antiquated amphibious vehicle (in the middle of the desert!) were blown up in the same neighborhood.

But the destruction of those Marine sniper teams may have been even more ominous than it appeared at the time. Military analyst William Lind, who has excellent sources inside the Corps, says he's been told that the snipers were attacked and killed by the Iraqi unit they were attached to.

Lind also says he's not been able to confirm that report. But if it's true - or if other Marines even think its true - the implications for Iraqification are stark. How do you "stand up" an Army when you can't risk turning your back on the troops once they do? As Lind says: "If it did happen and the public was not told, the Bush administration will have been caught in yet another lie."

That, too, has strategic significance in a war we were lied into in the first place. If a strategy initially based on lies must rely on more lies for its continuation, it is probably not pointed toward success.
No kidding.

Will the Brits do it all better in the south, down Basra way? Well, the Iraqi police just arrested two of them. They say the two UK guys shot some Iraqi policeman. Huh?

Then this happened (Monday, September 19, Associated Press, Abbas Fayadh):
BASRA, Iraq (AP) - In a dramatic show of force, British soldiers used tanks to break down the walls of the central jail in this southern city Monday and freed two Britons, allegedly undercover commandos arrested on charges of shooting two Iraqi policemen, witnesses said. The Basra governor called the rescue a "barbaric'' act of aggression.

But in London, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement that two British troops held by Iraqi authorities in Basra were released as a result of negotiations. It said the two service personnel were with British forces. ...
Quite a mess.

Remember that British Colonel, Tim Collins, the one who gave his troops that splendid speech about was to their mission to liberate, not conquer? He's left the army and commented in The Observer saying this is a mess of our own making:
What I had not realized was that there was no real plan at the higher levels to replace anything, indeed a simplistic and unimaginative overreliance in some senior quarters on the power of destruction and crude military might. We were to beat the Iraqis. That simple. Everything would come together after that.

The Iraqi army was defeated - it walked away from most fights - but was then dismissed without pay to join the ranks of the looters smashing the little infrastructure left, and to rail against their treatment. The Baath party was left undisturbed. The careful records it kept were destroyed with precision munitions by the coalition; the evidence erased, they were left with a free rein to agitate and organize the insurrection. A vacuum was created in which the coalition floundered, the Iraqis suffered and terrorists thrived.

One cannot help but wonder what it was all about. If it was part of the war on terror then history might notice that the invasion has arguably acted as the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda ever: a sort of large-scale equivalent of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which in its day filled the ranks of the IRA. If it was an attempt to influence the price of oil, then the motorists who queued last week would hardly be convinced. If freedom and a chance to live a dignified, stable life free from terror was the motive, then I can think of more than 170 families in Iraq last week who would have settled for what they had under Saddam. UK military casualties reached 95 last week. I nightly pray the total never reaches 100.

... It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on. It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice. The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive. This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why. I, for one, demand to know.
Yeah, yeah. Don't expect an answer, Tim.

So while domestic matters occupy us all stateside, things are falling apart fast in Iraq. Maybe they will improve, but the Bush administration, or the Cheney one if you wish, should be glad for Hurricane Katrina, and the ones stacking up in the Atlantic. Perhaps no one will notice what up in Iraq.

But my nephew, who I admire and respect tremendously, is there now. Some of us will notice.

Posted by Alan at 19:02 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005 19:19 PDT home

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Topic: Announcements

Redirection

The new issue of Just Above Sunset was posted early today - Volume 3, Number 38 for the week of Sunday, September 18, 2005 - the parent site to this web log. The weekly is in magazine format and is a sort of "week in review" of what was said first here - with corrections and additions - but contains much brand new material, particularly our foreign desk items, exclusive columns from London, Paris and Tel-Aviv, along with pages of photography and a page of useful, pithy sayings each week.

The political climate stateside was white hot last week, mostly centering on the White House and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and matters of race and class have come up in ways not seen since early sixties and the Civil Rights movement. Thus you will find extensive coverage of who said what, from the president to the bitter people in New Orleans to a number of scholars. Events in rest of the world are also covered - from elections in Germany and New Zealand to more trouble in Gaza to a bad week in Baghdad, not to mention key hearings in Washington for the man who will be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The six items in the "Foreign Desk" section? Our Man in London, Mike McCahill on the mood there this week, Our Man in Tel-Aviv with two items this week, giving you a feel for what it's really like in the day-to-day, two items from Ric Erickson, Our Man in Paris, one on a very odd musical evening and one on French national politics that will open your eyes. And there's an examination of the British love for making lists.

