Sunday, April 30, 2006

Foie gras ban shows Daley's losing his grip

Foie gras ban shows Daley's losing his grip
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times

April 30, 2006

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

The City Council opened itself up to ridicule last week when it banned foie gras, a liver delicacy most Chicagoans have never tasted and cannot afford.

But the vote that made Chicago the nation's first major city to ban rich man's chopped liver was about more than misplaced priorities. It was about Mayor Daley's diminishing clout over a legislative body once viewed as his rubber stamp.

The Hired Truck, city hiring and minority contracting scandals have so weakened Daley -- and neutered the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs that's supposed to lobby aldermen -- that the mayor can no longer afford to waste his diminishing political capital on the frivolous.

Never mind that Daley viewed the foie gras ban as a Big Brother intrusion and unworthy of the City Council's attention. The ordinance sailed through while the mayor waxed sarcastic on the sidelines.

'Picks his battles wisely'

"There was no involvement of IGA on that issue to even indicate to most of us what the mayor's feelings were. He did not expend any capital trying to stop it or, for that matter, most of the things recently," Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) said.

"I agreed with the mayor. I'm not concerned about the foie gras issue because I've got children getting shot in the street. . . . Some fights aren't worth fighting."

Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), the mayor's unofficial City Council floor leader, tried to put the best possible face on the latest example of Daley's detachment from the legislative branch of government.

"The mayor picks his battles wisely. While he may not agree with something like foie gras, if less than 1 percent of the people in Chicago eat it and not too many more even know what it is, why would you waste political capital on that type of confrontation?" O'Connor said.

There was a time when Daley ruled the City Council with an iron hand through political enforcers Tim Degnan, Degnan's successor Victor Reyes, and Ald. Pat Huels (11th), the Daley floor leader who was forced out during a 1997 ethics scandal.

The mayor wouldn't tolerate dissent. He was determined to pitch a shutout on every vote. Those who dared to oppose the mayor's programs or speak out against him on the City Council floor were targeted for defeat by the Reyes-led Hispanic Democratic Organization or other pro-Daley political armies.

But that was before the Degnan- and Reyes-led Office of Intergovernmental Affairs -- Daley's liaison to the City Council and General Assembly -- found itself at the center of the city hiring scandal.

Daley's former patronage chief Robert Sorich and three others with ties to the mayor's home 11th Ward are about to go on trial on charges that they engaged in a "massive fraud" to rig city hiring and promotions over more than a decade.

Legislative agenda 'in disarray'

With federal prosecutors breathing down the city's neck and a federal monitor overseeing city hiring, one veteran alderman said, "IGA has been neutered. They can't give us anything. They can't take anything away. The core of their existence is gone. Now the City Council has to learn how to walk."

Under new IGA director John Dunn -- "a nice guy who nobody talks to" -- the office that's supposed to push the mayor's legislative agenda is "in disarray," said another alderman, who asked to remain anonymous.

"In the past, when they asked you to do something or vote for something, you'd ask something of them. Now, they can't give you anything, so they don't ask you, either. As a result, these things [like foie gras] start taking on a life of their own," the alderman said.

It's not the first time that has happened in recent months -- and it won't be the last.

In the battle over a proposed anti-smoking ordinance, Daley waited to seal the deal until it was clear that Health Committee Chairman Ed Smith (28th) and O'Connor had already lined up enough votes for an all-inclusive ban. In the past, Daley has used his power to snuff out anti-smoking ordinances.

Detached and preoccupied by the scandals, Daley was also a bystander in the just-averted fight over an honorary street designation for slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. That's even though it threatened to divide aldermen along racial lines in ways not seen since the 1980s power struggle known as Council Wars.

Aldermen blaze new trails

And Daley was long gone from last week's City Council meeting when aldermen, fuming about a hiring probe now spreading to the City Council, decided to hire their own attorney to intervene in the Shakman case to take a stand against a federal hiring monitor who they say has overstepped her bounds.

Now, Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) and more than 30 of his colleagues are threatening to blaze another trail -- by establishing a wage and benefit standard for Wal-Mart and other "big box" retailers.

Daley made his feelings on the subject well-known before leaving for a trip to Israel and Jordan that will take him away from Chicago during the Sorich trial and the close of the legislative session.

"Once you start mandating that, where do you stop?" Daley said.

A more important question is whether a mayor who is clearly losing his grip on the City Council has the political muscle -- or the political will -- to stop it.

Mexico drug bill a lure to go south?

Mexico drug bill a lure to go south?
Copyright by The Associated Press

April 30, 2006


MEXICO CITY -- Mexicans would be allowed to possess small amounts of cocaine, heroin, even ecstasy for their personal use under a bill approved by lawmakers that some worry could prove to be a lure to young Americans.

The bill only needs President Vicente Fox's signature to become law, and that does not appear to be an obstacle. His office said decriminalizing drugs will free up police to focus on major dealers.

"This law gives police and prosecutors better legal tools to combat drug crimes that do so much damage to our youth and children," said Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar.

The Senate approved the bill Friday in the final hours of its closing session. Mexico's lower house had endorsed the legislation.

The measure appeared to surprise U.S. officials. State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus said the department was trying to get more information about it. One U.S. diplomat, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said "we're still studying the legislation, but any effort to decriminalize illegal drugs would not be helpful."

Some worried the law would increase drug addiction in Mexico and cause problems with the United States. Millions of American youths visit Mexico's beach resorts and border towns each year.

Trafficking still illegal

"A lot of Americans already come here to buy medications they can't get up there. ... Just imagine, with heroin," said Ulisis Bon, a drug treatment expert in Tijuana, where heroin use is rampant.

In off-the-record talks and through their communications with U.S. officials, Mexican officials tried to depict the drug bill as a clarification of existing laws. But the changes are clear.

Currently, Mexican law leaves open the possibility of dropping charges against people caught with drugs if they can prove they are drug addicts and if an expert certifies they were caught with "the quantity necessary for personal use."

The new bill drops the "addict" requirement, allows "consumers" to have drugs, and sets out specific allowable quantities, which do not appear in the current law.

However, the bill stiffens penalties for trafficking and possession of drugs -- even small quantities -- by government employees or near schools, and maintains criminal penalties for drug sales.


Here is a partial list of maximum allowable drug quantities approved by Mexico's Congress for personal use:
Marijuana 5 grams, about 4 joints
Heroin, 25 milligrams
Opium (raw) 5 grams
Cocaine 500 milligrams, about 4 lines
LSD .015 milligrams
MDMA (ecstasy) 200 milligrams
Peyote: 1 kilogram
Methamphetamines: 200 milligrams

Gay-Marriage Proposal

Gay-Marriage Proposal
By William Saletan
Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page B02. Copyright by The Washington Post

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together to join two ideas in holy matrimony. On the right, covenant marriage, an option legalized by some states but widely shunned as too conservative. On the left, same-sex marriage, an option widely sought but outlawed as too radical. Covenant marriage, in which spouses choose to make divorce more difficult, has become a forlorn maiden, a home without a constituency. Meanwhile, the same-sex marriage movement has become a frustrated suitor, a constituency without a home. Let us bless them, that they may join as one flesh: gay covenant marriage.

How did these two young movements come to be so perfect for each other? The story begins many years ago, when gay men and lesbians, having campaigned for a right to privacy and then for equal treatment in the workplace, sought legal recognition as families. As their ambitions grew, so did resistance. In states where judges gave them the right to marry, voters took it away. Two years ago, after the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that gay residents could no longer be denied marriage, voters in 13 states passed ballot measures against the practice. In a few weeks -- on 6/6/06, for those of you keeping track in your copy of Revelation -- the Senate will vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Supporters of gay equality think they can demand marriage like any other right. They call it "marriage equality" or "freedom to marry." But in the minds of most Americans, not all freedoms -- or equalities -- are equal. Three years ago, in a Pew Research survey, 80 percent of Americans agreed that gays shouldn't face "restrictions on sex between consenting adults in the privacy of their own home." Nevertheless, 56 percent worried that same-sex marriage "would undermine the traditional American family." In Gallup polls on homosexuality, support for "equal rights in terms of job opportunities" approaches 90 percent, but solid majorities oppose offering gay couples the "same rights as traditional marriages." Last month, a Pew survey found that majorities think gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military but not to marry.

Why do people who tolerate gay equality in other realms draw the line at marriage? Look at a letter released recently by 50 religious leaders in support of the constitutional amendment. Marriage "sustains civil society," they wrote. "When marriage is entered into and gotten out of lightly, when it is no longer the boundary of sexual activity, or when it is allowed to be radically redefined, a host of personal and civic ills can be expected to follow." Divorce and illegitimacy were bad enough; now courts are twisting marriage into "an elastic concept able to accommodate almost any individual preference."

This is what keeps same-sex marriage, unlike sexual privacy or workplace equality, on the wrong side of public opinion. Marriage isn't like a job or a tryst. You can't assume or demand it; you have to earn it. Marriage is bigger than you -- it's usually about kids, and it's always about commitment. Suing for it in the name of equal access rubs people the wrong way. It sounds as though you're trying to loosen the commitment or stretch the boundaries. Marriage doesn't come to you. You have to come to marriage.

