In this issue:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice never looked particularly comfortable in the high-stakes diplomacy role her job requires. She is a policy wonk, not a policy saleswoman. Now, fairly, or not, Rice will get the blame for the American failure to do much to improve the almost three-week-old conflict in Lebanon.
Most recent, and glaring, is the U.S.' touting a 48-hour air campaign halt by Israel, an obvious response to the air strike on Qana which killed 60 civilians and inflamed Muslim opinion around the world. That turned out not to be a halt in bombing at all. Israel continued to bomb in direct support of ground operations. The U.S., and by extension Rice, just look clueless as a result.
Moreover, these missteps in the Middle East come in the wake of a U.S. response to North Korean missile tests that many conservatives judged too weak. Rice might be able to survive stumbles in either of these vital foreign policy areas. But in bobbling both Rice has grown detractors all around.
Besides the POTUS, who is left in Condi's corner? We'll soon find out.
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There now can be little doubt that the Hezbollah-Israel conflict is greatly complicating U.S. efforts in Iraq. Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi is the latest element of the U.S.-backed government to speak out against Israeli operations in Lebanon. Abdul-Mahdi compared the air strike on Qana to "the crimes that happened to our nation decades ago," an obvious reference to Saddam Hussein's treatment of the Shiite population in Iraq.
More ominous, the top Shiite cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, demanded an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon and suggested the U.S. would be held responsible if one could not be formulated. Sistani has largely remained above and beyond the fray in Iraq-if not cooperating with U.S. efforts, at least not moving to thwart them or condemn U.S. actions in the region.
Now the U.S. is being inexorably linked to the conflict in Lebanon, as Israel's chief ally. In fact, perhaps the only good in that development is that Iraqi Sunnis seem to be almost as outraged by the war in Lebanon as Iraqi Shiites. That puts a break, of sorts, on the bloody conflict between those two groups.
St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President William Poole forgot the central tenet every central banker should live by: Keep your thoughts on inflation to yourself. Poole sent the financial class into turmoil by announcing that he was split "50-50" on the need for future rate hikes by the Fed.
Poole's willingness to share his internal mental processes is certainly very open and forthright of him. But monetary policy is not Oprah. Sharing and revealing and confessing have limited utility, especially when they only trigger more speculation on what you might ultimately decide. Poole really did not give us any solid rule to follow, just a rundown of opposing forces in the economy.
Consequently, any new data on those forces will bring speculation and even trading decisions based on guesses about how Bill Poole will react. This may make Bill Poole feel important, but it really does not help the U.S. maintain a stable financial system.
Quote of the Week
"Now I feel it was safer in Jerusalem than here."-Rabbi Dov Gartenberg of Seattle, reacting to the shooting of six women, one fatally, at a Jewish community center in that city. Gartenberg had been in Israel and arrived home a day before the attack.
Chocolate is Calling
Verizon is calling its new cell phone/MP3 music player Chocolate. It is dark brown, and consumers are supposed to eat up its new, more open song-swapping format.
Is That You, Hitler?
Malaysia has helpfully outlawed certain offensive names-like Hitler. Numbers are out (so no Seven for Malay Yankee fans), as are animals, colors, insects, fruits, and vegetables.
Blow a Whistle, Get a Subpoena
Former NSA analyst Russell Tice was handed a subpoena by two FBI agents last week. Tice is to appear before a grand jury this week to "answer questions concerning possible violations of federal criminal law." Tice says the subpoena is an attempt to intimidate him into keeping quiet about the NSA's wiretapping efforts.
The X-Man's Last Stand
Former Hustler editor Alan MacDonell exposes himself. David Weigel
The leader of Lebanon's Druze talks about the Syrian threat. Michael Young
"Tough, Coldblooded, Ruthless Authoritarians"
John Dean's dark view of modern conservatism. Nick Gillespie
And much more!
Reason in Amsterdam, 2006
The Grand Amsterdam Hotel August 23-26, 2006.
With Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the hit show South Park, Time magazine's Andrew Sullivan, Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, and Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, among others.
Join Reason in Amsterdam for a three-day conference on the contemporary struggle for freedom in Europe.
After a kick-off dinner on Wednesday, August 23, attendees will enjoy two days of formal sessions on everything from tax harmonization and Dutch social policy to the threat of radical Islam (the preliminary schedule is here). On Saturday, August 26, attendees will have the option of participating in a wide range of group activities, including tours of the Anne Frank House, the van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandthuis, where Rembrandt van Rijn's 400th birthday will be commemorated this year by four major exhibitions of the celebrated artist's work.
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