Bob Patterson is back, as the World's Laziest Journalist with some odd speculation, and as the Book Wrangler with a roundup of books on cinematography.

Guest photography? Don Smith with more from Normandy, my neighbor shows French tourists visiting America for the first time a surreal bit of Route 66, and Bob Patterson catches a film being shot in his neighborhood (this is Hollywood, after all).

The local photography this week is a switch from the usual artsy stuff - sports shots - the Los Angeles Kings (NHL Hockey) in action. Well, they still came out pretty artsy.

Quotes this week? Putting Samuel Goldwyn and PG Wodehouse side by side. Really.

Direct links to specific pages -

Current Events ________________

The Speech: Thursday Night as seen on Friday Morning
Race: Here we go again...
Meme Watch: Chasing the Zeitgeist
The South: It's Everywhere
Germany: The Weekend's Election
Meanwhile: Items Not Covered

The Foreign Desk ________________

Our Man in London: England's Big Summer
Our Man in Tel-Aviv: Milk, Honey, Cash and Credit Card
Our Man in Tel-Aviv (2): Sea, Sex and Torah
Our Man in Paris: Hard Day Night
Our Man in Paris (2): French Confusion
Trends: Making a list and checking it twice...

Bob Patterson ________________

WLJ Weekly: from the desk of the World's Laziest Journalist - On the Road to Becoming the Pundits' Pundit
Book Wrangler: On the Road to Becoming a Prodigy in Cinematography

Guest Photography ________________

Our Eye on Paris: More of Unseen Normandy
Route 66: Seligman, Arizona
On Location: Filming in the Streets of Los Angeles

Local Photography ________________

Unexpected LA: Ice Hockey at the Beach

The Usual

Quotes for the week of September 11, 2005 - Taking the Bitter with the Sour
Links and Recommendations: New Photo Album - Sports Photography - NHL Hockey in Los Angeles

Bonus Photo:

Back from a fashion shoot on Sunset Plaza - yes, we do professional photography too - another LAPD helicopter right outside the window. Such is Hollywood.



Posted by Alan at 19:18 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 18 September 2005 19:19 PDT home

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Topic: Backgrounder

Meanwhile: Items Not Covered

As the week ended one must note there was much in the news that deserved comment, but domestic matters sucked all the air out of the room. There was that other hurricane, Ophelia, which flooded the North Carolina coast and will hit Halifax by late Sunday. But what's to say? The war in Iraq is still there, and the bombings were worse than ever. Saturday a car bomb explosion at a market near Baghdad killed at least thirty, "as violence continues to escalate in Iraq." Tuesday the 14th it was 182 folks in one bombing in Baghdad alone. Is that then a decrease by the weekend? And one analyst says Iraq's violence is not yet civil war - while another says it is. Does it matter what you call it?

Then there were the hearings to determine if John Roberts is fit to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That was painful to watch. Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks, a law professor, in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, September 17, with this -
John G. Roberts Jr. emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as practically the only person who did not look like an ideologue or a blithering idiot.

... Still, the official liberal response appears to be that we shouldn't believe anything Roberts says because he'll say anything to get confirmed.

The cynics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Think about it: Unless Roberts is captured on television kicking a wheelchair-bound hurricane victim, he's going to be confirmed, and we knew this well before the hearings began. He had no particular incentive to make nice to the Democrats on the committee - and he could have made far more stridently conservative statements, with little consequence.

Yet he chose, on the whole, to be conciliatory and nonconfrontational, making a surprising number of statements that even appeared to confound some on the far right.
She suggests for those on the left, this is a question of picking one's battles. This one isn't the one. The next may be.

