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March 2008

Dmitri Medvedev

President-elect Dmitri Medvedev

Mar 1  Responding to a recent statement by presidential candidate Barack Obama, a few (other than Senator John McCain) describe Obama's Iraq and al-Qaeda policy as little different from that of President Bush. The difference of course is that Obama sees benefit in a more rapid withdrawal from Iraq. He recognizes that Iraqis have been turning against al-Qaeda, and he is more ready than President Bush to leave al-Qaeda-in-Iraq fade as a consequence of Iraqi opposition. After US troops are withdrawn, if al-Qaeda somehow builds to a danger that they were, for example, in Afghanistan, posing a threat to the United States, Obama says he would advocate striking militarily.

Mar 2  President Ahmadinejad of Iran visits Iraq. He tells his hosts that a "united, powerful and developed Iraq" is in the region's (and Iran's) interest. Iraq's President Talabani (a Kurd) describes the visit as "historic."

Mar 2  In Russia, Dmitry Medvedev is elected to replace Vladimir Putin as president. He is to take office on May 7, and Putin is expected to become prime minister.

Mar 3  Hamas supporters have acquired sophisticated rocketry that the Israeli blockade has been trying to prevent them from obtaining – a blockade recently breached. The Hamas supporters have been firing these rockets into Israel, killing people – an act of war. Israel claims the right to defend itself militarily. UN Secretary General Ki-Moon calls Israel's response "disproportionate and excessive." While the solution to the violence lies in part at least in the heads of the people in Gaza, there is denial that Israel's military attack is a response to aggression from Hamas, and blame is cast elsewhere in the complaint that "the international voice is silent."

Mar 4  In four states today – Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont -- people go to the polls to choose between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton supporters are repeating the claim that she has more experience than Obama. In politics an experience-judgment rivalry is like the experience-talent rivalry in music. No one is going to replace a talented young soloist with a mediocre violinist because the mediocre violinist has been playing for forty years.

Mar 5  Senator Clinton has won in the popular vote in Ohio 54 to 44 percent, in Texas 51 to 47 persent. In Ohio, white voters without college degrees backed Clinton 3 to 1. According to the Washington Post, "More than two in 10 non-college-educated white voters said race was an important factor in their decision, compared with one in 10 among whites with college degrees." Among non-college educated white voters there were also those who opposed Obama because they thought he was or might be a Muslim. Today, Senator Clinton e-mailed her supporters saying "It's a pretty incredible feeling, isn't it?" and "Let's build on this remarkable momentum." Obama's e-mail to his supporters spoke of his maintaining a "substantial lead in delegates" and complained of "stunts and the tactics that ask us to fear instead of hope."

Mar 7  The BBC reports that an estimated one in three persons in the world is infected with tuberculosis, predominantly among the poor in the "developing" world. The disease is spread by coughing or sneezing, and some strains of tuberculosis are drug resistant.

Mar 8  In celebrating her victory in Ohio, Hillary Clinton said "as Ohio goes so goes the nation." She is repeating it and so too are some pundits to the point that it is now common blah-blah. If it is a hard rule that one must win Ohio to win the general election as they are saying, why was Al Gore able to win the popular vote in the presidential election of 2000 without winning Ohio? Can it not be said that Gore lost in the electoral vote count by only a few hundred votes in Florida because of mistakes in Florida, or because of the Supreme Court's ruling, rather than because he did not carry Ohio?

Mar 8  War has been averted as Colombia's right-of-center president, Alvaro Aribe, apologizes to Ecuador's President Correa and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Aribe has promised never again to attack a "brother country." Chavez denies Aribe's accusation that he has given money and weapons to Colombian rebels. "I will never do it," Chavez said, "because I want peace." Aribe was under pressure from leftist regimes and from more centrist Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The United States was the only country in the Americas that offered Colombia unqualified support.

Mar 8  A Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, describes crime in Oslo as four times greater than New York City. Oslo police blame the increase on an influx of East Europeans. Crime elsewhere in Norway is reported as declining. The paper reports that for 2007, Oslo had 90 reported crimes per 1,000 persons, Stockholm (Sweden) had 79, Copenhagen (Denmark) 50, and New York 22.

Mar 8  Gary Hart, a well-known Democrat, complains in an online "Huffington Post" that there are rules in politics, and one of them is to not provide ammunition to the opposition party that can be used to destroy your party's nominee. He asks whether Hillary Clinton's primary loyalty is to the Democratic Party and the nation or to her own ambition.

Mar 24  Frederick Kagan describes satellite dishes in small villages across Iraq and Iraqis watching CNN, some favoring Clinton, some Obama and some McCain. He describes talk about mistakes of the past regarding Iraq as useless. The question, he says, is where do we go from here. Political progress is being made, he adds. He cannot be absolutely certain that progress by the Iraqis will continue. But he claims that as long as there is progress, it is in our interest to stay the course – with a measured and cautious reduction of forces when appropriate. On a panel with two from the Brookings Institute, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, he agrees that the Obama and Clinton strategies are dubious.

Frederick Kagan

Frederick Kagan sees
progress in Iraqi reconciliation

Nir Rosen

Nir Rosen, not so optimistic

Mar 11  A PBS News Hour debate on THE SURGE summarized: Old Sunni combatants still believe they are at war with the Shia, that the government is Shia and that the government's militia is their main enemy. Sunni fighters feel defeated by US forces and worry that if Americans withdraw soon they, the Sunnis, will be slaughtered by the Shia majority. The US military presence has succeeded in reducing the violence in Iraq. Iraqis in general, aside from the Kurds, still dislike foreign troops on their soil and in this sense the US is an occupation force. In the sense that the US is in Iraq by power of the UN Security Council the US is not an occupation force. One of the debaters, Nir Rosen, sees the US presence as postponing a showdown between the Shia and Sunni. The other debater, Frederick Kagan, is more optimistic and sees progress in reconciliation.