That's what inspired the covenant marriage movement. Beginning in 1997, Louisiana, Arizona and Arkansas enacted laws making covenant marriage an option for heterosexuals. Before marrying, you have to go through counseling. You have to affirm orally and in writing that your marriage is "for life," that you accept its "responsibilities," that you've "chosen each other carefully," that you've "disclosed to one another everything" important, and that you'll "take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling." Divorce takes longer than today's no-fault dissolutions, and the grounds are narrower. The prescribed waiting period is usually two years.

The pioneers of covenant marriage thought their followers would flock to it. They were wrong. In states conservative enough to promote it, fewer than one in 100 marrying couples have chosen this option -- about 6,000 to 7,000 couples, judging from published data. Meanwhile, in states liberal enough to permit same-sex marriage or civil unions, thousands of gay couples have signed up -- more than 7,300 in Massachusetts, 1,200 in Vermont (6,600 more if you count out-of-staters) and 700 in Connecticut. About 3,700 gay couples have registered for domestic partnerships in New Jersey, and 30,000 or so have registered in California. More blue-state gay couples than red-state straight couples are signing up for as much commitment as the law allows.

So, on the right, empty pews in the church of commitment. On the left, people fighting to get in. It's a match made in heaven. There's just one problem: Covenant marriage laws exclude same-sex couples.

If covenant marriage were opened to gays, many on the left would spurn it. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force calls it "reactionary" and chafes even at the notion of pre-divorce counseling. Last year, when Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) of Arkansas upgraded his marriage to a covenant, activists crashed the ceremony with a banner demanding "Queer Equality." Moderate gay organizations, however, have yet to weigh in. Two years ago, John O'Sullivan, editor at large of the National Review, mused on the possibility of calling their bluff. "Just how many gay couples would sign up for a marriage that really was lifelong?" he asked. "It would be a searching test of consistency. And it would also settle the question of whether gays seeking marriage are seeking public commitment to a lifelong partnership or merely absolutely equal status for homosexuality."

But the test goes both ways. In their foundational statement on marriage, Catholic, Baptist and evangelical leaders claim to be defending it against cohabitation, divorce and "diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying." They call for "mentor couples" and "influence within society" to promote marriage. Can you imagine a more powerful influence than finding out that the gay couple down the block has a stronger marriage than you do? Here's a chance to get more marriage, less cohabitation and less divorce. Is that what conservatives want? Or would they rather keep out the gays?

If anyone can show why these two movements should not be joined, speak now or forever hold your peace.
Immigration checkmate?
Copyright byu The Chgicago Tribune

Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University: Tribune Media Services
Published April 28, 2006

The thousands of illegal aliens protesting in the last month essentially have been telling the American people the following:

"You knew we were illegal when we came here to work in silence. But you said nothing when we were hired at your low-paying jobs. Now when you think there are too many of us, you suddenly change the rules and tell us we alone are the lawbreakers and must leave."

In their hurt and anger, the initial televised marchers carried Mexican flags and shouted about ethnic pride. This only turned off tens of millions of American viewers, who scoffed in response, "If Mexico is so great, why come here in the first place?"

As a result, politically astute advisers to the demonstrations charted a different course. At more recent rallies, protesters have carried red, white and blue banners. And they've voiced a desire to become U.S. citizens.

This change in tactics, however, raises an important question. If American citizens are now to hold the crowds in the streets to their most recent incarnation, will most of the illegal-alien protesters truly wish to become full U.S. citizens with all that entails?

Remember, citizenship is never defined by the applicant, only by the benefactor. In America, it doesn't involve racial or ethnic allegiance. Rather, U.S. citizenship asks immigrants to make linguistic, political and social concessions.

So, imagine an immigration compromise that, in exchange for strict border enforcement, allows the majority of the current 11 million resident illegal aliens to remain here to start their citizenship process. Wouldn't it then be natural to expect these future Americans to understand that U.S. citizenship carries as many responsibilities as rights?

In a country that is increasingly multiethnic and multiracial, it no longer makes sense to rely on bilingual government documents and services for a particular ethnic group. Such duplication is expensive and hampers English immersion. It's also the road to tribalism, whose bitter fruits we know well from the Balkans to Rwanda. Those who now march professing their desire to become Americans must quickly learn the English language, as have hundreds of past immigrant groups.

As American citizens, newcomers also must realize that no nation can remain sovereign without controllable borders. So Americans would hope that they also would support border enforcement of their new country. Employer sanctions, more guards and a barrier would start to end the present unworkable system that led to their own ambiguous status in the first place.

Something is terribly wrong when thousands of skilled engineers and doctors from Canada, India and Mexico cannot easily obtain legal citizenship, while those who cut ahead by the millions and cross the border illegally almost find it de facto.

If we controlled the borders in exchange for allowing current resident illegals to apply for citizenship, future legal and measured immigration from Mexico, while perhaps somewhat greater than from other countries, would cease to be either large or exceptional. The present perpetually replenished pool of aggrieved second-class unlawful residents soon would vanish.

Also gone would be the romance of "Alta California"--the strange notion that demography and the labor market will do what the law cannot and extend Mexico into the southwestern United States. We'd be able to jettison the "the borders crossed us" nonsense that tends to radicalize a shadow underclass and return to the notion that we are all part of a melting-pot society.

So, yes, we need to take our cue from the protesters in the street whose placards and banners at last broadcast their genuine desire to join us as Americans. Let us, the hosts, help resident illegal aliens to meet workable criteria to become citizens, as we ensure an end to the broken system of open borders and labor exploitation.

But let the present aliens only become Americans in the fullest linguistic, cultural and social sense--just as millions from all over the world have done before them.

Those of the left claim that racism fuels the anger over illegal immigration. Those on the right agree--but insist instead that the racism really comes from La Raza separatism on the part of the unassimilated Hispanic community.

Very soon we could learn who in this sad debate has been telling the truth about ethnic chauvinism. If conservatives would not worry over the ethnicity of these new Americans and thus allow most of those already here from Mexico to stay, then the onus would rest with the ethnic activists to urge rapid and full assimilation.



The Decline of the English-Speaking Peoples

The Decline of the English-Speaking Peoples
From Lacoochie to Le Sourdsville to Los Angeles, America's national language is under siege
Nick Gillespie
Copyright by "Reason."

So it turns out that it's muy important that immigrants, legal and illegal, learn English as a condition of citizenship, guest-worker status, indentured servitude, whatever. Who knew that we—meaning the great Melting Pot Nation of America—have been living on borrowed time for the past few centuries by not strictly enforcing an English-only rule among the huddled masses, wretched refuse, and all the rest who showed up here?

Thank you, Middle Eastern 9/11 hijackers, for finally getting the point through our thick skulls (forgive our slowness, but all too many of us are descended from immigrants) that the greatest security threat to the United States is the influx of Spanish speakers from across the border with Mexico.

Christ, it's bad enough that we have to eat foreign food, live in states with Spanish-derived names, and answer that extra question about which language to use at the ATM. (Thought experiment: How much is that extra second or two of time slowing down the U.S. economy and driving down our productivity, precisely at the moment when the Chinese are breathing down our necks like a bunch of post-industrial railroad coolies? You can be damn sure that the Chinese government doesn't allow ATM users to pick their own language.)

All the greatest minds of the second, and probably last, American century—Lou Dobbs, Arizona Sens. McCain and Kyl, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, Ann Coulter—concur that becoming fluent in English should be a condition to live in these United States. (The visionary Dobbs, channeling the great American-turned-English poet T.S. Eliot, goes farther still, deriding St. Patrick's Day celebrations just as Eliot rightly attacked the "apeneck" Irish for their self-evidently subhuman nature.)

It's embarrassing enough—humiliating really—that the United States doesn't have a state religion, which would facilitate community and national identity. We can at least have an official language, and it's a damn good thing that everyone agrees it ought to be English, since most of us speak it already, and it's probably pretty close to what "American" would sound like if we hadn't been British colonies originally.

Thank you, Rep. Tom Tancredo from the great state of Colorado "Reddish-Colored" for having the courage to introduce a "Constitutional Amendment that would declare English the official language of the United States." (And for being the most forceful advocate of building a wall between Mexico and the U.S., though I hope you'll be more careful in checking out the government contractors than you were with your personal ones, to make sure they aren't using illegal immigrants to pour the Christmas-time concrete.)

Come on, already: If I moved to Australia, say, you can be damn sure that I'd learn to speak Australian. Indeed, whenever I think about the need for English literacy tests for immigrants, I think about my maternal grandfather, Nicola Guida, who showed up at Ellis Island (what a polyglot slum that was!) in 1913 and then proceeded to waste most of his time working manual labor jobs like quarrying rock and digging basements by hand and raising four children rather than taking the time to learn English, the ingrate. It's one of the great pities of my life that, because I speak no Italian (other than what I picked via the Godfather movies) and he spoke no English (other than what he picked up watching Gunsmoke, his favorite TV show), I was never able to communicate effectively to him just how un-American he was.

I can take some solace—very little, but in this crazy world of run-amok immigration and full employment, we take what we can get—in the fact that, even if Congress passes no law to force English onto immigrants, plenty of third-generation Mexicans will find it equally tough to talk with their grandparents. As the Pew Hispanic Center documents, about 80 percent of third-generation Latinos in the United States speak English as their dominant language—and exactly 0 percent speak Spanish as their dominant language.

Reason Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie is the editor of Choice: The Best of Reason.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Dissembling on medical pot

Chicago Tribune Editorial - Dissembling on medical pot

Published April 23, 2006.
Copyright © 2006

The federal government has a long and dismal record of fighting the idea that marijuana has any medical value, and it is not about to let mere facts force a change in policy.

