- Pressure is growing on the Obama administration to take a stand on Syria even as the brutal crackdown there gets worse and Syrian protestors demonstrate extraordinary courage.
- Despite their withdrawal from Mogadishu earlier this month, al-Shabbab is still hampering famine relief there. It's important to recognize that famine relief would likely not be necessary if Somalia had even a shadow of a functioning government -- the TFG has been an unmitigated failure.
- For at least the second time in two months, Ali Abdullah Saleh has announced his impending return to Yemen. This Editor continues to doubt he will ever return and cannot imagine that his return will do anything positive to that ever more restive failing state.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
- The Syrian government continues to attack Latakia and reports of the dead are climbing.
- Qaddafi's forces fired a Scud missile that crashed harmlessly in the desert, but the move is widely seen as an intent to escalate as Qaddafi finds himself increasingly isolated.
- Israel announced it will build additional homes as part of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Israeli air strikes killed 5 after a missile was fired toward Israel from inside the Gaza Strip.
- In El Salvador, the president warns that gangs like MS-13 are being co-opted by Mexican drug cartels. Meanwhile, the view from on the ground in El Salvador.
- President Obama has asked senior advisers to come up with a plan that would keep the federal government involved in a good number of home mortgages.
- Gov. Rick Perry said Fed Chair Bernanke would be committing a "treasonous" act if he printed more money. Of course the Fed doesn't actually print money, but does assist in regulating the money supply.
- The supercommittee could rankle some lesser committees' chairs by stepping on their turf. And Congress becomes like West Side Story. Survey question: Who would be Tony? Follow-up: Who would be the Maria that Tony sings longingly for?
- Some Congressmen (notably only Republicans are mentioned), including the GOP budget wunderkind Paul Ryan, are charging constituents admission to events to ask their congressman a question.
- Michelle Bachmann playing a little loose with the facts on government employee salaries.
- Abu Muquwama considers what the American military has learned from the Israeli military.
- Matt Steinglass agrees that California needs to pull the plug on high speed rail, but he doesn't think it' snot a worthwhile investment elsewhere.
- Ezra Klein suggests you read Rick Perry's book. Matt Yglesias is catching flack from the National Review for quoting Gov. Perry accurately. Abu Muquwama address the double-standard between Obama and Perry and an advisers connection to the terrorist organization Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
Monday, August 15, 2011
- Libyan rebels make steady progress in the west as they try to isolate Tripoli. There are reports that a Qaddafi security chief has flown with his family to Cairo(NYT), defecting from the regime.
- The Syrian government continues to brutalize its own citizens as Navy gunboats shell the port town of Latakia.
- Attacks in Iraq have killed 70, in one of the deadliest days the country has seen this year.
- There are few arrows left in the quivers of Chairman Bernanke and Secretary Geithner to stave off another market calamity, as the markets roil under the burden of euro debt and gridlock in Congress.
- Following Thursday's debate, Saturday's Iowa Straw poll (Which Rep. Backmann won), and Gov. Rick Perry's entering the race, while Gov. Tim Pawlenty got out of the race, the Republican primary begins to come into focus.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
- The U.S. will call for Syrian President Assad's resignation following weeks of popular protest and government violence. At the UN a Syrian envoy called the criticism aimed at his country "western hypocrisy" and compared the violence in Syria to the riots in London.
- In London, the riots may be flagging but the frays of racial tension may extend well into the future.
- The U.S. is reporting that they have killed the insurgents responsible for the downing of a Chinook helicopter over the weekend that claimed the lives of over 30 service members. Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb claimed the life of 5 NATO fighters.
- The man accused of the 2002 bombings in Bali is back in Indonesia after being extradited from Pakistan.
- A fuel shortage and long supply lines is slowing the rebel advance in Libya.
- President Saleh is warming to the Gulf Cooperation Council's power transfer idea that would see him removed from power. Saleh has not been exercising any authority over the country since he sought medical treatment in Saudi Arabia several months ago. Saleh has previously agreed to the transfer of power only to back out at the last moment.
- The roller coaster continues in the markets as on Wednesday they gave up Tuesday's gains. The American people don't have faith in Washington to lead us through this crisis.
- A lot of old hands are filling up the deficit reduction super committee and with Rep. Pelosi's choices still outstanding, only Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) voted against the debt ceiling compromise.
