CNN is reporting that the House Ethics committee will hold a news conference to report on its findings in the Foley case.
It doesn’t get much attention, but the Employee Free Choice Act, slated to be on the Democrats’ legislative agenda in the new congress is one of the most important realistically achievable pieces of legislation for the short term. Also, “With the Democrats capturing both houses, labor and its allies voice confidence that the bill will pass in the House, but they fear a formidable battle in the Senate, where some foresee a Republican filibuster.”
Remember the Gang of 12 and the “nuclear option?” Liberals should have just seized the opportunity to ditch the filibuster forever. Recall that for all the Dems’ filibuster-preservation efforts, they actually wound up confirming all the rightwing judges anyway. Basically, in exchange for nothing at all, they preserved the GOP’s ability to block vital progressive legislation. Given the way the Senate overrepresents conservative areas of the country, it’s extremely difficult to get 60 votes for liberal causes.
The United States is involved in two wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — that it is not winning. If the situation is dire and deteriorating, as the Iraq Study Group concluded, why is Mr. Gates — who was confirmed by the Senate on December 6 — waiting 12 days to go to work? Why is Donald Rumsfeld, the leading architect of the failed strategy in both Iraq and Afghanistan, still on the job?
One theory is that Mr. Gates wants to preside at the fall graduation ceremonies at Texas A&M before he begins at the Pentagon. If he headed to the Middle East today, he could be back by December 15 to distribute diplomas. Given the rich tradition of the A&M Corps of Cadets, Mr. Gates presence as Secretary of Defense rather than university president would be equally fitting.
Given the severity of the situation — 30 U.S. troops died in Iraq during the first week of December — a Senate-confirmed Mr. Gates should now be in charge. There is literally not a moment to lose. Over the next 7 days, he should undertake a detailed fact-finding mission to both Iraq and Afghanistan. He should have extensive conversations with key military commanders — Generals John Abazaid, George Casey, Jim Jones, Karl Eikenberry and British General David Richards — to receive an operational update and set a new tone with the military leadership as the Iraq Study Group suggested.
Later in December, he should confer with the military chiefs and the National Security Council principals in order to make informed recommendations to the President on a new military strategy. Most significantly, he should strongly recommend that the President accept the Iraq Study Group’s judgment to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq within 15 months. The President should be in a position to announce this change of course as soon as possible.
The New York Times recently ran a brief but telling article on India’s monsoon season, writing explicitly about the connection between extreme weather and global warming, which they have not always done:
The frequency and intensity of rainstorms during India’s monsoon season has risen significantly since 1950, in concert with global warming, scientists report. An Indian climate research team describes the trend in the journal Science and predicts that further warming is likely to raise the risk of floods. The pattern was found by analyzing rain-gauge measurements. Over all, the total rainfall in June-to-September monsoons across central India had not appreciably changed, but more rain came in sudden bursts and less in light showers, the scientists said. “A substantial increase in hazards related to heavy rain is expected over central India in the future,” they added.
This is just one more piece of scientific evidence that global warming is affecting the world now. And that means even more extreme weather in the future if we keep increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
One of the core recommendations of the Iraq Study Group was direct engagement with Iran and Syria without preconditions. President Bush quickly dismissed the idea:
If people come to the table to discuss Iraq they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country. And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn’t bother to show up.
The American people, however, overwhelmingly support direct talks with both countries. From a new poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org:
Check out the whole WorldPublicOpinon.org poll here.
Well, waddaya know, I agree with Charles Krauthammer — there isn’t proof up to the standard of criminal liability and never will be, but the odds seem overwhelming that Vladimir Putin was responsible for killing Alexander Litvinenko. At best, it’s somewhat plausible that he didn’t issue any specific orders on this subject, but just set up some kind of political opponent killing apparatus that does this stuff without forwarding the details to the boss. That said, I’m not totally sure why Putin’s sins mean we’re now all supposed to become super-credulous about whatever a Putin opponent says or does.
Here’s Krauthammer: “Litvinenko claimed that the Russian government itself blew up apartment buildings in Moscow and elsewhere in 1999, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, in order to blame it on the Chechens and provoke the second Chechen war. Pretty damning stuff.”
