Lets see if I understand what is going on.
Many big city mayors are being indicted, Trenton, Detroit and possibly Baltimore to name a few. Then the Gov. of New York, now Sen Edwards, a La. Rep. who deep sixes money in a freezer, and that's just the beginning. Like "the One" said: "words count" but he forgot to finish the thought - so does conduct.
Now I get it. It's that age triple double whammy: money,sex and a desire for power.
What is more interesting is how Democrat's and their brethren in the press and media are reacting by circling the wagons. They refuse comment because the Edwards matter is a "private affair." Suppose a Republican was involved - doubt there would be such a compassionate response. I recall the New York Times rushed to front page an accusation against McCain and then retracted on the inner pages after their own ombudsman cried foul. (See 1 below.)
Also, don't forget Edwards formerly was a trail lawyer. Another famous trial lawyer, Richard Scruggs, from Mississippi is in jail for bribery. But then we have a long list of recent presidents who played around like FDR, Kennedy and Clinton - again all Democrats. Must be something in the Potomac water. Of course when we get into the lower houses of Congress infidelity knows no political affiliation and crosses aisles with abandon.
Sept.14, Chris Nelson, president of St John's College, the third oldest college in America, will be speaking at our JEA Speaker Series. Chris' topic will be: "A Liberal Education, the Foundation of Our Democracy." Francis Scott Key founded tha Alumni Association.
St. John's curriculum is based on: The Great Books. Using the Socratic approach towards education "Johnnies" graduate with an ability to reason and an appreciation of the writing and philosophy that under-girds the tenets of Western Civilization.
I see relevance between what is happening in the public arena and what Johnnies' study. Liberal academia would be well advised to take heed and do some course correction of their own. Can it be that soft curriculum and focus on confused politically correct subjects are not serving society too well? (See 1a below.)
Kimberley Strassel hits the nail on the head when she points out McCain's most recent threat comes from some Republican Senators trying to protect their own safe fiefdoms. What these five have done is pull Democrat chestnuts out of the fire and in doing so have undercut McCain's energy advantage.
Why would they do this? Either these five Republicans fear playing hardball politics, have no concept of what party unity is all about or are so wrapped up in their own self-importance they cannot see the forest for the trees. Perhaps the next thing they will do is line up to buy Pelosi's new book, or they could go out and purchase tire gauges and campaign for Obama. If McCain has any sense he should tell Thune you just buried any chance to become my VP. (See 2 below.)
Medveded will probably do what Putin wants because a Russian gas pipeline is critical to Putin's desire to hook Europe and make it dependent. Putin is also upset over our desire to integrate Georgia into NATO. It could be hard for us to exercise leverage over Russia considering they see us comparably engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, notwithstanding the fact that the situations are not totally equatable and NATO is not going to respond.(See 3, 3a and 3b below.)
Joe Klein wants Obama to accept McCain's challenge to debate and does not understand why he has not. Klein also finds McCain's ads a poor excuse for serious campaigning on issues etc. Perhaps the press and media's love affair with "the One" should cause Klein to look in the mirror. Time's Klein like Newsweek's Alter have demonstrated consistent pro Obama anti-GW/McCain leanings which is their left leaning right.(See 4 below.)
Syria plays Iran's card and bars inspection by IAEA officials. (See 5 below.)
Another read why Russia is at war with Georgia. I expect the West's response will be on par with that to Iran thus, signifying why NATO has become a self-shredded paper tiger. (See 6 below.)
Economic activity and the pace of any future recovery should be restrained. This might have a temporary beneficial spill over effect on the price of energy but over time energy costs will only go higher because of ultimate growing world wide demand, lack of investment in exploration and diminished prospects of elephant type petroleum discoveries.
1) Old media dethroned
By Tim Rutten:
Edwards' admission signals the end of the era in which traditional media set the limits of acceptable political journalism.
When John Edwards admitted Friday that he lied about his affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter, a former employee of his campaign, he may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism.
From the start, the Edwards scandal has belonged entirely to the alternative and new media. The tabloid National Enquirer has done all the significant reporting on it -- reporting that turns out to be largely correct -- and bloggers and online commentators have refused to let the story sputter into oblivion.
Slate's Mickey Kaus has been foremost among the latter, alternately analyzing and speculating on the Enquirer's reporting and ridiculing the mainstream media for a fastidiousness that has seemed, from the start, wholly absurd. Like other commentators, he repeatedly alleged that a double standard that favored Democrats applied to the story. Like the Enquirer's reporting, the special-treatment charge is largely true, as anyone who recalls the media frenzy over conservative commentator and former Cabinet secretary William Bennett's high-stakes gambling would agree.
