Friday, August 10, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - America's misery strategy

International Herald Tribune Editorial - America's misery strategy
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: August 9, 2007

The path the United States has set on since the defeat of immigration reform in the Senate in June enshrines enforcement and punishment above all else. It is narrow, disruptive and self-defeating. On top of that, it won't work.

What it will do is unleash a flood of misery upon millions of illegal immigrants. For the ideologues who have pushed America into this position, that is more than enough reason to plunge ahead.

The latest phase of the crackdown, expected to be announced this week, would require employers to resolve discrepancies between their employee records and those of the Social Security Administration. If the data don't match, presumably because a worker is an illegal immigrant using a false number, the worker must be fired. There are millions of people in thousands of workplaces who could be caught in that net, and the government is promising to start dragging it zealously, with stepped-up raids around the country. "We are tough, and we are going to be even tougher," said a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

Toughness is now the mantra at every level of government. The Senate had struggled for years to erect the immense framework of bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform, coupling stricter enforcement with a citizenship path and an orderly flow of workers. But restrictionists pushed the unwieldy structure over, and now even its architects have fled the scene.

Senator John McCain, trying to keep his presidential hopes aloft by jettisoning his courage and good sense, has leapt to the enforcement barricades, joining Senators Jon Kyl and Lindsey Graham in sponsoring a bill that is essentially a Minuteman's to-do list of fence-building and punishments. He has shamefully repudiated his commitment to giving illegal immigrants a way to get right with the country.

The federal government's abandonment of comprehensive reform has been matched by unprecedented crackdowns at the state and local level. Lawmakers this year have introduced more than 1,400 immigration-related bills in all 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and enacted 170 of them. Many of the bills severely restrict where immigrants can live and work, and leave them vulnerable to exploitation and fearful of the police. It's the federal approach of raids and aggression, metastasized across the continent.

America will have a long time to watch this approach as it fails. The politicians who killed the Senate bill for offering "amnesty" have never offered a workable alternative. Their one big idea is that harsh, unrelenting enforcement at the border, in the workplace and in homes and streets would dry up opportunities for illegal immigrants and eventually cause the human tide to flow backward. That would be true only if life for illegal immigrants in America can be made significantly more miserable than life in, say, rural Guatemala or the slums of Mexico City. That will take a lot of time and a lot of misery to pull that off in a country that has tolerated and profited from illegal labor for generations.

The American people have supported reform that includes a reasonable path to earned citizenship. Their leaders have given them immigration reform as pest control.

Democratic Candidates Address Gay Rights Issues - First-Ever Televised Presidential Forum Underlines Increasing Importance of Community in Elections

Democratic Candidates Address Gay Rights Issues - First-Ever Televised Presidential Forum Underlines Increasing Importance of Community in Elections
By Perry Bacon Jr.
Copyright by The Washington Post
Friday, August 10, 2007; Page A07

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 9 -- At the first-ever televised presidential forum devoted to gay rights issues, the Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), were sharply questioned on why they do not support same-sex marriage, while the two joined the other candidates in backing civil unions and the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military.

Obama said it is less important to focus on the semantics of the word "marriage" than to focus on equal rights, and Clinton -- responding to a comment by singer Melissa Etheridge that gays were "thrown under the bus" during Bill Clinton's administration -- said "I am a leader now" on gay rights.

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Activists were even more frustrated with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who when asked whether people are born gay or choose to be, said, "It's a choice" and later explained, "I'm not a scientist."

At the two-hour event in West Hollywood, Obama was asked several times why he would not back same-sex marriage, and he pledged to ensure that all same-sex couples have the same rights as married couples, the stance adopted by most of the Democrats.

"Semantics may be important to some," he said, adding that if gay couples had equal rights, "then my sense is that's enormous progress."

The forum, organized by the Human Rights Campaign and Logo, a gay-themed television network operated by MTV, underscored the increasing importance of the constituency to the Democratic Party. When a similar forum was held in 2003, one of the top contenders, then-Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), did not attend, and the event was not televised.

This time, Edwards appeared, along with Obama and four other Democratic candidates who each spent more than 15 minutes taking questions from a four-person panel that included Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Etheridge.

When pressed on gay marriage, Edwards said, "My position on same-sex marriage has not changed." He then used the question to challenge the Clinton administration on its approach to gay rights -- and by implication to challenge his rival, Sen. Clinton. " 'Don't ask, don't tell' is not just wrong now, it was wrong when it began," Edwards said.

Clinton took a stance similar to Edwards's and Obama's, not backing marriage but saying she wanted same-sex couples to have equal rights. She also said states were making better progress on gay rights than the federal government.

"I've also been a very strong supporter of letting the states maintain their jurisdiction over marriage," Clinton said.

The event was a love fest for Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio), who backs same-sex marriage. When one panelist, Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart, asked Kucinich if there was any issue on which he disagreed with the gay rights community, the talkative congressman was left speechless.

"All I can say is keep those contributions coming, and you'll have the president you want," he told the audience Kucinich and former senator Mike Gravel (Alaska) were praised for their support of same-sex marriage.

But Obama, who was questioned first by the moderators, appeared frustrated by a question that noted that people under 30 back gay marriage at higher rates than others and asked how he could be "a candidate of change when your stance on same-sex marriage is decidedly old school?"

"Oh, come on, now," Obama said. "I mean, look, guys, you know, I mean, we can have this conversation for the duration of the 15 minutes." He added, "If people are interested in my stance on these issues, I've got a track record of working with the LGBT community."

Richardson was the only candidate who opposes same-sex marriage to acknowledge the complicated politics of the issue.

"The country isn't there yet on gay marriage," he said. "We have to bring the country along."

His comment on the roots of homosexuality drew hisses from the audience of about 200.

Activists say this year's event was a milestone in showing the Democratic candidates' interest in courting the gay and lesbian vote.

"It firmly establishes us a major constituency in the Democratic Party," said David Mixner, a longtime gay rights activist and Democratic fundraiser. "It's a real validation of our position within the party."

Unlike sessions on Saturday with liberal bloggers at the Yearly Kos convention and on Tuesday with labor union members in Chicago, where the candidates sought to win over influential liberal interest groups, the candidates were not on stage at the same time last night. Instead, each of the Democrats took questions separately from the panelists.

Six Democratic candidates appeared, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.), who cited scheduling conflicts as his reason for not coming, said he would post answers to the questions presented at the forum on his campaign's Web site. The only other major Democratic contender to skip the event was Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), who also cited scheduling problems. Organizers said they invited several Republican presidential candidates to appear as well, but the GOP hopefuls declined.

Already, the candidates from the two parties have diverged sharply in rhetoric on gay rights issues. During a GOP debate earlier this year, none of the candidates said they would change the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and several have strongly argued that marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman. The Democrats, on the other hand, have courted gay rights supporters more aggressively than ever.

Clinton has criticized the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, established during her husband's administration, and has offered the line from onetime GOP senator from Arizona and presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater: "You don't have to be straight to shoot straight." In 2003, the future Democratic nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), said he did not like the policy but warned that some units might be adversely affected by having gay members.

Edwards released a list of his prominent gay backers on the eve of the forum, as did Obama. Clinton, who had put out a similar list, has had two fundraisers for her gay supporters and planned to attend an event at The Abbey, a well-known gay bar in Los Angeles.

The candidates have not forgotten the complicated politics of gay rights, which may be a popular cause in the Democratic primary but will prove to be a more complicated issue in the general election. Almost a dozen states voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2004, leaving Democrats wondering if those ballot initiatives increased turnout among conservative Republicans.

In March, gay rights activists were infuriated when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace called homosexuality "immoral," and Obama and Clinton at first sidestepped questions about whether they disagreed with Pace's sentiments. At the forum, Clinton called this stance a "mistake," saying she should have rebuked him earlier.

America’s illusory strategy in Iraq

America’s illusory strategy in Iraq
By David Gardner
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 9 2007 19:27 | Last updated: August 9 2007 19:27

Future historians of how Iraq was lost will, of course, alight on the memoirs and the memos of those who drove the policy, measuring declaration against execution, ambition against outcome. They will savour the solipsism of a Paul Bremer, the US viceroy whose disbandment of the Iraqi army left 400,000 men destitute and bitter, but armed, trained and prey to the insurgency then taking shape – but whose memoir paints him as a MacArthur of Mesopotamia.

They will be awed by the arrogance and fecklessness of a Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary and theorist of known unknowns, who summed up the descent into anarchy and looting in the hours after Baghdad fell (when, very possibly, Iraq was lost) – “Stuff happens”.

But their research will be greatly assisted by the diligence of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, which keeps on unearthing the bottomless depths of incompetence behind the Bush administration’s misconceived adventure in Iraq.

This week, the GAO reported that the Pentagon cannot account for 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 80,000 pistols supposedly supplied to Iraqi security forces – adding to well-founded suspicions that insurgents are using US-supplied arms to attack American and British troops.

This discovery might be considered the mother of all known unknowns, were it not that in March this year the GAO published a drily damning report on the coalition’s failure to secure scores upon scores of arms dumps abandoned by the Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion – and that by October last year it had still failed to secure this giant toolbox that keeps the daily slaughter going in Iraq.

That carnage continues, barely moderated by the “surge” of troops that this week raised US forces to their peak level in Iraq of 162,000 – a last heave that looks destined to be the prelude to withdrawal.

