Congress is busy wielding the rubber stamp before the August recess. CAFTA was passed, the highway bill is law with extra heapings of pork, and the nuclear industry is cracking out the bubbly because the energy bill is almost law.
Finally, a clean energy source, with a provision put in to prevent lawsuits in case something goes wrong and New York becomes uninhabitable or something like that. Where all the clean nuclear waste is going to go for 100,000 years or so, was not addressed in the bill. Future congresses on Mars can figure that one out.
Also, added in at the last minute was $11 billion for a deep sea-drilling plan that will benefit Halliburton, and strangely enough, a company in Tom DeLay’s home district. And PUHCA is history, so Warren Buffet can start cashing in, too. John Bolton will be the new UN ambassador by executive fiat right after congress leaves town, reports say, so, all in all, a very good session for the monied interests and the fat cats. For the rest us; not so much.
And don't forget the Gun Lobby! The WaPo: "The nation's gun lobby is close to realizing a long-sought goal of protecting firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held legally responsible for violent crimes committed with their handguns and automatic weapons. Supporters believe they have the votes in the Senate to pass as early as today a bill making it virtually impossible for victims of gun violence to file civil suits against the industry..."
Odds and ends:
The WaPo reports that as usual sanity is prevailing in the Israel as the deadline for the Gaza withdrawal approaches. Ariel Sharon is having a death curse put on him, the pulsa denura ! "According to participants, Sharon will be struck down by the Angels of Destruction in less than a month, or else the 20 men themselves will die." The Jerusalem Post writes though, that "While far-right activists may have instigated a pulsa denura (death curse) against Ariel Sharon, Dr. Dov Schwartz – a researcher at Bar-Ilan University's Talmud faculty – claims the prime minister can sleep soundly, assured that nothing will happen to him." Whew!
Pitching tents can be dangerous.
AP reports about 300 children were hospitalized at a Boy Scout jamboree in Bowling Green Va. The children were overcome with heat while awaiting George Bush who was coming to honor four Scout leaders who were killed by a power line while trying to pitch a tent. While the kids were waiting Bush apparently postponed the trip because of impending thunderstorms.
Update: Bush has again delayed his visit to Fort A.P Hill at the request of the Boy Scouts until Sunday.
Terrorist convicted. No really, there was an actual trial and everything.
AP: Ahmed Ressam, the man convicted of trying to blow up LAX was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Wednesday. The US district judge in the case, John C. Coughenour, had a message for Bush and CO. “We do not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny the defendant the right to council. The message from today’s sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart.” More judicial activism from the bench; put him on the list,
Small leader of small group in Philippines gets most powerful military’s undivided attention.
US and Philippine troops are once again trying to capture the leader of Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao. The US had offered a $500 million dollar reward for the capture of the elusive Khaddafy Janjalani. The US is apparently providing intelligence and communications support for the operation, but are not engaging in combat. (Just like our “advisors” in Vietnam didn’t engage in combat.) “An estimated 80 to 90 American personnel operate in the southern Philippines. Villagers and human rights officials have reported that American troops have engaged in combat operations, and former American soldiers now working under contract to the pentagon operate there.” Isn’t there something in the Philippine constitution about no US troops operating in the country? Mindanao was also the scene of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths at the hands of US marines during the twenty year occupation.
We want you out!
Ibrahim al-Jaafari says, “the great desire of the Iraqi people is to see the coalition forces on their way out.” Boy, there’s gratitude for you! Gen. George Casey, the most senior commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said a large amount of troops might be pulled out early next year. Gen. John Vines said that “ four or five brigades” might be pulled out sometime next year. That’s 20,000 troops according to the report. Casey, always the optimist, in response to a question about a stalemate in Iraq, says “I wouldn't say that it's necessarily a stalemate," insurgencies need to progress to survive, and this insurgency is not progressing. There's been a change in tactics, to more violent, more visible attacks against civilians. That's a no-win strategy for the insurgents." In other words, they’re desperate, right? The work is hard, its hard work, but we’re making progress.
