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At Least 14 Italian Soldiers Die in Iraq

As you’ve probably heard by now, a car bomb went off in the Italian base in Nasiryiah today, killing numerous Italian soldiers and Iraqis. As you may know, I like to understand what’s happening in the domestic politics of other countries. So here are some quotes of reaction from various Italian politicians, compiled from the BBC and The Guardian.

Pietro Folena of the main opposition party, the Democrats of the Left, said:

“They were sent to an Iraq in flames because the government wanted to do a favour for the Bush administration without taking risks into consideration. Now the Italian soldiers must come home. It is the only right thing to do at this moment.”

Green Party leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said troops should be pulled out of Iraq:

“It is immoral to put the lives of thousands of young Italians at risk for Bush’s pre-emptive war.”

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, after consulting with Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu, voiced his grief over the losses, but insisted the operation should go on:

“No intimidation should distract us from our will to help that country rise up again and build up self-government, security and freedom.”

The European Commission president, Italy’s Romano Prodi, has called for peacekeeping operations in Iraq to be taken over by the UN:

“We must move on to a phase where the UN has a greater involvement in achieving peace, a phase in which greater weight and power must be given to the Iraqi people within the Iraqi Government.

“I had always thanked God because the Italians had been spared, but our fears were justified: this time it was our turn.”

I’ll be curious to see the sort of pressure that Berlusconi faces over the coming days. This is the sort of thing that can bring down governments, if not handled carefully.

Note that Nasiriyah was the site of the heaviest losses for US troops during the invasion or Iraq. A story from yesterday’s BBC provides one of the first comprehensive accountings of that day, in which 29 US soldiers were killed. It’s a rather chilling story, not least because of the estimate that in addition to the US dead, over 1,000 Iraqis died during the fight for Nasiriyah.

Kash

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Well Said!

From Slacktivist:

Don’t forget about the schools — that’s what this war has always been about, the centers of mass instruction. And the Good News is that the schools are open. Mission Accomplished, schools-wise.

AB

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Soros and Large Political Donations

Today’s Washington Post has a great piece about the recent donations that George Soros has begun making to liberal advocacy groups.

NEW YORK — George Soros, one of the world’s richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

“It is the central focus of my life,” Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is “a matter of life and death.”

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

My favorite quote comes at the end of the piece, however:

Asked whether he would trade his $7 billion fortune to unseat Bush, Soros opened his mouth. Then he closed it. The proposal hung in the air: Would he become poor to beat Bush?

He said, “If someone guaranteed it.”

It’s gratifying to see what happens when the anger that many of us feel toward the Bush administration is shared by one of the richest men in the world: it gets translated into massive political donations. The only catch is that those donations can’t go directly to the Democratic Party, thanks to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act of 2002 (M-F). His big donations have to go to unaffiliated groups that aren’t governed by M-F.

This is also a good illustration of why M-F has hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Perhaps counter intuitively, Dems have recently (i.e. the last 10 years or so) gotten more of their money from a few giant donations than Repubs.

This matters, because the Supreme Court is due to issue its ruling about M-F within the next month or so. If the campaign finance law is found illegal, expect a huge surge in soft money donations to Democrats (and a large, but somewhat smaller surge for Republicans), one that could substantially level the financial playing field between the two parties. Of course, I also believe strongly in campaign finance in principle. So I’m left very torn about what to wish for from the Supreme Court – a dilemma faced by many others on both sides of the aisle, I’m sure…

Kash

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Leave California. Now.

Ok, it’s not that bad. But I see via Digby that Gov. Schwarzenegger hired Stephen Moore (see this post for background on Moore) as an advisor. Apparently, the US Newswire lets people write the headlines for articles that mention them:

Gov. Schwarzenegger Names Stephen Moore to Calif. Audit Committee; Noted Economist and Activist to Help Solve Golden State Fiscal Crisis

Moore’s Club for Growth is the last bastion — other than a few people at the AEI and in the current administration — of the theory that tax cuts will increase general revenue.(*)

AB

(*) Yes, tax cuts will increase general revenue when rates are near 100% (because if taxes are 100%, then revenue will be near zero as almost nobody will work), but given modern tax rates, that’s a non sequitur.

UPDATE: Upon closer inspection, the US Newswire piece is a press release, so Moore or one of his agents is responsible for referring to Moore as a “noted economist.” The last line, which says “For more information or to schedule an interview with Stephen Moore, please contact Kevin McVicker at 703-739-5920,” gave it away.

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Bush’s Steely Dilemma: The tariffs are illegal

So says the WTO. Actually, it was back in July that the WTO initially said that the steel tariffs, imposed in early 2002, contravene WTO rules. But the US appealed that decision. According to WTO rules, any country has one chance for an appeal, and the ruling of the appeal is final. The AP is now reporting that the WTO appellate panel is going to issue a verdict later today affirming the initial WTO ruling – that is, ruling against the US.