Mar 14 Four days ago Bear Stearns stock closed at $62 per share. Stock market guru Jim Cramer said "No! No! No! Bearn Stearns is not in trouble ...Don't move your money from Bear." Today Bear Stearns stock closes at $30 per share.

Mar 16  Commentators not inclined to support Barrack Obama's candidacy for president have been trying to tie him to a couple of black ministers, Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright. Some see Obama as having an advantage in being black – the affirmative action candidate – and some claim that whites are voting for him out of guilt. It insults those who have been supporting Obama and damages Obama's efforts as a "unifier" and his desire to be judged for what he is other than black. Obama has "strongly denounced" statements made by Wright, but Wright was his minister for twenty years, and Obama has hurt himself politically by having ignored Wright's wildest opinions – a response of some people to their ministers.

Mar 25 To save Bear Stearns from bankruptcy, Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson has convinced JP Morgan Chase bank to buy Bear Stearns stock. Paulson promised $30 billion to guarantee the solvency of Bear Stearns, without which Chase would not have been interested. Chase offers to buy Bear Stearns at $4 per share. Paulson makes the price $2 per share to reduce reward to Bear Stearns. People at Bear Stearns are in shock. The Dow has been moving sideways above 12,000 as stock market "experts," advisors and players are not making a connection between the health of the economy and the meltdown at Bear Stearns.

Mar 17  Hillary Clinton delivers a major speech describing her comprehensive strategy regarding Iraq. She lists corruption, Iraqi money in foreign bank accounts that should be helping reconstruction, and various Iraqi government failures. Her strategy includes the possibility of pin-point strikes against al-Qaeda after withdrawal. She describes many more years in Iraq as "a defeat."

Mar 18  Barack Obama delivers a speech considered by some to be historic. It describes black and white frustrations and repeats his disagreement with statements by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. He describes his relationship with Wright as family. Obama had been an organizer in the black and white communities and had not pontificated or made himself righteous about attitudes among people. He asks his listeners for tolerance, but many do not accept Obama's tolerance for the Reverend Wright because of Wright's "hateful" speech and distortions. They complain that Obama does not share their righteous indignation and believe he should have stomped out of Wright's church.

Mar 19  A week of protests in Tibet have left people dead and soldiers in control of city streets. China's government has denied journalists access to Tibet, suppressed photos, and has blamed the rioting and violence on the Dalai Lama, in exile in Northern India. The Dalai Lama has been advocating greater autonomy for Tibet but not independence as have demonstrators.

Mar 19  Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria announce that they will recognize the independence of Kosovo.

tibetans attack Han Chinese

In Lhasa, Tibetans attack a Han Chinese. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Mar 19  The US enters its sixth year of combat in Iraq. President Bush speaks of "our enemies in Iraq" and of "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

Mar 20  Vice President Cheney has met with Iraqi Vice President Adel Mehdi. Mehdi drops his resistance to provincial elections. These elections might correct distortions that deny a fair share of power to Sunni citizens.

Mar 21  China has blamed the death of 13 "innocent" people on rioters in Lhasa. In Lhasa, Tibetan young men in the spirit of ethnic cleansing have indeed attacked Han Chinese – Chinese shops and people in the street. The Tibetan government in exile blames China for violence and claims that at least 99 people have died, including 80 in Lhasa.

Mar 21  In Afghanistan, Rafi Naabzada wins a sensational pop music contest. The contest has been criticized by clerics because of the inclusion of female contenstants.

Mar 22  Genetic analysis of blood samples from across Latin America suggest that most Latin Americans are the product of a match between a European male and a native or African woman.

Mar 24  Frederick Kagan describes satellite dishes in small villages across Iraq and Iraqis watching CNN, some favoring Clinton, some Obama and some McCain. He describes talk about mistakes of the past regarding Iraq as useless. The question, he says, is where do we go from here. Political progress is being made, he adds. He cannot be absolutely certain that progress by the Iraqis will continue. But he claims that as long as there is progress, it is in our interest to stay the course – with a measured and cautious reduction of forces when appropriate. On a panel with two from the Brookings Institute, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, he agrees that the Obama and Clinton strategies are dubious.

Senator McCain

Senator McCain.

Michael Kinsley

Michael Kinsley.

Mar 25  In a 6-3 decision, the more conservative US Supreme Court Justices reject the authority of the U.N. International Court of Justice (World Court) in any of the United States – in this case Texas. Writing the dissenting view, Justice Breyer described the US as having signed and ratified appropriate treaties and as having agreed to be bound by the World Court's judgment. President Bush had claimed that it was in the US interest to recognize the World Court's authority in the case under question.

Mar 26  Senator McCain delivers his foreign policy address. In addition to repeating positions he has often expressed, he says, "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

Mar 28  Columnist Michael Kinsley is pessimistic about the benefits of the government stimulating the economy by giving people money with which to buy more stuff (recorded here as possible prophesy). He points out that economic recovery by stimulus borrowing is supposed to follow years of budget surpluses, not years of deficit spending. He says that "If we are going into [more] deficit spending we should be repairing our bridges and infrastructures.”

Mar 30  China has described rioting in Llasa as having killed 18 civilians, one police officer and as having injured 382 civilians and 241 police officers. According to official statistics, 908 stores were smashed, looted or torched and 120 homes were burned. The families of those killed are to be compensated by cash from the government – 200,000 yuan ($28,170). The government has declared that measures will to be taken to help people repair their homes and shops or to build new ones.

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