Sunday, October 28, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST October 28, 2007

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The New York Times

The Right Model for Juvenile Justice

October 28, 2007

With the prisons filled to bursting, state governments are desperate forways to keep more people from committing crimes and ending up behind bars.Part of the problem lies in the juvenile justice system, which is doing afrighteningly effective job of turning nonviolent childhood offenders intomature, hardened criminals. States that want to change that are increasinglylooking to Missouri, which has turned its juvenile justice system into anationally recognized model of how to deal effectively with troubledchildren.

The country as a whole went terribly wrong in this area during the 1990s,when high-profile crimes prompted dire predictions of teenage"superpredators" taking over the streets. The monsters never materialized.In fact, juvenile crime declined. But by the close of the decade,four-fifths of the states had made a regular practice of housing children,even those who committed nonviolent crimes, in adult jails. Studies now showthat those children were considerably more likely to become seriouscriminals - and to commit violence - than children handled through thejuvenile justice system.

But all juvenile justice systems are not created equal. Most children takeninto custody are committed to large, unruly and often dangerous "kiddieprisons" that very much resemble adult prisons. The depravity and brutalitythat characterizes these places were underscored in Texas, where allegationsof sexual abuse by workers prompted wholesale firings and a reorganizationof the state's juvenile justice agency.

Missouri has abandoned mass kiddie prisons in favor of small community-basedcenters that stress therapy, not punishment. When possible, young people arekept near their homes so their parents can participate in rehabilitationthat includes extensive family therapy. It is the first stable, caringenvironment many of these young people have ever known. Case managerstypically handle 15 to 20 children. In other state systems, the caseloadscan get much higher.

The oversight does not end with the young person's release. The casemanagers follow their charges closely for many months and often help withjob placement, therapy referrals, school issues and drug or alcoholtreatment. After completing the program, officials say, only about 10percent of their detainees are recommitted to the system by the juvenilecourts.

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The New York Times

Did We Do That?

October 28, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Los Angeles

Why do I feel like I began my reporting career 30 years ago listening to theBBC World Service and I'm going to end it glued to the Weather Channel?

I flew into Los Angeles last Monday - right through a gray-brown cloud ofsmoke from the forest fires burning in the hills east of the city. I couldn't actually see the fires from the air, only the smoke billowing out ofmountain caverns, like so many smoldering volcanoes. There was somethingwild and prehistoric about it. It looked like either the end of the world orthe beginning. As I watched from the plane window, I thought to myself, "I've never seen that before."

I had had a similar thought a day earlier, playing golf in high-70s weatherin Washington, D.C., in late October. Because of the warm weather, theleaves had barely changed to fall colors. I've never seen that before.

One should never extrapolate about climate change from any single weatherevent or season, but it does seem that we keep having more and more weatherevents and seasons that are modified with the words "since records have beenkept" - as in the Los Angeles Times fire report on Monday, which noted thatforecasters from the National Weather Service "couldn't recall such intensewinds in Southern California," a region that meteorologists said was"already dealing with the driest year on record."

So a question has started gnawing at us as we observe events like Katrinaand the California wildfires. I asked my friend Nate Lewis, an energychemist at the California Institute of Technology, what is that question? Hethought for a moment and answered: "Did we do that?"

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The New York Times

What Part of 'Illegal' Don't You Understand?

October 28, 2007
Editorial Observer

I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegalparker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched orbroken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. Theoffenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments -penalties and fines - and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me thechance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader,and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whosecrimes exceeded mine.

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap.It's the crime you can't make amends for. Nothing short of deportation willfree you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is aproblem.

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of itstems from the word "illegal." It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions.Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Usedas an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people,it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it isdetestable.

"Illegal" is accurate insofar as it describes a person's immigration status.About 60 percent of the people it applies to entered the country unlawfully.The rest are those who entered legally but did not leave when they weresupposed to. The statutory penalties associated with their misdeeds are notinsignificant, but neither are they criminal. You get caught, you get senthome.

Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far.It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its targetdiminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class.People are often surprised to learn that illegal immigrants have rights.Really? Constitutional rights? But aren't they illegal? Of course they haverights: they have the presumption of innocence and the civil liberties thatthe Constitution wisely bestows on all people, not just citizens.

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The New York Times

Chertoff Rips Phony Homeland Press Event

October 28, 2007
Filed at 2:42 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The homeland security chief on Saturday tore into his ownemployees for staging a phony news conference at the Federal EmergencyManagement Agency.

''I think it was one of the dumbest and most inappropriate things I've seensince I've been in government,'' Michael Chertoff said.

