Saturday, September 02, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 1, 2006


The Washington Post

Iran, Ready For a Test Of Wills

By David Ignatius
Friday, September 1, 2006; A21

TEHRAN -- Behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric lies a conviction that is widely shared here: Iran is a rising power in the Middle East while the United States is in decline -- and now is the moment for Iran to emerge as a regional superpower.

You hear versions of this cocky nationalism in almost every conversation. And when you look around this surprisingly modern metropolis of 12 million people, it's easy to think that Iran's time may indeed have come. The problem is that its national ambitions are wrapped today in the fanatical language of Ahmadinejad, who emerged from among the hardest of this country's hard-core Islamic revolutionaries. He and his followers seem eager for the confrontation that lies ahead.

The situation in Iraq bolsters Iranian confidence in its test of wills against America. As the Iranians view it, the United States has stumbled into a pit from which it cannot easily escape. There is a disagreement here between pragmatists who see in America's troubles an opportunity to open a mutually beneficial dialogue with the Great Satan and hard-liners who would rather let America suffer.

"Iran thinks in Iraq it has the upper hand -- that is the view of the Iranian military and political establishment," says Kayhan Barzegar, a professor of international relations here who advises some members of the leadership on Iraq. He prepared a recent paper, "Iran's Security Interest in the New Iraq," for Iran's Expediency Council, which is headed by former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and is the center point for the pragmatist faction. Barzegar says that it is precisely because the United States needs Iran's assistance that a dialogue between the two over Iraq makes sense.


The Washington Post

Posted by Chris Cillizza
Posted at 06:01 AM ET, 09/ 1/2006

The Friday Line: U.S. House Races

The silly season is upon us. Television ads are hitting the airwaves, mailboxes are stuffed with direct mail appeals and average voters are beginning to pay attention to the campaign.

Volatility is the rule in these finals two months as campaigns often yo-yo from neck and neck to non-competitive in the blink of an eye. That volatility led to the addition of several races to this month's Line -- most notably Indiana's 2nd district, which has emerged as one of Democrats' best chances for a pickup, and Connecticut's 5th district, where both public and private polling show Rep. Nancy Johnson in for her toughest race in more than a decade.

Given how much is changing daily on the electoral landscape, we will now be doing the Line twice a week until Election Day. It will rotate between House, Senate and governors' races (we'll pick up the presidential Line shortly after the 2006 midterms conclude) and will normally appear Fridays and Mondays. Look for a new Senate Line next Tuesday (Monday is Labor Day and an official Fix Day of Rest.)Remember the #1 ranked race is the most likely to switch parties, and your comments are welcome below.


The Washington Post

Hezbollah's 'Victory'

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 1, 2006; A21

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 . . . that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."
-- Hasan Nasrallah,

Hezbollah leader, Aug. 27

So much for the "strategic and historic victory" Nasrallah had claimed less than two weeks earlier. What real victor declares that, had he known, he would not have started the war that ended in triumph?

Nasrallah's admission, vastly underplayed in the West, makes clear what the Lebanese already knew. Hezbollah may have won the propaganda war, but on the ground it lost. Badly.

True, under the inept and indecisive leadership of Ehud Olmert, Israel did miss the opportunity to militarily destroy Hezbollah and make it a non-factor in Israel's security, Lebanon's politics and Iran's foreign policy. Nonetheless, Hezbollah was seriously hurt. It lost hundreds of its
best fighters. A deeply entrenched infrastructure on Israel's border is in ruins. The great hero has had to go so deep into hiding that Nasrallah has been called "the underground mullah."


The Washington Post

We're Not Winning This War
Despite Some Notable Achievements, New Thinking Is Needed on the Home Front
and Abroad

By John Lehman
Thursday, August 31, 2006; A25

Are we winning the war? The first question to ask is, what war? The Bush administration continues to muddle a national understanding of the conflict we are in by calling it the "war on terror." This political correctness presumably seeks to avoid hurting the feelings of the Saudis and other Muslims, but it comes at high cost. This not a war against terror any more than World War II was a war against kamikazes.

We are at war with jihadists motivated by a violent ideology based on an extremist interpretation of the Islamic faith. This enemy is decentralized and geographically dispersed around the world. Its organizations range from a fully functioning state such as Iran to small groups of individuals in American cities.

We are fighting this war on three distinct fronts: the home front, the operational front and the strategic-political front. Let us look first at the home front. The Bush administration deserves much credit for the fact that, despite determined efforts to carry them out, there have been no
successful Islamist attacks within the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. This is a significant achievement, but there are growing dangers and continuing vulnerabilities.


The New York Times

September 1, 2006

Education Dept. Shared Student Data With F.B.I.

The Federal Education Department shared personal information on hundreds of student loan applicants with the Federal Bureau of Investigation across a five-year period that began after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the agencies said yesterday.

Under the program, called Project Strikeback, the Education Department received names from the F.B.I. and checked them against its student aid database, forwarding information. Each year, the Education Department collects information from 14 million applications for federal student aid.

Neither agency would say whether any investigations resulted. The agencies said the program had been closed. The effort was reported yesterday by a graduate student, Laura McGann, at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, as part of a reporting project that focused on national security and civil liberties.

In a statement, Mary Mitchelson, counsel to the inspector general of the Education Department, said, "Using names provided by the bureau, we examined the Department of Education's student financial aid databases to determine if the individuals received or applied for federal student financial assistance."


The New York Times

September 1, 2006

California Plan to Cut Gases Splits Industry

After becoming chief executive of PG&E last year, Peter Darbee met with a large number of leading climate scientists, he said, to make up his own mind about global warming.

