Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Morning News Roundup (29 November)

BushCo's Wars
  • President Bush signaled plans to both reassure and pressure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over deteriorating conditions in Iraq, as the White House prepared for an unusual summit Wednesday in Jordan aimed at arresting the slide in security.
    [...]
    The Bush-Maliki relationship had started with high hopes among White House officials that the prime minister would prove a more effective leader than his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jafari. After a quick trip to Baghdad in June, Bush declared he had determined that Maliki was dedicated to a free Iraq.

    But the relationship has grown fractious as repeated efforts to curb violence in Baghdad have failed. Administration aides have expressed frustration that Maliki has not moved more aggressively against Shiite Muslim militias, while he has bristled at pressure from Washington. [WaPo]

  • A classified memorandum by President Bush’s national security adviser expressed serious doubts about whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had the capacity to control the sectarian violence in Iraq and recommended that the United States take new steps to strengthen the Iraqi leader’s position.
    [...]
    The memo suggests that if Mr. Maliki fails to carry out a series of specified steps, it may ultimately be necessary to press him to reconfigure his parliamentary bloc, a step the United States could support by providing “monetary support to moderate groups,” and by sending thousands of additional American troops to Baghdad to make up for what the document suggests is a current shortage of Iraqi forces. (Text of the Memo)

    The memo presents an unvarnished portrait of Mr. Maliki and notes that he relies for some of his political support on leaders of more extreme Shiite groups. [NYTimes]

  • Some of al-Maliki's key Shiite backers -- politicians loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- suspended their cooperation with Parliament Wednesday. The political bloc whose members are known as Sadrists is a mainstay of support for al-Maliki. A statement issued by the 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers said their action was necessary because the meeting constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights." The statement did not explain that claim. [CNN]

  • From troops on the ground to members of Congress, Americans increasingly blame the continuing violence and destruction in Iraq on the people most affected by it: the Iraqis. Even Democrats who have criticized the Bush administration's conduct of the occupation say the people and government of Iraq are not doing enough to rebuild their society.
    [...]
    Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie said he worries about the growing chorus of official voices blaming Iraq, and suggested that a little introspection on the U.S. side could help. "I am indeed concerned about this trend," he said in an interview. "The U.S. through its actions and omissions has helped to create the current conditions in Iraq. Therefore the U.S. also bears responsibility in putting right the situation."
    [...]
    "People never understood the culture and the challenges that we faced in trying to build a new Iraq," a senior U.S. intelligence official said. "There's incredible frustration . . . but it also shows a great deal of ignorance."

    "Definitely," said Paul Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq as an Army officer in 2003-2004 and went on to found a veterans group critical of the conduct of the war. "It is growing into an angry, scolding tone." He said he finds it "sad" -- "especially after all the talk of our mission to 'save the Iraqis.' "

    The long-term effect of blaming Iraqis also could be poisonous, said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan specialist in Middle Eastern issues. He predicted that it will "infuriate the Iraqis and worsen further the future relationship of the two countries." [WaPo]

Climate Crisis
  • The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis. The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year. It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains. [BBC]

  • Global warming is creating a climate time bomb by storing enormous amounts of heat in the waters of the north Atlantic, UK scientists have discovered. Marine researchers at Southampton and Plymouth universities have found that the upper 1,500 metres of the ocean from western Europe to the eastern US have warmed by 0.015C in seven years. The capacity of the oceans to store heat means that a water temperature rise of that size is enough to warm the atmosphere above by almost 9C. [The Guardian]

  • The US Supreme Court will today be asked to force the government to order its environmental regulatory body to control, as a matter of the public health, the amount of carbon dioxide pumped out by vehicles. Amid a growing disparity between the Bush administration and many US states on the issue of global warming, it will be the first time the country's highest court has heard a case relating to climate change. [The Independent]

  • The NYTimes editorializes on the Supreme Court case:
    A group of 12 states, including New York and Massachusetts, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to properly do its job. These states, backed by environmental groups and scientists, say that the Clean Air Act requires the E.P.A. to impose limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by new cars. These gases are a major contributor to the “greenhouse effect” that is dangerously heating up the planet.