''I have made unambiguously clear, in Anglo-Saxon prose, that it is not toever happen again and there will be appropriate disciplinary action takenagainst those people who exhibited what I regard as extraordinarily poorjudgment,'' he added.

Asked specifically if he planned to fire anyone at FEMA, which is part ofhis department, Chertoff declined to say, citing personnel rules.

''There will be appropriate discipline,'' he told reporters at a newsconference with New York's governor where they announced an agreement on adriver's license plan.

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The New York Times

Warming Revives Flora and Fauna in Greenland

October 28, 2007

NARSARSUAQ, Greenland - A strange thing is happening at the edge of PoulBjerge's forest, a place so minute and unexpected that it brings to mind theteeny plot of land Woody Allen's father carries around in the film "Love andDeath."

Its four oldest trees - in fact, the four oldest pine trees in Greenland,named Rosenvinge's trees after the Dutch botanist who planted them in a madexperiment in 1893 - are waking up. After lapsing into stately, sleepy oldage, they are exhibiting new sprinklings of green at their tops, as ifsomeone had glued on fresh needles.

"The old ones, they're having a second youth," said Mr. Bjerge, 78, who haswatched the forest, called Qanasiassat, come to life, in fits and starts,since planting most of the trees in it 50 years ago. He beamed like a proudgrandson. "They're growing again."

When using the words "growing" in connection with Greenland in the samesentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size ofEurope, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge's, all of themcultivated. It has only 51 farms. (They are all sheep farms, although oneman is trying to raise cattle. He has 22 cows.) Except for potatoes, theonly vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat - to the extent that they eatvegetables at all - are imported, mostly from Denmark.

But now that the climate is warming, it is not just old trees that aregrowing. A Greenlandic supermarket is stocking locally grown cauliflower,broccoli and cabbage this year for the first time. Eight sheep farmers aregrowing potatoes commercially. Five more are experimenting with vegetables.And Kenneth Hoeg, the region's chief agriculture adviser, says he does notsee why southern Greenland cannot eventually be full of vegetable farms andviable forests.

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The Washington Post

Putin's Guessing Games

By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, October 28, 2007; B07

MOSCOW -- Put Iowa and New Hampshire on the back burner for a moment:Election fever also grips Russia, which chooses a new Duma in December and apresident in March.

Pollsters, analysts and Duma members are furiously debating two questions:What exact outcome will Vladimir Putin choose for these elections? And whenwill he communicate it to them and to the world? The only sure thing is thatPutin will keep everyone guessing as long as it suits him.

This is not the way the Kremlin portrays its version of "sovereigndemocracy," but it is not far from it either. When I encounter VladislavSurkov, President Putin's chief political strategist and ideologue, heassures me that Russian democracy "is going in the right direction," pausestwo beats, smiles and adds, "step by step."

Surkov, an urbane and swift political thinker who could hold his own in anysystem, has been a key figure in the Kremlin's successful effort to buildsham political parties to fragment the Duma election results and then makesure that this show parliament does exactly as Putin wants. In Russia today,politics is "the Kremlin by other means," Muscovites tell a visitingAmerican.

Putin's total domination of the political landscape is remarkable by anystandards, including those of landslide-winning democrats in the West orThird World despots. Putin is "the Decider" in ways that George W. Bush canonly imagine.

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The Washington Post

Abortion's 'So-What' Factor

By George F. Will
Sunday, October 28, 2007; B07

Almost 35 years have passed since the Supreme Court decided to end America'sargument about abortion. Because of the court's supposedly therapeuticintervention in the nation's supposedly inadequate democratic debate aboutthat subject, the issue still generates an irritable irrationality that waslargely absent before 1973.

Then, America was operating under a regime of moral federalism. In theabsence of ukases from the federal judiciary that generate continent-wideeruptions of tension and anger, many states were reexamining their abortionregulations, and many were relaxing them. To sample today's confusions,consider California.

There the electorate so strongly supports abortion rights that noright-to-life candidate for governor, U.S. senator or president has won inCalifornia since 1988. This is so despite the fact that a governor, U.S.senator or president has only slight relevance to the status ofCalifornians' abortion rights.

Nevertheless, it is said that if the Republican Party wants to becompetitive in California in presidential politics, it must nominate apro-choice candidate, of which there is only one -- Rudy Giuliani. This isalmost certainly true. It certainly is irrational because pro-choiceCalifornians have next to nothing to fear -- just as pro-life Californianshave next to nothing to hope for -- from a right-to-life president. Thepractical consequences of such a president concerning abortion would notdiffer significantly from Giuliani's consequences. Here is why.