Edwards, 55, now admits that he had an affair with Hunter, now 44,in 2006, but denies that he is the father of the child she had in February. Andrew Young, another former Edwards aide, has said he is the baby's father. In a statement released Friday, Edwards said he was willing to take a paternity test; doubtless we'll hear more on that issue.
So far, so sordid.
But what's really significant here is the cone of silence the nation's major newspapers -- including The Times -- and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest. Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards' categorical dismissal of the Enquirer's allegations. Late last month, Edwards came to Los Angeles, and Enquirer reporters trailed him to the Beverly Hilton hotel, where he met Hunter and her daughter in their room.
The Enquirer went with the story, and when no major newspaper or broadcast outlet even reported the existence of the tabloid story, bloggers and online commentators redoubled their demands that the mainstream media explain their silence. The tabloid followed with a story alleging payments of hush money to Hunter and, this week, with a photo of Edwards holding an infant in what appears to be a room at the Beverly Hilton. As pressure mounted on major newspapers to take some aspect of the unfolding scandal into account, editors and ombudsmen issued statements saying it would be unfair to publish anything until the Enquirer's stories had been "confirmed."
Well, there's confirming and then there's confirming. One sort occurs when an editor mutters, "Find somebody and have them make a few calls." Then there's the sort that comes when that editor summons an investigative reporter with a heart like ice and a mind like Torquemada's and says, "Follow this wherever it goes and peel this guy like an onion."
Suffice to say that the follow-up of the Enquirer's story fell into the former category in too many newsrooms, including that of The Times.
Some of this reticence may have reflected a regard for the feelings of Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who has incurable cancer. There was, however, every reason to set that deference aside.
First, it was less than unlikely that Elizabeth Edwards was unaware of the allegations. (She says now she knew of the affair in 2006.) Second, Edwards' name has surfaced as a possible running mate for Barack Obama and as a possible attorney general or Supreme Court nominee -- posts in which character and candor matter. Finally, throughout his political career, Edwards has made his marriage a centerpiece of his campaigns.
It's interesting that what finally forced Edwards into telling the truth was a mainstream media organization. ABC News began investigating the Edwards affair in October, but really began to push after the Beverly Hilton allegations. When ABC confronted Edwards with its story (which confirmed "95% to 96%" of the tabloid's reporting, according to the network), he admitted his deception.
With that admission, the illusion that traditional print and broadcast news organizations can establish the limits of acceptable political journalism joined the passenger pigeon on the roster of extinct Americana.
1a) The Edwards Scandal and the Agony of the MSM: They know it’s news. They just wish it would go away.
By Byron York
I spent part of Thursday corresponding with people at major news organizations that have not reported the John Edwards “love child” story. Why haven’t they mentioned the scandal? Are they doing their own investigating of the National Enquirer’s allegations? Are they under management directives not to report it?
Most of the conversations — all of the revealing ones — were off the record; like anyone else, people in the press aren’t particularly eager to speak publicly about topics that make them uncomfortable. But from the exchanges, it’s possible to piece together some of the rationales journalists are using to continue not to report the Edwards story — and to see how the whole strange episode will end. So without quoting anyone or betraying any confidences, here is what appears to be going on:
First, the journalists don’t believe that news organizations should just uncritically pass on the reporting of the Enquirer. They have a point; the Enquirer has been quite accurate on some stories and inaccurate on others. One could argue that the tabloid’s reporting on this particular story contains a wealth of detail that remains un-denied by Edwards or anyone else. Still, there’s nothing wrong with news organizations being skeptical of the source.
But the question is not whether the news organizations should simply repeat the Enquirer’s reporting. It’s whether they are actively pursuing the story, doing their own reporting in an effort to confirm the basic allegations that Edwards had an affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter, and then had a baby with her, and is now covering it up. And here it appears — from this completely unscientific survey — that there is not a lot of independent reporting going on.
Instead, some big-time journalists seem to believe the Enquirer has nailed the story, and they are waiting for the tabloid to release the full results of its reporting. In the meantime, they are staying away from the story because it appeared in the Enquirer. In other words, they’re waiting for the Enquirer to fully report a story that they wouldn’t otherwise report… because it’s in the Enquirer.
That could have changed by this point. If news organizations had thrown a lot of resources at the story in an attempt to confirm (or disprove) the Enquirer’s allegations, it’s likely some of them would have come up with something in the two and a half weeks since the Enquirer reported the story on July 22. Instead, there has been nothing.
Is that the result of a group sentiment among journalists? Or have they been under explicit orders not to mention the story? We’ve heard about one such directive, at the Los Angeles Times website. But there are probably others out there. In today’s news environment, executives have to take more explicit steps than in the past if they want to rein in stories. Journalists have multiple platforms; they might mention a story in a newspaper article, a web piece, in a blog, on video, on television, or on radio. For news executives to make sure the Edwards story does not appear on any of an organization’s several platforms, they have to make sure that tight controls are in place. The Edwards story is not invisible by accident.
