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November 09, 2006

Progress, or not

Both the pre-election polls and Election Day exit polls -- not to mention
the actual outcome of the election -- indicate the top concerns among voters are the war in Iraq and congressional corruption.

There was something close to instant gratification on the Iraq issue, with
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's day-after-election resignation. His
departure, of course, hardly means that all is well with U. S. policy in
Iraq. It does, though, open the door to changes in strategy and tactics that may offer a way out of the steadily worsening disaster Rumsfeld did so much to create.

The defense secretary-designee, former CIA director Robert Gates is reputed
to be more interested in solving problems than in waging ideological
battles. He serves on the Iraq Study Group, a 10-member comission created by
Congress last March to provide a fresh and forward-looking assessment of
Iraq policy. Co-chaired by former secretary of state James Baker and former
Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, the group's report is due in December.
(The group, incidentally, has a helpful website: www.usip.org/isg.)

Whatever the recommendations, the discussions both before and after their
presentation are bound to be more productive now that Mr. Rumsfeld is gone,
along with his bureaucratic game-playing and ideological agenda. The
viewpoint of Congress, from members of both parties, will be taken more
seriously.

President Bush, of course, remains ultimately responsible for many of the
decisions to be made, just as he is ultimately responsbile for those made so
far. He is under no obligation to accept any policy changes that may be
recommended, but in naming a member of the group to replace Mr. Rumsfeld he
surely signals he's quite willing to listen. "Progress on Iraq" is breaking
out all over.

Dealing with the congressional corruption issue should be less complicated;
no executive branch to consider, no worry about the internal politics of
some Middle East country. Actually, all any member of Congress needs to do
on this one is real simple: be honest. But not all of them will be, as amply
demonstrated by the history of 220 years worth of congresses.

Democrats and Republicans alike have been pushing lobbying reform bills,
though any meaningful laws have been frustrated by the House GOP leadership.

Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she'll introduce a real reform package as
soon as the new congress is sworn in. Elements: ban all gifts from lobbyists
to legislators; ban all lobbyist-funded travel by legislators; tighter and
quicker reporting of lobbyist/legislator contacts; doubling to two years the
period that must pass before former legislators and their top aides can join
industry groups; remove floor privileges to former lawmakers, if they're
working as lobbyists; and curtail "earmarks" by requiring public disclosure
of all changes to bills before they're voted on.

But even with a new majority party and the bi-partisan support for reform,
change may not be as automatic as we'd like. The problem is much easier to
define than it is to solve, given that lobbying --whatever it's distasteful
aspects -- is a legitimate activity that is constitutionally protected.
That'll provide some weasel room for members regretfully eyeing the perks
and privileges that would disappear.

Be optimistic, though. The election was the equivalent of taking a
two-by-four, whacking someone over the head with it and then saying, "Now
that I've got your attention..."

Posted by jcb at November 9, 2006 08:18 PM

Comments


I'm thrilled with the election results. A blue wave finally hit Washington, D.C., with enough force to result in electoral change that was desperately needed.

But now it's up to Democrats to govern responsibly -- to come up with specific proposals to reduce the deficit, to change course in Iraq, etc.

I wish them well. They have big responsibilities on their plate.

Posted by: values matter at November 9, 2006 11:00 PM

I find it a bit annoying that the most pressing concern among talking heads on cable and pundits alike is fretting that the Dems might actually hold investigations. They seem to be demanding that the Dems disarm and promise not to be too tough on the Bushies, and don't upset us with inconvenient revelations.

Considering that the Republicans spent millions investigating whether someone stole a box of paper clips from the White House, it's hard to imagine that the Dems could possible match their farcical level of investigations and wild-goose chasing.

I feel that a large reason that the country has arrived at such a state is precisely because the Republicans on capitol hill have absolutely refused to perform their sworn and very crucial duty to provide oversight and investigations.

Perhaps if they had, much of the horrible blunders and plunders wouldn't have happened (or at least would have been stopped).

I can not understand why this seems to be the primary concern in the days after this historical shift, that the Dems promise not to do what the Republicans did to them.

I think no one need worry.

And I also think that if the Dems do NOT perform serious and extensive investigations into the run up to the war, massive corruption and war-profiteering, energy policy formulation, and any number of previously hushed up actions, that they won't be doing their duty.

