Friday, July 21, 2006



Posted on Fri, Jul. 21, 2006

The cost of waning U.S. influence


Latin America's much discussed swing to the left has been paralleled by the relative decline of U.S. power and influence in the region. Specifically, China, with its insatiable demand for energy, food and other raw materials, has become a major hemispheric player. Within the region, high energy prices have enabled Venezuela to use its newfound oil wealth to challenge Washington's policies and attempt to create and lead an anti-American power bloc.

These developments have important implications for Latin America. In the short term, Latin America is benefiting economically from the surge in its exports to China in particular. There is also the expectation, not yet a reality, that China will invest heavily in creating and improving the region's infrastructure. The Chinese government also has promised to increase its investment in industries that will enhance its ability to extract Latin America's resources.

July 21, 2006

More Than a Cease-Fire Needed

Lebanon needs more than U.S. marines to evacuate Americans. It needs the fighting to stop and the international community to step in and guarantee the security of Israel and Lebanon. That will require not only a cease-fire and peacekeepers but also a guarantee that Hezbollah will be forced to halt its attacks on Israel permanently and disband its militia.

Israeli officials, with strong backing from Washington, are saying privately that it could take days or even weeks more of pounding to destroy Hezbollah’s huge missile stocks, cut off its supply lines from Syria and Iran, and prove to the Lebanese people the high cost of sheltering the terrorist group. It’s doubtful that air power will ever be able to achieve those goals, and Israel should not repeat the mistake of occupying Lebanon.

More fighting will mean more suffering on both sides of the border, more anger toward Israel in the Arab world, and more problems for those Sunni Arab leaders who have been trying to distance themselves from Hezbollah.


The Washington Post

The Injustice Bill Cosby Won't See

By Michael E. Dyson
Friday, July 21, 2006; A17

Ever since he battered poor blacks two years ago in his infamous remarks on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education , Bill Cosby has been taking to the road to spread his bitter gospel to all who will listen. In rigged town-hall meetings, Cosby assembles community folk and experts who agree with his take on black poverty: that it's the fault of the poor themselves.

It's often difficult to point out just how harmful that sentiment is, because most black folk do believe strongly in taking their destiny into their own hands. They believe in hard work and moral decency. They affirm the need for education and personal discipline. When they hear Cosby say that poor black folk should go to work, stay out of jail, raise their children properly and make sure they go to school, they nod their heads in agreement.

But it's one thing to say that personal responsibility is crucial to our survival. It's another to pretend that it's the only thing that matters. The confusion between the two positions is what makes Cosby's blame-the-poor tour so destructive. By convincing poor blacks that their lot in life is purely of their own making, Cosby draws on harsh conservative ideas that overlook the big social factors that continue to reinforce poverty: dramatic shifts in the economy, low wages, chronic underemployment, job and capital flight, downsizing and outsourcing, and crumbling inner-city schools.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Jul. 21, 2006

Secret NSA program needs more oversight

It seemed like good news at first when Sen. Arlen Specter announced that the White House had agreed to allow judicial oversight of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of phone calls by U.S. citizens. However, a closer look suggests that the deal is a legislative fig leaf that allows Congress to abdicate its oversight responsibility and weakens Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable intrusions on civil liberty.

No unrestricted power

Sen. Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, has been a vocal opponent of the secrecy surrounding the program and the administration's failure to keep Congress duly informed. In one instance, he wrote a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney accusing him of meddling with the committee's efforts to deal with the surveillance program by preventing telephone company witnesses from testifying about their role in the program. In his determination to get the administration to make a deal, however, Mr. Specter has given away too much in exchange for little.

July 21, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Order vs. Disorder
Tel Aviv

There was a small item in The Jerusalem Post the other day that caught my eye. It said that the Israeli telephone company, Bezeq, was installing high-speed Internet lines in bomb shelters in northern Israel so Israelis could surf the Web while waiting out Hezbollah rocket attacks.

I read that story two ways. One, as symbol of Israeli resilience, a boundless ability to adapt to any kind of warfare. But, two, as an unconscious expression of what I sense people here are just starting to feel: this is no ordinary war, and it probably won’t end soon. At a time when most Arab states have reconciled to Israel and their dispute is now about where the borders should be, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Shiite militia, armed with 12,000 rockets, says borders are irrelevant; it is Israel that should be erased.

That’s why I find in talking to Israeli friends a near total support for their government’s actions — and almost a relief at the clarity of this confrontation and Israel’s right to defend itself. Yet, at the same time, I find a gnawing sense of anxiety that Israel is facing in Hezbollah an enemy that is unabashedly determined to transform this conflict into a religious war — from a war over territory — and wants to do it in a way that threatens not only Israel but the foundations of global stability.


