Monday, July 31, 2006

GAY MARRIAGE AMENDMENT - As Vote Nears, Opponents Attack Ban's Wording

GAY MARRIAGE AMENDMENT - As Vote Nears, Opponents Attack Ban's Wording
By Chris L. Jenkins
Copyright by The Washington Post
Monday, July 31, 2006; Page B02

Opponents of a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Virginia have been fighting the proposal with emotional pleas: "Don't write discrimination into the state Bill of Rights," goes one rallying cry. "We are your friends and your neighbors," says another.

But as voters get closer to deciding whether to approve the amendment, opponents are using a more cerebral argument as well. The wording of the amendment is so vague that it might affect a broad range of Virginians by potentially voiding contracts between unwed heterosexual couples as well, they say.

"This amendment would affect unmarried couples whether they are gay or straight," said Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, the state's largest gay rights organization. "One of our biggest fears is that these documents [such as contracts or wills] could be found unconstitutional if a third party tries to come in and stop their enforcement. Those same concerns apply to heterosexual couples who haven't gotten married."

Because the amendment reads in part that the Virginia Constitution should not recognize "a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals," opponents have consistently raised the specter that the amendment could interfere with any unmarried couple trying to make a health-care decision or pass along property ownership.

They said the measure as written also could threaten protective orders and additional safeguards for unmarried victims of domestic violence by barring legal recognition of unmarried household members.

Since the beginning of the campaign, however, supporters of the amendment have said that the accusations are merely distractions from the essence of what the amendment hopes to do: ensure that Virginia does not have to recognize civil unions made in other states and codify a traditional definition of marriage.

"This has been the primary tactic used in other states as well," said Chris Freund, spokesman for the Family Foundation, a group that advocated for placing the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot. Twenty states have passed similar constitutional amendments. "But it simply isn't true. It's just a scare tactic."

The real and perceived consequences of the proposed amendment are becoming a contentious aspect of the emotional fight over the ballot question. Although it is largely an untested legal argument, opponents have seized upon the wording as a way to try to convince those who ordinarily might oppose same-sex marriage that the amendment would have a broad impact on those who are not gay. Opponents have been buoyed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who has said he will vote against the amendment because he also believes it would affect unwed heterosexual couples.

The continued wrangling comes as supporters and opponents continue to expand their organizations and increase their outreach. Supporters will be at county fairs in August and have been attending dozens of church picnics and other events this summer. Opponents say they have visited thousands of homes across the state.

Opponents' message has centered on the legal benefits now enjoyed by unmarried heterosexual couples and trying to cast doubt on whether they would exist under the amendment. These include a law that went into effect last year that allows companies to offer health benefits to a range of loved ones.

Opponents say that the amendment would take Virginia law -- which already bans same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions -- one step further by applying the same ban to opposite-sex couples.

"We're in for a long line of litigation for a long period of time that will tie up families who are trying to sort out what the consequences of what this amendment are about," said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, campaign manager of the Commonwealth Coalition.

Supporters of the amendment say it would not have any impact on current Virginia practice.

"The ability to enter into a contract about anything isn't exclusive to marriage," said David Johnson, a deputy for Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R), a supporter of the amendment. "The overall, overarching principle here is that this amendment is very clear in defining marriage and to prevent any rhetorical sleights of hand that create marriage by another name. A contract to buy a house or to sell property . . . or write a will, [is] not exclusive to marriage."

Some legal scholars said that the wording of the document is broad enough that it could expose the state to court challenges.

"There are plenty of open questions given the breadth of the language," said Carl Tobias, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Richmond. "In terms of the wills and health care, various contracts that people engage in . . . much of that could be unclear and subject to litigation. . . . That's not a healthy development."

A Rallying Cry for Democratic Populism

A Rallying Cry for Democratic Populism
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Copyright by The Washington Post
Monday, July 31, 2006; Page A13

What would happen if the opposition party actually chose to oppose the one in power? Not just on the margins, but by rejecting outright the majority party's fundamental beliefs on trade and tax policy?

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) urges Democrats to take on Republicans in just that way in his new book, "Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain Dead Politics Are Selling Out America." He makes a politically compelling -- if economically questionable -- case.

Dorgan, a master of partisan rhetoric, puts his debating skills to good use in spinning out anecdotes that make free trade and corporate tax breaks seem cruel to the average citizen. He clearly hopes to instruct fellow Democrats how to ride a populist wave if one were ever to form.

Democrats are deeply divided, of course, about whether to adopt his advice. Many prefer pro-business, pro-trade positions that distinguish them a little from the GOP, but not a lot. A growing number of others, however, are in Dorgan's radical camp. They think the way to finally win is to just say "No."

Depending on how low President Bush's job-approval ratings go, Dorgan might be on to something. His book is worth reading if only to see in detail how a reenergized Democratic Party might act.

Its first tenet would be to buck the economic consensus about the wisdom and inevitability of globalization. Dorgan disparages the elites' blind faith in markets to produce positive financial results. Instead, he concentrates on the human toll that cheap labor has exacted on low- and middle-income families.

He describes well the personal hardship felt by loyal workers when factories for such iconic U.S. products as Fig Newtons, Levi's jeans and Radio Flyer wagons moved abroad. After Huffy bikes closed its plant in Celina, Ohio, Dorgan writes, employees left shoes in empty parking spaces to deliver the message, "You can move our jobs to China, but you're not going to be able to fill our shoes."

The senator does more than tug the heartstrings. He recommends a litany of solutions, including repealing a tax break that encourages the outsourcing of jobs overseas, prohibiting imports from countries that abuse their workers and setting a ceiling on our trade deficits.

He would stop approving free-trade agreements of the kind that have flowed through Congress in recent years. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have embraced such pacts (NAFTA for North America and CAFTA for Central America, for example) as the only way for the United States to prosper over the long run in an interdependent international economy.

Dorgan rejects that thinking as injurious to American workers, the people whose well-being, he says, should be the focus of federal policy. The title of his final chapter says it all: "Flat World? No, Flat Wrong!"

To Dorgan, big corporations are the villains and labor unions the saviors. "I understand that big is not always bad, and small is not always beautiful," he writes. But, he adds: "If the shoe fits, wear it. And it damn well better be American-made."

He blames many of the nation's woes on the avarice of large multinational companies -- a tack that few politicians, dependent on campaign contributions, are willing to take these days. He also bashes lobbyists, which is for him a somewhat hollow declaration. His wife, Kimberly Olson Dorgan, is the chief lobbyist for the American Council of Life Insurers.

Dorgan heaps particular scorn on pharmaceutical and oil companies. He accuses drugmakers, for instance, of bending the country's laws in ways that hurt consumers and bloat their bottom lines. In response, he would repeal laws that bar the government from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices and that prohibit the importation of less-expensive prescription drugs from countries such as Canada.

These are not the freshest of ideas, particularly coming from a liberal Democrat. But Dorgan delivers them with real sting. He claims, for example, that Tommy G. Thompson, then-secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told him privately that Dorgan was "right" to favor allowing prescription drugs to cross into this country -- a position at odds with that of Thompson's boss at the time, President Bush.

Dorgan also sounds what has become a major rallying cry for the political left -- a full-throated assault on the nation's largest retailer. "Wal-Mart," he writes, "is the poster child for what has gone so terribly wrong in this global economy." He complains that the company "trades American jobs for cheap foreign labor" and "pushes wages down here in the United States."

"Take This Job and Ship It" is Dorgan's effort to spread that kind of populism beyond his prairie home.

Birnbaum covers lobbying and politics for The Washington Post.

Kissing up to Bush on war may smack down Lieberman

Kissing up to Bush on war may smack down Lieberman
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
July 31, 2006

When Play-It-Again-Sam crooned, "A kiss is just a kiss ..." in that smoky Moroccan saloon so long ago, the celluloid, star-crossed lovers played by Bogie and Bergman knew better. As time goes by, so does Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman. The big smooch that President Bush appeared to lay on Lieberman after last year's State of the Union speech has become so much more than a kiss. It may indeed be the smack of political death for the longtime senator from Connecticut.

Lieberman is scrambling in a solidly Democratic state in which an aggressive primary challenger has reared his well-coifed head. A presidential smooch, along with Lieberman's unforgivable support of the Iraq war, has plunged this Big Mac-er of moderation into the dogfight of his political life. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Let me explain where this columnist sits on this issue. Wars have consequences, as do political positions and actions. The 2003 American invasion of Iraq, for example. To call this an unmitigated fiasco of the highest order is putting it mildly. Thus, consequences should ensue. Heads should roll.

The Democratic electorate is obligated to send a message to its leadership. (Hillary, are you listening?) The war in Iraq was a colossal mistake, it continues to be a colossal mistake, and it will and should cost any and all congressional supporters their jobs if they continue to support this harebrained and thickheaded emasculation of American democracy.

That starts with one Joseph Lieberman. Let's hand him his head on a silver platter.

A Quinnipiac University poll released July 20 put Lieberman and his primary opponent, Ned Lamont, in a statistical dead heat. Lamont was once a very long shot in the Aug. 8 primary -- until Lieberman's kissy-face with "W" caught up with him. Left-leaning activists and bloggers have been lambasting Lieberman for months, leaving Lamont, a wealthy businessman in the cable industry, the chief beneficiary.