- A panel at the Energy Department will offer a qualified endorsement of shale gas exploration.
- Brad Plumer explains that your flight could be delayed because the FAA hasn't been able to invest in the air traffic infrastructure to streamline operations.
- Will Wilkinson fears the American people aren't prepared to make the tough choices, so why should they think the politicians they elect will?
- Matt Yglesias concedes a Chinese aircraft carrier to a bit worrisome, but reminds us it takes more then a ship to make a fighting force.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
- Pakistani intelligence officials claim a drone strike in North Waziristan killed 20 militants associated with the Haqqani network.
- London is gripped in violence as the government seeks to restore order. There has been much speculation as to why the riots that have engulfed parts of the city have begun, but no one truly knows.
- The Syrian government's brutal crackdown on dissent has finally prompted a response from the global community, as ambassadors from gulf states have been recalled. No further action has been taken and so far as many as 1,700 people have been killed. In Beirut there was a solidarity rally in support of the Syrian people. If support among the Lebanese grows for the Syrian people, it could prove a major problem for Hizbollah.
- The official, nominal Somali government has offered amnesty and immunity to members of al-Shabab in Mogadishu who lay down their arms and renounce violence. To this editor it appears to be a carrot without a stick.
- North and South Korea exchanged fire briefly along the 38th parallel in the Yellow Sea. The two countries remain in a technical state of war, despite an armistice signed in 1953.
- China has begun field testing their first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet model. There is concern among China's neighbors that the field testing could indicate increased regional ambitions for the country.
- Markets bounced back yesterday on news the Fed would hold interest rates low for at least two more years.
- Sen. Reid has picked his three members to the deficit reduction supercommittee. Reid selected Sen. Murray of Washington, Sen. Baucus of Montana, and Sen. Kerry of Massachusetts to sit on the committee. Sen. Murray is next in line to chair the Budget Committee, while Sen. Baucus chairs the Finance Committee. Sen. Kerry is seen as a strong liberal pick for the committee.
- An old Texas political hand tells us eight things to know about Gov. Rick Perry as he sits on the verge of declaring his candidacy for President of the United States.
- The Wisconsin GOP held on in a recall vote that could have given the State Senate back to the Democrats.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
- NASA finds signs of flowing water on Mars.
- Syrian army's assault intensifies after protesters show renewed energy on the first Friday of Ramadan. U.S. and European governments have begun to discuss the effectiveness of a boycott of Syrian oil.
- Global financial markets took a beating yesterday, as the markets grow increasingly concerned the global economy could slide back into a recession. U.S. 10-year bond rates fell to 2.4%. It would seem a good time for America to invest in critical infrastructure, but the political will is weak.
- The famine in Somalia has killed 29,000 children in the last 90 days according to U.S. officials. The UN has declared three new areas of Somalia as famine zones. If the numbers seem distant, these photos do not.
- The Chilean miners that captivated the world for two months last year have largely returned to the poverty they knew before the ordeal. And they say the mines are still not safe. Your editor was in Santiago during the rescue of the miners. It was an exciting time in Chile, but you got the sense that it was a story that wouldn't hold people's attention once the last man came up.
- President Aquino of the Philippines and the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front met in Tokyo as a first step in negotiations to end the rebellion in the southern island of Mindanao.
- Congress has reached a short-term compromise on FAA funding, but it's unclear if laid off construction workers would receive back pay. The deal also leaves the main obstacles to a long-term funding authorization unresolved.
- SecDef Panetta, in his first press conference in his new role, warned cutting the Pentagon budget too deeply would undermine the military's ability to protect the country.
- A super PAC called Restore Our Future that raises money largely to benefit presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a $1 million donation in April from a company that formed in March and dissolved in July. The company's physical location, board members, and any staff it might have had on payroll is unknown and many suggest the donation runs afoul of campaign finance laws, as defanged as they are following the Citizens United decision.
- Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of sexually assaulting two child brides.
- Will Wilkinson and Matt Steinglass discuss the danger of violent metaphor in policy debates.
- Ezra Klein talked to a Republican mayor in Arizona about the debt ceiling and how cutting federal funds chokes his city.
- Ed Husain discusses how 9/11 led to a splintering of radical Islamist movements and how the U.S. has been ineffectual in countering the non-violent splinter.