I also feel that many Americans most certainly WANT the government to straighten itself out, and a key part of that is congressional investigations and hearings.

No one wants a return to the bizarro zoo-like frivolous abuse of committee investigations witnessed during the Clinton administration. But to be wringing their hands at the prospect of actually getting to the truth this regime has, with the aid of the Republican congress, been so successful at keeping secret.

Posted by: TID at November 10, 2006 03:02 PM

jcb, whats your feeling on ELesha Gayman? As a young person I was totally excited about her campaign when I heard about it a month or so ago. I wasn't sure if she was going to win because I knew nothing of the race, but I am excited to see someone under 30 run for office.

Posted by: Robbie at November 10, 2006 04:07 PM

Robbie -- I don't know Ms. Gayman, and didn't follow that election at all. The sum of my knowledge about her and her politics are what's available on her campaign website. Great bio/resume for a young person interested in elective office.

We'll see how she does.

TID -- I'm glad that Pelosi said impeachment hearings are off the table.

Beyond that, some hearings are necessary. I'm primarily interested in the ones the House Government Reform Committee plans to hold on how the money's getting spent. Many billions of dollars have disappeared into the ether. Pentagon auditors have encountered various difficulties in tracking money. It's definitely time to put some congressional muscle into the probe.

We also need to know more than we do about just how badly civil liberities have been damaged, and are being damaged.

What mistakes were made and who's responsible for them are of least interest to me. Getting out of the mess is the more pressing question; I also think the record is already pretty clear.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've read Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, Rajiv Chandraskeraran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Bob Woodward's State of Denial and am about to finish Hubris, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

In sum, they provide a pretty clear picture of who said and did what and when and why.

Rumsfeld's departure is a good start; but Gates needs to whack away freely at the Rumsfeld appointees sitting the next level down.



Posted by: jcb at November 10, 2006 08:04 PM

Democrats and Republicans do not agree on many things. The current political environment is one of polarization and division. There is one thing the two major parties agree on though - one issue that both can cooperate and compromise on - INCUMBENCY. I have posted several messages on this board and others criticizing the current system. Incumbency, irrespective of party is the single most important factor in determining an election. Incumbents have a number of advantages. They receive more than 80% of all PAC contributions for example. The issue of age and experience is also a tool used to protect incumbents. Robbie, I share your enthusiasm for the young woman from Iowa. All of the candidates from my area, for all state and federal offices, were between the ages of 50 and 60. Few candidates can break the 50 year old barrier - when they try they are told to run for dog catcher or something – battled away like a pesky fly. Many times it is accompanied with a dismissive chuckle. This is a strategy employed by seasoned politicians to protect incumbency. Even JCB’s comments were laced with a bit of cynicism, but it does not stand up to scrutiny. How old was JFK when he was elected to the House? How many effective CEOs are under the age of 50? Keep your enthusiasm and optimism Robbie - Ms. Gayman will not be the last to challenge the system and win.

Posted by: Rob Mellon at November 10, 2006 10:19 PM

JB,
Excellent reading list. All books I hope to get to, but haven't as yet. I did read "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" by Frank Rich and recommend it as an eye-opener who's greatest service is amassing a chronological tale of what the Bushies said vs. what reality actually was.

Presented as it is by Rich, it's a powerful indictment.

As to impeachment, as much as that might be Chicken Soup for many people's soul, so to speak, I haven't heard anyone, even those who would pay to see it, suggesting at any time that that would ever be done.

That's another thing that bugs me. People seeming to have this notion that the Dems are somehow going to inflict some wildly crazy liberal agenda on the country. This is purely the result of succumbing to relentless and long term right wing balderdash, to put it politely. No Dems have ever proposed anything more than slightly left of center.

I find it really interesting that people have been so relentlessly propagandized that they sincerely have a fear in the back of their heads that somehow the country has been handed over to communists or worse.

I can only think of one Dem who's even spoken about the possibility of impeachment, and that was Conyers, and even that was likely only rhetorical.

Impeachment would be insane at this point (and probably any other) and there's certainly only a couple Dems in congress, if that, who would seriously consider it a good idea.

It's also bitter to think that after the Clinton years, and 6 years of the Republicans virtually giving their Democratic colleaqes, and by extention, the half the country they represent, the back of the hand. They refused to meet with them, refused to share information, and generally treated them like rented mules, and bullied them around like they were nothing.