Bush appeared to dole out the infamous peck on the floor of Congress after the 2005 State of the Union speech. Lamont and other Lieberman critics opine that it was a sign that the Democrat had sold out to conservative Republicans on the wrong side of the most important political divide of a generation -- the Iraq war. Lieberman denies that he was the beneficiary of a kiss -- it was just a hug, he says. (Maybe it was only their first date. After all, Lieberman is a notorious prude).

Still, there's no doubt that Bush's affection for his once-bitter opponent is rooted in Lieberman's early and abiding support for the war. Strange bedfellows indeed, considering that the senator was half of the Democratic presidential ticket in the bitter (perhaps swindled) loss to Bush/Cheney in 2000.

Lieberman's war stance has put the 18-year veteran senator in the unlikely predicament of being perched on the cusp of losing his seat to a no-name opponent. Things are looking so bad that he has vowed to mount an independent bid in November if he loses to Lamont.

Doesn't that sound oh-so-statesmanlike? Maybe Lieberman can join Ralph Nader in the pantheon of Independent Party Heroes.

Meanwhile, evidence mounts that the nation may be in a throw-the-bums-out mood. An NBC /Wall Street Journal poll conducted by Bill McInturff and Peter Hart indicates that Lieberman may be road kill, thanks to his close ties to Bush's Iraq policy.

The poll, conducted from July 21 to 24, reveals that 58 percent said they were "less confident" that the Iraq war will end well. Furthermore, 60 percent of American voters said the nation is headed "off on the wrong track" instead of "in the right direction."

Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they plan to use their vote to register opposition to the president, compared with the 21 percent who will use their vote to support Bush.

Lieberman may find himself in the precarious position of becoming the whipping boy of two constituencies: Democrats who despise Bush and Republicans ready to protest his policy. That's double trouble. For Democrats who supported the Iraq war, it is the kiss of death.

Like it or not, Hezbollah is fact of life in Middle East

Like it or not, Hezbollah is fact of life in Middle East
By Julie Flint, an ABC News correspondent in Lebanon from 1983 to 1990. She has lived in Lebanon since 1981
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published July 31, 2006

America's concept of Hezbollah will always be defined by Oct. 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber killed nearly 245 U.S. servicemen at the Beirut airport in the Marines' worst one-day loss since the World War II invasion of Okinawa. But it is 23 years later and Hezbollah now lives in the mainstream of Lebanese politics, not in the small Iranian-controlled terror cells that attacked American soldiers and took American hostages in the 1980s.

Today Hezbollah is a strong social and political movement headed by an articulate and charismatic cleric, Hassan Nasrallah, who enjoys considerable popularity among many Lebanese. It has two government ministers, 14 members of parliament and an experienced and efficient guerrilla force far stronger than the Lebanese army. Most critically, Hezbollah has the devotion--not just the support--of many of Lebanon's Shiite Muslims, who make up almost half the country's population.

Hezbollah is not the Palestine Liberation Organization, which could be crushed and sent packing from a country that was not its own. Hezbollah cannot be defeated without exterminating the entire Shiite community. U.S. policy in the area will fail, with disastrous consequences regionwide but especially in Iraq, as long as Washington accepts Israel's caricature of Hezbollah as a bunch of fanatics who "want their own people as human shields ... [and] civilian casualties on both sides."

Wishful thinking must not inform U.S. policy. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites fleeing the war in south Lebanon have reached Beirut with no interference from Hezbollah. The interference has come from Israeli planes shelling them as they flee and strengthening their determination to resist, with their lives if need be. Many families, even non-Hezbollah families, are leaving at least one man behind in the south to fight against Israel. For the moment at least, Hezbollah's support is growing.

"The military situation for us is perfect," a Hezbollah official told me last week as Israeli ground forces inched deeper into south Lebanon, taking heavy casualties. "The Israelis are destroying everything. Even children are saying they have nothing to lose now."

For the last 15 years, Hezbollah's Lebanese face has been becoming increasingly moderate--first under the leadership of Abbas Musawi, who ended hostage-taking, despite internal opposition, before being killed by an Israeli helicopter gunship in 1992; then under Nasrallah, who took Hezbollah into the government, despite internal opposition. Today Hezbollah does not seek the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon and does not endeavor to impose Islamic morals, even in the predominately Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut.

The party is a complex, broad-based amalgam of many tendencies and cannot be wished, or blasted, away. If the Israel Defense Forces succeed in killing Nasrallah, Hezbollah will splinter and its most radical wing, closest to the caricature, will come to the fore. Then we'll see the petrochemical complexes of Haifa rocketed; then we may see new attacks on Westerners in Lebanon.

Have the U.S. and Israel forgotten the lesson of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon: that force resolves nothing? Yes, the PLO sailed out in the end. But Hezbollah rode in and is still fighting Israel 20 years later, more determined and more organized than Yasser Arafat's men ever were. To keep northern Israel safe from Hezbollah's missiles, Israeli forces would have to police a "buffer zone" 80 miles deep, the range of Hezbollah's Zelzal 2 rockets. Israeli public opinion will not accept that.

In the end, there will have to be a negotiated political settlement. It would be so much better to seek it now. Instead of standing by as Israel blows up Lebanon to rediscover the futility of force, the U.S. should demand an immediate cease-fire and open direct talks with Iran and Syria, which support and supply Hezbollah. This is a time for statesmen, not petulant schoolboys.

What we are witnessing in Lebanon today are the first tremors of an earthquake that will create a new Middle East order--although not the one Washington has in mind. Protracted war in Lebanon will only radicalize the Lebanese face of Hezbollah, increase its already heroic stature in the region and entrench it as a proxy through which Iran will try to seek regional ascendancy. The time for diplomacy, for scaling down the rhetoric, is now.

Cover-up of abusive remarks alleged in arrest of Gibson

Cover-up of abusive remarks alleged in arrest of Gibson
By Andrew Blankstein, Stuart Pfeifer and Jeffrey L. Rabin
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published July 31, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is investigating whether Mel Gibson received preferential treatment when he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and whether officials tried to cover up allegedly anti-Semitic remarks and offensive behavior.

Gibson's publicist, Alan Nierob, would not elaborate Sunday beyond a non-specific apology that the star had issued the day before.

The probe comes after the celebrity news Web site published portions of the arresting deputy's hand-written report saying Gibson, 50, was abusive, shouted anti-Jewish slurs, attempted to escape from custody and boasted that he "owned Malibu."

A source close to the investigation confirmed that the pages posted by the Web site were authentic.

In the pages posted by, the arresting deputy--identified as James Mee by the Web site--wrote that after at first cooperating, Gibson became "increasingly belligerent."

The deputy said he told Gibson "that if he remained cooperative, I would transport him without handcuffing."

Instead, he said Gibson tried to flee back to his car. Once subdued and handcuffed, the actor told the deputy: "You're going to regret you ever did this to me."

Gibson, the report continued, then said that he "owned Malibu" and launched a "barrage of anti-Semitic remarks." Those remarks included Gibson's statement that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." The report said Gibson asked the officer, "Are you a Jew?"

A sheriff's spokesman initially told reporters that Gibson was arrested Friday "without incident." And the Web site alleged on Saturday that sheriff's supervisors at the Malibu/Lost Hills station tried to downplay the actor's behavior.

"All that stuff about favorable treatment is something that needs to be looked at," said Mike Gennaco, who heads the sheriff's Office of Independent Review, which investigates allegations of officer misconduct and monitors the department.

"I'd like to see if there was a legitimate law enforcement reason for asking that the report be altered," said Gennaco, adding that his investigation will look at Gibson's ties to the department. Gibson participated in a charity created by Sheriff Lee Baca.

The actor had issued a statement Saturday apologizing for his "despicable" behavior.

Gibson came under fire from some Jewish groups with the release of "Passion of the Christ," which he co-wrote and directed. Some Jewish leaders said they found it painful, offensive and capable of stoking anti-Semitism. Gibson disputed the allegations, saying the film about the final hours' of Jesus' life was meant to inspire, not offend. In an April 2004 program on CNN, the actor denied he was an anti-Semite.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Gibson's apology "unremorseful and insufficient."

Rice 'new Middle East' comments fuel Arab fury over US policy

Rice 'new Middle East' comments fuel Arab fury over US policy
By Roula Khalaf,Middle East Editor
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 31 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 31 2006 03:00

As the Qana massacre yesterday carried the tragic face of Israel's Lebanon offensive across the world, the anger of Arab public opinion was directed not only at Israel but at a US administration that has resisted international and regional pressure for an immediate ceasefire.

The gruesome killings follow a week in which US has faced a torrent of criticism on Arab television screens and newspaper pages for its refusal to stop Israel's relentless bombings. The latest wave of anti-Americanism has been exacerbated by Condoleezza Rice's description of the war as the "birth pangs of a new Middle East".

Ms Rice might have been simply reiterating US policy. But rarely has a phrase caught as much attention and provoked as much anger from radicals and moderates, who have seen in it a new and more determined American strategy aimed against Arab interests.

Many analysts have made an association with the title of a 1993 book by the Israeli elder statesman, Shimon Peres. In the New Middle East, he argued that Jews and Arabs should develop economic relations to promote peace. It is an attitude, however, that Arabs have long regarded as an Israeli plot to control the Arab world without withdrawing from occupied lands.

