Thursday, November 30, 2006

Morning News Roundup (30 November)

BushCo's Wars
  • The Iraq Study Group, which wrapped up eight months of deliberations yesterday, has reached a consensus and will call for a major withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, shifting the U.S. role from combat to support and advising, according to a source familiar with the deliberations.

    But the recommendation includes a series of conditions and qualifications that would govern any drawdown of forces, the source said. "It describes a process by which combat brigades could be pulled out, but there wasn't a specific timetable on it," he said. The source demanded anonymity because members of the bipartisan panel have been pledged to secrecy until the report is officially issued Dec. 6.
    A person who participated in the commission’s debate said that unless the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki believed that Mr. Bush was under pressure to pull back troops in the near future, “there will be zero sense of urgency to reach the political settlement that needs to be reached.”

    The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year. [WaPo and NYTimes]

  • Bush will speed the transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, it was announced at their summit in Amman. Al-Maliki has been pressing Washington for some time to give him the authority to order much bigger battle units into action without securing permission first from the US military. The PM has been frustrated that he isn't allowed to set security policy but then is blamed for not achieving security. He also assured Bush that he can handle the Sadr Movement and the Mahdi Army militia. The Sadrists in parliament suspended their membership in protest against al-Maliki's meeting with Bush. In an ordinary parliamntary system, al-Maliki would be considered a minority PM and might well lose a vote of no confidence. But Iraq actually seems to be run as an oligarchy, and too many of the major politicians now live in London to permit ordinary politics to play out.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki actually blew off US President George W. Bush and Jordanian King Abdullah II on Wednesday, declining to show up at a scheduled formal banquet! [...] The no-show was presumably Maliki's protest against the highly critical memo of US National Security Council adviser Stephen Hadley about Maliki, leaked to the New York Times and published on Wednesday. Maliki needn't have bothered. Informed experts find the memo mediocre at best and wholly impractical at worst. I have to say I was shocked at Hadley's lack of understanding of the parliamentary system in which Maliki works, such that his government could easily fall. [Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

Climate Crisis
  • “Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist,” Justice Antonin Scalia said yesterday after a lawyer corrected a misstatement. “That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.” [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

  • The NYTimes takes a look at yesterday's arguments at the Supreme Court:
    On one level, the argument was about the meaning of the Clean Air Act, which the Environmental Protection Agency maintains does not treat carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases as air pollutants and thus does not give the agency the authority to regulate them.

    On another level, the argument was about whether the dozen states, three cities and many environmental groups that went to federal court to challenge the agency’s position had legal standing to pursue their lawsuit.

    And on still another level, the courtroom action was an episode in a policy debate that began well before this case arrived on the Supreme Court’s docket and that will continue, in the political sphere, no matter what the justices decide.

    By the end of the argument, that continuing debate appeared the only certain outcome.

Energy Matters
  • NearBio delivers a database of more than 1,000 biodiesel sellers to mobile phones via WAP (wireless access protocol) or text messaging. The free applet and service from WHDC of Nevada City, CA, provides driving directions, the phone number and the blends available at the five closest locations.

    Since most of the diesel engines in the U.S. are inside of trucks, truck drivers who can factor biodiesel stations into their routes are the most likely beneficiaries of this service. The number of biodiesel stations is increasing rapidly and NearBio says it will add new locations within a day. You can get similar information online about biodiesel or ethanol stations from the DOE's Alternative Fuel Locator site. [Wired's Autotopia]

  • There's an interesting Bloomberg story on the oil outlook for 2007. One Lehman Brothers analyst predicts the per-barrel price to rise to $72 next year. Another analyst, T. Rowe Price Group's Tim Parker, tells Bloomberg that he thinks oil prices will stay around today's level for about a year, thanks to more output from non-OPEC countries, and then begin to rise. By the end of next year, he says, $60 crude will "feel more like a floor than a ceiling [...] It'll be difficult for non-OPEC supply to consistently meet demand growth." [Foreign Policy's Passport]

