Sunday, July 23, 2006


It wasn't the 'Yo' that was humiliating, it was the 'No'

Tony Blair wanted Britain to look big in the world. But being a satellite of
George Bush is making him and us look small

Andrew Rawnsley
Sunday July 23, 2006
The Observer

You will have your own view - there's so much to choose from - on which part
of the open-mic conversation between George W Bush and Tony Blair at the Yo
Summit was the most toe-curling. One of my favourite excruciating moments is
when Bush thanks Blair for sending him a Burberry sweater as a birthday
gift. The American President sends up the British Prime Minister by mocking:
'I know you picked it out yourself.'

There's no question which exchange is most enjoyable for those with contempt
for the Prime Minister. It is the moment that makes Mr Blair look like the
poodle of popular caricature. Worse, he comes over as a poodle who can't
even beg his master to toss him a dog biscuit. It is the same bit of the
encounter that has caused the most wincing among the Prime Minister's



The world's attention is focused this week on the renewed fighting in Gaza
and Lebanon, but let's not take our eyes off the situation in Iraq, which is
going from bad to worse.

Does anyone in the administration still want to quibble over what definition
of the ''civil war'' applies to the bloody mess in Iraq when the United
Nations is reporting that during the month of June sectarian violence killed
an average of more than 100 Iraqis a day?

What would they prefer to call it when a single car bomber last week drove
into the heart of Shiite rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's hometown of Kufa
and, after assembling a large crowd of Shias looking for jobs, set off his
bomb and killed 53 and injured more than 105?

The U.N. report says that the number of violent deaths of Iraqis this year
rose 77 percent from January's 1,778 to June's 3,149. The total number of
civilian dead for the first half of 2006, the United Nations estimates, is


Warming to the Inconvenient Facts

By Michael Grunwald
Sunday, July 23, 2006; B01

Global warming is having its moment in the sun. The climate crisis is on "60
Minutes" and in Tom Brokaw's new documentary, on the cover of Time and
Newsweek, and in Al Gore's new movie and best-selling book. But while polls
show that most Americans now believe that global warming is real and
significantly manmade -- in 100-degree Washington last week, it felt more
real than ever -- they are much less concerned about the issue than
non-Americans, and much less willing to support dramatic action to address

The problem is, most scientists now believe dramatic action is necessary to
prevent a climate catastrophe. They warn that unless humans can reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent, global warming could threaten the
habitability of the earth. That's the inconvenient part of "An Inconvenient
Truth." And when Gore's critics complain that such drastic reductions would
require an assault on our way of life, they're telling the truth, too.


The People's Business

The House gets to work at what it does best -- scoring political points.
Sunday, July 23, 2006; B06

IT WAS BAD enough a few weeks ago when the Senate -- on the heels of
debating a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage -- took up the
not-so-burning issue of changing the Constitution to prohibit flag burning.
Now the House is managing to make the other body look like a model of
industrious, responsible legislating. With just this week left before it
takes the rest of the summer off, the House has hunkered down to work
hard -- on scoring cheap political points.

On Tuesday it took up the gay-marriage amendment. This was a meaningless
exercise, except in terms of amassing political ammunition: The Senate had
already defeated the amendment. Nonetheless, some members had no trouble
explaining the value of the dead-end debate. "This is probably the best
message we can give to the Middle East in regards to the trouble we are
having over there right now," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.).


The Washington Post

Another Kind of Gore '08 Bandwagon

By Michael Grunwald
Sunday, July 23, 2006; B03

It is difficult to speculate about the politics of global warming without speculating about former vice president Al Gore. He says he's campaigning only against greenhouse gases these days, but as he basks in the success of his new movie, it's hard not to wonder whether the man who came so close to the presidency wants to take another shot.

But there's a more logical job for Gore to pursue, a job that doesn't make any sense until you think about it. It's a job that would give him the power to do something about global warming, along with other major issues close to his heart, without highlighting his political deficiencies. It's a job where it helps to be wonkish, and doesn't really hurt to be wooden. And it's a job he knows how to do -- because he already did it for eight years.