What does this mean? It means that the EU countries (along with a few other) are legally allowed to impose tariffs on a number of US products. Being politically savvy, the products that they intend to target come from a few key swing states, like Ohio and North Carolina. Actually, the EU already won permission to impose some tariffs on US goods for an unrelated WTO decision that went against the US (that one was about US tax laws that unfairly subsidize exports), but they haven’t imposed the tariffs yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if this time they fire away, however.

The steel tariffs are pretty widely acknowledged as an economic blunder, done for purely political purposes, but which is providing less political benefit than Rove had hoped for. As I discussed several weeks ago, the Commerce Department’s International Trade Commission finds that the steel tariffs are costing US jobs in other manufacturing industries. And now, if the steel tariffs are maintained, the new tariffs that the EU imposes will cost more US jobs.

So the question is this: what does the Bush administration do? There’s a faction in the administration that has wanted to get rid of the tariffs for months, for the reasons mentioned above (plus, Bush is supposed to be a free-trader on principle, isn’t he?). But they were overruled, presumably by Rove and others who are still hoping for some political benefit of maintaining them. Actually, I think that this is a classic case (as with a lot of Bush’s policies) where the administration can’t admit they’ve made a mistake and change policies, even when it’s clear to everyone that they should.

So, will Bush’s fear of admitting a mistake beat economic common sense? Another possibility is that the administration will see the WTO ruling as some convenient political cover for dropping the tariffs. It certainly will strengthen the hand of the anti-tariff faction within the administration. On the other hand, taking orders from a multinational institution that the US doesn’t have complete control over will certainly rankle a lot of people in the administration (particularly over in the Vice President’s office, I would imagine). So who will win? Stay tuned.

Kash

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It Must Be True What They Say About Absolute Power

From the Washington Post:

Angry about a leaked Democratic memo, the Republican leadership of the Senate yesterday took the unusual step of canceling all business of the committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called on the author of the memo — which laid out a possible Democratic strategy to extend the investigation to include the White House and executive branch — to “identify himself or herself . . . disavow this partisan attack in its entirety” and deliver “a personal apology” to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Only if those steps are taken, Frist said, “will it be possible for the committee to resume its work in an effective and bipartisan manner — a manner deserving of the confidence of other members of the Senate and the executive branch.”

Get it? Democrats write a memo outlining concerns that Republicans will stonewall the investigation and describing possible responses. The Republican response? Halt the investigations. I guess the memo was a pure flight of fancy.

AB

UPDATE: CalPundit parses the text of the memo and concludes, “There’s nothing wrong with this, and it wouldn’t have happened if Republicans had been willing to conduct a fair and thorough investigation in the first place. So let’s save the mock outrage, OK?” Note: Sincere outrage over Republicans’ mock outrage is fine.

UPDATE 2: Marshall has the right analogy on this one:

Two guys walk into a ring for a fight. One knows he’s about to get creamed. But he can’t bear the shame and humiliation of walking away from a fight. So at the very last moment he whips out some phony claim that the other guy’s cheating.

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Greens

Via Joe Conason:

[Nader friend Robert McChesney speaking] “I don’t think Ralph should run. It would be bad for him personally; I doubt he would get half the number of votes he got in 2000. And it would be bad for the Greens … Core elements of progressive constituencies, exactly the groups that the Greens need to build upon, will revolt with open contempt — far worse than 2000 — to anything that helps keep Bush in office … Running a presidential candidate in 2004 for the Greens is probably a quantum leap off a cliff. It is the Greens’ Jonestown.”

I made a commitment in my now-vanished comments to be nice to Greens, to avoid the “see what the differences between the parties are now?” lines of reasoning and instead focus on “here’s why Democrats want your vote.” And I’ll stick to that commitment. Nevertheless, this will sound more disparaging than it is: a Nader run in 2004 will set the Green Party back, substantially. He will get a much smaller amount of the vote in what is shaping up to be another close race. So the only two options are to again be the spoiler (goodbye Clean Air and Water Acts, hello Halliburton contracts), or to run and fail to stop the Democrat anyway, thereby ensuring that Democrats are hostile to Greens.

AB

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God Dammit, this Pisses Me Off

Where are my libertarians at on this one? I can’t really even blame Bush, because it was just about as bad under Clinton. That is, things are in fact worse now than under Clinton, but it seems like the result of following a linear trend that started in the early 1980s. In any case, watch the video available here the next time you’ve got a broadband connection.

Via, like most things that piss me off like this, Atrios.

AB

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