Abortion policy is almost entirely in the custody of the U.S. Supreme Courtand will remain so unless or until the court decides to restore moralfederalism regarding the issue. On Jan. 20, 2009, when the next president isinaugurated, the court will have one justice in his late 60s (David Souter,69), four justices in their 70s (Stephen Breyer, 70; Anthony Kennedy andAntonin Scalia, 72; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75) and one 88-year-old, John PaulStevens. The two who will be oldest, Ginsburg and Stevens, are strongsupporters of a constitutional right to abortion. The three who will beyoungest -- John Roberts, 53; Samuel Alito, 58; Clarence Thomas, 60 -- seemunsympathetic to the court's abortion jurisprudence.

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GOP candidates run hard to the right

Posted on Sun, Oct. 28, 2007

Richard Nixon knew a thing or two about politics after being on theRepublican national ticket a record five times.

Run to the right in the primaries, he advised fellow Republicans. Then runas hard as you can to the center for the general election.

The large field of candidates for the 2008 Republican presidentialnomination is enthusiastically following at least the first half of hisstrategy by running harder and further to the right than any Republicanfield since 1980, or perhaps 1964.

They could reinvent the party, much as Barry Goldwater did in 1964 or RonaldReagan did in 1980. They would reject the ''compassionate conservatism'' ofGeorge W. Bush, circa 2000, which appealed to suburban moderates butfrustrated conservatives with a free-spending, big-government approach thatexpanded the federal role in education, created the first new entitlementsince the 1960s and sought to allow illegal immigrants to remain in thecountry.

Yet, while Reagan ended up winning the White House in a landslide,Goldwater, who declared that ''extremism in the defense of liberty is novice,'' lost it in a landslide. A sharp turn to the right is politicallyrisky, particularly if the country isn't willing to go along.

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The Washington Post

Walking Into Iran's Trap

By David Ignatius
Sunday, October 28, 2007; B07

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Is the United States going to war withIran? That's what a Lebanese businessman here wants to know from a visitingAmerican. If it's war, he doesn't want to make a big new investment in theregion.

You hear versions of this same question throughout the Middle East, asWashington and Tehran escalate their campaign of threats and counterthreats. President Bush's loose talk of World War III doesn't seem to bedeterring the Iranians, but it's scaring the heck out of America's allies inthe region. Some talk as if war is almost inevitable.

Slow down, everybody. The Bush administration should stop issuing warningsand ultimatums that could force military action. Iran should get the messagethat the West -- including Russia -- is serious about stopping Iran fromproducing nuclear weapons.

This isn't a Tehran intersection, where drivers can go full tilt becausethey know someone will stop at the last minute. This confrontation couldactually result in a crackup because of miscalculations and misunderstoodsignals.

If we look at what's going on behind the scenes in the two capitals, we canbegin to disentangle the strands of this crisis. First, the military option:Despite all the saber rattling from Bush and Vice President Cheney, theUnited States doesn't have good military choices now -- and the Iraniansknow it. That's one reason they are being so provocative; they believe thata U.S. military strike would hurt America more than Iran.

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The Washington Post

Free Elections Come First

By Robert Kagan
Sunday, October 28, 2007; B07

During the slavery controversy of the 1850s, Northerners who opposedconfronting the South argued for letting nature take its course. Slavery wasdoomed, they argued, because it could not spread where the climate wasinhospitable to cotton and because the atavistic slave system wouldinevitably be overtaken by industrialization.

Abraham Lincoln called these "lullaby" arguments. He agreed that slaverycould not compete in the long run, but he feared slaveholders could adaptfor a time and even thrive. Slavery had seemed doomed in the 1790s, too,until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, and then it had boomed. TheIndustrial Revolution could produce new ways to make slavery profitable. Itwould take the will of men, not nature, to bring down this horrific humaninvention.

This old debate ought to sound familiar, for we have been having it againover the surprising resilience of autocracy in China, Russia, Venezuela andelsewhere. It wasn't supposed to be this resilient. After the Cold War, manyinsisted that in a globalized economy, nations had to liberalize to competeand that economic liberalization would produce political liberalization. Asnational economies approached a certain level of per capita income, growingmiddle classes would demand legal and political power, which in turn wouldprovide the basis for democracy. Some pundits pointed to the desirability of"liberal autocracy" -- the dictator who could steer his nation through thenecessary stages of development until stable democracy could take hold.