As a policy it is hard to see how any surge can fix an Iraq so traumatised by tyranny and war and then broken by invasion and occupation. It takes place as an already indecipherable ethnic and sectarian patchwork is being pulled bloodily to pieces. Iraq has reached advanced societal breakdown. Ethnic cleansing proceeds regionally, through neighbourhoods, even street by street.

There has been a mass exodus of teachers and doctors, civil servants and entrepreneurs, a haemorrhage of Iraq’s future. Nearly 4m Iraqis have been uprooted by this cataclysm. Instead of bringing democracy to Iraq and the Arabs, the 2003 invasion has scattered Iraqis across the Middle East – as well as creating laboratory conditions for the urban warfare urged on jihadis by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s strategist. The time to have surged is long since past.

Politically, there are no institutions, there is no national narrative. Ministries are sectarian booty and factional bastions. The interior ministry, headquarters for several death squads, is, according to the Los Angeles Times, partitioned into factional fiefs on each of its 11 floors – with the seventh floor split between the armed wings of two US-allied groups.

Two ostensibly benign by-products of the US invading Iraq were: the empowerment of the Shia majority there, giving the sect, a dispossessed minority within Islam, rights denied for centuries; and the welcome panic of an ossified Sunni Arab order based on a toxic mix of despotism and social inequity that incubated extremism. But Iraq’s Shia politicians seem unwilling to put state above sect. Such is the Sunni, jihadi-abetted backlash, and the intra-Shia fight over the spoils, that the Shia have not so much come into their inheritance as entered a new circle of hell.

The Shia-led government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has ceased to pursue even a communalist agenda, preferring the narrower sectarian interest of his faction of the Da’wa party. With the withdrawal of 17 of 38 members of Mr Maliki’s cabinet – including all the Sunnis and two big Shia factions – government has for most practical purposes ceased.

To believe any policy might work in these circumstances – let alone a slow-motion surge – requires heroic optimism. Some of that was placed in Gen David Petraeus, US commander in Iraq. At least until this week.

It turns out those Kalashnikovs went missing on his previous watch, as trainer-in-chief of the still barely existent Iraqi army. Gen Petraeus, a student of counterinsurgency with a PhD from Princeton and a gift for PR, had been lionised for his command of the 101st Airborne division in 2003-04, and especially his “hearts and minds” campaign in the north. After his withdrawal, however, two-thirds of Mosul’s security forces defected to the insurgency and the rest went down like fairground ducks. His forces appear not to have noticed, moreover, that Saudi-inspired jihadis had established a bridgehead in Mosul before the war had even started.

But US commanders seem to have no trouble detecting the hand of Tehran everywhere. This largely evidence-free blaming of serial setbacks on Iranian forces is a bad case of denial. First, the insurgency is overwhelmingly Iraqi and Sunni, built around a new generation of jihadis created by the US invasion. Second, to the extent foreign fighters are involved these have come mostly from US-allied and Sunni Saudi Arabia, not Shia Iran. Third, the lethal roadside bombs with shaped charges that US officials have coated with a spurious veneer of sophistication to prove Iranian provenance are mostly made by Iraqi army-trained engineers – from high explosive looted from those unsecured arms dumps.

Shia Iran has backed a lot of horses in Iraq. If it wished to bring what remains of the country down around US ears it could. It has not done so. The plain fact is that Tehran’s main clients in Iraq are the same as Washington’s: Mr Maliki’s Da’wa and the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq led by Abdelaziz al-Hakim. Iran has bet less on the unpredictable Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi army, which has, in any case, largely stood aside during the present troop surge.

So, in sum. Having upturned the Sunni order in Iraq and the Arab world, and hugely enlarged the Shia Islamist power emanating from Iran, the US finds itself dependent on Tehran-aligned forces in Baghdad, yet unable to dismantle the Sunni jihadistan it has created in central and western Iraq. Ignoring its Iraqi allies it is arming Sunni insurgents to fight al-Qaeda. And, by selling them arms rather than settling Palestine it is trying to put together an Arab Sunni alliance (Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) with Israel against Iran. All clear? How can anyone keep a straight face and call this a strategy?

‘Reforms’ will not assuage anger at Congress

‘Reforms’ will not assuage anger at Congress
By Jim Thurber
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 7 2007 19:11 | Last updated: August 7 2007 19:11

Is Washington going to get better? Congress passed the long-awaited Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 last week. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, called the bill the “most significant change in lobbying ethics in the history of the country”, and reformers say they like it.

However, John Boehner, the House minority leader, called it “a glass of warm milk” and asserted that: “it doesn’t do anything”. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the bill. Is this the most important ethics reform in the history of Congress, or so insignificant that it should be vetoed lest it become a substitute for meaningful reform? It is neither.

The bill purports to address some of the anger and distrust expressed last year by US voters, 40 per cent of whom said that corruption and lobbying were extremely important issues that motivated them to vote (compared with 36 per cent who cited Iraq). The ethics and lobbying legislation was essential for the Democrats, who campaigned on ending the “culture of corruption” and who had promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

The crucial provisions promise internet disclosure of lobbyist fundraising for lawmakers. Lobbyists must report their activities electronically every three months. The measure imposes new restrictions on members and staff accepting gifts, meals and discounted travel on private aircraft paid for by lobbyists.

Names of sponsors and recipients of congressional pet projects, called “earmarks”, are to be made public at least 48 hours before approval of appropriations and tax laws, both sources of billions of dollars of secret special-interest spending and tax breaks. The act extends the “cooling-off period” before senators are eligible to join a lobbying firm from one to two years. Former House members would have to wait one year. Senators and House members are required to disclose any job negotiations they engage in while serving in Congress and members are forbidden from attempting to influence hiring decisions among lobbying firms. The reform also bans secret “holds”, which often kill legislation in the Senate.

These are important provisions and may even lead to some change in the way decisions are made in Washington. But we already see unintended consequences, with the growth of earmarks, exemptions to the use of subsidised corporate jet travel, new methods of collecting and spending campaign funds and clever positioning to avoid being called a lobbyist.

Moreover, Congress defeated a proposal to have its ethics and lobbying rules enforced by an outside group (the Office of Public Integrity) rather than the timid House and Senate ethics committees. It has been reluctant to let others enforce existing rules, let alone new ones, for fear of breaking the “iron law of reciprocity” practised with such excellence on the Hill and with lobbyists.

Will these reforms be appreciated by the American electorate? I think not. As of late last month, Americans gave Congress a near-record low approval rating of 22.6 per cent (down from 33 per cent in January), well below Mr Bush’s job performance rating.

There is little in this legislation that might have prevented the actions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, representatives “Duke” Cunningham (bribes for earmarks) and Bob Ney (corruption), who are all in jail, and that of Mark Foley and 14 other members of Congress who were under an ethical cloud in November 2006, when the congressional elections were held. Nor is there much to allay the public anger about Congress in general and the way members waltz with lobbyists.

Public anger about corruption in Congress goes well beyond what is addressed in this bill. It has to do with good government. The American public no longer tolerates the absence of government owing to deadlock, extreme partisanship and lack of civility and comity in Congress. The 2006 congressional election was as much a plea for just and effective government as it was a plea for ethics reform. The public still perceives Washington as a place where money buys political power.

The American people want the Congress and the president to do their jobs, to work together to solve the most important problems facing America. Washington has become more dysfunctional through partisanship, institutional gridlock and the entrenchment of powerful special interests since the 2006 election and these “reforms” do little to change that.

The writer is director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University

Canada to flex military muscles in Arctic

Canada to flex military muscles in Arctic
By Daina Lawrence in Ottawa and Clive Cookson in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 9 2007 22:34 | Last updated: August 9 2007 22:34

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to announce plans for a deepwater docking facility and military base in the far north of the country as part of the nation’s quest to assert its sovereignty in the Arctic.

Military planning documents, obtained by CBC news on Thursday, outline C$60m ($57m) plans to adapt an abandoned mine in Nanisivik at the northern tip of Baffin Island into a naval station.

A separate army base will also be located in Resolute, Nunuvut, on the shores of the disputed Northwest Passage. The base would give Canada the military resources it needs to monitor traffic in the Arctic’s Northwest Passage, according to Pierre Leblanc, former commander of the Canadian Forces in the North.

“The military forces we have up in the north is less than 400, and that’s to look after an area that is larger than Europe,” says Mr Leblanc. “So any addition the government puts up there is significant.”

At present the Northwest Passage remains free to all navigation, although Canada claims ownership over the much-coveted waterway and shipping route. This is causing reaction from foreign countries, with Russia flexing its muscles by planting a titanium flag on the Arctic seabed and the US Coast Guard sending an icebreaker vessel toward the Bering Sea.

“Canada is open to being used as a maritime navigable way, but we want to control what goes on there. We are claiming this as internal waters,” says Mr Leblanc. “To be able to control it you have to know what’s going on and right now we don’t.”

Warmer temperatures in the Arctic are causing commodities such as oil and gas to become accessible and, therefore, valuable in the area, with the known gas reserves exceeding C$200bn.

At the heart of the international dispute over territorial rights is the Lomonosov Ridge. This huge undersea feature stretches 1,800km from the tip of Greenland and Canada’s Ellesmere Island, under the North Pole, to the coast of Siberia. The scientific and legal question is whether Lomonosov can be regarded as a natural extension of the continental shelf of Russia, Canada or the Danish territory of Greenland.

