Wednesday, March 14, 2007


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The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Politics, Pure and Cynical

We wish we'd been surprised to learn that the White House was deeplyinvolved in the politically motivated firing of eight United Statesattorneys, but the news had the unmistakable whiff of inevitability. Thisdisaster is just part of the Bush administration's sordid history of wavingthe bloody bullhorn of 9/11 for the basest of motives: the perpetuation ofpower for power's sake.

Time and again, President Bush and his team have assured Americans that theyneeded new powers to prevent another attack by an implacable enemy. Time andagain, Americans have discovered that these powers were not being used tomake them safer, but in the service of Vice President Dick Cheney's visionof a presidency so powerful that Congress and the courts are irrelevant, orKarl Rove's fantasy of a permanent Republican majority.

In firing the prosecutors and replacing them without Senate approval,Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took advantage of a little-noticedprovision that the administration and its Republican enablers in Congresshad slipped into the 2006 expansion of the Patriot Act. The ostensiblepurpose was to allow the swift interim replacement of a United Statesattorney who was, for instance, killed by terrorism.

But these firings had nothing to do with national security - or officials'claims that the attorneys were fired for poor performance. This looks like apolitical purge, pure and simple, and President Bush and his White House arein the thick of it.

Earlier, the White House insisted that it had approved the list of firedUnited States attorneys after it was compiled. Now it admits that WhiteHouse officials helped prepare it. Harriet Miers, the White House counselwhom Mr. Bush tried to elevate to the Supreme Court, originally wanted toreplace all 93 attorneys with Republican appointees.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
The Right to Ban Arms

A federal appeals court panel in Washington has marched blithely past alongstanding upreme Court precedent, the language of the Constitution andthe pressing needs of public safety to strike down Washington's law barringresidents from keeping handguns in their homes.

The ruling, approved 2 to 1 last week by the Federal Court of Appeals forthe istrict of Columbia Circuit, was the first from a federal appeals courtto hold a un control law unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds. Itcries out for prompt eversal by the full circuit, and ultimate rejection bythe Supreme Court.

The district's strict gun-control law bars all handguns unless they wereregistered before 1976. The law was challenged by a guard at the FederalJudicial Center, who was permitted to carry a gun on duty and said he wantedto keep one at home.

The outcome turned on an interpretation of the Second Amendment, which says,"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

The key legal precedent is a 1939 decision in which the Supreme Courtconcluded that the amendment protects the private ownership of guns onlywhen it has "some reasonable relationship to the preservation of efficiencyof a well-regulated militia." By not viewing the amendment as creating abasic individual right, the decision left room for broad regulation of gunownership.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Op-Ed Contributors

The Purse Isn't Congress's Only Weapon

THE debate that Congress needs to have about the Iraq war is being hijackedby sound-bite arguments. Defenders of President Bush concede that Congresshas "the power of the purse" and insist it could use it to completely "cutoff the funds to the troops." But that, most of them say, is the only powerCongress has to change the course of the war. They then insinuate thatexercising this power would be an unspeakable act of disloyalty to oursoldiers, leaving them without supplies, ammunition or pay. Congress is thusplaced in a box: it has a single awesome power that it would never employ.

There are at least three errors in this line of argument. First, Congress ishardly limited to this seemingly magical power of the purse. It has severalsources of constitutional authority over the use of military force,including the express right "to make rules for the government and regulationof the land and naval forces."

When Congress decides, for example, to limit warrantless surveillance oftelecommunications, it does not need to say: "No funds appropriated underthis act may be used for a search unless a warrant has been obtained." Itmay instead simply require the executive branch to obtain a warrant.

True, restrictions on spending are often attractive to Congress, becausethey can be attached to essential spending bills that a president may not bewilling to veto. But when the debate gets turned to the spending power, ithas been soured by the second false claim: that using the power of the pursewould somehow leave the troops high and dry in Iraq.

Suppose that Congress did decide that military forces financed by futuredefense appropriations acts would, after a certain date, have to be deployedelsewhere than Iraq. Such a requirement would not cut a single penny ofsupport for the troops in Iraq before the redeployment date, or for thosesame troops redeployed outside Iraq after that date.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Pig Out


WITH some fanfare, the world's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods,recently announced that it intended to phase out certain cages for itsbreeding females. Called gestation crates, the cages virtually immobilizepigs during their pregnancies in metal stalls so narrow they are unable toturn around.