The economic determinists shared two common traits. One was an abidingbelief in the inevitability of human progress, the belief that history movesin only one direction -- a faith born in the Enlightenment but given newlife by the fall of communism. The other was a prescription for patience andrestraint. Rather than confront autocracies and demand that they hold freeand fair elections, it was better to enmesh them in the global economy,support the rule of law and the creation of stronger state institutions, andlet the processes of development do their work. In the long dialecticalstruggle of human history between liberalism and various forms of autocracy,a struggle driven by the innate human desire for "recognition," liberaldemocracy was simply destined to win.

Maybe that is true in the long run. But for now, it hasn't worked out aspredicted. Rather than reforming themselves or withering in the globalizedworld, autocracies have been adapting. In Russia and China, boomingeconomies based on expanding international commerce have not undermined butstrengthened autocrats. Richer authoritarian governments monopolizetelevision and radio stations and keep a grip on Internet traffic, witheager help from foreign corporations. The growing Russian and Chinese middleclasses appear willing to keep their noses out of politics so long as themoney keeps rolling in and the penalty for political activity remainsimprisonment or death. As the scholars Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and George W.Downs have observed, it is "an ominous and poorly appreciated fact" that"economic growth, rather than being a force for democratic change intyrannical states, can sometimes be used to strengthen oppressive regimes."

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The Washington Post

High Plains Grifters
A misguided Senate plan repackages agricultural welfare as disaster relief.

Sunday, October 28, 2007; B06

EVERY SO often, nature turns its wrath on American agriculture. Even forvery efficient farmers on prime land, drought, floods and frost areoccupational hazards. And when extreme, unforeseeable weather conditionsdestroy crops and livestock, it's appropriate for the nation to providefinancial aid to the folks who produce our food and fiber.

But what about farmers and ranchers who plant grain where unfavorableweather is the norm rather than an exception? Not much rain falls onOklahoma, the Dakotas or the Texas panhandle. That's just the way it is.Between 1985 and 2005, more than 12,000 purportedly drought-strickenagricultural producers in those states claimed federal disaster payments atleast every other year. This group collected $1.4 billion in all, about 60percent of total federal farm disaster relief aid during those two decades,according to a database compiled by the Environmental Working Group.

You'd think that Congress would have concluded that there are better usesfor federal tax money than propping up the same relative handful ofsemi-arid farms year after year. Perhaps Washington could provide somemodest assistance to convert marginal cropland to environmentallysustainable grassland. Instead, the Senate Finance Committee has voted tocreate a five-year, $5.1 billion permanent disaster relief trust fund. Thelogic of the bill, championed by Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of NorthDakota and Max Baucus of Montana -- a state that is also one of the top 10recipients of disaster payments -- is that farmers are entitled to a securesource of disaster relief, rather than having to ask Congress for it everyyear.

The program does offer some advantages over current law. To be eligible fordisaster relief, farmers would have to purchase crop insurance; those whorepeatedly experience crop failure might find themselves facing risingpremiums, an incentive to reduce planting on the most marginal lands. Yetcrop insurance itself is heavily subsidized by the federal government, sothis requirement hardly takes the taxpayer off the hook.

The bill originated in the Senate's tax-writing Finance Committee, becausethe Agriculture Committee needed extra money for other farm programs, andthe only way to get it was either through spending cuts or additionalrevenue. Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, came up with sometighter rules on alleged tax-avoidance schemes by business, and, with thebacking of his committee, dedicated part of the resulting money to thedisaster fund. Not even the House, which has already passed its ownsubsidy-rich farm bill, dared to do the same. Congress seems bound anddetermined to adopt a bloated farm bill this year. But it should at leaststop this attempt to package agricultural welfare as disaster aid.

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The Washington Post

Act on the Shield Law
The Senate majority leader has two good choices.

Sunday, October 28, 2007; B06

THE MOMENT of truth has come for the Free Flow of Information Act. After
passing the House with a veto-proof majority this month, the bill that would
extend protection of the relationship between journalists and their sources
to the federal level awaits a decision on a course of action from Senate
Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick
J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has placed two options on the Senate calendar for Mr.
Reid's consideration; he needs to pick one.

The House bill that passed 398 to 21 would compel the disclosure of sources
in federal court only to prevent bodily harm or death, to identify a person
who unlawfully revealed a business trade secret or "nonpublic personalinformation," or to prevent a terrorist attack on the United States or harmto national security. The Senate bill applies to confidential sources exceptif they were eyewitnesses to crimes or if disclosure would prevent aterrorist attack or bodily harm. While there are other distinctions betweenthe two proposals, we support both of them. The Washington Post Co.continues to lobby actively for a shield law.

