In this issue:
George W. Bush has done quite a bit more than promise a $200 billion spending spree on the Gulf Coast. With that massive pledge of federal aid, Bush has performed a remarkable bit of political jujitsu on himself and most of the Republican Party.
Now, rather than local Democratic politicians being responsible for the lack of much meaningful, job-creating private sector activity in the region, the Republicans in control of the federal government have taken on that load. Rather than an altogether rational and long overdue decampment of the population out of dead-end situations in New Orleans and elsewhere to places of more opportunity like Houston, the feds are now committed, along with the local political bosses who need bodies to represent, to repopulating areas and recreating welfare state dependency.
Remarkably, there have already been explicit calls for something like the Depression-era Works Progress Administration system of make-work "jobs" funded by federal largess, the logical outcome of pledging untold billions to the rebuilding effort without any clear guide to the goals beyond "rebuilding." A few Republicans are grumbling about this turn of events, but they are, as yet, in the distinct minority in Washington.
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It is fairly clear from Sunday's election stalemate that meaningful change cannot penetrate the German capital. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's baby-step "reform" measures cannot, and will not, stop the steady erosion of an economy bound up by a massive welfare state. And the erstwhile alternative to that path, Angela Merkel, could not muster up enough reform backbone to parry Schroeder's ridiculous claim that flattening the German tax code would slash government revenues and leave widows and orphans in the streets.
As a result, Merkel's flat tax guru, Paul Kirchhof, is taking his ideas back to academia, and with him goes any hope that a German government might actually address the state's growth-killing taxes, regulations, and social welfare benefits.
Fittingly, and almost in response to the elections result, the massive conglomerate Siemens AG announced it will cut more than 2,400 jobs in a bid to save some $1.8 billion dollars. Belt-tightening is about all the German private sector has left unless and until the new wall comes down.
The voting for a new Afghan parliament and regional councils seems to have come off reasonably well, with turnout topping 50 percent. It is in these bodies that a permanent Afghan democracy will either take root or fall away into yet more civil strife.
The key will be the perceived protections and platforms that minority views receive. If the representative bodies are simply regarded as fronts for tribal or warlord allegiances, they will not last very long. The representatives must form some sort of tangible link to the central government in Kabul for Afghans to feel any particular attachment to that entity.
As a result, remnants of the Taliban may target the regional councils and members of parliament themselves in an attempt to show the weakness of the central government. Change is usually violent in Afghanistan, so this would be no exception.
Quote of the Week
"I showed [the U.S. Coast Guard official in charge] my medical credentials. I had tried to get through to FEMA for 12 hours the day before and finally gave up. I asked him to let me stay until I was replaced by another doctor, but he refused. He said he was afraid of being sued. I informed him about the Good Samaritan laws and asked him if he was willing to let people die so the government wouldn't be sued, but he would not back down. I had to leave."—Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter, on being ordered to stop treating patients at the New Orleans airport by a federal official because he wasn't registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Nuke Breakthrough: Don't Blink
North Korea has agreed to give up all nuclear activities and rejoin the nuclear non-proliferation treaty until such time as… it decides not to.
Trust But Mystify
U.S. intelligence officials remain baffled by Iraqi trust networks that keep the insurgency functioning no matter the losses the U.S. inflicts on it. Intelligence experts wish they hadn't spent so much time on the WMD goose-chase.
You Can't Spell No Clue Without NO
Check out an insider, beat cop's view of the chaos that descended on New Orleans, complete with tales of city buses being stolen and wrecked all over town rather than used for evacuation efforts.
Racial Blind Spots
The affirmative action path not taken. John Hood
World's Greatest Degenerative Body
Watching the Senate confirm Mr. Roberts. Matt Welch
If It Keeps on Raining, Levee's Going to Break
The loss of New Orleans wasn't just a tragedy. It was a plan. Jonathan Rauch
And much more!
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