Matters in Germany are covered elsewhere, but early in the week Ric in Paris sent along an AP item in French - José Bové is thinking about running France - or running for the office. For those of you who follow such things, it seems we may see a Gallic Red States versus Blue States thing playing itself out there. Cool. Sarkozy, the French free-market-screw-the-needy-law-and-order man, will run. Bové - the burn-down-McDo guy - may run. Chirac is just out of hospital and cannot travel, so suave Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is being coy - in Manhattan to sub for the ailing Chriac at the summit - but HE may run. This is interesting. Will the French choose the Bush-like guy, or go for the leftie environmentalist, or settle for the old-line smoothie intellectual? Laurent Fabius, at last weekend's La fête de l'Humanité, tried to revive the commies 9 and someone throws an egg at him (direct hit). Lots of fun. See the RFI Press Summary of Monday, September 12, 2005 - "Communist L'HUMANITÉ is all smiles, celebrating the weekend's sixtieth edition of the annual left-wing political party, La fête de l'Humanité, which attracted 600,000 socialists for three days of music and politics in the Paris suburb of La Courneuve. Laurent Fabius showed up to convince the faithful that he is the man to reunite the fragmented forces of the Left. He got an egg on the head for his trouble." Troubles everywhere.

That UN summit in New York? Not much happened, perhaps due to our new UN ambassador, John Bolton. Bush gave a speech, but everyone forgot what he said because this picture got everyone's attention.

And what to make of this?

Chavez: U.S. Plans to Invade Venezuela
Associated Press, AP Friday, September 16, 2005
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday he has documentary evidence that the United States plans to invade his country.

Chavez, interviewed on ABC's "Nightline," said the plan is called "Balboa" and involves aircraft carriers and planes. A transcript of the interview was made available by "Nightline."

He said U.S. soldiers recently went to Curacao, an island off Venezuela's northwest coast. He described as a "lie" the official U.S. explanation that they visited Curacao for rest and recreation.

"They were doing movements. They were doing maneuvers," Chavez said, speaking through a translator.

He added: "We are coming up with the counter-Balboa plan. That is to say if the government of the United States attempts to commit the foolhardy enterprise of attacking us, it would be embarked on a 100-year war. We are prepared."

Chavez has been attending the summit of world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week. On Thursday, he denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq and told other leaders they should consider moving the U.N. headquarters out of the United States.

To prove U.S. intentions to invade Venezuela, Chavez offered to send "Nightline" host Ted Koppel maps and other documentation.

"What I can't tell you is how we got it, to protect the sources, how we got it through military intelligence," he said.

In the event of a U.S. invasion, Chavez said the United States can "just forget" about receiving any more oil from his country. ...
Yes, they supply thirteen percent of our oil. There's more here in the Los Angeles Times under the headline "Frustrated U.S. Finds Few Willing to Join Anti-Chavez Coalition" with the subhead "Washington's agenda in the region proves less appealing than cheap Venezuelan oil." In short, we're trying to form a coalition of nations to the south of us to oppose him - even if he was elected three times and all his referendums pass by a wide margin. No one wants to join. They get relatively cheap oil. And his own population seems to like his emphases on reducing poverty and improving education and health, while we focus on free trade and terrorism. Oh well.

By the way, Iran this week says it will share nuclear technology with other like-minded countries in the Middle East, and the talks with North Korea, to get them to stop their nuclear weapons program, fell apart. You could look it up, along with the rioting in Northern Ireland even though there seems to have been some agreement to stop all that.

Israel pulled out of Gaza and then this: Palestinian police move to stop chaos on Gaza border (Reuters, 16 September) -
Hundreds of Palestinian policemen were sent to Gaza's border with Egypt on Friday to stop thousands from flowing across a frontier barrier which Palestinians breached and overran after Israel's pullout.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to stop the crossings, which added to growing lawlessness in Gaza in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from the territory after 38 years of occupation.

"We and our Egyptian brothers are trying now to close these holes and control the movement of people through the border and things will hopefully be under control within two to three days," he told the Palestinian government-run Wafa news agency.

Palestinians also stormed evacuated Gaza settlements after Israeli troops left, smashing structures and looting.

Internal violence has raged in Gaza in recent months as a result of rivalries between armed factions and frustrations over alleged government corruption.

Abbas has struggled to control militants who have taken over streets and gained power in the territory, claiming Israel's pullout as their victory.

He has warned that chaos will not be tolerated but has not specified how he plans to combat it. Israel and Washington demand he disarm militants but Abbas has preferred to try to co-opt the armed groups, who have vowed never to give up their weapons. ...
And so it goes.