In recent years, more than 40 reporters have been taken to federal court andquestioned about their sources, notes and reports in civil and criminalcases. Journalists have had to lawyer up after stories on steroid use inbaseball and the Wen Ho Lee spy case. Currently, 49 states and the Districtof Columbia have shield laws or court decisions that protect journalistsfrom being compelled to reveal their sources. There's no such protection atthe federal level. Attorney general nominee Michael B. Mukasey's contentionthat tinkering with internal Justice Department guidelines is the way to gois a non-starter.

And so we wait for Mr. Reid. He could elect for a House-Senate conferencecommittee that would hash out a single bill that would go back to bothchambers for a vote. The likelihood of that happening is small since therehave been no conference committees in this Congress. Or Mr. Reid could calla vote on the House bill, which would go directly to the president for hissignature. We urge Mr. Reid to move on this quickly. Federal prosecutorsshould turn to the media as a last resort -- not as the first stop.


The Washington Post

By the Mississippi Delta, A Whole School Left Behind

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 28, 2007; A03

COMO, Miss. -- Of all the nation's elementary schools, the one serving thispoor, rural crossroads is at the bottom of the heap.

Its math and reading test scores ranked at the bottom in Mississippi lastyear, and Mississippi, in turn, ranked last among the states.

"We're just light-years behind," said Versa Brown, the school's newprincipal.

Como Elementary is, in other words, just the sort of school that wassupposed to benefit from the landmark No Child Left Behind law, which is upfor reauthorization by Congress.

But in Como and other poor, rural districts around the country, the law'sregimen of testing and sanctions has had little, if any, effect.

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The Washington Post

N.Y. Will Offer Secure Driver's Licenses to Citizens
Illegal Immigrants Will Be Allowed to Get a Version, a Move Homeland
Security Secretary Criticizes

Associated Press
Sunday, October 28, 2007; A02

The Bush administration and New York announced an agreement yesterday tocreate a generation of super-secure driver's licenses for U.S. citizens, butalso to allow illegal immigrants to get a version.

New York is the largest state to sign on so far to the government'spost-Sept. 11 effort to make identification cards more secure. The agreementwith the Department of Homeland Security will create a three-tiered licensesystem.

Under the compromise, New York will produce an "enhanced driver's license"that will be as secure as a passport. It is intended for people who willsoon need to meet such ID requirements, even for a short drive to Canada.

A second version of the license will meet the new federal standards of theReal ID Act. That law was designed to make it much harder for illegalimmigrants or would-be terrorists to obtain licenses.

A third type of license will be available to undocumented immigrants. NewYork Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D) has said that this ID will make the statemore secure by bringing those people "out of the shadows" and into Americansociety, and will lower auto insurance rates.

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The Washington Post

Thousands Protest Iraq War Across U.S.

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 28, 2007; 12:05 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thousands of people called for a swift end to the war inIraq as they marched through downtown on Saturday, chanting and carryingsigns that read: "Wall Street Gets Rich, Iraqis and GIs Die" or "DropTuition Not Bombs."

The streets were filled with thousands as labor union members, anti-waractivists, clergy and others rallied near City Hall before marching toDolores Park.

As part of the demonstration, protesters fell on Market Street as part of a"die in" to commemorate the thousands of American soldiers and Iraqicitizens who have died since the conflict began in March 2003.

The protest was the largest in a series of war protests taking place in NewYork, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities, organizers said.

No official head count was available. Organizers of the event estimatedabout 30,000 people participated in San Francisco. It appeared that morethan 10,000 people attended the march.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune

Frustration with Democratic party over Iraq boiling over
Rank and file blast top officials for not challenging the president


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- An ardent lifelong Democrat, Hillary Keyes thought thatwhen her party took control of Congress, it would finally bring an end tothe Iraq war. After all, to her the 2006 election was a mandate on Iraq.

But Keyes is at the 2007 state Democratic Party convention this weekend,still pleading with members of Congress from her own party to end the war.

"It's so frustrating," said Keyes, of Boca Raton. "People I know arefrustrated with the Democratic Party."

While the war for most is the biggest issue in America, ending it has becomea serious dividing point for Democrats. At the state Democratic Partyconvention, the division is hard to miss.

While state Democrats were listening to U.S. House Majority Leader StenyHoyer, D-Md., speak on Saturday, anti-war activists were a few miles awaydemanding an end to the war and expressing doubt that Democrats would standup and get the job done.

