Saturday, July 29, 2006

 

A Yen For Another Voice

So, I'm sitting here in the Narita Airport, just outside of Tokyo, in the middle of a three-hour layover before my three-hour flight to Shanghai (this is my "breather" after the 13-hour flight from Newark, NJ). No sightings of either Godzilla or North Korean missiles -- so I'm fairly comfortable.

Anyway, as some have noticed, there is yet another "contributor" listed to the left. Michele Mitchell will hopefully drop a post or two sometime in the next few days. She is a former CNN Headline News political analyst, a former correspondent on PBS's "Bill Moyers Now" program and, yes, a
novelist.

She has a documentary on Afghanistan coming out at the end of the year. It should garner a fair bit of attention in that it puts in fairly good context some of the new levels of violence that have been occurring there.

Michele's travels in recent years have also taken her to Lebanon, so she may present some insight into what we're all seeing on the news in recent days -- and perhaps stir up a bit of controversy in the process!


Keep an eye out for Michele's posts.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled episode of "Ed McGonigal's Wild Kingdom."

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Friday, July 28, 2006

 

Possum Galore

Unlike Robert, when I promise a post, I deliver.

It is gory. You have been warned.

Here it is: The Great Possum Killing Story. Enjoy.

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Hu? What? Where?

In about half an hour, your humble blogger shall be winging his way to China, on an information-gathering excursion with a few other journalists and truth-seekers.

I don't know what the blogging capabilities/obstacles (technological or political), but we shall see. Ideally, I'd like to take some pictures and post them -- and save the political analysis for when I get back!

In any event, I now leave this place in the more-than-capable hands of Ed and Mark!

Take care!

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

Conservative Up-Ricing

Bye, bye Condi-for-President boomlet?

A few on the Right are decrying her apparent mugging by the
realists in the State Department:

A major problem, critics said, is Miss Rice's ignorance of the Middle East. They said the secretary relies completely on Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who is largely regarded as the architect of U.S. foreign policy. Miss Rice also consults regularly with her supporters on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Richard Lugar and the No. 2 Republican, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

The critics said Miss Rice has adopted the approach of Mr. Burns and the State Department bureaucracy that most—if not all—problems in the Middle East can be eased by applying pressure on Israel. They said even as Hezbollah was raining rockets on Israeli cities and communities, Miss Rice was on the phone nearly every day demanding that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert exercise restraint.

"Rice attempted to increase pressure on Israel to stand down and to demonstrate restraint," said Stephen Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. "The rumor is that she was told flatly by the prime minister's office to back off."

The critics within the administration expect a backlash against Miss Rice that could lead to her transfer in wake of the congressional elections in 2006. They said by that time even Mr. Bush will recognize the failure of relying solely on diplomacy in the face of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Newt denies that he wants Condi gone. (Oh, and I'm a big fan of Steve Clemons, but how does his viewpoint add to the story. He's very much a critic of the administration -- from the left.)

The role of this "Mr. Burns" is rather intriguing. No word yet on where Smithers is on this.


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Fin De Cycle

Damn. Looks like Floyd Landis' great Tour De France story was too good to be true.


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Civil War

That Dan Froomkin would essentially describe the current situation in Iraq as a de facto civil war is not a surprise:

President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence.

This sea change was described in such understated terms that it was eclipsed by news about the crisis in Lebanon. Bush described a change in tactics; Hadley called it a repositioning.

But it's a historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient -- if not already raging -- sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero.

Arguably, that's been the case for quite a while. But having the White House own up to it is a very big deal.

But war supporter Ralph Peters coming to
the same conclusion is a depressing development:

For three years, the violence was about political power in post-Saddam Iraq. Sunni Arab insurgents and Shia militias may have been on opposite sides, but the conflict was only a religious war for the foreign terrorists. And the fighting wasn't between the masses of Sunnis and Shias - who were the victims of all sides.

Now it's different. The unwillingness of the Iraqi government to take on the sectarian death squads slaughtering civilians is polarizing Iraq (while the Kurds build up their own peaceful slice of the country as fast as they can).

Political violence with a religious undertone is becoming outright religious violence. The difference is crucial. The earlier fighting was over who should govern. Increasingly, it's about who should define Allah's will on earth. Nothing could be more ominous.

Political struggles may be resolved through compromise. Historically, only immense bloodletting and the exhaustion of one side or both leads to even a bitter, temporary peace in religious conflicts.

Leaders may bargain over who runs the ministry of health, but they won't horse-trade over conflicting visions of the divine. When men believe they hear a command from their god, they go deaf to other voices.

Meanwhile, other tensions grow in the north.

