Saturday, January 12, 2008

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 12, 2008

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New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist: Of Hope and Politics

January 12, 2008

We're about to find out how resilient Barack Obama is.

I was not one of those who thought, during those frantic, giddy, sleeplessfew days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, that Mr. Obama was on hisway to a blowout win.

When I mentioned my skepticism to reporters at an Obama rally in Derry onSunday, everyone insisted he was romping to victory. "Double digits," saidone reporter.

This certainty was based on poll results and the size and enthusiasm of theObama crowds. But poll results have been unreliable for decades when itcomes to black candidates and white voters. And I wrote in a column that ranon election day that whenever Senator Obama would ask how many people in hisoverflow crowds were still undecided, about a third would raise their hands.

I was not predicting an Obama defeat. I just had a strong sense that thenews media, feeding on itself, had lost sight of reality and that theelection was bound to be close.

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New York Times

Editorial: Refugees in the Cold

January 12, 2008

Thousands of elderly and disabled refugees who have found safety in theUnited States in recent years may soon find out just how cold and equivocalAmerica's welcome can be. These vulnerable newcomers are subject to afederal law that cuts off their disability benefits if they do not becomecitizens within seven years.

The refugees fled war and persecution in places like Vietnam, Iraq andSomalia, and they bear the scars - many have lost limbs or their eyesight.They have built new lives here, with government help, including essentialSupplemental Security Income benefits that will be withdrawn if they don'tget their citizenship papers.

While many have done so, thousands have found it impossible to meet thedeadline. Some are old and infirm and have not yet been able to pass thelanguage and civics test. Many others are caught in a bureaucratic trap: thenotoriously hapless citizenship agency, overwhelmed by security paperworksince 9/11, has not finished their background checks in time.

The Social Security Administration estimates that more than 21,000immigrants since 2003 have been cut off from disability checks for missingthe seven-year deadline, and that about 35,000 more will be pushed off thatcliff in the next five years unless something is done.

If you wonder who could possibly object to helping this small, fragilepopulation, the answer is almost nobody. A bill to extend the limit to nineyears passed the House last July by voice vote, with no objections, and itwas to be offered for unanimous consent in the Senate. That is until SenatorJim DeMint of South Carolina, exercised his right to place a "hold" on thebill, sending it into limbo, where it remains.

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New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor: United We Fall

Austin, Tex.
January 12, 2008

BY losing the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Barack Obama found himselfsharing common ground with an adversary whose politics he has oftencriticized: George W. Bush. Like Mr. Bush in 2000, Mr. Obama finished secondin a primary he had expected to win.

As it happens, this is not the only way that Mr. Obama resembles Mr. Bush.The Illinois Democrat seems to have learned a lot from the firstpresidential campaign of a Texas Republican.

Mr. Bush positioned himself in 2000 as "a uniter, not a divider," and Mr.Obama, while carefully avoiding using the word "uniter," now offers asimilar message. Just as Mr. Bush's message of compassionate conservatismappealed to many Democrats and independent-minded liberals, Mr. Obama'spolitics of hope seems to disarm Republicans and rightward-leaningindependents.

Unfortunately for those conservatives drawn to Mr. Obama's message of unity,he almost certainly can't deliver on it. Just as President Bush failed tounite Washington and instead ended up contributing to its divisiveness, soMr. Obama will eventually have to accept that conflict, rather than unity,is the natural condition of politics.

In a way, I have come to blame myself for believing that Mr. Bush could be auniter and not a divider. In retrospect, it is clear that he was a dividerin Texas, too. Even while working with Democrats, he destroyed theDemocratic Party here with his personality.

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Washington Post

ID Plan Is Broadly Criticized
Bipartisan Objections Cite Security, Costs and Privacy

By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2008; A02

A new Bush administration plan to create national standards for driver'slicenses drew heavy criticism yesterday from civil liberties groups, someRepublican and Democratic lawmakers, governors, and the travel industry.

The critics said the new licenses anticipated under the plan, which is aimedat screening out potential terrorists and uncovering illegal immigrants,could still be forged. They also complained that the program, known as RealID, would be costly for states to implement, potentially restrict summertravel, and allow private companies access to the personal data of most U.S.citizens.