The International Convention on the Law of the Sea allows a country to extend its territorial waters beyond the usual 200 nautical miles (or 320km) if it can prove that the sea bed is connected geologically to it in this way.

Ralph Rayner, vice-president of the London-based Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology, says more geological mapping needs to be done before the conflicting claims can be resolved.

In spite of global warming, the Arctic Ocean is still covered with thick ice for most of the year, making survey work very difficult.

“The Arctic was of little geological interest until recently,” said Dr Rayner. “A lot of surveying of the sea floor was carried out during the Cold War but the topographical data is still largely classified.”

Ironically the revival of territorial disputes over the Arctic is taking place against the background of International Polar Year, an intense scientific programme taking place from March 2007 to March 2009 meant to foster international collaboration.

The controversial Russian submarine expedition that left a flag on the ocean floor was carried out under the auspices of IPY. The move carried echoes of the Soviet launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, as part of International Geophysical Year in 1957.

Tension rises in Clinton nuclear dispute

Tension rises in Clinton nuclear dispute
By Andrew Ward in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 10 2007 01:07 | Last updated: August 10 2007 01:07

Hillary Clinton faced scrutiny on Thursday over her attitude towards the use of nuclear weapons, amid a deepening foreign policy dispute with Barack Obama, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mrs Clinton criticised Mr Obama last week for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons in the hunt for terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, arguing that presidents should not discuss hypothetical military situations.

But it emerged on Thursday that Mrs Clinton had herself rejected nuclear weapons as an option against Iran in a television interview last year. “I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table,” she said in April 2006.

The apparent inconsistency could prove embarrassing to Mrs Clinton if it undermines her carefully crafted image for strength and reliability on foreign policy, in contrast to the more inexperienced Mr Obama.

A spokesman for Mrs Clinton insisted it was unfair to compare her comments with Mr Obama’s because she had been responding to a specific report that the Bush administration was considering the nuclear option against Iran.

“She wasn’t talking about a broad hypothetical, nor was she speaking as a presidential candidate.

“Given the sabre-rattling that was coming from the Bush White House at the time, it was totally appropriate and necessary to respond to that report and call it the wrong policy,” he said.

Foreign policy has become the main source of division between Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama in the increasingly fractious race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr Obama, the first-term senator for Illinois, is struggling to narrow his rival’s double-digit lead in nationwide opinion polls with less than five months before the first party primary elections and caucuses.

South Carolina’s Republican party on Thursday rescheduled its primary for January 19, an earlier-than-planned date that could result in Iowa bringing forward its caucuses to December.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina are seeking to protect their traditional right to hold the first ballots in the presidential nomination season, amid attempts by other states to claim a bigger role in the process.

Florida is among dozens of states to have brought forward its primary date, threatening South Carolina’s status as the first southern state to express its choice of presidential nominees.

South Carolina’s move to remain first in the south is expected to prompt New Hampshire and Iowa to bring forward their dates, raising the prospect of the presidential electoral process starting before Christmas for the first time.

The front-loaded primary election calendar makes it likely that both parties’ presidential candidates will be all but decided by early February, nine months before the presidential election.

The accelerated nature of the 2008 race for the White House reflects the unusually open nature of the contest, with neither the incumbent president nor vice-president standing for re-election.

ECB injects a fresh €61bn into markets

ECB injects a fresh €61bn into markets
By Richard Milne in Frankfurt
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 10 2007 11:46 | Last updated: August 10 2007 11:46

The European Central Bank took more emergency action to try to calm jittery markets on Friday by lending €61bn to institutions over the weekend.

A day after injecting an unprecedented €95bn into money markets, the ECB said it received bids totalling €110bn on Friday but decided to lend €61bn after setting an average rate of 4.08 per cent, just above its main interest rate of 4 per cent.

It follows concerted action from central banks in North America and Asia to inject liquidity to calm fears of a credit crunch and allow borrowers to meet short-term lending needs.

The Bank of Japan became the latest central bank to inject funds into the market to alleviate fears of a credit squeeze.

The BoJ injected a relatively modest Y1,000bn ($8.5bn) after the call rate rose to 0.54 per cent against the bank’s 0.5 per cent overnight target.

Other Asian central banks sold the US dollar and tried to reassure markets that any effects of any credit crisis would be limited as exposure to subprime loans in the region is relatively low.

Monetary authorities of Singapore and Hong Kong said they were monitoring markets but saw no need to inject cash for now.

The Bank of Korea said it would provide liquidity to financial markets should a credit crunch arise due to the US subprime crisis.

Shares fell across Asia in heavy selling. South Korea led the drop in equities, with the Kospi down 4.2 per cent.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 average closed at a 5-month low, while in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 suffered its heaviest daily fall since the attacks on the United States in September 2001.

Some analysts had criticised Thursday’s ECB intervention for offering banks unlimited relatively cheap money and potentially stoking the panic by the size of its issue.

In contrast, Friday’s tender was a three-day offer and was set at a variable rate allowing the ECB to decide how much money to inject into markets. 62 banks bid on Friday compared with 49 on Thursday.

The Short View: Central banks’ aid

The Short View: Central banks’ aid
By John Authers, Investment Editor
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 9 2007 23:29 | Last updated: August 9 2007 23:29

In the long run, economies grow, stock markets go up and, as Keynes said, we are all dead. The long run looks after itself. The problem is the short run.

After another frenetic day of trading on Thursday, which again saw the kind of movements and volumes that normally occur in weeks, it was clear that it is the very short term that is at issue.

Bad news from Europe dominated the day. First, BNP Paribas closed three investment funds to withdrawals, blaming the “complete evaporation of liquidity” in US credit markets. Then the European Central Bank intervened to provide liquidity after the rates at which banks can borrow overnight shot up.

Neither had anything to do with the long-term dynamics of the world economy. The ECB’s unprecedented intervention came within days of a clear signal that it will raise lending rates next month, as part of its fight against inflation. Judging by futures markets, the ECB even persuaded traders that its anti-inflationary zeal remained intact, even as it offered money to any bank that asked for it.

Thus it was a successful intervention. Stocks sold off, as was inevitable after scary news, but the losses were limited. European equities remained far above their lows of a week ago. Several analysts made glowing reviews of the bank’s actions.

But within hours there was an afternoon “flight to quality” on Wall Street, setting up what will likely be an exceptionally tense opening in Europe on Friday.

Wall Street’s new fear is that another source of short-term liquidity is in danger. Yields on asset-backed commercial paper, used by companies to raise overnight funds, hit six-year highs. This is more contagion from the subprime debacle: buyers took fright, because mortgage-backed bonds are often used as collateral.

If markets get through their short-term problems, with or without aid from central banks, none of this prejudices the long-run picture. But they must first survive the short run.

Financial Times Editorial Comment: The markets need clarity and calm

Financial Times Editorial Comment: The markets need clarity and calm
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 9 2007 18:31 | Last updated: August 9 2007 18:31

Thursday’s spike in the cost of borrowing euros, dollars or sterling overnight takes the current round of credit turmoil into a new phase. There is now the risk of a real financial crisis, with banks forced to sell assets because they cannot borrow cash. Their underlying problem is losses and illiquidity in markets for asset-backed securities, but if central banks provide liquidity to compensate, and if banks and regulators move quickly to clarify the extent of losses, there is no need for panic.

In the midst of Thursday’s tumult the European Central Bank felt it had to offer unlimited short-term loans to the money market, distributing €94.8bn, but while the ECB provided the banking system with extra cash it did not cut interest rates. The ECB, like the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, clearly sees a financial problem rather than a shortage of credit in the real economy.

An important question is why interest rates spiked and why the ECB felt it had to intervene. A generalised loss of market confidence should be easy to stabilise, but if the market has got wind of a specific problem at a large bank then the situation is more dangerous.

Thursday’s suspension of three BNP Paribas funds stuffed full of structured debt matters little. It will be painful for retail investors in the funds, but any eventual losses will be contained by the funds’ capital.

The drip, drip, drip of ABS losses at European banks such as NIBC of the Netherlands and IKB of Germany is more serious. Nobody knows how big the losses are, or who will be affected next, creating credit risks in the money market.

The real problem, though, is the complete standstill in the ABS market, which means banks cannot securitise new assets or offload any ABS they hold. Banks are also being forced to lend to asset-backed funds such as IKB’s Rhineland Funding when investors refuse to roll over their commercial paper.

What is needed first is clarity. With clarity on ABS losses it will be possible to lend with comfort, so banks should update both markets and regulators on their holdings and possible losses. It is unacceptable that IKB’s position is still not clear more than a week after news of that crisis broke.

What is needed even more, however, is calm. Based on what we know today, there is no reason to think any big financial institution is in danger. Central banks should provide short-term liquidity as needed but should not be panicked into interest rate cuts. Investors, meanwhile, will gain nothing from a disorderly stampede for the exits.

China trade surplus nears record

China trade surplus nears record
August 10 07:40 BST
© Reuters Limited

China on Friday reported its second biggest monthly trade surplus on record, handing more ammunition to critics who say Beijing gains an unfair trade advantage by keeping the yuan undervalued.

The surplus in July was $24.36bn, down from June’s record high of $26.91bn, but above forecasts of $22.5bn and dwarfing the July 2006 figure of $14.6bn.