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The Miami Herald

Bush on Cuba: 'Same old macho speech'

Posted on Sun, Oct. 28, 2007

George W. Bush is irrelevant to the future of Cuba, but that didn't stop thelame-duck president with gutter poll ratings from delivering anothershopworn, knee-jerk lecture to the communist nation last week.

Bush's speech was recycled from his father, who recycled it from RonaldReagan, who recycled it from Richard Nixon, who recycled it from LyndonJohnson, who recycled it from John F. Kennedy.

The message was no different than it was back in 1961: a stern demand thatthe Cuban government renounce socialism and embrace democracy.

Now, as then, that demand will accomplish absolutely nothing for thestruggling people of Cuba.

If Bush truly believes otherwise, it proves that he's floating in a foggyparallel universe, a self-important dream world in which hostile foreignleaders tremble at the sound of his voice.

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Los Angeles Times,0,346384.story?coll=la-news-comment-editorials

Make 'No Child' honest
Although there's much not to like about the law, it has focused attention oneducation. Let's fix it.

October 28, 2007

The No Child Left Behind Act has made an admitted mishmash of publiceducation. Yet, like nothing before, the law also has schools and the publicpaying serious attention to how little is learned by so many students, andhow inferior conditions fester in schools that enroll large numbers ofblack, Latino and impoverished children. They are left to struggle, barelymastering elementary reading skills, passed from one grade to the next likescholastic hot potatoes.

Still, how can one like a law so badly framed and rigidly constructed thatit erects unfair and unreachable standards, encourages schools to ignore thechildren most in need of help, labels many a fine school as failing, and hasthe perverse effect of shrinking history, science and arts education andbadly cutting into programs for gifted kids?

With the act up for reauthorization, Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) isopenly conceding that his original bill was so poorly crafted, the U.S.Education secretary was forced to connive ways around its more awkwardprovisions. Miller aims to make amends with the new version. Some of thechanges are praiseworthy, but others undermine the essential purpose of thelaw.

One proposed fix is long overdue and widely applauded. Miller would get ridof the arbitrary and useless rule that schools be measured by how manystudents test as "proficient" each year in reading and math. Proficiency isa meaningless term because each state sets its own standard, and thosestandards are quite literally all over the map. But the proficiencyrequirement has had a more insidious effect: Schools tend to ignore studentswho are truly struggling and concentrate only on those who are just belowproficient, who might be boosted over the bar within an academic year. Andbecause they get no credit for pushing students from proficient to advanced,schools are neglecting the top academic performers, and gifted programs havebeen shrinking or dying nationwide. Miller now wants schools measured byeach student's year-to-year progress, which always made a lot more sense.

Miller also has written provisions that encourage states to raise standardsand put better teachers in high-poverty schools. The law would no longer hitschools that come close to their growth targets with harsh punitivemeasures. He includes a modest bonus program that would pay teachers forgood performance, including raising test scores. Its reach is limited, butMiller deserves praise for introducing on a formal level the idea thatbetter teachers deserve better pay.

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Los Angeles Times,0,27729.story?coll=la-opinion-center

Dump winner-take-all
The states should divvy up electoral votes so people are more accuratelyrepresented.

By Alexander Keyssar
October 28, 2007

The effort by some California Republicans to alter the way the state'selectoral votes are distributed in presidential elections has beenmiraculously resurrected.

The proposal -- which would replace the winner-take-all system with anallocation of electoral votes by congressional districts -- had stalled lastmonth in the wake of a strangely surreptitious financial contribution to thecause from a Rudy Giuliani backer. The proposal had also faced a ferociousassault from Democrats (especially Clintonians) who fought it with money,focus groups, radio ads and red-hot rhetoric, insisting that the proposedreform was nothing but a "power grab" by Republicans, a dangerous andblatant ploy designed to rig an election through procedural trickery.

But now it's back. Last week, a new group of experienced organizers said notonly was it reviving the initiative but it would spend "whatever it takes"to get the proposal onto the June ballot. Democrats began crying foul again,worried that Republican electoral votes from California in the 2008 electioncould go from zero (under the winner-take-all system in this majorityDemocratic state) to as many as 19 (the number of districts that haveelected GOP members of Congress).

But this partisan battle for short-term advantage between Democrats andRepublicans in California ought not obscure the larger truth: The strangemethod of electing presidents under which we currently operate needs to befixed. The way the system works is, in fact, subject to partisanmanipulation that could be decisive in a close election. Right now, anystate legislature could legally decide to apportion its state's electoralvotes in almost any way it wants -- "winner take all" (the system currentlyused in most states), or by district (as happens in Maine and Nebraska), orin some other as-yet-undetermined fashion. In late November 2000, forinstance, Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature seriously consideredignoring the disputed popular vote altogether and choosing electors byitself.