The only situation in which those controls don’t seem to apply is in Edwards’ home state of North Carolina, where intense interest in the story has prompted some local press outlets to report the news — and even do some reporting on their own. That’s how we learned that there is no father listed on the birth certificate of Rielle Hunter’s daughter, even though an Edwards aide claimed to the Enquirer that he, the aide, was the father. The local North Carolina press also told us that state Democrats are deeply concerned about the story, worried that it will affect Edwards’ role at the Democratic National Convention and beyond. That information came from news organizations willing to look into the story.
But most of the big ones remain silent. Will that change? Assuming the Enquirer story turns out to be accurate, and that it comes completely into the open, how do the news organizations finally report the story?
One possibility involves the upcoming Democratic convention. By all rights, Edwards, whose endorsement of Obama received extensive coverage, should be a speaker at the convention. If he is not, then reporters might feel bound to explain why. And that would involve the Hunter affair, allowing journalists to tell their readers and listeners what happened. An event will have taken place — Edwards’s absence from the convention — as a result of certain allegations, and the news organizations might well break down and report the reason. They might also broaden the story into some sort of broader think piece, perhaps on a topic like the role of aggressive tabloids in today’s politics, which would serve to de-emphasize the ugly nature of the Edwards matter.
So that’s how it might turn out. But at the bottom of it all, there’s still the mystery of why so many journalists have thus far refused to even mention a spectacularly scandalous story involving a top national politician. Perhaps it’s partisanship and bias — there’s certainly some of that involved — but perhaps it is also elitism. No top-rank journalist wants to be associated with the National Enquirer. But whatever the reason, with the Democratic convention approaching, the time in which they have been able to keep a lid on the story is probably coming to a close. The public will learn the news, despite the best efforts of some top news organizations.
2) POTOMAC WATCH: Republican Energy Fumble
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Politics has its puzzling moments. John McCain and most of the GOP experienced one late last week. That was when five of their own set about dismantling the best issue Republicans have in the upcoming election.
It's taken time, but Sen. McCain and his party have finally found -- in energy -- an issue that's working for them. Riding voter discontent over high gas prices, the GOP has made antidrilling Democrats this summer's headlines.
[Republican Energy Fumble]
Members of the "Gang of 10" discuss their energy plan, Aug. 1.
Their enthusiasm has given conservative candidates a boost in tough races. And Mr. McCain has pressured Barack Obama into an energy debate, where the Democrat has struggled to explain shifting and confused policy proposals.
Still, it was probably too much to assume every Republican would work out that their side was winning this issue. And so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson -- alongside five Senate Democrats. This "Gang of 10" announced a "sweeping" and "bipartisan" energy plan to break Washington's energy "stalemate." What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.
That's because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast -- putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska's oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.
The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn't have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.
Sen. Obama was thrilled. He quickly praised the Gang's bipartisan spirit, and warmed up to a possible compromise. Of course, he means removing even the token drilling provisions now in the bill. But he's only too happy for the focus to remain on the Gang's efforts, and in particular on the five Republicans providing his party its fig leaf.
Equally gleeful was Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, the Senate's most vulnerable Democrat. She had been sweating the energy debate, especially after her vote against more oil-shale production -- a position her Republican opponent, John Kennedy, had used against her to great effect. Yet there she was, chummily standing with the Gang of 10 and boasting that she is working with "five Republicans" to "lower prices at the pump by increasing offshore drilling here at home."
Mr. McCain, who had been commanding the energy debate, was left to explain why he, of all people, wasn't more enthusiastic about a "bipartisan" effort on energy, especially one that includes "drilling." His camp was forced to take refuge in taxes, explaining that their boss couldn't sign up for a bill that included more. If this is what Mr. McCain's good friend Lindsey Graham considers "helping," somebody might want to ask him to stop.
And pity poor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been working overtime to stanch GOP losses this fall and head off a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate. His dogged efforts to highlight Democratic opposition to drilling has kept energy in the news and laid the groundwork for GOP candidates to use the issue to their advantage.
In the Colorado Senate race, Democrats had christened former GOP Rep. Bob Schaffer "Big Oil Bob" -- hoping to smear his oil industry career. "Big Oil Bob" has instead embraced his pro-drilling positions and is pummeling opponent Mark Udall for his antidrilling stance. In recent weeks, Mr. Schaffer has erased Mr. Udall's lead. Polls show Republican Sens. Norm Coleman (Minnesota) and John Sununu (New Hampshire) both climbing in the polls on the back of strong energy arguments. As two of the GOP's most vulnerable senators, both might well have run for cover with the Gang of 10. Instead they're fighting on the merits.