"[Ms Rice's] calls for a new Middle East spell doom . . . for all Arabs," charged Khaled al-Maeena, editor of Saudi Arabia's Arab News.

According to al-Ayyam, the Palestinian daily, the expression "concealed a plan designed to impose US-Israeli hegemony by eliminating the option of resistance through the destruction of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements".

For the United Arab Emirates' al-Khaleej, the call was an American attempt to "make up for the US debacle in Iraq by waging, through Israel, a counter-attack in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories".

The Arab world is fond of conspiracy theories but the suspicions over the New Middle East underline people's bitterness towards US policies they perceive as misguided and contradictory.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Washington has sought to distance itself from authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and promote democratisation to counter religious extremism.

But in the bungled invasion of Iraq, freedom has been accompanied by bloody sectarian conflict. Elsewhere in the region, elections have produced gains for Islamist groups that are anti-American, prompting a US rethink of the strategy.

The Bush administration's reaction to the victory of the Palestinian radical Hamas movement earlier this year was to isolate the new government and deprive it of direct funding until it accepted Israel's existence and all previous peace plans, and renounced violence.

Most resented in the Arab world, however, is the fact that the US has looked at the region through the prism of the war on terrorism. Therefore, the administration seems to make no distinction between al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Middle Eastern groups involved in the Arab-Israeli conflicts and considered by Arabs as legitimate resistance movements.

Adding to the confusion is that the US has enlisted the support of the very regimes it has sought to reform, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to put pressure on Hizbollah and Hamas.

"The new Middle East is the one the administration believes it has been creating by pushing for democratisation and for counter-terrorism. What they see this doing is weakening an illegitimate actor [like Hizbollah] which inhibits democracy," says Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East programme at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Arab states are where the US wants them to be, but one of the strange inconsistencies is that people are not where the governments are - the people see the US perpetuating autocracy."

In Lebanon, Ms Rice has been insisting the US wants a "durable" ceasefire, which could lead to disarming Hizbollah, as demanded by UN resolutions, and allow Lebanese democracy to flourish.

Much of the rest of the world, however, has interpreted this attitude as a US attempt to give Israel more time to batter a tenacious Hizbollah.

But as Israel pounds Lebanon day after day and civilian casualties mount, Hizbollah has gained political support while the Lebanese government, supported by the US, appears to have been weakened.

A poll by the Beirut Centre for Research and Information and published at the weekend in Beirut's Daily Star, shows more than 89 per cent of respondents do not consider the US an honest broker while 87 per cent support Hizbollah's retaliatory rocket attacks on Israeli towns.

Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, an Egyptian political analyst, said the US had yet to understand Arab mentality or the nature of Hizbollah. He noted that, until this conflict, the Lebanese group had focused its attacks on military targets, helping to force Israel to end its occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.

"US policy has no credibility in the region, the talk of democracy has no credibility in the region, and the Lebanon policy was the last nail in the coffin," he said.

Financial Times Editorial - Migrants mean money

Financial Times Editorial - Migrants mean money
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 31 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 31 2006 03:00

Pity the immigrant. On both sides of the Atlantic opponents of immigration are gaining strength. They have learnt to avoid the rhetorical heavy artillery of history, culture and race but have turned instead to economics to argue that migrants make natives worse off. The evidence does not match their claims.

One age-old argument is that with 7m unemployed in the US and 1.6m in the UK, migrants stop natives getting jobs. Of those natives, though, some are in the wrong place, some have the wrong skills, and others are simply between jobs. Academic studies suggest, if anything, that countries where migrants are welcome have fewer people out of work.
Nor do migrants necessarily cut wages for the locals. True, if every arrival is a doctor, oversupply will lower pay for medics, and if every arrival is uneducated, natives without skills will earn less. But there is no academic consensus on the characteristics of immigrants and their effects: professors George Borjas of Harvard, and David Card of the University of California, Berkeley, have produced conflicting data, one suggesting that immigration is hurting the American poor, and the other that there is little effect.

A straw man much loved by the anti-migration lobby is the scrounger. Immigrants, we are told, come for health benefits and social security. Yet a study for Britain's Home Office found that migrants pay £2.5bn more in taxes than is paid to them in ­benefits.

One reason that immigrants arenet contributors is pensions. Most migrants are of working age and, in aging western economies, do much to support creaky public pension systems. Critics argue that migrants merely delay the problem until they need pensions themselves but this holds true only if developed country birth rates remain at their present lows; if they rise, as has happened in France, migration need only fill a temporary gap. Even if birth rates remain low, immigration buys time to reform pension systems.

Immigration does put pressure on transport and housing: it can cause congestion and push up house prices. The same is true, however, when the native populace has more children. Some population growth is valuable even if it does not increase income per head: Japan and Italy show what  happens if you try to maintain stable economic growth with a declining  population.

All of this said, the real economic value of migrants lies in the dynamism, innovation and drive they bring to an economy.

From Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to hard-working east Europeans in London, immigrants bring new ideas and a competitive edge. It is a hard effect to measure. But it tips the economic balance in favour of  immigration.

New York Times Editorial - Still wrong for the UN

New York Times Editorial - Still wrong for the UN
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: July 30, 2006

When President George W. Bush nominated John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations last year, we argued that this convinced unilateralist and lifelong disparager of the United Nations should not be confirmed. The Senate agreed. Bush sent him to New York anyway, using the constitutional end run of a recess appointment. That appointment expires in January.
Now the Senate is being asked to confirm Bolton again. With one of last year's critics, George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, having recently changed sides, confirmation seems more likely. But after a year of watching Bolton at work, we still believe the Senate should reject his nomination.

As ambassador, Bolton's performance has been more restrained than many of his opponents feared. He has, as far as we know, faithfully carried out any instructions he was given. And on some issues, like this spring's botched reform of the United Nations' human-rights monitoring body, Bolton was right not to accept a bad result.

But overall, American interests at the UN have suffered from Bolton's time there. At a time when a militarily and diplomatically overstretched Washington needs as much international cooperation as it can get - on Iraq, on Iran, on North Korea and now on the latest fighting between Israel and Lebanon - Bolton is a liability, not an asset at the United Nations.
No ambassador, however tactful and multilateral-minded, can persuade other countries to change their votes on high-profile issues in the face of contrary instructions from their home governments. But some of the most important business that goes on in the UN does not fall into that category. On a wide range of issues - winning the support of smaller countries for needed management reforms, mobilizing a strong international coalition to halt genocide in Darfur, attracting wider European support for stabilization and economic development in Iraq - an effective ambassador can make a huge difference.

Bolton, by temperament and conviction, is far too dismissive of the results that can be achieved by this kind of traditional diplomacy. That is what makes him the wrong man for the job. America desperately needs to repair the alliances and relationships damaged by the shoot-from-the-hip diplomacy of the Bush first term.

New York Times Editorial - A right way to help Israel

New York Times Editorial - A right way to help Israel
Copyright by The New York Times
Published: July 30, 2006

There is a difference between justified and smart. Israel's airstrikes against Hezbollah targets are legitimate so long as Hezbollah wages war against Israel and operates outside the control of the Lebanese government. But the air campaign is now doing Israel more harm than good.

A better answer to the Hezbollah problem would be an immediate cease-fire, paving the way for an international force to patrol Lebanon's southern border. That is what Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, was pushing for in Washington Friday, and there were signs that President George W. Bush may be finally coming around.

For more than two weeks, Bush has been playing for time, declining to join calls for an immediate cease-fire so that Israel can continue its military actions. Israel and the administration are right to argue that a cease-fire alone cannot provide a lasting solution. But if Washington is now prepared to exercise diplomatic leadership on behalf of Israel's security, rather than simply run interference for Israel's military operations, a cease-fire now could become the first step to a more lasting solution.

The glaring flaw in the administration's logic is that there is no way that even weeks of Israeli airstrikes can eliminate more than a fraction of the 12,000 rockets Hezbollah is believed to have in Lebanon. And more weeks of television screens filled with Lebanese casualties, refugees and destruction would be a propaganda bonanza for the Hezbollahs and the Hamases, and a mounting political problem for the Arab world's most moderate and pro-Western governments. Whatever a major Israeli ground offensive might achieve in military terms would have far too steep a political and diplomatic cost. Israel's 18-year occupation of Lebanon brought no lasting gains, and few Israelis are eager for a repeat.

What is needed is a strong international force, including well-armed units from NATO countries, to move into southern Lebanon as quickly as possible. Its mission would be to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UN resolutions, thereby reasserting the sovereignty of the Lebanese government and preventing further attacks against Israel. An immediate internationally imposed cease-fire would spare Lebanese civilians from further suffering.

There have been some encouraging signs of movement in this direction, with Bush sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice back to the Middle East for the weekend and calling for a multinational force to be dispatched quickly. A UN meeting to discuss such a force has now been moved up to Monday.

The pressure for bringing in an international force should now be coming from American diplomacy, not Israeli airstrikes. If Washington is about to come off the diplomatic sidelines to which it has foolishly consigned itself for the past two weeks, it will discover a real opportunity to help Israel's security, America's international image and pro- Western Arab governments.

The Peculiar Disappearance of the War in Iraq

The Peculiar Disappearance of the War in Iraq
By Frank Rich
Copyright by The New York Times
Sunday 30 July 2006

CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war - now branded as Crisis in the Middle East - but you won't catch anyone saying it's Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined.