Numerous studies have documented crated sows exhibiting behaviorcharacteristic of humans with severe depression and mental illness. Gettingrid of gestation crates (already on their way out in the European Union) iswelcome and long overdue, but more action is needed to end inhumaneconditions at America's hog farms.

Of the 60 million pigs in the United States, over 95 percent arecontinuously confined in metal buildings, including the almost five millionsows in crates. In such setups, feed is automatically delivered to animalswho are forced to urinate and defecate where they eat and sleep. Their wastefesters in large pits a few feet below their hooves. Intense ammonia andhydrogen sulfide fumes from these pits fill pigs' lungs and sensitivenostrils. No straw is provided to the animals because that would gum up theworks (as it would if you tossed straw into your toilet).

In my work as an environmental lawyer, I've toured a dozen hog confinementoperations and seen hundreds from the outside. My task was to evaluate theirpolluting potential, which was considerable. But what haunted me was themiserable creatures inside.

They were crowded into pens and cages, never allowed outdoors, and nevereven provided a soft place to lie down. Their tails had been cut off withoutanesthetic. Regardless of how well the operations are managed, the pigssubsist in inherently hostile settings. (Disclosure: my husband founded anetwork of farms that raise pigs using traditional, non-confinementmethods.)


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Guest Columnist

The Really Real Hillary

Poor Hillary Clinton. Not only does she have to overcome the electabilitything, the likability thing and - with some voters at least - the Billthing. Now she's got to live up to the whole woman thing - the promise that,as Ellen Malcolm, president and founder of the fund-raising group Emily'sList, recently proclaimed on behalf of all women nationwide, she will be "apresident of the United States who is like us."

In other words, to garner widespread support among the vast, inchoate,contentious, ever-evolving 54 percent of the electorate that her advisersproject to be female in the next general election (and to hold the keys tovictory), Hillary has to become someone every woman can relate to. She notonly has to represent us, but also to mirror us, lift us up and move us, andknow how we feel, what we want, and how we live. And, worst of all, she'sgot to be real.

And that, pollsters, pundits and voters tend to agree, is a bit of aproblem.

"I don't feel the realness from her," is how a young woman in Florida put itto Melinda Henneberger, whose book "If They Only Listened to Us: What WomenVoters Want Politicians to Hear" will be published in May.

"You hear this over and over," Henneberger told me.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Asian Stock Markets Plunge After Wall St. Losses

NEW DELHI, March 14 - Asian markets lurched lower today, as concerns overloose lending practices in the U.S. housing market spread.

Most markets in Asia fell by between 2 and 3 percent by early afternoon,their biggest drops since the sell-off two weeks ago. Investors dumped Asianequities after steep falls in U.S. markets prompted by a report showing thata record number of homes entered the foreclosure process in the fourthquarter of last year. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 242.66points, or 1.97 percent, to 12,075.96.

By 3 p.m. Hong Kong time, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 2.65 percent,Tokyo's Nikkei 225 had fallen 3.08 percent and the Bombay Stock Exchange'sSensex index dropped 3.01 percent.

After several months of smooth climbing, Asian equity investors have beentreated to a bumpy ride in recent weeks, and could face even more volatilityin the future, analysts say. Regional stock markets have been flooded withliquidity in the past 24 months, thanks to a combination of domesticinvestors, hedge funds, bank proprietary trading desks and emerging marketfunds. Many of these investors trade on the movement of market indices,exacerbating stock drops and heightening their jumps.

Banks and lending institutions in Asia were particularly hard hit today, aswere companies that make consumer goods. With the number of U.S. consumerswho are late paying off their home loans climbing steadily, particularlyamong borrowers with poor credit histories known as subprime borrowers,investors are projecting these consumers will stop buying Asian cars,electronics and other goods.

Japan's Chiba Bank traded down 4.31 percent in late afternoon to ¥1,022, andHSBC dropped 1.5 percent in Hong Kong to 135 Hong Kong dollars. HSBC isheavily exposed to the U.S. housing loan problems, after the British-basedbank bought the U.S. lender Household International, which specialized inloans to borrowers with bad credit, in 2003.

"Investors are becoming a bit more risk adverse," said Yiping Huang, aneconomic and market analyst with Citigroup Global Markets Asia.