Obama Watch
  • Famed pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren on Wednesday defended his invitation to Sen. Barack Obama to speak at his church despite objections from some evangelicals who oppose the Democrat's support for abortion rights. Obama is one of nearly 60 speakers scheduled to address the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church beginning Thursday at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif
    Conservative evangelical Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, e-mailed reporters Tuesday to protest the visit because of Obama's support of abortion rights. "Senator Obama's policies represent the antithesis of biblical ethics and morality, not to mention supreme American values," Schenck wrote. [AP via Yahoo!] {Ed. note: excuse me, but WTF?!?! Obama is the "antithesis of biblical ethics and morality"? I have a feeling (and a hope) that might backfire.}

  • In a statement, 18 antiabortion leaders called on Warren to rescind the invitation because Obama supports keeping abortion legal. "You cannot fight one evil while justifying another," says the appeal, whose signers include Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, Judie Brown of the American Life League and Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association. [WaPo]

  • In a victory for low-wage workers, these folks, and for Barack Obama and John Edwards, the San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to ban Wal-Mart Supercenters from their city limits. There are 21 Supercenters in California, but none in San Diego. And San Diego, determined to stay classy, will have none. [MoJo Blog]

  • Quoting sources close to (Hilary) Clinton, (Isight) magazine says she believes Obama will be her single biggest obstacle to bagging the Democratic nomination because of his appeal to minorities and liberals. Of particular concern: Obama, unlike Clinton, has opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning.

    The magazine says Clinton and her husband are working on some beat-Obama strategies. Their biggest fear: a "Clinton-Obama slugfest in the South," where Obama could cut into Clinton's support among African-American voters who once backed her husband. [Salon's War Room]

Decision 2008 (It's Only 705 Days Away)
  • Al Gore: "It is inconceivable to me that Bush would read a warning as stark and as clear as the one he received on August 6th of 2001, and, according to some of the new histories, he turned to the briefer and said, 'Well, you’ve covered your ass.' And never called a follow up meeting. Never made an inquiry. Never asked a single question. To this day, I don't understand it. And, I think it's fair to say that he personally does in fact bear a measure of blame for not doing his job at a time when we really needed him to do his job." [from a GQ interview; via Salon's War Room]

The War on Christmas (Again)
  • If we don't stop the decline of Christmas language now, imagine what the yuletide will be like in a few years: full of ''holiday'' trees, ''holiday'' gifts, ''holiday'' wreaths, ''holiday'' dinners, ''holiday'' music, and ''holiday'' church services. Come to think of it: we're almost there!

    It's time to just say ''Merry Christmas!'' Or there will be nothing merry about it for our children and grandchildren. [Chuck Norris from his WorldNetDaily column]

  • To which Daily Kos diarist Hunter retorts:
    Zing! Yes, I think this is what it must be like to get your intellectual ass kicked by Chuck Norris. It's pretty much the same as getting your intellectual ass kicked by someone from National Review, except it has more of a "grandpa's letters to the editor" quality and less of a "I have more money than God, so do what I say" quality. Or maybe it's like getting your intellectual ass kicked by a surly duck. I know I'm feeling something, here, I just can't pin it down.

    I can't do it. I have lost my will to live. I can't keep breathing oxygen in a world in which Chuck Freaking Norris takes time out from pretending to beat the crap out of make-believe car thieves and drug runners on the Hallmark Channel in order to lecture me about my Christmas shopping habits, and get preemptively pissed off that someone, somewhere, might accidentally blurt out the too-New-Year's-encompassing "Happy Holidays", thus necessitating a Very Jesus Asskicking. (Ed. note: his rant goes on to cover a wide list of conservative hypocrites and is very cathartic.)

Big Blue Marble
  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has decided to divest “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in his own mutual funds from “companies that do business with Sudan.” “With so many lives at stake, we should do all we can to stop this genocide, both as individuals and as a community,” Brownback said. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

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