As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, November 29, 2008


The attacks in Mumbai are grisly enough, and it's a relief that they appear to be coming to an end. But the question over involvement of Pakistani groups has the potential to make things much, much worse, and really cripple any hope of stability in the region.

Pakistani militant groups on Friday became the focus of the investigation into the attacks in Mumbai as India and its archrival Pakistan jousted over who was responsible. Both sides pledged to cooperate in the probe, but tensions remained high amid fears the conflict could escalate.

Pakistan initially said Friday that it had agreed to send its spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, on an unprecedented visit to India to share and obtain information from investigators there. Later Friday, however, Pakistani officials changed their minds and decided to send a less senior intelligence official in Pasha's place, according to a Pakistani source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was unclear what prompted the reversal, but the Pakistani source said the Islamabad government was "already bending over backwards" to be cooperative and did not "want to create more opportunities for Pakistan-bashing." Pakistan's defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, told reporters in Islamabad, "I will say in very categoric terms that Pakistan is not involved in these gory incidents."

Worse, the preliminary speculation focuses on Kashmiri militants.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said some "signatures of the attack" were consistent with the work of Pakistani militant groups known as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that have fought Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and also are reported to be linked to al-Qaida.

At this point, it's not particularly relevant whether or not these allegations are true (and it may not be). It's that they are being made at all. Because the charges themselves are enough to raise tensions between the two nuclear superpowers. India and Pakistan have been at war over Kashmir almost since Pakistan has become a sovereign nation. National pride demands that neither side surrender. And if the voices continue to rise about Pakistani involvement, India will react, whether by massing forces at the Pakistani border or even engaging in a first strike, which under cover of the Bush Doctrine has a patina of sanction.

A lot of basically sensible people [...] who may well find themselves with positions in the Obama administration, have suggested that maybe we don’t want to throw the alleged baby of preventive war out with the bathwater of Bushism. I always think people thinking along these lines need to keep in mind that the United States isn’t the only country on the planet. I don’t think we want a world in which India claims to have a U.S.-endorsed right to launch preventive military strikes on Pakistan, or a world in which Pakistani policymaking is dominated by fear of a potentially imminent preventive Indian military attack.

Ultimately, our so-called "strategy" in that region of the world, including Afghanistan where we have a shooting war, means exceedingly little in the eyes of the Indians and the Pakistanis compared to the threat posed by each other. We have very little ability to shape these events, and any attempt to choose sides or play one country off of the other will have devastating consequences. Pakistan's anti-terrorism efforts will be consumed by anti-Indian efforts. Afghanistan could become a proxy fight between the two East Asian powers, as we saw when the Indian embassy in Kabul was bombed.

This is a terribly explosive situation and it had better inform the incoming Administration's continued presence in the region.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Will Save Us, You And I?

I'm typing right now in Pennsylvania. It has a population of 12.4 million. Maybe 7 million of those are over the age of 30 and eligible for the US Senate. There are 4.4 million registered Democrats. Maybe 3.5 million are over 30.

This state can't find ONE better Democrat than Chris Matthews? A guy who believes politics is a game for his amusement and whose sense of history has the depth of a bumper sticker?

Is this the best you can do, PA Democrats?

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Black Friday!

And it's 9:45 and I'm not out of the house yet! Oh right, I wouldn't go within 10,000 feet of a shopping mall today.

Actually, I'm hungering for more news about this Mumbai attack. The Chabad house exploded in what I imagine to be a botched siege, resulting in the death of the hostages (a New York rabbi and his wife) and the attackers. Reminders of Munich 1972 and the continued truth that religious differences and violence are not strangers.

Just for confirmation, if the Iraqi electorate rejected the withdrawal agreement in a July 2009 referendum, US forces would have to leave by July 2010. Which matches Barack Obama's withdrawal schedule pretty solidly, although it would wipe out any residual forces he sought. Good article by DHinMI on the subject, too.

What a difference between Tom Friedman's column, where he mentions articles he's read about the economic crisis, and quotes them beyond fair use and appropriates their conclusions, and Paul Krugman's column, where he helpfully explains how he, unlike Friedman, actually foresaw the crisis. It's the difference between a dilettante and an expert.