As America fell into the quagmire of Vietnam, the comedian Milton Berle joked that the fastest way to end the war would be to put it on the last-place network, ABC, where it was certain to be canceled. Berle's gallows humor lives on in the quagmire in Iraq. Americans want this war canceled too, and first- and last-place networks alike are more than happy to oblige.

CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war - now branded as Crisis in the Middle East - but you won't catch anyone saying it's Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks' evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60 percent between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a "shame on you" e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined. When Nouri al-Maliki, the latest Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington last week to address Congress, he too got short TV shrift - a mere five sentences about the speech on ABC's "World News." The networks know a rerun when they see it. Only 22 months earlier, one of Mr. Maliki's short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi, had come to town during the 2004 campaign to give a similarly empty Congressional address laced with White House-scripted talking points about the war's progress. Propaganda stunts, unlike "Law & Order" episodes, don't hold up on a second viewing.

The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn't happenstance. It's a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer. "It is depressing to pay attention to this war on terror," said Fox News's Bill O'Reilly on July 18. "I mean, it's summertime." Americans don't like to lose, whatever the season. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality.

The specter of defeat is not the only reason Americans have switched off Iraq. The larger issue is that we don't know what we - or, more specifically, 135,000 brave and vulnerable American troops - are fighting for. In contrast to the Israel-Hezbollah war, where the stakes for the combatants and American interests are clear, the war in Iraq has no rationale to keep it afloat on television or anywhere else. It's a big, nightmarish story, all right, but one that lacks the thread of a coherent plot.

Certainly there has been no shortage of retrofitted explanations for the war in the three-plus years since the administration's initial casus belli, to fend off Saddam's mushroom clouds and vanquish Al Qaeda, proved to be frauds. We've been told that the war would promote democracy in the Arab world. And make the region safer for Israel. And secure the flow of cheap oil. If any of these justifications retained any credibility, they have been obliterated by Crisis in the Middle East. The new war is a grueling daily object lesson in just how much the American blunders in Iraq have undermined the one robust democracy that already existed in the region, Israel, while emboldening terrorists and strengthening the hand of Iran.

But it's the collapse of the one remaining (and unassailable) motivation that still might justify staying the course in Iraq - as a humanitarian mission on behalf of the Iraqi people - that is most revealing of what a moral catastrophe this misadventure has been for our country. The sad truth is that the war's architects always cared more about their own grandiose political and ideological ambitions than they did about the Iraqis, and they communicated that indifference from the start to Iraqis and Americans alike. The legacy of that attitude is that the American public cannot be rallied to the Iraqi cause today, as the war reaches its treacherous endgame.

The Bush administration constantly congratulates itself for liberating Iraq from Saddam's genocidal regime. But regime change was never billed as a primary motivation for the war; the White House instead appealed to American fears and narcissism - we had to be saved from Saddam's W.M.D. From "Shock and Awe" on, the fate of Iraqis was an afterthought. They would greet our troops with flowers and go about their business.

Donald Rumsfeld boasted that "the care" and "the humanity" that went into our precision assaults on military targets would minimize any civilian deaths. Such casualties were merely "collateral damage," unworthy of quantification. "We don't do body counts," said Gen. Tommy Franks. President Bush at last started counting those Iraqi bodies publicly - with an estimate of 30,000 - some seven months ago. (More recently, The Los Angeles Times put the figure at, conservatively, 50,000.) By then, Americans had tuned out.

The contempt our government showed for Iraqis was not just to be found in our cavalier stance toward their casualties, or in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. There was a cultural condescension toward the Iraqi people from the get-go as well, as if they were schoolchildren in a compassionate-conservatism campaign ad. This attitude was epitomized by Mr. Rumsfeld's "stuff happens" response to the looting of Baghdad at the dawn of the American occupation. In "Fiasco," his stunning new book about the American failure in Iraq, Thomas E. Ricks, The Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent, captures the meaning of that pivotal moment perfectly: "The message sent to Iraqis was far more troubling than Americans understood. It was that the U.S. government didn't care - or, even more troubling for the future security of Iraq, that it did care but was incapable of acting effectively."

As it turned out, it was the worst of both worlds: we didn't care, and we were incapable of acting effectively. Nowhere is this seen more explicitly than in the subsequent American failure to follow through on our promise to reconstruct the Iraqi infrastructure we helped to smash. "There's some little part of my brain that simply doesn't understand how the most powerful country on earth just can't get electricity back in Baghdad," said Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi exile and prominent proponent of the war, in a recent Washington Post interview.

The simple answer is that the war planners didn't care enough to provide the number of troops needed to secure the country so that reconstruction could proceed. The coalition authority isolated in its Green Zone bubble didn't care enough to police the cronyism and corruption that squandered billions of dollars on abandoned projects. The latest monument to this humanitarian disaster was reported by James Glanz of The New York Times on Friday: a high-tech children's hospital planned for Basra, repeatedly publicized by Laura Bush and Condi Rice, is now in serious jeopardy because of cost overruns and delays.

This history can't be undone; there's neither the American money nor the manpower to fulfill the mission left unaccomplished. The Iraqi people, whose collateral damage was so successfully hidden for so long by the Rumsfeld war plan, remain a sentimental abstraction to most Americans. Whether they are seen in agony after another Baghdad bombing or waving their inked fingers after an election or being used as props to frame Mrs. Bush during the State of the Union address, they have little more specificity than movie extras. Chalabi, Allawi, Jaafari, Maliki come and go, all graced with the same indistinguishable praise from the American president, all blurring into an endless loop of instability and crisis. We feel badly ... and change the channel.

Given that the violence in Iraq has only increased in the weeks since the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist portrayed by the White House as the fount of Iraqi troubles, any Americans still paying attention to the war must now confront the reality that the administration is desperately trying to hide. "The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists and Saddamists and terrorists," President Bush said in December when branding Zarqawi Public Enemy No. 1. But Iraq's exploding sectarian warfare cannot be pinned on Al Qaeda or Baathist dead-enders.

The most dangerous figure in Iraq, the home-grown radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is an acolyte of neither Osama bin Laden nor Saddam but an ally of Iran who has sworn solidarity to both Hezbollah and Hamas. He commands more than 30 seats in Mr. Maliki's governing coalition in Parliament and 5 cabinet positions. He is also linked to death squads that have slaughtered Iraqis and Americans with impunity since the April 2004 uprising that killed, among others, Cindy Sheehan's son, Casey. Since then, Mr. Sadr's power has only grown, enabled by Iraqi "democracy."

That the latest American plan for victory is to reposition our forces by putting more of them in the crossfire of Baghdad's civil war is tantamount to treating our troops as if they were deck chairs on the Titanic. Even if the networks led with the story every night, what Americans would have the stomach to watch?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Draft of tribunals bill spurs concern on citizens' rights

Draft of tribunals bill spurs concern on citizens' rights
Copyright by The Associated Press
July 30, 2006

WASHINGTON -- U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the Pentagon's tribunal system, which was established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.

Administration officials, who declined to comment on the draft, said the proposal was under discussion and no final decisions had been made.

According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all ''enemy combatants'' until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone ''engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute.''

Secret court outlined

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al-Qaida.

''That's the big question . . . the definition of who can be detained,'' said Martin Lederman, a law professor at Georgetown University.

Scott Silliman, a retired Air Force Judge Advocate, said the broad definition of enemy combatants is alarming because a U.S. citizen loosely suspected of terror ties would lose access to a civilian court -- and all the rights that come with it. Administration officials have said they want to establish a secret court to try enemy combatants that factor in realities of the battlefield and would protect classified information.

The administration's proposal, as considered at one point in discussions, would toss out several legal rights common in civilian and military courts, including barring hearsay evidence, guaranteeing ''speedy trials'' and granting a defendant access to evidence. The proposal also would allow defendants to be barred from their own trial and likely allow the submission of coerced testimony.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Politics trump science

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Politics trump science
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published July 22, 2006

Twelve years ago, when the international Gay Games were played in New York, the Clinton administration granted a blanket waiver to allow foreign athletes and spectators to enter the country even if they were HIV-positive. The Bush administration did the same for this year's Gaymes, which end this weekend in Chicago.

In doing so, immigration officials made scores of exceptions, all at once, to a law meant to protect the public from the spread of serious communicable diseases. They didn't do it because they wanted the tourist dollars. They did it because nobody seriously believes the HIV ban is necessary. Well, almost nobody.

Repeated attempts to lift it have failed because of opposition not from doctors, but from social conservatives.

"The ban serves absolutely no scientific purpose," says Patricia Mail, president of the American Public Health Association. The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and a host of other health and medical groups have all opposed the ban, to no end. George Bush the elder tried to get it lifted, as did Bill Clinton. John Kerry promised he'd get rid of it, if elected.

But it was an act of Congress that added HIV to the list of diseases that bar an applicant from getting a visa, and it will take an act of Congress to remove it. And so far, politics have trumped science. Organizers of this year's Gaymes steered around potential opposition by waiting till after the 2004 election to apply for the waiver.

HIV was added to the list in 1987, at the height of AIDS hysteria. Since then we've learned a lot about how the virus is transmitted and how to prevent it. Unlike leprosy, tuberculosis and most of the other diseases on the list, HIV isn't spread through routine contact. You won't catch it just by being in the same room with someone who is infected.