The challenge for the United States going forward is whether there will be sufficient continued support domestically for involvement of American forces in a conflict that is no longer about terrorism per se -- but about trying to keep religious forces from tearing a country apart.


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Mark-Ed Thots

Hmmph! Well, clearly, I've been scooped on my own blog!

Anyway, yes, it is true, uber-commenter extraordinaire Ed McGonigal, host of
Politics and Pigskins, will be a guest-blogger over the next eight days or so. So too will J. Mark English, representing the younger generation. Mark runs the sports-centric American Legends.

I may be able to post sporadically, but I won't know until I get to my eventual destination (see, I get to keep SOME secrets for a bit longer).

Mark and Ed, welcome aboard. There may be another "guest", too. I will let you know before I depart tomorrow!

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Announcement Part Deux

Since Mark already spoiled the surprise, J. Mark English and I will be filling in for Robert during his mysterious trip which he won't tell anyone about.

Don't worry. I will not be deleting any comments unless they get vulgar.

I am sure you will all be on your best behavior... *rolls eyes*

Anyway, one thing for you to look forward to: My infamous possum killing story. But unlike Robert's long forgotten illegal immigration post, I am ACTUALLY going to give you guys this one.

But not today.

See? I bet you don't miss Robert at all!

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

Announcement...

I quit.

No, not really! Think you guys can get rid of me that easily?

I'm going to be traveling starting Friday and will be returning August 6th. I'm not sure what my blogging capabilities will be. Thus, I am going to be turning over this space to a couple (or trio) of guest-bloggers!

Their identies will be revealed tomorrow!

Stay tuned!

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I See A Red Door...

So, the Republican Senate candidate critical of the GOP has been "outed":


Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's Senate campaign acknowledged yesterday that he was the anonymous candidate quoted by a Washington Post political reporter as saying that being a Republican was like wearing a 'scarlet letter' and that he did not want President Bush to campaign for him this fall.

The campaign made the disclosure after a day of speculation in the blogosphere and among political reporters about which Republican Senate candidate had made the disparaging remarks reported by Dana Milbank in the Washington Sketch column in yesterday's Post.
Okay, so this wasn't a big surprise. Steele has made similar comments at other media venues in the past -- including during a visit to New York several weeks ago.

In fact, the only thing that I thought was weird about Milbank's column was that Steele had apparently wanted it to be off the record.

The criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Katrina was certainly, as they say,
on point:


In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America," he said, between bites of hanger steak and risotto. "In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americans feel."

The response to Katrina was "a monumental failure," he continued. "We became so powerful in our ivory towers, in our gated communities. We forgot that there are poor people." The detachment remained after the storm, he said. "I could see that they weren't getting it, they weren't necessarily clued in. . . . For me, the seminal moment was the [Dubai] port decision."
Well, duh!

Indeed, a
certain blogger said as much at the time -- more than once.

While it is underplayed in Milbank's column -- because to write it any other way would have identified Steele in a certain manner -- the fact is that Steele was talking about the unique problem he has as a black Republican running in a Democratic state where blacks make up as much as 25 percent of the electorate.

The scarlet letter/"R-word" sentiment is harder to overcome with blacks than it is with whites. That's just a fact. So, Steele was speaking to the prism through which many blacks -- as opposed to the broader public -- saw Katrina. Maybe they didn't all channel
Kanye West, but ignoring 400 years of history isn't easy.

Again, from a political standpoint, it might well have been better for Steele to have been on the record from the start. He shoudn't be criticized for actually speaking true.


Though, of course, in Michael Kinsley's memorable phrase, that counts as a "gaffe" in politics.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

 

Three Shades of Pinkerton

The prolific veteran of Republican administrations writes on:

The
lessons of history;

The changes in
the U.S.-Israeli relationship;

The
naming of a global conflict.

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So Much For Management...

Michael Bloomberg has had a successful mayoralty by trying to run the city as he did his business -- particularly demanding accountability from his agency commissioners. Yet, his instincts completely failed him yesterday in going to the mattresses for the president of the Con Ed utility company and his handling of a partial blackout in the borough of Queens.

As Mayor Bloomberg issued a passionate defense yesterday of Con Edison boss Kevin Burke, three Queens elected officials stood right behind him, making their displeasure visibly evident for all the cameras to see. "Kevin Burke deserves a thanks from this city. He's worked as hard as he can every single day since then, as has everybody at Con Ed," Bloomberg declared.
If the issue here was that the power went out and the company took more time than expected in getting things up to par, that would have been fine. Frustrating to the residents, yes, but still understandable.

