Friday, December 01, 2006

Morning News Roundup (01 December)

Iraq's Civil War
  • Street reaction here to al-Maliki's summit with Bush has been largely negative because, other than promising more weapons and faster training of Iraq's security forces, the U.S. had no suggestions for nipping Iraq's civil war in the bud. "It's always words and no action," an Iraqi merchant was quoted as saying in this morning's press. "We want actions to end the violence."

    While the killing continues al-Sadr's militia grows stronger. Conservative estimates say he already has more than 20,000 men under arms with another 40,000 trained and waiting for weapons.

    In the past the U.S.-led coalition, and the fledgling Iraqi government, has relied upon Iraq's senior Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to rein in al-Sadr. But al-Sistani's influence is declining as sectarian killings have increased and more Shiites turn to militias like the Mahdi Army for protection. [MSNBC's Blogging Baghdad]

  • Juan Cole's always informed comment:
    Al-Hayat writing in Arabic sums up the results of the Bush-Maliki Summit:

    1. The US and its Arab allies rejected the notion of making any concessions to Iran in return for Tehran's help in calming the situation in Iraq.

    2. The al-Maliki government would be given "another chance" to crack down on Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army and would be given greater freedom of movement in confronting them militarily.

    In other words, Bush is trying to set al-Maliki up for a confrontation with the Sadr Movement and is trying to keep the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad from too openly embracing Iran. (That cow is already out of the barn, of course).

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced a widening revolt within his divided government as two senior Sunni politicians joined prominent Shiite lawmakers and Cabinet members in criticizing his policies.

    Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said he wanted to see al-Maliki's government gone and another "understanding" for a new coalition put in place with guarantees that ensure collective decision making.

    "There is a clear deterioration in security and everything is moving in the wrong direction," the Sunni leader told The Associated Press. "This situation must be redressed as soon as possible. If they continue, the country will plunge into civil war." [AP via The Columbian]

Climate Crisis
  • Union representatives for more than 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, scientists are calling on Congress to take immediate action against global warming, according to a petition released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER. The petition calls for an end to censorship of agency scientists and other specialists on topics of climate change and the effects of air pollution. [Environment News Service]

  • The White House opposes plans by European nations to require airlines to curb greenhouse gases, saying it would unfairly disadvantage U.S. carriers. “We are strongly opposed to the imposition of a tax. We think this will violate trade rules,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. [ThinkProgress' ThinkFast]

Domestic Potpourri

Big Blue Marble
  • Hundreds are feared dead in the Philippines after a typhoon battered the north and centre of the country, triggering deadly mudslides. The Red Cross said 134 people were confirmed dead, but that figure was certain to rise because at least double that number were still missing. [BBC]

Misc. Opinions
  • George Will, in his WaPo column yesterday, complained about the civility of incoming Senator Jim Webb and even called him a "pompous poseur"--all in regards to the terse exchange Webb had with President Bush (see previous post, near the bottom of the roundup). John Aravosis over AmericaBlog calls bullshit on the truncated portrayal of the exchange, which leaves out the snippiness on Bush's part. And Josh Marshall posts a reader comment at Talking Points Memo that seems to sum up the situation just right:
    I think Bush sought out Webb--who was rather obviously avoiding Bush--to symbolically spit in his face. "How's your boy?" was Bush's code for, "You may think you're hot spit because you have a chestful of medals and won running against me and my war, but I'm the Decider, see, and you don't have a damn thing to say about when your precious son, or any of the other troops, are going to leave Iraq. They'll stay there until I say they can go and not before. The only way your boy's getting out of there any earlier is on a stretcher or in a body bag. How do ya like *them* apples, tough guy?"

    Bush intended for Webb to get it and be humiliated because he wouldn't dare answer back confrontationally in the context of a celebratory presidential reception.

    Webb *did* get it, but he refused to knuckle under. It wasn't Bush's petulant response to Webb's statement about Iraq that got Webb's back up, it was the initial patently insincere inquiry about his son. The exchange was hostile right from the start.

  • Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do.

    What is it about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert that makes them so refreshing and attractive to a wide variety of viewers (including those so-important younger ones)? I would argue that, more than anything else, it is that they enthusiastically call bullshit.

    Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. The relentless spinning is enough to make anyone dizzy, and some of our most important political battles are about competing views of reality more than they are about policy choices. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy. [Dan Froomkin at Harvard's Nieman Watchdog blog]

  • (O)n November 16th, Bush appointed one Eric Keroack to be the new chief of “population affairs” at the Department of Health and Human Services. In this post, Dr. Keroack, a gynecologist, will oversee what is called Title X, a Nixon-era program that distributes contraceptives to poor or uninsured women. Until recently, he was the medical director of a Christianist pregnancy-counselling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as “demeaning to women.” One of his odder theories makes him a sort of family-friendly version of General Jack D. Ripper. In Keroack’s case, the precious bodily fluid of concern is the hormone oxytocin, a.k.a. “God’s Super Glue.” Apparently, oxytocin is released during certain enjoyable activities, including hugging, massage, and, of course, sex. It is also, according to Keroack, the fluid that keeps married couples bound to each other. Therefore, if a young woman squanders her supply on too much fooling around, she can forget about ever becoming a committed wife. Keroack’s appointment, unlike the others, does not, alas, require Senate confirmation. [Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker]

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