The New York Times

July 21, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Price of Fantasy

Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars — people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — were known within the administration as “the crazies.” Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.

But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn’t act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies’ vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we’re now in.

This isn’t a case of 20-20 hindsight. It was clear from the beginning that the United States didn’t have remotely enough troops to carry out the crazies’ agenda — and Mr. Bush never asked for a bigger army.


The New York Times

July 21, 2006

Young Latinas and a Cry for Help

A recent series in the Spanish-language New York newspaper El Diario/La Prensa sheds some light on a mostly overlooked national phenomenon, the misunderstood and endangered young Latina, who represents one of the fastest-growing segments of the American population. Hispanic teenage girls attempt suicide more often than any other group. They become mothers at younger ages. They tend not to complete their education. They are plagued by rising drug use and other social problems.

A federal study found that a startling one in six young Hispanic women had attempted suicide, a rate roughly one and a half times as high as that among non-Hispanic black and white teenage girls. If there was any good news, it was that these young women usually survived. A five-year study now in its second year in New York is being led by Dr. Luis Zayas, a professor of social work and psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, who says the self-destructive behavior seems to affect Latinas of every origin and every region of the country.

El Diario tracked several young women and found that they faced particularly acute social pressures, especially if their parents were foreign-born. Dr. Zayas and other experts note that the suicide attempts trend higher for Latinas who are the first generation born in the United States.


The New York Times

July 21, 2006

Health Secretary Said to Benefit From Charity
Filed at 2:30 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and his relatives created a charitable foundation that allowed them to claim millions of dollars in tax deductions yet provided little to charity, according to The Washington Post.

The Internal Revenue Service has called the tax structure used to create the Leavitt foundation a Type III supporting organization, one of its ''Dirty Dozen'' tax scams. Christina Pearson, an HHS spokeswoman, said the foundation's activities are ''totally legal and proper.''

Much of the money from the foundation -- set up in 2000 with nearly $9 million from Leavitt family assets -- went into investments or loans to the family's business interests and real estate holdings, the Post reported Friday.


The Washington Post
Deference Prevails Over Hostility

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, July 20, 2006; 12:40 PM

President Bush made it unscathed through his visit to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People convention this morning, as the audience's deference to his office prevailed over its deep and abiding hostility toward his policies.

Bush's speech was light on substance but full of easy applause lines, and it earned him a polite if less than enthusiastic welcome from the group, with the exception of one persistent heckler.

Notably, Bush did not stick around to take questions.


The Washington Post

To Save a Revolution

By David Ignatius
Friday, July 21, 2006; A17

You could sense the hurt and anger as Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora pleaded this week to the U.S. ambassador and other diplomats in Beirut for a halt to Israeli attacks on Lebanese targets. "The country has been torn to shreds," he said. "I hope you will not let us down."

The challenge for the Bush administration as the Lebanon war explodes into its second week is just that -- to keep faith with Siniora and his Cedar Revolution, even as it stands by its close ally Israel. This isn't simply a question of appearances and public diplomacy. Unless Siniora's government can be strengthened, there is little hope for achieving the U.S. and Israeli goal of bringing Hezbollah's guerrillas under lasting control.

"America's role is to energize a political outcome that helps to satisfy Israeli military objectives by other means," says one administration official. The problem is that the American diplomatic timetable is so slow that by the time a cease-fire is reached -- more than a week off, by U.S. estimates -- Lebanon may be too broken to be put back together anytime soon.

The Washington Post

Reed and The End Of a Road
Redefining 'Values'

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Friday, July 21, 2006; A17

AYNOR, S.C. -- A little more than six years ago, the voters in South Carolina's Republican presidential primary set the GOP on a clear course. The news of this week, particularly from neighboring Georgia, suggests that journey is reaching an end.

On Feb. 19, 2000, George W. Bush defeated John McCain here with an approach that was to mark his presidency. It emphasized the importance of rallying "the Republican base," particularly conservative Christians, and the imperative of attacking political opponents in times of trouble -- preferably through surrogates who could provide plausible deniability.

One of the architects of the Bush strategy was Ralph Reed, a brilliant political operative who built the Christian Coalition into a formidable force and then made serious money as a political consultant.


The New York Times

July 21, 2006
Guest Columnist

Look What Democratic Reform Dragged In
The United States is already at war with Iran; but for the time being the battle is being fought through surrogates.

That message was conveyed to me recently by a senior Jordanian intelligence official at his office in Amman. He spoke on the condition of anonymity, reflecting gloomily on the failure of the Bush administration’s various policies in the region.

