Friday, August 24, 2007


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The New York Times

August 24, 2007

White House Shell Game

The Bush administration's obsession with secrecy took another absurd turnthis week. The administration is claiming that the White House Office ofAdministration is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, even thoughthere are some compelling reasons to think it is. Like the fact that theoffice has its own FOIA officer. And it responded to 65 FOIA requests lastyear. And the White House's own Web site, as of yesterday, insisted theoffice is covered by FOIA.

The administration's logic-free claim about the Office of Administrationfollows fast on the heels of Vice President Dick Cheney's laughable claimthat he was immune to an open-government law because his office supposedlywas not an executive agency.

The fight over the Office of Administration's status is part of a largerbattle over access to an estimated five million e-mail messages that havemysteriously disappeared from White House computers. The missing messagesare important evidence in the scandal over the firing of nine United Statesattorneys, apparently because they refused to use their positions to helpRepublicans win elections. The Office of Administration seems to know a lotabout when and how those messages disappeared, but it does not want to tellthe public.


The Washington Post

Bush's Vietnam Blunder
By Jim Hoagland
Friday, August 24, 2007; A15

Desperate presidents resort to desperate rhetoric -- which then calls newattention to their desperation. President Bush joined the club this week byciting the U.S. failure in Vietnam to justify staying on in Iraq.

Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I am not acrook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexualrelations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing unintendedconsequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting president.

It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars conventionon Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history, spotlighted once again hisown decision to sit out the Vietnam conflict, and played straight into hiscritics' most emotive arguments against him and the Republican Party.

More important, Bush has called attention to the elephant that will besitting in the room when his administration makes its politically vitalreport on Iraq to the nation next month. For Americans, the most importantcomparison will be this one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure evenon its own terms -- whatever those terms are at any given moment.


The Washington Post

Why We Need a Housing Rescue
By William H. Gross
Friday, August 24, 2007; A15

During times of market turmoil, it helps to get down to basics. Goodnessknows it's not easy to understand the maze of financial structures thatappear to be unwinding. They were created by wizards of complexity: youthfulfinancial engineers trained to exploit cheap money and leverage and whohave, until the past few weeks, never known the sting of the market's lash.

My explanation of how the subprime crisis crossed the borders of mortgagefinance to swiftly infect global capital markets is perhaps unsophisticated.What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsonand a host of other sophisticates should have known is that the bond andstock market problem is not unlike the game "Where's Waldo?" -- Waldo beingthe bad loans and defaulting subprime paper of the U.S. mortgage market.While market analysts can guesstimate how many Waldos might appear over thenext few years -- $100 billion to $200 billion worth is a reasonableestimate -- no one knows where they are hidden.

There really are no comprehensive data on how many subprimes rest inindividual institutional portfolios. Regulators have been absent, andreleasing information has been left to individual institutions. Many,including pension funds and insurance companies, argue that accounting rulesallow them to value subprime derivatives for what they cost. Defaultingexposure therefore can hibernate for months before its true value isrevealed.


The Washington Post

In New York, a Word Starts a Fire
Arabic Educator's Brief Defense of 'Intifada' T-Shirts Makes Her a Target

By Robin Shulman

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 24, 2007; A06

NEW YORK -- The goals were clear when Sheneen Jackson enrolled her son inone of the first public schools in the nation to focus on Arabic languageand culture. First, her 11-year-old would master Arabic. Later, doors wouldopen for him in government and diplomacy -- maybe a job at the UnitedNations, international travel, the prospect of contributing to Middle Eastpeace.

Instead, Jackson discovered that the distrust and tension that infuse manyMiddle East issues had tainted the Brooklyn middle school.

"It's unfortunate, but I know a lot of people in New York are sensitive,"Jackson, 33, a Verizon technician, said of the controversy over the school."That's the whole premise of the school."

Officials had no sooner announced in February the formation of the KhalilGibran International Academy than conservative columnists and media outletsattacked, suggesting the principal -- an observant Muslim Arab woman --might push an agenda of Islamist extremism.