The Food and Drug Administration's new pronouncement on the subject is just the latest disgraceful effort to maintain an unconvincing position that has long been rejected by most Americans--not to mention 11 states that have legalized medical marijuana. Besides failing to offer any new evidence for denying cannabis to patients who might benefit from it, the agency also ignores the best information available.

The FDA statement came in response to a request from Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee, an opponent of medical marijuana. It declares that "no human or animal data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use." Measures allowing it, says the agency, "would not serve the interests of public health because they might expose patients to unsafe and ineffective drug products."

Souder, who perceives efforts to permit cannabis therapy as a Trojan horse for legalizing the drug entirely, seconded the FDA. Marijuana can't be a good treatment, he asserted, "because it adversely impacts concentration and memory, the lungs, motor coordination and the immune system."

It may surprise Souder to learn that all sorts of valuable, federally approved medicines may have serious adverse effects, which is not grounds for banning them entirely. As it happens, there is ample evidence that pot can ameliorate some serious ailments that don't always respond to conventional treatments.

A 1999 analysis by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences concluded that it is "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting." Medical marijuana has earned the endorsement of The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians and numerous oncologists.

Its side effects, meanwhile, are exaggerated. In 1988, Francis Young, the Drug Enforcement Agency's own administrative law judge, called cannabis "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."

The FDA stoically pretends all this expert analysis doesn't exist. Its statement is equally dishonest when it says there are no scientific studies proving the value of marijuana--without acknowledging that the government has generally declined to cooperate with scientists who want to conduct clinical trials.

It's a classic scam. Says University of Massachusetts agronomist Lyle Craker, who was refused permission to grow marijuana for his research, in place of the low-quality stuff offered by the government, "The reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial."

There is plenty of room for serious debate about the therapeutic potential of cannabis. But the government clearly thinks that what it doesn't know can't hurt it.

IFI's LaBarbera Praises Rev. Meeks for Holding Petition Drive for 'Protect Marriage Illinois' at Salem Baptist Church

IFI's LaBarbera Praises Rev. Meeks for Holding Petition Drive for 'Protect Marriage Illinois' at Salem Baptist Church
© 2006 U.S. Newswire

4/23/2006 7:57:00 AM

To: City and State desks

Contact: Peter LaBarbera of Illinois Family Institute, 630-546-4439;

CHICAGO, April 23 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Peter LaBarbera, executive director of Illinois Family Institute, today praised Rev. and State Sen. James T. Meeks for holding a petition drive at Salem Baptist Church in support of Protect Marriage Illinois' (PMI) campaign to place a referendum on the ballot in November calling on the General Assembly to constitutionally preserve marriage as between one man and one woman.

Rev. Meeks has been a strong supporter of the PMI initiative and thousands of Salem Baptist Church's congregants will likely sign the petition during the service this morning. About 2,000 churches across the state have held similar petition drives in support of the Protect Marriage Illinois campaign.

"We are grateful for Sen. Meeks' strong commitment to protecting the sacred institution of marriage, and gratified in general at the tremendous support that the Protect Marriage Illinois referendum drive has received in the African-American community," LaBarbera said. "Rev. Meeks is showing moral leadership, of the sort that is sorely lacking in our state.

"The PMI effort has united Christians and people of all backgrounds, denominations and ethnicities-who are working together for the common cause of permanently protecting marriage from being radically redefined," he said. "In Massachusetts, the legalization of 'gay marriage' has led to bolder efforts to teach homosexuality as a normal lifestyle in public schools-an agenda that is not supported by Illinois citizens."

Illinois Family Institute is working closely with Elder Johnny Tyler's Chicago-based African-American Family Association (AAFA) to gather signatures for the Protect Marriage Illinois campaign.

"We have been excited at how the African-American community has responded to Protect Marriage Illinois," said Naomi Attaway of the AAFA. "The vast majority of African-Americans have been eager to sign the petition, and clearly understand the threat of 'gay marriage.'"

Attaway said that most African Americans also resent the attempt by homosexual activists to equate the "same-sex marriage" cause with the traditional civil rights movement.

Illinois Family Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan group devoted to Protecting Marriage, Family and the Sanctity of Life in the Land of Lincoln. IFI is associated with Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and Alliance Defense Fund.

Group extends deadline for gay marriage petitions

Group extends deadline for gay marriage petitions


Published Friday, April 21, 2006

An organization has given itself two more weeks to gather enough signatures to ask Illinois voters in November if the state's Constitution should prohibit gay marriage.

In what some are calling a political move to motivate Republican voters, the Illinois Family Institute wants a statewide advisory referendum to determine if voters think the Constitution should be amended to define marriage as being legal only if it is between a man and a woman.

In order for the question to be on the ballot, the group must gather 283,111 signatures, which is 8 percent of the number of people who voted for governor in the last election.

"We are very, very close to the minimum number right now, with thousands coming in every day," said David E. Smith, the project director for Protect Marriage Illinois, an initiative of the IFI.

Smith said he received 10,000 signatures Thursday alone.

The group has set a goal of collecting 500,000 signatures. Smith said moving the deadline from April 20 to April 30 will allow additional churches to hold petition drives. More than 2,000 churches have been involved so far.

"That's nice, but the fact is there's 15,000 churches in Illinois," Smith said. "Some churches are just getting the word now."

The State Board of Elections must receive the petitions by May 8, six months before the general election, in order for the question to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The last time an advisory referendum made it on a statewide ballot was in 1978, according to the State Board of Elections. It had to do with limiting property taxes.

An advisory referendum would not alter the Constitution but merely make legislators aware of how many voters would support such an amendment.

In 1996, Gov. Jim Edgar signed a law that recognizes marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Smith, however, is afraid the Illinois Supreme Court may at some point rule the law unconstitutional.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided in 2003 that a state law there prohibiting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Some people say the Illinois Family Institute's initiative has an ulterior motive in an election year.

"The bottom line is they are just attempting to build a right-wing voter base in the state of Illinois, which traditionally has been moderate," said Rick Garcia, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, a gay rights group that opposes constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

Garcia said Republican governors in the past 20 years have all been moderate.

"(Right-wing Republicans) gave us Alan Keyes, they gave us Jim Ryan, and they gave us Jim Oberweis. Loser, loser, loser," Garcia said. "Three strikes and you're out."

According to a 2005 Equality Illinois poll of 600 registered voters, 38 percent supported gay marriage and 49 percent were opposed.

It also showed that 67 percent opposed amending the Illinois Constitution to ban gay marriage.

"We stand by those numbers, because those numbers have been reflected in other polls nationally," Garcia said. "Opposition to the amendment ran across every region of the state, every age group and (Republicans, Democrats and Independents)."

"They will always question the results of our polling," Garcia said of the amendment's proponents. "We challenge them... Let's have a joint poll and ask the voters of Illinois what they think about tampering with our Constitution."

The Illinois Family Institute said an advisory referendum in November will be an official poll, "and there won't be a margin of error," Smith said.

Rebecca O'Halloran can be reached at 544-2819 or

Forrest Gump's Evil Twin - President Bush is exactly as stupid as he looks.

Forrest Gump's Evil Twin
By Stephen Pizzo, News for Real. Posted April 21, 2006.

America at large is starting to realize -- finally -- that President Bush is exactly as stupid as he looks, sounds and acts.

How extraordinary. Something is happening here that has never happened in America's history. A consensus is sweeping the nation. Not that the war in Iraq is wrong, or that oil companies are screwing us blue, or that the climate is going to hell, or that good-paying jobs are being replaced by low-paying jobs, or that our national health care system is a disgrace, or that that the rich are getting a lot richer while the middle class gets poorer.

While all that's true, and more and more folks are getting it, that's not the consensus of which I speak. Nope. This one is bigger, enormous, huge!

Here it is: The president of the United States is a moron.

Yes, stupid, dumb as common road gravel. And not figuratively, but literally. George W. Bush, president of the world's last remaining superpower, is a moron. Forrest Gump's evil twin.

I broached this possibility one year ago in a post entitled, "Bush: The Worst President Ever?" I was a bit early with that one. But what a difference a year makes! The cover story of this week's Rolling Stone Magazine reads, "The Worst President in History?"

So the jury is in: Bush is a moron. If stupid is as stupid does, he's stupid. A botched war on terror, exploding debt, his "what me worry" response to Katrina -- and the ongoing mismanagement of the recovery, North Korea has the bomb and Iran is on its way to its own nuke. Think about that for a second because it is definitive proof Bush is a moron. First he identifies three nations as his "Axis of Evil" in the world: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. Then he as a chance to whack one of the three, and he picks the only one that had no WMD. The only way he could look worse is if it were only two countries -- a coin flip -- and he still got it wrong.

Yes, Virginia, the current occupant of the Oval Office is no longer a crook or an adulterer. He's a moron.

As if that were not bad enough, we still face two and half years with this man at the controls. NFR reader Philip Bourgeois suggested an intervention launched by former Presidents Clinton, Bush Sr. and Carter. Not a bad idea, Phil.

Poppa Bush must be beside himself watching his kid screw up decades of diplomacy in just five short years. He could take sonny into that Oval Office alcove where Monica used to dispense her favors and administer a few long overdue dope slaps.