As long as it's on the list, though, an HIV-positive foreigner can't legally enter the country without a waiver, which can be frustratingly hard to get--especially for, say, an individual traveling to a family wedding, instead of an athlete traveling to an international event. Savvy tourists find it easier to lie. Border inspectors aren't supposed to ask about HIV status unless there are obvious signs of illness, and many travelers correctly interpret this as another manifestation of don't ask, don't tell. That would be appalling and irresponsible if there were a genuine public health risk. But there isn't.

Dear Ms. Ontiveros, Puerto Ricans are not inmigrants

Dear Ms. Ontiveros, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants
by Carlos T Mock, MD
July 22, 2006
Born in San Juan Puerto Rico and a US citizen by virtue of my birthplace. A response to today's Sun Times article.

While I agree with most of what you say in today’s article, I must confess that you should do more research before publishing an article on immigration. Puerto Ricans are United States Citizens. Puerto Ricans migrating to the United States is no different that Hawaiians moving over to the mainland. We will have climate issues to adapt to, perhaps language, and discrimination; but the comparison stops there.

There will not be a problem of getting a green card (we as are Americans as you are). The INS will not be after us for trying to get inside the country. We will not have to leave our wives/family behind because we will be walking several hundred miles of treacherous dessert to get inside the United States—a simple airline ticket will do it.

The fact that you consider Puerto Ricans as immigrants is, in fact, an insult to all the thousands of Puerto Rican US Soldiers that have died for America in all your conflicts from World War I to the current war in Iraq. Your article also sends a message that we are second class citizens.

Ps: The official currency in Puerto Rico is the US dollar, just in case you did not know that.

Today's (Puerto Rican) immigrants much like early arrivals
Copyright by THe Chicago Sun Times
July 22, 2006

I think the thing that bothers me most about the current immigration debate is the mean-spiritedness. There's this underlying opinion of many of those who want to curtail new immigrants' entry into the United States that their immigrant ancestors were better than the current folks who want to call the United States home.

That's why I like the dialog that writer/publicist Elaine Soloway has started in Humboldt Park. Soloway is that rare individual who can see that there are more similarities than differences between people.

Soloway recently wrote a book called The Division Street Princess (Syren Book Company, $19.95) in which she describes her years growing up in a three-room apartment above a mom-and-pop grocery store that was her beloved father's American Dream.

One could look at her memoir as simply one of a daughter of Jewish immigrants living along that stretch of Division Street.

But Soloway recognized that her story is more than that. "I am convinced it is not just a Jewish story," Soloway said. "It is an immigrant's story."

So, with that in mind, Soloway sent her book to Paul Roldan, executive director of the Hispanic Housing Development Corp. This spring, while touring her old neighborhood, Soloway saw that now at that corner of her childhood -- 2501-11 W. Division -- is Paseo Boricua Apartments, which was built by Roldan's corporation.

And right then, Soloway decided she wanted to share her story with the residents of these apartments, which provide affordable housing for the near-elderly. Despite the fact that the five-story, tan and white building is modeled after architecture in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, and looks nothing like the grocery store and apartment of her youth, Soloway could feel more of a kinship than disparity with the residents.

When Roldan read Soloway's book, he shared her opinion.

"The transition of immigrants is so generic," Roldan said. "The experiences are so similar."

So on Thursday, Soloway met Roldan and other Latino leaders from Humboldt Park at Paseo Boricua Apartments to talk to the building's residents and donate copies of her book to the community room there.

"I wanted to share what the neighborhood was like in the '40s," said Soloway, to show how very much alike, rather than different, they all are.

No matter what the mean-spirited immigrants' opponents today may think, the Jewish immigrants to Humboldt Park, just like the Puerto Rican newcomers who settled in the neighborhood after them, pretty much held the same hopes and dreams. They all came to our country for a better life, more opportunities for their children, freedom.

And while many people may mourn the loss of their original buildings in the old neighborhood, Soloway is more open-minded. She can see that some things actually are better. She likes the economic, political and community groups who are banding together to keep the Puerto Ricans rooted in Humboldt Park. A chamber of commerce like the one that exists there today would have been helpful to her father, who struggled with his business.

"My parents would [have] loved to see what has blossomed on this site," Soloway said.

The Thursday gathering turned into an opportunity for some of the current neighborhood leaders, including Ald. Billy Ocasio (26th), to talk about neighborhood history with Soloway and see how things changed. Ironically, what put her family's little grocery store in jeopardy was the arrival of the large supermarket chains. Today, all those chains are long gone from the neighborhood and one of Ocasio's latest victories has been securing a new supermarket for his constituents.

And in the end, they all could see how much alike their experiences on the streets of Humboldt Park really were. Soloway remembers a Jewish community where life revolved around family nearby and children were the center of it all. That's not really all that different from the Latino families who live in the neighborhood today.

Some people just don't want to acknowledge that today's immigrant really isn't all that different from people who came here before them. But on that little stretch of Division Street, Soloway is trying to show that hopes and dreams haven't changed all that much since the days when she played outside her family's grocery store.

Osama Bin Parkinsons and The War on Terrorble Diseases Jon Stewart at his Best!!!!

Jon Stewart at his Best!!!!
Osama Bin Parkinsons and The War on Terrorble Diseases
This Daily Show clip showcases President Bush's hypocritical view on being opposed to stem cell 'murder.'

Jon Stewart looks at the hypocrisy of George Bushbeing so vehemently opposed to stem-cell research ('murder is wrong!') whilebeing totally down with killing countless Iraqi citizens ('30,000, more orless.')

Racism still blocks opportunity for blacks, Hispanics

Racism still blocks opportunity for blacks, Hispanics
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
July 22, 2006

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review whether race can be considered when assigning children to schools. The cases concern Seattle and Louisville, Ky., but the practice is followed in various ways by school districts from coast to coast. For instance, Downstate Champaign is under long-standing judicial supervision to ensure none of its schools have concentrations of black pupils that are significantly greater than the overall percentage of black students in the district. Having a district under court supervision isn't novel, considering the numerous desegregation cases that followed Brown vs. Board of Education. Recall that the Brown case exposed the fallacy that racially segregated public schools provided ''separate, but equal'' education.

Brown vs. Board was decided five decades ago. Some believe that's long enough to render the case an anachronistic vestige of America's racist past. Under this reasoning, American society has effectively become color-blind, so affirmative action programs are no longer needed, and in fact are unconstitutional. In a color-blind society, giving any consideration to the race of a minority applicant when making job or school admission decisions would violate the constitutional rights of the white person who lost the applicable slot.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, is a proponent of this world view. He denigrates affirmative action as a ''touchy-feely'' social science that has no role in American society when admitting individuals to any schools. Similarly, Clegg rails against affirmative action in jobs, claiming ''there is no logical, empirical or moral justification'' for the practice. Were that it was so.

There's all too much data that indicate racism is still very much with us, going to the very heart of what America is supposed to be all about: opportunity. Nationally, blacks and Latinos have lower wages and higher unemployment rates than whites. Meanwhile, according to a 2006 Harvard University study, school segregation for blacks and Latinos has worsened since 1992. Some of the problems Latinos experience may be attributed to the immigrants' willingness to take low-paying jobs and English proficiency issues. None of those factors, however, are at play for blacks.

The Illinois data are as bad or worse. In K-12 education, Illinois ranks as the third most segregated state for blacks, with 82 percent of black children attending majority minority schools. Latinos don't fare much better, as 76 percent of Latino children attend predominantly minority schools. Ninety percent of white kids go to virtually all-white schools. Clearly, the Illinois school system is still separated by race, but is it now more equal by race? Not from a funding standpoint. Minority school districts in Illinois start out with $1,154 less per child to spend on education than do predominantly white school districts, the second worst funding gap nationally.

It should come as no surprise that economic data reveal striking disparities in wages and unemployment levels between whites and minorities in Illinois. Over the past 15 years, the wage gap between whites and Latinos in Illinois worsened by 24 percent, while the wage gap between whites and blacks worsened by an outrageous 162 percent. Hard to believe that this wage discrepancy would manifest in a ''color-blind'' society. But wait, there's more. In addition to wage disparities, blacks and Latinos in Illinois also have much greater unemployment rates than whites. These racial discrepancies exist across all age levels and, notably, across all education levels. So if you're black or Latino in Illinois, even if you successfully complete college and graduate with a B.A. or better, you're statistically less likely to get a job, and more likely to be paid less than a white.

Martin Luther King Jr. described the American dream as: ''A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed, the dream of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; the dream of a land where everyone will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.''

By any metric, America has failed to realize this dream. Until we do, it is a moral imperative that the nation not only be willing to consider the role race plays in society, but that we address it head-on. Only then will we identify and destroy the social structures that, intentionally or not, keep racism alive.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Straights are glad to be part of Games - Common ground found in competition and camaraderie

Straights are glad to be part of Games - Common ground found in competition and camaraderie
By Josh Noel
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published July 21, 2006

As a veteran of gay sporting events, Phillip Runions has one piece of advice that might help his fellow straight competitors at this week's Gay Games.

"Every once in a while, you might get hit on," Runions said. "You've just got to look at it as a compliment and move on."