Economists had expected export growth to taper off after factories rushed to ship goods in June before rebates of value added tax were cut or scrapped on July 1 on 2,800 export lines.

But annual export growth in fact accelerated from 27.1 per cent in June to 34.2 per cent despite a string of recalls of Chinese products in a number of countries, notably the United States, due to safety concerns involving everything from toys to toothpaste.

“It shows Chinese exporters are still scrambling to export despite government tightening,” said Li Yushi, vice-director of a Ministry of Commerce think tank.

“Many exporters are privately run, and they have no intention to slow down their businesses,” Mr Li said.

Legislation is wending its way through the US Congress that would impose duties on goods imported from countries deemed to have fundamentally misaligned exchange rates. China is the main target of the lawmakers.

But Mr Li said he doubted that trying to raise barriers to Chinese goods would make much of a difference.

“Demand for China-made products in overseas markets is still strong despite headline-grabbing anti-dumping cases and the like. I don’t think there will be any massive boycott of Chinese products,” he said.

Li Huiyong, chief economist at Shenyin & Wanguo Securities in Shanghai, noted that exports usually gain momentum in the second half of the year as factories gear up for Christmas deliveries.

The trade surplus in the first seven months rose 81 per cent from the same period of 2006 to $136.8bn, and Mr Li said it could well reach $300bn for the whole year.

The surplus in 2006 was a record $177.5bn.

“The surplus is still high and doesn’t seem to have been affected much by the yuan’s appreciation and cuts in export tax rebates,” he said.

The yuan has risen 7 per cent since it was revalued by 2.1 per cent against the dollar in July 2005 and untethered from a dollar peg to float within managed bands.

Annual import growth also outstripped expectations, accelerating from 14.2 per cent in June to 26.9 per cent in July.

Mr Li with the Commerce Ministry said the jump probably reflected robust domestic investment.

That would be a worry to policy makers, who are striving to prevent a resurgence of capital spending out of fear that the economy is already at risk of overheating.

Companies have strong incentives to invest. Global and domestic demand is strong, profits are rising fast and banks are awash in cheap money generated by the trade surplus.

The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, is concerned that inflation could accelerate under these conditions.

Economists expect figures on Monday to show that consumer prices rose 4.9 per cent in July from a year earlier, up from 4.4 per cent in the year to June.

There are rumours in financial markets that the figure could be as high as 5.6 per cent, driven by a surge in pork and egg prices.

Analysts who contend that price pressures are confined to food took comfort on Friday from an unexpected dip in wholesale inflation in July to 2.4 per cent from 2.5 per cent in June.

They said the benign report lends support to the argument that, although the economy has been growing at a double-digit pace for five years, competitive pressures and productivity gains are keeping a lid on broad inflationary pressures.

“It’s a figure that should give investors less reason to panic when we get a high-side CPI on Monday,” said Ben Simpfendorfer, an economist with Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong.

Investment funds hit by volatility

Investment funds hit by volatility
By Anuj Gangahar in New York and Adam Jones in Paris
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 9 2007 08:57 | Last updated: August 9 2007 21:55

Investment funds on both sides of the Atlantic were affected by recent market turmoil on Thursday. BNP Paribas shocked European markets by freezing three funds exposed to the stumbling US subprime mortgage market.

Goldman Sachs and Renaissance Technologies were also affected as performance at quantitative hedge funds reflected volatile markets.

Goldman Sachs’ North American Equity Opportunities fund saw falls of 12 per cent in July and a further 12 per cent this month. People close to the firm said no decision had been made about its future.

Funds of hedge funds familiar with the performance of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s biggest hedge funds, run by billionaire James Simons, said it had experienced difficulties this week as its quantitative approach struggled to deal with increasingly volatile market conditions. A spokesman for Renaissance did not return a call.

BNP Paribas, one of Europe’s biggest banks, blamed a “complete evaporation of liquidity in certain market segments of the US securitisation market” for the temporary decision to stop redemptions from the three funds, and further investments.

Collapse of demand for some forms of securitised debt made their assets impossible to value, the bank said.

Freezing the funds, which invest in asset-backed securities, was the best way to “protect the interests and ensure the equal treatment of our investors”.

Shares in BNP Paribas fell 3 per cent to €82.57 by the close on Thursday.

The funds are Parvest Dynamic ABS, BNP Paribas ABS Euribor and BNP Paribas ABS Eonia. The bank said their combined value was €1.6bn, down from about €2bn on July 27.

All eyes on Wall Street as Fed intervenes

All eyes on Wall Street as Fed intervenes
By Andrew Wood in Hong Kong, Sudeep Doshi in London and Michael Mackenzie in New York
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 10 2007 08:56 | Last updated: August 10 2007 14:28

All eyes were on Wall Street on Friday as the sell-off in global equity markets entered its second day.

Central banks around the world tried to calm nerves after pumping $120bn of extra liquidity into the international capital markets in the face of steep falls in Asian and European equity markets.

The New York Federal Reserve followed counterparts in Asia and Europe and injected more funds than usual into the repurchase market to stabilise overnight lending rates.

Earlier the European Central Bank intervened for a second day after it made a fresh €61bn of funding available to financial institutions. The move by the ECB followed a €95bn injection of liquidity on Thursday which was followed by central bank intervention in Japan and Australia.

”Central banks are not supposed to be tightening credit when markets are in complete disarray,” said John Richards, head of Asia-Pacific Strategy at RBS Securities. ”And this is close to a complete disarray.”

Wall Street was braced for further losses. US futures prices changed rapidly in volatile pre-market trading. The S&P 500 futures were down 18.4 points at 1,439.5, Nasdaq futures were off 21.5 points at 1,924, while futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 147 points at 13,180.

European equities followed Asia and suffered more heavy losses.

The FTSE 100 in London was off its lows but down 2.8 per cent or 175 points at 6,095.3. The pan-regional Eurostoxx 50 was down 2.5 per cent at 4,168.09, Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax fell 1.5 per cent to 7,342.49, and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 2.7 per cent to 5,475.59.

Asian markets also fell heavily as they caught up with the global sell-off. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 average closed at a 5-month low, down 2.4 per cent or 407 points at 16,764.09, while in Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 suffered its heaviest daily fall since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, losing 3.7 per cent at 5,936.0.

“Risk aversion has returned to the market with a vengeance. Current sentiment is likely to continue with Dow futures down,” said Melinda Smith, an analyst at ABN Amro.

Government bond yields fell and short-term interest rate futures rose for a second day. The yield on the 10-year benchmark gilt was five basis points lower at 5.2 per cent, while interest rate future contracts were up as much as eight ticks.

The three-month dollar rate was set at 5.57 per cent, up from 5.50 per cent on Thursday and 5.26 per cent earlier this week. The euro three-month rate was set at 4.45 per cent, above Thursday’s level of 4.399 per cent and 4.309 per cent at the start of the week.

In the derivatives market, the cost of insuring €10m of high-yield European corporate debt against default increased to €365,000 as concerns about the lack of liquidity in the market unsettled investors.

In the equity markets financial stocks once again suffered the heaviest losses as investors steared clear of a sector that has heavy exposure to the US subprime mortgage market through collaterised debt products.

Deutsche Bank became the latest European bank to reveal it had suffered heavy losses in one of its funds. The DWS ABS fund, which invests in asset-backed securities, had suffered outflows totalling around 30 per cent in the last week. The bank said that despite the drop in the value of the fund from €3bn to €2.1bn it would not hold redemtions. Deutsche Bank shares fell 5.4 per cent at €92.80.

BNP Paribas, which on Thursday suspended three of its funds because of losses linked to securitised debt products, lost 4.7 per cent at €78.70 in Paris.

In the UK Man Group was one of the heaviest fallers as rumours mounted that the world’s larged listed hedge fund could pull its upcoming US initial public offering due to uneasy credit conditions. The shares shed 6.6 per cent at 492p.

Dutch takeover target ABN Amro fell 5 per cent to €33.33 on concerns that Fortis will struggle to raise the €24bn in order to finance its part of the €71bn deal along with Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander. RBS is holding an EGM in Edinburgh on Friday to vote on its offer for the Dutch bank.

Shares in Fortis were down 3.5 per cent to €26.80 and RBS fell 5.4 per cent to 554p. Rival bidder Barclays lost 5.4 per cent at 644½p amid talk that it may withdraw its offer altogether.

The world’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, was 4.9 per cent down at £12.84, with competitor Rio Tinto losing 3.8 per cent at £30.82 and platinum mining group Lonmin 2.8 per cent lower at £31.79.

Old Mutual lost 4.2 per cent at 155p after it reported a 12 per cent fall in first-half operating profit at £782m due to weak the rand and dollar. The British and South African insurer, whose shares have been hit by concerns over subprime exposure, said on Friday that its exposure was tiny, representing just 4 per cent of its US assets.

For Rudy, Gay Is A Drag

For Rudy, Gay Is A Drag
Copyright by GAY CITY NEWS, NYC

Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York City, in a public appearance March 1, 1997, eight months before he faced LGBT advocate Ruth Messinger in his re-election bid. (EDWARD REED/ OFFICE OF THE MAYOR, NYC)
Rudy Giuliani is continuing an emerging pattern of abandoning his previous support for gay rights, this past week attacking New Hampshire for enacting a civil union law for same-sex couples because it "goes too far" and is "the equivalent of marriage."