Bill Clinton could sit the moron down and give him a short course on how to balance a checkbook, teach him the difference between capital investment and undisciplined spending, and the virtues of saving for a rainy day.

Jimmy Carter could teach Junior the actual meaning of the word "compassionate," and how to walk that walk. Carter could reveal to him that giving the already comfortably rich even more money is not compassion. Giving more money to the growing number of those who work 60 hours a week or more, and still can't get by, is "compassion." And he could figure out how to cover the nearly 50 million Americans who cannot afford health insurance.

But none of that is likely to happen. One of the trademarks of a moron is contempt for facts that challenge the simple but comfortable fictions that rule their daily routines. You can drag a moron to a library, but you can't force him to learn.

In fact morons get downright testy when someone challenges what they think they know. We saw this trait earlier this week when Bush was asked if he thought Don Rumsfeld should resign. The moron lashed out at the questioner, dashed into his imaginary phone booth and emerged as The Decider. "I'm the decider," he pronounced, with Mussolini-like swagger. You see, scratch a moron and beneath that smirking, ignorance-is-bliss exterior, you discover a fundamental truth: Beauty may be only skin deep, but moron goes right to the bone.

I'm staying close to home until this guy is gone. Keeping my head down, my nose clean, and watching what I say in emails for friends. And I have a piece of advice for the Iranians too -- this guy really is crazy enough to "decide" that bombing the shit out you is a good idea. Yes, Bush is exactly as stupid as he looks, sounds and acts.

Doubt that at your peril. Fifty-one percent of American voters doubted it. And now we're screwed.

Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Army suicides hit highest level since '93

Published: Apr 21, 2006
Modified: Apr 22, 2006 1:04 AM
Army suicides hit highest level since '93


WASHINGTON (AP) - The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.
In 2005, a total of 83 soldiers committed suicide, compared with 67 in 2004, and 60 in 2003 - the year U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq. Four other deaths in 2005 are being investigated as possible suicides but have not yet been confirmed. The totals include active duty Army soldiers and deployed National Guard and Reserve troops.

"Although we are not alarmed by the slight increase, we do take suicide prevention very seriously," said Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin.

"We have increased the number of combat stress teams, increased suicide prevention and training, and we are working very aggressively to change the culture so that soldiers feel comfortable coming forward with their personal problems in a culture where historically admitting mental health issues was frowned upon," Curtin said.

Of the confirmed suicides last year, 25 were soldiers deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - which amounts to 40 percent of the 64 suicides by Army soldiers in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.

The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 25 years, from a high of 15.8 per 100,000 in 1985 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001. Last year it was nearly 13 per 100,000.

The Army recorded 90 suicides in 1993, with a suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000.

The Army rate is higher than the civilian suicide rate for 2003, which was 10.8 per 100,000, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Army number tracked closely with the rate for civilians aged 18-34, which was 12.19 per 100,000 in 2003.

When suicides among soldiers in Iraq spiked in the summer of 2003, the Army put together a mental health assessment team that met with troops. Investigators found common threads in the circumstances of the soldiers who committed suicide - including personal financial problems, failed personal relationships and legal problems.

Since then, the Army has increased the number of mental health professionals and placed combat stress teams with units. According to the Army, there are more than 230 mental health practitioners working in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with "about a handful" when the war began, Curtin said.

Soldiers also get cards and booklets that outline suicide warning signs and how to get help.

But at least one veterans group says it's not enough.

"These numbers should be a wake-up call on the mental health impact of this war," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "One in three soldiers will come back with post traumatic stress disorder or comparable mental health issues, or depression and severe anxiety."

Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader in Iraq, said solders there face increased stress because they are often deployed to the warfront several times, they are fighting urban combat and their enemy blends in with the population, making it more difficult to tell friend from foe.

"You don't get much time to rest and with the increased insurgency, your chances of getting killed or wounded are growing," he said. "The Army is trying harder, but they've got an incredibly long way to go."

He added that while there are more psychiatrists, the soldiers are still in a war zone, "so you're just putting your finger in the dam."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Illinois Legislators Introduce Bill for Bush Impeachment

Illinois Legislators Introduce Bill for Bush Impeachment

Three members of the Illinois General Assembly have introduced a bill that urges the General Assembly to submit charges to the U. S. House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States, George W. Bush, for willfully violating his Oath of Office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and if found guilty urges his removal from office and disqualification to hold any other office in the United States.

The Jefferson Manual of rules for the U.S. House of Representatives makes clear that impeachment proceedings can be initiated by a state legislature submitting charges. The state of Illinois is on its way toward forcing on the House what not a single one of its members has yet had the courage to propose: Articles of Impeachment.

The text of the Illinois bill and information on its status are available here:

The bill takes up the issues of illegal spying, torture, detentions without charge or trial, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, and the leaking of classified information.

Please thank these sponsors of the bill:

Rep. Karen A. Yarbrough, phone (217) 782-8120 or (708) 615-1747; fax (708) 615-1745

Rep Sara Feigenholtz , phone (217) 782-8062 or (773) 296-4141; fax (217) 557-7203 or (773) 296-0993

Rep. Eddie Washington phone (217) 558-1012 or (847) 623-0060, fax (847) 623-6078
Get organized in Illinois to pass this bill!

New York Times Editorial - Lessons from Katrina

New York Times Editorial - Lessons from Katrina

Copyright by The New York Times


The lessons of Katrina have highlighted two important ways that America will need to change its disaster relief before the next hurricane season begins in June. The federal government must do a better job of relocating evacuated families into permanent homes in functional communities instead of into hotels and trailer parks. And the authorities need to provide ongoing medical care for the displaced.

The link between the medical care and housing issues is clearly underscored in an alarming new report from the Children's Health Fund and the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Researchers who studied families stranded in hotels and isolated trailer camps found that more than a third of the children suffered from conditions like asthma, anxiety and behavioral problems and that many were going without prescribed medications.

The government's emphasis on temporary housing has taken a toll on these families, who have moved on average 3.5 times since the storm. A quarter of the school-age children were either not enrolled in school or had missed many school days. Among their parents, about half were managing chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. Katrina did not cause these illnesses. But the stressful and chaotic conditions of the relief effort have clearly caused many of them to worsen.

The humanitarian emergency that has recently come to light in the Katrina belt should put the federal government on notice that furnishing medical care must be the first priority in disasters like this one.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Long View: Your guess is as good as mining By Philip Coggan

The Long View: Your guess is as good as mining
By Philip Coggan, Investment Editor
Published: April 21 2006 17:18 | Last updated: April 21 2006 17:18. Copyright by The Financial Times

There is no more controversial financial asset than gold. To its enthusiasts, gold is the only true store of value and the asset that comes into its own when all others are crumbling.

Many believe its moment has arrived. Marc Faber, investor and author of the Gloom, Boom and Doom report, points out that the Dow has risen less fast than gold since 2000. In his eyes, that means it is in a bear market in gold terms.

According to Paul Mylchreest of Chevreux, the ratio of the Dow to gold has averaged 12.5 since the collapse of the Bretton Woods exchange rate system in 1971. At its peak, in 2000, the Dow was 40 times the gold price, but in 1980 (with gold at $850), the two numbers were virtually the same.

Currently, the Dow is trading at around 17.5 times the gold price. If the ratio were to fall to the post-1971 average, gold would rise to nearly $900 an ounce (assuming the Dow stays where it is).

Another interesting ratio is that of gold to oil. The long-term average of this ratio is around 16, according to Mylchreest, but the ratio is currently only 9. A return to the average 16 level would take gold past $1,000.

Now I am not sure that these ratios are theoretically sound. For example, oil and gold have different discovery rates, different supplier structures, different economic users and different ownership structures (a lot of gold is owned by central banks).

But gold enthusiasts tend to think along these lines which is why they are unabashed at current trading levels and optimistic about the scope for potential gains.

There is (at the risk of receiving some rude e-mails) a distinctly apocalyptic tone to some of the gold bugs. They see paper money as a fraud on the public and view official inflation statistics as distorted. They believe the dollar will eventually collapse, thanks to irresponsible monetary and fiscal policy.

Some believe the central banks have in the past conspired to drive down the gold price (although the only official agreement between banks, which limits sales, is a conspiracy to keep the price up).

Nevertheless, one has to admit there is some force to their arguments and that the repeated interventions by central banks to prop up financial markets (for example, in 1998 and 2001) may have stored up inflationary pressures for the long term.

There has been no sign of that inflation at the consumer price level to date because the emergence of Asian manufacturers has borne down heavily on the prices of electronic goods and clothing. Falls in those prices have offset the increases in fuel and some foodstuffs.

But arguably there has been inflation in asset markets, particularly in housing and in share prices.

However, the same liquidity surge that has pushed up house prices is also having an impact on the commodity markets, including gold.

Institutional investors have discovered commodities as an asset class, using them as a means to diversify from bonds and equities. The momentum behind commodity prices has attracted hedge funds and speculative money.

Retail money is now being brought in; one of the reasons behind the recent sharp rise in silver has been the plans for an exchange traded fund in the metal, which will make it much easier for private investors to trade.

It is very hard to disentangle cause and effect at this stage. To what extent is the surge in the price of oil past $70 a barrel a sign of buoyant global demand or a sign that investors are fearing disruptions to supply, in the light of US-Iran tensions? And to what extent will higher prices be self-correcting by reducing the demand for energy?