That wisdom from the 46-year-old food importer comes after more than 20 years of playing softball in gay Chicago leagues. But with that exception, Runions said, competing in a gay sport is about the same as competing in any sport.

"For the most part, you can't tell who's what," said Runions, who is playing in his first Gay Games as pitcher for a softball team. "Most of these guys are competitive and want to do well. So do I."

Though athletes are not required to disclose their sexuality at the Gay Games, a majority do, and about 5 percent have identified themselves as straight, officials said. Non-gay competitors say they were motivated to join one of the world's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sporting events for the opportunity to compete in their favorite sport, be it ice hockey, ballroom dancing or figure skating.

But if some observers interpret their participation as a political statement for gay rights, that's OK with them too.

Although the Gay Games were started in 1982 to empower gay athletes and provide a place where they could compete without fear or prejudice, excluding straight people would be hypocritical, said Derek Liecty, a longtime member of the Federation of Gay Games board.

"We don't want to be discriminatory like we feel other sporting groups might be if they knew someone was gay or lesbian," he said.

There is also a hope that the acceptance extended to straight people in the Games will be returned to gay people.

"If we don't discriminate, then why should people discriminate against gays and lesbians?" Liecty said.

Commissioner on squad

Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley already plays ice hockey a couple times per week, so when he was asked to join a Gay Games team as a right wing, he didn't think twice. His team will be playing for a bronze medal Friday.

When the five Republican commissioners withdrew their names from a proclamation welcoming the Games to Chicago last year, Quigley, a Democrat, said he was even more pleased to have signed up.

"Then it became more important than just the enjoyment of the game," Quigley said. "What I do as an elected official sends a message."

Quigley, who in 2003 sponsored a domestic partnership registry allowing gay and lesbian couples to formally record their relationship, said the message is simple: He welcomes the Gay Games to Chicago and supports gay rights.

On the ice, he said, skating with gay players is no different than skating with heterosexual men.

"When you are playing sports and you're counting on the person next to you, you're not thinking about someone's gender, age, race or orientation," Quigley said. "You don't have time to even think about [it]. That's one of the beauties of sports."

Kelsey McMurray of New York City, who performed in last weekend's cheerleading exhibition in Millennium Park, came to indulge her passion for cheerleading.

She called her experience in Chicago, particularly at opening ceremonies in Soldier Field, "amazing." She said she ran across the grass at midnight while carrying a tie-dyed flag.

"I don't know any other situation where I'd be able to do something like that," she said. "We were all hugging and crying. It was very emotional, a lot of bonding."

McMurray, 23, said she knew few gay people growing up in Colorado.

"The fact that it is people struggling for their rights--gay rights and gay marriage--I just felt being part of the Gay Games would be supporting a group that is struggling," she said.

"I'm sure there are people who wonder why I do it or who think I'm gay and I don't want to admit it, but it's just so much fun."

When Runions was recruited to join a softball team with gays in 1981, he acknowledged he was hesitant. Growing up in Tennessee, he hadn't met many gay people and he was unsure about joining the team.

Teammates now friends

But the upper-division teams in gay softball leagues turned out to be pretty good, and many of his teammates became friends.

Now his 28-year-old daughter plays on a lower-level team in the same league, and Runions' experience made it easier to understand when a relative came out as a lesbian in the late 1980s.

Agreeing to play in the Gay Games for a team sponsored by Sidetrack, a Chicago gay bar, was a no-brainer, said Runions, one of two straight men on the team.

While the Games aren't as fun as the Gay Softball World Series, which brings together 150 teams that are at least 80 percent gay from across the country, they are inspiring, he said.

"I think this is great," Runions said. "They can be themselves. They don't have to hide or anything."

He also plays for a straight team but continues to participate in the gay league. The players, after all, are his friends.

"I'm really accepted as one of them," he said.


West’s strategic failure lit the fires in Middle East

West’s strategic failure lit the fires in Middle East
By Philip Stephens
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 20 2006 19:56 | Last updated: July 20 2006 19:56

Ten days ago, Ali Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, visited Brussels for talks about his country’s uranium enrichment programme. The meeting with senior officials from the European Union, Britain, France and Germany went badly. Mr Larijani offered nothing resembling a reply to the latest international offer to break the impasse over Iran’s nuclear activities. Instead, he lectured his hosts for 45 minutes about alleged attempts to destabilise the Tehran regime. He knew that, in response, they would move to censor Iran in the United Nations Security Council.

Accompanied by an unusually large team of officials, including the head of the Iranian intelligence service, Mr Larijani travelled directly from Brussels to the Syrian capital of Damascus. The next day foreign ministers of the so-called EU3 and those of the US, China and Russia announced, as expected, plans to draft a new UN resolution. In between times, the Iranian-sponsored and Syrian-backed militia Hizbollah had launched their attack on Israel.

This sequence of events might well have been coincidental. The evidence is, as the lawyers say, purely circumstantial. One senior European official told me that Mr Larijani was not the natural point of contact between Iran and Hizbollah. Yet whatever the precise purpose of this particular mission to Damascus, it did say something about the depth of the alliance between the two regimes.

These are genuinely dangerous times. Israel is far from alone in believing that Hizbollah had Iranian and Syrian sanction for its rocket attacks and the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. Syria is still smarting from its enforced departure from Lebanon. From Iran’s perspective, Hizbollah has at once diverted attention from the nuclear dispute and reminded the west of its capacity to make serious mischief.

George W. Bush has highlighted Syria’s role. Tony Blair has laid more of the blame on Tehran. The British prime minister also talks of a rising extremist threat across the broader Middle East. The shared message is that, whatever the specifics of the present fighting, all this is about a much bigger threat.

President Bush has thus declined to restrain Israel’s military operations in spite of the feeling among US allies that they are disproportionate and, in significant measure counterproductive. Bombing the Lebanese army and weakening the government of Fouad Siniora will not drive Hizbollah from southern Lebanon.

European diplomats aver that the ferocity of the Israeli response owes as much to the weakness of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, as to the traditional use of massive force as a deterrent against future aggression. Israel, though, has persuaded Mr Bush that Hamas and Hizbollah should be seen through the prism of his own war on terrorism. The terrorists, in this flawed but, for Mr OImert, useful analysis, are all the same.

As a simple description of the many fires smouldering in the region, there is something to be said for Mr Blair’s “arc of extremism”. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, Iran remains defiant about its nuclear ambitions, Iraq has fallen to sectarian civil war, Hizbollah threatens to destroy Lebanon’s fragile stability, Hamas is fighting Israel in Gaza.

Much more dubious is the attempt to draw through these conflicts a single thread of extremism. That is to ignore their complexities and the myriad grievances and rivalries. These set Sunni against Shia, Arab against Iranian as well as political Islam against the west. Al-Qaeda and Hizbollah are not allies.
The multiple threats, though, do hold up a mirror to the strategic failures of the US and Europe. The west is not to blame for al-Qaeda nor for the noxious regime in Syria. It has played its part in creating the conditions in which fundamentalism and extremism flourish.

The results of the unconscionable refusal in Washington to think beyond the removal of Saddam Hussein are painfully obvious in Iraq. That country now resembles Lebanon at the height of its civil war. The fighting in Gaza speaks to the abandonment by the US of sustained engagement to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Bush has paid lip service to the two-state solution set out in the so-called road map. So, too, has the Israeli government. Condoleezza Rice’s US state department has shown occasional interest in reviving talks. But for most of the time Washington has endorsed Israeli unilateralism.

Even as Ms Rice prepares to travel to the region, officials with intimate knowledge of the diplomacy say that Israel is receiving two sets of messages from Washington. Ms Rice presses for Israeli restraint and urges diplomatic as well as military means. Elliot Abrams, the president’s Middle East adviser, offers Mr Olmert a presidential blank cheque.

Europeans cannot escape blame. As the initial promoters of the road map, they have stood more or less idly by as Israel has redrawn its 1967 borders in the West Bank with the tacit support of the US. So much for a European foreign policy.

Here lies the danger in casting the various conflicts as a grand struggle between the forces of modernism and reaction across the greater Middle East. Mr Blair’s arc of extremism becomes an excuse for inaction, a diversion from the tasks at hand. Exhortation replaces engagement, emotional rhetoric hard commitment.

What moderates – those in Iran and Lebanon as much as in Palestine – need from the west is a sustained and even-handed effort to secure a settlement that guarantees Israel’s security and gives Palestinians the state they have been promised.
Mr Blair used to understand this. There was a time when the prime minister used every conversation with Mr Bush to press the case for US re-engagement. All the while Israel was building its barrier deep in the occupied West Bank and Hamas was building support among Palestinians.

As for Iran, the US must recognise that diplomacy is not synonymous with appeasement. However unpalatable the regime, Washington cannot ignore the reality of Iranian influence – the more so as the debacle in Iraq has greatly strengthened that influence. Sometimes, as the US well understood during the cold war, you have to talk to your enemies. Ms Rice has moved the administration in that direction. Half a step is not enough.

There are no magic bullets, as Israel has learnt many times over during its various military excursions in Lebanon. But when messrs Bush and Blair talk of a crisis of extremism they must understand they are describing in part their own failure.

While Bush and Blair fumble, Beirut burns

While Bush and Blair fumble, Beirut burns
By Chris Patten
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 18 2006 20:04 | Last updated: July 18 2006 20:04

Exactly what mission has been accomplished by George W. Bush, US president, and his super-loyal sidekick, Tony Blair, the British prime minister?