I don't know if it's legal under our trade agreements, but this call for an auto buyer's bailout is certainly interesting.

Good to see Nixonland on the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2008 list. It's a monster of a book but I'm finally working my way through it on this vacation, and Nixon is a great Thanksgiving partner - or rather, Rick Perlstein is.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Prop. Thamaaniyah

The Iraqi Parliament did pass the withdrawal agreement mandating the end of a US military presence in Iraq by the end of 2011, but Juan Cole notes that the Sunnis extracted a price for their support.

Of 275 members of parliament, 198 attended and 145 voted in favor. That means it barely passed from the point of view of an absolute majority, though it was a clear simple majority. Apparently the al-Maliki government bowed to Sunni Arab demands that the agreement be submitted to a national referendum, California-style. If that is true, it is possible that it could still be rejected by the Iraqi people. But al-Maliki got it through parliament by painting opponents as implicitly opposing a US withdrawal, and that campaign tactic may work with the general public, too.

I think such a tactic is more likely to work with skittish politicians than an Iraqi public which wants the occupying forces out, and knows that if they vote down the agreement the forces would have to leave immediately. The Sunnis demanded other concessions from the Shiite government in exchange for their votes, including the release of political prisoners and an end to Shiite suppression of the minority, and when those promises get predictably reneged, that would threaten the referendum's passage as well.

It is, however, interesting that the Shiites, Sunnis, politicians throughout the Parliament, and every individual Iraqi will have a chance to weigh in on this security agreement with the United States, yet basically one "decider" in this country is allowed to do so.

We are, however, a shining city on a hill, so that balances things out.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's News

So I had no opportunity to check in yesterday. It was a whirlwind 36-hour stay in NYC with the family of my significant other. Somehow we managed to squeeze in the Met, the Museum of Natural History, blowing up the floats for the Macy's Parade, Little Italy, etc. My news intake has been limited to the New York Times and whatever scraps are coming out of my full email inbox, so I don't have a great grasp of what's happening, but I did notice a few items.

* There was apparently "increased security" on the New York City subway today, but I used it and didn't see anything approaching that. 'Course, maybe I wasn't supposed to. And I heard absolutely nothing about the threat, although at lunch I saw a CNN headline screaming "holiday terror!" and thought "Thanksgiving with my parents, now THAT'S a holiday terror!" I'll be here all week, folks.

* There was some real terrorism today.

Terrorists armed with automatic weapons, bombs and grenades attacked at several sites in Mumbai on Wednesday and were holding Western hostages at two luxury hotels, authorities said. Police and Indian media reported at least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded.

The gunmen targeted five-star hotels, a popular restaurant, hospitals, a police station, a train station and other sites in India's financial capital in attacks that began late Wednesday and continued into Thursday, police and witnesses said.

Near dawn Thursday, parts of the city remained under siege, with police and gunmen exchanging occasional gunfire at the hotels and an unknown number of people still held hostage, said A.N. Roy, a top police official.

Sounds frightening. Are those Western hotels?

* Turning to California, major congratulations to Calitics Match candidate Alyson Huber, who has won the AD-10 race after a late surge of provisional ballots. That's fantastic, and while it appeared after Election Night that the State Senate had done the better job by winning their only contested race, Hannah-Beth Jackson has fallen behind and now the Assembly has a net pickup of 3 seats. We still need to be critical about what went wrong in California, but that's a fairly decent pickup, and there are enough seats that'll be in play in 2010 to reach 2/3.

* Meanwhile, Fabian Nunez is going to work with Steve Schmidt. That is completely fitting.

* Looks like the auto industry may get their bailout after all. Just throw it on the $7 trillion dollar pile.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Recharging the Batteries

So this is going to be a light week. I was away from the news practically all day and it was a pretty darn good feeling. So I'll round things up once or twice a day until I swing back into the grind when I get home.

