NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: September 17

Politicians lie, numbers don’t

If you’re wondering why a formerly honorable man like John McCain would build his presidential campaign around issues that are simultaneously beside-the-point, trivial, and dishonest (sex education for kindergartners, lipstick on pigs), the numbers presented here may help to solve that mystery. Since the conventions ended, McCain has mired the presidential race in dishonest trivia because he doesn’t want it to focus on what voters say is the most important issue this year: the economy.

There is no secret about any of this. The figures below are all from the annual Economic Report of the President, and the analysis is primitive. Nevertheless, what these numbers show almost beyond doubt is that Democrats are better at virtually every economic task that is important to Republicans. [continued…]

The power of political misinformation

Have you seen the photo of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin brandishing a rifle while wearing a U.S. flag bikini? Have you read the e-mail saying Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was sworn into the U.S. Senate with his hand placed on the Koran? Both are fabricated — and are among the hottest pieces of misinformation in circulation.

As the presidential campaign heats up, intense efforts are underway to debunk rumors and misinformation. Nearly all these efforts rest on the assumption that good information is the antidote to misinformation.

But a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people’s minds after it has been debunked — even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information. [continued…]

The fruit of hypocrisy

Houses of cards, chickens coming home to roost – pick your cliche. The new low in the financial crisis, which has prompted comparisons with the 1929 Wall Street crash, is the fruit of a pattern of dishonesty on the part of financial institutions, and incompetence on the part of policymakers.

We had become accustomed to the hypocrisy. The banks reject any suggestion they should face regulation, rebuff any move towards anti-trust measures – yet when trouble strikes, all of a sudden they demand state intervention: they must be bailed out; they are too big, too important to be allowed to fail.

Eventually, however, we were always going to learn how big the safety net was. And a sign of the limits of the US Federal Reserve and treasury’s willingness to rescue comes with the collapse of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, one of the most famous Wall Street names. [continued…]

Why experience matters

Philosophical debates arise at the oddest times, and in the heat of this election season, one is now rising in Republican ranks. The narrow question is this: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president? Most conservatives say yes, on the grounds that something that feels so good could not possibly be wrong. But a few commentators, like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Frum and Ross Douthat demur, suggesting in different ways that she is unready.

The issue starts with an evaluation of Palin, but does not end there. This argument also is over what qualities the country needs in a leader and what are the ultimate sources of wisdom. [continued…]

The American war moves to Pakistan

The decision to make public a presidential order of last July authorizing American strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the Bush administration. Senator Barack Obama, aware of this ongoing debate during his own long battle with Hillary Clinton, tried to outflank her by supporting a policy of U.S. strikes into Pakistan. Senator John McCain and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin have now echoed this view and so it has become, by consensus, official U.S. policy.

Its effects on Pakistan could be catastrophic, creating a severe crisis within the army and in the country at large. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the U.S. presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace.

Why, then, has the U.S. decided to destabilize a crucial ally? Within Pakistan, some analysts argue that this is a carefully coordinated move to weaken the Pakistani state yet further by creating a crisis that extends way beyond the badlands on the frontier with Afghanistan. Its ultimate aim, they claim, would be the extraction of the Pakistani military’s nuclear fangs. If this were the case, it would imply that Washington was indeed determined to break up the Pakistani state, since the country would very simply not survive a disaster on that scale.

In my view, however, the expansion of the war relates far more to the Bush administration’s disastrous occupation in Afghanistan. It is hardly a secret that the regime of President Hamid Karzai is becoming more isolated with each passing day, as Taliban guerrillas move ever closer to Kabul. [continued…]

Tariq Ali’s brief message for Barack Obama:

Top Pentagon official in surprise visit to Pakistan

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America’s top military official, made a hastily arranged visit to Pakistan on Tuesday for talks about a recent incursion by American commandos based in neighboring Afghanistan.

The visit by the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, came as an uproar continued to grow in Pakistan about the incursion on Sept. 3, which severely strained relations between the United States and Pakistan, its top Muslim ally in the war against terrorism. The visit also coincided with conflicting accounts about a possible second American raid on Monday, as well as a warning by the Pakistan military that it would shoot at any foreign forces who crossed the border.

A Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the army reserved the right to use force to defend the country and its people, but he said there was “no change in policy.” [continued…]

The West begins to doubt Georgian leader

Last week German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly called for clarification on the question of who is to blame for the Caucasus war. “We do need to know more about who bears what portion of the responsibility for the military escalation and to what extent,” Steinmeier told a meeting of Germany’s more than 200 ambassadors in Berlin. The European Union, he said, must now “define our relations with the parties to the conflict for the medium and long term,” and that the time has come to have concrete information.

