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"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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Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Teenagers: Always a Problem

So what's wrong in Washington?

Tuesday, September 20, I came across this from Susan Estrich:
We used to joke about Bill Clinton feeling everyone's pain. Does George W. Bush only feel pain when the Christian Coalition is feeding it?

My friend Maureen says the critical thing to understand about President Bush is that, psychologically speaking, he is really just a teenager with a grown-up wife/mother. He is busy with his war. Weather is for mayors and governors. So of course he didn't want to interrupt his vacation and take responsibility for a devastating mess that in his book (ask any mother of a teenager about this logic) was simply not his fault.

Why should he, when he had other plans? Only when absolutely forced to do so has he been willing to accept the first rule of politics: that the public will forgive you for anything, but first you have to take responsibility. So yesterday, Bush said: I'm responsible. And now he will say: Let's all pull together and rebuild. What else can he say?

But just remember: It's your teenager talking. Does he really think he did anything wrong? I don't think so. And that's what makes me angry. A president's first obligation is to the welfare of his citizens, regardless of race, color or income. At least, if he's a grown-up.
Our friend Nico in Montreal:
Being someone with two teenagers (16, 19) and a tween (11) in the house, I can say that Bush's teenager-like demur means that he just doesn't see anything that doesn't interest him, either by his own directives or those of his 'parent' community. Left to their own devices, teenagers hardly notice anything but other teens. And what can a teen do when they have been busted for being insensitive, but apologize in disdain?

What has me a little baffled is that every teenager thinks New Orleans is an "excellent" place, one of the four cardinal cities of the US, along with New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. If the storm had hit only little Mobile or Lafayette, you could understand ignoring it, but New Orleans?

My thinking is that the teenage Dubya might have been the first person to arrive in New Orleans, but, as president, he had to wait for FEMA, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, the Reserves to get there first. I imagine even GWB is disappointed at the slow response of the federal agencies, when he's spent his entire presidency trying to ramp up America's preparedness to disaster.

The federal government would do better next time if they were to call the next dangerous hurricane that threatened America's shore Osama.
Maybe so, but our Wall Street attorney friend suggest we ought to call the next one "W" - which makes some sense.

But if the president is just a teenager with a grown-up wife/mother - then she (one of the two) should help him dress. He's bad with buttons, as you see here:

Sweet Jesus! You can't take the guy anywhere!

Of course, as mentioned in another item in these pages regarding Bush and Cheney: "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." Just an offhand comment, but turned into a cartoon here. The nerd-shirt-button thing is part of the same plot? Could be.

But what of the speech itself?

One of our friends teaches marketing to would-be MBA students at a prestigious business school in upstate New York. The view from graduate school?
Did you see Maureen Dowd's piece last Friday - "Disney on Parade" - on the mega lighting imported to New Orleans to backlight W's salvation speech - in a town with little functional power he color-lit Cinderella's castle? I used it in my marketing class - a discussion on modern forms of "packaging."

Regarding this "destroying from within" idea, she went on to make the point that W's proposed coastal bail-out will be the largest government initiative since FDR - and that ultimately Bush Senior will be seen as the ultra-conservative in the family.

The Dowd item is here and contains nuggets like these:
• On Thursday night, Mr. Bush wanted to appear casually in charge as he waged his own Battle of New Orleans in Jackson Square. Instead, he looked as if he'd been dropped off by his folks in front of a eerie, blue-hued castle at Disney World. (Must be Sleeping Beauty's Castle, given the somnambulant pace of W.'s response to Katrina.)

• All Andrew Jackson's horses and all the Boy King's men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again. His gladiatorial walk across the darkened greensward, past a St. Louis Cathedral bathed in moon glow from White House klieg lights, just seemed to intensify the sense of an isolated, out-of-touch president clinging to hollow symbols as his disastrous disaster agency continues to flail.

• In a ruined city - still largely without power, stinking with piles of garbage and still 40 percent submerged; where people are foraging in the miasma and muck for food, corpses and the sentimental detritus of their lives; and where unbearably sad stories continue to spill out about hordes of evacuees who lost their homes and patients who died in hospitals without either electricity or rescuers - isn't it rather tasteless, not to mention a waste of energy, to haul in White House generators just to give the president a burnished skin tone and a prettified background?

• The slick White House TV production team was trying to salvage W.'s "High Noon" snap with some snazzy Hollywood-style lighting - the same Reaganesque stagecraft they had provided when W. made a prime-time television address from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On that occasion, Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer, and Bob DeServi, a former NBC cameraman and a lighting expert, rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used for "Monday Night Football" and Rolling Stones concerts, floated them across New York Harbor and illuminated the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop for Mr. Bush.
And this:
The Oedipal loop-de-loop of W. and Poppy grows ever loopier.

