McCORMACK: Well, look, you guys make decisions about what you cover. I suspect – just a guess – that three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years from now that the fact of the President making that visit under those circumstances will probably overshadow any memory of this particular gentleman and what he did.
Q: That’s a pretty – that’s a pretty interesting prediction.
McCORMACK: Come back to me in 50 years; we can talk about it.
Q: Would you care to bet? (Laughter.)
McCORMACK: Try and collect on it 50 years from now. (Laughter.)
As per Spencer Ackerman, in the absence of specific information my strong suspicion would be that Nuri al-Maliki’s contention that the guys he arrested today are part of a secret Baathist plot called “al-Awda” to restore the ancien regime are BS. It would just be exceedingly odd if the Interior Ministry, which had been firmly under SCIRI control, was secretly harboring a cross-sectarian bloc of covert Baathists. By contrast, it would be totally normal for the Interior Ministry to be harboring various officials who Maliki thinks aren’t Maliki loyalists.
When Stalin was conducting his purges, there was all kinds of fake conspiracies. First sixteen members of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite Terrorist Center were put on trial. Later he went after the “Bloc of Rightists and Trotskyites” allegedly led by Nikolai Bukharin. But it was all more-or-less made up.
None of this is to be too hard on Maliki. A leader in his position basically has two choices that I can see. One is that he can act ruthlessly and undemocratically without regard for the rule of law. The other is that he can be deposed by someone who will act ruthlessly and undemocratically without the rule of law. For five years or so the situation in Iraq was so terrible that the terribleness of the situation managed to preempt attention from the incredibly unpromising background conditions existing in that country. But you’re talking about a place with a serious “resource curse” issue, no state institutions that command broad respect, and no consensus about legitimacy or what the country ought to look like.
Fox’s new “Smile! You’re Under Arrest” television program is intended to project Arpaio as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” Here’s his record.
Arpaio has diverted deputies from solving crimes to chasing immigrants — and done so with no real strategy other than to attract television cameras. Arpaio’s deputies carry out traffic stops and neighborhood sweeps that have reportedly stopped people for no greater “crime” than being brown. These sheriff deputies hope they find someone without identification who they can turn over to federal immigration officials. Arpaio even requires that victims and witnesses prove their immigration status – a sure way to get fewer whistleblowers to come forward, thus increasing crime.
Seems like an odd guy for Fox to highlight as a law enforcement icon. America’s Voice has just produced a video attempting to give Arpaio “the attention he deserves” — a federal investigation into his record:
The conservative Goldwater Institute conducted an investigation and found using FBI crime statistics that violent crimes in Maricopa County have increased 69% since 2004 and murders have increased a whopping 166%; this while nearby jurisdictions have seen either declines or small increases. Arizona’s East Valley Tribune investigated as well and found: “slower response times on emergency calls, a dropping arrest rate, and for a time, excessive overtime costs.” Even better, on September 25th, Arpaio’s jails lost accreditation, and he is now operating the jails outside Arizona law.
But some people will prosper under Arpaio’s shenanigans – those who sue the county. Between 2004 and 2007, 2,700 lawsuits have been filed against Maricopa County. The Phoenix New Times reports that:
With a fraction of the inmate population, Arpaio has had 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined. … The $41.4 million taxpayers coughed up to insure for, defend, or settle lawsuits is just the edge of the cesspool — one result of inhumane conditions that have long made Arpaio’s jails the target of investigations from both the federal government and advocates like Amnesty International.
Along the lines of this morning’s post on global imbalances, on some level it seems to me that if any countries are going to manage to muster the additional demand necessary to pull the world out of recession, it’s more likely to be the current account surplus countries than a huge deficit country such as the USA. Perhaps that’s wrong. But I thought I would look up the current account numbers and make a chart of the top ten surplus countries:
I don’t really know what follows from this. But Germany and Japan have spent the past 60 years playing a very passive role on the world stage in order to avoid ruffling feathers. But I think it might be better for the rest of us if they started thinking of themselves as forgiven and thinking about what kind of leadership role they can play in this situation.
Our nation is at a crossroads right now. We can choose to transition to a clean energy economy that secures our energy supply and combats climate change or we can continue down the same old path of uncertainty and insecurity that we’re currently in. Current economic conditions, particularly for under-served, under-represented minority communities underscore the need to transition to clean energy technology.
The Green Jobs Act authored by Solis and passed into law as part of the 2007 energy bill was not funded at all. Green For All and the Center for American Progress are calling for full funding of this important legislation to bring skilled, well-paying jobs to communities that have been left behind in earlier economic good times — and are now hardest hit by the current economic crisis.