Concerns about slowing growth in China are also taking their toll. "Economicdata is pretty mixed whether you look at the United States or China," Mr.Huang said, which will only lead to more volatility.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Group Advocating for Muslims in U.S. Gets More Scrutiny

With violence across the Middle East fixing Islam smack at the center of theAmerican political debate, an organization partly financed by donors closelyidentified with wealthy Persian Gulf governments has emerged as the mostvocal advocate for American Muslims - and an object of wide suspicion.

The group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, defines its mission asspreading the understanding of Islam and protecting civil liberties. Itsofficers appear frequently on television and are often quoted in newspapers,and its director has met with President Bush. Some 500,000 people receivethe group's daily e-mail newsletter.

Yet a debate rages behind the scenes in Washington about the group, commonlyknown as CAIR, its financing and its motives. A small band of critics havemade a determined but unsuccessful effort to link it to Hamas and Hezbollah,which have been designated as terrorist organizations by the StateDepartment, and have gone so far as calling the group an American front forthe two.

In the latest confrontation yesterday, CAIR held a panel discussion on Islamand the West in a Capitol meeting room despite demands by House Republicansthat Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, not allow the event. The Republicanscalled its members "terrorist apologists."

Caley Gray, a spokesman for Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., a New JerseyDemocrat who helped book the room, rejected that label in a phone interviewand said CAIR held similar meetings when Congress was controlled byRepublicans. Still, Mr. Gray called back to specify that Mr. Pascrell didnot endorse all of the group's positions.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Zimbabwe Leader Has Skull Fracture

Filed at 6:45 a.m. ET

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- The country's main opposition leader underwent abrain scan Wednesday, and his lawyer said he may have suffered a skullfracture and internal bleeding as a result of police beatings.

Morgan Tsvangirai was moved to a high care unit at a hospital, said lawyerTafadza Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, 54, and other opposition figures were arrested at a prayermeeting Sunday in the latest crackdown on dissent by President RobertMugabe's security forces and political supporters.

At a brief court appearance Tuesday, Tsvangirai's right eye was swollen shutand his head partly shaved to reveal crudely stitched gashes.

''It was damn barbaric,'' said British Ambassador Andrew Pockock, who was incourt.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
50 Protesters Hospitalized in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG, March 13 - The Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangiraiand 49 other antigovernment protesters were sent to a Harare hospital fortreatment on Tuesday, two days after the police arrested and beat them fortheir efforts to hold a protest meeting.

The violence continued to draw international condemnation, including anunusual, if muted, rebuke on Tuesday from neighboring South Africa, whichhas seldom criticized President Robert G. Mugabe's authoritarian government.Zimbabwean officials were unrepentant and cast the assaults on theprotesters as necessary to prevent attacks on the police and more politicalmayhem.

Parts of Harare, the capital, have been off limits to political protestsamid discontent over the country's economic collapse. The police havepatrolled the city in force since February, when an attack by riot policeofficers on a political rally in a southern suburb descended into a streetbattle.

Limping and missing a large patch of hair, apparently because of a headwound, Mr. Tsvangirai appeared in a Harare court on Tuesday before beingsent to the hospital, his lawyers said.

The government ignored an earlier order by the nation's High Court to allowlawyers and doctors to talk to and examine the imprisoned protesters. LateMonday, a second High Court order demanded that they either be charged withoffenses or released by midday Tuesday.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
'Loyalty' to Bush and Gonzales Was Factor in Prosecutors' Firings, E-MailShows

WASHINGTON, March 13 - Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to HarrietE. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush's mosttrusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Departmentaide. "We're a go," it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove sevenfederal prosecutors considered weak or not team players.

The message, from William K. Kelley of the White House counsel's office toD. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales,put in motion a plan to fire United States attorneys that had been hatched22 months earlier by Ms. Miers. Three days later, the seven prosecutors weresummarily dismissed. An eighth had been forced out in the summer.

The documents provided by the Justice Department add some new details to thechronicle of the fired prosecutors but leave many critical questionsunanswered, including the nature of discussions inside the White House andthe level of knowledge and involvement by the president and his closestpolitical aide, Karl Rove.

The White House said Monday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove had raised concernsabout lax voter fraud prosecutions with the Justice Department. And severalof the fired attorneys told Congress last week that some lawmakers hadquestioned them about corruption investigations, inquiries the prosecutorsconsidered inappropriate. The documents do not specifically mention eithertopic.