Yes, Al Gore should run for vice president.

John Nance Garner famously said that the vice presidency wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit, and for Garner (who served under FDR) it probably wasn't. But it is now, a trend that began with one Albert Gore Jr.


The Washington Post

Big Brother on Campus
By Katherine Haley Will
Sunday, July 23, 2006; B07

Does the federal government need to know whether you aced Aristotelian ethics but had to repeat introductory biology? Does it need to know your family's financial profile, how much aid you received and whether you took off a semester to help out at home?

The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education thinks so. In its first draft report, released in late June, the commission called for creation of a tracking system to collect sensitive information about our nation's college students. Its second draft, made public last week, softens the name of the plan, but the essence of the proposal remains unchanged.

Whether you call it a "national unit records database" (the first name) or a "consumer-friendly information database" (the second), it is in fact a mandatory federal registry of all American students throughout their collegiate careers -- every course, every step, every misstep. Once established, it could easily be linked to existing K-12 and workforce databases to create unprecedented cradle-to-grave tracking of American citizens. All under the watchful eye of the federal government.


The Washington Post

A Strange War
Israel is at last being given an opportunity to unload on jihadists.
By Victor Davis Hanson

Sum up the declarations of Hezbollah’s leaders, Syrian diplomats, Iranian nuts, West Bank terrorists, and Arab commentators — and this latest Middle East war seems one of the strangest in a long history of strange conflicts. For example, have we ever witnessed a conflict in which one of the belligerents — Iran — that shipped thousands of rockets into Lebanon, and promises that it will soon destroy Israel, vehemently denies that its own missile technicians are on the ground in the Bekka Valley. Wouldn’t it wish to brag of such solidarity?

Or why, after boasting of the new targets that his lethal missiles will hit in Israel, does Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (“We are ready for it — war, war on every level”) now harp that Israel is hitting too deep into Lebanon? Don’t enemies expect one another to hit deep? Isn’t that what “war on every level” is all about?

Meanwhile, why do the G-8 or the United Nations even talk of putting more peacekeeping troops into southern Lebanon, when in the past such rent-a-cops and uniformed bystanders have never stopped hostilities? Does anyone remember that it was Hezbollah who blew up French and American troops who last tried to provide “stability” between the warring parties?


The New York Times

July 23, 2006

Losing Ground in Afghanistan
Things are not going well in Afghanistan, the original front in the war on terrorism.

American and NATO casualties are rising in some of the deadliest fighting since 2001. The Taliban are enjoying a resurgence in presence and power, especially in their traditional southern and eastern strongholds. And with civilian casualties mounting and economic reconstruction in many areas stalled by inadequate security, the American-backed government is in danger of losing the battle for Afghan hearts and minds. If this battle is lost, there can be no lasting military success against the Taliban and their Qaeda allies.

There is still a chance to turn things around. The first step must be enhanced security, so that foreign and local civilians can carry out reconstruction projects. That will require a large and long-term foreign military presence, with a large American component. Unfortunately, Washington is headed in a different direction. With the Army overstretched in Iraq and Congressional elections coming up, the Pentagon is moving to prematurely reduce already inadequate American troop strength.

The plan is for European and Canadian NATO forces to step in and provide security for civilian teams in southern and eastern Afghanistan while the remaining Americans concentrate on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. This is a new variant of the Bush administration’s misbegotten theory that Americans should be war-fighters and leave nation-building to others.


The New York Times

July 22, 2006


Biologically, embryonic stem cells are pluripotent — capable of developing in any number of directions. The same might be said about them politically.

The vote this week by Congress to expand the pool of embryos available for federally financed stem cell research, followed by President Bush’s veto, changed little in terms of research. It also added little to any moral reasoning about why or why not “nascent human life,” to use a phrase that both sides seem to find sufficiently neutral, should be destroyed in the quest for medical progress.
Most news accounts rightly focused on the political dimensions of Congress’s action and the president’s first veto. If there was an official list of wedge issues, embryonic stem cell research would certainly deserve to be on it.