With Karl Rove's help, Junior designed his presidency as a reverse of his father's. W. would succeed by studying Dad's failures and doing the opposite. But in a bizarre twist of filial fate, the son has stumbled so badly in areas where he tried to one-up Dad that he has ended up giving Dad a leg up in the history books.

As Mark Twain said: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

Of course, it's taken Junior only five years to learn how smart his old man was.
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
But it was odd marketing indeed, don't you think?

Looking back on it, it seemed like the White House gardeners had been brought down to mow the lawn, which they finished only moments before Bush strolled across it. I mean, these folks fly the president all the way to this scene of desolation in order to make the case that he does feel our pain after all, yet they don't want to make it look like a mess, so he ends up making a speech from what looks like the Beverly Hilton after a lovely late night meal on the lawn with family and friends.

So did all this help him sell whatever the hell he was trying to sell us? I mean, not that I think they should have casually left a cadaver or two lying around, as if they were just "so busy doing the people's business" that they hadn't found the time to clean up the shot - I suppose that would have been pretty tacky, and obviously staged at that.

What's funny is that it used to be these people could have had him do anything they wanted - possibly including having sex on live TV with either a farm animal or a small child of either gender - and most Americans would still vote for him, but now that he's not running for anything anymore, they can't seem to do anything right. So I ask you, what's up with that?

I mean, his poll numbers are in the dirt! So what is it about Americans that they know who and what they're voting for - and this includes Richard Nixon and Grey Davis - and yet later change their minds and decide they want somebody else in there now? Why don't they see the value in trying real hard to get it right the first time?

Teenagers, my ass! Toddlers is more like it.

PS - I'm actually fond of toddlers, by the way; I just wouldn't trust them to prepare my income tax returns, much less run my country.
Yes, this didn't work out well.

But let's get the opinion of a professional - T. J. Walker, author of Presentation Training A-Z, and president of Media Training Worldwide. Here is some of his evaluation and it appeared in William F, Buckley's flagship conservative journal, The National Review:
President Bush's walk out to the lectern in front of a church last night to address the nation was a nice opening touch. His blue shirt was wrinkleless, but with rolled up sleeves, he looked like he was serious about hard work and seemed appropriately somber.

Stage Craft
Bush has greatly improved his TelePrompTer reading abilities over the years, but he is still no Reagan or Clinton. Though Bush had only a few very minor stumbles, he didn't seem as steady or rehearsed as he did earlier in the year for his Inaugural or the State of the Union addresses. Though Bush no longer rushes his Teleprompter reading as he once did, he was squinting as though he was having a hard time reading. Additionally, the lighting seemed too harsh on his eyes. While technically proficient, Bush didn't adequately personalize his delivery. Additionally positive, Bush did not shake or bob his head, as he often does when he tries to seem emphatic.

Speech Craft
Structurally, Bush's speech was well-crafted. He used ample doses of examples, stories and vignettes, complete with dialogue from real people. However, his hawking of 1-800 numbers and websites seemed un-presidential and more appropriate for a lowly public information officer giving a press briefing.


Appeal to liberals
If Hillary Clinton once channeled Eleanor Roosevelt in the White House, then Bush one-upped her by channeling FDR and LBJ. Bush said the answer to all of New Orleans' problems was big government or gigantic government. New government program after new government program was proposed. Ted Kennedy must have been chortling to himself thinking "I must be back in the 60s world of big government solutions to every societal problem." For a moment it seemed Bush would promise a chicken gumbo in every pot.

Appeal to conservatives
Zero. Bush ignored the concepts of individual accountability and responsibility in his speech. In the Bush world, his new moral relativism makes no distinctions between those who bought flood insurance and those who didn't; those who choose to live in safe mountains high above sea level and those who build below sea level in flood zones predicted by every expert to be washed away. Bush's message was redistributionist, collectivist, and nannist. Individuals bear no responsibility for their misfortunes or for their own recovery. Any conservative with third grade math skills or beyond could smell trillions of dollars of budget deficit flowing out of Bush's mouth.
So says the National Review.

Maybe the conspiracy theory, that Bush is a liberal sleeper planted long ago in Republican Party to destroy it, has its merits.

How else would explain these sorts of things?

From John Podhoretz, over at National Review Online, this:
For the crime of noting that the president's speech didn't help his poll numbers, I'm getting battered by e-mailers who suggest, among other things, that I am somehow unmanly because I'm not "supporting" the president enough. I never thought a day would come when I - the author of a book entitled 'Bush Country: How Dubya Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century While Driving Liberals Insane' - would be accused of being a fair-weather supporter of GWB. Let me just try to explain something to my e-mailers. The president gave his speech Thursday night in an effort to reverse the decline in his political fortunes. ... It appears his effort was unsuccessful, in part (I think) because he sounded like a Big Spender and alienated more Republicans without winning over more Democrats. ... Bush supporters don't help him or themselves any by pretending his troubles are all due to the MSM. He has, for the moment, lost the country's confidence.