But now, after all that, the first item on the pundit agenda once Dems assume the majority is "They better be nice". The irony is nauseating.

Only a week ago, Bush was saying that a vote for Democrats was essentially a vote for the terrorists. Now they want the Dems to behave.

One reason the Dems have been beat up on so much is that for the most part, they truly refused to stoop to Republican's level (or Rove's)

I doubt they'll suddenly start now.

But with memories of every Republican and their brother holding hearings into any trivial stuff they could imagine, and Ken Starr literally and figuratively going through the Clinton's underwear drawer, I find it a bit tough to swallow that so many seem to be wringing their hands at the prospect of Dems holding some far, far overdue oversight hearings and investigations.

Perhaps the reason people seem so concerned is that the Republicans went psycho and absolutely abused their ability to hold hearings, often investigating and holding hearings on the same matter in both a House committee as well as a Senate committee. They'd spend millions to investigate whether somone took a box of staples from the White House without authorization.

They held investigations in lieu of actually governing. And no one wants to go back to that.

And you know what? The Dems aren't that nuts. They're not that zealous, not that obsessed, and not that craven.

But there is a LOT that needs to be gotten to the bottom of after six years of the most inept, incompetent, corruption riddled, and above all, secretive administration in memory, and the congress would be failing the public were they not to agressively investigate the most egregious matters.

Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Posted by: TID at November 11, 2006 05:00 AM

The outrage by Americans concerning Clinton’s conduct in the oval office reflected their concern about the coarsening of American Culture. Hard to believe, but at that time regular cable did not carry sitcoms that displayed this type of conduct. They may have indirectly alluded to it but that was it.

The Democrats are not going to enact any reforms that will apply to them. Sure, do away with floor privileges. But that affects the outgoing Republicans. No working for lobbyists for two years. Once again the outgoing Republicans.

They might have some kind of fig leafs. But earmarking and travel on private planes will continue.

The Democrats had better not get too cock sure of themselves. This was an unusual election in which the voters sent a message.

The message evened out to an increase of 5% for each Democrat over what they would otherwise have received. This was across the board through out the US. Leach losing his seat is a prime example. If you want to blame Republicans, what did he do wrong? He just got swept away with the tide.

In 2008, any Democrat who didn’t win by over 5% is going to have trouble keeping his seat.

Using the 5% hypothesis, in an ordinary year, Zinga and Haring would have won and Wright would have lost.

The voters wanted to teach Bush a lesson concerning Iraq. They gave the Republicans a “thumpin”.

Current projections are that within 25 years Europe will be taken over by the Moslems. Politicians being politicians, have already started to reach out to these voters.

In the old days, kids got kicks out of knocking over old ladies flower pots.

In the modern world, with the wonders of science, it is quite easy to create great mischief. It is easily conceivable that tens of thousands could be killed or seriously injured through just one event.

Unfortunately, the extremists we are dealing with are prepared to commit joint suicide to make a point.

Just imagine 5 people in a plane intentionally guiding it towards their certain death. Or, 5 people strapped with bombs all coordinated to blow up at the same time in railroad tunnels in London.

The Japanese had an occasional kamikaze. But it was rare and usually involved trying to take out a battle ship when the plane was going to go down anyway.

It is only a matter of time before we confront the Extremists on the American Mainland.

It is too bad that the voters were so short sighted.


Posted by: True Observer at November 11, 2006 07:29 PM

true observer - that certainly was a jumpy post you made... as soon as i found myself starting to understand you jumped to something totally different.

this 5% number you came up with amazes me. i was wondering what research had been done to show that democrats received a 5% increase in votes? is there any sources you can cite on the subject? i am assuming there certainly is no empirical data to support this claim.

you mention zinga, but did she not lose 2 years ago as well without this 5% bonus? you can be a back seat driver all you want, but fact is that the democrats did win this election. maybe having rumsfeld step down a couple weeks ago would have saved republicans, but alas, we'll never know.

the theory you give about the democrats under 5% losing in 2 years is somewhat flawed. if you look at the melissa bean race in northern illinois you would have saw that she won a republican leaning district 2 years ago because of voter discontent. but instead of going back to a different republican, that district decided to stay with bean. additionally, i beleive it was on this blog that talked about a state district going republican in the 90's and never turning back even though it was a democrat area.