But they also welcomed yesterday's official announcement that states haveuntil May 2011 before they need to begin issuing licenses that meet thedepartment's new guidelines, and until December 2014 to begin replacingcurrent licenses. Drivers over the age of 50 will not have to obtain newlicenses until the end of 2017.

The deadline extensions give both Congress and future presidents time toreconsider what opponents have depicted as a national identification systemthat will infringe on privacy rights and leave room for large-scale identitytheft.

"DHS has kicked the can down the road to the next administration, andconceivably the next two or three administrations," said Barry Steinhardt, alawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union. Already, 17 states have saidthey would either refuse to issue the new licenses or have asked Congress torepeal a 2005 law that required states to collect and store additional dataon driver's license applicants, such as birth certificates, Social Securitynumbers and home addresses.

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Washington Post

Politics and Religion Do Mix

By Paul Marshall
From the Hudson Institute
Saturday, January 12, 2008; 12:00 AM

This faith-drenched political primary season is enough to cause even anenthusiastic religious scholar like me to throw up my hands and contemplatejoining the ACLU. I now harbor a hitherto unforeseen desire for thecandidates to instead prattle on endlessly in Gore-like fashion abouttradable differential carbon caps or obscure environmental guarantees inLatin American free-trade agreements, just so long as they let up on the GodTalk.

But their habit will not go away -- nor should it. The problem with ourcontemporary talk of faith and politics is not that it exists but that it isso often so very shallow. We live in an increasingly religious world inwhich faith and belief affect every dimension of our existence, so ourpoliticians better talk about it.

One does not have to be a believer to accept this. The Chinese regime, stillofficially atheist, represses its believers in part because it believes thatChristianity, and especially the Catholic Church, and particularly John PaulII, were major factors in undercutting the Soviet Union. Because China wantsto avoid the same fate, and because it believes that Christianity has been amajor factor in the strength of the West, it is encouraging the developmentof departments of religion, and centers to study Christianity, in itsuniversities.

Religion does not exist in isolation. It concerns and shapes our fundamentalview of the nature of human life and how it is and should be lived. Thisrealization has come home in politics, especially international politics.Obviously, when we are under attack by people whose ideology we cannotunderstand unless we delve into the history of Islamic law and theology, wemust learn to take their religious doctrines seriously.

The future is likely to bring many more debates on how religion shapes notonly politics but economics. Of course this question has always been around.Its locus classicus is Max Weber's misunderstood work on the relation ofProtestantism and capitalism. Sadly, Weber never finished this work. Thefamous title "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" refers notto a book actually written by Weber, but to a collection of his divergentoccasional pieces on this topic.

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Washington Post

The Church Doctrines of Pope Ron Paul: What's wrong with libertarianism?

By Michael Kinsley
Saturday, January 12, 2008; 12:00 AM

Libertarians get patronized a lot. Chipmunky and earnest, always pursuinglogical consistency down wacky paths, they pose no real threat to theestablished order. But the modest success of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas inthe presidential campaign entitles them to some answers to the questionsthey raise. They say: People should be free to do whatever they want, aslong as it doesn't hurt other people. If you agree, how do you justify(let's pick just two): 1) laws that forbid private behavior, such asrecreational drugs; 2) government programs that redistribute one person'smoney to someone else?

The libertarian perspective is useful, and undervalued. Why does thegovernment pay farmers not to grow food? Why are medications for fataldiseases sometimes held off the market in case they aren't safe? (Comparedto death?) Legislators and regulators should ask themselves far more oftenthan they do whether some government activity or other expands freedom orcontracts it.

Furthermore, democracy and majority rule are no answers. Tyranny of themajority is a constant danger. How would you like a law requiring thatpeople with odd Social Security numbers have to give $1,000 to people witheven Social Security numbers? To libertarians, much of what the governmentdoes is essentially like that.

So what is wrong with the libertarian case for extremely limited government?conomics 101 teaches some of the basic justifications for governmentinterference in the economy. Some things, such as the cost of nationaldefense, are "public goods." We can't each decide for ourselves how muchdefense we want. We have to decide that together. Then there are"externalities," which are costs (or, sometimes, benefits) that yourdecisions impose on me. Pollution is the classic example. Without governmentinvolvement of some sort to override our individual judgments, we willproduce more pollution than most of us want.