And he won't win it back with thing like this- the appointment of Julie Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security.

Note this from the Washington Post:
The Bush administration is seeking to appoint a lawyer with little immigration or customs experience to head the troubled law enforcement agency that handles those issues, prompting sharp criticism from some employee groups, immigration advocates and homeland security experts.

The push to appoint Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, comes in the midst of intense debate over the qualifications of department political appointees involved in the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina...

... After working as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, N.Y., for two years, Myers held a variety of jobs over the past four years at the White House and at the departments of Commerce, Justice and Treasury, though none involved managing a large bureaucracy. Myers worked briefly as chief of staff to Michael Chertoff when he led the Justice Department's criminal division before he became Homeland Security secretary.

Myers also was an associate under independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr for about 16 months and has most recently served as a special assistant to President Bush handling personnel issues.

Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She married Chertoff's current chief of staff, John F. Wood, on Saturday.

In written answers to questions from Congress, Myers highlighted her year-long job as assistant secretary for export enforcement at Commerce, where she said she supervised 170 employees and a $25 million budget. ICE has more than 20,000 employees and a budget of approximately $4 billion. Its personnel investigate immigrant, drug and weapon smuggling, and illegal exports, among other responsibilities.

Myers was on her honeymoon and was not available to comment yesterday. Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman, cited Myers's work with customs agents on money-laundering and drug-smuggling cases. "She's well-known and respected throughout the law enforcement community," Healy said. "She has a proven track record as an effective manager."
Right. And I'm the pope.

Also from the Post:
"It appears she's got a tremendous amount of experience in money laundering, in banking and the financial areas," said Charles Showalter, president of the National Homeland Security Council, a union that represents 7,800 ICE agents, officers and support staff. "My question is: Who the hell is going to enforce the immigration laws?"
Picky, picky. picky...

Think of Michael Brown at FEMA who just resigned, formerly the chief council to the Arabian horse organization - before they fired him. That worked out well, didn't it? And heck, Julie here is the niece of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after all, and she worked for Ken Starr on getting Clinton good for that blow job, and she just married the second in command to the man who runs all of Homeland Security, Chertoff. And Chertoff himself had no emergency management experience at all, and never ran any large organization - he ran an office investigating and prosecuting corporate crime. He's doing fine work, no?

Heck, only an irresponsible sneering teenager would appoint someone utterly unqualified just because they knew someone he knew? Think about it.

Maybe such appointments are a sort of teenage rebellious in-your-face kind of thing. Last week - see the Washington Post here - the FDA appointed Norris Alderson, a veterinarian, to the post of director of the Office of Women's Health Then, a few days later, the FDA announced an internal promotion - a Theresa Toigo would be directing the Women's Health office. They then refused to acknowledge that they had, in fact, named Alderson to the post a few days earlier. Never happened. You can imagine the Bush joke at the White House - get a retired vet to work with the damned bitches - a bitch is a bitch. At least that's what my Wall Street friend hypothesized. It was kind of a teenage joke. Of course the post was vacated last month by an MD named Susan Wood - she resigned saying the administration was throwing out scientific findings to please the religious right, and she would have none of it. She wanted to work from the proven facts. Bitch. (Covered in these pages here and in brief elsewhere - here.)

This is teenage stuff.


Apparently White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card is going to be the new Secretary of the Treasury, replacing John Snow. Over at the Washington Monthly this -
Has it really gotten to the point where it's impossible for Bush to find solid, conservative appointees for these positions who have actual experience in the relevant fields? Aren't there any left who are still willing to work for him? Or does he feel so besieged by life that he literally feels he can't trust anyone with a big job unless they've spent a couple of years working within a few feet of him?
Teenagers are like that. From Brad DeLong, the Berkeley economist, this:
Certainly there is no reason to think that Andrew Card is qualified to direct either international economic policy coordination, manage the fiscal policy of the United States, or regulate its financial system. And I have not met anybody who has in private praised Andrew Card's performance as White House chief of staff. The consensus is that he has made sure that the president hears only what the president wants to hear. But the job of chief of staff is to make sure that the president hears what the president needs to hear.
Teenagers don't like to hear what they need to hear, Brad. Sure, the man knows nothing of finance or the economy, but Bush trusts him. He says nice things. As for this huge budget and the current account deficits, and rising energy and gold prices, and a bubble in the housing market, and out of control hedge funds, and a corporate pension system in the process of collapse - any of which could trigger a real financial crisis - what's the problem? What could go wrong where the Treasury might actually have to do something? Directing international economic policy coordination, managing the fiscal policy of the United States, regulating its financial system - anyone can do that.

And we have this doofy teenager who can't button his shirt right calling the shots for the next two or three years. Hope for the best.

Posted by Alan at 20:21 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005 20:33 PDT home

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.

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.



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


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

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