That statement from the Republican presidential hopeful follows his retreat earlier this year on gays in the military on the grounds that "we are at war" and should not change the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that he had criticized.

Giuliani voiced support for civil unions as recently as 2004 on Fox News and signed a domestic partners bill as mayor of New York City in 1998. He supported that legislation in 1997 in exchange for the neutrality of the Empire State Pride Agenda in his re-election bid against Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, a leading LGBT rights advocate.

In an October 1997 letter to the Pride Agenda, Giuliani pledged "to determine how the City of New York can extend to registered domestic partners all rights that the city currently affords to married persons," the very position he is chastising the New Hampshire Legislature for.

Dick Dadey, then head of Pride Agenda, recalled this week, "He made a pledge to go as far as he could go under the law."
Giuliani told Mike Signorile on Sirius Radio in 2003 that he not only signed the 1998 domestic partners law, "but then we expanded it to include a lot of other benefits."

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who presided over passage of the domestic partners law, told Gay City News that Giuliani "was never averse to giving equal rights to gays. Our meetings were always very productive."

The Giuliani presidential campaign's press office did not return a call asking what rights would have to be denied gay couples to satisfy him now. In a statement to the New York Sun, which broke the story, the campaign said he "believes marriage is between one man and one woman," despite the fact that he is on his third woman. The statement also said, "Domestic partnerships are the appropriate way to ensure that people are treated fairly," and that the New Hampshire law "states same-sex civil unions are the equivalent of marriage and recognizes same-sex unions from outside states. That goes too far and Mayor Giuliani does not support it."

Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, told the Sun, "Why would you want to take a position where you are splitting hairs, when you have consistently been so on the record as for civil unions? You can't turn around at the 11th hour and say this comes a little too close to marriage and then not support it."

While Giuliani will not clarify what partner rights gay couples should and should not have, he is alone among the eight Republican candidates and several potential contenders - with the possible exception of Senator John McCain - in voicing any support for them. McCain also came out against the New Hampshire legislation because it "impinges or impacts the sanctity of marriage between men and women." The Arizona Republican is on his second sacred marriage.

McCain told ABC News late last year that he was not against civil unions and that he was against them in what can only be described as a totally confused exchange with "This Week" host George Stephanopolous. Although he stood against the Bush administration effort to amend the federal Constitution to bar same-sex marriage, he was an outspoken supporter of a failed effort last year to do exactly that in the Arizona Constitution.

Despite the mainstream media's habitual reference to Giuliani as a "pro-gay rights Republican" and his public cross-dressing at benefits and on "Saturday Night Live," he has a decidedly mixed record on LGBT issues. In his first run for mayor in 1989, he told a gay audience that he wasn't sure if he supported the city's gay rights law that had passed in 1986. He also condemned Mayor David Dinkins for settling a lawsuit granting domestic partner benefits to city employees in 1993 on the eve of their re-match, which Giuliani won.

Giuliani has marched numerous times in the annual LGBT Pride Parade, but also defies a boycott of the St. Patrick's Day Parade over the exclusion of a gay Irish contingent, though he is in the company of fellow presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on that score.

In 1997, Giuliani tried to pass a watered-down codification of domestic partner rights sponsored by out gay conservative City Councilman Antonio Pagan, who hoped to use the bill to aid his run for Manhattan borough president, but that measure was vigorously opposed by then Councilman Tom Duane, the sponsor of a comprehensive domestic partners bill. Pagan's bill was not passed.

In early 1998, however, Duane's bill was again by-passed in favor of a bill engineered by Giuliani and the Pride Agenda to codify domestic partner rights. The authors of the Giuliani bill went through the city code and gave domestic partners every right given to spouses, but excluded any requirement for recognizing gay and lesbian couples in collective bargaining agreements and would not articulate the sweeping, though simple statement that any right a spouse receives a domestic partner is also entitled to.

That lapse in making the law truly comprehensive was not corrected until this year with legislation pushed by out lesbian Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Giuliani opposed any requirement that companies with city contracts provide domestic partner benefits on par with the spousal rights they confer, a Quinn bill that the Council passed in 2004 only to be vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Council overrode that veto, but failed at New York's highest court in its effort to force the mayor to implement the contractor law.

When Donna Hanover, in a bitter divorce fight with Giuliani, won the right to remain in Gracie Mansion, the mayor famously lived with gay couple Howard Koeppel and Mark Hsiao. In 2001, Koeppel told the Advocate, "If they pass a law that marriage would become legal between same-sex couples, I would be the first in line. And if Rudy were still mayor, I know he'd be performing the civil ceremony for me."

Giuliani's campaign Web site is short on issue statements, but one of them condemns same-sex marriage and others mark his retreats on abortion rights and gun control. There is no mention of issues such as health care and civil rights.
Among the Democratic candidates for president, only Dennis Kucinich supports same-sex marriage. The others support full civil union rights.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay group, did not return a call seeking comment as of press time.
This week, Senator Russ Feingold, a gay marriage supporter who declined to mount a White House run despite widespread urging, told a Manhattan audience, "I hate it when I see my colleagues running for president saying they're against [same-sex marriage]. They're on the wrong side of history."
©GayCityNews 2007
.Shared with you by Stephen Hunt, Inference Reader, email:, Chicago, IL., usa.  As listed by Marquis' Who's Who in the Midwest, and in the World.
See compl;ete story with Mr Giuliani in drag at:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The New Vision: The Speech I Want the Democratic Nominee to Give

The New Vision: The Speech I Want the Democratic Nominee to Give
By Theodore C. Sorensen
Copyright by The Washington Monthly

July/August 2007 Issue
On the 15th of July, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy accepted his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. In his remarks, made at a moment of high tension in the cold war, Kennedy asserted that the United States was at "a turning point in history" and called on his listeners to be "pioneers" in a "New Frontier" of "uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus."

Collaborating with Kennedy on the speech was a thirty-two-year-old aide named Theodore C. Sorensen, to whom Kennedy was known to refer as his "intellectual blood bank." With Sorensen's help, Kennedy would earn a reputation as one of American history's great orators and provide a bold new vision for the nation.

Today, we are at another moment of high tension, the result of a disastrous war abroad and division and drift at home. Like Kennedy, the next Democratic nominee, whoever he or she might be, will have a similar opportunity to form a new vision for America and to reestablish its moral leadership in the world. To encourage such boldness of thinking, we, too, tapped Kennedy's intellectual blood bank. We called Theodore C. Sorensen and asked him to write the speech he would most want the next Democratic nominee to give at the party convention in Denver in August 2008. We requested that he proceed with no candidate in mind and that he give no consideration to expediency or tactics-in other words, that he write the speech of his dreams. Here is the speech he sent us.

My fellow Democrats: With high resolve and deep gratitude, I accept your nomination.

It has been a long campaign - too long, too expensive, with too much media attention on matters irrelevant to our nation's future. I salute each of my worthy opponents for conducting a clean fifty-state campaign focusing on the real issues facing our nation, including health care, the public debt burden, energy independence, and national security, a campaign testing not merely which of us could raise and spend the most money but who among us could best lead our country; a campaign not ignoring controversial issues like taxation, immigration, fuel conservation, and the Middle East, but conducting, in essence, a great debate-because our party, unlike our opposition, believes that a free country is strengthened by debate.

There will be more debates this fall. I hereby notify my Republican opponent that I have purchased ninety minutes of national network television time for each of the six Sunday evenings preceding the presidential election, and here and now invite and challenge him to share that time with me to debate the most serious issues facing the country, under rules to be agreed upon by our respective designees meeting this week with a neutral jointly selected statesman.

Let me assure all those who may disagree with my positions that I shall hear and respect their views, not denounce them as unpatriotic as has so often happened in recent years. I will wage a campaign that relies not on the usual fear, smear, and greed but on the hopes and pride of all our citizens in a nationwide effort to restore comity, common sense, and competence to the White House.

In this campaign, I will make no promises I cannot fulfill, pledge no spending we cannot afford, offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, and propose no foreign commitment we should not keep. I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a liberal, in the same sense that Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, and Harry Truman were liberals-liberals who proved that government is not a necessary evil, but rather the best means of creating a healthier, more educated, and more prosperous America.

They are the giants on whose shoulders I now stand, giants who made this a better, fairer, safer, stronger, more united America.

By making me your nominee, you have placed your trust in the American people to put aside irrelevant considerations and judge me solely on my qualifications to lead the nation. You have opened the stairway to what Teddy Roosevelt called the "bully pulpit." With the help of dedicated Americans from our party, every party, and no party at all, I intend to mount that stairway to preach peace for our nation and world.

My campaign will be based on my search for the perfect political consensus, not the perfect political consultant. My chief political consultant will be my conscience.

Thank you for your applause, but I need more than your applause and approval. I need your prayers, your votes, your help, your heart, and your hand. The challenge is enormous, the obstacles are many. Our nation is emerging from eight years of misrule, a dark and difficult period in which our national honor and pride have been bruised and battered. But we are neither beaten nor broken. We are not helpless or afraid; because in this country the people rule, and the people want change.