The "bipartisan" Republican senators have undercut these efforts, and boosted Ms. Landrieu. They've even put a smile on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's face. He'd been struggling to tamp down the energy debate through November, where he hopes to increase his majority and permanently shelve drilling. He's now counting on the Gang to fruitlessly continue "negotiations" straight through the Senate's short September session and solve his problem for him.
Not one of the five Republicans in the Gang is facing a tough election this year. That's the sort of security that leads to bad decisions. And theirs is the sort of thinking that could leave Republicans in a permanent minority.
3) US: Russia must halt attacks on Georgia
The United States on Friday called on Russia to halt aircraft and missile attacks in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia and withdraw its combat forces from Georgian territory as the situation in the former Soviet state deteriorated and verged on full-scale war.
The White House said US President George W. Bush discussed the situation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin while both leaders were in Beijing for the start of the Olympics. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the parties involved in hopes of ending the fighting and made plans to send a US envoy to the region.
"The United States calls for an immediate ceasefire to the armed conflict in Georgia's region of South Ossetia," Rice said in a statement. "We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil."
Rice also said Russia should respect Georgian sovereignty and agree to international mediation to end the crisis that threatens to engulf the volatile region. "We urgently seek Russia's support of these efforts," she said.
Rice said she and other senior US officials had been in touch with "the parties" to the conflict but did not identify who they had spoken to. In Moscow, Russia's foreign ministry said Rice had spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov told her that Georgia must be convinced to withdraw its forces from South Ossetia, it said.
A US official in Washington identified the envoy as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, a specialist on the region, who will be traveling soon to Tbilisi and elsewhere with European diplomats in a bid to defuse the situation.
Georgia is trying to regain...
Georgia is trying to regain control of the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
Photo: Sky News
At the Pentagon, a senior defense official said Friday that Georgian authorities have asked the United States for help getting their troops out of Iraq.
Georgia has about 2,000 troops serving with the coalition forces in Iraq, making it the third-largest contributor after the United States and Britain.
Defense Department officials have had some contact with Georgian authorities, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Friday, adding that the US was monitoring the situation closely. Whitman said Georgia has not requested any assistance from the US, but he would not provide details on discussions that have occurred.
The EU and the NATO alliance also urged Georgia and Russia Friday to stop the fighting in South Ossetia and resolve their conflict through dialogue.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer spoke with Russian and Georgian officials several times by phone urging both sides to show restraint. He planned to continue behind-the-scenes consultations, officials said.
In a brief statement, De Hoop Scheffer said he was "seriously concerned about the events that are taking place in the Georgian region of South Ossetia," adding the alliance was "closely following the situation."
In private remarks, NATO officials stressed the alliance is careful not to take sides in the South Ossetia dispute. The alliance held off on convening a meeting of the NATO ambassadors - a common response to security crises.
In April, Georgia - and Ukraine - failed to secure a pre-NATO membership deal because of French and German fears that giving both an inside lane to membership would only strain NATO's ties with Moscow.
Relations already have been fraying over Washington's plans for a missile defense system in Europe.
Moscow strenuously opposes NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine - an issue that will return to the NATO agenda in December.
Both the EU and NATO expressed grave concern over Georgia's military offensive to regain control of the province. Georgia launched the attack after accusing Russia, which has close ties to South Ossetian separatists, of bombing Georgian territory.
"The European Union calls for a dialogue between all parties which is the only way to a lasting solution of the crisis," according to a statement issued by France, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU.
It said the EU was "deeply concerned" about the South Ossetia fighting and urged "all parties to show the greatest restraint" by immediately lowering tensions and avoiding any new escalation of violence.
De Hoop Scheffer also called "on all sides for an immediate end of the armed clashes and direct talks between the parties."
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner deplored the outbreak of hostilities and the loss of lives, adding that the European Commission "stands ready to increase its contribution to conflict resolution in Georgia with confidence-building measures."
Germany also urged both sides in the conflict over South Ossetia to end the fighting and calm tensions, while the country's foreign minister conferred with his Russian counterpart and Georgia's president.
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged "an immediate stop to any use of force" and called on both sides to show "the greatest prudence and restraint," said her spokesman, Thomas Steg.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued a similar appeal after Georgian troops launched a major military offensive to regain control of South Ossetia.
The Foreign Ministry said Steinmeier, who recently has tried to mediate in a long-running dispute over another breakaway Georgian province, Abkhazia, spoke by phone Friday with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
In a statement, Steinmeier did not detail what was said in those talks.
In addition to calming the situation on the ground, "all involved must refrain from escalating tensions further through their rhetoric and mutual accusations," he said. He urged all involved to enter a direct dialogue immediately.