Most of these wedge issues — which have a broad surface appeal that benefits one party or ideological current while making it difficult for others to oppose them — are considered the property of conservatives: same-sex marriage, for example, or flag burning, or “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. A few are considered the property of liberals, like Social Security and, now, stem cell research.

What makes wedge issues so powerful is their appeal to a basic sentiment in the citizenry. And never mind the details that worry some opponents: patriotism in the case of flag burning, the distrust of government in the case of tax cuts and, of course, religion in the case of same-sex marriage and “under God.” At play in the case of embryonic stem cell research is the bedrock American belief in the power of science and the promise of medical cures.

Religion comes into play, too. Religious thinking and its near cousin, philosophical morality, may be found on both sides of the stem cell controversy. But they are much more prominent, thanks to the president’s policy, on the side that would set limits on what science can do.


The New York Times

July 23, 2006

Cuts in Africa Aid Thwart U.S. Goals

WASHINGTON, July 22 — The Bush administration and Congress have slashed millions of dollars of military aid to African nations in recent years, moves that Pentagon officials and senior military commanders say have undermined American efforts to combat terrorist threats in Africa and to counter expanding Chinese influence there.

Since 2003, Washington has shut down Pentagon programs to train and equip militaries in a handful of African nations because they have declined to sign agreements exempting American troops from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

But the policy, which was designed to protect American troops, has instead angered senior military officials, who say the cuts in military aid are shortsighted and have weakened counterterrorism efforts in places where the threat of international terrorism is said to be most acute.

Some cite this as a case where the unintended consequences of the go-it-alone approach to foreign policy that Washington took after the Sept. 11 attacks affected the larger American efforts to combat terrorism.


The New York Times

July 22, 2006
TV Review

In ‘Separate and Unequal,’ Tom Brokaw Presents a Sadly Familiar Picture of Life in the Deep South

There is not a single movie theater in Jackson, Miss. This seems an outrageous contention, but the mayor ought to know.

Mayor Frank Melton, a black man, shares this distressing information with Tom Brokaw on “Separate and Unequal,” an NBC News special tomorrow night. Mr. Melton’s city is now 70 percent black. Poverty is rising.

The point the program makes is that four decades after Lanier, the local high school, was integrated and James Meredith was admitted as the first black student at the University of Mississippi, nothing much seems to have changed for poor blacks.

“Separate and Unequal” plops itself down in Jackson for eight months and follows a few young African-Americans through most of the 2005-6 academic year to see how they will fare in this culture of near-hopelessness. The results are largely distressing and sadly familiar.


The New York Times

July 22, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Church Lady Party

Back when Republicans didn’t control Washington, Jude Wanniski proposed the Two Santa Claus theory as a solution to their image problem. You can’t win elections by simply vowing to shrink government, he argued, because that just makes you look like the Grinch. To compete with Democrats promising benefits to everyone, you have to offer your own goodies in the form of tax cuts.

The Santa Claus strategy worked, and the Republicans’ reputation for generosity has only grown thanks to President Bush’s tax cuts and middle-class entitlements. But now the party has another image problem. Republicans are looking like moral Grinches — or, more precisely, the Church Lady, the scold who makes even fellow congregants roll their eyes.

They’re the party whose leader defends the sanctity of embyronic stem cells against scientists trying to cure diseases. They’re the killjoy who stands up to object when a gay couple wants to marry. They’re so shocked by gambling — imagine, Americans betting money! — that the House has just passed a bill outlawing most online wagering, and federal agents have arrested a visiting British executive of a sports-betting operation that is perfectly legal in his country.


The New York Times

July 22, 2006

Feeling Strains, Baptist Colleges Cut Church Ties

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — The request seemed simple enough to the Rev. Hershael W. York, then the president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He asked Georgetown College, a small Baptist liberal arts institution here, to consider hiring for its religion department someone who would teach a literal interpretation of the Bible.