The world is a more dangerous place than it was in 2000. Terrorism remains a potent and undefeated enemy. American and British policy in west Asia has acted, in the language of the British Foreign Office, as a recruiting sergeant for jihadist terrorists. Kim Jong-il still threatens to begin a nuclear weapons production line in North Korea. The Iranians are some way from a deal with the rest of the world that would convince us that their nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Afghanistan remains unfinished – in some ways unstarted – business as the recent deaths of British servicemen attest. Iraq is a violent and bloody mess. Success there is measured by the fact that the country has not yet fallen apart and that Iraqis have twice gone to the polls.

So pre-emption, US unilateralism and sound-bite foreign policy have not been a huge success. Now, on top of all that, we see the consequences of America’s unquestioning support for every twist and turn in Israeli policies that were virtually scripted to result in the present crisis.

In 2002, the Danish presidency of the European Union led the way in crafting a “road map” for peace in the Middle East. It demanded hands-on engagement in the peace process by the international community led by the so-called Quartet – the United Nations, the US, Russia and the EU.

We travelled to Washington to sell the idea to the administration there. They were polite but suspicious. Since the failure of the Camp David and Taba talks in the closing months of the Clinton administration they had been reluctant to get too heavily involved in peace-making between Israel and Palestine. Moreover, the dreadful events of September 11 2001 and the skilful identification by the Israeli government of its policies with the “war on terrorism” had meant, as one US senator told me in early 2002: “In Washington we are all members of the Likud party now.”

The Americans were eventually won round, albeit only after a meeting with Mr Bush at which he signed up to “a” rather than “the” road map and after a number of changes in the text of the document. Its essential and novel feature, however, remained. It called for “parallelism” rather than “sequentialism”. Instead of waiting for one side – invariably the Palestinians – to act before anything could be expected of the other, both sides should move down the road at the same time.

Of course, nothing much happened. The White House knew why. “Arafat is the problem,” Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, told us. Israel had no partner for peace. Yassir Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, was certainly part of the problem. He was a bad and untrustworthy man. But there were other aspects of the problem such as Ariel Sharon, former Israeli prime minister, and his commitment not to the international community’s road map but to his own.

So the proponents of the road map offered only drift and communiqués, not day-by-day involvement and diplomacy. The EU went along with America’s uncritical support for Mr Sharon, grumbling under its breath. The Quartet became known in the Arab world as “the Quartet sans Trois”. The security fence was built and an Israeli plan to impose a new border based on holding on to most of the West Bank settlements was given a wink and a nudge of support in Washington.

Arafat was now dead. But nothing much changed to offer the Palestinians the political perspective that might have given their leaders a better chance of facing down the men of violence. Elections in Palestine produced a Hamas government and the world was shocked. What did we expect? Remove the prospect of change through politics and people reach out for other options.

Having helped elect a Hamas government, we cut off funds to the Palestinian authorities unless the Hamas leaders signed up to undertakings that went well beyond what we expect of loyal western allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

So it is back to war. Lebanon is bombed. Israel is rocketed. Gaza is shelled. The innocent are killed. Hizbollah and Palestinian militants are strengthened, even legitimised, in the eyes of their people, by Israel’s refusal to respond proportionately. Do these policies offer Israel the peace and security it craves and deserves? Do they offer hope to Palestinians? Do they check the slide in America’s – and Britain’s – reputations in the region?

It is not as though we are ignorant of what is required to bring peace. The ingredients of a peace deal were set out once again in the Geneva accords. Israel must accept a viable Palestinian state formed on the basis of the 1967 borders adjusted through negotiation and agreement. Palestinians and other Arabs must accept Israel’s right to exist as a peaceful neighbour. Palestinians will have to give up the right of return. Both states will need to share Jerusalem as their capital. The inter national community will have to take responsibility for the holy places.

That will be the peace deal one day. When will that day come? Not, presumably, while Mr Bush is in office. Nor do his likely Democratic successors sound much better. In Brussels, the British and German governments stop European ministers going beyond aimless hand-wringing. So Europe fiddles while Beirut burns.

Lord Patten is chancellor of Oxford university and former European Union commissioner for external affairs

Financial Times Editorial - Benign US slowdown

Financial Times Editorial - Benign US slowdown
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 21 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 21 2006 03:00

For the first time in a while, the markets are singing - and with some reason. Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, this week sketched out a scenario that everyone wants to materialise: a soft landing for the US economy. Having raised rates 17 consecutive times, the Fed's view was that the economy would probably now "expand at a solid and sustainable pace and core inflation should decline from its recent level", he told senators. Given that core US inflation - excluding energy and food - has risen by 0.3 per cent in each of the last four months, Mr Bernanke's assessment was notably upbeat. But the content of his message should not be oversimplified. For good reasons, the probability remains that the Fed will raise rates by another quarter point - to 5.5 per cent - at its next meeting in early August. Only after that is it likely to pause.

The most important question is whether the Fed has done enough in the past two years to squeeze inflation out of the economy. The probability is that it has. And, as the chairman pointed out, some of the effects of recent monetary tightening have yet to feed through. However, there are still material risks to this benign scenario. First, the Fed cannot be sure that inflation expectations - a significant cause in itself of higher prices - have stabilised at their recent lower levels. Second, there are signs of US firms regaining leeway to pass on higher prices to the consumer. Third, nobody can be sure oil prices will stabilise - as the futures market is predicting. Should a barrel of oil advance beyond $90 then all bets would be off. Given the volatile Middle East, this cannot be discounted.

In addition to these risks, Mr Bernanke must weigh two further considerations. First, the price of overshooting on interest rates is lower than undershooting. If the Fed were unnecessarily to raise rates next month again - something that can only be determined in retrospect - it would be a fairly simple matter to undo it later in the year or early next. Conversely, if the Fed kept rates on hold next month only to find that consumer prices were continuing to rise, the cost of correcting this would amount to more than just another quarter point rise.

Second, Mr Bernanke has been plagued by misinterpretation since he took over from Alan Greenspan, the world's most inscrutable public speaker, earlier this year. Specifically, the markets misunderstood what Mr Bernanke meant by an interest rate "pause" when he raised that prospect in April. Contrary to the market's exuberant response, a pause in monetary tightening could as easily signal another rise at the next FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting as the beginning of a new phase of easing. Given a choice between pausing next month and raising rates in September, or doing the same thing in reverse, recent experience dictates that Mr Bernanke should choose the latter.

Financial Times Editorial - Stem cells in disarray

Financial Times Editorial - Stem cells in disarray
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006
Published: July 21 2006 03:00 | Last updated: July 21 2006 03:00

The world remains in serious disarray over stem cells. The spotlight this week has been on the US, where Congress unfortunately failed to override the first veto of George W. Bush's presidency; legislation that would expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is dead, at least until after the autumn's mid-term elections. Next week the focus will turn to the European Union, where science and industry ministers meet on Monday to decide whether the EU can continue to give limited grants for human embryo research.

On both sides of the Atlantic, public support for embryonic stem cell research has been growing, as people come to appreciate the medical benefits that could flow from the work - including treatments for conditions from Parkinson's and spinal injury to diabetes and heart failure. But a powerful "pro-life" minority remains implacably opposed to any experimentation with human embryos, even when they are still a microscopic ball of undifferentiated cells and even when in vitro fertilisation centres would otherwise discard them as surplus to requirements.

While there are indeed difficult moral choices involved in deciding how far to exploit embryos for science, a democracy should not allow research with such a big potential payback tobe blocked by a minority, however strong its feelings. The 14-day limitfor embryo research, originallyrecommended by Britain's far-sighted Warnock Commission more than 20 years ago, has stood the test of time. And it is hard to see why science should not benefit from hundreds of thousands of surplus frozen embryos that have accumulated in fertility clinics and will eventually be destroyed if no use is found for them.

Because the US government is the undisputed global leader in biomedical research, through the National Institutes of Health, its inability to fund the creation and manipulation of new human embryonic stem cells has slowed down progress worldwide. Funding at the US state level is no substitute - and the field cannot expect large-scale investment from private industry because its commercial applications lie too far in the future.

Scientists where governments are more enthusiastic about stem cell research, including part of Europe and much of Asia, are not gloating over the funding misfortunes of their US colleagues, even though it might give them a short-term competitive advantage. They see that, if stem cell research is to pay off properly, it must be an international effort with Americans, Europeans and Asians playing a full part.

It will be an important symbolic step next week if the European ministers include embryonic stem cells in the EU's flagship Framework Seven research programme. Then the world should proceed towards international convergence of stem cell regulations.

"I am not gay"

"I am not gay"
By David Martin, a lawyer in Canada
Published July 21, 2006
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King want to be clear: They're not gay. "The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you, because there's nothing wrong with being gay," King says.
--Associated Press, July 18

Like Oprah Winfrey, I am not gay. I can understand why some people might think otherwise. After all, I have a mustache and I like Broadway musicals.

But that doesn't mean I'm gay. Lots of men have mustaches and enjoy show tunes and yet do not engage in homosexual activities.

Well, all right, maybe not lots of men. But some men do who are perfectly straight. At least I assume there are others besides me.