While the target list of prosecutors was shaped and shifted, officials atthe Justice Department and the White House, members of Congress and even animportant Republican lawyer and lobbyist in New Mexico were raising variousconcerns.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Britain Drafts Laws to Slash Carbon Emissions

LONDON, March 13 - As nations and politicians in many parts of Europecompete to burnish their green credentials, Britain on Tuesday became theirst national government to propose binding laws enforcing a steep cut incarbon emissions, in this case a 60 percent decrease by 2050.

If approved, the draft Climate Change Bill could affect many Britons in many
ways. Officials might be summoned to appear before judges for failing to
meet targets, households could be pressed to switch to low-energy light
bulbs and install home insulation, and manufacturers could be asked to build
TV sets without standby modes that consume energy when the devices are not
in use.

Indeed, in a land enamored of cars, the internal combustion engine and
regular low-cost flights to sunnier climes, some of the measures could be
unpopular with voters even as they inspire politicians' acclaim.

"This bill is an international landmark," the environment minister, DavidMiliband, told reporters. "It is the first time any country has set itselflegally binding carbon targets. It is an environmental contract for futuregenerations."

Although the global warming caused by Britain is considered modest, thenation has striven to put itself at the forefront of efforts to address whatPrime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday called "the biggest long-term threatfacing our world." The British draft law was announced only days after theEuropean Union committed itself to a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions by2020, but Britain went far beyond that target, setting for itself areduction of 26 to 32 percent in the same time frame.


The New York Times

March 14, 2007
Top Democrats Propose Expanding Health Insurance for Children

WASHINGTON, March 13 - Two of the most influential voices on health policy,Representative John D. Dingell and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, offered abill Tuesday to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program, asDemocratic leaders in both houses said they would try to triple spending onthe program over the next five years.

The bill will be the basis for House efforts to reshape the program, whichexpires Sept. 30, and will be a building block of Mrs. Clinton'spresidential campaign platform. Mr. Dingell's priorities are importantbecause he is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which hasauthority over the program.

Neither Mr. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, nor Mrs. Clinton, a New YorkDemocrat, said how they would pay for the proposal, which would increasefederal spending over the next five years by at least $50 billion - a figuretentatively endorsed by Democratic leaders in the two chambers. Bothlawmakers said they would find ways to offset the cost.

Over the course of a year, the program, financed jointly by the federalgovernment and the states, provides health insurance to six million childrenin families that have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but not enoughto buy private insurance. About nine million children, or 12 percent of allpeople under the age of 19, are uninsured.

Under the bill, virtually all uninsured children would have access tocoverage of some type, with or without federal subsidies. Mr. Dingell andMrs. Clinton would give states financial incentives to cover children withfamily incomes up to four times the poverty level. A family of three isconsidered poor if its annual income is less than $17,170. Thus, the billwould allow the federal government to pay subsidies for coverage of childrenin a three-person family with annual income up to $68,680.


The Washington Post

Gonzales: 'Mistakes Were Made'
But Attorney General Defends Firings of Eight U.S. Attorneys

By Dan Eggen and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A01

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales took responsibility yesterday for"mistakes" related to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys last year butrejected calls for his resignation from Democrats who accuse him ofmisleading Congress.

"I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility,"Gonzales said. He said he did not know the details of the plan to fire theprosecutors, but he defended the dismissals: "I stand by the decision, and Ithink it was a right decision."

The remarks came after the Justice Department released e-mails and otherdocuments showing that, despite months of administration statements to thecontrary, the White House more than two years ago initiated the process thatled to the dismissals, and that the decisions were heavily influenced byassessments of the prosecutors' political loyalty. President Bush and seniorWhite House adviser Karl Rove also separately passed along complaints toGonzales that prosecutors were not aggressively pursuing voter-fraud cases,officials said.

The revelations prompted another outcry on Capitol Hill over the firings andnew demands for Gonzales's resignation from key Democrats, including SenateMajority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) andSen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.). "It appears he's over his head in this job,"Reid said.

Even Republicans who have supported the ousters sharply criticized theattorney general.


The Washington Post

Mortgage Report Rattles Markets
Dow Down 2% On a Big Rise In Delinquencies

By David Cho and Dina ElBoghdady
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A01

A national survey showing that a soaring number of homeowners failed to makeheir mortgage payments in the last quarter of 2006 rattled lawmakers inWashington and the markets in New York yesterday, as the Dow Jonesindustrial average plummeted 2 percent, or nearly 243 points.

The report, which sent every major stock market indicator tumbling when itwas released at noon, revealed that the problems in the market for"subprime" mortgages -- loans made to home buyers with blemished credithistories -- might be spilling over to the broader mortgage industry,analysts said.