A bit of history suggests that this should not surprise us. Thewinner-take-all system of allocating electoral votes -- which we now acceptas normal and which awards all of a state's electoral votes to the candidatewho wins a majority of the popular vote in the state -- was itself theproduct of partisan maneuvers, put into place by politicians of differentparties, including our revered founding father and democratic hero, ThomasJefferson.

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The Boston Globe

Many Democrats opposed to war with Iran

By Anne Flaherty, Associated Press Writer
October 28, 2007

WASHINGTON --Still reeling from the fallout of authorizing the Iraq war fiveyears ago, congressional Democrats are determined to put themselves early onrecord as opposing military action in Iran.

In recent days, many Democrats have gone to great lengths to denouncePresident Bush's strategy on Iran, including his decision to label Tehran'sQuds military force as a terrorist group and his statement that anuclear-armed Iran could lead to "World War III."

Democrats also are jumping on Bush's latest war spending request as proofthat the White House is considering airstrikes on Iran's underground uraniumenrichment facilities. Bush wants $88 million to continue developing a"bunker-busting" bomb designed to destroy deeply buried targets such asthose in Iran.

And in case there were doubts about the Democrats' position, Senate MajorityWhip Richard Durbin introduced legislation Thursday that would require Bushto seek Congress' blessing before taking any military action in Iran.

Standing behind him are liberal anti-war groups, which have expanded theirfocus on Iraq to include a drumbeat of protests against a potential war withneighboring Iran.

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Houston Chronicle

GOP battle may last to convention
Giuliani's and Romney's fates may hinge on success of their early gambles

Philadelphia Inquirer
Oct. 27, 2007, 10:30PM

PHILADELPHIA - In separate conversations, speaking privately, two leading Pennsylvania Republicans recently volunteered the same striking and highly unconventional thought.

Despite the front-loading of their party's primary season next year, theycan envision a prolonged battle for the GOP presidential nomination, perhapsone that goes all the way to the convention.

They're not saying that's the most likely outcome or the most desirable.

But at this point, they say they don't believe any candidate is strongenough to blow away the others in the early going.

Nothing that happened during the last week - when the eight men in the raceengaged in two of the major political events of the fall, the Values VotersSummit in Washington and a debate in Orlando, Fla. - served to change thedynamics of the contest.

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The Detroit News

'Daddy party' gets cranky

Eugene Robinson
Sunday, October 28, 2007

Has America become a mean, ungenerous, cramped and crabby nation, a deeplyinsecure colossus -- one that just might be taking all those Viagra andCialis commercials a bit too personally? Is the country desperate to findscapegoats to blame for a perceived decline in, um, vigor? Or is Americastill a confident land of hope and promise, a place still potent withpossibility?

It's watching the Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaigntrail that makes me pose those sweeping questions. I'm just suggesting acontext for assessing the actions and rhetoric of a party that seems to bein the throes of andropause.

That's the popularly accepted term for "male menopause," which medicaldictionaries tend to describe as a "purported" syndrome rather than anactual clinical diagnosis. I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on whetherdads go through a Y chromosome version of what used to be euphemisticallycalled the "change of life." But I think the "Daddy party" has beenpresenting clear symptoms.

The latest was the Senate vote Wednesday in which Republicans, supported bya handful of red-state Democrats, narrowly scuttled the Dream Act, a billthat would have provided a path to U.S. citizenship for some youngundocumented immigrants -- but only those who did everything this countryonce found worthy and admirable in pursuit of the American Dream.

Under the proposal, men and women who fulfilled several conditions -- theyhad to be under 30, had to have been brought into the country illegally whenthey were younger than 16, had to have been in the United States for atleast five years and had to be graduates of U.S. high schools -- would havebeen given conditional legal status. If they went on to complete two yearsof college or two years of military service, they would have been eligiblefor permanent residency.

Let's see. Here was a way to encourage a bunch of kids to go to collegerather than melt into the shadows as off-the-books day laborers -- or maybeeven gang members. And here was a way to boost enlistment in our overtaxedarmed forces. Aren't education and global competitiveness supposed to bevital issues? Aren't we fighting open-ended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

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The Boston Globe

What Hillary said

October 28, 2007

IN AN interview with The Boston Globe editorial board on Oct. 10, SenatorHillary Clinton made a remark that has been so badly twisted by heropponents that we feel it necessary to reprint the interview transcript thatcontains the remark.