But don't forget New Zealand. See New Zealanders cast votes in knife-edge election (Reuters, 16 September) -
New Zealanders were voting on Saturday in a tight election which opinion polls suggested was too close to call after a rough and tumble campaign.

New Zealand's 2.9 million voters have a choice of 19 parties ranging from Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour and the main opposition National Party to the pro-marijuana Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and the anti-monarchist Republican Party.

Polls opened at 9 a.m. (1700 EDT Friday) at 2,700 voting stations across the southwest Pacific island nation.

Opinion polls suggested one of the tightest contests in New Zealand history as Clark's centre-left party seeks a third straight term over conservative National, led by former central banker Don Brash. ...
A Cannabis Party? Interesting. But it's already over - "New Zealand's ruling Labour Party appears to have won a narrow victory in elections, but will need the support of minor parties to form a government." Maybe this Cannabis Party will help them out.

What else you might have missed? The Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time.

Face to faith
Can God know the future? It probably depends on whether you believe in a block universe or process theology, writes Tim Radford
The Guardian (UK), Saturday September 17, 2005
The question is simple enough: can God know the future? Every word in that question is a challenge, including "can" and "the". But cosmic physicists and theologians tackled it head on this week, at an Oxford conference on Einstein, God and Time. It was backed by the Ian Ramsey Centre, part of the university's theology faculty. It also had the backing of the university's Clarendon laboratory, which changed the face of 20th-century physics. And it was a clash of two big ideas, put variously as the "block universe" and "process theology".

The first sees the universe as a lump of spacetime embedded in eternity, with God on the outside, looking down on past, present and future, all simultaneously fizzing with probabilities on scales ranging from the subatomic to the intergalactic. The other proposition sees God as involved in the universe, sustaining it and making things happen, although not necessarily directly. ...
Read on at your own risk.

It was quite a week.

Posted by Alan at 12:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
home

Friday, 16 September 2005

Topic: World View

Germany: The Weekend's Election

Tuesday, September 13, this, along with a flood of articles in German, arrived in Hollywood from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis:
Saw the album of hockey photos.

What's next? All-star curling? Orange County senior horseshoes? The semi-pro donut league?

It's a slow night in Europe so I checked into Der Spiegel up in Hamburg, to see if reading German still makes sense. What's wrong with them? They haven't got their accents coded right. All those 'ä's and 'ö's and 'ü's have to be replaced by hand. I thought they were supposed to 'reform' themselves and do away with that muck because nobody under 29 has any of these letters on their PlayStation 3DIII.

What did I see? Well, Spiegel has a lot of NOLA coverage, also in English. But the big story is that Merkel dame going to blow away Gerhard next Sunday. Maybe not - she's got a finance guru who hot for a flat tax, one size fits all from the unemployed Turks to Prussian steel barons.

Then there's Pamela Anderson's photos in the museum in Munich, until the 15th, in the Haus der Kunst no less. Trouble is it costs 5 euros to get in and there's only about 20 photos, and well, Spiegel says Pamela might not be all real. And, to make matters worse, in the nearby Englischer Garten in the fine beer-garden weather, all the Munich honeys are lying around topless, and being what they are, some are bottomless too - on view for free, and most of them are all real.

I remember seeing this. It was a Sunday, the 31st of October to be exact, and the weather was breathtakingly fine, the sky was Bavarian blue and it was warm warm warm, and everybody was in the beer-garden under the Chineser Turm and the strings were zinging on terrace of the next-door teahouse, and further on all the honeys were stretched out on the grass like fresh trouts in the sun. So cool. Next day the temperature dropped 20 degrees to about five, the sky slate gray huddled overhead, and I started work at Seimens Hoffmannstraße, driving a Bulgarian electric lifttruck outside around in their elektro-kampus. By Wednesday it was snowing. It's not far from the Alps in Munich. And where I was - far, very far, from the Englischer Garten and further from that Sunday, that last day of summer in 1969.

Maybe Pamela is in the right place. There was a disco in the celler there. But there were always more girls in the gardens, up north beside the Schwabing end.
From here in Hollywood, back to Paris -
Curling. When living in Canada, and worn out from a long day at work managing a team of twenty odd computer folks at the locomotive factory, I would sit quietly in my hotel room and watch the all-curling channel. It was an end-of-the-world all-hope-is-gone so-this-is-exile thing. I cannot imagine photographing curling. December 2001 I caught some curling on television in my hotel room in Paris - in German, from Switzerland. A walk across the street to the Flore for a cognac fixed that right up. There was no such place in London, Ontario.