3a) Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili banked on Russia not having will to fight
By Kevin O’Flynn and Martin Fletcher
It looks, in retrospect, like a ruse that went badly wrong. After days of heavy skirmishing between Georgian troops and Russian-backed separatist militias in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian President, went on television on Thursday evening to announce that he had ordered an immediate unilateral ceasefire.
Just hours later his troops began an all-out offensive with tanks and rockets to “restore constitutional order” to a region that won de facto independence in a vicious civil war that subsided in 1992.
From that moment events began to spiral out of control. As the 70,000 citizens of a self-styled republic of 2,500 square kilometres (965 square miles) huddled in their basements, Georgian troops seized a dozen villages and bombarded the capital, Tskhinvali, with air strikes, missiles and tank movements that left much of it destroyed.
Major-General Marat Kulakhmetov, the commander of a small force of Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali, said: “Heavy artillery shelling conducted for several hours has practically demolished the town,” The South Ossetians used grenade launchers to hit back against Georgia’s heavy military vehicles, and appealed for help from Russia, the country that has propped up the impoverished republic despite Moscow’s official support for Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Times Archive, 1924: The revolt in Georgia
The movement against the Bolshevists is considered to be more than a mere rising. It is considered to be a war of independence.
Mr Saakashvili, who took office in 2004 promising to restore Georgian rule over South Ossetia, appeared to have misjudged Moscow’s resolve, perhaps calculating that Vladimir Putin would not dare to respond militarily while he was in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
In fact it was Mr Putin, not his presidential successor, Dmitri Medvedev, who was the first to react. Seizing on the reported deaths of at least ten Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian offensive, as well as the fact that 90 per cent of South Ossetia’s population have Russian passports, he declared that Georgia’s actions “will incur a response”.
President Medvedev, who has yet to emerge from Mr Putin’s shadow, subsequently declared: “I am bound to defend the lives and the dignity of Russian citizens no matter where they are situated. We will not allow their deaths to go unpunished.”
Upset by Georgia’s pursuit of Nato membership and angered by the West’s support for Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia this spring, Moscow responded fast and with force. Russian fighter planes reportedly attacked military and civilian targets inside Georgia. Units of the 58th Army, including scores of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, rolled southwards across the Russian border into South Ossetia.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that it had sent reinforcements to help peacekeepers to prevent bloodshed. Volunteers from North Ossetia – part of Russia – and Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia, were also said to be streaming into South Ossetia. Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, a civilian who had fled with her family from Tskhinvali to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia, said: “I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars. It’s impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged.”
Late yesterday reporters saw trucks ferrying scores of wounded Georgian soldiers away from South Ossetia. Georgian officials claimed that their air force had shot down at least five Russian warplanes, a claim that Moscow denied.
The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed for the opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow ambulances to evacuate the wounded from Tskhinvali. “Ambulances cannot move, hospitals are reported to be overflowing, surgery is taking place in corridors,” a spokeswoman said.
Mr Saakashvili compared the incursion of Russian tanks to the Soviet invasions of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. He said: “We have Russian tanks on our territory, jets on our territory in broad daylight.”
The Georgian President, Harvard-educated and staunchly pro-Western, ordered a full-scale military mobilisation, with reservists called into action, and issued urgent appeals for international support. He told CNN: “Russia is fighting a war with us in our own territory.”
Georgia is a vital conduit for the West’s oil and gas supplies. Nato is due to decide in December whether and when to offer Georgia membership, a decision that would be enormously complicated if it is in a state of war with its giant northern neighbour. There is a danger of the fighting in South Ossetia spreading to Abkhazia, and if Russia can impose its will on Georgia it will be encouraged to do so in other former Soviet republics.
The United States, the European Union and Nato all issued appeals for an end to the fighting, but on Thursday night Britain and the US blocked a Russian-sponsored UN resolution that called for an immediate end to bloodshed in Georgia-South Ossetia. British and US diplomats said that the proposal prejudiced Georgia’s sovereignty over South Ossetia, and should describe South Ossetia as a “region of Georgia”. The 15-nation Security Council was meeting again last night.
The road to violence
1991 Collapse of the Soviet Union
1992 South Ossetia votes for independence from Georgia in an unrecognised referendum. Hundreds die in violence. Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia create tripartite peacekeeping force
1993 South Ossetia drafts its own constitution
2002 Unrecognised president Eduard Kokoity asks Moscow to absorb South Ossetia into Russia
2004 New Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says he will return breakaway South Ossetia, Ajaria and Abkhazia to the fold
2006 South Ossetians vote for independence again
2007 Talks between Georgia and South Ossetia break down.
2008 South Ossetia asks world to recognise its independence
2008 Georgian bid to join Nato makes Russian parliament urge Kremlin to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia
2008 South Ossetia rejects a Georgian power-sharing deal
2008 Georgian troops clash with South Ossetian and Russian forces
3b) Second separatist Abkhazia province joins Russian-Georgian South Ossetia war
The foreign minister of Georgia’s second breakaway province Sergei Shamba said Abkhazian forces have launched air and artillery strikes to oust Georgian troops.