While the number of risky borrowers who missed payments climbed to afour-year high, the number of foreclosures on all homes jumped to itshighest level in nearly four decades, according to the survey by theMortgage Bankers Association. Home buyers who relied on loans insured by theFederal Housing Administration also had record default rates.

Several lawmakers, including House Financial Services Committee ChairmanBarney Frank (D-Mass.), said they would offer legislation to rein in riskymortgages. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.)told reporters that Congress will have to consider providing several billiondollars of aid to at-risk homeowners.

The survey was released as the market for high-risk mortgages is collapsing.Over the past few years, highflying lenders of these loans helped millionsof Americans buy homes they otherwise could not afford. The firms have seentheir businesses unravel as these homeowners could not make their monthlypayments. Some companies have been delisted from stock exchanges in recentweeks, while more than two dozen have shut their doors.


The Washington Post

'No Child' Target Is Called Out of Reach
Goal of 100% Proficiency Debated as Congress Weighs Renewal

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A01

No Child Left Behind, the landmark federal education law, sets a loftystandard: that all students tested in reading and math will reach gradelevel by 2014. Even when the law was enacted five years ago, almost no onebelieved that standard was realistic.

But now, as Congress begins to debate renewing the law, lawmakers andeducation officials are confronting the reality of the approaching deadlineand the difficult political choice between sticking with the vision ofuniversal proficiency or backing away from it.

"There is a zero percent chance that we will ever reach a 100 percenttarget," said Robert L. Linn, co-director of the National Center forResearch on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing at UCLA. "But becausethe title of the law is so rhetorically brilliant, politicians are afraid tochange this completely unrealistic standard. They don't want to be accusedof leaving some children behind."

The debate over the perfection standard encapsulates the key arguments forand against No Child Left Behind.

Critics, including some teachers unions and many testing experts, view thelaw as a forced march toward an impossible education nirvana. They arelobbying Congress to reduce the 100 percent target and delay the 2014deadline. They are also pushing for the elimination of sanctions -- whichcan cost millions of dollars and result in school takeovers -- that schoolsystems face for failing to make yearly progress toward the goal.


The Washington Post

Time to Go, Mr. Gonzales

By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A15

"I believe in accountability," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales proclaimedyesterday at a news conference that was a self-serving masterpiece ofpassive voice and unpersuasive platitudes. "Like every CEO of a majororganization, I am responsible for what happens at the Department ofJustice. I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept thatresponsibility. And my pledge to the American people is to find out whatwent wrong here, to access accountability and to make improvements so thatthe mistakes that occurred in this instance do not occur again in thefuture."

Is there anyone left -- seriously, is there a Republican member of theSenate Judiciary Committee -- who has confidence in Gonzales's capacity tofix this mess? Is there anyone who accepts Gonzales's CEO analogy -- andthinks that a sentient board of directors wouldn't have fired him long ago?

Let's assume Gonzales's good faith: that he truly is upset about whathappened on his watch, just as he was upset last week about the FBI'scavalier mishandling of its authority to issue "national security letters,"and wants to make things right.

There is no reason to believe that he is capable of making a change. Theportrait of the Gonzales Justice Department that emerges from the e-mailsreleased yesterday, and from the attorney general's own comments, is of anagency overseen by an absentee landlord, chronically clueless about what'shappening around him.

This is a man whose memory is so foggy that George W. Bush -- not exactlyMr. Detail -- has a sharper recollection of their conversations than theattorney general does. The president, according to White House spokeswomanDana Perino, told Gonzales that Republicans were complaining aboutprosecutors failing to aggressively pursue voter fraud. Gonzales doesn'trecall the conversation.


The Washington Post

The (Necessarily Messy) Way Out

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A15

No one has ever described David Obey as phlegmatic. The Wisconsin Democrat,who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, combines long-standingliberal passions with a keen sense for the deals that must be cut to turnthose passions into law. And on occasion, people who don't share Obey'sassessment of where, and whether, the deal should be cut have been subjectedto an Obey outburst.

Last week, as he was working to build support for amendments that wouldimpose a 2008 deadline on U.S. combat activities in Iraq, Obey was accostedby Tina Richards, an antiwar activist and mother of a Marine. With YouTubeimmortalizing the encounter, Richards asked Obey why he was supporting thesupplemental war appropriations bill to which the amendments would beattached and why Congress couldn't just defund the war and bring the troopshome now.