True, some of us have been sleeping for these eight long years, while our nation's values have been traduced, our liberties reduced, and our moral authority around the world trampled and shattered by a nightmare of ideological incompetence. But now we are awakening and taking our country back. Now people all across America are starting to believe in America again. We are coming back, back to the heights of greatness, back to America's proud role as a temple of justice and a champion of peace.

The American people are tired of politics as usual, and I intend to offer them, in this campaign, something unusual in recent American politics: the truth. Neither bureaucracies nor nations function well when their actions are hidden from public view and accountability. From now on, whatever mistakes I make, whatever dangers we face, the people shall know the truth-and the truth shall make them free. After eight years of secrecy and mendacity, here are some truths the people deserve to hear:

We remain essentially a nation under siege. The threat of another terrorist attack upon our homeland has not been reduced by all the new layers of porous bureaucracy that proved their ineptitude in New Orleans; nor by all the needless, mindless curbs on our personal liberties and privacy; nor by expensive new weaponry that is utterly useless in stopping a fanatic willing to blow himself up for his cause. Indeed, our vulnerability to another attack has only been worsened in the years since the attacks of September 11th-worsened by our government convincing more than 1 billion Muslims that we are prejudiced against their faith, dismissive of international law, and indifferent to the deaths of their innocent children; worsened by our failure to understand their culture or to provide a safe haven for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees displaced by a war we started; worsened by our failure to continue our indispensable role in the Middle East peace process.

We have adopted some of the most indefensible tactics of our enemies, including torture and indefinite detention.

We have degraded our military.

We have treated our most serious adversaries, such as Iran and North Korea, in the most juvenile manner-by giving them the silent treatment. In so doing, we have weakened, not strengthened, our bargaining position and our leadership.

At home, as health care costs have grown and coverage disappeared, we have done nothing but coddle the insurance, pharmaceutical, and health care industries that feed the problem.

As global warming worsens, we have done nothing but deny the obvious and give regulatory favors to polluters.

As growing economic inequality tarnishes our democracy, we have done nothing but carve out more tax breaks for the rich.

During these last several years, our nation has been bitterly divided and deceived by illicit actions in high places, by violations of federal, constitutional, and international law. I do not favor further widening the nation's wounds, now or next year, through continuous investigations, indictments, and impeachments. I am confident that history will hold these malefactors accountable for their deeds, and the country will move on.

Instead, I shall seek a renewal of unity among all Americans, an unprecedented unity we will need for years to come in order to face unprecedented danger.

We will be safer from terrorist attack only when we have earned the respect of all other nations instead of their fear, respect for our values and not merely our weapons.

If I am elected president, my vow for this country can be summarized in one short, simple word: change. This November 2008 election-the first since 1952 in which neither the incumbent president's nor the incumbent vice president's name will appear on the national ballot, indeed the first since 1976 in which the name of neither Bill Clinton nor George Bush will appear on the national ballot-is destined to bring about the most profound change in the direction of this country since the election of 1932.

To meet the threats we face and restore our place of leadership in the free world, I pledge to do the following:

First, working with a representative Iraqi parliament, I shall set a timetable for an orderly, systematic redeployment and withdrawal of all our troops in Iraq, including the recall of all members of the National Guard to their primary responsibility of guarding our nation and its individual states.

Second, this redeployment shall be only the first step in a comprehensive regional economic and diplomatic stabilization plan for the entire Middle East, building a just and enduring peace between Israel and Palestine, halting the killing and maiming of innocent civilians on both sides, and establishing two independent sovereign states, each behind peacefully negotiated and mutually recognized borders.

Third, I shall as soon as possible transfer all inmates out of the Guantanamo Bay prison and close down that hideous symbol of injustice.

Fourth, I shall fly to New York City to pledge in person to the United Nations, in the September 2009 General Assembly, that the United States is returning to its role as a leader in international law, as a supporter of international tribunals, and as a full-fledged member of the United Nations which will pay its dues in full, on time, and without conditions, renouncing any American empire; that we shall work more intensively with other countries to eliminate global scourges, including AIDS, malaria, and other contagious diseases, massive refugee flows, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and that we will support the early dispatch of United Nations peacekeepers to halt the atrocities in Darfur. I shall make it clear that we do not covet the land of other countries for our military bases or the control of their natural resources for our factories. I shall make it clear that our country is not bound by any policies or pronouncements of my predecessor that violate international law or threaten international peace.

Fifth, I shall personally sign the Kyoto Protocol, and seek its ratification by the United States Senate, in order to stop global warming before it endangers all species on earth, including our own; and I shall call upon the Congress to take action dramatically reducing our nation's reliance on the carbon fuels that are steadily contributing to the degradation of our environment.

Sixth, I shall demonstrate sufficient confidence in the strength of our values and the wisdom and skill of our diplomats to favor communications, negotiations, and full relations with every country on earth, including Cuba, North Korea, Palestine, and Iran.

Finally, I shall restore the constitutional right of habeas corpus, abolish the unconstitutional tapping of private phones, and once again show the world the traditional American values that distinguish us from those who attacked us on 9/11.

We need not renounce the use of conventional force. We will be ready to repel any clear and present danger that poses a genuine threat to our national security and survival. But it will be as a last resort, never a first; in cooperation with our allies, never alone; out of necessity, never by choice; proportionate, never heedless of civilian lives or international law; as the best alternative considered, never the only. We will always apply the same principles of collective security, prudent caution, and superior weaponry that enabled us to peacefully prevail in the long cold war against the Soviet Union. Above all, we shall wage no more unilateral, ill-planned, ill-considered, and ill-prepared invasions of foreign countries that pose no actual threat to our security. No more wars in which the American Congress is not told in advance and throughout their duration the true cost, consequences, and terms of commitment. No more wars waged by leaders blinded by ideology who have no legal basis to start them and no plan to end them. We shall oppose no peaceful religion or culture, insult or demonize no peace-minded foreign leader, and spare no effort in meeting those obligations of leadership and assistance that our comparative economic strength has thrust upon us. We shall listen, not lecture; learn, not threaten. We will enhance our safety by earning the respect of others and showing respect for them. In short, our foreign policy will rest on the traditional American values of restraint and empathy, not on military might.

In the final analysis, our nation cannot be secure around the world unless our citizens are secure at home-secure not only from external attack, but secure as well from the rising tide of national debt, secure from the financial and physical ravages of uninsured disease, secure from discrimination in our schools and neighborhoods, secure from the bitter unrest generated by a widening gap between our richest and poorest citizens. They are not secure in a country lacking reasonable limitations on the sale of handguns to criminals, the mentally disturbed, and prospective terrorists. And our citizens are not secure when some of their fellow citizens, loyal Islamic Americans, are made to feel they are the targets of hysteria or bigotry.

I believe in an America in which the fruits of productivity and prosperity are shared by all, by workers as well as owners, by those at the bottom as well as those at the top; an America in which the sacrifices required by national security are shared by all, by profiteers in the back offices as well as volunteers on the front lines.

In my administration, I shall restore balance and fairness to the national tax system. I shall level the playing field for organized labor. I shall end the unseemly favors to corporations that allow them to profit without competing, for it is through competition that we innovate, and it is through innovation that we raise the wages of our workers. It shames our nation that profits for corporations have soared even as wages for average Americans have fallen. It shames us still more that so many African American men must struggle to find jobs.

We will make sure that no American citizen, from the youngest child to the oldest retiree, and especially no returning serviceman or military veteran, will be denied fully funded medical care of the highest quality.

To pay for these domestic programs, my administration will make sure that subsidies and tax breaks go only to those who need them most, not those who need them least, and that we fund only those weapons systems we need to meet the threats of today and tomorrow, not those of yesterday.

The purpose of public office is to do good, not harm; to change lives, help lives, and save lives, not destroy them. I look upon the presidency not as an opportunity to rule, but as an opportunity to serve. I intend to serve all the people, regardless of party, race, region, or religion.

Let us all, here assembled in this hall, or watching at home, constitute ourselves, rededicate ourselves, as soldiers in a new army. Not an army of death and destruction, but a new army of voters and volunteers, in a new wave of workers for peace and justice at home and abroad, new missionaries for the moral rebirth of our country. I ask for every citizen's help, not merely those who live in the red states or those who live in the blue states, but every citizen in every state. Although we may be called fools and dreamers, although we will find the going uphill, in the words of the poet: "Say not the struggle naught availeth." We will change our country's direction, and hand to the generation that follows a nation that is safer, cleaner, less divided, and less fearful than the nation we will inherit next January.

I'm told that John F. Kennedy was fond of quoting Archimedes, who explained the principle of the lever by declaring: "Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world." My fellow Americans-here I stand. Come join me, and together we will move the world to a new era of a just and lasting peace.

The Dems are all good

The Dems are all good
By Jennifer Vanasco
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press and By Jennifer Vanasco
August 8, 2007

I’ve got news for you.

It doesn’t matter who you pick in the Democratic primary.

They’re all good.

Yep. I said they’re all good. I don’t just mean Kucinich or Gravel, the unlikely iconoclastic winners. I mean Clinton. I mean Obama. I mean Edwards.

This goes completely in the face of what gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders tend to think of our slate of Democratic candidates, I know.

Not long ago, I went to a small dinner hosted by a group of politically savvy lesbians. The theme: How can we change American politics? The question was based around the idea that it seemed as if politicians of the left and right were pandering to the 15 percent of voters who comprise the Religious Right. Gays and lesbians, with 5 percent of the vote, are influential but not crucial.

