Tuesday, December 26, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 26, 2006

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The Miami Herald


Posted on Tue, Dec. 26, 2006

The curse of unilateralism


The realization in the United States that the war in Iraq has been lost isperhaps the most momentous fact of international politics in 2006. With thisdefeat, a unique opportunity has been lost. For only the United States --with all its power and sense of mission -- had the ability to establish anew world order at the beginning of the 21st century. But to achieve this,the country would have had to subordinate its power to the goal of shapingthe new order, much as it did at the close of World War II in 1945. Instead,America succumbed to the temptation of unilateralism.

National greatness for a world power always arises from its ability to shapethe world. If a great power forgets this, or loses the ability to actaccordingly, it begins to decline. Without a fundamental turnaround inAmerican political consciousness, the unilateralist amnesia of U.S. foreignpolicy will leave a huge vacuum in the global system. No other nation -- notChina, Europe, India or Russia -- has the power and the sense of mission totake on America's role. Only America was (and potentially still is) able tofuse realism and idealism, self-interest and ethics, in its foreign policy.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Tue, Dec. 26, 2006

Congress must look at island prison again

The overriding objection to the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay,Cuba, has always been the arbitrary and secretive nature of the powerexercised by the executive branch over hundreds of detainees who have beenheld at the prison. None of them has ever had his day in court, as thatphrase is usually understood. Now a new report on detainees who have beenreleased raises urgent questions about the credibility of the Guantánamooperation.

Hundreds sent home

When the facility opened in January of 2002, the Bush administrationclassified the detainees as ''enemy combatants'' who represented a novelthreat to U.S. security. So dangerous, went the reasoning, that theyrequired unconventional treatment that could not be limited by the usualrights afforded to either prisoners or war or criminal defendants.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006

Bipartisan Effort to Draft Immigration Bill

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 - Counting on the support of the new Democratic majorityin Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies are working onmeasures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more directpath to citizenship than would a bill that the Senate passed in the spring.

The lawmakers are considering abandoning a requirement in the Senate billthat would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the UnitedStates before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

The lawmakers are also considering denying financing for 700 miles offencing along the border with Mexico, a law championed by Republicans thatpassed with significant Democratic support.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006

Israel Agrees to Remove 2 Dozen Checkpoints

JERUSALEM, Dec. 25 -Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, acting on a pledge to thePalestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Monday approved theremoval of more than two dozen military checkpoints in the West Bank thathave severely restricted Palestinian movements.

Mr. Olmert also said Israel would take immediate steps to improve the flowof goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. The main crossing point there hasoften been closed this year, stifling commerce in the impoverished coastalterritory.

The Israeli moves are part of a package of concessions Mr. Olmert presentedto Mr. Abbas when the two leaders held talks on Saturday night, their firstofficial meeting since Mr. Olmert became prime minister early this year.Israel says it is trying to support Mr. Abbas, who is from the Fatahmovement, in his power struggle with Hamas, the radical Islamist group thatcontrols most of the Palestinian government.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006

America, the Exam

Name one famous battle from the Revolutionary War.

Name one of the major American Indian tribes in the United States.

Name one of the things that Abraham Lincoln did.

If you can answer these questions, you may be qualified to become anAmerican citizen. If you can't, you may be one already.

This is one of the oddities exposed by an effort to overhaul thenaturalization exam. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Serviceswants to make the test more meaningful at a time when the civics knowledgeof native-born Americans is dismal. The aim is to encourage applicants notto memorize trivia, like the colors and number of stripes on the flag, butto understand the basic history and core principles of our democracy.

That goal is sensible, though not everybody is happy about it. Immigrantadvocacy groups fear that the new test, to be unveiled in a pilot programnext month, will be too hard, requiring a competency in English out of thereach of many new arrivals. Some advocates have complained that the citieschosen at random for the experiment, including Albany, Miami, Charleston,S.C., and Yakima, Wash., are unrepresentative of the immigrant population.The agency somehow missed New York City and all of California, which isample reason for Asians, especially, to feel left out of the process.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006

Cleaning Up the Royalty Mess

Starting in the Clinton administration, Washington began offering generousincentives in the form of royalty relief to oil companies to encouragedeep-water exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. The motives - increasingdomestic production, lowering prices, reducing America's dependence onforeign oil - were all worthy. But judging by recent reports, the wholeapparatus needs a thorough review and, more than likely, a thoroughoverhaul.

Representative Nick Rahall, a Democrat from West Virginia and the newchairman of the House Resources Committee, has promised just such a review.It is important that it be conducted in a nonpartisan spirit, and that theprogram not be rejected out of hand. But the question has to be askedwhether the program is really worth it.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006
Consultant Helps Democrats Embrace Faith, and Some in Party Are Not Pleased

As Democrats turn toward the 2008 presidential race, a novice evangelicalpolitical operative is emerging as a rising star in the party, drawing bothapplause and alarm for her courtship of theological conservatives in themidterm elections.

Party strategists and nonpartisan pollsters credit the operative, MaraVanderslice, and her 2-year-old consulting firm, Common Good Strategies,with helping a handful of Democratic candidates make deep inroads amongwhite evangelical and churchgoing Roman Catholic voters in Kansas, Michigan,Ohio and Pennsylvania.


The Washington Post


Democrats Pledge to Restrain Spending
Critics Say Party's Goals Are Too Lofty

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 26, 2006; A01

Determined to banish their old tax-and-spend image, Democrats want to shrinkthe federal deficit, preserve tax cuts for the middle class and challengethe president to raise money for the Iraq war when they take control ofCongress next week. But it won't be easy.

The incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committeessaid they plan to honor a campaign promise to devote billions of additionaldollars a year to homeland security and education. And they reiterated acommitment not to cut off funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But with the costs of those military operations rising and President Bushconsidering an expansion of forces, the incoming chairmen, Rep. John M.Spratt Jr. (S.C.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), said they will have littleroom in their budget blueprints for significant new domestic spending, suchas closing a much-criticized gap in the new Medicare prescription-drugbenefit that forces millions of seniors to pay 100 percent of drug costs fora few weeks or months each year.


The New York Times


December 26, 2006
Guest Columnist

Our Overrated Inner Self

In the 1970s, the cultural critic Lionel Trilling encouraged us to takeseriously the distinction between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, hesaid, requires us to act and really be the way that we present ourselves toothers. Authenticity involves finding and expressing the true inner self andjudging all relationships in terms of it.

Authenticity now dominates our way of viewing ourselves and ourrelationships, with baleful consequences. Within sensitive individuals itbreeds doubt; between people it promotes distrust; within groups it enhancesgroup-think in the endless quest to be one with the group's true soul; andbetween groups it is the inner source of identity politics.

It also undermines good government. James Nolan, in his book "TheTherapeutic State," has shown how the emphasis on the primacy of the selfhas penetrated major areas of government: emotivist arguments trump reasoneddiscourse in Congressional hearings and criminal justice; and in publiceducation, self-esteem vies with basic literacy in evaluating students. Thecult of authenticity partly accounts for our poor choice of leaders. Weprefer leaders who feel our pain, or born-again frat boys who claim thatthey can stare into the empty eyes of an ex-K.G.B. agent and see inside hissoul. On the other hand we hear, ad nauseam, that Hillary Clinton, arguablyone of the nation's most capable senators, is "fake" and therefore notelectable as president.

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