What wasn't understandable -- or excusable -- was that the utility said only 2,000 customers were affected, when the true number was closer to 100,000.

As the mayor spoke, Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who lived without power for a week, reacted as though he had swallowed a bee.

"Has he not seen what we've been seeing for a week?" Gianaris fumed after Bloomberg had spoken. "Has he not seen what's been reported about the lies they told both to him and to the rest of the city about how many people were affected for days and days and days? This is just astounding to have stood there and heard that."

Gianaris called Bloomberg's defense of Burke "an amazing head-in-the-sand moment."

Unaware that Gianaris and City Councilmen Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) were showing their disdain, Bloomberg then took a veiled shot at the trio for their calls for Burke to step down.

"Going after the CEO just because somebody wants to have somebody to blame doesn't make a lot of sense," Bloomberg insisted.
Well, yeah, Mr. Mayor, but if the CEO is speaking squarely, then yes, you go after him. As clueless moments goes, this is the "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job," of 2006.

Now, Con Ed is an independent utility, so Burke doesn't report to Bloomberg -- but that doesn't prevent the mayor from using his bully pulpit to voice his own outrage at a situaion that left residents without power and in sweltering heat for nearly a week.


Indeed, the mayor has ended up looking pretty much in the dark himself.


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Sunday, July 23, 2006

 

Exit Strategy -- Stage Right

The founding father of conservatism has strong words for the Bush administration foreign policy:

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says.

Asked if the Bush administration has been distracted by Iraq, Buckley says "I think it has been engulfed by Iraq, by which I mean no other subject interests anybody other than Iraq... The continued tumult in Iraq has overwhelmed what perspectives one might otherwise have entertained with respect to, well, other parts of the Middle East with respect to Iran in particular."

Despite evidence that Iran is supplying weapons and expertise to Hezbollah in the conflict with Israel, Buckley rejects neo-conservatives who favor a more interventionist foreign policy, including a pre-emptive air strike against Iran and its nuclear facilities.

"If we find there is a warhead there that is poised, the range of it is tested, then we have no alternative. But pending that, we have to ask ourselves, 'What would the Iranian population do?'"

...

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," Buckley says. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Asked what President Bush's foreign policy legacy will be to his successor, Buckley says "There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush. I don't believe his successor would re-enunciate the words he used in his second inaugural address because they were too ambitious. So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable"
Ah, the interesting conversations that must go on over at the halls of NR these days! Paging Mr. Frum!

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Still "Hip" To Be Americain

The French haven't had a bad month like this since 1940!

First their national football team loses -- to the Italians! To add insult to injury, national hero Zidane loses his, ahem, head and is run off in the Cup final.

And now this: For seven years, one American dominated France's signature athletic tournament. Seven years, no European could beat Lance Armstrong. Even after the fact, the French media tried to undermine Armstrong's achievement by
bringing up charges of cheating -- not even believing it when the charges were disproven.

Well, the Les Gauls must have thought -- "Now, we shall reclaim our rightful position from these barbarian Americans!"

Tant pis, Charlie, no dice.

An American stands triumphant at the Champs Elysee once again. And, despite Armstrong's legitimate achievements, in some ways, Floyd Landis's victory is even sweeter.

Not just because it is another poke in the eye to the French -- but on a personal level. Yes, Armstrong bounced back from cancer to win the Tour. But, cancer aside (yeah, that's a helluva proviso, I know), Armstrong was a physiological marvel; he was practically the human equivalent of Secretariat.

Landis, on the other hand, is basically "normal" -- for a cyclist. Yet, in truth, the Pennsylvania native is somewhat below "normal": He suffers from a degenerative arthritic hip condition that will require a hip replacement in the coming weeks. Indeed, his competive racing career may be over.

So, he had basically one last shining moment to make his mark on cycling's premiere event -- and he did it, in stunning fashion, including a strategic wipeout on the Tour's 15th stage that left him in 11th place, bouncing back the the next day with a mad dash through the Alps that wiped out 8 minutes to put him in 3rd place and in the perfect spot to win it Saturday in the time trial.

Thus, arguably, Landis had the finest singular Tour from both the human and the athletic standpoint of any one of Armstrong's wins (with the possible exception of his first in 1999).

And, again, the French are forced to sip from whine cultivated from sour grapes. Galling indeed!

Congratulations, Floyd.


UPDATE: Oh, and congrats also to Tiger Woods, as he, ho-hum, won his third British Open (second in a row) and 11th major championship! Just another day at the office for the Golden Child.

UPDATE II: Yes, I know this is played out, but, hey this is the ULTIMATE Zidane head-butt video. And the musical accompaniment is Rammstein! What more could one ask for?



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