As a result of his wide inquiries, PG&E, the parent of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which serves Northern California and is one of the nation's largest energy utilities, broke away from the industry pack to support sweeping efforts to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that are widely blamed for global warming.

"The evidence in the scientific community is lopsided - it's not even close," Mr. Darbee said. "Climate change is a problem."California is once again at the forefront of the nation's environmental policy, with a far-reaching pledge to curb carbon emissions by 2020. But the
deal struck on Wednesday between Democratic legislators and the Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has divided businesses and industries in California.

While high-technology companies have lined up behind the move, arguing that it will put California at the forefront of alternative energy development, most of those representing basic industries contend that it will retard the economy, force energy-intensive businesses out of state and increase costs for all Californians.


The New York Times

September 1, 2006

From California, a Breakthrough

California, long a leader on environmental issues, has done it again, approving a pathbreaking bill that would impose the country's broadest and most stringent controls on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas. California's action stands in bold and welcome contrast to the federal government's reluctance to take aggressive action on a problem of mounting concern among scientists and the general public.

The deal between the state's Democratic leadership and its Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would reduce California's carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This is by any measure a huge undertaking. It will be up to state agencies, chiefly the California Air Resources Board, to work out the details, but the plan allows for market-based mechanisms
like emissions trading to achieve the maximum possible gains at the lowest cost.

Of the bill's many architects, the most important were two Democratic members of the Assembly, Fabian Núñez and Fran Pavley. Ms. Pavley was also the author of another groundbreaking measure four years ago limiting carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks. That measure, which Mr. Schwarzenegger also embraces, is now the subject of a lawsuit from the automobile companies and the Bush administration.

Taken together with other state actions - including an important agreement among several Northeastern states to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants - California's assertiveness has suggested to some people that the country may be at a transformational moment on climate change, with the states leading a powerful "bottom-up" movement to deal with the problem.


The Washington Post
Scold War Buildup
The Perils of Foreign Policy by Report Card

By John R. Hamilton
Friday, September 1, 2006; A21

Attempts to explain the vehemence of anti-U.S. feeling abroad correctly home in on Iraq and other unpopular policies of the current administration. But over the past three decades the kudzu-like growth of another U.S. practice, used by Congress and by Democratic and Republican administrations alike, has nurtured seething resentment abroad.

This is what might be called "foreign policy by report card," the issuing of public assessments of the performance of other countries, with the threat of economic or political sanctions for those whose performance, in our view, doesn't make the grade. The overuse of these mandated reports makes us seem judgmental, moralistic and bullying.

The degree to which public reports accompanied by the threat of sanctions have been institutionalized in U.S. policy is stunning. A partial list:

Each year we issue detailed human rights reports on every country in the world, including those whose performance appears superior to our own. We judge whether other countries have provided sufficient cooperation in fighting illegal drugs. We place countries whose protection of intellectual property has been insufficient on "watch lists," threatening trade sanctions against those that do not improve. We judge respect for labor rights abroad through a public petition process set up under the System of Generalized (trade) Preferences. We publish annual reports on other countries' respect for religious freedom.


The Washington Post

Diversionary Strike On a Rights Group

By Kathleen Peratis
Wednesday, August 30, 2006; A19

In early August Human Rights Watch issued a 49-page report, "Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon," charging Israel with war crimes in its conduct of the war in Lebanon. Many of the Lebanese civilian casualties could not be explained by Hezbollah soldiers' hiding among civilians, Human Rights Watch charged. Although Hezbollah
fighters did hide among civilians, the rights group discovered that in about two dozen instances, involving about a third of the civilian deaths, there had been no Hezbollah presence at the time of the attacks and the targets had little or no military value.

The report was based on the same methodology that Human Rights Watch has used for more than 20 years in situations in which many witnesses have an incentive to lie: face-to-face probing and on-site inspections -- in this case in Beirut and southern Lebanon.

The critics of reports on this subject -- Amnesty International made similar charges -- have been ferocious. They have not merely deployed the common defense of accusing the accusers of getting the facts wrong. They have gone much further and accused the accusers of bad intent. For example: NGO Monitor, echoing other critics, claims that "central in the strategy" of Amnesty International is "to delegitimize Israel."

But the real vitriol has been reserved for Human Rights Watch and its executive director, Kenneth Roth. Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel has called Roth "loathsome." An editorial in the New York Sun accused Roth of "de-legitimization of Judaism" because his group condemned Israel's strategy as "an eye for an eye." Rabbi Aryeh Spero in Human Events Online referred to
Roth as a "human rights impostor," and likened him to "Nazis and Communists." On Sunday, the Jerusalem Post published an op-ed by NGO Monitor's Gerald Steinberg titled "Ken Roth's Blood Libel."


The New York Times

August 30, 2006

Chicks Row Looms Large for Country Music Liberals
Filed at 4:34 p.m. ET

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Ever since the Dixie Chicks were boycotted by radio stations for insulting President George W. Bush in 2003, country music liberals have felt under siege but that doesn't mean there aren't any in Nashville.

With 75 million country albums sold a year, and 2,000 radio stations devoted to it, country music is more than hillbillies in cowboy hats line dancing and singing ``Stand by Your Man'' -- it's big business, and it encompasses a broad range of fans and musicians, across the political spectrum.

The difference is some shout louder than others, and those who might agree with the Dixie Chicks often keep quiet.``I had one artist manager tell me, 'We might have artists who feel that
way, but they're not going to put a record out and see it get 'Dixie Chicked,''' said Wade Jessen, director of the country charts for Billboard magazine.

The Dixie Chicks controversy stems from lead singer Natalie Maines' March 2003 comments in London that the band was ''ashamed'' of fellow Texan Bush. Many country radio stations dropped them from their playlists.