- Matt Yglesias considers how broad our military's mission is and how little guidance the military receives from our elected leaders.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
- Tanks continue to roll through Hama, Syria as the death toll rises. The UN Security Council has released a statement condemning the attacks, but not going farther.
- Following the shocking resignation of Turkey's military leaders last week, Prime Minister Erdogan has announced the new military leadership. The military has long served as the secular bulwark in the country, following the system Ataturk put in place in the early 1900s, but the resignation (notably for Turkey, it was not a military coup) could mean the sunset has begun on the doctrinal secularism in the country.
- Tropical storm Emily set to hit Haiti, which remains beleaguered following years of poverty and the more recent earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in tents and crudely constructed shanties. -
- The European debt crisis continues as bond markets drove up the costs of borrowing for Spain and Italy.
- Furloughed FAA workers came to Washington looking for their Congressmen and women, but most of them were gone as the impasse over funding the FAA continues. The hang up is a provision passed in the House for a long term extension of funding that would make it nearly impossible for FAA employees to unionize.
- Cargill is recalling 36 million pounds of ground turkey, after a salmonella outbreak.
- Gov. Rick Perry, an oil tycoon, and a conservative think tank all think Texas universities should run at a profit, that professors should run at a profit, and that student evaluations should dictate teacher pay.
- Andrew Exum (and your editors) say Ramadan Mubarak, and he notes how this Ramadan may not be as quiet as in recent years.
- Dylan Matthews tells us everything we need to know about the FAA stand off. I can get behind the closure of unprofitable rural airports, but I have major objections to the union-related provisions that would seek to stifle free association.
- Elliott Abrams has 10 questions for the Robert S. Ford, the nominee to be our ambassador to Syria. It's worth noting, only one senator showed up to the confirmation hearing.
- Kent Hughes thinks U.S. treasury bonds are still the safest bet in the markets, but that's not because we're the best bet, it's because we're the least worst bet. America, you least worst investment option since 2008.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
- Famine combined with violence has made a bad situation worse, as Somali militiamen, armed by Kenya, but unpaid, prey upon refugees fleeing the famine in the horn of Africa.
- Forces loyal to Qaddafi launched an early morning offensive near the town of Zlitan, pushing the rebels back to an undetermined line at this point.
- The Iraqi government has agreed to begin talks with the U.S. about the possibility of retaining military trainers beyond the end of this year, which will see the draw down of most of the remaining U.S. forces in the country.
- Hosni Mubarak and his sons have pled not guilty as they facing charges of corruption and murder in an Egyptian court today. Mubarak gave his plea from a hospital stretcher.
- Italy moves closer to joining France and Belgium in banning burqas from being worn in public.
- As Congress goes on vacation, the FAA will have to operate until at least early September without funding clarity. The abandonment of the issue leaves 4,000 FAA workers furloughed.
- Despite the debt ceiling deal getting done, major stock indexes fell yesterday over worries about overall economic health. Reaction to the deal internationally has been about as positive as it has been domestically. China's ruling party notes the "debt problem remains unresolved." Meanwhile, political attention will turn to the supercommittee that will be tasked with finding over $1 trillion more in deficit reductions before the end of the year.
- Will Wilkinson and Andrew Exum are right, the Tea Party aren't terrorists.
- Andrew Exum also makes the point that a robust defense budget will require more taxes.
- E.G. writing in at Economist.com asks if the defense budget cuts means the U.S. will return to isolationism. I remain unconvinced, but isn't it a bit interesting that Republicans have been trying to cut foreign aid and the State Department budget for years, but not until the Pentagon budget gets cuts that we talk about a return of isolationism, as if we only project power through the Pentagon.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
- Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial in Cairo this week on charges of graft and ordering the killings of 900 protesters as part of the popular uprising the deposed Mubarak. It is the first time in memory that a deposed dictator will face the charges brought against him by the people, and one has to remember that Mubarak was encouraged several times during the demonstrations to leave Egypt.
- The government crackdown in Syria continues unabated with reports that 125 have died in the violence, but the continued violence is drawing increasing scrutiny internationally.
- Libyan rebels are rounding up pro-Qaddafi infiltrators in their midst, following the killing of the rebel military commander.
