November 14, 2006

A Setback for Vietnam Trade Bill (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, 11/14/06, NY Times)

In an embarrassing legislative setback for the administration, the House of Representatives defeated a measure late Monday that the president had sought to normalize trade relations with Vietnam, four days before President Bush was scheduled to leave for his first visit to that country. […]

The legislation received a majority vote but fell short of the two-thirds needed for passage under special rules that speeded its consideration in the House. The vote came on the first day of the lame-duck session in which the outgoing House, still controlled by a Republican majority, met to pass crucial bills by the end of this year.

The legislation received 228 votes in favor and 161 against, but it needed 32 more votes to pass on Monday. House Republican leaders said they would bring the legislation back in the next couple of days under normal procedures, which require only a majority, or 218 votes, for passage.

Though perhaps symbolic, the defeat in the House was an embarrassment not only for Mr. Bush but also for the departing Republican leaders, who had earlier in the day expressed confidence that they had the two-thirds needed for the bill to pass in the House.


November 14, 2006

Support for Hizbullah stronger than ever (Jacey Herman, Nov. 14, 2006, THE JERUSALEM POST)

“I love Hizbullah now more than ever,” smiles Mehdi, in what might at first seem a surprising response. “I really love them more. They gave us something we didn’t have. Forget the destruction, they gave us dignity. For fifty years the Arab world suffered defeat, defeat, defeat. This is the first time we are the victors.”

The 33-year-old supermarket owner lost his stall during the war. But he is impressed with Hizbullah for coming to assess the damage and paying him eleven thousand dollars to recover.

“It’s enough money and it makes me very happy. If Hizbullah asks me to go to the streets, of course I’ll go. If we have some demands and the government doesn’t give us what we need, like any country in the world where if you need something and you don’t have it, we will protest.”

It’s a sentiment echoed throughout the Hizbullah stronghold. Support for the organization is now stronger than it has ever been, making it by far the most significant political and military force in Lebanon.

Emboldened by this backing, Hizbullah is demanding at least one third of seats in the country’s cabinet and threatening to go to the streets if the demand is not met. An original deadline for Monday came and went without any disruption, but the rumor is that protests could erupt later in the week. […]

Hizbullah central council member Bilal Naim confirms the organization is following a four-phase plan of reconstruction. First, it helps people who lost their apartments to rent new houses. Every family who falls into this category is paid $10-12,000. Then, it finances the rebuilding of homes and the removal of rubbish from the streets. Lastly, it focuses on reconstruction.

“We have finished the first step and we are trying now to implement the plan for the reconstruction phase, especially in the south,” he says. “We want to work as a coordinator for the people. Every building has an elected representative who liaises between us and the people. We gave every family two choices – to rebuild themselves or to let us do it.”

Naim says that if the political impasse doesn’t give way soon, Hizbullah will move to the streets.

They’re still selling themselves short if they don’t demand either a nation of their own or proportional representation in the governance of Lebanon.


November 14, 2006

A peace deal in Nepal (Economist Intelligence Unit, Nov 10th 2006)

Nepal’s Maoist rebels and the ruling alliance of seven political parties have reached a breakthrough agreement that paves the way for the Maoists’ participation in an interim government, before the election of a Constituent Assembly (CA) next year. Important concessions have been made by both sides with regard to disarming the rebels and deciding the future role of the monarchy. However, there are still many obstacles on the road to constitutional reform—not least uncertainty over the Maoists’ willingness to co-operate within a democratic system.

There is real hope that the agreements reached in the early hours of November 8th will mark the end of the Maoists’ decade-long insurgency to replace Nepal’s constitutional monarchy with a communist republic. The conflict has cost an estimated 13,000 lives. There is also hope that the accord will be sufficiently robust to allow the process of constitutional reform to get under way. Progress on this goal is obviously dependent on the establishment of a lasting peace. Several rounds of negotiations to this end have been held since April, when the autocratic king, Gyanendra, was forced by popular protest to hand power to a multi-party government. But the issues of disarming the Maoist guerrillas and deciding what to do with the king have been major stumbling blocks until now.


November 14, 2006

New Faces, Same Agenda (Stephen Lendman, 14 November, 2006, Countercurrents.org)

Pelosi made it clear the Democrat victory will be just another betrayal of the electorate that sent her and the Democrats a strong message it voted for a mandated populist anti-Bush, anti-war agenda it won’t get. It’s always for the same reason – because those controlling the political process in Washington owe their allegiance to the interests of wealth and power that select and fund them and of which these officials are a part. The Democrat (anti-populist) Leadership Council (DLC) made that position clear when it participated in a November 10 post-election made-for-television spectacle in the Oval Office so the whole world could watch their new congressional leadership line up in a shameless public display of partnering with a criminal enterprise in the White House posing as a legitimate government they’ve been complicit with all along. Should anyone understanding how things work in Washington have expected anything else?