    The Bush administration insists that the E.P.A. does not have the power to limit these gases. It argues that they are not “air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. Alternatively, it contends that the court should dismiss the case because the states do not have “standing,” since they cannot show that they will be specifically harmed by the agency’s failure to regulate greenhouse gases.

    A plain reading of the Clean Air Act shows that the states are right. The act says that the E.P.A. “shall” set standards for “any air pollutant” that in its judgment causes or contributes to air pollution that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” The word “welfare,” the law says, includes “climate” and “weather.” The E.P.A. makes an array of specious arguments about why the act does not mean what it expressly says. But it has no right to refuse to do what Congress said it “shall” do.
  • Microsoft has been touting Vista's new power saving features, saying that upgrading to Vista could easily save consumers and corporations $50 to $75 per computer per year in energy costs. The question, though, is what marvelous new code makes this miracle possible. The answer? They fixed three stupid mistakes that have cost the world billions of dollars and millions of tons of CO2 in the past five years.

    First, Microsoft never put power-saving options high on the list of default specs. In order for XP to run smoothly, with all its bells and whistles going, desktop machines had to run in "high-performance" mode, the equivalent of flooring your Honda at every green light. So the defaults were often set to "High Performance." Even when they weren't, consumers generally chose the setting themselves, not realizing that it had any affect on power consumption. [Treehugger]

Domestic Potpourri
  • King County Elections here in Seattle certified the Nov. 7 election Tuesday, counting 635,753 ballots. Turnout in the November general election was higher than expected, with 65 percent of registered voters participating in the election, most opting to cast their ballot by mail. [Seattle P-I; not bad for a mid-term election]

Misc.
  • One of the favorite claims of Bush followers is that Jim Webb is going to be some sort of thorn in the side of Democrats based upon the myth that he is not a "real Democrat." It looks like half of that claim is correct -- he is going to be a thorn, but not in the side of Democrats. From The Hill:
    At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

    Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

    “I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

    Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t.
    Webb's office, more or less, confirmed the report. It is difficult to fathom the hubris and self-indulgence required for someone to ask a parent of a soldier in Iraq how their son is doing only to then snidely tell the parent that the answer isn't what he wanted to hear. [Glenn Greenwald; post also includes tidbit on Right Wingers calling foul on incoming Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who is a Muslim, planning to take his oath of office on the Koran and not the Bible]

  • There are those who have been moved to great eloquence and passion by the death of the eminent film director Robert Altman. And then there is Lindsay Lohan.

    The 20-year-old actress, who scored a part in Altman's last movie, A Prairie Home Companion, made the interesting decision to go public with a condolence letter she wrote to the Altman family in the wake of his death from cancer last week. The passion was certainly there - she, like many dozens of actors before her, clearly adored the experience of working in Altman's characteristic freeform style - but the letter was also spectacular in its incoherence and disregard of basic grammar and spelling.

    "I am lucky enough to of been able to work with Robert Altman amongst the other greats on a film that I can genuinely say created a turning point in my career," she began, less than certainly. "He was the closest thing to my father and grandfather that I really do believe I've had in several years... He left us with a legend that all of us have the ability to do." A little lower down, she fell into improv philosophy, apparently riffing on the notion that life is too short to waste: "Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves' (12st book) - everytime there's a triumph in the world a million souls hafta be trampled on. - altman Its true. But treasure each triumph as they come." And she signed off, "Be adequite. Lindsay Lohan."

    The letter has become the talk of Hollywood since its release over the weekend. Was the actress on a misguided - and utterly botched - quest for publicity, exploiting the death of a revered director for her own purposes? Had she been on one of her legendary party benders? Or was this Exhibit A for the indictment of America's education system? [The Independent]

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