What one can say is that, in some markets, price movements look very aggressive. Commenting on the silver price, Chip Hanlon of Delta Equity, says that “I don’t care what the asset is, when a chart starts to look parabolic, I get nervous.”

The recent arrival on my desk of a book on commodity investing (The Next Big Investment Boom) and the appearance of articles on the trend in the press are other factors that should cause concern.

We may be seeing a minor repeat of the technology craze of the late 1990s. Then as now, there are good reasons for belief in the underlying asset; business has been transformed by the internet; commodity supply has been restricted for many years and will be slow to respond to increased demand.

The difficulty is spotting the point at which price movements part company with the underlying fundamentals and reflect a Gadarene rush into the asset class by investors. I confess to being way too early in calling the top in the case of technology stocks, but that is the price one pays for being prudent.

Many commodity markets are quite small relative to the government bond and equity markets, and thus a limited amount of extra capital can push prices up a long way.

Nevertheless, while it seems right for investors to have some exposure to this area for the long term, this does not look like the best time to be piling in.

The volatility of the commodity markets was amply demonstrated on Thursday, when gold hit a 25-year peak of $645 an ounce before sliding back to $613. Nor was silver immune, as it plunged dramatically.

If you believe in the commodity story, it is worth waiting for markets to settle down a little before investing, and then only with a limited proportion of your portfolio.

Short view By Philip Coggan - Financial Times

Short view By Philip Coggan
Published: April 21 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 21 2006 03:00Copyright by The Financial Times

It is getting hard to keep up with the action in the commodity markets, as almost every day brings a record high price for some metal or another. Gold briefly hit a 25-year high of $645 an ounce yesterday. And as prices surge, the predictions for future price levels get ratcheted higher.

Despite the late turnround in bullion yesterday, which took the yellow metal back to $613, gold bugs are enjoying a revival after 20 years of hurt that saw the bullion price slide from $850 to $250 an ounce.

Jim Rogers is not really a gold bug; he used to argue that lead had been a better investment than gold. But even this veteran investor, a long-term commodity bull, is arguing that bullion can reach $1,000 an ounce.

Paul Mylchreest of Chevreux is even more ambitious, saying that gold could spike to $2,000 if central banks compete to buy gold and if the US economy slides into either high rates of inflation or deflation.

Gold enthusiasts believe that official inflation numbers have been distorted by changes in calculation methods and that rampant credit creation will eventually show up in higher prices.

But while there have been some signs of inflationary fears in the Treasury bond market in recent weeks, the shift has not really been sufficient to justify the gold bugs' more aggressive forecasts. Furthermore, the widespread gains across commodity markets suggest a certain degree of speculative enthusiasm may be involved.

"Speculators and investors have the previous metals market by the scruff of the neck and are driving the prices higher," says Robin Bhar of UBS. "Participants in the market must understand that the faster the moves up in metals, the greater the risks of a major sell-off."

Chip Hanlon of Delta Equity is even more concerned. He points to the recent price movements in silver, which show an almost vertical take-off.

"I don't care what the asset is, when a chart starts to look parabolic, I get nervous," he says. "Those who are over-weighted in metals, either by design or as a result of this move, should consider lightening up."

Exchange rates, fair play and the 'grand bargain'

Exchange rates, fair play and the 'grand bargain'
By Morris Goldstein
Published: April 21 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 21 2006 03:00. Copyright by The Financial Times

At this week's spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, much will be - rightly - said about the need for more Asian currency appreciation and a further fall in the dollar as essential elements to reduce large global payments imbalances. But what remains under-appreciated is the role that perceived "fairness" in exchange rate policies can play in the broader goal of sustaining globalisation and resisting protectionism.

The key long-term economic challenge is to integrate further the larger emerging economies into the international financial and trading system. The win-win "grand bargain" that both industrialised countries and the larger emerging economies should be pursuing is this: the larger emerging economies want reliable access to key markets in industrialised countries for their exports and excess savings. They also want increased "chairs and shares" in international financial institutions to reflect their growing economic weight. The industrial countries want the emerging economies to play by the international "rules of the game" on trade, intellectual property and exchange rates, and give more access to their fast-growing markets.

The rub is, this win-win bargain requires significant progress simultaneously on all the elements. If either side is seen as foot-dragging and if the designated international "umpires" - the IMF and the World Trade Organisation - do not enforce the rules, then the game can descend into a lose-lose sequence of protectionist measures.

China has been for three consecutive years conducting large-scale, prolonged, one-way intervention to resist a meaningful rise in the renminbi just when its global current account surplus has been surging (to 7 per cent of gross domestic product last year). This fuels US concern that China's large net export surplus has been garnered "unfairly" through "manipulation" of its currency. Because the IMF has failed to investigate seriously these charges, it seems as if there is no effective international umpire on exchange rate policies. This has led to national "freelancing" of a kind that would frustrate other parts of the grand bargain, for example, the Schumer-Graham proposal in the US Congress for a 27.5 per cent tariff on China's exports to America and the proposed US blocking of a quota increase in the IMF for any country found to be maintaining a "fundamentally misaligned currency" in the new Grassley-Baucus bill.

The concerns of larger emerging economies are no less pressing. How can the US ask others for greater market access when US investment plans by CNOOC and Dubai Ports were rejected - and while the US Congress is considering guidelines that would politicise foreign direct investment approvals in the US? Why should Beijing accelerate renminbi appreciation when the US is handicapping external adjustment by failing to present a credible medium-term plan for fiscal consolidation? Why should emerging economies agree to observe rules on exchange rate policies and forego regional substitutes for the IMF if the industrial countries prevent them achieving a "fair" voting share in the IMF?

Window dressing and inaction of the type seen in the run-up to these IMF-World Bank meetings are not going to advance the grand bargain. President Hu Jintao of China announced neither a significant downpayment toward correcting the renminbi's substantial under-valuation nor a pledge to start observing IMF rules on exchange market intervention; instead, he placed orders for Boeing aircraft and other US goods and heralded a minor liberalisation in China's capital outflow regime. President George W. Bush made no substantive commitments on reducing the US budget deficit. The US Congress did nothing to allay concerns about protectionist threats to the US market. European countries showed no inclination to reduce their chairs and shares in the IMF. And Rodrigo de Rato, IMF managing director, unveiled proposals for a minor procedural change in IMF surveillance and yet another new fund lending window when he should have promised a new start - both in carrying out the IMF's unique mandate as a global umpire against inappropriate exchange rate policies and in engaging in "ruthless truth-telling" about errant macroeconomic policies in systemically important economies. Unless exchange rate and trade policies, as well as IMF governance, are perceived as "fair" in both industrial and emerging economies, momentum on globalisation could shift into reverse. Allowing that to happen would be a "grand blunder".

The writer is Dennis Weatherstone senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics in Washington DC

The Price of Our Addiction By Jane Bryant Quinn

The Price of Our Addiction
For years to come, we'll be paying for our oil in both treasure and blood, as we fight and parley to keep ever-tighter supplies flowing our way.

By Jane Bryant Quinn
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
April 24, 2006 issue - The U.S. lives in an energy trap. We fell into it gladly, dug it deeper and sit fat and happy, with blinders on. We're fed daily meals of imported oil, from countries we pay in IOUs and think we can push around. But now we're starting to see the costs and risks of our dependency—and I don't only mean gasoline averaging $2.74 a gallon at the pump.

For years to come, we'll be in the hands of some of the most dysfunctional governments in the world. Oil prices will rise and economic growth will slow—not this year, but almost certainly a few years out. We'll be paying in both treasure and blood, as we fight and parley to keep ever-tighter supplies of world oil flowing our way.

What has changed in the world? We're running out of the capacity to produce surpluses of oil. Demand for crude is expected to rise much faster than new supplies. Developing nations, such as China and India, are glugging barrels at astounding rates. Meanwhile, most producer nations can't find enough new oil, or drill out more from their reserves, to replace what we're using up. Production from most of the large, older fields is in irreversible decline. About three years from now, the non-OPEC world will start pumping at slowly diminishing rates, says energy analyst Charles Maxwell of Weeden & Co. Most of the extra barrels needed to feed our economic growth will then have to come from OPEC nations—putting them in the driver's seat. Saudi Arabia is stepping up drilling and development, but the volatile market price suggests that it still won't have much capacity to spare. Within 10 or 15 years, it too may not pump enough to meet increased demand.

That puts the oil-dependent countries in a serious bind. We're all jockeying for control of oilfields, in a vast game that runs the risk of turning mean. China and Japan are running warships near disputed oil and natural-gas deposits in the East China Sea. China is doing deals in Sudan, Venezuela and Iran (our "bad guys"). Russia looks less friendly as we continue to invest in the oil countries around the Caspian Sea—Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan.

Nobody really knows how much oil there is. State-run companies don't disclose their true reserves. But clearly there's not enough to cover long supply disruptions, and that puts future economic development at increasing risk. "Terrorists have identified oil as the Achilles' heel of the West," says Gal Luft, head of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. The world market is losing maybe 1.5 million barrels a day to political sabotage. In February, the Saudis foiled an attack on one of their major oil installations. Had it succeeded, it could have been an "energy Pearl Harbor," Luft says. No one can foresee how world markets would respond if we attack Iran, but traders are clearly running scared (oil touched $70 a barrel last week).

