Sunday, December 31, 2006


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The Washington Post

The 2006 Bill of Wrongs

By Dahlia Lithwick
Sunday, December 31, 2006; B02

I must confess that I love all those year-end lists of greatest movies andalbums and lip glosses and tractors of the past 12 months -- it's reassuringthat all human information can be wrestled into bundles of 10. In thatspirit, herewith are my top 10 civil liberties nightmares of 2006.

10) Attempt to Get Death Penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui: Long after it wasclear that the hapless Frenchman was neither the "20th hijacker" nor a keyplotter in the attacks of 9/11, the government pressed to execute him as a"conspirator" in those attacks. Moussaoui's alleged participation? Byfailing to confess to what he may have known about the plot, which couldhave led the government to disrupt it, Moussaoui directly caused the deathsof thousands of people. This massive over-reading of the federal conspiracylaws would be laughable were the stakes not so high. Fortunately, a juryrejected the notion that Moussaoui could be executed for the crime of merelywishing there had been a real connection between himself and 9/11.

9) Guantanamo Bay: After the Supreme Court struck down the militarytribunals planned to try hundreds of detainees on the U.S. base in Cuba, andafter President Bush agreed that it may be a good idea to close down theprison, the worst public relations fiasco since the Japanese internmentcamps lives on. Prisoners once deemed "among the most dangerous,best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the Earth" are either quietlyreleased or still awaiting trial. The lucky 75 to be tried there will becheered to hear that the Pentagon has just announced plans to build a $125million legal complex for the hearings. The government has now officiallyput more thought into the design of Guantanamo's court bathrooms than thecharges against its prisoners.


The Washington Post

While You Were at War . . .

By Richard A. Clarke
Sunday, December 31, 2006; B01

In every administration, there are usually only about a dozen barons who canreally initiate and manage meaningful changes in national security policy.For most of 2006, some of these critical slots in the Bush administrationhave been vacant, such as the deputy secretary of state (empty since RobertB. Zoellick left for investment bank Goldman Sachs) and the deputy directorof national intelligence (with Gen. Michael V. Hayden now CIA director). Andwith the nation involved in a messy war spiraling toward a bad conclusion,the key deputies and Cabinet members and advisers are all focusing on oneissue, at the expense of all others: Iraq.

National Security Council veteran Rand Beers has called this the"7-year-old's soccer syndrome" -- just like little kids playing soccer,everyone forgets their particular positions and responsibilities and runslike a herd after the ball.


The Washington Post

What the Dictators Can't Stop

By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, December 31, 2006; B07

Dictators die harder than most of us. Having wielded unlimited power inlife, they seem to be sustained by a stubborn belief in their ability tostare down death, too. In his final moments yesterday, Saddam Husseinrefused the offer of a hood to cover his eyes.

Such defiance lends a particularly morbid quality to the last days ofdictators such as Hussein and the now-infirm Fidel Castro. They follow inthe reluctant footsteps of Spain's Francisco Franco and of many othertyrants-in-extremis before el rais Saddam and el jefe Fidel were confronted,respectively, with a hangman's rope and the withering ravages of disease.

Survival is the dictator's primary occupation -- as well as hisjustification for ruthlessness. "His main contribution to life, finally, isfear; but fear such as thunder, cancer or madness may provoke," authorWilliam Kennedy wrote of the fictional caudillo that Gabriel García Márquezcreated in "The Autumn of the Patriarch." Facing death, the dictator is "theembodiment of egocentric evil unleashed," Kennedy continued in a masterful1976 book review for the New York Times.


The New York Times

December 31, 2006
Around the World, Unease and Criticism of Penalty

LONDON, Dec. 30 - With gradations of unease rather than outrage inspired bythe hanging of Saddam Hussein, Western politicians sought a cautious balanceon Saturday between revulsion at his record, support for his executionersand concern at the use of a capital penalty they largely shun in their owncountries.

But religious leaders - Christian and Muslim - used stronger and morecritical language in response to the news of Mr. Hussein's execution, whichgreeted most Western Europeans on their breakfast time news shows and insome newspaper headlines two days before the New Year.

Perhaps the most delicately choreographed response came from Britain, whoseprime minister, Tony Blair, took a lead as America's closest ally intoppling Mr. Hussein while his Labor Party prides itself on opposing thedeath penalty.


The Washington Post

'No Point In Being Bitter'

Bob Woodward and Christine Parthemore
Sunday, December 31, 2006; B01

Upon becoming president in August 1974, Gerald R. Ford faced the task ofending a war -- a war not of his own making. In two wide-ranging interviewswith Ford conducted in 2004 and 2005 by The Washington Post's Bob Woodwardand Christine Parthemore, the former president revealed the depths of hisdisillusionment and frustration during the final years and months of theVietnam War. The interviews, excerpted below, were granted on the conditionthat they not be made public until Ford's death.