Russian jets earlier bombed Georgian positions in Abkhazia’s Kodori Gorge.
Medvedev tells Bush only way out of crisis is for Georgian troops to pull out of the conflict zone.
Georgia claims shooting down of 10 Russian planes, destroying 30 tanks.
Tbilisi parliament approves 15-day state of war and martial law.
Bush said Georgia is a sovereign nation whose territorial integrity must be respected. Russia must stop bombing Georgian towns. He called on Russia and Georgia to stand their armies down, withdraw to the Aug. 6 status quo and support international mediation.
Some 100,000 Russian troops are deployed to the troubled region. They include special forces from Moscow trained in combat behind enemy lines. They have taken the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and are spreading across the region.
All men aged 18-50 called to reserve duty as Georgia recalls 1,000 troops from Iraq.
Russian fighters continue to pound the Georgian town of Gori. Local hospitals are overflowing with casualties. The region’s power, water and telephones are cut off.
30,000 refugees have fled the embattled region into Russia.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned Georgia’s arms suppliers they will be held accountable for the South Ossetia situation. Sources say this is directed at the United States and Israel.
The two-day death in South Ossetia combat is estimated at 1,600. Russian jets struck Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti, hitting container tanks, a naval base and military logistical center near a major pipeline from Baku.
4) Open to Debate
By JOE KLEIN
Over the past month, a foolish narrative has been abroad in the land: that this election is going to be a "referendum" on Barack Obama. This is not uncommon in presidential politics--John Kerry's consultants fantasized that the 2004 election was going to be a referendum on George W. Bush--but it is usually peddled by weak campaigns that want to avoid dealing with their own candidate's deficiencies. Presidential elections are never referendums. They are, ultimately, a choice. Two candidates stand on a stage in debate: they talk; you decide.
Quite often, though strangely not in Kerry's case, the referendum gambit is a rationale for mudslinging. This year we have John McCain's attempt to paint Obama as aloof, messianic ... a celebrity, like Paris or Britney. The McCain ads have the slightly sordid quality of an inside joke: Oprah Winfrey called Obama "the One," and McCain's dyspeptic staffers latched on to that moniker, and now there's a sardonic ad using the messianic nickname, filled with celestial images of Obama smiling and orating grandiloquently, followed by Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea. When Obama--correctly--said that keeping your tires inflated was one way to conserve energy (and save some money), McCain distributed tire-pressure gauges stamped OBAMA'S ENERGY PLAN.
I may be missing something, but snark isn't a quality often associated with the presidency. "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant," Obama said, laughing at the McCain campaign's crash-and-burn fighter-jock puerility.
The attempts to dismiss Obama remind me of the Carter-Reagan matchup of 1980, another supposed referendum election. Ronald Reagan was ... a celebrity, a movie star, a right-wing lightweight. It seemed impossible--to most Democrats, at least--that he could win, although he did hold a slight lead going into the conventions. The fall campaign was very close--until, finally, the two candidates debated a week before the election, and the celebrity cleaned the President's clock. "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Reagan asked in his closing statement. He seemed every bit as substantial as Carter and much less of a sourpuss. The race blew open after that, and Reagan won a convincing victory.
Fast-forward to now: this is a year that looks as good for Democrats as 1980 did for Republicans. They have a candidate who, like Reagan, is a fabulous performer and represents a major break with the past--and has a smaller lead than he'd like going into the conventions. And in the end, debates will almost certainly decide this election. The sheer, slimy audacity of the McCain ads has given him a nice midsummer run. The polling numbers haven't changed all that much, but Obama has been on the defensive since he returned from his overseas trip. And the zeitgeist of the race is headed toward sewage and mockery. It hasn't been quite so easy for Obama to dominate the news as he did before. Clearly, he needs to move the conversation toward the substantive differences he has with McCain--and the differences McCain doesn't have with Bush. The best way to do that is through a major, narrative-changing event.