This throws our Iraq wars into a different light. To an extent that most Americans don't yet understand, the U.S. military has become a "global oil-protection force," says Michael Klare, an expert on natural-resource wars and author of the book "Blood and Oil." President Jimmy Carter declared the free flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to be a vital U.S. interest, enforced at the point of a gun, if necessary. Today, we patrol tanker routes not only in the gulf, but in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Troops and advisers help protect pipelines in chaotic countries such as Colombia and the Republic of Georgia. We're planting military bases near oil supplies in Asia and Africa. Gulf War I was billed as a war to save Saudi oilfields from Saddam Hussein. Gulf War II was elevated to a "war against terror." But it's arguably still about oil—the Carter Doctrine reigns. One of the prizes in Iraq was to have been British and American access to its huge and unexploited oil reserves, Klare says.

What does all this add up to? A future oil market drastically rationed by price. Farmers, truckers and people on lower incomes who have to drive to work will be squeezed, especially if they also need oil to heat their homes. But heating with natural gas won't save you either, says oil investment banker Matthew Simmons; natural-gas supplies may grow even tighter and even higher priced.

On paper, we have alternatives, such as liquefied coal, oil sands from Canada and ethanol. But they're not anywhere close to production on a massive scale. For a smooth transition, mega-energy projects need to get started at least 20 years before oil supplies decline, writes Robert Hirsch of the consulting firm SAIC in a study prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy. If we don't get a running start on the problem, he says, "the economic consequences will be dire." We're probably already behind. It takes leadership to address a potential crisis in advance.

Unfortunately, we're investing in war, not in crash projects to develop new energy sources. Maybe there's time to spare. But some events, like true civil war and collapse in Iraq, could change everything in a day. We're running a faith-based energy policy—still addicted to oil. If something goes wrong, it will go wrong big.

Reporters: Temma Ehrenfeld with Ramin Setoodeh

Adrift in a Turbulent World By Fareed Zakaria

Adrift in a Turbulent World
Beijing is now engaged in its own internal debate over whether a confrontation between China and the United States is inevitable.

By Fareed Zakaria
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

April 24, 2006 issue - The most important strategic decision the United States will make in the next decade is not about Iraq, Iran or North Korea. It is about China. What will America's basic attitude be toward the rise of China? And similarly, the most important strategic decision that Beijing will make in the next decade is: how should it relate to the United States? Depending on whether the answer

to these questions is "cooperation" or "confrontation," one can imagine two very different 21st centuries. And yet in neither country does one get the sense that there is clarity on this subject. President Hu Jintao's visit to America this week—where he will spend all of an hour with President Bush—is unlikely to change the situation.

In the United States, attitudes toward China remain extremely mixed. Some Americans admire China for its economic success; others are fearful and increasingly combative. Some, particularly in the business community, commend the government for producing what can only be called an economic miracle. Others, particularly in Washington, criticize Beijing for its repressive tactics, and believe that its political and economic system is inherently unstable. As a result, Washington has within it elements that want to contain China and others that want to cooperate with it.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has tried to find an intelligent middle ground. In a speech last fall, he argued that over the past three decades, the United States has helped China move from isolation and poverty to engagement and economic growth. American policy, Zoellick said, is still to support a strong and growing China, but it's also one that pushes Beijing to use its growing power in beneficial ways. "We now need to encourage China to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system," he said. "As a responsible stakeholder, China would be more than just a member—it would work with us to sustain the international system that has enabled its success." Zoellick outlined the list of issues—Sudan, Iran, intellectual-property rights—where Chinese actions are not consistent with this idea of being a stakeholder.

Condoleezza Rice has affirmed Zoellick's approach. But then there's Donald Rumsfeld, who has made far more suspicious and belligerent statements about China, giving the impression that the United States cannot tolerate China's growing military power. All U.S. officials constantly hector the Chinese to open up politically, which many in China see as an attempt to weaken them. One Chinese scholar, who asked to remain anonymous because the Beijing government doesn't like people criticizing the U.S., said to me, "We have moved 300 million out of poverty in the last three decades. And just as we have become powerful, you want to make us ungovernable like Iraq or Nigeria." In Congress, there is an increasingly irresistible temptation to talk tough with China (there's only a political upside, with no downside). These mixed signals make it unclear as to whether the United States wants to accommodate Beijing as a new rising power. For example, when IMF reforms are discussed later this year, will Washington help China to find a place at the table, or block its path?

American policy, for all its inconsistencies, is much clearer than Chinese policy. For most of the period since Deng Xiaoping's days, China has believed that accepting American hegemony was the path to its economic success. But Beijing is now engaged in its own internal debate over whether a confrontation between it and the United States is inevitable. There are those who argue that it is—that America is actively seeking to contain China, and that China must build up its position in Asia and the world to respond from a position of strength. China has made several moves that seem consistent with this approach, trying to create forums that would cut the U.S. out of Asia, and proposing agreements in which all Asian countries pledge to have no "foreign bases" on their soil. On the other hand, Beijing has probably voted more consistently with the United States on the U.N. Security Council than any country other than Britain. It works hard to resolve issues that Washington raises, so that even a critic like Sen. Charles Schumer found Beijing highly responsive when he raised trade and currency problems on his recent visit there.

Chinese foreign policy is still mostly motivated by parochial concerns. Its officials are determined that Taiwan not become an independent country. They seek energy, and take it where they can get it. But this narrow foreign policy means that China is not asking itself large and difficult questions. Does Beijing want to be a stakeholder in the current international system? If so, on what terms? And most important, will it be willing to pay the price that comes with great global power?

When they meet, presidents Bush and Hu should focus less on the pirating of DVDs and start talking about these basic issues. Otherwise, on the greatest long-term strategic issue facing the world, we will remain adrift.

Write the author at

New York Times Editorial - Some shake-up, Mr. Bush

New York Times Editorial - Some shake-up, Mr. Bush

The New York Times

THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2006. Copyright by The New York Times

President George W. Bush wants to show Americans he's shaking things up in his administration, but it is clear that the people who messed everything up will remain in place. The press secretary goes, the political-and-domestic- policy adviser is losing half his portfolio. There's a new White House chief of staff. But the folks at the Defense Department are still on the job, doing what they've been doing.

Metaphors about deck chairs abound.

It's too soon to say how history will judge this administration, but it does look as if the first thing this president will be remembered for is the disastrous way the war in Iraq was conducted under Donald Rumsfeld, who, of course, isn't going anywhere. If there's a second thing we think history will shake its head over, it's the administration's cavalier disregard for the civil liberties of American citizens and the human rights of American prisoners. Needless to say, nobody's being replaced at the Justice Department.

The third great disaster of the Bush administration is a fiscal policy that has turned a federal surplus into a series of enormous budget gaps and an economy that depends on loans from China to pay its bills. The administration is changing the fiscal team, but doing everything possible to send the signal that there are no new brooms in this venture - just the same old faces with new labels.

New York Times Editorial - How dare they use our oil!

New York Times Editorial - How dare they use our oil!

The New York Times

THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2006. Copyright by The New York Times

How's this for nerve? The leader of a country that consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil a day is warning the leader of a country that consumes 6.5 million barrels not to try to lock up world oil resources. With President George W. Bush welcoming the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, to the White House on Thursday, the American complaint was expected to be that China's appetite for oil affects its stance on Iran, Sudan and other trouble spots.

In other words, China is acting just like everyone else: subjugating its foreign policy to its energy concerns. The United States does it, too - witness its long-running alliance with Saudi Arabia.

Still, the size of China's population - 1.3 billion people - puts things into an alarming context. China recently overtook Japan as the world's second-biggest consumer of oil. Its real gross domestic product is growing at 8 to 10 percent a year, and its need for energy is projected to increase by about 150 percent by 2020. China's move from bicycles to cars has accelerated its oil consumption; by 2010, China is expected to have 90 times the number of cars it had in 1990, and it will probably have more cars than America by 2030.

That leaves the world with two options. The first is to manage energy resources better. The other is to look for another planet. Simply continuing the current trends isn't viable, especially with the growing needs of India, with its one billion people and a growing economy of its own.

The United States doesn't have the right to tell a third of humanity to go back to their bicycles because the party's over. Clearly, Bush and Hu must tackle energy in a real and meaningful way. That can be done only if the United States both helps China find alternative energy sources and shows that America is doing the same thing itself.

The best possible course would be for China to leapfrog an oil-based economy and head toward sustainable alternative fuels, just as other countries are jumping past the construction of land lines for telephone service and going straight to wireless systems. China has a lot of biomass - crops, forests and wood products - that could be converted into ethanol.

China, like America, has a lot of coal. But the world can't afford for it to go ahead with a proposal to build hundreds of coal-fired power plants; that would be an environmental disaster. The United States can help stave that off by sharing clean coal technology.

None of this cooperation will work unless the United States provides leadership by making sacrifices of its own. Asking other countries to lay off the world's oil supply so America can continue to support its gas-guzzling Hummers doesn't really cut it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Taxpayer Says No More for War

Published on Monday, April 17, 2006 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Taxpayer Says No More for War
by David B. Berrian. © Copyright 2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
To the IRS:

I can't do this any more. I will no longer pay for war -- the murder of civilians -- with my tax dollars.

For more than 40 years, I have paid federal taxes accurately and regularly. I've often supported new taxes when the proceeds would help people. Now I have to stop. Attached is my 2005 tax return that shows I have taxes due. I won't be paying them voluntarily. Although I'll continue to pay state and local taxes, I will no longer pay federal income tax.

