Archive

  • The Indispensable Nation No More

    The Kyoto Pact takes effect today . Without us. In some ways, it's more symbolic than anything. Sans our involvement, it'll barely make a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions. But our opposition neither killed nor derailed it, and that in itself was meant to send a message. It's worth noting that, in this too, Bush was for it before he voted against it: Bush, who campaigned before his first term on the promise that he would regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, changed his mind after taking office and withdrew from the Kyoto talks in 2001, advocating voluntary steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Didn't Bush's favorite philosopher say something about the merit of faith without works? And why is it that Bush is so scared of appearing anti-environment, doesn't his platform enjoy a broad mandate? And while we're being moral, is there any chance that Easterbrook will finally give a mea culpa on his quadrennial prediction that Bush will lead the world on global warming? Or...
  • AIDS 2.0

    This is the worst news we've had on HIV in a long while : On Friday, New York City health officials issued this chilling announcement: A man is infected with a form of the AIDS virus that is not only resistant to three of the four classes of anti-HIV drugs, it is apparently so virulent that it causes full-blown AIDS in a matter of weeks rather than the usual decade or more. It will be super-difficult to treat, and it may be a super-fast killer. New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden first heard of the case on Jan. 22. Tests showed that the man had been infected for only a short time. Frieden prudently had samples of the mysterious virus assessed by two independent labs. Both labs confirmed that it is resistant to all three of the classes of pill-form HIV drugs and that it attacks its victims with what are called CX4 cellular receptors, which are typically found only in those infected with HIV for a long time and in advanced stages of AIDS. There is more bad news. The man is...
  • Media Imprecision

    Matt's observation that the media, in discussing Iraq's future, is conflating a pro-Iranian government with an Iranian-style government misses the point, I think. The conversation isn't really about the institution of velayet-e faqih (Khomeini's philosophy that only those steeped in Islamic jursiprudence can rule) or friendly relations with their Shi'a neighbor. The commentary on Iran is being used as a heuristic for the possibility of Iraq emerging as an anti-American government. That's what they mean by Iran-style, they may as well say "hostage-crisis style". And that's also the fuzziness Matt's picking up on. The media, invested in pro-democracy spin, doesn't want to publicly legitimize the potential for democracy to achieve an anti-American result, but they do want to discuss it somehow. Iran, despite having been instrumental in the success of our invasion, is useful in conjuring up images of Western-hating theocracies. So they keep name-dropping it, sometimes in context of who...
  • Forging Reality

    I'm always amazed at the twisted logic, or at least outcomes, of Bush administration policies. When pushing policies that have no relation to reality, they change reality so it relates to their policies. They mismanage government finances and blow through a budget surplus creating what they call a "crisis" in Social Security, propose a plan that'll further explode deficits without helping the program, but then make that plan vaguely reasonable by warping the economy so we might have a heretofore unknown future of high stock returns and minimal wage growth. The list of man made crises fitting preexisting policy solutions is almost absurdly long. Iraq wasn't a roosting ground for terrorists, but it was once we invaded. The budget was in such surplus that the only responsible thing to do was offer tax cuts, at least until we went into recession and the only responsible thing to do was offer tax cuts. And on, and on. In some ways, it's quite impressive. They ignore criticism, they ignore...
  • The Hungry Man Theory of International Relations

    Steve Clemons brings up a good point : Iran and North Korea know that America's bark is loud but bite is probably pretty soft right now. And the Europeans are doing their best to take on a global strategic dilemma -- their very first -- without the U.S. in the lead. The EU is in the beginning stages of superpower-dom, their ascension accelerating during a period of American decline. The Iran problem, which America has repeatedly failed to solve and generally made worse when they've tried, is the first dispute on which the EU can manifest their vision of a superpower that relies on diplomacy to defuse international threats. This is a proving ground for them, and they're going to do their damndest to succeed where we've failed, thus legitimizing their alternative vision of international relations. Considering how tricky a problem and serious a threat Iran is, that the EU's negotiators have something to prove is an unadulterated Good Thing.
  • Room to Run

    I'm going to disagree with Jeff Dubner's assertion that the Bush administration has committed too much to pivot on Social Security reform. Indeed, they've committed virtually nothing. The plan we all attack is a phantom, a combination of leaks, divination, and reading between the lines. The President has repeatedly argued that he wants to see ALL options, and that he won't release a proposal because that would impede the debate. He's consciously given himself room to pivot if his imaginary plan appears DOA. That isn't to say he will certainly abandon the plan. As yesterday's WaPo article showed, the right's money-brokers have lined up to support privatization. But for the first time, the Democratic party has a cash answer to them, in the form of small donors, 527's, the ALF-CIO, AARP, the Phoenix Group, Kerry's unspent millions, and Dean's fundraising ability. And if Democrats push past the point of no return and it becomes clear that all the proposal will do is damage the...
  • Money Makes the World Go Round

    As Justin Logan notes , Kerry's comment that we really had a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted" turned out to be spot-on, with the newly elected Bush administration no longer even bothering to hide the payoffs : The $80 billion war-funding request that President Bush plans to send Congress next week will include $400 million to help nations that have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland, a staunch ally in Iraq, is earmarked to receive one-fourth of the money. ... "These funds . . . reflect the principle that an investment in a partner in freedom today will help ensure that America will stand united with stronger partners in the future," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement. "This assistance will support nations that have deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other partners promoting freedom around the world." Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that is made up of about 6,...
  • Never Forget An Anniversary

    It was 16 years ago to this day that the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie. And, thanks to a kind reader who used my wish list, I actually found the offending tome, Satanic Verses , in my mailbox this morning. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of Khomeini's outrage. By the way, to those of you who've been generous enough to use my wish list, thanks much. I put that up as a lark (Typepad offers it as an option) hoping I might get a book or two over the life of the site. Instead, I've gotten four in the first few weeks. I really, really appreciate them, and I hope they'll leave my commentary more informed, and thus informative, for you. See? It's all for your benefit, really.
  • Rove's Future

    I hadn't understood why Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff, seemed like codifying what he already had, which would make no sense. Of course, I was looking for devious reasons when the actual rationale was obvious and mundane. Andrew Card is going to retire soon. When he does, the deputy chief of staff will become the actual chief of staff. And that'll be Rove. And no one will be able to argue because he was already the deputy. Duh.
  • Ballots Counted

    With the Iraqi ballots counted and the results released, things look good. Sistani's list did well, but not well enough to act like democratically-elected dictators. They'll probably need to forge good relations with the Kurds, whose second place finish is karmically positive (after the endless oppression they've undergone, they deserve some power) and politically advantageous. As a secular minority group, it's to their interest to forge alliances and demand protection for secular minority groups, which is good for Sunni-Shia relations. That Sunnis did so badly as to not even be given their own spot on the vote totals is an obviously awful indicator, and one I'll say more about in a moment. Allawi and his list came in third, which means, if nothing else, that Americans did not fix or drastically affect the election. Not that I thought we would, but a better than expected showing for Iyad and his crew would've been very dangerous in the hands of anti-American demagogues. For Iraq's new...

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