We talked about a lot of things at that dinner. About how it was impossible to change the inertia of big elections without corporate money, for example. About how the strategy that evangelicals used in the 1980s clearly worked. They focused on school district elections and on small local elections, gradually building up power and a constituency.

But mostly we discussed the presidential candidates, talking about how we were sad and angry that none of the Big Three seemed to be watching our backs.

One woman said, “What do we do? Do we vote for Kucinich as a protest? But we know he won’t get elected. So what do we do?”

What we do is vote for one of the Big Three.

Because they are not where you think they are.

For some reason, we tend to have a narrow view of our own rights. If a candidate says that they are not for same-sex marriage, we decide that means they are not for us.

But, in fact, same-sex marriage is only one of a package of issues that matter to our community.

The others are just as important: the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”; federal law recognizing same-sex partners for tax, Social Security and immigration purposes; the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in hate crime, employment and public accommodations law; the support of funding for HIV/AIDS research and prevention; the right of gays and lesbians to adopt children.

There are more, of course, but those are the main issues. And those are the ones on the questionnaire HRC sent to each of the major candidates.

You know what? Except for a couple odd blips (Obama, to my surprise, doesn’t support same-sex partner recognition in immigration law because he worries about fraud. Hmmm.) each candidate supports every pro-gay HRC position.

Except marriage.

But without exception, those candidates who don’t support "marriage" do support full federal civil unions that include all the rights and benefits of marriage.

All the rights.

Everything, that is, except the word.

And yes, I agree with you that the word is important. The word is very important. But let’s not fool ourselves; even though our country now calls itself 50-percent Blue, “pro-gay marriage” is not a position that will get you elected.

So for right now, we can’t have that.

But that’s OK. That’s honestly OK. Because what we have instead is a slate of candidates who are with us in everything else. They do think we should be protected. They do think we should have our full civil rights. They are, in fact, on our side.

What does this mean to you?

It means you can relax and think about other issues. Vote for the candidate in your state’s primary who best articulates your feelings about the war, or about the environment, or about taxes, health care, campaign finance reform, farming subsidies, whatever. Whatever else is important to you. You can vote that way.

What a relief, right? How lucky we are, in this one primary, to be able to vote for the candidate who best represents us on a range of issues, instead of worrying that the wrong choice will sent GLBT rights back into a dark, slimy pit.

They’re all good. They are.

Check out their records and see.

Jennifer Vanasco is an award-winning, syndicated columnist based in New York. Email her at; read her column and occasional blog at

Bumbling CIA's failures hurt America

Bumbling CIA's failures hurt America
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
August 9, 2007

''The structure of our intelligence organization is faulty. It makes no sense. It has to be reorganized and we should have done it long ago. Nothing has changed since Pearl Harbor. I have suffered an eight-year defeat on this. . . . I will leave a legacy of ashes. . . .''

Those words were spoken by a president of the United States, though not the present incumbent. It was Dwight Eisenhower. Legacy of Ashes is the title of Tim Weiner's history of the CIA. The thesis of the book is that this country has never had a functioning espionage agency. Its leaders either were incompetent or, like Allen Dulles and William Casey, over-the-top and round-the-bend rogues who lied to presidents and told them only what they wanted to hear. Its covert operations, like the Bay of Pigs, usually failed (Dulles lied in telling JFK that Eisenhower had approved the plan). Its intelligence analyses missed the invasion of Korea by China, the economic decline of Russia, the absence of a Stalin plan for war, the missiles in Cuba, the building of the Berlin Wall and its subsequent fall, the actual state of weapons in Iraq, the rise of the ayatollahs in Iran and the importance of religious conflicts in Iraq.

Its rare successes -- support for the Baath Party in Iraq and the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan -- prepared the way for Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Despite the many brave and intelligent people who have worked there, the CIA turns out to be a dysfunctional secret bureaucracy that, as one of its former agents says, produces $40 billion worth of crap every year. After reading Weiner's book, one is forced to conclude that the country would have been better off without the CIA.

One also concludes that the United States is not the great superpower that many of its leaders think it is. The CIA cannot collect good intelligence. It cannot provide adequate information to the White House, but usually gives a president the information he wants to hear and not what he needs to hear -- even to this day. It never figured out what was going on in Russia, and it still does not understand Islam.

Similarly, and despite the experience of the Philippines insurrection and the Korean and Vietnamese wars, the nation's military has never learned how to fight a small guerrilla war. Rather, it charges into battle with "shock and awe," just as George S. Patton's Third Army swept across Europe.

Nor has the political leadership learned how to mobilize national support for these small wars despite ever-increasing casualties. The populace supports the little war for awhile and then changes its mind and demands, ''Bring the troops home!''

Almost 800 English soldiers died in the Northern Island "Troubles,'' and the English government did not have to worry about public pressure of that sort. England is an old hand at imperialism. Still, after a hundred years, the United States should be able to play the game better than it has. Perhaps it never will.

When, then, will our leaders learn that, despite previous exercises into imperialism -- Mexico, the Indian Wars, Spain -- this country is doomed to fail when it tries to play the game, no matter how much hubris, arrogance and phony toughness ("Bring them on!") the leadership musters? This would be a great blessing.

Approach to gay issues is key matter for Democrats - Candidates must gauge public opinion

Approach to gay issues is key matter for Democrats - Candidates must gauge public opinion
By Mike Dorning
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
August 9, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - The high political anxiety that gay rights can provoke in Democratic presidential aspirants broke out into the open early in this campaign, as the party's two leading candidates both stumbled when asked to give unrehearsed answers on morality and homosexuality.

Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), both schooled in the politics of home states with influential gay communities, each instinctively dodged in March when first asked to respond to a top military officer who, in justifying the Pentagon's ban on openly gay soldiers, publicly declared homosexuality immoral.

Only after a torrent of criticism from gay donors and supporters over their initial hesitancy did Clinton and Obama come out with unequivocal statements that they consider homosexuality to be moral, repudiating Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

There will be no such time to recover when Democratic candidates appear Thursday at a live televised forum in Los Angeles to face questions from gay-rights activists including singer Melissa Etheridge.

While opposition operatives will be watching for a video moment that later can be used to portray a candidate as out of the social mainstream, gay-rights advocates will be alert to signs of discomfort or hedged commitment.

'Are they passionate?'

"I think people will be looking for body language, the choice of words to see how comfortable the candidates are. Are they passionate?" said Ethan Geto, a longtime gay political activist in New York who is an informal adviser to Clinton on related issues.

Democratic candidates face evolving but still mixed public attitudes toward homosexuality.

Their own party includes an important constituency of gay donors and political activists as well as large numbers of social liberals who look to candidates' views on gay rights as a bellwether for commitment to broader progressive values such as tolerance.

Public opinion overall is moving slowly toward greater acceptance of a range of gay-rights positions, and passions have cooled since same-sex marriage erupted as a key issue on the verge of the last presidential campaign. Even among social conservatives, illegal immigration has supplanted gay marriage as a source of grass-roots fervor.

"There was a great deal of shock in 2003 and 2004, when the gay marriage issue became prominent, and things have calmed down a bit," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, which studies public opinion.

Wedge issue

But polls show the public still largely disapproves of gay marriage and remains closely divided on whether homosexual relations are morally acceptable. Democrats also have fresh memories of gay rights as a wedge issue used to portray the party's candidates as removed from traditional cultural values and a cause to galvanize social conservatives to turn out to vote for Republicans.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Republican candidates frequently highlight their opposition to gay marriage and gay-rights causes, either directly or by promising to uphold "the sanctity of marriage" and "traditional values."

"They're code words. Everybody knows what they're talking about," Foreman said.

But, Foreman added, Democratic candidates rarely place support for gay-rights causes at the center of their campaigns by incorporating the themes in stump speeches or messages to general audiences.

When Democratic candidates are "asked about gay people and our causes, they freeze up," Foreman said.

During the 2004 election, social conservatives placed referendums banning same-sex marriage on the ballots in 13 states. Though Democratic strategists disagree on how important a factor the issue was in the outcome of the presidential campaign, conservative evangelicals turned out in large numbers, aiding President Bush's re-election.

2004 presidential race

Bob Shrum, a media adviser to 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, wrote in a recent book that former President Bill Clinton considered the issue so damaging that he urged Kerry to support a federal ban on gay marriage as a way to defuse the matter. Kerry did not do so.

On the eve of his own re-election in 1996, Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, permitting states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and denying federal benefits to same-sex married couples. Many saw that as a protective maneuver.

In the successful Democratic campaign to retake control of Congress last year, party leaders worked to de-emphasize hot-button social issues such as abortion, gay rights and gun control that divide its working-class base. And in the current campaign, the party's major candidates have sought to focus on opposition to the war in Iraq and populist stands on economic issues.

Still, the two parties present sharp distinctions. In debates this year, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have said they would favor ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and permitting gays to openly serve in the armed forces. All the Republican candidates support keeping the current policy on gay military personnel.

- - -

Thursday debate

The two-hour Democratic debate will be broadcast beginning at 8 p.m. CDT on the gay-themed cable channel Logo. The channel is generally available with premium service packages. The debate also will be available online at


Toymaker knew about lead - Tribune inquiry prompts company to recall toy 5 years after test

Toymaker knew about lead - Tribune inquiry prompts company to recall toy 5 years after test
By Maurice Possley and Michael Oneal
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
August 9, 2007

The makers of a Thomas & Friends spinning top on Wednesday initiated a voluntary recall of the product, prompted by a Tribune test that found a painted wooden knob on one of the toys contained 40 times the legal limit for lead.