Rummy, made another “surprise visit” to Baghdad, after making a trip with a bag of money to several Central Asian nations. He said the Iraqis needed to get the constitution done. “It would be very harmful to the momentum that's necessary,” is they didn’t. “We have troops on the ground there. People get killed." (He’s actually noticed?) "We don't want any delays…they're simply going to have to make the compromises necessary and get on with it, that's what politics is about." (Except here in the US where it’s either the republican’s way or the highway.) So, he’s not concerned about the Kurds holding on to the peshmerga and taking over Kirkuk, Islamic law trumping all others, or the south breaking off into its own autonomous entity? Just get it done, “people get killed!”
Al-Jaafari says, "We do not want to be surprised by a withdrawal that is not in connection with our Iraqi timing.” I bet he doesn’t, but what does his “Iraqi timing” have to do with Scott McClellan’s “important mission that we need to complete?”
Judging by a new poll released recently I would say the American people think the “important mission” won’t be accomplished. AP: “By a 58 to 37 percent margin, Americans said their government would not be able to establish a democratic government in Iraq.” The blinders are finally coming off apparently because, “Fifty-one percent also believe the administration of US President George W. Bush deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the central premise for the 2003 US-led war on Iraq.” Well, you know that old adage; “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” You can fool 43% of them, though, the ones who “predict a victory.” I thought the Dolphins had a chance last year, too, but what are you going to do?
A report issued by the Council on Foreign Relations, written by Sandy Berger and that turncoat Brent Scowcroft, says the, “"The costs, human, military and economic, are high and continue to mount,” in Iraq. "A dramatic military victory has been overshadowed by chaos and bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad, difficulty in establishing security or providing essential services, and a deadly insurgency." Now they tell us! In Afghanistan as well, they paint a not so pretty picture. The “report said, the postwar period has been marked by inefficient operations and billions of dollars of wasted resources.”
The Guardian reports that the Brits are afraid the US will leave them holding the bag in Afghanistan after the September elections there. “British defense officials are concerned the US could prematurely declare "mission accomplished" once the national assembly and provincial council votes are over. The worry is that Pentagon pressure to cut US troop levels could leave Britain holding the baby when it assumes command of Nato's security assistance force next spring.” A report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, entitled Endgame or New Beginning? warns, ”International security forces will have a particularly crucial role before, during and after the elections ... The international community must not regard the polls simply as a convenient exit strategy.” Oh, that would never happen. We’ll leave on Afghani timing.
Things are going right to plan there as CTV reports:
“Hundreds of protesters chanting "Die America!'' and throwing stones tried to batter down a gate at the U.S. military's main Afghan base Tuesday, adding to anxieties in a country worried that fighting with insurgents could disrupt elections.
The rioting erupted just hours after an overnight battle in southern Afghanistan that a provincial governor said killed at least 50 suspected Taliban rebels and two Afghan soldiers.
Rioting broke out in a crowd of more than 1,000 people who gathered to protest the detention of eight villagers at the base, where thousands of U.S. and other foreign soldiers live behind razor-wire fences and landmines left from Afghanistan's civil war.
Demonstrators hurled stones at a passing convoy of six U.S. military vehicles, smashing some windows. As soldiers inside the cars fired handguns in the air, the vehicles sped into the base and the protesters chased behind, trying to push down a metal gate guarded by Afghan troops.
The eight detained men were "suspected of planning and conducting attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces'' and had "materials used to make improvised explosive devices in their possession,'' the U.S. military said in a statement.
The demonstrators said they were angry that U.S. troops arrested the villagers late Monday without consulting local authorities.
‘We have supported the Americans for years. We should be treated with dignity,'' said Shah Aghar, 35. "They are arresting our people without the permission of the government. They are breaking into our houses and offending the people. We are very angry.'’”
Way to win hearts and minds. When are those elections again?