In case there was any doubt, I am also not a female. I'd be proud to admit it if I were but I'm not. I like females. I live with two females. I even give to female causes. But that's as far as it goes. There's nothing wrong with being female. Well, except maybe for high heels and hot flashes. But other than that, I would be proud to profess my femaleness if I were one. But I'm not, assuming that occasionally wearing women's clothing doesn't count.

I wish also to point out that I am not a Republican. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that people see me enjoying tax cuts and ignoring the poor and jump to certain conclusions. Quite simply, I think that's unfair. You don't have to be a Republican to like money and dislike the proletariat.

In fact, while I have your attention, I'd like to clear up another common misconception. I am not an American. I grew up with Americans, socialized with Americans and even lived with Americans. Heck, some of my best friends are American.

But I myself am not a stars-and-stripes waver. If I were, I would have no problem displaying the flag and professing my love for mom, apple pie and whatever else those people supposedly like. But I'm not, so I don't. It's as simple as that.

Finally, I think it should go without saying that I am not a dog lover. I like dogs. In fact, we even have a dog. And, yes, I have been known to spend lots of time with him.

Just because someone talks baby talk to a dog or lets him lick your face doesn't mean the relationship is unduly intimate. The truth is, if Oreo and I were more involved, I would tell you because there's nothing wrong. ... Actually, I guess I wouldn't tell you about that.

Joke may be on us in these tough times

Joke may be on us in these tough times
Molly Ivins, a syndicated columnist based in Austin, Texas:
Copyright by The Creators Syndicate
Published July 21, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas -- Never let it be said our president does not provide laughs, even as we wobble on the rim of war in the Middle East.

Look what a good time Vladimir Putin had with him. Bush, responding to questions from the international press corps on his conversation with Putin during the Group of 8 summit, said, "I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq, where there is a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country, you know, would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

Putin, with a fairly straight face, replied, "We certainly would not like to have the same of kind of democracy they have in Iraq, I'll tell you that quite honestly." Don't you hate it when the international press corps laughs at what a stoop Bush is? Bush, who fancies himself something of a fast-reply artist, said, "Just wait." Heh, heh.

Another citizen looking a bit nonplussed at the G8 summit was Tony Blair, listening as Bush, noisily chewing with his mouth open, said, "See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop ... I feel like telling [UN General Secretary Kofi Annan] to get on the phone with [Syrian President Bashar Assad] and make something happen [in resolving the Middle East conflict]."

Could he possibly believe that? You could probably suggest unleashing Israel on Syria, except that the Israelis don't seem interested in the program. One, they don't know who would replace President Assad. And two, it could get them stuck there for years --kind of like, oh, you know, that great democracy "what'sitsname."

Meanwhile, the nation needs to take a break from Fox News Channel and get a grip--the 24/7 drumbeat for war is silly.

Back to politics. Providing comic relief these days is Holy Joe Lieberman, Democratic senator from Connecticut, Al Gore's 2000 running mate and the most annoyingly sanctimonious person in politics. Lieberman has more than miffed Connecticut Democrats by backing the war in Iraq and other Bush policies, setting off a big primary fight. Lieberman now threatens to run as an independent if he loses the primary, thus opening the seat to a Republican and further alienating Democrats.

Brother Ralph Reed, alas, tanked in Georgia. Do you think he knows Baptists don't approve of gambling? Meanwhile, in Texas, we're all excited about the possibility of having former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay back on the ballot in his old district. You must admit the Republicans have lost their moral compass since DeLay quit. Now, if we could just have a free press and free religion like Iraq!



Why Dems strike out like the Cubs

Why Dems strike out like the Cubs
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
July 21, 2006

The national Democratic Party is just like the Chicago Cubs. Both organizations are lovable losers. Come to think of it, neither is all that lovable anymore. Both have become just losers.

For the Cubs we used to blame the Wrigleys. Now we blame Tribune (as it calls its corporate self). We used to blame stingy salaries. Now they pay good salaries and still lose. Through the years since Frank Chance, they have let people go to other teams, where they do better. Not only have they utilized all the traditional ways of losing, they have invented highly original ones -- like messing up young pitchers. They disgrace the city, their loyal fans (a matter of faith as Cardinal George once said) and baseball.

The Democratic Party has elected three presidents since the death of FDR -- John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton -- and only Clinton was re-elected. (Presidents Truman and Johnson were re-elected after succeeding presidents who died in office.) They have served up to the American people such losers as Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry. Carter won by a close vote (against the man who pardoned Richard Nixon) and became a loser the day he took office. None was very lovable, with the exception of Stevenson, who had to run against a war hero.

The Democrats sealed their doom at the 1972 convention when they threw out Mayor Richard J. Daley and union leader George Meany, cutting themselves off from their working class and urban ethnic bases. Since then Democratic leaders (mostly from the East Coast) have been so concerned with feminist activists, gay activists, African-American activists -- though not with Latino activists -- that they have lost any sense of their own identity. They don't ask themselves where the activists will go if they don't vote Democratic. Nor do they give a hoot about Catholics, the second largest minority in the party, because they conclude the "Catholic vote" is an anti-abortion vote.

Now they've apparently decided that the war is not to be an issue in the fall. Surveys show the Republican president and Republican Party are unpopular with substantial majorities of Americans. Almost two-thirds of Americans think the war is a mistake, a substantial majority believes it wasn't told the truth when the war started and about half favor an immediate schedule for withdrawing the troops. As the situation in Iraq deteriorates, opposition will grow. It is the critical issue on which the Democrats can win.

So what will the amiable losers do? They'll do their best to keep the war out of their campaigns. They won't emphasize the deliberate deceptions, the terrible mistakes -- not enough troops, inadequate training of the troops, lack of planning for the postwar months, incompetent U.S. civilian administrators, ignorance of fractured Iraqi society, torture, cover-up, numerous civilian deaths, rape, murder (sometimes involving soldiers who should never have been sent to Iraq), the decline of U.S. prestige around the world, the increase in the number of potential terrorists, the resilience of the Taliban because the Iraq mess has distracted American leaders from Afghanistan. Above all, the senseless deaths and maiming of young American men and women in a war that was doomed to defeat before it began, young men and women who were at risk because Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld wanted a war to demonstrate American power and because the president didn't like Saddam Hussein.

Why won't they campaign on these issues? Because they fear that Karl Rove will accuse them of "waffling," defeatism, dishonoring the dead, pessimism, betrayal of promises, supporting the enemy, lack of patriotism and treason. Why won't they campaign against preemptive wars based on Cheney's 1 percent doctrine -- if there's only 1 percent chance of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we take them out?

The flag-draped-coffins spat illustrates their propensity to lose. Republicans screamed that the ad was in bad taste, and the Democrats withdrew it. Is it not worse taste to pretend that Americans are not dying in Iraq in a futile war? Apparently not. Candidates who cave in at the threats of name calling or are afraid to fight back by telling the truth don't deserve to win. And they won't win. The Cubs have their billy goat curse, the Democrats are cursed by their own cowardice.

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - No statute of limitations on disbarment for torture

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - No statute of limitations on disbarment for torture
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
July 21, 2006

Chicago Police tortured suspects in their custody, and nothing was done about it, and there's little we can do now. That's a brief synopsis of the frustrating report from special prosecutors appointed to look into allegations of police brutality against former Cmdr. Jon Burge and his men. But there is hope for a small measure of justice. Federal charges can't be ruled out. And lawyers who looked the other way can and should be investigated for their inaction.

Special prosecutors Edward Egan and Robert Boyle spent four years and $7 million investigating allegations against Burge -- who was fired in 1993 -- and his men. They probed 148 allegations, finding credible evidence of torture in more than half but enough evidence to bring charges in just three. However, the statute of limitations has run out, making charges impossible.

Perhaps a tenacious federal prosecutor can find a way to bring federal charges. Fortunately, a tenacious federal prosecutor is just what we have in Patrick Fitzgerald. His office is reviewing the report, and we trust he'll do what he can.

Which brings us to the men who could have done something sooner. Egan and Boyle point the finger at several police officials and prosecutors who were aware of abuse allegations in the case that brought the issue to the forefront, that of Andrew Wilson. Wilson was arrested (and eventually convicted) for the murder of two cops in 1982. The special prosecutors determined that evidence of Wilson's torture was so overwhelming that Burge could have been convicted of aggravated battery. But neither Burge's superiors nor prosecutors did anything, despite a letter from a Cook County Jail doctor who urged a probe because he thought police had abused Wilson.

The list of men who, according to the report, didn't follow up is long. It includes Mayor Daley, who was then Cook County state's attorney; Richard Devine, who is now state's attorney but was then Daley's top aide; William Kunkle, who prosecuted the Wilson case and is now a judge; Lawrence Hyman, who was Daley's chief of felony review and who took Wilson's confession, and Frank DeBoni, who was a prosecutor and is now a judge.

Anyone holding a law license can be disciplined by the state Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission. The agency does not say whether it is conducting a disciplinary proceeding, but Chief Counsel James Grogan notes that it generally pays close attention to such things as reports from special prosecutors. And no statute of limitations applies.

Investigating the lawyers may seem like a small gesture, but disbarment is a serious step and should be pursued where the evidence warrants. The men -- and former Police Supt. Richard Brzeczek, another lawyer, who was harshly criticized by the report -- didn't carry out the abuse, but they could have stopped it in 1982. They bear some responsibility, and should be held accountable.