Politics 101, Washington-style teaches that nothing can be taken on its face, campaign promises are empty and disingenuous, and in the nation’s Capitol the criminal class is bipartisan. Pelosi, whose background is one of privilege and not populism, and her leadership collaborators plan on business as usual come January. They intend taking full advantage of their newly empowered status to grab a bigger piece of the political pie without sharing any of it with their constituents beyond a few crumbs that exclude the most important things people voted for – ending the Iraq and Afghan wars of aggression and bringing US forces home, impeaching Bush and Cheney, addressing critically needed social services like health care and public education Republican and DLC Democrat rule have ignored and allowed to deteriorate, restoring our civil liberties, finding and prosecuting everyone involved in the cesspool of rampant endemic corporate and government corruption both parties allowed to go on and that only a few have hd to answer for – and that’s just for starters.

What about restoring constitutional democracy and the rule of law complete with checks and balances, the separation of powers and our elected officials held accountable to the public for all their actions and made to face the music when they betray the public trust. What about ending the privatization of the most fundamental element of a democratic process and returning control of it to the people – the electoral process (now corporate run and corrupted) that can only be fair under a system of verifiable paper ballots counted by hand by civil servants unconnected to either party or the corporatocracy that funds and owns them. What about allowing real alternative party candidates the right to run under a system of proportional representation and break the monopoly of a corrupted two-party, winner take all system. What about that and a lot more that a real democracy demands, and the sham one we now have won’t allow.

The Right has passed the crazy pills.


November 14, 2006

Planet ‘winning the battle against deforestation’ (The Scotsman, 11/14/06)

FEARS of a “skinhead” Earth devoid of any trees appear to be unfounded, according to new research which shows forests making a comeback in China and India.

An international team of scientists, including Aberdeen University academic Professor Alexander Mather, found that 22 out of the world’s 50 most forested countries were now increasing the amount of woodland and predicted that a “great restoration of the landscape” could begin by 2050.

While global forests are still in decline, China, Vietnam and Spain have seen significant net increases from 1990 to 2005 and India’s forests are now stable.

Here in New England, which was 90% clearcut early in the 20th Century, one of our big businesses is the tourism during leaf-peeper season.


November 14, 2006

From foe to friend: Vietnam and the legacy of war: When George Bush arrives in Hanoi this week for a trade summit, he will see a country which has prospered during three decades of peace – but is still scarred by conflict (Kathy Marks, 14 November 2006 , The Independent)

Thirty-one years have passed since the fall of Saigon brought an ignominious end to the Vietnam War. The last US troops had left two years earlier. Yet it continues to haunt the American psyche, especially today, when so many parallels can be drawn with the current situation in Iraq.

Images of Vietnam remain profoundly influenced by the war: forests defoliated by Agent Orange; the massacre at My Lai; B-52 bombers dropping their deadly load; people fighting to board a helicopter as it takes off from the roof of the US embassy; a little girl runing in terror, her body scorched by napalm.

But while reminders of that conflict are still visible, modern Vietnam is very different from the place abandoned to the Viet-cong in 1975 – as President George Bush is set to discover this Friday when he arrives for the Asia-Pacific summit. It is a country of elegant colonial-era hotels restored to five-star luxury, restaurants offering the best of Asian and French cuisine, golf courses, and upmarket shops rivalling those of Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Vietnamese economy – devastated by decades of fighting, the destruction of much of the infrastructure and the dead hand of communism – is booming, fuelled to a large degree by tourism. A country that was once a byword for death and devastation is now a chic travel destination, and a must-do stop on the backpacker trail.


November 14, 2006

To Know McCain, Read Mahan (JOHN BATCHELOR, November 14, 2006, NY Sun)

“War, once declared, must be waged offensively, aggressively,” wrote the sage of American navalists, Alfred Mahan, in his seminal 1890 book, “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783.” “The enemy must not be fended off, but smitten down.”

Mahan is important today because our chief architect of Mahanian policy now forms an exploratory committee to begin his campaign for the presidency in 2008. John McCain, son and grandson of admirals, Annapolis graduate, aviator, and war hero, who is notorious for hectoring the Bush administration on policy issues as wide-ranging as federal judgeships, torture protocols, and pork-barrel spending, is in fact the clearest living expression of Mahanism on planet Earth. He not only inherits Mahan’s core philosophy of American imperial power through naval supremacy and global commerce, but also inherits the duly famous combat legacy of his Mahanian grandfather, Vice Admiral John S. “Slew” McCain, who commanded the fast carriers that defeated the Japanese Imperial navy — steaming to the rescue at Leyte Gulf — and who invented through experiment the naval air tactics that have guaranteed American foreign policy since World War II.