Sure, I mean, damning if true but the fact that some shady ex-KGB dude and his corrupt sugar daddy say it’s true hardly does make it true. I’m not going to claim a great depth of knowledge on this subject (on the merits, the 9/22/99 Ryazan incident seems suspicion, but the “false flag” theory of the apartment bombings also has many of all the marks of a conspiracy theory in the worst sense), but it seems odd that this account is so widely endorsed by the very same people who are so at pains under normal circumstances to tell us all that we need to take Islamist terrorism more seriously. I mean, I doubt Krauthammer is especially impressed by 9/11 conspiracy theories holding that the whole thing was a Bush administration false flag operation.
In another context (“Violence and Islam,” December 6, 2002) Krauthammer was happy to believe in Chechen terrorism: “On the northern tier of the Muslim world, even more blood flows — in Pakistani-Kashmiri terrorism against Hindu India, Chechen terrorism in Russian-Orthodox Moscow and Palestinian terrorism against the Jews. (The Albanian Muslim campaign against Orthodox Macedonia is now on hold.) And then of course there was Sept. 11, 2001 — Islamic terrorism reaching far beyond its borders to strike at the heart of the satanic ‘Crusaders.’” Basically the approach is that whichever interpretation of the Russia-Chechnya conflict better suits the promotion of American hegemony will be adopted on any given day.
Tom Friedman’s more-or-less just a figure of derision in the blogosphere, but in real life unless I’m mistaken he’s the most influential foreign affairs writer in America by some margin, so it really matters when he starts writing ledes like this:
The brutally honest Baker-Hamilton assessment of the Iraq morass implies that we need to leave Iraq if the factions there don’t get their act together, but it also urges a last-ditch effort to enlist the help of Syria and Iran to salvage something decent. Both are good suggestions, but they will only have a chance of being effective if we go one notch further and set a fixed date — now — for America to leave Iraq.
He makes good on his earlier “ten years or ten months” column and calls for us to set a fixed date about ten months in the future for our troops to be gone.
“Speculation was raised that a report on the Foley scandal would be issued this afternoon, but staffers for the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct did not respond to rumors sweeping through Capitol Hill…A spokesman for Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said the California Democrat would be disappointed if the investigation is unresolved when the House adjourns either today or tomorrow.”
Workers getting pay raises, Federal Reserves contemplates slamming on the breaks. Same old, same old.
It seems to me that this business almost invariably goes missing in mainstream discussions of inequality in America. Meanwhile, the most powerful economic policy institution in America has spent the past 25-30 years consistently viewing its mission as trying to prevent typical wage earners from seeing increases in pay. While hurting the interests of wage earners, this policy also manages to advance the interests of (relatively wealthy) net creditors over those of (relatively poor) net debtors. Meanwhile, during Alan Greenspan’s long tour in office, he used his informal power to try and entrench the rule that larges budget deficits were okay when caused by tax cuts for wealthy people, but even small deficits are unacceptable when caused by progressive social outlay.
Meanwhile, we’re supposed to believe that the hegemonic run of such policy just so happens to have coincided with a period of “skill-biased technologic change” that is the real source of growing inequality in America.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and incoming Speaking Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have notified their colleagues that they will try to add an anti-pay-raise provision to a must-pass bill that provides funds to keep the government running.
71 percent: Number of Americans who disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, an “alltime high” according to a new AP-Ipsos poll.
As a final act, the Do-Nothing 109th Congress will push for approval of what is likely to be “the last major pro-drilling bill during the Bush presidency — a measure that would open a large swath of the Gulf of Mexico to energy exploration. The drilling provision was part of a $45-billion tax and trade bill that was expected to pass the House today and be sent on to the Senate.”
“The 109th Congress is packing its bags for good and leaving town today without enacting nine of the 11 appropriations bills that pay for the federal government.” “It’s a spectacular disorder of chaos,” said incoming House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI). “We will have to run a cleanup brigade.”
Lawyers representing Donald Rumsfeld “are set to appear in federal court” today “in response to a lawsuit charging that the Defense secretary authorized torture and other illegal abuse of military detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq – including at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.” Read more