Obey erupted. "We can't get the votes," he shouted. "Do you see a magic wandin my pocket? We don't have the votes for it."

"We're trying to use the supplemental," he explained, "to end the war." Obeyhas since apologized for blowing up, but that hasn't deterred some antiwarbloggers from condemning him as some loony warmonger. In a similar vein,other antiwar protesters now ring Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home, callingon her to bring the troops home now.

In effect, what the protesters are doing is making the unattainable perfectthe enemy of the barely-attainable good.


The Washington Post

A Manifesto For the Next President

By David Ignatius
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A15

Zbigniew Brzezinski has written a new book that might be a foreign policymanifesto for Barack Obama. Its message is that America can recover fromwhat Brzezinski calls the "catastrophic" mistakes of the Bushadministration, but only if the next president makes a clean break fromthose policies and aligns the country with a world in transformation.

The former national security adviser says he hasn't yet picked the candidatewho could deliver on his book's title of a " Second Chance" for America toreverse its decline as a superpower. But by stressing the need for a foreignpolicy makeover, his prescriptions seem tailor-made for a certain juniorsenator from Illinois. In his every word and gesture, the young, transracialObama would say to an angry world: Take a new look. I represent a countrythat is different from the one you think you know.

Obama would have severe limitations as a foreign policy president, not leasthis almost complete lack of experience. That's the flip side of being afresh face, unencumbered by the past. It's hard to know what Obama's viewswould be on big issues, other than Iraq. So let's focus on Brzezinski, theforeign policy guru, and not his prospective pupil.

First, an encomium to Brzezinski: If there's any foreign policy analyst whohas earned the right to be taken seriously today, it's this 78-year-oldveteran of the Carter administration. Brzezinski was right about Iraq,warning early and emphatically of the dangers of an American invasion at atime when most foreign policy pundits (including this one) were, withwhatever quibbles, supporting President Bush's decision to go to war.

Brzezinski paid a price for being outspoken -- he was excluded from some ofthe inner circles frequented by former national security advisers who don'trock the boat. In this respect, Brzezinski's cranky outsider status servedhim well (and the uber-insider status of his life rival, Henry Kissinger,proved something of a hindrance for the former secretary of state). So onmatters of foreign policy, we should listen especially carefully to whatBrzezinski has to say.


The Washington Post

A Well-Regulated Right to Bear Arms

By Erwin Chemerinsky
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A15

In striking down the District of Columbia's handgun ban last week, a federalappeals court raised the crucial constitutional question: What should be thedegree of judicial deference to government regulation of firearms? Thedecision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit interpreted theSecond Amendment as bestowing on individuals a right to have guns. But evenif this reasoning is accepted, and it is very much disputed, the Court ofAppeals still should have upheld the law as being a reasonable way ofachieving the government's legitimate goal of decreasing gun violence.

There is a major debate among scholars and judges involving two competingviews of the Second Amendment. One approach, adopted by the Supreme Court in1939 and by most federal courts of appeals, sees the Second Amendment aspreventing Congress from regulating firearms in a manner that would keepstates from adequately protecting themselves.

This "collective rights" approach rejects the idea that the Second Amendmentbestows on individuals a right to have guns. The alternative view, adoptedby the D.C. Circuit on Friday, sees the Second Amendment as creating a rightfor individuals to have firearms.

Each approach is consistent with the text of the Second Amendment, and eachis supported by strong historical arguments about the original meaning ofthe provision. The Second Amendment says: "A well regulated Militia, beingnecessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keepand bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Those who take the collective rightsapproach focus on the initial language of the provision, while those whotake the individual rights approach focus on the latter language.

Each side of the debate marshals impressive historical arguments about what"militia" and "keep and bear arms" meant in the late 18th century. In thepast few years, two other federal courts of appeals exhaustively reviewedthis history, and one determined that the Framers intended the individualrights approach, while the other read history as supporting the collectiverights approach.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Mar. 14, 2007
We're not electing a church deacon

Conservative Evangelical Christian voters have come a long way in a shorttime. From their nearly unanimous condemnation of Bill Clinton for hisextramarital affairs, a growing number of these ''pro-family'' voters appearready to accept several Republican presidential candidates who do not sharetheir ideal of marriage and faith.

. Rudy Giuliani: Among those seriously under consideration by thesechurch-going folks is former New York Mayor Giuliani, who has been marriedthree times and who had an affair with the woman now his wife when he wasmarried to wife No. 2.