That Merkel dame gets a bit of press here - but such stuff is only for us oddballs who follow world events. Gerhard gets points with us lefties for stepping away from George's war - but otherwise, we know little. Merkel wants a flat tax? Here only the oddest of the right want that, and one of my conservative friends ("If I'm going to pay thirty-percent then the poorest of the poor will pay that too, damn it!).

As for Der Spiegel and diacritical marks, I downloaded a few pages of HTML code for every single one of them imaginable. Painful stuff.

Pamela Anderson's photos in the museum in Munich, until the 15th, in the Haus der Kunst no less. Wow. Yes, but with totally naked young women in the park outside daily, the five-euro ticket price may be too high. As I have mentioned, I dated Pamela Anderson's midwife for a bit a few years ago. Hard to imagine Pamela Anderson as a mom. Also hard to imagine this midwife's medical partner was a famous local OB-GYN, Heidi Fleiss' father no less. But was so.

Will work through the German emails in a bit.
Well, I didn't work through the German articles as I said I would. I was able to read German for about a week, long enough to pass a reading comprehension test in graduate school after a six-week intensive summer class, but that was decades ago. I've lost that all.

But there has been a flurry of comment stateside, like this in SLATE.COM

Das Flat Tax
The conservative economic proposal flopped with American voters. Now Germans are learning to hate it, too.
Daniel Gross - Posted Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, at 12:12 PM PT

His question? Will the flat tax do for Angela Merkel's campaign for German chancellor what it did for Steve Forbes' ill-fated presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000?

Maybe:
Until recently, Merkel, the leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union party, enjoyed a healthy lead over incumbent Gerhard Schröder, whose Social Democrats are listing after eight years in office and a growing national malaise.

American conservatives hope that Merkel will turn out to be a Teutonic Margaret Thatcher: an up-from-the-bootstraps woman from a right-of-center party, an economic conservative who favors structural reforms of a bureaucratic welfare state. On everything from the war in Iraq to the potential accession of Turkey to the European Union, American conservatives had hoped that by electing Merkel, the German electorate would effectively abandon some of the policies that had recently put it at odds with the United States.
Yes, that's the reason there are any articles at all on this side of the pond. American conservatives need a Teutonic Margaret Thatcher person to prove what the claim about how the world should be run is right - a sort of anti-Chirac, someone who will get Germany revving up economically to prove their point about cutting taxes for the rich and services to the poor and going to war without any direct threat for abstract reasons. A hero would be nice - or a heroine in this case. They miss Reagan's ballsy British sister in unfettered low-tax screw-the-needy capitalism and elective war (remember Grenada and the Falkland Islands wars?) - so this Merkel dame is the darling of the guys who run the United States now. What with the hurricane embarrassment and the nearly three hundred dead in the streets of Baghdad this week, her winning this thing would raise their spirits.

But at the last moment her lead has just about disappeared and Schröder was good in the televised debates. And the flat tax idea bombed. Gross says it has become a millstone around Merkel's neck.

The background:
The first clue that the flat tax is an unwelcome import: The Germans, who have a word for everything, don't have one for the flat tax. They call it the "flat tax."

As a childless professional woman from the East, Merkel is an anomaly in German politics. And she has conducted the campaign in an anomalous way. One of the radical things she did - a move that would strike U.S. voters as perfectly normal - was to look beyond political professionals for advice. In Germany, former CEOs and even academics rarely figure in campaigns or in governments. But Merkel brought on former Siemens CEO Heinrich von Pierer as an adviser. And in August, Paul Kirchhof, a former judge and professor at the University of Heidelberg, was enlisted as shadow finance minister. His task: to come up with a plan to kick-start Germany's large and lumbering economy into higher gear.