Which is why I'm almost as puzzled by Obama's debate strategy as I am by McCain's advertising. Obama's decision not to accept McCain's offer of 10 summer debates--or, at least, to negotiate a more manageable total--always seemed wrong to me. After all, Obama is supposed to be the fresh breeze, and that would have been a brand-new, high-road way to engage the public. Obama's refusal made him seem less than courageous. It played into the notion that he wasn't a very good debater and that McCain was at his best in town meetings--an argument with elements of truth but also a fair amount of mythology. Obama has command of more facts on more issues than McCain does; McCain's strength at town meetings feeds off friendly crowds who roar at the jokes he's been telling for years. Obama's demeanor will show well on the debate stage; McCain's feistiness may not. And so Obama would be wise to change course now: challenge McCain to town-hall debates on the Sunday nights after each convention--one before a military audience, another with hard-pressed Rust Belt workers. He'd be wise to make this a campaign about issues instead of ads as soon as possible. It is true that debates often turn on one-liners and flubs, but more often they turn on sustained, vivid demonstrations of character.
It may be that Obama is not Reagan. It may be that he is more like Al Smith, whose Roman Catholicism was too much for a Protestant nation to handle in 1928. But if Obama is going to win, he's got to demonstrate, in the most dramatic forum possible, that he has the brains and disposition to be President. And he has to get this campaign around to Reagan's classic question: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
5) Diplomats: Syria blocks new visit by nuclear watchdog
Syria has blocked a new visit by International Atomic Energy Agency experts seeking to follow up on intelligence that Damascus built a secret nuclear program built with the help of North Korea, diplomats told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The diplomats also said Washington was circulating a note among members of the IAEA board opposing a Syrian push for a seat on the 35-nation board. The board normally works by consensus and a seat held by Damascus could thus hamper any investigation into its alleged nuclear activities.
Syria fears a massive atomic agency investigation similar to the probe Iran has been subjected to more than five years.
"Syria's election to the board while under investigation for secretly ... building an undeclared nuclear reactor not suited for peaceful purposes would make a mockery of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," said the note, as read to the AP.
The diplomats said that the U.S. was pushing to encourage Kazakhstan to challenge Damascus for the seat, but the Kazakhs apparently are reluctant to do so, fearing lack of support.
Syria rejected the IAEA request for a visit late last month, the diplomats said. The visit would have been a follow up to an initial trip by IAEA inspectors in June.
The Syrians said that a visit at this time was inopportune, said a senior diplomat, who, like two others agreeing to discuss the issue, demanded anonymity because their information was confidential.
That appeared to leave open the possibility of a later visit. But one of the other diplomats said members of the Syrian mission to the IAEA were spreading the word among other missions that further trips beyond the one in June were unlikely.
If so, that could cripple international efforts to probe U.S. allegations that a site in a remote part of the Syrian desert, which Israel destroyed last year, was a near-finished plutonium-producing reactor built with North Korean help, and that Damascus continues to hide linked facilities.
IAEA experts came back June 25 from a four-day visit, carrying environmental samples from the Al Kibar site hit by Israel in September. Those are now being evaluated.
But the results might fall short of providing a conclusive results.
A traditional method at suspected nuclear sites - taking swipes in the search for radioactive traces - was unlikely to have been of use at Al Kibar. That's because none had been introduced into the alleged reactor before it was struck by Israel, according to intelligence given to the agency by the U.S., Israel and a third country the diplomats declined to identify.
So, the inspectors also looked for minute quantities of graphite, which is used as a cooling element in the type of North Korean prototype that was allegedly being built with help from Pyongyang. Such a reactor contains hundreds of tons of graphite, and any major explosion would have sent dust over the immediate area.
But - if the Syrians were interested in a cover-up - they would have scoured the region to bury, wash away and otherwise remove any such traces. And although U.S. intelligence says the reactor was close to completion, it is possible that graphite elements were not yet installed at the time of the Sept. 6 bombing.
If so, the initial probe might be inconclusive, making further trips necessary. The agency also is interested in going to three other locations suspected of possibly harboring other secret nuclear activities - sites the Syrians insist are off limits.
More broadly, IAEA experts had hoped to use a follow-up visit to put questions to Syrian officials based on the intelligence available to them outlining years of extensive cooperation between the Syrians and teams of visiting North Korean nuclear officials.
North Korea exploded a nuclear device in 2006. The North is believed by experts to have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium to make as many as 10 nuclear bombs before agreeing to dismantle its weapons program early last year.
But the diplomats said Syria was strenuously denying any concerted North Korean presence in the country - despite U.S. intelligence alleging that the building bombed was reactor of the type only built by the communist state.
They said Syrian officials described meetings between nuclear officials from Pyongyang and their Syrian counterparts occasional and informal, despite intelligence information to the contrary.
6) The war that Russia wants
By Svante Cornell
Moscow's blatant aggression in South Ossetia, aimed at locking Georgia out of Nato, should be resisted by the EU and US
For months, Moscow's successive provocations in Georgia have left observers suspecting that it was provoking a war in the Caucasus. It seems to have finally gotten what it wanted. The Kremlin's blatant aggression puts at stake not only the future of the most progressive state in the former Soviet Union, but the broader cause of European security.