The toymaker, Schylling Associates, of Rowley, Mass., said the recall would cover 24,000 Chinese-made tops shipped by the company between June 2001 and July 2002.

The company also revealed that its own records show it knew about the problem five years ago. But instead of recalling the tops, a Schylling executive said, the company changed the design to a plastic knob.

In researching its records after inquiries from the Tribune, Jim Leonard, the company's chief operating officer, said Schylling found a June 2002 test report showing that the Thomas & Friends top contained lead paint on its wooden knob. That led the company a month later to make the switch to plastic.

Asked why the company did not recall the toy at that time, Leonard said, "I can't answer that. ... I had just started here."

Schylling also is investigating whether lead contaminated two more of its products, a similar toy called a Circus Top and a number of metal pails that featured wooden handles, Leonard said. "It's very clear we have a product we sold that had lead in it," he said. "It's not something we intended or wanted to have happen. We're very frustrated by that."

The company is the latest toymaker forced to recall lead-tainted products made in China. The number of Schylling toys affected is far smaller than the recent lead-related recalls of nearly 1 million Fisher-Price toys and 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden railway toys. But the Schylling case illustrates how the government's reliance on companies to police themselves can leave consumers unwittingly vulnerable to unsafe products.

It also shows how even tainted toys that haven't been shipped in years can remain in circulation through the retail bazaar that flourishes on the Internet. In the case of the Thomas top, the Tribune was able to purchase it online through eBay.

One of the most common hazards is lead, a toxic metal banned in most products in the U.S. three decades ago but still a frequently used raw material in factories overseas. It can cause brain damage if ingested by children, lowering IQs and causing developmental delays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe level of lead exposure for children and recommends that all children be screened once a year, especially those who are 6 months to 6 years old.

The Tribune recently had the Schylling top tested by the Hygienic Laboratory of the University of Iowa as part of a broader examination of the hazards hidden among popular children's products.

A spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Scott Wolfson, would not comment on the Schylling recall. In general, though, Wolfson said companies that discover they have tainted products have a legal obligation to report it immediately to the agency.

When informed of the Tribune test results on his company's Thomas & Friends top, Schylling Chief Executive David Schylling said earlier this week that he was "amazed" at the finding.

But one of Schylling's former customers, a Houston man who operates an online toy store called Retro Toys, said he had complained to Schylling officials for many months that some Thomas tops as well as pails and Circus Tops had handles covered with lead paint.

Gary Giddings, owner of Retro Toys, told the Tribune in an e-mail that his firm had filed a complaint with the CPSC last year for lead paint in Schylling products. He said he had done his own tests using swabs, which sometimes falsely indicate the presence of lead.

Wolfson would not comment on whether Giddings had sent the agency such a complaint.

Leonard said Giddings had never complained about lead paint on any items and that Retro Toys had a combative relationship with Schylling. But Leonard held out the possibility that Schylling also would have to recall the metal pails because of tainted wooden handles. "I think we had a problem with those," he said.

The company has "been aware for a long time that there can be issues with paint, specifically related to heavy metals and toxicity," he said. "And so we test for that. We test five samples in a shipment and a sample of the wet paint. It is never our intention to ship a product with a known test failure report."

In the wake of the earlier lead paint disclosures in the industry, Schylling increased the testing of its products, Leonard said. He also said the company is planning to use a third-party testing company to perform tests during production.

"We work very hard to get this right, and it's been very difficult for us," he said, contending that "the real issue is that the Chinese are allowed to make lead paint."

Leonard acknowledged, though, that it becomes an American company's concern as soon as the products test positive for lead, as the Thomas & Friends top did in 2002. "It clearly is our problem," he said.

The Tribune purchased the Thomas & Friends top on eBay from a seller in Virginia and sent it to the University of Iowa lab for testing. Teresa Bowman, a chemist at the Iowa lab who helped conduct the testing, said it showed a lead content of 2.4 percent -- 40 times higher than the federal limit of 0.06 percent.

"That is very high, and that knob is the part of the toy that will probably go into a child's mouth," Bowman told the Tribune. "The chemist repeated the test and got the same answer."

Without an official recall, parents should take the product away from children and look for more information in the coming weeks, according to a government safety expert. Once a recall process is initiated, as happened Wednesday, it can take three weeks for a detailed recall notice. The CPSC Web site ( provides information on recalls.

The woman who sold the toy on eBay was stunned when she learned the test results. "Oh, my gosh," she said when contacted by the newspaper. "I have three children and they've all played with it. I can't believe it." She said her son, who just turned 8, had outgrown his fondness for Thomas toys, so she was selling them on the online auction site.

Schylling is the only company that is licensed to sell the Thomas & Friends spinning tops. David Schylling said the company has been selling the tops for about 10 years and that for about a year the tops were sold with wooden knobs painted red.

He said that the company was aware that there were problems with lead paint being used on the knobs. "We have rejected shipments that tested positive. And they've remade the goods and they've used different paint and they've been accepted," Schylling said.

"The contamination can come from all sorts of sources. I don't know if they are consciously putting lead in the paint, but somewhere along the line they are getting contaminated. Clearly, wood is a problem area."

A spokesman for HIT Entertainment, the London-based company that licenses the Thomas & Friends brand to companies such as Schylling, said no officials would be available for comment. When told about the Tribune's findings, the spokesman provided a statement saying HIT "requires that its licensees manufacture to meet the highest standards of quality and safety and all of our contracts contain detailed provisions designed to ensure compliance."


International Herald Tribune Editorial - Probing Pat Tillman's death

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Probing Pat Tillman's death
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: August 8, 2007

Now that the U.S. Army has completed its seventh inquiry into the death of Corporal Pat Tillman and military leaders have testified in Congress, we still don't know who concocted a phony story about how Tillman died and whether the White House knew it was happening. Congress needs to clarify whether this affair reflects incompetence or a conspiracy to exploit a soldier's death.

Tillman, who gave up a pro football contract to volunteer as a U.S. Army Ranger, was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004 while trying to assist another Ranger unit. Almost immediately, soldiers in the field recognized that he had been hit by fire from fellow Rangers. Yet witness reports were rewritten to make it seem like he had been felled by the enemy. That became the basis for expediting a posthumous Silver Star. Even after the truth was recognized, the army stuck by its award on the theory that Tillman acted heroically before he was killed.

The misrepresentations might well have been the army's sole doing. Yet the White House could ease doubts by granting the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee full access to key personnel and documents.

The committee has already learned that, immediately after Tillman's death, at least 97 White House officials exchanged hundreds of e-mails about how the White House should respond. Have embarrassing e-mails been withheld from congressional scrutiny? The committee needs to find out.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - A weak dollar and the Fed

International Herald Tribune Editorial - A weak dollar and the Fed
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: August 8, 2007

Despite the Federal Reserve's latest stay-the-course message, investors are betting on at least one interest-rate cut by January, intended to quell turmoil in the markets and to juice the slow economy. But with the dollar also weak - recently hitting its lowest point in 15 years against an index of other major currencies - the Fed may be reluctant to oblige.

A declining dollar is a source of inflationary pressure because it can boost the cost of imports. So if the Fed tried to rev up the economy with a rate cut at the same time the dollar is falling, it could end up provoking even more inflation. That would be a drag on economic growth rather than a boost. In an extreme case, it could result in a toxic combination of weak growth and high prices that is a central banker's nightmare.

How did the Fed lose room to maneuver? The answer is rooted in the Bush administration's misguided economic policies.

Over the last several years, America's imbalances in trade and other global transactions have worsened dramatically, requiring the United States to borrow billions of dollars a day from abroad just to balance its books.

The only lasting way to fix the imbalances - and reduce that borrowing - is to increase America's savings. But the administration has rejected that responsible approach since it would require rolling back excessive tax cuts and engaging in government-led health care reform - both anathema to President George W. Bush. It would also require revamping the nation's tax incentives so that they create new savings by typical families, instead of new shelters for the existing wealth of affluent families - another nonstarter for this White House.

Stymied by what it won't do, the administration has gone for a quicker fix - letting the dollar slide. A weaker dollar helps to ease the nation's imbalances by making American exports more affordable, thus narrowing the trade deficit.

But to be truly effective, a weaker dollar must be paired with higher domestic savings. Otherwise, the need to borrow from abroad remains large, even as a weakening currency makes dollar-based debt less attractive. That's the trap the United States is slipping into today.

Among other ills, it could lead to a deterioration in American living standards as money flows abroad to pay foreign creditors, leaving less to spend at home on critical needs. Or, it could lead to abrupt spikes in interest rates as American debtors are forced to pay whatever it takes to get the loans they need.

In volatile economic times like now, leadership is crucial - and notably absent with this administration. Officials have made no effort to orchestrate a more coordinated and comprehensive realignment of the world's currencies, in part, it seems, because the administration is unwilling to have America do its part by saving more.

Until the administration - either this one or the next - is willing to acknowledge the source of the economy's imbalances, and starts addressing them seriously, the dollar is likely to remain weak. And the Fed's ability to maneuver will be constrained.