The costs of war (past, present, future) now take nearly 50 percent of every federal tax dollar. U.S. expenditures on the military are now more than the military spending of all other countries in the world combined.

War is no longer a battle of armies. Today it is the policy of our country to fight an endless war against terrorism -- against virtually anyone, anywhere that political leaders find it expedient to call an enemy.

It used to be that it was mostly soldiers who died in war; civilian casualties were few. Now civilians are more than 80 percent of the war dead, and this is not counting the massive deaths of the elderly, women and children due to hunger, lack of clean water, and lack of basic medical care directly caused by war.

It's hard to distinguish between terrorists and civilians, so now we make homes, markets and civilian infrastructure direct military targets. Of course, this is contrary to international law to which this country is a signator, but this does not stop us. Our war on terrorism has quite literally become a war on women and children.

It is no longer necessary for a country or group to harm the United States for us to go to war with them. It is the policy of our country to use pre-emptive military strikes against anyone we feel fearful of or who does not have policies we think are correct. We state that no international agreements, even those the United States was instrumental in developing, will dissuade us from those strikes. Even first use of nuclear weapons is a policy option.

The rule of law is disparaged. Our U.S. Constitution is ignored. We openly use torture and indefinite detentions without any access to due process. How is it possible for any moral person not to be appalled by all this?

To be true to my conscience, I have to stop my collaboration with war. I realize that not all of my taxes go for war; there are many government services I support. If I could pay only for those, I would gladly do it. But I know that for every dollar I pay you, you'll take half to perpetuate war. So I need to stop altogether. Every year I will calculate my taxes, and I'll make sure to provide at least that amount to community groups that provide human services and that promote peace and non-violence.

Your job is to collect taxes and I respect that you need to do it. However, I will no longer be paying federal taxes voluntarily so long as our country continues to promote its current policies for war.

David B. Berrian lives in Bothell, Washington.

New York Times Editorial - Cardinals and the law

New York Times Editorial - Cardinals and the law

Copyright by The New York Times


After years of stonewalling, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has run out of excuses for blocking the prosecution of rogue priests accused in the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal. While other bishops and cardinals cooperated with the authorities, Mahony became a study in arrogance who only compounded the church's embarrassment. His lawyers concocted elaborate hypotheses that church leaders and priests - under the confidentiality of "the sanctification process" - somehow enjoyed shelter from their basic duty to cooperate with criminal law enforcement. The Supreme Court put an end to the evasions on Monday in refusing to hear the cardinal's final appeal.

The archdiocese must now follow lower court orders to yield church documents in the cases of two defrocked priests facing criminal trials. The diocese should have to make available similar material affecting the civil suits of more than 500 people who say they were sexually abused by priests in years past, beyond the criminal statutes of limitation. The archdiocese is just one shard of a scandal that in the past four years has forced the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to promise reforms, pay hundreds of millions in settlements, and dismiss more than 700 priests accused of sexually ravaging thousands of schoolchildren.

Mahony's resistance to civil authorities is a reminder of the one factor in the scandal that has not been fully scrutinized: the misbehavior of ranking churchmen who fiercely protected and even reassigned guilty priests to prey again upon their flocks.
The church's own laity panel singled out Mahony and Cardinal Edward Egan of New York for criticism, but both have defended their past management of scandalous priests. The panel warned that "there must be consequences" for culpable prelates as well as for the priests.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Short view By Philip Coggan - Financial Times

Short view By Philip Coggan
Published: April 20 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 20 2006 03:00. Copyright by The Financial Times

Investor reaction to the latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes has been both swift and striking. But has it been consistent? The equity markets reacted with joy to the minutes, as investors took the view that the Fed would halt its tightening policy after just one more rate rise. Tuesday's sharp rally on Wall Street was followed up in Asia and Europe.

That same reasoning also caused a sharp fall in the US dollar, which hit a seven-month low against the euro. Yield support has been an important prop for the dollar over the past two years; now it seems the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan will narrow the yield gap with the US.

But what story is the market telling? In recent weeks, it looked as if investors were making a reflation trade, pushing equity markets and commodity prices higher and deserting government bonds. Ten-year Treasury bonds recovered a little in the wake of the Fed minutes but are still yielding close to 5 per cent.

However, if the reflation trade is in full swing, can the Fed really stop raising interest rates so soon? And the strong growth thesis does not really fit with recent signs of weakness in the US housing market.

Then there are the geopolitical risks that have helped push oil over $70 a barrel and gold well above $600 an ounce. If investors are becoming twitchy about US-Iran tensions, why are global equity markets performing so well?

There seem to be two possibilities for squaring the circle. One is the revival of the "Goldilocks scenario", in which buoyant growth is combined with low inflation (although the core US number yesterday was higher than expected). Investors could be reasoning that US consumers will overcome the effects of a slowing housing market, since recent retail data have been solid and the employment market is strong. Or they could believe that recoveries in Europe and Japan could offset US weakness.

The other possibility is that asset prices are being pushed higher by abundant liquidity. The tightening undertaken by central banks to date has not been sufficient to curb this exuberance. The Fed minutes may have given the speculators more encouragement.

Short view By Philip Coggan - Financial Times

Short view By Philip Coggan
Published: April 19 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 19 2006 03:00. Copyright by The Financial Times

The surge in the oil price past $70 a barrel has put higher energy prices firmly back on the economic agenda. So far, oil has been the dog that did not bark, with higher prices not having the effect on demand seen at previous peaks.

Indeed, oil's high price is seen in part as a reflection of the same economic strength that is pushing many other commodity prices to record highs. That may help explain why oil has lost the link with bond markets seen earlier in this decade, when higher crude prices were positive for bonds because of the perceived effect on demand.

But some very complex forces are at work in bond markets. First, there is the potential impact of Japanese monetary policy. According to Jeffrey Rosenberg of Bank of America: "Over the next three months, $200bn worth of liquidity will be withdrawn from Japanese banks." Some of this money may previously have been going into US Treasury bonds. And with Japanese 10-year yields recently touching 2 per cent, there is more incentive for Japanese investors to keep their money at home.

Then, there is the question of whether higher commodity prices indicate a surge in inflationary pressures. Even if they do not, central banks may want to push interest rates higher as an insurance policy. That alone will keep upward pressure on bond yields.

Finally, there is the geopolitical tension, which seems to be responsible for the latest jump in crude. The markets have two fears: that Iran's nuclear ambitions will lead to US military action, or that an attempt to impose limited sanctions on Iran will lead Tehran to disrupt supplies.

The first possibility has been around since George W. Bush was re-elected. But with the Iraq war unpopular, it seems unlikely he will take such a big risk ahead of November's Congressional elections.

Predicting the Iranian regime's actions is harder. So far, it seems to have managed to translate the nuclear programme into a patriotic rallying point. But for bond investors, the key concern must be that the Iran crisis has not translated into "safe haven" buying of US Treasury bonds. Gold and the Swiss franc have been the biggest beneficiaries.

Financial Times Editorial - Bush's mini reshuffle

Financial Times Editoria - Bush's mini reshuffle
Published: April 19 2006 03:00 | Last updated: April 19 2006 03:00. Copyright by The Financial Times

George W. Bush yesterday delivered both good and bad news in his ongoing reshuffle. The good news is that Rob Portman will make a strong White House budget director because he has genuine influence on Capitol Hill. The bad news is that Mr Portman was doing an excellent job as US trade representative at a critical stage in the Doha round partly because of his influence on the Hill.

It is no disrespect to Susan Schwab, who yesterday replaced Mr Portman as USTR, to conclude that her appointment sends a retrograde signal to America's partners just two weeks before the deadline for a Doha framework deal. A trade lawyer with little political clout, Ms Schwab will find it far tougher than her predecessor to win over a Congress that looks increasingly sceptical of further trade liberalisation. Even Mr Portman, who might have become house majority leader had he remained on the Hill, could only scrape last year's Central American free trade agreement through Congress by a narrow margin.

The timing is not helpful. Ms Schwab has just over a year before Mr Bush's "trade promotion authority" expires, which allows the administration to submit trade deals to an all-or-nothing vote. In practice, that would give her just a few months to persuade Congress to back any Doha deal, assuming (a big assumption) there were one. Yesterday's move will hardly reassure America's partners that Mr Bush is serious about that outcome. The political calendar is also against Ms Schwab, who must deal with a Congress preoccupied by the build-up to mid-term elections in November - never a propitious time to sell tariff cuts or farm subsidy reductions to legislators.

Conversely, Mr Portman's move gives Mr Bush an opportunity to restore "fiscal sanity" to this year's increasingly tattered budget process. The house went into Easter recess without being able to agree on a 2007 budget resolution. The bitterness be tween Republican fiscal conservatives, who want to show voters they can control public spending, and more spendthrift Republicans is getting worse. Mr Portman should use his clout to ensure the deficit falls well below the forecast $423bn (£239bn). And he should weigh in on the side of lawmakers who are pushing for restrictions on earmarking, in which pet spending items are inserted into larger bills.

All this could prove academic unless Mr Bush takes broader steps to rejuvenate his presidency. With a narrower window, Ronald Reagan in 1987 restored his fortunes by appointing Howard Baker, a former senator, as chief of staff and embracing detente with Gorbachev's Soviet Union. In Joshua Bolten, Mr Bush has a good new chief of staff. But he lacks a credible agenda for what remains of his term. There would be no better place to start than by launching a credible plan to restore fiscal discipline.