But to William H. Crouch Jr., the president of Georgetown, it was among the last straws in a struggle that had involved issues like who could be on the board of trustees and whether the college encouraged enough freedom of inquiry to qualify for a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Dr. Crouch and his trustees decided it was time to end the college’s 63-year affiliation with the religious denomination. “From my point of view, it was about academic freedom,’’ Dr. Crouch said. “I sat for 25 years and watched my denomination become much more narrow and, in terms of education, much more interested in indoctrination.’’

Georgetown is among a half-dozen colleges and universities whose ties with state Baptist conventions have been severed in the last four years, part of a broad realignment in which more than a dozen Southern Baptist universities, including Wake Forest and Furman, have ended affiliations over the last two decades. Georgetown’s parting was ultimately amicable. But many have been tense, even bitter.


The New York Times

July 23, 2006

Bolton’s Ways Foil Goals, Envoys Say

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 — In recent months, as one international crisis followed another, John R. Bolton has fulfilled the role of the United Nations’ most influential ambassador at full strength, firmly articulating the position of the United States government regarding Iran, North Korea and the Middle East.

His performance won over at least one crucial critic, Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio. Mr. Voinovich’s opposition a year ago forced Mr. Bolton to take the job as a presidential recess appointment, an arrangement that expires at the end of this
Congress in January.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing this Thursday on Mr. Bolton’s renomination, and a floor vote could come in September. “My observations are that while Bolton is not perfect, he has demonstrated his ability, especially in recent months, to work with others and follow the president’s lead by working multilaterally,” Mr. Voinovich said in a Washington Post opinion article on Thursday in which he confirmed that he would vote for Mr. Bolton.

He said he was impressed by how Mr. Bolton, whom he had suspected of “go it alone” tendencies, frequently invoked “my instructions” from Washington.


The New York Times

July 23, 2006

In G.O.P. Fund-Raising, Dole’s Star Power Dims

WASHINGTON, July 22 — The tables were loaded with untouched platters of food as Senator Elizabeth Dole rose this week to introduce her party’s Senate candidate from Nebraska. Sixty people were supposed to be at the fund-raiser, but Mrs. Dole, the host and leader of the Republican effort to hold the Senate this fall, found just 18 people scattered across an expanse of empty carpet.

Mrs. Dole has been a nearly unstoppable star for 25 years: the secretary of both transportation and labor, the head of the Red Cross and a popular senator from North Carolina, never mind the wife of Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and Republican presidential candidate.

But going into the most fiercely competitive Congressional election in 12 years, some Republicans say Mrs. Dole is faltering in her latest job, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money, recruits candidates, plots strategy and shapes the party’s message.

She has been lapped in fund-raising by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The latest filing, on Thursday, showed Democrats with $37.7 million on hand, compared with $19.9 million for Republicans. If Senate Republicans are unable to close the gap, it will force the Republican National Committee to step in with financial support in tight Senate races — it had $45 million on hand as of Thursday — creating tensions with House Republicans who want that money used to help them.


The New York Times

July 23, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Passion of the Embryos

HOW time flies when democracy is on the march in the Middle East! Five whole years have passed since ominous Qaeda chatter reached its pre-9/11 fever pitch, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

History has since condemned President Bush for ignoring that intelligence. But to say that he did nothing that summer is a bum rap. Just three days later, on Aug. 9, he took a break from clearing brush in Crawford to reveal the real priority of his presidency, which had nothing to do with a nuisance like terrorism. His first prime-time address after more than six months in office was devoted to embryonic stem-cell research instead. Placing his profound religious convictions above the pagan narcissism of Americans hoping for cures to diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes, he decreed restrictions to shackle the advance of medical science.

Whatever else is to be said about the Decider, he’s consistent. Having dallied again this summer while terrorism upends the world, he has once more roused himself to take action — on stem cells. His first presidential veto may be bad news for the critically ill, but it was a twofer for the White House. It not only flattered the president’s base. It also drowned out some awkward news: the prime minister he installed in Baghdad, Nuri al-Maliki, and the fractious Parliament of Iraq’s marvelous new democracy had called a brief timeout from their civil war to endorse the sole cause that unites them, the condemnation of Israel.