He reserved his greatest contempt for the policy of encouraging democratic reform. “For the Islamic fundamentalists, democratic reform is like toilet paper,” he said. “You use it once and then you throw it away.”

Lest the point elude me, the official conducted a brief tour of recent democratic highlights in the region. Gaza and the West Bank, where Hamas, spurned by the State Department as a terrorist organization, was voted into power last spring and now represents the Palestinian government; Lebanon, where Hezbollah, similarly rejected by the United States, has become the most influential political entity in the country; and, of course, Iraq, where the Shiite majority has now, through elections, gained political power commensurate with its numbers.


Judge Declines to Dismiss Lawsuit Against AT& T

By Arshad Mohammed
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 21, 2006; A09

A federal judge yesterday rejected the government's effort to throw out a
lawsuit about its warrantless surveillance program, arguing that a dismissal
of the case would restrict civil liberties without strengthening national

The class-action suit against AT&T Inc., filed by the Electronic Frontier
Foundation in January, alleges that the nation's largest phone company
collaborated with the federal government in an illegal domestic spying
program to monitor Americans' phone calls and e-mails.

The government, which has defended the legality of what it has called a
"terrorist surveillance program" without revealing many details about its
workings, asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker to dismiss the case,
arguing that it would divulge state secrets and damage national security.


Voting Rights Act Headed to Bush's Desk
Associated Press Writer

July 21, 2006, 6:19 AM CDT

WASHINGTON -- The 1965 Voting Rights Act, which opened polls to millions of
black Americans, is on its way to President Bush's desk after winning a
25-year extension from Congress.

The president promised to sign it even before the 98-0 Senate vote, eager to
improve the GOP's standing with minorities.

"The Voting Rights Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in
our nation's history," Bush said after the Senate approval on Thursday. "It
has been vital to guaranteeing the right to vote for generations of
Americans and has helped millions of our citizens enjoy the full promise of

A centerpiece of the 1960s civil rights movement, the law ended poll taxes,
literacy tests and other devices that had been used for decades to keep
blacks from voting.


Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:00 AM
Ellen Goodman / Syndicated columnist

The right gives itself a wedgie

BOSTON - So once more we reach into the right-wing toolbox, a political
chest so spare that it holds almost nothing but a wide assortment of wedges.
Who would have believed that the wedges used so successfully to divide
America would end up dividing conservatives? That they would finally expose
the differences between the right and the, um, loony right?

The latest of these wedge issues is stem-cell research. But it's not the
only one. Over the past year, we've begun to see daylight emerge between
common sense and nonsense.

Wedge One: Abstinence or Death. Remember last October, when the vaccine
against HPV - the leading cause of cervical cancer - was first announced?
Pro-family groups were less than enthusiastic about this breakthrough.
Cervical cancer was, after all, a mainstay of the abstinence-only
miseducation textbooks. A vaccine, said the Family Research Council's Tony
Perkins, "sends the wrong message." The far-right message was that losing
your virginity could give you cancer.


Schwarzenegger Gives $150M Stem Cell Loan

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jul. 21, 2006

(AP) A day after President Bush vetoed expanded federal funding of embryonic
stem cell research, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday authorized a $150
million loan to fund California's stem cell institute, which has been
stalled by lawsuits.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican who has been trying to put distance between
himself and the unpopular president as he seeks re-election this year, said
the state cannot afford to wait to fund the critical science associated with
stem cells.

"I remain committed to advancing stem cell research in California, in the
promise it holds for millions of our citizens who suffer from chronic
diseases and injuries that could be helped as a result of stem cell
research," Schwarzenegger said in a letter to his finance director.

The state's voters created the California Institute for Regenerative
Medicine in 2004 when they passed a ballot measure that authorized $3
billion over 10 years for stem cell research.


Forwarded from Paul Harris:

Print them out, carry them around in your pocket, and the next time someone
begins quoting from a Republican talking points memo, take the list out and

1. What are the Top Seven best things that the Bush Administration has done?
2. Is the Iraq War going well?
3. After three years thus far, when do you think Iraq might be able to
"stand up" so that America can "stand down"?
4. For his part in the event, how would you rate the job the President did
protecting New Orleans from devastation?
5. How do you think the rebuilding of New Orleans is going?
6. When Dick Cheney and the oil company and energy executives met in private
to plan America's energy policy, how much of their goal was to benefit
7. Do you believe in the President's call for an Era of Personal
8. Since Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of
Representatives, how personally responsible are they for conditions in
America today?
9. Why do you think they haven't been able to find anyone who can verify
that George Bush ever showed up for National Guard duty in Alabama?
10. Would you want Donald Rumsfeld to plan your daughter's wedding?
[Please contact us at if you would like the remaining 40 questions on the list)