Mr. McCain brings to the campaign many gifts, such as curt candor and a savvy tolerance of new ideas, but his overwhelming strength is that he thinks, plans, and acts according to Mahan. In this, Mr. McCain is in a potent line of presidential actors, starting with William McKinley and his Mahanian Spanish War, continuing to the Mahanian champion Teddy Roosevelt and his globalizing Great White Fleet, and including Franklin Roosevelt, who studied Mahan while still at Groton, and the Cold Warriors Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the two Bush presidents, both of whom asserted Mahanism by protecting American energy resources in the Persian Gulf.

If the Republicans choose Mr. McCain for 2008, and if Mr. McCain survives the crusading candidacy of Hillary Clinton, he will take the oath of office in 2009 with the salty ghosts of all the triumphant Mahanians of every ocean on the reviewing stand.

Wouldn’t Senator-elect Webb, who quit the Reagan Administration in a huff when he realized we weren’t going to have a 600 ship navy, be the leading Mahanian?


November 14, 2006

Public expects the Democrats to deliver (Jill Lawrence, 11/13/06, USA TODAY)

Joel Benenson, a Democratic strategist whose firm worked on several Senate races, said the poll underscores the message voters sent Bush. “They expect the Democratic Party to have influence with the president,” he said. “They want things to get done. They think the Democrats can help make that happen.”

Wes Anderson, a Republican strategist whose firm handled independent spending for the GOP Senate campaign committee, said voters fired his party for incompetence. “The challenge for the Democrats at this point is living up to the billing,” he said. “The bar is set probably higher than they want it to be set.”

Democrats appear for now to have buried their image as soft on security, despite charges by Bush and other Republicans that terrorists would gain ground if Democrats won majorities. By 63%-33%, poll respondents said it is not likely Democrats in Congress will take steps that would weaken national security.

In other expectations, 6 in 10 said it is likely Democrats in Congress will raise taxes. Half said it’s likely Democrats will make prescription drugs less expensive and vote to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq.

There was skepticism about Democratic pledges to clean up ethics and cut the budget deficit. About half said it’s unlikely that Democrats will try to reduce corruption; 58% said deficit reduction is unlikely.

The Democrats set to lead their party on Capitol Hill are relatively unknown. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, in line to be speaker, had a 38% favorable rating. The same percentage said they had never heard of her or had no opinion about her.

More than half said they’d never heard of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., or had no opinion of him. The future Senate majority leader was viewed favorably by 27%.

The challenge for Democrats is to keep the name recognition of its leaders that low.


November 14, 2006

Rangel Backs Hoyer for Leader In a Break With Nancy Pelosi (DAVID GERLACH,
November 14, 2006, NY Sun)

The battle between Rep. John Murtha and Rep. Steny Hoyer for the no. 2 leadership spot in the House of Representatives is dividing the New York City delegation to Congress. […]

Some of Mr. Hoyer’s backers in New York are asking why the likely new speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, has endorsed Mr. Murtha rather than the Maryland congressman, who is the minority whip and the second-ranking Democrat.

Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, who called Mr. Murtha “a friend” and received support from him in 2004 in his push for the reinstitution of a military draft, said yesterday that Mr. Murtha would make a good majority leader. But Mr. Rangel is going to vote for Mr. Hoyer.

“My kind of politics is, if you do your job, you are supposed to be rewarded,” Mr. Rangel, who was one of 105 co-sponsors of Mr. Murtha’s resolution to redeploy American troops in the Middle East in 2005, said. “I think Steny has done his job. I cannot think of any reason why this is happening.”

In Backing Murtha, Pelosi Draws Fire: Her Ethics Vow Is Questioned (Jonathan Weisman, November 14, 2006, Washington Post)

House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Rep. John P. Murtha’s bid for House majority leader set off a furor yesterday on Capitol Hill, with critics charging that she is undercutting her pledge to clean up corruption by backing a veteran lawmaker who they say has repeatedly skirted ethical boundaries.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) directly intervened in the heated contest between Murtha (D-Pa.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday by circulating a letter to Democratic lawmakers. The letter voiced her support for Murtha and put her prestige on the line in a closely fought leadership battle. Some Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups say they are baffled that Pelosi would go out of her way to back Murtha’s candidacy after pledging to make the new 110th Congress the most ethical and corruption-free in history.


November 14, 2006

Olmert draws fire in U.S. over praise of Iraq war (Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, 11/14/06, Haaretz)

President George W. Bush, speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, called Monday for the world to unite in isolating Iran until it “gives up its nuclear ambitions.” In addition, Olmert publicly praised the American operation in Iraq, which he said brought stability to the Middle East.

Politicians from the Democratic Party said they wanted to speak to Olmert about his comments on the Iraq war before responding publicly, but said they were uncomfortable with the comments. If Olmert planned his remarks and intended them to come out as they did, a Democratic official said, then they are not acceptable and can be seen as an attempt to influence the American political dispute.

Not acceptable? What are the going to do to him?