Principal Debbie Almontaser said her mission was to foster tolerance andunderstanding. But she resigned Aug. 10 after the New York Post quoted hertalking about definitions of the word "intifada."


The Washington Post

China Detains Activist's Wife at Airport
By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 24, 2007; 8:34 AM

BEIJING -- The wife of a blind, imprisoned legal activist was detained atBeijing airport Friday and possibly kidnapped after authorities preventedher from flying to the Philippines to receive an award on behalf of herhusband, whose case has sparked international outrage and condemnation.

By Friday afternoon, Yuan Weijing, 30, was reported as missing by herfriend, Zeng Jinyan, a Beijing activist. Yuan's last words before her mobilephone was cut off, were "I've been kidnapped," Zeng said.

It was unclear whether authorities from Shandong province were taking Yuanback to her home village, as lawyers and supporters feared.

Yuan's husband, Chen Guangcheng, 35, was jailed last year after embarrassingLinyi city and Shandong provincial officials by exposing their abuses infamily planning policy, including forced late-term abortions andsterilizations.


The Washington Post

Telecom Firms Helped With Government's Warrantless Wiretaps
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 24, 2007; Page D03

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time thattelecommunications companies assisted the government's warrantlesssurveillance program and were being sued as a result, an admission somelegal experts say could complicate the government's bid to halt numerouslawsuits challenging the program's legality.

"[U]nder the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, theprivate sector had assisted us," Director of National Intelligence MikeMcConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times published Wednesday.


The Dallas Morning News

Americans need to stay better informed about foreign affairs
06:40 AM CDT on Thursday, August 23, 2007

Don't know much about foreign affairs? Join the crowd. A new Harris pollfinds that two-thirds of American adults admit to knowing very little aboutoverseas politics. Fifty-seven percent of those polled say they don't likelearning about political issues in other lands; 32 percent feel the same wayabout U.S. politics. That's foolish, especially at a time like this. U.S.commanders have repeatedly said that the future of Iraq - where more than300 Texas soldiers have died in combat - depends on whether Iraqi politicalfactions can settle their differences. The lives of American soldiers aredirectly related to Iraq's politics - and, as our leaders assess theviability of continued U.S. involvement there, to our own.

In addition, the future of this region is vital to U.S. economic andnational security interests. In a democracy, information is power; none areas weak as the uninformed. And none are more pitiful than those who areignorant by choice.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Aug. 22, 2007
Bush didn't have faith

Real men don't go to court.

For years, that was pretty much the White House stand with regard to JosePadilla, the American citizen arrested in 2002 for allegedly conspiring toset off a radiological device, a so-called ''dirty bomb,'' on U.S. soil. Itwas a serious charge, and it cried out for courtroom resolution.

Except that real men don't go to court. The Bush administration, easily themanliest in recent American history, believed only weaklings, traitors andother liberal Democrats could be so naive as to believe you deal with acaptured terrorist by reading him his Miranda rights. That, they told us,was evidence of ''pre-9/11 thinking.'' But everything changed, they said, onthat day, and the old rules, which had stood the nation through revolution,Civil War, Great Depression and social upheaval, no longer applied.

So they threw Padilla into a Navy brig instead. He was charged with no crimeand, according to his lawyers, was drugged and left chained in painfulpositions in a tiny cell under a light that never went out. No clock, nowindows, no bedding, no mattress and, for the first two years, no lawyer.

When civil libertarians demanded to know how you could justify suchtreatment of a man who had never been charged with a crime, they were toldPresident Bush did not have to bother with such niceties. By declaringPadilla an ''enemy combatant,'' Bush could imprison him indefinitely andnever have to explain himself.

That bears repeating. The president arrogated unto himself a powerordinarily associated with tyrants, to impose indefinite detention on anyonehe chose. And from the people there arose only the sound of cricketschirping in midnight woods.


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