There are "market-oriented" solutions to this problem, but there is adifference --often forgotten, especially by Republicans -- between usingmarket forces and leaving something to the market. The point of principle iswhether the government should intervene at all. How it chooses to interveneis purely pragmatic.

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Washington Post

Unmuzzling High School Journalists

By Richard Just
Saturday, January 12, 2008; A17

What happened at the Supreme Court 20 years ago tomorrow has been longforgotten by most Americans -- if they ever heard about it at all. Unlikethe better-known decisions of the last century, the ruling handed down onJan. 13, 1988, had nothing to do with race or abortion rights. It didn'tbecome fodder for presidential candidates and hasn't galvanized voters oneither the left or right.

Yet over the past two decades, the court's ruling in Hazelwood SchoolDistrict v. Kuhlmeier, which concerned high school newspapers, has hadfar-reaching consequences. Not only has it changed the way journalism istaught at many schools, it has made it more difficult for high schoolstudents to learn the important lessons about democracy that come frompublishing -- or simply reading -- serious newspapers.

Before 1988, the precedent governing newspapers at public high schools was a1969 Supreme Court decision called Tinker v. Des Moines IndependentCommunity School District, in which the court upheld the right of studentsto wear antiwar armbands in school, writing that neither students norteachers "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech orexpression at the schoolhouse gate."

Nineteen years later, in Hazelwood, the court took up the case of aprincipal at a high school near St. Louis who had deleted two pages of astudent newspaper because he objected to articles about pregnancy anddivorce. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Byron White, affirmedthe principal's right to censor the paper. Though the 1988 ruling did notoverturn Tinker, it held that the 1969 ruling did not necessarily protectschool-sponsored publications.

To be sure, the opinion did not grant principals a blanket right tomicromanage their newspapers. Censorship decisions, White wrote, would needto be "reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns," and undercertain circumstances, publications could be mostly protected fromcensorship. Still, the decision tipped the balance of power at high schoolnewspapers dramatically in favor of principals.

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Washington Post

Congo's Neglected Tragedy

By Anna Husarska
Saturday, January 12, 2008; A17

GOMA, Congo -- The roads here are awful, partly because of perennialdisrepair and partly because of a 2002 volcanic eruption that covered largeareas of Goma with black lava. Now the town is the site of a major peaceconference, so a few potholes were filled with sand. One can only hope thatwhatever results from this meeting has a firmer base.

The conference opened Sunday and is scheduled to end next week. Some 1,300people are attending. Congolese television showed the inaugural speeches,full of hope. It has been 16 months since the current conflict (the mostrecent of many) began in North Kivu. "The time for peace has come," said theconference's president.

To be sure, peace is desperately needed. Since September 2006, some 400,000people from North Kivu have been displaced. They are in camps and hostcommunities in Congo or in the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi andUganda. Violence, especially against women and children, has made the regiona frightfully dangerous place. I have encountered rape victims as old as 66and as young as 14 months -- many of them in need of surgical intervention.

In anticipation of the peace conference, both the government and its mainadversary, the renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda, announced unilateralcease-fires. But there are four warring factions here; the others areRwandan Hutu rebels and jungle Mai-Mai militias. So there is no effectivetruce while the politicians talk peace.

As the badges for the peace conference were being distributed, the UnitedNations announced that in the past few days, Mai-Mai soldiers had foughtNkunda's men, Nkunda's troops had taken new territory from the government,and government soldiers had stopped the convoy of an internationalnongovernmental organization and confiscated its medical supplies. AnotherNGO convoy was robbed at gunpoint of money and four mobile phones afterbeing halted by uniformed men in a territory controlled by governmentforces.

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Washington Post

Immunity Off-Limits
Congress should not endanger the criminal investigation of the destructionof CIA tapes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008; A16

IN ONE respect, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is a lucky guy, despite being thefocus of media and law enforcement attention for allegedly authorizing thedestruction of CIA tapes that may have depicted the harsh interrogation oftwo al-Qaeda suspects. The silver lining for Mr. Rodriguez, a former chiefof clandestine operations at the CIA, is that he is represented by Robert S.Bennett, a savvy lawyer with a long and bipartisan track record ofsuccessfully representing high-profile Washington figures, including formerpresident Bill Clinton.