***Bob Woodward : [Vietnam] is the big master problem you got handed.

Gerald R. Ford: My approach was, we inherited the problem with the job. It'smy obligation on behalf of the country to try and solve the damn thing.

You know, there was a fundamental mistake made back after World War II, whenthe French had committed to support the Vietnamese. In fact, I went down toSaigon [in 1953]. . . . I wanted to find out why we're going to spend a lotof money in South Vietnam on behalf of the South Vietnamese. I was inSaigon, stayed at the ambassador's residence, and I went over to the Frenchmilitary headquarters, and boy, all these French generals and colonels weredressed up here out in Saigon and telling me how they were gonna win the waragainst the [North] Vietnamese.


The New York Times

December 30, 2006
Some Lawmakers Will Be Missed on Hill
Filed at 2:31 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's just not going to be the same. When the new Congressconvenes next month, a few high achievers and a few lawmakers known more forbeing characters than for their legislative skills won't be around.

Some left by choice, others rejected by voters in what President Bush calleda Democratic ''thumping'' of his fellow Republicans in November. A few --such as Florida's Katherine Harris, former Nebraska football coach TomOsborne -- reached for the brass ring of higher office and fell short.

A couple of those most prominent among the missing are Democrats, but mostare Republicans.

Whether cherished for their political skills or their entertainment value,they leave a vacuum.


George F. Will: Don't ration political speech
By George F. Will -
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 31, 2006

A three-judge federal court recently tugged a thread that may begin theunraveling of the fabric of murky laws and regulations that traduce theFirst Amendment by suppressing political speech. Divided 2-1, the courtheld -- unremarkably, you might think -- that issue-advocacy ads can runduring an election, when they matter most. This decision will strike zealous(there is no other kind) advocates of ever-tighter regulation of politicalspeech (campaign finance "reformers") as ominous. Why? Because it partiallyemancipates millions of Americans who incorporate thousands of groups toadvocate their causes, groups such as the ACLU and the NRA.

And Wisconsin Right to Life. It is another organization by which peopleassemble (see the First Amendment) to speak (see it again) in order to seekredress of grievances (the Amendment, one more time). In 2004, WRTL wasdistressed because Wisconsin's senators, Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, werehelping to block confirmation votes on some of President Bush's judicialnominees, and wanted to run ads urging people to "contact Senators Feingoldand Kohl and tell them to oppose the filibuster."


The New York Times

December 30, 2006
Gilded Paychecks
Compensation Experts Offer Ways to Help Curb Executive Salaries

Nothing, it seems, can put the brakes on runaway executive pay.

Shareholder advocates and lawmakers have harshly criticized hugecompensation packages. Better disclosure has led only to bigger gains. Evenwhen investors get the chance, they rarely vote against outsized pay.

Despite the growing attention over the last 25 years, the average chiefexecutive's compensation at big companies has increased more than 600percent, to $8 million dollars a year after adjusting for inflation.Meanwhile, the ratio between the average pay for a top executive and aworker, which held steady in the 30 years before 1980, has more thanquadrupled, to a multiple of 170, according to recent academic research.

"I don't actually believe we have made any real progress - or very, verylittle," said Robert A. G. Monks, a longtime corporate governance advocate."If we cannot effectively monitor and control what the principal executivesare paid, we are kidding ourselves if we can control anything else."


The New York Times

December 31, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Ten Suggestions for Rescuing the Bush Legacy

Particularly after all the tributes to Gerald Ford in the last few days,President Bush may be pondering his own legacy and obituary. Sorry, Mr.Bush, but it doesn't look good right now, with your obit perhaps beginningsomething like this:

"George W. Bush, who achieved tremendous acclaim for his handling of the9/11 terror attacks but left office vilified and disgraced, mired in theIraq war and stalemated at home, his hard-line partisan tactics souring theelectorate and crippling his beloved Republican Party for a generation,died. ..."

But Mr. Bush, your plight isn't hopeless. In the holiday spirit, let meoffer you 10 suggestions for what you can do in 2007 to try to rescue yourlegacy.


The New York Times

The article:

The video:

December 31, 2006
Hussein Video Grips Iraq; Attacks Go On
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 — Saddam Hussein never bowed his head, until his necksnapped.

His last words were equally defiant.

“Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians.”

The former ruler of Iraq’s final hour began about 5 a.m., when Americantroops escorted him from Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad airport, to anotherAmerican base at the heart of the city, Camp Justice.

There, he was handed over to a newly trained unit of the Iraqi NationalPolice, with whom he would later exchange curses. Iraq took full custody ofMr. Hussein at 5:30 a.m.

Two American helicopters flew 14 witnesses from the Green Zone to theexecution site — a former headquarters of the deposed government’s muchfeared military intelligence outfit, the Istikhbarat, now inside theAmerican base.

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