It is time to plan for an American withdrawal from Iraq

It is time to plan for an American withdrawal from Iraq
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
Published: April 18 2006 20:09 | Last updated: April 18 2006 20:09. Copyright by The Financial Times

The Bush administration is probably right in asserting that the ongoing violence in Iraq is not yet a civil war but rather a fragmentary civil strife that could escalate into a civil war. That, alas, is also testimony to the proposition that the occupation of Iraq has proven to be inconclusive, costly and destructive of Iraq’s social fabric.

From this viewpoint, how certain can one be that if America were to desist, the Shia and Kurd population of Iraq would not be capable of compelling on their own an arrangement with the Sunni-Arab community? Together, the Shia and the Kurds account for about 75 per cent of the population, and both are well-armed.

The Sunni would be faced with a difficult decision: whether to accommodate or resist. Some may choose the path of accommodation and some the path of resistance. But the outcome of any confrontation is also predictable: namely, that the Kurds and Shia would prevail. Is that an outcome necessarily worse than staying on course, which involves a bloody war of attrition waged by “an ineffective occupier” (to borrow a phrase from Paul Bremer, former US administrator in Iraq)?

Given that a more authentic Iraqi political leadership is finally beginning to push aside the earlier US-hand-picked choices, the time is ripe to adopt a strategy for terminating the US military presence in the country. The following four-point programme could serve as the basic framework for an acceptable termination of the US involvement in the ongoing conflict that the Bush administration seems unable either to win militarily or to end politically.

First, Washington should quietly ask Iraqi leaders to publicly ask the US to leave. The US decision should not be announced arbitrarily, but the US should talk to the Iraqi leaders about the intention to set a date for departure. There would be Iraqi leaders who would ask America to leave. Some are openly opposed to the occupation. Some might feel their own political prospects would be strengthened if they publicly identified themselves with widespread hostility of the Iraqi people to the occupation. And some of course would not wish to ask the US to leave. They are the ones who would leave when we leave, which says something about the depth of their domestic support.

Second, after such a public request, the US and Iraqi governments would jointly consult on a date for ending the occupation. I would think that within a year, the US should be able to complete an orderly disengagement. The commitment to a date would be extremely useful in concentrating Iraqi minds on what would follow and encourage them to assume responsibility. The assumption of responsibility by Iraqi leaders who would know that they would soon be responsible for the future of their country is more likely to produce leaders who are prepared to lead and have the will to lead.

I do not believe the argument that setting a date somehow would help the insurgency. The insurgency is dispersed, largely spontaneous, hiding itself in the crevices of Iraqi society and exploiting the chaos and hostility produced by the foreign occupation.

Third, the Iraqi government – not the US – should then also call for a regional conference of Muslim states, some immediately adjoining Iraq, others more distant. By way of example, one might mention Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, perhaps also Turkey (although that is sensitive because of Kurdistan), Algeria, Tunisia and maybe even Iran. The Muslim neighbours and friends should be asked to help the Iraqi government establish and consolidate internal stability. The call should not come from the US and such help would not be available if Iraq was still occupied.

Fourth, the US on leaving should convene a donors’ conference of European states, Japan, China and others with an interest in a stable oil-exporting Iraq to become more directly involved in financing the restoration of the Iraqi economy. But that again is more likely to be productive only when it is obvious that the US occupation is ending.

The US needs to recognise that its intervention in Iraq is becoming part of a wider, dangerous collision between America and the Muslim world – a collision that could prove, if it becomes truly widespread, devastating to America’s global position. An America in a conflict with the world of Islam as a whole will be an America with more enemies and fewer friends, an America more isolated and less secure.

The writer, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is author of The Choice (Basic Books)

Do not rush to write off national currencies

Do not rush to write off national currencies
By Benjamin Cohen
Published: April 18 2006 20:09 | Last updated: April 18 2006 20:09. Copyright by The Financial Times

Are national currencies becoming obsolete? Like most nations around the world, every state of Europe until recently had its own national money – franc, mark, lira, whatever. Now 12 countries share the euro and, as a result of enlargement of the European Union, more are scheduled to join the eurozone in the not-so-distant future. Elsewhere, nations such as Ecuador and El Salvador have replaced their own money with the US dollar. Are many more national currencies fated to disappear?

For some monetary specialists, the answer is obvious. Many more countries will soon give up national currencies. Either they will join together in a monetary union or they will adopt a popular foreign currency such as the greenback or euro. “In the long run,” predicts Michel Camdessus, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, “we are moving toward a world of fewer currencies.”

In reality, however, such predictions are utterly wrong. We are not moving towards greatly fewer currencies. National currencies are not becoming obsolete.

The logic behind the obsolescence argument is clear. As the barriers separating national economies have gradually declined, many people around the world now find themselves able to choose what money to use, their own national currency or a foreign alternative. In effect, currencies compete for market share. As in any market, the weaker competitors may simply go out of business. Governments may find that the cost of defending a national money is simply too high to bear.

Driving the process is the power of economies of scale. Once people have a choice among currencies, they are naturally drawn to the strongest competitors with the broadest transactional networks, since this reduces transaction costs. For money’s users, the smaller the number of currencies, the better. How small? The American economist, Paul Krugman, suggests perhaps 20 to 30. Nobel Prize-winner Robert Mundell goes further, suggesting the optimal number of currencies is like the optimal number of gods: “An odd number, preferably less than three”.

The logic behind the obsolescence argument is not wrong – but it is incomplete. Mr Camdessus and others focus only on the demand side of the market, where efficiency considerations do suggest a preference for the smallest number of currencies possible. But they ignore the supply side, where preferences can be expected to be quite different. Most governments prefer to preserve currencies no matter how uncompetitive their money may be.

For governments, a national money serves several vital functions. In economic terms, it provides a powerful instrument for macroeconomic management as well as a means to underwrite public spending via money creation. Politically, it embodies a symbol of national identity as well as a form of insulation against foreign control of domestic purchasing power. Can we really expect many governments to surrender these advantages willingly?

Moreover, there is no need for governments to surrender them, even if their currencies are uncompetitive. They have other choices. Rather than “dollarise”, they can establish some form of currency board, which would preserve their national money even while anchoring it to a foreign money such as the dollar or euro. Or, instead of a monetary union, they can agree to a more limited form of regional co-operation that leaves national currencies in place. Options are not as limited as the obsolescence argument suggests.

Ultimately such decisions are political, driven by the logic of state sovereignty, not market efficiency. The management of money is a fundamental determinant of the distribution of wealth and power in the world. To give up a national currency means, in effect, to “outsource” monetary policy. The government is no longer able to exercise monopoly control over the circulation and use of money within its own frontiers. Instead, monetary sovereignty is delegated to a favoured foreign supplier, such as the US, or to the joint institutions of a monetary union.

Eurozone members were willing to give up monetary sovereignty because of their commitment to the EU’s broader goals. But how many governments outside Europe are likely to be as comfortable putting others in charge of their monetary affairs? In practice, resistance to monetary outsourcing will be strong. Most national currencies will not disappear.

The writer is professor of international political economy at the University of California, Santa Barbara; his latest book is The Future of Money (Princeton University Press)

Mike Jackson hit with new criminal charges

Mike Jackson hit with new criminal charges
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
Accused cabbie killer Michael L. Jackson was hit with a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge April 11 by DuPage County prosecutors, who alleged that Jackson had sex in the DuPage County Jail without disclosing that he’s HIV-positive.

Jackson, 38, is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges in Cook County for the death of cab driver Haroon Paryani in February 2005. Witnesses said Jackson argued with Paryani late at night in the street in front of Jackson’s Lakeview apartment, then pushed Paryani to the ground, jumped behind the wheel of his taxi and ran over the 61-year-old cab driver three times.

At the time of the incident Jackson worked for the STD/HIV/AIDS program of the Chicago Department of Public Health. He was founder of the Hearts Foundation, sponsor of the now-defunct Fireball circuit party. Friends and former acquaintances of Jackson have said that he had a history of crystal methamphetamine use.

After being charged with Paryani’s murder, Jackson was released from Cook County Jail in April 2005 on a $750,000 bond. But just two days later, staying at his boyfriend’s home in suburban Lombard, he was found unconscious from an overdose of Xanax and Ambien and was taken to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

There, according to hospital officials, Jackson woke up with a tube down his throat in the emergency room and repeatedly tried to get up and leave. When a nurse told him he needed to stay calm and lie down, Jackson allegedly tried to punch her, then spit bloody saliva at her, saying, “And here’s some HIV for you, bitch!”

The nurse, knowing Jackson was HIV-positive, avoided the spit and called hospital security to restrain Jackson. When Jackson was released from the hospital DuPage County prosecutors jailed him on aggravated assault and reckless conduct charges, with bail set at $250,000.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Schreier subsequently issued a no-bond warrant for Jackson to be immediately taken to the Cook County Jail should he be released from the DuPage County Jail. Jackson has remained jailed in DuPage County since then.

His murder trial in Cook County is expected to take place later this year. No date has been set for his trial on the DuPage County charges. A spokesman for DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett said April 14 that the investigation into Jackson’s alleged sexual relations in the DuPage County Jail is ongoing.