Mr. Rodriguez has been subpoenaed to appear before the House intelligencecommittee next week, and Mr. Bennett has said he won't allow his client totestify without immunity -- as any lawyer worth his salt would do,especially when the Justice Department has already launched its owninvestigation. Generally, when a witness testifies before Congress under agrant of immunity, prosecutors are not allowed to use the testimony unlessthey can prove they obtained the same information independently. This is adifficult hurdle to clear and a major reason that courts threw out thecriminal case against Iran-contra defendant Oliver L. North.

There is no indication that the committee is poised to grant Mr. Rodriguezimmunity, and we urge the committee to stand its ground and rebuff Mr.Bennett's request.

There is reason to believe that the Justice Department under AttorneyGeneral Michael B. Mukasey will proceed diligently with its investigation.Mr. Mukasey recently ratcheted up the department's CIA tapes inquiry into afull-blown criminal investigation and named as lead lawyer John H. Durham, aveteran prosecutor with an impressive record on tough cases involvingorganized crime and public corruption. The pressure on Mr. Mukasey and thedepartment to provide a thorough and above-reproach investigation increasedon Wednesday, when Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the U.S. District Court for theDistrict of Columbia declined to conduct his own investigation into the tapedestruction. Judge Kennedy is presiding over the cases of detainees atGuantanamo Bay who are challenging their detention and treatment and whoargued that the content of the tapes could be relevant to their cases; thejudge deferred the matter while the Justice Department is investigating.

Parallel congressional and criminal investigations are not uncommon, butCongress should continue to tread very carefully. Nothing, however, shouldstop lawmakers from continuing to press ahead aggressively with anexamination of past and current Bush administration policies on detentionsand interrogations.


CBS News

Racial Tensions Roil Democratic Race

(Politico) This story was written by Ben Smith.
Jan. 11, 2008

A series of comments from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her husband, and hersupporters are spurring a racial backlash and adding a divisive edge to thepresidential primary as the candidates head south to heavily African-American South Carolina.

The comments, which ranged from the New York senator appearing to diminishthe role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement - an aidelater said she misspoke - to Bill Clinton dismissing Sen. Barack Obama'simage in the media as a "fairy tale" - generated outrage on black radio,black blogs and cable television. And now they've drawn the attention ofprominent African-American politicians.

"A cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of thesestatements," said Obama spokeswoman Candice Tolliver, who said that Clintonwould have to decide whether she owed anyone an apology.

"There's a groundswell of reaction to these comments - and not just theselatest comments but really a pattern, or a series of comments that we'veheard for several months," she said. "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is thisreally an isolated situation or is there something bigger behind all ofthis?"

Clinton supporters responded to that suggestion with their own outrage.

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Los Angeles Times,1,2636688.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Giuliani is feeling the squeeze
Some staffers forgo their pay as the GOP presidential hopeful bets heavilyon a victory in Florida.

By Louise Roug, Dan Morain and Stuart Silverstein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
January 12, 2008

CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. - Rudolph W. Giuliani, once the front-runner for theRepublican presidential nomination, said Friday that some of his staffershad started forgoing their salaries to ease the strain on the campaign'sbudget.

Giuliani told reporters at an appearance in Florida that the aidesvolunteered to defer their pay "to stretch the dollars even further." Theformer New York mayor has $7 million in hand to spend in upcomingprimaries -- enough, his campaign said, to compete through the crucial SuperTuesday contests in more than 20 states, including California, Feb. 5.

Still, many political observers said the news signaled a surprising cashsqueeze in a campaign that was thought to be managing its finances well. Italso underscored Giuliani's sharp decline in recent weeks from front-runnerto struggling contender, they said, while renewing questions about thewisdom of his decision to essentially take a pass on the earliest contests.The candidate has staked his prospects on winning in Florida on Jan. 29.

"He's in a tough spot," said John J. Pitney Jr., a politics professor atClaremont McKenna College and a former Republican National Committeestaffer. "Up to now, Giuliani's fundraising appeared to be a majoradvantage, but . . . he's probably burned through a lot of money."

Campaign officials said that the budget situation dovetailed with theirstrategy of betting heavily on Florida and of using momentum from a primaryvictory here to galvanize fresh fundraising and support.

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