Much depends on the clarification of this question of blame. After this war, the West must ask itself whether it truly wants to accept a country like Georgia into NATO, especially if this means having to intervene militarily in the Caucasus if a similar conflict arises. And what sort of partnership should it seek in the future with Russia, which, for the first time, has now become as insistent as the United States on protecting its spheres of influence?

The attempt to reconstruct the five-day war in August continues to revolve around one key question: Which side was the first to launch military strikes? Information coming from NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) now paints a different picture than the one that prevailed during the first days of the battle for the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali — and is fueling the doubts of Western politicians. [continued…]

Big-bang report blasts Iran

One week ahead of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued a new report that while confirming the agency’s full-scope inspection and verification of Iran’s nuclear activities, discovering no evidence of any military diversion, is permeated with “serious concerns” and “outstanding questions”.

These questions relate to certain “alleged studies” and the overall effect could be a shot in the arm for the flagging “Iran Six” multilateral diplomacy on Iran involving the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany. This could lead to even more sanctions on Iran, or worse, an Israeli or American strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

The IAEA describes a collection of weaponization designs and documents that suggest Iran has tried to develop a nuclear warhead as “alleged studies” and wants Tehran to identify the factually corrects parts of the documents and those it considers fabricated. [continued…]

Five ex-secretaries of state urge talks with Iran

Five former secretaries of state, gathering to give their best advice to the next president, agreed Monday that the United States should talk to Iran.

The wide-ranging, 90-minute session in a packed auditorium at The George Washington University, produced exceptional unity among Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, Henry A. Kissinger and James A. Baker III.

But they didn’t agree on who should move into the Oval Office next January. [continued…]

Iraq’s Nouri Maliki breaking free of U.S.

Once dependent on American support to keep his job, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has consolidated power and is asserting his independence, sharply reducing Washington’s influence over the future of Iraq.

Iraq’s police and army now operate virtually on their own, and with Washington’s mandate from the United Nations to provide security here expiring in less than four months, Maliki is insisting on imposing severe limits on the long-term U.S. military role, including the withdrawal of American forces from all cities by June.

America’s eroded leverage has left Iran, with its burgeoning trade and political ties, in a better position to affect Iraqi government policies. [continued…]

Arrests of Sunni tribal leaders risk giving al-Qaida a way back, says Iraqi vice-president

The Iraqi government is in danger of pushing Sunni tribal leaders back into the arms of al-Qaida and re-igniting major violence across Iraq if it fails to take more Sunnis into the security forces, the country’s leading Sunni politician has warned.

Many tribal leaders who opposed the US occupation switched sides on promises of jobs in the previously Shia-dominated army and police. In a sign of the success of the so-called Awakening movement (al Sahwa), which is also known as the “Sons of Iraq”, the US recently handed Anbar province – once a centre of the insurgency – back to Iraqi control.

But in Diyala province, north of the capital, as well as in Baghdad suburbs, the Iraqi army and police have arrested dozens of al-Sahwa leaders in recent weeks because of their previous anti-American and anti-government activity. The government is dragging its feet on a pledge to take a fifth of the estimated 100,000 al-Sahwa members into the security forces. [continued…]

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One thought on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: September 17

  1. alan stuart

    Why is PHIL GRAHM not in any of the discissions about the economy?

    Why is the Keating Five incident an off limits topic?

    Why is nothing being said about how lobbyists run Mc Insanes campaign?

    Why is it not discussed that between the two parties they have accepted at least 15 million dollars from Wall Street?

    Why does the constitutional scholar Obama not once mention what he will do to restore the documents values he once taught?

    Why has no one called Obama out for caving to power to back down and not fight the new FISA laws?

    Why is no one mentioning the criminality of this administration or any measures to pursue them for war crimes?

    Why has no one demanded that the current money handlers cease all the damage they are currently doing to our economy?

    How many more dollars can the privately owned Federal Reserve bilk the country out of while the treasury department coninutes the unchecked printing of worthless paper money?

    Ask why both parties are determined to go to war with Pakistan?

    Ask why Iran cannot harness nuclear power even after being a signer of the NPT [non proliferation treaty] while Israel not a member or signer and has never even submitted to inspections by the IAEA?

    Question why Israel, a state that does not even have a constitution is allowed to commit continual war crimes against the Palestine people with no sanctions or anything being done to them?

    Demand answers to why the Israeli lobby APAIC is control of our foreign policy and why both candidates bent to their knees to kiss their rings?

    Answer a couple of these and you will find that the entire system is corrupt and no matter how much both candidates piss and moan about change, in the end there will be none.

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