i feel your logic is flawed and needs some backup information.

then you jump to terrorists and kamakazi's... interesting transition... what the hell does europe becoming muslim have to do with all this? and what data can you provide to backup this claim. i have heard no such assumptions. i would be eager to read about europe turning muslim...

you bring up the old days when people were all so innocent and only knocked over flower pots... can you cry me a river while your at it? people have always been inhumane in their actions. just think of what we did to the american indians? slaughtered and displaced an entire race of people. the europeans spent centuries trying to convert the whole world to christianity often under gruesome circumstances. we spent centuries holding slaves and belittling an entire race based purely on the color of their skin. true observer, i think its you who has been too shortsighted.

you say that japanese kamakazi's were rare and only done because they were out of fuel... please go to this wikipeida article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakazi and you will see that often the planes had full fuel tanks and that there were several thousand attacks. it was a strategic plan by the japanese in hopes of slowing us down.

Posted by: Robbie at November 13, 2006 09:29 AM

From New York Sun. May 11, 2004
By: Daniel Pipe -


"Europe becomes more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam." So declares Oriana Fallaci in her new book, La Forza della Ragione, or, "The Force of Reason." And the famed Italian journalist is right: Christianity's ancient stronghold of Europe is rapidly giving way to Islam.

Two factors mainly contribute to this world-shaking development.

The hollowing out of Christianity. Europe is increasingly a post-Christian society, one with a diminishing connection to its tradition and its historic values. The numbers of believing, observant Christians has collapsed in the past two generations to the point that some observers call it the "new dark continent." Already, analysts estimate Britain's mosques host more worshippers each week than does the Church of England.

An anemic birth rate. Indigenous Europeans are dying out. Sustaining a population requires each woman on average to bear 2.1 children; in the European Union, the overall rate is one-third short, at 1.5 a woman, and falling. One study finds that, should current population trends continue and immigration cease, today's population of 375 million could decline to 275 million by 2075.To keep its working population even, the E.U. needs 1.6 million immigrants a year; to sustain the present workers-to-retirees ratio requires an astonishing 13.5 million immigrants annually.

Into the void are coming Islam and Muslims. As Christianity falters, Islam is robust, assertive, and ambitious. As Europeans underreproduce at advanced ages, Muslims do so in large numbers while young.

Some 5% of the E.U., or nearly 20 million persons, presently identify themselves as Muslims; should current trends continue, that number will reach 10% by 2020. If non-Muslims flee the new Islamic order, as seems likely, the continent could be majority-Muslim within decades.

When that happens, grand cathedrals will appear as vestiges of a prior civilization — at least until a Saudi style regime transforms them into mosques or a Taliban-like regime blows them up. The great national cultures — Italian, French, English, and others — will likely wither, replaced by a new transnational Muslim identity that merges North African, Turkish, subcontinental, and other elements.

This prediction is hardly new. In 1968, the British politician Enoch Powell gave his famed "rivers of blood" speech in which he warned that in allowing excessive immigration, the United Kingdom was "heaping up its own funeral pyre." (Those words stalled a hitherto promising career.) In 1973, the French writer Jean Raspail published Camp of the Saints, a novel that portrays Europe falling to massive, uncontrolled immigration from the Indian subcontinent. The peaceable transformation of a region from one major civilization to another, now under way, has no precedent in human history, making it easy to ignore such voices.

There is still a chance for the transformation not to play itself out, but the prospects diminish with time. Here are several possible ways it might be stopped:

Changes in Europe that lead to a resurgence of Christian faith, an increase in childbearing, or the cultural assimilation of immigrants; such developments can theoretically occur but what would cause them is hard to imagine.

Muslim modernization. For reasons no one has quite figured out (education of women? abortion on demand? adults too self-absorbed to have children?), modernity leads to a drastic reduction in the birth rate. Also, were the Muslim world to modernize, the attraction of moving to Europe would diminish.

Immigration from other sources. Latin Americans, being Christian, would more or less permit Europe to keep its historic identity. Hindus and Chinese would increase the diversity of cultures, making it less likely that Islam would dominate.

Current trends suggest Islamization will happen, for Europeans seem to find it too strenuous to have children, stop illegal immigration, or even diversify their sources of immigrants. Instead, they prefer to settle unhappily into civilizational senility.