The second wife, Donna Hanover, once recorded a political commercial forGiuliani, touting his virtues as a husband. She called him ''honest and verykind'' and ''this is the kind of man I wanted to be the father of mychildren'' and ''Rudy is such a great Dad.'' It's on YouTube. In recent dayswe've learned from his son Andrew that he and his father are estranged, butthat they're working on it. Andrew says he got his values from his mother.

. Newt Gingrich: Another of the thrice married is former House SpeakerGingrich who, last week, trod the Damascus Road to Colorado Springs. On thesyndicated radio program of psychologist James Dobson, Gingrich confessedthat he had an extramarital affair with the woman to whom he is now marriedwhile he was married to his second wife. Gingrich acknowledged not living upto his own standards, or God's.

. John McCain: A third Republican presidential candidate is Sen. McCain, whohas been married twice. He is disliked by many social conservatives more forhis support of ''campaign finance reform,'' which they regard as an attemptto limit their speech, his work on immigration with Ted Kennedy and pastremarks that some evangelical leaders are ``agents of intolerance.''


Women speak out: The Veil and Islamic and Religious Laws

International Women's Day speeches - Listen online

GHQ-Multimedia Presents:

The speeches from the seminar "Women's Right, the Veil and Islamic andReligious Laws" held at the University of London Union in London on 8March 2007 to mark International Women's Day.

Listen online or download the speeches in MP3 format by SohailaSharifi, Taslima Nasreen, Maryam Namazie, Mina Ahadi, Sonja Eggerickxand Ann Harrison.

"This was a superb and exhilarating evening. I cannot say how muchadmiration I have for these courageous women. They sense that they areat the head of a growing movement and that the women of Iran areaching to be freed from the confines of the 'medieval rag' and all itrepresents," said Terry Sanderson, president of the National SecularSociety and the media spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian HumanistAssociation (which publishes GHQ).

The seminar was co-sponsored by the International Campaign in Defenceof Women's Right in Iran - UK, the National Secular Society and theGay and Lesbian Humanist Association.

About the speakers


Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed that celibacy "remains obligatory" for RomanCatholic priests.

He also restated the ban on Communion for divorced Catholics who remarry,and on abortion, euthanasia and gay unions which he said were "notnegotiable".

The papal declaration reflects the conclusions of a synod - an assembly ofbishops - held at the Vatican in 2005.

Draft legislation is before Italy's parliament that would give legal statusto unmarried couples including gays.

"These values are not negotiable," the Pope wrote, listing "respect forhuman life, its defence from conception to natural death [and] the familybuilt upon marriage between a man and a woman".

"Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immenseblessing for the Church and for society itself," he wrote.


Inside Higher Education

A More Porous Church-State Wall

Last week saw two court rulings and one campus dispute focused on church andstate. In all three cases - and in several others in the last year -advocates for religion won, and supporters of a strict separation of churchand state lost.

The disputes themselves are quite different, covering a public university'sallocation of student fees (decided in federal court), the right of"pervasively" religious colleges to have tax-exempt bonds issued on theirbehalf by a state agency (decided by the California Supreme Court) and theright to keep a cross on permanent display at a public college's chapel(decided in the court of public opinion). But experts on church-state issuesand higher education law see something significant in the way these disputesand others are playing out: the long-term legal and political impact of a1995 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court commonly called the Rosenbergercase.

In that 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the University ofVirginia could not deny funds to student groups just because they engage inreligious activities. In a dissent that might ring true to some dealing withchurch-state conflicts over student activities today, Justice David H.Souter predicted that the majority opinion would make "a shambles" out ofstudent activity questions at public colleges.

While that case was fiercely argued at the time, advocates on both sides ofchurch-state matters say that for a variety of reasons, its impact beyondthe University of Virginia wasn't immediately as dramatic as it might havebeen. But now, they said, the philosophy outlined in that decision is takinghold, both judicially and politically, in a way that could leave manycolleges facing legal challenges. "I think these cases today are acontinuation of the broad direction set by Rosenberger," said Terence J.Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which successfullyrepresented the Christian students at UVa who wanted student fee funds tosupport Wide Awake, a publication based on their religious views.

"I think we've moved from an extreme and formalistic view of the FirstAmendment, which created a presumption against" religion in public highereducation, toward a view that religious groups should have the same rightsas others to seek funds at state institutions, Pell said.


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