The quote that was lifted from the interview and magnified by Clinton'sopponents is this: "I have a million ideas. The country can't afford themall." Within hours of the Globe's news report on Clinton's visit, theRepublican National Committee sent out an e-mail alert claiming the remarkshowed how expensive a Clinton presidency would be for the taxpayers. Itlaunched a "Clinton Spend-o-meter" on its website, tracking the potentialcost of Clinton's campaign proposals.

A week later at the Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., RudyGiuliani played the remark for laughs, quoting her and adding the zinger:"No kidding Hillary, America can't afford you!"

All in good fun, perhaps, until you learn that Clinton was saying sheopposes big government spending, not the other way around.

At the Globe meeting, Clinton was asked why she had turned cool on aproposal for so-called baby bonds that she has spoken favorably about justthe week before. Baby bonds - sometimes called Individual DevelopmentAccounts - are small nest eggs government sets aside for each Americanchild, which would build until adulthood when they could be used for collegetuition or a down payment on a house. Though ridiculed when Clintonmentioned them, baby bonds have bipartisan support and can be an effectiveway to fight poverty. Clinton was asked whether dropping a good, new, boldidea like this was a symptom of what some critics have called a too-cautiouscampaign.

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The Chicago Tribune,1,358983.story

Obama accuses Clinton of dodging
Democrats trade shots on funding of Social Security

By John McCormick
Tribune staff reporter
8:24 AM CDT, October 28, 2007


Sen. Barack Obama charged Saturday that Sen. Hillary Clinton has dodgedtough questions about the future of Social Security, a program important tomany Iowa caucus participants.

The confrontation marked a new, increasingly aggressive approach by Obama ashe seeks to more directly challenge the Democratic primary front-runner,something his backers have been urging him to do for months.

By going on the offensive, Obama, an Illinois Democrat, hopes to moreclearly define his differences with Clinton, of New York, who has continuedto build her lead in national polls and those in some early voting states.

Obama maintains the two also have significant differences on militaryconfrontation in Iraq and Iran, topics likely to come up when the Democraticpresidential candidates meet for a debate Tuesday in Philadelphia.

As he focused on Social Security, Obama pointed to recent instances in whichClinton was less than straightforward, he said, on how she would alterlong-term funding for the enormous federal program.

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Thompson wary of long-term Iraq presence

Posted on Sun, Oct. 28, 2007

Republican Fred Thompson warned Saturday that suggestions the U.S. couldmaintain a long-term presence in Iraq "would not be a good development," andhe conceded that mistakes were made that are only now being rectified.

President Bush has suggested there could be a long-term U.S. presence inIraq, very similar to what the nation has in Korea. But Thompson, who hasbeen a reliable supporter of the war in Iraq thus far, was leery of along-term presence in an interview with The Associated Press.

"It's hard to see that far in the future, but I would certainly hope not,that would not be a good development," the presidential candidate told TheAP. "I would not want to predict that. I don't know why he did."

While Thompson said there are U.S. troops on long-term deployments in placeslike Germany and Korea, he said "of course not" when asked if a similardeployment should happen in Iraq.

"I don't think that's desirable," said Thompson, though he did leave an opening. "What might be necessary in the future, you can never tell," hesaid.

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1 comment:

joreko said...

The proposal to divide California's electoral votes by congressional district feeds on everyone’s frustration with the current system of electing the President.

The district approach is much worse than the current system.

The proposed ballot measure would not, as claimed, make California relevant in presidential elections. The presidential race is a foregone conclusion in 50 of the state’s 53 congressional districts. Candidates would have no incentive to pay any more attention than they do now to the remaining 50 districts.

Even if the proposed district system were used by all 50 states, there are only 41 congressional districts (out of 435 in the country) that are competitive in presidential races. Over 90% of the people would be left out of the presidential election because they happen to live in non-competitive districts. This would be even worse than the current system, where two-thirds are left out.

A district system would make it far more likely to elect a candidate who loses the national popular vote. It does not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote. In 2004, Bush’s won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. In 2000, the current system gave Bush 271 electoral votes (with 270 needed to win), but Bush won 55% of the districts.

A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equally important, and to guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill has 364 legislative sponsors in 47 states. It has been signed into law in Maryland. Since its introduction in February 2006, the bill has passed by 11 legislative houses (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, and California).

The National Popular Vote bill would not take effect piecemeal, but only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes --- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill is enacted in a group of states possessing 270 or more electoral votes, all of the electoral votes from those states would be awarded, as a bloc, to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).