Europe has simultaneously reached unprecedented heights of prosperity and peacefulness and shown a unique inability to sustain itself. One demographer, Wolfgang Lutz, notes, "Negative momentum has not been experienced on so large a scale in world history."

Is it inevitable that the most brilliantly successful society also will be the first in danger of collapse due to a lack of cultural confidence and offspring? Ironically, creating a hugely desirable place to live would seem also to be a recipe for suicide. The human comedy continues.


Posted by: True Observer at November 13, 2006 05:58 PM

TO - i appreciate the citation, it provides a much better idea of at least that part of your ramblings.

i have to say i still think the author of the article is drawing some pretty large conclusions. according to the cia factbook only about 20% of the entire world is muslim... seems kinda hard for 20% to be the majority...

if you look at where muslims are, the highest european country is russia, with about 13 million muslims. it is ranked 21st in terms of muslim population. the u.s. chimes in at about 6 million and ranked 37th. to find a traditional western european country you have to go down to 62 where you find france with under 2 million muslims for about 3 percent. when looking at the percentage ranking, european countries barely break the top 100. btw, the source fo rthese numbers is http://www.asoon.org/a-world.htm

i see that article, and your support of it, as pretty much baseless fear mongering. i just dont buy into it...

Posted by: Robbie at November 13, 2006 07:39 PM

The article says that in England more people attend services at mosques than at churches.

At least one poster doesn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Posted by: True Observer at November 14, 2006 09:53 AM

TO - I think once again that article is skewed. Based on the website I provided yesterday, there are about 1.2 million muslims in the United Kingdom. According to the C of E website http://www.cofe.anglican.org/about/thechurchofenglandtoday/
they have about 1.7 million atendees each month. The math just doesn't work out. Nice try though.

Regardless, whats so wrong with muslims moving to europe?

Posted by: Robbie at November 14, 2006 10:47 AM

Let's see. 1.7 million per month church attendees. Now I wonder how many of them are old ladies who might even go twice a week.

The Bush lied crowd just doesn't get it.

Even with the casualties the Iraq war has been a success.

It has kept the enemy "over there".

In previous wars, tens of thousands of Americans died overseas to protect the homeland.

Of course, if Democracies get established, they will provide safety and security to the U.S. and the world for maybe the next 100 years.


By Robin Stringer

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Al-Qaeda groups are trying to obtain nuclear, chemical and biological material to use in terrorist attacks in the U.K., the Foreign Office in London said.

``Absolutely, we believe these organizations are trying to get hold of this material,'' the Foreign Office said in a statement read by a spokesman today.

The announcement follows a warning from the head of the U.K.'s domestic intelligence service, MI5, that the country faces as many as 30 terrorist plots. MI5 Director General Eliza Manningham-Buller, who rarely speaks in public, said her agency is investigating 200 networks comprising 1,600 individuals.

``Today we see the use of home-made improvised explosive devices but I suggest tomorrow's threat will include the use of chemical, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials and even nuclear technology,'' Manningham-Buller said in a Nov. 10 address to academics in London.

Dhiren Barot, a 34-year-old convert to Islam, was sentenced on Nov. 7 in London to 40 years in prison for plotting attacks in the U.S. and the U.K. Barot, the first British Muslim to be sentenced for attempting to commit mass murder through acts of terrorism, was accused of conspiring with al-Qaeda figures to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' in the U.K.

The Foreign Office said it will focus on the four ``Ps'' of its ``Contest'' program to reduce the risk posed by international terrorism: prevent the radicalization of young Muslims; pursue terrorists; prepare to deal with the aftermath of any attack; and protect buildings and people at home and overseas.

``We hope to use the first two to prevent the last two,'' the Foreign Office said in the statement. The program, which started last year, is lead by the Cabinet Office.

Linked to Pakistan

Many U.K. terrorism plots were linked to al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Manningham-Buller said. Four Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in attacks on three subway trains and a bus in London on July 7, 2005. Three of the bombers were British-born of Pakistani origin, the fourth a Muslim convert of Jamaican origin.

The Foreign Office said it isn't blaming other countries for not doing enough to combat extremists.

``We are not pointing the finger of blame at anyone, we're trying to extend the finger of help,'' the Foreign Office said.

Posted by: Anonymous at November 14, 2006 03:44 PM