- Cuba's National Assembly, the nominal governing body of the Carribean nation, has approved a series of economic and governmental reforms that will begin to open up the Cuban economy to its own citizens. The reforms were already approved at the Communist Party Congress earlier this year. I've been reading a biography of Che Guevara, which coincided with Anthony Bourdain's trip to Cuba and it is so interesting how close Cuba got to a truly communist state, but also how unrewarding that has been for the country.
- The deal is almost done, as the negotiated debt ceiling deal heads to the Senate today with a vote expected at noon. In a bright spot of the day, Rep. Gabbie Giffords returned to the chamber for the first time since January. She voted in favor the the debt ceiling deal, but that seemed like a side note. With the passage of the deal in the Senate largely a forgone conclusion, the analysis has begun. The Washington Post Editorial page considers the debt reduction super committee. Will Wilkinson reminds us that the deal cuts very little in the grand scheme of things, which makes this editor think this is clearly a can kick. Some have said the middle won, but this editor thinks no one won, least of all the American public. There were missed opportunities and staunch intransigence which bodes poorly for the nation's future. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut, so it goes.
Friday, July 29, 2011
In order to have any chance of surviving as Speaker of the House, Boehner needs to produce legislation that is completely unacceptable to the White House and the Senate. Their opposition is a feature, not a bug. Consider how he sold his plan to Laura Ingraham: “President Obama hates it. Harry Reid hates it. Nancy Pelosi hates it. Why would Republicans want to be on the side of President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi [is] beyond me.”
Why anyone would think that a plan loathed by the Majority Leader of the Senate and the President of the United States would be signed into law is beyond me. And since then, Boehner has moved the plan considerably to the right. But that’s because he’s not legislating. He’s just trying to survive.
Then, Congress passed the stimulus bill, the fall in growth dwindled to 0.7 percent in the second quarter, and, by the third quarter of 2009, we had 1.7 percent growth. “We went from negative to positive at precisely the time that the stimulus was providing maximum benefit in terms of tax cuts and spending increases,” Zandi says. “The numbers actually reinforce the importance of the stimulus in jump-starting a recovery.” What the stimulus didn’t do, however, was raise employment to the levels that the White House had predicted — partly because the economy was in worse shape than anyone, even the official data-crunchers, knew.
Of course, the stimulus only lasted two years, winding down in the end of 2010. And what happened then? As Dean Baker, an economist at the Center on Economic and Policy Research observes, “The downward revision to the first quarter data coupled with the revision of the fourth quarter growth to 2.3 percent from 3.1 percent, suggests that the winding down of the stimulus has seriously dampened growth.” Zandi agrees: “If fiscal policy had simply stayed neutral, the numbers suggest we would have had around 2 percent growth these past two quarters, which isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than what we actually had.” Except fiscal policy wasn’t neutral—it was shrinking. The stimulus wound down, that extra government spending started disappearing, and, with it, economic growth dwindled.
- The U.S. has claimed that Iran is sending money to Al Qaeda in Pakistan through a Syrian intermediary. The Treasury Department has documents, they believe prove this connection. Iran denies the reports.
- The Libyan rebel military leader, Abdul Fattah Younis, has been killed by assailants in Benghazi. Details remain hard to come by and the situation remains fluid. At the very least, the Libyan rebels have lost their chief military tactician and NATO has lost a favored partner.
- There is fresh violence in Syria today as security forces have fired on protesters in the southern city of Deraa and earlier today an oil pipeline was bombed. Over at Abu Muquwama, Andrew Exum considers how the unrest in Syria damages Hezbollah's legitimacy in Lebanon.
- Speaker Boehner canceled the planned debt ceiling vote last night because he didn't have they votes. His staff is said to be making revisions to make it more palatable to the tea party caucus (which would make it less palatable for Senate Democrats) and House members have been told to stay in DC this weekend and plan to be in session. There are reports that the South Carolina delegation is the issue, and that the SC representatives are taking their marching orders from Sen. Jim DeMint (SC). Ezra Klein considers what's next in this fight, and posits that Boehner, having all but failed in a vote of confidence in his speakership, may move the bill slightly to the left to earn from Democrat votes. Your editor suggested this path a couple weeks back.
- And in more bad news the U.S. economy grew by just 1.4% in the second quarter of 2011. First quarter growth was trimmed down to an anemic 0.4%.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
- Libyan rebel fights launched an offensive in the western mountains, and won then lost a government controlled town.
- The EU is warning of the potential for more violence after a flare-up in Kosovo.