The result has been a disaster. Kirchhof had long recommended a serious reform of Germany's progressive and deduction-riddled income-tax system, which has a top rate of 42 percent. His preferred plan is to rip up the tax code, institute a flat 25 percent income-tax rate, and make up for lost revenue by boosting the value-added tax. An analyst for Hypovereinsbank dubbed Kirchhof "the miracle worker."
Ah, there, like here, turning to the theorists is always a bad idea. Remember the Laffer Curve - USC economist Arthur Laffer's idea that the more you cut taxes the more money pours into the government because the economy grows fast due to those lower taxes. Neat idea. Wonderful concept. Since the Reagan administration this has been the core economic theory of the Republican Party. Of course it's never worked, and there is good evidence it never will. But it's a great theory. It sounds like it could be so. See Samuel Johnson on the triumph of hope over experience. Substitute evidence for experience in the phrase. Of course note that the Republican Party is not big on the idea empirical evidence matters - consider global warming (the evidence is mixed, folks), evolution (the jury is still out on that, as Bush has said), democracy in Iraq (it could happen in a sort of way, maybe, if we stay the course), Terri Schiavo was not brain dead at all (Doctor/Senator Frist said so on the senate floor). So with tax cuts. They could fix everything. You never know. And there is talk in the right-wing think tanks that maybe we shouldn't tax income at all, only consumption, with a national sales tax, or a value-added tax (VAT) like some countries have. That way, the richer you are, the smaller the portion of what you pay in taxes! No one pays any income tax and Joe, the struggling Wal-Mart clerk, pays twenty-eight percent extra for a quart of milk, and so do you! Cool.

Is seems the Germans are a tad more skeptical than we are. They, and their leader at the time, thought our Iraq war was a monumentally bad idea. It made no sense to them. Where was the evidence that it would do any good?

But we've moved beyond the Enlightenment - a European thing that actually stared in France, of all places - with its reliance on experiment and evidence. We've moved on to the world of faith-based government, while those Europeans are still stuck thinking real events and facts matter. It's the old-fashioned fuddy-duddy realists versus the bold dreamers and idealists. Merkel is one of the new reality-doesn't-matter types. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld folks love her.

But the problem is she's stuck in a culture that doesn't get it - they don't see things her way:
Germans tend to see progressive income-tax rates as part and parcel of a democracy. The notion that a secretary would pay the same proportion of her income in taxes as a CEO doesn't strike Germans as egalitarian, it strikes them as unjust. What's more, the trade-off of taxing consumption rather than income seems counterproductive in a nation where the lack of domestic demand is a continual problem. Germans need more incentives to consume, not fewer.
What's more, they don't like pie-in-the-sky experts:
In the United States, the involvement of professional economists, Wall Street executives, and CEOs in political campaigns and the formulation of economic and tax policies is not only accepted, it's preferred by both parties. Not so in Germany. Although Germany has more than its share of world-beating, world-class companies - Siemens, DaimlerChrysler, SAP, and BMW, to name a few - its CEOs possess little juice. At a moment where there is a wide perception that the political system can't adequately address Germany's economic problems, there is still no room in Germany's political life for a Ross Perot, a Robert Rubin, a Paul O'Neill, or a Larry Lindsey. No wonder German executives are perpetually gloomy.

In the United States, anti-intellectualism generally flows from right to left, with conservative populists ridiculing liberal pointy-heads. In Germany this fall, it's flowing in the opposite direction.

Schröder has dubbed Kirchhof the "professor from Heidelberg." Even Merkel's own CDU has hardly embraced Kirchhof's proposal. Its platform calls for a more modest move on taxes, bringing the top rate down from 42 to 39.
So what does Merkel do? Wednesday she comes out and says, "Our program says nothing about a flat tax."

What?

Ah, just as George Bush (or his advisors) finally realized, sometimes you do what you must. Bush grudgingly ended his vacation early and five days after the event went to New Orleans and did the hug-the-black-folks say-the-right-thing photo op, then three more, then a speech. Sometimes you just have to account for the public's ability to detect bullshit. It's often a dormant ability, but it's there, and it's real.

__

As of Friday night you can find about 4,300 news articles on the Merkel campaign in the English-language press using Google. It's hot. One of the best is the cover story in The New Statesman - far more detailed that any of this above. The war of the realists (the reality-based community) against the idealists (the neoconservatives who run the United States at the moment) has gone worldwide.

Sidebar: In the early eighties I found myself at USC in the same elevator with Arthur Laffer. He's a short guy. We didn't speak. No one speaks on elevators.

Posted by Alan at 22:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 17 September 2005 08:26 PDT home

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