In recent years, the Kremlin had escalated its interference in Georgia's territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - bombing Georgian territory twice last year, illegally extending Russian citizenship to residents there, and appointing Russian security officers to their self-declared governments. South Ossetia's government in particular is practically under Moscow's direct control, with little if any ability to act independently.
But this flare-up is a direct consequence of Russia's deliberate and recent efforts to engage its small neighbor in military conflict. In April, Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed a decree effectively beginning to treat Abkhazia and South Ossetia as parts of the Russian Federation. This land grab was a particularly galling move because Russia is in charge of both the peacekeeping operations in the conflict zones, and the negotiations over their political resolution. The mediator had now clearly become a direct party to the conflict.
Moscow then sent paratroopers, heavy weapons and other troops into Abkhazia. Although these measures constituted military occupation of Georgian territory, Georgia failed to respond militarily. Instead, with European aspirations in mind, Georgian leaders listened to western calls for restraint, and put their faith in half-hearted western diplomatic initiatives.
Having failed to provoke Georgia to a war in Abkhazia, the Kremlin then tried in South Ossetia. Its proxies, the Ossetian separatist forces, escalated their attacks on Georgian posts and villages, making a response inevitable. Predictably, Moscow claimed a right to intervene, pouring Russian tanks into the area and bombing Georgian territory - including the country's capital. But why would Russia seek a war in the Caucasus, and why does it matter?
Georgia's position astride the western access route to the Caspian sea's energy reserves and Central Asia give it geopolitical significance. Moreover, Georgia represents exactly what Moscow does not want to see on its borders: a country both independent and increasingly democratic. Moscow instead seeks submission, preferably by authoritarian rulers that it can manipulate.
Yet the decisive factor was Georgia's efforts to gain Nato membership, a move in tune with the country's progress in consolidating democratic rule. Angela Merkel's statement that a country with unresolved conflicts can't enter Nato helped, too: it sent Russia a signal that it could prevent Georgia's Nato membership simply by stirring conflict.
Moscow's military adventure has far-reaching implications. To leaders in Ukraine and the Baltic states, it sends signals that it seeks to re-establish control in the former Soviet space. Probably correctly, leaders there assume they are next in line. More deeply, Russia's land grab threatens to return parts of Europe to the politics of territorial control of previous generations, negating the promise of integration and cooperation that the EU represents.
Russia's behaviour is incompatible with its aspirations to be a respected world power. Indeed, thoughtful people will find parallels between this and earlier incidents of Russian land seizures when it thought people were looking elsewhere. – the Baltic crisis of 1939, Finland, and post-second world war Iran come to mind. With most western leaders at the Olympics or on holiday, Moscow's efforts to establish a fait accompli in the Caucasus cannot be allowed to stand.
So far, the West's reaction has been inadequate. Rather than standing up for their own principles, western leaders think they can improve Russia's behaviour by appeasement, fearful of threatening relations with an undeniably powerful Russia. But by doing so, western leaders have unwittingly encouraged the most irresponsible elements in Moscow, whetting the hardliners' imperial appetites by not attaching any costs to their excesses. That in turn inexorably leads to a worsening of Russia's relations with the West.
Paradoxically, standing up to Moscow is not only the right thing to do in this crisis, but the best way to improve relations with Russia in the long term. For only a Russia that abandons its imperial agenda and respects its neighbors, irrespective of size, can be a true partner for the west.
It is now important for western leaders to realise that their silence so far has only encouraged Moscow's aggressive behaviour, and that they must now stand in solidarity with Georgia – in deeds, not only in words. Whether they do so will determine the future not only of the Caucasus, but also for Europe's security.
There is one other canard to examine with respect to Soviet/Russian western relations, which cold warriers and their neocon successors love to bring up. That is the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. This was Stalin's dastardly "betrayal" of Britain and France. The facts are the following: for six years from 1933 onward the Soviet government sought to establish an anti-Nazi alliance with Britain, France, and the United States. Both published and unpublished documents from Russian archives make this quite clear. Soviet policy was genuine, not a trick to fool the French and British. It was the French and British governments (and the USA also), driven by intense aniti-communism, who repeatedly spurned Soviet proposals. In the meantime the French and British tried, unsuccessfully, to do a deal with Hitler (the penultimate effort was the Munich agreement in Sept. 1938). The Soviet government feared being left alone to face Nazi Germany, and rightly so. This was just what a number of French and British political leaders wished for. When the last Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations took place in 1939, it was the French and British who dragged their feet and stalled the Soviet side. Stalin, a ruthless pragmatist, then turned the tables, based on the principle of turn-about is fair play, and did the deal with Hitler. It was a terrible mistake, as Stalin himself later admitted, but his mistake was preceded by that of the French and British. And all sides paid dearly for it.