- Amnesty International has reported that over 500,000 Ivorians have not returned home despite the ouster of former president Gbagbo. The report details people are afraid of ethnic attacks and notes that atrocities have been committed by supporters of Gbagbo and current Ivorian president Ouattara.
- China has blamed a failed signal(NYT) for the high-speed train crash that killed 39 people on Saturday.
- As reported yesterday, Boehner tried to whip his caucus in to line ahead of today's vote in the House on his own bill to avert American default. The Washington Post considers Boehner The Crier versus Boehner The Arm Twister. Many believe the vote is a test between pragmatists and purists in the Republican caucus. And the S&P would likely keep the U.S. sterling bond rating, if default is avoided, despite the fact that the legislation currently under consideration doesn't fundamentally change the U.S. deficit situation. I break down Tea Party Nation founder, Judson Phillips, op-ed a little later this morning.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
- The mayor of Kandahar was killed by a suicide bomber today. The Taliban have claimed responsibility. Even has the Taliban claim a string of assassinations, U.S. counter-terrorism officials say Pakistani based al-Qaeda could collapse soon.
- North Korea is demanding a peace treaty with the United States before entering into six-party talks about the recluse countries nuclear program. The Korean War effectively ceased following an armistice agreement in 1953, but the two countries remain in a technical state of war.
- The UK has dismissed the remaining representatives to the Qaddafi government from the country and has recognized the rebel forces as the legitimate government of Libya. For the latest coverage on the rebel advance, check this out(NYT).
- Aid airlift to Somalia have been delayed by UN bureaucracy, according to al-Jazeera. In a strange turn, al-Shabab has banned samosas (during a famine no less) because their three corners could remind people of the Holy Trinity.
- Young Israelis have taken to the streets and set up tent cities to protest high housing prices in Tel Aviv.
- The CBO scored Boehner's plan and found it would only cut $850 billion, but The White House defended the plan, even has it threatened to veto it. Boehner's staff, disappointed by the CBO score, took to their chainsaws to find more cuts. Meanwhile, Reid, Boehner, and McConnell are all inching closer to a deal. There is still some doubt that Boehner could find the votes in the House, especially among the tea party faithful who don't think blowing off the debt ceiling will be a big deal, despite the over 70 million checks that could not go to regular Americans and the warning from new IMF head, Christine LaGarde that default would be, "a very, very, very serious event...for the global economy." This editor wonders how Republicans, and the tea party especially, can be so virulently against any tax increase because they feel it will stifle the economy, and yet seem quite content to let the U.S. default on its loans, which would do far more to wreck the economy.
- House Democrats are seeking an end to the stale-mate that has defunded parts of the FAA.
- Secretary Clinton is urging Congress to rethink legislation that is working its way through the House that would add "onerous" restrictions on foreign aid.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
- The man who is allegedly responsible for last week's bombing and shooting rampage in Norway admitted responsibility, but entered a plea of not guilty. He said he wanted to save Europe from "Muslim domination." It is a reminder that "rhetoric is not cost free" whether espousing Muslim or Christian superiority.
- Hamid Karzai encourages Afghans to realize NATO support is winding down, but also says any future NATO or US military involvement must be done on Afghan terms in a double game that seeks to return to the country to the darkness that engulfed it during the Taliban's rule.
- Thousands of land mines slows the progress of Libya's rebels.
- India and Pakistan are set to begin peace talks tomorrow. The continued enmity between the two South Asian countries has prompted more then one nuclear showdown and distracted Pakistan from the threat within its borders for years.
- The UN will airlift food to the famished regions in Somalia this week.
- Dueling speeches were broadcast over the airwaves last night in the debt ceiling/deficit debate. Obama called for shared sacrifice, while Boehner said Washington spending is out of control. House GOP freshmen are apparently out of ideas after Cut, Cap, and Balance is tabled in the Senate. It's worth noting that the federal government hasn't been in compliance with the figures in Cut, Cap and Balance since the 1950s, which is to say neither Reagan, nor either Bush would have been in compliance. Meanwhile, market watchers are waiting for the bond market's patience to run out. Cataclysm to follow.
- Meanwhile, in another area of no compromise, the FAA has had to furlough employees as Congress has not passed an extension for funding. It would be the 21st such extension, but it has been sullied by strings attached by the House that the Senate does not agree with.