The other day Jon Chait approvingly cited the Clinton administration maxim that the United States would be “Multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must” with regard to the use of force. That sounds very wise and sober-minded compared to my nutty view that we should, going forward, strive to act in accordance with international law. But like a lot of wise and sober-minded verbal formulae it doesn’t really mean anything. After all, nobody’s ever going to say “we must use force unilaterally, but we shouldn’t.” That’s a contradiction. To say that we’ll act unilaterally when we must is, like the similarly wise and sober-minded notion that we should be willing to use force to advance our vital national interests, simply to avoid the question — namely when must we act unilaterally?
Now observing that this kind of talk is vacuous doesn’t show what standard we should use. But people, including Democrats and liberals, who believe that there should be no external or procedural checks on American use of non-defensive military force would do well to say so rather than hiding behind tautologies. I don’t think that’s a doctrine that will serve the United States well as we move forward into a less-unipolar world.
Pretty fascinating story out of Germany for The New York Times by Elisabeth Rosenthal looking at super-insulated “passive houses.”
Architects in many countries, in attempts to meet new energy efficiency standards like the Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design standard in the United States, are designing homes with better insulation and high-efficiency appliances, as well as tapping into alternative sources of power, like solar panels and wind turbines.
The concept of the passive house, pioneered in this city of 140,000 outside Frankfurt, approaches the challenge from a different angle. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies.
It’s a reminder that, as ever, the most abundant source of clean energy is conservation. Now obviously there are a lot of buildings around already, so it wouldn’t be feasible to rapidly replace them all with these kind of super-insulated structures. But there’s a lot we can do in terms of greening our affordable housing stock and one of the best uses of stimulus money is to finance modest insulation-boosting retrofits for people’s houses all across the country. It’s the sort of thing where the upfront costs and the hassle may deter people from doing it, but where the long-run reduction in resource consumption has benefits that go beyond the environmental. Having recently moved from some extremely drafty accommodations to some well-insulated ones, I can say that the change is dramatic even without taking the insulation to these “passive house” levels.
The arrests, confirmed by officials from the Ministries of the Interior and National Security as well as the prime minister’s office, included four generals. The officials also said that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Maliki’s creation of military units answerable only to himself and the inner circle of his Da’wa Party has been a growing issue. Musings on Iraq had this overview in October:
Since the security operation in Basra in March 2008 Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been organizing local tribes to back the security forces and his government. So far these Tribal Support Councils have been established in Basra, Maysan, Babil, Wasit, Karbala, Dhi Qar, and Baghdad provinces. They are paid $21,000 by Baghdad when they first form, then receive $10,000 a month afterwards. They answer directly to Maliki’s office.
This has caused increasing tensions with the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) who rules most of the south. The SIIC is afraid that Maliki will use these sheikhs to help his Dawa party gain seats in the upcoming provincial elections. The Prime Minister has publicly declared that the councils are non-partisan in nature, and that he would disband any that are allied with a party, but their political nature is apparent to everyone.
Recently, a tribal leader in southern Iraq publicly said what has been an open secret for months now that the Tribal Support Councils are meant to sway voters to Maliki’s Dawa party. Sheikh Nabil Sagban, the head of the Fatla tribe and a Tribal Support Council in Qadisiyah, said that the provincial elections are causing increasing tensions between Dawa and the SIIC. Each one is looking to gain followers before the balloting in early 2009. The tribes are in the middle as they can influence large numbers of Iraqis, especially in rural areas. The coming of a Support Council to the Fatla area of Qadisiyah seemed to work for Maliki as the sheikh declared he would vote for Dawa, and that he would tell his tribesmen to do the same.
“We demand that you intervene to order a halt to the work of these councils until there is agreement about them, in order to provide administrative and legal cover for them,” the council said in a letter posted on its website.
The so-called Support Councils have already drawn fire from Iraq’s two main Kurdish parties, who earlier this month accused Maliki of creating his own militias to consolidate Baghdad’s grip on ethnically mixed regions.
While the Kurds in the north and Maliki’s Shia rivals in the south accuse Maliki of using these militias to strengthen his party’s hold in advance of January elections, Maliki has apparently learned from his Bush administration sponsors in that you can do pretty much anything you want as long as you call it “fighting terrorism.”
On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh described his experience at the White House Christmas party the night before, which he called “a thrilling evening.” Limbaugh recounted “a funny little story” about waiting in the President’s receiving line with Fox News chairman Roger Ailes where Bush joked about “conspiring” with Ailes:
Ailes walks up to the president and Mrs. Bush, and the president opens his arm, “Well, look who’s here,” and they start chatting and talking and so forth, and after a while I finally shouted, “Hey, can we move this line on, please?” And Bush turned around and had a smile on his face and said, “Quiet, Limbaugh, Ailes and I are conspiring.”
Though Bush was clearly joking at the party, Ailes has attempted to “conspire” with the President before. Soon after 9/11, according to Bob Woodward, Ailes sent a “back-channel message” to President Bush, suggesting that he needed to take “the harshest measures possible” in retaliation for the terrorist attacks. He added that “support” for war “would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly.”