I saw Obama's presser today. On the policy substance, I think he's starting to understand the enormity of the problem. Think seven trillion dollars of enormity. And so the stimulus will be big, hopefully big enough to do the job. As it should be, the Congress is going to pass this stimulus so it's waiting on Obama's desk January 20. I hope that's not too late. As for the continuing "he's blocking out the left" saga, on the policy he has pretty much met the moment, so I'm optimistic. See Bob Borosage for more.

The Citibank bailout blows.

What will Hannity and Colmes be like without Alan Colmes??? Probably the same way it is right now. I guess Alan finally woke up one day and got some self-respect.

Ted Kaufman will be the next Senator from Delaware, which seems like a backroom deal to put in a placeholder until Joe Biden's son gets back from Iraq.


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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Rest Of The Week In Review

OK, so I'm boarding a plane at this hour and will be back East for the next week for Thanksgiving. Posting will be light, as my time and access will be limited. So I thought I would just clear out the attic, as I'll be missing a whole heck of a lot next week.

• I wouldn't get too excited over this lawsuit where Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales were indicted in Texas for prisoner abuse in federal detention centers. The prosecutor in the case has a, er, checkered past, and during the first hearing on the subject he yelled at the judge and asked him to recuse himself. It just doesn't look like the most promising legal proceeding. Meanwhile, if this does go to trial, will taxpayers be paying for Gonzales' defense the way they're paying now for a private attorney defending him against possible charges arising from his mangling of the Justice Department?

• The LA Times has decided that potential Attorney General nominee Eric Holder is "haunted" by the Marc Rich pardon. This despite his tangential (at best) role in the incident and the complete lack of public fallout over it. Eric Boehlert deconstructs this one. This is a made-up GOP myth.

• For more from Boehlert, check out this fantastic essay on the media's double standard in covering new Presidents. They turned skeptical and combative with Obama after not doing so with Bush; they got angry at the lack of leaks in Clinton's transition, pleased with the lack of leaks under Bush's "professional" transition, and now angry yet again at the leak-filled Obama transition (some of those leaks strategic, by the way, some not).

• Looks like no big move to repeal don't ask don't tell early in Obama's term. That's fine, but this was a campaign promise, so he'd better get to it at some point.

• I don't buy for a second that conservatives will shift their focus to abortion reduction from banning. They have made a cottage industry off of their Roe rhetoric, they can't afford to go back now, morally or financially.

• The future of safety and stability in Afghanistan could be in pomegranates. One thing that country needs desperately is another export crop beyond poppies, to break the back of the militants making a fortune off the drug trade. You're not going to completely stamp it out, but giving farmers an alternative at least can siphon off a healthy chunk of the market. The US-funded pomegranate initiative is priced at $12 million. They ought to double it.

• Robert Farley on Obama and missile defense, and how Russia's posturing will make it harder for the President-elect to scrap the program.

Coal is not the answer. It's about time we saw some progressive pushback on this pernicious industry.

• So some Verizon staffers breached Barack Obama's privacy and started snooping around in his cell phone records. Yet another reason I don't have Verizon. The workers were fired, however. Maybe Obama might rethink the whole "retroactive immunity for the telecoms" having been on the other end of it.

• You cannot possibly read this story from Forbes Magazine, of all places, and then think that America has "the best health care in the world," as conservatives are wont to say. This is sickening. What this really shows is that we need a British-style NHS, which is sadly not on the table right now.

• I would love to hear an explanation to the phenomenon of low Election Day turnout for Obama in Chicago's black wards, including many he represented as a state Senator.

• I've checked out of the Fannie/Freddie debate with Marc Danziger, but I thought I'd mention that he's not the only person in the world with charts about this. Here are some from Mark Thoma (h/t The Nobelist), showing that asset-backed securities issuers essentially drove the housing bubble, and the GSE's scaled back from 2003 onward, precisely the beginning of the bubble.

• If you're into graphic design, or just were amazed by the Obama campaign's exquisite use of graphical branding, this is a must-read interview with Sol Sender, who created the "O" logo. His achievement will be studied in political circles for decades.

• And finally, I actually want to see the indie po-mo flick "JCVD," but the tape of this interview with Jean-Claude Van Damme, where he starts hitting on the female interviewer mid-stream, might be even more entertaining.